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Spotlight on Breeders Cup 2018 - Is the Horse of The Year Already Justify-Ed?




A look at the Breeders' Cup, where Turf favorite Enable may provide some discussion competition for Triple Crown winner Justify

Hold your horses.  Super filly Enable might add to the debate this Saturday afternoon

In gambling language one of our favorite terms is “a lock”, translated as a certainty.  And it would be hard making a case against naming the 2018 Horse of The Year as Triple Crown winner Justifiy as a lock, despite not running in this Saturday’s Breeders Cup Classic.  Annually, the Classic is the feature race that ultimately either decides the prize winner or eliminates the most likely contender.

After all, what more do you have to do than win the 2018 Triple Crown?  Sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. But hold your horses. As we know, there are no “locks” in gambling, no guarantees or certainties.  Naysayers will point out that Justify only raced six times in his career, with moderate competition that had yet potentially reached full maturation peak. 

breeders cup classic turfJustify quickly retired after the Belmont, citing a minor injury. Far too valuable as a breeding superstar, he might be watching from his royal breeding shed in Kentucky this weekend. Wondering if he’ll need to be preparing his Horse of The Year acceptance speech. Or stay in the barn come January to continue preparing for his next career on stud duty. 

Here’s why.  There are two major races disputing his legacy winding up the exciting Breeders Cup card.  The $6,000,000 Classic and maybe more important, preceding it the $5,000,000 Breeders Cup Turf, featuring the best grass horse in the world Enable, making a special appearance from France.  What unusual fact should make Justify more nervous holding on to his lock status?  Enable is "a girl".  That’s right.  A four-year old filly taking on the best turf horses on the planet. 

She certainly will be no secret at the betting windows. Enable has won Europe’s most prestigious grass race, the Prix De l’Arc de’Triomphe, not once but consecutively over the past two years.  No one knows exactly how good she is. Enable has won 9 out of 10 races lifetime. Each win has  been achieved easily except for her last Arc victory. The win at Longchamp Racecourse might have been her most impressive accomplishment, overcoming some trouble and weaving through a huge field of 19 horses. 

Not many Arc de Triomphe winners make the trip to the Breeders Cup as the two races are very close on the calendar. Attempting to run for the first time in the U.S. is always a concern. They’ve also been intimidated by lack of success, as the last five Arc winners have gone on to defeat. 

The giant plus here are Enable’s connections.  Trainer John Godsen has won many prestigious races in America including several Breeders' Cup events for owner Juddmonte Farms.  We’re also very familiar with world-class jockey Frankie Dettori, one of thoroughbred racing’s all-time greatest. A potential "flying dismount" here after a win on Enable may only add to conversation about possible Horse of the Year competition for Justify. 

Here is the field, post positions for the $5M Breeders’ Cup Turf:

Post position - Horse Name (Trainer) - Morning-line odds 
1. Talismanic (GB) (Andre Fabre), 12-1
2. Enable (GB) (John Gosden), 1-1
3. Channel Maker (William Mott), 12-1
4. Robert Bruce (CHI) (Chad Brown), 10-1
5. Magical (IRE) (Aidan O'Brien), 10-1
6. Arklow (Brad Cox), 30-1
7. Glorious Empire (IRE) (James Lawrence II), 12-1
8. Liam the Charmer (Michael McCarthy), 30-1
9. Quarteto de Cordas (BRZ) (Ian Wilkes) ,30-1
10. Hi Happy (ARG) (Todd Pletcher), 20-1
11. Sadler's Joy (Thomas Albertrani), 20-1
12. Waldgeist (GB) (Andre Fabre), 9-2
13. Hunting Horn (IRE) (Aidan O'Brien), 30-1

Justify should have much less competition concern focusing on the biggest race of the weekend, the Breeders' Cup Classic. He subsequently buried a few horses entered here during the Triple Crown races. One 3-year old horse, Catholic Boy, did distinguish himself by winning the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, but skipped the classics along with highly touted McKinzie, who will receive ample wagering support. 

The likely favorite will be Accelerate.  The "now horse", who has won three straight races, including the prestigious Pacific Classic at Del Mar and Awesome Again at Santa Anita.  He beat West Coast, a possible good value here at around 5-1 morning line odds with Hall of Fame jockey John Velasquez.  If you’re a show bettor, a superb choice as West Coast has finished in the money 12 for 12.  Backing that confidence up is trainer Bob Baffert, conditioner of Justify.

The mystery horse is Mendelssohn.  After being banged around out of the gate at host track Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Derby, he finished dead last. Preceding that were three straight impressive wins. After the Derby were three nice races in major stakes competition but no victories. This is another horse with great connections in prominent Europeans jockey Ryan Moore and trainer Aiden O’Brien.  Mendelssohn will be around 10-1 for those who have not lost faith. 

The following is the field for the $6M Breeders’ Cup Classic:

Post position - horse - trainer - morning-line odds 
1. Thunder Snow, (IRE), Saeed bin Suroor, 12-1
2. Roaring Lion,
John Gosden, 20-1
3. Catholic Boy,
Jonathan Thomas, 8-1
4. Gunnevera,
Antonio Sano, 20-1
5. Lone Sailor,
Tom Amoss, 30-1
6. McKinzie,
Bob Baffert, 6-1
7. West Coast,
Bob Baffert, 5-1
8. Pavel,
Doug O’Neill, 20-1
9. Mendelssohn,
Aidan O’Brien, 12-1
10. Yoshida (JPN),
Bill Mott, 10-1
11. Mind Your Biscuits,
Chad Summers, 6-1
12. Axelrod,
Michael McCarthy, 30-1
13. Discreet Lover,
Uriah St. Lewis, 20-1
14. Accelerate,
John Sadler, 5-2
AE-15. Collected,
Bob Baffert, 30-1
AE-16. Toast of New York,
Jamie Osborne, 20-1

Along with the usual U.S. online wagering outlets, the preferred offshore sportsbooks have prioritized the Breeders Cup this weekend.  Many of the top sportsbooks specialize in a full card of fixed odds proposition wagering, that is currently available.  A potential advantage a bettor wouldn’t conventionally find at a racetrack or the popular online wagering outlets.

For example, major sportsbook 5Dimes has many fixed wagering propositions already listed for the Breeders' Cup. Do you think Enable hasn’t been appropriately noticed? Currently she is -185 to win vs. the rest of her Breeders' Cup Turf competitors. Hmmm . . . that’s about the same chance given the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA Championship. 

Hate to say it, but I think that’s a lock too and very "justify-able" odds. Should super filly Enable blow away the competition this Saturday, she gets my vote as Horse of the Year. It’s unlikely, as voting critics will disqualify her as a "European horse", with only one start in the U.S. I’m just disappointed believing Justify is healthy enough to be on the track in Louisville an hour later. I wish he would show up one more time to prove it. Earning another possible $3.6M ain't bad incentive either before spending a life pleasing the best girls every week.    

Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.