The 34th Breeders’ Cup Classic takes place this Saturday at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Some of the world’s most accomplished handicap horses, including GUN RUNNER and ARROGATE, will test their mettle at 1 1/4-miles on dirt. The field of 11 will go postward at approximately 8:35 p.m. EST. In addition to watching and wagering, feel free to try out FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!
#11 COLLECTED (6-1), who beat ARROGATE at this course and distance in the Pacific Classic, is the pick. He’s a perfect 4-for-4 this year and has earned some tremendous speed figures in victory. His Pacific Classic win was scintillating, as he carved out honest fractions but still had enough to fend off former world number-one ARROGATE. Martin Garcia will probably not be able to clear from this post but that’s fine, as COLLECTED is probably better at stalking the pace anyway. This Bob Baffert runner offers great value in this publicly-presumed match race.
#5 GUN RUNNER (9-5) has never raced at Del Mar but has handled many tracks before, so long as they were rated ‘fast.’ He should get another fast track here, but the distance could be a problem. GUN RUNNER is winless at 1 1/4-miles (3-0-1-2), including a decisive loss to ARROGATE in the Dubai World Cup. There are also lingering questions about the quality of competition GUN RUNNER has faced this year that’s lead to three straight Grade I romps. Florent Geroux will have to carefully judge the pace if Mike Smith sends ARROGATE from the rail. GUN RUNNER could just be better than these, but at 9-5 or less he’s a shaky proposition.
#9 GUNNEVERA (30-1) is intriguing as he is a confirmed closer. Many of the Classic’s principle contenders like to be forwardly-placed. If they go too fast early, GUNNEVERA and Edgard Zayas could come rolling along to pick up the pieces. He’s unraced since finishing second to a well-rated WEST COAST in the Travers but has trained sensationally for Antonio Sano.
#8 WEST COAST (6-1) has all but locked up the Eclipse for champion three-year-old despite skipping the Triple Crown series but faces his toughest test yet in the Classic. This will be his first start against older and he loses Mike Smith (Javier Castellano takes over, which is fine). However, he’s proven to be versatile, so he can lay behind the frontrunners if necessary. He’s also drilling sharply for Baffert, who seeks his fourth straight Classic win. An in-the-money outing would be far from surprising.
#1 ARROGATE (2-1) found his kryptonite this summer when he failed to fire in the San Diego Handicap and came up short in the Pacific Classic, both at Del Mar. The defending champ of this race retains Mike Smith but is a bad bet over this course.
#10 PAVEL (20-1), an honest sort that’s overachieved for Doug O’Neill and Mario Gutierrez, moves up if there’s a scratch.
The play: $8 win 11, $2 win/place 9 ($12)
DFJ analysis: See my column on the Breeders’ Cup undercard.
Follow me on Twitter: @itsgood2beking