Gun Runner, Arrogate only older horses that deserve to be favored for Breeders

Gun Runner, Arrogate only older horses that deserve to be favored for Breeders

September 12, 2017 3:00 AM


This is an interesting time of year in the world of sports – all sports!

College and professional football just began their respective seasons while professional golf and tennis just concluded the last of their four major Championships. Meanwhile, baseball is in the final month of its six-month regular season as its top teams battle for playoff spots.

Horse racing on the other hand, just completed its annual meets at Saratoga and Del Mar. Yet, those popular sessions have only served to whet our appetites for so many tight contests during the next 7.5 weeks.

Given that scenario, here are the top horses, jockeys and trainers who will be competing in major stakes all the way to the rich Breeders’ Cup races at Del Mar on Nov. 3-4.

Among top older horses, I see only two, Gun Runner and Arrogate, who deserve to be favorites in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

While Arrogate was so impressive as a 3-year-old in 2016 and seemed to be ready to take on the world as a 4-year-old earlier this year, his two defeats at Del Mar this summer have pushed Gun Runner to center stage.

Gun Runner, in fact, looks tough after four straight top performances in which he earned Beyer Speed figures ranging between 110 and 115. That said, if Arrogate can come back with a solid race during the next few weeks, I would be willing to alter that view. Otherwise, the most logical upset threats figure to be Arrogate’s stablemates Collected and West Coast.

Among this year’s fillies and mares, the retirement of the great Songbird has left this division with no clear cut leaders to follow. But two somewhat underrated fillies who ran well in the Spring, Paradise Woods and Zhokova, would deserve serious evaluations should either return with a solid prep race during the next four weeks.

Among the sprinters and milers, I was most impressed by the pure sprinter Drefong’s 107 Beyer Figure posted at Saratoga in July. Meanwhile, Mor Spirit would be the horse to beat if he makes it to the BCup Mile. Mor Spirit earned that ranking with a terrific 117 Beyer at Belmont in June and a 107 in May. Even so, the versatile 3-year-old Mr. Crow, could join Mor Spirit as a serious Mile threat, given the solid 109 Figure he earned at Saratoga in July.

On the turf, Green Mask has been tough to handle, earning a trio of very high Beyer figures at three different turf courses this year: 109 at Belmont in June; 110 at Woodbine in July, and 111 at Saratoga in early August! Still, more than a half-dozen other turf performers have scored in excess of 107, to create a highly competitive group.

As for this year’s top 2-year-olds, only a handful have made positive impressions to date:

The filly Amy’s Challenge did earn a 91 Beyer winning a maiden race by 16 lengths at Canterbury Park. She is set to run next in a $50K stakes at Canterbury on Sept. 15; to be followed by the 1-1/16 mile Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland, Oct. 6.

Beyond Amy’s Challenge only a handful of juveniles have scored 85-90 Beyer figures. On Aug. 19 at Saratoga, Honorable Treasure earned a 90 Beyer, while easily winning a 7 furlong maiden race at Saratoga.

A month earlier another filly, Dream It Is, earned an 89 in Saratoga’s Schuylerville Stakes. On Sept. 2, at Gulfstream Park, Soutache and World of Trouble each earned 89 Beyers, finishing close together in the $200K Affirmed Stakes.

Although Pure Silver lost the $350K Spinaway to Lady Ivanka at Saratoga, Sept. 2, Pure Silver did earn an 88 Figure winning the $200K Adirondak at Saratoga, Aug. 12.

On Labor Day, Sept. 4, Sporting Chance won the 7 furlong, $350K Hopeful at Saratoga with an 86 Beyer, while 3,000 miles away Bolt d’Oro earned an 85 winning the 7 furlong Del Mar Futurity.

With those modest speed figures, none of the above 2-year-olds have yet to perform as if they will be Champions this year; or, the best prospects to watch when they compete as 3-year-olds in next year’s high profile spring stakes. Improvement certainly may occur, but it is equally possible we have not yet seen the young horses destined to be the stars of 2018.

As for top trainers and jockeys:

Irad Ortiz, Jr. and his brother Jose are in a tight battle with Javier Castellano and Mike Smith for the most money won this year. The Ortiz brothers also are in a tough battle with Tyler Gaffalione for most wins.

Trainer Karl Broberg is the runaway leader in most wins, with 204; but, it’s a tight three-way battle among trainers Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown and Bob Baffert for the most money won.

Given so many close competitions on the horizon, most titles probably will not be decided until the 2017 Breeders’ Cup.