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%).

 

JUVENILE FILLIES

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

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

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

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.

SPRINT

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.

Sprint

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.

 

JUVENILE

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”.

 

TURF

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

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.