Breeders Cup Analysis 2017

Del-MarDel Mar, California- The Breeders Cup is back in California, but instead of being at the staple Santa Anita, we go south to the greater San Diego area, this year marks the 34th running of the Breeders Cup. Last year we had a clean cup, let’s hope for another fair playing field. Similar to Keeneland in 2015, this is the 1st time the Breeders Cup will be held at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club which most consider one the best places to watch equine animals perform.

There has been a massive buildup to be at Del Mar, die hard racing patrons have been calling for this for years, and they got their wish. Now what makes it extra special for gamblers is the fact there is no history to see how the surface plays this time of year, nor past Cup experience to see how Europeans get over the track, lots of mystery. In 2016, only 1 of the 13 races had a favorite score, the fields look similar for this running, again more intrigue. My advice, watch Thursday’s races as it will lay some ground work to how the track will be playing.

With all the horsepower that converges on Cup weekend with entrants from all over the world, we have seen other races feature the headliners, but that is not the case this year as the Classic is loaded being the largest purse and grand finale of Cup weekend. Arrogate, who earlier this year was considered the greatest horse on the planet has lost his last 2 races both over this oval; Gun Runner hasn’t lost in the states since last year’s Cup looks like he’s ready to take the next step…..toss in Uncle Bob sending 4 total to the gate, we have a classic indeed.

No Changes were made to menu as we remain at 13 Cup races total. Both Friday’s & Saturday’s undercard races are awesome. Frankly for a horse player, this is 2 days of pure bliss.

From wagering option menu we will still have .10 cent Superfecta’s available on all races as well as .50 cent Pick 3’s, (3) .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 mild/cool temps and sunny with no chance of precipitation, absolutely perfect weather for both American & European runners should allow for a fair playing racing strip.

Enough chatting, let’s look a little deeper into the races:


Race 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf

What a perfect way to kick off Cup weekend in a deep and evenly matched race. 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


#2 Happily – Typically, we seem to always get the 2nd string of top European runners, but they stashed a few very nice accomplished runners on the flight over and this is one of them. Comes into this off two straight Group I wins beating some accomplished boys with her last over the famed Chantilly Racecourse. Her biggest turn of foot came on the hardest surface she encountered in her 6 starts so she should love the firmer NA turf courses. World class connections and if she runs back to her last speed figure she is 5 lengths better than this field.

#11 Rushing Fall – Owner won this race last year and they bring a solid runner to go for the stable repeat, both wins were very professional and look how the public has backed her. They will need to hold her off in the lane as she will be rolling late.

#10 September – Speed figures are on the rise so we haven’t seen her best yet, easily could challenge for win honors, don’t overlook.


Despite my love for a few of the Euro runners, I do think the American based runners have a chance to make some noise, but the Euro runners are more seasoned and strictly from a speed figure perspective look a little better so I think one will land in the top spot.



Race 7 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

Betting favorites winning are 2 for 9 in this race and those 2 were Goldencents & Liam’s Map which were both standouts so price shopping isn’t such a bad idea.


#3 Sharp Azteca – Hails from the much maligned Jorge Navarro barn, which is known as the “vegetable juice barn”, you have to draw your own conclusions but whether a natural athlete or performance enhanced he is a force to be reckon with. Hasn’t run worse than a triple digit speed figure in over a year and during that time has danced in all the big dances. Since his Met Mile loss to Mor Spirit, he has destroyed 2 small fields so he appears fit and ready to fire another top effort, he will need to pickup 6 lengths on Mor Spirit who defeated him in the Met Mile, but that one hasn’t been out since, might have a tightness edge, my choice.

#6 Mor Spirit – Once they figured out this guy wasn’t best suited for two turns, he has blossomed into what could be one of the best milers of his generation. His Met Mile was amazing, but it was a career best effort and they sent him to the bench after that, sure he has been working great but I am skeptical of a 143 day layoff into a group this solid so I am going to be trying to beat him, but ignoring him could be a major mistake.

#8 Accelerate – Sports a resume that handed Arrogate his 1st defeat this season with a convincing win in the San Diego Handicap, but flopped when stretching out in the Pacific Classic, love the cutback as he hasn’t been off the board going a mile and did run a solid 3rd in this race last year, also sports 3 out of 4 on the Del Mar main track, will need every bit of the home court advantage to have a say in the outcome.


Really like my top two picks as they both jump off the page, I think the only way one of them doesn’t win if they get in a speed duel with each other which could happen, but my gut says one of them will shake loose. Cupid (#7) also deserves a long look as he has always be a B teamer for Baffert but they thought enough of him to cross enter in the Classic.



Race 8 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

The Euro’s have won 4 out of the past 6 years, again this year they bring a strong hand, but there is a few good NA runners. In the 10 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.


#7 James Garfield – Pretty much pick your poison of Euro runners as this is a deep strong cast, I went price shopping to Frankie as he always seems to get at least one flying dismount in the winner’s circle, since he got legged up he’s been 1st & 2nd both in Group races and those were both sprinting, I think he’ll love the stretch-out.

#5 BeckfordTrainer ships to win, has been well supported in his last 3 Group I races so no reason to think he isn’t going to show up here ready to fire, looks like he is calling out for more land and gets it here on the stretch-out, also sheds weight and I love the beaten chalk angle in last. Some will abandon, now is not the time.

#6 MasarWell traveled invader made it to Ascot & Chantilly in his brief career making noise in both runs, owner won the 2013 running, lots of positives.


I have always given a major nod to the European runners that venture over for the Breeders Cup and this year is no different, they completely stand out in this race, should you be anti-Euro, I would venture Voting Control (#8) might be the best US hope.



Race 9 Breeders’ Cup Distaff

No Songbird or Beholder, but the 3rd and 4th place runners do show up and inherit the top two spots, wish this race would get a full field, but always seems to draw short due to the quality.


#6 Forever Unbridled – Ran Songbird into retirement with her gutty come from behind effort at Saratoga, has only two starts on the season, but I get the feeling Stewart has mapped out her course as she has proven to run well off layoffs. My biggest knock is she isn’t the fastest of sorts with only 2 career triple digit figs, primed to run the race of her life, but will be at the mercy of the race unfolding as she does her best work stalking and popping, looking for the mild upset.

#5 Elate – The clocker reports started engraving her name on the Kentucky Oaks trophy in December, but come spring the faithful were extremely disappointed as she burned a ton of money along the way and ended up racing in a 1X Derby week where she was beaten once again at 4/5. Like any great scientist, Mott didn’t give up and kept working until he found the formula with her and the lights came on at Saratoga and she hasn’t looked back since. I know the hype was there and it appears the talent has caught up, still plenty of upside and I expect her to give her elders all they can handle, would not surprise me.

#2 Stellar Wind – The obvious choice doesn’t come without baggage, yes she is 3 for 3 this season and yes she has never been beaten in 3 previous attempts at Del Mar, also there with those backers that actually thought she could beat both Songbird & Beholder last season, but digging deeper you will find her trainer at 0 for 39 in previous Cup races and those 3 races this year were in 3, 5, & 6 horse fields. She could win going away, but to me this is the classic favorite to try to beat.


14 of the 33 (42%) editions have been won by the betting favorite so traditionally this has been one to watch with little wagering value that could be the case if you believe in Stellar Wind, should you think she could be vulnerable like I do, opportunity might present itself, your call.




Race 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly

A race that has produced 3 out of the last 4 years of a minimum of a 32 to 1 winner (the one in between was the standout Songbird) so maybe have an imagination, a pretty well matched group of 13 going to the gate.


#1 Heavenly Love – Not thrilled with the fence draw, but have too love the way she has drawn off in her last 2. Her mom was a runner and the Malibu Moon line says the extra land is exactly what she wants, hard one not to like.

#7 Moonshine MemoriesDeserving ML favorite as she is 2 for 2 over the course and takes bring the top speed figure into the race, another Malibu Moon daughter so know distance concerns here, I guess my only knock is despite her doing everything asked of her, the public hasn’t thought enough of her to send her to the gate as the favorite, she also drifted in lane which shows being green, the deserving pick but one to maybe take a stand against.

#13 Seperationofpowers Unlike Moonshine, this lass has been obliterated at the windows as the public choice in NY in each start, toss the Spinaway effort as she got caught dueling in 45 to the half, she rebounded with a stalking powerful Frizette win oh yeah and she was still the betting favorite despite her disappointing 59 Beyer in previous, the wide draw is concern but she will have enough run to the turn to find a good spot.


The reason so many price horses have won this of late can be personified with this group, The difference between the top rated horse and maybe the worst could be 5-10 lengths but the price will me 20-30 to 1 so you get a lot of value on horses like Princess Warrior who actually went off as a 3/2 favorite against my top pick and will probably be 15 to 1, find a nice price and let the trend be your friend.



Race 5 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Away from Santa Anita this race goes back to the true sprint distance of 5 furlongs so it must be handicapped a bit different, 12 are going to give it a try, but oddly enough it’s only been ran at this distance twice in its history. Also, normally a male dominates this race (all due respect to Mizdirection who won it three years in a row), but I am interested in not 1 but 2 females and they both jump off the page.


#3 Lady Aurelia – As a writer, a lot of dialogue gets shared way before a horse accomplishes things, I heard about Songbird before she ever went to the gate and similarly the same buzz existed for Lady Aurelia before she toyed with 5 others At Keeneland. Then she promptly went to Ascot, Deauville, & Newmarket as a two year old…..returned to the states as a 3 yr old ran a 97 Beyer figure and then back to Europe. She is special, very special but I am not a fan of 3 year olds taking on older, nor fillies against males, but despite all that I just don’t feel this is a salty group of turfers as in other years and this queen is going to have a big chance to get the crown, the one to beat.

#12 Pure Sensation – I got a FEDEX delivery at my office about a week ago and the delivery driver says after looking at my horse racing memorabilia, “you like horse racing” to which I reply, “love it, can’t wait to hit BC next week”, he proceeds to tell me her loves Pure Sensation as 5 furlongs is his specialty (6 for 10 lifetime), the delivery was on time, let’s see how his pick does.

#6 Marsha – The other gal in this race is the only runner to finish in front of Lady Aurelia and she followed up that winning effort with a solid 2nd on the Arc undercard, earlier this year she was actually favored over Lady at Ascot, the other edge is she is a 4 year old and a little more developed then my top pick, I really struggled on where to rate these two but the decided factor was Lady Aurelia has been stateside prepping for this race for 2 months, Marsha has likely only been in the states two weeks, interchangeable with my top pick, but playing the angle the jet lag might be the difference in the lane.


I’m chalked out as I am in love with these two ladies tackling the 10 boys; I would say 80 out of a 100 times one of them should win.



Race 6 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint

The favorite has won 3 of the last 5, we do get a full field, but we got a major headliner which could mean another short priced popular winner.


#11 Unique Bella – Earlier this season, there were rumblings of a potential showdown of Songbird and this filly in the Friday distaff, Songbird is retired and Bella had an injury that forced Holldendorfer to back off and start again which he excels at. She returned to the races on October 8th and destroyed a field of 6 North of here at Santa Anita. Since then she has fired bullets in the AM, nothing to like and the distance should be ideal for 2nd start off the layoff, the best bet of the weekend as anything above 3/5 would be stealing.

#9 Finley’sluckycharm – This blazer off the gate showed a new dimension in her last as she stalked and popped which was super impressive since she had the lead in every race over the past 18 months at the half. Besides the Irish that will be backing her, I can see speed handicappers taking a stand against my top pick as the logical upsetter. I still don’t see it but if you are looking to spread, she would be the next in line.

#1 Carina Mia – started her career out as a killer at Churchill looking the part as an imposing specimen, but never really developed as connections thought she would, don’t get me wrong, making 1.3 million is nothing to sneeze at, owners gave up on Mott in June and Brown took over keeping her in NY, I do feel there is more then she might be showing, one of these days it might show itself, no better stage then this.


I think Unique Bella can conquer this field even with a poor trip, but they do have to run the race.



Race 7 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

Another race where the European Bred Runners have shown dominance winning 11 of the 18 editions, but North American runners have won in 15’ & 14’. Both continents are very well represented with the defending champ back to defend her crown, a deep group of 14.


#9 Lady Eli – Lost a heart breaker last year in a nose defeat, not worse than 2nd in her 13 race career and that includes a bout with laminitis where she almost lost her life. As consistent as any America turf runner I can remember, this could be her swan song as she is set to be sold after this race, sure would be nice for her to go out a winner.

#14 Rhododendron – Has to overcome the outside draw while leaving the infield chute, but if that obstacle can be overcome she is a solid runner. Prior to her getting eased in France in June, the public heavily backed her, since then not so much but she ran a top time form figure in her last so whatever injury she overcame, she looks as good as ever, some other Euro runners look better on paper including Queen’s Trust, but I like her risk vs. reward chance.

#7 Dacita – Hard knocker does her best work late and she has danced all the dances over North America, has lived a bit in Lady Eli’s shadow, but make no mistake if she fires her A effort, she will be a force late in the lane.


I actually think the American based runners are a bit better than their European counterparts, but with that said it seems a European runner always steps up with a big effort on the firm turf so no one is a given in here, might actually be a great race to go deep and or take a stab.



Race 8 Breeders’ Cup Sprint

Defending champ is back and only 9 shooters are trying him, not as deep a group as past editions, but still some damn solid sprinters.


#2 Defrong – Hasn’t lost a race in two years where the jockey has stayed on board and even stopped by the Spa last summer, lightly raced this season with only 2 starts, but I get the feeling this race has been circled for a long time and growing up another year should only make him faster and stronger. Baffert has won this race 4 times including back to back with Midnight Lute, morning bullets show he has a big chance in here, naysayers can hang their hat that his Del Mar start in August where the horse acted up that he might not like it here, but keep in mind he broke his maiden over this same oval, more positives then negatives, likely repeater.

#5 Whitemore – If you want a live price horse that will be gobbling up ground late, then this is your guy. When connections gave up on him going long and stuck to racing him short he is 6 for 8. I am not sure he can actually win this, but if the front end gets a little too hot, he has the ability to get in the photo, live price horse that will be at mercy of the pace.

#6 Mind Your Biscuits – Completely toss his last effort as he wasn’t training or acting good going into the race, work tab looks like he is back on his toes. Also, won the Dubai sprint which was a deep group of 14 runners from all over the world, last year ran the rail and finished up less than 2 lengths from Defrong. If Roy H & Imperial Hint can soften up the front, this guy can come rolling as well.


Traditionally, California racing plays to speed so we should just starting engraving Defrong’s name on the trophy, but Imperial Hint can show 43 change speed and he is ideally drawn to get on or near the point, but will severely be tested for class, he is the key to the race though as if he can pressure Defrong, the race gets interesting. If he can’t then Defrong is the back to back champ, your call.



Race 9 Breeders’ Cup Mile

A full field entered that has always been a great betting race, past winners include Goldikova & Wise Dan so immense talent has always been present, this year is no different.


#10 Ribchester – Simply put, this is the best horse on paper and by a large margin, but before we anoint him the race, consider races are won on the track and an 8 furlong race with 14 of the top milers on both continents a lot of traffic can have a say in the outcome, but also note he bested Churchill in his last and that runner is in the Classic with a perplexing chance. It’s up to Buick to get a clear run, if that happens he is the best.

#6 Zezal Well bred French invader hasn’t had the season as he did last year, but the pedigree and talent are still there and flying across the pond finding firm turf might be exactly what he is looking for. Beaten chalk in last and now you get balloon prices, I like a lot and worth including in all spots, like the fact regular rider makes the trek over as well, sleeper.

#5 World Approval – This grey is the only US hope to hit the board, connections decided to cut him back to a mile and all he has done is won 2 straight with 108 speed figures in both. Will be forwardly placed and isn’t out of the discussion, but when the real running begins I just can’t see him holding off the Euro talents. The good news is I think NA has found a new miler to dominate in 2018.


Last year Americans ran 1-2-3, I think this could be a European sweep. While the handicapper in me has Ribchester on top, other Euro’s might be better bets like Lancaster Bomber, Suedois, & Karar to name a few. I’ll be using multiple Euro’s in multi leg wagers.



Race 10 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Last two year’s winners went on to be Derby horses so someone in here might be the next great one! 12 to the gate, although I do enjoy seeing a full field of 14, to me there are a lot more questions than answers with this group, let’s see what shakes out.


#6 Good MagicMillion dollar baby enters this a maiden, but the blood is there, both career attempts were solid. Connections entering here tell me all I need to know what they think about him, outside of Pletcher I think Brown is the next best 2 yr old conditioner, E Five Racing is developing quite a band of runners, price play.

#11 Bolt d’Oro – The deserving favorite as he comes into this with 3 straight wins and ascending Beyer figures, breeding shows the longer he goes the better he should be, also has the home court advantage with 2 winning efforts over the course being only 1 of 2 runners who have won at Del Mar, I can’t find any holes in him, but 2 year olds can rapidly improve or retreat so might be worth taking a chance against.

#1 US Navy Flag– This guy has started 10 times, unheard of for American racing, but not too unusual for an O’Brien runner, comes into this off 3 straight wins. Likes to race on or near the lead so the rail draw isn’t really a concern, adds lasix and sheds weight and if you adjust his time form ratings, he’s as fast as just about anyone in here, only needs to answer 1 question and that is if he can handle the dirt. Interesting.


This year I can easily see 6 of 13 favorites winning, maybe even more. As a gambler you have to find races to try someone else, while my initial thoughts are to play against Bolt d’Oro, he could easily air out in here.



Race 11 Breeders’ Cup Turf

Love that we get a full field of 14, the math shows 7 European & 7 US Based runners (counting Fanciful Angel as a Euro since only 1 start in Brown’s care) so it has the feel of a Ryder Cup. Arguably the most even matched event in the history of the race as we don’t get a major headliner, great betting race.


#5 Ulysses – Arc runners immediately get moved to the head of the class (finished 3rd this year), looks like he has really grown up at 4 with a perfect 6 for 6 on the board while banking 2.2 million. Ran a respectable 4th last year, no reason to think he’s not going to improve on that placing this year. Dettori in the irons, lots to like at what should be a fair price.

#1 Talismanic – Import got lured out of France which is unusual move, but has been heavily backed in every run this year so potentially Fabre has spread the word this guy has some upside. Did run in the Arc in 16’ but did nothing finishing 11th, I guess you can give him a pass as he was only a 3yr old. A long way to come unless you think you have a big shot, Fabre as good as they get, I’m on board.

#3 Highland Reel – Defending champ ran them off their feet last year, certainly doesn’t look in the same form as he’s lost about 10 points on the speed figs, still how can you discount a horse that has already shown that the flight and surface of NA racing don’t bother him, should have a say in the outcome.


I tend to love imports, but honestly this group isn’t as strong as have made the journey in the past, great race to play a rider, track bias angle, etc…Interesting only 1 horse in here has won over this course (Hunt); the All button might get hit as few times.



Race 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic

The feature includes 11 of the finest Thoroughbreds in training today from all over the world including the defending champ Arrogate and the east coast fenom Gun Runner, what a way to end the Cup!


#1 Arrogate – It’s hard to get past 17 million in earnings in 10 starts, it’s also hard to forget the Pegasus romp, the Travers track record, or the amazing Dubai World Cup win where every horse player pretty much thought he was beat after the 1st turn. The pundits will say his last 2 just weren’t that good and maybe he just doesn’t like it here. I keep going back to the barn buzz before the Travers with Baffert stating, “he’s the best 3 yr old I ever had”. That is like Peter Gammons stating Aaron Judge is the best Yankee hitter ever to put on the pin stripes, pretty bold statement but in time might not be too farfetched; you should get $6 in the swan song of his career, worth every penny.

#5 Gun Runner – The beast of the east is trending the other direction of my top pick as he seems to be getting better in every start, not sold on the company he has been beating but the teletimer says not to worry. I can’t find a fault, but he has lost his only 2 decisions to my top pick so even with his impressive resume he is going to need to take another step forward.

#6 Mubtaahij – Quietly has gotten better over the years, has only won once in two years and that came in last so likely he will be looking for a minor reward. One thing to consider, the Classic is always run late in the day when the track starts to play a little less to speed, with the projected cooler temps his running style and the track could be a perfect setting.


This will put an exclamation on Cup weekend, plots and subplots everywhere. No matter who you like, I think you will get your price. I’ll be backing Arrogate.


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.

Don Tiger

-Professional handicapper at

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