2022 Breeders' Cup Classic Preview

by Al McMordie

This Saturday the Breeders Cup World Thoroughbred Championships will be coming to Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, KY for the third time.  In 2015 when the event was here, we saw a rare feat when American Pharoah added the Breeders Cup Classic to the Triple Crown he had won earlier in the year, thus being the first horse to pull off horse racing's unofficial "Grand Slam" (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, and Classic all in the same year).  He was quite a horse.  But this year, we may be witnessing a horse for the ages.  Flightline is an undefeated four-year-old colt by Tapit who has won all four of his races by an average of 12 lengths.  His speed figures are the highest since they started keeping these figures some 50 years ago and he is being compared to the great Secretariat.  His swan song will be the BC Classic on Saturday (approx. 5:40 pm post) as he will be retired to stud by his connections after the race, so it will be a coronation and an event not to be missed as he is the likely winner of the biggest race of the year.  But how do you make money on a horse that is likely to off at 1-5?  Let's focus on some potential longshots that could complete the exacta or trifecta in the Classic underneath Flightline.  

First, there is the horse immediately to his outside (#5).  Hot Rod Charlie is another four-year-old by Oxbow who unlike Flightline -- who has been handled very carefully -- has danced every dance as they say.  He has 18 races to his credit and has rarely thrown in a clunker.  He competed in two of the three triple crown races last year, finishing third in the Derby and second in the Belmont.  He went on to win both the Haskel and Pennsylvania derby last summer and hasn't slowed down since, even running twice in Dubai this past winter, finishing first and second in those.  His only previous race here at Keeneland was a second place finish in the 2020 BC Juvenile.  He will likely be overlooked in the betting as his morning line odds are 15-1 but he could easily go off at 20-1 or higher.  He is a logical play underneath Flightline.

Another older horse that no one is taking about is the four-year-old colt Olympiad (#7).  By top sire Speightstown, Olympiad was a late bloomer who didn't compete in last year's triple crown races but who has really come into his own since the latter half of 2021.  Since finishing fourth in last year's Cigar Mile, Olympiad has six of seven races, with five of those being Graded Stakes.  His last win -- which qualified him for the Classic -- was a two length score in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, run at the same 10 furlong distance as the Classic.  Like Hot Rod Charlie, Olympiad will be forgotten in the wagering, and could offer extreme value for a horse that has won eight of 12 lifetime starts.  His morning line is 10-1 and you're like to get better than that come post time. Regular rider Junior Alvarado will be aboard for Hall-of-Fame trainer Bill Mott.

If you're looking for an even bigger longshot with a chance to hit underneath Flightline, then consider #3, Happy Saver.  A veteran in his group, the Todd Pletcher trained horse is a five-year-old son of Super Saver who was a well-beaten fourth by Hot Rod Charlie in the Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs on October 1.  But prior to that, Happy Saver reeled off five straight second-place finishes -- all in Graded Stakes races with two of those being Grade 1 affairs.  Among those second place finishes was June 11 at Belmont Park when Happy Saver was second to none other than Flightline in the Met Mile.  That is particularly interesting when you consider that the six lengths that he lost by in that race was the closest any horse has come to Flightline at the finish line (and the only time a horse finished within 10 lengths of him).  He has a chance to be the biggest price in the race -- 30-1 or higher -- which means he offers incredible value in the runner-up spot.

The final horse to consider underneath Flightline is #1, Taiba.  Most of the attention for the three-year-olds in this race will be on Travers winner Epicenter.  But Taiba is trained by Bob Baffert, and it wouldn't be a BC Classic without Baffert.  Here is an interesting statistic:  Three-year-old horses have won four of the last eight BC Classics (Bayern, American Pharoah, Arrogate, and Authentic).  What one thing did those four 3YOs have in common?  They were all trained by Bob Baffert.  Taiba, the son of red hot sire Gun Runner, is a bit of a now horse with a lot of buzz, so whether or not he goes off at his morning line odds of 8-1 remains to be seen, but he could offer value underneath Flightline in the Exacta and Trifecta.  Regular rider Mike Smith comes in from California for the ride.

So the bottom line in this year's Breeders Cup Classic is not to try to beat Flightline.  Sit back and enjoy history in the making and make some money in the exotics by pairing him with one or more of the aforementioned runners.  As always, good luck...Al McMordie.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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