Accelerate must deal with McKinzie in Breeders’ Cup Classic

The highly-anticipated Grade I, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic takes place for the 35th time, with Churchill Downs playing host this Saturday. A field of 14 with two also-eligibles has signed on for this 1 1/4-mile challenge that carries Horse of the Year implications. The Classic goes as Race 11 of 12 on the day, and approximate post time is 5:44 p.m. EST. As always, be sure to play along in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#14 ACCELERATE (5-2, morning-line favorite) was dealt a terrible post but still has win claims. He’s 5-for-6 this year, all in Grade I or II stakes, with the lone loss by just a neck to Dirt Mile contender City of Light. However, ACCELERATE is an unblemished 3-for-3 at today’s distance. The knocks against ACCELERATE are the wide draw and that fact that trainer John Sadler, as distinguished a career as he’s had, is 0-for-41 lifetime at the Breeders’ Cup. Joel Rosario can only do so much to ensure that ACCELERATE doesn’t lose more ground than he can afford to. At 5-2 or less, ACCELERATE is worth hedging against at a minimum.

#6 MCKINZIE (6-1) makes his first start vs. older, but he couldn’t have been more impressive in the Pennsylvania Derby. Off for over six months, MCKINZIE sat right on the pace, took over late and held off all challengers, earning a lifetime-best speed figure in the process. His prep works for Bob Baffert are sharp, and Mike Smith maintains the assignment. MCKINZIE doesn’t have the classic 10-furlong pedigree, but his breeding doesn’t preclude him from getting today’s distance.

#1 THUNDER SNOW (12-1) was a hard-luck loser in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last time out. The runaway Dubai World Cup winner makes his third start off a layoff in the Classic, which is generally a good spot for any thoroughbred, but particularly THUNDER SNOW, who seems to race himself into shape. His tune-up work over this course for Saeed bin Suroor was outstanding, and he’ll keep Christophe Soumillon in the saddle.

#7 WEST COAST (5-1) took an extended vacation earlier this year, just as stablemate MCKINZIE did. He was the runner-up in both the Pegasus World Cup and the Dubai World Cup before hitting the shelf. WEST COAST had never experienced such a dramatic layoff, and it may have accounted for his lackluster second in the Awesome Again behind ACCELERATE last time out. This Baffert trainee, with John Velazquez taking over, could be very dangerous with the rust shaken off.

#4 GUNNEVERA (20-1) could land a share if the pace comes apart. The potential exists for a speed duel if MENDELSSOHN presses MCKINZIE as he pressed Diversify in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and possibly if the versatile THUNDER SNOW is sent along at the rail. CATHOLIC BOY and even ACCELERATE could find themselves embroiled in a hot pace scenario while fighting for position. GUNNEVERA had a no-chance trip in the Woodward last time out, but now Irad Ortiz Jr. takes over.

The play: $3 exacta 6,14/1,6,7,14, $1 exacta box 6/14, $2 win 1, $2 place 4 ($24)

DFJ analysis: See my Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard column!

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