Veteran Turf Writers Ehalt, Pedulla Pick the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic

Tom’s d’Etat, shown training at Churchill Downs, is Bob Ehalt’s pick to post a mild upset in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7. (Coady Photography)

Bob Ehalt and Tom Pedulla became fast friends when they met on their first day at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1970. Bob soon introduced Tom to the joys of thoroughbred racing.

They have endured some rough moments at the track, with Tom taking exception when Bob repeatedly smacks him on the back with a program as one of their horses launches an all-out drive. Much to Tom’s chagrin and the amusement of onlookers, Bob has been known to call for security as he proceeds to cash a $27 triple.

They have owned a number of horses together and were part of the group that owned 1998 Whitney Handicap runner-up Tale of the Cat. They are often seen carrying on as if they never left their teenage years.

Here is their take on the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic, set for Saturday at a mile and a quarter at Keeneland Race Course:

Tiz the Law (Coady Photography)

PEDULLA: Bob, if we forgive Tiz the Law his two starts at Churchill Downs and count him among many elite horses that simply did not take to that surface, we are looking at a horse that we would view as nothing short of a superstar. I continue to view Tiz as a horse worthy of all of the accolades he was receiving before he could not run down Authentic in the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby. I think the combination of four weeks’ rest between the Travers Stakes and the Derby combined with a track he did not like to provide his undoing. We know he is well rested now. We know his two works at Keeneland suggest he likes the going there. We know he will get the distance. We know he possesses the tactical speed to adapt to any pace. Sounds like we know who the winner is.

EHALT: Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. Sounds like you’re missing out on a great hunch play. But don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. I’m taking Tom’s d’Etat. Let’s go back to the Whitney Stakes. Yes, he stumbled and lost all chance. Yet he finished only 2 ½ lengths behind Improbable, and don’t forget the price on the toteboard at Saratoga. He was the even-money favorite. On Saturday, we’ll see why he was a short price as a three-month freshening will bring out the best in him and he’ll give trainer Al Stall Jr. another Breeders’ Cup Classic win, 10 years after Blame’s shocker over Zenyatta.

PEDULLA: As is the case with Tiz the Law, I am looking for Maximum Security to rebound from his last start, when fellow Bob Baffert trainee Improbable defeated him by 4 ½ lengths in the Sept. 26 Awesome Again Stakes. I do not profess to know what went wrong that day. We both know Maximum Security is considerably better than that. I look for Maximum Security to revert back to the form he displayed in the Aug. 22 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, when he rolled by three lengths despite setting a pressured pace. A repeat of that effort puts him right there in the Classic. His five-furlong work in 59 4/5 on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita, best of 72 at the distance, suggests Hall of Famer Baffert has him primed to run the race of his life.

EHALT:  Okay, we’re back on the same wavelength. I also have Maximum Security penciled in for second. The Awesome Again was one of those bad days you draw a line through and look for a much improved effort Saturday. He should be able to work out a good trip from the outside post and will be right there at the finish. I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if he beats this field for Baffert fourth Classic win. This horse is that good.


PEDULLA: Improbable repeatedly disappointed us last season as a 3-year-old. We must concede he is a different horse now. He is far more mature than the sophomore who often cost himself – and cost us – by being fractious in the starting gate. He must be viewed as a major player here after rattling off three consecutive Grade 1 triumphs – the June 6 Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita, the Aug. 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga and the Sept. 26 Awesome Again at Santa Anita. I pick him for third only because I think Tiz the Law and Maximum Security are that good.

EHALT: For me, this is the spot for Tiz the Law. Thankfully, for his sake, the race is at Keeneland instead of Churchill Downs, where he’s suffered his only defeats. He’s been in training since the start of the year and trainer Barclay Tagg has him in superb condition right now. I’m expecting a big effort from his as a maturing 3-year-old in the fall, but I believe the older horses are a shade better right now.

PEDULLA: I am not sure which Tom’s d’Etat will show up for his career finale. Will it be the 7-year-old that stumbled at the start of the Whitney and never recovered in trailing Improbable and By My Standards in his most recent start? Or will it be the Tom’s d’Etat that controlled the June 27 Stephen Foster Stakes by 4 ¼ lengths against runner-up By My Standards while posting a career-best 109 Beyer Speed Figure? I am betting on the latter.

EHALT: Well, at least you have good ‘ol Tom in the superfecta. Now let’s be honest. We’ve both lost enough money to cover a year of our high school tuition (it was pretty cheap back then!) through betting on Tacitus. Now I’m not saying he’s going to win. He is Tacitus. Yet after being 6-5 or less in his last three starts, he’s 20-1 here. At that price, it would not shock me at all to see him pump up the exotics. After all, it is 2020.

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