Click here to view my selections and wagers for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup races.
Friday, October 31
|Jump to race: 6, 7, 8, 9|
Race 6: The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
Let’s start with the Europeans:
There are three runners who are exiting Group 1 races, so one would assume that this represents a slight class drop for each of them. Of that group, the one who is sure to take the most money is morning line favorite Hootenanny. While he is technically an American-trained two year-old, it makes sense to discuss him among the European runners, since he’s run his best races overseas. He turned some heads with a facile victory over 23 rivals in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot, and followed that up with a solid second place finish in the prestigious Prix Morny (G1), though I’m not sure that this year’s edition was a particularly strong one. The major question for Hootenanny is obviously the distance, since he’s never been farther than six furlongs. The dam’s side of his pedigree is predominantly sprint-oriented and he isn’t likely to get to a clear lead given the presence of the speedy Luck of the Kitten to his inside. I won’t be shocked if he wins, but I think he’ll be an underlay.
The other two runners exiting a Group 1 race are War Envoy (#7) and Aktabantay, and I’m more interested in this pair. Both had their chances in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1), but they were beaten by a couple of talented runners in Gleaneagles and Full Mast. Aktabantay will be the bigger price, but I get the sense that he doesn’t have much of a turn of foot and I wonder if he’ll be suited to Santa Anita’s turf course. I also suspect that he may ultimately excel going farther.
I prefer WAR ENVOY (#7) and think he may be one of the ones you want to bet in this race. Prior to his last, he had kept good company in a series of solid group-level races, so you know that the quality is there. Aiden O’Brien is no stranger to this race and he has enough talented two year-olds in his barn to select the ones that he thinks will be best-suited to the firm turf and tight turns of American racing. This runner actually reminds me quite a bit of George Vancouver, who was also a maiden winner that had placed in multiple group stakes going shorter prior taking the 2012 running of this race.
Commemorative (#4) won the Autumn Stakes (G3) in fine fashion, but he was allowed an uncontested lead that day, and was wandering through the stretch late. He clearly has talent, but I wonder if the best is yet to come with this one, and suspect he’ll improve with added experience and more ground.
In general, I think that the European contingent in this year’s Juvenile Turf is stronger than this group of American runners. However, there are two U.S.-based two year-olds that have distinguished themselves in my eyes and merit consideration in this deep field.
Of the Americans, I prefer those exiting the Pilgrim (G3). Imperia (#11) was an impressive winner and runner-up Vision Perfect returned to validate the quality of that race with an easy win at Belmont last weekend. Imperia is a logical contender in this race, but he didn’t draw very well and may have to overcome a wide trip. I’ll definitely be using him, but I’m slightly more interested in one of the runners that he defeated last time.
STARTUP NATION (#10) won each of his first two career starts by making prolonged, wide runs around the far turn. In the Pilgrim, he was rated well off a slow pace, and was forced to rally inside in the stretch. For some reason, he showed none of the late kick that he had displayed in the With Anticipation, and I’m willing to believe that it had to do with the trip. This horse needs a good furlong to get wound up, and I’m guessing that Joel Rosario now knows this and will take Startup Nation back in hopes of launching one wide run. That’s not usually the ideal move around Santa Anita’s tight turns, but if Joel gets this horse going early enough, he can get the jump on those waiting to tip out for the stretch drive, and then sustain that move through the finish. There is supposed to be fair pace in this race, so if he is able to put in the kind of run that we know he’s capable of, I think he can be right there at a fair price. He’s my top pick, by a slim margin.
Selections: 10 – 7 – 11 - 4
$15 Win 10
$10 Win 7
$2 Exacta Box 7,10,11
Race 7: The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
This is far the from the strongest Dirt Mile that we’ve seen, and it’s certainly weaker than last year’s edition. While GOLDENCENTS (#1) was aided by a surface that was favorable to inside speed last year, he also set an extremely fast pace and never stopped in a race that completely fell apart behind him. Despite racing with the track, I still think he was much the best. Though he’s won just once during an abbreviated four year-old campaign, he’s shown up with a top performance in every start, and may have run his best race at this distance when second to Palace Malice in the Met Mile back in June. There are no Palace Malices among today’s rivals, and I expect him to win again.
Behind Goldencents, you essentially have to decide whether you prefer this year’s second-string three year-olds or the second-string older horses. I’ve never thought very highly of Vicar’s In Trouble and don’t think he’s fast enough to keep up with Goldencents early. Tapiture looks like a better alternative and I think this one-mile distance will suit him, but I’d want around 8/1 odds on him, and I’m not sure I’ll get that.
I prefer Fed Biz (#8) and Pants On Fire (#4) to round out the exacta. Both are stalking types who should work out good trips in race that may feature a moderate pace.
Fed Biz has had some ups and downs in his career, but his three starts this year have all been good. While he did get a perfect trip last time in the Awesome Again, he still ran Shared Belief to a neck decision, which is no small feat. He won’t have to run any better to have a major say in this race.
Pants On Fire never was in a great position in this race last year after breaking from a difficult post position, but he draws much better this year, and should get a great stalking trip just in behind Goldencents and Vicar’s in Trouble. This is a step up in class, but he’s also held his form well since the summer and is fast enough to earn a large check.
Selections: 1 – 8 – 4 – 9
$15 Exacta 1-8
$10 Exacta 1-4
Race 8: The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
Unlike in the male version of this race, I’m not quite convinced of the quality of the European fillies signed on, and two of them drew disadvantageous outside post positions. Osaila (#2) appears to head the list of those that have made the trek across the Atlantic, and she also drew the best post position. Her form from the Moyglare Stud Stakes gives her a solid chance here, but she had to work pretty hard to beat lesser when odds-on at Newmarket last time so I’m not quite sure what to expect out of her. She’ll be in my play, but I prefer a few American runners.
Sunset Glow (#3) was installed as the morning line favorite based on the strength of her excellent run in the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and subsequent back-to-back graded stakes wins on Del Mar’s Polytrack. As with her stablemate Hootenanny, she will have to prove that she can get a two-turn mile. Her running style should boost her chances, since she prefers to be forwardly placed and there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of early speed in this race. She’s definitely one of the main contenders, but I’m going to give the edge to a couple of fillies exiting Belmont’s Miss Grillo.
I know that she benefited from a perfect trip, but I was really taken with the performance of LADY ELI (#4) in winning the Miss Grillo. On paper the race came up fairly slow, but there was nothing slow about the manner in which she finished up through the stretch. According to Trakus, she ran her final quarter mile from the three-quarter mark to the sixteenth pole in a blazing 21.84 seconds before throwing down a final sixteenth in 5.60 seconds while just under a hand ride from Irad Ortiz. She was racing out in the clear, which allowed her to use her instant acceleration to great success, but she put herself in that position by breaking sharply and relaxing up close to the pace. Lady Eli has shown remarkable professionalism for such an inexperienced runner, and she projects to work out another great trip from an excellent post position in this race. I know that you’re typically supposed to bet against horses like this that took advantage of a perfect trip, but I get the feeling that this one is very talented and well-equipped to win a race of this stature. I don’t think I’ll quite get her morning line price of 6/1, but I would deem odds as low as 7/2 to be fair enough.
I’m also interested in Partisan Politics (#1) out of the Miss Grillo. She did not break as sharply as her stablemate and was forced to race at the back of a bunched field, behind a crawling pace. Things worked out fine in the stretch as she found room inside, but she was left with far too much ground to make up. Still, she was really running late, and was actually the only runner in the field to eclipse Lady Eli’s 5.60 second final sixteenth—though that one was already receiving a congratulatory pat from her rider by that point. Partisan Politics possesses far more early speed than she showed last time, having raced up close to the pace in her debut going five and a half furlongs at Saratoga. If Javier Castellano is able to get her into a stalking position from her rail post, she could be around at the finish at a square price.
Selections: 4 – 1 – 3 – 2
$20 Win 4
$5 Exacta Box 1,4
Race 9: The Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Ever since the defection of Beholder, this Distaff has been billed as a two-horse race between Untapable and Close Hatches. However, that plot-line was somewhat complicated by the rivals drawing the two outermost post positions in this 11-horse field. I don’t think the post will necessarily be detrimental to Untapable’s chances since she prefers the sort of outside stalking trip that she’s likely to get on Friday. However, I am a little worried about Close Hatches working out the right trip, especially given the questions surrounding her current form.
I realize that Close Hatches (#11) has won three Grade 1 races this year and that some think she sewed up the older female Eclipse Award long ago. While I respect her accomplishments, I don’t think she has much margin for error in this race, even if she shows up with one of her better efforts. After all, once you get past her lopsided victory in the mud in Saratoga’s Personal Ensign, it’s not as if she’s been supremely dominant in her winning efforts this year. She gutted out the win in the Ogden Phipps against a salty field, but that win looks slightly less impressive in retrospect, considering Princess of Sylmar’s subsequent performances, and prior to that she bested inferior fields at Oaklawn. I’m not saying that I would have predicted her highly disappointing outing the Spinster last time, but I do think her 2014 form has been slightly over-rated. Factoring in that awful Spinster effort and this difficult post position, I’m just not sure what to expect from Close Hatches and don’t want to take her at a relatively short price.
I have none of those concerns about UNTAPABLE (#10). With the exception of her Haskell, when she was wide against the track behind a loose-on-the-lead Bayern, she really hasn’t put a hoof wrong this year. While she’s coming off one of her slowest races of the year in the Cotillion, it must be noted that Parx’s dirt surface was favoring inside paths on that Pennsylvania Derby day, and she was racing off the rail for the entire race. Sweet Reason is a nice filly and Untapable was surely more than just one length the best on that afternoon. She has tactical speed, but is versatile enough to be placed a few lenghts back off the pace, which should work to her advantage in a race featuring plenty of speed. She’ll likely go favored, but I view her as the most likely winner and think fair odds are somewhere around 5/2.
Given the likelihood of a contested pace, with speed coming from Tiz Midnight, Iotapa, Belle Gallantey, and Close Hatches, I think the hard-knocking mare Don’t Tell Sophia (#7) merits a look. She just always seems to run her race, and while she’s never faced a field this tough, she has run competitive speed figures on a few occasions and is always dangerous when she gets a favorable pace scenario. A win might be asking a lot, but I think she’ll be running late and I’ll definitely use her in my plays, primarily underneath Untapable in exactas and trifectas.
Selections: 10 – 7 – 11 – 4
$20 Win 10
$6 Trifecta 10 with 7 with 3,4,11
$4 Trifecta 10 with 3,4,11 with 7