Breeders Cup Marathon
The second night of the Breeders Cup meeting opens up with the Breeders Cup Marathon, a grade 2 event run over a mile and six furlongs on dirt. European horses have won two of three renewals and look to hold solid claims once more this time round.
Straight into the European challenge we go, and firstly we look at Harrison’s Cave, who has been beaten on all his tries on the Polytrack at Dundalk but has improved on the turf of late. The stable won this race with Man Of Iron two years ago but to my knowledge of the form and speed ratings, Harrisons Cave doesn’t have the ability to win at this sort of level, and it is unclear how he will handle dirt for the first time – although his half brother Golden Sword went well on a synthetic surface over in Dubai.
Andre Fabre has to be respected when sending horses to the Breeders Cup (4 wins and 11 places from 41 runners). Brigantin comes into this race off the back of a solid placing in the Prix du Cadran at the start of October. He has solid form with both Americain and Dunaden (Melbourne Cup winners) this season, and was the only horse to make up ground from the rear in a tactically run Prix Kergolay and his form can be marked up a notch for that. If he handles the dirt, and he certainly looks like he possibly will (Fabre is a very astute man) then he has the class to make some serious noise at a good price.
The final runner from Europe is the filly Meeznah, who comes into this race off the back of a solid effort at Ascot in Champions Day when fifth behind Dancing Rain over a mile and a half. She has been running solid figures all season and will enjoy the step back up to fourteen furlongs. It remains to be seen how she handles the dirt but she would be one with a massive chance providing she handles it, and is worth keeping in mind for the exotics.
Last year’s winner Eldaafer isn’t coming into this race with the same sharpness he was exhibiting this time last year and was well beaten behind Birdrun with no apparent excuse in the Brooklyn over a mile and a half at Belmont a few runs back. He benefitted from a rough run race last time and it’s difficult to envisage him winning again.
A. U. Miner was troubled in this race last year after coming into it off the back of a large BSF at Hawthorne the time prior, and looks to make amends this time round after a similarly large BSF last time out. Settled towards the rear he began to make ground on the field before running into a dead-end and losing all momentum 2.5F out, he dropped back to tenth before re-rallying under pressure to finish fourth (placed third) beaten only 3.75L by winner Eldaafer. He has excuses for his run last time (large figure) with the muddy track and the hot company encountered he still run a massive race to finish fifth behind Breeders Cup Classic hope Flat Out.
Cease is a lightly raced son of War Chant who looks like this sort of distance will be well within his compass. In good hands under Albert M Stall Jnr, he hasn’t hit its peak yet and any improvement and this runner will be a handful – any slowness in the dirt would be an advantage to this runner.
Giant Oak wasn’t good enough to win this race last year when getting a better trip through than A U Miner and I can’t see this horse winning this time round either.
Finally Pleasant Prince is my idea of the shock in the race, he has the ability to cause an upset and his positional speed will hold him in good stead over this longer distance. He shapes as though he’ll cope with it but he needs his races run at a true pace and I’m not sure he’ll get that in this race. His graded resume is on the thin side and his win last time came over a horse in Rail Trip who was crushed in the Whitney Stakes so although he could score here at double figure odds, he is too risky but could be one for the exotics.
This looks a tough renewal where the winner would be different every time you ran the race, but I think it is worth siding with previous form at the track here, and judging by the way A. U. MINER ran last time here over C&D suggests he was a very unlucky loser. He comes into this race off the back of a good BSF of 102, and looks likely to have a say in the finish. Of the remainder Brigantin appeals most, with possibly Meeznah and Cease fighting out third.
[notification_box]1pt win A. U. Miner @ 4-1 with Ladbrokes[/notification_box]
Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf
Run on the grass over a mile it is a race that was first run in 2007, and has this year been upgraded to Grade 1 status.
Europeans have fared well in this race, and in particular John Gosden who has saddled two winners from four renewals in the race; sadly he hasn’t got any entries this time round.
The American’s this year appear to rely on either State Of Play or Finale, but neither have done what the UK trained horses have done on speed figures this year. State Of Play is far too short at the price he is judging by his figures, and I’d rather have Finale over him but with that said it doesn’t look good enough to compete with the European horses.
The best chance America have of winning this race looks to lie with Majestic City who comes into this race off the back of a few good Beyer figures on dirt. His sire City Zip wins with approximately 16% with his turf starters, but I can’t help feel this colt has been handed quite a task facing a field of this calibre, going a mile for the first time on turf.
Wrote comes into this race off the back of a third-placed effort to Daddy Long Legs in the Royal Lodge (G2) at Newmarket last time. He had previously clocked a good speed figure when winning a handicap off a official rating of 88, and wasn’t in the right place at Newmarket last time, on a day where front-running up the far rail proved prevalent to winning results. He gets the lasix for the first time and the assistance of Ryan Moore and looks set to play a hand in the finish, but quite whether he has the class to win this race remains to be seen.
Caspar Netscher comes into this race off the back of an unlucky effort in the Middle Park at Newmarket when given a pathetic ride by Robert Winston. He lost ground at the start and ended up last behind a wall of horses, bobbing and weaving in and out like Lionel Messi does for Barcelona before finally getting a run and powering home to be beaten a length. He gets the assistance of Kieren Fallon who won on him at Newbury in the Mill Reef and if he can stay the trip and run a turn, he looks set to go close. A notable stat (according to Nick Mordin) is that Caspar Netscher would of been unbeaten on tracks without steep gradients had he not run into trouble at Newmarket and he remains on the shortlist.
Finally my selection FARRAAJ; who is bred to improve with age, ran second last time out in the Somerville Tattersall’s Stakes at Newmarket where the third finished second in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy next time out, and the fourth-placed Crusade won the Group 1 Middle Park on his next start. That form looks absolutely rock solid and this son of Dubai Destination has proven his ability to run round a turn judging by his performance at Warwick earlier in his career and gets the added bonus of lasix for the first time.
[notification_box]3pts win Farraaj @ 7-1 with Boylesports, William Hill[/notification_box]
Breeders Cup Sprint (Dirt)
Won by some terrific horses in the past and none more so impressively than Big Drama last year from the front. Big Drama returns to the scene of his greatest triumph in a career that has spanned 11 wins from 18 starts so far.
Big Drama posted a bold gate-to-wire performance when running away with this race last year, racing three off the rail (rail was very much costly at the time) he led throughout and repelled all challengers as they served it up to him. He is only of the very few horses to have reached the 120-beyer plateau, and can make a big mid-race move if the situation warrants and is a worthy favourite ridden by Ramon Dominguez for the first time. The only worry I would have is that he missed his final prep for this race due to sickness, and that has to be a cause for concern just how tuned up he is.
Euroears comes into this race off the back of a disappointing effort in the Vosburgh but in all truth he lost all chance at the start in a race that suited being on the pace. His two runs around here have yielded two poor speed figures and he’ll need to improve plenty to take this race – that said he posted some impressive workout times at Santa Anita which suggests this son of Langfuhr looks ready to put in a massive run, and Bob Baffert knows what is required to win a race of this nature having won it three times already.
Giant Ryan comes here off the back of an incredible win-streak of six and is looking to make it seven here under Cornelio Velasquez. He was at an advantage when winning the Vosburgh from the front last time, and the horses that finished behind him that return here will have more of a say on a track that’ll be riding a lot fairer but he has to be respected. His workout round here over four furlongs last week was nothing other than fair and it is quite difficult to pinpoint his chances against the likes of the more proven types – his Beyer numbers suggest he’ll run a solid race though.
Hamazing Destiny has struggled to recapture his form of that run in this race last year when second to Big Drama but his record at the track has to be respected. He posted a solid workout here on the 24th October going 4f in 46.2 and posted a solid run when shuffled back before re-rallying in the Phoenix last time suggesting he is returning to peak form. If Robby Alborado can time his mid-race move to perfect he could yet have a say here at a big price – doubt he has the class to reverse form with Big Drama though.
Force Freeze comes into this race on a similar level of form to Giant Ryan, and finished second to that rival last time in the Vosburgh racing up handy. He drifted a little in the stretch and had the run of the race from where he was positioned but he ran a gallant race to finish a half length down at the wire. His Beyer numbers are decent but he just lacks the class to win a race of this nature I think.
Jackson Bend comes into this race after posting his best Beyer of his life when second to Uncle Mo in the Kelso at Belmont. Has improved in leaps and bounds as a four-year-old and comes here in rude health after a couple of big prior wins also. He has been working exceptionally at Saratoga in recent weeks and if he gets a quick pace to run at, he’s going to be very hard to stop under Corey Nakatani who is an absolute master at riding this race, with four wins to his name.
Apriority would hold every chance if returning to his early season form and holds claims of causing the upset here if doing so. He wasn’t seen to his best last time in a bias-aided Vosburgh and his only spin round here resulted in a game second a 100-Beyer to Akenite which would give him half a chance at massive odds.
Amazombie comes into this sharp and looks a massive threat to both Big Drama and Jackson Bend. His outside post position will suit his style of racing perfectly and gets the handling of veteran Mike Smith once again. He was held by Euroears though two starts ago in a race which should have suited where he was positioned, and he had the best sit in a race which had plenty of early pace in last time. Too short for me at 6s but wouldn’t be surprised if he went very close to winning it.
Finally my selection and I’m going for a bit of value here in AKENITE who has been racing with immense credit all year out wide, mostly against golden highways up the rail this season. He has important course winning distance when beaten Apriority in a good time in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2) and tuned up for this with a cracking run at Keeneland last time finishing second. His third placing behind Jackson Bend reads well, given the golden rail up the inside helped propel that runner to victory and he represents significant value here at 16/1 and could be running over them late in the day under Javier Castellano. His recent workouts suggest he is beginning to reach his peak after being brought along slowly and is well positioned in three to take a pull in the early stages.
[notification_box]1pt each-way Akenite @ 16-1 with StanJames[/notification_box]
Breeders Cup Turf Sprint
A recent addition to the Breeders Cup, the Turf sprint started in 2008 and started out at a distance of six and a half furlongs. It remained at this distance the next year but has since dropped back to five furlongs, as Churchill Downs only conduct turf sprints over five furlongs.
The defending champion Chamberlain Bridge returns this year in a similar vein of form after finishing a close-up third after a mid-summer break last time. He has however drawn an outside post in box 14 which should prove somewhat tricky to overcome one would of thought. That said he is a true five furlong horse which can’t be said for many of these, and he may have the tactical speed to get him out of trouble.
Havelock comes into this having won his last four turf races for trainer Darrin Miller. What has been impressive with his performances is that he has won with various running styles, proving he is tactically versatile, which will hold him in good stead here. He has the excellent Robby Alborado on his back once more and looks a leading contender to take this.
California Flag has recently regained winning form and won this race two years ago. That was over 6.5F though and he was well beaten in this race last year despite having plenty of pace in his locker. He has a better draw this time round though and could be returning to that sort of form but he has too many questions to answer for me.
Rapport makes her debut on turf and has to find a few lengths on the speed figures, and her sire only has around 8% winners from first-timers on turf which has to rate as a negative.
Country Day gets a rematch with Perfect Officer and Havelock after his third placing in the Grade 3 Woodford at Keeneland when last seen. That said I can’t really make a case for him from his outside post in box 11, and although could run well – isn’t one for me.
Camp Victory has been running well all season against the top-synthetic and dirt sprinters and posted a few triple-digit Beyer figures on the spin before bouncing last time out on turf. He has the potential to rebound back to that sort of form though and remains interesting in what looks an open race.
Broken Dreams is a mare in form and comes into this race sharp after a few mid-90 Beyer’s and she shortens up to 5F here. I feel that trip isn’t really guaranteed to suit her and she might get outpaced at a vital stage here before keeping on well.
Perfect Officer comes into this race after two solid places efforts in the Turf Monster and Woodford and had Havelock in-front of him most recently. He has a decent post here in stall 4 and I can see him being thereabouts at the finish sitting just a couple lengths off the lead throughout.
Holiday For Kitten doesn’t have the Beyer’s to suggest she’ll be good enough to have a say in this, and Grand Adventure will struggle to keep up and hold that inside rail from his pitch in the 1 box, so he can be left out too.
Great Attack has won over this distance and looks likely to contribute to the pace, but is held by a few of these on the form lines and will probably just drop out of it inside the final furlong.
Regally Ready is 2-2 on this track here at Churchill Downs and comes into the race on the back of a 94-Beyer win of the Grade 1 Nearctic Stakes last time out beating the highly rated Bated Breath on ground probably softer than ideal for the both of them. He has the assistance for Corey Nakatani from what looks a good draw in stall 8, and he can race on the pace and be thereabouts at the line – solid chance, probable winner.
Caracortado drops back to 5F here for the first time after doing majority of his racing over a mile in the last couple of years. That said he obviously showed enough pace to start out over four furlongs, and has also won a six furlong race in his time so maybe he isn’t a forlorn hope. He will drop back from an outside position and will be finishing fastest of all under Joe Talamo but it’s going to be tough going pegging back the pace around here and he’ll most likely run on into a place – class angle in the race.
Hoofit looks an interesting runner for Graham Motion and this New Zealand import has adapted well to the American style of racing notching up 2-2 on synthetics since his arrival. He readily accounted for an allowance field at Presque –isle Downs before gamely winning a Grade 3 at Keeneland defeating my Breeders Cup Sprint fancy Akenite by the minimum distance. That form looks solid and providing he is ridden forward from his draw in stall 7, the return to turf could extend his winning streak to three under veteran Edgar Prado.
In what looks a very open race, the most likely winner for me seems to be Regally Ready who has an excellent record around here, posted a big win at Woodbine last time and has a good draw but his price doesn’t do too much for me. Therefore given my allegiances in the Breeders Cup Dirt Sprint I have to side with Hoofit at almost treble the price, and hope he can run into the frame under Edgar Prado – his numbers suggest he isn’t a forlorn hope in this.
[notification_box]0.5pt each-way Hoofit @ 14-1 with Totesport, Betfred, SportingBet[/notification_box]
Breeders Cup Dirt Mile
The fourth race on Breeders Cup Saturday sees them go a mile on the dirt for the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. Into its fifth year it was won last year by the Jerry Hollendorfer trained Dakota Phone and no three-year-old has won in four runnings so far.
Decent horses like Mastercraftsman, Midshipman, and the Nick Zito trained Morning Line have tried and failed, but this year it looks a stronger bunch of three-year-olds attempting to take the crown for the first time.
The Factor heads the field in stall 1, and the Bob Baffert trained three-year-old looks set to go forward from his inside position. He expectedly weakened after setting a furious pace in the Ancient Title last time and has proven he can run this sort of trip based on his Triple Crown from back in the spring. He has been working extremely well in the mornings according to his times (a lot of Baffert’s seem to be burning up the gallops). The problem here is he faces five habitual front-runners and I can see it developing into a pace duel, whereby he’ll likely fade out of things late on.
This year’s Preakness (G1) winner Shackleford comes here on the back of second placing in the Indiana Derby last time, and drops back to one-turn for the first time since his maiden success. According to his pace figures he had the run of the race out in front last time and should prove vulnerable in the closing stages if blazing off in-front and getting involved in a pace duel.
Tapizar returned to rout a field off an 8 month break at Belmont last time, which included older horses and although he has won round here tracking the pace his main preference and style is all about speed and he looks another likely to get involved in a tussle up-front setting it up for the closers.
Tres Borrachos comes here winless on six attempts on dirt, and isn’t the force of old and will struggle to get involved here. Another likely to lie up with the pace, and help set searching fractions.
Wilburn comes into this race off the back of a 103-Beyer romp when accounting for Shackleford in the Indiana Derby last time, and his late-closing style looks perfectly suited to the makeup of this field. He is a late maturing sort who is running bigger numbers with every start, and most importantly comes into this race bang in form where many of his rivals are either out of it, or likely to go too quick out in front – big contender, considering he has showcased his ability to go equally as well around one-turn at Santa Anita first time back.
Irrefutable looks equipped to go well here, and the Bob Baffert second string gets the services of Rafael Bejarano in the plate who rode him to a solid second in the Ancient Title last time out. His performance pattern seems to peak off a rest of 38 days or more (thanks Nick Mordin) and runs off a shorter period here for the fifth time in a row, and has lost his last four.
Jersey Town was no match for Uncle Mo and Jackson Bend last time, but ran a massive Beyer over this configuration when winning the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct late last year. He has had limited starts since thanks to an ankle injury picked up winning that race (need surgery after) but his recent work in New York suggests he is returning to form and could be one for the exotics – place claims.
Next up is Caleb’s Posse who has been running some quick numbers over one-turn this season, admittedly over shorter distances than the mile he will encounter on Saturday. He was stretched in the Indiana Derby last time behind Wilburn and Shackleford over two-turns and the drop back in trip will work in his favour. Looks to have plenty of pace to run at and the way he has run over seven furlongs at Saratoga when beating Uncle Mo suggests he’ll be closing fast and late, and is one they all have to fear – solid win chance.
Finally my selection TRAPPE SHOT who returned from a break to run fourth in a front end bias-aided Vosburgh last time. He posted an excellent Beyer over a mile and sixteenth at Monmouth last year before dropping back to sprinting trips and strictly on the figures holds an advantage over the field. He will also be advantaged by the mass of pace in the race, and he’ll be able to close them down late under John Velasquez. He has a record of 6 wins from 8 between 6F and 8.5F and has clearly been aimed and prepped with this race in mind.
[notification_box]3pts win Trappe Shot @ 5-1 with Boylesports, Coral, BlueSQ[/notification_box]
Breeders Cup Turf
A race which let’s face it, should fall to the Europeans here. We have farmed the race in recent years winning 10 of the last 12 renewals of this race and once again we look to have a strong hand for this renewal.
Won last year by Dangerous Midge in what now looks a poor renewal, he has beaten one rival home in four starts since and doesn’t line up here to defend his crown.
Midday goes for this race instead of the F&M Turf, and I think they should have sent her there instead really. She has shown enough ability to mix it with the boys in the past, and her run in the Champion Stakes at Ascot (broke the track record) reads well in the context of this race but I feel there are other who last out this trip a little better than this daughter of Oasis Dream and she looks more likely to fill the place.
St Nicholas Abbey comes here off a solid effort in the Arc when finishing fifth behind Danedream in course record time. He sat close to the pace throughout and took up the lead at the three furlong pole before being edged out of it late on. He is drawn on the inside here under Joseph O’Brien and one would expect them to sit very close to the pace on ground probably quicker than ideal – he gets the lasix first time though and the 2F straight here could play into his advantage but he is too hit and miss for my liking, but remains unbeaten on left handed tracks.
Sea Moon is pretty much the forgotten horse in here I think after an awesome performance to win the Voltigeur and was given a pathetic ride by Olivier Peslier in the St Leger (which can be ignored) when last seen. He has been lightly campaigned this season and has the benefit of Ryan Moore riding and lasix for the first time – major shout with the Stoute yard creeping back into form.
Sarafina is clearly the form horse in the race, but those close to her have the benefit of lasix for the first time whereas her trainer Alain De Royer-Dupre elects not to use the medication on his wonderful filly and that could prove a costly mistake. She is unbeaten in two starts on left-handed tracks and has a lethal turn of foot should the race prove tactical and certainly has a favourites chance.
Await The Dawn almost died after his run in the Juddmonte International at York in August and hasn’t been seen since. Aidan O’Brien believes he is more of a Classic horse but runs him here instead, I think this is more a fact finding mission with a view to next year but he gets a combination of lasix and Julien Leparoux for the first time and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Deans Kitten looks the best of the Americans based on that running on second to Cape Blanco in the Turf Classic at Belmont, and although Cape Blanco is an admirable and durable sort, he wouldn’t be in the same league as the likes of Sarafina and Midday over in Europe.
In what looks a tough race to decipher it very much looks down to what sort of pace will be on offer and from what I can read it looks like being a very tactical affair. Which means I have to side with SARAFINA whose tactical speed gives her a big advantage over her rivals and she is also the class horse in the field – slight worry about the lack of lasix though, and would rate Sea Moon as a potent threat?
[notification_box]1pt win Sarafina @ 11-4 with SportingBet and BlueSQ[/notification_box]
Breeders Cup Juvenile (Dirt)
Run over a mile and sixteenth the Breeders Cup Juvenile is the championship end of season race for two-year-old colts and geldings.
Some brilliant horses have won this race over the years, but none more so impressively than Arazi did when winning back in 1991.
The European challenge sees both Crusade and Daddy Long Legs attempt to win the race for Aidan O’Brien after both were success in group company over here in the UK last time out.
Daddy Long Legs was successful in landing the Royal Lodge at Newmarket on his latest start with an all-the-way success. He is bred to handle the dirt surface which he tries for the first time, and the way in which he has run his races on turf thus far it isn’t difficult to think he could be an even better animal on dirt. He gets the services of Ryan Moore in the saddle and looks likely to do better out of the pair.
Crusade a winner of the Middle Park (G1) on his latest start and although bred to adapt to the surface (his dam won a G3 at Saratoga, and sire won this race as a juvenile) he has struggled to last out seven furlongs on both tries at it on turf. The longer distance here and the tiring dirt surface will surely work against him and I can’t see him lasting out the trip.
Drill was no match for Creative Cause in the Norfolk last time on dirt, but had previously beaten that rival on synthetic and could potentially have bounced after that effort when posting a big 90-beyer. Another interesting point of note is that Bob Baffert has a 45% strike-rate when making an equipment change, and he takes the blinkers off Drill for this run.
Hansen has put together back-to-back demolition jobs over his field on his two runs to date, but it remains questionable over what he has actually beaten. He was ridden out to the line on his latest win (time wasn’t great) and I don’t think he is as good as people believe he is, and this is his first try on conventional dirt (his full brother has been kept to synthetic and turf).
Dullahan was beaten by wide margins on his last two tries on dirt, but improved out of all recognition back on synthetic and turf. So the switch back to dirt here is somewhat puzzling given he recently won a grade 1 and has plenty of questions to come forward and answer.
Union Rags come into this on the back of a demolition job in the Champagne Stakes and holds the best speed figures out of all of these on what we have seen so far, and therefore ranks a worthy favourite. Not many horses can overcome the type of trip he had when winning that race on his latest start, and he had already showed signs of what he could do at Saratoga on his previous outing. Michael Matz is fully capable of preparing a horse for such a race and this lovely son of Dixie Union has everything going for him.
A potential outsider that could have say in proceedings is Take Charge Indy who tries dirt for the first time after a string of decent efforts on synthetics. He raced far too close to the ridiculous early pace in the Breeders’ Futurity last time at Keeneland and can be forgiven that run, but if we go back to his two Beyer’s he has achieved on synthetics he has the potential to go close if taking to the dirt (his dam won $2.4m on it) and is by A. P. Indy which suggests he will take to it – and at around 40/1 is my idea of a roughie with potential to get in the frame.
The one I think that is the value play in this race though is CREATIVE CAUSE. By the excellent Giant’s Causeway he really looked to thrive on conventional dirt last time after a string of solid Polytrack efforts. He would of been unbeaten but for being desperately unlucky when bumped around in the Futurity when making his effort (only beaten 1L). The longer trip seemed more to his liking last time out and I think he’ll go close here under Joel Rosario.
[notification_box]1.5pts win Creative Cause @ 5-1 with Totesport, Betfred, PaddyPower
0.25pts each-way Take Charge Indy @ 40-1 with William Hill[/notification_box]
Breeders Cup Mile Turf
Won for the last three years by wonder-mare Goldikova who bids to go one better and make it four in a row. She has won the most group 1’s of any horse ever in Europe (currently 14) and is looking to make that 15 at the weekend.
Goldikova is such a magnificent animal. Her ability to quicken makes her almost unbeatable when running around a bend over a mile. The ground looks like being perfect for her, her speed figures suggest she is as good as ever and her trainer Freddy Head suggests she comes here in better form than when winning last year – that’s a big statement and I for one believe him. I’d love to see her win but she offers no value at around 9/5 and thus I have to look elsewhere.
Strong Suit comes here off the back of two ultra-impressive routs of decent fields over seven furlongs. His only try came in a slowly-run mile at Chantilly in the Prix Jean Prat during the height of summer, but he looks an altogether different animal now with more experience under his belt. If he stays the trip (can’t see why not) then he has massive claims of winning this under Richard Hughes and he’ll get a nice pace to shoot at with Sidney’s Candy out in front.
Gio Ponti has won 7 times out of 9 at trips less than nine furlongs when the ground is firm and one of those defeats came to Goldikova last year in this very race. He has been running with credit on ground softer than ideal all summer, and comes into this race off the back of a win on his preferred ground last time. He clearly remains a threat in Goldikova’s bid to win again but is just as likely to find one or two too good again.
Courageous Cat has been improving lately and has posted three triple-digit Beyer’s for the first time in his career of late. He comes into the race in better form than when second to Goldikova in 2009 (missed the race in 2010) but I’m slightly worried by the way he tired at Woodbine last time given the longer home-stretch here at Churchill Downs, and if he sits to close to Sidney’s Candy, that could once again be an issue.
Zoffany has questions to answer after some below-par efforts but would have chances on the pick of his form. He gets the lasix for the first time here, and the assistance of Ryan Moore in the saddle.
Court Vision and Get Stormy both look outclassed at this level as does Compliance Officer who has the slowest speed figures out of these.
Byword ran a massive time at Longchamp in winning the Prix Dollar on Arc weekend, and comes into this race in solid form. He has proven versatile over a mile to ten furlongs over the past few seasons and looks sure to go well again here. Quite whether he has the tactical speed around a turn over this trip remains to be seen but I can see him hitting the frame with a late effort.
Jeranimo broke a six-race losing streak last time when winning the Oak Tree Mile last time, and the son of Congaree comes into this race with the joint best last time out Beyer of 108 (with Byword) for that success. He seems to struggle though in large fields, and often runs into traffic problems and this is the largest field has competed in to date – not for me.
Mr Commons ran second to Jeranimo last time earning himself a 106-Beyer and has really improving his form of late on the clock. He has a big late finishing effort and the better pace and larger field on offer here should play to his strengths and I can see him finishing with a rattle down the outside under veteran Mike Smith. The worrying thing is only 2 from 42 American three-year-olds have won this race the first being War Front and then Lure, both had previously won graded races – whereas Mr Commons has been beaten in all his graded runs. That said stats are there to be broken and he’s really on an upward curve and I can see him making a bold bid at 25-1, and is worth a small cover bet.
Finally my selection TURALLURE who comes into this race off the back of two good figure successes. He has posted three triple-digit Beyer’s in his last four outings (bumped on other run) and as Nick Mordin points out in the Weekender his form figures when the race leader runs the first half mile in 48.4sec or less reads (111111) off of paces slower than this they read (52833). He hasn’t been helped with his draw in the widest position of all in box 13, but this strong-finisher should be able to take back early and cope with the ground loss before winding up with a big late effort down the outside into the stretch. He looks to have plenty of pace to run at with Sidney’s Candy in the field, along with Courageous Cat so the chances of him getting a quick run first half mile look likely. He seemed to relish the long straight at Woodbine when beating Courageous Cat last time, and he gets a similar length (slightly longer) straight to run at this time – at around 14/1 he rates outstanding value, and Julien Leparoux (who is 3-3 on him) retains the ride.
That said though I certainly wouldn’t begrudge Goldikova winning this race for the fourth time, and I actually hope she does. Turallure is an great value alternative though and worth keeping on side.
[notification_box]2.5pts each-way Turallure @ 14-1 with Bet365, Boylesports, Ladbrokes[/notification_box]
Breeders Cup Classic (Dirt)
The final race of the Breeders Cup 2011 meeting and what an excellent renewal of the Breeders Cup Classic it appears to be.
The Classic is considered by many to be the premier thoroughbred horse race of the year in the U.S., and for 2008 only the Dubai World Cup surpassed its $5 million purse. Often, the winner goes on to win U.S. Horse of the Year honours, as have the four winners of the race between 2004 and 2007—respectively Ghostzapper, Saint Liam, Invasor, and Curlin. Due to the extremely high quality of horses in the event, the race is notoriously hard to predict. One notable example of an underdog winning the Classic is the victory of Arcangues in 1993. This was the biggest upset in Breeders’ Cup history and his $269.20 payoff for a $2 wager remains a Breeders’ Cup record. [information gathered from Wikipedia].
Won last year by Blame and Garrett Gomez who arguably was lucky to beat Zenyatta who endured a nightmare passage through into running second and beaten for the first time in her illustrious career.
This year we have another excellent filly bidding to win the classic in Havre De Grace, and she has posted 8 triple-digit Beyer numbers in her last 10 runs (97 and 99 her two below) and has proved herself to be absolutely top class. She delivered a hammer-blow to the colts when winning the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga two runs ago, including Flat Out and comes into this race at the top of her game. Her trained Larry Jones says she is the best he has ever had, and he has had horses like Hard Spun and Eight Belles through his books in previous seasons, so that tells you how highly this filly is regarded.
Prayer For Belief won’t be running and has been scratched due to fever.
Flat Out has looked like he’d appreciate a step up to this sort of trip when staying on for second in Grade 1’s behind Tizway and Havre De Grace and confirmed that chain of thought when running away with the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and has posted four triple-digit Beyer’s in succession. He has been training splendidly since his arrival at Churchill Downs but it is worth noting his two runs here have yielded unplaced efforts – that said he is a much better horse nowadays.
Drosselmeyer won the Belmont Stakes last season but has lost all other attempts at graded races since. Stayed on into second behind Flat Out last time but lacks the tactical pace to get involved in this sort of race, and would have been better equipped in the Breeders Cup Marathon.
Ruler On Ice is another who is all stamina, and he also won the Belmont Stakes like Drosselmeyer did a year before him. He has since run races with promise after getting outpaced over ten and nine furlongs, and if he gets a fast pace here he could run into a place out wide – but I don’t expect him too.
One I really like is the Aidan O’Brien trained So You Think, and he attempts to win the Breeders Cup Classic with his first ever start on a dirt surface. The sheer size of him suggests he’ll go well on dirt, and the way he continually grinds out fast sectionals during his races and that should stand him in good stead here. He has good form at Ascot (a track which favours polytrack form) and his time last time out when second in the Champion Stakes was fantastic and puts him top on speed figures here.
Ice Box ran second over C&D last year in the Kentucky Derby but has completely fallen apart since. He finished last of seven behind Flat Out last time and I can’t see any reason why he would be good enough to get involved in this.
Rattlesnake Bridge has yet to win a graded race and is held by both Stay Thirsty and Honour and Serve on form, and is hard to imagine good enough to have a say in this.
The Bob Baffert trained Game On Dude appears to have got his act together on figures this year and has posted a couple of triple-digit numbers in his last three starts and goes well fresh. Taking that into account though I doubt he’ll be good enough to win this but could run on into around fourth or fifth under Chantal Sutherland.
Stay Thirsty is looking to do something no horse in history has ever done, and that’s win the Travers Stakes and Breeders Cup Classic. Seventeen horses have tried, including some of the very best three-year-olds we have seen and they have all lost – which suggests to me Stay Thirsty has a monumental task on his hands and should be passed over on this occasion.
Next up is Headache who comes here as pretty much a horse-for-course having accumulated 3 wins from 7 round here. He won the G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup over C&D in game fashion on his latest start but his Beyer figures suggest he has plenty to find with these and looks another making up the numbers.
Uncle Mo tops the list on raw-speed alone when winning the Kelso Handicap over a mile at Belmont when last seen, but has yet to prove he can stretch out to ten furlongs he will face here. If he performs to that sort of level he will win this under the handling of John Velasquez but I’m not so sure can last out against top class opposition such as these. He was sick before the Derby, and only recently it has been documented just how ill he was, so for Todd Pletcher and his team to get him back better than ever is some feat – solid chance if stays.
To Honour And Serve has developed well lately, and has finally returned to the sort of form shown as a juvenile last backend of late. The way he won the Pennsylvania Derby last time with absolute ease (beating Ruler Of Ice) suggests he is still on an upward curve and would be foolish to write him off and he could easily do best of the three-year-olds in this race, and is overpriced at 14/1.
After much deliberation between Flat Out and SO YOU THINK it has to be the latter I go for. He has proven himself countless times on the clock and that run in the Champion Stakes last time out was very impressive. The way he just continually bangs out solid sections with his devouring stride suggests he’ll cope well with the switch to turf, and he gets the blinkers back on for the first time since his Cox Plate win in 2009. If So You Think fails to fire on the dirt, then it could be left to Flat Out to land the spoils.
[notification_box]1pt win So You Think @ 5-1 with Ladbrokes, BlueSQ, WilliamHill[/notification_box]