American Pharoah favored, but up against great field at Breeders' Cup Classic


A year ago at this time, few had any idea who American Pharoah was. He had only run in a few races, winning the Del Mar Futurity and the Front Runner Stakes, but he hadn't evolved into much more than perhaps a lottery ticket to win the Kentucky Derby. Now, he has become the first horse in almost four decades to win the coveted Triple Crown, and he's going to look to add the Breeders' Cup Classic to his mantle as well in his final race before he is put out to stud.

American Pharoah is amazing, and he's a deserving 6 to 5 favorite on the morning line odds in the Classic. He hasn't posted less than a 99 Beyer Speed Rating in a race since his maiden effort, starting off in prime position virtually every time out of the blocks. Once he got to the head of the pack, he wasn't beaten throughout his Kentucky Derby prep races and the entire Triple Crown. In many of those races, he was ridden out by Victor Espinoza.

Of course, American Pharoah isn't without his flaws. He was beaten in the Travers Stakes by Keen Ice. It was the first time Espinoza really had to go to the whip hard on him, and he didn't react well.

That said, there are nine other horses who think they can win the biggest prize in American horse racing as well on Saturday.

American Pharoah has proven that he is the best three-year old colt in the world, but now he has a couple new factors going against him. For one, he's going against older colts for the first time ever. But maybe more important is that he isn't just facing colts.

It isn't just any mare entered in the Breeders' Cup Classic either. Beholder has already proven that she is the best racing mare on the planet with 14 wins in 19 career races against fellow fillies and mares. It's the race Beholder had against the boys though, that was her most impressive. She won the Pacific Classic by a stunning 8 1/4 lengths back in August. Yes, that field didn't include American Pharoah, but it was most certainly a warning shot that she might not just be the best female racer in the world; she might be the best racer period. Remember that Beholder already has a major Breeders' Cup win under her belt from when she won the Breeders' Cup Distaff last year.

Beholder is lined at 3 to 1 as the second favorite on the board. No other horse aside from these two started at less than 6 to 1.

It's not like there's a bunch of slouches running against these two champions either.

From the inside starting positions out…

1: Tonalist (6/1) – A 6 to 1 third choice who won the Jockey's Club Gold Cup earlier this month at Belmont Park on a sloppy track at 1 1/4 miles.

2: Keen Ice (12/1) – The only horse still racing in major stakes races who has ever beaten American Pharoah. He's just 1 for 4 in his attempts at taking down the beast of the three-year old crop, but his last race at the Travers was his crowning achievement. Keen Ice is 12 to 1 to win the Classic.

3: Frosted (15/1) – Many believed that Frosted was the horse who was going to end the Triple Crown bid at the Belmont. He finished second best that day and was well off of the pace, but he came back and won the Pennsylvania Derby in September to earn a spot in the Breeders' Cup. That said, he's still a 15 to 1 longshot with Joel Rosario onboard.

4: American Pharoah (6/5)

5: Gleneagles (20/1) – Gleneagles might be the top international horse in the world right now. He won the St. James' Palace Stakes to earn a spot in the Classic, giving him a whopping four Grade 1 wins internationally. That said, Mubtaahij and other internationals have already failed against American Pharoah, and that's why Gleneagles is 20 to 1.

6: Effinex (30/1) – This might be the worst colt in this field, and that's why he's 30 to 1. Effinex owns a 110 Beyer Speed Rating from the Suburban Handicap, but that was a Grade 2 race. His best finish in a Grade 1 race is third.

7: Smooth Roller (15/1) – It's not often you see a colt who has only run in four races taking on the Breeders' Cup, but Smooth Roller won the Awesome Again Stakes to become an automatic qualifier. There's pessimism here at 15 to 1, but Smooth Roller is clearly a big question mark.

8: Hard Aces (50/1) – At 50 to 1, Hard Aces is the longest shot on the board. He won the Gold Cup Stakes at Santa Anita in June to earn his way here, but he only has one Beyer Speed Rating over 100 in his career.

9: Honor Code (6/1) – If Honor Code had any history at this distance, he'd have a real shot in this race in our eyes. He's a great racer at one mile and related distances, and his Beyer Speed Ratings are awesome with an average of 104.3 in his last six races. That 6 to 1 price feels overstated.

10: Beholder (3/1)

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