2018 Breeders' Cup Classic Expert Predictions and Betting Odds
The Breeders' Cup Classic is a very interesting race this year. With the premature retirement of Triple Crown winner Justify, it lacks the one star everyone would love to see. And there isn't another superstar runner to take his place. But, in the absence of a great horse or a dominant favorite, what we are left with is a deep and wide-open race. A full field of 14 horses is entered to run in the race set to go to post at 5:44 pm ET from Churchill Downs, and you could make a legitimate case for 10 of them to come through here. It's the most wide-open Classic I ever remember seeing. Here is how the best of the field sets up (horse, trainer, jockey, morning line odds):
Accelerate, John Sadler, Joel Rosario, 5/2: This is the best older horse in California, and he will be looking to prove he is the best in the country. His fans will point out that he has won four Grade 1 races, and all have come in strong fashion against solid fields - or better. Critics, though, will point out that he has won those Grade 1 races only in California, and that his only loss in his last six races came when he left California and headed to Arkansas. His breeding is excellent, he likes the distance, and he is clearly talented. But I am skeptical of him outside of California, and it certainly doesn't help that Sadler does not have a Breeders' Cup win in 41 tries. At this price I will look to beat him.
West Coast, Bob Baffert, John Velazquez, 5/1 and McKinzie, Baffert, Mike Smith, 6/1: These two stablemates are a formidable combination as Baffert seeks to win his fourth Classic in five years. West Coast was third in this race last year and has since finished second three times - in the Pegasus World Cup, to Thunder Snow in the Dubai World Cup and to Accelerate in the Awesome Again after a long layoff. He was three-year-old champion last year, so his talent is real. And he has been working great - like he is sitting on a big race. McKinzie is a three-year-old, and before anyone knew who Justify was, and before McKinzie was hurt, he was the star of the Baffert stable on the road to the Derby. He was off from March to the end of September when he returned to win the Pennsylvania Derby. That wasn't much of a field, and it was only against three-year-olds, but the talent is real and immense. The biggest reason to believe in him is that Smith, the ultimate big-race rider, has the first call on Baffert horses, and he chose this colt over West Coast. Baffert is in excellent shape here.
Mind Your Biscuits, Chad Summers, Tyler Gaffalione, 6/1: This is one of the country's best sprinters, having won the Dubai Golden Shaheen twice and finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last year. But his connections are determined to stretch him out, and so far it has gone well. Last time out he won at a mile and an eighth and looked comfortable doing so. He's consistent and talented and seems capable of outrunning his breeding. I'm not crazy about the jockey choice, though, and doubt he's as good as the best.
Catholic Boy, Jonathan Thomas, Javier Castellano, 8/1: This has been the best three-year-old since Justify was retired, having won three straight, with the last two at the classic distance. The first two were on the grass, and then he won the Travers, the same race West Coast and Arrogate won the last two years. This colt fell off the Derby trail after a poor performance in the Florida Derby, but he has found his game since. He hasn't put up the speed figures that the best in this field, though, and will have to improve immensely to win. I'm a respectful doubter.
Yoshida, Bill Mott, Jose Ortiz, 10/1: After a turf career tapped by a Grade 1 win, this horse was sent to the dirt last time out for the Woodward at Saratoga. I was skeptical, but he came out on top. He looked good, but the pace aided him. He has trained very well on the Churchill dirt, and he looks ready. At this price he must be part of exotics consideration.
Mendelssohn, Aidan O'Brien, Ryan Moore, 12/1: After winning this year's UAE Derby in dominant fashion, the horse came to the Kentucky Derby with a good deal of hype. And it was a disaster - he was dead last and never even remotely competitive. Since then he has raced three times in New York, and though he didn't win he looked good each time. His breeding is outstanding, and his connections are strong, but I am skeptical of the horse on this track.
Thunder Snow, Saeed bin Suroor, Christophe Soumillon, 12/1: What an odd career this four-year-old has had. He came over from Dubai for the 2017 Derby but bucked out of the gate and was pulled up. It was bizarre. Then he raced in Europe and Dubai and mostly looked like a solid horse who wasn't good enough. Until the Dubai World Cup, that is, which he won in dominant fashion. And since then he has been terrible in England and inadequate in New York. When he's good he's very good, but I have no faith we will see that here.
Roaring Lion, John Gosden, Oisin Murphy, 20/1: Horses like this are what make the Breeders' Cup so interesting. This three-year-old is one of Europe's finest, having won four straight Group 1 races. He's incredibly talented, and his damsire is Derby winner Street Sense, so he should have some affinity for the track as well. But he has never run on dirt before, and he is coming back on short rest after having won his last race on Oct. 20. At his best he could be good enough. But is he fresh enough? Can he handle the surface? Will he adapt to a different style of racing? Just thinking about him gives me a headache.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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