Race 3, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint
#6 Chalon: After a run of favorites in this race starting in 2012, the Filly and Mare Sprint has produced some bigger prices the past few years — including Bar of Gold at 66-1 last year. I’m going to hope that trend continues with #6 Chalon. She’s 15-1 on the morning line and will likely go off at an even higher price because of the general depth of this field. Chalon might also got overlooked following a tough defeat last out at Keeneland. She ran incredibly well in that race considering how wide she traveled throughout the early and middle stages of the race. She’s a tactical type who can sit off a blistering pace, which all but guaranteed in this spot, and she’s drawn pretty well. This horse has run two strong races over a wet track, and I also like seeing Javier Castellano back up on her. Expect them to stalk and pounce.
$10 Budget $2 win, place, and show on #6 Chalon ($6) $1 exacta 6,11 with 6,11,13
$25 Budget $5 win, place, and show on #6 Chalon ($15) $1 exacta key box 6 with 1,5,9,11,13 ($10)
$50 Budget $8 win and place and $6 to show on #6 Chalon ($22) $1 exacta key box 6 with 1,5,9,11,13 ($10) $.50 trifecta 5,6,11 with 5,6,11 with 1,3,5,6,9,11,13 ($18)
Churchill Downs, Race 5, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
#10 Catalina Cruiser: I don’t love dishing out chalk on Breeders’ Cup cards but I’ve been on record with the opinion that Catalina Cruiser might just be the best dirt horse in training. It’s not just the perfect 4-for-4 record. He’s been absolutely dominant in all of those races and when anyone points out that he’s been competing in smaller fields, it’s important to note that he’s been entered in races where multiple horse have scratched out of those races — Catalina Cruiser’s presence in the entries could very well have had something to do with some of those defections. He has the speed to get to the lead and run them off their feet. He also has the ability to sit off of a horse like City of Light (who will likely be sent from the rail) or Trigger Warning (drawn just outside of City of Light), should both of them floor it.
$10 Budget $5 to win on #10 Catalina Cruiser ($5) $5 exacta 10 with 5 ($5)
$25 Budget $10 to win on #10 Catalina Cruiser ($10) $10 exacta 10 with 5 ($10) $5 exacta 5 with 10 ($5)
$50 Budget $20 to win on #10 Catalina Cruiser ($20) $20 exacta 10 with 5 ($20) $10 exacta 5 with 10 ($10)
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Churchill Downs, Race 5, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
#10 Catalina Cruiser: He’s undefeated in his career thus far and although he hasn’t tried his luck versus Grade 1 competition, he still looms as the one to beat. Although he doesn’t need the lead to win, I do think with the lack of early speed entered he will be forwardly placed in an attempt to wire the field. He’s been incredibly hard to beat when rated well, and Saturday looks no different.
Churchill Downs, Race 9, $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff
#11 Monomoy Girl: She has won eight of 10 career races, and has been one of racing’s superstars as she put together five exceptionally impressive wins in a row before being disqualified to second in her most recent start. Her early speed should be enough to overcome the far outside post as long as she gets a good jump out of the gate. Despite being contested in a lot of her starts on the lead, she finds a way to dig in late and allow her closing kick to get separation on runners in deep stretch.
Churchill Downs, Race 3, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint
#11 Finley’sluckycharm: Something definitely went wrong last time out, and after getting to the lead early, she eased up and weakened late. Although this has happened before, it does not look like a common thing, or a regular occurrence. I think out of the higher priced runners, she has the best shot at putting together an upset. When on her game, it appears like she can beat anyone as long as she remains focused for the whole seven furlongs.
Churchill Downs, Race 11, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic
#10 Yoshida: Accelerate is the favorite for good reason, having won five of his last six starts, but the outside post is far too tricky and too much could go wrong with the break. Despite that, I do think it is his race to lose.
Yoshida’s only dirt start resulted in a win at 1 1/8 miles in a time of 1:48.94 at Saratoga, where he closed from six lengths back. There does seem to be quite a bit of speed entered, and if there is a pace duel up front, he looks more than capable of picking up the pieces late and closing to hit the board at a very generous price.
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#5 GOLDEN MISCHIEF (10/1) - Though Golden Mischief has been going mostly six furlongs in recent times, she has stretched to seven furlongs with success -- a key, given that seven-furlong horses win seven-furlong races. She has tactical speed, and she comes second off a layoff for trainer Brad Cox, who excels in that circumstance. This should be when she is ready to fire her best. #13 MARLEY'S FREEDOM (8/5) - The parking lot post isn't great, but she has had a breakout year. Her form at the distance last year was hit-or-miss, but when revisiting it in the Ballerina this summer at the Spa, she never looked a loser. She hasn't raced since that August effort, but Bob Baffert knows how to get a horse ready to run big first-up. #10 HIGHWAY STAR (20/1) - She jumps up in class off a New York-bred stakes win, but she's as dyed-in-the-wool a seven-furlong horse as there is in this race. The only time she missed the board at the distance was in the Breeders' Cup last year, so there is the class question -- but at the likely price, it's worth betting that some trouble on the turn had something to do with that poor performance. At her best this year, she has been good enough to merit another shot.
Longshot: #9 STORMY EMBRACE (20/1) - This Florida shipper has proven her mettle at extended sprint distances, and also (unlike some Princess Rooney winners) shown that she can win away from Gulfstream Park. She may well get ignored off a disappointing effort in a state-bred stakes last up, but in that outing she was nowhere near as close to the pace as she prefers to be. If Tyler Gaffalione can situate her near SELCOURT (who almost certainly guns it from the rail), she could surprise late.
Race 4: Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint
#11 WORLD OF TROUBLE (6/1) - In the winter he looked like a plucky dirt sprinter, but he has moved forward and become even better on the grass. He is sharp early but has both grit and a rating gear, and his victory two back at Saratoga came over some ground with give. Don't take too short a price on him -- this is his first try against older runners -- but anything in this 5/1, 6/1 neighbourhood is attractive for this up-and-comer. #13 WILL CALL (20/1) - He missed by half a length to BUCCHERO in the Woodford last-up, but made up an enormous amount of ground late. This late-flying style is a new thing for the four-year-old son of Country Day, as he was near the lead as recently as this winter. But, that style has proven effective against classy turf sprinters, and he may get enough pace to come flying again here. #6 RAINBOW HEIR (12/1) - You don't often see an active Thoroughbred stud racing, much less in the Breeders' Cup, but here we are. He missed by less than a length in the Turf Monster (G3), his first race back after his first season at stud, and that race was fast enough to suggest he is the same old Rainbow Heir. He is fast, tactically versatile, strong over the distance, and the sort of horse who can run his race at any track.
Longshot: #3 HEMBREE (20/1) - He rewarded this space's opinion that he really is a turf sprinter when winning the Nearctic (G2) at Woodbine last month, and now he cuts back to an even shorter trip. It should suit, and he should get pace to mow down. Though he loses jockey Irad Ortiz to WORLD OF TROUBLE, he gets Tyler Gaffalione -- not only streaking in general, but a regular big-race presence for trainer Mike Maker.
Race 5: Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
#7 FIRENZE FIRE (6/1) - With questions about both chalks (CATALINA CRUISER and CITY OF LIGHT) on top, I cannot wait to bet this horse. The Dirt Mile is the way it should be this year -- a one-turn mile -- and this son of Poseidon's Warrior has thrived at the trip. He has won three of four starts at a one turn mile, including a comprehensive walloping of SEVEN TRUMPETS and Mendelssohn in the Dwyer (G3). Though it's his first try against mature older horses (who might refrain from biting him...), he is fast enough to be a factor and has developed a good rapport with jockey Irad Ortiz. #1 CITY OF LIGHT (5/2) - Between the pair of chalky California shippers, he is the one who has shipped, having won the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) earlier this year. He also runs well fresh, important since he hasn't raced since finishing second in the Forego (G1) in August. Given his relatively short price I don't like the fact that he tries the one-turn mile for the first time in this, but it's a logical spot given his quality seven-furlong form. Perhaps worth a bit of backup coverage on top, and definitely makes sense underneath. #6 SEEKING THE SOUL (5/1) - It's hard to see him winning, but his consistency at Churchill Downs combined with the fact that he has never been out of the exacta at a flat mile makes this a perfect spot. Probably does not win this, even on his best day, but has strong appeal to run on for a piece of the exacta or trifecta.
Longshot: #2 TRIGGER WARNING (20/1) - This race is not brimming with speed, and Trigger Warning drew relatively inside. He nipped at underneath shares in the midseason derbies, going a route of ground, but now cuts back to one turn. He should be fast enough on the cutback to take the early initiative, and this hard-trying son of Candy Ride looks a dependable sort to get to the lead and dig in for as long as he can.
Race 6: Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf
#1 FOURSTAR CROOK (5/1) - One of five for Chad Brown in here, she had the perfect final prep when she outclassed the field in the Flower Bowl last month. She has been the only one in the American turf division who has been able to bonk heads with Sistercharlie, and has been the only horse so far this year who has defeated that one. That victory came at a mile and a quarter, and this even longer distance may play even better to FOURSTAR CROOK's strengths. She also has enough form over ground with some cut (a win over yielding turf, and a third-place finish in a bog at Woodbine last year in the E. P. Taylor (G1)) to be okay despite the rain. #3 WILD ILLUSION (7/2) - She is three years old and facing older, but has no problem tackling older mares, as her last two races have been Group 1 wins against older horses. She has form over softer going or better ground, almost a surprising thing to see for a European who ships to North America. With tactical versatility and a cozy rapport with rider William Buick, she sits atop the European contingent for this race. #6 SISTERCHARLIE (3/1) - Shelved since a victory in the Beverly D (G1) at Arlington in August, she returns in as tough a spot as she has faced all year. The mile and three eighths is a question; she has never gone this far, and may be slightly better in that mile and an eighth range than much longer. She is also unproven over ground with some water in it -- it won't be the heavy footing that wore her down last March at Saint Cloud, but won't be the firm going she loves so much, either. But, she is a consistent mare who can take her race to any track, and can find the frame on that.
Longshot: # 14 EZIYRA (12/1) - Her bearing on track this week has been among the most confident; though she has yet to race outside Great Britain and Ireland, she looked at home from the first day she stepped out for trackwork. She hasn't won at the top level yet, but her one Group 1 try this year was not a bad form line to have: third in the Yorkshire Oaks, three and three quarters lengths behind Sea of Class. (Sea of Class was the one who was good enough to keep Enable honest in the Arc.) Finally, it's never a bad thing to have Frankie Dettori in your corner on a huge stage, and she engages his services on Saturday.
Race 7: TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint
#5 IMPERIAL HINT (9/5) - This horse is the most dangerous kind of sprinter: fast, fast enough to hit the front when he can, but smart enough to rate just off the pace until Javier Castellano pushes the button if he has to. The one question looming over him at a short price is his 0-2 record at Churchill -- but neither of those races came at his favoured six-furlong distance, making them forgivable. #8 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL (6/1) - He finished behind PROMISES FULFILLED and WHITMORE last time out in the Phoenix (G2), but kept on fighting and gaining after having a nasty trip down the lane. Though he is perhaps strongest at seven furlongs, he is well-proven going six furlongs as well, and his run at Keeneland shows he is in the sort of form to belong. And, his affinity for Churchill doesn't hurt: he has six wins and a second in eight career tries. #2 PROMISES FULFILLED (6/1) - In this day and age, it's great to see a three-year-old coming into the Breeders' Cup having already proved himself against older. The pace won't be easy, but he has proven he can slug it out up front and keep on going. He has an easy win in his only sprint start at Churchill; though that came against maiden company, it shows he'll handle the course.
Longshot: #4 WARRIOR'S CLUB (15/1) - None of the longer shots are particularly appealing on top, but this one has a chance to run into the frame on his best day. He has flopped in his last two starts, but really didn't run his race in either -- he got caught up too close to the pace early in both. Now, with several firecrackers early, WARRIOR'S CLUB can do what he does better: track the pace and try to reel the speed in. That probably won't get him all the way there, but it could get him a piece underneath.
Race 8: Breeders' Cup Mile
#5 OSCAR PERFORMANCE (6/1) - The Woodbine Mile (G1) has been as live a prep as there is for the Breeders' Cup Mile, with every winner in the 2010's trying the Breeders' Cup Mile -- and every one hitting the board. This proven miler looks primed to keep that streak alive. There isn't a lot of speed in this race, suggesting his frontrunning style will be well suited. He likely makes the lead, even, though can rate if MUSTASHRY goes. As long as he can handle the going, he will be tough. #1 ONE MASTER (12/1) - He has won his last two races, a seven and a half furlong G3 at Tipperary, and then the seven-furlong Prix de la Foret (G1) at Longchamp. A mile is the question, as he is the odd Breeders' Cup Mile horse who has never tried the distance. But, he has the pedigree to stretch out and he also has form over softer going. #7 EXPERT EYE (8/1) - This three-year-old has taken the step forward he needs to run with good older horses. A winner at Royal Ascot against his own age group in the Jersey (G3), he went on to prove Group-quality against older through the summer. He does have tables to turn on LIGHTNING SPEAR, who beat him in the Sussex (G1), but not only has he had a few more months to develop but also the rain-affected ground plays more to EXPERT EYE's abilities than LIGHTNING SPEAR. He also hasn't raced since September 9, but he has piled up several wins off freshenings, so should be at his best after the breather.
Longshot: #14 MUSTASHRY (15/1) - He used to be a closer, but appears to have found a new, more forward style just in time. He comes in off a pair of Group 2 wins, the classiest form he has ever shown, both of which came after he forsook his closing style. Sir Michael Stoute doesn't fly a horse to the United States lightly, so when he does, watch out.
Race 9: Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff
#11 MONOMOY GIRL (2/1) - If the horses bring their best, it looks like a battle between the two Oaks winners. After Abel Tasman's last-out flop, she is hard to trust. This filly, however, remains in strong form, and returns to her home track. Drawing the outside didn't faze her in the Kentucky Oaks, and it shouldn't faze her here, either: she has tactical speed, and can even switch gears completely and close if necessary. The price won't be exciting, but she's a solid one to lean heavily on in multi-race wagers in order to catch a price in another leg. #9 WOW CAT (8/1) - She has more upside than most in this field. After three starts in the United States, this Chilean filly has finally gotten her hooves under her for this American campaign. She won the Beldame easily over the same distance as the Distaff, and keeps Jose Ortiz in the irons from that outing. #7 MIDNIGHT BISOU (6/1) - This filly was not quite up to MONOMOY GIRL's standard earlier in the year, but her outing in the Cotillion (G1) suggests she is closing the gap. She needed a disqualification to place ahead of that rival that day, but still raced so well against her to suggest they may become real rivals. If that huge effort didn't take a lot out of her -- and she is really just improving that much with the move to the Asmussen barn -- she can find the picture.
Longshot: #8 VALE DORI (12/1) - Blinkers and the switch to Joe Talamo in the irons brought back the VALE DORI of old in the Zenyatta (G1) last time out, form she hopes to hold going into the Distaff. Is that a sure thing? No. But, as opposed to the short-priced Baffert whose form I can't actually trust because she's coming off such a bad race with no apparent excuse? This time, we've got a longer-priced Baffert coming off a good race, so the risk/reward works out in favour of finding some use for VALE DORI, at least underneath.
Race 10: Longines Breeders' Cup Turf
#2 ENABLE (1/1) - The Arc Winner Jinx is a thing: typically the Arc is the final goal of a full campaign, and the Breeders' Cup Turf is one race too many. ENABLE is a special case. She was laid off for eleven months, had one prep before the Arc, and now comes to the Breeders' Cup Turf third off a layoff. That's not the point a which a horse begins to tire -- that's a point at which a horse is typically rounding into form. And, with a horse as good as ENABLE, that makes her downright formidable. #12 WALDGEIST (9/2) - He has form through the top selection, finishing less than two lengths beaten in the Arc last month. Though he has had a fuller 2018 campaign than ENABLE has, he is still at a positive point of his form cycle -- he did get a two-and-a-half-month layoff through the summer, and this has him third-up. The distance suits him well, he has the ability to handle softer turf, and he is the natural contender to step up should ENABLE remember what an off day feels like. #5 MAGICAL (10/1) - This spot was a close one between her and TALISMANIC, who could work out a nice trip from that rail draw. But, he also has the US familiarity that may depress his price. MAGICAL has been a bit on and off, but does come off a win the the British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes (G1) at Ascot last month. She has form on all kinds of turf, making the weather this week a non-issue. She is also a three-year-old with good form against older, as two of her four starts against older fillies and mares this year have see her in the winners' enclosure.
Longshot: #3 CHANNEL MAKER (12/1) - He has always been good, but has blossomed at age four. He covers his best distance in this race, and based on his form this summer, every drop of rain that has fallen brings him closer to springing an upset. He will not likely set the pace -- GLORIOUS EMPIRE will probably try to go great guns -- but shouldn't be far off, and should keep on tenaciously.
Race 11: Breeders' Cup Classic
#3 CATHOLIC BOY (8/1) - He is a true mile and a quarter horse, getting his best trip here. He hasn't raced since the Travers in August, but trainer Jonathan Thomas is an ace at getting him (and the horses in his charge, more generally) ready to fire off the layoff. Expect him to stalk off the pace set by MENDELSSOHN and anyone who wants to go with him (perhaps WEST COAST or AXELROD), and outstay them all. #11 MIND YOUR BISCUITS (6/1) - I spent much of the year baffling as to why the best dirt sprinter in the world was pointing toward route races, but in the Lukas Classic (G3) I finally saw why. The field he beat wasn't Breeders' Cup Classic quality -- but he beat them with such ease, such condescension. It proved he could rate kindly and finish the job in a two-turn race, always something I need to see a stretch-out sprinter be able to do. It also had the side benefit of proving that he could handle the footing at Churchill Downs. In short, it was the perfect prep. #6 MCKINZIE (6/1) - It's hard to look at the Classic without looking at a Bob Baffert entrant. The barn has two, MCKINZIE and WEST COAST. They both have consistent career records, they both come second off a break, but MCKINZIE looked better coming off the shelf. He also fits the mold of a Baffert Breeders' Cup Classic winner just a bit better -- he has won three of the last four Classics with three-year-olds, after all. Whether the son of Street Sense will stay the Classic distance is a question -- but Baffert should have him as fit as possible for the attempt.
Longshot: #8 PAVEL (20/1) - The PAVEL who came to the Breeders' Cup Classic this year is not the same PAVEL who ran in the race last year: he's a fitter, stronger, better model. He has been a road warrior for the O'Neill barn the last two seasons, but his most successful journey was his visit to Churchill earlier in the year, when he romped easily in the Foster (G1). This race sends him a furlong further, but he has ran into the placings at this distance twice before. Beating all of the top contenders may be a tough ask -- but running into the placings, on the other hand, is a reasonable thing to ask given the likelihood of seeing the best version of him.
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Play: $10 to win on Rainbow Heir ($10); Southern California-based trainer Peter Miller has three horses in this race so if lightning strikes again like last year at Del Mar play a $1 exacta box of 9-12-14 ($6) and a 50-cent trifecta box of 9-12-14 ($3).
Picks: 1. #1 City of Light, 2. #7 Firenze Fire, 3. #10 Catalina Cruiser, 4. #6 Seeking the Soul. LONG SHOT: #4 Seven Trumpets.
Play: 50-cent Pick 3 of 1-7-10-4 with all 14 horses with #8 ($28).
MARLEY’S FREEDOM comes in with four consecutive wins, and is the horse to beat, even with the poor outside draw. Expect a fast pace, which works in the filly’s favor, who likes to come from off-the-pace. FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM is a must use at a price, with six wins in seven starts at Churchill Downs. Tactical foot puts her close to the front. GOLDEN MISCHIEF and CHALON run solid efforts every race and will be in the shadows of the front runners for first attack.
Turf Sprint (Race 4)
Trainer Peter Miller brings in three major contenders from California with STORMY LIBERAL, RICHARD’S BOY, and CONQUEST TSUNAMI. Stormy Liberal returns to defend his title, and has a knack of finding the wire first, making him my top pick. DISCO PARTNER will probably be your lukewarm favorite at post time. The four year old comes in off a impressive four length win last out, after tracking the pace and drawing clear. Snappy fractions are expected, so stalkers and closers is the direction I’m playing.
Dirt Mile (Race 5)
CITY OF LIGHT draws the rail and might challenge early with Javier Castellano aboard. The four-year-old colt is a multiple Graded Stakes winner, and has been training sharp in his morning works. CATALINA CRUISER is undefeated in four starts and is a early speed type. Might cross to the inside with his quick turn of foot, starting from the far outside post. Concern is, trainer John Sadler is winless in 41 Breeders’ Cup starts. SEEKING THE SOUL and FIRENZE FIRE are my price players. Could take advantage of a pace duel between my top two selections.
Filly and Mare Turf (Race 6)
The Europeans are going for the three-peat, after getting their picture taken the last two years. They appear to be loaded this year with a strong group crossing the pond. EZIYRA is going to be double digit odds when she breaks from the 15 post, and will be sitting in the back of the pack, before making one big run. Should get legit pace to roll on if ready. WILD ILLUSION could be the best of the Euro runners. Comes in off two Group 1 wins and should make some early noise with the inside draw. Chad Brown enters five runners from his stable. SISTERCHARLIE and A RAVING BEAUTY have the best chance of beating the europeans. SISTERCHARLIE will be flying late, and A RAVING BEAUTY will have rabbit duties on the lead.
Sprint (Race 7)
The Sprint is loaded with speed and is a tough race to figure out. The California runners have fared pretty well, winning 8 of the last 12 sprints. ROY H returns to defend his sprint title, and could get the dream trip, sitting behind the wall of speed. IMPERIAL HINT is strictly the one to beat, and will be a top choice on many tickets. I’m going to bet against the speedy five-year-old. There’s a strong chance the favorite will get in a frantic speed duel, and getting a little leg weary down the stretch. WHITMORE should gather late momentum with ground saving rail trip. PROMISES FULFILLED and DISTINCTIVE B will be involved from the start, knocking heads with the favorite.
Mile (Race 8)
North American runners have been effective in the turf mile, winning six of the last seven races. OSCAR PERFORMANCE will look to get back-to-back wins in front running fashion. Exits a gate-to-wire win in the Woodbine Mile, and should be living large on the lead today. One to catch to get the win. NEXT SHARES should work out a nice ground saving trip near the fence, and looms a big threat to the top pick if pace gets intense. California horses HUNT and CATAPULT, are major players rolling late, but California runners haven’t captured the title since 2004. POLYDREAM has the best chance of the European invaders to get the win.
Distaff (Race 9)
Which ABEL TASMAN will show up today? The best 3- year-old from last year, or the one who ran a clunker last out as the heavily bet favorite in the Zenyatta Stakes four weeks ago. If anyone can get her back to form, it’s trainer Bob Baffert. I’ll take my shot with her, and that Baffert has her ready to go for a strong comeback at a square price. MONOMOY GIRL will be your deserving favorite, with only two losses in her ten career starts. She’s also 2-3 at Churchill Downs at today’s distance. Concern is, first time facing older. BLUE PRIZE, WOW CAT, MIDNIGHT BISOU loom late major threats. Must use on your exotic tickets.
Turf (Race 10)
ENABLE might be the best horse on the card today. Even money morning line and deservedly so. The four-year-old filly has six Group 1 wins under her belt, and has one lone loss in her career. She’ll be involved from the bell with her sharp early foot, and should prove tough to mow down on the stretch run tackling the boys. The Europeans brought a strong team over. MAGICAL and WALDGEIST, are proven Group 1 winners and both appear to be peaking at the right time. The best chance for the Americans to pull off the upset are CHANNEL MAKER and GLORIOUS EMPIRE. Expect both to keep the favorite company up front for the mile and a half journey.
Classic (Race 11)
The $6 million Classic is an intriguing and fascinating race with many ways to go. You can change your mind with a top pick every day studying the past performances and looking at videos of previous races. ARROGATE will be your favorite at around 2-1 when the gun goes off. But I’m going to try to beat him with some value horses, so he’s a toss for me. The last six Classic winners have been within two lengths after the opening half-mile, so it’s a must to use front runners and stalkers. My late closers will be used underneath on my trifecta ticket. THUNDER SNOW returns to the scene of the crime, where he turned into a bucking bronco out of the gate in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Since then, he’s had some impressive wins, and was a neck shy last out in the Jockey’s Gold Cup. He’s also been training like a machine since. Bob Baffert sends in MCKINZIE and WEST COAST, both run hard every effort, and will push the pace from the start. Strong price plays to get the win. MIND YOUR BISCUITS never runs a bad race. Strong pace scenario would enhance his chances sitting off-the-pace. YOSHIDA and PAVEL will be picking up the pieces at large prices.
Top Selection: I count at least nine runners in this field who frequently race on or near the lead, which should ensure that the pace of this seven-furlong sprint is hot right from the start. That should play right to the strengths of #13 Marley's Freedom, who has rattled off three straight graded stakes victories for trainer Bob Baffert. The daughter of Blame was particularly impressive while overcoming a wide trip and a slow early pace to rally and win the seven-furlong Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, seizing command in the homestretch and pulling away with power to win by 3 ¼ lengths under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. I like how Marley's Freedom ran the third quarter-mile in about :23 1/5 and the final furlong in :12.47 seconds, suggesting that she's very well-suited to this seven-furlong distance.
True, Marley's Freedom hasn't run since August, but the long layoff doesn't bother me since Baffert has won several Breeders' Cup races in recent years with horses returning from similar layoffs—think American Pharoah, Arrogate, and Drefong. For her Ballerina effort, Marley's Freedom earned a 100 Beyer—the second triple-digit number of her career—and if she gets a quicker pace on Saturday, I think she'll come rolling in the homestretch to win again. Confidence Level: 3
Second Choice: #5 Golden Mischief has been steadily progressing this year for trainer Brad Cox and enters the Filly & Mare Sprint off of three straight stakes wins, including a hard-fought triumph in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland, which has historically been a very productive prep for this race. Yes, Golden Mischief only won by a head with a 94 Beyer, but take note, the early pace was slow and RacingFlow.com assigned the race a Closer Favorability Ratio (CFR) of 7, indicating a speed-favoring race, so under the circumstances I give Golden Mischief extra credit for running down the leaders with a final quarter-mile in about :23 2/5. On October 28th, she signaled her readiness for the Breeders' Cup by breezing four furlongs in a bullet :47 flat at Churchill Downs, the fastest of 113 morning workouts at that distance. She looks ready to roll, and if she stays at her 10-1 morning line odds, she might even be a better win play than Marley's Freedom. However, I do expect her odds to drop, perhaps significantly so. In any case, I have a lot of confidence that either Marley's Freedom or Golden Mischief will win this race, and I'd be tempted to use only these two in multi-race wagers.
Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint
Top Selection: I feel like almost anyone could win this race, so I'll take a shot in the dark with #8 Chanteline, a six-year-old mare who might get overlooked in the wagering. Formerly a capable dirt sprinter, Chanteline has emerged as a force to reckon with on turf over the last year and enters the Turf Sprint off victories in the Smart N Fancy Stakes at Saratoga and the Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga. In both races, she settled in fourth place before rallying in the final furlong while earning Beyers of 104 and 99, the two best numbers of her career. Runners that prepped at Keeneland have fared very well when the Turf Sprint has been held in Kentucky, and Chanteline ran reasonably well over a soft turf course in the Caress Stakes at Saratoga three starts back, finishing second after tracking quick early fractions. I wouldn't go about singling her in any multi-race wagers, but her 15-1 morning line odds are appealing and I think she's got as good a chance as anyone else to win this race. Confidence Level: 1
Second Choice: The condition of the turf course shouldn't be an issue for #11 World of Trouble, a three-year-old who is 2-for-2 on turf, with both of those victories coming in stakes races over rain-soaked courses. In the 5 ½-furlong Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga, he used his speed to win in gate-to-wire fashion, while in the six-furlong Allied Forces Stakes at Belmont, he tracked a fast opening quarter-mile before taking command and powering away to score by 5 ¾ lengths with a 103 Beyer. He also showed his class against high-quality dirt horses while finishing just a neck behind the four-time graded stakes winner Promises Fulfilled in the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II), a race in World of Trouble made a middle move into a blazing :43 3/5 half-mile fraction. 6-1 seems like a bit of a short price in this wide-open field, but I don't think he's overmatched here, even while facing older runners for the first time.
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
Top Selection: I had originally intended to pick #1 City of Light in this spot, and I still respect his chances a great deal—he's a two-time Grade 1 winner, he's won going as far as nine furlongs in top company, and he had a very wide trip when second in the Forego Stakes (gr. I) last time out. But wouldn't you know it, I've talked myself into picking #3 Isotherm [censored], and while that might seem crazy at first glance, let me outline my reasoning.
Ever since he broke his maiden going two turns on grass in 2015, Isotherm has been campaigned primarily as a turf horse, and for logical reasons—he's a two-time graded stakes winner over the surface. But his connections have occasionally tried him on dirt, running him against high-class competition in the 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the 2017 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), and while he was never a serious factor in either race, the fact that he was tried on dirt at all speaks of his connections' belief that he might be able to handle the surface.
Interestingly, Isotherm returned to dirt again this summer after a string of defeats on grass and showed new life, finishing second with a wide trip behind the capable Dabster in the Harry F. Brubaker Stakes going a two-turn mile at Del Mar. He then stepped up sharply in class for the nine-furlong Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita and ran one of the best races of his career. After tracking the pace in third place, Isotherm made a strong mid-race move (third quarter in less than :24 seconds) to challenge for the lead around the far turn, and after staying in contention to the eighth pole, he flattened out only slightly to finish third behind the Breeders' Cup Classic favorites Accelerate and West Coast. Remarkably, he was beaten just a half-length by West Coast.
Obviously, this was a big step in the right direction for Isotherm, and the way he ran—making a mid-race move and then flattening out—suggests to me that he's a horse that might appreciate the cutback to a one-turn mile. The two previous Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winners at Churchill Downs were cutting back in distance from longer races, including Dakota Phone, who upset the 2010 Dirt Mile at odds of 37-1 one start after finishing third in—you guessed it—the Awesome Again (then known as the Goodwood Stakes).
Beyond the two favorites, this Dirt Mile seems pretty wide-open, so at the very least I think Isotherm can offer a lot of value for the trifecta and/or superfecta, And if the pace gets hot up front, maybe—just maybe—he can spring a really memorable upset. Confidence Level: 1
Second Choice: #10 Catalina Cruiser has done nothing wrong in his first four starts, winning them all by a minimum of 2 ¼ lengths while posting Beyers of 89, 107, 107, and 103. He won the San Diego Handicap (gr. II) going 8.5 furlongs by 6 ¾ lengths against a quality field, and he crushed the 2017 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Battle of Midway by 7 ¼ lengths in the seven-furlong Pat O'Brien Stakes last time out. If Catalina Cruiser brings his A-game, he'll be tough to beat, but the son of Union Rags hasn't run since August, and trainer John Sadler doesn't have the best record with horses returning from layoffs or with shipping horses outside of California. For those reasons, plus the fact that Catalina Cruiser will be a clear favorite, I'm tempted to try to beat him while respecting that he is the most likely winner of the race.
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Top Selection: Trainer Chad Brown has won this race three times, and while his #6 Sistercharlie has beaten her stablemate #1 Fourstar Crook twice this year, the latter was able to turn the tables by a head in the 1 ¼-mile New York Stakes (gr. II)—the longest of their three meetings—and I suspect going 1 3/8-miles will further shift the advantage in favor of Fourstar Crook. Whereas Sistercharlie missed her final prep race for the Filly & Mare Turf, Fourstar Crook was able to contest the 1 ¼-mile Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. I) at Belmont, in which she rallied from behind a slow pace over a rain-soaked course to win by two lengths. Fourstar Crook has been improving steadily over the last two years and seems to be peaking just in time for the Breeders' Cup. I think she'll relish the conditions on Saturday and can spring a mild upset under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., who won this race for Brown in 2015 aboard Stephanie's Kitten. Confidence Level: 4
Second Choice: #3 Wild Illusion is a very classy three-year-old with three Group 1 wins under her belt, including a victory over Breeders' Cup Mile entrant Polydream in the Prix Marcel Boussac (Fr-I) over a soft course last year. She also finished second in the Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) over a rain-soaked course, so no matter how wet the turf gets on Saturday, it shouldn't affect her chances. She enters the Breeders' Cup off decisive wins in the Nassau Stakes (Eng-I) and Prix de l'Opera Longine (Fr-I), both going 1 ¼ miles, and as mentioned previously, trainer Charlie Appleby has fared very well with his previous Breeders' Cup starters, even winning this race last year with Wuheida.
Wild Illusion might not have the most breathtaking turn-of-foot, but the Churchill Downs homestretch is a bit longer than at most U.S. tracks, so that should help Wild Illusion's chances a bit. The 1 3/8-mile distance of the Filly & Mare Turf could also be an equalizer since she boasts very high-class form going 1 ½ miles. For my top choice, this race is really a tossup between Wild Illusion and Fourstar Crook; I'll use them both equally in the multi-race wagers.
Live Longshot: #14 Eziyra didn't get the best draw, but this lightly-raced four-year-old has run very, very well over wet courses in Europe, most recently winning the Blandford Stakes (Eng-II) over yielding ground at the Curragh. Her best Timeform Ratings aren't far behind those posted by Wild Illusion, and Eziyra's lone defeat this year came in the prestigious Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I), where she finished behind only the high-class fillies Sea of Class (runner-up in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe) and Coronet. For good measure, she's run very well over left-handed courses at Leopardstown, York, and Tipperary, and the legendary jockey Frankie Dettori will be in the saddle.
Breeders' Cup Sprint
Top Selection: Three-year-olds have historically fared well in the Sprint, including three winners since 2012, and I'm expecting #2 Promises Fulfilled to become the latest sophomore to defeat his elders at the Breeders' Cup. This sensationally fast son of Shackleford has wicked early speed—enough to run a half-mile in :43-and-change on two occasions this summer—and while he won the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (gr. I) going seven furlongs at Saratoga, I think he might be even better going six furlongs. Certainly he was impressive over this distance in the Phoenix Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland last month, in which he sprinted the first two quarters in :22.50 and :22.59, but still came home in a strong :23.96 to defeat the very capable older sprinters Whitmore and Limousine Liberal in a tight finish.
Notably, Promises Fulfilled appears to have missed a workout prior to the Phoenix since he entered the race with no official breezes in two weeks; that won't be the case on Saturday, as he worked a half-mile in a solid :48 2/5 on October 28th. I expect to see Promises Fulfilled sprint hard for the lead from post position two, and from there, it could be easier said than done for any of his older rivals to run him down. Confidence Level: 3
Second Choice: The favorite #5 Imperial Hint would be the obvious choice, but while he showed brilliance in his two Grade 1 wins this year, he was also facing fields of overall questionable quality, and when he faced the much tougher Witmore in the True North Stakes (gr. II), he was all-out to win by a neck. At 9-5, I view Imperial Hint as an underlay, so for my second choice I'll take #8 Limousine Liberal. The six-year-old gelding is a true "horse for the course" with a 6-for-8 record at Churchill Downs, but his recent form has been slightly sullied by tough trips, which should ensure that he starts at a nice price. In the Forego Stakes (gr. I) two starts back, he endured a very wide trip but was beaten just 1 ½ lengths at the finish by Whitmore and City of Light, and in the Phoenix Stakes against Promises Fulfilled and Whitmore, he never got a clear run down the homestretch but was still beaten just a half-length despite this traffic-filled trip. I think Limousine Liberal might be a bit better going seven furlongs than six, but his obvious affinity for Churchill Downs is a big asset, and if he finally gets a reasonable trip, he can be right there at the finish.
Breeders' Cup Mile
Top Selection: No, this is not a sentimental play, though I'm sure longtime readers of this blog are well aware that I've been a big fan of #15 Divisidero for years. As a one-dimensional deep closer, this son of Kitten's Joy has been frequently compromised by slow paces, but he seems relatively immune to such scenarios when racing at Churchill Downs, where he's won three of his four starts. That includes two renewals of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. I), in which the runners-up were the high-class World Approval (winner of the 2017 Breeders' Cup Mile) and Beach Patrol (second in the 2017 Breeders' Cup Turf). Furthermore, I think Divisidero would be unbeaten in four starts at Churchill Downs if not for a tough trip in the Wise Dan Stakes (gr. II) back in June, in which he got shuffled back in traffic around the far turn, but came running strongly when finally in the clear to be beaten less than a length.
Need any more reasons to consider Divisidero? Let me offer a few....
1. He's proven over wet courses, having won the 2017 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic over a course officially labeled "good," but which seemed quite a bit softer than that.
2. He's consistent if nothing else; if you like Beyer speed figures, he's cracked the 97 mark in each of his last 16 starts, a streak that includes 11 triple-digit Beyers. None of his North American-based rivals can boast a similar record.
3. He had absolutely no chance whatsoever in the Woodbine Mile (gr. I) last time out, a race in which the front-running winner Oscar Performance ran the first half-mile in :48.78 and the second half-mile in a blazing :44.34. So extreme was this setup that RacingFlow.com assigned the race a Closer Favorability Ratio (CFR) of 1 on a scale of 1 to 100—you can't get any more speed-favoring than that. As a result, the Woodbine Mile was essentially a parade from start to finish, so Divisidero deserves some credit for sticking right with that rapid final half-mile to be beaten just 3 ½ lengths.
4. Four of the last seven Breeders' Cup Mile winners prepped in the Woodbine Mile.
5. Thanks to the large field, Divisidero might actually get a meaningful pace to close into this time.
How often can you get 30-1 odds on a two-time Grade 1 winner with a strong record over the local course? Even if he doesn't win, Divisidero could give a huge boost to the exotic payoffs in he finishes in the money. I'm definitely not counting him out and believe he has a legitimate chance to win the whole thing. Confidence Level: 2.5
Second Choice: #5 Oscar Performance may have had things his own way in the Woodbine Mile, but regardless, you have to admire a horse who can run the final half-mile of a one-mile race in :44.34 second. That was his second impressive win going a mile this year, following a North American record-equaling run in the Poker Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park, and he's actually unbeaten in three starts going a mile, with his first (and arguably most prestigious) victory over the distance coming in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I).
The field size alone should ensure that the Breeders' Cup Mile unfolds at a somewhat more contested clip than the Woodbine Mile, but on paper, Oscar Performance seems to have a clear pace advantage and should have every chance to work out a winning trip. I actually think he would be an overlay at his 6-1 morning line odds and I will absolutely use him in all my multi-race wagers.
Breeders' Cup Distaff
Top Selection: Outside of the two favorites, this race looks pretty wide-open, and when you consider that one of the favorites is coming off a career-worst effort and the other is a three-year-old facing older rivals for the first time, maybe this isn't a two-horse race after all. So why not consider #10 Blue Prize? This five-year-old Argentinean-bred mare has won her last three starts at Churchill Downs (all graded stakes races), and I was intrigued by her erratic victory in the Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland last time out. After seizing command coming off the far turn, Blue Prize wound up wandering to the inside and then ducking out severely, losing a lot of ground in the process. Despite this strange run, Blue Prize held on to win with a reasonably solid 94 Beyer, and I don't think there's any doubt she could have won by much more (and with a much higher Beyer) had she maintained a straight course.
Jockey Joe Bravo was riding Blue Prize for the first time that day, so since he's had a chance to learn some of her quirks, he can hopefully help her stay more focused on Saturday. If one or both of the favorites come up vulnerable, Blue Prize could be poised to capitalize at a nice price. Confidence Level: 2
Second Choice: If not for a disqualification for drifting around in the homestretch of the Cotillion Stakes (gr. I), #11 Monomoy Girl would enter the Distaff having won five consecutive Grade 1 races. Even still, this exciting three-year-old is a neck away from having crossed the wire first in all ten of her starts, a streak that includes three victories in four races at Churchill Downs, most memorably a hard-fought triumph in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). She's got plenty of tactical speed and should be able to work out a good trip from her outside draw, though it could be important to make sure she doesn't strike the front too soon, as she's shown a tendency to lose focus on the lead, which proved costly in the Cotillion.
I would be fully on board the Monomoy Girl bandwagon except for the fact that she's never run against older horses and has received some pretty soft pace setups in her most impressive victories. I wonder if a testing nine furlongs might be a hair beyond her best; remember, she had to dig deep to win the Kentucky Oaks, a race that unfolded at only a mildly quicker clip than she typically encounters.
Live Longshot: The rapidly-improving #1 Champagne Problems won the Groupie Doll Stakes (gr. III) this summer and finished second behind Blue Prize in both the Locust Grove Stakes (gr. III) and the Spinster Stakes (gr. I), so if I like Blue Prize, I have to like Champagne Problems by extension. Drawing the rail should help this daughter of Ghostzapper work out a ground-saving trip under the Hall of Fame jockey Calvin "Bo-Rail" Borel, and I think she has every chance to finish in the trifecta or superfecta at 12-1.
Breeders' Cup Turf
Top Selection: I outlined two weeks ago why #2 Enable might have the best chance of any horse yet to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) and the Breeders' Cup Turf in the same season, and I'll stick by my conviction that she'll get the job done this Saturday. Trained by John Gosden, who has four Breeders' Cup victories on his record, this four-year-old daughter of Nathaniel has shown no difficulty handling soft turf or left-handed turns; in fact, she won the 2017 Cheshire Oaks over the nearly round course at Chester, so the turns at Churchill Downs should be less of a challenge for her than for some European shippers. Also significant is that Enable has plenty of tactical speed and the ability to produce a terrific turn-of-foot in the homestretch, which should help her secure the trip she needs and pounce to the lead when necessary. She'll be a heavy favorite, but I do view her as the most likely winner. Confidence Level: 4
Second Choice: #12 Waldgeist doesn't have quite the same turn-of-foot as Enable, but this son of Galileo is a high-class multiple Group 1 winner with great form at 1 ½ miles, and he was only beaten 1 ¾ lengths in the Arc while weaving his way through traffic in the homestretch. Trainer Andre Fabre has won the Turf three times before, and Waldgeist has handled all sorts of ground conditions throughout his career, so nothing in that regard should bother him on Saturday.
Live Longshot: Maybe #11 Sadler's Joy has lost a step or two over the last few months, or maybe he's been the recipient of some tough trips and setups. In any case, he was only beaten 2 ¼ lengths in the Breeders' Cup Turf last year, and the three-turn configuration of the Turf at Churchill Downs should be right in Sadler's Joy's wheelhouse. As a son of Kitten's Joy, he shouldn't be bothered by the wet conditions on Saturday; indeed, he finished a close third in the Bowling Green Stakes (gr. II) over a soft course at Saratoga this summer, and he was also third with a tricky setup over soft turf in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. I) last time out. On that day, the inside seemed to be the best part of the course, and Sadler's Joy unleashed an eye-catching rally up the rail on the far turn before flattening out once shifted to the outside. I don't expect him to win, but I do think he can outrun his 30-1 morning line odds and finish in the top four once again.
Breeders' Cup Classic
Top Selection: I pretty much have to pick a longshot here since I'm not overly enthusiastic about the morning line favorites, who all—in my opinion—have some questions to answer. #14 Accelerate has been brilliant this year with four Grade 1 wins (including three over the 1 ¼-mile distance of the Classic), but he seemed a bit dull in the Awesome Again Stakes last month and his Beyer regressed sharply to a 100, his lowest of the season. Throw in the fact that he's drawn the far outside post and is shipping outside of California for only the second time of his career, and I have to oppose him.
To lesser degrees, I also think #7 West Coast and #6 McKinzie could be vulnerable. West Coast has run just once since March, finishing second in the Awesome Again after appearing to be out of gas on the far turn. That was a solid enough comeback given that he wasn't fully cranked for the race, but his runner-up effort in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) two starts back was also a step down from his previous form, and I do wonder if perhaps he's a little better going shorter than 1 ¼ miles. As for McKinzie, he's shown flashes of brilliance in his first five starts, but he's lightly-raced, has never negotiated 1 ¼ miles, and has never faced a field remotely this competitive. Another well-regarded contender is #11 Mind Your Biscuits, but while he's got the proven class and is in great form, he's been a sprinter for most of his career and has never tackled 1 ¼ miles-I just think this distance, against this caliber of competition, might be too tough of a test.
That's why I'm going to pin my hopes on #10 Yoshida. A former grass star who won this year's Old Forrester Turf Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, Yoshida made the switch to dirt for the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) two months ago, and his resulting performance was eye-catching. After settling comfortably inside of horses early on, showing no hesitation handling the unfamiliar dirt kickback, Yoshida shifted to the far outside on the final turn and powered relentlessly down the homestretch to catch the leaders and win going away by two lengths. I loved how he finished full of run with a final furlong in less than :12 2/5—to my eye, he was just getting going as he came down to the wire.
Beforehand, the Woodward field was billed as being somewhat weak, but three of the beaten runners have come right back to win graded stakes races, including the third-place finisher Leofric (who won the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland last week) and Discreet Lover (who upset the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup).
The main track at Churchill Downs has a reputation for playing kindly toward turf horses, so if Yoshida can handle the dirt at Saratoga, he might be even better at Churchill Downs. Furthermore, six of the eight renewals of the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs were won by late runners who trailed by significant margins after the opening half-mile, so Yoshida's running style would appear to fit this race and track very well. His trainer, Bill Mott, has already won the Classic twice with Cigar (1995) and Drosselmeyer (2011), and he's given Yoshida a couple of solid workouts at Churchill Downs to prepare him for this race. Call it a hunch, but I'm expecting a big run from Yoshida, and we might even get a better price than his 10-1 morning line odds. Confidence Level: 3
Second Choice: I was all set to pick #2 Roaring Lion until he drew post position two; given that he's never run on dirt before and prefers to race from off the pace, this could potentially leave him boxed in behind horses early on, where we have no idea how he'll react to the kickback.
But on class alone, I'd argue that this three-year-old son of Kitten's Joy might be the best horse in the field. He's a true 1 ¼-mile specialist with the raw talent to compete in high-class races going both longer and shorter, and he's rattled off four straight Group 1 wins in Europe since July, defeating such accomplished runners as Saxon Warrior and Poet's Word in such storied prizes as the Coral Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I), Juddmonte International (Eng-I), QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes (Eng-I), and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I).
Roaring Lion's victory in the Queen Elizabeth II came just two weeks ago, and he had to work hard to win over a soft course that wasn't his preference, but I think the one-mile distance was ideal for getting him to the Classic in top shape. The 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Raven's Pass and the 2000 runner-up Giant's Causeway both used the Queen Elizabeth II as a springboard to their strong efforts in the Classic, though granted, the Queen Elizabeth II used to be held earlier in the year and they had more time recuperate before the Breeders' Cup.
Ultimately, I have just enough questions about Roaring Lion to keep him from being my top choice, but on talent alone he has to be considered a threat and I will use him strongly in multi-race wagers.
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