Alas, the 2020 installment of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships takes place Friday and Saturday. An event like no other, it is two full days of competitive and potentially lucrative horse racing, drawing the best horse talent and teams from around the globe.
The crown jewel of the two richest days in the sport is the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic. All season long, the entrants have competed in stakes races to earn points to qualify for the Classic. So what do you have? The best 3-year-old and older runners, and the top jockeys and trainers in the sport are all in one race, looking to put an exclamation point on their year-long missions.
From top to bottom, the field is stacked with a variety of diverse running styles. You have blisteringly quick frontrunners like No. 9 Authentic (6-1) and No. 10 Maximum Security (7-2), off-the-pace stalkers like No. 2 Tiz The Law (3-1), No. 4 Tom’s d’Etat (6-1), and a long-shot closer in No. 5 Title Ready (30-1). Those dynamics make this race all the more compelling because depending on how the race unfolds, there can be several paths to victory for the competing runners.
Here’s a closer look at some of those top contenders and potential wagering strategies for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
No. 8 Improbable (5-2): This Bob Baffert-trained colt has really got it clicking his last three races, turning in his fastest speed figures, each being faster than the last. Improbable started off with great promise in 2018 but hit a bit of a sophomore slump in 2019 with a few disappointing finishes. But now in 2020, Improbable has returned to the main stage with vigor. His elite speed and ability to operate off the leaders, coupled with his formidable team, justify favorite status.
No. 2 Tiz The Law (3-1): After finishing second in the Kentucky Derby, Tiz The Law took time off to be at full go for this race. This will be his first time running against older horses, but in his four wins in five races this year, Tiz The Law has demonstrated transcendent talent. His relatively young age (one of three 3-year-olds in the field) should not be a determining factor. With tactical speed and a propensity for winning, a well-rested Tiz the Law is a contender.
No. 10 Maximum Security (7-2): Maximum Security just oozes dominance. The 4-year-old colt is a globetrotter, competing all around the world and winning the Saudi Cup in February. Maximum Security is a frontrunner who has won 10 of his 13 starts and finished second twice. Although he technically “finished” first in the controversial 2019 Kentucky Derby, he was ultimately disqualified and placed 17th due to an in-race infraction. Despite his impressive winning record, Maximum Security was dominated by Improbable his last time out in the Sept. 26 Awesome Again Stakes, finishing a distant second. With both Baffert-trained horses facing off again Saturday, this should be a compelling rematch.
Outside of the three favorites, some larger-odds runners can make a strong argument for being worthy of a wager, certainly from an exotic perspective (exactas and trifectas), but even possibly to win.
No. 9 Authentic (6-1): Authentic is a proven winner, finishing first five times and second twice in his career. Historically, Authentic likes to grab the early lead and fend off challengers down the stretch. Last time out in the Preakness Stakes, Authentic was never able to get a firm grasp of the lead, and was relegated to second place throughout the race. On one hand, it’s still an impressive feat to be able to hold second from gate to wire while there were fluctuations all around him. But on the other hand, I anticipate the field Authentic will be facing Saturday is laden with runners that will be challenging for an early lead, which can pose a similar threat.
How will the race go?
Right off the bat, I think this race is set up to favor forwardly placed stalkers. Based on the sheer speed talent in the field, I feel that naturally lends itself to an overall faster tempo, a tempo that will likely wear on the frontrunners late in the race, such as No. 7 Global Campaign, No. 9 Authentic and No. 10 Maximum Security.
With that said, both Authentic and Maximum Security have proven to be able to fend off late challengers. Just look at Authentic’s Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby performance, when he maintained his lead through the wire despite Tiz The Law’s late charge. The difference here though is that in the Derby, Authentic did not face much opposition in obtaining the lead early. I don’t suspect this will be the case on Saturday.
For Maximum Security, it’s just been a little longer since we’ve seen him flex his sheer dominance over a field. Last time out in the Awesome Again Stakes, despite being the favorite, he put forward a relatively mundane performance and ended up losing by several lengths to Improbable. At the Pacific Classic in August, Maximum Security had an incredibly easy trip against vastly inferior runners. Between the two elite frontrunners, recent performance would indicate Authentic is most likely to be a factor late and finish in the money.
Improbable has hit a sweet groove as of late in timing his moves for the lead, and I don’t see Saturday being an exception. From a conditioning standpoint, Baffert has him in great form.
Tiz The Law will be in a similar position as Improbable, but given his propensity for wanting to be placed just off of the leaders, Tiz The Law will likely be more forwardly placed throughout the bulk of the race. I just don’t feel Tiz The Law has quite as potent of a next gear as Improbable, which will leave him just falling short.
How I Would Wager
Win bet: No. 8 Improbable (5-2)
Trifecta Box: Improbable, Tiz The Law, Authentic
Typically I’m very bearish on betting the chalk, especially in stakes races where the fields are often deep with talented runners, and the risk seldom outweighs the reward. But in this case, I’ve identified too many positives to turn a blind eye to Improbable. With that said, I will also include a trifecta ticket, namely because this is how I see the race unfolding, but this will also provide some additional coverage for slight variations upfront.
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