November 30, 2020

Breeders’ Cup story-lines to follow for 2020

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Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

Five years after a successful first visit to Keeneland in 2015, the Breeders’ Cup returns there on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6-7. Friday’s card features the five juvenile races, while Saturday features nine Grade 1 races featuring the best of every older horse division.

What should I know to follow Breeders’ Cup week?

A Classic Renewal of the Classic

There’s an old adage about saving the best for last.

Breeders’ Cup weekend draws to a close on Saturday, Nov. 7 with the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), the 12th race of the day, with a scheduled post time of 5:13 p.m. (ET). The 2020 Classic came together a race for the ages.

Bob Baffert sends out three marquee contenders. Improbable is his “now” horse after a runaway victory over stablemate Maximum Security in the Awesome Again (G1), but Maximum Security dug in gamely for second and won the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (G1) in romping fashion in August.

It’s not often a Kentucky Derby (G1) winner is a trainer’s third-string horse in the Classic, but that may well be the case as Authentic comes out of a game second in the Preakness (G1), but now faces tough older horses for the first time.

It’s not just the Bob Baffert show, though.

Tom’s d’Etat, whose Oaklawn Mile win made him the last horse to cross the wire in front of Improbable, hopes to get a better start than he did in the Whitney (G1) and turn the tables back in his favor. Dazzling Travers (G1) winner Tiz the Law, second behind Authentic in the Kentucky Derby, has never lost at a racetrack other than Churchill Downs and will try to keep that record going.

Global Campaign, whose first try at 1 1/4 miles was an easy gate-to-wire score in the Woodward (G1), is still lightly raced and may be able to build upon that against this tougher field. And, though Swiss Skydiver has first preference in the Distaff (G1), what if Ken McPeek ends up deciding to run her against the boys instead? Her victories in both the Preakness and the Alabama (G1) make her look like Breeders’ Cup Classic material.

More Breeders’ Cup Highlights

How things change in 12 months!

At this time last year, Magical was retired after not shipping out to run in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Instead, she returned to training at 5, was better than ever, and has piled up three more Group 1s including a win in the Irish Champion (G1) over the mighty Ghaiyyath. That record makes her a deserving favorite in the Turf, though Lord North could have a say if he bounces back to his Royal Ascot form, and a resurgent Arklow looms the best North American hope for the red-hot Brad Cox.

In the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, the retirement of Midnight Bisou clears the way for Monomoy Girl to be a justifiably heavy favorite. The 2018 Distaff winner is better than ever at age 5, and comes in off a confident score in the La Troienne (G1). Her toughest foes include Swiss Skydiver, who comes off that ultra-game Preakness win, and Valiance, a dirt newcomer who proved her mettle over course and distance in the Spinster (G1).

And, on Friday, promising juveniles take center stage. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), four impressive races mean Jackie’s Warrior is coming in, daring the rest to catch him, though both Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner Essential Quality and Iroquois (G3) winner Sittin On Go have faced classy company without setting a hoof wrong.

The Juvenile Fillies (G1) division is even more wide open, with Princess Noor, Simply Ravishing, Dayoutoftheoffice, and Girl Daddy all entering the race unchallenged.

As fragmented as the 2020 horse racing season felt at times, with the delayed Triple Crown and the altered racing seasons, it all led up to a Breeders’ Cup season as good as ever. Enjoy it, take your time analyzing the races, and may all your tickets be winners!