The beauty of the Breeders' Cup is every race is a beauty. But some are more beautiful than others. Three weeks out, a trio of Breeders' Cup events stand out for their competitiveness and championship implications: the Classic, the Distaff and the Juvenile. The Classic will almost certainly produce the Horse of the Year, best older dirt horse and perhaps the 3-year-old championship. The Distaff should settle the older Filly & Mare division and likely the 3-year-old filly title. The Juvenile will be an East-West showdown with an Eclipse on the line between a pair of colts, whose breeding and running styles should put them at the top of next year's Kentucky Derby contenders.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic will again serve the role it was created to perform. The winner of the final race of Breeders’ Cup weekend on Nov. 4 will be Horse of the Year.

Every year there is conjecture that if this happens and that happens, someone other than the Classic winner could be awarded racing’s biggest prize. With all the preps out of the way, there is only one such possibility this year and it is a remote one. A highly improbable result in the Classic, something like an Arcangues, coupled with a decisive score by Lady Eli in one of the grass races could shift some votes to the extraordinary filly, who came back from death’s door to the top of the game.

But this is primarily a sympathy fueled fantasy. In the real world, defending champion Arrogate, his Pacific Classic conqueror Collected (who actually has a superior record), NTRA poll leader Gun Runner or late developing 3-year-old West Coast will be Horse of the Year.

That any one of the four would be a worthy champion makes this year’s Classic one of the most anticipated in years. There’s plenty of time to dive into the PP’s but it’s never too soon to begin savoring what might be in the Breeders’ Cup.

The Classic is one of three Breeders’ Cup races I am looking forward to for more than betting purposes. The closer on Friday, the Distaff, is another that will settle at least one title, perhaps two.

Stellar Wind is the filly to beat, especially on her home court. However her undefeated season might be over-rated. She beat five opponents in the Apple Blossom, which was a packed field compared to her other two starts. Only four others went in the Clement Hirsch and she had to beat only two in the Beholder Mile.

(This affords me another opportunity to renew my suggestion that any stakes with fewer than five starters should drop a grade.)

With Forever Unbridled shipping in off her big win in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga, the Distaff will have East-West implications. Unfortunately, Forever Unbridled has been raced even more sparingly than Stellar Wind, with only a pair of 2017 starts, both wins. But in the Personal Ensign she did something Stellar Wind was unable to do in last season’s Distaff. She ran down Songbird.

Adding to the appeal of the Distaff is the presence of two crack 3-year-olds, Kentucky Oaks champion Abel Tasman and Elate. Abel Tasman got the money by the narrowest of margins when they met in the Coaching Club American Oaks. However, the way she did it, intimidating Elate on the rail for almost an eighth of a mile, left many feeling the result should have been reversed by the stewards.

Subsequent results bolster the argument that the best horse didn’t get the CCAO trophy. Elate spread-eagled the field in the Alabama, which took on more significance when runner up It Tiz Well rebounded to put away Abel Tasman in the Cotillion. Elate followed her Alabama triumph by devastating older fillies in the Beldame. The outcome of their rematch in the Distaff will be a race within the race for 3-year filly honors.

What’s more, it’s not a stretch to say Paradise Woods could steal the title if she comes up big. She buried Abel Tasman in the Santa Anita Oaks and, after two lackluster efforts, ran away with the Grade 1 Zenyatta.

It’s too bad the Distaff is relegated to the Friday card. It deserves a place on Saturday’s main stage.

Bolt d’Oro was virtually conceded the BC Juvenile, Eclipse championship and early favoritism for the 2018 Kentucky Derby off his crushing wins in the Del Mar Futurity and Front Runner.

Then Free Drop Billy, who gave every indication in the Sanford and Hopeful he would get better as the distances get longer, delivered on that promise in the Breeders’ Futurity. Of course, Bolt d’Oro, by Medaglia d’Oro out of an AP Indy mare, also is bred to go the distance and seemed to get stronger with every additional yard in the Front Runner, his first two-turn try.

Dale Romans was in this position a year ago with Not This Time, who hooked eventual Eclipse winner Classic Empire. Not This Time, called by Romans the most talented horse he ever trained, came up second best but was gaining ground late. He never got the chance to build on that due to a career-ending injury.

Maybe This Time?

Pegasus still uncertain

Getting briefly back to Arrogate, the announcement that the BC Classic will be his final race before beginning his stud career at Juddmonte U.S. is good news and bad news for the $16 million Pegasus.

The bad news is the world’s richest race loses a star attraction. The good news is this might influence some fence-sitters to ante up and take their shot, especially if Arrogate reverts to his form of a year ago and uncorks a runaway win.

Without Arrogate and the other main contenders being shown to be vulnerable—if they even come to Gulfstream off disappointing efforts--the Pegasus’s $7 million top prize would look more attainable.

The immediate aftermath of the Breeders’ Cup is going to be a crucial period for the Pegasus. Whether only four are currently signed on, as the Racing Form has reported, or there are seven, as Tim Ritvo told me, the field is still well short of the quorum demanded by its exorbitant purse structure. The days after the Breeders’ Cup are when owners and trainers will decide whether they will keep their horses in training with the Pegasus in mind or take a break to prepare for next season.

What has been unthinkable, The Stronach Group being forced to cancel the Pegasus for lack of support, is now far from a longshot.

Getting DQ’s right

Stewards have made adjudication of objections and inquiries into a maddening event for horse players. A foul at Belmont isn’t at Santa Anita. A horse might be taken down at Gulfstream but left up at Keeneland for the exact same action.

The International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities has taken an admirable step to eradicate the inconsistencies. The IFHA executive board has issued a set of reasonable and easily understood guidelines for when a horse should or shouldn’t be disqualified.

If a horse or jockey causes interference and finishes in front of the horse interfered with there shall be no disqualification if, in the opinion of the stewards, the horse who committed the offense would have finished in front of the horse fouled in any case.

However, if the horse fouled would have finished in front of the horse who bothered him, in the opinion of the stewards, there shall be a reversal.

One exception is a disqualification can be ordered if a jockey has behaved recklessly. I might quarrel with this, arguing in favor of a hefty fine or suspension rather than punishing the bettors.

However, the other suggestions make so much sense they should be adopted immediately by every jurisdiction in the world.

What do you suppose are the chances of that happening?

Miami, Oct. 12, 2017