October 26, 2018
by Steve Byk, At the Races with Steve Byk
ANALYSIS: Three highly decorated International contenders - THUNDER SNOW, MENDELSSOHN and ROARING LION - will collide with fleet, credentialed domestic powerhouses ACCELERATE, WEST COAST and MCKINZIE; turf converts CATHOLIC BOY and YOSHIDA; plus plucky overachievers MIND YOUR BISCUITS and DISCREET LOVER. Classics at Churchill have the handicapping assistance of a regularly contested 10-furlong event. And, as with the Derby, the opening six furlongs will establish a distinct scenario: 1:10 or faster favors closers; 1:10 to 1:11 aids mid-pack stalkers; 1:11 or more provides near-the-lead types best opportunities. On paper, this renewal suggests a swift, well-contested pace.
MAIN CONTENDERS: With ACCELERATE, WEST COAST, MCKINZIE and CATHOLIC BOY each inclined to be a part of the vanguard, the perplexing Classic question is: Which, if any, of these most likely betting favorites can comfortably adjust to a stalk-and-kick trip? Add pressers THUNDER SNOW and MENDELSSOHN to the equation and a meltdown reminiscent of what happened at the ‘Downs in 2011 is possible. The biggest beneficiary of the fast pace would be MIND YOUR BISCUITS, who doesn’t stop running hard at any distance. ROARING LION is the race’s wildcard from behind. His resume glistens and trainer John Gosdsen is deadly, but sire Kitten’s Joy still doesn’t have a Grade 1 winner on dirt.
VALUE PLAYS: Like with the Kentucky Derby, BC Classics at Churchill usually feature exotic finishers poised in the top four positions at the eighth-pole. Major value, though, has come from at least one superfecta closer, including Drosselmeyer (won at 14-1 in 2011), Ruler On Ice (third at 17-1 in 2011), Fly Down (third at 26-1 in 2010), Giacomo (fourth at 21-1 in 2006) and Captain Steve (third at 13-1 in 2000). A 2018 potential mutuel explosion could come from Woodward winner YOSHIDA, Stephen Foster hero PAVEL or PA Derby runner-up AXELROD, who has improved with maturity and added distance.
WAGERING STRATEGY ($100):