Saturday, November 1
|Jump to race: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12|
Race 4: The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Angela Renee (#2) enters this race as the favorite off a perfect trip win in the Chandelier (G1) over this surface. She figures to get another great trip from her inside post position, and clearly improved going two turns, so I see no reason to take a strong stance against her. Still, I see at least a couple of alternatives that should offer slightly better value.
There’s nothing wrong with Conquest Eclipse (#4), who has steadily improved with each start, and seemed to really appreciate the opportunity to go two turns in the Chandelier. She’s bred to run all day, being by Malibu Moon out of a dam that is a half-sister to the dam of Colonel John. She might have a bit more upside than Angela Renee, and she’ll probably be a slightly better price.
Majestic Presence (#7) is the one that didn’t have a great trip in the Chandelier, going four-wide around both turns, but I’m still not convinced that she’s quite good enough to win a race like this. She’ll be a generous price, so I’ll throw her in underneath in trifectas, but I can’t justify using her more strongly than that.
While I generally think that the Chandelier was a stronger prep than New York’s Frizette, there is one horse that I want to bet out that race. WONDER GAL (#10) was forced to race inside last time on a day when you really didn’t want to be right down on the rail. She didn’t appear to be traveling well on the turn and looked as if she’d get nothing passing the three-eighths pole, but she kept running through the stretch and showed some grit to get up for second. I don’t think the distance is a problem and she hinted at having real ability in a couple of starts over fast tracks during the summer, especially in the Adirondack when she had a less than ideal trip. I don’t think I’m going to get her morning line price of 12/1, but I believe she’s a much more likely winner than that. Wonder Gal is the pick here.
By the Moon ran well in the Frizette, but she also had the best trip, perched outside on the best part of the track over a surface that she clearly handles. I just can’t take her from the 12-hole today, especially considering that there are others to her inside that will be looking to get that same stalking trip.
Top Decile was impressive when winning first out at Saratoga, but I question the quality of the Alcibiades field that she faced last time. I’m always a little suspicious of races where the results are so obviously driven by dynamics, and that is the case with the Alciabdes, where the horses who were 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th early filled out the superfecta.
Selections: 10 – 4 – 2 – 7
$15 Win 10
$4 Exacta 2,4,7 with 10
Race 5: The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf
When I started handicapping this race, I knew that I’d want to focus on the European runners, but I assumed that I’d probably be against Dank at a relatively short price. However, the more I looked at the form of the other Euros, I had a hard time marrying myself to any of them, and kept coming back to Dank, who will be my pick in this race.
While DANK (#3) hasn’t been close in either start this year, I think it’d be a mistake to say that she’s off form. On the contrary, I’d argue that she may have run the best race of her career in the Dubai Duty Free (G1). If you haven’t watched that race, I highly recommend that you head over to YouTube and check out the trip she got.
While she can get ten furlongs over firm turf courses in this country, in Europe Dank is more of an 8F-9F specialist, so not only was she running against the toughest field she’s ever faced in the Prince of Wales (G1), but she was traveling a distance that is more demanding than what she prefers. Let’s keep in mind that prior to last year’s Beverly D., Dank had never even contested a European Group 1 race, so her connections were a little ambitious with her placings overseas this year. I know that Dank’s clearly had some issues since then, but her camp sounds confident coming into this and I’m expecting another big run.
Just the Judge (#2) obviously has some ability, but I think she’s going to take some play here based on her American form, and I’m not in love with either of her efforts in this country. Stephanie’s Kitten clearly outran her in the Beverly D. and I get the feeling that she’s facing a tougher field here than the one she beat in the E. P. Taylor just two weeks ago.
Secret Gesture (#5) has proven to be a cut below Grade 1 quality in Europe, but has clearly run well enough to be a factor in this race. However, I do wonder how suited to American racing she is since she appears to be a bit one-paced, and this mile and a quarter distance over firm ground could be slightly short of her best distance.
Fiesolana (#6) intrigues me. She’s more of a miler in Europe, but Dank has proven that a European miler can stretch to a mile and a quarter in this country, especially over a turf course like Santa Anita’s. This one has quality and should not be dismissed.
Finally, the only American that I’m interested in using is Stephanie’s Kitten (#10). She probably should have won the Beverly D. and may have been best in the Diana before that. After a rough start to the year, she’s entering this race in some of the best form of her life and seems to have actually improved when stretched out to distances beyond nine furlongs. John Velazquez may have to use her a bit early to get position, but I think she’s a player in here and has a real chance to take down the top prize.
Selections: 3 – 10 – 6 – 5
$20 Win 3
$6 Exacta Box 3,10
$4 Exacta 3 with 2,5,6
Race 6: The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint
The pace of this race needs to be discussed, because I think it will affect the outcome. While there are a few pressing types entered, the only true frontrunner at sprint distances is STONETASTIC (#3). As favorable of a setup as she got when wining the Prioress—loose on the lead through moderate fractions while riding a gold rail—she was against race dynamics in the TCA Stakes last time. R Free Roll, who was she was battling with early, is extremely quick and Stonetastic was able to go with her early and put her away coming to the top of the stretch. While she could not withstand the charge of perfect trip winner Leigh Court, I thought she was game in defeat. Stonetastic’s true ability lies somewhere between those two efforts. If she’s able to get out to a clear early lead, I think she’ll be tough to run down.
I considered making Stonetastic my top pick, but ultimately sided with ARTEMIS AGROTERA (#5). She’s clearly fast enough to win this race and she’s supposed to get a great stalking trip just off the leader early. Plus, you know that she’s going to be running at the end of this demanding seven furlong distance, having shown great finishing power in each of her last three starts. She may not be the most clever pick, but she just looks like the right horse to me in this year’s Filly and Mare Sprint.
I’m sure most of you know that I’m a big fan of Sweet Reason (#1), so of course I’d love to see her win this race. However, I have a hard time backing a horse that may not get the pace she needs and consistently runs a bit slower than her main competitors. Perhaps I’m being a bit hard on this three-time Grade 1 winner, but this is the Breeders’ Cup and she’s not going to catch a break. I’ll be rooting for her, but betting on my top two choices instead.
Little Alexis (#2) ran fine in both the Test and Cotillion, and I’ll certainly use her underneath, but I’m not sure that she’s quite good enough to win this race. The aforementioned Leigh Court got the right trip in the TCA, but is in great form and should sit another nice trip in this race. I suppose that she’s just returned as a better horse now as a four year-old, but I wish I could see her do it one more time on the dirt before having to back her in a race this tough. Perhaps I’m being too dismissive of a major player, but she’s not for me.
Finally, there’s Judy the Beauty, who put in an exceptional effort to be second to Groupie Doll in this race last year. The problem is that she hasn’t run quite as well in four starts this year, despite winning three of them. It also bothers me that she didn’t show up at all in her sternest test on Derby Day, and has only run once since then. If she gets back to last year’s form then she’s a major player, but I’m dubious.
Selections: 5 – 3 – 1 – 2
$15 Win 5
$10 Win 3
$5 Exacta Box 1,3,5
Race 7: The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing this race because there’s just too much to say, and I don’t have a strong opinion. My reasoning for picking Tightend Touchdown is this:
While you generally want horses that have experience over this downhill turf course, I get the feeling that the group of horses that have been running in the turf sprint stakes in California are not as strong as those we’ve seen in past years. Sweet Swap, Ambitious Brew, and Homerun Kitten are consistent, hard-knocking runners, but if I’m looking for horses with experience over this downhill course, I’d much rather go to the horses that got that experience running in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Reneesgotzip (#1) tops that list by quite remarkably finishing in the money in this race two years in a row, but she was done no favors at the post position draw, breaking from the difficult rail post in this 14-horse field. Instead, I’m taking a shot with the horse that was dead-even with her at the wire last year.
TIGHTEND TOUCHDOWN (#4) hasn’t shown the brilliant speed that he displayed in 2013 through four starts this year, but I think it would be a mistake to say that he’s lost a step. He twice held his own against the very tough Ben’s Cat and also caught less than firm turf courses on a few occasions. Beyond Reneesgotzip, there isn’t an abundance of early speed in this year’s race, so I think Tightend Touchdown should be able to get out into a forward, stalking position once again. He owns one of the best races over this downhill course, and I feel like he’s going to be a pretty generous price in this race.
I will also use Wesley Ward’s pair of No Nay Never (#14) and Undrafted (#11), who are both very talented, but they’re each making their first starts down the hill, and in four runnings of this race at Santa Anita, every winner had some prior experience on the downhill course.
Selections: 4 – 14 – 11 – 1
$10 Win 4
$2 Exacta Box 1,4,11,14
Race 8: The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
They both drew terrible post positions, but we didn’t see any indications of a bias on Friday’s card, so I’m not going to let the draws dissuade me from making DAREDEVIL (#12) and UPSTART (#13) my top two choices. I know that the Champagne was run over a wet track, but they both finished up very strongly in solid time over a surface that was yielding extremely slow closing fractions throughout the day. These are two very talented colts who just appear to be faster than their opponents.
As for the others, Carpe Diem (#9) has some talent, but he couldn’t have gotten a more perfect trip in the Breeders’ Futurity and needs to run faster this time in a race that will surely feature a faster pace. He’s far from impossible, but I think he’s a cut below the two coming out of the Champagne.
There’s only one other horse that I feel needs to be discussed and that’s TEXAS RED (#7), who I believe merits some consideration in here. The Frontunner was a race that was dominated by horses that raced close to the pace and Texas Red was the only runner to launch a serious closing bid. After a moderate opening half in 47 2/5, leader American Pharaoh ran his second half-mile in a strong 48 2/5 seconds making it very hard on horses trying to make up ground. Texas Red was rating at the back of the main body of runners, and was forced to swing wide for the drive. He passed a few horses in the stretch, but never really had a chance to make his presence felt, and Kent Desormeaux wrapped up on him before the wire. However, what really caught my eye was the way Texas Red continued on past the wire, galloping out past the winner into the far turn. He should have gotten a lot out of the race and he’s certain to get a more favorable pace scenario in this spot. A win may be asking a lot of this horse, but I think he’s going to make some noise here at a big price.
I have to place a small win wager on Texas Red, but I’ll mostly be using him underneath in exactas and trifectas.
Selections: 12 – 13 – 7 – 9
$5 Win 7 (Payout: $74.50)
$5 Exacta Box 7,12,13
$2 Trifecta 12,13 with 7 with 9,12,13
$2 Trifecta 12,13 with 9,12,13 with 7
Race 9: The Breeders’ Cup Turf
You don’t have to be an expert in evaluating overseas form to see that Telescope and Flintshire are standouts in here.
I expect Flintshire to take more money coming off a second place finish in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, so I’m giving the slight nod to TELESCOPE (#1) at what should be a more generous price. Based on his performance in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, I think that his horse is going to love Santa Anita’s turf course. The turf course was pretty firm during the Royal Ascot meet and a mile and half at Ascot begins with a long downhill run, not dissimilar to what he’ll face at the start of this race. Telescope has the tactical speed to be placed close to the pace, which should be a great asset in a race featuring only one confirmed frontrunner. He’s been steadily improving throughout his career and looks set for a top performance here.
I am by no means against Flintshire (#7). The only knock I have against him is that he is a little inconsistent, but that could be due to the fact that he’s faced a few soft turf courses in the past year, and he clearly prefers good-to-firm ground. He actually owns a record of 6-3-3-0 on good or firm courses, while he is just 4-0-1-0 when conditions have been worse than “good.” He’s one of three that I’ll be using strongly in this race.
Main Sequence (#12) needs to be discussed. I’ve been a big fan of this horse throughout his American campaign, but he tends to break very slowly, and it’s going to be a difficult task to rally from the back of this 12-horse field if the pace is on the slow side. While he’s run just well enough to win three Grade 1 races in a row, some of the credit has to go to Rajiv Maragh, who timed his move perfectly. John Velazquez will need to make sure that he doesn’t leave him with too much to do late.
I am very interested in only one American runner, and it’s actually one that Main Sequence beat last time. If you had originally dismissed TWILIGHT ECLIPSE (#2), I’d urge you to give him a closer look. This is a horse that needs fast ground to run his best races, so he should love Santa Anita’s turf course. I actually think that he showed an affinity for Santa Anita’s turf course in last year’s Breeders’ Cup and would have finished in the money that day if not for an unlucky trip. He was squeezed back at the start, putting him much farther back in the pack than he prefers to be. Coming to the top of the stretch, he had plenty of run, but was stymied down on the rail. Once he got clear at the three-sixteenths pole, he actually put in a strong finish, but had been left with too much to do. Unlike last year, he enters this year’s race in perhaps the best form of his career. He should sit a great trip just in behind pace-setting Imagining early, and I think he has a real chance to figure into the trifecta at a big price.
Selections: 1 – 2 – 7 – 12
$15 Win 1
$10 Win 2
$5 Exacta Box 1,2,7
Race 10: The Breeders’ Cup Sprint
As is the case in the Turf Sprint, I do not have a very strong opinion in its dirt equivalent. There’s plenty of speed signed on, so I’m primarily looking at horses that can come from a few lengths off the pace.
My top pick is PALACE (#8). How can you not love this horse? Since breaking his maiden for a $20,000 tag, he’s become a dual Grade 1 winner and is arguably the strongest candidate for an Eclipse Award based on his 2014 résumé. He’s put down one solid performance after another since June and his running style fits this race perfectly. The morning line price of 6/1 would be very fair.
I’ll also use Rich Tapestry (#6), whose U.S. debut was impressive and certainly flattered by the performance of Goldencents on Friday. Salutos Amigos (#9) has taken an unconventional route to this race, but if you like Palace, it’s hard to dismiss this consistent runner, who appears to be in career form. While I’m guessing that no horses in this sample shipped across the country between starts, David Jacobson is 13-for-36 ($2.30 ROI) with last-out winners coming off 1-7 day layoffs in dirt sprints.
Selections: 8 – 6 – 9 – 4
$10 Win 8
$2 Exacta Box 6,8,9
Race 11: The Breeders’ Cup Mile
With Wise Dan on the sidelines, there are no American runners that I can get excited about in this race. Obviously appears to head the U.S.-based contingent, but he is supposed to get early pressure from Tourist, if that one can keep up. Early pressure or not, Obbviously just likes to run fast early regardless of who else is in the race. He’s an exciting horse to watch run, but I just don’t think he possesses the finishing power to hold off the Europeans after laying down his typical blazing early fractions.
Toronado (#5) owns the best form overseas. There’s little to fault about his three starts this year. He won the prestigious Queen Anne, and there’s no disgrace in losing to Kingman two back. The only knock against him is the price, since he is supposed to go favored here. While he may be the most likely winner, there’s little room for error in a 14-horse going a mile at Santa Anita. I’ll be using him strongly in multi-race wagers and exotic plays, but I’ll be backing others on the win end.
Of the other European shippers, I’m most interested in ANODIN (#9). Goldikova’s full-brother is not the win machine that his sister was, taking just 2 of his first 13 starts, but he appears to have returned as an improved horse this year, putting in three very respectable efforts against Grade 1 company. Last time, he was sitting in a good spot coming to the final furlong and a half of the Prix de la Foret, but just as Olivier Peslier was pressing the button, Anodin encountered traffic and was forced to steady, losing momentum at a critical point. He tried to re-rally in the final sixteenth, but the race had already slipped away. Goldikova certainly loved the firm ground at Santa Anita, so there’s a at least a chance that Anodin will follow suit. At what should be a fair price somewhere in range of 6/1, he’s my top pick.
While Anodin had some trouble late in the Prix de la Foret, Karakontie (#14) had a disaster of a trip in that race. He was steadied badly early on, and was out of position and in a bad spot for much of the running thereafter. This three year-old has some quality to him, but I wish that he had drawn a better post position.
The other European runner that I’ll be using strongly is VEDA (#3). Her form doesn’t looked quite as convincing as that of Toronado or Anodin, but she did run an excellent race in the French 1,000 Guineas, and should be set to move forward after returning from a four-month layoff with a solid showing last time. She figures to work out a decent trip if she can race as close to the pace as she did last time, and unlike some others in here, she still has plenty of upside.
Selections: 9 – 5 – 3 – 14
$15 Win 9
$10 Win 3
$2 Exacta Box 3,5,9,14 (Payout: $663.40)
Race 12: The Breeders’ Cup Classic
And this is it. The Classic will definitely decide the three year-old championship, and likely Horse of the Year as well. As I had discussed when analyzing the Jockey Club Gold Cup last month, I think that this year’s three year-old crop is an exceptionally strong one, and I believe that they will dominate this year’s Classic. The pickings are just pretty slim among the older horses.
I’m not a fan of Cigar Street, who has yet to run fast enough to win a Grade 1 race since coming back from injury, and beat an inferior field last time. He’s never been tested against a field this tough and I doubt he’ll be up to the task, especially considering the likely pace scenario.
Moreno ran two excellent races at Saratoga, and did not get his preferred trip in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. I actually think that he’s good enough to win a race of this stature, but I have a hard time believing he’ll be able to survive the inevitable duel with Bayern and still hold off the late runners.
Zivo is the only older horse that I can make a serious case for, though he still would need to run the race of his life to win this. He’s not without a chance and the price will be fair, but I think it makes more sense to use him underneath in trifectas.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I know that Bayern is the fastest dirt horse on paper, but he just does not want to go a mile and a quarter. This is not the speed-favoring dirt surface that we saw last year, and the pace scenario and surface will not be as favorable as the ones Bayern faced in the Pennsylvania Derby and Haskell. I don’t deny that he has real talent, but he’s running in the wrong race.
That leaves us with the three legitimate candidates for the the Three Year-Old Championship, and they are, in my opinion, the three main players in this race: Shared Belief, Tonalist, and California Chrome.
TONALIST (#11) is my pick in the Classic.
I have loved Tonalist horse from Day 1—literally, I was raving about him in his debut—and he has delivered on his potential and then some. He was excellent in the Peter Pan and Belmont and ran much better than his finish would suggest in the Travers, yet he took it to a new level in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. With the blinkers off, he was a completely different horse. Headstrong in the past, this time he relaxed for Joel Rosario, advanced through the pack with little urging, and finished powerfully through the lane once clear. Zivo tried to go with him late, but Tonalist was an authoritative winner. Tonalist loves this distance, and his new running style fits this race well. I think he is a relatively likely winner, and the price should be fair. This is one of my strongest opinions of the day.
Shared Belief (#6) is a rare talent. He’s fast enough to win at sprint distances, yet possesses the stamina to relax and finish going ten furlongs. He’s undefeated through seven starts, and coming off two consecutive Grade 1 wins against older horses. That’s quite a résumé. I really don’t have anything negative to say about this horse, other than that he’s facing the toughest field he’s ever encountered and is going to be a short price. I’m not against him by any stretch, but I do think Tonalist is just as talented and will be offer better value. I’m really looking forward to this match-up.
And finally, let’s not forget California Chrome (#13). I know that some are tossing him, and I think that’s a serious mistake. His Pennsylvania Derby was bad, but things just didn’t go right for him that day. Victor Espinoza was visibly concerned about being stuck down inside early on and missed an opportunity to pressure Bayern for the lead. I would have preferred to see him finish up a bit better, but Parx is a quirky surface and there was a clear speed bias, so I’m willing to be forgiving. Is it really so crazy to think that he could get back to his form from this spring? If he does, he is a major player in this race. The Derby winner handles this distance, has proven on multiple occasions that he’s fast enough to beat a field of this quality, and absolutely loves this track. I don’t know what kind of price he’s going to go off at, but I’m too afraid of him to leave him out of my wagers.
Good luck, everyone! It should be a fantastic race, to cap off a fascinating card.
Selections: 11 – 13 – 6 – 8
$25 Win 11
$10 Exacta 11 with 6,13
$5 Exacta 6,13 with 11