Breeders Cup Saturday Preview

I've been slaving and salivating in equal measure, dear readers, over the past day or two. For what will follow over the next day or two is the stuff I love most in my recreation time all year (with the possible exceptions of Cheltenham, Grand National day, and skiing holidays).

Yes, folks, it's Breeders Cup time again, and I've run the rule over the whole 14 event spectacular.

First things first: a few pointers to bear in mind whether you agree with my analyses or not.

On the main track, the surface is synthetic (Pro-Ride). This is different from polytrack, cushion and dirt, and you should consider it advantageous if your choice has already performed favorably on it.

Secondly, in sprint races, boxes 1 and 2 are considered disadvantaged, according to the limited information available thus far (they've only been racing on this stuff for three weeks or so).

Thirdly, its very difficult to go wire to wire in the sprints, or indeed any race on the Pro-Ride track.

On the grass, front runners can do ok, and the track is fair but very sharp.

Enough on course constitution and positional biases, and on to the show:

Marathon

A new race, and hardly a marathon by European standards, the first race on Saturday (at 10.10am local time!) is a 1m4f race on the main track.

Sixties Icon is the jolly, and rightly so. There's not pace on here, but that won't matter, as the Americans couldn't last this distance if they walked the first half mile.

Cedar Mountain is the yardstick. A moderate handicapper in UK, he is competitive (if not quite the best) in the US 'route' races. His 96+ best Racing Post Rating (RPR) compares terribly with Sixties Icon's last two ratings of 117+.

Sixties is a multiple Group race winner and, if acting on the track, wins. Simple as that.

The value against him is the (by now) well touted Muhannak. But, having looked at the prices available with the UK books, 16/1 on Cedar Mountain is not the worst value ever. Might reward each way players.

But its all about the Icon to set us up for the day.

Selection: Sixties Icon (Nap)
Each Way: Cedar Mountain (16/1 or better)

Turf Sprint

A new race, with European hopes carried by Fleeting Spirit and Diabolical.

There is stacks of early speed, and the three confirmed front runners are all drawn wide (California Flag in 10, Mister Nightlinger in 14 and Idiot Proof in 11).

Moreover, this 'sprint' is over 6.5 furlongs, and many of the runners have to prove they can stay that far.

California Flag may do best of the early speedsters, but I fancy something coming off the pace to win this, and Diabolical, drawn well to stalk the pace as is his preference, could come through late.

Fleeting Spirit has the game to win this, but the question is whether she stays this far.

Incidentally, this race - which scoots down the Oak Tree chute - is something of a novelty by US standards, and worth a watch for that alone. Expect some transience in the positions inside the final furlong.

Selection: Diabolical
Each Way: California Flag

Dirt Mile

Aside from the misnomer of the title (its not being run on dirt), this is an interesting race where there seems to be a clear pattern to the pace.

Two Step Salsa and Well Armed will likely go off in front, but we know that this approach is not favoured, so I expect them to come back to the field and be susceptible to late speed from a stalking, or 'pressing' horse.

Well Armed also has a tricky wide draw to overcome, which means he may shoot some of his bolt in tacking across (they start this race on a turn).

My view is that the front two will set the race up for Slew's Tizzy, who will cruise in behind and take it up late on. The 33/1 is massive and I reckon this one has a fantastic chance of making the podium. (Watch your bets: there is also a Slew's Tiznow - a full brother to the selection - in the race).

Of the rest, My Pal Charlie looks fairly priced at 14/1.

Selection: Slew's Tizzy
Alternative: My Pal Charlie

Mile

Having nailed my colours to the mast with Goldikova already, let me add some further fuel to the fire. Firstly, I should say that this is a very high class renewal of the race.

Goldi is clear pick of the Euros, having won two straight Group 1 races over a turf mile in France.

The US form is better than it normally is, and many of the runners are closely matched on speed and collateral form.

There looks to be quite a lot of pace in the race, and I expect Daytona (formerly with Mark Johnston) and Thorn Song to take the field along, with Kip Deville and Precious Kitten not far behind.

Goldi should sit on their tails, ready to pounce in the short straight.

She is comfortably clear on form, and needs only luck in running.

Incidentally, the last time a Euro won this race, it was in 2003 when another French filly (Six Perfections) did the business for Pascal Bary. That race was also at Santa Anita. However, after desperate Dylan Thomas last year, I'm not interested in coincidence facts anymore!

US Ranger might relish the return to a mile after campaigning at lesser trips all year.

Selection: Goldikova (nb)
Each way: US Ranger

Juvenile

A nightmare race to predict, without a single confirmed pace horse in the race.

The best horse may well be Bushranger, but he is unproven on the surface, or at the trip, and has a shocker of a draw.

However, if they dawdle as I suspect they will, then his draw and stamina doubts may be mitigated. The surface remains a worry, but the price of around 10's that I expect will tempt dollars from my wallet.

Square Eddie, who wouldn't live with the Bushranger at home, made a highly impressive dirt debut in the States and has changed hands out of John Best's stable.

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He could nevertheless give the selection most to do.

The Americans look moderate in truth, and Street Hero may be the best of a poor lot.

Selection: Bushranger
Alternatives: Square Eddie, Street Hero

Juvenile Turf

Again, there's not much early speed here. And that which there is comes from two of the poorer horses in the race (Ninth Client and Orthodox).

No matter, for they will at least set the race up for the better horses (in theory at least).

However, the fastest US horses - on the Beyer speed ratings - are both drawn wide, and will need plenty of luck from their post positions.

On form to date, Westphalia is the best of the Euro trio, over Donativum and Paddy The Pro. But Dona is definitely improving, and will relish the extra distance. John Gosden learnt his business out here, and would love nothing more than to put one over his old masters.

In a race that could well provide a shock, I'm rowing in with yet another Euro in Donativum.

If not Dona, the shock may come from Coronet of a Baron, who only just gave best to Midshipman in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) last time. He's never raced on turf before, but this race is ripe for a shock and he's suitably unconsidered.

Selection: Donativum
Alternative: Coronet Of A Baron

Sprint

A nigh on impossible conundrum, where stakes should be kept to a minimum. Fierce early pace is expected, and those that contest it are doomed to heavy defeat in my opinion.

This race looks set for a closer, who can hang tough off the early gallop, and carry on rolling down the stretch.

Boxes 1 and 2 have a tough task statistically, so Cost of Freedom (also a front runner) and Street Boss look in trouble.

Midnight Lute would pick these up and carry them on his best form of last year, but one weak run this term doesn't lend confidence to his chance.

First Defence stays further than this six furlongs, which may be a key attribute, and has the pace profile to trouble the judge. 16/1 is too big, and I see him running a good race.

But, like I said, it looks nigh on impossible to me.

In Summation may also get into the frame.

Selection: First Defence
Alternative: In Summation

Turf

A European benefit, with no fewer than seven of the last nine winners (including a dead heat) going to our side of the pond. Expect that to extend to eight from ten.

The problem is determining which one to back though...

Despite the presence of a pacemaker, Red Rock Canyon, this might still be run at a crawl as the key protagonists ignore him.

I reckon the slow early pace will suit those runners that like to race close the pace, and this favours Soldier of Fortune and Eagle Mountain.

Form at the trip and on fast ground points to Soldier of Fortune.

Red Rocks looks to have a tough task at this third run in the race (1st and 3rd in the other two). He may be past his best now.

I fancy Soldier of Fortune - horses beaten in the Arc have a decent record - and I reckon this is a race where you could play trifectas and superfectas (first four in the correct order!) with the EC quintet of Soldier, Eagle Mountain, Conduit, Red Rocks and Winchester.

The last named is pretty interesting and open to the most improvement. He might make the silver medal position.

Selection: Soldier of Fortune
Each Way: Winchester

Classic

My record of finding the winner in this race is poor, with only Invasor sparing my blushes. I don't expect that to change Saturday evening.

There is absolutely no pace here, and it could turn into a funeral procession for the first half mile.

That being the case, Curlin may be forced to cut out his own running, which clearly makes him vulnerable.

The expected lack of early speed gives doubtful stayers like Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator a better theoretical chance, but Europe has never won this race, and they've had lots of decent chances.

But, in a supremely wide open event, maybe this will FINALLY be our turn.

I've tipped a lot of European horses in these posts, not out of patriotism, but because I believe we've genuinely got some fantastic chances. I'm expecting to be hoarse by the end of the second day.

Putting up Raven's Pass and Duke of Marmalade IS based on hope and pseudo-patriotism, as they have as good a chance as many others. They could equally sink without trace.

Best US outsider looks to me like Student Council, who could sit in and pounce late off the pedestrian meter.

Selection: Raven's Pass
Alternative: Duke of Marmalade
Outsider: Student Council

So, there it is. My hopes laid bare. I shall be wagering and shouting for many / most of the Euros. They're all in there pitching and, if you've got satellite telly, you should really have a look at this.

It's going to be very exciting, and we might just have a LOT to shout about!

Brrrrrrrrringiton!!!!!

Matt

1 reply
  1. Anonymous says:

    Excellent preview Matt. I will certainly be following your selections. Let’s hope for some luck – Tim

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