1 Tonalist (4-1)
Need to know: Last year's Belmont Stakes winner is coming off of his second consecutive victory in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup. He's the most experienced horse at the Classic distance of 1¼ miles (five starts) and his three career Grade I victories have all come at that distance or longer. He's earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105 or more in each of his last seven races, and no other horse in the field can claim that. Tonalist's running style has differed from race to race, though he typically settles in just behind the early leaders in longer races such as this one.
A good bet? One knock against Tonalist: He's won five of seven starts at Belmont but just one of his seven races at other tracks. There's no doubting his talent, and he loves the distance, but he's also lost twice to Honor Code this year, and I prefer that one a little more at what will likely be similar odds.
2 Keen Ice (8-1)
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Need to know: Since American Pharoah lost his debut in August 2014, this is the only guy that's beaten him. That race — the Travers Stakes at Saratoga — was Keen Ice's first victory in nearly a year and only the second win of his career. Still, it was the culmination of marked improvement throughout his 3-year-old campaign. Random fact: Keen Ice has raced just once at Keeneland, and he finished fifth, 13½ lengths behind the winner in last year's Breeders' Futurity. It was the largest margin of defeat in his 11-race career.
A good bet? He's matured with each race, and it sounds like the plan is to run him closer to the pace early — as he did in the Travers — as opposed to trying a big move at the end. Yes, he beat Pharoah, but 8-1 still seems too short in this field.
3 Frosted (12-1)
Need to know: He's a solid competitor and one that followers of the Triple Crown series are already well familiar with. Frosted closed strong to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby and came back with a second-place performance behind Pharoah in the Belmont. He's always around at the end, but he hasn't been quite good enough to beat the best. A victory in the Pennsylvania Derby last time out was his first since April. He did run a career-best 106 Beyer in that one, though.
A good bet? He's finished behind American Pharoah three times since May and has also lost to Keen Ice and the sidelined Texas Red in that span. He could hit the board at a decent price, but there's not much reason to believe Frosted will put it all together in a fashion that leads him to the winner's circle Saturday.
4 American Pharoah (4-5)
Need to know: You probably already know everything about him. American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years and followed that up with a visually stunning victory in the Haskell. Then came the upset to Keen Ice in the Travers. Bob Baffert wasn't crazy about running him in that race to begin with, and he's training well heading into this one. This will be the first time in Pharoah's career that he goes up against older horses. He'll almost certainly go straight to the lead in a field that doesn't have much early speed. Will someone challenge him early? Or will AP be left to dictate the pace?
A good bet? Pharoah is the clear favorite now that Beholder is out, but it's best to look elsewhere at the betting window. The past seven horses that have gone off at shorter than 2-1 odds in the Classic have lost. Only two of those finished in the money. It's OK to root for history with Pharoah, but try to fill your wallet with someone else.
5 Gleneagles (20-1)
Need to know: He's never raced outside of Europe, he's never run on dirt, he's never gone more than a mile and his last start was just two weeks ago in England. (He arrived in Lexington on Monday night.) That doesn't exactly scream Breeders' Cup Classic champion, but you have to respect his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, who has been pointing Gleneagles toward this race for a while. The flip side of that: O'Brien has had 13 starters in the Classic since 2001 — several great competitors among them — without a winner.
A good bet? This is truly the wild card of the field, and his lack of any history on the surface or at the distance make him tough to figure. There are just too many questions to seriously consider him for anything more than a long price at the back end of the exotics.
6 Effinex (20-1)
Need to know: This will be a change of scenery for Effinex, who has run 17 of his 18 career races in the state of New York. He beat Tonalist in July — his last victory before a couple of disappointing finishes the last two times out (including a loss to Tonalist earlier this month). He typically runs pretty close to the early pace and is one of only three competitors in this race (along with American Pharoah and Tonalist) with multiple victories at the 1¼-mile distance.
A good bet? Effinex would need a career-best performance against this group, and even that might not be enough. He was the second-longest shot on the original morning line for a reason, and it's hard to envision a scenario that ends with him in the winner's circle.
7 Smooth Roller (SCRATCHED)
8 Hard Aces (30-1)
Need to know: He was way back early in the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June before closing on the rail for a victory, which is the only reason he's in this race. That win earned him an automatic spot in the Classic, and he's been defeated by more than 11 lengths in each of his two starts since. His career-best 103 Beyer came in January and is the lowest in this field. He's gone five straight races without hitting triple digits in that category. Regular jockey Victor Espinoza has chosen to ride Pharoah (obviously), so Joe Talamo gets the mount here.
A good bet? No. There's zero reason to think Hard Aces will be around at the end against this bunch. Fun fact: In the past 30 Breeders' Cup Classics, only two horses have won at longer odds than 20-1 (Volponi at 43-1 in 2002 and Arcangues at 133-1 in 1993).
9 Honor Code (5-1)
Need to know: The son of former Breeders' Cup Classic champ A.P. Indy came up big in New York this summer with victories in the Whitney Handicap and the Met Mile, both Grade I races. He finished a disappointing third as the odds-on favorite in the 1-mile Kelso Handicap earlier this month, but trainer Shug McGaughey has expressed confidence heading into the Classic. Honor Code's 113 Beyer in the Whitney is the best in the field, and his style is to come from way off the pace. One question is distance: He's never been more than 9 furlongs in his 10-race career.
A good bet? Throw out his last race. Other than Pharoah, Honor Code looks like the best one here. If the early fractions up front are quick, he has the ability to make an awesome move at the end. If he goes off at 5-1 or longer, that's a great deal.