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Jon White: Early Breeders' Cup Classic Odds

by Jon White

September 7, 2023

With such key races as the Travers Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Pacific Classic in the rearview mirror, this seems a good time for yours truly to formulate early odds for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The BC Classic, America’s richest race, will be contested at 1 1/4 miles on Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.

This is going to be the eighth time I have the honor -- and pretty much thankless task -- of setting the morning line odds for the Breeders’ Cup races.

Making the morning lines for all 14 Breeders’ Cup contests is challenging, to say the least. Some of these races are downright inscrutably competitive, so much so that it’s extremely difficult to try and forecast who will be the wagering favorite.

I think one of the most important functions in making a morning line is to have the right favorite. A great many horseplayers want to know who the probable favorite is going to be because that is the horse that they want to bet against in order to get wagering value.

When I made the morning lines for the 2021 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, the horse I made the favorite on the morning line did go off as the favorite in 11 of the 14 races.

Two of the three horses I did make the favorite on the morning line but were not sent away as the betting favorite at that 2021 Breeders’ Cup ended up winning -- Pizza Bianca in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Knicks Go in the Classic.

Of course, with about two months to go, we do not know for sure who is going to be in the BC Classic field. For example, just a few days ago we lost a prospective entrant in Disarm, who finished a strong second in Saratoga’s Grade I Travers Stakes on Aug. 26.

Last Saturday (Sept. 2), Daily Racing Form’s David Grening reported that Hall of Fame trainer Steve Assmusen said Disarm “will not race again this year.”

According to Asmussen, Disarm came out of the Travers “pretty jammed up.” Consequently, the Gun Runner colt has been sent to Dr. Larry Bramlage at the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Kentucky for further evaluation.

Earlier this year, Disarm ran fourth in the Grade I Kentucky Derby. He went on to win the Grade III Matt Winn Stakes and finish fourth in the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes prior to the Travers.


Arcangelo, winner of the Grade I Belmont Stakes and Grade I Travers Stakes, sits atop this week’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings.

The Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings are determined by a panel of voters comprised of members of the Breeders’ Cup Racing/Secretaries Panel, international racing and sports media, plus racing analysts.

The rankings will be updated weekly through Oct. 10.

The Top 10 this week’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Rankings is below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 200 Arcangelo (14)
2. 157 Geaux Rocket Ride (1)
3. 147 Arabian Knight (1)
4. 142 White Abarrio (1)
5. 114 Forte (1)
6. 76 Proxy
7. 67 Bright Future
8. 43 Zandon
9. 38 Mage
10. 36 Ushba Tesoro (2)


At this time, I have Arcangelo as the BC Classic favorite at 3-1. The son of Arrogate has rattled off four straight wins, starting with a maiden race in March and followed by the Grade III Peter Pan Stakes in May, Grade I Belmont Stakes in June and Travers in August.

Arcangelo emulated his sire by taking the Travers. Arcangelo will attempt to again follow in his sire’s footsteps by becoming a BC Classic winner. Jena Antonucci has done nothing less than a marvelous training job with Arcangelo.

The score between Arabian Knight and Geaux Rocket Ride is 1-1. When Geaux Rocket Ride won the Grade I Haskell at odds of 12-1, Arabian Knight was the favorite at slightly more than even money despite coming off a long layoff.

With the Haskell under Arabian Knight’s belt, he won Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic last Saturday while turning the tables on Geaux Rocket Ride.

Inasmuch as only a neck separated Arabian Knght and Geaux Rocket Ride at the finish of the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic, I think it’s appropriate to have them at the same price in the 1 1/4-mile BC Classic. I currently have them each pegged at 4-1.

White Abarrio had a sharp four-furlong workout in :47.25 on Wednesday (Sept. 6) at Belmont Park.

I have White Abarrio with the lowest BC Classic odds among the older horses. I consider him to be kind of a tricky horse to try and forecast just how much play he is going to get in the betting.

On the one hand, there seem to be a lot of skeptics as to whether White Abarrio is going to run another biggie after his impressive 6 1/4-length victory in the Grade I Whitney Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. On the other hand, a high Beyer Speed Figure tends to drive a horse’s odds down. White Abarrio will be going into the BC Classic off a 110 Beyer in the Whitney.

At this time, I have White Abarrio at 5-1.

The points in this week’s BC Classic rankings go hand-in-hand with how I currently see the likely betting for the race in that after Arcangelo’s 200 points, Geaux Rocket Ride’s 157, Arabian Knight’s 147 and White Abarrio’s 142, there then is a bit off a drop off to Forte’s 114.

I have Forte at 8-1. I expect his odds to rise after he ran fourth in the Travers. But how much will his price go up? Considering how heavily Forte has been bet this year, I’m reluctant to make him any bigger than 8-1 at this point.

Remember, Forte has been the favorite in each of his five starts this year, going off at 1-2, 1-5, 2-1, 3-5 and 8-5.

Below are my early odds for each horse on the Top 10 in this week’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Rankings:

Odds Horse (Position in This Week’s BC Classic Rankings)

3-1 Arcangelo (1)
4-1 Geaux Rocket Ride (2)
4-1 Arabian Knight (3)
5-1 White Abarrio (4)
8-1 Forte (5)
12-1 Proxy (6)
12-1 Bright Future (7)
15-1 Zandon (8)
15-1 Mage (9)
15-1 Ushba Tesora (10)


The Pacific Classic was first run in 1991. When the great Flightline won the 2022 renewal, he did so while having made the fewest previous career starts of any winner in the race’s history. Flightline had started only four times prior to winning the Pacific Classic.

When Arabian Knight won this year’s Pacific Classic, he went Flightline one fewer. Arabian Knight had raced just a total of three times before his victory last Saturday.

For Hall of Famer Bob Baffert to win the Pacific Classic with such a lightly raced colt in Arabian Knight is yet another example of Baffert’s training prowess.

Baffert increased his record total of Pacific Classic victories to seven. He has won this race with General Challenge in 1999, Richard’s Kid in 2009 and 2010, Game On Dude in 2013, Collected in 2017, Maximum Security in 2020 and Arabian Knight this year.

By the way, Flightline did win his Pacific Classic in much faster time than Arabian Knight.

When Flightline won the Pacific Classic by a record-smashing 19 1/4 lengths, he ran 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.28 or 1:59 1/5 in fifths. To put that 1:59 1/5 clocking into perspective, Secretariat’s final time when he won the 1973 Kentucky Derby was 1:59 2/5, a track record that still stands.

Arabian Knight’s final time in the Pacific Classic was 2:03.19 or 2:03 flat in fifths.

Flightline’s Pacific Classic time was a whopping 3 4/5 seconds faster than Arabian Knight’s. The longtime rule of thumb is that a fifth of a second equates to a length, which means Flightline would have defeated Arabian Knight by 19 lengths.

Baffert trained Country Grammer, who finished second, 19 1/4 lengths behind Flightline, in the 2022 Pacific Classic. Baffert quipped after the race that Flightline was so far in front at the finish that Country Grammer thought he won the race.

There also is a huge disparity in terms of Beyers for Flightline and Arabian Knight in the Pacific Classic.

Flightline posted a gigantic 122 Beyer Speed Figure for his Pacific Classic tour de force.

For Arabian Knight’s Pacific Classic victory, he received a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. This is his first triple-digit Beyer. Arabian Knight previously had recorded Beyers of 97 for his maiden win, 96 for his Grade III Southwest Stakes victory and 95 for his third in the Haskell.

Below are the Beyer Speed Figures for the winners of the Pacific Classic going back to the first running in 1991:

2023 Arabian Knight (101)
2022 Flightline (126)
2021 Tripoli (104)
2020 Maximum Security (107)
2019 Higher Power (107)
2018 Accelerate (115)
2017 Collected (115)
2016 California Chrome (113)
2015 Beholder (114)
2014 Shared Belief (115) synthetic footing
2013 Game On Dude (113) synthetic footing
2012 Dullahan (111) synthetic footing
2011 Acclamation (105) synthetic footing
2010 Richard’s Kid (96) synthetic footing
2009 Richard’s Kid (107) synthetic footing
2008 Go Between (104) synthetic footing
2007 Student Council (99) synthetic footing
2006 Lava Man (109)
2005 Borrego (113)
2004 Pleasantly Perfect (112)
2003 Candy Ride (123)
2002 Came Home (116)
2001 Skimming (119)
2000 Skimming (118)
1999 General Challenge (119)
1998 Free House (117)
1997 Gentlemen (121)
1996 Dare and Go (116)
1995 Tinners Way (112)
1994 Tinners Way (111)
1993 Bertrando (117)
1992 Missionary Ridge (110)
1991 Best Pal (118)


Louisiana Downs resurrected the Super Derby this year after a three-year hiatus. This really rubs me the wrong way.

Look, it’s perfectly fine for Louisiana Downs to have a $200,000 stakes race for 3-year-olds. It just should have a different name. This race bears absolutely no resemblance to the “real” Super Derby of the 1980s and 1990s.

I was a writer for the Daily Racing Form at Louisiana Downs in 1980. Track management, led by general manager Vincent Bartimo, boldly put up a large sum of money and worked very hard to get the Super Derby off the ground and establish it as one of the nation’s most important stakes races for 3-year-olds.

In fact, when I spoke with Bartimo in his office prior to the start of the 1980 Louisiana Downs meet and he let the cat out of the bag that the Super Derby was in the works, he clearly was worried such a daring endeavor might turn out to be a colossal flop.

“It’s not yet a done deal, but we are close to announcing that we are going to have a new race in October for 3-year-olds, scale weight, by invitation, at a mile and a quarter on the main track,” Bartimo said. “It’ll be called the Super Derby. The purse will be $500,000. You have worked at tracks all over the country. I’d like to know if you think we’ll be laughed out of racing.”

I was stunned that Louisiana Downs was planning to have a new race with such a lucrative purse.

“No, I don’t think you will be laughed out of racing,” I said. “But you know what? Louisiana Downs deserves a lot of credit for thinking so big. If this doesn’t work, you just don’t run it again next year. But at least you tried. I honestly don’t think enough people in racing are willing to try doing something like this.”

That $500,000 purse for the first Super Derby made it THE RICHEST 3-YEAR-OLD RACE IN THE WORLD AT THAT TIME.

The purse for the 1980 Kentucky Derby was $346,800. The Preakness purse that year was $250,600. The Belmont Stakes in 1980 was worth $293,700.

The 1980 Super Derby actually was the second-richest Thoroughbred race in America. The five richest Thoroughbred stakes races in America in 1980 are listed below:

$549,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (3-year-olds and up at Belmont Park)
$500,000 Super Derby (3-year-olds at Louisiana Downs)
$427,975 Arlington-Washington Futurity (2-year-olds at Arlington Park)
$400,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (3-year-olds and up at Hollywood Park)
$350,000 Santa Anita Handicap (3-year-olds and up at Santa Anita)

The first Super Derby was run one year before the Arlington Million became the first $1 million Thoroughbred race in history.

A $500,000 Super Derby purse in 1980 would be equivalent to more than $1.8 million today when adjusted for inflation.

Again when adjusted for inflation, making the Super Derby a $200,000 race in 2023 is roughly equivalent to making the first Super Derby in 1980 a $50,000 race.

Temperence Hill and Eddie Maple (who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009) helped make the first Super Derby a rousing success when they won the race for John Ed Anthony’s Loblolly Stable and trainer Joe Cantey.

“Racing through the drizzling weather and gathering dusk with the power and grace of a champion, Loblolly Stable’s Temperence Hill rolled to an emphatic triumph in the new $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Oct. 18,” I wrote in my Daily Racing Form recap.

“As a result of his 5 1/2-length victory in the 1 1/4-mile event, Temperence Hill became the sport’s latest millionaire. Additionally, thanks to the $300,000 he received for his Super Derby score, the strapping bay colt boosted his 1980 earnings to $1,130,452, catapulting him past the recently retired Spectacular Bid as this season’s leading money winner.

“It is clear that Temperence Hill knows how to win when it counts the most. In the span of just 15 days, he captured the two richest races offered in this country this year. Prior to the Super Derby, he humbled his elders in the $549,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Temperence Hill also boasts wins in the prestigious Travers and Belmont Stakes, plus Oaklawn Park’s Arkansas Derby and Rebel Handicap.

“On Jan. 1, 1980, Temperence Hill was still a maiden. Now, some 11 months later, the colt has such an impressive record that he looms a solid favorite to nab an Eclipse Award as the best 3-year-old colt or gelding. Without a doubt, his meteoric rise to stardom is one of the highlights of the 1980 racing season.”

Temperence Hill was indeed voted a 1980 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.

Also contributing to the success of the inaugural Super Derby was the presence of two giants in Thoroughbred racing, Hall of Fame trainer Laz Barrera and Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker. Barrera trained runner-up First Albert. Shoemaker rode Cactus Road, who finished third.

The Super Derby was one of the most important events of the year in the entire nation for its first two decades or so. The next six winners of this race after Temperence Hill were Island Whirl, Reinvested, Sunny’s Halo (a Kentucky Derby winner), Gate Dancer (a Preakness Stakes winner) and Cr�me Fraiche (a Belmont Stakes winner).

In 1987, future Hall of Famer Alysheba won the Super Derby for Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg. Alysheba went on to be the Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old male of 1987. In 1988, Alysheba was voted Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year and champion older male.

In 1989, another future Hall of Famer, Sunday Silence, won the Super Derby for Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham. Sunday Silence used the Super Derby as a springboard to his victory over Easy Goer in the BC Classic at Gulfstream Park. Sunday Silence was voted 1989 Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male.

The Super Derby was still an important race on the national calendar when yet another future Hall of Famer, Tiznow, won it in 2000 for trainer Jay Robbins. Tiznow subsequently won the BC Classic in 2000 and was voted Eclipse Awards that year as Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male. Tiznow won another BC Classic in 2001 en route to an Eclipse Award as champion older male. He remains the only two-time winner of the BC Classic.

Congratulations to Big Data, owner Petal Power Racing Stable, trainer Michael Lerman and jockey Emisael Jaramillo for their victory in the 1 1/8-mile Super Derby last Saturday. The Cloud Computing colt previously had raced exclusively at Gulfstream Park, winning two of seven starts.

While Temperence Hill won the first Super Derby when coming off a victory in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup over no less a foe than the legendary John Henry, Big Data went into this year’s Super Derby without having even run in a stakes race.

Temperence Hill’s Super Derby victory came in a race that had significance nationally, unlike Big Data’s Super Derby win. The 1980 Super Derby and the 2023 Super Derby are about as much alike as apples and oranges.

According to Daily Racing Form’s Mary Rampellini, Big Data has returned to Florida. Lerman has three races under consideration for Big Data’s next start. They are the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 23 at Parx Racing, the Grade III Oklahoma Derby on Sept. 24 at Remington Park and the Bourbon Trail Stakes on Sept. 23 at Churchill Downs.

How un-super is the Super Derby with its $200,000 purse? All three races under consideration for Big Data’s next start have a bigger purse than this year’s Super Derby.

The Pennsylvania Derby, a $1 million race, essentially has taken the place of the Super Derby on the national scene. The $400,000 Oklahoma Derby has a purse twice as large as the Super Derby. Even the $300,000 Bourbon Trail Stakes has a bigger purse than the Super Derby.

Lerman is leaning toward the Bourbon Trail.

“The one I like the most at the moment is the ungraded race at a mile and three-sixteenths,” Lerman said, referencing the Bourbon Trail. “I’d rather take incremental baby steps with him, not throw him to the wolves.”

Lerman certainly didn’t throw Big Data to the wolves in the Super Derby, which didn’t have anyone in it remotely close to a Temperence Hill, an Alysheba, a Sunday Silence or a Tiznow.

If present management at Louisiana Downs really wants to reinstitute the Super Derby as it was originally intended, they should come up with a purse this year considerably larger than $200,000. Its purse should be at least the same as the $1 million that’s up for grabs in the Pennsylvania Derby.

If Louisiana Downs ever gets serious and ponies up a seven-figure purse, I then -- and only then -- will not have a problem with the name Super Derby being used.


It was with sadness I learned that retired turf publicist and writer Steve Schuelein died on Aug. 29 at his longtime home in Playa Del Rey, Calif. He was 77.

Born in New York City, Schuelein moved to Southern California in 1982 after earning

I knew Steve well. In the 1980s, while I was on the beat at the Southern California tracks as a reporter and columnist, he wrote the stable notes at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar. Our paths crossed often. I can attest that he did a first-rate job.

In addition to his publicity work, Steve wrote for numerous Thoroughbred racing publications, such as the Daily Racing Form, the Thoroughbred Times (as did I), The Thoroughbred of California magazine, Trainer magazine and harness racing magazines. He retired in the early 2010s.

Steve and I were regulars at a weekly Tuesday afternoon basketball game in the 1980s played on a court in a church near Santa Anita. George Hicker, who to this day is a Thoroughbred owner in Southern California, showed up at our game out of the blue one day. Hicker threw a perfect pass to Steve as he was heading to the basket. The pass literally hit Steve right between the eyes and broke his glasses.

To Steve’s credit, after his glasses were broken, he kept right on playing.

After I hit a few shots from the outside, Hicker said, “Okay, I will guard him.” After hearing that, I told my teammates, “Well, I am NOT guarding him.”

I realized Hicker was way too good for me to try and guard.

When I got home, I had absolutely no energy. My wife took one look at me and asked, “Why are you so exhausted?”

“A new guy showed up at basketball today,” I said. “It took everything I had to try and score when he was guarding me. I don’t know who he is. But I can tell you that he plays basketball on a higher level than I do. He’s really good.”

Just then the phone rang. It was Steve Schuelein.

“Do you know who that new guy who showed up for basketball today is?” Steve asked.

“No, I don’t. I was just telling my wife about him.”

“Well, he was a really good college player,” Steve said. “He played with Dave Bing at Syracuse.”

Sure enough, Hicker played alongside future NBA all-star and basketball Hall of Famer Dave Bing. In fact, when Hicker ended his college basketball career, he was the fourth-leading scorer in the school’s history at the time with 1,245 points.

“I knew it,” I told my wife. “I knew that guy who showed up out of the blue today was a much better basketball player than I’ve ever been.”

Another Steve Schuelein memory I have is joining him to watch the track and field competition at the 1984 Olympic Games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Steve had an extra ticket and asked me to go. He didn’t have to ask twice. What a fun day that was.

Carl Lewis won four gold medals in track and field for the U.S. team at those Olympics to equal the famous performance of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Germany.

Another highlight for us at the 1984 Olympics was watching Edwin Moses win the gold medal for the U.S. team in the 400-meter hurdles eight years after winning that event in 1976.

Thanks for the memories, Steve.


It was during Labor Day weekend 50 years ago that I had two of my most enjoyable days at the races.

On Sept. 2 at Playfair Race Course in my hometown of Spokane, Wash., I bet various amounts on the winner in seven of the 10 races on the card. Those seven winning wagers are listed below:

King of the Ring ($5.50 win mutuel) in the second race.
Fran’s Double ($4.30) in the third race.
Dynamite Don ($4.70) in the fourth race.
Rol’s Fargo ($8.00) in the fifth race.
Force Play ($13.70) in the seventh race.
Kid Lightning ($4.80) in the eighth race.
T.O. Venture ($4.20) in the ninth race.

Force Play was owned and trained by Ron Glatt, father of current successful Southern California trainer Mark Glatt.

On Sept. 3, which was Labor Day, I drove the 276 miles from my home to Longacres near Seattle. I again bet various amounts on the winner in seven of the 10 races on that card. Those seven winning wagers are listed below:

Sweet Linus ($9.00) in the first race.
Dauntful ($6.80) in the third race.
Santarem ($2.70) in the fourth race.
Computer Age ($6.20) in the sixth race.
Power Reigh ($5.40) in the seventh race.
The Ruler Flirts ($12.10) in the eighth race.
Table Run ($3.20) in the ninth race (the Seattle Handicap)

Apprentice Frank Best rode Sweet Linus and The Ruler Flirts.

Best passed away earlier this year on July 17 in Kentucky. He was 68. Best was in Kentucky while working for trainer Grant Forster. Forster won this year’s Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs with Five Star General.

In 1980, Best won the Longacres Derby (now the Muckleshoot Derby) aboard Pappy. From 1996 through 1998, Best rode at Emerald Downs. His final race as a jockey came at Philadelphia Park on Nov. 27, 1999. His final winner came on Westoff in a maiden special weight race at Prairie Meadows the previous September.


Sophomore stars Arabian Knight and Geaux Rocket Ride, who ran one-two in the Pacific Classic last Saturday, are newcomers on the Top 10 of this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll.

Arabian Knight is No. 7. Geaux Rocket Ride is No. 9.

Below is the Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 257 Arcangelo (18)
2. 251 Cody’s Wish (8)
3. 201 Elite Power (1)
4. 179 Echo Zulu (2)
5. 158 White Abarrio (2)
6. 143 Gunite
7. 131 Arabian Knight
8. 88 Up to the Mark (1)
9. 68 Geaux Rocket Ride
10. 58 Casa Creed