After looking at the Friday Breeders Cup races and the Saturday Breeders Cup dirt races, let’s look at the four Saturday Breeders Cup turf races – the Turf Sprint, Filly & Mare Turf, Mile, and Turf – as we put a bow on Breeders Cup 2017.
As expected, we’ll see all four turf winners benefited from picture-perfect trips. There’s simply no other way to do it in these deep and contentious grass fields on the sport’s championship day.
Breeders Cup Turf Sprint
Recap / Notes – Peter Miller’s horses ran 1-2 in here with Stormy Liberal just getting up over stablemate Richard’s Boy. Stormy Liberal hadn’t run since the Jaipur on the Belmont Stakes undercard, where he broke poorly and rushed up into a fast pace. Previously though, he had run five straight races on Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. Lady Aurelia was way overbet at 4/5, tracked the pace inside and had nothing in the lane.
Christophe Clement’s duo of Disco Partner and Pure Sensation ran 3rd and 5th with Disco Partner closing and Pure Sensation cutting out the fractions.
Holding Gold, our top selection, got caught in traffic at the top of the stretch behind some tiring rivals, including Lady Aurelia, but was moving very well late to only be beaten about a length and three-quarters.
What We Got Right – While he finished seventh, Holding Gold ran pretty well at a good price. If he was able to get outside at the top of the stretch, he could have hit the board – unfortunately since we did not use the top two, unless he actually won the race, we still would have gotten blanked.
What We Got Wrong – We underestimated the Peter Miller runners – not thinking that Stormy Liberal was a true five furlong horse and that Richard’s Boy was quite good enough.
Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Recap / Notes – Europeans swept the exacta here with Wuhedia winning for Godolphin and Rhododendron running second for Coolmore. Wuhedia set up shop under William Buick just behind the longshot speed horse Zipessa, tipped out at the top of the lane, and was best with a perfect trip. Meanwhile, Rhododendron was well back from post 14, managed to tuck over and pick her way through under a brilliant ride by Ryan Moore. Rhododendron ran only 32 feet more (per Trakus) than the winner, which is amazing considering Wuhedia basically saved ground the whole way and Rhododendron was marooned out in post 14.
Cambodia pressed the pace, which wasn’t blazing, and held on for third, running very well for trainer Tom Proctor. We thought she was in tough but she gave a very good account of herself.
Both War Flag, for trainer Shug McGaughey, and Queen’s Trust, for trainer Sir Michael Stoute, had the look that this nine furlong distance was probably too short for their best. Both horses were farther back than maybe they wanted to be and were moving well late, giving the same indication post-race as pre-race. They’re both four for excellent breeding operations, so it’s possible they’re both off to the breeding shed, but presumably next year’s race at Churchill will be back to 10 or 11 furlongs and that would be a big boon to their chances.
Favorite Lady Eli got stepped on coming out of the chute and while her finish was disappointing, she certainly had a legitimate excuse. (Lady Eli was scheduled to be sold shortly after the Breeders Cup but was withdrawn from the sale because of the injury she sustained.)
Grand Jete, our selection, had a tough go coming out of the chute, steadying back and losing position early in the race. Because of that, she had to go very wide and probably ran better than it looked (though it was going to be awfully difficult to beat the perfect trip winner nonetheless).
What We Got Right – Basically nothing (we used just Lady Eli and Grand Jete in multis). We did think the race was too short for Queen’s Trust and War Flag but they were 15-1 and 18-1 respectively anyway, so that’s hardly a significant opinion.
What We Got Wrong – Wuhedia was supposed to run in the QEII at Keeneland three weeks prior to the Breeders Cup but was scratched with a small injury. We probably got a little to spooked by that – if she was running in this race, it’s safe to say that her excellent trainer Charlie Appleby thought she’d be ok.
Breeders Cup Mile
Recap / Notes – As soon as Midnight Storm and Heart to Heart drew next to each other, this race seemed destined to have a fast pace. It did, with the first half mile run in 45.65 seconds and the last half mile run in 48.90 seconds. World Approval got a great trip sitting in behind the pace, as did runner-up Lancaster Bomber, with the former just proving to be the best horse on the day. Third place finisher Blackjackcat certainly ran well, and considering he ran almost 80 feet more than Lancaster Bomber, who saved ground while Blackjackcat was wide from post 13, he was probably second best on the day.
The horse that got an awful trip was Ballagh Rocks, third last time out in the Shadwell at Keeneland. He was on the inside around the far turn and got shut off and lacked room until about the eighth pole. By then it was way too late. It’s hard to say he would have won, but he certainly would have been much closer. Om seemed to have similar, if not quite as significant, issues getting clear in the lane as well.
Zelzal ran pretty well, saving ground. He did have a slight steady on the far turn and had to angle around the tiring Midnight Storm, but he ran OK.
What We Got Right – We liked Lancaster Bomber, who ran very well getting back on his firm turf, but he did get a great trip and we were fortunate to win the bob for second behind the logical World Approval. We also used Ballagah Rocks, who ran ninth but had an impossible trip, and his effort can be discarded. We opposed Ribchester, who was a non-threatening fifth at 7/2 as well.
It’s a funny game sometimes. We didn’t cash with September, Masar, or Carina Mia, and left the Breeders Cup convinced we made sound plays with all three. We did have the World Approval / Lancaster Bomber exacta, but left very fortunate to get a bob for second.
What We Got Wrong – We did not use Blackjackcat, and that almost cost us as he just lost out on the bob for second behind Lancaster Bomber.
Breeders Cup Turf
Recap / Notes – Talismanic, who skipped the Arc for trainer Andre Fabre to point for this race, got a great inside/out trip from a few lengths off the pace to pick up the win at 14-1.
Oscar Performance, who set the pace, was confronted by Beach Patrol on the far turn and dropped back. He might be at his best going a little shorter than this 12-furlong distance. Beach Patrol, meanwhile, ran very well, tracking the pace, putting away the pace-setter, and he was just caught by the perfect trip winner. A month ago everyone (myself included) had doubts about his ability going this far but after a romping win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and a great runner-up in this race, those doubts have disappeared.
Favored Highland Reel, the defending champion of this race, couldn’t get the lead this year and was all-in on the far turn, holding third on pure class.
Sadler’s Joy, one of our favorites, ran pretty well and certainly didn’t disgrace himself running fourth in this race. He is always going to be hurt by his lack of early speed, but he is a good horse.
There were two horses that had interesting trips. Seventh Heaven, our top selection, was shuffled back on the far turn, had to wait for room a bit at the top of the stretch, and was moving well late. Had she been a little more forwardly ridden early on, she would have been able to avoid a lot of that trouble late.
Fanciful Angel, who finished 11th, had a wide trip, moving up very early and very wide – he was only two lengths off the lead mid-way around the far turn after racing in 12th a half-mile into the race. He dropped out of it, but didn’t run as poorly as it looks.
What We Got Right – We had the logicals in our top group of picks though in the wrong order. In vertical wagers, we played around with Seventh Heaven, who probably didn’t get the best of trips.
What We Got Wrong – We ended up using Talismanic when Ulysses scratched but didn’t give enough credit to the Andre Fabre runner coming into the race. We also probably were too bullish on Highland Reel, who was able to control this race up front last year. However, he was a bad price at 7/5.
That’s a wrap on Breeders Cup 2017. It’s off to Churchill Downs next year and then sites after that are yet to be announced. Hopefully we can get the event back in New York at Belmont over the coming years.