Arcadia, California- The Breeders Cup is back at Santa Anita for the 9th time, this year marks the 33rd running of the Breeders Cup. After a very well run and successful Cup @ Keeneland last year, we return to the fun in the sun. As an avid fan and yearly participant, I must admit I enjoy everything about Santa Anita/LA except the home cooking. The 2013 & 2014 judges stand debacles are still too fresh in my mind. Unfortunately, my fear still exists as this summer there was a similar steward involvement that even TVG’s, Kurt Hoover thought was ridiculous. There is a mystique in professional sports where it becomes impossible to win on certain fields or arenas, call it the 12th man or maybe the old days of the mob controlling the zebras, whatever you want to believe, but you simply don’t get an even playing field here, so be cognizant of that when proceeding to the windows.
Racing wise, the 2014 edition over these hallowed grounds saw a very fair playing field as only 3 Californian based runners won which was down from 7 the previous year. With that said, there has always been a strong speed bias over both the main track and infield. That doesn’t mean a rally or stone cold closer can compete, look at what the great Zenyatta did, but it does merit an understanding that bias exists it needs to be incorporated into your wagering strategies.
No Changes were made to menu as we remain at 13 Cup races total. 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 above average temps with low precipitation; the forecast for both Friday and Saturday call for warm temps and sunny with no chance of precipitation, absolutely perfect weather which should allow for a fair playing racing strip.
Enough chatting, let’s look a little deeper into the races:
Race 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
What a perfect way to kick off Cup weekend in a deep and evenly matched race. The Euro’s have won 4 out of the past 5 years, but this year’s contingent doesn’t seem as strong as in previous years. In the 9 running’s, the shortest priced winner has been 2.50 to 1 and the longest priced horse was 12.50 to 1, so despite the bulky field, the race has run pretty formful.
#14 Ticonderoga – Shows little interest in the mornings, but likes to run in the afternoon. This is not my typical type of selection in this spot as I prefer a more forwardly placed animal, also I like to see ascending Beyer figures, his have actually retraced. So why the pick? I have been gambling a long time; I learned a long time ago to follow the money. This guy was bet 9/5 in his debut, then 1/2, then 4/5. That’s some serious backing for a green 2 year old. Brown striking at 25% in this spot, there must be some serious barn buzz about this guy, impossible post but I will try him.
#8 Intelligence Cross – Trainer O’Brien won this last year, saddling 3 winners in the 9 editions, not bad for a guy that typically sends his 2nd stringers. Seasoned runner makes his 7th career start having kept some pretty good company in his last 4 group races, also gets to stretch out while shedding a few pounds, lots of intangibles.
#6 Big Score – Local hope won the local prep Zuma Beach fairly easily and has the home court advantage, his speed figures are ascending so there is a ton of things to like. Home bred has already far exceeded expectations, but it appears that his ceiling hasn’t been reached yet. Trainer Yakteen one of the good guys in the game, will have a very big cheering section, has a big chance.
A great race to kick-off the weekend as I really feel the best trip will likely win the race, not necessarily the most talented runner. So far this race has ran pretty formful, this might be the year that a longshot runs a big one. I’m not married to anyone so likely will using a risk vs reward proposition.
Race 7 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
Betting favorites are on a two race winning streak after losing in the first 7 editions, trend is your friend.
#3 Dortmund – Winless on the season, but cut the guy a break as he was chasing the likely HOY California Chrome in all those efforts. Decides to duck that runner and opt for the mile which should be a recipe for disaster for his foes. He loves this track as he has only lost once and never at this distance. He is an absolute physical specimen on the track, big, strong, and stout. Look a little closer at his resume and you will see the only other horse he has lost to is American Pharoah, perfect spot to get unsaddled in winner’s circle at what should be a low price.
#8 Tamarkuz – Took this guy awhile to adapt to US Racing, but looks like he has finally put it all together, his last two runs were against some salty competition and he shot triple digit speed figures in both, you get the feeling he is on the cusp of running a very big one. Unfortunately, McLaughlin runners run hot and cold so just when you think one is ready for big step forward, you get fooled. Not a strong group after Dortmund, will be right there if he keeps his form.
#9 Gun Runner – Has gotten better as the season has went on, but faces elders for the first time and that is always a tough task. The good news is has tactical speed to get him in a close up stalking position and he stays very well. His sire, Candy Ride was a California beast so his 1st start west of the Mississippi river might be a nostalgic home coming, should find a way to get a slice.
Hard to bet against the chalk, the other headliner Runhappy had missed 9 months and his comeback race wasn’t inspiring, toss in the fact that his only two races at this distance or longer were off the board finishes, he is a classic toss.
Race 8 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf
Full field and tons of value, history has shown this to be a perplexing race. In the 9 running’s, a favorite has only won once
#4 Spain Burg – Really like the way they have campaigned her taking it one step at a time, too often the new school way is to get the ready and throw them to the wolves. Absolutely love the timeform increased ratings after every run, nice to see Lanfranco stays aboard. Running style looks like she will appreciate the extra panel, flying dismount in the winner’s circle very possible.
#14 La Coronel – Became a different horse when moved to the infield with 2 open length wins, Trainer Casse has been a classic underachiever on the big stage, but looks to be turning the corner as his stable has made it to the next level (won this event last year with Catch A Glimpse). Unlike the boys, the girl Euro’s look very strong in here but IMO she is the best NA runner how do continents compare, we will find out, tough post.
#13 Roly Poly – Another well-bred runner as her mom made over a million on the track, she has a long way to go but is certainly going the right direction. Looks like one that will love the firm ground as her best races have come on more solid footing; O’Brien brings a strong hand to the table.
I have always given a major nod to the European runners that venture over for the Breeders Cup, but traditionally those have come in the non 2 year old races. I just love the filly European group that has invaded Southern California and feel that any of them could have a big run, back them.
Race 9 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
This is the race of the weekend as you have true supremacy of a division with a mix of the best females over the past 4 years. Tons of plots and subplots, but the most interesting is the California trio of Songbird, Beholder, & Stellar Wind have never missed the exacta in each of their storied careers over this oval, at least one of those will have that record halted. Also, let’s not forget about the east coast invaders who bring a strong hand to the table, buckle up should be a dandy.
#1 Songbird– A perfect 11 for 11 in her career, but before you just assume she will do it again she faces older for the first time in her career and this isn’t just any bunch, included in the group is Beholder who actually was considered a serious contender in 15’ for the Classic. It’s rare that you hear about how good one is before she ever entered a gate, but that’s exactly the story behind this one as she created a buzz from day 1. The pundits will note she has only run 1 triple digit figure, but she has literally toyed with all the three year old fillies and only history will prove how deep that group is. Fence draw forces her hand, but I really felt all along they would send her. It’s awfully hard to pick a 3 year old against elders, but I am in the belief she can do it, will be the largest price of her career, history awaits.
#8 Beholder– The 13’ victor of this event has had the misfortune due to illness of missing the last two Cups, I am sure connections are very happy to get in the gate. What a resume she sports including 15 starts at Santa Anita with 13 wins and 2 seconds, also tried Chrome 2 starts ago down the highway At Delmar where she ran a game 2nd and did best Dortmund that day. Yes, she lost her last 3 races including two decisions to Stellar Wind, but before you write her epitaph her Beyer’s have actually ascended in those starts. Her camp feels she’ll make her best run when stalking and popping, with her ideal outside draw, this race sets up to where she could be right in the cat bird seat. I get the feeling we could be seeing the final scene of the Natural with her being Roy Hobbs, only the pitch is to come.
#7 I’m a Chatterbox– I got 2 words for you, Larry Jones. I got 1 more word for you, respect. I am still not sure if there is a better conditioner in North America; this guy knows how to get the most out of his stock and has always had a special connection with female runners. I will admit, I always have felt she is just a notch below the best in this division, but certainly she has the look of an improving lass and will get overlooked by the public with all the other headliners in here. Before her last race, Larry really wanted her to get a target which she got at Keeneland. I anticipate a similar journey in here, have the feeling she’ll make some noise in the lane.
14 of the 32 (43%) editions have been won by the betting favorite so traditionally this has been one to watch with little wagering value but wow is that not the case in this renewal as I am guessing the favorite will be 2 to 1. Very deep group, wagering value no matter who you are supporting, a must bet race.
Race 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly
Typically a chalkish type race with last year holding that trend as Songbird strutted her stuff at a very popular 1 to 2. However, normally this race has a major headliner, but not the case this year as it’s a pretty even bunch.
#12 American Girl – Let’s call a spade a spade, this is Uncle Bob’s track and this is homebred of one of his good client’s Shah. Tries 2 turns for the 1st time but the pedigree says the extra land won’t be an issue. Thinking they will just go try to get every pole, likely a good strategy, the one to catch.
#3 Valdorna- Hard to play a horse jumping from maiden company to winners, but this young lass showed 2 good runs. She didn’t break good in either start, thus maybe compromising her positioning, will need to be a lot closer as speed carries a long way here. I have always been a Casse hater, so maybe you should give this one an even longer look since I’m on board, should be a big price and will be doing her best running late.
#5 Sweet Loretta- Pricey weanling($750k) has lived up to expectations winning 2 graded stakes in just 3 career attempts, seems to be flying under the radar in here as speed figures are a notch below others and most handicappers of babies tend to want to see ascension. I certainly use time as well as I sometimes even wear a watch, but the reality exists speed will come but learning to cross the wire first is just as important, she’s done that.
This race will shape up two ways, American Gal will run them off their feet or a cavalry charge to wire. Last time this race was ran in California, Take Charge Brandi crossed the wire first at 62 to 1. Wide Open event if you are playing against Baffert.
Race 5 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Another race where the European Bred Runners have shown dominance winning 10 of the 17 editions, but North American runners have won two in a row. Both continents are very well represented; even South America has a presence with 2 runners.
#8 Lady Eli– Returns to the same scene of the crime in which she won the Juvy Filly Turf in 14’. Unfortunately she had serious bout with laminitis in the summer on 15’ and almost lost her life. Miraculously, she has made it all the back from that now just to live, but to race again. She really needed her comeback race at Saratoga, she showed at Belmont she is almost back to herself. I think there is room for improvement and 3rd race off the form cycle should have her poised to run the race of her life, sentimental US hope.
#3 Seventh Heaven– I am sounding like a broken record, but wow does O’Brien bring a nice hand to bring to the table this year, this 3 year old bested Found two back with that runner needing no introduction, flopped at Ascot but didn’t have running room, so give her a pass. Both firm turf runs were wins and that is exactly what she will get stateside. Figures to be the best Euro hope, keep in mind they thought enough of her to cross enter her in the Turf feature.
#11 Queen’s Trust– Winless on the year so asking a lot to fly across the bond into new surroundings while tackling the best in the world, still can’t dismiss a Sir Michal Stoute runner. Actually bested Seventh Heaven at Ascot and another runner who might really like the firm SA sod, many times the “B” Euro runner gets overlooked at lights up the board, dismiss at your own risk.
I feel there is a gap between the top 4-5 contenders in here and the rest of the field, so I will likely be playing my top 3 picks in exotics with a few others, but really will be rooting for Lady Eli to make a statement.
Race 6 Breeders’ Cup Sprint
This used to be my favorite race 10-15 years ago, but the quality and quantity went downhill, I found less value and handicapping prowess. The quantity still isn’t there as we don’t get a full field, but wow is the quality there.
#7 Masochistic – Hard pick to gauge as has only run twice this year but both were blow outs wins recording the field’s best Beyer figs. Got obliterated in this race last year so will be looking to make amends. Recent work tab shows he is a ready as he’s going to be, my pick in a pretty well bunched group.
#3 Defrong– Baffert 3 year old is growing up fast and comes into this off a deep field King Bishop score at Saratoga, that same prep in 15’ was a springboard for Runhappy’s BC sprint score so certainly following the right path. He did have it very easy that day on the lead something that won’t happen here, based on that I actually see him getting that stalking 3-4 path and pouncing on the tiring speed, needs to make another big step forward.
#5 A.P. Indian– It’s not often you see a horse get their career in gear at age 6, prior to this year, he earned $202,000 lifetime. Has really grown up at 6 winning all 6 starts all while trying better competition after every race, the Keeneland prep has me a bit concerned as it took the hole stretch to get up @ 2/5. He’s another runner that wants to sit right off the speed and pounce but this is a track that can play against you at times as speed carries very well, hence my idea of going shopping a bit, easily could see him winning, but could also see him just getting a slice.
Still can’t figure why Runhappy isn’t in here to defend his title, I like all of my top picks as well as Lord Nelson & Delta Bluesman, the rest are hard to back on the win side. I’ll be focusing there and looking to catch an extra clue or two in the post parade to take a stand.
Race 7 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
This race has been run here 6 times, due to the unique “downhill turf and circumference”, it is run at 6 ½ furlongs, every other venue it is going to be run a 5 or 5.5 furlongs. Interesting to note, 5 of those 6 winners had experience over the course; simply put give the locals a huge edge in here.
#2 Obviously – 4 time BC Mile entrant had the lead at the top of the stretch in every one of those races of which were won by: Wise Dan (2X), Karakonite, & Tepin. His game is speed and see how far he can go; I always wondered why they didn’t try this move more often as he hasn’t run on this course since April 2013. No real blazers in here, he should be able to seize the lead and stay very well, hasn’t been out of the exacta in all 3 downhill attempts, recent figs says he is in career form, huge chance at a fair price.
#8 Washington DC – O’Brien & Moore team up again with a seasoned runner who is making his 11th start of the year, his last run was on the Arc undercard running a game 2nd. Has a lot of questions to answer as this 3 year old tackles older and a course that hasn’t been very kind to past European runners, despite those significant hurdles the world class connections make it easy to back.
#11 Undrafted– Seems to be way off form and really hasn’t been himself since his April score at Keeneland, I was at his last race and he appeared to be spinning his wheels coming to the wire. The positives, he was 3rd only beaten a 1/2 length in the 2014 race here so he has experience over the course, gets Johnny V to sign back on. As mentioned, needs a big time rebound to factor, but if the sunshine and warmth puts spring into his step, he’ll be rolling in the lane.
Surprised at how many Euro runners decided to give this a try (4), also surprised at how this division has gotten watered down as it just seems there used to be a lot more proven grass sprinters. Based on both of the above facts, I really love my top pick. Obviously (no pun intended) he has to be able to take to the cutback in distance and needs a clear lead just to get a little bit of a breather, I think that’s going to happen.
Race 8 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Last year’s winner Nyquist doubled up in the Derby so you never know, this could be a springboard to bigger & better things; similar to the main track filly version, this race typically runs to form and favorites have fared very well. (11 of 32 winning favorites), only 11 to the gate, 7 of those are coming into this off wins.
#6 Three Rules – Florida homebred has answered the call each start, doesn’t seem to let anything bother him as he has won on fast and off tracks as well as won at distances from 5 furlongs to mile 1/16. Was well backed in his debut so I think the word leaked out this guy might have been a runner in the AM, 2 bullets since his last race says he only needs to ship well to be a serious threat.
#5 Classic Empire – Only blemish on his record is when he lost the rider at the start at the Spa, very professionally came back to score in a bulky 12 horse field at Keeneland where he minded his manners that day. Began his career Derby week, since has maintained a nice spread out schedule. Looks poised to take the next step.
#1 Klimt– Another Shah Inc. runner that looks very live, running style says he should be a Triple Crown contender as has a nice stride and runs on in the lane. Was a bit compromised in the slow split Frontrunner, but I still thought he should close a bit more of Gormley. Does own the home court advantage of getting to walk from his bedroom to the paddock which takes a lot of stress out of the equation, likely will be over bet, should be in the mix.
At first with only 11 signed on I thought might not be a great race to bet, upon digging deeper I have found all kinds of interesting things. Barn betting usually is spot on with babies, so keep an eye on the tote board for clues, hard to ignore anyone.
Race 9 Breeders’ Cup Turf
Defending champ Found comes back to defend her “Turf” and she brings along Arc runner-up and stable mate Highland Reel, as a horse racing fan the flesh that enters the gate here is as good a group of infielders ever assembled on American soil, enjoy.
#4 Flintshire– Three time Arc entrant and twice runner-up in that event made a move to North America permanently this spring, his last Arc start was against last year’s 4/5 prohibitive favorite Golden Horn where he ran a respectable 2nd against. His move to NA was pretty simple, he wants firmer ground something he didn’t get in his last run. Was in this race in 2014 running a very game 2nd to Main Sequence so he does sport a solid start over the course, has a very nice turn of foot and if the ground is firm, I think he upsets Found. The loss coming in only juices the price.
#10 Found– Defending champ has only “found” the winner’s circle twice this year in 9 tries, but one of those victories was in what most consider the great grass race on earth in France every year, The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, commonly just known as the Arc. She was also very opportunistic last year as she let Golden Horn do the dirty work while she tracked him and out gamed him to the wire on a tiring course. While she is a very nice horse, I still challenge whether she is a “special” horse. Those types overcomes trips, bias, and competition so yes I feel she needs to prove herself by winning this again, likely to get her number hung on the board just not so sure it will be the top spot.
#12 Highland Reel– While my other 2 picks are household names stateside, this guy fly’s a bit under the radar here, but not in Europe, Asia, & Australia; Did fly into Chicago last summer obliterating 6 other foes on a firm course, as good as my other two picks, maybe even better and will be 3rd choice on the tote board, batter up.
Amazing race on paper especially with the bulky field you don’t get in the Distaff or Classic, as good a betting race as you will find Cup weekend. I will be supporting the Euro’s heavily.
Race 10 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
The favorite has won 3 of the last 4, but those three were in shorter fields with a standout or two included. Last year we had a wide open 14 horse scramble and the favorite ran out, 13 in here with no real headliner, get the feeling we are in for another head scratcher.
#7 Gloryzapper – Locally based overachiever couldn’t even fetch 1/4th of her stud fee at auction and the front wraps have been on from day 1 so she’s obviously got some physical issues, she also is a pretty darn good runner. Her record sprinting 4 starts, 3 wins, 1 2nd, not bad, will need to go faster against this group, but the price will be right to take a shot.
#6 By The Moon – Always hinted at being a special filly, just hasn’t kicked the door in. I do like the last 2 efforts in NY and she already made a trip over here in 2014 so this isn’t her first rodeo. Note, barn shipped her in early October to get acclimated to course/weather, as an owner I always feel getting them settled in can be a very big advantage, another price play with a very big chance to factor in the outcome.
#8 Carina Mia – A common theme this weekend will be evaluating how these 3 year olds do facing older, this lass tried older at Saratoga and ran a bang up 3rd she she’s already been tested, unfortunately the two that beat her that day or signed back on in here. I think she is a special filly and her ideal trip is one turn so wouldn’t be surprised if she took a step forward, has a big chance.
This race has never been won by a wire to wire winner and with the bulky field not sure that trend will be bucked this year, I am price shopping here, likely not a bad idea to play an all ticket in the multi leg wagers.
Race 11 Breeders’ Cup Mile
A full field entered including the two best female based NA runners, 6 Euro runners, the local hope who is on a 3 race graded win streak, and 4 other solid horses. A true conglomerate converging on California to see who the best miler in the world is.
#9 Ironicus – In the internet age, it is very hard to find a runner flying under radar as replays, chat rooms, blogs, tweeting, etc… usually identify angles that decimate prices. With all the other talent in here, this guy will get overlooked. Watch his last race which I was front and center for, he was in a hopeless spot and rallied furiously to miss by a head bob. Oh yeah, BTW Jose Ortiz was at Keeneland that day with numerous life mounts and stated the only reason he came to Kentucky that day was to ride this guy. Hasn’t been out of the exacta since Nov 2014, will be rolling late and is my best bet of the weekend.
#10 Limato – I could really interchange any of the Euro’s here as they all bring their own flair, but this gelding has been so well supported across the pond I just can’t ignore him. Stateside, you would think nothing of the pari-mutuel support he has gotten, but to be 4/5 on the Arc undercard and 9/5 in the Coolmore Group 1 in Great Britain in bulky fields tells me this guy is pretty special. Main knock is he appears to want to go a tad shorter, gets tested today.
#8 Tepin – Morning line favorite and defending champ has had a stellar campaign, don’t hold her loss in last against her as there was a runaway on the lead that just couldn’t be caught, connections already said that wasn’t a race they were going to kill her in. Four past runners have come back to win this race at least twice, so don’t give up on her. She has proven her worth and really took Casse to next level, with the fierce competition I feel she will be over bet.
There are tons of great races to bet, this is another blockbuster. I am in love with my top pick and will be going down in a blaze of glory with him, I couldn’t argue with someone taking a different stand.
Race 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic
The feature includes the richest Thoroughbred in North American history, California Chrome. Only 10 to the gate as I am sure he chased a few away, what we all came to see.
#4 California Chrome– The light pedigree Derby winner of 2013 has certainly blossomed into one of the greatest of all-time, his resume ranks up there with the best which includes Derby & Dubai World Cup triumphs, the only horse to have every done that. Art Sherman, one of the good guys in this game has been confidently humble about this horse from day 1, it has been an honor as fan to see him and the connections so handsomely rewarded. Currently sports 13.4 Million to his name as he winds down his racing career. Hasn’t been off the board over this oval since he was a two year old and hopped at the start Breeders Cup weekend in 13’, his running style is to sit close and pounce although he ran Dortmund off his feet in his last race being geared down at the wire. All systems point to the right journey and the best horse winning, take the 3/5.
#2 Frosted– If you are a gambler and like Chrome, you actually very excited connections choose this spot instead of the dirt mile as he will take some major tote in here. His Met Mile was ultra-impressive earning a season’s best 123 Beyer, visually the effort is hard to get out of your mind which means he will be over bet. I disagree to run here as in 5 career starts at this distance or longer he has no wins, 1 second, & 1 third. Oh yeah, one of this was a 5th place finish behind California Chrome. Still a talented horse and can certainly run on in this spot, but ceiling is likely a minor reward.
#10 Arrogate– Comes into this off the 2nd best Beyer of the year in a blowout Travers win that broke the course record, he was the wise guy horse that day as the barn buzz was Baffert said this horse is as good as any 3 year old he has ever had. Sit back and reflect how bold of a statement that is, wow! Does have a ton of intangibles in his corner: speed, Baffert, home field advantage, and obviously plenty fast enough; the knocks: very lightly raced (only 5 career starts), brought along slowly as I can’t remember a Baffert runner that won his maiden, 1x, 2x before tackling stakes company. Certainly a major wildcard in the bunch, but I just think he doesn’t have enough experience to conquer this group.
A few weeks ago, I expected this race to have no betting value as I didn’t see any real competition for Chrome, but with Frosted entry and the box getting a few more faces, it is shaping up that Chrome will be a square price or if you are a conspiracy theorist, your horse should be as well. Great finish for what should be a great Cup.
Good Luck and enjoy the greatest two days of racing on the Earth. As my friend Bobby says (taken from Harvey Pack), May the horse be with you.
-Professional handicapper at TheEquineinvestor.com