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Who Could Be The Surprise Package In The 2022 Breeders’ Cup Classic?

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Author: Lindsay Griffin

As the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Classic approaches, it seems that the pool of talked-about contenders is even narrower than usual. If the public’s opinion of the race were a meal, it would be a heaping helping of Flightline with a side of Epicenter, and just a hint of Life Is Good for flavor.

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However, races are run on the track, rather than the forums and comment sections. Thankfully so- otherwise the outcomes would be far more boring and far less potentially lucrative for bettors! 

Certainly Flightline is a brilliant colt, and admittedly he looks hard to beat. It’s also quite hard to pass up on Epicenter and Life is Good as competition. However, the attention focused on these three means that other top-class horses are being virtually ignored, and have the potential to come in at big prices.

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Here are some of the horses that could post an upset according to the 2022 Breeders’ Cup odds by TwinSpires.

Country Grammer

Country Grammer - Horse Profile - BloodHorse

Country Grammer was fairly decisively beaten by Flightline in the Grade I Pacific Classic. There’s no way to describe a nearly 20-length defeat as anything other than a sound thrashing, even if you outfinished every other horse in the race. However, Flightline had the lead all to himself in the Pacific Classic, and the pace horses that show up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be much tougher.

Country Grammer is, to date, by far the most successful offspring of Tonalist. A son of Tapit most known for defeating fan favorite California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes of 2014 (thus denying him a Triple Crown), Tonalist proved that he was not a fluke by adding subsequent wins in the 1 ¼ mile Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2014 and 2015. He also won the Grade III Westchester Handicap and the Grade I Cigar Mile, showing that he was no mere plodder.

Like his sire, Country Grammer has shown an affinity for the 1 ¼ mile distance; the two biggest wins of his career came at that distance. In 2021 as a four-year-old, he posted a head victory in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup Stakes, winning a hard-fought duel with Royal Ship. 

A long layoff ensued afterward, but Country Grammer traveled to Saudi Arabia in the spring of 2022 and finished second by a half-length to Emblem Road in the world’s richest race, the Group I Saudi Cup. He then ventured to Dubai and took on Life Is Good in the Group I Dubai World Cup. The gesture proved lucrative, as Country Grammer won by 1 ¾ lengths over Hot Rod Charlie, with heavily favored Life Is Good finishing fourth.

Since returning to the United States, Country Grammer has yet to win, but he also has yet to run a truly bad race. His second-place finish in the Grade II San Diego Handicap was at a shorter distance than he tends to prefer, and it was pretty clear that no horse was going to beat Flightline on Pacific Classic Day. Still, Country Grammer is a high-quality ten-furlong specialist. Leave him off your ticket at your own peril.

Olympiad

A Closer Look at 2022 Breeders' Cup Classic Hopeful Olympiad | America's  Best Racing

It’s hard to find a horse who has better demonstrated quality, consistency, and endurance in 2022 than Olympiad. He rode a five-race win streak from February to August, taking in succession the Grade III Mineshaft Stakes, the Grade II New Orleans Classic Stakes, the Grade II Alysheba Stakes, and the Grade II Stephen Foster Stakes. 

His streak was snapped on August 6th by the aforementioned Life is Good in the Grade I Whitney Stakes. No one knows for sure whether it was the step up in class that caused his defeat, or simply the effects of a relatively long season, but in that race Olympiad never fired, finishing fourth of five runners. 

Less than a month later, Olympiad was back to his winning ways in the 1 ¼ mile Jockey Club Gold Cup. He stalked the pacesetter, Tax, until the top of the stretch, where he coasted ahead to win by two lengths over Americanrevolution. 

Olympiad is a son of Speightstown, whose 2004 Breeders’ Cup Sprint victory helped to propel him to Eclipse Champion Sprinter honors that year. Although clearly not a distance runner himself, some of Speightstown’s other offspring have proven themselves over somewhat longer distances, such as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Sharing and Grade I Arkansas Derby winner Charlatan. 

Olympiad, however, has more than enough stamina coming from the bottom half of his pedigree. His dam, Tokyo Time, was graded-stakes placed at 1 ⅛ miles. Her sire, Medaglia d’Oro, is a noted source of route runners, as is her damsire, A.P. Indy.

The biggest question mark against Olympiad is the quality of horses he has beaten. He has yet to face the likes of Flightline, Epicenter, or Country Grammer, and his one race against Life Is Good had a dull result. Still, given his massive success earlier in the year and his proven ability at the 1 ¼ mile distance, Olympiad is definitely a horse to consider.

Rich Strike

Rich Strike not entering Preakness after Kentucky Derby win

The racing world got a reminder of just how unpredictable the sport can be when 81-1 choice Rich Strike came from out of the clouds to win the Run for the Roses in May. 

The pace for the Kentucky Derby was the fastest it had ever been, and nearly every horse who was in the front half of the field for the first half-mile ended up at the back of the pack by the end of the race. Rich Strike and jockey Sonny Leone, in a move reminiscent of Calvin Borel and Street Sense, coasted along the rail and roared past the exhausted leaders and stretch runners.

Was Rich Strike lucky to win the Kentucky Derby? Probably. Of course, the Derby is such a nuanced race that any victor inevitably has a good amount of luck. 

It remains to be seen whether Rich Strike’s Derby win was a fluke or not. After bypassing the Preakness, Rich Strike ran a dull race in the Belmont, which trainer Eric Reed attributed to his running outside of horses instead of on the rail. He was fourth in the Grade I Travers Stakes but closed well, beaten only a nose and a neck by Cyberknife and Zandon.

Flightline, Life Is Good, and Epicenter all have a decent amount of early speed if they choose to use it. Should all three cook each other on the front end, Rich Strike could come from behind to pick up the pieces yet again.

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