IN SUMMARY: A tough race to call with so much money up for grabs but it is close to impossible to oppose GUN RUNNER here who was crowned horse of the year last night and can go off to stud with his head held high if he wins this as expected. Sadly, his price is unimpressive considering the depth to this field with War Story looking overpriced as an each way alternative but it’s all about the favourite her as we look to wave goodbye to a true superstar who has never got the credit he deserves for “daring” to make Arrogate look plain ordinary.
1 SINGING BULLET – Trainer Dale Romans is never scared to take them all on when he feels it is worthwhile but even he may struggle to get a tune out of the son of hard Spun who has plenty to find on all known form lines and has to improve plenty to take a hand in the finish of a race of this magnitude. Last time out he was a three and a half-length fourth of five in a Claimer at Gulfstream Park in December and with zero Grade One wins to his name he looks to be hopelessly outclassed in this stellar line-up.
2 WEST COAST – Trained by the living legend that is Bob Baffert but perhaps his second string with Mike Smith on board Collected. Beaten a head on his debut in a Grade Three, connections clearly thought a lot of him from the start, and he has repaid that faith with five consecutive wins, two at Grade One level, before coming unstuck when third to Gun Runner and Collected in the Breeders Cup Classic over a furlong further. He ran on strongly that day to be beaten three and a half lengths and may find the drop in trip is against him, but he is lightly raced and may yet have more to offer in the weeks and months ahead.
3 STELLAR WIND – Three wins in a row at Oaklawn Park, Santa Anita, and Del Mar in Grade One level marked the daughter of the mighty Curlin down as a very decent mare, though she ran too badly to be true when a twelve and a half-length last in the Breeders Cup Distaff back at Del Mar in November. Michael Tabor and Co purchased her for $6,000,000 after that race and have since moved her from John Sadler to Chad Brown which is interesting in itself, as is the fact that the shrewdest owners out there were happy to pay the $1,000,000 to enter her here, and it would come as no surprise to see her run a huge race though a win ought to prove a step too far in this field.
4 SHARP AZTECA – An interesting runner in that he is as short as 6/1 in the early markets but is anything but certain to get home over two turns and at this trip. All his best form has been over a single turn and this will present a brand-new challenge for the son of Freud, and although it is entirely possible it could bring improvement, he still seems poor value in the circumstances despite the fact that he has won seven races and close to one and a quarter million pounds in prize money.
5 COLLECTED – Sits second in the early betting for trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith but has two lengths plus to find to reverse Del Mar form with Gun Runner. He has been beaten again since when third at Santa Anita in a lesser race, but his astute handler seems to rate his chances highly enough and may well have some tactical masterplan. Sure to be there or thereabouts with a clear run, but no known reason why he can beat Gun Runner now.
6 GUNNEVERA – An intriguing alternative to the better fancied horses and perhaps the best closer in this race. A fast early pace is all but guaranteed in this field and if they set off clocking suicidal fractions which is not impossible, then Antonio Sano’s son of Dialed In will be picking them off late on as the begin to falter though whether he can pick them all off seems unlikely, though a place is still very much on the cards under those race conditions.
7 FEAR THE COWBOY – The bargain of the race after being bought for a mere $1500 at the sales and with three wins and close to a quarter of a million pounds in prize money, connections will already be delighted. He did win a Grade Three here last time out and dis so pretty comfortably but this is a huge rise in class and it rather looks as if connections have thrown away their entry fee on all known form lines.
8 WAR STORY – Although one of the bigger priced runners he has a sneaky little each-way chance on his very best form here and is rarely too far away at the finish. He finished fourth to Gun Runner in the Whitney Stakes and filled the same position in both the Woodward Stakes and the Breeders Cup Classic, again behind Gun Runner on each occasion, and although that all suggests he cannot win, a big run is still expected with the track expected to bring about some improvement.
9 TOAST OF NEW YORK – To be ridden by Frankie Dettori the seven-year-old deserves moral support as the only European based challenger but if he wins this it will be one heck of a surprise. Trained by Jamie Osborne, he finished second to Bayern in the Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita in 2014 when only beaten a nose at odds of 12/1, but wasn’t seen again until winning a minor race at Lingfield in December last year, an absence of over three years. That in itself was a trainer performance worthy of comment but whether he can repeat that here in what looks a tougher field over a furlong or more short of his best is open to question, though even a place in this field will make it all worthwhile for connections and justify the expenses.
10 GUN RUNNER – Makes his swansong here before heading off to stud and if he wins this contest he will retire as the second biggest earner in the history of horse racing. He is a very very good horse with ten wins from his seventeen starts and four in a row since June, all at grade One level following his defeat by Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup in March. When he is motoring he is poetry in motion and clearly arrives here with the best form on offer after beating Collected in the Breeders Cup Classic with a below par Arrogate back in fifth, and he is by far the likeliest winner, though sadly he is priced accordingly.
11 SEEKING THE SOUL – Looking for his hat-trick here after a nine-length win at Keeneland in a claimer followed by victory in the Grade One Clark handicap when coming with a perfectly timed run at Churchill Downs, but this looks a different ball game and one that should prove beyond his abilities. Trainer Dallas Stewart loves taking on the big guns and walking away with the winnings but today that scenario seems even less likely than normal.
12 GIANT EXPECTATIONS – May well act as a spoiler here, deliberately or not, as he loves to pile on the early pace when he can which could in turn upset the market leaders. Yet to win at Grade One level he did take the San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita on Boxing Day very easily and may even be improving but he clearly needs a career best by some margin and needs far too many of these to run below form if he wants to not only get to the front but stay there.
R13 GIUSEPPE THE GREAT – First reserve so needs at least one above him to drop out which barring last second scares seems unlikely. His win last time out was in a minor event here worth a little over £20,000 and this is a massive ask even if the son of Lookin At Lucky does get a run.
R14 GAME OVER – Second Reserve so needs at least two above him to drop out to get in to this race. Beaten over nine lengths by West Coast at Parx in the Pennsylvania Derby and that form just isn’t good enough to even give him a look in if the bigger guns run to anything near to their real form.