Breeders’ Cup Winners Profiles – Part I

By Craig Spencer

I have gone back and looked at the winner of each Breeders’ Cup race since 1999.  I will look at each of the races and discuss historically successful prep races and other interesting things to keep in mind:

Juvenile Fillies Turf:

The last two winners came from European invaders and it appears that they are bringing over some talented fillies again this year.

The first two runnings, also at Santa Anita, were won by horses coming out of Belmont’s Miss Grillo stakes.  If a North American based horse is to win this race, it appears that they need to have ran first or second in their most recent race and to have finished in the top 3 in 60% of their grass races.  The only horse to win this race and not meet the 60% hurdle was the foreign based Flotilla in 2012.  A prep race within seven weeks has been necessary to get the money in this race, with 5 of the 6 winners coming back within 5 weeks.

BC Juv Filly Turf

Figure 3: Juvenile Fillies Turf

None of the foreign contingent come out of a Group 1 race within 5 weeks of the Cup, however Osaila (5-1) impressively won the ₤300,000 Tattersalls Millions race at Newmarket on October 4th and she had previously won a Group 3 event and finished a close fifth in a Group 1 event at The Curragh.

Wesley Ward brings in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante winner Sunset Glow (7-2).  She made a trip to Royal Ascot in June and did not embarrass herself.  She finished second in the Group 3 Albany Stakes defeating Osaila in that event.  The biggest negative with Sunset Glow is that she last raced on the 30th of August, which is a bit longer of a break than I would like leading into this event.  She has been working regularly since September 23rd on the Keeneland Turf Course and her breeding leaves little doubt that she can handle the mile.

Lady Eli (6-1) is undefeated in two starts in New York, and she was the victor in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes. Tammy The Torpedo (12-1) and Partisan Politics (15-1) finished 3rd and 4th, respectively in that event.

The winner and second place finisher of Woodbine’s Grade 3 Natalma are also planned to be a part of the field.  Conquest Harlanate (10-1) for Mark Casse and Isabella Sings (12-1) for Todd Pletcher finished a neck apart in that affair with Conquest Harlanate getting the upper hand.

Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff:

In the 15 runnings of this event since 1999, we have had zero winners that last raced over 5 weeks out.  With the Beldame and the Zenyatta (formerly the Lady’s Secret) providing the last 8 winners. A good last work (GLW) does not appear to be of much importance, 4 of the last 8 winners did not have a “good last work”.  Either a decent early pace presence or the best late pace ability seems to be a requirement with Pleasant Home and Unbridled Elaine being the only victors to not meet one of those requirements.  The last 4 had shown decent early pace presence, with Life is Sweet, Zenyatta and Ginger Punch all being monsters in the final stages of the event.

BC Distaff

Figure 4: Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff

The mares coming out of the Beldame are the winner Belle Gallantey (6-1) and the fourth place finisher Stanwyck (20-1).  The horses coming out of the Zenyatta are second place finisher Tiz Midnight (10-1) and third place finisher Iotapa (6-1).  Beholder won that event and has not been entered in this year’s race.

Untapable (5-2) will try and be the first filly to win this event after winning the Cotillion since Ashado in 2004. Her BRIS figures took a turn south in her last two events.  She took on the boys in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth and finished fifth behind Classic contender Bayern’s electrifying run that day.  She came back to win the Cotillion while drifting inward and outward at Parx but ran the same BRIS figure in both events.  She will need to run back to the numbers she was running earlier in the year to be competitive and will likely be way overbet.

The females who have shown decent early pace presence are Close Hatches (3-1) and Untapable (5-2) with Bella Gallantey (6-1) and Don’t Tell Sophia (5-1) being the clear late pace advantage runners.

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14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies

Last year’s rendition of the Juvenile Fillies proved to be the exception to the many rules.  The first rule that Ria Antonia broke was winning the race after finishing out of the money in her final prep.  In fact, going back to 2002, the only other last race loser that was able to win this race occurred when She Be Wild won off a second place finish at Keeneland in the Alcibiades 4 weeks prior to the Breeders’ Cup.  Ria Antonia won after finishing fifth in the Frizette at Belmont.

BC Juv Fillies

Figure 5: 14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies

Ria Antonia was adding blinkers last year; changing equipment coming into big races is not something that you typically see a lot of success with.  Blinker changes are usually made when horses aren’t performing up to expectations, not many BC entrants are performing below expectations or they wouldn’t be running in a race of this caliber.  However, Ria Antonia had woken up big time in the morning since the change, in young horses that can be a huge indicator that the change was beneficial.

Since 1999, the stats for all Breeders’ Cup races aren’t real great in regards to equipment changes:

  • Blinkers On had 4 winners out of 45 starters (Ria Antonia, Trinniberg, Dangerous Midge, Valponi)
  • Blinkers Off did a bit better, percentage wise, with 2 winners out of 12 starters (Midnight Lute and Adoration)
  • Second time blinkers has done horribly with 0 wins out of 18 starters and only 2 seconds and 1 third in this timeframe

Graded Stakes winners in the final prep has been nearly a requirement in this race, the last 7 winners have raced within 29 days.  The only horse that meets the criteria this year is By The Moon (12-1) off her Frizette win 28 days prior, but she drew the outside 12 post position and that’s a lot to overcome but not something that hasn’t been done before, Halbridled won in 2003 from the 14 post.  Top Decile (10-1) finished second in the Alcibiades 29 days out, similar to She Be Wild in 2009, and the winner of the Alcibiades, Peace and War, is not going to Arcadia.  Top Decile only faired marginally better at the post-position draw, getting the 11 post.

We have had, in the past 15 years, four winners breaking from the rail, three from the 4 post, one from the 5, one from the 7, one from the 8, two from the 9, two from the 10 and one from the 14.

Filly & Mare Turf

The Filly & Mare Turf seems to be the only race, aside from the Turf Sprint, on grass that the Europeans have not completely dominated with only 5 winners making their last start across the pond, Dank made all of her career starts in Europe before coming over to win the Beverly D at Arlington last year to follow it up with another successful trip stateside to take the money in this race.

BC F M Turf

Figure 6: Filly and Mare Turf

Every one of the winners had shown an affinity for turf.  In my calculations I use a 60% in the money hurdle for track/surface affinity.  If they have not finished in the money 3 out of every 5 races on the grass, they are not likely to begin showing that ability on the first Saturday in November.  Only two instances in the past 15 renditions have been won by a horse that did not finish in the top 3 in their penultimate race.  For US contenders, they have to either have a distinct early pace advantage or a distinct late pace advantage to be a win contender.  These advantages are an indicator of having a good acceleration, or turn of foot, and that is a huge asset in these international turf races with large fields.  Dank’s (5-2) BC performance from last year, Dayatthespa (8-1), and Just The Judge’s (5-1) North America performances qualify these three horses from a perceived early or late pace advantage.

In the past 15 runnings, five winners have made their last start more than 5 weeks prior, all of those were trained by European trainers.

I would look for a horse coming out of a winning or placing performance in a Grade or Group 1 race within 35 days (unless a Euro shipper) and only consider an American horse if a pace advantage (early or late) has been demonstrated.  In this year’s field, those that qualify are Abaco (15-1), Dayatthespa (8-1), Emollient (12-1), Just The Judge (5-1), and Stephanie’s Kitten (3-1).

Just The Judge won the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine 2 weeks prior to Breeders’ Cup Saturday.  Many people will say that is too close, we have had 34 horses try since 1999 with zero successes, the best finish was a second in the 2003 F&M Turf by L’Ancresse for Aidan O’Brien.  I believe that Just The Judge will be the most bet of the Euro contingent in this race but she is one to try and beat.

I do like Stephanie’s Kitten, Dayatthespa and Abaco from the US hopefuls.  I expect to get a pretty good price on Abaco, who I think will be a key horse for me in my exotic wagers. This will be Shug’s first starter in this race since 1999.  His two BC wins in that timeframe came with female runners (Storm Flag Flying in the 2002 Juvenile Fillies and Pleasant Home in the 2005 Distaff).

DraftKings Filly & Mare Sprint

This race shouldn’t take a lot of time to handicap if the last 5 editions are any indication of the win contenders.  The Thoroughbred Club of America (TCA) at Keeneland 4 weeks out has produced each of the winners in that span.  The two caveats to add here are that 1) Keeneland removed their Polytrack surface this year, which they initially installed in 2006, and replaced it with conventional dirt.  In 2008-2009, Santa Anita also had an All-Weather track.  2) Groupie Doll won the last two BC F&M Sprints and she was a beast on any surface so no matter the prep her connections chose for her, she probably was the winner.

BC F M sprint

Figure 7: DraftKings Filly & Mare Sprint

The 3 horses that were in the trifecta at Keeneland were, in order, Leigh Court (4-1)  – Southern Honey (20-1) – Stonetastic (8-1).  Southern Honey’s work at Keeneland last Saturday was not good enough to be considered a Good Last Work when she turned in a work that was ranked 20th of 47 working a half mile that day.  Stonetastic worked a fantastic half mile at Santa Anita the same day when she turned in the fastest work of 59.

I have been a fan of morning line favorite Judy the Beauty (5-2), but she will come in last racing 76 days prior to the event when she won the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo at Del Mar.  I think I’ll stick with Leigh Court and Stonetastic.

Look for Part II of Craig Spencer’s work this week

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is an 18-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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