Here’s my analysis of all of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup races. Enjoy and good luck!
Race 4: The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
It’s pretty obvious that ARTEMIS AGROTERA and SWEET REASON are the two main players in this race since all indicators are that the Frizette was a much stronger race than the local Chandelier.
I have to make SWEET REASON my top pick because she clearly ran the best race in the Frizette after ducking into the gap at the start and making a middle move to get into the race. The pace was slow and she did well to make a dent into the winner’s margin of victory in the stretch. The major concern has to be the racetrack, since speed generally did pretty well today, but Sweet Reason does not have to be as far back as many might think. She was close to a fast pace in the Spinaway and only found herself so far back early in the Frizette because of the break. She likes to make a middle move into contention and that might just work on this racetrack as long as she can stay within range of the leaders.
ARTEMIS AGROTERA would be no surprise. She has speed and the rail and Jose Lezcano would be well advised to take advantage of those factors and try to wire this field. Two turns should not be an issue since there is plenty of stamina on her dam’s side and she should be staying on strongly late when some of the others are gasping in the final furlongs.
There is one other filly who I’m interested in using and she should be a decent price. CONCAVE has not yet run fast enough to contend in a race this tough, but I think that the extra distance and switch to dirt are really going to agree with her. Her dam, Galadriel, was a stakes winning router on dirt and she has produced primarily dirt runners. Concave’s sire Colonel John should provide her more than enough stamina to handle this trip and I think she could show up with a much improved effort at a price. I’ve made her my third pick, but she’s the one I would try to get into exotic wagers with the two favorites.
1) SWEET REASON (#9)
2) ARTEMIS AGROTERA (#1)
3) CONCAVE (#6)
4) SHE’S A TIGER (#10)
Race 5: The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf
The Europeans appear to be stronger than the American contingent in this one and I prefer the less fancied runner, ROMANTICA. DANK will probably go favored off her impressive score in the Beverly D., but I think all that race did was confirm that the top U.S. fillies and mares cannot quite compete with a legitimate Group 1 or Group 2 European. ROMANTICA is that type of animal. She won the Prix Jean Romanet (G1) over subsequent Prix de l’Opera (G1) winner Dalkala and probably sports better European form than even DANK. In taking a closer look at her races in France, I think it’s notable that her poor performances both came at 1 1/2 miles so she may just not want to run that far. Furthermore, she seems to prefer firmer turf, which she will certainly get tomorrow. She would be a great bet at anything close to her 6-1 morning line.
DANK can obviously win, but I’m not sure the value will be there for me to make her a top selection. Instead I’ll try to sneak the American LAUGHING into the mix as the clear lone speed in this race. Laughing has had a fantastic season that has seen her go undefeated, but this is by far her toughest test to date. I honestly wasn’t planning on liking her in this spot, but the dearth of early speed is striking and this mare can really sprint home when she gets a favorable setup. Reports that she hasn’t been eating well since arriving in California are a concern, but I think she’ll be a large enough price for me to take my chances.
1) ROMANTICA (#2)
2) LAUGHING (#7)
3) DANK (#1)
4) ALTERITE (#4)
Race 6: The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint
This selection is more sentimental than value-based. I was at Saratoga for both of DANCE TO BRISTOL’s Saratoga victories and was impressed by her grittiness and determination to get her nose on the wire first. How can you not love a filly who has been in the exacta in 18 of 19 career races. She always shows up and can be placed relatively close to the pace so I wouldn’t be too concerned about her being overly hindered by a speed bias.
Xavier Perez rides DANCE TO BRISTOL with so much confidence and it may have worked against him last time when he risked going four-wide all the way around the turn on a racetrack that was strongly favoring the inside path. She earned a 94 Beyer for that effort, but I believe that the number could have been much higher if she had gotten closer to the rail at any point in the race. She’s continued to hold her good form and if she’s in contention past midstretch you know she’ll fight for it.
GROUPIE DOLL can obviously win, but her name recognition and popularity will probably make her the favorite and I’m not sure that she still holds a significant edge over this bunch. The positives are that she drew a great post position and prefers seven furlongs to any other distance, but she’s going to need to be hard ridden to stay close early over a surface that has been favoring speed.
If I liked Dance to Bristol out of her wide trip in the Gallant Bloom, then of course I also have to use DANCE CARD, who was also hurt by that rail bias and put in a very strong return effort in her first race in nearly 10 months. I’m not totally convinced that this is her best distance and the track may be against her, but she has a ton of ability and a step forward off her return would put her in the mix.
I had originally liked SUMMER APPLAUSE a little bit as a long shot closing turn back option, but her task has been made tougher by the nature of the racetrack.
1) DANCE TO BRISTOL (#8)
2) GROUPIE DOLL (#11)
3) DANCE CARD (#4)
4) SUMMER APPLAUSE (#7)
Race 7: The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
I struggled with this race for a long time. I have no knocks against MIZDIRECTION since she loves the downhill course and won this race off a similar layoff last year, but I doubt she’s going to be a very enticing price. I picked her third, but I’m inclined to look elsewhere for wagering purposes.
There is once again plenty of speed in this edition of the Turf Sprint. Reneesgotzip, Tightend Touchdown, and Spring to the Sky are all wickedly fast early and the fractions should be swift. I like RENEESGOTZIP best of those aforementioned runners since the pace cannot possibly be faster than it was in this race last year and she hung on gamely in the late stages that day. You can argue that she’s even better this year after two facile Polytrack wins at Del Mar and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her take them a long way up front.
One of the decisions you must make in assessing the runners in this race is determining which, if any, of the horses you want to bet back out of the Eddie D. Stakes. Chips All In was a game winner and favored Unbridled’s Note came with his usual strong late rally to get third, but neither will be much of a price and I think others ran better races. ROCK ME BABY probably should have won that day since he got a great tracking trip up until the eighth pole when Maldonado tried to swing him out for room but found none. He had nowhere to run for the final sixteenth of a mile and may have burst clear late with a clean trip. However, I have trouble liking him much in this race because he’s hard to recommend off his prior form.
CARACORTADO is the only one I really want out of the Eddie D. It was his first start in more than 20 months and he didn’t have a great trip either. After dropping back early, Aaron Gryder tried to advance on him midway through the race, but he encountered traffic and was forced to steady between horses. When he swung outside he came with a good burst of energy and briefly appeared as if he might run right by the leaders, but flattened out late. He should show up with an improved performance tomorrow.
I wasn’t sure what to do with CAPO BASTONE. He was excellent last time in the King’s Bishop and is by a sire who excels with turf runners. According to Pletcher he has worked very well on the turf during his career and I won’t be surprised if he runs well, but I’d need a decent price to include him.
Experience on the downhill turf course is historically very important in these races so perhaps it’s counterintuitive that I’ve made a horse who has never tried sprinting down the hill my top selection. There’s little doubt in my mind that the horse who has run the best overall turf races is JERANIMO and I’m going to hope that he can transfer the explosive late kick that he has displayed time and again going two turns to this downhill course. It’s worth noting that early in his career before he was put on a steady diet of turf routes he was actually a very effective closing sprinter on synthetic surfaces. He definitely still possesses the speed to win this race as he showed with his late rush from the back of the pack in the Eddie Read (G1) over the summer, but whether he handles the downhill course is anyone’s guess. I know that I can’t ignore one of the best horses in the race, especially when he’ll likely go off at double-digit odds, and I’ll be using him heavily.
1) JERANIMO (#1)
2) RENEESGOTZIP (#4)
3) MIZDIRECTION (#12)
4) CAPO BASTONE (#9)
Race 8: The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
I don’t have that much to say about this one. I just feel that HAVANA and STRONG MANDATE are the two best horses in the race and I prefer the latter due to the likely price difference.
I still believe that STRONG MANDATE ran much better in his Hopeful score than the Beyer speed figure would suggest. Nearly all the horses who have come back to run back out of the race have improved their Beyer speed figures by about 20 to 30 points and Strong Mandate dismissed them with disdain. I have no idea what happened in the Champagne, but he never really looked comfortable being taken so far off the pace and may have just lost his competitive spirit. The speed bias on the main track should have Rosario looking to send him early and being forwardly placed may be the key to this horse’s success. His pedigree indicates that two turns should be right up his alley and I think he might be able to outstay anyone who tries to go with him early.
HAVANA obviously possesses a ton of ability, but he’s going to be hard-pressed to make the front early and will be on the engine the entire way with Strong Mandate likely chasing just off his flank the entire way. He may just be able to overcome all of that since he holds a significant speed figure edge over this field and ran a much better race in the Champagne that the final time would suggest. I concede that he’s probably a more likely winner than my top selection, but he’ll also be at least a third of the price, which is why I flip-flopped them.
I threw SMARTY’S ECHO in as a wacky third pick since his pedigree says dirt may move him up, but he, like many others, will need to work out the right trip in a large field. TAP IT RICH is a horse that many will be honing in on to try and beat the favorite(s), but I wonder if it’s asking too much of this horse to step right up into this race. Baffert has admitted that he’s mentally immature and if he breaks slowly once again his race could be over at the start. He’s definitely talented, but I can’t endorse betting him at a short price.
1) STRONG MANDATE (#14)
2) HAVANA (#13)
3) SMARTY’S ECHO (#1)
4) TAP IT RICH (#6)
Race 9: The Breeders’ Cup Turf
POINT OF ENTRY is perhaps my favorite horse currently racing. I was thrilled with his huge effort in this race last year, but bitterly disappointed that traffic troubles cost him a much-deserved victory. I still believe that with a clean trip he should have won impressively and been declared the Champion Turf Male and perhaps Horse of the Year. Instead, Wise Dan is a celebrity and Point of Entry is just another contender in this race a year later as he seeks redemption.
Everyone knows that the preparation for this race has not gone according to plan as he missed the majority of the season with an injury, but I’m confident that Shug wouldn’t be running him here if he didn’t think he was going to win. In every interview Shug stresses how important to him this race is and how much he believes this horse deserves to win a championship race like this. POINT OF ENTRY hinted at the start of this year that he was better than ever with his win over Animal Kingdom at Gulfstream and can be forgiven for a merely workmanlike win in the Manhattan which was contested over a yielding turf course. He prefers the firmer going he’ll get tomorrow and I’ll be both betting and rooting for him in what will likely be his final race.
THE FUGUE is the main challenger. There’s nothing to fault about her European form, but she’s no better than St. Nicholas Abbey, who Point of Entry easily handled in this race last year. I thin the good Point of Entry will beat her, but she’s certainly a worthy rival.
LITTLE MIKE won this race last year in what is still one of the most shocking results I’ve ever seen. I was sure he could not get a mile and a half, especially not after being denied the early lead. I was proven wrong that day and again last time in the Turf Classic when he was much the best after making an early move into the lead. I’ve picked him third, but I have the utmost respect for this gritty gelding.
1) POINT OF ENTRY (#8)
2) THE FUGUE (#7)
3) LITTLE MIKE (#4)
4) BIG BLUE KITTEN (#10)
Race 10: The Breeders’ Cup Sprint
This was another race that I had a lot of trouble with. There are not many horses that I could build solid cases for and I arrived at my selections more through process of elimination than anything else.
I think that SECRET CIRCLE is the most likely winner, but I’m concerned that he’s such an obvious contender that his price will dip lower than the threshold at which I’m willing to bet him. His return didn’t seem to take too much out of him and signaled that he’s improved since he was last seen as a young three year-old. I always thought that this horse would benefit from a permanent turn back in distance and he really doesn’t have to improve much at all off his return race to win this. It’s also a feather in his cap that he possesses the early speed to be right up on the pace if the track is continuing to help speed by the time this race is run.
I ended up turning to last year’s winner, TRINNIBERG, as my top selection since I he’ll be the best price of the horses I like. I know that it appears that his form has gone down the tubes, but I can make excuses for most of his poor performances this year. He obviously never had a chance in the Dubai Golden Shaheen since he’s not a synthetic runner. After the Dubai trip he was brought back to the races a little too quickly in the Churchill Downs Handicap and was asked to run over a wet surface that he has proven he doesn’t particularly like. He was given some time off after that and returned in the Smile Sprint Handicap where he faced a couple of today’s rivals. Trinniberg lost to Bahamian Squall that day, but I thought he ran the best race. Willie Martinez was a little under-aggressive down the backstretch and allowed Trinniberg to get shuffled back to fourth on the far turn. He appeared to be uncomfortable racing in traffic and could have easily throw in the towel, but instead made a nice rally up the rail in the stretch once he found room. He flattened out in the final sixteenth, but turned in an excellent overall effort.
It’s hard to say exactly what happened last time in his Santa Anita prep for this. It’s possible that coming off the layoff he just wasn’t prepared to run quite as fast in the early going as the freakishly fast Distinctiv Passion. He hadn’t worked particularly well coming into that race and may have just been dull. The margin of defeat is exaggerated since his he was basically eased form the quarter pole home so I’m willing to be forgiving. Since that race he’s put down two fast half-mile drills and I expect him to show a lot more speed tomorrow, which should help his chances over this racetrack. Whether he’s still good enough to win a race like this remains to be seen, but I’m willing to take a chance on him at a price.
The other two logical contenders are the first and second place finishers from the Vosburgh, JUSTIN PHILLIP and PRIVATE ZONE, but I don’t have anything particularly clever to say about either of them. I won’t be surprised if either wins, but I won’t be running to the windows to bet them at 4-1 or less.
1) TRINNIBERG (#11)
2) SECRET CIRCLE (#9)
3) JUSTIN PHILLIP (#1)
4) PRIVATE ZONE (#7)
Race 11: The Breeders’ Cup Mile
I’ve read nothing but negative things about OLYMPIC GLORY. Everyone seems to be dismissing his chances with most not even acknowledging him as the main challenger to WISE DAN. It just doesn’t make sense to me. OLYMPIC GLORY’s connections at first weren’t even going to come for the race, but decided he was still doing well enough to take a shot. There’s this notion floating around that he won’t handle the firm turf at Santa Anita, but he had no trouble handling a very firm course at Deauxville when he nearly nailed Moonlight Cloud at the finish line of the Jacques Le Marois (G1). This is classy European horse who appeared to elevate his game to another level with addition of blinkers last time. He’s going to be five times the price of Wise Dan–perhaps more–and I think he’s got a great chance to upset, especially considering that there’s speed to set up his late run.
WISE DAN is immensely talented, but his last race proved that he’s not invincible. Perhaps he’s the most likely winner once again, but he’s probably going to be an underlay and I think it’s worth taking a small shot against him. SILVER MAX ran the race of his life to beat WISE DAN last time, but he’ll be hard-pressed to duplicate that feat tomorrow with the speedy Obviously breathing down his neck the entire way. BRIGHT THOUGHT impressed me over the winter, but returning in this spot might be asking too much.
I believe that this is a two-horse race and I’ll take the better price on OLYMPIC GLORY.
1) OLYMPIC GLORY (#5)
2) WISE DAN (#8)
3) SILVER MAX (#3)
4) BRIGHT THOUGHT (#6)
Race 12: The Breeders’ Cup Classic
I formed my opinions about this race before I entertained any notions of a speed bias. Since I had strong feelings about the winner of this race, I’ve decided not to change my reasoning and will instead hope for a fair track, or at the least a fairly run race.
I’m mildly against GAME ON DUDE. He may win as the favorite, but I think he’s at his best when allowed to set his own pace up front and that is just not going to happen in this race. Both MORENO and FORT LARNED are faster early and will likely take advantage of their inside post positions to outrun Game on Dude to the lead. I don’t doubt that Game on Dude can stalk the pace and still win, but I don’t want to rely on him employing such tactics as the favorite.
I have to pick PALACE MALICE as my Classic selection. He’s at the top of the three year-old class right now and his last two races are just a lot better than they look on paper. He would have won the Travers if not for a poor start and then was hurt by the rail bias in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last time. Trakus reveals that he ran 67 feet farther than Ron the Greek in the Gold Cup, which means that his average speed was actually marginally faster than the winner’s—and that’s not even considering the fact that he was racing on a much worse part of the racetrack. If he were coming into this race off wins in those two races–as I believe he should be–he’d be vying for favoritism. As it is, he’s 10-1 on the morning line and I think that is fantastic value on the horse who I consider to be the most likely winner of this race. He’s continued to train well since the Gold Cup and possesses the tactical speed to get first run on the trio of frontrunners surrounding him in the gate.
I’ll lean heavily on Palace Malice to win the race and will use him in exotics with primarily MUCHO MACHO MAN, WILL TAKE CHARGE, and FLAT OUT, who should all present decent value. MUCHO MACHO MAN loves this track and seems to finally be getting back to the fantastic form he showed in this race last year. WILL TAKE CHARGE is a grinder who loves this distance and should be charging late when others are stopping. The same goes for FLAT OUT, who ran a deceptively good race in the Classic last year and was also hurt by a wide trip in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He’s had a great season overall and would be no surprise if the pace heats up.
1) PALACE MALICE (#8)
2) MUCHO MACHO MAN (#6)
3) WILL TAKE CHARGE (#10)
4) FLAT OUT (#12)