No fans but horses and championships will contest the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland

October 4, 2020

Improbable, the second son of City Zip trainer Bob Baffert has got to blossom as they aged, the first being Collected, will look to cement the older horse championship in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on November 7th. As expected in the Classic, the field will be strong, competitive, and usually have a few three-year olds tackling older horses. This year is shaping up to be no different.

Let’s take a look at who is expected.

Tom’s D’etat

At 7 years old, Tom’s d’Etat seems to be in his prime. He lengthened the hot streak he started last October to four stakes victories with a 4 ¼-length romp in the Stephen Foster Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs June 27 that missed the track record by just .02 seconds. This victory earned him an automatic berth to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) as part of the “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series. He has also won the Hagyard Fayette Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, Clark Stakes presented by Norton Healthcare (G1) at Churchill and the Oaklawn Mile at Oaklawn Park during his streak. These wins bring his lifetime record to 11 wins, with 6 in stakes, from 18 starts and his earnings to over $1.6 million.

Improbable

Improbable, the official fourth-place finisher as the favorite in the 2019 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), will be making his second Breeders’ Cup Championship appearance after checking in fifth in the Big Ass Fan Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) last year. He was purchased by co-owners Maverick Racing (a division of WinStar Farm) and China Horse Club for $200,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale. He comes into the Classic off smashing wins at Saratoga and Santa Anita.

Improbable is bred for Breeders’ Cup success. His father, City Zip, is a half-brother to 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Ghostzapper, and his maternal grandfather A.P. Indy won the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Maximum Security

The horse who counts the fourth-highest earnings in history by a North American Thoroughbred could have been claimed for $16,000 in his debut. In his only race as a 2-year-old, Maximum Security demolished 10 rivals at Gulfstream Park, setting the pace to win by nearly 10 lengths.

A year later, he was named the Eclipse Award Champion Three-Year-Old Male for 2019.

Maximum Security launched his career with four straight wins, capped by a gate-to-wire score in his first stakes attempt, the Florida Derby (G1). The trophy came with 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), and five weeks later, again setting the pace, he crossed the wire first in the Run for the Roses. Instead of adding a fifth win to his streak, however, he was disqualified for interference and placed 17th.

With no Triple Crown within his reach, Maximum Security skipped the Preakness Stakes (G1) in favor of the TVG.com Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park in July. In preparation, he first ran in Monmouth’s TVG.com Pegasus Stakes, finishing second by a length after setting the pace—the only time through 11 starts he hasn’t been first to the wire. In the Haskell, he raced just behind the leader, battled hard late, and won by 1 1/4 lengths.

After a bout with colic extended a hiatus to three months, Maximum Security went right back to winning, ending his 3-year-old season with wins in the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at Belmont and the Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct.

After the Cigar Mile, the colt’s team saw the first of two changes: Owners Gary and Mary West, who also bred the colt, sold a 50 percent interest in him to worldwide industry powerhouse Coolmore. Coolmore horses generally race as the partnership of Mrs. John (Susan) Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith. Earlier this year, Maximum Security was transferred to two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert.

Maximum Security started his 4-year-old season where he left off, winning the $20 million Saudi Cup in February and then returning from a five-month break in July for a hard-fought win in the San Diego Handicap (G2), his first start in California. In August, he set all the pace in the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) for his sixth win in a row.

Maximum Security was the third of three consecutive Eclipse Award winners for the Wests, following West Coast, 2017 Champion Three-Year-Old Male, and Game Winner, 2018 Champion Two-Year-Old Male. In 2013 the Wests won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Maximum Security’s father, New Year’s Day.

Tiz the Law

When he won the Belmont Stakes (G1) June 20, Tiz the Law accomplished what owners Sackatoga Stables had hoped to do in 2003 with Funny Cide, winner of the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1). For that ’03 Belmont, the partners—several who are friends from a Sackets Harbor, NY high school who first conceived of the stable at a barbecue—arrived in four school buses, their signature transportation, on a rainy day, weather that left them wondering “what if” years after Empire Maker upset their Triple Crown dreams.

Tiz the Law has returned the owners and trainer Barclay Tagg, 82, a former steeplechase rider, back to heights of the game they haven’t experienced since Funny Cide. The Belmont was an unusual affair thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic – the shortened race was held in front of a spectator-free grandstand, and for the first time in history, it was the first leg of the Triple Crown, rearranged due to Covid-19. About half of Tiz the Law’s 35 owners gathered at a restaurant in Saratoga, where many of them now live, since they weren’t permitted to attend the race.

Tiz the Law also made history as the first New York-bred to win the Belmont since 1882. However, as the heavy favorite, his win was hardly unusual.

The bay colt was purchased by the modest-sized stable for $110,000 and won his debut at Saratoga last summer. He followed this with a win in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont, giving racing fans a preview of what was to come in 2020.

After closing out his juvenile season with his only career loss to date in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill, where he ran third by less than a length on a sloppy track, he began his 3-year-old season as a force to be reckoned with. 

He has won three straight this year – the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) and Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park and then the Belmont Stakes. The colt, whose style is to sit just off the early pacesetters before making his move, has won all of his races by at least three lengths. 

Tiz the Law is a play on his parents’ names. His father, Constitution by Tapit, ranked second behind American Pharoah on the 2019 sire list, and his mother Tizfiz is by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow. 

Authentic

Authentic’s win in the TVG.com Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park July 18 insured the colt will have an exciting second half of the year: he earned a place in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). He led every step of the way, held off late challenger Ny Traffic and won by a nose. This was his first race outside of California, and the purse helped him achieve millionaire status.

The Haskell improved his record to four wins and one second in five career starts, including three graded stakes victories. The first two came at Santa Anita: the Sham (G3) and the San Felipe (G2). He won the former by 7 ¾ lengths. In the latter, he beat Honor A. P. by 2 ¼ lengths. Both horses made their next start in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1), and this time, A. P. Honor turned the tables and handed Authentic his one loss to date. 

Foaled May 5, 2017, Authentic is among the younger members of the sophomore class. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said he’s still maturing, and he believes the Haskell win will help him improve.

Baffert leads all trainers in Breeders’ Cup history with $30,065,000 in earnings and is tied with Chad Brown with 15 victories, including three Classics in a row with Bayern, American Pharoah and Arrogate. D. Wayne Lukas leads all trainers with 20 victories. American Pharoah’s 2015 Triple Crown sweep was the first in 37 years. Three years later, Baffert repeated the feat with Justify.

Authentic, who was purchased for $350,000, is owned by Spendthrift Farm, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stable and Starlight Racing. He will stand at Spendthrift at the conclusion of his racing career. Spendthrift brought MyRaceHorse into the partnership, who sold shares to the public for as low as $206.

His father, Into Mischief, was last year’s champion general sire, and his progeny includes two Breeders’ Cup winners. 

By My Standards

By My Standards continues the elite status he flaunted last year during his 3-year-old season. On the sidelines since finishing unplaced in the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) last May, he returned to action in February with three consecutive victories that included the New Orleans Classic Stakes (G2) and Oaklawn Handicap (G2).

“We gave him plenty of time and gave him an opportunity to be all that he can be,” said owner Chester Thomas, who campaigns as Allied Racing Stable. The operation’s first Breeders’ Cup starter was Mr. Money, the fourth-place finisher in the 2018 Juvenile (G1).

Thomas purchased By My Standards for $150,000 at the 2018 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s April 2-year-olds in training sale. Eleven months later, the colt won the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) to stamp himself as Kentucky Derby material. Participating in the “Run for the Roses” fulfilled a dream for Thomas, a longtime resident of Western Kentucky. His interest in Thoroughbred racing was inspired in part by attending the 1982 Derby and cashing a ticket on longshot winner Gato Del Sol. He attempted college before trying to earn a living as a jockey’s agent. When that did not pan out, the risk-taking entrepreneur found work in the Western Kentucky coal mines. Eventually he started and later sold his own coal mining business.

By My Standards is trained by Bret Calhoun, who annually ranks among the nation’s leading trainers with his stable based year-round in Kentucky as well as Texas in the summer and New Orleans in the winter. A Dallas native, Calhoun grew up going to the races with his father, who dabbled as an owner and trainer. Since obtaining his trainer’s license in 1993, Calhoun has won more than 3,000 races including two Breeders’ Cup events in 2010—the Turf Sprint (G1) with Chamberlain Bridge and Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) with Dubai Majesty, who was honored as that year’s champion female sprinter. 

By My Standards’ father is two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Goldencents.

Code of Honor

As he prepares for another Breeders’ Cup appearance, Code of Honor continues to maintain the elite status he first flaunted in 2018.

“He’s stronger; he looks a lot stronger,” jockey Johnny Velazquez said immediately after his Westchester Stakes (G3) victory at Belmont Park June 6 in his first start of the year. “He grew up and so hopefully we can have a good year.”

Grade 1-placed at two, Code of Honor was so sensational in 2019 that he was one of three Eclipse Award finalists as Champion 3-year-old Male. His resume was punctuated by victories in the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. He also is the official runner-up in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

After finishing off the board as the second choice in the 2019 Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita, Code of Honor thrived during his extended vacation that included roaming in a grassy paddock at Margaux Farm near Lexington, Ky. In early February the chestnut rejoined Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey at his winter base of Payson Park training center in South Florida.

Code of Honor is from the first crop of sire Noble Mission (GB), a Group 1 winner in Europe and full brother to European superstar Frankel. Code of Honor races for his breeder William S. Farish, who consigned him to the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale through his Lane’s End consignment. He failed to reach Farish’s expected price and was listed as not sold on a final bid of $70,000. He was then sent to Courtlandt Farm in Ocala, Florida where he excelled in his early lessons under saddle.

“(He was) a high energy sort with a real go-forward attitude,” farm trainer Ernie Retamoza Jr. told Brisnet.com. “He took the breaking process extremely well and thrived as we progressed into longer gallops and eventual breezing.”

A winner on debut as a 2-year-old at Saratoga, Code of Honor was a game second in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park after stumbling at the start. His intended appearance in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs was derailed when he developed a fever the morning of the race.   

Code of Honor comes in off a game second at a mile in the Kelso at Belmont.

Tacitus

In beating the field in Belmont’s Suburban Stakes (G2) by 8 ¼ lengths July 4 and pushing his lifetime earnings to almost $3 million, Tacitus returned to his winning ways after beginning the year with a fifth-place finish in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup, the richest race in the world.

The Suburban saw the striking gray 4-year-old return to his 2019 form when victories in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and the Wood Memorial (G2) earned him a place in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished third as one of the favorites. Next, he was runner-up in the Belmont Stakes (G1), Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) and Travers Stakes (G1) before ending the year with a third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) against older horses.

Tacitus is trained by Bill Mott, who started his career at 16 in his native South Dakota. Later, he was an assistant to Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg before going out on his own. In 1998, at the age of 45, Mott became the youngest trainer inducted into the Hall of Fame. He has won three Eclipse Awards and 10 Breeders’ Cup races, including victories in the Classic with Cigar and Drosselmeyer. Mott trained Country House, who won the 2019 Kentucky Derby after the disqualification of Maximum Security. In June, he became the seventh trainer in North American racing to win 5,000 races.

Tacitus was bred by owners Juddmonte Farms and has a blockbuster pedigree: his father is Tapit, currently one of the most dominant sires. Close Hatches, his mother, won the Eclipse Award for champion older mare in 2014. Tacitus, named for the great Roman historian, was her first foal. He has a 2-year-old full brother named Maximus Aurelius.

Like Tacitus’s royal lineage, Juddmonte Farms is owned by Prince Khalid bin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who has extensive business interests. Juddmonte, which has properties in the United States, Ireland and the UK, has won four Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Owner and five for Outstanding Breeder. They’ve won seven Breeders’ Cup races, including the 2016 Classic with Arrogate, who set a North American record with more than $17 million in earnings.  

Here are some others who could wind up in the big one:

Art Collector- His Classic stock went down considerably after a disappointing effort in the Preakness.

Global Campaign- He flies under the radar, has talent and a very capable trainer, but seems a cut below the best of this division.

Benbatl- Will make a very intriguing addition to this field if this world class runner shows up. We hope he does.

Midcourt- A solid performer in this class without really asserting himself as a leader in it.

War of Will- He has options and probably will opt for a different spot, if he does wind up here he will impact the pace.

Swiss Skydiver- Dare we say it, she’s eligible off the Preakness win and she has not exactly ducked anyone or anything.

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