Breeders Cup Juvenile Sprint (Dirt)
Friday night kicks off with the first running of the Breeders Cup Juvenile Sprint, run over six furlongs at Churchill Downs on the dirt this race is a conditions race, and will have to remain that way for two years before the body that controls the grading of North American races can award it graded status.
On the form I’ve seen on show, the clear choice is the Bob Baffert trained SECRET CIRCLE who has posted by far and away the best Beyer figures in the field by some distance. His first run on the track he readily accounted for a horse called Basmati, who went on to finish a length 5th in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity. A half a length ahead of Basmati was Creative Cause who has since gone on to win the Norfolk Stakes (Grade 1) at Santa Anita and remains prominent in the betting for the Breeders Cup Juvenile Dirt on Saturday.
Shumoos comes over from the UK to try dirt for the first time and she is certainly bred to go well on it, and she has a win to her name on the Polytrack at Kempton on her sole all-weather start – however she has had plenty of racing this season and there will be fresher horses in the field.
Caspar Netscher looks like being rerouted to the Juvenile Turf, and probably Secret Circle’s biggest danger Hansen has a first preference of the Breeders Cup Juvenile Dirt and he looks like going there, which leaves the closely matched pair of Vexor and Trinniberg as the most likely dangers to Secret Circle – but the son of Eddington should have far too much class for these and should open the meeting with a winner for trainer Bob Baffert.
One other possible would be Seeker providing he returned back to his form when winning on a Sloppy track two starts ago. He run a large Beyer that day but has disappointed on two starts (figure wise) on normal dirt.
Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
Won last year by Todd Pletcher and More Than Real, this time round he saddles both Sweet Cat and Stopshoppingmaria and the latter named makes more appeal. She will be making her debut on the turf but her sire More Than Ready has proven more than capable of siring good turf runners with the likes of More Joyous (AUS) and Traffic Guard (UK) being two examples.
The favourite Elusive Kate comes into the race on the back of an impressive win at Longchamp on Arc weekend when dismissing her Prix Marcel Boussac (Group 1) by three lengths and is the early favourite for the race at around 5/2.
One which interests me at the prices is the John-Claude Rouget trained Dear Lavinia, who is bidding to make it back to back wins in the race for owner Bobby Flay. She was beaten 1L by Elusive Kate on her just second career start (couldn’t get to the lead quick enough) before a 0.75L defeat by French Fifteen on her next outing who, yesterday ran a time quicker than older horse Cityscape did when winning the Prix Perth over the same course and distance. The form is beginning to look increasingly stronger by the minute and after an easily win in a Bordeaux listed race last time, I see no reason why she is available at 20/1 and the favourite at 5/2 given there was just a length between them and John Gosden’s filly already had the benefit of being more battle hardened after two prior runs.
Of the American’s Somali Lemonade would have about the best shout judging by her Beyer’s and is around a 5/1 chance – priced about right really and doesn’t offer much in the way of value.
Breeders Cup F&M Sprint
This race moves into its fifth renewal since its inauguration in 2007 and was won last year by Dubai Majesty who came from a wide draw to land the spoils.
It was noticeable at the last Breeders Cup meeting at Churchill Downs that running the rail wasn’t the place to be, and majority of the winners came with swooping efforts down the outside of the field. For races over seven furlongs last year at Churchill, the early lead went 6 wins from 20 (30% win strike-rate) with winners coming from 75% of those sat within 2.5L of the early pace setter after the first two furlongs of the race.
Strictly on the Beyer’s the race looks like being Turbulent Descent’s to lose, and she meets the Beyer par of 103 for previous winners of this race based on her victory of Pomeroys Pistol last time out.
However at the industry 15/8 she doesn’t represent much value given her post position in stall 3 and I therefore feel that at around 8/1 it is worth giving an each-way chance to the Amy Tarrant trained Pomeroys Pistol to reverse that form of last time the pair met.
The daughter of Pomperoy was no match for Turbulent Descent when the pair last met, but improved on that run when easily stretching clear in the Gallant Bloom handicap at Belmont, and in the process clocked a career best BSF of 98. She likes to challenge out wide and doesn’t sit too far off the pace, and from her position in stall 12, she can track the pace up the inside and come with a swooping late effort into the stretch.
Of the remainder if Switch returned back to her three-year-old form she would have solid claims here, but her last three Beyer numbers haven’t been anything other than ordinary and looks vulnerable to the improving three-year-olds who are getting weight.
Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies (Dirt)
First run in 1984 the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Dirt has seen some impressive winners since its inauguration, but the most eye-catching thing is that no European trained horse has won the race and in all honesty I don’t think either Questing or Homecoming Queen will do much to change that either.
The Bob Baffert trained Candrea ran a super race pushing a quick pace last time out, and narrowly went down to Weemissfrankie, and she looks sure to be on the front end and will be in with a chance turning for home.
The California shipper Weemisfrankie beat Candrea last time out and posted a solid BSF of 86 in doing so, but I’m sceptical over the general form of Weemissfrankie who posted a pair of 77’s prior to that win and will have to go some to improve on that all-out figure last time up.
Northern Passion is steadily improving for trainer Mark Casse, and the filly she beat last time in the Natalma (Stephanie’s Kitten) has since gone on to Grade 1 glory, giving the form a timely boost.
The unbeaten Grace Hall comes into this race in good form for trainer Anthony Dutrow but her Beyer figures to date have been nothing out of the ordinary apart from her BSF of 85 sandwiched between two moderate efforts (won easily though) on the clock. At 4/1 I’d rather be a watcher than a player on this one, and it leads me to my selection.
An unoriginal choice I think the favourite MY MISS AURELIA represents good value at around 5/2, and the way she drew clear off the stretch for jockey Corey Nakatani in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park suggests she’ll have no problem running two turns and she could turn this into a rout at the line.
Breeders Cup F&M Turf
Won last year in a tactical affair by Shared Account, I can’t see her getting as lucky this time round and the Graham Motion trained mare looks to be making up the numbers with similar odds to last year.
We have no Midday this year (she goes for the Breeders Cup Turf) and we are left with Announce as Juddmonte’ sole representative, in a race they have won three times in twelve years. Trained in France by trainer Andre Fabre, Announce has run some solid races on better ground, most recently finishing a nose second to Nahrain in the Prix L’Opera at Longchamp on Arc weekend.
Nahrain comes into this race off the back of four wins this year and remains unbeaten for trainer Roger Varian who is having his first runner at a Breeders Cup. She is reunited with the excellent Frankie Dettori who rode her to victory in the Prix L’Opera and she looks set to go well again here, however I fear the ground could possibly be a bit lively for her and the extra furlong against her and I think Announce will reverse Prix L’Opera form.
Dubawi Heights has good tactical speed and comes into this race in good form for trainer Simon Callaghan after winning the Yellow Ribbon last time out, however she was comprehensively beaten by Stacelita with no apparent excuses in the Beverley D Stakes the time before and the only way I can see her winning this, is if we get a similar run affair to last year (no pace, very tactical).
Cambina gets the booking of the excellent Garret Gomez but she has been held by Dubawi Heights and the John Sheriffs’ trained Harmonious on Yellow Ribbon running. That said she is unexposed over this trip and seems she will relish the extra furlong on show, and given she can run a route has an impressive turn of foot – quite whether she is good enough remains to be seen, and I doubt she is in all honesty.
Harmonious was a horse I backed in this last year after an impressive BSF at Keeneland the time before, but she has gone winless this season and was beaten before being hampered in this race last year and I can see nothing in what looks a stronger renewal to suggest she’ll be good enough to win this.
Misty For Me comes into this race off the back of a third placing in the Matron Stakes over a mile at Leopardstown. The time before she readily dispatched Midday in the Pretty Polly but the way the race was run she was always at an advantage out in front, and I feel the winning margin flatters her somewhat. That said she can go well here for Aidan O’Brien and his Coolmore team and has place claims.
Finally Stacelita has turned herself into the Queen of the female grass division out in North America and has put together back-to-back impressive victories in grade 1’s under Ramon Dominguez. She was a good filly over in France but appears to have thrived since switching to America but I’m quite worried about her on the ground (currently described as firm) as that accounted for her most recent defeat, and in fairness it really was a race she should have won.
Taking this into account I can’t really form a solid opinion about anything, the race is wide open and there are a few in with chances, but I think ANNOUNCE could be worth chancing to reverse form with the Roger Varian trained Nahrain. Being by Selkirk (same sire as Nahrain) the Andre Fabre trained mare seems to have no terrors with quicker ground, in fact her better form appears to come over it and at 5/1 she represents a little value in what is a tight race.
Breeders Cup Ladies Classic
The final race on the night, the Ladies Classic is run over nine furlongs on dirt, for fillies and mares aged three and above. Known as the Breeders Cup Distaff from its inception in 1984, the race changed names to the ‘Ladies Classic’ back in 2008 and was won by wonder mare Zenyatta.
Pachattack posted a big BSF of 103 when winning at Arlington back in May of this year, but has since run below that level in three tries since. Consistently running in and around the mid-90’s she looks to have each-way claims but looked held by Ask The Moon in the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland last time up.
Ask The Moon made all to win the grade 1 Spinster Stakes two outings ago, and posted its career best BSF in the process and has clearly improved for the switch to trainer Martin D Wolfson of late. She has posted two of her biggest Beyer’s in three outings since changing trainer, but posted a poor effort last time at the start of October. She’ll have to bounce to her previous efforts to feature here, and given she will go from the front; I can see something running her down in the stretch.
Royal Delta was readily held by Classic fancy Havre De Grace last time in the Beldame Invitational finishing an 8.25L second to that special filly, and prior to that she accounted for It’s Tricky when winning the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga in an impressive display. She looks like holding solid claims here but her Beyer figures suggest she’ll have to improve plenty to run down the favourite.
It’s Tricky showed good early season form for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin but has looked held in her most recent two races by both Royal Delta and Plum Pretty, and I think the daughter of Mineshaft is in need of more distance to run at than what she’ll encounter on Friday – as she hasn’t been getting into her races of late.
Ultra Blend has been running consistent mid-90 Beyer’s throughout her last few runs but I don’t think she’ll have the class to serve it up to the younger fillies here despite being fancied in the market.
This leaves me with another unoriginal choice with the Bob Baffert trained PLUM PRETTY who hopefully will be bidding to give Mr Baffert a second win on the night after Secret Circle hopefully wins earlier on the card. The daughter of Medaglia D’Oro improved to post a list-topping Beyer of 108 when easily winning the Cotillion Stakes after a slight break last time out. She appeared held by both Royal Delta and It’s Tricky prior to that effort, so it could be she is coming to hand at the right time and looks a solid selection to win a first Ladies Classic for her trainer under jockey Rafael Bejarano. She ran 59.40 in a 5f workout recently and looks primed to run the race of her life.