The pre-entries are in, and we have the best idea yet of what the breeders' Cup Classic field will look like. Things can, and likely will, still change, but the main storylines in this race have been set. That means we can start to look at which horses are contenders and which ones are just along for the ride - hoping for a small piece of a big purse. Fourteen horses were pre-entered for this $6 million race on Nov. 5, with 13 likely to be entered on Monday when things have to be made final. Of that group there are eight that I view as more legitimate contenders than the rest. Here are the eight horses that can win the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2016:
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California Chrome: Alright, I finally admit it - he is a good horse. I have looked to beat him pretty much every time he has started since the Santa Anita Derby two years back. That worked well for me in the Belmont and the Breeders' Cup Classic, and for a long time was generally profitable. Over the last year, though, he has emerged as a true beast, dispatching everyone he has faced with authority. He's the cream of the crop and will be a deserving favorite. He has won six straight, including the Dubai World Cup and two big stakes races on this same Santa Anita surface. I respect him. He is probably the most likely to win the race. I'm also likely to look to beat him here, though - at the price he is likely to go off at there are others that are more intriguing and offer better value.
Arrogate: This horse is wildly intriguing, and he makes my head hurt. Heading into the Travers, the biggest race for three year olds of the year outside of the Triple Crown, he was a little-known horse making his stakes debut. The field there was deep and solid. He didn't just beat it; he annihilated it. He won by more than 13 lengths, and that was despite a bit of a rough start. And he was really fast, too. He hasn't raced since. So, he has one stakes win, but he's the fastest horse in the field, his workouts show he is fit, and it seems like he can run forever. Oh, and trainer Bob Baffert has won this race the last two years. So, basically, the next two weeks will consist of me trying to convince myself not to bet on this horse. I may not succeed.
Frosted: The owners were debating, and I really expected them to opt for the Dirt Mile instead of this spot. I kind of wish they had. After a mild performance in the Dubai World Cup, he came back and became the king of the early summer for older horses. His 14-length win in the Metropolitan Handicap was perhaps the most impressive performance by any horse this year, and he followed it up by winning the Whitney easily. The hype dimmed slightly, though, when he was a solidly-beaten third in the Woodward behind Shaman Ghost. The ride he got there was lousy, though, so the result may not have been all his fault. He was solid in his Derby and Belmont, so we know he can handle this distance, but he hasn't done it well lately, and we can't be sure he is in top form. I like this horse a lot, but I'll need a good price to do more than put him in the lower parts of my exotics.
Found: This European filly is wildly talented and could be a factor for sure. You have to be skeptical, though, because of her workload. She won the Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 2 and then came back to be a solid second in the Champion Stakes at Ascot. So this will be her third world-class race in her third country in five weeks. Oh yeah - and she has never run on dirt, either. That is a whole lot to ask - and a whole lot more than is ever really asked of North American horses outside of the Triple Crown. I'd like her a lot more if she was fresh, but she's a piece of it.
Hoppertunity: This is the other Baffert horse here. He is coming off a big win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but he hasn't generally been good enough against the best. I like him to get a piece of the action but not the win.
Melatonin: He has won two Grade 1 races at Santa Anita this year, so he has the home-field advantage. He hasn't raced since his last win there in June, though, so we have no way of knowing if he is fresh enough. He has worked reasonably well, but we'd need a real price to get excited about him.
Effinex: He was second behind American Pharoah in the Classic last year and has since been in the mix against decent horses in several races. He's a factor for a piece, too - another part of a very deep second tier in this one.
Nyquist: He makes this list because he is the Kentucky Derby winner and because he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year. He hasn't been the same since getting burned by a speed duel in the Preakness, though, and I am not expecting him to be any factor at all against this field of primarily older horses. His time has passed - at least for this season.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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