Clocker: California horse 'is going to win' Breeders' Cup Classic

In 35 previous runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, nearly half have been won by trainers based in Southern California.

They were Bob Baffert (2015, 16 and 17 with Bayern, American Pharoah and Arrogate); John Shirreffs (2009 with Zenyatta); Bobby Frankel (2004 with Ghostzapper); Richard Mandella (2003 with Pleasantly Perfect); Jay Robbins (2001 and 2000 with Tiznow); D. Wayne Lukas (1999 with Cat Thief); David Hofmans (1996 with Alphabet Soup); Neil Drysdale (1992 with A.P. Indy); Charlie Whittingham (1989 with Sunday Silence and 1987 with Ferdinand); Jack Van Berg (1988 with Alysheba); Michael Whittingham (1986 with Skywalker); and Vincent Timphony (1984 with Wild Again).

Widely respected private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young sees little reason that trend shouldn’t continue when the 35th edition of the $6 million Classic is contested Saturday at Churchill Downs.

The first three morning line favorites—Accelerate, 5-2, John Sadler; West Coast, 5-1, and McKinzie, 6-1, the latter pair trained by Bob Baffert, all are based at Santa Anita, where the Breeders’ Cup will be presented for a record 11th time next year (Mind Your Biscuits also is listed at 6-1).

Young has been able to experience a steady take on the participants that call Santa Anita home, since The Great Race Place is where he regularly plies his trade, stopwatch and binoculars at the ready as he’s perched in his Club House seat overlooking the majestic San Gabriel Mountains.

“I think someone from California is going to win it,” Young said by phone from Kentucky between raindrops on Thursday. “All three California horses have looked good going over the Churchill track. Hopefully, by the time the race is run the track will be dried out and fast.

“West Coast looked very impressive galloping Thursday, but I think anyone of the three could win. I’d be surprised if anyone other than those three did, although I can’t say I definitely like one over the other two.

“I thought it was a bad sign when Accelerate took so long to load in the gate for the Awesome Again (at Santa Anita on Sept. 29). Out of the blue, he just all of a sudden didn’t want to load. That’s a bit concerning.

“McKinzie has worked very well since his last race, although it’s not an easy spot for a three-year-old facing older horses for the first time. But he won the Parx race (Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 22) off an extended layoff (more than six months) and gained the weight that he lost on that trip back east and he’s trained well for this race, so I could see him winning.”

Asked for a best bet on the two-day card, Young went to the Mile and offered Juddmonte Farms Expert Eye, a 3-year-old English-bred son of Acclimation trained by Sir Michael Stoute. 

“Expert Eye has trained well at Churchill,” Young said. “The turf racing is obviously going to be a grab bag, but unlike the dirt, it’s not going to be dried out by the time it’s run.

“The horse has trained well and I have a lot of respect for Michael Stoute.”

 

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