2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic Cheat Sheet

Racing
Improbable, Tom’s d’Etat, and Tiz the Law (left to right) headline a stacked lineup set to contest the Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 7 at Keeneland. (Eclipse Sportswire/Coady Photography/Eclipse Sportswire)

The Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 7 at Keeneland Race Course is arguably the most important race in determining which Thoroughbred will be honored as Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards. That’s often been true in the past, but it’s even more accurate in 2020, when horse racing like all other sports has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While a lot of racehorses have had successful seasons this year, there was no Triple Crown winner and there’s been no transcendent superstar. That raises the stakes for the 37th Classic even higher.

The $6 million, Grade 1 Classic drew a competitive field, including standout 3-year-olds as well as a very accomplished group of older horses. The 1 ¼-mile dirt race is the concluding event in the 14-race World Championships held on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6-7, and it will be televised live on NBC with a scheduled post time of 5:13 p.m. ET.


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Read on to learn more about all of the Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders listed in the pre-entries. This Cheat Sheet will be updated on Monday, Nov. 2, after the post-position draw with contenders arranged in post-position order and with morning-line odds added.


Eclipse Sportswire

1. Tacitus (20-1)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owner: Juddmonte Farms

Career record: 14 starts – 4 wins – 4 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $2,947,500

Earnings per start: $210,536

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Tapit – Close Hatches, by First Defence

Color: Gray or roan

Age: 4

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Tacitus enters the Breeders’ Cup Classic on the precipice of passing the $3 million mark in earnings, yet an air of disappointment still hangs over his career as he’s yet to win a Grade 1 race. He is a very consistent racehorse, hitting the board in 11 of his 14 starts, but he’s only won once since reeling off three straight victories early in his 3-year-old season a year ago. On July 4 of this year, he unleashed perhaps his best performance with an 8 ¾-length romp in the 1 ¼ mile, Grade 2 Suburban Stakes, and memories of that race led him to be favored in his two subsequent starts, the Grade 1 Woodward Handicap and the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes. But he finished second to Global Campaign in the Woodward, and could not withstand the late rush of 3-year-olds Happy Saver and Mystic Guide in the Gold Cup, checking in third. Tacitus is a one-paced runner with plenty of stamina, and if jockey Jose Ortiz keeps enough of that stamina in reserve (unlike in the Gold Cup, when he was on the early lead), this well-bred colt could make some noise in the stretch. He lacks finishing ability compared with several other top contenders in the Classic, however, and that makes him a longshot as a win candidate. Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms won the 2016 Classic with Arrogate, and Hall of Famer Bill Mott won in 1995 with the legendary Cigar and in 2011 with Drosselmeyer. He’s also finished third three times.


Joe Labozzetta/NYRA Photo

2. Tiz the Law (3-1)

Jockey: Manny Franco

Trainer: Barclay Tagg

Owner: Sackatoga Stable

Career record: 8 starts – 6 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $2,615,300

Earnings per start: $326,913

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 117

Pedigree: Constitution – Tizfiz, by Tiznow

Color: Bay

Age: 3

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Strange as it may seem, in this unprecedented year the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets winner enters the Breeders’ Cup Classic somewhat overshadowed as a contender, due to the rescheduled Triple Crown which placed the Belmont first on the calendar. Based on his overall résumé, though, this strapping 3-year-old colt is a prime win candidate in Saturday’s race, as his best Equibase Speed Figures make him competitive with Improbable and Tom’s d’Etat and he already boasts a win at 1 ¼ miles – an overpowering 5 ½-length score in the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers Stakes. His Travers victory followed an equally dominant win in the Grade 1 Belmont, which was shortened to 1 1/8 miles this year, and those two efforts made him a prohibitive 7-10 favorite in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on Sept. 5. While he had no excuses in finishing second to pace-setting winner Authentic on Derby day, he still was two lengths clear of third and was running well through the homestretch. He skipped the Preakness Stakes and has been patiently handled over the past two months, and old-school trainer Barclay Tagg should have him ready to fire his best race in the Classic. Look for him to stalk the early leaders in fourth or fifth under regular rider Manny Franco, not too far back and moving to the outside of horses from his draw close to the rail, before making his move in the far turn.


Eclipse Sportswire

3. By My Standards (10-1)

Jockey: Gabriel Saez

Trainer: Bret Calhoun

Owner: Allied Racing Stable

Career record: 12 starts – 6 wins – 4 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $1,764,430

Earnings per start: $147,036

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 118

Pedigree: Goldencents – A Jealous Woman, by Muqtarib

Color: Bay

Age: 4

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: By My Standards enters the Breeders’ Cup Classic winding down a breakout 4-year-old season in which he’s won three Grade 2 stakes races at three different tracks and also finished second in two marquee races, behind Improbable in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes and runner-up to Tom’s d’Etat in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes. In his most recent race, he easily won the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes Presented by Sentient Jet at Churchill Downs in September, and he’s been training well under the Twin Spires for Bret Calhoun since then. The projected race shape for the Classic sets up well for his stalking running style, and he’s a must-use in exacta and trifecta bets at what should be good odds. If everything falls his way and he gets a good trip, an upset is possible, although overall his race record and pedigree suggest a mile and an eighth is probably his best distance. This is the first Classic appearance for Bret Calhoun, Gabriel Saez, and Chester Thomas’s Allied Racing Stable.


Coady Photography

4. Tom’s d’Etat (6-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Al Stall Jr.

Owner: G M B Racing

Career record: 19 starts – 11 wins – 2 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $1,702,272

Earnings per start: $89,593

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 118

Pedigree: Smart Strike – Julia Tuttle, by Giant’s Causeway

Color: Bay

Age: 7

Running style: Stalker  

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This 7-year-old veteran could finally be winding down his inspirational racing career in the Classic before he moves to WinStar Farm and stallion duties. He’s endured several gaps in his training and racing due to injuries over the past five years but emerged as a graded stakes winner in 2019 and 2020, and this summer he was briefly the top-ranked Breeders’ Cup Classic contender after his 4 ¼-length rout in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster Stakes. In his next start, Tom’s d’Etat was the even-money favorite in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes on Aug. 1 at Saratoga, but stumbled at the break and spotted several lengths to the rest of the field. He rallied in the stretch to secure third behind Improbable and By My Standards in an admirable effort and hasn’t raced since. Given that he had an excuse in the Whitney and looking back at his 2020 form prior to that – where he defeated both By My Standards (in the Foster) and Improbable (in the Oaklawn Mile) – Tom’s d’Etat could be the best value play in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He already has a win at Keeneland, romping in the slop in last year’s Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes, but on the negative side he’s only raced at 1 ¼ miles once before – and that came way back in his second career start in 2016. Still, his pedigree and his past efforts at 1 1/8 miles indicate that distance should not be an issue in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Tom’s d’Etat is a leading win candidate. Trainer Al Stall Jr. won the 2010 Classic with Blame, who outlasted unbeaten Zenyatta in one of the best races of this century. Jockey Joel Rosario also has a Breeders’ Cup Classic win on his résumé, taking the 2018 renewal on Accelerate. He finished second last year aboard McKinzie.


Coady Photography

5. Title Ready (30-1)

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Owner: Charles Fipke

Career record: 22 starts – 4 wins – 6 seconds – 4 thirds

Career earnings: $514,180

Earnings per start: $23,372

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 114

Pedigree: More Than Ready – Title Seeker, by Monarchos

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 5

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Over the past three years, Title Ready has resided largely in the Grade 2 and Grade 3 ranks with a few allowance-optional claiming races mixed in, and he’s amassed more than $500,000 in earnings without winning a stakes race. He faces the biggest test of his career by far in the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Classic and will carry high odds for a trainer in Dallas Stewart who has lit up the tote board in marquee races before. Title Ready started off his 5-year-old season in 2020 with a game win in a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Keeneland, rallying to score by a head, and since then ran an even fifth in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes Presented by Sentient Jet at Churchill Downs won by By My Standards and then a late-running third in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes back at Keeneland on Oct. 10. His recent good form at the Breeders' Cup's home track is a positive, and as a deep closer in a field with some speed, he could get a beneficial pace setup on Saturday. If this longshot runs his very best race – comparable to his close second last year to eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso in the Grade 3 Discovery Stakes – he could boost the trifecta and superfecta payouts with a late rally. Granted, that’s a big if.    


Eclipse Sportswire

6. Higher Power (20-1)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: John Sadler

Owner: Hronis Racing

Career record: 19 starts – 5 wins – 2 seconds – 7 thirds

Career earnings: $1,534,648

Earnings per start: $80,771

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 115

Pedigree: Medaglia d’Oro – Alternate, by Seattle Slew

Color: Bay

Age: 5

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Last year’s TVG Pacific Classic victor hasn’t reached the winner’s circle in six starts since then, although he’s raced competitively in marquee races on occasion. Higher Power will be one of the longest shots in the Breeders’ Cup Classic field come post time and projects as a trifecta and/or superfecta filler against this tough field. He finished third in last year’s Classic but was 8 ½ lengths behind winner Vino Rosso, and overall his best effort since the 2019 Pacific Classic came in June of this year, when he checked in 3 ¼ lengths behind Improbable in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup. He has not started since finishing fourth in this year’s Pacific Classic to Maximum Security and has been training steadily at Keeneland in recent weeks, which is a positive sign. Look for him to sit near the back of the field through the first mile and then methodically grind into gear with the goal of picking off some horses in the stretch. Stamina is not an issue for Higher Power in this 1 ¼-mile race, but finishing speed definitely is. John Sadler and Hronis Racing won the 2018 Classic with Accelerate. Regular rider Flavien Prat was aboard Higher Power for his third-place finish in the 2019 Classic.


Adam Coglianese/NYRA

7. Global Campaign (20-1)

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Stanley Hough

Owners: Sagamore Farm and WinStar Farm

Career record: 9 starts – 6 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $781,080

Earnings per start: $86,787

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Pedigree: Curlin – Globe Trot, by A.P. Indy

Color: Bay

Age: 4

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After flashing potential as a 3-year-old last year and winning a Grade 3 stakes, Global Campaign has matured nicely in 2020, winning three out of four starts and scoring back-to-back graded stakes wins heading into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He contested the pace in both of his recent scores, turning back pressure from two horses before outlasting a rallying Math Wizard in the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup Stakes in July and then leading at every point of call and drawing clear in the stretch to defeat Tacitus in the Grade 1 Woodward Handicap in early September, which was held at 1 ¼ miles this year. Look for him to be prominent early along with Authentic and Maximum Security in the Classic, and he’ll have his work cut out for him against a field that overall is substantially tougher than the ones he defeated earlier this year. Hitting the board is not out of the question for this son of Hall of Famer Curlin, however, as he still appears to have some upside. Co-owner WinStar Farm campaigned 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic on Ghostzapper; he’s also finished second once and third three times.


Eclipse Sportswire

8. Improbable (5-2)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and SF Racing

Career record: 14 starts – 7 wins – 3 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $1,709,520

Earnings per start: $122,109

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 120

Pedigree: City Zip – Rare Event, by A.P. Indy

Color: Chestnut

Age: 4

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Despite the presence of several top-class racehorses, Improbable has a good shot of going off as the post-time favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic – and deservedly so. He enters off of three consecutive open-length Grade 1 victories, starting with a 3 ¼-length score over Higher Power in the Hollywood Gold Cup in June. That was followed by a two-length win over By My Standards and Tom’s d’Etat in the Whitney Stakes in August, and then most recently a visually impressive, off-the-pace 4 ½-length win over Maximum Security in the Awesome Again Stakes on Sept. 26. He’s therefore already beaten the top older horses lined up for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and his back-to-back 120 Equibase Speed Figures earned in the Whitney and Awesome Again are better than any figures earned by the 3-year-olds exiting Triple Crown races. Prior to his 4-year-old season, it was thought in some quarters that Improbable was best suited to one-mile to 1 1/8-mile races, but he decisively won the 1 ¼-mile Gold Cup and appeared to have plenty in reserve while being geared down for both of his 1 1/8-mile wins in the Whitney and Awesome Again. Irad Ortiz Jr., the reigning champion jockey who won his first Breeders’ Cup Classic on Vino Rosso last year, gets back aboard Improbable after riding him in the Whitney, and he should have his mount in touch with the early leaders and in good position to pounce on them when the field turns for home. Bob Baffert won the Breeders’ Cup Classic three years in a row with Bayern (2014), Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2015) and Arrogate (2016). He’s also finished second four times, including last year with McKinzie, and third three times. Co-owner WinStar Farm campaigned 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer.


Eclipse Sportswire

9. Authentic (6-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: Spendthrift Farm, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables, and Starlight Racing

Career record: 7 starts – 5 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $3,071,200

Earnings per start: $438,743

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 113

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Flawless, by Mr. Greeley

Color: Bay

Age: 3

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: The Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner and Preakness Stakes runner-up projects to be a pace factor in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and one of the leading win candidates. He’s never finished worse than second and proved in his last two races that he can win at distances longer than a mile and an eighth, which was a question mark for him prior to his Derby triumph. This field will be the toughest he’s yet faced, though, and horses such as Global Campaign and especially Maximum Security should ensure that he won’t be alone in the early stages. Still, Authentic has never run a bad race and showed both in the Derby and Preakness that he's a fighter in the stretch. Jockey strategy will come into play immediately for John Velazquez, as he's sandwiched in between his two Bob Baffert stablemates (Improbable and Maximum Security), both of which have elite cruising speed. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert won the Breeders’ Cup Classic three years in a row with Bayern (2014), Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2015) and Arrogate (2016). He’s also finished second four times, including last year with McKinzie, and third three times. Fellow Hall of Famer Velazquez has finished second three times in the Classic aboard Roses in May (2004), Flower Alley (2005), and Henrythenavigator (2008).


Eclipse Sportswire

10. Maximum Security (7-2)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Owners: Gary West, Mary West, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith

Career record: 13 starts – 10 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $12,251,900

Earnings per start: $942,454

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 123

Pedigree: New Year’s Day – Lil Indy, by Anasheed

Color: Bay

Age: 4

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Easily the most accomplished horse in the Breeders’ Cup Classic field, Maximum Security still enters Saturday’s race with something to prove. After winning his first two starts of 2020 for new trainer Bob Baffert in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap and the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic, he was soundly defeated by stablemate Improbable in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes in late September, losing by 4 ½ lengths. In that race, instead of setting or pressing the pace, he stalked in third through the backstretch behind the two longshots in a five-horse field. Entering the stretch, “Max” lacked his usual punch while Improbable swallowed up the field and won going away. Encouragingly, he’s been training lights out since the Awesome Again for Bob Baffert at Santa Anita Park, posting three bullet workouts through Oct. 25. Look for Maximum Security’s regular rider Luis Saez to be more aggressive with him in the Classic and put him into contention right out of the gate from the outside post, especially considering that his stablemate Authentic, another speed horse, is drawn right to his inside. He’s 2-for-2 at a mile and a quarter if you count his first-place finish in the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve that he was disqualified from, and has to be considered as a leading win candidate based on his body of work. Baffert won the Breeders’ Cup Classic three years in a row with Bayern (2014), Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2015) and Arrogate (2016). He’s also finished second four times, including last year with McKinzie, and third three times. Co-owners Gary and Mary West finished third in the 2017 Classic with West Coast. Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor from the Coolmore group campaigned the great Giant’s Causeway, second to Tiznow in the 2000 Classic, and Magnier solely owned 2008 Classic runner-up Henrythenavigator.

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