Breeders’ Cup 2018: News on Accelerate, Axelrod, McKinzie

Here are the latest news and notes from Churchill Downs on the Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders:

Accelerate – Millionaire Accelerate, the morning-line favorite for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, went out early to put in his 1 1/4m morning gallop Wednesday with Javier Meza in the saddle.

Churchill winner's circleThe exercise drew a “looked good” from trainer John Sadler, who marveled a bit at the brilliance of the lighting at 5:30. “You know you say you’re going out but not in the dark,” the trainer said. “It’s as bright as day out there.”

Sadler has scheduled more galloping for Accelerate up to Saturday’s Classic at the classic distance of 1 1/4m.

Axelrod – Trainer Mike McCarthy is not one to change what’s been working, so his Breeders’ Cup Classic prospect Axelrod made his usual 1 1/4m tour around the Churchill Downs main track Wednesday morning with his usual exercise mate, Nikki Diodoro, aboard.

“Everything is as it should be as we come up to the race,” McCarthy said. “He’s happy and healthy and that’s the way we like it.”

Catholic Boy – To say that trainer Jonathan Thomas was pleased with Catholic Boy’s morning of training at Churchill Downs Wednesday would be an understatement.

“He showed that contained energy like he’s just a stride away from exploding, like a keg of dynamite just waiting to go off,” Thomas said. “Our job is to hopefully time it for 5:45 Saturday afternoon.”

The 3yo son of More Than Ready, who breezed 5f in 1:01 Sunday, jogged Monday and walked the shedrow Tuesday, galloped 1 1/4m under Tracey Brown in preparation for a start in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“He seems to have an idea when to turn it on and turn it off. You breeze them and you look for a good reaction from the work, their eating, their energy. I thought he reacted well to it,” Thomas said. “He’s sharp. He’s very aware, kind of knowing its game time.”

Thomas said Catholic Boy’s morning of training was the best he’s had since arriving at Churchill Downs.

“Today really picked my head up,” Thomas said.

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Catholic Boy enters the 1 1/4m Classic off back-to-back 1 1/4m wins in the Belmont Derby on turf and the Travers over Saratoga’s main track.

“As trainers, we’re always skeptical; we’re always unsure; we’re always questioning and second-guessing; but the one thing that I can really feel confident about this horse is that a mile and a quarter is his distance,” Thomas said. “He doesn’t run like a horse that wants to go over a mile and a quarter, and he’s not a miler. He’s a good mile-and-an-eighth horse, but the mile and a quarter is when all of his best attributes get to be showcased. He’s really getting strong that last eighth of a mile, that’s when the stamina kicks in.”

Discreet Lover – The surprise winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 29 and his owner-trainer Uriah St. Lewis enjoyed their second day of training at Churchill Downs on Wednesday. Discreet Lover jogged twice around the track clockwise during the time slot reserved for Breeders’ Cup entrants.

“He came back, cooled out and that’s it, we’re here,” St. Lewis said.

Discreet Lover represents the age-old notion that quality horses can come from anywhere. St. Lewis purchased the 5yo son of Repent for $10,000 as a 2yo at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton sale in Timonium, Maryland and the horse has since banked $1,374,685 in 44 starts with his 7-7-7 record.

“We went to the sale looking to buy something for 15 to 25 thousand and we like to buy horses that are their dam’s first foal,” St. Lewis said. “He looked smart and one thing led to another and we got him. It was probably luck, too.”

St. Lewis, who with his wife Amanda own the nearly 30 horses he trains at Parx Racing, said he was especially impressed with the horse’s demeanor at the auction and surmises that his stature might have deterred buyers.

“He is not real big and robust; he is on the smaller side,” he said. “You can be big and robust and have no sense but he has a lot of sense, a lot of class.”

Discreet Lover continues to maintain a sensible attitude.

“He likes to nibble and bite a little bit but other than that, he is a pussy cat,” St. Lewis said.

Gunnevera Gallops

Gunnevera – The 4yo son of Dialed In galloped jogged a half-mile and galloped 1 1/2m under exercise rider Victor O’Farrel Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.

“I feel very, very good about the horse and his condition. I told the rider to finish with an open gallop,” trainer Antonio Sano said. “He came back after the work, breathing normal.”

Margoth’s Kentucky-bred colt finished second in the Woodward at Saratoga last time out, closing strongly despite racing wide throughout the 1 1/8m stakes.

“The last race was a mile and an eighth. This race is a mile and a quarter. In his last race he ran 90 feet more than the other horses,” Sano said. “In this race, we have a good inside post position four. He’ll like this distance.”

Lone Sailor – G M B Racing’s Lone Sailor visited the starting gate and then galloped over the main track under Maurice Sanchez Wednesday morning.

On Saturday in the Classic, Lone Sailor will be reunited with jockey James Graham, who rode him to victory in the Oklahoma Derby in his most recent start.

“I like him,” said Graham, who will be seeking his first Breeders’ Cup victory. “The Oklahoma race really woke him up. Since then, his works have been steady and that is what you want to see. He does what he has to do. People think he hangs, but he doesn’t.”

Lone Sailor drew post position five for the Classic that drew a field of 14.

“Post position doesn’t matter,” Graham said. “It will be like the (Kentucky) Derby where we track to the inside and save ground.”

Mind Your Biscuits – Fan favorite Mind Your Biscuits continued to train fluidly Wednesday morning toward his date with the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The son of Posse schooled in the gate and then paddock schooled for trainer and co-owner Chad Summers before jogging 2m on the main track. The morning was without rain, which is scheduled to come late in the morning in the Louisville area; weather that could have a significant effect on all Breeders’ Cup events.

“The rain really isn’t going to bother us at all,” Summers said. “That being said, the paddock has kind of been our Achilles’ heel because he knows the difference between the morning and the afternoon. He knows when it’s ‘game day’ and he has this face about him like he’s on ‘kill mode’ before the race.

“We’ll have him saddled out in stall 16 away from everyone and with a pony to keep him calm,” he continued. “We’ll be the first one on the track, hopefully. It’s going to be a crammed paddock and you have six horses in the race who can be bad in the paddock, so it’s a concern. You’re not going to win the race in the paddock, but you can certainly lose it.”

Mind Your Biscuits is also owned by Shadai Farm, J Stables, Head of Plains Partners, Scott Summers, Daniel Summers and Michael Kisber.

McKinzie Ready

McKinzie/West Coast – The morning after arriving from California, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Classic horses made their first visits to the track at Churchill Downs for routine gallops.

Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s longtime assistant, said that all of Baffert’s Breeders’ Cup runners handled their shipping well.

McKinzie, the 3yo co-owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman, galloped 1¼ miles under Humberto Gomez at 7:30 a.m. The 4yo West Coast went out at 9 a.m. to gallop 1¼ miles for Dana Barnes.

Watson, Pegram and Weitman, who owned two-time Sprint winner Midnight Lute and have been Baffert clients for many years, purchased McKinzie for $170,000 as a yearling. He was named for Brad McKinzie, a friend of Baffert’s from their days as students in the University of Arizona’s Racetrack Industry Program. Brad McKinzie, the general manager at Los Alamitos, died of cancer at the age of 62 on Aug. 6, 2017.

McKinzie, a son of Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Street Sense, emerged as a Triple Crown prospect this year, but came out of the San Felipe on March 10 with a hock injury. He returned from a six-month layoff to win the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 22 at Parx. While he was gone, Justify won the Triple Crown for Baffert.

Baffert was able to get McKinzie the Classic prep in the Pennsylvania Derby, which he won by 1 3/4 lengths. While a single start wasn’t an ideal scenario for his first test against older horses, Baffert expects a good performance.

“He’s working really well,” Baffert said. “Not having to run against Justify kept him fresh. He’s a young horse, a 3-year old, but I know how good he is. He’s fast and so I think he should run well.”

Meanwhile, West Coast, last year’s 3yo champion, who finished third in the 2017 Classic, also had a long break after running second to Thunder Snow in the Dubai World Cup on March 31 at Meydan. In his comeback race on Sept. 29, he was second to Classic morning-line favorite Accelerate in the Awesome Again.

Baffert will give a leg up to two Hall of Fame jockeys: Mike Smith on McKinzie and John Velazquez on West Coast. A victory on McKinzie would move Smith into a tie with Jerry Bailey and Chris McCarron for the most Classic victories at five.

Pavel – Victory in Churchill Downs’ Stephen Foster Handicap during the summer by Pavel continues to hone trainer Doug O’Neill’s outlook for the 4yo colt’s prospects in Saturday’s Classic.

“Winning the Stephen Foster here makes it obvious he likes the racetrack and that can’t help but give him a little edge,” said the trainer, who has five Breeders’ Cup victories, but none in the Classic. His most recent victory came with Nyquist in the 2015 Juvenile at Keeneland Race Course.

“The other thing that’s encouraging with him is that he’s such a good traveler,” O’Neill said. “He’s a great road horse.”

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Thunder Snow – Providing some wow-factor Wednesday morning was Godolphin’s Breeders’ Cup Classic runner Thunder Snow. One day after an in-the-bridle gallop, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained son of Helmet turned up the heat even more when a planned blowout down the lane turned into a 4f breeze timed in a swift 47 2/5. The move occurred just after 9 a.m. and Ian Burns was aboard for bin Suroor, who has yet to win the Classic from eight tries, but was second with Sakhee in 2001 and third with Swain in 1998.

“It was just a blowout and went very well,” bin Suroor said. “The time was nice. I hope things go good from here. He is ready.”

Thunder Snow, a winner of Group or Grade 1 races at distances ranging from 7f to 1¼ miles, will be reunited with regular rider Christophe Soumillon in the Classic. While Soumillon has not ridden a classic, he has twice started in the Kentucky Derby over the same course and distance. One of those was on Mubtaahij, who was eighth to subsequent Classic winner American Pharoah in 2015, and the other was a dramatic episode with Thunder Snow in 2017, when the bay colt propped and bucked leaving the gate, forcing the veteran rider to pull him up in the first furlong.

Soumillon, a native of Belgium who lives in France, has won some of the world’s top races, including the 2005 Turf at age 24, two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes (2003, 2008) and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2006). In 2017, he set the European record for number of wins in a calendar year with 306.

“For myself, it would mean quite a lot to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic as a European jockey,” Soumillon said. “I think the last one I have seen who won was Frankie Dettori for John Gosden (with Raven’s Pass in 2008), but that was on an all-weather track. I’ve also seen Frankie get beaten with (Sakhee) and Mick Kinane on Giant’s Causeway, both get beaten by Tiznow on the dirt. For me it’s something amazing. Since I was 16 years old, I have been watching the Breeders’ Cup on TV in France all the time and was lucky enough to win one Breeders’ Cup. This would be even bigger than I can imagine.

“The biggest emotion I’ve felt outside Europe was for sure the Kentucky Derby and I rode it twice. Mubtaahij didn’t jump well or have the power to get into the race early. He ran a good race, but unfortunately not good enough to win,” Soumillon continued. “With Thunder Snow, it was absolutely crazy what happened, but the feeling before the race was really just magic. I don’t know what happened that day. I’m not sure it was because the ground was sloppy, because it was raining even in the mornings during track work. Horses can do some quite funny things in racing; not just that. He hasn’t done it again and I don’t know if he will every do it again. He is an animal and has his own feelings I cannot understand because he’s not talking, but we will do everything to make sure this will never happen again.

“It’s hard to explain. The horse before the race was brilliant. On the way to the stalls (of the starting gate), nothing bothered him. Suddenly, the drama started. We couldn’t believe it and it’s really disappointing what happened. Straight away, they took him to Ireland and he was second in the Irish (2000) Guineas on the turf (three weeks later) and after that won a Group 1 in France on the turf. The target for him (then) was the Dubai World Cup and he won and now the goal is the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With all the races and experience he has had afterwards, I have confidence that this will not happen with this horse, but you can never say never again. We are quite confident that everything will go great with him.”

The racing public seems to be divided when it comes to whether Thunder Snow is underrated or overrated going into the Classic. Soumillon, who considers Thunder Snow one of his favorite mounts ever, takes a more objective approach.

“Unfortunately, when you are not unbeaten, you can’t say the horse is the best ever,” he explained. “Even today, you can see a horse like Winx, where some say she is the best ever and some say she is not. That makes racing interesting because you never really know. Some horses are made for some distances or types of ground and everyone is welcome to have an opinion. My job is a jockey is to ride the horse each time, bring them in the best position possible and then ride them in the straight to give his best.”

Yoshida – WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, SF Racing and Head of Plains Partners’ Yoshida galloped Wednesday morning with trainer Bill Mott looking on.

“He just galloped today,” Mott said. “He’s doing well.”

Yoshida will be making his second dirt start and first over the Churchill Downs surface in the Classic. His dam, top-level winner Hilda’s Passion, was second in the 7f Humana Distaff over the track in 2011.

Source: Churchill Downs

Breeders’ Cup Analysis by Rich Nilsen

Crush the 2018 Cup!  All 14 Races Analyzed

15x NHC Qualifier Offers up Pace Scenarios, 5 Spot Plays w/ Expert Wagers, Top Selections and Analysis

Rich Nilsen, who has absolutely crushed some past big days, is back for both days of this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, a track he knows inside and out.   Included in Nilsen’s report are top selections for all 5 juvenile stakes on Friday and all 9 stakes on Saturday (all 14 Breeders’ Cup races).

You receive Nilsen’s expert pace analysis, which is often the key to selecting the winner.   Nilsen has 5 Spot Plays on the two days.  He offers these best bets with his wagering strategies to attack these races.

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Highlights from Previous Breeders’ Cup Spot Play Winners!

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

$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!

$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 26 years in the equine industry, serving most of those years as the Marketing Director for and, 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 15 times. He was the first player, and one of only a handful, to finish in the top 10 at the NHC twice.

Nilsen is the founder and editor of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.  He only provides selections like this on a few select days of the day.


About My Analysis

In this comprehensive yet concise report, I provide selections for all 14 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!

Nilsen’s Breeders’ Cup Analysis


2018 Results:

3 Top winners from 5 BC races on Friday, a 60% Win Rate

Spot Play City Of Light scored big in the Dirt Mile, keying the winning daily double into the next race.

Breeders’ Cup 2018: Stars Perform Workouts at Churchill Downs

Godolphin’s Dubai World Cup (GI) winner Thunder Snow (IRE) completed his final step prior to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) with a seven-furlong move in 1:27 at 5:30 a.m. EDT Friday at Churchill Downs.

Thunder Snow worked through eighth-mile splits in :13.20, 26, :38.40, :50.40, 1:02.40 and 1:14.60. The 4-year-old colt completed his work with a one-mile gallop out in 1:41.20, according to Nichols.

Godolphin’s Traveling Manager Tommy Burns watched intently from Section 318 of the Churchill Downs grandstand with a smile on his face. Burns reported trainer Saeed bin Suroor likely will arrive at Churchill Downs early next week.

Mind Your Biscuits Works for Summers

Trainer Chad Summers’ top Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) contender Mind Your Biscuits completed what appeared to be his final major preparation for the $6 million test with an easy five-furlong move in 1:03.20 early Friday morning at Churchill Downs.

“It was a two-minute lick,” Summers said. “We’re really happy with how he’s doing and how he went this morning.”

Mind Your Biscuits, the winner of the Lukas Classic (GIII) on Sept. 29 at Churchill Downs and multiple Grade I-winning sprinter, has pre-entered in both the Classic and TwinSpires Sprint (GI).

“I actually originally pre-entered in the Classic and Dirt Mile,” Summers said. “However, once I heard X Y Jet was coming for the Sprint, I changed my pre-entry at 11:50 a.m. on Monday (deadline was noon).”

Tyler Gaffalione, a new addition to the Churchill Downs jockey colony, has the call on Mind Your Biscuits in the Breeders’ Cup.

Currently on the outside of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) field looking in is locally based trainer Dallas Stewart’s Ack Ack (GIII) winner Seeking the Soul who worked a half-mile in :47.60 Friday morning at Churchill Downs.

“It seems we have some luck sneaking into races when we are on the outside looking in,” said Stewart, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby in 2013-14 with Golden Soul and Commanding Curve. “One thing we know for certain is that this horses loves this track. If we can’t get into the Classic, then we can run in the Dirt Mile. I think he’ll do great in either spot.”

Currently, Seeking the Soul is ranked No. 17 on the Breeders’ Cup preference list for the Classic, that is limited to 14 starters.

The winner of the Grade I Clark Handicap last November worked Friday through opening splits of :11.60 and :23.20, before galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.60, according to Churchill Downs Clocker John Nichols. The work was ranked the third fastest out of 26 at the distance over the “good” dirt surface.

Gunnevera Works. Expects to Make Classic

Margoth’s Gunnevera breezed six furlongs in 1:15.20 Friday morning at Gulfstream Park West in preparation for a planned start in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs Nov. 3.

The Antonio Sano-trained 4-year-old worked by himself under exercise rider Raul Velasquez.

“It was a nice work. We gave him a nice easy work,” said Sano, whose stretch-running son of Dialed In had previously turned in three strong five-furlong breezes in company.

Gunnevera, who ranks second on the list of alternates for the Classic, is a probable to make the field Monday, when Bravazo and City of Light are expected to be entered in the $1 million Dirt Mile (G1), listed as the first-preference for both horses in the pre-entries for the 35th Breeders’ Cup.

“It was a surprise to me. Never in my life did I think he wouldn’t be selected [into the main field],” Sano said.

Gunnevera, who finished in a dead-heat for fifth with Arrogate in last year’s Classic at Del Mar, started his 2018 campaign with a third-place finish behind Gun Runner and West Coast in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream in January. Two months later, he finished eighth in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1), in which he sustained a nasty hoof injury that sent him to the sidelines for five months. Gunnevera has returned to action as good as ever, capturing an Aug. 10 optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Park by 6 ½ lengths before finishing second behind Yoshida in the $750,000 Woodward (G1) at Saratoga in his most recent start Sept. 1, closing from 11th with a six-wide rally.

“My horse is doing good. He has a chance to win. The mile and a quarter is good for him,” Sano said.

Irad Ortiz Jr. is scheduled to ride Gunnevera for the first time in the Classic.

Gunnevera is scheduled to leave for Churchill Downs by van at 7 p.m. Friday.

Kathleen O’Connell-trained Well Defined, the easy winner of the $400,000 FSS In Reality last time out, and Stormy Embrace, the winner of the ‘Win and You’re In’ Princess Rooney (G2) on the June 30 Summit of Speed card, arrived at Churchill Downs Friday morning for scheduled starts in the $2 million Juvenile (G1) Nov. 2 and the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) Nov. 3, respectively.

“They just arrived this morning. Everything seems to be good,” said O’Connell, who will join her Breeders’ Cup candidates at Churchill Sunday.

Stanley Gold-trained Cookie Dough, the winner of the $400,000 FSS My Dear Girl last time out, was also scheduled to leave for Churchill Downs Friday for a scheduled start in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies (G1) Nov. 2. Georgina Baxter-trained Pay Any Price, the first-alternate for the $1 million Turf Sprint (G1) Nov. 3, was also slated to depart Gulfstream Park Friday.

David Fawkes-trained Louder Than Bombs, who captured the Armed Forces Stakes over the Gulfstream turf course last time out, breezed a half-mile in 47.02 seconds at Gulfstream Friday morning. The 2-year-old son of Violence, who posted the fastest of 31 recorded at the distance, is the second alternate for the $1 million Juvenile Turf (G1) Nov. 2.

Source: Churchill Downs

Breeders’ Cup 2018: 2yo Sippican Harbor Puts in Final Work

Final Work for Breeders’ Cup Put in Before Noreaster Hits

Lee Pokoik’s Sippican Harbor, a stylish winner of the Grade 1 Spinaway, put in her final Breeders’ Cup prep this morning covering seven furlongs in 1:28.65 seconds under exercise rider M.C. Brock at Belmont.

“She’s a willing work horse but I did work her in company with a turf horse that needed a work and she blew his doors off. It was a good combination. She broke off about five lengths behind him and took off at the sixteenth pole and hit the wire about five lengths in front. She does it so easy,” trainer Gary Contessa said.

Contessa is enjoying a tremendous Belmont fall meet with 18 wins, good for second in the standings. Sippican Harbor will mark the conditioner’s fourth Breeders’ Cup starter and he’s relishing the opportunity to compete with a legitimate contender.

“I go out there and buy ten 2-year-olds every year. I don’t have the bench some of my peers have, so it’s a phenomenal opportunity,” Contessa said. “I’ve been to the Breeders’ Cup three times, but this is my first time going with a legitimate opportunity to win the race. She’s a such a level-headed filly. I’m in a great place. They’re going to have to be better than her to beat her, because she’s not some one-dimensional speed horse or a drop dead closer – you can put her anywhere. She’s a 2-year-old with the mind of a 5-year-old.”

With Joel Rosario slated to ride Jaywalk in the Juvenile Fillies, Contessa has lined up Irad Ortiz, Jr. to pilot Sippican Harbor.

“I’ve been doing this long enough to know that every top rider has multiple choices in every Breeders’ Cup race,” Contessa said. “I’m not the only one it’s happened to, but to have Irad is an even swap. I’ve won a lot of races with Irad, so I’m thrilled. The alternative is not a bad thing.”

Former Claimer Gearing Up for Breeders’ Cup

Trainer Barclay Tagg has sent out eight previous Breeders’ Cup starters and will be looking for his first winner when he saddles Cassies Dreamer in the Juvenile Fillies and Verve’s Tale in the Distaff at Churchill Downs.

A 2-year-old daughter of Flatter, Cassies Dreamer was claimed for $50,000 out of her maiden score on August 3 at Saratoga. Tagg claimed the dark bay filly at the behest of owners Turf Stable Racing (Rusty Jones) and Hayward R. Pressman. Since the claim, Cassies Dreamer has kept steep company, finishing third in both the Grade 1 Spinaway and Grade 1 Frizette.

“I haven’t claimed a horse in 40 years. I was never really interested in claiming horses, I like to buy horses and develop them and go that route,” started Tagg. “So, I said, ‘let me take a look at her.’ She walked down the path from the barn over to Saratoga, and that’s like walking the gauntlet with all the kids and people over there. I thought if she walks through there and looks alright to me, I’ll go ahead and claim her. As soon as I set eyes on her, wow, what a gorgeous filly. Just a big, strong strapping filly. I had to take her. I put the claim in, we got her, and she won the race. And she really hasn’t done anything wrong since. Everything she does is in the right direction.”

Following a bit of trouble at the gate in the Spinaway, Cassies Dreamer came from last of 11 to get within 2 1/4 lengths of Juvenile Fillies-rival Sippican Harbor.

“It takes time trying to load a lot of babies into the gate and they have to fuss with them to get their head straight. I’m not blaming anyone at the gate, it’s just a tussle sometimes and she came out of it slow and it cost her. I figured it was all over and we’d try and develop her on from there. All of a sudden, she was coming and maybe could have won it with a bit of a better start,” said Tagg.

On Friday morning, Cassies Dreamer worked in company with Brucia La Terra, runner-up in the Frizette last time out, covering four furlongs in 48.44 seconds over the Belmont main track. Brucia La Terra will make her next start in the Grade 3 Tempted on Opening Day at Aqueduct.

“I’ve worked them together pretty much every work and I was very happy with how they went this morning,” Tagg said. “I feel good about her [going into the Breeders’ Cup]. You never know until you get them in against the heavy hitters, but she’s held her own so far. She’s a young filly but she’s trained well and done everything we’ve asked her to do. We’re really pleased with her progress.”

Pressman and Jones are new clients for Tagg and the veteran conditioner has enjoyed the partnership. At their suggestion, Manny Franco will take over from Junior Alvarado.

“The owners asked me if I’d ride Manny and I said yes. So far, saying yes to them has been working out,” Tagg said with a laugh.

Charles Fipke’s homebred Verve’s Tale will make her Breeders’ Cup debut in the Distaff. The 5-year-old Tale of Ekati mare has yet to win in five starts this campaign but will go into the Distaff off a rallying third in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational.

“She’s a tough, old gal. She’s as honest as the day is long. She likes to come from off the pace. If you let her lay up close, she doesn’t have as good a finish. It’s a little hard with 14 horses to come from off the pace but the good riders and good horses can do it,” Tagg said.

Brian Hernandez, Jr. will take over from Manny Franco aboard Verve’s Tale at Churchill Downs and be tasked with finding a winning trip.

“She’s pretty honest. If you ease her back and just wait and wait and wait on her, she’ll finish strong for you,” Tagg said. “She won a stakes race [the Summer Colony] at Saratoga doing that, only by a nose, but she gets there. You never know what can happen in a big field.”

Verve’s Tale breezed five furlongs in 1:01.37 this morning on the Belmont main.

“I asked them to go off in 12 and change and finish up in a minute and they were pretty close to it. She galloped out strong,” Tagg said.

Source: NYRA

Lessons from the 2011 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs

By Lenny Moon (reprinted with permission)

The handicapping process does not end when the bets are made; it ends by reviewing the results of the races that were bet and analyzing the handicapping process to determine if anything was missed. After taking a day to recover, I looked back at the 2011 Breeders’ Cup results and came up with the top four things to take away from the last Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

#4 Some Breeders’ Cup Results are Impossible to Explain

Every horseplayer has watched or bet a race that was won by a horse that appeared to have no chance of winning. The horse may have appeared to be too slow, was running at the wrong distance or had not run well in months or years. The horse triggers large payouts and causes great frustration. After reviewing the past performances nothing points to the horse as a winner. The result is still implausible but that is perfectly acceptable. Horse races are run by living breathing animals and ridden and trained by humans. The horses are not machines and the jockeys and trainers are imperfect so it is inevitable that from time to time a race will produce an un-explainable result. This scenario occurred not once but twice on Breeders’ Cup Saturday.

The first impossible to come up with horse was Afleet Again in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. Afleet Again was the least likely winner of the Breeders’ Cup Marathon after a subpar 2011 that saw him go winless in eight starts including two losses in allowance races. Afleet Again was also unproven at the distance and based on speed figures was the slowest horse in the race. Despite all of these negative factors Afleet Again won the Breeders’ Cup Marathon by a comfortable 2 ¼ lengths at odds of 41 /1.

The second improbable winner was Court Vision in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Court Vision was the least likely winner in the Breeders’ Cup Mile after a lackluster 2011 season.  Similar to Afleet Again Court Vision was winless in 2011 and based on speed figures was the slowest horse in the race. Court Vision was coming off a mediocre seventh place finish in the Woodbine Mile yet he managed to blow past three-time defending champion Goldikova and hold off Turallure (winner of the aforementioned Woodbine Mile) to post the biggest upset in the twenty seven year history of the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Even after the race was run it was impossible to make a case for Court Vision.

After reviewing the past performance of each horse and knowing they had won their respective races I still could not find a reason to bet either one of them but guess what? That was perfectly fine.


#3 – Look for the “Horse for the Course Angle” in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Some horses prefer one track over all others or in extreme cases only run well at one particular track. These horses are often referred to as a “horse for the course.” This angle plays out everyday at tracks across the country.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint was won by Regally Ready, a Churchill Downs “horse for the course,” who was two for two in turf sprints at Churchill Downs prior to the race. The “Horse for Course Angle” has become a potent handicapping factor for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprints as it has produced all four winners of the race [through 2011]. Chamberlain Bridge won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint after compiling a record of three wins and a second from four turf sprints at Churchill Downs. California Flag won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course and had previously won two of four starts over the course. Desert Code, who I mentioned in my post about multi-ticket betting strategy, won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on the same downhill turf course and had won three of five turf sprints at Santa Anita.

The Breeders’ Cup returns to Santa Anita in 2012 and once again the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint will be run on the unique downhill turf course. The downhill turf course is notorious for producing “horse for the course” winners so it will pay to give special consideration to horses that have won or performed well over the course in the past.


#2 – Favor the “Turn-back Angle” in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

Betting a horse “turning-back” in distance is one of the oldest angles in the book. To fit the angle a horse simply needs to be running in a race at a shorter distance than its previous race. The most common example is a horse going from a route to a sprint, such as from 1 1/16 miles to seven furlongs, but the angle also works for horses “turning-back” in distance from a route to a shorter route .

breeders cup 2010


Caleb’s Posse, Shackleford and Tres Borrachos completed the trifecta in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile this year. All three fit the “tum-back angle.” Caleb’s Posse and Shackleford were exiting the 1 1/16 miles Indiana Derby and Tres Borrachos prepped for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood.

The “Turn-back Angle” has become quite possibly the most important handicapping factor for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile as it has produced the winner of all five runnings of the race [through 2011]. Dakota Phone won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood. Furthest Land won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after prepping in the 1 1/8 miles Kentucky Cup Classic. Albertus Maximus won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood. Corinthian won the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after competing in the 1 1/8 miles Woodward. One day a horse may win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in a sprint race but until the trend is reversed it pays to give preference to horses “turning-back” in distance.


#1 – Favorites Need Not Be Avoided

Favorites in horse racing are normally associated with unexciting payoffs, however when combined with a few upsets they can produce massive payouts. The six Breeders’ Cup races on Friday (2011) made up the Pick 6. Three of those races were won by the post time favorite (Secret Circle in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff), the other three were won by 6/1 Stephanie’s Kitten (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf), 20/1 Musical Romance (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint) and 27/1 Perfect Shirl (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf) resulting in a Pick 6 payout of $444, 571. The last four Breeders’ Cup races made up the Pick 4. Two favorites (My Miss Aurelia and Royal Delta) combined with the aforementioned 20/1 Musical Romance and 27/1 Perfect Shirl produced a Pick 4 payout of $23,428 . In both sequences favorites won half of the races which proved that it is not necessary to beat the favorite in every race to win a substantial amount of money.


Final Thoughts about Breeders’ Cup 2011

Although these points relate directly to the Breeders’ Cup each can be applied to everyday handicapping. The most important lesson however is that just like horses are not machines handicappers should not bet like machines. Automatic bets should not be placed on horses that meet the criteria outlined above; they should be one factor to consider in the handicapping process. Sound handicapping involves evaluating all of the available information and using that information to bet the horse that figures to win the race at hand.

New Wagering Options for 2018 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill

Head2Head Wagering with 10% Takeout

LEXINGTON, Ky. (October 23, 2018) – The Breeders’ Cup announced new and exciting wagers that are sure to test the skills of handicappers across the globe for the upcoming Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2-3. The new additions are highlighted by a late Pick 5 wager on Friday and Saturday, as well as the popular Jackpot Super High 5, along with Head2Head wagering and daily double wagering linking Friday and Saturday races.

The complete Breeders’ Cup wagering menu and official race order for the 2018 World Championships will be announced today, Wednesday, Oct. 24.

Additional Friday and Saturday Late Pick 5s Lead the Way

Multi-million-dollar betting pools are nothing new to the Breeders’ Cup but the introduction of a late Pick 5 on both Friday and Saturday figure to take things to a new level. The bet has quickly turned into arguably the most popular wager in the country on a day-in, day-out basis, due in large part to the extremely player-friendly 15% takeout and $.50-cent minimum wager, which the Breeders’ Cup will use as well. Couple that, along with the freshness of the wager, and the fact it will solely encompass Breeders’ Cup races, and the pools could swell to several million dollars.

Breeders CupAmong the featured new wagers to an already blockbuster menu of multi-race bets with million dollar guarantees, is the Friday late Pick 5, dubbed the “Future Stars Friday Pick 5,” which will group all five Breeders’ Cup Juvenile races, exclusively for 2-year-olds, while Saturday, the late Pick 5 figures to be wildly successful as it will culminate with the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). In addition, should any of the three preceding Pick 5s which includes the early Pick 5 on Friday and the traditional Breeders’ Cup early Pick 5 Saturday, not have a winner, that carryover pool will be added to the Saturday late Pick 5.

The Jackpot Super High 5 requires bettors to pick the first five finishers of a race in order, with a $.50-cent minimum wager and 15% takeout. The wager will be offered on every race on the Friday and Saturday cards, including the undercard races, with the exception of the Saturday finale (there will be one race after the Classic). The payouts for the wager vary, depending on how many winning wagers there are. Should there be multiple winning wagers, then 75% of the pool will be paid out, with the remaining 25% of the pool carrying over to the next Jackpot Super Hi 5 race. Should there be one single winning .50 wager, then 100% of the pool will be paid to the winner. If the bet goes unhit and there are no winning tickets, therefore creating a carryover pool, then 100% of the net pool will move on to the next race. Should there be no single winning $0.50 wager in the Friday finale, the jackpot will carryover to the first race on Saturday, and, regardless of the carryover entering the Classic, will be paid out.

With an extreme degree of difficulty to the wager, especially in full fields of 14 (or 12 in the new Juvenile Turf Sprint) with numerous winning contenders, let alone live longshots who could run in the top 5, a carryover pool is extremely likely to occur at some point during the two days. And with a carryover pool comes added interest to the wager, and more betting dollars, which can and will create a snowball effect as Friday turns into Saturday and the Classic nears. As with the two new Pick 5s created, bettors can expect the pools to be robust, and millions could be on the line should a carryover occur into the Classic, or if there are no single winning tickets throughout the day and the pool repeatedly gets funded by an additional 25% with each added race.

Head2Head Wagers Combine the Future with the Present

Head2Head wagering is not unfamiliar to fans of the Breeders’ Cup and will be back this year, with three to be determined offerings Friday and four Saturday. The $10 minimum wager should appeal to a wide audience, as it offers just a 10% takeout and figures to include matchups that have a theoretical 50/50 chance against each other. An example of a head-to-head wager could be the Europeans vs. Americans in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, as well as possible individual matchups in other races. Fans of sports wagering could especially be enticed by these wagers, as they will essentially be offered as an even-money proposition, yet with no point spread involved. The Breeders’ Cup will once again offer special Daily Double wagering that links a Friday race to a Saturday race, with a $1 minimum. While the Friday late Pick 5 is titled the “Future Stars Friday Pick 5,” the special daily doubles link the future to the present, as they will offer wagering on the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile into the Classic, the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.

The Breeders’ Cup has a longstanding history of not only offering the best equine and human stars to fans and bettors alike, but also the Thoroughbred racing’s best wagering menu of its kind, and this year’s added enhancements to the slate should only provide further proof of that.

Source: Breeders’ Cup

2018 Breeders’ Cup: Oscar Performance Works

Amerman Racing’s four-time Grade 1 winner Oscar Performance continued his preparations for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3 by working 5 furlongs in company in 1:01 over a fast main track Wednesday morning at Keeneland.

Working with Teryn It Up, a 3-year-old maiden, Oscar Performance edged in front at the wire as he completed his final quarter-mile in :24 with regular rider Jose Ortiz up.

“I am happy with it,” trainer Brian Lynch said. “I wanted him to go in around 1:01 or 1:01 and change.”

Oscar Performance, winner of the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (G1) in his most recent start Sept. 15, on Oct. 7 worked a half-mile in :52.20 on a turf course labeled good. He was scheduled for another grass work this past Sunday, but rainy conditions curtailed any turf activity.

“You do what you can,” Lynch said of the missed grass work. “But he has worked well on the dirt, and this year he has never lost when I have worked him on the dirt before a race.

“He worked on dirt before Woodbine and before the race at Belmont (the Grade 3 Poker in June).”

Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Santa Anita in 2016 and ninth in last year’s 1½-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Del Mar after setting the pace, Oscar Performance likely will have his final Breeders’ Cup work on the turf at Churchill Downs Oct. 28.

Source: Keeneland

Breeders’ Cup 2018: Disco Partner to Turf Sprint

Trainer Christophe Clement enjoyed a successful October Festival of Racing last Saturday at Belmont Park, saddling Disco Partner to an impressive victory in the $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational followed two races later by Have At It, an 11-1 upset winner of the Grade 2, $500,000 Hill Prince.

Patricia Generazio’s homebred Disco Partner reaffirmed his status as a top turf sprinter, besting a field of six for his second straight win in the Belmont Turf Sprint. It was his first start since finishing third in the Grade 3 Troy Handicap this summer at Saratoga Race Course.

Breaking from the rail as the odds-on favorite with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard, the 6-year-old New York-bred stalked from fourth as stablemate Pure Sensation darted to the front, setting fractions of 21.97 seconds for the opening quarter mile and 45.08 for the half.

With five furlongs completed in 56.84, Disco Partner made his way to the front at the three-eighths pole and exploded away from Pure Sensation in the stretch, extending away to the wire to win by 5 ½ lengths.

The final time for the six-furlong distance was 1:08.50 on an inner turf course listed as good.

“He made me feel very confident on top of him,” Ortiz said. “When I asked him, he was there for me. He was traveling perfect and then I smooched on him at the three-eighths pole and he took off right away for me. I knew he was going to be there for me. He’s a fighter. He always shows up.”

Returning $4.20 for a $2 win wager, the son of Disco Rico picked up his 11th win from 26 career starts, boosting his career earnings to $1,264,810. Clement said Disco Partner will likely target the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on November 3 at Churchill Downs. He finished third in last year’s edition at Del Mar. Pure Sensation, winner of the 2016 Belmont Turf Sprint, was fifth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup.

“[It’s] a great credit to their program, Mr. and Mrs. Generazio. He’s getting older, but he’s still one of the best, if not the best sprinter, in New York, and I thought it was a very impressive performance,” said Clement. “Irad was not too hard on him, which is great. As long as he comes back in good shape, we’ll get him ready for the Breeders’ Cup. I don’t like to have too hard of a race before the Breeders’ Cup, so I was very happy with the performance today.”

Pure Sensation Possible for Turf Sprint

Clement applauded the performance by third-place finisher Pure Sensation, also owned and bred by Generazio, adding that he is possible for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint as well.

“He actually ran very well,” said Clement. “It’s not really his best ground, and he ran really good and got caught in the last furlong. We’ll see how he comes out of it. He could be a possible as well. I’ll ask Mr. and Mrs. Generazio. It’s a good position to be in.”

Blind Ambition closed well to earn second and following Pure Sensation in third was Proforma, Gidu and Pocket Change to complete the order of finish. Simon Bar Sinister and Maniacal were scratched.

Source: NYRA

Breeders’ Cup 2018: Classic Longshot Gunnevera

Gunnevara Fountain of YouthMargoth’s multiple graded-stakes winner Gunnevera breezed five furlongs Sunday morning at Gulfstream Park West in advance of his next anticipated start in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 3.

With regular rider Edgard Zayas aboard, Gunnevera completed the distance in 1:02 over a wet-fast main track, second-fastest of 13 horses. It was his first work since overcoming a wide trip to rally from 11th and finish second to Yoshida in the Woodward (G1) Sept. 1 at Saratoga.

“He did it very easy. We wanted to give him an easy work after his race at Saratoga,” trainer Antonio Sano said. “I’m so happy with the work and how my horse is doing. I’m so proud of the way he’s come back from the race.”

Sano said Gunnevera will have another breeze next Sunday over his home track, this time in company, before heading to Churchill Downs Friday, Oct. 26.

“Next week he’ll do a little bit more,” Sano said. “He’ll work one more time with a couple horses. I want to get a little stronger work before we go to Churchill.”

A 4-year-old son of Dialed In that has won earned more than $3 million, Gunnevera ran third in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) in January before sustaining a nasty foot injury while finishing off the board in the Dubai World Cup (G1) March 31. Given two months in Ocala to allow the foot to heal, he returned with a sharp 6 ½-length victory in an Aug. 10 optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Park prior to the Woodward.

Gunnevera finished in a dead heat for fifth with inaugural Pegasus winner Arrogate in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. They were 6 ¼ lengths behind winner and 2018 Pegasus winner Gun Runner.

“I’m so happy to be going back to the Classic for a second year,” Sano said. “My horse is doing very good and we are looking forward to trying again.”

Breeders’ Cup 2018: International Win And You’re In

Note: The Arc is today in France

Godolphin’s 5-year-old, 2.8-1 favorite Fine Needle (JPN) closed powerfully in the last 100 yards under jockey Yuga Kawada to collar 3-year-old filly Love Kampf (JPN) at the wire to win Sunday’s six furlong, $2,169,091 Sprinters Stakes (G1) at Nakayama Racecourse by a neck, and earned an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of 85 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Nov. 2-3.

As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for Fine Needle to start in the $1 million Turf Sprint, a Grade 1 race run at 5 ½ furlongs on turf, for three-3-year-olds and up, at Churchill Downs on Nov.3. Breeders’ Cup also is providing all starters based outside of North Americas with a $40,000 travel allowance to compete in the World Championships.

Fine Needle joins Disco Partner, who won the Jaipur Invitational (G2) at Belmont Park in June and Havana Grey (GB), who captured the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five (G1) earlier this month at Leopardstown as the other Turf Sprint “Win and You’re In” contenders.

Melbourne_Australian racingToday’s 52nd Sprinters Stakes was run under rainy conditions with a huge typhoon closing in. Once in a Moon (JPN) gunned for the lead in the 16-horse field and set the pace. Fine Needle, trained by Yoshitada Takahashi, broke from post 8 and was settled in mid-field and three-wide. Shifting farther out in the last turn to avoid traffic, he unleashed his trademark turn of foot all the way to the wire while picking off his rivals one by one and finally catching Love Kampf in the final strides to win by a neck.

Sent off at 31-1, Love Kampf broke sharply and chased the pace in second. Hitting the straight still in second and two-wide, she took over the lead from the pacesetter while shaking off second favorite Nac Venus (JPN) 100 meters out and dug in gamely but was pinned by the winner at the wire.

Rhein Spirit (JPN) saved ground in third to fourth, struggled for room behind the battling front runners in the stretch, but broke through chasing Love Kampf in the final 50 meters, stretching his neck in front of Daimei Princess (JPN) to grab third.

Fine Needle completed the six furlongs in 1:08.3 under a course listed as good.

Fine Needle, a bay son of Admire Moon (JPN), won his fourth group stakes race is five starts this year. On Sept. 6, he came back after a four-month layoff to score an impressive 1 ½-length victory over Love Kampf at Hanshin in the six-furlong Centaur Stakes (G2). He began 2018 by winning the six-furlong Silk Road Stakes (G3) at Kyoto by two lengths on Jan. 28, and returned in March to take the Group 1 Takamatsumomiya Kinen at Chukyo by a nose. His lone defeat this year was in Hong Kong in late April where he finished fourth, beaten four lengths in the Group 1 Chairman’s Prize at Sha Tin.

Fine Needle was bred by Darley Japan KK.

“I am relieved to have been able to come up with the best results as the race favorite,” said Takahashi. “I knew by the look of Fine Needle’s eyes at the saddling area that he had switched into racing mode. He was positioned exactly where I had imagined and I was a little concerned when the jockey was urging the horse on at the third corner, but the horse got into gear and then geared up again once entering the stretch so from there I was just hoping with all my heart that he would reach the leader in time.”

Said winning-jockey Kawada: “He wasn’t as sharp in the first half of the race and we had to race further out than we’d hoped, but despite the unideal trip, he really made up for it with his legs at the straight and we just managed to clinch our victory at the wire. He sure validated his win in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen with this JRA-sprint-G1 double and two other grade-race victories which undoubtedly places him as the top sprinter in Japan.”