It's Breeders Cup time! Sadly, work is going to keep us from doing an introductory post this year, which we're a little sad about. For now, we intend to instead do a wrap up post on Sunday or Monday, looking at where things stand after racing's biggest weekend.
Before we dive into this year's races, let's take a look back at how we did forecasting last year's races. Of the 15 horses we picked to win the 15 races last year, 2 were victorious, though neither was much of a price: Beholder in the Juvenile Fillies ($9.80) and Groupie Doll in the F&M Sprint ($3.40). Four others (Merit Man, Atigun, The Fugue, Mucho Macho Man) ran in the money. The better play, apparently, was taking our horses that we picked to finish 3rd, which won 5 races (Royal Delta, George Vancouver, Mizdirection, Shanghai Bobby, Hightail). While we're not exactly proud about this showing, we're happy enough that 9 of the horses we picked to finish in the money actually won.
Let's try to improve on that this year, starting with Friday's races. We'll confess that we don't love Friday's card, which is in large part because the Breeders Cup shifted the races around to move some of the lesser events to Friday, though we think there are a lot of vulnerable favorites running. The good news is that Saturday's card is a mile better. This year we're adding another category in our previews called "Betting Approach", where we'll indicate whether a better should take a narrow approach to betting the race, a spread approach, a potential single, or just chaos. We hope this will give everyone a better idea of how to use the races in exotics wagers.
Synopsis: 1 3/4 miles on the dirt for all brave enough to try the distance. This races involves horses going past the stands twice and making three turns. "Historically" - there have been 5 iterations of this race - closers are the way to go as they've won every time. There's a ton of apparent speed in this year's edition of this race, making this theory even more likely.
Favorite: On the heels of South American marathoner Calidioscopo winning this last year, the Argentinian Ever Rider is here, having run the distance a whopping 12 times in his native country. By contrast, the other 9 horses have run the distance on the dirt a combined 4 times.
Price Horse to Consider: At 10-1, Suns Out Guns Out is the "longest" morning line shot on the board, but he has a chance. Hell, it's a race at 14 furlongs. Nobody is out of it.
Betting Approach: Chaos. As we said, this is not a race that has a lot of prior form, as horses don't run 14 furlongs on the dirt. Anything is possible.
Selections: Since closers have won every race and generally make up the other horses that finish in the money, let's go with the three horses that figure to be the farthest back early on: Old Time Hockey, Indian Jones and Pool Play. We'll downgrade OTH's chances a bit because of his lack of dirt experience, and lean on Pool Play, who at least has won a Grade 1 race.
1. Pool Play 2. Indian Jones 3. Old Time Hockey
Synopsis: 1 mile on the turf for 2 year old colts. The last two editions were won by second-tier Coolmore horses that made their American debut in the race and were square prices (Wrote and George Vancouver). In case you're wondering why Giovanni Boldini gets a lot of play, that's probably a factor.
Favorite: Bobby's Kitten is one of seven horses running for the Ramsey family, almost all of which have the word "Kitten" in their name as their attempt to advertise their prodigious sire, Kitten's Joy. In any event, he blew away the field in his maiden victory and the Grade 3 Pilgrim, and looks like a fair favorite, though we're looking elsewhere for the winner.
Price Horse to Consider: Bon Accord has good turf breeding and his last race wasn't bad, and that was while it was taken off the turn in a rainstorm. He could move up on a return to the sod.
Betting Approach: Spread. There are a lot of horses that could win this race, even though we're against the American favorites.
Selections: We think there's a lot of speed in this race, as Bashar has to get sent from the outside post and will likely duel with Bobby's Kitten and All Cash, who will get sent from the rail. So we're going to look for closers at an okay price. The aforementioned Giovanni Boldini has a shot, as does Outstrip, but we're most intrigued by Wilshire Boulevard, who has a lot of races (7) under his belt, good turf breeding, and it appears some tactical speed. We'll take him over Shamshon, who think will also run well at a price, and our longshot.
1. Wilshire Boulevard 2. Shamshon 3. Bon Accord
Synopsis: 1 mile on the dirt for all comers. This is a 2-turn edition of this race, which we think favors horses with some distance experience, rather than stretching out sprinters.
Favorite: It's likely Verrazano, who won the Wood Memorial and Haskell but flopped horribly as the Travers favorite and morning line favorite for the Kentucky Derby. One of our friends called him the worst morning line favorite in Breeders Cup history; we think that's a bit much, but given that he's never faced older horses, hasn't run in 2+ months, and drew the far outside, we're not particularly interested.
Price Horse to Consider: Broadway Empire comes in having won two straight derbies. Unfortunately, they're the Canadian and Oklahoma Derbies. But still - he's well-bred, in good form, improving and has tactical speed. At 12-1 or higher, he's worth a look.
Betting Approach: Spread. We think this is a good time to play against both morning line favorites (Verrazano and Goldencents) and look elsewhere for a price.
Selections: This race has become something of a spot for 2nd-tier horses that are honest and decent enough to win a good race on their best day but have no real consistency and aren't good enough to compete at the upper level (Caleb's Posse was the only real exception). Pants on Fire fits that description to a tee. On his best day, he can finish in the money against the quality of horses that's running in Grade 1 races, and he has to his names some nice wins in Grade 2's and Grade 3's. He also likes the distance, with 4 wins in 7 tries, and has good tactical speed. We like him over hard-knockers Hymn Book, who should close late (if in vain), Broadway Empire, and Centralintelligence, who has a shot and could get forgotten in betting.
1. Pants on Fire 2. Hymn Book 3. Broadway Empire
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Synopsis: 1 mile on the turf for 2yo fillies. We're trying to figure out how this race wound up in the spot right before Friday's big race. We still have no idea.
Favorite: It's probably My Conquistadory, who won the Alcibiades in a race that was visually impressive but ordinary on paper. We side with the numbers over the eyes.
Price Horse to Consider: Ready to Act was the favorite in her last race then tossed her rider and didn't finish. We suspect there's value there.
Betting Approach: Narrow/Spread. We think there are a few ways to go in this race, but none of them include horses that were originally trained in North America. Our inclination is to toss all of them and focus on the imports.
Selections: We like the Euros but we don't love Vorda who has some obscure connections and races that are less impressive upon examination. We prefer Chirasellium, who's run quite well in Europe against tough competition, Testa Rossi, who ran well in France, then shipped to the US and just got up late in a flying finish in the Miss Grillo, and Al Thakira, who's spectacularly bred but light on experience. We'll side with the middle because she'll be a longer price and has more experience under her belt.
1. Testa Rossi 2. Chirasellium 3. Al Thakira
Synopsis: 1 1/8 miles on the dirt for the ladies, 3 years old and up. Finally, the Distaff got its proper name back! Now we just need to get it moved back to Saturday and get the execrable Turf Sprint off the main card.
Probable Favorite: Princess of Sylmar enters the race sporting a 10/8-1-0 record, having only lost once since her first start, a fair second in the Gazelle to Close Hatches (who's also in this race). Since losing the Gazelle, she's ripped off 4 straight wins in Grade 1 races, beating Close Hatches and competitor Beholder in the process, and flew past 2-time Distaff winner Royal Delta in her last race. She's sensational and becomes a candidate for Horse of the Year with a victory.
Price Horse with a Chance: With all the hype surrounding Princess of Sylmar, Royal Delta and Beholder (who won the Juvenile Fillies last year and has won 6 of her last 8) don't forget about Authenticity, who has had a sneaky good year, finishing in the money in all 8 starts and running a strong second to Beholder in her last race. She's the "other" Pletcher but she's a good horse.
Betting Approach: Narrow/Possible Single. There are only 6 horses, one of which has no shot, and we think only a couple of them are legitimate candidates to win.
Selections: Process of elimination. Street Girl isn't bad, but is way over her head here. We've never really loved Close Hatches and think she was lucky to beat Princess of Sylmar in the Gazelle because she set a slow pace against a small field. We're also not in love with Royal Delta, who we feel ran her best races last year and is the likely one of the two to fade in a pace battle between her and Beholder. Authenticity and Beholder both have a shot but we see no compelling reason to go against Princess of Sylmar here. We think she wins handily and sets up a fascinating story line for Saturday's races.
1. Princess of Sylmar 2. Authenticity 3. Beholder
Coming up tomorrow: Saturday's races.