Equibase Analysis: Will Collected Take Home Top Honors In The Breeders’ Cup Classic?

The Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic drew a field of 11, including Arrogate, winner of the Grade 1, $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes earlier this year. However, questions about his current form surround Arrogate after finishing second to Collected in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, in which Collected was winning for the fourth time in a row. Gun Runner, whose only defeat this year came at the hands of Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup in March, has put together three straight wins including the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. Three year olds Gunnevera, West Coast and Pavel all will be trying to win versus their elders just as Arrogate did last year, American Pharoah did in 2015 and Bayern did in 2014. West Coast enters the Classic off a win in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby, in which Gunnevera finished second. Pavel finished third in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in his most recent race, at the distance of the Classic. Two European horses try dirt for the first time in the Classic. Churchill (IRE) is the slightly more accomplished of the pair, a three-year-old who won the Group 1 2000 Guineas earlier this year. The other European import is War Decree, who won the Group 2 Koffy Diamond Stakes in late September at the distance of the Classic but on an all-weather surface. Mubtaahij (IRE) earned his spot in the gate with a win in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes in September. War Story and Win the Space round out the field, with War Story having won the Grade 2 Brooklyn Stakes in June and Win the Space coming into the Classic off a third place finish behind Mubtaahij (IRE) in the Awesome Again.

Collected returned from more than 10 months off this past April and although he had a splendid three year old campaign, winning three of five races, including three stakes for $382,000 in earnings, as a four year old he has been something else entirely. For the comeback race in April Collected took blinkers off that had been on for all seven of his previous starts. Without blinkers, he has now reeled off four straight wins, all in stakes races, including the Grade 1 Pacific Classic over the track at the distance of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In doing so, Collected beat the prohibitive favorite in Arrogate on the square. Although he led from start to finish in the Pacific Classic, Collected proved previously in two of his wins this year he does not need the lead to win. Jockey Martin Garcia has the luxury of seeing what horses who like to race forwardly such as Arrogate (who gets the rail), Gun Runner and West Coast will do as he maneuvers Collected closer to the rail on the long run to the first turn. Prior to the Pacific Classic, Collected earned a career-best 125 Equibase Speed Figure which put him in the same league as Arrogate, who had earned a 124 figure winning the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in January, and as Gun Runner, who earned a 126 figure winning the Whitney Stakes two weeks earlier. Proving the 125 figure effort was no fluke, Collected earned a 126 figure winning the Pacific Classic. Lightly raced enough to have another “A” effort left in the tank, Collected has a big shot to win this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Gun Runner will very likely go into the gate as the betting favorite in the Classic, and for good reason as he has won three grade 1 stakes in a row. Gun Runner has won four of five races in 2017, his only loss coming at the hands of Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup in March. Since then, Gun Runner has been nothing short of sensational, with victories by seven, five and most recently, by 10 lengths. Earning improving Equibase figures of 121, 126 and 131 in his most recent win, the only fault I can find with Gun Runner is that he has run three times previously at the mile and one-quarter distance of the classic and not won. Gun Runner finished third in the 2016 Kentucky Derby, third in last year’s Travers Stakes and then second in the Dubai World Cup, beaten by Arrogate in the latter two races at the distance. However, Gun Runner is much bigger and stronger now while there are questions as to whether Arrogate is as good as he was in the winter and spring. Gun Runner showed a dimension winning the Woodward Stakes in September that he had not shown in some time as he relaxed in second in the early stages then drew off easily to win by 10 lengths. As such, jockey Florent Geroux can wait a few moments to see if another horse may want the lead, in which case he can put Gun Runner in second as he did in the Woodward. If no other horse wants the lead, Geroux can put Gun Runner on the front end where he may prove uncatchable.

West Coast is a three-year-old who missed the Kentucky Derby preps because he wasn’t fully mature, having been born in May of 2014. However, as he has matured he’s turned into a very good horse, winning five straight races including three graded stakes. Winning the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby back-to-back in August and September, West Coast earned 115 figures each time. Although those numbers are not in the same airspace as the 124-130 figures earned by Arrogate, Collected and Gun Runner, being a three year old may offer West Coast the ability to improve markedly at this time of year and join the ranks of many other top three-year-olds that won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in history such as Bayern, American Pharoah and Curlin, just to name a few.

Then we come to Arrogate, hailed as the best horse in training earlier this year after victories in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and Dubai World Cup. Perhaps the trip half-way across the world to Dubai took its toll or perhaps there were other reasons, but everyone agrees it was a shock when Arrogate finished fourth of five as the prohibitive favorite in the San Diego Handicap in July. Showing a bit of his previous form in the Pacific Classic, Arrogate sat in third in the early stages but could not pass Collected in the stretch and ended up a half-length back at the finish. Starting with last year’s Travers, Arrogate earned 120-124 figures then a 132 figure in the Dubai World Cup. Getting back to a 126 figure effort when gamely trying to collar Collected in the Pacific Classic, Arrogate may be on the improve and should be considered a contender in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, but personally I think others are going to run their best races of 2017 and he might have already done so.

Pavel and Mubtaahij (IRE) may not possess the probability to win as the four previously mentioned contenders, but they should be considered for exotic bets we make in this race such as the exacta and trifecta. Like West Coast, Pavel is a three-year-old, and he has only run four times to date. Pavel ran his best race yet when facing older last month in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and although no threat to wire-to-wire winner Diversify, Pavel battled head and head down the stretch with veteran Keen Ice for second. He likely got a lot out of that experience while improving to a career-best 116 figure and can take another step forward. Mubtaahij (IRE) returned from six months off to win the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita in his most recent race. The 108 figure he earned wasn’t nearly as good as the main contenders in this race but he can improve upon it in his second start off the layoff. Previously earning a 131 figure when second in the 2016 Dubai World Cup and a 120 figure when beaten inches in last year’s Woodward Stakes, Mubtaahij (IRE) may be closing strongly in the late stages and have a say in the outcome.

The rest of the Classic field, with their best representative figures, is Churchill (IRE) (122 on turf), Gunnevera (110), War Decree (117 on turf), War Story (108) and Win the Space (113).

Win Contenders:
Gun Runner
West Coast

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