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2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic: An Early Look

With four of the seven Breeders’ Cup Classic “Win and You’re In” challenge races in the books and the World Championships at Santa Anita less than three months away, let’s take an early look at the Classic.

Here are the first four winners of spots in the Classic starting gate on Saturday, November 1, and the three remaining challenge races.

June 14 – CD – Stephen Foster – Moonshine Mullin
June 28 – SA – Santa Anita Gold Cup – Majestic Harbor
July 27 – Mth – Haskell Invitational – Bayern
Aug. 2 – Sar – The Whitney – Moreno
Aug. 24 – Dmr – Pacific Classic
Sept. 27 – Bel – Jockey Club Gold Cup
Sept. 27 – SA – Awesome Again

Moonshine Mullin, who was claimed for $40,000 in November 2013, by trainer Randy Morse, has won his last five starts. However, the son of Albert the Great has not run since the Stephen Foster. He was entered in this past Saturday’s Governor’s Cup at Mountaineer, but was a last minute scratch, when he was not at his best. Will this setback cause him to miss any training?

Majestic_Harbor was the upset winner of the Santa Anita Gold Cup that included 4-5 favorite Game On Dude. The winner earned a 111 BSF for his impressive victory. The son of Rockport Harbor continues to prepare for the Pacific Classic.

In the July 27th Haskell Invitational, Bayern went from a very promising sprinter to a possible starter in the Classic. Trainer Bob Baffert has altered his plans for Bayern by looking for a next start around two turns in the Pennsylvania Derby or the Travers as opposed to the seven furlong King’s Bishop.

The most recent Classic qualifier is the Whitney winner Moreno. Trainer Eric Guillot worked his Saratoga magic when his horse took the field wire to wire. Guillot said that Moreno will prep for the Classic in the Woodward or the Jockey Club Gold Cup. To win Horse of the Year Guillot said that, "I think we need to win the Breeders' Cup Classic."

Since Guillot brought up the importance of a Classic victory to the winning the Horse of the Year Eclipse Award, you have to go back to Curlin in 2007 to find a winner of the Classic-Horse of the Year double. There were four in a row back then: Curlin, Invasor, Saint Liam, and Ghostzapper. In total there have been 11 horses to win that double in the same year.

This is a list of the 2014 grade one winners of a race over a distance of ground on the main track for horses at least three years-old.

Lea – Feb. 9 – Donn Handicap – 114 BSF
Game On Dude – March 8 – Santa Anita handicap – 117 BSF
Constitution – March 29 – Florida Derby – 98 BSF
Wicked Strong – April 5 – Wood Memorial – 104 BSF
California Chrome – April 5 – Santa Anita Derby – 107 BSF
Dance With Fate – April 12 – Blue Grass – 97 BSF
Danza – April 12 – Arkansas Derby – 102 BSF
California Chrome – May 3 – Kentucky Derby – 97 BSF
California Chrome – May 17 – Preakness – 105 BSF
Palace Malice – June 7 – Met Mile – 111 BSF
Tonalist – June 7 – Belmont Stakes – 100 BSF
Moonshine Mullin – June 14 – Stephen Foster - 101 BSF
Majestic Harbor – June 28 – Gold Cup – 111 BSF
Bayern – July 27 – Haskell Invitational – 109 BSF
Moreno – Aug. 2 – Whitney – 108 BSF

Only nine three year-olds have won the Classic since its inception in 1984, with Raven’s Pass being the most recent in 2008 and Curlin in 2007.

Of course the field is not limited to grade one winners, but those horses were, at least at that time, considered at the top of the male divisions.

Since the middle of July Lea has been working on a weekly basis for Trainer Bill Mott on the Oklahoma training track in Saratoga with the Woodward on Aug. 30 as a possible goal … Constitution had a 3 furlong breeze on Aug. 2 at WinStar Farm … Danza has no recorded works since May 18 … California Chrome has yet to return to the work tab since the Belmont Stakes … Unbeaten Shared Belief won a grade one in Dec. 2013 and may be headed to the Pacific Classic.

A major question to ask is whether horses like California Chrome, Danza, and Constitution can be at the top of their game with less than three months until the Breeders’ Cup. At best it would seem that they would have to go into the Classic with only one start.
Let us also not forget that a new dirt racing surface will be in place when Santa Anita opens again in September. With Breeders’ Cup in mind hopefully this track will play fairly for horses from all over the country.

At this point it would be difficult enough to predict who will be in the Classic field, let alone think about who might win the race. Who am I to not give it try? From the west coast I prefer Majestic Harbor and Shared Belief. I am dubious about California Chrome being ready to fire his best effort. From the east, I will draw a line through Palace Malice’s dull Whitney effort and stick with the Dogwood Stable runner.

As for Horse of the Year, my vote would go to Wise Dan as the most likely winner. If he can win his return start after his colic surgery and then repeat in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, he would be an easy choice to make. 


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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


The best way to get to know Matt is to check out some of his favorite articles from the past couple years.

• Preakness Interview with Trainer Todd Pletcher

• Kentucky Derby 2016 Handicapping Tips from A to Z


• Edison: the Travels of a Million Dollar Colt 

• A Kentucky Derby Field with Just 14 Horses

• What is the Best Kentucky Derby Running Style?



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