In an informal poll of local horsemen, American Pharoah and Beholder dominated the balloting, with Smooth Roller, upstart winner of the Awesome Again Stakes on Sept. 26, dawdling in a distant third, to wit:
Barry Abrams: American Pharoah. To me, he’s the best horse.
A.C. Avila: American Pharoah looks better than ever. He’s run and won at several different tracks and proved himself.
Richard Baltas: American Pharoah.
Rafael Becerra: American Pharoah. I liked his last work.
Ray Bell: All things being equal, Beholder. She’s definitely the one to beat.
Vann Belvoir: American Pharoah looked pretty damn good, but Beholder and Tonalist will make the race fun to watch.
Simon Callaghan: American Pharoah will be very hard to beat. I think Beholder will give him a race but Pharoah will win.
Jack Carava: Honor Code. I think he’s coming up to the race very well and I like his chances.
Jim Cassidy: American Pharoah. I think he’s the best horse.
Ben Cecil: American Pharoah, Beholder or Smooth Roller: A California trifecta.
Caesar Dominguez: Beholder. I like the way she won the Pacific Classic. American Pharoah’s tough, but he’s been facing three-year-olds.
Neil Drysdale: It should be one helluva race.
Michael Ewing: I like the filly (Beholder). I think she’s better than the colt (American Pharoah).
Mark Glatt: I like both the California horses (American Pharoah and Beholder). One of the two will win. For an outsider, I like Wicked Strong.
Jorge Gutierrez: I’d like to see Victor (Garcia) win with Smooth Roller. I hope the Californians (American Pharoah, Beholder and Smooth Roller) run one-two-three.
Bruce Headley: American Pharoah will win it easy.
Karen Headley: I like the European (Gleneagle) but I’d like to see (Christophe) Clement win (with Tonalist).
David Hofmans: Beholder.
Steve Knapp: Beholder. I like the way she won her last two races.
Craig Lewis: I don’t think it will be a two-horse race. The track, the pace, the intangibles will be factors. It won’t be a walk in the park.
Mike Machowsky: Beholder. I worked for (Beholder’s trainer, Richard) Mandella five years. But American Pharoah is a freak of nature. Beholder is a freak herself, but I don’t think we’ll ever see one like American Pharoah. He moves so effortlessly. He’s like a machine.
Alfredo Marquez: I’m rooting for Smooth Roller. Juan (former trainer Juan Garcia) is my first cousin and Victor (Garcia, who trains Smooth Roller) is my nephew. The horse will win.
Ron McAnally: Keen Ice beat American Pharoah in the Travers, but Pharoah and Beholder are the ones to beat.
Doug O’Neill: American Pharoah or Beholder. Either one could produce a Breeders’ Cup Classic moment.
Hector Palma: They have to beat American Pharoah. Beholder was a little bit sick (temperature after shipping). I hope she wins but American Pharoah worked fantastic and looks incredible.
Marcelo Polanco: Pharoah has the speed and Keeneland is a speed-favoring track.
Gary Sherlock: Smooth Roller. I’ll be the contrarian.
Cliff Sise Jr.: American Pharoah.
Gary Stute: Beholder. She won the Pacific Classic as easy as I’ve seen a horse win.
Eddie Truman: Pharoah and Beholder. It’s such a dream match. I think Beholder is on top of her game. It should be a great race. I hope both horses have a clean trip.
Dan Ward: American Pharoah will be tough to beat. The horse that will give him a battle is Frosted,
Tim Yakteen: American Pharoah all the way.
Howard Zucker: I’ve been on A.P.’s bandwagon since he was named two-year-old champion. It’s definitely one of most anticipated matchups in my 40 years in training and it’s a great supporting cast.