Breeders Cup Day 2
Real Writing on Racing 💯
Yesterday started off like far too many big racing days have over the last few months, with word that there were problems, people were unhappy and outside of social media rumors, nothing was official. About mid-morning we were hearing that the regulatory vets were poised to scratch several of the Irish contingents fine steeds including morning line favorite for the Juvenile Turf, River Tiber (Ire), the most fancied of the Aidan O’Brien trio entered. There had been persistent whispers from the clockers stand for more than a week now that Juvenile fillies favorite and pretty horse media darling, Tamara, had not been sharp. Following the stunning demise of Geaux Rocket Ride and Dirt Mile contender, Practical Move, earlier in the week, it was expected that the regulatory screws were going to be tightened even more, but it took most completely off guard that the target would land on O’Brien, arguably the worlds leading trainer and Jessica Harrington, a top English trainer with a pristine reputation. You can hear her displeasure with the situation regarding the scratch of her Juvenile Turf Sprint entry, Givemethebeatboys, in this brief interview she gave with Nick Luck yesterday HERE. The normally reserved O’Brien was reportedly livid, doubly so since the regulatory team also informed him that Bolshoi Boy would be unable to race today in the Turf.
One of great features of the Breeders Cup in particular, since the first running at Hollywood Park 40 years ago, is its appeal to International connections. Both O’Brien and Harrington stated trepidation when asked if this would effect future entries and believe me the way Euro racing Twitter lit up following the news of the scratches, every foreign trainer and owner is going to be wary moving forward. I have a lot more to write on this topic and how it fits into a troubling theme that the dubious leadership in American racing has adopted, but today we will focus on the final big racing day of the year. Check out our piece from a few weeks back Exasperation, which eerily touches on a few of the safety vs faux safety issues, in case you missed it the first time around.
💵 We will do a full recap of all the races early next week but Fierceness at 16-1? Felt like 1984 all over again!
💰Barry’s Breeders Cup plays can be found HERE.
💎 Check out our guy Mut’s Cup thoughts HERE.
We did well with yesterday’s two race analysis write ups with Just FYI and Fierceness rating as plays, especially at the odds. Today we look at three of the dirt races though we have no real strong plays in any, the favorites are vulnerable in at least two of them in our humble opinion
Dirt Mile (Gr I) 3&up 1 mile dirt $1,000,000
A case can be made that this shouldn’t even be a Breeders Cup event as there is not even a Miler division or Eclipse award in North America. This field is a potpourri of mostly disappointing horses who are pretty good, but never really lived up to their potential (obviously not last year's winner). That said they are letting us bet on it and someone will win so let’s go through the group.
Stage Raider was very good in his 1st start for Cherie Devaux when winning stakes at Ellis and honestly might have been best in the Ack Ack (Gr II) when forced to chase loose leader Zozos, trying hard but unable to make up the soft pace disadvantage. Should save ground and there is hope that one of the horses drawn outside will force the early pace just enough to allow Hernandez to settle and make one run. He isn’t as good as Cody’s Wish but if there is going to be an upsetter, why not him?
Cody’s Wish has a lot on the line here in this his final race. If he wins he can cement his legacy as a two time Breeders Cup winner which likely also makes him a Hall of Famer too AND puts him directly in the Horse of the Year race with very few candidates going into the Cup this year with solid resumes. As for this race the lack of apparent speed is concerning for his style, especially around two turns when his late kick is a bit muted. However there seems like there is more than a punchers chance that one of the outside horses will keep Zozos honest which helps but I’d be really wary of singling him here, like most will.
Zozos will be on the lead unless something crazy happens and the two questions are, will someone else press him at all and will he be as sharp around that second turn if they do? After the Ack Ack, trainer Brad Cox didn’t seem overly enthusiastic about this race and questioned if he would even ship West which feels a bit like last year Kentucky Derby when the owners wanted to run more than the trainer did. He will likely be a short priced second choice and the wire-to-wire possibility exists but I’m probably going to try to beat him.
Charge It has never really lived up to the promise he showed early last year, especially after his 23 length destruction of the Dwyer last July. He won the Suburban a little more than a year after the Dwyer but that was a perfect trip and he didn’t sustain any momentum with disappointing efforts ever since. Pletcher takes off the blinkers here and he used to show more early speed without them so perhaps Johnny Velazquez will have him closer? Not impossible but hard to love.
Skippylongstocking has always been a B team type of horse, mostly hanging out on the fringes in grade 3 outposts like Prairie Meadows and Charlestown. He got a huge fig last out off of a perfect trip at CT but has negatively reacted every time he has run a big number.
I had to do a double take when I saw Shirl’s Bee in the pre-entries as I thought it was Shirl’s Speight. Not sure what the plan is but he has been working up a storm and was pulling like crazy in his comeback race so perhaps Saez sends from the gate and tries to get a stalking position and applies some pressure to Zozos? It would be a shocking upset for him to hit the board.
National Treasure hasn’t broke through and run fast despite being a Classic winner. Baffert isn’t in here to be placed so I’d expect Prat to try to gun to the lead from the outside and loop Zozos or sit very close and press him. If he does, it changes the complexion of the race and if he doesn’t and stalks wide, I’d assume he will not be a much of a factor.
Filly/Mare Sprint (Gr 1) 3&up F/M 7 furlongs $1,000,000
The obvious choice in here is Goodnight Olive, who is not only the defending champion, but she almost never loses outside of a terrible trip or freaky performance from a rival. That said her last was such a huge effort that we wouldn’t be surprised if she reacts negatively enough to get her beat here. This isn’t a particularly strong group from 1 to 9 this season and there is a possibility of a massive speed duel handing the trophy right back to Goodnight Olive again but I’m wary.
Team Asmussen has regrouped with Society and focused on sprinting which has worked out pretty well so far this year. She kicked off the year setting a fast pace and tiring over a Keeneland track that wasn’t kind to speed that day, then was just a brief pace factor on Derby weekend in the La Troiene. Her next two races were very strong when cut back to 7f, albeit one was a bullring 7f at CT which is two turns. The daughter of Gun Runner does face a potential challenge for the lead from Eda, who adds blinkers, but I’m hoping that Gafflione just shrugs that challenge off around the turn and powers away, holding on late. Historically wire to wire winners haven’t been plentiful in this event but I’m hoping that Society can just outrun them early and have enough left stamina to make it to the wire. She isn’t the type you want to stake your reputation on as she does have some puzzlingly bad efforts but those have mostly been going a route of ground.
I’m suspicious of Baffert adding blinkers on Eda and have no interest in using her or Yuugiri who comes out of a taxing effort and may end up wide on the turn.
Not sure that either Clearly Unhinged or Three Witches is good enough, Matareya has sort of been an enigma this season as you never know which version will show up and if things get crazy up front, Kristenbosch would be the main beneficiary, but this isn’t exactly a closers track. To be honest I have no clue what to expect from Japanese invader Meikei Yell as she has never run on dirt though she has been keeping the very best of company at home, running almost exclusively in grade 1 competition against males all year.
Classic (Gr 1) 3&up 1 ¼ on main track $6,000,000
This is the least credentialed field that the Classic has ever had and if it wasn’t for the presence of Ushba Tesoro, an international grade 1 horse, the weakest. What this race does have is a big chance at an honest pace which isn’t always the case these days.
Zandon is as consistent as a top horse can be, yet his wins are rare and the Woodward (Gr II) that he just captured was a very weak race for this level. There has always been a question about his ability to get 10 furlongs and while it feels like this race may provide a good setup, underneath is the only place I am interested in.
White Abarrio is an erratic sort who seemed improved once transferred to Rick Dutrow, his Whitney domination saw him reach the peak of his powers. Yet there are far more reasons why that race may be an outlier than the new White Abarrio. First is the absolutely perfect trip behind a glorified allowance horse in a race where none of the others seemed to handle the track/fire. Secondly, the layoff is a concern for a horse that might have stamina issues, especially with a trainer that has been willing to run horses back on less than a week’s rest. If he wins, I lose and I’m ok with that.
Missed the Cut? Would have loved him in the day’s first.
Derma Sotogake got a tough trip in the Kentucky Derby, after which he headed back to Japan to regroup. He missed his prep race with a minor foot issue, and heads to this with virtually no support because of the layoff. Yet I believe he will sit a nice trip and fire a big shot and will be using him to get on the board at a long price.
Saudi Crown is a lightly raced, solid three year old with good form and a lot of early speed. Will he make 10 furlongs with pace pressure being applied by Arabian Knight? I don’t think he can
Clapton has done well since purchased and transferred to Chad Summers (he is the creamsicle suit) but this is another step up in company and he needs a really fast pace and he still might not be quite good enough.
Ushba Tesoro does nothing but win and looms as the one to beat here but his jockey has to make sure that he doesn’t give him too much to do as this stretch run isn’t as easy to make up ground like Dubai or most Japanese courses are.
Senor Buscador has run well when losing lately and like Clapton needs a supersonic pace to close into. However he has done well over this surface and doesn’t have to ship which plays in his favor and I can see him getting a minor share here.
Dreamlike was a maiden as recently as the Saratoga meet and while he has improved, it’s a tall order to be good enough here.
Bright Future held on to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a narrow winner over Proxy though he had a great trip that day and this doesn’t seem to set up nearly as well
Arabian Knight makes start number 5 here, coming in off wiring the Pacific Classic, just holding off the ill-fated Geaux Rocket Ride. Talent isn’t the question, it’s how will he react to not being on the lead or how fast will he have to go to outrun Saudi Prince to get there? I’m guessing that it will take its toll and he will tire late.
Proxy has hung around for a couple of years, knocking off a nice graded stakes here or there but never really being considered one of the very best horses. I think that Rosario will take him back and try to make one run and perhaps he can rally and be on the board?
☑️ Saudi Crown has been a pretty strong front runner as has Arabian Knight and it would be a surprise to see anyone but those two running one-two, leading the field going into the first turn. White Abarrio won’t be far off and we expect Derma Sotogake to be in that first flight as well. The success of that bunch will probably be determined if that first half mile is run in 45 or 46 or 47 second, the faster the less chance that that quartet has. We like Ushba Tesoro to pick them all up with 100 yards to go but his jockey, Y. Kawada has to make sure that he doesn’t give him too much to do. I’m gonna take a shot that Derma Sotogake can hold on for a share with late rallies from Senor Buscador, Proxy and Zandon in no particular order.
The original Classic is still a classic. “Wild Again does it”