Ten Trainers to Watch at the Breeders' Cup

Pop Culture
Trainers Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, and Doug O'Neill are three to watch at this year's Breeders' Cup. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The Breeders’ Cup brings together the world’s best horses, jockeys, and trainers. This year dozens of trainers vie for wins in the 13 Breeders' Cup races at Del Mar on Nov. 3-4, and this arbitrary list of 10 "baller" trainers to watch at the Breeders’ Cup ranks them by a combination of ability and swagger. These ballers have won a combination of 17 Eclipse Awards for outstanding trainer, 66 Breeders’ Cup races and 26 Triple Crown races. Three are Hall of Famers.

Ron Moquett
Eclipse Sportswire

10. Ron Moquett

Moquett has become more competitive on the national level, and this Oaklawn homegirl author wants to promote the well-spoken, well-dressed class act. He trained 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint third-place finisher Gentlemen’s Bet, and this year he returns to the race with Whitmore, 2016 Kentucky Derby contender-turned-sprinter.

Baller characteristic: Inspiring the horse racing world on social media.

For example: “We get beat far more times than we win. We get judged daily, often by people who think a stat or a percentage defines what you know or the time and work invested in your career. We give up so much to chase this dream. We sacrifice everything from sleep to relationships. And though it's the Sport of the Kings, far more people are lucky to make a living than a fortune caring for these guys ... so the answer is ... you have to love the horses. Love the sport. Love the feeling of being a part of them reaching their potential. Love when you win so much you handle the losses till you get to win again.”

Breeders’ Cup horse to watch:

TwinSpires Sprint: Whitmore


Christophe Clement and Rajiv Maragh
Clement and jockey Rajiv Maragh. (Eclipse Sportswire)

9. Christophe Clement

The son of a successful French trainer, Clement has been involved in French and English racing. He went out on his own in the United States in 1991. Clement has finished in the top three in nine Breeders’ Cup races, and he is looking for his first win.

Baller characteristic: His first win came from the first horse he ever saddled.

Breeders’ Cup horses to watch:

Turf Sprint: Disco Partner and Pure Sensation

Juvenile Fillies Turf: Best Performance


Doug O'Neill
Eclipse Sportswire

8. Doug O’Neill

The two-time winning trainer of the Kentucky Derby (2016 Nyquist and 2012 I’ll Have Another), O’Neill has also been victorious in six Breeders’ Cup races.

Baller characteristic: Warranted or not, he has the reputation of being a bad boy of racing.

Breeders’ Cup horses to watch:

Classic: Pavel

14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies: Piedi Bianchi

Las Vegas Dirt Mile: Donworth


Todd Pletcher
Eclipse Sportswire

7. Todd Pletcher

Pletcher owns 2017 by winning two of the three Triple Crown races: the Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming and the Belmont Stakes with Tapwrit. He has won the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer seven times, most recently in 2014. He has been victorious in nine Breeders’ Cup races.

Baller characteristic: Cool, calm, and collected under pressure.

Breeders’ Cup horses to watch:

Classic: Keen Ice

14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies: Pure Silver


Bill Mott and John Velazquez
Bill Mott and jockey John Velazquez. (Eclipse Sportswire)

6. Bill Mott

Inducted into the Hall of Fame at age 45, he is famous for training Cigar. He has won the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer three times and has 10 Breeders’ Cup victories.           

Baller characteristics: Won his first race at age 16.

Breeders’ Cup horses to watch:

Mile: Ballagh Rocks

Longines Distaff: Elate

Juvenile Turf: Irish Territory


Chad Brown
Eclipse Sportswire

5. Chad Brown

Brown is known for his success with turf horses and with fillies and mares, but he notched his first Triple Crown race win this year with Cloud Computing in the Preakness. He was born in Mechanicville, N.Y., and became interested in Thoroughbred racing during family visits to Saratoga. He took home the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer in 2016.

Baller characteristic: Graduated from Cornell University.

Breeders’ Cup horses to watch:

Mile: Annals of Time

Filly & Mare Sprint: Carina Mia, Paulassilverlining

Longines Turf: Beach Patrol, Fanciful Angel

Filly & Mare Turf: Lady EliDacita

14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies: Separationofpowers

Juvenile Fillies Turf: Rushing Fall, Significant Form

Las Vegas Dirt Mile: Practical Joke


Mark Casse
Eclipse Sportswire

4. Mark Casse

Casse recently campaigned headliners Tepin and Classic Empire. He was born on Valentine’s Day, and his father was one of the founders of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company.

Baller characteristic: He dominates in Canada, having earned the leading trainer title at Woodbine 11 times and won the Sovereign Award for outstanding trainer nine times.

Breeders’ Cup horses to watch:

Mile: World Approval

14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies: Heavenly Love

Juvenile Fillies Turf: Wonder Gadot (possible)

Las Vegas Dirt Mile: Awesome Slew

Juvenile Turf: Flameaway


Steve Asmussen with the author's son. (Sara Dacus photo)

3. Steve Asmussen

Breeders’ Cup Classic contender Gun Runner joins the elite group of horses trained by Asmussen that includes Curlin and Rachel Alexandra. A Hall of Fame trainer, Asmussen has been known to drive home in the middle of the night to make it in time for his kid’s track meet. He was also willing to get on Oaklawn’s paddock ground to take a picture with my son.

Baller characteristic: That. Hair.

Breeders’ Cup horses to watch:

Classic: Gun Runner

Las Vegas Dirt Mile: Iron Fist

Juvenile Turf: Snapper Sinclair


Aidan O'Brien
Eclipse Sportswire

2. Aidan O’Brien

O’Brien is a European invader who has won eleven Breeders’ Cup races. He became Ireland’s youngest champion trainer in 1996, and he has held the title every year since 1998. In 2001, he became Britain’s youngest champion trainer. He has experienced success all over the globe.

Baller characteristics: Rocks a top hat. Irish, but doesn’t drink alcohol.

Breeders’ Cup horses to watch:

Classic: War Decree (possible)

Mile: Lancaster Bomber

Longines Turf: Highland Reel

Turf Sprint: Intelligence Cross, Washington DC

Filly & Mare Turf: Hydrangea, Rhododendron, Roly Poly

Juvenile Fillies Turf: Clemmie, Happily


Bob Baffert, Bode Baffert and Victor Espinoza
Baffert, son Bode and jockey Victor Espinoza in the 2015 Preakness winner's circle. (Eclipse Sportswire)

1. Bob Baffert

A 2012 heart attack during his trip to the Dubai World Cup couldn’t sideline this Hall of Fame trainer, who since trained American Pharaoh to be the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. He has been in the winner’s circle in 12 Triple Crown races and 14 Breeders’ Cup races, including three Classics. This year, he prepped four Classic contenders, more than any other trainer. The group is led by Arrogate, winner of last year’s Classic, the Dubai World Cup, and the inaugural Pegasus World Cup.

Baller characteristics: Those sunglasses. And letting us watch son Bode, now 12, grow up in the winner’s circle.

Breeders’ Cup horses to watch:

Classic: Arrogate, Collected, West Coast, Mubtaahij

Sentient Jet Juvenile: Solomini

TwinSpires Sprint: Drefong

Longines Distaff: Abel Tasman

Las Vegas Dirt Mile: Mor Spirit and Cupid

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