IT’S that time of year. America’s best, the Breeders’ Cup. Championship races for every division – and we mean every division – with 14 races spread over two days in the California sun. And… no Lasix!
I’m writing this Thursday morning, you’re reading this Saturday morning. If Slipstream upset the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Friday, then we’re playing with their money.
Quick, check the results and then decide if you want to follow the picks below. And of course, I’ve still got two days to research – and change my mind! Good luck.
7.05 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (Grade 1) 7f
Did you ever think you’d see a Breeders’ Cup races with six entries? Well, that’s what happens when an overwhelming favorite shows up in a watered-down race.
The once-beaten Gamine takes on five rivals in the Saturday opener. Cool horse. Checkered past. She’ll win. Turn the page.
Selections: Gamine, Ce Ce, Bella Sofia
7.40 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (Grade 1) 5f
Wow, 18 jammed the entry box for the $1 million stakes. Europe is represented by last year’s winner Glass Slippers and Group 1 winners Emaraaty Ana and A Case Of You. Wesley Ward runs the best horse he’s ever trained, Golden Pal, Arrest Me Red, undefeated in two starts since leaving Arnaud Delacour and two-time Royal Ascot runner-up Kimari.
We’ve loved Gear Jockey since (before) he finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at 67/1 two years ago, he’ll be rolling late. Ryan Moore rejoins veteran Extravagant Kid, third in the King’s Stand and 14th in the July Cup.
The eight-year-old enjoyed a freshening and returned to chase Golden Pal in the Woodford at Keeneland October 9th. Trainer Brendan Walsh targeted this as he galloped out in the July Cup.
“I think we’ll just tip away with him for a little bit and bring him back, maybe the race at Keeneland and try to go to the Breeders’ Cup,” Walsh said back in August.
“He’s been some servant. His form is impeccable, never runs a bad race. If he has, he’s always had a good excuse like he did at Newmarket. He’s given us some thrill. He owes us nothing at this stage.”
Five furlongs, 12 runners, as Ken Kesey would say, it’s all about the trip.
Selections: Gear Jockey, Golden Pal, Glass Slippers
8.19 Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (Grade 1) 1m
As The Saratoga Special’s Tom Law always says, “Take the free square.” This is a penalty kick for Life Is Good. The once-beaten son of Into Mischief left embattled Bob Baffert’s care this summer and has made two starts for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. In the first, he missed by hard-fought neck to the fastest horse in Saratoga, Jackie’s Warrior, and came back to thump three overmatched rivals in the Kelso at Belmont Park.
Good luck to the Japanese pair Pingxiang and Jasper Prince, thanks for helping this become a true international event.
Selections: Life Is Good, Silver State, Ginobili
8.59 Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf (Grade 1) 1m 3f
GB. GB. Fr. Ire. Ire. Jpn. Fr. Ire. Fr.
Foreign raiders descend on the first of the traditional eight races on the Breeders’ Cup card. And they loom large. Acanella takes on her elders and stretches an extra quarter mile for Ger Lyons. Rougir handled her elders in the Prix de l’Opera at ParisLongchamp on October 3rd. Queen Supreme has trotted the globe from South Africa to Newmarket to Del Mar.
Love tries to snap an unfathomable three-race losing streak and comes in fresher than others (but you would know better than I). Japanese-bred/based Loves Only You won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin in April and just missed to Mishriff in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March.
Ocean Road jumps in the deep end. And last year’s winner, Audarya drew the outside post while trying to win her first race since that 17/1 upset.
As for the Americans, you can’t fault War Like Goddess who has won her last four for Hall of Famer Bill Mott. The brutish daughter of English Channel has risen to the top of her division stateside. Is it good enough worldwide?
“She’s really, knock on wood, has been good ever since her last race in the Flower Bowl. Her lone loss was a comeback race and first time in a stakes and it was a little shorter than she likes and Gulfstream is a pretty speed-favouring kind of track,” Mott said.
“She’s won drawing away and there was another race where she just got up, but we hope there’s more there because this is a very good field against some good fillies. You have to be impressed with (Loves Only You), I’ve seen her out there and she looks good.”
Selections: Love, War Like Goddess, Audarya
9.38 Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Grade 1) 6f
Another free square? Or the acid test? Jackie’s Warrior rides a three-race win streak into the $2 million stakes. The three-year-old colt faces older horses for the first time. If you want a fighter, Firenze Fire will go down swinging, or biting (Google it).
Selections: Jackie’s Warrior, Dr. Schivel, Following Sea
10.20 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF (Grade 1) 1m
The hits just keep on spinning. Space Blues has won his last two and seven of his last nine and will need to show all his versatility going from heavy ground at Longchamp to firm ground at Del Mar.
California-based Mo Forza rides a four-race win streak for Peter Miller and Flavien Prat. Smooth Like Strait and Hit The Road finished two-three in the latter two. Brazilian-born Paul Lobo has enjoyed a stellar year with a small string, he sends out In Love and Ivar, live threats who may be overlooked in here. Pearls Galore, trained by Paddy Twomey, chased Space Blues at ParisLongchamp.
“Pearls Galore travelled over well, she’s settled into the routine here lovely and enjoying the training. She’s cantered on the track the last two days, everything has gone well, we’re looking forward to Saturday,” Twomey said. “Del Mar is a lovely track, the turf will be quick and it’ll suit her. She’s nimble, neat and tidy and I think she’ll deal with the demands of the track very well on the day.”
Selections: In Love, Space Blues, Smooth Like Strait
11.00 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Grade 1) 1m 1f
Oh, it’s that time of year. In what the Breeders’ Cup was always good at producing, the three-year-olds clash with the older horses.
The nine furlongs of the Distaff is the cauldron. Malathaat carries a gaudy six-for-seven mark into this but those were all against her age group. She breaks from post three for Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez.
The older mare standing in her way is certainly Letruska. In the story of the year, trainer Fausto Gutierrez, who ventured from big-fish–small-pond dominance in Mexico to try his hand in America, brings the five-year-old mare into the Distaff on a five-race win streak.
A five-stakes race win streak, including the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, Ogden Phipps, Personal Ensign and Spinster. If she wins this and one of the big guns misfire in the Classic, she could be Horse of the Year. Epic race.
“She ran one mile, just one turn, and she crossed the six furlongs in 1:08 and change,” At that moment, I thought that maybe we had a spot for the Breeders’ Cup, the Sprint,” Gutierrez said of a stakes win going a mile last summer.
“I reconsidered very quickly and we moved again to the long distances. If we go a mile and a quarter, I think it is even better for her. The more distance, she has the chance to go a little bit more relaxed.”
As for Pletcher, he relishes and respects the showdown. “It’s what you would expect from any Breeders’ Cup Distaff,” Pletcher said. “It’s a collection of the best fillies and mares in the country. You’ve got some speed in there. You’ve got some closers.
“You’ve got some three-year-old fillies, the best older mares. It’s what you’d expect to see in the Distaff. Hopefully, there is a good, honest pace to run at and we can let our filly do her thing. She is kind of ideally suited to be a stalker. She enjoys a target.”
Selections: Malathaat, Letruska, Clairiere
11.40 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (Grade 1) 1m 4f
The co-feature took a hit Thursday morning when Chad Brown was forced to scratch second-choice Domestic Spending with a filled left foreleg. Richard Mandella made the same tough decision when he scratched 10-time winner United with filling in a front suspensory.
Those defections made room for Belmont Derby winner Bolshoi Ballet and veteran Channel Maker, who will certainly try to clear the field from his outside draw. The loss also, perhaps more importantly, moved favorite Tarnawa from post 13 to post 11.
With or without Domestic Spending and United, it’s still 12 furlongs of international drama. Five Irish-breds, three British-breds, two French-breds, two Kentucky-breds, a California-bred and an Ontario-bred. In that mix comes a German-based runner and an Irish-bred named Japan.
Chad Brown still has two in the turf but neither has the credentials of Domestic Spending. Rockemperor upset the Grade 1 Turf Classic in his most recent start and drew the rail for Javier Castellano. Tribhuvan won the Grade 1 United Nations before finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga.
Charlie Appleby could continue a big weekend with seven-year-old Walton Street and three-year-old Yibir, dominant winners of their North American forays earlier this year.
Tarnawa returns to defend her crown for trainer Dermot Weld, the five-year-old mare will need all the magic jockey Colin Keane can muster from an outside draw.
“Tarnawa seems in great form. She had a very tough race in the Arc aand she was tired for a week afterward. Since then she has bounced back very well and travelled over great,” Weld said. “She’s very adaptable as we saw in Keeneland last year so obviously we’re all very hopeful again. On the stats she’s got a huge task. We’ll just take our time in the race and see what happens.
“I love coming to the Breeders’ Cup and having international runners. I love the challenge and the challenge is forever getting harder with the quality of races.”
Selections: Tarnawa, Teona, Yibir