Classic division stars Accelerate and Diversify lead the way over an aspiring group 3-year-olds as the field for the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic November 3 at Churchill Downs in Louisville figures to become much more defined over the next five weeks. The 1 ¼-mile Classic rates as the centerpiece of a two-day extravaganza that heads to Churchill for the ninth time and offers 14 races worth over $30 million in purses and awards.
Hronis Racing's Accelerate, a 5-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky, rates as the clear divisional leader for trainer John Sadler off a 4-for-5 mark this season that is highlighted by a Grade I sweep of Southern California's three premier races for older horses, the Santa Anita Handicap in March, Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June and “Win and You're In” TVG Pacific Classic—by 12 ½ lengths—August 18. Accelerate, who is 8-for-20 lifetime, which includes a ninth-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Del Mar, earned one of seven automatic starting berths for the Classic at Del Mar and figures to have his final prep in Santa Anita's September 29 Awesome Again (GI), which is the last-of-seven “Win and You're In” races for the Classic this year.
Ralph M. Evans and Lauren Evans' Diversify secured a Classic berth when he wired Saratoga's “Win and You're In” Whitney (GI) August 4 and brings a devastating blend of speed and stamina to the proceedings. Rick Violette trains the 5-year-old New York-bred son of Bellamy Road who is 3-for-4 this year, which also includes a dominant wire-to-wire win in Belmont Park's Suburban (GI) at 1 ¼ miles in July. Diversify is 10-for-15 lifetime and could have his final Classic prep in Belmont's Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI), the sixth of the “Win and You're In” races for the Classic.
Trainer Bob Baffert's classy dup of West Coast and Collected are back in training and could make the Classic. The former, a 4-year-old son of Flatter who recently returned to the worktab, was third in the Classic last year and was second to Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup (GI) at Gulfstream Park in January and second in the Dubai World Cup (GI) at Meydan in March. The latter, a 5-year-old son of City Zip, was second in last year's Classic but was sixth in the Pegasus in his only start this year, though he too is gearing up for a return.
The Classic division got a much-added boost Saturday when Yoshida (JPN) won Saratoga's Woodward (GI, in his dirt debut for trainer Bill Mott, who indicated he'll point the 4-year-old son of Heart's Cry (JPN) to the race. Pavel, who secured a berth in the race when he won Churchill's “Win and You're In” Stephen Foster (GI) in June for trainer Doug O'Neill; Mind Your Biscuits, second to Diversify in the Whitney in his two-turn debut for trainer Chad Summers; and Gunnevera, who closed to be second in the Woodward and was fifth in last year's Classic for trainer Antonio Sano, are also eying the race.
The retirement of Triple Crown winner Justify has left the 3-year-old division looking for a new leader and Bob LaPenta, Madaket Stable, Twin Creeks Racing Stable and Sienna Farm's Catholic Boy has appeared to take the baton off back-to-back Grade I wins in the Belmont Derby on turf in July and Saratoga's Travers August 25. The son of More Than Ready was perceived to be better on the turf but impressed winning the Travers with ease for trainer Jonathan Thomas and has his sights set on going 1 ¼ miles at Churchill Downs. Catholic Boy beat the Coolmore conglomerate of Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier's Mendelssohn, a son of Scat Daddy and the reigning Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner who has long been pointed toward the Classic by trainer Aidan O'Brien. Catholic Boy will likely head back to the turf to prep for the Classic in Belmont's October 6 Hill Prince (GII), while Mendelssohn is a candidate for Parx Racing's Pennsylvania Derby (GI) September 22.
The remainder of the division is looking up at Catholic Boy, though Good Magic, who was a disappointing ninth as the heavy favorite, putting his Classic participation in jeopardy, did qualify for the race when he won Monmouth Park's “Win and You're In” Haskell (GI) in July for trainer Chad Brown. Hofburg and Bravazo have flashed talent on their best day and are also pointing to the race for trainers Bill Mott and D. Wayne Lukas, respectively.
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