It used to be called the Goodwood. Now it bears the name of the name of the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner who carried the colors of the family that owns the racetrack. But regardless of whether it’s the Goodwood or its current incarnation, the Grade 1 Awesome Again remains an important barometer for Breeders’ Cup Classic candidates, especially in a year like this one when the World Championships are contested on the West Coast. This weekend’s race is no exception to that rule with the winners of the summer’s two most important stakes for older horses, the Grade 1 Whitney and the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic, in the field.
1. Higher Power (2-1): Owned by Hronis Racing and trained by John Sadler, he hails from the same connections who won this race last year – and the Breeders’ Cup Classic – with Accelerate. He comes off a powerful 5 1/4-length victory in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, but it wasn’t one of the better fields for the Grade 1 stakes and it was his first stakes win of any kind. Higher Power was fifth in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, beaten 7 ¼ lengths, in his previous Grade 1 appearance and much more will be known about him after he faces a rival as formidable as McKinzie.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat TRAINER: John Sadler
2. Draft Pick (8-1): He was second to Higher Power at 13-1 odds after a wide trip in the Pacific Classic. Overall, he has a better body of work than Higher Power. He was third behind Catalina Cruiser in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap and a year ago he won the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes, one of his three wins in six starts at Santa Anita. After both horses carried the level weight of 124 pounds in the Pacific Classic, he gets four pounds from Higher Power and may be able to turn the tables on him. As for handling McKinzie, that’s a different story.
JOCKEY: Joe Talamo TRAINER: Peter Eurton
3. Seeking the Soul (4-1): With earnings of $3.3 million, he cannot be taken lightly yet the Kentucky-based 6-year-old seems to do his best running in the Bluegrass State, where he’s a Grade 1 winner. In August, he shipped west for the Pacific Classic, where he was sent off as the 2-1 favorite but fizzled, finishing seventh, 18 ½ lengths behind Higher Power. He locked up a spot in the Breeders' Cup Classic by winning the Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, so this might be a tune-up for bigger and better things down the road at Santa Anita.
JOCKEY: Brian J. Hernandez Jr. TRAINER: Dallas Stewart
4. McKinzie (4/5): He’s very much the one to beat with four Grade 1 wins to his credit, including the Whitney at Saratoga in his last start. Prior to that, he had a rough trip in the Grade 1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap, which has been touted as “The Race of the Year.” He’s never been worse than second in six starts at Santa Anita and his recent works indicate Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has him on edge for a sharp effort here. He’s been 4-5 or less in four of his last five starts and that trend should continue Saturday.
JOCKEY: Mike Smith TRAINER: Bob Baffert
5. Mongolian Groom (15-1): He’s been tested in graded stakes in his last seven starts and has finished in the money three times. His best result was second in the San Diego, followed by a third in the Pacific Classic, a neck behind Draft Pick, and a third in the Santa Anita Handicap, 3 ¾ lengths behind McKinzie who was second. It's hard to picture him winning, but he could sneak into the exotics.
JOCKEY: Abel Cedillo TRAINER: Enebish Ganbat
6. Isotherm (30-1): He was third in this race last year, but with different circumstances. In 2018, it was his eighth start of the year, while this year it’s just his second. He used a runner-up finish in the Brubaker Stakes to prep for the Awesome Again last year. In August, he was fourth in that Del Mar stakes after a nine-month layoff. He’s only won three of 24 starts and it looks like this spot is more about gaining conditioning for races down the road than turning in a huge effort.
JOCKEY: Geovanni Franco TRAINER: Phil D’Amato
THE PICK: McKinzie
LIVE LONGSHOT: Draft Pick