Breeder’s Cup 2015 – October 31

The second day of the Breeder’s Cup is an exhausting grind. I hope you’ve saved up your bankroll because it could expensive by the end of the day.

Race 3     The Juvenile Fillies

There are not many Grade 1 races for two year old fillies. The Del Mar Debutante, the Spinaway, the Chandler, the Alcibiades, and the Frizette. We’ll focus most of the attention on the Grade 1 horses.

Songbird won the two West Coast Grade 1 races, the last one around two turns at today’s distance. Her pace figures absolutely dominate this field. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this is a much deeper field than she’s faced previously. She’s never been headed, but Nickname and Forever Darling should provide competition up front. She’ll be bet heavily, and she does look like the one to beat, but….

Land Over Sea was running behind the top pick in both the West Coast Grade 1’s and it is hard to believe the result is likely to be different today. Doug O’Neill’s top filly, Gomo, sustained an injury and this horse will fill the spot for Reddam Racing. O’Neill is a top conditioner, and if anyone can pull the upset it’s him. If Songbird is compromised in the front, Land Over Sea is one of the horses that can benefit.

Nickname won the Frizette on a sloppy Belmont and earned a big number doing it. The knock on the effort is that a couple of the top fillies passed the race, so perhaps she wasn’t as strong as previous Frizette winners. She should have no issue with the distance and may improve with a drier racetrack. Her Kenneland works are encouraging. We haven’t necessarily seen her best, and we don’t know if her best is good enough to beat Songbird, but she has to be in the mix.

Rachel’s Valentina was the winner of the Spinaway the last week of Saratoga. She has dream breeding and will have no issue negotiating the mile and a sixteenth. Pletcher decided to bring her up to this race with works, and perhaps that is not the best decision. Let’s face it. TAP is still an ace and the potential is limitless for the daughter of Bernardini and Rachel Alexandra. There is enough ambiguity and other talent in this race that given the odds, I’m not likely to use her on top.

Dothraki Queen was coming at Gomo in the Alcibiades and she is potentially the horse that will benefit most from a pace duel. Given the potential shape of the race, she is not without chances.

Is this race primed for an upset? On paper it iooks like if Songbird is to lose, some other horse is going to have to show us something they haven’t already. But with young horses, the improvements can be dramatic from race to race. Remember last year that Take Charge Brandi outran any of her previous figures. Can Land Over Sea jump up?  Is the Frizette winner looking at a new top? Is the sentimental choice, Rachel’s Valentina, going to run like mom or pop? It might be gambling, but that’s why the run the race instead of deciding it on paper.

Race 4    Turf Sprint

This race doesn’t have the twist of the last Breeder’s Cup where horses had to negotiate the unique Santa Anita course. The fact is this race is a 14-horse mess of a race, and it may more resemble a rodeo than an organized horserace. There are speed horses galore (at least 11 of the 14 prefer the front) and there is a lot of front running quality.

Undrafted is one of the few horses that prefers coming from off the pace. He was a winner in a six furlong race at Ascot, earning a huge figure. I like that he came back at Kentucky Downs and ran an even race at a distance that’s not his best. One concern – given the off the pace style, he may find the 5.5 furlongs a bit too short. But with all the speed, it can hardly set up better for him. At 4-1 he’s not highly attractive, but it’s not likely you’ll get less on him.

Ready for Rye has to overcome the 12 post but Albertrani’s moving him to the turf has been a real tonic for the horse. He’s riding a three race winning streak and his turf numbers look as strong as anyone. At 10/1 ML he’s making it onto my tickets.

Lady Shipman is a three year old filly going against the boys. Don’t be fooled. These speedy fillies can compete in any race. My knock? I think sometimes fillies can get intimidated and physically bounced around in big fields, and she hasn’t even seen a 10 horse field since April. Yes, the numbers look strong and her fractions are blazing, but she’s not going to be in my top two. If she clears early and has the front to herself, she has real outs, but if not, I’d be surprised to see her in the mix at the end.

Pure Sensation is a true turf sprinter. In his four turf races, he’s won three (at this distance) and that is enough to put him in the mix here. No question he’s got to gun from the one hole and if he can get a spot he’s well suited for the distance.

No Silent is one of the West Coast competitors in the race. He’s got speed and has won 50% of his starts at this distance. He lost the Shakertown in his Keeneland start, but if you look at that race he really had no shot after breaking slow, getting bumped and having to race wide. Often the West Coast sprinters are first rate, and he looks as good as any horse shipping from the coast.

Green Mask may be the best of the closers. I like how Wesley Ward gave him plenty of recovery time after the race in Dubai, and I like the Kentucky Downs race as a prep. He’s got some useful works at Keeneland, and while he’s a stretch in the top slot, he’s got reasonable chances to be in the exotics.

This is a wide open race. I’m not a big Lady Shipman fan, but I like what I’ve seen of Undrafted. Ready for Rye is an interesting starter, especially at the odds. But if something totally surprising happens, well, maybe it wasn’t such a big surprise at all.

Race 5     F&M Sprint

Some of the races seem almost gimmicky, and for me this may be one, although there are some quality fillies and mares in this race. There should be enough speed to give the off the pace horses something to run at. I wouldn’t be surprised if any one of eight or nine horses won.

Cavorting is breaking from the far outside and that makes her vulnerable for me. She will likely stay in the center of the track, so ground loss is a real possibility. She’s a three year old going up against older for the first time, but she has run some A+ races in her last two. The McLaughlin/Ortiz combo has been dynamite this year. She’ll probabably go favorite, but she has to run a perfect race to get the win.

Taris has been effective at the middle distance, winning two of three at seven furlongs. One other important clue – her lifetime top came right here at Keeneland at this distance in a Grade 2. She is one of the many horses that shows a lot of interest in running to the front, but he last race showed some ability to track. Doesn’t stick out, but enough positive to make her a contender to watch.

Dame Dorothy is going to be one of the horses that will be tracking and while her figures look a step below some in here, Pletcher has done his usual expert job of bringing her up to this race in top form. She’s won 7 of 11 lifetime, and is 4 of 5 at the distance, and considering she’s been almost exclusively in graded races, she is in the mix.

La Verdad has been untouchable in 2015. She won a state-bred, essentially public workout last week, but I don’t think that race took much out of her at all. She has run figures that would top this field most days at six and six and a half, but at seven furlongs she’s suspect. She’s tried the distance twice and only has a second to show for it. She’s a quality mare, and becomes more dangerous now that she showed some ability to press off the pace. If I had to say, I’d look for a lesser share.

Artemis Agrotera is an extraordinarily talented horse that obviously has some physical issues. She’s been off since last year’s F&M Sprint where she disappointed on the Santa Anita Dirt. Mike Hushion is a quality trainer, and he looks like he has her ready for the return here. Obviously taking this on a little bit of faith, but I’m not sure you can eliminate her based on past performance.

The morning line has Cavorting as the favorite followed by Stontastic, La Verdad, and Judy the Beauty. I can’t see Stonetastic coming off an OC $40K at Parx and a second in a restricted stakes at Saratoga. She’s 0 for 3 this year and I’m have a really hard time trying to figure out how she could be the second choice. While Judy the Beauty has a win and a second in the last two renewals of this race, she doesn’t look like the same horse to me. I’ll make her a pass. There is a lot of speed signed on, although La Verdad and Taris both looked like they were prepping to track instead of fighting for the front. Cavorting has a major test and I’m not solid that she’ll pass with flying colors. Dame Dorothy and Taris both look better than their odds. Artemis Agrotera is the X-factor horse and at 20-1 if she runs to her lifetime best she is great value.

Race 6     F&M Turf

Another race that can give handicappers brain cramps. We’ll look first at the Euro horses, and then the top Americans.

Legatissimo is the top Euro in this field and that is enough to earn her favoritism. She is good at the distance, likes the soft turf, and has the rave reviews from her trainer. While favorites have not had great success in this race, she looks about as strong as a shipper can look.

Miss France has struggled a bit finding the winners circle, and she has not started at today’s distance, but she has been racing with top flight fillies and mares. Andre Fabre and Frankie Dettori are two of the best Europe has, and that elevates her chances. A bit of faith necessary, but not to be ignored.

Secret Gesture had been running pretty much nothing but Group races in Euorpe, and was taken down in the Beverly D in a constroversial DQ. She is by top turf sire Galileo, meaning she shouldn’t have any trouble negotiating the distance. She was only two lengths behind the top choice in a Group 1 in June and given the odds difference, she looks like one to consider.

Stephanie’s Kitten is one of America’s top turf mares and Chad Brown has brought her up to the race perfectly. She ran with some good horses in the Beverly D and looked good winning the Flower Bowl. If the turf stays soft her chances get upgraded.

Sentiero Italia has been one of the top three year old turf fillies this year. She did not have a great trip in the QE II but still showed interest, closing for third. Before than she won a couple of Grade 2 races. She looks very tractable and I like that she has a race over the track.

Dacita came from Chile to win at first asking in the U.S. in the Ballston Spa. That was an excellent effort, and while the record isn’t as plump as I might have liked, that professional run in the Ballston Spa has to give her consideration. Well, that and the fact that Chad Brown and Javier Castellano team up.

Queen’s Jewel is coming to this race off three straight Group 1 races. She only won one of them, but the connections are quality. I’m giving her a small shot at a minor award.

This is a tale of one standout horse and a whole lot of potential upsetters. Legatissimo looks better than anything else in the race on paper, but she wouldn’t be the first Euro to not run her race. Still, she has to be on most of your horizontals and verticals. Miss France, Secret Gesture and Stephanie’s Kitten all have legitimate upset chances.

Race 7      Sprint

The Sprint is always the most confusing race for me. If I think there is too much speed, one horse goes out and has its own way. I’ll admit I’ve had less success in this race than about any other. Admitedly, I have no real insight in this race. The only knock against Private Zone is the outside post. He’s got a series of figures, any one of which could dust this field. He’s been working well at Keeneland and he’s got a huge turn of speed. His losses this year came to Tonalist and Honor Code, exceptional stakes horses. There is no horse of their caliber in this race. At 5/2 he actually might be value. Runhappy is the top three year old in the race. He won the King’s Bishop in the summer and came back with a win against older in the Phoenix at Keeneland, despite having his saddle slip and breaking slowly. Improving three year olds are always dangerous, and he looks as dangerous as they come. Of the rest, Wild Dude will be there to pick up the pieces should the frontrunners fail to hold. He’s four of six at the distance and has only been keeping company with graded horses.  My B/C horses are Salutos Amigos, Limousine Liberal and Masochistic. Salutos Amigos isn’t the same horse he was last year but comes into this race in the best shape of the year, having run a close second to division leader Rock Fall. Limousine Liberal looks like another improving three year old and that merits consideration. Masochistic has thrived since moving from the care of A C Avila to Ron Ellis. He’s been beaten twice by Wild Dude, but he’s been close. Not without a chance.

Race 8    Mile

Like most of the turf races, this comes down to the (often B Team) Euros vs. the North Americans. There are a couple of very stong looking Euros and some intersting Americans.

Esoterique has been in nothing but Group 1 and 2 races this year with two wins, two seconds and a third. Both of her wins came at the mile, one against the boys. She lost to the primo sprinter Muhaarar by only a half length and Solow, widely thought of as Europe’s top miler, but beat a top notch group of fillies and mares in the Sun Chariot states a month ago. She generally runs toward the back, but don’t be fooled – she has push button speed if she needs it. While she is second on the morning line, she looks the one to beat for me.

Make Believe is a three year old colt with only 6 starts so he is definitely eligible to improve. He comes in off a win in the Prix de la Foret, the same race Goldikova used to prep for her mile wins. His pace number in that race was spectacular, and I expect that is what induced Fabre to bring him here. Fabre trains both Make Believe and Esoterique, and may actually think a little bit more of this runner, but in any case it looks like Fabre has the inside track here.

Tepin has not yet raced against males but her races against females have been excellent. She has four wins and two seconds this year, and her race in the First Lady at Keeneland was powerful. Trainer Mark Casse is super high on the horse and don’t be scared away by the fact she is a filly. Some top fillies like Miesque and Goldikova have been winners here. At 12-1 morning line she could give the Euros a run for their money.

Grand Arch comes off a win in the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland. He looks like he is at the top of his game and looks like he loves the Keeneland course. He’s got a big hill to climb against the Euros but he’s not likely to ever have a better chance.

Time Test is another Euro three year old looking to cap a good season. He has a win in his one mile race and was not that far behind some of the top Euros in the Judmonte Stakes. He is just another of the European contingent that wouldn’t be a surprise in the winner’s circle.

Mondialiste is a veteran campaigner who shipped over to run in the Woodbine Mile a month and a half ago. He came from the clouds to win that race, and while he doesn’t have the Grade 1 credentials of some of the other Euros he does have North American recency.

All in all it is hard to ignore the collective class and ability of the European shippers. The two Andre Fabre horses are both top candidates here, but both Tepin and Grand Arch are worthy competitors. Given they will both go off at double digit odds, they should be considered in both the win slot and exactas.

Race 9     Juvenile

Lots of contenders in this race, and as I’ve already mentioned, two year olds can improve by leaps and bounds from race to race. We’re going to look first for horses that have negotiated turns (which often eliminates the Euros) and we’re especially going to be soft on horses that look more like sprinters.

Exaggerator was second in the Breeders Futurity. Despite having good wet track breeding and getting  track that was listed as muddy, the surface played more like a wet fast. He got a good trip, tracking in 5th or 6th down the backstretch, made a bold move coming out of the far turn and simply could not hold off the winner, Brody’s Cause. I think having that experience will be a big help, and being a Curlin means the two turns should be right in his wheelhouse.

Brody’s Cause made an impressive close to win the Breeders Futurity, coming from near the back of the pack to run down everyone. He made that same run in his maiden race and will certainly have to make it again today. Although Keeneland tends to favor closers in these races, he will have a lot of work to do. Can’t leave him out but he’s not the sort of horse I favor enthusiastically.

Nyquist is coming from the loaded Reddam stable, trained by Doug O’Neill. O’Neill has been hot lately, winning the SA training title with three winners on Sunday. Nyquist has a lot going for him. He’s undefeated with two Grade 1 wins, and he’s been around two turns. As much as I am a fan of O’Neill, I think the horse may be more useful sprinting than routing. I won’t leave him off my tickets, but he won’t be on top of many.

Riker comes from north of the border out of one of Canada’s top juvenile races, the Grey. He’s another undefeated colt with improving numbers and looks to be coming into the race in top form.

Greenpointcrusader is the Champagne winner, and that race has been productive in terms of producing top contenders. The sloppy track may have given him an edge, but I like the style and I love the way he’s taken to Keeneland. Certainly eligible to make the jump to the winner’s circle in this race.

Cocked and Loaded is a bit ambiguous for me. On the one hand he is an improving two year old with a good style and competitive numbers. He’s been around two turns, but his last race was seven weeks ago and I favor the horses with a prep a little closer to the race. Not without a chance, but at the bottom of my contender list.

Race 10    Turf

Let’s face it. When the top Euros show up, the North Americans are up against it, and with Golden Horn in the race one of Europe’s top turf horses is in the race. You can usually tell when the Americans have a chance, like last year with Main Sequence. Even so, he had to beat the very talented Flintshire. I’m not sure there is a Main Sequence in this year’s crop, so it looks like Golden Horn and a whole bunch of other contenders.

Golden Horn has perhaps one flaw – he won the Arc and it has been the case that not only do horses pointed at the Arc peak there, but not a one of the Arc winners has come to the Breeders Cup and won. That’s not to say running in the Arc is a kiss of death – 16% of horses who were in the Arc and didn’t win have won the Turf. If you look at Golden Horn’s  figures, the Arc represented a maximum effort. So assuming this was Gosden’s goal, he may actually be up against it in the Turf. On the other hand, if any Euro trainer has an understanding of U.S. racing, it is Gosden. There is not much to talk about. If Golden Horn runs his best race, everyone else is running for second. You certainly can’t leave him out, but if you single him you’re going against a lot of history.

Big Blue Kitten has had an excellent 2015. He’s been no worse than second in four Grade 1’s and a Grade 3, His figures top the American contingent and his style is classic for the mile and a half Turf. While Joe Bravo is generally not my favorite jockey, he’s ridden this horse flawlessly, matching Chad Brown’s training. All the second choices after Golden Horn are 8-1, but I have a feeling this one will go lower.

Slumber finished second to Big Blue Kitten last out at Belmont. signaling he is in top form. The other Chad Brown running has volleyed with Big Blue Kitten all year, beating him in the Manhattan and finishing right behind him two other times. He’s good enough to win, and I’m sure Brown has him wound up. One small concern – his race on a yielding track in the Arlington Million was not good, but in all fairness he did not have the best of trips in that race. I’d look for more than 8-1 as the final odds.

Found is much more representative of the type of Euro horse that has had success in the Turf. She’s been running against males the second half of the year with some success. In seven starts this year she has only one win, but five seconds. She finished ninth in the Arc after being bumped at the quarter pole, but was only three lengths out of second. She came back with a second in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot. I’m not thrilled O’Brien decided to give her another race after a tough Arc but he acquited himself well. She gets Lasix today. I think she’s not quite 8-1, but looks second best of the Euros.

Twilight Eclipse has had a lot of close but no Cigar races. He has been exclusively in Grade 1’s since May, but other than the Man O’War he’s been an also ran. He’s a good horse and if he throws in an A effort he may have a chance to be the top American.

The Pizza Man is a deep closer that has done well in Graded races and at the distance. I think he’s a cut below the horses listed above, but it’s hard to not give the Arlington Million winner some consideration.

This race is pretty easy strategically. Either you buy Golden Horn is the best horse in the race by far, or you believe the curse of the Arc winner stays in effect. It was a while ago, but Dancing Brave was at least as stong looking going into this race and he flopped. If Golden Horn doesn’t do it, the best Americans look like Big Blue Kitten and Slumber. Found, Twilight Eclipse and The Pizza Man all have shots if the top three falter.

Race 11     Classic

The Classic is shaping up to be a classic race. The Triple Crown winner, a super mare, and some top older horses. This race will be dependent on a lot of things, most especially pace. Update: Beholder has been scratched meaning American Pharoah is lone speed, at least on paper. This could change the entire pace scenario. If there was another possible horse  that may have put pressure on AP it waas Smooth Roller, and he got scratched. AP will be odds on, and it looks like it may be his race to lose. 

American Pharoah is an extraordinary horse, and this comes from someone who never thought he would make the mile and a quarter, much less the Belmont. He has one big advantage in this race – he is the clear front runner and Victor Espinoza has experience with being challenged. I don’t think he’ll make the same mistake twice, and as long as he can get the horse to relax, he can control the pace of the race. Do I necessarily think he is the best? No, but he is the fastest and will have to be caught and that’s no easy task. I believe in losing the Travers he showed just how good a horse he is. I’ll be honest – I wanted to make AP a bet against, but it’s clear Frosted would be committing suicide to go with him again. If Beholder goes and they duel each other into submission, there are a couple of horses who will benefit. Of course if Beholder is the challenger, I would expect AP to bury her the same way he did Frosted. All things considered, he’ll be in much better condition than he was in the Travers and I expect we will see the absolute best he has to offer. If everything goes as well as it can for him, I think he has a high probability of winning, even if he is not the most talented horse in the race.

Tonalist has been swapping wins with a couple of others in here. His race in the Jockey Club Gold Cup was exceptional and he’s not been out of the money this year. It looks to me like Clement has Tonalist right where he wants him for this race. He’ll need to get position from the rail, but Johnny V is about as experienced as you can get in the saddle. He’s as honest as they come and has plenty of talent.

Effinex is my other interesting horse. He looked awesome in the Suburban, but in the Woodward he was clearly having trouble. He was fractious at the gate and left his energy there. In the Jockey Club Gold Cup he was bumped at the start and had to run wide. I think he is a better horse than the 30-1 morning line might indicate and could be the surprise winner. He’ll be on my horizontal tickets.

Honor Code is a plodder likely to close from the back of the pack. While he sounds like a good selection in a mile and a quarter race, he hasn’t had a successful trip at the distance. Still, he’s been running with the big dogs and a classy horse. That’s enough to give him some chance to be the champ.

Beholder doesn’t make it into the serious contenders for me. I know Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra were fillies that won this race, but I just don’t see how she gets the pace scenario with American Pharoah in the race, or how she outruns Tonalist, Effinex and Honor Code in the stretch. I may be wrong, but at best I may have her in some back hole.

  • Race 3     A=10    B=1, 7    C=8, 9
  • Race 4     A=3, 12    B=1, 5, 7,9
  • Race 5     A=14, 3    B=2, 4    C=5
  • Race 6     A=3    B=9, 11, 12    C=2, 6, 8
  • Race 7     A=13    B=5, 8    C=4, 9, 10
  • Race 8     A=3, 9    B=1, 7    C=4, 12
  • Race 9     A=7, 9    B=2, 3, 13    C=5
  • Race 10  A=1    B=4, 7    C=6, 9, 10
  • Race 11  A=1, 4, 6    C=9