The Breeders Cup, also known as the Super Bowl of thoroughbred racing always brings on excitement. With purses in excess of $10 million the best horses usually come out. This year the 2 best horses in the world, Frankel and Black Caviar have not been entered by their connections but the absence of the best horses also can lead to great longshot opportunities. In this blog I’ll look at the contenders for each race.
FRIDAY’S BREEDERS’ CUP RACES:
Secret Circle is the 6/5 morning line favorite and rightly so. The horse romped in 2 races including a 1:08 1/5 blowout in the J Goodman Stakes at Santa Anita. The only question is whether he will handle the cool weather of Churchill Downs. He draws a great post position and on his best effort nothing else appears to his quality. Look for the horse to go off at less than 4/5. He looks like a banker for any exotics.
Juvenile Fillies Turf:
This is another race that looks ready to go to a favorite. Elusive Kate, won 4 straight races including a 3 length runaway in a Group 1 race at Longchamp. On a repeat performance she won’t be beat. Somali Lemonade looks like her biggest competition and will be charging at the end but this race is rarely won by a massive closer. The longshot special in the race may be the Aidan O’Brien trained horse Up. Up lost his first race in Ireland but came back to win on the synthetic track at Dunkirk. Still, Up has the pedigree to be a real contender and you can never count out the combination of O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore in any race. Up is showing at about 30/1 in European futures and could be higher in the U.S. pools. At the price she’s worth a shot. Still Elusive Kate must be included in all exotics.
Fillies & Mare’s Turf Sprint:
I’ve been trying hard to beat the 6/5 morning line favorite Turbulent Descent but can’t do it. At the 7 furlong distance she’s won 3 races by a total of 10 lengths and beat most of the main contenders in this field. She’s been effective on both the east and west coast and will be tough. If there’s any drawback it’s that she hasn’t raced 3 months. That’s often a bad sign leading into the Breeder’s Cup. But her workouts during that time have been impeccable and there’s really nothing in the race that looks like it can beat her. Pomeroy’s Pistol looks to be Turbulent Descent’s main competition but considering the ease which the favorite beat her in the last race, there’s no reason to expect different in this race.
Usually a race one by the favorite, the Juvenile Fillies looks like an upset special. The 1 1/16 mile distance is unkind to inside horses at Churchill in a large field, particularly if they are all speed. For that reason Bob Baffert’s horse Candrea can be tossed out. My Miss Aurelia and Grace Hall both look good on paper and will go off as the 2 favorites but I believe they are susceptible. Both will be on or near the lead and will encounter a speed dual with numerous horses which should allow for a closer to win. For that reason my pick for this one is Weemissfrankie. Weemissfrankie shows tactical speed and a nice late kick. She’ll love the distance and draws a prime post. Her times have been better than any and she has shown she can handle the dirt along with synthetic tracks.
Filly & Mare Turf:
Stacelita is the favorite having won 2 races in a row on yielding grass but she hasn’t fared as well on a firm turf which is what the weathermen are calling for at Churchill on Friday. Nahrain is undefeated, has one of the best jockeys in the world in Franco Dettori but I believe she’ll struggle to get the 1 3/8 distance. My picks are Announce, owned by Juddmonte Farms who has handled the distance with ease and just lost to Announce in the Prix de l’Opera with a late charge. Announce also beat Stacelita fairly easily in France earlier in the year and loves a firm turf. My longshot pick is Misty for Me. On the outside Misty for Me should get a good run and will handle the distance. What was particularly impressive was her 6th length win over Midday who is 2nd choice in the $3 million turf on Saturday. With her best effort she can beat this field.
This race is a total tossup and may be worth wheeling several horses for the pick 6, win 4 etc. Plum Pretty is the favorite after an impressive win at Philadelphia in her last race but she struggled against others in the race at 1 1/8 and longer. Royal Delta and its Tricky took turns beating each other along with Plum Pretty although Royal Delta looks like she’ll appreciate the distance the most. My longshot pick in this one is Ultra Blend. She has the best closing kick and some tactical speed. If it’s a hot pace, look for her to sweep by them all. She also has a great post.
SATURDAY’S BREEDERS’ CUP RACES:
Even though it’s on the dirt the European’s dominate this Grade 2 race. A.U. Miner is the favorite but doesn’t deserve to be. The horse finished a well beaten 4th in the race last year and has shown little since. Brigantin looks like the real deal. A group 2 and group 3 winner in France the horse will easily handle the distance and has both tactical speed and a closing kick. Andre Fabre is one of the best trainers in the world and Julien Laproux is a leading jockey. Meeznah also looks like a contender at decent odds. The horse won a group 3 race at the distance in England earlier this year and a group 2 race at almost 2 miles in September. With a good pace she can run them down. Don’t count out Harrison’s Cave completely either for a huge longshot. The horse showed great efforts on the synthetic track in Ireland and has the Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore combination mentioned previously.
Fantastic Song is the undeserved morning line favorite here. The horse has a great closing kick but there are better options in this race. Finale, trained by Todd Pletcher is my pick. Showing little in 2 dirt races to start his career, Finale won the last 3 races easily on the turf in tremendous times. In his last race at Woodbine in Toronto, the horse encountered all kinds of trouble but still drew off at the end to win. He has the best jockey in America with John Velazquez aboard. Of the European horses, all seem to have great speed but may not handle the mile. Lucky Chappy, the Italian horse may be a play. He trailed the field badly in his first try at Keeneland but came charging like a freight train at the end and just lost by a couple of lengths to Animal Spirits. With a better start and less traffic trouble, Lucky Chappy could provide an upset.
Big Drama had 2 races since his win in this race last year winning both. His freshness will prove tough and there’s really no other horse that looks to his caliber. Jackson’s Bend is impressive but will likely need more than 6 furlongs.
Easily the hardest race to handicap on the whole card. There is no horse that looks like a standout and no horse that can be tossed out. Havelock, Regally Ready and Caracortado look like the best 3 horses in the race but on their best Grand Adventure and Perfect Officer can provide the upset.
Wilburn and Shackleford look like the 2 horses to beat in this one. Shackleford was game throughout the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness and just lost in the Haskell. If class counted for everything he would win. He looked like a standout in the Indiana Derby in his last race but lost by 4 lengths to Wilburn. The horse is clearly coming into his own and if he keeps improving should win. Don’t count out Jersey Town for an upset possibility.
Forget the U.S. runners this race is between the European tandem of Sarafina, Midday, St. Nicholas Abbey, Await the Dawn and Sea Moon. With the exception of Sea Moon they’ve all taken turns beating each other so the question is which of the horse will handle the firm turf, tight turns and distance the best. My money is going to the 3 year old Sea Moon. Owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by the great Michael Stoute Sea Moon ran away with the 1 ½ mile Voltgeur Stakes at York easily in August. He was hampered in his last race, the St. Leger, where he went off as the favorite but all accounts were that the 1 13/16 mile distance of that race was just a little too long for him. His best distance is clearly 1 ½ miles. My other choice will be Await the Dawn. The horse clearly loves firm turf and will handle the distance. On his best effort he appears better than the rest on paper.
Union Rags is the favorite and looks like a banker to me. The horse has the perfect post and dominated all his races including the Champagne Stakes at Belmont. Hansen has been quite impressive winning his 2 races by over 25 lengths but Turfway Park is a secondary track and it’s unclear just how good the horses are that he beat. Still he can’t be totally discounted given the ease of those wins and the times.
It’s unfortunate that Frankel is not entered. American’s deserve the right to see the superstar horse and it would have been a terrific spectacle to see him entered against 3 time Breeder’s Cup Mile champion Goldikova. But with his absence this appears to be a 2 horse race between Goldikova, the winner of the last 3 miles and Gio Ponti. Goldikova just held on last year and there’s no reason not to expect her to win again despite 3 runner up finishes in her last 4 races.
Uncle Mo seems to rounding into form at the right time but the 1 ¼ mile distance has always been questionable for him and I doubt he’ll get the distance. Havre de Grace passed up on an almost guaranteed win in the Ladies Classic to run in this race instead. She looks tough and the ladies have been beating the boys regularly this year. She’ll get the distance easily and a repeat of her last race should win this but I don’t believe she’ll be there at the end. My pick is the Australian invader So You Think. His first run on dirt, I believe he’ll handle it well and Aidan O’Brien has assured fans So You Think will have no trouble with the dirt. Ryan Moore is the jockey for the race. I’ll also toss in Flat Out and Stay Thirsty in the exotics.