Breeders’ Cup Analysis & Picks
Sometimes I need to be reminded of how beautiful Santa Anita really is. Mission accomplished.
Here, at the foot of the majestic San Gabriel Mountains, racing has been regularly conducted, more or less, since Christmas Day 1934. It’s been a glorious run, highlighted by hosting racing’s biggest day or two—Breeders’ Cup—on nine previous occasions. To anyone who loves watching Thoroughbreds race and humans eat, drink and wager, Santa Anita is a cathedral. And when some of the world’s best equines, most talented jockeys, sharpest horseplayers and richest owners congregate there it’s racing’s equivalent to a Vatican mass served by the Pope.
Here’s a look at one man’s Breeders’ Cup opinions.
Juvenile Turf Sprint
Last year, in the race’s initial presentation, Todd Pletcher-trained Bulletin wired the field at Churchill Downs. I like trends, but there’s not much one can cull from one sample. Here’s what I think I think: This race, at five furlongs on grass around a turn doesn’t play to the strengths of Euro runners. Also, speed is at a premium. Just about every season Wesley Ward takes a US-trained 2-year-old across the pond to contend with Euros on their ground and he does well. Why? Partly because going fast at 2 is more of a US thing than a Euro thing. So, I look for a speedy, US-based runner in here, as well.
9-Four Wheel Drive
While I favor US-based horses in the Juvy Turf Sprint, I’m looking for a Euro-based runner in the Juvenile Turf. Euros have won 9 of the last 12 editions and 7 of the last 8. At Santa Anita, the winner of this race has exited a race at Newmarket in 3 of the last 6 times. Trainer Aidan O’Brien has won 4 of the last 8 and has had 2 runners in the exacta. Jockey Ryan Moore is 9: 4-1-0. So, that makes things easy: Find a Euro trained by Aidan O’Brian and ridden by Ryan Moor.
2 – Peace Achieved
3 -Hit the Road
There have been some huge prices in this race at Santa Anita—3 of the last 5 times--$66.60, $125.40 and $69.20, in fact. Runners exiting the Frizette have done well in the last 2, 4 of the last 8 and 12 overall.
2- Two Sixty
4- British Idiom
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Euros haven’t done as well with fillies in this race as they have with males in the other division. North American-based runners have won 9 of 11 and 4 of the last 6. Mostly that’s because trainer Chad Brown has scored in 5 of 11, including the last 3. Only 2 of 5 were favored. Albigna, a Euro, is the lukewarm favorite at 9-2 and Euro runners are 0 for 6 as favorites. Belmont’s Miss Grillo has produced 5 of 11 winners and 2 of the last 3. Put it all together and you got 13 Selflessly, winner of the Miss Grillo trained by Chad Brown.
13 – Selflessly
7 - Crystalle
11 – Sharing
Favorites do well in this race and are 6 out of 6 in the exacta at Santa Anita. Trainer Bob Baffert is king of this country with 26 starts, 4 wins and 4 seconds. No pacesetter has been in the money since 2011.
1 – Dennis’ Moment
6 – Eight Rings
2 – Wrecking Crew
Filly & Mare Sprint
Favored Covfefe has so many strikes against her that it’s a wonder why she should even bother to show up. She’s 3 and that age has won 1 out of 34 of these. She’s a speed filly drawn on the rail. That means she’s got to go very fast early and that may leave little for the end. There’s a ton of other ‘speed’ fillies in the race and they will be more than happy to force the favorite to go faster than usual. Covfefe also ran a huge race last out at Keeneland and that might have been too big an investment for a 3-year-old filly. I’m looking forward to leaving her out of multi-race wagers and using some bombs in here.
9 – Spiced Perfection
8 – Dawn the Destroyer
4- Come Dancing
This race’s history is clouded because 5 of 6 times it’s been run at Santa Anita it was over the unique downhill turf course at six and one-half furlongs. Saturday it will be five furlongs on flat turf around a bend. Of note: No exclusively overseas-based runner has been in the money and 7 of 11 versions have been won by a 5-year-old or older.
1 – Totally Boss
7 – Leinster
9 – Final Frontier
This is an interesting race that includes the 2019 morning line Kentucky Derby favorite—Omaha Beach--and the actual starting choice -- Improbable. The former got lots of press for winning a Grade 1 Sprint in his comeback race off a 6-month layoff. The latter cuts back from troubled mile and one-eighth fourth in the PA. To Omaha Beach or not, that is the question. Favorites have not done well in this race. Last 3 have been off the board and 9 of 12 have been out of the trifecta. Will Omaha Beach fire another big shot second off a layoff or react from his huge performance? Please Note: In 8 lifetime starts he’s never taken a backward step, according to Thoro-Graph speed figures—and that’s very rare. Bob Baffert has been crowing about how well Improbable has been training, but the colt has had gate issues in the past. 3-year-old Mr. Money has been exceedingly sharp until his last. Spun to Run romped at Parx.
5 – Omaha Beach 8/5
2 – Improbable 3-1
4 – Mr. Money 6-1
Filly & Mare Turf
Foreign-breds swept the top 6 finish spots last year and 16 of the last 24 trifecta placings the last 18 years. That eliminates four of 12 lined up. North American-based runners have held their own over Euros 12 – 8 and won 6 of the last 9. Belmont’s Flower Bowl has produced 6 winners and Keeneland’s First Lady 4. That’s half as many as all other venues. Inexplicably, world-class trainer Aiden O’Brien is 13 : 0 – 2- 2 in her and Cal-prepped fillies and mares are 0 for 44 with 5 in the money finishes.
2 – Sistercharlie 8/5
9 – Villa Marina 8-1
12 – Fanny Logan 15-1
This may be the most loaded race I’ve ever seen. Seriously, this race has runners from top to bottom. Mitole is the 9-5 favorite, but there are three contenders listed at 4-1 odds. The win percentage for favorites in this race is 23%--lowest of any of the 7 original BC events. Shancelot is a speed burner, very fast. Mitole won’t be far behind and neither will be Imperial Hint. If they get crazy up front something wild could happen late. Imperial Hint is in his third BC Sprint and this one could be the charm. He drew outside of other speed horses and that’s a great place to be.
9 – Imperial Sky 4-1
4 – Mitole 9-5
6 – Catalina Cruiser 4-1
Always one of the most entertaining BC events, the Mile has been a great spot for females against males. This year, two fillies—Got Stormy and Uni—are in the spotlight as 7-2 co-second choices behind Euro invader Circus Maximus at 3-1. While those three clearly are the main contenders, no one would argue with a choice outside that box. For instance, 8-year-old Suedois is in solid form. El Tormenta, winner of the Woodbine Mile, is 12-1 and has a chance if he repeats that effort.
11 – Uni 7/2
8 – El Tormenta 12-1
6 – Got Stormy 7-2
If Midnight Bisou loses this race, I’ll be surprised. She’s fast, consistent and has enough speed to be close early. Might want to look at some price runners for underneath the 6/5 favorite and most logical winner of the entire Breeders’ Cup program.
4 – Midnight Bisou 6/5
6 – Wow Cat 15 - 1
8 – La Force 30-1
Euros are bosses in here with 16 wins out of the last 20, 4 in a row and 5 of the last 7 at Santa Anita. 4 of the last 6 fillies have been in the money with 3 wins. Favorites are 1 for the last 9. Aden O’Brien has won 4 of the last 8, 3 of the last 7. No Cal-prepped runner has won since 2003 and the last in the money was in 2013. For more analysis of this race and a complete wagering strategy check out the Turf Xpressbet’s Free Breeders’ Cup Wager Guide.
10 - Old Persian 4-1
9 – Bricks and Mortar 9-5
5 – Anthony Van Dyck 3-1
Am I the only horseplayer having difficulty finding a horse to like in the Classic? No, I’ve got plenty of company. The fastest horse with the best credentials is McKinzie. Trouble is I hated his last race, as he swished his tail through the stretch. Plus, a mile and one-quarter isn’t his favorite distance.
The default play is Vino Rosso. Not only has he won here going a mile and one-quarter, but he gamely won his last race (before disqualification) and has trained well since.
Higher Power has some cache because of his triumph at Del Mar one back, but nothing else he’s done fits.
Code of Honor has backers, but he’s not even the best 3-year-old. That’s Maximun Security and he’s not in the race.
War of Will, Preakness winner, should set the pace and adds blinkers. Great, a horse that pulls early is adding blinkers. That should make him nearly unmanageable.
Yoshida always is around with good company and might get overlooked, but he seldom wins.
Seeking the Soul also knocks, but seldom enters.
Elate may be good at a mile and one-quarter, but two of her races at the distance were in the Delaware Handicap against short, overmatched fields.
Mongolian Groom shocked everyone from here to Genghis Khan by winning the Awesome Again. A win here would do the same, but he won’t need to do much more than he did last time.
10 – Vino Rosso 4-1
8 – McKinzie 3-1
5 – Yoshida 8-1