An Oversubscribed Classic: Who Is Guaranteed A Spot At Churchill Downs?

There are currently a total of 18 horses under consideration for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, but next Saturday’s field at Churchill will be limited to 14 starters with two also-eligibles. According to Breeders’ Cup regulations, oversubscribed races at the time of pre-entries (which were due on Monday afternoon) will be handled according to three specific qualifying factors.

First, winners of Breeders’ Cup Challenge races under the “Win and You’re In” system will be guaranteed a spot in the starting gate. For the Classic, these include Accelerate (Pacific Classic, Awesome Again), Discreet Lover (Jockey Club Gold Cup), and Pavel (Stephen Foster).

A point system will determine the next four horses guaranteed a place in the Classic. Based the on total number of American and Canadian Graded Stakes points they have collected during the year, those four are: Bravazo, McKinzie, Axelrod, and Lone Sailor.

The remaining seven slots in the Classic starting gate, as well as the two AE positions, are determined by a “Racing Secretaries and Directors Panel” of experts. According to documentation released by the Breeders’ Cup earlier this week, “the Panel will be free to establish its own criteria or ranking so that high quality horses of demonstrated ability will have the opportunity to participate in Championships races regardless of earlier participation in graded events in 2018.”

Horses expected to be competing for those slots are, in no particular order: Mind Your Biscuits, Catholic Boy, West Coast, Mendelssohn, Gunnevera, War Story, Yoshida, Thunder Snow, Seeking the Soul, Collected, and Roaring Lion.

It seems strange that the top four point-earners are all 3-year-olds, noted the Daily Racing Form’s Mike Watchmaker in his Sunday column.

“If the Breeders’ Cup adopted a more refined points system,” he wrote, “one that includes graduated point values not only when it comes to race grade but also in terms of age and sex, it would not only be much more reflective of the real-world ability of the horses involved, it would also make the Breeders’ Cup panel’s job easier.”

Here are the 2018 race records of the 11 horses the Breeders’ Cup panel seems likely to have to consider prior to Wednesday’s official announcement of the ranked pre-entries:

  • Catholic Boy: 2nd G3 Sam Davis Tampa (2/10), 4th G1 Florida Derby Gulfstream (3/31), 1st G3 Pennine Ridge Belmont (6/2 TURF), 1st G1 Belmont Derby (7/7 TURF), and 1st G1 Travers Saratoga (8/25).
  • Collected: 7th G1 Pegasus Gulfstream (1/27) and 4th PA Derby Champions Parx (9/22).
  • Gunnevera: 3rd G1 Pegasus Gulfstream (1/27), 8th G1 Dubai World Cup (3/31), 1st allowance Gulfstream (8/10), and 2nd G1 Woodward (9/1).
  • Mendelssohn: 1st listed Patton Stakes Dundalk (3/9). 1st G2 UAE Derby (3/29), 20th G1 Kentucky Derby (5/5), 3rd G3 Dwyer Belmont (7/7), 2nd G1 Travers Saratoga (8/25), and 3rd G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Belmont (9/29).
  • Mind Your Biscuits: 2nd allowance Gulfstream (2/9), 1st G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (3/31), 2nd G1 Met Mile Belmont (6/9), 2nd G1 Whitney Saratoga (8/4), and 1st G3 Lukas Classic Churchill (9/29). NOTE: Mind Your Biscuits is expected to be pre-entered in either the Dirt Mile or the Sprint as well.
  • Roaring Lion: 3rd G3 Craven Newmarket (4/19 T). 5th G1 2,000 Guineas (5/5 T), 2nd G2 Dante S. York (5/17 T), 3rd G1 Investec Derby (6/2 T), 1st G1 Coral Eclipse (7/7 T), 1st G1 Juddmonte International (8/22 T), 1st G1 Irish Champion Stakes (9/15 T), and 1st G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (10/20 T).
  • Seeking the Soul: 5th G1 Pegasus Gulfstream (1/27), 2nd Schaefer Memorial Indiana (7/14), 13th G1 Woodward Saratoga (9/1), and 1st G3 Ack Ack Churchill (9/29).
  • Thunder Snow: 2nd G2 Al Maktoum Dubai (1/11), 1st G2 Al Maktoum Dubai (2/8), 2nd G1 Al Maktoum Dubai (3/10), 1st G1 Dubai World Cup (3/31), 8th G1 Juddmonte International (8/22 TURF), and 2nd G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Belmont (9/29).
  • War Story: 10th G1 Pegasus Gulfstream (1/27), 1st Challenger Stakes Tampa (3/10), 2nd G2 Charles Town Classic (4/21), 2nd G2 Brooklyn Belmont (6/9), 10th G2 Suburban Belmont (7/7), 2nd G3 Greenwood Cup Parx (9/3), and 3rd Temperance Hill Stakes Belmont (9/30).
  • West Coast: 2nd G1 Pegasus Gulfstream (1/27), 2nd G1 Dubai World Cup (3/31), and 2nd G1 Awesome Again Santa Anita (9/29).
  • Yoshida: 1st G1 Old Forester Churchill (5/5 TURF), 5th G1 Queen Anne Royal Ascot (6/19 TURF), 5th G1 Fourstardave Saratoga (8/11 TURF), and 1st G1 Woodward Saratoga (9/1).

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