Veteran Writers Pedulla, Ehalt Analyze the Breeders’ Cup Classic

Vino Rosso, left, and Elate, right, are two leading contenders for the 2019 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. (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 $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic:

Elate (Eclipse Sportswire)

PEDULLA: Bob, on the 10th anniversary of Zenyatta's remarkable rally to become the only female to win the Classic, I am going with another racemare in Elate. Bill Mott, a Hall of Fame trainer we both admire, knows exactly what he is doing in choosing the Classic over a confrontation with potential Horse of the Year Midnight Bisou at a mile and an eighth. Elate belongs with Midnight Bisou – we watched as she missed by a nose to her in the Aug. 24 Personal Ensign – but Mott’s choice is all about going for the gold at a distance that suits best. His 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro mare is 3-for-3 at a mile and a quarter, and she will face a significant number of males that will struggle to get so much ground.

EHALT: You know, Tom, Mike Repole and I have lot in common. He was born and raised in Queens. I was born and raised in Queens. He’s Italian. I’m half Italian. He’s a billionaire. I’m not. But, hey, a guy can dream, right? Anyway, Bob from Queens is siding with Mike from Queens and taking Vino Rosso, who he owns in a partnership with Vinnie Viola. He’s a quirky horse and there are tracks like Saratoga that he doesn’t like. But he won at Santa Anita earlier in the year at the 1 ¼-mile Classic distance, and while the racetrack might be different Saturday, I’ve got a feeling this is a Vino Rosso kind of year.

PEDULLA: McKinzie shows one second in two starts at a mile and a quarter, and it is hardly his best distance. It helps that the Breeders’ Cup is being held at Santa Anita, where he shows three wins and has never been worse than second in seven starts. Although I am not sure about the move away from jockey Mike Smith to Joel Rosario, it goes without saying that no one is better than Hall of Famer Bob Baffert at preparing horses for big races. Figure McKinzie to be a close-up second.

EHALT: I’m not sure if the track, which has been changing since it reopened in September, will be deep or tight on race day, but there’s another horse in the field who likes a particular type of track and should serve as a nice Plan B. Yoshida loves the surface at Saratoga, and if he gets the kind of track he likes, he looms as a nice bit of insurance in case Vino Rosso struggles.

PEDULLA: Bob, we know that Repole is no fan of shipping horses to the West Coast for the Breeders’ Cup and usually prefers to stay much closer to home. He is not known in New York as Mike from Queens for no reason. His willingness to make an exception with Vino Rosso tells you how well the 4-year-old is doing. Vino Rosso captured his lone start at Santa Anita, the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on May 27, which is surely another positive. He is definitely in the mix for me.

EHALT: Baffert definitely has home-court advantage over New Yorkers Todd Pletcher, who trains Vino Rosso, and Mott, who trains Yoshida, but the 1 1/4-mile distance might be beyond McKinzie’s scope. I have complete confidence in Baffert’s ability to have McKinzie ready for a top effort but I’m worried that the final furlong will be a formidable obstacle for him, so I’m putting him third.

PEDULLA: Code of Honor, placed first in the 1 ¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park via the disqualification of Vino Rosso in the most recent start for both horses, is another that definitely belongs. He commanded the 1 ¼-mile Travers by three lengths in his start before that. He has gotten better with every race for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. I typically prefer older horses in the Classic, but Code of Honor is no ordinary 3-year-old.  

EHALT: We’re on the same page. Shug has done a phenomenal job with Code of Honor, but sweeping the Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Breeders’ Cup Classic takes a phenomenal 3-year-old. Code of Honor is a very good 3-year-old, but I’m not sure if he’s phenomenal. Have to say, as uncertain as I am about these picks, I will definitely box them in exactas and triples, just to be safe.

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