After the five race appetizer on Friday, there are nine Breeders Cup races on Saturday with a lot on the line and some great fields to dig into, and prices to take swings with. Let’s look at the fields.
Breeders Cup Saturday
Filly & Mare Sprint
There are a few things that stand out about this race. The first is that there should be a lot of speed and the second is that if #13 Marley’s Freedom (8-5) runs back to her recent form she is going to win. Plus, since she can sit a few off the pace and is drawn well outside, she should benefit from the fast pace. This makes here a very likely winner for trainer Bob Baffert. Simply, her Ballerina was a dominant effort and maybe the best race run this year by anyone in this field.
There are a few others that are usable somewhere. For us, one is #12 Anonymity (15-1). She’ll be part of the pace but is at least drawn well outside. She fires every time for trainer Richard Mandella and last time was part of a very fast pace in the LA Woman at Santa Anita, holding well as that race fell into the lap of #7 Skye Diamonds (10-1). She has won at seven furlongs and will stalk outside here today. She’s a big-priced alternative to the big favorite.
#5 Golden Mischief (10-1) ran a solid race last time in the TCA at Keeneland and was jostled and shuffled a bit between horses on the turn in there. The distance is a question but she’ll definitely benefit from the pace.
#1 Selcourt (4-1) has been out since March and drew the inside for this elongated sprint that will put a lot of pace pressure on her. Plus, her big win in the Santa Monica was aided by a very slow pace that she won’t get in this spot. She is one to oppose.
Vertical Strategy – We’ll mostly lean on Marley’s Freedom on top and try to get Anonymity and Golden Mischief in there with her.
A – 13
B – 5
C – 12
This race is always chaotic and that is especially true this year with the expected turf condition. The likely favorite is #5 Disco Partner (7-2) who, on a firm course in New York, would be a horse you can lean on. However, away from New York and on a yielding course, he becomes one to oppose at a short price. He gets a break this year in that the race is back at 5 ½ furlongs (it was five last year at Del Mar) but he just doesn’t handle the softer going that he is going to get here.
#9 Stormy Liberal (4-1) won this race last year but he too has to answer the question about the yielding going and this race is very wide open to take a short price. To be fair, he’s 3-3 in his last three races with wins by a nose, nose, and head. He will be tough to beat if he handles the course.
#11 World of Trouble (6-1) might well take more money than that price and he’ll have to deal with a lot of other speed. That said, he has legitimate turf sprint speed and he’s handled off going in both of his turf starts. He’s very live and we’re using. #12 Richard’s Boy (12-1) was second in here last year but his last race, an 89 Beyer where he blew a lead against Cal-breds at 1-5 is a bit discouraging (though that was off a two month layoff and just two weeks ago so it’s possible he wasn’t fully cranked). #14 Conquest Tsunami (6-1) drew way outside but he’s fast and should get a good stalking trip. The distance might be a touch short for him, however.
I struggled with the Parx Dash horses. Pure Sensation, who wasn’t doing well enough to enter here, wired the field setting a moderate pace on the inside. #4 Vision Perfect (15-1) pressed 3-wide and held on well to be beaten just a neck. #6 Rainbow Heir (12-1) was running for the first time since January (he was covering mares in Florida) and had a good trip but was hurt by the pace. We’ve always liked this Jersey-bred and he’ll be better this time. He does have to handle the yielding going, however. Finally, #2 Bucchero (10-1) had the worst of it. He had to steady while wide on the bend, lost position, then came on again. Based off that race, he is the one you’d want. But then, while he won the Woodford last time and improved his figure five points, I’m not sure that he ran much better than he did at Parx considering his trouble. Further, he had a perfect trip in there and is going to have to run much better to win here. That does give me some pause with these horses, but I wouldn’t want to see Rainbow Heir win and have nothing. As confusing as this entire race is, we were led to…
This horse might be our craziest pick of the weekend. We’re going to try #8 Chanteline (15-1), who will likely be bigger than her morning line price. Granted, she’s been facing fillies so this is a step up in class. But we liked her race three back when she pressed a wicked pace in the soft turf Caress at Saratoga, a race that fell apart late. Two-back, she got a great trip but ran a 104 Beyer that will put her in the mix. Finally last time, she ran very well in the Franklin County, getting shuffled back around the turn and when she got clear, she flew home. She’s in great form and will be a huge price in an open race. She’ll need to get a good trip but if she does, her best race gives her a legitimate shot.
Vertical Strategy – We’ll tread lightly here because there are so many possibilities but we do want to play a few tickets with Chateline in the number. We’ll use with World of Trouble, Stormy Liberal, and Rainbow Heir, primarily, but many in the third slot.
A – 6, 8, 9, 11
B – 12, 14
C – 2, 4
This race goes through California. #10 Catalina Cruiser (8-5) is the favorite and drew well outside to press the pace. He has never really been hooked at any point and might well have been pointed to the Classic if these connections (John Salder and Hronis Racing) didn’t have the Classic favorite in Accelerate. The concerns are two-fold. First, his trainer has a very small success rate outside of Southern California and no success at all in the Breeders Cup. Two, he meets by far the best field that he’s ever faced. He’s the one to beat, but he’s not without some small questions.
#1 City of Light (5-2) comes in having finished second to the perfect-trip Whitmore in the Forego last time out and his earlier races are all very good. None were better than his seven-furlong Triple Bend in March. He drew inside which might force his hand a little bit but with the speedy #2 Trigger Warning (20-1) to his outside, he might be able to tuck into the pocket down the backside.
It seems likely one of these two will win, but there are some potential upsetters. One is #4 Seven Trumpets (15-1) who was absolutely glued to a dead rail last time at Parx going six furlongs. He’ll be a few off the lead and can contend with a step forward at a huge price. #6 Seeking the Soul (6-1) ends up here after winning the one-mile Ack Ack last time, overcoming a moderate pace but also a very weak field. He was close to the fast pace that collapsed in the Woodward two-back, though he stopped badly in there. He also seems to be working well coming into here, with each work progressively faster. #7 Firenze Fire (6-1) was on the best part of the track last time at Parx but if he can run back to his Dwyer, no easy task, he can win here too. We just prefer the others at their likely prices.
Vertical Strategy – We prefer City of Light and the strategy here is likely to play a few trifectas where Seven Trumpets can fit in second or third under the logicals.
A –1, 10
B – none
C – none
We’ll lean on the two favorites in a Pick-4 or Pick-5 but in a pick-3 or a double, we could use a few of the others in smaller denominations.
Filly & Mare Turf
This is a fantastic race. Chad Brown has five though two of them, #2 Thais (20-1) and #9 A Raving Beauty (10-1) seem overmatched (Thais on class and A Raving Beauty at this 11 furlong distance).
#6 Sistercharlie (3-1) is probably the horse to beat, but the softer going is a legitimate question for her and she also missed her prep for this race. She can win and is a must-use but we prefer others on the win-end. #1 Fourstar Crook (5-1) has had a tremendous year and we were really taken with her win in the Flower Bowl. Granted, that was a weaker field, but it was also a very slow pace and she inhaled the field. She drew very well in a race that starts basically on the first of the three turns. She’ll be a better price than Sistercharlie and we’ll use her.
Our top pick, however, is #14 Eziyra (15-1). She drew poorly, but has been pointed to this race by sensational trainer Dermot Weld. She was very impressive closing to win the Blandford Stakes on yielding going last time at the Curragh and ran into better rivals like Sea of Class (2ndin the Arc) two-back in the Yorkshire Oaks. Historically in the Breeders Cup, the Euros you want are the under-the-radar contenders that have been pointing to this spot. She fits. Hopefully she gets lost in the wagering with her bad post position. We’ll be playing.
#10 Magic Wand (5-1) and #3 Wild Illusion (7-2) faced each other twice in Europe this year but Wild Illusion feels more likely to handle the likely soft turf. Chad Brown’s last horse is #10 Santa Monica (15-1), another that should handle the off-turf. However, she might be a touch below these and the horse that beat her last time, EP Taylor winner Sheikha Reika, had been facing much weaker horses in Europe.
Vertical Strategy – We’re going to key around Eziyra, our top selection using the other logical runners, Fourstar Crook, Sistercharlie, and Wild Illusion.
A –1, 14
B – 3, 6
C – none
This is always a fun race and this year is no different, with a top east coast runner, a top west coast runner, and a top three year old in the mix going six furlongs.
The top east coast runner is #5 Imperial Hint (9-5) who has learned to rate this year and destroyed an overmatched field in the Vosburgh last time while under wraps. He is the one to beat but he’ll have to chase a legitimate pace rival in #2 Promises Fulfilled (6-1).
Promises Fulfilled turned back in the Woody Stephens and ran one of the fastest-paced races of the year (earning a 175 TimeformUS pace figure). His Amsterdam was tremendous, setting another fast pace and drawing away late. He won the Allen Jerkens at Saratoga and I’m not sure he ran his best race last time in the Phoenix, but he is the controlling speed of this race and on a fair track he could take them a long way (on last year’s track at Del Mar, which featured a dead rail, he would have no chance).
#9 Roy H (5-2) is the top west coast entrant but he might have been better last year. His win last time in the Santa Anita Sprint was over a much weaker field and he had a good trip pressing moderate pace in there.
#8 Limousine Liberal (6-1) and #1 Whitmore (6-1) come out of the Phoenix where Whitmore had a perfect trip and hung like a chandelier and Limousine Liberal got a bad ride and was stuck down on the inside. Limousine Liberal loves Churchill and if Imperial Hint engages Promises Fulfilled too soon, he’s the one we want to pick up the pieces late.
We went back and forth on this race with both Promises Fulfilled and Limousine Liberal, but think Promises Fulfilled is going to take this field wire to wire. We’ll protect with Limousine Liberal in case Imperial Hint goes after him too early.
Vertical Strategy – We’ll play tickets forcing Promises Fulfilled or Limousine Liberal to win.
A – 2, 5, 8
B – none
C – 9
I thought along with the Turf Sprint, this was the toughest race on the Saturday card. Maybe this was supposed to be as simple as Freddie Head – he’s won this race five times, twice as Miesque’s jockey and three times as Goldikova’s trainer. Unfortunately, Polydream, the favorite in overseas markets, was scratched on Friday morning.
#5 Oscar Performance (6-1) is a top American hopeful after a win in the Woodbine Mile last time. In there, however, he set a very slow pace and in this race will also have to deal with yielding turf (though he did win the Pilgrim on yielding turf as a two-year old). He might have a pace advantage here too (though Analyze It, should be ridden to the front), but we can’t take him off that dressed up performance last time out.
#12 Analyze It (6-1) is 20-1 in Europe though he did take money last time, getting bet down to 2-1 favoritism. We liked him in that Shadwell and he was a bit disappointing. He did track a solid pace but was out wide and just flat late. He is fast enough to get the lead here and that should be the strategy from Irad Ortiz. We’re not going to pick him but he won’t knock us out either. #2 Next Shares (10-1) did win that race and he’s run very well in two Kentucky races on the lusher turf courses compared to those back home in California. He had a perfect trip last time saving ground and getting through behind the fast pace, but maybe he can work out another one here.
Some of the other Euros have legitimate questions as well. #7 Expert Eye (8-1) will be on our tickets – he’s been freshened for this for Sir Michael Stoute. However, his form indicates that he wants firm going. That said, he’s the Euro that we want most besides our top selection. All of his races this year are pretty solid and he had to chase without cover when second to Lightning Spear in the Sussex.
#8 I Can Fly (10-1) is running for the seventh time since August 2ndand though his 2ndto Roaring Lion last time might be enough, it is fair to question whether he has another top effort. #11 Lightning Spear (20-1) beat Expert Eye in the Sussex but his form has gone awry in his last two starts. #13 Gustav Klimt (10-1) had some trouble the Foret last time and ran well two-back albeit going six furlongs. Still, he drew poorly and his only win this year was in a listed stakes race in April. He was no match for Lightning Spear and Expert Eye in the Sussex. Finally, #14 Mustashary (15-1) is a solid G2 performer but drew poorly and is another one that seems to prefer firm going.
We did leave one Euro out of that paragraph and that is the horse we will key around – #3 Happily (15-1). She might seem like a stretch but there are a few things to note. She has historically run better on yielding or soft going, winning two G1s on soft going last year. This year, they’ve run her like the think she is a top class runner – as a 3 year old filly they threw her to Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior in the 10 furlong Coral Eclipse in July. What chance did she really have in there? She got stuck chasing Laurens (who might be favored here and won five G1s this year) a few times too. Last time, however, she only was beaten a head by Laurens in the Sun Chariot, Happily’s best race of the year. Then she was to face Roaring Lion at Ascot two weeks ago but was declared a non-runner after an issue at the gate. The other thing to note is that she is the co-second choice at 7-1 overseas and among the Euros tied with Expert Eye and Gustav Klimt. She might be a bit of a stretch, but this is a very tough race and we’re going to take the opinion that she’s in her best form and gets her best going here.
That said, this is a tough race and a spread in the multis.
Vertical Strategy – We’ll play a bunch of exactas keying Happily with some of the other logicals like Analyze It, Expert Eye, and I Can Fly while fading Oscar Performance.
A – 4, 7, 12
B – 2, 8
C – 14
Without question, the best race run in this division this year was the Personal Ensign at Saratoga in August where #2 Abel Tasmen (7-2) and Elate (who is not here) threw down and earned 105 Beyers. A repeat of that from Abel Tasmen would bury this field. She’s 7-2 on the line (though won’t be that big of a price) instead of 7-5 because she bombed in the Zenyatta last time out at Santa Anita. What happened? Trainer Bob Baffert indicated she was sick. It’s hard to believe she would be here at all if something was wrong.
Her chief rival is #11 Monomoy Girl (2-1), the winner of the Kentucky Oaks over this track and distance. She has had some good trips in her races of late but last time in the Cotillion, Monomoy Girl was glued for much of the early stages to a dead rail while contesting the pace. She put away her pace rivals, and then was (justifiably) DQ’d when impeding #7 Midnight Bisou (6-1) in the lane. Still, it was her best race to date. Midnight Bisou is solid but she did spend much of the Cotillion on the best part of the track and the extra half-furlong probably doesn’t help her.
A usable longshot, at least underneath, is #3 La Force (20-1), who has two good seconds to Unique Bella in the summer before a grinding second last time behind #8 Vale Dori (12-1) in a slower-paced Zenyatta last time. #10 Blue Prize (6-1) likes Churchill Downs but just seems like she’s a cut below the top ones.
I hate to chalk out here but it just feels likely that Abel Tasmen or Monomoy Girl is going to win this race.
Vertical Strategy – We expect one of the two favorites to win here but will try to get La Force in underneath somewhere to potentially spice up the exotics.
A – 2, 11
B – none
C – 3
The star of the day is #2 Enable (1-1), bidding to become the first horse to win both the Arc and the Breeders Cup Turf in the same year. A lot of the horses to attempt this double are at the back end of a very long campaign, and often over the top after the most important race in Europe. That’s not the case here. Enable got hurt in the spring and had one synthetic prep race before the Arc, so she has a right to move forward off that race. Provided she handles the turf course, and there’s no reason to think she shouldn’t as she has handled all types of courses in the past, she’s going to win.
Who can beat her? The best alternative is likely #12 Waldgeist (9-2) for trainer Andre Fabre. Fabre won this last year with #1 Talismanic (12-1) who is back in this race but not in the same form this year. Waldgeist, however, had a great year and is making his third start off the layoff following a win in the Prix Foy and closing fourth in the Arc where he had to wait just a bit while stuck inside of horses in the lane. If Enable doesn’t fire, he’s the likeliest upsetter and since he’ll be a much better price, we’ll take him on top.
#5 Magical (10-1) is here for Team Coolmore after a 10thin the Arc and a win in the British Champions last time. She’ll need to take another step forward which is possible in her sixth start of the year. She is a shorter price than Waldgeist in Europe, which is noteworthy.
Of the Americans, #3 Channel Maker (12-1) is a horse that we’ve liked before but he was aided by being on the good inside of the Widener course at Belmont last time out and while he’s talented, he hasn’t shown what it takes to win here. #4 Robert Bruce (10-1) won a weaker Arlington Million and flattened out late in the Joe Hirsch last time when angling off the rail. That said, we don’t think he’s at his best going this far against this company.
One longshot we’ll use underneath is #11 Sadler’s Joy (30-1). He might not be as good as he was last year but he’s been up against the race flow in his last few starts. He might prefer firm going, but he’ll be an enormous price that’s probably run a little better than his form makes him look.
Vertical Strategy – We’ll play a few exactas with Waldgeist on top and if Sadler’s Joy gets 3rdunder the logicals, we want to have that tri.
A – 2, 12
B – none
C – 5
While this year’s rendition doesn’t have the star power of an Arrogate, Gun Runner, or American Pharoah, this is a tremendous betting race, befitting of its purse and status. #14 Accelerate (5-2) is the favorite and has had a great year. But his last race, a win in the Awesome Again four weeks ago, was more of a grinding effort and definitely a cut below his previous efforts. His trainer, John Sadler, has struggled in the Breeders Cup and away from Southern California (this horse’s only loss this year was in his lone ship, to Oaklawn), and we’re just a bit skeptical.
#7 West Coast (5-1) probably won’t be quite that price and he did lose to Accelerate last time, but he hadn’t run since the Dubai World Cup card when he chased wide against a gold rail. He probably moved up to the lead too soon last time, in what was a prep. He has reportedly been training well and he has the best races of anyone in the field to run back to. #6 McKinzie (6-1) is a three-year old who came off a six month layoff to win the Pennsylvania Derby last time with a good trip, though he was very impressive all things considered. He’s clearly talented but will have to get 10 furlongs for the first time pressing a solid pace.
The likeliest pace-setter is #9 Mendelssohn (12-1) who is coming over to the US for the fourth time this year. His Kentucky Derby was a disaster but he’s improved each of his last few starts including last time when he was a sensational third pressing a wicked pace in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He’s made several back-and-forth trips from Ireland this year, but we think he’s the speed of the speed and ran big last time. He needs one more step forward, but we’re using him.
We’ve been against #11 Mind Your Biscuits (6-1) as he’s gone nine furlongs in his last two starts but he’s run very well in both of them and always fires. He’s got to get 10 furlongs this time, but should get some pace and had a win over the track last time in the Lukas Classic. He’s a major player and one we are using with the top group. #3 Catholic Boy (8-1) won the Travers but had a good trip pressing on the outside in a race that held together up front. Now he’s drawn inside and will have to take dirt. He will beat us.
#8 Pavel (20-1) was always cut out to be a good horse. This year hasn’t gone perfectly for him, but he did win the Foster over this track. While he was dusted by Accelerate last time (at a track where has run poorly in both starts), perhaps getting back on a track where he has run well, and the prospect of a favorable pace scenario will wake him up. His races last year in the Smarty Jones and Jockey Club Gold Cup are good. The horse we don’t want is #10 Yoshida (10-1) out of the Woodward where he had a perfect inside/out trip.
There’s a lot going on here, but our basic premise is as follows: we’re against Accelerate. We’re a bit against McKinzie, but not completely. West Coast is the most likely winner. Mendelssohn and Mind Your Biscuits have upset chances. Pavel can run well.
Vertical Strategy – We’ll play exactas and tris with West Coast, Mind Your Biscuits, and Mendelssohn on top, and using Pavel as one of the underneath horses at a big price.
A – 7, 11
B – 6, 9
C – 8, 14
The work is done. It’s time to enjoy the races and hopefully cash a few tickets. It should be a great day of racing. Good luck!