Arcadia, California- This year will be the 31st running of the Breeders Cup and will be contested for the 8th time at Santa Anita Park. The east coasters though will finally get their way next year as it moves to Lexington, Kentucky. The main factor of why I like it in California is pretty simple, da weather. Every year the forecast appears to be the same: 80’s, sunny, and no precipitation.
Another race was eliminated in the series this year, the Marathon taking us back to 13 Cup races total. My favorite race was the Marathon; it made for interesting wagering and will sadly be missed.
My long time horse racing buddy Tim Tim is an avid New York handicapper, to him the Saratoga meet is 45 days of Christmas. While I agree as does Dorothy that there is no place like home, my final words before I left Pittsburgh were to understand New York form doesn’t carry over to Cali. A successful wagering angle I have used is focusing on experience at Santa Anita. 7 local based California runners crossed the wire 1st in the 14 races in 2013 and 5 of the other 7 were won by Europeans. “Horses for courses” is something all handicappers need to be cognizant of; the downhill turf is very tricky, speed goes a long way on both the dirt and the infield; do not ignore runners who have had past success here.
Both Friday’s & Saturday’s undercard races are scintillating. If you are a horse player, be prepared to be in heaven for 2 days, my gang will be.
From wagering option menu we will still have .10 cent Superfecta’s available on all races as well as .50 cent Pick 3’s, (2) .50 Pick 4’s, and Trifecta’s available, as well as a .50 Pick 5 for both days.
The weather leading up the event has been seasonal temps with unseasonably no precipitation; the forecast for both Friday and Saturday call for mild temps and sunny with little to no chance of precipitation, absolute picture perfect weather which should allow for a fair playing racing strip. The slightly cooler temps should also be a plus for the European runners.
Enough chatting, let’s look a little deeper into the races:
Race 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf
This is a deep and evenly matched race. The Euro’s are on a two race winning streak and they do bring a strong hand this year for the three-peat, but NA is well represented too. In the 6 running’s, the shortest priced winner has been 6 to 1, so history has shown picking a winner will reward you.
#4 Lady Eli- Hard to argue with backing undefeated lass who has done nothing wrong in her brief career, her last race was super impressive as when rider asked her to run she exploded. That turn of foot works very well at this strip and if she can sit close and take another step forward she is going to be awful hard to hold off. Only knock is she is not going to get a :50 front half, so she’ll need to be able to stay a bit closer while chasing fast fractions.
#6 Sivoliere- If you don’t like the US based Brown runner, his Euro one might be a good alternative. Royally bred and has been well represented by the public in her 5 career tilts, I think the reason they moved her to the states is her two best races were over firm turf, reminds me of the 2012 winner Flotilla. Added nostalgia, HOF rider Stevens gets the mount in his first time back since knee surgery. A great risk vs. reward proposition.
#2 Osaila- The likely betting favorite seems to have improved every start and if her European form translates stateside she will be awfully tough, still I am bit of a conspiracy theorist and find more ways to take a stand against her and Sunset Glow, then to back them.
A great race to kick-off the weekend, still I can’t help to think how much better it would have been to start out with the Marathon. The full field and strong European contingent make this a great wagering event, batter-up and get a square price of 6 to 1 or better.
Race 7 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
Another BC race that hasn’t had a betting favorite win in prior 7 running’s, but last year’s 2nd choice did score easily and he’s back for the renewal.
#1 Goldencents- This is his swan song after a decorated career which already boasts a BC championship. Last year, he literally ran them off their feet going :44 & 1:08 and no one could run with him early or late. Since there is no tomorrow, I am sure he will be all out in the lane. Prior to the draw, my gut said they will change tactics looking to stalk & pop; the rail draw I think changes that as I expect them to send, catch me if you can. His prep schedule for this was the exact same 3 races leading up to this in 13’, primed for the race of his career, play against at your own peril.
#8 Fed Biz- It pains me to say this, but the Baffert camp seems to bring a ton of runners into Cup week at the top of their game, sure white haired Baffert has flopped time and time again in the Cup, but if this is a poker game, he is holding a lot of face cards. This guy extended Shared Belief in the Awesome Again in last and cuts back for this. Yes he faltered in this race last year, but he’s been a different animal this year, main threat to my top pick.
#7 Bronzo- Invader from Chile appears to be in career form, but tackles his toughest task in his career. Does lure rider to states and does get to shed some weight which are some positives. His running style though could hinder him as he looks to settle and make a run. His local works seem solid so worth including at what should be a juicy price.
All signs point to Goldencents, it’s his house and he’s already a proven winner at this trip. Although these are nice horses, just feel he simply is a notch above this group. Short priced popular winner.
Race 8 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
Full field and tons of value, but unlike the girls the boys have run much more formful. In the 7 running’s, 5 of those were won by Euro’s as well as the last 3 in a row. This year’s Euro group, looks just as tough.
#5 Hootenanny- Although his last two races were across the pond, this American based runner hails from the highly respected Ward barn that hits with a 25% clip with two year olds. Morning drills suggest the travel to Great Britain & France didn’t affect the young fella; ironically, the only time I saw him in the flesh was Pimlico weekend when he burned a ton of cash at 3/5. He did beat a field of 24 two back and sheds a few pounds for the stretch-out, carry’s the local hope to break the Euro dominance.
#3 Luck of the Kitten- If you don’t like Ward’s other runner, this might not be a bad alternative. Won the local prep here in wire to wire fashion and he gamely ran on after being attacked from the inside and out. Love the way this chestnut covers the ground, only knock is this race has never been won by a front runner, catch him if they can. Note, didn’t have a great gallop out in his 10/25 work.
#4 Commemorative- Juddmonte homebred’s last two were pretty impressive and he hasn’t been on firm sod yet which he will catch here. Don’t like how the public hasn’t been a big fan, but if he takes another step forward he’ll be in the mix. Running style says he’ll be forwardly placed, figures to get the perfect setup.
Definitely not the best group of Euro’s I have seen, but in past years I have felt similar yet one of them always seems to step up. Wide open race, Startup Nation is actually an interesting play as well as he got pinned to the rail in last in the lane and ran on well after shaking loose, great betting angle is a beaten favorite into a slow pace. His prior two he stormed home into a more honest pace. Moral of the story, just about anyone could win this. A race to reach for a price play, batter up.
Race 9 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Traditionally, this has been a great matchup but never draws a full field which limits the value. Not the headliners we have seen in the past including last year’s winner Beholder who was a late defection, a few of the top 3 year olds taking on elder counterparts for division supremacy.
#10 Untapable- inherits the top spot after Beholder’s withdraw, very hard for a 3 year old to beat older, but physically she is a specimen and is working like she is ready to roll. I have never been a proponent of girls taking on boys as only Zenyatta truly proved the ability to do that so I can forgive her Haskell loss and maybe her so-so Cotillion was because she was still feeling the effects. Regardless, works show she has rebounded. If she reverts to her spring form, she will be very dangerous. For conspiracy theorists, she got obliterated over this oval last year, proceed with caution.
#2 Tiz Midnight- Baffert runner gave Beholder all she could handle in the Zenyatta stakes, yes this is another big step up for a gal that took 4 starts to break her maiden, but Baffert looks like he might have her sitting on a career effort, hasn’t ever been this far, but if she can carry her speed the extra 1/16, she has upset potential.
#9 Ria Antonia- Has crossed the finish line 2nd in both career Santa Anita starts although she got put up last year which was travesty. If you can’t tell I despise this horse, you should really watch her last race and see Paco looking under his arm pit as he had the 1/5 Close Hatches measured at Keeneland, made even a hater like me take notice. Since then she has bulleted and if Amoss can carry her form back West, she is a sneaky long shot to hit the board at what should be a very nice price.
I don’t even have the likely favorite in my numbers, Close Hatches who tossed in a clunker in last and has only worked once since so-so. To me she is a classic play against runner although Mott has a history in this race. Rudy’s mare, Belle Gallantey who he haltered last December for $35,000 also is intriguing but I think she needs the lead to win and I can’t see her alone on the engine like she was in last. Also, perplexed at L’Amour de Ma Vie as she was crossed entered on the green but they decide to run here? She has a work over CD dirt this summer, I am sneakily enticed. Any of these 6 wouldn’t surprise me if they won, but I will be keying on Untapable.
Race 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly
Typically a chalkish type race, I expect the same for this year’s edition as the main threats look to carry their form.
#4 Conquest Eclipse- Have to like how this gal keeps improving each start and her AM works since her last race are phenomenal. Speaking of her last race, she was pretty far back early and ran on well in the lane when it was crunch time. If you live in Canada, you think trainer Casse is God, but in the states for the Triple Crown or Breeders Cup he is winless including 19 past Breeders Cup starters. If you can get past that, I think she has a big chance of winning.
#2 Angela Renee- She beat my top pick in last, but got the ideal perfect rail skimming trip behind a three way battle on the lead and just exploded to victory. My top pick did pick up lengths on her but wasn’t going to go by. The rematch excites me as the money will flow stronger to this lass thus creating value on my top pick. If Casse finds away to get his filly beat, then she would be the most likely benefactor.
#5 Christina’s Journey- Early February foal has done nothing wrong in her two starts but she didn’t face much in her maiden breaker at Ellis and she was able to dictate slow fractions in the Pocahontas and nobody has come out of the race to flatter her. Like the bullet since arriving in California, her running style puts her in play at a course that caters to speed. Would need to outrun her bloodlines, not totally out of the question.
As mentioned, this race looks like it should run to the program, there are a couple of others that wouldn’t shock me if they won as well (By the Moon & Puca), but my top pick should be very tough to beat, not worth spreading more than 5 horses deep.
Race 5 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Surprisingly, Americans have fared very well as they have won 9 of the 15 editions including 4 in a row prior to Dank’s win in 13’, Chicquita decided to take on the boys which gives the Americans hope if Dank can’t regain her NA form.
#5 Secret Gesture- Well bred lass, but seems like a 2nd tier Euro runner. She tallied off late last year after an impressive early season campaign, has come back running this season. Distance won’t be a problem and like many other Euro invaders, if they relish the firm sod, they move up a bunch. I am simply price shopping and this is where I land.
#3 Dank- Defending champ comes into this off 100+ day layoff and is 0 for 2 on the season, before you bail she does have Sir Michael Stoute in her corner and she is undefeated on US soil, for those reasons I stay on board as he has won this race a record 3 times.
#2 Just The Judge- Wheeled back in 13 days after a gutsy win north of the border, they crawled early and she did buzz home her last ¼ mile in :43 and change. Both of her NA starts were solid, but both I felt she was just pacing in the lane, not exploding hence why I am not sure this trip will be her cup of tea. A proven commodity to make some noise, how much we will see.
I don’t think Dank has to win so that opens up opportunities in one of the other European runners. Not excited by any of the US runners although Brown was interviewed awhile back saying Dayatthespa loves firm turf which she will get on this course, still would need a golden trip to even factor. Moral of the story, back the Euro’s.
Race 6 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
Arguably the weakest bunch since race inception in 2007, no headliners and a short field. Except for Musical Romance’s 20 to 1 score in 2011, this has been a chalk fest.
#5 Artemis Agrotera- I actually picked this gal to win here last year in her freshmen season going long and she stalked that pace and faded late, camp tried her going long again in the Acorn and after that flop decided to start running short. Since that move, she is undefeated including a perfect 2 for 2 going 7 furlongs. The knock is NY runners don’t have a great track record here, time for me to take a shot and find the one that might buck that trend.
#7 Judy The Beauty- Ran a game 2nd last year and morning works have been solid, interesting that trainer Ward owns this gal with her being one of a handful of solid charges he’s entered Cup weekend. She has run very well here in both career tilts on this oval. Will be solidly backed by public and rightfully should be, logical.
#6 Leigh Court- Owner Melnyk recently had a dispersal sale getting rid of all his stock, but interestingly enough decided to hold on to this mare; looks like that was a smart move as she has ascending speed figures. I like how she showed versatility in last on not needing the lead to win. Jockey Boulanger is a great story and would be a sentimental story for him to win this in his first mount. Additional nostalgia, last 5 winner’s last prep was the TCA stakes, tons of positive signs in this corner.
Still looking for a wire to wire winner in this event, doubt it happens this year either as likely pacesetter Stonetastic couldn’t hold going 6 furlongs. There are two stone closers in here (Sweet Reason & Southern Honey) that could easily land on the ticket as well (note: Sweet Reason is 2 for 2 at 7 furlongs). Still I see this race running to the script, a horse sitting 2nd or 3rd and scoring.
Race 7 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
Simply put, one of the best betting races on the card as 14 horses going 6 ½ furlongs down the unique downhill course. Yes, I know Mizdirection won this last 3 years and she was the betting favorite in the last two, but she is gone so we are due for a pari-mutuel puzzler.
#5 Ambitious Brew- If you going to play a horse in this race, you have to play someone who has experience over this course as all 4 races in this series have been won by a California based runner. So many positive angles, where to begin; For starters, he’s 3 for 4 down the hill and the miscue was a nose defeat, has big race rider Smith who has won this last 3 years in a row, and should be sitting an ideal stalking trip right behind the leaders, run to the windows if you get double digits.
#1 Reneesgotzip- Picked this gal last year for top honors, but she couldn’t hold off Mizdirection, tries this race for the third time and maybe this time will be the charm. Very versatile type as she can go long or short, be on the lead or stalking, but with the weird lay-out of this course I think she will be in play from the bell. Very hard knocker, must be respected.
#12 Dimension- He might feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day as he draws the same post he did last year and was able to show some early foot to get a nice seat upfront staying on for 5th only beaten 3 lengths. None of his races are eye popping but he races honest and I like the pickup of Moore in the saddle, simply looking for a square price runner to light up the board.
A race that could yield any type of result but absolutely fun to watch and wager on as if I was the in-house analyst, I could easily find a nice thing to say about each horse and the chance he/she has. If you’re a multi leg wagerer looking to limit your spread, I would only use horses that have raced already over this course which would be the 1,3,4,5, 10,and 12. Really like my top two picks, I think they hit this ticket and would be good keys top & bottom.
Race 8 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
A nice mix of freshmen runners which won’t necessarily produce a Derby runner, but will certainly begin the discussion; similar to the main track filly version, this race typically runs to form and favorites have fared very well. (11 of 30 winning favorites)
#9 Carpe Diem- Maybe a hunch play since Robin Williams passed away almost 3 months ago and this was his motto in arguably his best movie Dead Poets Society. The horse has so far seized the day scoring twice professionally, the bloodlines say he should get even better with more land. Connections had to buck up 1.6 million for him in March, he needs to do a lot more to recoup that dough, but he certainly is on the right track. IMO he beat a pretty snug bunch in Kentucky, mild upset of the local hero is my call.
#5 American Pharoah- Answered the bell of being able to handle two turns in last, but unlike my top pick, I question how deep that field was as a maiden ran 2nd. However, since that win, his AM work tab shows two solid drills including a bullet on the 20th. Can’t argue with anyone for backing him especially with the home court advantage.
#7 Texas Red- The Desormeaux brothers charge is one of my sleeper plays on the weekend. At first glance he looks a notch below these, but he got unusually bet at first flash in last and that was against Pharaoh. That action, got me to take an extra look and this guy ran on very well in the lane. He has improved every start, don’t think he can win, but he’s going to run on the ticket at a very big price.
I would say there is a 70% chance that either American Pharoah or Carpe Diem win this, so not sure the idea is to dig deep. Another runner, Daredevil also is interesting but I think his best distance will be at a mile or less. Souper Colossal is also interesting, he’s been obliterated by the public and hasn’t disappointed. These would be the only 4 to use in multi-leg wagers. I do like Texas Red underneath and will be using him to spice the Trifecta & Superfecta.
Race 9 Breeders’ Cup Turf
Wow, is this a nice field. You have to go back to 2005 as the last time we had 13 programmed to go into the gate. A race traditionally dominated by Euro’s, the Americans have had their success but it has usually been against the weaker tier which isn’t the case this year as a strong contingent has made their way to California.
#7 Flintshire- When the pre-entries came out, I was hoping I would get to see this guy in the flesh, sometimes wishes do come true. Arc runner-up out ran his odds at Longchamp beating 18 others while not getting to Treve which is no disgrace. His page just jumps out with class, even if he brings his B game he will be handful in here. The knocks are surprisingly Arc runners haven’t had much success in this event and he is winless in on the season, back him on ability because he has it, logical win candidate.
#1 Telescope- Imagine going to your favorite bakery looking for a berry pie and finding out they just baked 5 different kinds, choices choices choices. Like my top pick he has chased a good one in Australia in last and gets to add lasix and drop some pounds for his stateside debut. Stoute has forgotten more about racing then I will ever know, virtually interchangeable with my top pick.
#11 Chicquita- Went to the gate as the favorite in the Arc getting pummeled finishing 15th, trainer wheeled her right back at Ascot 13 days later and she ran a respectable 3rd although the comment line says she was yielding late. Now fly’s across the ocean and try’s it again 14 days later. She was crossed entered in the F&M Turf where she would have found a much softer spot, anyone who gets bet over Treve is a serious runner, plus I like the cutback in distance. Price Play.
Fantastic race, I do like 2 US runners Main Sequence & Hardest Core as both are in fantastic form, but the Euro’s are tough. Brown Panther got loose in Canada two weeks ago before the race getting scratched as he would have been a player that day so all 4 Euro’s look good to me. In 2011, there were 4 Euro’s and I went and boxed all 4 and gave the tickets to friends as gifts, $12 in $38 back. If you’re looking for a good bet, box all 4, $12 in and you‘ll get some back.
Race 10 Breeders’ Cup Sprint
One of the deepest groups in years as we have representation from the East, Mid-West, the local Cal’s, and even an invader from Hong Kong; there is always one race Cup weekend that you just can’t wait to see, buckle up as you don’t want to miss this one.
#6 Rich Tapestry- At first glance, this guy looks like he’s in the wrong race as his page shows all turf & synthetic races. I was fortunate enough to listen to Olivier Doleuze interview early October when asked about his mount, he stated, “this guy has trained/ran on dirt and he is much better than any other surface”. I ended up backing him and was handsomely rewarded; the secret might be out as he’s looking to go 4 for 4 on dirt in his career. But, this is a deep group with plenty of other solid choices; my gut says handicappers will make him validate his last run. To me he is the best bet of the Cup.
#5 Private Zone- Has won a lot of battles at Santa Anita but hasn’t ever won the war here in 4 career tries. Rene Douglas’s group owns this guy and it sure would be special to see him get unsaddled in the winner’s circle after what Rene has went through. He’ll need a career effort to do that, comes into this in the right form, a true warrior.
#4 Secret Circle- Defending champ needed his comeback race after being away for 7 months, he virtually used the same prep schedule last year although he won his comebacker. No disgrace in losing to Goldencents & Rich Tapestry in last, trainer Baffert has also been a master in this race. Never been off the board in his career and from his AM reports, he seems ready to fire a big one. Can’t argue with anyone who is siding with the repeat, but in this deep group he’ll be an underlay.
I could actually do a write-up on ¾ of the field so I caution anyone to do anything but demand value of who they are backing. I am looking for 9 to 2 on Rich Tapestry. My line of some other notables would be: Secret Circle 7/2, Private Zone 8 to 1, Indianapolis 9 to 1, Work All Week 12 to 1, Palace 12 to 1, & Big Macher 20 to 1. That isn’t saying someone else couldn’t even win, but might help get a line of a runner you might want to back.
Race 11 Breeders’ Cup Mile
The headliner Wise Dan got injured and will miss the race, a bit disappointing as he looked a cinch to three-peat and even toss his name in HOY discussions. Because he is gone though, many others have showed up and we have a full field with some great wagering.
#4 Mustajeep- With the bulky field, I am trying to find a price play since this race just screams upset. The 3 year old Shadwell runner has been well supported in all of his races and hasn’t missed the board this year. Adds lasix and gets in light, this is the time of year 3 year olds grow up real fast. Only scary stat is trainer Weld is 0 for his last 12 stateside, time to break the drought.
#5 Tornado- Will be the betting favorite and deservedly so, guy has chased Europe’s best just finishing a head back on the Arc undercard. Like my top pick, he also sheds some weight and adds lasix. Much has been made of Hannon Jr. taking over stable from his dad; I consider that useless talk is apples don’t fall to far from the tree, the one they will need to beat.
#2 Obviously- Another local runner that is hoping the third time is the charm, led every call in last two BC Mile’s except at the finish line. The good news is Wise Dan isn’t lurking behind him this time, has the ability to run a sub 1:32 mile and sometimes in bulky fields traffic behind can allow for one to get away and just keep going, can win, don’t dismiss.
Sad Dan isn’t here but it does allow for someone else to step up. Tornado will be way over bet so I caution going that direction as it still is tough to ship over here get acclimated and tackle 13 other rivals. I will be playing an ALL ticket in multi leg wagers and finding a value play to flat bet, as good a betting race as any this weekend.
Race 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Horse of the Year honors are at stake in here for 2 of the entrants California Chrome & Shared Belief. In addition, there is a nice mix of other 3 year olds and aged horses. It’s a shame Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge, and Palice Malice weren’t in the field also, certainly would have added to the luster.
#6 Shared Belief- Landing here by default as I just can’t seem to endorse a live runner who can beat this guy. A perfect 7 for 7 in his career winning on different surfaces & tracks, Owner Rome has had instant success in this game with Mizdirection and now him. A wise handicapper once told me, you bet them until they get beat, let’s follow that advice although by this time I am hoping I’ve already made my money for the day and am just a fan. Note, his last race to me took a lot out of him, can he rebound and do it again?
#11 Tonalist- Man have I been impressed with this guy, ever since his wide rallying win in the Belmont, I feel he hasn’t run a bad one. Really wanted to pick him on top as I see Rosario (who cut his teeth at the track) putting him in the 2nd flight and pouncing on the bend to victory, classic East vs. West showdown.
#5 V.E. Day- Jerkens was adamant about not running either of his top 3 year olds in the Classic yet somehow this guy got in the entry box. Yes, he’s a stone closer at a speed track, sure his rider bails but the pinch hitter is local rider Talamo who seems to get a lot out of them in the lane. The price will be right in a race with a lot of speed signed on, not out of the question.
This race always run just as it starts to get a little cooler and dark out, usually just taking a little starch out of the speed with the last 4 runners sitting off the speed and winning. My handicapping is using that theory, but if yours doesn’t it’s easy to make a case for over half the field. Great race to end a great weekend.
Good Luck and enjoy the greatest two days of racing on the Earth. As my friend Bobby says, May the horse be with you.
-Professional handicapper at TheEquineinvestor.com