Updated on 11/02/2015 9:52AM

Breeders' Cup Classic: American Pharoah faces strong cast in career finale

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Susie Raisher
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is set to start in Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday at Keeneland suffered a major blow Thursday when Beholder, the race’s second choice, was withdrawn from the race after bleeding during her gallop that morning, trainer Richard Mandella said.

“Obviously, when you see that, you can’t put her under the stress of a race,” Mandella said.

Beholder, a two-time champion mare, would have been trying to win a third different Breeders’ Cup race, an unprecedented feat. Her absence leaves a field of nine, and the loss of a major pace presser enhances the chances of American Pharoah, the Triple Crown winner, who is making his final start on Saturday. He will become the first Triple Crown winner to compete in a Breeders’ Cup, which began in 1984, six years after Affirmed won the Triple Crown.

The Classic still includes a Triple Crown winner, the two top older males in the country, one of the best horses in Europe, and a couple of 3-year-olds who appear to be reaching their career-best form.

American Pharoah will be strongly favored, both because of his star status – being the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed and only the 12th ever – and because of a race shape that, on paper, has him as the controlling speed.

But this is a big ask. He will be entering the Classic off a layoff of more than two months, will be racing 1 1/4 miles without a recent prep, will be facing older horses for the first time, and will be racing over a track on which he will not have set foot until Friday.

His recent workouts, though, give every indication that American Pharoah will fire his best shot. But bettors will have to ask if taking a short price is worth it. American Pharoah was 8-5 on the initial line of Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper, and 6-5 on the track morning line of Mike Battaglia, and that was prior to the scratch of Beholder, so he will be an even heavier favorite now.

The task for the late runners got a lot more difficult because the horse adjudged to tackle American Pharoah the strongest and the earliest is now out.

Those late runners do pack a punch. Honor Code showed a devastating turn of foot when winning both the Met Mile and the Whitney, Grade 1 races that stamp him as the best older male in the country. Like American Pharoah, this will be the final start of his career, but unlike American Pharoah, this will be his first start beyond 1 1/8 miles. He has done his best with plenty of pace to run into, so the early dynamics of the race could determine his fate.

Tonalist was second in the Met Mile and third in the Whitney, both times to Honor Code, but he enters the Classic off a victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup for the second straight year, so 1 1/4 miles is right in his wheelhouse.

Irish raider Gleneagles will be making his first start on dirt and his first start beyond a mile, and though his pedigree suggests he’s a turf horse, there is no denying his quality – he has won four Group 1 races – nor that of his world-class team of trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore.

Frosted and Keen Ice have spent most of the year in the shadow of American Pharoah, but both have given him trouble.

Frosted, fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont, was American Pharoah’s early nemesis in the Travers, and even if he changes tactics – as expected – this time, he clearly is on the improve, coming off a win in the Pennsylvania Derby when reunited with his favorite jockey, Joel Rosario, who is back aboard.

Keen Ice has progressed with every race and comes off the best performance of his life when defeating American Pharoah in the Travers.

“He’s no longer a victim of pace,” said trainer Dale Romans.

Smooth Roller should be closest to American Pharoah early, but his light training pattern since arriving here does not inspire confidence.

Effinex has won twice at 1 1/4 miles this year, including over Tonalist in the Suburban Handicap.

Hard Aces won the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June but was no factor in either of his subsequent starts, both at 1 1/4 miles.

James G Romano More than 1 year ago
4-19-36.plus 9-14-326,plus 1-49-326,,, anything else does not matter!AP is good but just in case the other two horses, 1 and 9 find a way to beat him on the stretch... Nonno`s system; 2 and 7 WPS ! Total $ 60.
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Maynard Runkle More than 1 year ago
With Rosario back on Frosted he will probably make the mistake of not trying to force the pace on AP. Beholder is scratched. Can Smooth Roller do it? Probably not for long enough. Will an above average horse who had almost perfect pace set ups be called great? Yes, especially if none of the others have the sense to realize that they can still get a big chunk of money while taking a risk.
john g More than 1 year ago
Tonalist with Keen Ice with AP with Frosted
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Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
listen,we all have opinions so here is mine, this race is paceless,ap will have it all his own on a soft 48 first half. all will be afraid to go too soon(lezcano in the travers) since espinoza will make any pay who come too soon. so, as always pace makes the race,on paper beholder from her outside post will be placed about 2 or 3rd early and be the first to engage ap since stevens is no fool and wlll sense a soft pace. beholder will look ap in the eye and fade. rosario will be patient and after beholder he will take his shot on frosted,i cant know whether he will get by or not but in my opine it will be close between ap and frosted and with frosted at double digit odds maybe this time. i do not like honor code,total victim of a paceless race,tonalist is a clasic grinder with no turn of foot,mile and half would be his best shot as he can rurn 12's all day.as for keen ice he got a dream trip in the travers ,not this time. forget the rest. ive been around for a while(68) years old and this race seems to me like a lock exacta box,ap and frosted. forget all the triple digit beyers,time is relevant in all races,this race will be decided the first 3/4's. good luck to all
Rachel Barlow More than 1 year ago
According to twitter the 'experts' reckon the ground will be quick AP is best on very soft ground, if Gleneagles takes to dirt (which I doubt he will but still) and the track is fast I wouldn't completely rule him out.
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
just cant see a euro,remember muhtajaaib,all the hype,bet glen if you like him but he is hard to figure. in a year that has a triple crown winner,decent older horses and a champion mare it is hard to bet gleneagles. but that is why they run the race . good luck
Rachel Barlow More than 1 year ago
Gleneagles ran 1mile2 a couple of weeks back in the group 1 champions stakes at Ascot, he didn't win because the ground was too soft, I don't really see him doing much of anything on dirt as he is a good/firm ground horse so I think the dirt will be his down fall, though I would love a British horse to win.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Why not? $150,000 to FIFTH place.
Rachel Barlow More than 1 year ago
That's presuming he comes fifth, he has only won at a mile of good or firm turf, he should have been entered into the turf mile but then still he wouldn't win as the ground is to soft. He might surprise us yet but I doubt it, Aidan O'Brien never wanted to raced him over anything other than a mile his owners decided otherwise. But like I said I would love him to win.
Brad Cohen More than 1 year ago
DO NOT LOOK PAST SMOOTH ROLLER - Understand the fresh horse advantage as Awesome Again Stakes was even better than the excellent Beyer. This horse rolls at the odds of 14 to 1.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
I looked past Smooth Roller before any other horse as should you. - 1st career race in the end of June, THIS YEAR. - a bogus trainer throwing him in because he saw that speedball effort in his last. Why not? $150,000 to FIFTH place. Further, you need your head examined if you think a horse like this will beat this field of accomplished horses.
Maynard Runkle More than 1 year ago
As long as he can give AP a run for the lead, he deserves that fifth place check. And AP will earn his fourth place money behind Honor Code, Tonalist and Frosted.
Maynard Runkle More than 1 year ago
I forgot about Keen Ice. He could get in the money too, at a price, pushing AP back to fifth as long as Smooth Roller or Frosted sacrifice
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
If Honor Code had won his last in the Grade 2 Kelso at Belmont , he would be the favorite come post time in this Classic. He didn't , so he is 6/1 . 6/1 on a horse that has triple digit buyer #s in his last 5 out of six races. This race is so set up on paper for Honor Code. Nonsense to hear if he shows up, he is in, he'll win this race, Honor Code guys and gals, Honor Code
Brad Cohen More than 1 year ago
You are exactly right Billy as this horse has all the tools and fires every time. The only question is the speed up front to run an opening 1/2 mile in under 1:11 on this deep Keeneland track. If Honor Code is his usual 18-22 lengths off the lead at a 1:11 split, he will most likely come up short. But I am all over Smooth Roller/Honor Code in all positions of the exotics.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
I don't think finding a horse with triple digit beyers will cut the cheese here. Speaking of Beyers.....Dont you folks that love these numbers think that if they were effective, you can just find the best last beer number and play him? Ugh
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
However Honor Code is certainly a solid bet because even if AP and Beholder and Smooth Roller (who is CLEARLY entered to try to steal it on the engine) fry each other, you know Honor Code won't be involved with any early catastrophic pace duels. It is an interesting race. Beholder is a wonderful horse but this is not Yahilwa, Warrens Veneda and Close Hatches. The Pacific Classic was chock full of has-beens and underachieving older males.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Don't be surprised if you see Beholder's odds drift from 3-1 up towards 5-1, 9-2 at post time. If that does happen, cease and desist immediately.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Yeah, Smooth Roller had a 111 BSF in his last.... HE HAS TO BE THE BEST HORSE! UUgh
Marc Rogala More than 1 year ago
Friday October 23rd BREEDERS CUP WAGERS $30 win $20 place 1st race - BUMP START 2nd race - MAKOO 3rd race - EARLY ENTRY 4th race - TWEET KITTEN 5th race - RACE DAY 6th race - CAMELOT KITTEN 7th race - LEA & WAR STORY 8th race - SAPPHIRE KITTEN 9th race - SHEER DRAMA $0.50 trifecta box ALL 10 races 1/2/5/7 6/3/2 5/6/9 1/2/4 7/3/2 $0.50 pick - 3 6th race - 5/6/7/9/12/14 - 3/5/11 - 2/3/7/10/13 7th race - 3/5/11 - 2/3/7/10/13 - 7/11/13/14 8th race - 2/3/7/10/13 - 7/11/13/14 - 6/8/13 $2 daily double 6th race - 5/6/7/9/12/14 over 3/5/11 7th race - 3/5/11 over 2/3/7/10/13 $1.00 exacta box 4th race - 1/4/5/11/12 6th race - 5/6/7/9/12/14 7th race - 3/5/11 8th race - 2/3/7/10/13 9th race - 7/11/13/14 $0.50 pick-4 6th race - 7/9/12/14 - 3/5/11 - 2/3/7/10/13 - 7/11/13/14 7th race - 3/5/11 - 2/3/7/10-13 - 7/11/13/14 p 6/8/13 All these wagers total $971.00 “MAY THE HORSE BE WITH YOU”
Frank More than 1 year ago
Thanks for sharing -- now I know who I can throw out! You got a brother -- I figure its in the blood!
Harvey Savitsky More than 1 year ago
Clarify the below: $0.50 trifecta box ALL 10 races 1/2/5/7 6/3/2 5/6/9 1/2/4 7/3/2
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Ugh. I can't believe you did that? What did it accomplish?
Frank More than 1 year ago
Last thing I want to see is another Zayat or narcissistic Baffert in the winners circle -- Love the horse though... Cant stand the connections. Greedy, fake, and slimy people....Remember what Zayat's did to Nehro - inexcusable -- they should be banned from the sport like Ernie Paragallo...
ChrysLongAgo More than 1 year ago
Slimy is a good assessment. Nice horse, icky connections.
George Custer More than 1 year ago
Frank--you sound like a jealous, childish weasel...
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
I am going to choke!
mike More than 1 year ago
George Custer, and you sound like an idiot,looking the other way regarding AP's connections.
Jack Young More than 1 year ago
Well said, Frank.
Pete Vincent More than 1 year ago
what happened to Nehro?
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
What did "they" do to Nehro......treated him and he died like thousands of horses before him
mike More than 1 year ago
Vince,what's wrong with you? Nehro was raced with very bad feet when he shouldn't have.
Paul McAleavey More than 1 year ago
Well Zayat declared bankruptcy people and held his horses. If not he wouldn't have sold off AP s stallion rights. If you have a brain and do any research what I say is clearly true. Zayat is no hero but he had his chances. I'm glad he finally got one to be sound enough to realize them. He is I peasant amongst racing Giants. Whom else before penny Chenery sold off breeding rights when they had a classic winner? Zayat already has Pioneer of the Nike the next Kitten's joy most would say. Yet he sold him because he was broke. Most of the drf and others would debate but it's true. His son a C student while chasing tale made a dumb deal Bc his dad was still with Pioneer of the Nile. People say racing needed a champion. No it needed a horse that runs 40 plus times and unfortunately the ppl selling insurance weigh highly on those decisions. Even if AP wins easily tomorrow and I hope he would his legacy of not being g raced past3 will rear its head and honestly should. Mares do with obvious reason and do geldings. But colts even with a dropping stud fee is crazy. All immortals ran a good 40 times. Many far more.
Paul McAleavey More than 1 year ago
Meant Nile