We take a look at some of the leading horses in the male handicap division and some of the possibilities for the Breeders Cup Classic this coming fall at Churchill Downs.

The newest star to emerge is Flat Out, who came up with a breakthrough performance in the Grade 2, $300,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park on July 2nd, winning that race drawing away by 6 ½ resounding lengths, and earning a 113 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest this year for distances over a mile. He won the race in a time of 146.64 and came home his final 1/8 of a mile in 12 seconds flat, which is very impressive. I have no doubt the 1 ¼ distance will be to his liking.

If the Breeder’s Cup was being held at Belmont Park this year, I would say that he is the favorite to take it, but since it is being run again at Churchill Downs, whose surface is quite different from the sandy Belmont track, it is not worth getting too excited about him yet. Nevertheless, he has emerged as one of the main contenders for the fall classic, a race that winning trainer Charles Dickey has stated is their goal.

Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will not be heard from again at least this year, after suffering a fracture to his left hind leg.

Pool Play was the upset winner of the $561,300 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) on June 18 at Churchill Downs, going off at odds of 36 to 1. He had been racing primarily on turf and synthetic surfaces recently, but had a habit of finishing second, third, and fourth mostly, and running Beyers generally in the high 90’s. How strong was his Stephen Foster win? He just got up over Mission Impazible in the final strides and the first six runners were all separated by no more than a few lengths, which generally indicates not the strongest race. His assigned Beyer was only a 102, the best he has received in a long time, but usually a horse needs at least a 110 to be considered a contender for the Breeder’s Cup Classic. He does have in his favor, however, the advantage of having earned a Grade 1 win over the Churchill Downs surface.

The runner up in the afore-mentioned Stephen Foster, Mission Impazible, ran a creditable race. He is a two time Grade 2 winner, including the New Orleans Handicap in which he faced older horses. He is still a little light on Speed Figures, so we will wait to see how he runs in his next couple races.

Game On Dude took the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 5th by a nose but has finished second and third in couple of Grade 3 events subsequently, but if he can bounce back to the race that won him the Big Cap, he could be one of the horses we’ll need to take a look at this coming fall.
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