Predictions and betting tips for Friday's Breeders' Cup races
The Breeders’ Cup this year returns to Santa Anita Park for the first time since 2019, when the track had to be closed for several months earlier in the year due to 30 horse fatalities in the winter-spring meet and 42 overall for the year. The track made several improvements to try and prevent horse deaths, including a ban on race day drugs, extra veterinarians on the track and the closing of the downhill part of the turf course, which required horses racing on turf to run over a part of the main track before returning to the turf. The Breeders’ Cup that year went off with only one fatality in the last race - the Breeders’ Cup Classic, when Mongolian Groom had to be put down. As it turns out, the issue with Mongolian Groom was undiagnosed bad knees prior to the race and he broke down with strenuous racing, so the track was relieved it was not to blame.
That said, this year’s Breeders’ Cup has already gotten off to a shaky start after Practical Move, the morning line favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Mile had to be put down after suffering a cardiac event in a workout. And Arcangelo, the early favorite for the Classic, was withdrawn since he hadn’t recovered from an earlier injury. The fact he was even a consideration to race shows that for some in the industry money is more of a consideration than safety. The sport is also still being scrutinized heavily by animal rights groups after an inordinate amount of breakdowns occurred at Churchill Downs in 2023 and overall horse fatalities are up at almost all tracks compared to 2022. The refusal to return to synthetic tracks is also concerning.
Despite the hot and dry temperatures in Southern California, European horses have fared quite well in the turf races held the prior 10 times the Breeders’ Cup was held at Santa Anita, as the track personnel goes out of its way to ensure the turf has enough give in it so that it runs like a true turf course and not a dirt race. One would expect the same to be true this year and despite the controversy about track safety, some of the best European horses will be at Santa Anita this year.
The Friday races, as is now the trend, are devoted to the 2-year-olds. Below is analysis and predictions for the five Breeders’ Cup races taking place on Friday in 2023.
Juvenile Turf Sprint
The Breeders’ Cup starts off with the most difficult race to handicap. The Juvenile Turf Sprint has only been run for five years and trainer Wesley Ward has won three of those. Ward is not running horses this year. In last year’s race Charlie Appleby sent out the winner with Mischief Magic, the only time Appleby entered a horse in this race. Appleby sends out Big Evs, the morning line favorite this year. Big Evs has won three races in England out of 5 starts all at five furlongs, so he will love the distance and appears will be the one to catch. In his only Group 1 race Big Evs was trounced, but there is no horse in this race that is in that league. George Weaver sends out three horses with No Nay Mets, Crimson Advocate and Amidst Waves. Weaver has 7 turf sprint winners this year and has replaced Wesley Ward as the king of that category. Amidst Waves has 3 wins in five races, all at shorter distances and will be sitting just off the pace. He has yet to run a graded race, so he may to be a cut below the best here. No Nay Mets has run consecutive impressive races at minor tracks and in the Norfolk Stakes at Ascot, he was soundly defeated by Valiant Force who shocked almost everyone in the racing world by winning that race at 150/1 odds – the longest price of the year. Valiant Force came back with a lackluster race in France, indicating the Norfolk may have been a fluke. Crimson Advocate had a very good race at Gulfstream and followed that up with a win in the Queen Mary. Slider is an interesting horse, having just won the Sleepeasy Stakes at Santa Anita on October 7th, making him the only course and distance winner in the field. Cherry Blossom is an outsider and the only filly in the race, although no Aidan O’Brien trained horse ridden by Ryan Moore can be discounted and Tiger Belle has had some good races in France. Committee of One comes off a good win at Keeneland although the post position could be an issue. Givemethebeatboys may be the dark horse at 5 furlongs, as he won at that distance and led at 6 furlongs in his last two races in Group 1 company, only to fade near the wire. In those races he just lost to Vandeek considered the best 2-year-old in Europe and River Tiber who is the morning line favorite for the Juvenile Turf. If he can set the pace he could wire them all.
Juvenile Turf Sprint Prediction:
Winner: Givemethebeatboys (15/1)
Second Choice: Slider (8/1)
Long Shot Possibility: Cherry Blossom (15/1)
NOTE: Givemethebeatboys is scratched. Add Big Evs to your exotics to replace them.
This race will likely have the shortest price horse of all the Breeders’ Cup races as Tamara towers over all the other horses. The horse won a maiden special weight race in August at Del Mar and then won the Del Mar Debutante by almost 7 lengths with a Beyer figure of 91, that no other horse comes close to. The only concern about the horse is that it has never run two turns and in the past some horses that have won easily at 7 furlongs, such as Jackie’s Warrior, have struggled going the extra 3/16 of a mile. That said, the horse is well bred to run longer and there is no reason to suspect she won’t handle the extra distance. Her biggest threat seems to be Candied, which ran an 86 Beyer figure in the Archibald Handicap at Keeneland. She has the rail and trainer Todd Fletcher has a good record in the Breeders’ Cup. Chatalas looked good winning the Chadelier Stakes, but was previously trounced by Tamara in the Debutante. Just FYI did well winning the Frizette Stakes in the slop at Aqueduct. She and Jody’s Pride look like they will be useful horses in New York but are probably a cut below Tamara. Brightwork looked like a superhorse winning four straight races in New York before being trounced by Candied in the Archibald. The others clearly are not in this league.
Juvenile Fillies Prediction:
Winner: Tamara (4/5)
Second Choice: Candied (4/1)
Long Shot Possibility: None
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Another difficult race with a full field of 14 horses, the Juvenile Fillies Turf is always a toss up. Last year Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore won the race with Meditate and this year they team up with longshot Content, who has had mixed results in Ireland. The horse did win a Group 3 race at the Curragh earlier in the month at 20/1 odds and if the horse can run back to that race it can’t be completely discounted. The tepid morning line favorite is She Feels Pretty who is two for two, including an impressive win at Woodbine in the Natalma Stakes, at this distance, but that race has not been a good predictor of success in this race. She likes to close from well behind so will be looking for speed to have a realistic chance at the win. Porta Fortuna has never been out of the money racing in England and comes off an impressive win in a Group 1 race in Newmarket. The horse has run exclusively at 6f and 7f so the stretch out to a mile is a bit concerning. No doubt she will be on or near the lead and will have to hope for a slow pace to get the win. A horse that will relish the distance is Buchu, who finally broke her maiden in her 4th attempt at Churchill Downs and then flew through the stretch to win a Grade 1 race at Keeneland. Her Beyer figure was impressive and she will be hoping for a fast pace. Carla's Way comes off a good win at Newmarket and the connections seem to think she is peaking at the right time, but the sound defeat earlier to Porta Fortuna can’t be overlooked. Nevertheless, she had hind surgery to fix an issue after that loss so she could very well be a different horse. Hard to Justify has two hard fought wins in New York, including an impressive race in the Ms. Grillo Stakes, where she put up an impressive Beyer figure. Life’s an Audible finished just behind Hard to Justify in the Ms. Grillo and looked every chance to beat her. Todd Pletcher has a good Breeders’ Cup record. Les Pavots is an intriguing filly having faced some of the best in France and Mickael Barzalona is a top trainer in all of Europe. The outside post, however is a concern. Austere and Dreamfyre are undefeated, but appear to be a bit outclassed. They will be among the early speed, but no doubt Porta Fortuna will be close to the pace and hoping to pounce as they tire, preferably not at a blistering pace. The rest all have a chance, but appear to be stepping up too high in class or have not produced speed figures to indicate they can beat the top horses in this race.
Juvenile Fillies Turf Prediction:
Winner: Porta Fortuna (5/1)
Second Choice: Buchu (6/1)
Long Shot Possibility: Content (15/1)
The race that usually produces a stand-out favorite is the Juvenile, bit it is wide open this year. Locked, a Todd Pletcher horse who won the Breeders’ Futurity by a half length in good time, is the 7/2 morning line favorite, but four horses are at 4/1 making it a complete pick ‘em. Prince of Monaco, is an undefeated Bob Baffert trained horse who won the Del Mar Futurity in a very impressive time and will be trying two turns for the first time, seems to be the one to beat. Muth is another Baffert trained horse won the American Pharaoh Stakes at this distance but lost to Prince of Monaco by over four lengths at a shorter distance earlier. Timberlake, is a New York based horse who just lost the Hopeful Stakes, but romped to victory in the Champagne Stakes in the slop. The Wine Steward just missed out to Locked in the Breeders’ Futurity, but was actually pretty well beaten and Wine Me Up led in throughout the American Pharoah before being passed by Muth. One must suspect that the horse is the weakest of the three Bob Baffert contingent and may be used as a rabbit to set up the race for the other two. Fierceness, a highly regarded Pletcher horse, romped on a muddy track at Saratoga in August, but was soundly beaten as the overwhelming favorite to Timberlake in the Champagne Stakes. It will be interesting to see if the horse can step up on a faster track. His connections feel he will. General Partner who lost by four lengths to Timberlake in that same race will also prefer a fast track.
Winner: Fierceness (6/1)
Second Choice: Prince of Monaco (4/1)
Long Shot Possibility: None
Vandeek appeared to be set to be an overwhelming favorite in the final Breeders' Cup race on Friday, but the connections decided not to run him in the Breeders’ Cup. That decision has made River Tiber the morning line favorite. The Aidan O’Brien trained horse, ridden by Ryan Moore, won the Coventry Stakes at Ascot and was believed to be the best 2 year old in the country until Vandeek beat him twice. River Tiber has yet to run beyond 6 furlongs but his running style and breeding seem to suggest the extra two furlongs here won’t be a concern. Unquestionable, also trained by O’Brien and ridden by Frankie Dettori, has had some good races in Ireland and France, although he has only won one of those races. Nevertheless, his breeding and running style suggests he should flourish in this race. Endlessly is 3 for 3 in California, winning by open lengths, but has not seen a lot of action in the early betting for this race. That seems to suggest that the wins weren’t against much. Agate Road has won two in a row but the times have been slow. The win in the Pilgrim was nothing to write home about. Carson’s Run just missed in a Grade 3 race at Saratoga and came back with a huge win at Woodbine in the Summer Stakes. Unfortunately, that race has failed to be much of a predictor of success in the Breeders’ Cup. He also draws the outside post which will be difficult. My Boy Prince lost to Carson’s Run in that Summer Stakes, but has been very impressive in all his races at Woodbine. The Mark Casse trained horse will certainly set the pace but it’s hard to see him wiring this field unless there’s a very slow pace. That said, it doesn’t appear that there is any horse that will be prepared to run with him on the lead, so he could very well pull off a shocker. Can Group went from last to first with a huge stretch run in his last race at Keeneland and could shock if the pace is very fast, which is a possibility, since there are is some good speed in the race. The rest seem to be outclassed.
Juvenile Turf Prediction:
Winner: River Tiber (3/1)
Second Choice: My Boy Prince (8/1)
Long Shot Possibility: Can Group (12/1)
NOTE: River Tiber is scratched. Add Carson's Run to your exotics to replace them.
For Hartley's betting advice for Saturday's Breeders' Cup races, check back tomorrow here at OSGA.