2014 Breeders' Cup Classic Predictions and Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 10/28/2014
This is it. The big one. The race for all the marbles. The race that every top horse in the country has been aimed at since the spring - or longer. The Breeders' Cup Classic. It rarely disappoints, and some of the biggest names of our times - A.P. Indy. Cigar, Tiznow, Curlin, Zenyatta - have made their mark here.
The last four years haven't produced winners quite as legendary, but you can't complain about the quality of the races any of those years. This year marks a bit of a shift in reality for this race. Since Tiznow won the first time in 2000 as a three year old, only Curlin and Raven's Pass, in 2007 and 2008, respectively - have won at three. This is a race for older horses for the most part.
This year, though, five of the top-seven contenders in the race - including the three strong favorites in all likelihood - are all three years old. Injuries have decimated what was once a very strong older horse group, but I'm not at all convinced they would have measured up with the best of the three year olds anyway.
Here are the top seven horses in what should be a truly great race:
Shared Belief (9/5): This freak has done nothing wrong. Not a thing. He was the two-year-old champion last year after three thoroughly dominating wins. After an injury sidelined him until May, he came back and hasn't missed a stride. He cruised against three year olds twice, and then he made beating older horses look easy in the Pacific Classic. Last time out - in the Awesome Again here at Santa Anita - he faced adversity for the first time. Bob Baffert, who trained second-place finisher Fed Biz, clearly targeted him and limited his ability to run. Shared Belief shrugged off the problems and made a monster move down the stretch to narrowly win. There is concern from some that the race took too much out of him, but it was a month ago, and I think that learning to deal with adversity will have given him more than the effort took. He hasn't lost, has rarely been challenged, and is only getting better. And his jockey, Mike Smith, has won more Breeders' Cup races than anyone. You certainly don't have to bet on him here, but you have to be very scared if you choose not to.
Bayern (6/1): Shared Belief is the uber-freak. When Bayern is at his best, though, the gap between the two isn't particularly wide. In races like the Woody Stephens, Haskell and Pennsylvania Derby he has won so easily that you feel bad for the rest of the horses. In the Preakness and Travers, though, he didn't fire and lost badly. He has never faced older horses, and he is going to be challenged for the lead he so badly needs by Moreno and others. If he runs his race, though, he will be harder to chase down than anything Shared Belief has seen. I love this horse. I just have to figure out over the next few days how much I love him.
California Chrome (4/1): I'll be up front here - I didn't like this horse heading into the Kentucky Derby. Or the Preakness. Or the Belmont. Or the Pennsylvania Derby. It's nothing other than predictable, then, that I don't like him here, either. He has enjoyed perfect trips in several of his wins, and he hasn't run a good race since May 17. I don't like they approach his handlers have taken with him and am not at all convinced that he is good enough. He peaked at just the right time, but I haven't seen enough to believe that he can keep growing at the rate that his chief rivals have. I'll let the public pour their money into him and look elsewhere instead.
Tonalist (5/1): He's viewed as a notch behind the best of the three year olds, but he shouldn't be. He won the Belmont, and then after a solid summer he capped his preparations for this race by being the best against older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He's the only youngster to have won at this distance or better twice. The biggest concern is that his one-move, closing style is likely better suited to the endless stretch at Belmont than to Santa Anita. There will be plenty of speed to chase in this race, though, so if Bayern and Moreno falter it would be surprising not to see Tonalist at least in the mix with Shared Belief. He's not the best horse of the top four, but he might offer the best value.
Moreno (20/1): This tough guy is the best of the older horses. He has had a decent year, highlighted by a win in the Whitney, and is usually a factor. He'll be looking to set the pace here, though I am not at all sure he can stick with Bayern if that horse is really interested in running, and that could be the downfall of this horse. I'm also not sure that his gritty best is good enough if the other top horses have their best day. Two more knocks - he has six career races at Santa Anita without a win, and one of those was a truly horrific showing in last year's Classic. I'll pass.
Cigar Street (12/1): This is one odd story - he's a five year old with beautiful breeding and obvious talent, but two bad injuries have meant that he has only eight career starts. He was off from March of 2013 until this August, but he returned with a nice race and improved dramatically next time out at Churchill Downs. Neither of those races were graded Stakes, so there is a huge jump up in class. He has trained very well, though, and trainer Bill Mott has nine Breeders' Cup wins, including two in the Classic, so he is in good hands. Mott also doesn't like to just show up, so if he is here it's because Mott thinks he has a chance. Is he good enough? I'm not sure. He's certainly interesting, though.
V.E. Day (20/1): It looked like a star was born when this horse won the Curlin and the Travers at Saratoga this summer. He tried older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, though, and was irrelevant after a rough start. Can he recapture summer form and move forward - while adjusting to his first trip westward? Or is his best in the rearview mirror? He wasn't going to be in this race until a relatively late change of plans. It's up to you to decide whether that is a good thing or not.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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