2018 Breeders’ Cup: Distaff Duel Looming

Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff Looks Exciting

A scintillating matchup between divisional leaders Monomoy Girl and Abel Tasman makes the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff one of the most compelling of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races to be held November 2-3 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The $2 million Distaff, run at 1 1/8 miles, figures to serve as the perfect supporting act to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic as racing’s signature championship event is run under the Twin Spires for the ninth time.

Breeders' Cup Trophy, Churchill Downs

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Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stable, The Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stable’s Monomoy Girl rates as the undisputed leader of the 3-year-old filly division off a 5-for-5 record this year for trainer Brad Cox. The daughter of 2012 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tapizar has won four straight Grade I’s; Keeneland’s Ashland in April, the Kentucky Oaks Video at Churchill in May, Acorn at Belmont Park in June and Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga July 22, to seize control of the division and will put her 8-for-9 record on the line Saturday’s in Parx Racing’s Cotillion (GI). Monomoy Girl tuned up for the 1 1/16-mile race when she worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 September 16 at Churchill, giving Cox plenty of confidence for the Cotillion and beyond.

“We’ve faced a lot of these contenders before and we’ll probably have to face them again in November for the Breeders’ Cup,” Cox said. “She still has to perform to her top level, even though she’s beaten them before. Just like Monomoy is doing, these horses could be getting better as time goes on.”

China Horse Club International and Clearsky Farm’s Abel Tasman herself won the Oaks last year at Churchill before ultimately finishing second in the Distaff at Del Mar to cement a 3-Year-Old Filly championship for trainer Bob Baffert. The 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road has picked up where she left off this year and has won back-to-back Grade I “Win and You’re In” automatic qualifiers for the Distaff in Belmont’s Ogden Phipps in June and Saratoga’s Personal Ensign August 25. Abel Tasman is 8-for-14 lifetime and figures to train up to the Distaff.

Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s homebred Elate is the wildcard in the Distaff, should she start, as trainer Bill Mott has indicated he may run her in this year’s Classic. The 4-year-old daughter of 2010 Classic winner Blame was second, beaten just a neck in a roughly run Personal Ensign and won her only other start this year in the Delaware Handicap (GII) at Delaware Park in July. Elate, who is 5-for-12 lifetime, will prep for either the Distaff or Classic in Belmont’s October 6 Beldame (GI), a race she won last year before running fourth in the Distaff.

Merriebelle Stable’s Blue Prize (ARG), who earned a Distaff berth with her win in Churchill’s “Win and You’re In” Fleur de Lis (GII) in June and won Saturday’s Locust Grove at Churchill for trainer Ignacio Correas, is also pointing to race, as are standout 3-year-old fillies Eskimo Kisses, Midnight Bisou and Wonder Gadot, who have combined to win seven stakes this year. Chocolate Martini, Farrell, Ivy Bell, La Force and Mopotism could also start in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Source: Press Release

3 “Win and You’re In” Challenge races in Europe on Sat. Morning

A trio of “Win and You’re In” Challenge races are on tap Saturday at Leopardstown in Dublin, with the $1.493 million QIPCO Irish Champion and the presence of heavy favorite Qatar Racing’s Roaring Lion serving as the main attraction. Run at 1 ¼ miles, the Irish Champion will offer an automatic starting berth into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, a race Roaring Lion qualified for when he won York’s Juddmonte International (GI) August 22 for trainer John Gosden. The 3-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy rates as Europe’s best male turf horse off successive wins in Sandown’s Coral-Eclipse (GI) in July and the Juddmonte International and will bring a 6-for-10 lifetime mark to the Irish Champion, in which he’s trading as a stiff 5-4 favorite among European punters.

The Coolmore conglomerate of Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor’s Saxon Warrior (JPN) will have another crack at Roaring Lion after running second and fourth to him, respectively, at Sandown and York. The 3-year-old son of Deep Impact (JPN) won the 2000 Guineas (GI) at Newmarket in May for trainer Aidan O’Brien and is 4-for-8 lifetime. Flaxman Stable Ireland’s homebred Study of Man (IRE) is also expected for trainer Pasqual Bary and is garnering a bit of support off his French Derby (GI) win at Chantilly in June. Benbatl (GB), Cliffs of Moher (IRE), Crystal Ocean (GB), Lancaster Bomber and Magic Wand (IRE) could also run in the “Win and You’re In” QIPCO Irish Champion.

Breeders’ Cup Preps

The $418,142 Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron (GI), run at 1-mile, will award an automatic starting berth into the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and, if Roaring Lion is Europe’s best male turf horse, then the Niarchos Family’s homebred Alpha Centauri (IRE) is clearly their best filly, if not best horse overall, as she’s blitzed her competition en route to a quarter of consecutive group I wins for trainer Jessica Harrington. The 3-year-old daughter of Mastercraftsman (IRE) came to prominence with a win in the Irish 1,000 Guineas (GI) at The Curragh in May then rattled off the Coronation at Royal Ascot in June, Falmouth at Newmarket in July and “Win and You’re In” Prix du Haras de-Fresnay-Le-Buffard Jacques le Marois at Deauville August 12 to earn an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Alpha Centauri is 6-for-9 lifetime and is as low as 2-5 among the European punters.

copyright Pixabay

The imposing shadow that Alpha Centauri casts could keep the field for the Matron at a minimum, with John Dance’s LAURENS (FR), who won the Prix Saint-Alary (GI) at Longchamp in May and French Oaks (GI) at Chantilly in June serving as the perceived main danger for trainer Karl Burke. Coolmore could start group winners Clemmie (IRE), Magical (IRE), and Rhododendron (IRE) while group winner Veracious is also possible for the “Win and You’re In” Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron.

The “Win and You’re In” $179,204 KPMG Champions Juvenile (GII), run at 1-mile, will award an automatic starting berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and is expected to draw overflow field with several up-and-coming 2-year-olds looking to announce their presence on the international scene. Godolphin’s Dark Vision (IRE) is undefeated in three starts for trainer Mark Johnston and impressed winning the Vintage (GII) at Glorious Goodwood July 31. The son of Dream Ahead has yet to be tested in any of his runs and could go favored over a potential field of 18 that is long on promise.

Coolmore and O’Brien could run as many as eight, including Christmas (IRE), who was second to his highly touted stablemate Anthony Van Dyck (IRE) in The Curragh’s August 26 Futurity (GII), as well as Mount Everest (IRE), a son of 2003 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Six Perfections (FR) who broke his maiden at The Curragh, as did Sydney Opera House (GB). The Aga Khan has homebreds Masaff (IRE) won on debut locally June 21 and Zuenoon (IRE), who is 2-for-3, and the Dermot Weld-trained pair could be ready for the rise in class.

The “Win and You’re In” action in Ireland moves to The Curragh Racecourse in County Kildare Sunday as the $418,142 Derrinstown Stud Flying Five (GI) and $418,142 Moyglare Stud (GI) will award automatic starting berths into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, respectively.

Global Racing Club and Mrs. E. Burke’s Havana Grey (GB) and Stephen Louch’s Caspian Prince (IRE), the 1-2 finishers in the Group 2, 5-furlong Sapphire Stakes at The Curragh on June 22 lead the way. Finsbury Square (IRE), Hit The Bid (AUS), Sioux Nation, Speak In Colours (GB) are also attracting lukewarm support for the “Win and You’re In” Derrinstown Stud Flying Five.

The Moyglare, run at seven furlongs, figures to draw a crowd, with several from Coolmore and trainer Aidan O’Brien expected, as he could choose from Angelic Light, Banduic Ellie, Beyond Reason, Coral Beach, Fairyland, Fantasy, Hermosa, Just Wonderful and Peach Tree.

2018 Belmont Fall Meet Opens

7 Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Stakes at Belmont Park

Belmont Park’s Fall Championship Meet will feature seven Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifiers held over two outstanding weekends of thoroughbred racing. In all, 44 stakes worth more than $10 million and fan-friendly activities are among the highlights as live racing returns to downstate New York for Belmont’s 36-day meet, which runs from Friday, September 7 through Sunday, October 28.

On Opening Day, Laurie Plesa’s Miz Mayhem will try for her sixth straight win in a field of 10 for Friday’s $100,000 Christiecat for sophomore fillies at six furlongs, the first of three stakes on tap opening weekend.

Belmont Park horse racingMiz Mayhem, a Florida-bred by Yesbyjimminy, has been dominant in turf sprints since February, including a win against older fillies and mares in the Nicole’s Dream at Gulfstream in June and a 1 ¼-length score facing 3-year-olds last time out in the Stormy Blues on July 7 at Laurel Park.

Miz Mayhem will make her first start for Jason Servis after moving from Edward Plesa, Jr.’s barn this summer. She will break from post 2 with regular rider Edgard Zayas aboard.

Last year’s Christiecat-winning trainer Chad Brown will try for a duplicate effort on Friday when he saddles Lady Suebee, who will be ridden by Manny Franco from post 8. Lady Suebee, by First Defence, was third in the July 30 Coronation Cup last time out for Brown, who is fresh off winning his second training title at Saratoga with a record-setting 46 wins.

Rounding out the field are Coronation Cup winner Broadway Run, Mominou, Closer Still, Factorofwon, Kitten’s Covergirl, Tesora, Streetlady, and Souper Striking. Lezendary is entered for the main track only.

The stakes action will continue with the Christiecat’s counterpart for males, $100,000 Allied Forces on Saturday, and the $100,000 Royal Delta for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on Sunday. First race post for opening weekend is at 1:30 p.m. ET.

“Super Saturday,” September 29, will feature a trio of “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to be held at Churchill Downs on November 2-3: the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup for the Breeders’ Cup Classic; the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in the Turf division; and the Grade 1, $350,000 Vosburgh in the Sprint division. Also on the card is the Grade 3, $200,000 Pilgrim for 2-year-olds on the turf.

The stakes action will continue on Sunday with the Grade 2, $200,000 Miss Grillo for 2-year-old fillies on the grass and the $200,000 Temperence Hill Invitational for older horses at 1 5/8 miles.

The lead up to the Breeders’ Cup will pick up again on the following Saturdaywith the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne, a qualifier for the Juvenile on “Future Stars Friday” of Breeders’ Cup weekend. The program will also include the Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, the Grade 2, $500,000 Hill Prince for 3-year-olds on the turf, and the $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational for 3-year-olds and up.

Jockey Club Gold Cup Day will feature a special edition of Belmont Park Live, airing on MSG+ from 4-6 p.m., while NBC will have live coverage of Champagne Day beginning at 4:30 p.m. First post time is 12:30 p.m. ET on both September 29 and October 6.

Three more Breeders’ Cup qualifiers will round out the weekend on Sunday, October 7. The Grade 1, $500,000 Flower Bowl and the Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette, awarding the winners an all-fees-paid berth into the Filly & Mare Turf and Juvenile Fillies divisions, respectively, while the $150,000 Futurity for juvenile sprinters, moved to the grass for the first time, will carry a berth into the inaugural running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Sunday’s first post is at 1:30.

The Grade 2, $200,000 Knickerbocker for 3-year-olds and up on the turf and the Grade 3, $150,000 Matron will highlight Belmont’s Columbus Day holiday program on Monday, October 8.

The Empire State will take the spotlight on Saturday, October 20, when the top New York-breds gather at Belmont Park to complete in eight stakes races worth $1.75 million, highlighted by the $300,000 Empire Classic at 1 1/8 miles. First post is 12:30.

Live racing will be conducted Friday, Saturday and Sunday through September 16. Racing will move to a five-day week beginning September 19, Wednesdays through Sundays. General parking is free, and admission to Belmont Park is $5. For more information, please visit NYRA.com.

Source: NYRA

Is Horse Racing Dead? 2017 Breeders’ Cup a $96.8 Million Impact on San Diego

Del mar chantal billboardThe Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which were contested at Del Mar racetrack for the first time in 2017, generated $96.8 million in direct and indirect economic benefits for San Diego County, according to an economic impact study.

Source: Breeders’ Cup a $96.8 Million Impact on San Diego

Breeders’ Cup Winners Profiles – Day Two, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017

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 as you begin to look at past performances and formulate your wagering strategies

As you read through this you will see in the tables for each race an “Angles” field.  The legend for that field is:

In 2016, the qualifiers performed quite well with 9 of the 13 winners being “qualifiers”, the exceptions being:

  • Oscar Performance who became just the second winner in the Juvenile Turf not to make their final prep start in Europe
  • Champagne Room who surprised everyone when winning the Juvenile fillies and returning $69.20 after finishing 4th in the G1 Chandelier
  • Finest City who did not run in the Thoroughbred Club of America but did come into the race off a second place finish in the G2 Finest City and a good final workout
  • Queen’s Trust did come out of a decent Group 1 performance to win the Filly and Mare Turf but the qualifying requirement is a 1st or 2nd in a Group 1 and she had finished fourth

One final preface, you may hear that foreign shippers run better when the BC is held on the East Coast due to the heat and/or the closer proximity/less travel time.  That is just not true.  7 times since 1999 the BC was held at SA, 157 horses who made their last start outside of North America raced taking home 25 winner’s trophies (15.9%).  In the 11 years when other venues hosted the Cup there were 18 foreign winners from 173 starters (10.4%).



14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies: Last Race Graded Stakes Winner:

Just a year after Songbird snapped us back to reality Champagne Room lit up the toteboard.  How will this year’s Juvenile Fillies play out?  The two years prior to Songbird’s victory Take Charge Brandi and Ria Antonia broke a few longstanding requirements to get to the winner’s circle. One rule that both Ria Antonia and Take Charge Brandi broke was winning the race after finishing out of the money in their final prep, Champagne Room became the third.

Prior to the last 4 years, horses coming off Graded Stakes Victories were about the only fillies that could win this race.  The times are changing.  I would still consider horses coming out of grade 1 races to have a distinct advantage.  The pace scenario’s and fitness element is likely to play a very important role and can help turn the tables for those who were not victorious in their penultimate race.

The Darley Alcibiades was won impressively by Heavenly Love who broke her maiden on the turf in her second career start but had shown enough on the dirt for trainer Mark Casse to put her in the G1 Alcibiades and she did not disappoint.  She is out of a stakes winning mare who has already produced another Graded Stakes wining filly in Forever Darling. 

The Frizette was won by the favorite Separationofpowers, who was making her third start after breaking her maiden in her debut and finishing third behind Lady Ivanka and Maya Malibu in the Spinaway.  The Chandelier (formerly Oak Leaf) had Moonshine Memories stretch her unbeaten streak to 3 with a pretty convincing victory over Alluring Star and Piedi Bianchi.  Only 5 of the last 18 victoresses made their last start at the host track but 4 of those 5 were when the host track was in California.  None are trying it this year but the Santa Anita shippers might have a similar advantage since they are used to the heat and most have had a race or two over the surface.

Gio Game who made her first start in an off the turf maiden sprint event at Saratoga and finished a respectable second after being pinched at the break.  She came back and ran a troubled third in her second start on the Saratoga turf and was subsequently moved up to second place via disqualification.  She is a half-sister to Isotherm who did all of her winning on the lawn and being by Gio Ponti it would make sense for them to assume turf was her preferred surface, but in her third start they ran her in a dirt Maiden Special race at Keeneland and she won by 9 lengths as easy as could have been done.  Her figure was not quite the same as most of the graded stakes final figures but it wasn’t too far off for as easily as she won.

My main selection in this event is Moonshine Memories with a bit of a sneaky value play of Gio Game.



Turf Sprint: Track affinity – not surface affinity but track affinity:

The American’s have dominated this race!!  If you have read much about what it takes to win this race you surely have heard that a horse needs to have demonstrated an affinity for the course.  That is absolutely what history would suggest, not just at Santa Anita, no matter the venue in which the Breeders Cup is held, EVERY WINNER except Mongolian Saturday two years ago (who attempted to get a start over the course before the Breeders’ Cup, but the Woodford was taken off the turf) has shown an affinity (60% in the money) on the grass course at the host track (TA in the Angle(s) listed below), the TA (s) you see next to Mongolian Saturday indicates that there were no starts at the venue but he met the 60% hurdle for all starts on the turf no matter the location.

As mentioned above, this race typically requires an affinity for the track.  The horses that were pre-entered that meet this criteria are:

  • Richard’s Boy (4 for 4 in the money over DMR Turf)
  • Stormy Liberal (2 for 3 in the money)
  • Paquita Coqueta (2 for 2 in the money)

Notice that the one exception to the “track affinity” requirement was when the race was held at Keeneland.  Keeneland and Del Mar are similar in that they are both tracks that hold “boutique” meets limiting the opportunities for top class turf sprint specialist to race over the surface.  Because of that, I would be more forgiving than usual for horses who have not raced over the track.  Even though I start the commentary on this race with a statement on American’s domination in this race, to be fair only 9 foreign invaders have tried the Turf Sprint, with 1 (Diabolic in 2008) hitting the board.

The favorite this year will likely be Lady Aurelia who has made her last two starts in England for American trainer Wesley Ward.  She is a world traveler running 4 times in England, once in France and only twice in the US.  She has not raced since August 25th but the 5 furlong distance of this race and the fact that she has won Group 1 stakes overseas with similar layoffs should really be little concern.  She is a must use and could be a single in horizontal wagers, but she will be a low price so if you want to try and beat her or at least use some other horses defensively, I can’t blame you.  If you can beat her the pick 5, which ends on this race, will pay out significantly better than it will if she wins.

If Marsha makes the trip over she was able to get the best of Lady Aurelia in that August 25th race at York by a nose and could be one to consider.  They have raced twice together with each one winning one of those events.  Marsha has had one race since they faced off in August when finishing second in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly on October 1st.

Washington DC tried this race last year and finished 7th at Santa Anita.  He has had a very inconsistent year since that race winning 2 out of 9 tries in 2017, neither of his wins were of the Group 1 or 2 variety and both Marsha and Lady Aurelia have taken their turns beating him consistently.

While you would think that the 5 furlong distance of this race would be conducive to speed horses, my data tells me that the Turf Sprints at Del Mar have been very fair to speed horses, stalkers, and closers and on Saturday’s it actually plays to the horses who have shown more late run than early speed.  There is no pace information available on foreign races, of the horses who have raced in the US Disco Partner and Pure Sensation are easily the best late pace horses pre-entered.

Pure Sensation finished 3rd in this race last year at Santa Anita but brings in a victory in the 5 furlong G3 Turf Monster at Parx in early September.  Disco Partner is one that will absolutely enjoy a hot pace scenario which we are almost certainly going to get.  This race might be a little bit short for him, he prefers the 6-8 furlong distances but has not embarrassed himself when running 5 or 5 ½ furlongs winning one and finishing third in the other attempt he made at those distances.  I think he’ll be a bit overlooked because of the short distance in this race and his running style but I think he also is where the best value in this race will be found.

Turf Sprint are tricky to handicap due to the overwhelming role post positions can play.  At Del Mar in 2016-2017 there have been 60 turf races, with 33 of them were won by the inside 3 posts.  There are only 2 stakes races ran annually while sprinting at Del Mar.  They are the Green Flash  and the Daisy Cutter, in those 4 races the #1 post won one, #2 won one, and the #3 won the other 2.    Because of that I will only use Disco Partner who drew the #1 post and Lady Aurelia who drew #3 as A’s in my horizontal wagers.  At 20/1 and with his running style, I will use Pure Sensation as a C in what is turning out to be a fairly challenging sequence.



Filly & Mare Sprint: Thoroughbred Club of America winner or TCA top 3 with a good last work:

This race shouldn’t take a lot of time to handicap if 5 of the last 8 editions are any indication of the win contenders.  The Thoroughbred Club of America (TCA) at Keeneland 4 weeks out has produced the winner.  In 2014, Judy the Beauty showed that you can be successful coming off a bit of a layoff when she won and last year Finest City also won off of a break of more than a couple months.

The only pre-entrant that comes out of Keeneland’s TCA is the winner, Finley’sluckycharm, who has won 5 out of her 6 2017 starts.  For the rest of the field the main criteria that you can clearly see in the table above is that an out of the money finish in the prior start has never been successful.  That would immediately tell you to toss, from the list of pre-entrants, Bar of Gold and Paluassilverlining. The worktab should be considered strongly, 6 of the 8 winners of this race have turned in a “good last work” leading into the event.

Other non TCA horses to consider are the likely favorite in Unique Bella who made her return from a long layoff in the G3 LA Woman an promptly won by a commanding 3 ½ lengths and it wasn’t really that close.  She broke her maiden at Del Mar by 10 lengths, so the venue might actually favor her.  She is out of Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Unrivaled Belle which would make her, what I believe to be, the second horse in the past 18 years to win a Breeders’ Cup race and be out of a mare who also won a Breeders’ Cup race.  Ami’s Mesa who will be making her first start on traditional dirt after winning all four of her 2017 races on polytrack at Woodbine and Presque Isle Downs.  She will have to improve on dirt from a BRIS ratings perspective to be close to competitive against this bunch.  By the Moon ran in this race last year coming out of a close second place finish in the G1 Ballerina at Saratoga, she brings in a head victory out of the same event this year but last year she received a 102 BRIS figure and this year she only received a 95.  Since it didn’t work last year, I wouldn’t bet that this is the best recipe for a victory for her in this race this year either. Skye Diamonds is 2 for 2 at Del Mar and exits a winning performance in the G3 Rancho Bernardo in August, which was the race that Judy the Beauty used to win the 2014 edition of this race.  Highway Star and Carina Mia bring a one two finish out of the G2 Gallant Bloom to Del Mar to try and take home the winner’s trophy.

My selection here is Unique Bella, but would strongly consider also using Finley’sluckycharm, and Skye Diamonds, especially in horizontal wagers.


Filly & Mare Turf Trends:  1st or 2nd in G1 prep race – and demonstrated strong early or late pace presence for North Americans. Last race within 5 weeks is a big plus:

The Filly & Mare Turf has been less dominated by European shippers than some of the other turf races with only 6 of the last 18 winners making their last start across the pond, Dayatthespa met the requirement of a win or second in a Grade 1 prep within 5 weeks in 2015 and returned $13.00 when she was successful.  Similarly Stephanie’s Kitten also met the requirements and successfully won this race returning $17.60 two years ago.

With the exception of last year, horses who have not finished in the money 3 out of every 5 races on the grass have not been successful in this event.  Only three instances in the past 18 renditions have been won by a horse that did not finish in the top 3 in their penultimate race.  For North American contenders, they have to either have a shown 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, that is a huge asset in these international turf races with large fields.  Since 1999 ZERO horses who last raced on the west coast have won this event.  That is 0 for 44 in that timeframe, only 4 have finished second or third.  By contrast, Leopardstown (LEP) has only been the last start location for 4 starters and 2 out of those 4 have been victorious (and the other two finished second and third).

In the past 18 running’s, only five winners have made their last start more than 5 weeks prior.  Of the entrants the following horses meet the requirement of finishing first or second in a Grade/Group 1 event within 35 days of the Breeders’ Cup:  Avenge (1st in G1 Rodeo Drive), Dacita (2nd in G1 Flower Bowl), Rhododendron (1st in G1 Prix de l’Opera), War Flag (1st in G1 Flower Bowl), and Zipessa (1st in G1 Fast Lady).

Since O’Brien settled on Rhododendron here and Roly Poly in the mile, if Rhododendron goes off at 9/2 or higher, smile and make your way to the window.  I would dare say it would be worth butting in line to make that play. The main reason I have for this strong opinion is that War Flag came stateside to win our major prep race in the Flower BowlWar Flag was a solid Group 3 filly in Europe.  The two Coolmore fillies are Group 1 fillies in Europe.

Lady Eli will likely have some strong US backing but her last race was over 2 months ago and in a winning Grade 2 effort, both the time away and the grading of her prep leave me doubtful in her ability to win this race.  Queen’s Trust who won this race last year for Sir Michael Stoute, was pre-entered to defend her title.  She brings in a similar final prep in terms of beaten lengths but it was a couple of weeks further away from the race and she was beaten in that event by Rhododendron pretty soundly.  Wuheida was only beaten a ½ a length by Rhododendron in the Prix de l’Opera and only a little over a length when second at Newmarket in July to Roly Poly.  She is much more lightly raced than either of Coolmore’s fillies leaving me to think there might be some significant upside to this filly and believe she will absolutely be worth using at what will likely be a square price.

My selection in this race is either Rhododendron.  I would not walk away from the window without ensuring I had some coverage if Wuheida were victorious and would ensure I have these two keyed strongly in my exactas.


TwinSpires Sprint– Top 2 finisher in prep, track affinity or surface affinity if no starts at the track with a good last work:

No worries about a foreign invader picking up the winners share in this event.  It is incumbent on the contenders to have ran well (60%+ in the money) at the track or on the surface if no starts at the track. Twelve of the last eighteen winners won their last out, four finished second in their most recent race, leaving just two winners that did not at least place in their final prep race.


You might expect early speed to be at an advantage over the six furlong distance, while eight of the last eighteen winners appeared to be early pace types, six winners also did their best running late.  One of these (Orientate) actually had both good early and good late pace presence prior to the BC.  The remaining 5 winners, including Drefong, were more one paced.  As you can see by the number next to each horses name (their age), 6 of the 18 winners were 3 year olds, so don’t immediately toss the sophomore’s just because they are facing older horses, potentially for the first time.

Neither American Pastime nor Drefong are technically qualifiers having only hit the board in 1 out of 2 Del Mar appearances.  I will give Drefong a pass, however, because his one defeat at Del Mar was when he lost his jockey early in the Bing Crosby when he ducked into the gap after breaking from the #2 post position.  He drew the #2 post with a non-speed horse to his inside which I feared and kind of expect expect Mike to be a little bit too cautious early hoping to avoid a recurrence.  Mind Your Biscuits and Ransom The Moon both finished worse than second in their final prep race making both of those horses non-qualifiers.  Fifteen of the last eighteen editions, and all of the previous twelve, have had a Good Last Work.  Assuming none of the horses will hit the worktab between Saturday, October 28th and November 4th, Roy H, Practical Joke, and B Squared do not meet the Good Last Workout requirement.  If you like B Squared then you might be forgiving because he raced 14 days prior and won the restricted California Flag Stakes which is probably just as good as a “Good Last Work”.  It seems more likely that he will run in the turf sprint.

Defending champion Drefong is the likely favorite and is deserving to be with his only two defeats occurring due to issues early in the race in his debut and ducking into the gap in the Bing Crosby. Imperial Hint has been extremely impressive in his last 5 starts, winning them by a combined 22 lengths and running figures consistently on par with Drefong’s figs.  Both of these horses, as well as Takaful and, possibly, Roy H all have speed and will pretty much guarantee a fast pace.  In those situations I like to play the best of the speed, which in this case is Drefong as his late pace numbers are better than Imperial Hint.  Since Drefong drew the #2 post position I think it would be wise to hedge a little with Imperial Hint.  The way they have been training him guarantees that he will be fresh and on the lead. So you  need the best of the speed as well as the strong late pace horse(s).  Whitmore, who was amazing early in the year, had a couple of poor showings, rebounded in his last start to win the G2 Phoenix and Mind Your Biscuits will be picking up the pieces late.

My selections in this race are to play Drefong, Whitmore, and Mind Your Biscuits on my horizontal tickets and to use those same horses in my vertical plays, using Whitmore and Mind Your Biscuits a little more prominently in the win position due to value and pace setup and to use Imperial Hint as a “C” in case he shakes loose on the lead.

Mile – Grade/Group 1 exiters:

Because of the domination of Wise Dan and Goldikova in this race in 5 of the last 10 years it is a bit difficult to really pinpoint winner’s profiles to look at.  But in the 13 renditions since 1999 that were not won by either of those two greats, only three were won by foreign horses.  Since most of the morning workouts in the US occur over the dirt surfaces, a good last work does not appears to be inconsequential.

BC Mile

The Shadwell Turf Mile has given us the winner of 3 of the last 5 renditions of this event.  Two of them came from the great Wise Dan.  This year the foreign invader Suedois came into Keeneland and took the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile with an explosive turn of foot down the lane.  The 6 year old had a solid European form but was definitely not one that struck fear in his opponents.  Heart to Heart and Ballagh Rocks finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, both of them running the same type of race that they seem to always run but neither are super imposing either.  Heart to Heart has quite a bit of early speed so he will likely have some say in the pace scenario.  Can they hit the board?  Sure, but I think the winner probably comes from a different prep and probably from a foreign shipper.

Other North American Grade 1 exiters entered for this race are World Approval who has won his last two Grade 1 events including a win in the G1 Woodbine Mile over highly regarded foreign invader Lancaster Bomber.  Midnight Storm, who finished third in the Mile last year, finished second in the G1 Awesome Again at the end of September on the Santa Anita dirt course, which would be a very unconventional final prep for this race.  I believe the great Wise Dan is the only winner to have not made his final prep on turf when he finished second in the Shadwell Turf Mile in 2013 after that race was moved from the turf to the Keeneland polytrack due to inclement weather.   None of the rest of the North American pre-entrants are coming out of Grade 1 events.

Other foreign Group 1 exiters who are entered here are: Lancaster Bomber who was beaten 30 lengths after pressing the leaders in the QE II at Ascot finishing well behind Churchill who is trying his hand in the Classic and Ribchester who beat Churchill by ½ a length;  Ribchester brings in 5 straight first or second place finishes in Group 1 events while demonstrating ample early pace ability; Roly Poly who was last seen winning the Sun Chariot at Newmarket and is a half-sister to Juvenile participant U S Navy Flag; Zelzal brings in a sixth place finish, but beaten less than two lengths, in the Prix de la Foret which has produced a few winners of this race, she finished a length behind third place finisher Karar who was also pre-entered.  Lancaster Bomber is a half-brother to $2.6M earner Excelebration.

I would suggest using Ribchester and World Approval as your key horses in this event.



Sentient Jet Juvenile: Top 3 finish in final prep and shown strong early or late pace ability; Good Last Work is a plus

Three years ago, Texas Red, became the 4th winner in 18 running’s to not finish in the top 2 in his final prep. But no winner in that time has finished worse than third.  Two of the last three winners came out of the Front Runner Stakes (formerly the Norfolk) at Santa Anita.  Although last year’s winner, Classic Empire, was based on the East Coast, the East Coast contingents have only won Six of the last Eighteen editions.

Foreign horses have performed admirably here, but since the advent of the Juvenile Turf in 2008, only Vale of York has successfully tried this event.  Most of the highly regarded Euro shippers now have the option to stay on their preferred surface, only 4 horses have tried the Juvenile in that timeframe.  Only one foreign horse was entered this year in Aiden O’Brien’s best 2 year-old U S Navy Flag in kind of a surprise as I expected him to enter Beholder’s little brother Mendelssohn but apparently the stable felt that U S Navy Flag’s seasoning made him more likely to be able to handle the toughness of this field.  He is a full to double pre-entrant Roly Poly both being by War Front and out of the Galileo mare ($1.1M earner) Misty For Me.

In 11 of the 18 events shown, the winner last raced within 4 weeks of the Breeders’ Cup.  You would think that this is a firm requirement, but 7 winners made their last start beyond 28 days out with 62 horses attempting this feat (one winner out of every 8.9).  There have been 156 starters come back on 4 weeks or less rest (one winner out of every 14.2) and with the change in schedule for the key prep race events in New York, Kentucky, and California the key preps are now held five weeks out.  Of those pre-entered that fit the qualifications (top 3 final race and strong early/late pace presence), my numbers point to the following qualifiers:

  • Bolt D’Oro (Strong early and late pace, undefeated winner of the G1 Front Runner)
  • Firenze Fire (Solid late pace, winner of the G1 Champagne)
  • Good Magic (Decent early pace, 2nd in both career starts, most recently the Champagne)
  • Solomini (Decent early pace, non-threatening 2nd in the Front Runner)

Bold D’Oro is absolutely the most likely winner on the card on Saturday.  He has been nothing but professional and impressive in all of his races and two of those races have come over the Del Mar oval.  While there are a few nice colts in this race, the other US based horses just do not match up with him.  If he is upset it will probably be the stranger in U S Navy Flag that provides the upset.  I think that is very unlikely, but O’Brien is a magician, probably worthy of a “C”.



Longines Turf – G1 exiter within 5 weeks:

Can you say “European Domination”?  14 of the past 18 years this race has been won by a European shipper.  There have been 19 winners (in 2003 there was a dead heat) in that time frame.  Six of the successful foreign shippers were from the O’Brien barn (including 4 of the past 6 years), 3 from the Stoute barn, 2 from Suroor (Godolphin).  Seven made their prior start in France in the Prix de L’Arc de Triumph, seven from other foreign locales (Ascot, Newbury, Newmarket, Leopardstown, Doncaster, and York).

Longines Turf

Thirteen of the nineteen winners last ran within 5 weeks of the Breeders’ Cup with only one winner not making their last start in a Grade/Group 1 event.  Every winner except for Magician has been in the money 60% of the time either on the lawn at the host track if they have any starts over it or over turf in general if they have no starts at the host track.

Every one of this year’s entrants have shown track/surface affinity except for the following:  Bullards Alley who brings in a career best performance by winning the G1 Canadian International by a widening 10 lengths over a soft Woodbine turf course.  He obviously loves Woodbine and the soft going, which he will not get on Saturday, probably helped matters.  Cliffs of Moher also does not qualify finishing in the money in only 3 of his 8 lifetime starts, all on lawn. Fanciful Angel who has finished second in two of our best North American turf races, the Arlington Million and the Turf Classic both Grade 1’s, but his European form is nothing to write home about and the fact that he finished so close in our two best races is likely an indictment of the gap in the talent of our turf horses compared to Europe’s.   Itsinthepost is only 4 for 8 in the money at Del Mar with zero wins in those 8 tries. Seventh Heaven has hit the board in 5 out of 12 turf starts and appeared to be in much better form last year when finishing fourth in the F&M Turf, this seems rather ambitious.

The qualifiers (G1 exiter within 35 days and has track/surface affinity) are:  defending champion Highland Reel who made his first start in nearly 3 months just two weeks before the big day when running a very respectable 3rd in the G1 Champion Stakes at Ascot.  Unlike the U.S.-based trainers, the Europeans understand that horses tend to run back very well off a relatively short break, the great mare Found used the Champion Stakes as her final prep before taking home Breeders Cup glory two years ago.  Ulysses is also a qualifier off his third place finish in the Prix l’Arc de Triumph, he finished fourth last year rounding out an all European superfecta.  He comes into this year’s Turf more mature and in better form winning two Group 1 races in his last 4, the other two were 2nd and 3rd place finishes behind the great Enable who would be 9/5 in this field if not lower.  Beach Patrol who was the romping winner of the G1 Turf Classic at Belmont Park on September 30th and who also won the Arlington Million in August.  He has been unstoppable since teaming up with Joel Rosario for his last two races and, in reality, is the main hope the home team has of winning this race.  Sadler’s Joy was a well beaten 4th in the Turf Classic but will be running late if the pace melts down and should be considered strongly underneath in any vertical wager.  Oscar Performance who was the victor in last year’s Juvenile Turf brings in a third place finish in the turf classic after dominating the 3 year-old turf scene.

It’s not every year we get an Arc winner to run in the Breeders Cup.  Arc winners have not fared well in the BC Turf with Dancing Brave, Trempolino, Saumarez, Subotica, Dylan Thomas, Golden Horn and Found not being able to parlay wins at Longchamp into BC Glory.  Arc winner Sakhee did come to the US and ran great to finish a close second to Tiznow in the Classic.

You might infer from the above info that the Arc is not a good prep for the Turf, however Highland Reel (2nd in ’16), Found (9th in ’15, but finished second at Ascot in the Champion Stakes between the Arc and winning the Turf), St. Nicholas Abbey (5th in the Arc), Conduit (4th in ’09 Arc), Shirocco (4th in Arc), High Chaparral (3rd in both ’02 and ’03), Daylami (9th), Pilsudski (2nd in ’96), Miss Alleged (13th in ’91 – but finished 5th at Laurel between the Arc and winning the Turf) and In The Wings (4th in ’90) are horses who did not win the Arc but made a successful trip stateside to take the Turf.  This bodes well for morning line favorite Ulysses who, as mentioned earlier, finished 3rd in the Arc.  

I think it’s a near surety that the winner will come from the five qualifiers.  My selection is Ulysses but think to feel safe to get out of this race alive into the Classic in any horizontal wagers you need to also use Highland Reel and Beach Patrol.  Budget permitting, Oscar Performance and Sadler’s Joy in that order would be the other two to consider using in some form or fashion.



Classic: Awesome Again, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup are the key races; top 3 finishers in prep that have track affinity or surface affinity if no starts at the track:

The best foreign horses usually stick to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf or the Mile depending on their distance limitations.  There have been a couple notable exceptions but only Raven’s Pass has been able to successfully invade and win this event (and cost me the consolation in the pick 6 that year after hitting the first 4 legs).  There have been 6 horses with decent early pace presence win, 3 horses with decent late presence, 6 horses that had decent early and late pace numbers, 2 that were more one pace plodders (Drosselmeyer and Tiznow in his first victory as a 3 year old), and Raven’s Pass (no data to support pace presence).

Sixteen of the 18 horses had track affinity or surface affinity (if no starts at the host track).  If you last finished worse than 3rd you probably aren’t picking up the big check.  Of late, the Jockey Club Gold Cup has been the key prep with the Awesome Again (formerly the Goodwood) recovering three years ago from its recent losing streak but it produced the winner 3 of 4 years from 2000-2003.  The Travers gave us the last two winners and the last three were saddled by Mr. Baffert (if you win 3 of these in a row, you have earned the Mr. title.)  For older horses you need to have won the Awesome Again or Woodward or if you haven’t finished in the top 3 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, you probably won’t be on my radar.

The last three renditions of this race were won by 3 year-olds, which hadn’t happened in the prior 5 editions.  The last three winners also came from Baffert’s barn.  Bob is stacked again this year with four of the eleven entrants.

Arrogate will try and right the ship from losing his last two races.  He was being compared to Secretariat after his ultra-impressive run in Dubai but spun his wheels a bit this summer at Del Mar.  His last two workouts have been getting better but he will have to be on his A game to win.  If he brings his A minus game there are 2 or 3 in here that will be ready to pounce.  People talk about him not liking Del Mar.  That might be true but with the Pegasus World Cup only a couple months away and with the timing of that race being such that he could make both the PWC and the breeding shed next year, I think we might have a case of the Unbridled’s Song bad feet coming out in him.  I will still use him but I cannot promote singling the big grey colt.

War Decree and Churchill are going to attempt to do their best Raven’s Pass impersonation but there are three major differences between the two.  The first being that Raven’s Pass was coming in off of a Group 1 victory in the QE II at Ascot.  The second being that the 2008 edition was held on the all-weather surface at Santa Anita. And the third being that John Gosden brought I Raven’s Pass and Frankie Dettori was in the irons, both War Decree and Churchill come from Aiden O’Brien’s barn, he is one of the best trainers in the world but he is only 2 for 41 in Breeders Cup dirt races and one of those was in the now defunct BC Marathon.

Top 3 finishers in G1 Prep that have demonstrated track affinity if they have made a start on the Del Mar dirt, or surface affinity if they have never raced at Santa Anita are:

  • Arrogate (2 for 3 in the money at DMR)
  • Gun Runner (15 of 15 in the money on dirt, winner of last 3 G1 races including the Woodward by over 22 lengths)
  • Mubtaahij (10 for 16 in the money on dirt, won the Awesome Again)
  • West Coast (8 for 8 in the money on dirt, won the G1 Pennsylvania Derby)
  • Gunnevera (8 for 11 in the money on dirt, second in the Travers)
  • Pavel (3 for 4 in the money on dirt)
  • Collected (1 for 1 at DMR)

If Arrogate does not rebound to his old self, there are 3 horses to consider in the next 3 morning line favorites.  Gun Runner has been very impressive since returning from his defeat in Dubai.  West Coast is the likely 3 year old champion after putting together a string of 5 victories in a row and will attempt to be the 4th straight Bob Baffert trained 3 year-old and third straight Travers winner to win the Classic.  Collected has also been very impressive in his last 3 races, the latest being a ½ length victory over Arrogate in the Pacific Classic but he is undefeated since being beaten a mile in the Preakness in 2016 winning all 4 2017 starts.

Pavel is interesting and on paper would be a little shocking, but he has continued to run improved races and one more step forward puts him in contention if Arrogate of old does not show up.  Reddam/O’Neill have been very high on this horse since day 1.  High enough to run him against the Derby and the Preakness  winners in the Jim Dandy.  He finished a game third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the top 2 finishers will not be racing on Saturday.  At his 20/1 Morning Line price he is the value in this race. He is a half-brother to multiple graded stakes winner Caracortado and by a bit better sire so he has a license to be a Grade 1 caliber colt.

2017 Breeders’ Cup Analysis, Spot Plays & Wagers

13x NHC Qualifier Offers up Pace Scenarios, Spot Plays w/ Wagers, Top Selections and Analysis

Rich Nilsen, who has absolutely been on fire with his major race selection sheets, is back for both days of this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar.   Included in Nilsen’s report are top selections for all 4 stakes on Friday and all 9 stakes on Saturday (all 13 Breeders’ Cup races).

You receive Nilsen’s expert pace analysis, which is often the key to selecting the winner.   Nilsen has 3 Spot Plays with wagering strategies to attack these races.  He has also included wagering strategies both day’s feature events – the Distaff (Friday) and the Classic (Saturday).

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Highlights from Previous Breeders’ Cup Spot Play Winners!

$29.40 Sprint Spot Play Winner Trinniberg with Cold $203.40 Exacta!

$15.80 Turf Sprint Spot Play Winner Mizdirection, keying $1,757.65 Pick-4 wager!

$40.40 Spot Play Winner Work All Week with $1,064.70 Trifecta!

$13.00 F&M Turf Spot Play winner Dayathespa

$16.40 Turf Sprint Winner Bobby’s Kitten

$64.80 Exacta with Main Sequence over Flintshire in the Breeders’ Cup Turf

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Rich Nilsen caught the horse racing bug at a young age when his father took him to the racetracks in New York. He eventually attended the University of Louisville Equine Business Program with the goal of making a career in the horse racing industry.

Nilsen has worked the past 25 years in the equine industry, serving most of those years as the Marketing Director for Brisnet.com and TwinSpires.com, the Official Wagering Site of the Kentucky Derby.

During his long tenure at the Churchill Downs-owned properties, Nilsen managed the successful Players’ Pool syndicate, which pooled funds from the account wagering members to go after large Pick-6 carryovers. During Nilsen’s leadership, the Players’ Pool produced a significant profit for the members over the course of seven years. One of the best hits was when the Players’ Pool took down half of the Pick-6 pool on Kentucky Derby Day 2007, with a gross return of over $500,000.  The Pool had several other hits over $250,000.

The $2.8 Million National Handicapping Championship (NHC) is the premier horse racing tournament in the nation. It is basically horse racing’s version of the World Series of Poker, with the main difference being that players cannot buy their way into the NHC. Players can only win their way in via tournaments held throughout the country. Nilsen is one of the top participants in the history of the event, having qualified 13 times. He was the first player, and one of only two, to finish in the top 10 at the NHC twice.

Nilsen is now the founder and editor of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

About Nilsen’s Analysis

In this comprehensive yet concise report, I provide selections for all 13 Breeders’ Cup races for both days, as well as pace scenario analysis which is absolutely vital for predicting the outcomes of these events.

Spot Plays are my best bets and key wagering horses for the big weekend. Picking your spots is key to profiting on the races, especially when it comes to the Breeders’ Cup. The opportunities are plentiful but you improve your chances by selecting key spot plays and focusing most of your bets on those plays.

Set aside a budget for these two days and be sure to have plenty of ammunition for the bigger of the two days, Saturday. Best of luck!

Breeders’ Cup Winners Profiles – Day One, Friday, Nov. 3, 2017

 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 as you begin to look at past performances and formulate your wagering strategies

As you read through this you will see in the tables for each race an “Angles” field.  The legend for that field is:

In 2016, the qualifiers performed quite well with 9 of the 13 winners being “qualifiers”, the exceptions being:

  • Oscar Performance who became just the second winner in the Juvenile Turf not to make their final prep start in Europe
  • Champagne Room who surprised everyone when winning the Juvenile fillies and returning $69.20 after finishing 4th in the G1 Chandelier
  • Finest City who did not run in the Thoroughbred Club of America but did come into the race off a second place finish in the G2 Finest City and a good final workout
  • Queen’s Trust did come out of a decent Group 1 performance to win the Filly and Mare Turf but the qualifying requirement is a 1st or 2nd in a Group 1 and she had finished fourth

One final preface, you may hear that foreign shippers run better when the BC is held on the East Coast due to the heat and/or the closer proximity/less travel time.  That is just not true.  7 times since 1999 the BC was held at SA, 157 horses who made their last start outside of North America raced, taking home 25 winner’s trophies (15.9%).  In the 11 years when other venues hosted the Cup there were 18 foreign winners from 173 starters (10.4%).



Juvenile Fillies Turf Trends:  Group 1 exiters from Foreign shippers. For North American entrants: Top 2 in a Graded Stakes last out, 60%+ top 3 finishes in their turf outs, and last raced within 5 weeks. The Miss Grillo Stakes has been a key race for North American entrants:

The US representatives have been successful the last three years after being beaten by foreign invaders in ’12-‘13.  I still wouldn’t ignore the Group 1 exiting foreign horses.

The two traditional key East Coast prep races are the Grade 3 Miss Grillo where Significant Form brought in only a win in her career debut but promptly extended her unbeaten string to two and the Grade 2 Natalma where Capla Temptress rallied to get a victory in her first North American try after winning two out of three across the pond. She was transferred to Bill Mott’s barn for the Natalma.  While in the UK she finished 3rd in her only defeat in the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket finishing a length behind Juliet Capulet who is pre-entered in this race for John Gosden and followed up her second place finish in the Sweet Solera by winning the Group 2 Shadwell Rockfell Stakes at Newmarket.  Juliet Capulet, will retain the services of Frankie Dettori and that is never a bad thing.

Of the rest of the foreign contingency, September is coming off a nose defeat in the Group 1 Bet365 Fillies Mile Stakes, but she finished nearly 4 lengths behind Happily when third in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.  Happily followed up that victory with another victory on the Arc undercard at Chantilly when winning the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere Stakes.  The European trainers do not typically send their best over for this race.  Once again, all Group 1 exiting filly should be looked at closely even no matter where they finished.  The other foreign pre-entrants coming out of Group 1 races are Madeline and Now You’re Talking.

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Best Performance finished reasonably close to Significant Form in the Miss Grillo. Orbulation was not too far back behind Best Performance while not having the best trip in the world.

Rushing Fall is a non-qualifier that you might still consider, she rallied very impressively in both of her starts to date.  In her most recent start she was a convincing winner of the Grade 3 Jessamine at Keeneland where she ran a BRIS figure of 91, which is the tops of the pre-entered US based fillies.  In the Jessamine she rallied from 9 lengths back to win by a widening 3 lengths.

My top selection in this event is Happily who is a half to four time Group 1 winner Gleneagles  (Irish 2000 Guineas, British 2000 Guineas, St. James Place, Vincent O’Brien).


Las Vegas Dirt Mile Trends:  last raced within 6 weeks in a Grade 1 or Grade 2; a good last work is a plus.

The first five winners of this race all were 6-1 or better, the next three were a bit easier to figure.  Last year we returned to a more chaotic result.  If you are a horizontal player, I would truly suspect this race to be one in which you should consider going a bit deeper in than the others.   Only once had a horse won this race off more than a 6 week break and 6 of the 9 winners had a good last work (top 1/3rd at the distance, within 14 days of the race), so watching the workout tabs heading into the Breeders’ Cup seems like a good idea.

Dirt Mile

Pre-entrants exiting a Grade 1 or Grade 2 race within 6 weeks of BC Weekend include Cupid (4th in G1 Awesome Again), Giant Expectations (5th in the G1 SA Sprint Championship), Midnight Storm (2nd in G1 Awesome Again), Sharp Azteca (1st in G2 Kelso).

Mor Spirit last raced in June when winning the G1 Metropolitan.  His trainer, Bob Baffert, is exceptional with horses coming back off layoffs of any duration.  Practical Joke, last raced in the G1 Jerkins at Saratoga at the end of August.  His trainer, Chad Brown, has a very similar success rate as Baffert.

If one wins this race after being defeated in the Awesome Again, that horse would join the company of Albertus Maximus won the inaugural Dirt Mile after finishing third in the Goodwood, which is now known as the Awesome Again and Dakota Phone who also raced in the Goodwood prior to his success in the Dirt Mile.

I would like Mor Spirit more than I do had he had a race since early June.  If he wins I will probably not cash a ticket in this race or in any multi-race wagers involving this race.  The main horses I was interested in are racing in different spots over the big weekend.



Juvenile Turf: Foreign Shippers Reign.

The European contingent have been deadly in this race with 7 winners in the 9 Running’s (Foreign Tacks are shaded).  Four of the 7 European winners last raced at Newmarket (Hootenanny was US based, trained by Wesley Ward, but last start was across the pond).  One of the two US based winners, Pluck, didn’t make his last start in the US either, although I wouldn’t call a race at Woodbine a real foreign test.

Most of the best US talent at this stage of their 2 year-old year are still trying to make a name for themselves on the dirt so they can make a run at the Triple Crown.  The European shippers are definitely at an advantage in this race.  Not only have they been racing on turf against the best 2 year olds that Europe has to offer, they are trained over turf in the mornings and are well prepared to handle the lower rate North American talent that they will typically face.

If O’Brien brings U S Navy Flag to Del Mar, he will be the first winner of the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst, a race that has sent us two victors from horses who were not good enough to win at Newmarket but were easily good enough to win stateside.  He would be heavily favored and would be the most likely winner on Friday’s card if he makes the trip.

Top 3 finishers (either European or from at least a US based G3) include Catholic Boy (1st in G3 With Anticipation at Saratoga, which is probably a little bit too long between races to strongly consider), Flameaway (Winner of the off-the turf G3 Bourbon), Hemp Hemp Hurray (2nd in the G2 Summer Stakes), James Garfield (1st in G2 Mill Reef at Newbury), Masar (3rd in G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lugardere at Chantilly), Mendelssohn (2nd for O’Brien in the historically significant G1 Darley Dewhust at Newmarket), Nelson (2nd for O’Brien in the G2 Royal Lodge at Newmarket),  Untamed Domain (1st in the G2 Summer Stakes), Voting Control (2nd in the G3 Pilgrim), Tap Daddy (3rd in the G3 Bourbon), Tip Two Win (2nd in the G3 Tattersalls Stakes  at Newmarket), Tangled (who finished a nose behind Tip Two Win in the Tattersalls)

Pedigree information to consider:

Mendelssohn is a half to Beholder and Into Mischief, both of which did their running on the dirt.  Into Mischief’s offspring have been solid on both dirt and turf but based on that pedigree I would think they might try the Juvenile on Saturday and not the Juvenile Turf on Friday.

US Navy Flag is a full to double pre-entrant Roly Poly both being by War Front and out of the Galileo mare ($1.1M earner) Misty For Me.

Aiden O’Brien has had at least one starter in this race in each of it’s 9 running’s, after going 0 for 3 in the first 3, he has won 3 of the last 6 renditions.  Based on the strength of his stable my selection will be whichever horse he enters in this race between U S Navy Flag and Mendelssohn.  If he leaves U S Navy Flag home and runs Mendelssohn on the dirt, his third possible starter Nelson will have to be used on the ticket but likely with some others as backup.  Those would include Untamed Domain and Voting Control.



Longines Distaff: Zenyatta and Beldame are key prep races, a race within 5 weeks is a plus, but historically either decent early or decent late pace presence is required.

In the 18 running’s of this event since 1999, we have had only two winners that last raced over 5 weeks out, however they were in two of the last three years.  I wouldn’t bet on that trend continuing but might extend the requirement a week so the Cotillion can be included as a major prep race.  With the Beldame and the Zenyatta (formerly the Lady’s Secret) providing 8 of the last 10 winners. A good last work (GLW) does not appear to be of much importance, as five of the last 10 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 5 had shown decent early pace presence, with Life is Sweet, Zenyatta and Ginger Punch all being monsters in the final stages of the event.

Distaff profile

Elate’s last two victories were extremely impressive to see.  Her win in the G1 Beldame paired the same figure with her Alabama and is the best BRIS figure given to any horse in this race this year. She should be a pretty low priced favorite and not one that I would leave off any horizontal wagers I made.

Forever Unbridled is a sneaky horse in this race, as she is the late pace presence.  It’s been a while since she last raced at Saratoga when winning the G1 Personal Ensign but if the pace is hot up front and Elate is unable to get clear to get first run on the leaders or gets embroiled in the pace duel, don’t be shocked if she is able to rally at a good price.  If the layoff doesn’t get the better of her, she will be picking up some of the pieces late.  Don’t leave her out of your exacta’s and trifecta’s.

Paradise Woods returned to form when romping in the G1 Zenyatta at Santa Anita.  This was after two very poor performances in the Kentucky Oaks and the Torrey Pines, which was held at Del Mar.  The real question mark with this filly is whether or not she can win anywhere but in Arcadia since she has yet to succeed in doing so.  No other participants in the Zenyatta will be running in the Distaff.

As for the other 3 year old fillies in this race, Kentucky Oaks heroin Abel Tasman got a very strange ride by Mike Smith being allowed to rally to the lead approaching the final turn before tiring from that early move.  The most interesting longshot possibility in this field is Champagne Room who has only raced twice since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies last year at 33 to 1.  She ran a tiring 3rd to Unique Bella in February and then returned in September to win the Remington Park Oaks convincingly and she continues to impress in the mornings.  This year’s “Champagne Room” might indeed be Champagne Room again.

If Stellar Wind races, I think she is a play against.  She hasn’t raced since the end of July and her worktab has not been very flattering.  Sadler doesn’t usually work his horses fast, so maybe that shouldn’t be concerning, but for this type of a test I believe she needs to be working significantly quicker to be ready.

My main selection in this race is Elate with the value plays being Champagne Room and Forever Unbridled.

Craig Spencer former jockey

  • Craig Spencer is a former jockey who has ridden at numerous tracks around the country including Saratoga, Finger Lakes and Turf Paradise. The second part of Craig’s BC preview will be available later this week at agameofskill.com


Breeders’ Cup Classic Defending Champ Arrogate Draws One Post

Arrogate BC 2016 winners circle

Arrogate Breeders’ Cup Classic 2016 winners circle

Arrogate will break from the rail in a bid for a second straight Breeders’ Cup Classic victory on Saturday at Del Mar, where the draws for the flat racing extravaganza were made on Monday. Trainer Bob Baffert admitted the number one slot wouldn’t have been his first choice, but jockey Mike Smith said Arrogate had broken… [Read more…]

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Vegas Odds

Direct from our friends at the Wynn Las Vegas race book, the best in Nevada.  Odds as of Oct. 25 for next weekend’s race at Del Mar.

ARROGATE 2/1 2/1
COLLECTED 125/1 3/1
CUPID 65/1 25/1
DESTIN 40/1 40/1
DONWORTH 85/1 100/1
DORTMUND 30/1 40/1
GUN RUNNER 18/1 13/10
GUNNEVERA 100/1 15/1
KEEN ICE 35/1 10/1
MUBTAAHIJ 35/1 15/1
SHAMAN GHOST 16/1 25/1
WEST COAST 40/1 7/1

2017 Breeders’ Cup World Championships Post Times

The Breeders' Cup horse racingThe Breeders’ Cup has released post times for the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships, consisting of 13 Grade 1 races and purses and awards totaling more than $28 million, which will be held on November 3-4, for the first time, at the Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, Calif.

The official race order and wagering menu for both days of the Championships will be announced on Wednesday, October 25.

The 34th Breeders’ Cup begins on Friday, November 3 with a total of 10 races, four of them Breeders’ Cup World Championships races. There will be five undercard races preceding the first Breeders’ Cup race, with post time of the first race at 11:25 a.m. PT. The first Breeders’ Cup race will be Race #6 and will have a post time of 2:25 p.m. PT (5:25 p.m. ET). The $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff will be the ninth race on the program, with a post time of 4:35 p.m. PT. Post tme for the 10th race will be 5:17 p.m. PT.

All of Friday’s Breeders’ Cup races will be televised live on NBCSN.

There will be 12 races on the Saturday, November 4 program, featuring nine Breeders’ Cup World Championships races. There will be three undercard races preceding the first Breeders’ Cup race, with post time for the day’s first race at 10:10 a.m. PT. The first Breeders’ Cup race will be Race #4 and will have post time of 12:00 p.m. The first eight Breeders’ Cup races will be televised live on NBCSN.

Post time for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, Race #12, will be 5:35 p.m. PT (8:35 p.m. ET), and will be televised live on NBC.


BOLD are Breeders’ Cup World Championships races (All Times Pacific)

Friday, November 3  
Race 1 11:25 AM
Race 2 12:00 PM
Race 3 12:35 PM
Race 4 1:10 PM
Race 5 1:45 PM
Race 6 2:25 PM  
Race 7 3:05 PM  
Race 8 3:50 PM  
Race 9 4:35 PM  Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Race 10  5:17 PM


Saturday, November 4 
Race 1 10:10 AM
Race 2 10:45 AM
Race 3 11:20 AM
Race 4 12:00 PM  
Race 5 12:37 PM  
Race 6 1:14 PM  
Race 7 2:00 PM  
Race 8 2:37 PM  
Race 9 3:19 PM  
Race 10  3:58 PM  
Race 11  4:37 PM  
Race 12  5:35 PM  Breeders’ Cup Classic