With the 2017 Triple Crown season in the rearview mirror, the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” season is gearing up. While “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series races for this year’s event have been taking place since January, the U.S. races are now coming fast and furious the deeper we progress into summer.
In this week’s Getting to Know feature, we focus on Collected, winner of the Grade 1, $1 million TVG Pacific Classic Stakes on Aug. 19 and a guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic starting gate via the Challenge Series.
It’s time we start giving Collected the respect he deserves — past time, really.
He’s been largely overshadowed by elite runners within his own barn as Hall of Famer Bob Baffert also trains the world’s top-rated horse, Arrogate; 2017 Met Mile winner Mor Spirit; 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes winner Cupid; multiple 2017 graded stakes winner Danzing Candy; longtime division standout and 2017 Grade 2 winner Hoppertunity; and even 2016 champion sprinter Drefong.
But Saturday’s Pacific Classic clearly showed that Collected’s time is now. Arrogate accelerated willingly in the stretch, but Collected repelled the rush of one of the fastest horses in a generation to win the Pacific Classic by a half-length.
After winning his first three starts of the year by a combined margin of 21 ½ lengths, all in stakes, he was challenged late and responded gamely at a 1 ¼-mile distance he was trying for the first time.
The 126 Equibase Speed Figure for the Pacific Classic was a tick higher than the previous career-best 125 he earned for winning the Grade 3 Precisionist Stakes by 14 lengths in his previous start.
But let’s dig a little deeper and try to identify just how good Collected really is.
He’s won eight of 11 career starts with one second-place finish. Two of his three defeats came on off tracks. Collected’s fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes in 2016 was on a wet track labeled good and his 10th-place finish in that year’s Preakness came on a sloppy track he clearly detested. He won his debut on grass and finished second on turf in his second start.
On a fast main track, Collected has not lost in seven races ranging from a mile to 1 ¼ miles for owner Speedway Stable. Until the Pacific Classic, his six previous wins on dry main tracks had all been by at least 1 ¼ lengths.
Collected thumped Accelerate, the horse who defeated Arrogate in the TVG San Diego Handicap, by more than 15 lengths in the Precisionist and was more than four lengths clear of that familiar rival in the Pacific Classic.
I was very skeptical of Collected’s chances to excel at 1 ¼ miles before the Pacific Classic — and I still think he’s potentially a monster at 1 1/16 and 1 1/8 miles — but he has a win at the Breeders’ Cup Classic distance on the Del Mar track that will serve as host that resulted in his highest speed figure to date.
Granted, Collected was slowing down a bit in the final furlong of the Pacific Classic, but after leading the field through a contested half-mile in :47.19, that’s not unexpected. And, he had enough left to hold off Arrogate.
Collected’s tactical speed is a powerful asset. He has enough natural speed to seize control of most races early and can sit just off the pace if needed, as he did in his first three races this year.
With multiple Grade 1 winner Gun Runner, Dubai World Cup and Pegasus Word Cup winner Arrogate, and now Collected, along with a host of other talented older horses, this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic is shaping up as a terrific race. Right now, I’m not so sure Collected doesn’t belong at the top of any list of contenders.
Pedigree is a terrific way to gauge how a racehorse will perform at a distance or on a surface he has not encountered. In Collected’s case, he just won a race at the Breeders’ Cup Classic distance on the track that race will occur. Provided there is no rain, he should fire a big shot on Nov. 4.
Part of the reason I was a little skeptical of Collected’s chances to handle 1 ¼ miles was because his sire, City Zip, was best sprinting, and many of City Zip’s top runners have been brilliantly fast, such as champion sprinters Work All Week and Finest City.
But the late City Zip, a half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, sired quite a few elite runners going a route of ground, frequently on turf. The list includes 2014 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner (and champion turf female) Dayatthespa and 2015 Canadian Horse of the Year Catch a Glimpse, winner of the 1 ¼-mile Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes in 2016. He now has an elite runner on dirt at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles.
Collected gets an infusion of stamina from the bottom half of his pedigree, but a good bit of that is digging deeper and finding Lyphard and Alleged as the sires of his third and fourth dams, respectively.
Collected’s dam (mother), Helena Bay, by Johannesburg, won one of four starts, taking a one-mile and 70-yard race on the synthetic surface at Woodbine.
It’s easy to see why Collected started out in a turf sprint, which he won, but we now know that he’s one of those freakish equine athletes who is brilliantly fast and can carry that speed a long way.