The Pacific Classic and Kentucky Derby Runners in the Travers Stakes May Clarify the Breeders' Cup Classic Picture

The best 3-year-olds from the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown series are mostly in their barns this week, getting ready for the Travers Stakes Aug. 26. The main exception is Classic Empire, who’s headed back to Ocala – as he did prior to the Arkansas Derby – to try and get his mojo back, with the Sept. 23 Pennsylvania Derby in mind.

A spectacular field can be expected for the Travers. How’s this for a potential collection of Triple Crown horses: Always Dreaming, Lookin At Lee, Tapwrit, Gunnevera, McCraken, Girvin, Irap, and Cloud Computing – and that may not be all.

Some horses that weren’t on the Triple Crown trail may also attend; they include Jim Dandy Stakes 1-2 horses Good Samaritan and Giuseppe the Great, Curlin Stakes winner Outplay, and Los Alamitos Derby winner West Coast, Bob Baffert’s chance to play the role that Arrogate played in last year’s Travers.
The connections of all of them will be hoping they show enough not only to win the Travers, but to suggest they have the ability to take on the older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

From a Breeders’ Cup standpoint, Arrogate will be the center of attention Saturday. There is one simple question: can he get back to something like the outstanding form which earned him the highest ranking of any American horse from some horse rating agencies in the last 25 years.

Arrogate’s distant fourth in the San Diego Handicap last month was clearly a long way below his outstanding performances in the Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup, and Dubai World Cup. He has some good horses to run against in the Pacific Classic, especially his San Diego Handicap conqueror, Accelerate, and his very good stablemate, Collected.

But if he can get close to the form of his four fantastic victories between August 2016 and March 2017, he will win the Pacific Classic barring a major improvement from his opponents – and confirm he’s the horse to beat in November’s Breeders’ Cup Classic for the Triple Crown 3-year-olds and the other older horses, led by Gun Runner.

For the sake of racing, fans will hope Arrogate does get back to his best. The ideal hope is that come Breeders’ Cup Classic time, Arrogate will be on top of his game, that Gun Runner will continue on the improvement he’s shown since his 2016 Kentucky Derby third-place finish, and that one or more of the top 3-year-olds can show they have sufficient quality to make a race of it with Arrogate and Gun Runner. 

It’s very unlikely all of the stars will align to make this happen. But it’s a nice thought.

(Gun Runner Photo by Coady Photo/Churchill Downs)