The final grand flat meeting hooplah - or yeehaa - of the northern hemisphere came and went last weekend as Del Mar racecourse, in San Diego, hosted the 34th Breeders' Cup. With a European cast in the thirties and every major American horse still standing at the end of a punishing season also gracing the stage, it was a fantastic production if not quite the self-proclaimed Thoroughbred World Championships.
Finding winners was tough. Super tough. A combination of course constituents made for a series of head-scratching results: an extremely tight turning track - the turf course was not long since widened to allow for the requisite field sizes and, naturally, that was engineered on the inside so as not to interfere with the existing dirt oval; a 'dead' rail on the inside of the dirt track played strongly against inside runners; and a depth of surface which was more akin to the dusty El Segundo beach from which it came than a compacted fast dirt stratum made for some lottery outcomes.
Those results were unlike any Breeders' Cup before and, hopefully, it will be a long time until we see such as them again. The Breeders' Cup series consists of thirteen races spread over two days - four on Friday, nine on Saturday. [As an aside, I have no idea why the distribution is so lop-sided. Surely five and eight offers no material dilution of the Saturday card whilst adding 25% in terms of interest to Friday's warm up. Personally, I'd like to see six and seven Cup race cards, but that's unlikely to happen in the land of 'Super Size me'.]
Thirteen races, then, and just two winning favourites. Ouch. But that is merely the tip of the punting woe iceberg. This was brutal stuff. Although a jolly (Mendehlssohn), a second favourite (Rushing Fall) and a 3rd fav (Forever Unbridled) on Friday implied winners might be gettable, Saturday was pin-stickers' territory for most of the day.
The first three Breeders' Cup winners on the main card were seventh, tenth and twelfth in their markets respectively, with average odds of 38/1. Wuheida, winner of the Filly & Mare Turf, Saturday's fourth BC race, was sent off 11.2/1 third choice, and Roy H was logical enough at 4.9/1 (also 3rd fav) in the Sprint. Then, in the sixth of nine Cup races, we got a winning favourite. World Approval was well fancied and was much the best, regardless of luckless runs in behind: you make your own luck to some degree, and this guy was in the right spot throughout.
If that hinted at a positive correction, Bolt d'Oro's odds-on failure in the Juvenile quickly put the lid on such optimistic notions. The winner was another double-digit scorer on track, and only sixth choice of the local betting public. He was followed by the fifth market rank, at 14.1/1 locally, in the Turf.
If you had any money left by now, Gun Runner was easy to find - if totally not for me - in the Classic. He was sent off the 2.4/1 favourite. But let's be clear, this was some bloodbath for most.
How the Compendium Fared
I produced and shared a report called the Breeders' Cup Compendium to help punters understand the US form and piece together the relative merits of runners from both sides of the Atlantic. It was a very good report, though I say so myself, and you can find it here.
The amount of effort that went into producing it was significant. As I've said previously, there is nothing in my professional year that makes less sense than the time I lavish on that document compared with the commercial return on investment. No matter, for it is - clearly, I hope - a labour of love, and something I'd be doing in large part for my own benefit anyway.
My aim this year was even less 'commercial' than usual. I use that word in a loose sense as I normally only try to cover the air fare and hotel at best. Dinner and a drink is at my own expense. Anyway, this year, as you probably know, I offered the Compendium on a 'pay if you like' basis. That was because I wanted more people to engage on a slightly more cognisant level with what I believe to be a special event, even when it is as unpredictable as last weekend was.
I'm pleased to say that the download page had been visited 7,916 times as I write. That means a good few thousand people had at least something more than a passing interest in the weekend's action. Great stuff, really pleasing. And many thanks to the 107 who offered up the £12.50 - it's much appreciated and covered the flight and one night's accommodation, which is more than I expected from what was somewhere between vague altruism and a social experiment on my part.
Anyway, never mind all that, how did the report fare?
Learning a lesson from last year, I was deliberately unclear with staking advice. The selection sections, as you will see shortly, were intended to inform in a general sense. That said, each race - with one exception - had at least one suggested play. My own style is often to back multiple runners in a race and that, too, was reflected. Here's how things panned out...
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Significant Form, Rushing Fall
Happily, September, Juliet Capulet
Happily has a very good chance to win this race. But the combination of much quicker ground, the terrible record of Euro fillies in the race, and her price is enough for me to look elsewhere. She’ll obviously not be a shock result, but nor is she any sort of value.
It’s a really tricky race, with that historical hoodoo casting a long shadow over the merits achieved by a number of British and Irish fillies in the form book. If I was going to back one of ‘ours’, I think Juliet Capulet could be the one. She’s moving forwards nicely, and her trainer’s record at Breeders’ Cup is a respectable if unspectacular four from 32.
But Chad Brown knows how to win this. His record is peerless, and he has two strong cards to play this time. Rushing Fall lucked out at the draw and is short enough, though drifting towards a backable price at 4/1 in a place. 5/1 and I’d be having at least a saver.
Her stablemate, Significant Form, has taken the more established Brown route by winning the Miss Grillo last time out. Brown’s record with winners of that race in the JFT is 1211, the last three of those coming in the past four years.
In a race where I’ll not be getting heavily involved, I think she is the best value option, at 10/1. That said, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock ever if the second horse there, Best Performance, improved past her on what will also be only her third turf start.
Significant Form each way at 10/1 (Hills, betfair, PP) – advised 1st November
Small saver on Best Performance each way at 20/1 (general) – advised 1st November
Rushing Fall was wide all the way around, but that didn't stop her winning. She was much the best and saw off 20/1 suggestion Best Performance in second. Significant Form rounded out the superfecta, one place behind Ballydoyle's second string, September. Aidan O'Brien's Happily finished last as the on track favourite.
Mor Spirit, Sharp Azteca
Accelerate, Mor Spirit, Sharp Azteca
I think Mor Spirit is the most likely winner. Sadly, so does the market, and I don’t think he’s value at just better than 2/1 even though he may well win.
Sharp Azteca’s chance seems to hang on how much he has to do to get a forward position in a race where there could conceivably be four horses vying for the lead. I fear him in that context, but he could easily run off the board if doing too much too soon, so doesn’t make each way appeal.
The one for me, each way, will be Accelerate. Not exactly a win machine, he is nevertheless very consistent, and has solid course form in his last two starts. He may well have failed to stay over a quarter mile further last time so, dropping back in trip and with a versatile run style, he looks capable of running a big race.
Accelerate each way at 6/1 Skybet NRNB (advised 24th October)
This was a shock. Battle Of Midway was simply not in my thoughts even though it's a race where shocks are commonplace. Indeed, this was the sixth time in eleven renewals that a horse outside of the top three market choices has won. The favourite is now just two from eleven. Sharp Azteca ran a mighty race in second and, while I was right to oppose Mor Spirit at the price (8th as the 2.4/1 favourite), I was wrong to do so with Accelerate. He never lifted a leg and ran as though over the top on the season. He was not the first, and certainly not the last, to fail to fire on a track as divisive as any for a Breeders' Cup since the slop shambles in Monmouth Park in 2007.
Masar, James Garfield, Mendelssohn
I don’t like this race from a betting perspective, not one bit. On the face of it, the Euros have a huge class edge and should win. In fact, they could conceivably fill out the trifecta and perhaps even the superfecta.
But... it shapes to be a messy affair, and it may be the colt that gets the cleanest run who wins.
The most likely winner for me is Masar. He’s classy and progressive, should handle the turns and his trainer knows how to get this job done. The return to a sound surface is also expected to be in his favour.
If his stamina holds out and he gets a clear run, I also believe James Garfield can hit the frame.
Catholic Boy is a very promising colt, too, but I doubt whether he has the ability of the overseas squad.
This is as close to ‘no bet’ territory as there is. Gun to head, Masar. But given we live in a country where gun control laws are sensible – as opposed to the laws from where I write this – I will say no bet.
No bet – advised 1st November
(If pushed, Masar 9/2, very tentatively)
Masar and James Garfield had terrible runs, and were unable to show their best. Masar in particular may have played a hand but for the traffic jams. Mendelssohn has no such issues and was clear pick on the day.
Paradise Woods, Elate
Stellar Wind, Paradise Woods
A very trappy affair. All should be able to run their races, though Champagne Room may ‘spoil’ Paradise Woods by pressing her hard early. That’s important because I think Paradise Woods is the danger to my fancy if she gets loose on the lead.
She has a very good trends profile, is really fast on her going days, and as a three-year-old has more scope to step forward again than the veterans in the field.
That’s the key to a bet here. Both Stellar Wind and Forever Unbridled are five-year-olds, an age at which most mares are either in the covering sheds or have shown they’re not good enough. Beholder struck back for the oldies last year in a thriller with Songbird, but history says we should not bank on a repeat.
Furthermore, both of that pair have been extremely lightly raced this term, bucking a strong trend whereby winners have had five-plus seasonal starts. Two and three is not close to that level of match fitness.
I’ve personally already backed Elate, directly after she won the G1 Beldame last time out, and she’s the one I like. It wasn’t a big speed figure there – she’s never run one – but she got caught in traffic and when the gap came, she burst through it to put the race to bed in a matter of strides. There is definitely more in her tank. I think she’ll be really tough to keep out of the three so, at 9/2, she rates the proverbial each way bet to (almost) nothing. I’ve backed her again at 4/1 (can’t get on with the 9/2 firms) and rate her the best bet on Friday. Paradise Woods is worthy of a saver in my opinion.
Advised 29th October
Elate each way at 9/2 888sport, Unibet (4/1 general)
Paradise Woods saver at 8/1 Lads, Boyle, Sunbets
My going in position was that I wanted to field against the older brigade and I wanted to be with Elate. I wagered robustly in that direction. And I got it badly wrong. Forever Unbridled, third in a better Distaff last year, was first this year, and deservedly so. She was very good on the day. Paradise Woods faded to third having been involved on the sharp end with others, and late running Abel Tasman picked up the place without threatening the winner. Elate was another who either didn't act on the track or showed the effects of a hard season: this was clearly not her running. Sigh.
Moonshine Memories, Heavenly Love
Moonshine Memories, Heavenly Love, Separationofpowers, Piedi Bianchi, Caledonia Road
I’m hanging my hat on this being run at a rapid pace. If that comes to pass there’s a chance that a closer will gun down the early speedsters.
While I think Moonshine Memories is a legitimate jolly, she could be susceptible to the late rally of a filly like Piedi Bianchi (white feet, if you were wondering) or Caledonia Road.
I’ve been quite taken by Piedi Bianchi and reckon she’s a fair each way play in what is a pretty open race. She’ll not be involved in the early skirmishes and will need to make her run entering the home turn: that’s what she did in the Del Mar Deb at this track and 14/1 understates her chance a touch.
Back Piedi Bianchi each way at 14/1 (Betfair Sports, 12/1 general) – advised 3rd November
As projected, the market leaders were also the early race leaders and went unsustainably fast. Alluring Star hung toughest to hold on to second, but she couldn't repel the late rally of Caledonia Road, for whom this more extreme test of stamina was ideal. Piedi Bianchi ran a solid race in fifth (one bookie was apparently paying five places, good luck if you managed to get out on that!). I really should have 'bold typed' Caledonia Road as well as White Feet. But, of course, everything is easy with hindsight.
Pure Sensation, Marsha
Lady Aurelia, Marsha
The Turf Sprint is Lady Aurelia’s to lose. She has a speed edge, a class edge, a great draw and, well, what else do you want?
For those looking to play exacta and/or each way, Pure Sensation could get near the front early, even from the widest draw, and may stay there some way into the home straight. He’s a fast horse who is optimally suited by five furlongs. And he’s 16/1.
Cotai Glory could also grab some of the ‘pieces’ without having any reason to beat Lady Aurelia; and Hogy might run top four or five at a big price.
Sadly, I’m against Marsha, though I hope she runs a belter for her connections: each of Luke Morris, Sir Mark Prescott and the dreamland posse of Elite Racing Club members are into uncharted waters. Good luck guys!
Lady Aurelia to win 6/5 (Betfair, Paddy, winner), 11/10 general – advised 2nd November
Small each way Pure Sensation 16/1 bet365 (NRNB, ¼ 1-2-3) – advised 2nd November
Lady Aurelia, sent off 9/10 favourite, was all at sea around the turn and eased off when her chance was gone. With Marsha not faring brilliantly on the loop either, it was left to unconsidered outsider, Stormy Liberal, to pick up the pieces. He had never even run over five furlongs and was appearing here after five months off. His trainer, Peter Miller, also saddled the second home, Richard's Boy - and the main track Sprint winner, Roy H: a remarkable feat indeed.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Ami’s Mesa, Finley’sluckycharm, Curlin’s Approval
Unique Bella, Curlin’s Approval, plenty of others
This seven furlong ‘sprint’ revolves around the fast and classy three-year-old, Unique Bella. She’s unbeaten in five starts since a debut second, and has won by some wide margins.
If that’s the good news, question marks remain. First, she’s never run a fast figure. Second, she was talked up as a Distaff filly and has ‘bottled’ that engagement. Third, she’s never won in G1 company. Fourth, she has a wide draw in stall eleven. Fifth, she may want to get involved in a tussle for the lead, along with four or five others. Sixth, she was off for five months before her last race. Seventh, she seemed to have an awkward head carriage in the straight in that last race. And eighth, she’s a three-year-old: that age group are collectively 0 from 28 in this race so far, and they’ve had fancied runners before.
She could blitz them, but as you can see there are plenty of reasons to look for something at a bigger price.
If you want to be with the favourite, Unique Bella, fair play and good luck. She’s a very smart filly but there are plenty of reasons to try to get her beaten.
With what is a more difficult conundrum: there are a number of ladies who could prevail including Skye Diamonds, Paulassilverlining, Finley’sluckycharm, Ami’s Mesa, and Curlin’s Approval.
I’m not getting stuck in here but will roll the dice for small money on three.
The first is 50/1 poke Ami’s Mesa: having backed her already at 33/1, I just have to try again at 50’s. The phrase good money after bad springs to mind, but who knows, it could be the score of the weekend!
More realistic, according to the betting at least, is Paulassilverlining. She’s a class mare who was improving all season prior to the Ballerina flop last time out. Chuck that out and she’s second favourite. Instead, she’s 14/1.
Finally, I’ll have a small piece of Curlin’s Approval. I like her quiet preparation and she might be ready to produce a career best. Trap three aids that prospect.
Small bet on Ami’s Mesa at 50/1 general – advised 3rd November
Small bet on Paulassilverlining at 14/1 Betfair Sports/Paddy – advised 3rd November
Small bet on Curlin’s Approval 20/1 Betfair Sports/Paddy – advised 3rd November
Ugh. This was painful viewing. I was in for a proper score had Ami's Mesa (backed at 33/1 and 50/1) been propelled to the front just a touch later. As it was, her jockey - who gave her a fine ride but needed an imperious one - just left her marginally too exposed to the late-running unconsidered 66/1 poke, Bar Of Gold. 11/10 favourite, Unique Bella, was given eight reasons to be beaten - replicated above - and ticked just about every box in defeat.
Filly & Mare Turf
Rhododendron, War Flag
Lady Eli, Rhododendron, many many others
Filly & Mare Turf Selection:
This is not a race for the wagering faint-hearted. There is little between maybe eight of the field and the filly or mare with the best luck on the day is the most likely winner.
On form, I’d want to be with Lady Eli. She is training very well here in Del Mar since shipping across from New York and she’s undoubtedly the most talented of the Americans. But will she get a clear run from stall nine? If she does, I think she’ll win.
If it gets messy, there are so many options. I have to have a small piece of Senga, who may be a bigger price on the tote board than her current UK quote of 14/1. Her trainer looks to have had this in mind for some while and, as long as she doesn’t get shuffled back from trap two, she has a withering turn of pace.
There are credible cases to be made for lots of horses in here. It is not one to get stuck into in my opinion, so the following are token suggestions: I will be backing Senga, saving on Lady Eli, but I won’t get rich or poor whatever happens.
Full disclosure: I backed Grand Jete for small each way money a couple of weeks ago at 20/1. William Hill still offers that price.
Small bet on Lady Eli to win at 11/4 general – advised 2nd November
Small bet on Senga each way at 14/1 bet365 – advised 2nd November (may top up on the local tote on the day if bigger than 18/1)
Lady Eli suffered terrible trouble at the first turn and was badly struck into twice.
This is Lady Eli's hind leg. pic.twitter.com/fLF4KWfkly
— David Grening (@DRFGrening) November 4, 2017
She also lost a shoe and, in the circumstances, ran a very brave race in defeat. She may now not be retired, having been withdrawn from this week's mares' sale. It is to be hoped she gets a shot at redemption - she is some filly.
The main beneficiary was Wuheida, given a fine ride by William Buick, and readily seeing off Rhododendron - herself receiving a great ride but unable to overcome the widest draw of all on a three-turn nine furlong race. That all-Euro exacta paid 85.7/1 - well done if you had it.
Whitmore, Roy H, Imperial Hint
Drefong, Imperial Hint, Roy H
A superb race in prospect, and one where there is no margin for error. A missed beat at the gate, or a four wide trip, or a blocked run, and the game will be up.
There could be a speed duel between Drefong and Takaful, an eventuality which would suit neither. Still, Drefong just has to be respected: he’s the defending champion and he’s unbeaten in six completed starts since a debut defeat, the last three of those in G1 fields.
6/4 is very short, however, which makes for potential value elsewhere. I think both Roy H and Imperial Hint are worthy of support at the prices.
Roy H has the fastest figures in the field and comes here on a technical win streak of five. He wants to be close to, but not on, the lead, something he should be able to manufacture from trap eight with slowish starters to his immediate inside.
Imperial Hint falls into the ‘could be anything’ category. This is the acid test for him, having embarrassed some decent opposition away from the bright lights. His cruising speed has been his biggest asset, including in races with sub-22 first quarters. I’m excited to see what he can do in the big league.
Back Imperial Hint each way at 10/1 Skybet – advised 3rd November
Save on Roy H at 5/1 bet365 (1/4 1-2-3) – advised 3rd November
The wrong way around again. Imperial Hint ran a massive race, mixing it on the speed and only just coming up dry against another Peter Miller sprint sensation. Roy H was a credible rival to Drefong and he did it well. Drefong, sent off at 7/5, missed the break a little and was cooked thereafter.
Midnight Storm, Heart To Heart, World Approval, Ribchester
World Approval, Ribchester, Suedois
A really tricky race with loads of credible winners. World Approval is versatile enough to sit off the expected fierce first fractions, and he’s got a bit of Wise Dan about him. He ought to go close though he’s an unsexy price.
Ribchester would be far from a surprise winner, and he’s the most likely of Euros. But this is a race Britain hasn’t won since Barathea in 1994. Ireland’s record is only slightly better, Ridgewood Pearl prevailing the following year. That’s 22 years since a British or Irish winner. France meanwhile has scored seven times in that intervening period, with the US claiming the rest.
I’m inclined to look for a horse at a price in a race which could go many ways, and the one I think I want to be with – small money only – is Zelzal. He’s been close up in his last two runs in G1 company, and shapes like an improver off that prep effort in the Foret. Faster ground and first time Lasix could make a man of him. 10/1 isn’t a fantastic price, mind you, and he could be a drifter on the local tote board.
I also think Lancaster Bomber could make the frame with a kinder passage. He had plenty go against him two back behind World Approval, and you can ignore the Ascot prep run on soft. Again 12/1 top price may be improved upon on the ‘nanny goat’ here.
Suggestion is to look at the US tote board and take a couple of fliers at prices. My two in that context are Zelzal (hopefully 15/1 or bigger) and Lancaster Bomber (the same).
World Approval will probably be shorter than his 3/1 quote with bet365, so back him now if you want to cheer the jolly. He should go very close.
Above advised 2nd November
World Approval was indeed shorter than his 3/1 quote, though not by much, sent off the 2.7/1 jolly. He was a dominant winner having attained and maintained the perfect stalking position. Others, notably Zelzal under the occasionally hapless Gregory Benoist, fared less well in the run. Lancaster Bomber was second, and one of you may have found the exacta from the bold type comments. Most of you, like me, would not have taken that path... for the record, it paid 47.5/1. Nice. Sigh.
Bolt d’Oro, Solomini, Firenze Fire
Bolt d’Oro should win this despite a wide draw. He’s streets ahead of his rivals on the clock and his trainer believes there’s plenty more to come. Having seen him in the flesh this morning (2nd November), I can relate that he is an absolute tank of a two-year-old. Unless he’s feeling the effects of that massive FrontRunner success, he’ll win.
For each way and/or exacta purposes, Solomini might be a little under-rated. Yes, he was whacked by Bolt last time; but that was just his second start and he had a less than perfect trip. He’s training well and has something of a ‘now’ progressive profile about him. He’s 6/1 on the morning line here, and 16/1 with William Hill. If anything were to go wrong with Bolt, who’s to say Solomini won’t frank the form from a nice inside post?
Bolt d’Oro to win at 11/8 (Skybet) – advised 2nd November
Small each way on Solomini at 16/1 (William Hill) - advised 2nd November
Bolt d'Oro looked rock solid for this, and seemingly only had to run close to his last effort to win comfortably. In spite of being hung wide, he didn't show enough to suggest he ran anywhere near that huge effort one back, and presumably bounced. The one to take advantage was maiden (!), Good Magic. He was second in G1 company last time and was having his third lifetime start - the exact same blueprint deployed by Caledonia Road in the Juvenile Fillies earlier in the day. So easy afterwards...
Solomini rewarded each way suppoer with a very good second, one place in front of Bolt, giving further credence to the notion that the jolly missed his cue for one reason or another.
Ulysses, Cliffs Of Moher, Beach Patrol
Highland Reel, Ulysses, Beach Patrol, Seventh Heaven, Talismanic
Trappy stuff. Obvious horses often get beaten in the Turf, as I’ve consistently discovered to my cost. I’ve got a portfolio of wagers in the race already, the worst of which will see me win slightly more than invested by the time I’ve topped up with Seventh Heaven and Talismanic, both of whom will get optimal conditions for the first time in some time.
I have also backed Highland Reel at 4/1, who strikes as the most likely winner but whose price is unappealing now it’s 2/1.
Ulysses is the one I have to let go – you can’t back ‘em all, can you? – even though he has robust credentials.
But the result I’m really hoping for is Beach Patrol. He’d be a chunky score, and I think he has a decent chance: value even at the remaining 8/1 as an each way bet. American-trained horses have won this in two of the last five years, so write this lad off at your peril.
I’m actually a little uncomfortable offering a selection here, as you can probably tell. My own approach has been scatter-gun, and perhaps scatter-brained, but I’m happy with the position on balance. For giggles, and for the record, I reckon the best remaining value may be…
Back Seventh Heaven each way at 12/1 general – advised 3rd November
Back Beach Patrol each way at 8/1 general – advised 3rd November
This may also be a race where exactas and trifectas comprised of numbers 1, 3, 5, 9, 12 pays off. But then, since when have I ever picked up a payday on the Turf? Caveat emptor, once more.
Ulysses failed to show, unfortunately. In his absence, the above was correct on just about everything, except Seventh Heaven. She ought to have been closer but didn't get one of Seamie's better steers. Talismanic crushed my chances of a second whopper score, this time Beach Patrol being denied. I'd wagered him at 25/1 after his last race for a nice few quid. Win only, of course. The trifecta copped for those who played - I know some did - and paid a bang tidy 260/1.
Arrogate, West Coast, Collected, Gun Runner
By now, if you’ve read my blurb above, you will know I am happy to let Gun Runner beat me if he can. He has too many questions to answer to be considered at shorter than 2/1. To be blunt, I wouldn’t back him at 3/1, and I’d only take him as a saver at 4/1. I may very well be wrong about him, but I think he’s a terrible price.
Arrogate is harder to dismiss. Much harder. And I only do so on the basis of price. Full disclosure: I backed him in late September at 4/1 NRNB so I’m all right Jack. Sorry. With regards to his price now (11/4 top) versus his chance, it’s about right I’d say. He has to show his work can be replicated in a race, he has a dodgy draw on the inside for a slow starter, and he may just not like the Del Mar track with its tight turns and short stretch. I’d love to see him win, but I won’t be going in again at the price.
I’ve a soft spot for Collected. He did it well in the Pacific Classic and he’s a winner – four from four in 2017 and seven from seven lifetime on fast dirt. I think if you back him you’re almost certain to get a run for your money. And I may have a little saver yet, because he’s 7/1 in a spot.
But I’m going to suggest West Coast as the each-way play. Bob Baffert has won the last three Classics, each time with a three-year-old, and this late-maturing improver can take Horse Of The Year honours by prevailing in a thick field.
If you want to cheer a Euro, or even if you don’t especially, I think War Decree is over-priced. Even allowing for the fact he may hate dirt and he may be some way below good enough, there is more than enough juice in his price to take a flier. I backed him at 33/1 in late September when he was an uncertain starter, so I’ve been delighted to see the 50’s non-runner no bet still available now! He’s worth a go at double-carpet or better.
Let’s hope for a great race and, if it’s our night, for a decent payout to close proceedings.
Main Bet: West Coast each way 6/1 NRNB (bet365, Fred, Tote) – advised 1st November
Tiny interest: War Decree each way 50/1 NRNB (bet365) – advised 1st November
I was against Gun Runner. I felt his form in beating War Story and, basically, nothing else was ordinary in the context of a race like this. I also doubted his ability to see out ten furlongs, something he'd failed to do in three prior attempts. I was wrong, wrong, and wrong again. Although Arrogate again showed his disdain for this too tight circuit, everything else seemed to show up and run a race (Irish pair excluded) and Gun Runner repelled them with some style. He did it the hard way, from the front, on a track that wasn't allowing any other to achieve such a feat.
Absolute kudos to the horse, and to his trainer, Steve Asmussen, who was understandably delighted. This clip of him during the closing stages is a thing of beauty.
— Breeders' Cup (@BreedersCup) November 5, 2017
A Baffert brace rounded out the places, course specialist Collected holding off three-year-old West Coast, with the lampooned (by me) War Story running a mighty one to bottom out the superfecta. Arrogate dead heated for fifth, and was in front a furlong after the line. He needs further, or at least a big galloping oval. Sadly, that conjecture will never be challenged as the big A has been retired.
Churchill and War Decree, the Irish pair and the latter of which I had a sneaking fancy for, failed to handle the surface and/or were not good enough. The 50/1 and 33/1 on War Decree was worth the risk, the shorted odds on Churchill were probably not.
This first visit to Del Mar was wonderful in many ways. Unfortunately, almost all of them were non-racing ways. The tracks, both dirt and turf, were unsatisfactory for such a big occasion in my view. Whilst it is reasonable that one has to play the hand one is dealt - put another way, bring a horse that can handle conditions - too much trusted to luck on the lawn, something which cannot be planned for, and the dirt surface was supposed to have been riding faster and fairer.
That's not pocket talk. It can't be when I've mainly backed big prices and very short favourites have sunk left, right and sideways.
Del Mar is a glorious place - here's Dog Beach, just across the way:
Dog Beach. My kind of place... pic.twitter.com/d4d7yQjCRy
— Matt Bisogno (@MattBisogno) November 6, 2017
And I'd love for Breeders' Cup to return. But... that has to be conditional on sorting the tracks. One could almost endure the known crapshoots on the grass if the seven dirt track races were run on a typically fast strip. There is chatter among those in the know that we might see a return in 2021. If that's the case, there are four years to ponder and address.
For now though, thoughts turn to Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby and host of eight previous renewals, for next year's Breeders' Cup, the 35th installment. It will be colder, but there is more chance of a winner to warm the cockles of one's wallet.
More immediately, and closer to home, it's National Hunt just about all the way for the next six months. Bring it on!