Below I have posted my analysis of each of Friday’s Breeders’ Cup races with explanations detailing how I arrived at my top four selections in every race. (For a quick view of all my Breeders’ Cup selections, visit this site’s Breeders’ Cup page.)
In the following accompanying blog entry I’ve also included my recommended wagers for Friday’s races, which can also be found on the My Bets page. Enjoy the races and good luck!
Race 6: The Breeders’ Cup Marathon
I’m mildly against EVER RIDER, especially if he actually goes off favored. I know that Calidoscopio won from Argentina last year (I even picked him), but he came into the race with solid Group 1 and Group 2 form whereas this horse just barely won a relatively weak Group 2 race after being allowed to set a very slow pace up front. With Gary Stevens taking the call, he’ll definitely take some money, but I’m skeptical, especially with plenty of other speed in this race.
I’m most interested in OLD TIME HOCKEY. He actually ran some decent dirt races at the start of his career and you can make the argument that he just improved with maturity over time rather than having taken a big step forward when he was switched to turf. He must be doing well since the connections were apparently contemplating a start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf before ultimately deciding to take a shot here. The distance is a question, but he’s one of the classier horses in the race and I think he could slip through the cracks and go off at a decent price.
I also want to use CEASE. I usually don’t like to bet trainers like David Jacobson outside of New York, but at least you know based on his prior try in this race that he will at least be left standing at the end, which is more than you can say about some of the others. His race two back actually wasn’t bad since he was against the rail bias and race dynamics and then last time he was able to win going as short as seven furlongs on pure class. I think he’s in better form than one might think and wouldn’t be surprised to see him win a pretty weak running of this race.
As for the others, I’m not thrilled with the Greenwood Cup runners since I think that was just a weak race. The classy WORLDLY has a chance based on his recent form, but figures to be a short price and rarely gets his nose under the wire first. Finally, I suppose BLUESKIESNRAINBOWS wouldn’t be impossible if the pace was moderate but that’s a big if.
1) OLD TIME HOCKEY (#1)
2) CEASE (#2)
3) WORLDLY (#10)
4) BLUESKIESNRAINBOWS (#8)
Race 7: The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
I feel as if the proper way to assess these races is to first examine the form of the European invaders and then determine if any of the Americans are good enough to step up and beat them.
It remains to be seen who actually will go off as the shortest priced European contender, but it probably should be OUTSTRIP. He was an excellent second to the undefeated Toormore in his second career start before registering a convincing win in the Champagne Stakes. Last time you could make the argument that he didn’t show up with his very best since Cable Bay was able to turn the tables on him. Switching over to U.S. racing and firmer turf should be no problem since his dam, Asi Siempre, was a multiple graded stakes winner in this country.
GIOVANNI BOLDINI is a shorter price on the morning line, but his form just does not support such strong backing. He was an ordinary third behind Toormore, who Outstrip nearly beat, in his only turf start and his other two triumphs came in weak synthetic races. I actually think that WILSHIRE BOULEVARD is the stronger Aidan O’Brien runner in this race. Two races back, he ran very well when just barely losing to Astaire, who is 4-for-5 lifetime and returned to win the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes. Then last time he was a decent fourth in a French Goup 1 behind the promising Karakontie. Before those tries in tougher company he had beaten Mansion House, who we both agree should have won his stateside debut last weekend. This horse would be a real bargain at his 8-1 morning line.
As far as the fourth European shipper, SHAMSHON, he’s certainly not out of this, but it’s hard for me to say whether or not that Mill Reef Stakes was one of the stronger juvenile races run in England this year. The horses who ran back out of it give mixed signals. The winner, Supplicant, was nowhere to be found behind the aforementioned Astaire in the Middle Park Stakes (G1), but third place finisher Hot Streak was a strong second in the very same race next time out. Speaking of that race, Sudirman, who beat Giovanni Boldini in the National Stakes, was another who failed to make an impact in the Middle Park. Shamshon may turn out to be as good as these, but he needs to take a step forward stretching out in distance and will not be helped by a tough post.
BOBBY’S KITTEN is clearly at the top of this class. I was a little skeptical of his maiden win at Saratoga since he had ridden the gold rail the entire way, but his triumph in the Pilgrim Stakes was pretty convincing. It’s slightly worrisome that he gets so keen early in his races and I’d be a little concerned for his chances if he found himself behind horses in a tight spot early. The good news for him is that there doesn’t appear to be that much speed in this race and he will probably get a relatively comfortable trip from this post position. He doesn’t offer much value as the race favorite, but he’s definitely one of the main players.
The only other horses really worth mentioning are the ones coming out of the Bourbon Stakes, although it’s probably not the most reliable barometer for this race since it was run over a synthetic track and many horses had bad trips. I don’t want any part of the winner, POKER PLAYER, who didn’t find a straw in his path on his way to victory. Instead, I’ll probably use a little bit of the maiden, ALL CASH, who was never in a comfortable position and probably ran the best race of all despite finishing fourth. I know that he looks slow on paper, but he also ran pretty well in his only prior try going long on turf when third behind Bobby’s Kitten. He mounted a serious two-wide challenge to that foe on the turn and just got a bit tired in the stretch. That has been a very productive maiden race with several horses who finished behind the top three coming back to improve their speed figures by between 17 and 35 Beyer points. I realize that All Cash looks nearly impossible to make at first glance, but I think he has some ability, is improving, and may have a pace advantage breaking from the rail.
1) OUTSTRIP (#4)
2) WILSHIRE BOULEVARD (#9)
3) BOBBY’S KITTEN (#5)
4) ALL CASH (#1)
Race 8: The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
I suppose I should start with the favorite, VERRAZANO. He is the best horse in the race and a repeat of his Haskell win would absolutely crush this field, but I still find it hard to trust him in this scenario. Maggie Wolfendale made an interesting comment about him in the paddock prior to the Travers. I recall her remarking at what an outstanding physical specimen he was—even the untrained eye can see that—but she didn’t necessarily like him for a race like the Travers because he’s a horse who never really has his game face on. Most top horses come to the paddock focused and ready to fight, but Verrazano doesn’t show the mental grit of less naturally gifted horses. Sure he’s won his fair share of important races, but they were all accomplished when he had very soft trips and was facing mostly inferior competition. When he actually had to dig down and work in races like the Kentucky Derby and Travers, he lost interest. Perhaps he’ll work out another great trip and show up with one of his better performances, but I don’t want to bet on it.
The chances of the other main three year-old contender and likely second choice, GOLDENCENTS, are harder for me to refute. The distance should be no problem and he’s coming into the race in excellent form. The post position is the only major concern, but he may be talented enough to overcome it. That said, I’d want to take nothing lower than his 4-1 morning line odds.
I’m most interested in the two horses coming out of the Kelso Handicap. That was a very slowly paced race in which the other jockeys decided to allow Graydar to waltz along on an easy lead along the gold rail essentially handing the race to him. I’m actually upset Graydar isn’t here because I was firmly against him off that performance. However, even in his absence there will still be decent value on BRUJO DE OLLEROS and HYMN BOOK.
BRUJO DE OLLEROS is the one that I prefer slightly. He had to go three-wide the entire way and was forced to make an early move to try and pressure Graydar coming to the top of the stretch. There is no doubt in my mind that he ran the better race and I expect to see a significant step forward on Friday. This is a horse who always had plenty of ability, but just took a while to adapt to U. S. racing. I still urge anyone who’s assessing his chances to go back and watch his dazzling Gran Premio Pedro Pineyrua win in Uruguay because it hints at what this horse can accomplish when he’s right. He drew a great post and is versatile enough to be placed up close to the pace or in midpack.
HYMN BOOK doesn’t win that often these days, but I liked his race in the Kelso since he was compromised by the pace and was running best of all through the lane. As the lone deep closer in the race, he will be more reliant on the pace than the others, but it feels like there will at least be a solid early clip with Taptowne, Broadway Empire, Alpha, Verrazano, and Goldencents all preferring to be up close early. He could go off at a double-digit odds and may offer the best value of what I consider to be the top contenders.
PANTS ON FIRE also drew a disadvantageous post, but he’s another horse, like Goldencents, that I can’t throw out given his recent form. While he’s tried a variety of distances over the past couple of years, his connections are finally realizing that he wants to go a bit shorter and one mile is perfect. He’s versatile enough to be sent out of the gate or to drop over and sit a few lengths off the pace. He’s worked well for this and I’d have to use him on most multi-race tickets.
As for the others, GOLDEN TICKET drew a good post position, but I feel that he’s just a notch below some of the top contenders here. CENTRALINTELIGENCE would interest me a little if he ended up going off at upwards of 20-1 since he handles dirt and was in top form as recently as this past summer, but two turns is a question mark and his return race was pretty dull.
1) BRUJO DE OLLEROS (#4)
2) HYMN BOOK (#3)
3) GOLDENCENTS (#12)
4) PANTS ON FIRE (#11)
Race 9: The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
As I did with the prior juvenile turf race, I’ll separate the contenders into two categories.
There are three European contenders in this one and all of them appear to have a good chance to win. I prefer Chriselliam and Vorda to Al Thakhira if only because they’ve accomplished more to date on the racetrack, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the latter turns out to ultimately be the best of the bunch.
The problem with backing AL THAKHIRA in this spot at what should be a pretty short price is that you really don’t know how good she is. The Rockfel Stakes she won last time was far from being one of the premier two year-old filly races run in Europe, but to her credit she did win it decisively. I’d be a fool not to use her in mutli-race wagers, but I doubt she’ll offer much value.
I like CHRISELLIAM the best by a slight margin. I don’t know what caused her to finally wake up in the Fillies Mile (G1) last time, but that was one of the elite races run in all of Europe for two year-old fillies and she was strong in victory. You know the distance won’t be a problem and she’s been successful over left-handed courses. She’ll need some pace up front, as will many of these, but I think she may be the best horse in the race right now.
I could have just as easily picked VORDA on top, but I think Chriselliam will be a better price and has fewer questions to answer. Vorda has never run beyond six furlongs and never raced around a turn. Her form holds up well alongside Chriselliam’s since both just edged the same foe in Rizeena recently, with Vorda having beaten her in the Prix Morny and Chriselliam having beaten her in the Fillies Mile. She’s a major player.
I think MY CONQUESTADORY is a firm bet-against. The prospect of her going favored in a field this tough is utterly ridiculous. Even without such a disadvantageous post position I’d be against her. The form of the horses who finished behind her in that Summer Stakes has just not really held up. I know that she beat those colts easily, but she did so with a perfect trip and I feel that it’s a race that looks better on paper than it actually was. Last time out in the Alcibiades, she again got an absolutely perfect trip and beat a group of horses who would all be very long odds in this race. She may turn out to be very good, but this field is so much tougher than anything she’s ever faced before and I don’t want any part of her.
Despite the lower grade assigned to it, I think the Miss Grillo Stakes was a stronger race overall than either of the stakes My Conquestadory contested. While the race was dominated by horses who rallied from the back the one who made the most breathtaking move was the eventual winner TESTA ROSSI. She rocketed from last to first with a great burst of acceleration and was very game through the late stages to just hold of Sky Painter. It also should be remembered that it was her first race in almost three months and her first start in the United States. I don’t know if she possesses the raw ability of some of the European shippers, but I liked the improvement I saw in the Miss Grillo and she’s the one out of that race that I have to use.
SKY PAINTER also ran very well in the Miss Grillo, but I wonder if this is a little too much too soon for her. The post will be more of a negative for her than Testa Rossi since I don’t think she has the instant acceleration of that filly and she may find herself wide throughout.
The only other horse that I want to use at a huge price is NESSO. I know that Clenor has beaten her the past couple of times and comes into this race with the flashier overall record, but it’s worth watching those races. Nesso looks like a horse who is just figuring out how to run an effective race around two turns. In the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf she blasted off to the front and really spread out the field through fast fractions early. Then leaving the backstretch she slowed dramatically as if she were tiring, but instead was just been looking around for competition. When the field came to her she rebroke and battled back strongly all the way until midstretch. Clenor was a perfect trip winner, but you could argue that Nesso ran the better race. Then next time they tried rating tactics with Nesso in the Surfer Girl. When Martin Garcia pushed the button around the half-mile pole this filly absolutely took off and rocketed to the lead in the blink of an eye. She sustained that early move around the turn and this time proved an even stiffer challenge for Clenor in the lane. There isn’t much speed in this race and if she can use her inside post position to seize control early I would not be surprised to see her battling on for a piece of the purse in the late stages.
1) CHRISELLIAM (#8)
2) VORDA (#6)
3) TESTA ROSSI (#12)
4) NESSO (#1)
Race 10: The Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Let me make clear that this is primarily a race to appreciate as a racing fan and does not appear to present any great wagering opportunities (that is, unless you’re Street Girl’s biggest fan).
This will be a tactical affair from the outset. Mike Smith on Royal Delta and Gary Stevens on Beholder will likely try to outwit each other during the early part of the race while Javier Castellano on Princess of Sylmar sits back watching it play out. I’ve been a fan of PRINCESS OF SYLMAR for a long time and would love to see her win this, but I believe that it will be very close between her and Royal Delta. Mott has clearly turned the screws on ROYAL DELTA in recent weeks and I expect to see an aggressive mare on Friday night. I don’t think Mike Smith will let BEHOLDER get away early as long as Royal Delta breaks cleanly and I just can’t picture a scenario in which Madella’s filly outduels the champion mare and holds off Princess of Sylmar in the ninth furlong.
The only other horse that I’d consider using strongly is AUTHENTICITY. I know that she’d need the top two to not show up with their best races, but I think she would have won the Zenyatta Stakes with a clean trip and she has just really stepped up her game over her last five starts. Authenticity even on her best day is probably no match for the good Royal Delta, but she could figure into trifectas.
1) PRINCESS OF SYLMAR (#6)
2) ROYAL DELTA (#4)
3) AUTHENTICITY (#2)
4) BEHOLDER (#5)