Finding Value in the Longines Breeders Cup Classic 2019

While McKinzie's final figures certainly stand out from the rest of this group of three-year-olds, Baffert's entry is far from a sure thing. In fact, even if McKinzie does win, there will still be plenty of value at the top of the tote in this race. Here are my picks, in expected order of finish. Note that I believe this race will require at least a final figure of 80 to win; the only question is who will be capable to run that number on Saturday?

McKinzie: Despite achieving arguably the best and most consistently high final figures of the group, the fact cannot be ignored that the last four final figures have dropped from 84-83-81-77. Granted, if I handicap a bit more carefully and draw a line through the 8 and 8.5 F races, his last figures are 80-74-81-77, which are good, but not great compared to the rest of the group.

When examining his spreads (the difference between his final figure and his 6 F figure), they are not consistent with a pattern that would indicate he is prepared to run a big race (12-6-11-11 with 8F figures included, or 4-17-11-11 if using the proper figures).

While the spreads are not pointing towards a big race, it also cannot be ignored that he ran a SOFT designation in August at Saratoga, and infused a new dimension of speed into his talents in June at Belmont with a New Pace Top (NPT).

The real question is: After these designations that indicate flashes of brilliance and coupled with consistently good performances under Baffert's guidance, are you willing to overlook the pattern that indicates the horse is not in top condition? I, myself, will be avoiding putting all of my eggs in this particular basket. Is this horse capable of winning? Beyond a doubt. But, what is more important than capability is condition—is the horse in good form?

Code of Honor is set to run a huge race. Not only have his final figures been improving each race out, but his gap has widened to a 15 which is simply remarkable and the best among this group. In his last race, he was conserving too much energy in the first six furlongs. Should he run more evenly this time out, he should have plenty of fuel left in his tank to finally hit the magic number of 80 as a final figure. The only knock that I have against him is that he has never hit the final figure of 80 yet to date, and after nine races, one begins to wonder if he has finally hit his true upper ability. Thankfully, this form tells us he has not. He is set to run a personal best. His consistent, small, gradual improvements show that Code of Honor has been developing beautifully and his condition is about to peak.

Yoshida: First, let's address the declining form. His spreads have decreased one point each race out for the last three races and his final figures have dropped as well. That does not bode well for a horse to come out and run an improved or best race. That said, there is hope.

Yoshida has the longest freshening of any horse in the bunch, by at least three weeks, which I feel was needed, as indicated by his form. He will have over sixty days' rest, which can remedy declining figures. Assuming the time off suits him, we look to his back-figures for guidance on his abilities. He has run a final figure of 80 or higher twice in his lifetime, and his all-time best figure of 81 was scored at this 10 F distance. Do I think this is a secret recipe for a win? Perhaps, if Elate goes to the lead and tires out the rest of the pack, Yoshida could have the ability to finish off the bunch. But it will have to be a thoughtful effort, and it looks like Yoshida's connections were aware of his form and were making corrections to address it.

Honorable Mention:

Vino Rosso's final figures are improving, his gap is widening, he has run at or above the threshold of 80, so, he should be set to win, right? Yikes. The inconsistency in these numbers is just enough to scare me off. The final figure of 74 while not scoring a SOFT designation in May makes me worry a bit. I'm also not particularly fond of his back figures and seeing how many consistently mid-70s numbers he is comfortable running at. Yes, I am being overly picky. But McKenzie's comfort zones and Vino Rosso's comfort zones are in two different zip codes when you line them up. I'm going to use a bit of caution here based on the fact that while the numbers here are good, they are not great. Could Vino Rosso win? Yes. Possible? Very. Probable? The morning line of 4-1 seems flattering.

Higher Power: While lacking in top final figures, it is relevant to note that Higher Power suffered a stumbled start in the race last out, and while it wasn't enough to make an excuse for the loss, it's something to keep in mind. The race before that, the final figure of 75 was coupled with a win and a lovely spread of 12, but, the real gem in here is the PLOW on turf that was scored at Delmar and the turf race won at Santa Anita before that. While one should never compare final figures from dirt to turf, I admire the fact that the trainer recognized a lack of stamina in the horse on dirt, switched Higher Power to turf, then not only increased his capacity for distance dirt running, but even had some success on the turf while getting him in shape. My point is that this is the mark of a horse whose figures are a bit undersold at first glance, but upon further investigation, it seems that Higher Power is aiming squarely for this target and may just hit a piece of the pie.

Seeking the Soul has back figures that deserve a nod at a minimum. While the numbers indicate that he is not currently in top shape, should he return to May and June's form, he would be considered a possible dominant figure out of nowhere. This horse has a history of cycling sharply up and down, as evidenced by his 2018 schedule where he could jump from 80 to 71 to 79 to 83 within a single campaign. My point is that don't count him out until it's really over; his back figures are simply too impressive, however unimpressive his number of wins might be. Every horse has his day.

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