The first day of Breeder’s Cup 2017 looks very competitive, and includes a talented European contingent. Let’s take a look at the Friday races.
Race 5 – Marathon
- 7 Hard Aces is the early favorite, and deservedly so. He was second in this race last year and should have no trouble at today’s distance. He’s also been competing against graded horses all year. He’s reasonably comfortable at Del Mar. Hard to imagine he doesn’t run in the top three.
- 3 Destin was very good as a three year old, but he’s only had three starts this year, the last one a disappointing 5th in the JCGC. He’s not raced at a mile and a half or farther since just missing last year’s Belmont. He’s bred well enough for the distance and I like his pressing style. Pletcher is a clever trainer and I think maybe he had a plan with Destin. I’m going to take a (small) stab with him.
- 4 Estrechada is listed at 3-1 on the morning line, which is a sign of the strength of the field. The switch to Javier Castellano two races back seems to have made a difference and even though his last four races were on the turf, he’s shown he can handle the dirt. I think he has to be used in the verticals
- 1 Archanova has had something of down year with no wins in six races, but has shown a little bit more talent racing at longer distances . Hs last two races were encouraging, especially the Birdstone at Saratoga at today’s distance. I couldn’t put him in the top three – especially if he is anywhere near the 4-1 morning line odds – but it wouldn’t be a total surprise if snagged a minor piece of the purse.
- 8 Dressed in Hermes is a back hole prospect.
- My selections are 7 – 3 – 4, with 1 and 8 backhole prospects.
Race 6 – Juvenile Fillies Turf
- This should be one of the more competitive races in the Breeder’s Cup. My advice is to start with the horses that have done well in the top prep races – Moyglare Stud Stakes and the Cheveley Park Stakes in Europe, and the Miss Grillo, Natalma Stakes and Jessamine in North America. While European horses haven’t done much in this race since it was instituted, things might be different this year with half the field having started across the pond.
- At one time the Miss Grillo was THE prep race, but in the last couple of years Miss Grillo winners have not been as dominating. Still, it gets most of the top 2 year old grass fillies in New York. There is nobody better at prepping a young turf filly than Chad Brown and that is where I am going in this race. 8 Significant Form is making her third start in this race and clearly this is what Brown had in mind for this horse.
- 2 Happily is one of Aiden O’Brien’s top young fillies, having won the prestigious Moyglare Stud Stakes and Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, both Group 1 races. Two issues to consider with this horse: all but one of her races was on a softened turf, and the Euros race turf sprints on the straight. Experience around turns is often an important element of winning these races. Still, she is a talented horse and gets the nod for second.
- 1 Best Performance started out on the dirt and that is where her only win came. Since then she has not been able to finish first, but her four seconds in a row suggest that she’s got a lot of talent. Certainly at the odds she’s worth putting into the verticals.
- 11 Rushing Fall is the other Chad Brown horse. She won the Jessamine at Keeneland on the soft turf and should be running well in the stretch.
- There are at least five other horses who have a chance to make the exacta/trifecta. 13, Juliet Capulet, 12 Dixie Moon, 6 Orbolution, 7 Capia Temptress, and 10 September.
- My selections are 8-2-1-11.
Race 7 – Dirt Mile
- This figures to be an exciting race. Sharp Azteca, Mor Spirit, Battle of Midway, Cupid, Accelerate, and Practical Joke are all good enough to win. I’m going to put 3 Sharp Azteca on top. He seems to be in top shape – check out the work at Del Mar of 58.3. There is plenty of speed in this race, although none of them should touch the top choice if jockey Paco Lopez decides to let him run loose.
- 9 Battle of Midway is an interesting horse. He should be tracking the front group and clearly he’s a better horse at a mile than at longer distances. He’s listed at 10-1 in the program, but I expect the odds to be higher.
- 6 Mor Spirit is 3 for 3 at the mile distance, including an explosive victory in the Met Mile. Unfortunately that race completely depleted him and trainer Bob Baffert gave him close to five months off. If he’s recovered, he’s a major player. Mike Smith stays around for the ride and that is a plus in these big races.
- 8 Accelerate is the hometown horse, with 2 wins, a second and a third in four starts at Del Mar. He’s aptly named since not only can he run near the front, he can close with burst. He’d be no surprise in this affair.
- The other horses I’ll look at in the verticals are 2 Giant Expectations, 5 Awesome Slew and 10 Practical Joke.
- My selections are 3-9-6-8
Race 8 – Juvenile Turf
- Another race where there are a lot of contenders. I’m going to go with one of the Euro’s, 1 Mendelssohn. Of all the Euros, I think he’s the likeliest to adapt to the Del Mar Turf. He went off at 50-1 and finished a strong second in his prep, the Group 1 Darley Dehurst Stakes at Newmarket. He seems to be on the improve, and while you won’t get 50-1 I’m sure he’ll be bettable.
- 13 My Boy Jack is the West Coast entrant here. He’s only won one race, the West Coast Prep for today’s race, but he definitely looked like a horse on the serious improve. He’s lost a couple of times to Encumbered, but I like his chances of turning that around.
- 6 Masar is the lowest odds Euro coming into this race. He really came into his own at Chantilly in France, and while he might be underlayed at 9-2, he looks to have good outs.
- 9 Encumbered is 15-1 on the ML, but he’s a better horse than that. He was buried in the Front Runner, but that race was on the dirt. In his last two races on the turf he was a solid winner. I think he might be ignored because of that last race, but he seems to love the Del Mar turf and that makes him a real contender.
- Other horses to look at include 2 Untamed Domain, 5 Masar, 7 James Garfield, and12 Hemp Hemp Hurray.
- My selections are 1-13-6-9.
Race 9 – Distaff
- Of the Friday races, this may be the most predictable. There are three horses at 15-1 or better, and they should be. The other five horses are between 5/2 and 9/2. It would be an enormous upset if one of those five horses didn’t win the race. I’m putting 5 Elate on top. She looks to be on top of her game, crushing a field of seven in the Beldame and dominating in the Alabama. She’s a 3-year old that seems to really be coming into her own.
- 2 Stellar Wind has been beautifully handled by trainer John Sadler. She has the appearance of a horse with some physical issues, but if Sadler has her at the top of her game, she’s a major contender.
- 4 Abel Tasman has had a very good year, not finishing worse than second in any of her six races. She’s 2 for 2 at the distance and one out of two at Del Mar.If there is such a thing as home field advantage it might be this horse.
- 6 Forever Unbridled is a grinder that is almost 50% win for her career. She’s only had two starts this year, but they were both wins. I like the change of riders from Rosario to Johnny V.
- 7 Paradise Woods has some backhole chances.
- My selections are 5-2-4.