Analysis: Elate fits well in a weak Breeders' Cup Classic field

October 15, 2019 01:00pm
While Elate lost her last two starts when running second to Blue Prize in the Spinster Stakes (G1) and runner-up behind Midnight Bisou in the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1), her presence in the Breeders' Cup Classic remains a good idea. Considering this year's field, I even think she could hit the board.

It all depends on whether you believe she lost those races with legitimate excuses.

A few defenders mentioned how Elate does not handle Keeneland dirt. Given she pulled up in the 2017 Ashland Stakes (G1), that is a fair theory. Plus, this was just the prep for the bigger day. 

As for the Personal Ensign, it was a close one with Midnight Bisou, who is 7-for-7 this year. And all along, trainer Bill Mott has believed 1 1/4 miles, not 1 1/8, is Elate's best distance.

Regardless, compare Elate's speed figures to some of the probable Classic contenders.

Elate earned a 123 TimeformUS Speed Figure for finishing second in the Spinster as well as a 124 for her runner-up finish in the Personal Ensign. She also picked up a 122 for her 4 ½-length win in the 1 ¼-mile Delaware Handicap (G2). If nothing else, she is consistent.

The expected Classic favorite McKinzie ran a 123 in his runner-up Awesome Again Stakes (G1) effort. Granted, his past three figures before the loss were 129, 130 and 128.

The actual winner Mongolian Groom earned a career-best 126. But his previous three speed numbers were significantly lower: 121, 114 and 117, which is well within Elate's wheelhouse.

Vino Rosso earned a 128 on TimeformUS for crossing the wire first in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). He previously earned a 123 and 126.

Code of Honor also registered a 128 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Earlier in the summer, earned a 125 and 118 in his Travers (G1) and Dwyer Stakes (G3) wins.

Now, Elate is probably not capable of a 128 or 129. But if she stretches out and submits a 125, that puts her in the mix.

For those who prefer Beyer Speed Figures: Elate ran a 96, 104 and 102 in her last three starts, while McKinzie ran a 108, 111 and 107. Beyer and TimeformUS disagree slightly on the most recent figure for Elate and McKinzie.

But Vino Rosso only shows a 106, 100 and 105 in his last three starts on the Beyer scale, and Code of Honor's last three Beyers are 106, 105 and 97.

Those Beyers are more within Elate's reach.

Furthermore, female horses show a successful history in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Only eight years ago, Havre de Grace ran fourth in the 2011 edition, and she lost the Delaware Handicap to Blind Luck a few months earlier.

Zenyatta is the most obvious example as the 2010 runner-up to Blame at Churchill Downs and 2009 winner on Santa Anita's old synthetic surface, making her the only filly or mare to actually win the Classic. 

In 2004, Azeri gave the Classic a shot despite running eighth in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) and showing multiple losses against females, including a last-place finish in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1).

Azeri did not win the Classic, but she ran a credible fifth against a star-studded field including Ghostzapper, Roses in May, Pleasantly Perfect, Perfect Drift, Birdstone and Funny Cide. Azeri beat the latter two stars.

Going back further to 1992, the 3-year-old filly Jolypha shipped over from Europe to give the Breeders' Cup Classic a shot. She closed well enough to finish third in a 14-horse field, only losing to A.P. Indy and Pleasant Tap.

Previous to the Classic, Jolypha finished eighth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Gr. 1). She also lost once before in the Prix Saint-Alary (G1).

In general, the differences between male and female horses are exaggerated in the U.S. Other countries run mixed races without much added hype around them.

Elate is also 3-for-3 at this distance, and that has to mean something even though her best 2019 figure came in the Personal Ensign.

Notice jockey Jose Ortiz geared Elate down in her Delaware Handicap romp at 1 ¼ miles, which could explain the slightly lower speed figure. 
After a few hits with the stick, Elate was eased to the wire.

At nine furlongs, she will probably not win against the likes of Midnight Bisou, Blue Prize and more in the loaded Breeders' Cup Distaff field.

But at 1 ¼ miles against one of the weakest Classic fields ever assembled, Elate might hit the board. From an objective standpoint, it is possible.

Elate has been over-bet the entire year, which makes the above stance odd. But analyzing down the middle means putting my anti-Elate bias away and looking at the speed figures, history of the race, and the mare's own surface and distance preferences.

All those factors point toward fitting in this edition of the Classic.

More people will remember Elate hitting the board in the 2019 Breeders' Cup Classic than a runner-up finish in the Distaff. It's worth a shot.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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