Back to our "horse guy" to tackle the nine races at Del Mar on Saturday.
Breeder’s Cup Preview
November 4th, 2017
Should be an exciting day. Many forget the key to handicapping horse races. You don’t necessarily bet the horse that is most likely to win. You bet the one with the best value. In other words, a horse who is even money is most likely to win. We all know that. However, he would need to win 51 percent of the time to show a profit. A 10-1 shot only needs to win once every 10 races to show a profit. So, if you think a 10-1 shot has a better than 10 percent chance to win the race, he/she is actually a better investment than an even money shot who you think will win 50 percent of the time. When you fully understand that concept, you are in the advanced class of horse handicapping.
Let’s get into my selections for each race:
BC JUVENILE FILLIES
RACE 4 – 3:00 PM EST
This race has a history of wild results, and this field is chaotic. This is a big field going two turns, and many horses will have traffic problems and be subjected to ground loss. Outside posts are a big disadvantage.
#1 HEAVENLY LOVE – Looked great when stretching out in last winning the G1 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland on October 6th going around two turns – with an impressive burst of speed in the stretch – winning by five lengths. Ships in from Kentucky for trainer Mark Casse, who has two other runners in here, #4 Gio Game and #11 Wonder Gadot. Has a big advantage based upon post position, where she should get a cushy trip inside off the front runners, waiting for an opportunistic moment to pounce on the lead.
#12 CALEDONIA ROAD – Showed early speed in her maiden outing which she won at Saratoga in early September in the slop. Was a very solid second in the Frizette to #13 Separationofpowers with a strong sustained half mile close. Post hurts a lot, but if she can save ground and find a seam with a rail skimming ride combined with a solid pace to close into, she has a legitimate shot at a price.
#13 SEPARATIONOFPOWERS – Bounced back from a stinker in the G1 Spinaway at Saratoga in September and ran the fastest filly sheet figure of the year in her most recent win in the G1 Frizette (pay attention also to the #9 in the video of that race below, who is the #12 Caledonia Road today) at Belmont on October 8th. Ships in from New York and Chad Brown’s dirt runners have not excelled when shipping to California. This horse’s recent sheet figure blows this field away, but she is saddled with a horrendous post – especially for a horse that likes to prompt the pace early. Jockey Jose Ortiz will need to be patient and find a problem free trip, which I don’t envision happening. Can’t completely toss because she’s the fastest horse in the race, but winning from post 13 in her first two turn race is an extremely tall order.
#7 MOONSHINE MEMORIES – Cant fault this “Miss” as she is three for three and has won twice already at this track, so she has the home-court advantage, Likely favorite. Will get a lot of love and money from the locals. Will be forwardly placed early. While she certainly can win, I’m not overly impressed with her sheet numbers and not sure she beat all that much in her two G1 wins, which includes #8 Piedi Bianchi and #9 Alluring Star. Can’t toss out the likely undefeated favorite, but I will be looking elsewhere for my winner.
Clearly one of the more competitive BC races. #3 Princess Warrior backed up a bit stretching out but ran a strong figure in her first race winning her maiden outing at Churchill. #4 Gio Game has steadily improved for Casse, graduating the maiden ranks with a smashing nin-length victory in her latest with a solid sheet figure. #8 Piedi Bianchi put up solid sprinting figures and tailed off slightly, finishing third to #8 Moonshine Memories in the G1 Chandelier. #6 Alluring Star should be on the lead early and finished second in the G2 Chandelier.
BC TURF SRPINT
RACE 5 – 3:37 PM EST
Being billed as the rematch between the only two females in the race, Lady Aurelia and Marsha. A lot in this race depends on the break out of the gate due to the short distance. There will be ground loss and traffic issues in this race. Outside post position is a disadvantage.
#1 DISCO PARTNER – Has nine wins in 20 races, and he is tough when he fires. He has only one win at this distance, though. The rail could be a tough spot here due to his lack of early speed. However, he did set the world record at 6 furlongs at Belmont in the Jaipur (See below) in 1:05.3. New York-based horse has never run at Del Mar. Capable of winning but could easily get caught in traffic.
#3 LADY AURELIA – Seven career races with five wins, one second and one third. Has never missed hitting the board. She has won both of her US races while on Lasix at Keeneland in emphatic fashion, and has wins over the boys over in Great Britain. She won G2 Queen Mary by seven lengths and the G1 King’s Stand. (See below – it’s just one long straightaway) against open older horses both with Queen Elizabeth II present to cheer her on. Her win in the G1 Prix Morny at Deauville in France in August 2016 helped her become the 2-year-old filly champion in Europe. Has great tactical speed to sit right behind the early speed and pounce. While she is the likeliest winner and will be the favorite, only one 3-year-old (Bobby’s Kitten) and one female (Mizdirection) have won this race. Favorites only win 24 percent of races on this 5 furlong course. I’m not keen on taking short odds on a 3-year-old girl against the older boys on the tight Del Mar course but she certainly is in the mix. Does get a break in weight as a 3-year-old.
#2 HOLDING GOLD – Strong closer who also must avoid traffic from the inside. Some of his better efforts have come after a break like this. Has run some great races a 5 ½ furlongs and trainer, Mark Casse, has been solid with turf runners he has shipped.
#12 PURE SENSATION – Finished third, beaten a length by Obviously in the 2016 Turf Sprint. He’s six for 10 at this distance but this is his first trip to Del Mar, although he has traveled well before. Handled the 11 post in the G3 Parx Dash in Philadelphia and has beaten several in here. Has tailed off a bit but has ability. Was the speed in the world record Jaipur and held fairly well.
#6 MARSHA – One of the two girls in here. Has hit the board in eight straight overseas facing the boys and makes her US debut. Gets Lasix for the first time. This is the lowest weight she has carried in eight races. I don’t love her, but she has a shot. Has beaten Lady Aurelia.
BC FILLY & MARE TURF SPRINT
RACE 6 – 4:14 PM EST
There is a nice long run into the turn here, which means outside posts are not catastrophic. Unique Bella is a very vulnerable favorite as she seeks to become the first 3-year-old ever to win this race. Unique Bella is the likely favorite but is a tough proposition when you consider 3-year-olds in this race’s history are 0 for 29, including six beaten favorites.
#12 SKYE DIAMONDS – Two for two at Del Mar and draws a nice post for her stalking running style. She established herself as the best female sprinter in California this summer. Has nine wins in 16 races and has seven wins and two seconds in her last nine races.
#9 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM – Speed ball who should be on the lead early, although she won her last in stalking style. This is her second off a layoff, a recipe she has used for success in the past. Nine wins in 12 career starts.
#4 FINEST CITY – The defending champion in this race, as she secured strong early position last year from the 12 post and won at 8-1 odds. She’s been freshened up a bit for this and typically runs well off the bench.
#11 UNIQUE BELLA – Vulnerable favorite when you consider that no 3-year-old has ever won this race. This grey beauty was expected to be the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks but suffered a shin injury and couldn’t enter. She has returned as a sprint specialist. She has won five in a row impressively, but when you look at her sheet numbers, she has no real advantage here to validate her strong favoritism. Not a good investment despite the fact that she can win.
#10 HIGHWAY STAR – Three for four at this distance with his only loss coming by a head. Has hit the board in 11 out of 13 starts with eight wins. Always gives maximum effort. Won the G2 Ruffian at Belmont in May (see below) and was a strong third in the Ogden Phipps at Belmont in what turned out to be a key race with many horses that showed outstanding performances soon thereafter. Sheet numbers say she can contend here.
RACE 7 – 5:00 PM EST
This race begins out of an infield chute and is run at a distance of 1 1/8th miles, which is shorter than last year.
#12 AVENGE – Tried to go wire-to-wire in this event last year in a fast pace, but finished third after being run down late. Will be on the lead as far as she can go, and this field doesn’t have as much speed to challenge her early. Wiring this field is not out of the question. Has seven wins in 16 career starts and has figures, which on her best, show she can win this. This race is a 1/4 mile shorter this year. Two for three at Del Mar. Catch her if you can!
#9 LADY ELI – Wonderful story of a horse that was near death a few years ago from laminitis that rose to become a champion. Heartbreaking loser of this event last year when it appeared like she was home free but was run down by a nose by #10 Queen’s Trust. She’s three for three at this distance and adapts to most any pace scenario. In last year’s event, she was 10th behind a very fast pace. She showed explosive acceleration winning the G1 Ballston Spa at Saratoga on August 26th. In 13 career races, she’s won 10 with three second-place finishes; NEVER WORSE THAN SECOND and has banked $2.9 million!!! She’s been the favorite the last 10 times out with her highest odds reaching 8-5. She’s a killer, but her sheet numbers show she has only a small margin for error and this field doesn’t have an abundance of early speed, so she will have to be strategically placed early.
#10 QUEEN’S TRUST – The defending champion (See below). Flew in from Europe last year off mediocre form, tried Lasix and flew home in the stretch with Detorri aboard to nose out Lady Eli. Flies in from Europe this year off mediocre form, goes back on Lasix and has Detorri aboard. Sounds a bit like the movie “Groundhog’s Day.” Has just one win in her last 11 races, which was this event. She’s tough to love with confidence based off her recent performances, but I will be more prepared this year if lightning strikes again.
#7 DACITA – 10 wins and five second-place finishes in 20 career starts. Lacks early speed, but is known to come with a furious stretch run. Won the G1 Beverly D at Arlington (See below). Race isn’t as packed with as much early speed as usual so pace scenario doesn’t set up perfectly for her; may need a bit better start than usual.
#4 ZIPESSA – The only other one than Avenge that has strong early speed. Should get good positioning. Last out she won the G1 First Lady at Keeneland (see below) from a bit off the pace, which is rare for her. She’s in the best form of her career right now and the trip just might be right.
RACE 8 – 5:37 EST
Stacked 10-horse field with seven horses who have won previous Breeders’ Cup Challenge races. WOW!
#8 ROY H – Four for five this year with only loss being a second place finish in the Bing Crosby, when he had his chances compromised when forced wide due to riderless Drefong, who tossed his jockey. Versatile horse, who should be able to work out a good trip. Shows sheet numbers that can beat these on his best.
#2 DREFONG – The defending champion of this BC Sprint. Last year, he withstood an early duel before edging away. He has only had two races since that race last year, and in one of them, he tossed his rider, Mike Smith, and did not finish. He won the G1 Forego at Saratoga by 4 lengths and has been working well leading up to this race. Definite favorite – and most likely winner – but this race is packed with early speed, and he will have to fend them off early, which could be a tough task.
#6 MIND YOUR BISCUITS – Was a model of consistency until flopping in his last at the G1 Forego at Saratoga. Won the $2 million G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in Dubai in March carrying 132 pounds and finished third in this race last year. Shipped to California earlier than normal, and I expect a maximum effort. Strong contender.
There are two horses with excellent sheet numbers in their last race that I don’t love. #7 TAKAFUL freaked last out winning the G1 Vosburgh on September 30th at Belmont. It was a huge improvement for a 3-year-old, and I don’t expect as good of an effort shipping out West. #10 IMPERIAL HINT logged an outstanding figure in his last, albeit in a four-horse race at Parx in Philadelphia. Low-profile trainer shipping cross country is enough for me to lose some interest.
RACE 9 – 6:19 PM EST
#6 ZELZAL – Not the likeliest winner, but might be the best investment. Was four for six last year as a 3-year-old, but things haven’t gone as well in three tries this year. Disappointed as the 6-5 favorite last out in the Prix de la Foret, but his form may have been a bit compromised by soft turf conditions so far this year. Note that each of his wins has come over firm turf, and his poor efforts have come on, let’s say, “less than firm turf.” This race has lots of early speed and sets up nicely for his closing style. Ships to the US for the first time and adds Lasix for the first time. Will find firm turf today and has strong value with a legitimate chance.
#5 WORLD APPROVAL – Has looked outstanding since shortening to a mile in his last two, both strong wins, including a win in the G1 Woodbine Mile last out. Has excellent tactical speed to find good early position. Trainer Mark Casse won this race with Tepin in 2015. Ten wins in 23 starts and $1.8 million in the bank and gets the services of John Velazquez.
#11 BALLAGH ROCKS – Has yet to win a G1 in four starts, but he shows strong effort. He’s a strong closer in a race that could set up for him, and he has excellent sheet numbers to contend here. Trainer Bill Mott won this race last year with Tourist, so he knows what it takes.
#10 RIBCHESTER – Generally viewed as Europe’s top miler with four G1 wins in his last eight starts overseas and $3.4 million in the bank. Another who has done his best work on firm turf. He must ration his speed in a race full of early speed. He has technically hit the board in all 15 career starts but was DQd one time. The huge question mark is he finished a strong second in the G1 Queen Elizabeth in Great Britain, a race in which he was all over the course just two weeks ago (WHAT?); now he flies overseas and faces his toughest task of all. I think he needs a new secretary. I think this is asking too much!
#2 HEART TO HEART – Speedball who always avoids traffic problems and manages to obtain ground-saving trips. Has won 13 of his 31 lifetime starts. Got nailed late in the G1 Shadow Tom at Keeneland last out almost wiring a field of 14 and won the G2 Bernard Baruch at Saratoga in wire-to-wire fashion. Still hasn’t won a G1 in six tries but will be on the lead as far as he can go.
RACE 10 – 6:58 EST
These are babies, most with just a few races under their belt, so not a lot of statistics and data to digest. Only three favorites have won this race in 19 years. Outside post position is tough with the short run to the first turn.
#11 BOLT d’ORO – Three for three with two wins here at Del Mar and has the look of a champion. Won the G1 Front Runner at Santa Anita in an EYE-POPPING MANNER by 7 ¾ lengths with one of the fastest sheet numbers ever by a 2-year-old. If he runs anything close to that number, this race is over and done. Has already shown he can win from off the pace or dueling for the lead. Draws a tough post here and has low profile trainer that is just 2-for-40 in the last year. You’re probably looking at the shortest priced favorite on the entire Breeders’ Cup card and could be looking at a horse that is extra special.
#6 GOOD MAGIC – $1 million purchase as a yearling, so there are high expectations. Has run twice and finished second twice, so he’s still a maiden. Trainer Chad Brown is outstanding with 2-year-olds, and he wouldn’t be here if Brown didn’t think he could win this. He’s bred to love two turns here, and I expect a strong effort. My only concern is that he shipped out to California a bit late, but he could be something special.
#2 SOLOMINI – Was the second place finisher to BOLT in the Front Runner. Broke poorly that day. Trainer Bob Baffert has won this event three times. Should get a much better ground saving trip here and has been working extremely well leading up to this.
#5 FREE DROP BILLY – Has two wins and two second-place finishes in four career races. Won his last out at this distance in the G1 Breeders Futurity at Keeneland, winning easily despite lacking room early.
RACE 11 – 7:37 EST
Richest turf race in North America, as they are running for a $4 million purse.
#5 ULYSSES – Was fourth in this event last year. Has won three G1 events this year overseas and comes in off a great prep, finishing third in the 18-horse G1 Arc de Triomphe. [SCRATCHED]
#12 BEACH PATROL – Considered the top American in this field. Draws a tough post but has strong early speed to overcome the disadvantage. Winner of the G1 Arlington Million and the GI Turf Classic at Belmont back-to-back in his last two, and he’s 2-for-2 with Joel Rosario aboard.
#4 DECORATED KNIGHT – Multiple G1 winner with eight wins overall in 18 races overseas. He split between Highland Reel and Ulysses in the G1 Prince of Wales in June and won the G1 Irish Champion Stakes last out. Comes in a bit fresher than some of his fellow Euros.
#3 HIGHLAND REEL – The defending champion. Shipped in from overseas last year, was put on Lasix and put away the favored Flintshire on to victory. Has banked $8.8 million. I’m a bit concerned that he came off am almost three-month layoff just two weeks ago in the G1 Champion Stakes in Great Britain and now ships to the US. He had a completely different pattern last year.
#1 TALISMANIC – Improving 4-year-old with nice pattern of races, and nice rest. Has tactical speed to find good early position, and will avoid ground loss. He’s a bit under the radar, but could add some nice value. Draws a very advantageous post.
#7 ITSINTHEPOST – Multiple G2 stakes victories. Has excellent tactical speed to sit right off the lead. May not show the class of some in here but he’s in career form.
RACE 12 – 8:35 PM EST
$6 million on the line and bragging rights for top horse in the world.
#5 GUN RUNNER – Amazing sheet figures. Has equaled or improved his sheet figures in every career race except one, last year’s Beldame in the slop when caught up in a hot pace. Has three great figures at this distance. Has won three straight G1 events by a total of 22 ½ lengths. Has been in California for two months getting adapted and trainer, Asmussen, has had success in California. Has better tactical speed than Arrogate and should be on or near the early lead. He’s yet to win at this distance (0 for 3).
#1 ARROGATE – The defending champion last year beating California Chrome. Was clearly the best horse in the world up until March when he won the $10 million World Dubai Cup (after beginning the race in last and running wide), running down Gun Runner, but he flopped in his return in June in the G2 San Diego Handicap, beaten 15 ¼ lengths here at Del Mar. He was better in the G1 Pacific at Del Mar but was second to Collected. He has banked over $17 million!!! If Baffert has him ready and he returns to the Arrogate in last year’s Classic, he wins, but some think the World Cup in Dubai took a lot out of him and that he’s not the same horse. Been getting wide trips this year. Take note of how Baffert‘s earlier runners in the BC have done as the Classic approaches.
#8 WEST COAST – One of Baffert’s other runners here (he has four) that can’t be overlooked. Three-year-old steps up to face some older horses here off a five-race win streak, including wins in the G1 Travers and G1 Pennsylvania Derby. He has good early speed and can sit right off of Gun Runner. He loses jockey, Mike Smith, here to Arrogate, but Castellano is more than capable. He has six wins and two seconds in eight, although his best running has been done outside of California.
#11 COLLECTED – Exploded in the G1 Pacific Classic here at Del Mar, beating Arrogate in his last with a stunning figure. Has won four straight. Had things all his own way in the last, and will need to fire from a tougher wide tracking trip here. His improvement in his last was dramatic, and often leads to a bounce backwards. Has a shot but I’m voting against.
#10 PAVEL – Lightly raced grey 3-year-old with good tactical speed to find a good early spot. I don’t think he can win, but he could hit the ticket; he has room to improve and has solid figures.