With so many Breeders' Cup aspirants now on the shelf until the event itself Nov. 3 and 4 at Santa Anita Park, it is what happens off the track that is more likely to shake up my fair odds for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Normally, this would be a big weekend of Classic preps with the Woodward (G1) at Aqueduct, Lukas Classic (G2) at Churchill Downs and Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita but none of the primary contenders on my fair odds list are expected in action across the trio of so-called Classic preps.
Since Saratoga and Del Mar closed, I have remained unmoved in my top 7 contenders for North America's richest horse race coming out of races from one of those two venues with a preference for the east coast contingent, led by Whitney (G1) winner White Abarrio.
My reasoning for favoring east over west despite the home-region advantage for the latter group is that there appears to be a lot of speed signed on for this year's Classic, and that dynamic might get an extra jolt if Pennsylvania Derby winner Saudi Crown joins the fray.
Indeed, Saudi Crown is our biggest jump among the contenders, and while he's as talented as any on this list, having to tussle with the Pacific Classic 3-year-olds Arabian Knight and Geaux Rocket Ride, the exacta finishers, makes his job tougher come Nov. 4 in Arcadia.
I expect trainer Aidan O'Brien to enter one of his in the Classic, and I've included Next on this list – remember when Nest was there? – because he's just been too good this year to ignore that it's at least worth connections looking at the race.
We will know a lot more after this weekend, but I do not expect any change to my top five.