We're just over three months from the biggest race left on the calendar in 2015. This year's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Keeneland Race Course has already lost California Chrome and likely Shared Belief, the two horses that sat atop the odds board when the first Futures bet was released in December by the Wynn Las Vegas.
That means that if American Pharoah remains healthy for the remainder of the year, he'll be sitting as a heavy favorite when they enter the gate on Halloween evening for the richest race in North America. In the Wynn's latest odds, the Triple Crown winner is a resounding 5-2 favorite over the 55 other horses listed in the future book.
Let's take a look at some of his potential competitors, now that the top two threats are out of the picture.
Palace Malice (6-1) - The 2013 Belmont Stakes winner has not had the best 2015, and these odds seem a bit short based on the fact he's run only once during the current year after being sidelined by injuries, a third-place effort in the Diablo. My pick in the 2013 Classic at Santa Anita needs to pick it up over the next three months to even find himself in Lexington.
Hoppertunity (10-1) - I like this son of Any Given Saturday, he was going to be my Derby pick last year before scratching out shortly after the draw. Another Baffert trainee has faced decent competition during the year and with the right progression could be the main threat to Pharoah. He's a Grade 1 winner and is maturing as a 4-year-0ld.
Tonalist (10-1) - If you can figure this horse out, then all the power to you. After selecting east coaster Palace Malice in 2013, I followed that up with Tonalist in 2014 as my Classic pick after his super performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but he flopped at Santa Anita just like Palace Malice. His 2015 performances have been an enigma, and he's received a bad ride or two to boot. I'll wait on his Whitney-Woodward-JCGC sequence to see if he can get back to his winning ways.
Constitution (11-1) - The Donn winner in February at Gulfstream was ready to run in the Dubai World Cup before an injury derailed his hopes. He is back on the worktab, working three furlongs in :39 1/5 on July 12 at Saratoga for trainer Todd Pletcher, so we'll likely see his comeback race at the Spa. His current odds look fair, but we'll get a better indication in the coming preps.
Commissioner (12-1) - After winning the G3 Pimlico Special on Black-Eyed Susan Day, he finished a disappointing sixth in the Stephen Foster H. Seems to be a cut below the better horses pointed toward the Classic and his odds at post time are likely to be much higher than 12-1.
Dortmund (12-1) - Not convinced that the son of Big Brown wants to get the mile-and-a-quarter based on his efforts in the Derby and the Preakness, although it could be the toll that the Derby trail took on him. He's a talented colt that will win his share of races, but he's a bigger shot than 12-1.
Frosted (15-1) - He'll be the favorite in the Saratoga 3-year-old races based on his efforts in the Classics, as long as Pharoah doesn't show up for the Midsummer Classic. He's a solid horse and a future at 15-1 wouldn't be such a bad bet, should Pharoah be sidelined before the Classic.
Firing Line (25-1) - Another 3-year-old who gave Pharoah his biggest test in the Derby, and wanted no part of the slop at Old Hilltop. I'm all over him at 25-1. The Preakness is a throw-out and a rested son of Line of David could be dangerous on a fast track at Keeneland.
Moreno (25-1) - The Charles Town Classic winner can handle the distance, is a mature horse and doesn't fear anyone. Those are pretty juicy odds for a speed horse with stamina. Eric Guillot will have him ready for some trick-or-treating in Kentucky.
Horses I'd make a $5 future bet on at the current odds: Toast of New York (25-1); Keen Ice (60-1); Effinex (50-1)
Horses I'd take a big ole pass on: Bayern (25-1); Honor Code (15-1); Materiality (18-1); Wicked Strong (20-1)
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.