Talk about no room at the inn. The Breeders’ Cup Classic is so bloated with pre-entries that the horse that finished second in it last year may not get in next week at Churchill Downs.
The favorite Accelerate is definitely in, and we already knew that. By winning the Pacific Classic, he got an automatic berth, so he will be among the 14 horses going the 1¼ miles on the main track Saturday, Nov. 3, in the climactic race of the 35th Breeders’ Cup.
A record 221 horses were pre-entered Wednesday into the 14 races. The Irish megastable Coolmore has 20 of them, 18 of which are trained by Aidan O’Brien. Mendelssohn, O’Brien’s 3-year-old that got bottlenecked at the start of this year’s Kentucky Derby, and Godolphin colt Thunder Snow, the 4-year-old that went all-rodeo to start last year’s Derby, will come out of the same gate at the same line on the track in their bids for retribution when they start in the Classic.
But it is likely that Collected – a 40-1 shot in the second Breeders’ Cup Classic Future Wager and 15-1 now at the Wynn Las Vegas – will not get in. Last year’s runner-up to Gun Runner in the Classic at Del Mar raced only once for trainer Bob Baffert since finishing seventh in the Pegasus World Cup, and that was his fourth-place finish last month in the Pennsylvania Derby Champion Stakes.
The strategy of coming in off a long break will not prevent stable mate West Coast from making the Classic field. But for Collected to make it, he needs four defections ahead of him, including one from the first 14 plus three other alternates. City Of Light would already be in the race, but he has first preference of the Dirt Mile as does first alternate and Preakness runner-up Bravazo. Since six of the first 14 in that race are cross-entered with preferences elsewhere, City Of Light and Bravazo are likely out of the Classic.
Then there is Woodward runner-up Gunnevera, the second alternate that finished in a dead heat with Arrogate for fifth in last year’s Classic. This is the only Breeders’ Cup race in which he is entered, so if that door opens, he will be in the field.
But even if Gunnevera were out, Seeking The Soul comes in off a Grade 3 win last month at Churchill Downs, and his connections have made the Classic their first preference. So Collected appears to be a horse without a race.
Winners of Breeders’ Cup Challenge races – the win-and-you’re-ins – are automatically entered; that is how Accelerate, Discreet Lover and Pavel made it. Then comes a points system, and then there is one of those blue-ribbon panels full of racing secretaries, directors and other grand panjandrums to fill in the remaining gaps. That mystery committee put Roaring Lion into the Classic. Yes, he has won four consecutive Group 1 races in Europe, where he will probably be the horse of the year. But he has never raced on dirt.
As Mike Watchmaker of the Daily Racing Form pointed out, the system is inexplicably skewed toward 3-year-olds, which explains why Collected and his older peers have their connections wringing their hands about the process – and why Collected is all tacked up with nowhere to go.
Final entry payments from owners are due Monday, when the post-position draws will be made at 4 p.m. EDT in conjunction with the Equestricon fan festival in Louisville.
Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com. It will also be posted daily from the Breeders’ Cup in Louisville, Ky., on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1-3. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod, also posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. This week’s guests are Lord Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Juddmonte Farms and Breeders’ Cup Turf favorite Enable, and Zoe Cadman, racing analyst for XBTV. The RFRP is also available at leading providers such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts and Stitcher.