With the Breeders' Cup® prep races wrapped up and the field for the Classic getting clearer by the day, we're as close as ever to getting a full vision of what this year's race could look like.
As the competition starts to train for the track at Churchill Downs®, we're looking at some of the biggest stories heading into the Breeders' Cup Classic 2018.
1. Accelerate is the favorite
Accelerate is making a real case for Horse of the Year, even with Justify's Triple Crown™ conquest months prior. The John Sadler-trained horse has won three consecutive races, including dominant wins at the Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic. In total, Accelerate has won five of his six starts in 2018.
There is still the question of whether Accelerate can keep his momentum going into Churchill Downs, though. While he won at the Awesome Again Stakes recently, he broke poorly and had to put himself into second gear to even contend.
Basically, his status as favorite is earned, but it's no guarantee that he'll get the win on November 3.
2. Bob Baffert's duo is set
Two horses under the tutelage of legendary trainer Bob Baffert are set to compete in the Classic — McKinzie and West Coast.
McKinzie is an interesting entrant because there are a lot of unknowns about the three-year old colt. He's only raced three times this year due to a strained hock, but seems to have returned from injury at full strength. The Breeders' Cup Classic will be a good test to see if McKinzie is really back to his prime form.
Similar to McKinzie, West Coast has had a light racing schedule in 2018. We got a glimpse of a potential match-up with Classic favorite Accelerate at the Awesome Again Stakes, but West Coast had to settle for finishing second. The buzz around West Coast is mostly based on the fact that we haven't seen the best out of this horse yet.
Baffert could turn his duo into a trio if Collected enters into the Classic as well.
3. Mendelssohn has a chance at redemption
This year's Kentucky Derby® was the low point of a successful career for Mendelssohn. Coming into the race as one of the favorites, Mendelssohn finished dead last at Churchill Downs in May. That result was especially surprising considering the fact that Mendelssohn came into the Derby red hot after a win at the UAE Derby. But he hasn't won a race since, and has lost his last two sprints to other Classic contenders, Catholic Boy and Discreet Lover.
Regardless of the result in May, though, Mendelssohn is still a contender given his victory in the Juvenile Turf at the 2017 Breeders' Cup.
The argument against Mendelssohn's chances have to do with his stamina. He'll definitely be a pace setter early, but he hasn't shown the ability to finish at as strong a pace in recent contests.
4. Catholic Boy is a legitimate underdog
Catholic Boy seems to be continually doubted even though the three-year old colt continues to impress. The Jonathan Thomas-trained horse won the Travers Stakes in August at the Saratoga Race Course, which is the same length as the Breeders' Cup Classic — that could be a sign if you're looking for one.
Even with success this year, Catholic Boy came out as an early double-digit favorite, which could change as we get closer to the race. The only mark against Catholic Boy is that he doesn't have a lot of dirt races under his belt, which obviously could play a factor at Churchill Downs.
5. Thunder Snow is the biggest question mark
There's not much to say about Thunder Snow heading into the Classic, and it's to be determined whether that is a good or bad thing. The four-year old colt won the rich Dubai World Cup in March, but hasn't made any relative noise since. Under trainer Saeed bin Suroor, Thunder Snow has kept his head low since the spring and could the audience will be curious about his current status when he takes to Churchill Downs.
This race will be Thunder Snow's first time on the dirt since his March. How has that time off treated him? We'll find out.
Be at the Breeders' Cup 2018!
There's still time! You can be at the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs this year with an Official Ticket Package from Breeders' Cup Experiences. We still have availability in the Skye Terrace, Trophy Room and The Mansion, but act fast before you miss out on the chance to secure your access.