Ehalt and Pedulla Evaluate Breeders' Cup Classic, Distaff Puzzles

Abel Tasman, Accelerate, and Monomoy Girl will all attract a lot of wagering dollars on Saturday.
Abel Tasman, Accelerate, and Monomoy Girl will all attract a lot of wagering dollars on Saturday. (Eclipse Sportswire)

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 1971. Bob introduced Tom to Thoroughbred racing soon after that.

They have had their 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 stretch drive. Much to Tom’s chagrin and the amusement of onlookers, Bob has been known to call for security as they cashed a $27 triple. 

They have owned a number of slow horses together and can often be seen carrying on at the track as if they never left their teenage years.

Their take on the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and the Classic:

$2 million Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff

PEDULLA: Bob, Abel Tasman is as gritty as they come and the battle-tested 4-year-old returns to Churchill Downs, site of arguably her most memorable victory when she rallied from far back to win the Kentucky Oaks. Yes, she comes off a clunker in the Zenyatta. Whatever went wrong that day, Bob Baffert will have her right for the big one.

Midnight Bisou
Midnight Bisou (Eclipse Sportswire)

EHALT: I don’t know Thomas. I’m wondering if Abel Tasman has become a female version of Arrogate. It may have just been a bug, but that poor effort in the Zenyatta is troubling, especially when you factor in a disappointing fourth in the La Troienne here at Churchill Downs. Figuring she’ll be heavily bet, I’m looking elsewhere for some value and hope to find it in Midnight Bisou. Whether it’s the good Abel Tasman or the bad Abel Tasman that shows up, there will be a fierce speed duel between her and Monomoy Girl and that should set things up nicely for Midnight Bisou, who is training sharply since an improved effort in her DQ win in the Cotillion. She could be peaking at the right time – and right price.

PEDULLA: We watched Wow Cat run third to Abel Tasman and Elate in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on Aug. 25 at Saratoga. She has steadily improved since arriving from Chile, where she went 8-for-8 as a 3-year-old. This is the spot Chad Brown always had in mind for her. He will have her primed to fire her best shot.

EHALT: We’re in agreement here. Wow Cat took a big step forward in the Beldame and seems to be fully acclimated after her journey from Chile. She should also benefit from a lively pace and will also be a nice price with so much money on Abel Tasman and Monomoy Girl. There’s lots to like about her and it would be nice to see owner Peter Brant back in the winner’s circle after a lengthy absence from the sport.

PEDULLA: It is so hard to pick against Monomoy Girl, especially at Churchill, where she is 3-for-4. Her less-than-convincing stretch run in the Sept. 22 Cotillion, where she was disqualified and placed second to Midnight Bisou, has me thinking she may not be the powerhouse she was earlier in the year. She is worth playing against.

EHALT: This is a tough call. Unlike Abel Tasman, I won’t toss Monomoy Girl, but the prospect of the last two Kentucky Oaks winners dueling on the lead down the backstretch in a race this good does not bode well for her chances. Monomoy Girl is a heckuva filly and hate to put her as low as third in the selections, but that’s the beauty of the Breeders’ Cup – so many great options.

$6 million Breeders' Cup Classic

PEDULLA: Bob, for me it comes down to which of Baffert’s top runners, McKinzie or West Coast, will give Baffert his fourth Classic triumph in five years. He has become that brilliant, that dominant, and has shown time and again the uncommon ability to have horses primed for huge efforts despite a lack of steady racing. West Coast, running for the first time since the March 31 Dubai World Cup, ran a respectable 2 ¼ lengths behind Accelerate in the Awesome Again on Sept. 29 at Santa Anita. Look for him to reverse fortunes.

McKinzie (Eclipse Sportswire)

EHALT: Same idea, different horse. I like McKinzie. Believe Baffert was destined to win this race with a 3-year-old and McKinzie can get the job done in Justify’s absence. That was a superb race in the Pennsylvania Derby and Baffert is a master at avoiding bounces, so I’m on board in a very difficult race to handicap.

PEDULLA: Yes, Accelerate is 5 for 6 on the season. It is worth noting, though, that his lone defeat occurred when he left behind his West Coast base and missed by a neck to City of Light in the April 14 Oaklawn Handicap. He ran third and ninth in the Dirt Mile in his previous two Breeders’ Cup appearances, adding to trainer John Sadler’s woes in this event. Accelerate is second best here.

EHALT: Ditto. I think Accelerate will turn in a strong showing but there are too many factors working against him – traveling, Sadler’s 0-for-41 at the moment in the Breeders’ Cup, and post 14 included – that taking him to win as a favorite seems too risky. Boxing him in exactas and trifectas seems a better bet.

PEDULLA: We both remember that McKinzie was viewed as Baffert’s top Derby horse long before eventual Triple Crown winner Justify came along. How many trainers have a capable replacement after retiring an undefeated Triple Crown champion such as Justify? There could be no greater testament to Baffert’s supremacy. McKinzie for third and it will be exciting for us to see what he becomes.

EHALT: Have to say, the rough part of picking three horses here is that you are basically saying so many good horses will finish off the board. I leaned toward Axelrod for third off a good effort against McKinzie at Parx and improving form, but in the end, I put him fourth. Call me crazy. Most do. But even after what happened in the 2017 Kentucky Derby, I’ll take Thunder Snow for third and probably make some win bets if he’s 12-1 or more. His effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup looked like the kind of effort he can improve on. He probably tired a bit in the final yards and should be in better condition today. Let’s not forget he beat West Coast by 5 ¾ lengths in the Dubai World Cup when West Coast was in much better form. If he can stay on the track, I really like his chances.

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