Kentucky native and University of Kentucky graduate Kenny Rice brings a wealth of knowledge to racing as he prepares to work the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the seventh consecutive year as a reporter for NBC.
The 35thBreeders’ Cup opens with Future Stars Friday on Nov. 2, which will be broadcast from Churchill Downs from 3-7 p.m. EDT on NBCSN. Coverage of Championship Saturday runs on NBCSN from 1-3:30 p.m. before shifting to NBC and stretching from 3:30-6 pm.
Tom Pedulla and Rice, born in McDowell, Ky., covered a large amount of ground during a question-and-answer session conducted on behalf of America’s Best Racing:
RICE: This horse is big and strong. I don’t want to get carried away here and start comparing him to Justify. I don’t like to compare any horses, especially a 2-year-old at this stage. But Baffert is a genius at getting a horse ready for a big race, especially juveniles and getting them ready to move on as 3-year-olds. He’s the horse to beat.
PEDULLA: Any longshots out there that you like?
RICE: I’ve got three or four horses in every race that I think have a really good chance. None of them are crazy longshots.
PEDULLA: Eight winners of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe have been defeated in the Breeders’ Cup. Enable showed her greatness by winning the Arc each of the last two years. But is she vulnerable in the $4 million Longines Turf?
RICE: I would have chosen the Sprint. They didn’t call me, by the way, to ask me. I think the Sprint would have been the way to go. I think that is the distance that fits him best. I think it is much tougher company for him at the Classic distance.
PEDULLA: Is Accelerate a worthy favorite in the Classic?
RICE: He is a worthy favorite, but it is a deep field. To me, the most interesting horse in all of the races is in the Classic and the horse is McKinzie. If you take a look at early in the year, real early in the year, if you talked about Bob Baffert having a shot to win the Triple Crown, you’d be talking about McKinzie.
PEDULLA: In assessing Accelerate, does trainer John Sadler’s winless record in the Breeders’ Cup bother you?
RICE: I have two thoughts on that. Basically, something has to give and, two, maybe with Accelerate he really has the horse to do it, based on what Accelerate has already done. I think Sadler is a solid trainer, well respected, and with Accelerate, I don’t think he’s made a bad move. I just think everything is falling in line with him.
PEDULLA: What do you think about West Coast? Does he have a shot in the Classic with only one start following an extended layoff since the Dubai World Cup?
RICE: What Baffert has done in the last two or three years is the stuff of legends. I don’t think he would put West Coast in there just to put him in there. West Coast is solid. I really like West Coast.
PEDULLA: Among the foreign horses in the Classic, which one do you like the most?
RICE: Mendelssohn is certainly legitimate and a much more seasoned horse, which he needs to be.
PEDULLA: Who is your pick in the Longines Distaff?
PEDULLA: And how about your pick in the Classic?
RICE: It’s hard to go against Accelerate. I’m going to pick McKinzie to be second and then I’ll go Catholic Boy and Mendelssohn.