2020 BREEDERS’ CUP WILL BE A STAR-STUDDED EVENT TOPPED BY A CLASSIC FOR THE AGES
By Noel Michaels
The 2020 Breeders’ Cup returns to Keeneland for just the second time ever and first time since 2015 for what will be the event’s 37th running. The Breeders’ Cup will be run over two days on Friday and Saturday, November 6-7 and will encompass 14 races with nine featured races on Saturday plus the five juvenile races on Friday worth a combined total of $31 million in purses
For horseplayers, the Breeders’ Cup is the most looked-forward-to event of the year with world-class horses, big wide-open fields, great betting races, and loads of wagering value throughout the two most anticipated race cards of the year. For the first time ever, the cards will be run in front of an empty grandstand with no live crowd in attendance. But don’t worry, the action will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network and on NBC, as well as on assorted online wagering platforms, so fans will have no problems making their bets and watching the races live.
The headline event, without a doubt, of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup will be Saturday’s featured $6 million Classic, since this year’s race is likely to decide the Horse of the Year, as well as the Eclipse Awards for champion 3-year-old male and champion older dirt male.
With so much importance to this year’s Classic, it is only fitting the race has come up very strong for the 2020 running, featuring not one but several standout competitors in a wide open affair that will be a memorable betting race. Among the Breeders’ Cup Classic Headliners will be top 3-year-olds AUTHENTIC and TIZ THE LAW, and the country’s best older horses like IMPROBABLE, MAXIMUM SECURITY, and TOMS D’ETAT, just to name a few. Any of that quintet could lock up their respective divisional titles, as well as a Horse of the Year title with a victory in the Classic.
In the 3-year-old division, the championship will come down either to Authentic, who won the Haskell Invitational (G1) en route to his victory in the Kentucky Derby, or Tiz the Law, who dominated the sophomore division most of the year with wins including the Florida Derby (G1), the Travers Stakes (G1), and of course the Belmont Stakes, which was run out of order this year as the first race of the Triple Crown at a distance of 1 1/8 miles. He also finished second in the Kentucky Derby. Even though Tiz the Law lost to Authentic in their only meeting in the Derby, Tiz the Law would have to be considered the top 3-year-old in the land this season, barring another defeat behind Authentic in the Breeders’ Cup.
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In the handicap division, contention for Eclipse Award honors runs deep, and the treat for horseplayers this year is the fact that the matter of who is the best will be settled where it should be settled, not in the ballot box but on the racetrack.
The horse who may very well be favored in the Classic is Improbable, trained by Bob Baffert. Improbable has racked-up a nearly flawless record this season in some of the year’s most important races. After beginning his campaign with a runner-up finish in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2), Improbable racked-up three Grade 1 wins in a row in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, the Whitney at Saratoga, and the Awesome Again Stakes back at Santa Anita where de defeated Maximum Security, who is also trained by Baffert.
Maximum Security has always been a lightning rod of controversy throughout his career, including this year when DQ’d from his win in the $20 million Saudi Cup for another trainer. Since coming to Baffert’s barn, Maximum Security has earned back-to-back wins at Del Mar in the San Diego Handicap (G2) and the Pacific Classic (G1) to go along with his second-place finish in the Awesome Again. If he can turn the tables on Improbable in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, many voters will indeed consider him the Horse of the Year. And then you have Toms d’Etat, who has taken a different yet no less impressive route to this year’s Classic. Toms d’Etat won the Oaklawn Mile and the Stephen Foster (G2) at Churchill and then was favored in the Whitney (G1) but stumbled badly and basically lost all chance at the start of that race en route to a third-place finish. He’s a value play to get revenge versus the aforementioned heavy-hitters.
Another one of the Breeders’ Cup star attractions will be the filly winner of the Preakness Stakes, SWISS SKYDIVER, who is cross-entered in the Classic as well as the Breeders’ Cup Distaff against fillies and mares. She could put her name into the Horse of the Year discussion if she were to enter the Classic and pull-off a win, in addition to the rest of her 2020 resume that includes a second versus males in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) right here at Keeneland, plus wins over fillies in races like Saratoga’s Alabama (G1), Oaklawn’s Fantasy (G3) and the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) and Gulfstream Oaks (G2) to go along with her second in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). If she does indeed opt for the Distaff, it will set-up a classic 3yo filly-versus-older mare match-up in that race between her and the champion, MONOMOY GIRL, a winner of 12 of her 14 lifetime starts.
The 14 Breeders’ Cup races will mostly be wide-open affairs filled with superstars. The includes GAMINE, who will be a prohibitive favorite in the Filly & Mare Sprint. One negative is that there will be less international participation this year due to travel concerns created the Covid-19 pandemic. For American racing fans, however, this will be a lot of fun to see the various races decided by the American-based horses we’ve all followed throughout this year and throughout their entire careers.