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Monday Musings: Thoughts Turn to Winter

How Cheltenham ever managed to race for two days heaven only knows, writes Tony Stafford. As we – Steve Howard, a good friend whose mortgage-securing acumen helped me a couple of times in my financially-injudicious past, and me – followed directions to Fergal O’Brien’s new yard less than ten miles short of the track, water streamed or rather surged through the gulleys next to the road. Evidence of what it must have been like on Thursday, when the decision to abandon Friday’s card was made, remained all too visible.

Fergal’s brilliant start since his switch from alongside Nigel Twiston-Davies has been accompanied by the sights and sounds of extensive building work and on Sunday morning as a group of existing and prospective owners concluded their visit, the mud was testimony to the recent climatic excesses.

On a former working farm, non-descript barns have been imaginatively transformed to luxurious housing for the equine performers that have propelled O’Brien into the horse racing consciousness. He is one of the star names of this early phase of full-on jumping. As winter extends its grip, as by some forecasters’ accounts it may well do in this most capricious of years, you had to wonder how horse boxes will negotiate the gradients of the narrow roads by which you approach the farm.

Kim Bailey, just down the road from O’Brien posted pictures one day late last week of his snow-decked driveway, so there must have been some of that at his near neighbour’s place. The sign for “flood” showed where the worst had been, and Sally Randell, Fergal’s right-hand, still apparently believed it was a hazard, warning us while beaming us in that “your car will get through it okay”. It did because there wasn’t one, but we marvelled at the thought of how close to being flooded some of the properties along the way must have been on Friday.

The O’Brien team had a rare disappointing day yesterday, Benny’s Bridge never giving the slightest indication that he might replicate his last-to-first spectacular from the last meeting, and the two in the bumper finishing just outside the placings as a tag team.

Beneficiaries of the day were clearly the Pipes, with senior (Martin) accompanying son David to the sports. There were plenty of O’Neill’s there too, Jonjo senior and wife Jacqui, nephew Joe, who helps run the admin at Jackdaws Castle, and his dad over from Ireland for the weekend. Jonjo junior, recently back from injury, was the chosen one to steer the Pipe-trained and J P McManus-owned Duc De Beauchene in the opening conditional riders’ race – a benefit for Pipe in recent years – and he did that with style and exquisite timing.

If that success was predictable, 100-30 in a massive field the give-away, the last-race bumper win of Israel Champ was less so, as his 16-1 SP testified. Here it was supposed to be J P again with the once-raced course winner Times Flies By, who had given Barry Geraghty a comeback winner after his latest injury absence at the previous meeting, but that one was unable to peg back Tom Scudamore on the Pipe runner.

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Israel Champ, a wide-margin Irish point-to-point debut winner in the spring had been “expected” when running for the first time at Worcester less than a month ago, starting 13-8 favourite but, after setting what the race-readers observed was a very slow pace, faded into a modest sixth.

Up a good deal in class yesterday, and with Scudamore riding him for the first time, this was more traditional Pipe-Scudamore mode from a generation and a half ago. Now Tom orchestrated a sound gallop, one which none of the others, struggling to decide which portion of the by-now heavily poached terrain to choose for this last of 15 races over the two days, was able to counter.

Cheltenham very helpfully kept us appraised of the jockey standings and as we left the track after the last, the honours board listed a number of riders each with the number “1” alongside their names. In fact, possibly uniquely, especially with a couple of four-runner races yesterday, 15 different jockeys got into the winner’s position over the two days so there was no room for at least half the names to be displayed. I bet Richard Johnson, who won the first race on Saturday, never expected to share the spoils with 14 other riders.

Despite Time Flies By’s defeat in the bumper, J P will have been happy enough with his day’s work, present at Cheltenham to welcome Defi Du Seuil, who outpointed Politologue, Simply Ned and Saint Calvados up the hill to win an intriguing Shloer Chase. He also had doubles at Punchestown, initiated by Yanworth in his first try over the Banks course for Enda Bolger, and Cork where Joseph O’Brien chipped in with two young hurdlers with an obvious future.

There was no McManus winner at Fontwell where pride of place went to Gary Moore and his remarkable young stayer Goshen. After three runs as a juvenile, ninth of 12 at 40/1; eighth of 15 at 100-1 and tenth of 11, again at 100-1, beaten 21 lengths, Gary might have thought a 64 rating a shade defensive on the part of the officials.

Whether he realised just how ineffective that defence was when the horse showed up at Brighton early in June was not obvious from the betting, Goshen eventually strolling away to a 12-length win from a Mark Johnston odds-on shot. A week later I remember thinking him a mad short price to follow up at Sandown with other progressive young stayers in the field, but he won that by nine lengths off 70 (6lb penalty). After Sandown he again went missing until late October, reappearing at Nottingham, and again winning by a wide margin, this time seven lengths off a perch of 80, provoking a furrther 8lb rise.

Writing the Racing Post Analysis on that Brighton run back in June, Gary Savage made an intuitive point that Goshen is jumping-bred and the way he demolished his field by 23 lengths at Fontwell marks him out as exactly that. One downside was that he was showed exaggerated right-handed tendencies from the start and went markedly in that direction at the last two obstacles, between which Jamie Moore spent as much time looking back than forward. Goshen has to be a Triumph Hurdle candidate if the right-handedness, no use at all at Cheltenham, can be eradicated or at least tempered.

While Jamie was minding his father’s shop close to home in Sussex, big brother Ryan was continuing his world tour in Kyoto, Japan, along with new champion Oisin Murphy, William Buick and multiple former French champion Christophe Soumillon. They competed in the Mile Championship, worth a shade over £800k and won by Indy Champ ridden by local jockey Kenichi Ikezoe. Murphy did best of the visiting quartet, collecting his rider’s portion of the 200 grand his mount Persian Knight picked up for third in the 17-horse field. Oisin has ridden enough in Japan not to be impressed by the conversion of currency from pounds sterling to yen, but for you and me 140 yen to the pound would make an eye-opening sum.

Ryan, 16th of 17, and the other visitors would have had to be content with the appearance money one assumes they are paid for such jaunts. Meanwhile Ryan’s regular Ballydoyle team-mates, Seamus Heffernan and Wayne Lordan, were on Aidan O’Brien duty at Lingfield the day before, riding Simply Beautiful and Quote, fulfilling their Gillies Stakes engagements originally frustrated when Doncaster’s last day was washed out the previous weekend. Both were also out of the money, Lordan suggesting that Quote would have fared much better if able to run in the mud rather than fast Polytrack.

Meanwhile, Frankie Dettori checked in at Lingfield for two wins, starting with Scentasia for John Gosden, who was on the premises along with wife Rachel Hood and replete with US-style cap. With Lord North a non-runner, Frankie pulled rank on this year’s French champion and Arc hero Pierre-Charles Boudot, claiming back the ride on Crossed Baton when Lord North was withdrawn from the Churchill Stakes field.

It wasn’t a wasted trip for the Frenchman though, as in the opener he squeezed through on the William Haggas-trained Fruition, clearly enjoying his win in the Royal colours, and ran closest to Frankie on the Chrisophe Ferland-trained Velma Valento in the aforementioned Gillies Stakes.

My Law didn’t quite get her first win but a year on from her sale, Sod’s Law’s little sister gained her first second place in the opener for Jim Boyle, so promises soon to become a fifth winner for her dam Lawyer’s Choice after Dutch Art Dealer, Dutch Law and Highway Robber as well as Sod’s Law who was sold last month and will be racing in Ireland in the winter.

The day before Lingfield, I received WhatsApp messages from Joseph O’Brien, showing two fleeting sights of the latest of the family to go into training. Soon after came word from Joseph that this yearling colt has done well physically since starting exercise and is in the main training yard. This was a great fillip for everyone and I can’t wait to get to Pilltown to see him and the set-up. We’re trying for Gaelic Law which Ray Tooth agrees would be an appropriate name.

Stat of the Day, 18th November 2019

Saturday's pick was...

2.10 Lingfield : Scentasia @ 4/1 WON at 11/8 (Keen, tracked leader 2f, soon steadied back and close up, headway 2f out, soon led, pushed out and won readily by 1.75 lengths)

Monday's pick runs in the...

3.30 Plumpton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

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Velvet Cognac @ 10/3 or 3/1 BOG

...in a 9-runner, Class 5, Handicap Hurdle for 4yo+ over 3m1f on Soft (Heavy in places) ground worth £3,119 to the winner...

Why?...

This 11yr old, Lawney Hill-trained gelding was a winner last time out, when staying on well to score by four lengths over 3m2f on soft ground at Fontwell in another Class 5 contest 10 days ago. That was his first win under Rules, but with 3 wins (inc. both soft and heavy ground) and 9 places from 17 three mile PTP contests, this is certainly within him.

Trainer Lawney Hill is 11 from 28 (39.3% SR) for 26.66pts (+95.2% ROI) since 2013 with her NH handicappers sent back out within a fortnight of a top three finish and these include...

  • 9/20 (45%) for 22.65pts (+113.3%) at the same class as LTO
  • 8/16 (50%) for 14.17pts (+88.6%) at odds shorter than 4/1
  • 6/12 (50%) for 13.15pts (+109.6%) since 2016
  • 5/16 (31.25%) for 10.28pts (+64.3%) from LTO winners
  • 5/14 (35.7%) for 12.61pts (+90.1%) with 9-12 yr olds
  • 5/13 (38.5%) for 9.29pts (+71.5%) at Class 5
  • 4/9 (44.4%) for 12.09pts (+134.3%) at 6-10 days since that run
  • 3/4 (75%) for 6.4pts (+160%) on Soft/Heavy
  • and 2/2 (100%) for 3.88pts (+194%) on Soft

Meanwhile since 2016, Mrs Hill's NH handicappers sent off at Evens to 8/1 on ground officially deemed Soft or "worse" are 7 from 18 (38.9% SR) for 13.72pts (+76.2% ROI), all of which were male runners and include...

  • 5/10 (50%) for 14.6pts (+146%) on Soft
  • 4/6 (66.6%) for 7.81pts (+130.2%) from LTO winners
  • and 4/6 (66.6%) for 7pts (+116.6%) at 6-15 dslr

And as this is Lawney's only runner of the day, you might (or might not!) be interested to know that since 2016, when her only runner of the day is an NH handicapper priced at 8/1 or shorter, she is 17 from 54 (31.5% SR) for 50.04pts (+92.7% ROI), from which...

  • 17/40 (42.5%) for 64.04pts (+160.1%) in the 1st and 3rd quadrimester of the year (ie September to April)
  • 8/20 (40%) for 33.19pts (+166%) in fields of 8-10 runners
  • 8/19 (42.1%) for 27.14pts (+142.9%) during the final quarter of the year (ie Oct-Dec)
  • 7/16 (43.75%) for 26.21pts (+163.8%) at Class 5
  • 5/16 931.25%) for 12.1pts (+75.7%) here at Plumpton
  • 5/9 (55.6%) for 19.34pts (+214.9%) from LTO winners
  • 4/9 (44.4%) for 13.43pts 9+149.2%) on Soft ground
  • and 4/8 (50%) for 18.42pts (+230.3%) from 11/12 yr olds...

...all of which points to...a 1pt win bet on Velvet Cognac @ 10/3 or 3/1 BOG as was available from Bet365 & Betway respectively at 5.15pm on Sunday, whilst Hills were matching the lower offer, but don't/won't go BOG until midnight. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 3.30 Plumpton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

SotD Update, 11th to 16th November 2019

November continues to be far kinder to us than October was and the fact that there has been no change in approach or method behind the selection process suggests that October was indeed just a freak result for us.

Friday's winner was our 650th in total, which was a pleasing milestone to hit, but there's no resting on any laurels, I'm still in deficit from the start of last month and I'm keep to claw that back as quick as I possibly can.

Selections & Results : 11/11/19 to 16/11/19

11/11 : The King's Baby @ 3/1 BOG PU at 13/8
12/11 : Potters Hedger @ 4/1 BOG 2nd at 3/1
13/11 : Calivigny @ 4/1 WON at 2/1
14/11 : Christmas in USA @ 9/2 WON at 9/4
15/11 : Oriental Cross @ 6/1 (4.8/1 after a 20p R4!) WON at 9/2
16/11 : Scentasia @ 4/1 WON at 11/8

11/11/19 to 16/11/19 :
4 winning bets from 6 = 66.66% SR
P/L: +15.30pts

November 2019 :
6 winners from 14 = 42.86% SR
P/L: +18.30pts
ROI = +130.71%

2019 to date :
61 winners from 256 = 23.83% SR
P/L: +49.05pts
ROI = +19.16%

Overall:
651 winners from 2432 = 26.77% S.R
P/L: +545.46pts
ROI: +22.43%

P.S. The full month by month SotD story can be found right here.
P.P.S The review of SotD's 2012 performance is
here.
Whilst the details for 2013 are now online here.
And the figures for 2014 are
now available here.
Our review of 2015 can be found right here
Whilst 2016's details are right here
And here is the full story from 2017.

2018 was the latest full year for SotD and the yearly review is right here

Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so why not take the plunge and get involved right now?

Click here for more details.

Monday Musings: A Winning Nap

So much happens in a week in racing. Last Monday morning I sat in front of the computer screen anticipating the Melbourne Cup and, a few days further along, the conclusion of the 2019 turf Flat season, writes Tony Stafford. The Cup did indeed stop the nation and I was up at 4 a.m. to watch it, and the Flat season did indeed conclude but without Doncaster, flooded in common with so much of much of the Don Valley in the worst conditions in living memory.

It is in no way meant to trivialise such a harrowing experience for so many people around the country and particularly in South Yorkshire and surrounding counties, but the weather, so different from the autumn of last year, has enabled jumping stables to get their horses onto grass with the result that fields for National Hunt racing are already looking healthier than in several recent late autumns.

Armistice Day, today being the 100th anniversary of the first one following World War 1, is a significant watershed between the racing seasons. This year, there is an actual week’s break in all-weather Flat racing and as long as not too many jump courses are unraceable, it should be competitive stuff starting at Kempton and Carlisle this afternoon. The ceremonial part of Armistice Day of course was yesterday, and as I’d decided to enjoy the rare glimpse of sunshine and travel to Sandown Park for the Sunday fixture, the usual sequence of military marches from the Cenotaph had to be experienced on the car radio.

One interested onlooker at both was the Queen, nowadays observing from the Foreign Office building alongside as Prince Charles leads her more youthful wreath-laying male relatives at ground level. I bet she wished she could have taken the car for the 15-mile hop down to Esher where her Kayf Tara gelding Keen On came with a thrilling run to deny the favourite Protektorat up the hill in a very hot novice hurdle. Nicky Henderson, who trains this prospect for eventual honours, also sent out Santini to win the following Intermediate Chase.

The official going for Sandown before Saturday had already been “heavy” so it was with severe misgivings that afternoon that I set off on a near reconnaissance of yesterday’s ride around the M25. The whole way to my destination for a brief meeting close to Kempton Park I travelled in near torrential rain and it only began to ease halfway home three hours or so later. Sandown can’t be on, I thought, but it was. Andrew Cooper certainly has something when it comes to course clerkmanship, or maybe he’s just lucky when he and his courses need to be.

A feature of yesterday’s racing was a hurdles double by the in-form Fergal O’Brien team with proven mudlarks Lord of the Island in the two-and-a-half- mile handicap, and Totterdown, who repeated last year’s all-the-way victory in the two-mile handicap. Totterdown had been in the Richard Phillips stable a year ago and it was some surprise on looking up that day’s results that I noted the ground had also been described as heavy on the hurdles course.

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Perhaps even more surprisingly, both O’Brien winners clocked faster times, in the case of Lord of the Island significantly so, than a year ago. Tottterdown made all on both occasions, in the earlier race as a 25-1 shot in a 20-runner field, going clear on the bridle two hurdles out and lasting home well by six lengths. Yesterday, at even money, he was sent into an immediate long lead by Paddy Brennan and none of his seven rivals ever got nearer than the ten lengths by which he passed the post in front, 0.40sec faster than in his initial victory.

With Doncaster abandoned on Saturday, Southwell’s early evening card which wound up Flat racing for a week until Wolverhampton next Saturday evening, took my notice. I mentioned here recently about my belated return to the world of horse race tipping competitions and the fact that along with a little job for Fromthestables.com, secured in a time of need with the help of the owner/editor of this publication, came a place in the William Hill Radio Naps table.

Fergal O’Brien is one of 16 trainers whose thoughts have gone towards my daily nap selections since I joined the team in February and for the first few months I was genuinely and blissfully unaware that the naps appeared anywhere. Then in late May it was mentioned that I was close to the leaders in the said event. By late summer I had taken the lead and it was one that was still in place on Saturday morning, the final day of the competition.

Doncaster’s cancellation denied me a much-fancied candidate in the big race, but also prevented the two closest rivals from having a decent chance of finding a feasible outsider to bridge the gap. My Saturday tip faded away in the Wincanton gloom just after 1 p.m. leaving me to make the drive to South West London fearing the 16-1 morning-price shot selected by the main challenger in a 0-50 classified race at Southwell would unseat me at the last. Opening at 10-1, the horse drifted out to 14’s causing a few quakes before settling at her SP of 12-1. The fact she was never in contention behind a Mick Appleby steering job was academic but pleasing in the extreme.

I’d won, but I couldn’t tell anyone. Suddenly on Friday, in between calls, my phone suddenly stopped working. Calls stopped coming in, as did texts and Whats Apps but I was stuck in such a ridiculous traffic jam after a major accident having dropped Mrs Stafford at a nearby Underground station, that it took me until after 4 p.m., two hours after setting off on the five-minute trip, to get home.

If there’s a telecoms expert in this house, there’s only one qualifier but she wasn’t due home until 9 pm and all my fiddling with the phone’s various menus had no effect. When she finally returned she concluded it was probably the Sim card, but in practical terms it wasn’t possible for that to be attended to until Monday morning from the Ray Tooth office.

So I decided – well one of us did – to get a pay as you go Sim to see if it worked in my phone, and fortunately it did but with hardly any of the numbers on its memory. It wasn’t until 9 pm on Saturday evening that part of the mystery was solved. Harry Taylor called round on his way to work asking “What’s happened to your phone?”

He said: “I called early yesterday afternoon and a woman answered saying her name was Anita. I rang off and dialled again and the same woman answered. I asked her to tell me the number and it was yours.

“I thought I’d ring again, but not just repeating the last call on the menu but dialling out the numbers and this time there was just a message. I thought ‘she knows it’s me and isn’t answering’ so I got Alan Newman to call and he had the same result.” So too, later did Steve Gilbey, Ray Tooth’s right-hand man and Mrs S. Seems someone got my number almost in mid-conversation. Strange. I’ve no idea at time of writing whether I’ll ever get the old number back.

Rekindling just a scintilla of the type of lifestyle that accompanied tipping horses every day for all those years became remarkably comfortable, indeed almost routine, even after 17 years of not living that way. It’s sharpened me up, not just in trying to find what might be winning each day, and tells me maybe I should never have left the Daily Telegraph. But then, they wouldn’t have waited much longer to get rid of me anyway!

- TS

Stat of the Day, 11th November 2019

Saturday's pick was...

1.50 Wincanton : Danse Idol @ 9/2 BOG 7th at 11/4 (Bit keen chasing leaders on inside, went 2nd 5th, not fluent next, lost 2nd after 3 out, weakening when mistake next)

Monday's pick runs in the...

3.15 Kempton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Your first 30 days for just £1

The King's Baby @ 3/1 BOG 

...in a 6-runner, Class 3, Mares Handicap Chase for 4yo+ over 2m5f on Good ground worth £9,747 to the winner...

Why?...

The horse...is an 8 yr old mare who has finished 33112 in her last five runs, so she's clearly in good nick and these include winning both her starts over fences this year. These were over today's 2m5f trip and also over 2m7f, so she shouldn't be found wanting for stamina either. Overall, she has 2 wins and a place from three efforts at today's trip.

Our trainer...is Harry Whittington, whose horses claimed 2 wins and a place from 6 attempts last week, whilst his chasers are 31 from 141 (22% SR) for 6.91pts (+4.9% ROI) backed blindly since the start of 2014. As you know, I don't follow anyone blindly and always seek to improve the percentages whilst reducing the number of bets placed. Any filters imposed must be logical, of course, and with today's contest in mind, Harry's chasers are...

  • 31/118 (26.3%) for 29.91pts (+25.3%) in fields of 4-12 runners
  • 26/69 (37.7%) for 24.46pts (+35.5%) at odds shorter than 5/1
  • 24/82 (29.3%) for 22.85pts (+27.9%) in fields of 4-8 runners
  • 11/42 (26.2%) for 29.48pts (+70.2%) in November/December
  • 10/41 (24.4%) for 5.00pts (+12.2%) at Class 3
  • 8/24 (33.3%) for 15.08pts (+62.9%) in November
  • 8/19 (42.1%) for 22.01pts (+115.9%) after less than three weeks rest
  • and 1/3 (33.3%) for 4.08pts (+136%) here at Kempton

And our jockey...Richard Johnson may never have actually ridden one of Harry's chasers before, but the pair are 3 from 6 (50% SR) for 8.73pts (+145.5% ROI) over hurdles, including 1 from 1 here at Kempton.

Richard's own record here at Kempton is good and shows 8 winners from 39 (20.5% SR) for 7.82pts (+20% ROI) in handicap chases since the start of 2014, including of relevance today...

  • 8/34 (23.5%) for 12.82pts (+37.7%) over trips of 2m2f and beyond
  • 8/32 (25%) for 14.82pts (+46.3%) in fields of 5-10 runners
  • 8/29 (27.6%) for 17.82pts (+61.4%) at Class 2/3
  • 7/31 (22.6%) for 11.11pts (+35.9%) on horses aged 7 or older
  • and 7/21 (33.3%) for 14.37pts (+68.4%) when sent off shorter than 6/1

...whilst on horses like The King's Baby who tick all five above boxes ie aged 7+ at sub-6/1 odds in 5-10 runner, Class 2/3 handicap chases over 2m2f and beyond, Richard Johnson is 6 from 10 (60% SR) for 20.66pts (+206.6% ROI) with two of the four losers claiming runner-up finishes...

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on The King's Baby @ 3/1 BOG as was available from Bet365, Betway, Hills & Ladbrokes at 5.20pm on Sunday. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 3.15 Kempton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

SotD Update, 4th to 9th November 2019

I said last week that I'd detected some signs of a slow return to form, but that more improvement was needed and that I was confident it will come, but I'd prefer it to happen quickly.

Well, this week did show further signs of recovery, but like a patient coming back from illness, it's not going to happen overnight. That said, it was good to finally snap the losing streak with a pair of midweek winners and with three further runners-up, we really weren't too far from an excellent week, not that a 5pt profit isn't worth having, of course!

Selections & Results : 04/11/19 to 09/11/19

04/11 : Sir Egbert @ 3/1 BOG 2nd at 11/10
05/11 : Purple Paddy @ 5/1 BOG WON at 10/3
06/11 : Dance Fever @ 3/1 BOG WON at 4/1
07/11 : Groupie @ 4/1 BOG 2nd at 4/1
08/11 : Love The Leader @ 7/2 BOG 2nd at 12/1 
09/11 : Danse Idol @ 9/2 BOG 7th at 11/4

04/11/19 to 09/11/19 :
2 winning bets from 6 = 33.33% SR
P/L: +5.00pts

November 2019 :
2 winners from 8 = 25.00% SR
P/L: +3.00pts
ROI = +37.50%

2019 to date :
57 winners from 250 = 22.80% SR
P/L: +33.75pts
ROI = +13.50%

Overall:
647 winners from 2426 = 26.67% S.R
P/L: +530.16pts
ROI: +21.85%

P.S. The full month by month SotD story can be found right here.
P.P.S The review of SotD's 2012 performance is
here.
Whilst the details for 2013 are now online here.
And the figures for 2014 are
now available here.
Our review of 2015 can be found right here
Whilst 2016's details are right here
And here is the full story from 2017.

2018 was the latest full year for SotD and the yearly review is right here

Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so why not take the plunge and get involved right now?

Click here for more details.

An Overview of NH Jockey Pace Profiles

In my last article I examined pace in general in National Hunt racing, writes Dave Renham. I looked at some overview stats for all race types before focusing on chases, as the figures suggest these races offer the strongest front running edge. In this article I am going to focus on jockeys to see if there are any noteworthy patterns or trends from which we may be able to take advantage.

For new readers, when looking at pace I’m looking at the initial pace in a race and the position that horses take up early on. In National Hunt races I am generally focusing on the time between the start and the completion of the first obstacle, though it may be a slightly longer section than that sometimes. The pace section on geegeez.co.uk is the basis for my number crunching, and that can be found within any racecard in the PACE tab, as well as in its own tool, the Pace Analyser. The data is split into four run styles – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets is the pace score that is assigned to each run style. Hence the higher the score the nearer to the front a horse has been in the early stages of a race. I think it is important to note that these early positions tend to remain fairly similar for the first half of the race at least.

The data set I am going to use is the same as I used in my last article – I am looking at all National Hunt races in the UK from 1/1/16 to 31/8/19.

In terms of the position a horse takes up early in the race one could argue that the most influential factor is the jockey. In National Hunt races there are no starting stalls and hence it is up to the jockey how near to the front he/she is when the flag falls and the race starts. They also have a key influence in the first furlong, in terms of how quickly they want their horse to run and what position they want to be in the field. Now of course the trainer may have given the jockey instructions as to how they want the horse to be ridden so this can be a factor as well. Also, we need to appreciate that certain horses do have a preferred running style, and this will be taken into account by both trainer and jockey.

My starting point in terms of data is a look at the figures for all runners during the period of study (these are the same figures that were used at the start of the previous article). They give us base figures from which to work:

The advantage of racing up with or close to the pace is clear to see. However, I believe that this front running bias is still not fully recognised or appreciated by many trainers and jockeys.

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Baseline established, I now want to look at jockey performance in more detail. As a starting point let us see which jockeys took the early lead the most (in % terms). I have included only jockeys who had at least 200 rides (all running styles) during the time frame specified. (For comparison purposes the average percentage figure for all jockeys is just under 16%.)

Matt Griffiths heads the list – he has ridden most for trainer Jeremy Scott and, when they team up together, he takes an early lead just over 30% of the time. Now these percentages are interesting and useful for betting / trading purposes, but it is also important to appreciate how successful a jockey is when going to the front early. It is no good taking your horse to the front a significant proportion of the time, if you rarely go on to win the race.

Going back to Griffiths riding for Scott, of these front runners, 25% have gone on to win. Compare this to a 7% success rate on horses that are held up for this jockey/trainer combination. Hence it makes sense to look at the jockeys who have secured the highest win percentages on their respective front runners:

Harry Skelton has an exceptional 36.5% success rate on front runners. His win strike rate on front runners is similar across chases (37%), hurdles (36.1%) and bumpers (36.8%). In lower class races his strike rate increases further – in races of class 4 or 5 Skelton has produced a front running win percentage of 43.6%. For the record, Skelton rides primarily for his brother Dan and it seems this combination really appreciate the potential advantage front runners have.

Moving back to jockeys and how often they take the early lead, let us look at the jockeys who have led early less than 10% of the time (well below the average).

Top jockey Barry Geraghty, retained by leading owner JP McManus in Britain, has remarkably low figures – he has led early in just 11 races from a total of 533. I find that staggering. Of those 11 he won on 4 of them (36.4%). He does have an excellent strike rate on prominent runners (34.9%) and perhaps he just prefers tracking the pace rather than setting it. For the record, his win strike rate on horses that race mid pack is 14.2% and on hold up horses is 18.7%.

And finally for this article, I have created average pace figures for jockeys. Essentially, I have added up the pace scores of each jockey and then divided by the number of races they have ridden in. The higher the average score the more likely a jockey is to ride up with or close to the pace. The table below shows the top 40 jockeys in terms of average pace figure:

Danny Cook tops the list and is a jockey that I think is worth keeping an eye on if riding a horse that is likely to front run. He has a decent win record on front runners, and has even won from the front on 33/1 and 50/1 outsiders.

Of course, this type of article can only scratch the surface, but the Geegeez platform really allows you to go into much greater detail should you wish to. If you are keen to dig further, using Query Tool, expect it to really help your long term betting success; and it would be great if readers were happy to share their findings with other members on the forum or even in the comments below.

- Dave Renham

National Hunt Season Preview 2019/20

Strictly speaking, the 2019/20 jumps season began back on May 5th but for most everything that has happened since then and through the summer has been shadow-boxing, writes Tony Keenan. There were good races at Galway along with graded races sprinkled across other country tracks but the best of Irish national hunt racing didn't get going until Down Royal last weekend, and will really start firing when moving on to the traditional winter tracks like Navan, Fairyhouse and Punchestown. So, what are the things to look out at those venues across the next few months?

 

Paul Townend – How does he handle the pressure?

Townend is already a two-time champion jockey, those wins coming last season and in 2010/11, though both were largely the by-product of Ruby Walsh injuries. Judging on the pace he has set in the first six months – 49 winners through the end of October – he should be winning again entirely under his own steam, that figure broadly in line with what previous champions have had at this stage of the year in the season of their victories.

Like last time, when Rachael Blackmore was his biggest danger, he faces a somewhat unusual challenger in the shape of presumptive champion conditional Darragh O’Keeffe who has set a record pace in his own grade; but, in reality, if Townend stays sound the title is his to lose.

There will be pressure to retain his title, but one suspects that won’t matter as much to the jockey as his desire to perform on the big day, a point he made clear in a September Irish Field interview with Daragh Ó’Conchuir. Townend opined that "the big thing would be the Grade 1's [and] if we can get one of them on the board early it’d be a big help".

He went on to say that even a short time without one of those big winners can put a weight on a rider’s shoulders: "You carry that. You mightn’t be riding any worse but it’ll be there in the back of your mind: ‘you need this’. I think it comes with any sport, a big result is the only way to deal with it."

Townend knows what this feels like as there have been times over the past few years when there have mini-droughts of this type; when standing in for Ruby Walsh at the 2017 Christmas Festival at Leopardstown, he won a Grade 1 on the first day with Footpad but after that the likes of Min, Nichols Canyon, Yorkhill and Faugheen were all beaten. Then there was Al Boum Photo-gate at Punchestown, a ride that remains unexplained to this day, the jockey never satisfactorily dealing with the reasons behind it in public.

There have been many times over the past decade where Townend has been the lead jockey at Closutton but on those occasions Walsh was always coming back; that is no longer the case and he can expect to be second-guessed about many things over the coming months.

Walsh himself was no stranger to that – his propensity for falling off at the last, whether variance or something else, was much discussed – but one thing he rarely got wrong was in choosing the right horse. That’s a whole other layer to the pressure the Mullins job brings and, while the trainer should be a help in that regard, he has plenty of other jockeys most of whom are related to him.

 

Gordon Elliott – What can he do to prepare for Gigginstown leaving?

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This is not quite year one AG (After Gigginstown) for Gordon Elliott, the champion owner set to phase out his racing interests over the next five years, but nor it is unreasonable to think that this might be the biggest challenge of Elliott's career. Aside from those trainers that operate privately, there can hardly be a big yard that is more dominated by a single owner than Elliott’s: of the 312 individual runners he had in 2018/19, 103 (or 34%) were owned by Michael O’Leary.

Those 103 horses were concentrated towards the top, his top six horses in terms of Irish prize money earned all being Gigginstown-owned; while 12 of his top twenty fitted the same criteria. Comparing what is happening to him and the Gigginstown move away from Willie Mullins in autumn 2016 is apples and oranges, with Elliott losing the horses gradually, but it is interesting nonetheless.

In the previous season, 2015/16, Mullins ran 191 individual horses with 42 (or 22%) owned by Gigginstown; none of his top five prize-money horses ran in the maroon and white while only five of his top twenty did so. Mullins was able to rebound quickly in terms of overall stable size, running 184 individual horses in 2016/17 and 212 in 2017/18.

Where Mullins had to deal with their departure overnight, Elliott gets time and, though that may seem an easier proposition, it brings its own challenges as he has to balance doing the best for the Gigginstown horses still in training (and perhaps hoping against hope that further success will change O’Leary’s mind) while at the same time building for the future.

There are pressures to do with his staffing too with many members likely hired just to cope with the huge Gigginstown numbers. They will understandably be worrying about their futures. Perhaps it will be a case that other owners – who may be easier to satisfy – will be willing to come on board now that Gigginstown are leaving, Elliott doing well to attract the likes of Cheveley Park into the yard.

In any case, it’s been a long time since Gigginstown weren’t a massive part of the Cullentra House operation, and how Elliott begins to deal with their phased departure is something to keep an eye on.

 

The Two-Mile Chase Division: Who will rise to the top?

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the two-mile chase division has been stale over the past few seasons – looking at a great horse like Altior going on a 19-race unbeaten run is hardly a bad thing – but it has certainly been static. There was the odd flash of fragility with him last term, at Ascot when jumping markedly left and when rather falling in during the Champion Chase, but it seems as if he is destined to go up in trip in any case now.

The usual suspects will be hoping to fill the void but the likes of Min (Cheltenham form figures: 225), Politologue (Cheltenham figures: U0442) and Sceau Royal (Cheltenham figures: 1016213) would all be sub-standard winners of a Champion Chase and it seems much more likely that the top two-miler of 2019/20 emerges from last season’s novice crop.

The Arkle winner would seem the most sensible place to start but there is the distinct possibility that Duc De Genievres was the third best two-mile novice chaser in his yard last season and while he was brilliant on the day at Cheltenham, clearing 13 lengths ahead of the second and officially rated 163 afterwards, he had won just once in eight previous starts for Mullins in a race without the likes of Le Richebourg and Dynamite Dollars.

Both Cilaos Emery and Chacun Pour Soi seemed thought of as his clear superiors last term but they have had their issues too, neither able to stay sound for long enough to put a full season together lately. Keeping them both right will be a challenge but the chances are that one will stay intact and hopefully it will be Chacun Pour Soi who is amazingly already rated 167 over fences despite only having had two chase starts; it seems almost obscene but that mark is merited.

 

The Ground: What will we get this winter?

The past few campaigns have seen the going flip from season-to-season; in 2017/18 it was all soft ground whereas last season it was all fast and now we are back to a period of slow ground again. Good ground defined last season in many ways, and it is notable in all the recent stable tours how many trainers have commented on it between horses that never got their ground, horses that didn’t run at all on it, or horses that got injured.

The facts of last season are worth repeating. In the 2018/19 Irish national hunt season, 87 (or 84%) of graded non-handicaps were run on going described as yielding or faster, a massive chunk of the pattern. Dublin Racing Festival was spoiled by it, the form of that meeting not working out anything like as well as it had previously; Fairyhouse just about coped with it, while Punchestown got lucky with some rain and was likely the pick of the big three Irish spring meetings, at least in terms of valuable form for this season.

Plenty of horses will have been convenienced or inconvenienced by this. Readers will have their own views on who those horses may be but for me the likes of Sharjah, Ornua and even Kemboy got their ground for most of the season while the likes of Moyhenna, Ministerforsport and Discorama are three that didn’t.

Moyhenna is a particularly interesting case. After a promising start to her chasing career on soft ground, she became disappointing in three runs on faster but her trainer managed to find her some heavy ground at Limerick in March where she bolted up by 25 lengths. By that point she was in such good form she was able to defy better ground in a valuable handicap chase for mares back at Punchestown and is one to keep on side should we get a bad winter, her form figures on ground Timeform describe as soft or worse reading 334112421.

Those are horses that ran away during last winter despite not having their ground, but some trainers were more circumspect and just didn’t run their horses at all. Willie Mullins for one took that approach with his bumper horses, running just 17 bumper debutants from the start of December to the end of the season which resulted in him having just one runner in the Champion Bumper.

Across the same time period in the previous season, Mullins had run 30 such first-time starters and had five runners in the Champion Bumper. He was still able to win the Punchestown equivalent of that race with the experienced Colreevy, but one suspects that he has a backlog of bumper horses, a year more mature now, ready to go this winter.

- TK

Breeders’ Cup Compendium 2019 Review

What follows below is the full Breeders' Cup Compendium report, so you can see what I liked, why I liked it, what I said about the winners, how the trends played out, how the picks played out, and anything else about which you might be interested.

There is an index at the top so you can click to the section you wish. Clicking the blue box with an arrow in it (bottom right, desktop only) will bring you back to the top - and therefore the index.

As I hope you can see, I put an enormous amount of effort into producing the Compendium, something which makes no business sense whatsoever for the relatively few copies I sell. But I love it, and I know a number of you do, too, so that's that. It was a lot of fun to write, even if hard work.

Anyway, have a look and see what you think.

Matt

Breeders Cup 2019 Compendium

A Geegeez Publication, helping people have more fun with their betting since 2006

Contents

Introduction. 6

Notes. 7

FRIDAY. 8

8.12 pm GMT: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (5f, Turf) 8

Key Trends (2 renewals to date) 8

How the runners fit 8

Pace: 8

Key Trials: 8

Summary: 8

Trends Contenders: 10

Form Contenders: 10

Juvenile Turf Sprint Selection and review: 10

8.52pm GMT: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (1m, Turf) 11

Key Trends (12 renewals to date) 11

How the runners fit 11

Pace: 11

Key Trials: 11

Summary: 11

Trends Contenders: 13

Form Contenders: 13

Juvenile Turf Selection and review: 13

9.32pm GMT: Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies (1m½f, Dirt) 15

Key Trends (35 renewals to date) 15

How the runners fit 15

Pace: 15

Key Trials: 15

Summary: 15

Trends Contenders: 17

Form Contenders: 17

Juvenile Fillies Selection and review: 17

10.12pm GMT: Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (1m, Turf) 19

Key Trends (11 renewals to date) 19

How the runners fit 19

Pace: 19

Key Trials: 19

Summary: 19

Trends Contenders: 22

Form Contenders: 22

Juvenile Fillies’ Turf Selection and review: 22

11.03pm GMT: Breeders Cup Juvenile (1m ½f, Dirt) 23

Key Trends (35 renewals so far) 23

How the runners fit 23

Pace: 23

Key Trials: 23

Summary: 23

Trends Contenders: 25

Form Contenders: 25

Juvenile Selection and review: 25

SATURDAY

6.55pm GMT: Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (7f, Dirt) 26

Key Trends (12 renewals so far) 26

How the runners fit 26

Pace: 26

Key Trials: 26

Summary: 26

Trends Contenders: 28

Form Contenders: 28

Filly and Mare Sprint Selection and review: 28

7.33pm GMT: Breeders Cup Turf Sprint (5f, Turf) 29

Key Trends (11 renewals so far) 29

How the runners fit 29

Pace: 29

Key Trials: 29

Summary: 29

Trends Contenders: 30

Form Contenders: 30

Turf Sprint Selection and review: 30

8.10pm GMT: Breeders Cup Dirt Mile (1m, Dirt) 32

Key Trends (12 renewals to date) 32

How the runners fit 32

Pace: 32

Key Trials: 32

Summary: 32

Trends Contenders: 34

Form Contenders: 34

Dirt Mile Selection and review: 34

8.54pm GMT: Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf (1m1f, Turf) 35

Key Trends (20 renewals to date) 35

How the runners fit 35

Pace: 35

Key Trials: 35

Summary: 35

Trends Contenders: 37

Form Contenders: 37

Filly and Mare Turf Selection and review: 37

9.36pm GMT: Breeders Cup Sprint (6f, Dirt) 39

Key Trends (35 renewals to date) 39

How the runners fit 39

Pace: 39

Key Trials: 39

Summary: 39

Trends Contenders: 41

Form Contenders: 41

Sprint Selection and review: 41

10.20pm GMT: Breeders Cup Mile (1m, Turf) 42

Key Trends (35 renewals to date) 42

How the runners fit 42

Pace: 42

Key Trials: 42

Summary: 43

Trends Contenders: 45

Form Contenders: 45

Mile Selection and review: 45

11.00pm GMT: Breeders Cup Distaff (1m1f, Dirt) 47

Key Trends (35 renewals to date) 47

How the runners fit 47

Pace: 47

Key Trials: 47

Summary: 47

Trends Contenders: 49

Form Contenders: 49

Distaff Selection and review: 49

11.40pm GMT: Breeders Cup Turf (1m4f, Turf) 50

Key Trends (35 renewals to date) 50

How the runners fit 50

Pace: 50

Key Trials: 50

Summary: 50

Trends Contenders: 52

Form Contenders: 52

Turf Selection and review: 52

12.44pm GMT: Breeders Cup Classic (1m2f, Dirt) 54

Key Trends (35 renewals so far) 54

How the runners fit 54

Pace: 54

Key Trials: 54

Summary: 54

Trends Contenders: 56

Form Contenders: 56

Classic Selection and review: 56

 

Introduction

Howdy! And welcome the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Compendium, a collection of information designed to fast track your awareness of the various facets required for a successful Breeders’ Cup wagering expedition.

For the tenth time, and the first since 2016, BC XXXVI (36, count them) returns to gorgeous Santa Anita Park, California. The weather is warm, and the home team often have an edge over east coast and European shippers. An edge, but far from a monopoly.

The track has a relatively short home straight, and the Filly and Mare Turf, and Turf, races will commence on the quirky Oak Tree strip which cuts a tangent onto the main turf track.

The guide has much lots of information for each race, as follows:

  • Race trends
  • Trends grid showing how contenders match up
  • Pace analysis
  • Key Trials links to race videos on the breederscup.com website
  • Form summary
  • Contenders, and Possibles
  • My pick

It is, of course, up to you, the reader, how you use the info. Some will treat it as a starting point for their own study, others will see it as an end point and follow me in on various selections.

However you decide to use this guide, please bet responsibly (duh!) and remember that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially in pursuit of a late night weekend winner. 😉

All that said, I hope the information within these covers provides for profit as well as fun.

Right, let’s get to it!

Matt Bisogno

Notes

Some shorthand has been used in the grids within this document, as follows:

*= a Racing Post Rating, rather than a Beyer speed figure (US rating). The comparison, which is not exact, is that RPR is roughly 12-15 points higher than Beyer

s= ran within four lengths of the leader

t= turf run

2 or 3 in ‘G1 winner? Column’ = 2nd or 3rd in a Grade/Group 1

‘Bullet’ workouts are the fastest timed workouts of the day at a specific track/distance

SoCal: Southern California / RW: Road Warrior (has travelled a lot)

Ran sharp = A reference to finishing 1st, 2nd or 3rd, or within 4 lengths of the winner, used in the BC bible, Crushing The Cup

Figs = figures, i.e. Beyer or RPR

Lasix = a permissible drug in USA that helps prevent horses from bleeding, banned in UK

LTO = Last Time Out

Wire = a confirmed front runner

Stalk = a prominent racer

Rally = a closer, or late runner, normally held up in the early part of the race

PACE: LR = Last Run, 2LR = 2nd Last Run, 3LR = 3rd Last Run, 4LR = 4th Last Run

Scores: 4 – LED or less than ½ length from lead; 3 – ½ L to 1 ½ L; 2 – 1 ¾ L – 3 ¼ L; 1 – 3 ½ L+

Also Eligible / AE: In preference order, only get a run if others in the main order do not.

Horse Name2: The 2 after a horse’s name denotes second preference

 

 

FRIDAY

8.12 pm GMT: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (5f, Turf)

Key Trends (2 renewals to date)

A new race, which was run for the first time on the undercard last year, and now gets full Breeders’ Cup status for the first time.

  • First four home were all Euros in 2017, 1st-2nd USA in 2018 (3rd-4th Euro’s)

How the runners fit

Pace:

Most of these are pretty exposed and have pronounced run styles. Expect it to be quick early, with Band Practice and Dr Simpson, as well as potentially Kimari and, if he gets a run, Bulletproof One all vying for front end primacy. There may be scrimmaging on the turn for home so it’s a race where we’ll need luck to find the winner.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

Probably not a race in which to go all in, this looks messy and potentially unpredictable. The best British and Irish form is probably brought by A’Ali, a horse who had the sectional boys purring on debut, and who went on to win three Group 2’s, all at five furlongs, including the Norfolk at Royal Ascot. But he’s never raced around a turn in five career starts and that’s a big question mark on this tight track.

The same lack of turn racing experience comment applies to Archie Watson’s Band Practice. She’s won her last three of five starts, the latest in a small field Listed race in France. She handles quick ground and is clearly progressive. Archie saddled Soldier’s Call in the race last year, and he was drawn in stall two as well. A general fast starter he fluffed his lines and could never get into it thereafter. The same connections, including owners Clipper Logistics, will be hoping for a better beginning this time.

Of the other Euros, Dr Simpson doesn’t look to be good enough on known form. But… she is two from two around a left hand turn, that pair including a win around similarly tight Chester (by seven lengths) and in Group 3 company on the all weather at Dundalk last time. She has bags of experience and will be blinkered for the first time.

Dream Shot has a win around a turn – over six furlongs at Chelmsford – and was second in that Dundalk Group 3 behind Dr Simpson. Thus his only experience of turning tracks is on the all weather, though he has run to a similar level on straight turf tracks.

King Neptune won his only turning track start, on debut at Dundalk. Again, that’s not turf form, his three grass five furlong spins all being on soft ground and all resulting in defeat. By War Front out of a Speightstown mare he’s bred to be quick and to love dirt, so perhaps he’s yet to find his metier.

Fast ground and five furlongs look to be what Alligator Alley wants, but he too is yet to race around a bend. Moreover, he disappointed behind A’Ali and Dream Shot at Doncaster last time. He’d be a surprise winner for me.

So much for the British and Irish challenge, which looks to largely comprise the wrong types of horse; what of the home defence?

We saw Kimari at Royal Ascot earlier in the season, when she ran a fantastic race in the Queen Mary to finish a head second to Raffle Prize. That filly has franked the form with a further G2 score and two runners up finishes in G1 company. As for Kimari, she’s otherwise undefeated in three further races, the two since Ascot being ungraded stakes.

She is versatile tactically, sees out 5 ½ furlongs, and is a legitimate favourite for trainer Wesley Ward. Ward has run three in each of the first two renewals, finishing 000 in 2017 and 268 in 2018. It surely won’t be long before he hits his mark in a race tailor made for his yard.

The next best of the Americans, and a second string to the Ward bow, could be Four Wheel Drive. This American Pharoah colt is unbeaten in two, most recently winning a Belmont Park Grade 3 by three lengths. There he stalked a quick first quarter and readily went clear in the straight. That was six furlongs but he gave the impression that last day that he’d be able to live with the drop back in trip. (Another Miracle was well beaten in behind).

It will be interesting to see if Wesley’s Cambria can handle the drop back in distance. The Speightstown filly is three-from-three thus far, winning her first race on grass last time over 6 ½ furlongs in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint, a Listed race. She has the widest draw, however, and is yet to register a fast time.

Chimney Rock was a close second in that Ky Downs race and five looks his trip for now. Where Cambria has drawn the car park, Chimney has the rail which, for a slow starter like him, is probably as bad. He’ll need to be ridden for luck most likely.

Encoder is somewhat interesting. He won over this trip on debut before stepping all the way up to a mile and winning a Listed race. He then ran reasonably in a decent race of the same grade, and drops right back here. Drawn midfield, with a midfield run style, he may finish better than midfield though he too has yet to burn the clock.

Trends Contenders:

A’Ali, Kimari

Form Contenders:

Kimari, Four Wheel Drive

Juvenile Turf Sprint Selection:

A tricky race where luck in the run is a prerequisite for victory. The two form picks are the top US pair, Kimari and Four Wheel Drive, both trained by Wesley Ward. Slight preference is for Kimari, whose Ascot run was creditable for lots of reasons: the straight track would have been more stamina-testing than ideal, the soft turf would too. She was given a faintly bonkers ride by ‘Money’ Mike Smith last time and John Velazquez gets the gig this time. He’s first choice for jockey for Wesley which implies slight stable preference for Kimari, though Irad Ortiz, Jr. did ride FWD last time and keeps the mount.

At bigger – much bigger – prices, I’m slightly drawn to Dr Simpson. She’ll surely be a million on the US tote and that’s likely the way to play her. She’s been impressive in her two races around a turn, has bags of experience and gets blinkers – and potentially Lasix – for the first time.

Suggestion:

Back Kimari at 3/1 general

Back Dr Simpson on the US tote (currently 25/1 with Victor, Hills, Unibet, Fred)

 

Juvenile Turf Sprint Review:

The European straight track form was again no good. I remember Sir Mark Prescott admitting to the press before Marsha's Turf Sprint bid that, in order to give his straight track class act some experience around a turn, they'd taken her to Chelmsford where she failed to go left at the bend!

Quite simply, if backing a Euro in this, insist on turning track form. Dr Simpson, at 59/1 on the US tote, was best of the Europeans but was only good enough for fifth overall.

Wes seemed to get tactics spot on by having one of his pair of fancied horses on the front (Four Wheel Drive) and one held up (Kimari) in case the pace collapsed. It nearly did, but FWD won comfortably with Kimari closing fast and late in third.

 

8.52pm GMT: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (1m, Turf)

Key Trends (12 renewals to date)

  • Euro 8 US 4 (5-2 in California)
  • 2-6 runs (10/12 had 3 to 5 runs - Prior Starts: 2-1/3-2/4-6/5-2/6-1)
  • 3/4 US won at 1m+, only 3/8 Euro won at 1m (incl ’17 & '18 winners, however)
  • 1st-3rd Fav 6 from 36 (12 renewals) – incl fav in ‘17, 2f in '18
  • 12/12 Top 3 LTO or within 2L of winner
  • 0 Front Runner winners (7 CLOSERS, 5 PROMINENT)
  • 6 of the 9 Euro winners plus Hootenanny recorded RPR of 110+; '16 winner 108 LTO, '18 winner 105 LTO
  • 8/8 Euro winners placed in G1/2 LTO, or won lesser stakes; 3 of last 5 Euro winners placed in Dewhurst LTO ('18 winner won G3 LTO)
  • 4/4 US winners had won a Stakes and were placed 123 in all Stakes runs
  • Euro winners 20-42 days absent (5/8 20 or 21 days); US 20, 35, 49, 68 days absent
  • Pilgrim Stakes considered a key prep: got 1st win in ’16, Oscar Performance
  • Only 4 WAYI races have produced Juv Turf winner; only ONE WAYI winner has won Juv Turf (Sum=Summer Stakes, Pil=Pilgrim, Bou=Bourbon, Cha=Champagne)

How the runners fit

Pace:

Graceful Kitten and War Beast may have more early dash than Fort Myers, but all three have led in at least two of their most recent three starts. This may be a race set for a closer. None of the dozen Juvenile Turf’s have been won by a front-runner.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

Europe lead the home team 8-4, and 5-2 when the race has been hosted in California. Arizona is a solid favourite to extend the visitors’ advantage, though he will have to overcome a tough draw in 12 of 14. If the early meter is quick, which it looks like being, that should assist Ryan Moore in securing a good position.

This son of No Nay Never has been beaten on his last three starts, all in Group 1 company, but all highly creditable performances. Giving best to Pinatubo twice and Earthlight, first and second favourites for next year’s 2000 Guineas, is easily the pick of the form in the field. He’d previously won the Coventry at Royal Ascot, another form uplift on his rivals.

The question of stamina is a legitimate one: bred for speed paternally, he is out of an English Channel (sire of two runners in the mile and a half BC Turf) mare, and that gives hope he’ll see out the additional range. Aidan O’Brien has won this four of the dozen times it has been run.

The only other European entry is also Aidan’s, Fort Myers. If Arizona drew poorly in 12, this lad got unlucky 13. Wow, APOB has been dealt some poor cards in the draw this year. He’s by War Front out of the 1000 Guineas-winning mare, Marvellous, so bred well for this job. Fourth in the Coventry has been followed by minor placings in minor Group races prior to scoring in a Dundalk Listed race last time. It is not impossible to see him being in the shake up, though if he tries to go forward from 13 he will surely perish come the sharp end.

Two Europeans, twelve domestics then, means we are heavily outnumbered regardless of the class of Arizona. Pick of the Americans might be Decorated Invader, a winner of his last two including the Grade 1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine. He travelled powerfully there off steady-ish fractions and was much the best in the home straight. He looks a smart colt and should handle the quicker Santa Anita turf (won his maiden on firm turf).

Structor is Chad Brown’s entry. As dominant as he’s recently been in the fillies’ equivalent race, he’s yet to strike from eleven entries in this one. He does have a number of placed efforts to his name, and this unbeaten son of Palace Malice had Andesite and Our Country close behind in the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes last time.

Although he’s (much) shorter in the betting than the other pair, I’m not certain that is justified. Yes he’s unbeaten in two, but both the re-opposing duo had imperfect trips.

Andesite was trapped on heels for more than a furlong before closing to within a head of Structor at the line. His run in the G3 With Anticipation can be marked up, too. That was run at a crawl and he looks the type to run his best races off a much more solid gallop, which I expect he will get here.

Our Country, meanwhile, has been sent of 6/5 and 4/1 in his last two races – the same pair as Andesite – and has suffered tough trips in both. He was badly hampered early in the With Anticipation, a race that didn’t suit a closer (50+ seconds for the half mile!), and he got fanned seven wide into the home straight in the Pilgrim.

There’s no guarantee he’ll enjoy better fortune this time but both of the placed horses from the Pilgrim look too big in relation to Structor.

I do like a Florida horse in these juvenile races and Graceful Kitten fits that bill. He’s unbeaten in three – a maiden and two minor stakes races – and has led from start to finish in the two stakes. His numbers are not far behind the Pilgrim protagonists and he ran the last quarter mile in his most recent start in an impressive 23.3 seconds. He will be fun to watch.

Another of the key preps for the Juvenile Turf is the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes, won this year by Peace Achieved from Vitalogy and Gear Jockey, all of whom line up again now.

Mark Casse, trainer of Peace Achieved, has five Breeders’ Cup wins including three on the lawns so he knows how to prepare one. This lad has won all three of his races at a mile-plus, having failed twice at sprint trips at the start of his career.

But he had nothing to spare over Vitalogy in the Bourbon. That horse, formerly trained by Joseph O’Brien, came with a remarkable run to claim second: he was fully eleven lengths back at the first call and would have won in another two strides. Like Our Country, if he gets a quick pace setup he is interesting at double-figure odds.

Gear Jockey rounded out the Bourbon trifecta but, while it is not beyond the realms of plausibility for him to improve past the 1-2 that day, it is pretty unlikely. He remains a maiden after three starts.

Billy Batts is one from six lifetime, that in a maiden, and he looks outclassed; similar comments apply to front-running War Beast, whose main role might be to keep Graceful Kitten honest at the head of the field.

That pair filled out the podium behind Hit The Road in the Listed Zuma Beach Stakes over course and distance. Dan Blacker’s colt is unbeaten in two turf starts and improved massively from first to second try on the surface. He was pulling hard early and yet still ran an 11.5 second final furlong to prove different gravy to that field. This is a vast step up in grade but he has earned it.

Trends Contenders:

Arizona, Decorated Invader, Structor, Fort Myers, Hit The Road, Andesite, Graceful Kitten (all green with one amber)

Form Contenders:

Arizona

Juvenile Turf Selection:

This looks Arizona’s to lose. True he’s not much of a price considering he has stall 12 but he appears to have a notable class edge on these if Moore can steer a path with him.

While Decorated Invader ought to run well, he too will need luck in running as a closer drawn inside. In the circumstances, it might be worth swinging each way at a couple who have the chance to reverse form with their last day conquerors granted better fortune in transit.

Our Country gets Johnny V (Velazquez), 16 BC wins to his name, for the first time and he should not be a 25/1 shot.

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And Vitalogy was clearly the best horse in the Bourbon even if he did have to settle for second. 10/1 is fair enough.

Luck will be needed for many rounding the home turn, in which circumstances I’ll play those two for small money. Hit The Road is another interesting contender.

Suggestions:

Back Vitalogy each way at 10/1 general

Back Our Country each way at 25/1 Coral/sportingbet

Consider backing either Vitalogy or Our Country in the ‘without favourite’ market

 

Juvenile Turf Review:

Vitalogy was a late scratch for the unfortunate Brendan Walsh, who also lost Maxfield to a minor niggle. Our Country got a tough trip, like many others, and might have just about won if he'd had the run that Structor - who did won - had got. Arizona was the best horse in the race but had much too much to do.

9.32pm GMT: Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies (1m½f, Dirt)

Key Trends (35 renewals to date)

  • 15 of the last 17 had 3-5 career starts (exceptions, 2 starts, ’07 and ’17)
  • Last 17, career runs: 2-2,3-6,4-6,5+-3
  • Layoff: 30/35 were running within 30 days (‘16 winner 35 days off); (32/35 5 weeks off or less)
  • 28/35 (80%) had a Grade 1, 2 or 3 win, from c.60% of the runners. 3/7 non-qualifiers placed in Frizette (incl. ’17 winner)
  • 19/24 improved Beyer when racing 7f+ for 1st time (excludes pre-Beyer BC's and winners with no 7f+ form)
  • 90+ Beyer = very strong, 80+ 1 or 2 starts = strong
  • 32/35 were top 4 or less than 4L behind the winner last time out
  • Favourite is 18/35 (51%)
  • "Look beyond the obvious when trials were slow", favour lightly raced improver
  • 21/35 (60%) had NOT won at the distance

How the runners fit

Pace:

As with all of the juvenile races, establishing the likely pace is difficult due to the lightly raced nature of most runners. That said, Wicked Whisper has led on both starts to date and the uber-impressive maiden winner, Donna Veloce, also showed a ton of early speed.

Again, a common thread in the 2yo races is that they tend to go too fast early.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

A fascinating race where it might pay to take a chance on a longshot. Why? Consider the following:

  • The last three Santa Anita Juvenile Fillies winners paid $66.60, $125.40, and $69.20 for a $2 win bet. That’s 32/1, 62/1 and 33/1.
  • These shocks tend to happen when there is no outstanding filly in the field, and that appears to be the case again this year with the highest Beyer speed figure recorded being Wicked Whisper’s 87

That’s enough to justify looking deep into the field, but first let’s consider one other Santa Anita-based point: six (plus one disqualified winner) of the nine SA Juvenile Fillies’ races were won by a local (Southern Californian) runner. The other two were big outsiders.

Favourite, though uneasy, is Bast. Beaten on her debut she’s since won the Del Mar Deb and Chandelier Stakes, the former by a wide margin. That 7f contest has isolated the Juvenile Fillies winner in four of the last six SA renewals, with two of them winning both contests.

But Bast’s sectional figures are weak: her closing furlong finishing speed in a, granted, sharply run Del Mar Deb was 91% of the race time. And, in a very steady Chandelier, she recorded a 97% finishing speed for the last 2 ½ furlongs. She also looked a possible non-stayer.

In spite of all that, she won both contests, digging in well in the latter, and she might win this. But she’s not an exciting price.

Behind her in both races was Comical. She was ridden from behind in the Deb, making up three lengths in the second half of the race; and from the front in the Chandelier, just giving best in a tussle the length of the home straight. K P Dreamin was three further back there.

I’m just really uncertain of the merit of these two form lines.

Vying for favouritism is the once raced Donna Veloce. She cantered over a field of maidens at this track on her sole start, going through a fast opening quarter and maintaining her speed well (95.2% finishing speed for last 2 ½ furlongs, eased down). She takes a quarter mile step up in trip, for which she is bred (by Uncle Mo out of a Montjeu mare).

Friday will be a huge step up in both class and distance and, while she could take both in her notable stride, she too is opposable at a price of around 3/1. She represents California-based British trainer, Simon Callaghan.

Rounding out the SoCal runners is bargain buy Lazy Daisy, who cost just $39,000. She left her Del Mar Deb fourth well behind when making virtually all in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs on her first attempt at a mile and a sixteenth last time out. Whilst it was slow motion stuff in the lane there, Lazy Daisy recorded a new top speed figure by double digits (66 > 77). That’s some way below other contenders but she could improve again at the trip.

The East Coast raiders have a moderate record in this when it has been hosted at Santa Anita. Top of their pile is probably the Steve Asmussen (of Gun Runner fame)-trained Wicked Whisper. She’s unbeaten in two, the more recent of which was the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes.

Completely untroubled on the lead that last day, the daughter of Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map made the most of her ‘easy’. She’s unlikely to get an uncontested advantage this time and that makes her opposable notwithstanding that she too could step forward again on what will be only her third career start.

It is rare for me to strike an ante post bet in this race, and in truth I only really did it because one firm had left up 10/1 about a filly that was 7/2 and 4/1 everywhere else. That filly is British Idiom, who romped the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes last time.

She was pressed on both sides early on, took a pull in the back straight, and still opened up to win by 6 ½ lengths over the Juvenile Fillies distance. The time was solid – 95% finishing speed for last 2 ½ furlongs off quickish early fractions – and she is trained by Brad Cox, who has a remarkable 26% win rate in 2019 from over 750 starters.

Unbeaten in two now, she stepped up 14 Beyer points from first to second start (and from sprint to ‘route’). She might be the most solid at the top of the market.

The Hail Mary in the field could be Two Sixty. A relative veteran of four starts, she has won two of them. In the losing pair she was beaten on a sloppy track in one, and the jockey fell off in the other, both excusable. She’s another possible pace angle, has recorded a good figure at the distance and comes here off the same Floridian prep double (Susan’s Girl and My Dear Girl Stakes) as the 1986 and 2010 winners, Brave Raj and Awesome Feather. She might be a massive price on the tote board.

Perfect Alibi looks a bit skinny to me even at around 12/1. She was stuffed by British Idiom in the Alcibiades, has had more racing – and is therefore more exposed – than her rivals, and has never run a fast time. Yes, she has a G1 score to her name, but nothing from that 7f Saratoga event is shipping west, presumably because connections don’t think they’re good enough.

Trends Contenders:

Bast, British Idiom, Wicked Whisper

Form Contenders:

Bast, Donna Veloce, British Idiom, Wicked Whisper

Juvenile Fillies Selection:

This is extremely tricky with almost none of them easily discarded. The exception to that for me, based on price and prospects, is Perfect Alibi, so she’ll probably win!

From the fancied runners I’ve backed British Idiom and she may still be a dribble of value at a general 4/1. Donna Veloce is a classy unknown quantity but she’s short enough; Bast is a Baffert runner but she too is tight in terms of price.

I don’t really like East Coast horses in this race when it’s held at Santa Anita, and I’m not sure Wicked Whisper will be the same horse if unable to dominate, so she’s off my list. Obviously, though, it’ll be no surprise if she is good enough.

It’s a race where I’m happy to have a go for smallish stakes – split stakes as it happens – and my pair of prayer mat picks are Two Sixty and Lazy Daisy. The former is the best of Florida, an unfashionable angle that has isolated two previous winners (albeit much better fancied fillies); and the latter improving markedly for the step up to this distance.

It’s a very open race indeed.

Suggestions:

Back Two Sixty at 20/1 general and / or Lazy Daisy at 14/1 Hills each way

Juvenile Fillies Review:

Nothing from the two long shots, with British Idiom, "still a dribble of value at 4/1" winning at around a point shorter. She was one of very few fillies to come from far back, a nod to her superior stamina in a field that tired badly on the testing track.

10.12pm GMT: Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (1m, Turf)

Key Trends (11 renewals to date)

  • 8/9 US winners ran in Miss Grillo or Natalma, ’17 winner exited Jessamine
  • US 9 Euro 2 (both Euro in the two non-Lasix years)
  • 10/11 finished top 3 or within 1.5L of the winner last time out (exception ran in Miss Grillo)
  • 10/11 won at 1m+ (exception, Flotilla, 1.5L behind in Arc weekend G1)
  • All 11 finished top 3, or within 1.5L of the winner, in a Stakes race
  • Frontrunners 2, Prominent 5, Late runners 4
  • Layoff: 3wks-2 / 4wks-2 / 5wks-5 / 7wks-2 (Euro 4-5wks)
  • Prior Runs: 2-6; 3-1; 4-2; 5-1; 6-1
  • 80+ Beyer – 7/9 recorded 81+ (other 2 had only 2 starts)
  • 2 Euro winners prepped in G1 races (1st, 1.5L 4th)
  • Chad Brown has trained 5 JFT winners (4 in California) , incl. 4 of the last 5
    • 4 of Chad's 5 won the Ms Grillo - Selflessly
  • All US exacta: 5/11

How the runners fit

Pace:

Not obviously stacked with early pace, Karl Burke’s rail runner Living In The Past could bid to make all if she breaks alertly. Otherwise, Abscond, who led last time, and Tango could also go forward. But this might be a packing field on the home turn.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

The “Chad Brown Juvenile Fillies Turf”... Brown has won this race five times, including the last three, and four of the last five. This time he saddles Selflessly, undefeated in two and following the Chad blueprint of a maiden race then the Ms Grillo Stakes.

And yet she’s close to a double-figure price, so what gives? It’s a bit of a head scratcher but, firstly, she’s not yet run a fast time. She is the second quickest of the Americans on the Beyer speed numbers all the same and it may not take a big number to win if it comes up tactical. Secondly, she’s drawn in 13, which is not good. And thirdly, the runner up in the Ms Grillo, Crystalle, looked more like the one to take from the race.

Crystalle was ridden cold as ice at the back of the field but managed to pass all bar the winner, whose margin was a diminishing three-quarters of a length. That was her third start, to Selflessly’s second, and she’s closed from far back each time. If the pace is strong it will certainly suit her.

Next let’s consider the Aidan O’Brien and wider European conundrum. Aidan has never won this race despite saddling twelve fillies in it. He was 2nd in 2016 and 3rd in 2017 but, considering his fine record in the Juvenile Turf, it’s a mystery as to why the JFT has passed him by thus far. My best theory, and this could be miles from reality, is that flying his team in so late doesn’t give these inexperienced young ladies time enough to acclimatize and recover from the flight.

More widely, Europe have only won this twice in the eleven renewals, from 39 runners; and those two winners were in the two years when Lasix, the legal drug used on most horses in America, was banned in the two-year-old races. Coincidence? Maybe, though fillies like East last year have run second as well as Aidan’s brace of silvers.

What does it all mean? Probably no more than that the value play may generally be an American filly with a British bookmaker. On the day, the markets will tighten up to better reflect the American pools, so earlier in the week is the time to get involved.

As usual, Europeans fillies head the UK markets, and it is the Jessie Harrington-trained Albigna that is slight favourite. She won a mile Group 1 in France last time, though that was on a right-handed track and in soft ground. This firm left-handed oval offers a very different test which she will probably, but not definitely, handle.

Daahyeh, trained by Roger Varian, has never gone beyond seven furlongs and never raced around a turn. She was beaten on her only start on good to firm, albeit in a strong Group 2. She does give the impression that a mile will suit and, with a kind draw, she’s a perfectly plausible winner.

The first choice local on the US ‘morning line’ (tissue prices) is Sweet Melania. She’s relatively experienced for an American filly in this race, having already raced five times. Another daughter of American Pharoah, she was beaten twice at sprint distances before improving dramatically at around a mile, most recently running away with the G2 Jessamine Stakes, a ‘win and you’re in’ for this, by 5 ½ lengths.

She is the quickest of the domestic brigade, comes here off a huge career best and is something of a ‘now’ filly.

As well as the Ms Grillo and Jessamine Stakes, the other recognised trial for the Juvenile Fillies Turf is the Natalma Stakes run at Woodbine in Canada. This year’s renewal was won by Abscond in a driving finish from Walk In Marrakesh and the re-opposing Fair Maiden. While the Ms Grillo and Jessamine are Grade 2’s, the Natalma is a Grade 1.

This year it was a muddling affair, however, run in a slow time on yielding turf, with a nose and a neck separating the aforementioned trio.

Fair Maiden had previously recorded two very big numbers, one on all-weather and the other on yielding turf, both at sprint trips. There are questions marks then about fast ground and the trip in a truly run race, but she might still be too big at 16/1. Abscond, for her part, has upside as an unbeaten-in-one miler (she had two spins at five furlongs also), but I wouldn’t expect her to finish in front of Fair Maiden this time unless the Maiden fails to handle the quick turf. [The runner-up in the Natalma won this race in 2010 and the winner of that Woodbine contest won this in 2015]

Plenty more Euro interest in the field, headlined perhaps by an Aidan O’Brien brace, Tango and Etoile. The former has won two of eight races, all at seven-eighths or shorter, and she doesn’t look good enough to me: unequivocal defeats in a couple of Group 1’s attest to a class ceiling, and I’d not want to infer her recent heavy ground Listed win literally in the context of a Santa Anita Grade 1 contest.

Etoile is much more interesting, at least she was until she drew the widest stall of all, 14. That certainly doesn’t help in what may be a steadily run event, as she could have to travel further around the outside or else take back and ride for luck. Giving a head start in what could end up being a tactical race is not a good situation. Her form credentials are robust: two runs, the first a debut victory in a Group 3 and the second a better-than-the-bare-form effort in the G1 Cheveley Park Stakes, suggest she’s well regarded at Ballydoyle. She’s one to watch going forwards I suspect, regardless of how she goes here.

Andrew Balding is over for the party: he brings Shadn, winner of half her six races to date. She was last seen scoring in a soft ground six-furlong French Group 2 and will find this plenty tougher. (As a measure of the paucity of top-class French horses this season, only two have travelled for the Breeders’ Cup. British and Irish raiders have farmed the French Pattern in 2019).

Living In The Past is another Clipper Logistics-owned entry, this time trained by Karl Burke. She’s a fast starter drawn inside and, in a generally waited-with cohort, she should be able to lead into and perhaps out of the first turn. Front runners have a poor record in the race: only the completely different class Newspaperofrecord last year and Catch A Glimpse in 2015 have been able to go wire to wire. But Living In The Past could get first run.

Joseph O’Brien has smuggled a run for Unforgetable from the fourth Also Eligible position, and she’s a tad interesting. On the face of it her form is not good enough, she’s too slow and she comes here off the back of a disappointing last race.

But that previous spin was her first on the all-weather, it was against the boys, and she was staying on best over seven furlongs. Her best piece of form is when she was second to Love at Leopardstown over seven. She’s bred for at least a mile and Leopardstown is a left-handed oval like Santa Anita (though much bigger, granted). Love has since won the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes and would be a short-priced favourite in this field.

Granted, Unforgetable was beaten three lengths by Love, but that still gives her a squeak in this.

The dirt bred Sharing has run her two best (of three) races on grass, though the form isn’t at Graded level. And the unpronounceable Croughavouke, formerly trained in Ireland by Aidan Fogarty, has been twice beaten in local Listed races. She’d be a shock winner.

Trends Contenders:

Selflessly, Crystalle, Sweet Melania

Form Contenders:

Daahyeh, Albigna, Selflessly, Sweet Melania

Juvenile Fillies’ Turf Selection:

A very tough race and a light betting heat for me. Daahyeh may be the best of the European challenge, though the likes of Albigna and Etoile could take a piece of the action, too. Etoile especially is interesting but that 14 stall is off-putting.

Equally off-putting is the 13 box for Selflessly, who I backed ante-post at not much bigger than she is now. Fair Maiden could outrun her odds and is playable each way, and I can’t resist a little nibble at Unforgetable either. She’ll be a monster price on the US tote and is worth a throwaway fifty cents.

Suggestion:

Back Fair Maiden each way at 16/1 Ladbrokes, Unibet

Back Unforgetable win and show on the US tote

Juvenile Fillies Turf Review:

Fair Maiden had apparently trained poorly in the run up to the race, though these things are not always prescient come race day. She ran as though she wasn't right. Unforgetable was forgettable in a race where the winner, Sharing, was a filly I couldn't have picked in ten attempts.

 

11.03pm GMT: Breeders Cup Juvenile (1m ½f, Dirt)

Key Trends (35 renewals so far)

  • 33/35 ran 123 or within 4L of the winner last time out
  • Look for solid workouts, especially off a longer (35+ day) layoff
  • 18 of the last 26 winners posted a new Beyer top LTO
  • 17 of last 23 winners improved their Beyer racing at 7f+ for the first time
  • Uncoupled entries (i.e. horses from same stable) won in 2010, 2013 and 2015

How the runners fit

Pace:

Eight Rings wants to lead and there’s a good chance he will. In fact, in a field notably short of obvious early blazers he could get a perfect setup, though he’ll have stronger horses trying to run him down this time.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

Three potentially very smart colts head this field, with the market offering a double-digit price about anything else. The trio are vying for favouritism at around 5/2 your pick.

Eight Rings, trained by Bob Baffert, has been atop the betting since his all the way win in the American Pharoah (G1) a month ago. There he was rushed up early but didn’t see another horse thereafter, stretching out to win by six lengths. The time (92% FS for the last 2 ½ furlongs) tells us that he was slowing down – though notably less quickly than his rivals – and his best speed figure came over five furlongs on his debut and only other completed start (lost his jockey early in the Del Mar Futurity in between times).

There is little obvious pace contention in this field, meaning Eight Rings may be able to dominate from the front. However, he will have at least two very smart colts serving it up from down the back straight.

The first of that pair is Maxfield, trained for Godolphin by Brendan Walsh. Unbeaten in two career starts, the son of Street Sense, out of a Bernardini mare, is very well bred for this job.

It was a highly impressive performance in the Breeders’ Futurity over this trip at Keeneland last time: sitting ten lengths off the lead for much of the race he made a sweeping move around the home turn and drew away in the home straight to prevail by five lengths and more.

As impressive as that was, the track was favouring closers that day and the time, while good, was not great. Moreover, even though Santa Anita is currently riding a little slower than normal on the dirt (that can change quickly!), it is unlikely to favour a deep closer especially with limited obvious early speed in the field.

Maxfield has been withdrawn with a foot abscess. "We're not sure what it is yet, we're hoping it's just a foot (abscess)," Walsh said. "This morning when we washed the poultice off and gave him a jog up as we do, he wasn't quite right. You can see that something's bothering him."

The top trio is rounded out by Dennis’ Moment, a son of the only dual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Tiznow, out of an Elusive Quality mare. He too is bred in the purple for this gig. And his two completed starts – tossed the jockey on first start – have been ultra-impressive.

On what was effectively his career debut, he surged clear of a large field of maidens at Ellis Park by 19 ¼ lengths. Yes, you read that right. Nearly 20 lengths. While Ellis Park maidens wouldn’t be a hotbed of Grade 1 scorers, the time was almost a track record. And he is a two-year-old who was having his maiden start.

Could he back that run up, though? We found out on his most recent outing, the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. There he was handy but away from the lead early before breezing to the front at the top of the stretch and pulling two lengths clear of the re-opposing Scabbard.

That’s not the full story, however, as both can be marked up. Dennis’ Moment was eased down at least half a furlong out and sauntered past the line. Meanwhile, Scabbard got caught on heels around the home turn and had to take a pull before rounding runners. He didn’t lose much ground but he lost a fair amount of momentum; as such, it was an excellent run to claim a clear second place, putting more than five lengths between himself and the bronze medallist.

Scabbard might be the each way bet if you think one of the top three will miss the podium because it is really – like, REALLY – hard to make a case for anything else.

The Japanese runner, Full Flat, and Anneau d’Or only line up here because they couldn’t get into the Juvenile Turf Sprint: they wanted to go five furlongs on the grass and are instead showing up at beyond a mile on the dirt. That tells you everything about their chances.

Shoplifted and Storm The Court, fifth and third respectively behind Eight Rings in the American Pharoah, have eight lengths and more to make up with the winner that day; and both have better ratings over sprint trips.

That leaves Wrecking Crew as a vaguely interesting outsider at a price. In three career starts to date he won his maiden and then ran second in a Grade 2, both over six furlongs at Del Mar, before again running second in the G1 Del Mar Futurity behind Nucky. That was the race in which Eight Rings unshipped his jockey, his errant course also taking out Storm The Court. He is, then, untried at route trips and could conceivably improve for it, as he could for a slightly less tight oval at Santa Anita. His run style offers a little hope to that end, though it may just be that Del Mar’s closer-favouring strip has flattered him. Ultimately, he might outrun odds of 33/1 but he’d need at least two better fancied runners to flop to offer an each way return.

Trends Contenders:

Dennis’ Moment

Form Contenders:

Dennis’ Moment, Eight Rings

Juvenile Selection:

It will be a huge surprise if one of the top three don’t claim what is, beyond them, a shallow heat. However, Dennis, Max and Ring-o do form a potent triumvirate and choosing between them is a puzzle (as it should be).

Here’s where I’ve got to with it: Eight Rings probably leads and ought to have every chance of winning. Of the other pair, Dennis’ Moment should get first crack at the presumed leader with Maxfield making his move later.

I have a reservation about whether this is an ideal trip for Eight Rings and I suspect (*hope, from a punting perspective) that Maxfield may have too much ground to make up, all of which means I’m on Dennis’ Moment to improve on his record of two extremely impressive and facile victories to date.

Of course, it’s perfectly credible that Eight Rings ‘owns them’ from the front, and/or that Maxfield is ridden more prominently on this occasion (though he was a deep closer on his winning debut start also).

I did my dough big time when going ‘all in’ on Bolt d’Oro in 2017, and that chastening memory prevented me piling in fully this time. I have however had a solid bet on Dennis’ Moment, twice as big as my next biggest at the meeting so far, and I will be cheering him heartily. He could be a very, very, very smart colt. (But I did say that about Bolt d’Oro!)

Of the rest, Scabbard is obvious as an each-way option if any of the top two fluff their lines; but it remains difficult to see both of them bungling the opportunity simultaneously. He could be an exacta play underneath Dennis, as per their Iroquois Stakes 1-2.

Suggestion:

Back Dennis’ Moment at 6/4 general or

Back Scabbard each way at 8/1 Ladbrokes (15/2 Hills)

Consider Scabbard in the ‘without favourite’ market

Possible exacta play: Dennis’ Moment to beat Scabbard

Juvenile Review:

This race is becoming a 'bet noir' for me. I did my brains on supposed good thing, Bolt d'Oro in 2017, and I again went deep on Dennis' Moment. I'd managed to secure 9/2 so probably should have traded, but that's not really my thing. Dennis kissed the dirt as he exited the gate, down on his knees, and that was game over in the first three strides: the epitome of anticlimax.

The actual result defied any logic and the form is worth nothing. Dennis will doubtless go on to win the Kentucky Derby, Triple Crown and next year's Classic...!

SATURDAY
6.55pm GMT: Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (7f, Dirt)

Key Trends (12 renewals so far)

  • Age: 3-1; 4-6; 5-4; 6-1 (3yo's 1 from 33 to date, incl 11/10 fav in ’17, unplaced; 10 of last 11 winners all 4 or 5 yo; '18 winner 3yo, 20/1)
  • 11/12 finished in the top 3, or within 3L of the winner, last time (not ’17 winner)
  • 9/12 won at 7f; 4/12 2+ wins at 7f
  • 9/12 won or were 2nd in a G1 ('17 winner 2nd 7f G1 2 yrs ago, '18 winner 1st G2 LTO, only 7f start)
  • TCA at Keeneland is a key prep (albeit over 6f) – Spiced Perfection, Dawn The Destroyer
  • PID Masters also key race – Hotshot Anna won in 2018 & 2019
  • Surface switch (synth or turf to dirt) : 7/12 winners; '18 winner 1stx2 on synths prior to final prep on dirt)
  • Fav 3/12, 2nd fav 2/12, 3rd fav 0/12. 7/12 4th or lower in the betting

How the runners fit

Pace:

Heavenhasmynikki, Danuske’s My Girl, and especially Selcourt like to lead. So too does Covfefe though she can track a leader too. The FM Sprint has come up light in numbers this year but there looks to be the usual early pace duel that often sets things up for a closer.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

A race I look forward to simply because it has produced some big-odds winners that I’ve managed to land on. Last year, Shamrock Rose finished like a train at 25/1. Yes! The year before, Ami’s Mesa got chinned on the line at 33/1. Nooooo! Chinned by a filly who was herself 66/1. Wow.

The other angle is that three-year-old fillies have a TERRIBLE record. Yes, Shamrock Rose was a 3yo. She was the first 3yo since the race’s inception in 2007 to win, with a number of the 32 beaten sent off very short.

So let’s start with the favourite, Covfefe, a three-year-old 😊. She’s won four of her last five, the most recent pair at this seven-furlong trip. The one time she raced against older fillies and mares, though, she was beaten. That came directly after she recorded a career best speed figure, giving the impression she bounced. On her most recent start she matched that career best, thus there may be a good chance she’ll once again recoil.

She has stall one, which is not ideal with the distance starting in a chute at the beginning of the back straight meaning sometimes horses get squeezed up as the race hits the arc of the turn. If she tries to contest the pace life may be difficult in the final furlong.

For all that, her win in the Grade 1 Test, where she had Bellafina well behind, is strong form. They went 44.28 seconds for the half mile there and came home in 81.26 seconds. Thus the first four furlongs were run in an average of 11.07 seconds, the last three in an average of 12.33 seconds. They were walking at the end.

In the Listed race Covfefe won in a big time last out, she had lovely even fractions. That won’t happen here, I’ll wager. As you may have guessed I’m looking for reasons to oppose her and I think I have plenty. Fair play to her if she’s good enough to win.

Come Dancing is a five-year-old mare who has won four of her last five, including in the Grade 1 Ballerina. Her sole defeat was when failing to stay an extended mile. She looks tactically versatile, has run some big numbers and found a way to win when fluffing the start: she looks solid.

Sprint king Peter Miller (Roy H, Stormy Liberal double double in the 2017/18 Sprint and Turf Sprint) saddles Spiced Perfection, winner of the Grade 2 TCA Stakes last time. The TCA is a remarkable trial for this race even though it’s a six-furlong contest: five winners have already exited that race and won this, as well as Ami’s Mesa finishing second (ugh) in 2017. Her figures are not fast, but nor were those of many recent winners; the ability to hang tough off unsustainable early fractions is often the key attribute in the Filly & Mare Sprint.

The TCA was her first run since May and Miller, whose overall record is about 18% wins, has a 25% hit rate on second start off a layoff.

Spiced Perfection just held off the late rally of Dawn The Destroyer in the TCA. Dawn was out the back throughout and came with a withering, if ultimately just too late, run in the straight.

Prior to that, and over seven furlongs, she’d run third in a G3 and then second to Come Dancing in the Test. Those were both small fields where her grinding ability was unable to come into play. Indeed, her form record is plagued by small fields where the pace is too slow for her. I think she’s very interesting if they go a million early in this.

Bellafina is fourth choice in the betting. She was fourth in the G1 Cotillion (maybe didn’t stay), third in the G1 Test (maybe not quick enough), and fifth in the Kentucky Oaks (probably didn’t stay). She only just won a weak G2 (where she was sent off 1/9) earlier in the season at an extended mile and again she was unconvincing. Her numbers are well short of what’s required and she’s a three-year-old who will genuinely surprise me if she can turn them all away. She’s been beaten more than eight lengths in each of her last three starts, though she will be defending an unbeaten-in-four record at Santa Anita and has a trainer who does well with horses dropping back in trip.

Selcourt is a one-dimensional speedball and she will very likely lead, as she has done in five or her last six starts. How many try to live with her is unclear but she tried to win this from the front last year and ended up 12th of 14 having been sent off at 9/2.

She nearly hung on last time in the G3 LA Woman Stakes over 110 yards shorter here, but was just caught on the line by the re-opposing Lady Ninja. That five-year-old mare is 22-race veteran whose only Graded action has been the last twice, improving by two places from a Del Mar Grade 3. She’s probably quick enough for this given the way it figures to pan out, but she’s been around a long time to suddenly start improving now.

Heavenhasmynikki looks set to be in the pace battle from a good draw in 3. Her opening quarter times however are not within half a second of Selcourt’s and she looks over-faced. She’s 0 from 2 at 7f.

Likewise it is difficult to make a case for Danuske’s My Girl, the Jerry Hollendorfer – sorry, Dan Ward - -trained runner. She is as fast as Selcourt early, and stall two is probably ideal to blast out. But she doesn’t look strong enough to repel this field and ran flat in sixth in the TCA last time.

Trends Contenders:

Come Dancing, Spiced Perfection, Dawn The Destroyer

Form Contenders:

Come Dancing, Spiced Perfection, Covfefe

Filly and Mare Sprint Selection:

You might be ahead of me here. I want to field against Covfefe; I think Come Dancing has a decent chance but she’s short enough. That leaves me with Spiced Perfection and Dawn The Destroyer, the 1-2 from that key prep, the TCA.

I’ve backed Dawn at 25/1, and she’s still available at 20/1. If, as looks likely, they go very fast she’ll be totally outpaced in the first quarter mile; but she finishes her races off better than most. She’s a big old price if I’m right about the race setup.

Spiced Perfection may step forward from that first run off a long layoff – her trainer record points that way – in which case she is also playable at 6/1 in a race where I don’t give many more much of a chance.

Suggestions:

Back Spiced Perfection at 6/1 general

Back Dawn The Destroyer each way at 20/1 bet365, Boyle

Filly and Mare Sprint Review:

By now it had become clear that nothing was coming from far back off the pace. Spiced Perfection's connections decided to race her more prominently than usual, presumably due to how the track was riding, but she faded into fourth, passed late on by Dawn The Destroyer who had been waaaaaay back (almost ten lengths) at the half mile mark. She'd have got closer on a faster track.

Winner Covfefe did well from stall one, showing stamina and resolution not often seen in her age group. She benefited from being on the front end but was much the best and a second consecutive winner for the previously vanquished three-year-old filly brigade.

 

7.33pm GMT: Breeders Cup Turf Sprint (5f, Turf)

Key Trends (11 renewals so far)

  • 8/11 were already distance winners (check for specific 5f distance form)
  • Age 3-1; 4-4; 5-3; 6-2; 8-1 (all largely in line with representation)
  • 9/11 winners were top 3 or within 3L of the winner last time out (not ’17 winner)
  • 9/11 had 99+ Beyer; 11/11 96+ Beyer
  • 10/11 had 4+ starts in year
  • 10/11 had a 28+ day layoff
  • 11/11 placed in Graded Stakes (7/11 WON Graded Stakes)
  • Europeans 0 from 11 so far
  • Favourite is 4/11

How the runners fit

Pace:

Shekky Shebaz, who drew in from an Also Eligible spot at pre-entry stage, is quick early, as is Pure Sensation and Belvoir Bay. If Girls Know Best snuck in – first reserve currently – this would be even quicker early. The likelihood is that the race complexion will change quickly in the final furlong.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

A full field of twelve for the Turf Sprint which this year is five furlongs around the turn on the main turf track, moved from the quirky Oak Tree course due to safety concerns. It makes things slightly trickier as the Oak Tree sprints suited local specialists very well; now we have no ‘in’ from which to start.

I’m not in love with this race, I have to concede, and it is the one event in which I’ll not be going through every runner. Instead, I’m taking the following approach: look for a closer drawn inside at a price.

That’s because they are likely to go off too hard and those closers drawn outside may lose too much ground out of the turn. Of course, there’s a lot of conjecture in the above but, as with most races, if you don’t have a view on the pace in the race you can’t make an informed decision on how to bet it. Different horses show themselves as favoured in different setups. (Apologies if you know that but, for me, it’s handicapping 101 territory).

The really solid one, though he’s not an exciting price, is Eddie Haskell. His record at five furlongs at Santa Anita is 31112, and his overall 5f record is nine wins from 14, three 2nd’s and two 3rd’s. In other words, he’s been in the frame in every one of 14 5f races.

Imprimis rocked up at Royal Ascot this summer, where he got a tough trip as a thank you but still ran well in sixth. Before and after that he has had mixed fortunes. He shipped to England on the back of two big wins but has been luckless in a brace of runs since returning.

Those two recent misses were at longer trips however and Imprimis is an impressive seven-from-ten at the flat five. Previously he’d recorded a huge speed figure when cantering past wilting leaders who’d set a ridiculous 20.68 opening quarter. If he gets the splits, he is tempting at 10/1.

Local runner Stubbins also comes on very late and has an inside gate. He was nine lengths back before closing to win in a very messy G2 Woodford Stakes last time (Imprimis horror run, 3rd). He’s two from two on the turf at Santa Anita, both on the Oak Tree lane however. This trip might just be on the sharp side for him even allowing for a royal shemozzle up front.

And what of Stormy Liberal, the BC Turf Sprint winner for the past two years? He’s seven now and is starting to look as though his 36 career starts are taking their toll. There’d be almost no better story horse – Story Liberal, perhaps – than Peter Miller’s charge, and if anyone can revitalise him it’s Miller. But Stormy has yet to win in six since last year’s Breeders’ Cup score.

Totally Boss has been winning over slightly further and, while his form is highly consistent (four wins and a second from his last five starts, new speed figure top last time), I’m unsure about his ability to handle the strength and depth of this field. Perfectly possible I’ve underrated him, however. Also perfectly possible I’ve failed to mention the winner…

Trends Contenders:

Imprimis, Shekky Shebaz, Belvoir Bay

Form Contenders:

Eddie Haskell, Imprimis

Turf Sprint Selection:

Loads of blazing speed means this ought to be quick – look for an opening quarter mile of around 21.3 seconds. If that comes to pass, it might set up for a mid-pack closer like Imprimis. I think he’s probably the best horse in the race but he needs a change of luck after two horrible transits. Still, 10/1 offers plenty of scope.

Eddie Haskell is an obvious one. He has local form, is a five furlong win machine, and ticks a lot of boxes.

Suggestions:

Back Eddie Haskell at 5/1 general

Back Imprimis each way at 10/1 general

Turf Sprint Review:

Eddie and Imprimis never got in it, the latter particularly disappointing as Frankie took back a little in a race where the speedsters never got caught. Belvoir Bay was rapid from the outside stall and led all the way, with the first three always less than two lengths from the front.

8.10pm GMT: Breeders Cup Dirt Mile (1m, Dirt)

Key Trends (12 renewals to date)

  • 11/12 ran in a Grade 1 or 2 last time out
  • All 12 notched at least one 100+ Beyer in their last two races
  • 8/12 had 5+ runs in the year, 7/12 had 6+ runs in year (’18 winner: 4 runs)
  • Number of season runs since 2012: 5-8-4-3-3-9-4 (tendency to less)
  • Seasonal run breakdown: 3-2/4-2/5-1/6-2/8-2/9-2/10-1
  • Layoff: 10/12 27-42 days ('18 winner City of Light 70 days)
  • 7/12 'turned back' in distance (2/4 exceptions were Goldencents) ('18 CoL 9f, 10f, 7f last 3 runs, unraced at 1m!)
  • Top 3 favourites: Fav 2/12; 2nd fav 3/12; 3rd fav 1/12 [6/12 outside top 3 in betting]
  • Age 3-3/4-7/5-1/6-1 = 10/12 3 or 4yo (9/12 4yo+)
  • 11/12 had won a Graded Stakes

How the runners fit

Pace:

Todd Pletcher’s Coal Front is a known pace angle. Mr. Money has a better draw than him but isn’t a ‘need the lead’ type. Omaha Beach has some early pace and the Korean mystery horse, Blue Chipper, has been on the lead in his two most recent starts.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

The ‘Dirty Mile’, one of those races I consistently get totally wrong. It’s the Ryanair Chase of the Breeders’ Cup stealing as it does contenders from the Sprint and the Classic. Still, I’ll catch it right one day… [Actually, I did back/tip Liam’s Map a few years back]

Strongly favoured is Omaha Beach, trained by Richard Mandella, and winner of the most recent half of his eight career starts. He’s won at six, seven and nine furlongs but not yet a mile; clearly with that trip versatility that are no real concerns about the range.

He does tend to get racing quite early so, with the first turn coming up very quickly, there is a chance of scrimmaging and the race could be lost right there. Whilst this son of War Front has a will to win, as evidenced by nose and head verdicts in his last three starts, he doesn’t knock me over considering he’s around even money.

Likely to serve it up to the Beach early is Coal Front, berthed two wider. His best form is over seven furlongs, a fact that when combined with expected pace contention suggests he’ll falter late. The Todd Pletcher inmate won the Grade 2 Godolphin Mile in the spring and picked up a minor stakes race last time, either side of a pair of defeats – one heavy, in the Met Mile. He too is a short enough price for me.

Outside of Coal Front is Korean champion, Blue Chipper. He’s been commanding at Busan, winning a mile Listed race by ten lengths two back. He contested the lead there, as he did last time over six furlongs, the shorter trip in a higher grade (G1) resulting in a much narrower verdict. Flavien Prat takes over steering duties on a horse whose level is impossible to peg: he broke the track record when winning the mile race but what is the level of opposition or of historical performance at Busan? Answers on a postcard…

He was 40/1 but he’s now 16/1, though it will be interesting to see which way the tote board goes: he’s 20/1 on the morning line here.

Plenty of speed out wide could cause problems for those drawn closer to the rail. Second favourite, Improbable, will exit trap two. The Bob Baffert-trained three-year-old is unbeaten in two at a flat mile, both at minor stakes level, and he possesses a more patient run style than plenty of his Dirt Mile rivals. He didn’t have the greatest trip in the Penn Derby, and likely doesn’t stay the extra furlong. This strong trends profile fit is also a fairly strong form contender.

Mr. Money is by Goldencents, himself the only dual Dirt Mile winner, both at Santa Anita, out of a Tiznow mare: he’s bred for this job all right. He ran a fine second in that blanket finish to the Penn Derby, prior to which he’d notched a four-timer of Grade 3 scores the first of which was at the flat mile. He stays further, is ultra-consistent but will need to avoid the anticipated pace sizzle in three of the four stalls to his immediate right.

In his mile score he finished very well off a very fast opening quarter, and went away to record a five length win. The time wasn’t super-fast because a pace collapse, a scenario that could easily play out here, too.

Just inside Mr. Money, in three, is Spun To Run. Two from two at the trip, both in lower grade affairs, the most of recent of the pair was last time out where he posted a huge personal best. A 110 Beyer is five spots quicker than anything else in the field, but the usual doubts about bouncing after an outlying career best apply. If he can back it up, he must go close.

The rail draw belongs to Giant Expectations, a six-year-old who was sixth and fifth in the last two renewals of the Dirt Mile. He hasn’t won since Boxing Day 2017 and it is difficult to see that sequence snapping on Saturday.

At the other side of the field, Snapper Sinclair exits box twelve. He won an ungraded mile race last time… on turf! That’s a quirky prep for the Dirt Mile and in any case he looks over-faced in this esteemed company.

Bracketed by Snapper and Blue Chipper is Diamond Oops, another who prepped for this on the lawn. He at least was runner up in a Grade 1 on his first attempt at a mile. Before that he split Imperial Hint and Mitole in a Grade 1 six furlong dirt contest, so he clearly has both pace and talent. Whether he quite has the legs to see out a fierce mile examination I’m not sure; but I’m not sure he hasn’t either, making 20/1 mildly tempting.

And then there’s Jane Chapple-Hyam’s British challenger, Ambassadorial. A five-year-old that has been beaten mainly in handicap company this season, he was third in a Korean G1 two back. That at least betrays some ability to handle a dirt surface, though it was muddy that day. It would undoubtedly be one of the stories of the meeting if Jane could nick this, but it’s a chunky leap of faith to see that happening.

Trends Contenders:

Improbable

Form Contenders:

Omaha Beach, Improbable, Spun To Run, Mr. Money

Dirt Mile Selection:

I don’t see Omaha Beach as far clear as the market does. Which quite probably makes me wrong. I think Spun To Run is likely to bounce or, if not, to fail to run to the excellent level of his previous race. And I think Improbable, though unquestionably talented, doesn’t find winning easy.

That brings me to Mr. Money and his sexy effort in the Pat Day Mile. I feel like this race will be a similar pace meltdown to that one and, if it is, this guy has shown he will gratefully pick up the pieces. Plus he’s won five of his last six and was second in a Grade 1 over further on the other occasion. That makes him a very attractive each way bet.

The Korean runner will be really interesting to watch, and he is training well on the track here. 16/1 might give you a bit of fun if he can win the early speed tussle. But Diamond Oops is a more obvious each way prayer mat play. He has top class form at shorter, and very good form from his first mile race albeit on the grass.

Suggestion:

Back Mr. Money each way at 11/2 bet365

Consider backing Diamond Oops each way at 20/1 general

Dirt Mile Review:

A poor race for me as I'd got stuck into Mr. Money. Both he and Diamond Oops - who is normally ridden towards the front but held up here - were out back. The Korean horse, Blue Chipper, ran a  mighty race in third, while Omaha Beach was given a stinker by Mike Smith as favourite. But Spun To Run, who won and was backing up a last day 110 Beyer figure - clear best in the field - just three weeks later, again ran to that level and led from wire to wire.

8.54pm GMT: Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf (1m1f, Turf)

Key Trends (20 renewals to date)

  • US 12 Europe 8
  • 8/8 US winners 1st/2nd LTO; 3/4 ex-Euro imports 1st LTO; 1/8 Euro 1st LTO!
  • Layoff: US/import 10/12 35 days or less '18 winner absent 84 days); Euro, anything goes!
  • Age: 3: 5 (all Euro, including 2016 & 2017 winners); 4: 9; 5: 4; 6+: 1
  • US have won 6 of last 9 and 8 of last 12
  • 18/20 - 4-7 runs this season (other 2 had 3 starts)
  • 9 of 12 US winners had had a race at Keeneland that season

How the runners fit

Pace:

Thais is a stablemate of Sistercharlie and her job will be as ‘hare’. Mirth also tends to lead but may have to settle for second. As such, they’re unlikely to go too fast early and there is the prospect of some hard luck stories from the tight home turn.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

This was to be one of the match ups of the weekend until Magical’s late withdrawal. Now it looms as a procession for Chad Brown’s Sistercharlie, who may be sent off a shade of odds on by US punters. But is it as open and shut as that?

Formerly trained in France, Sistercharlie is unbeaten in her last six starts in America, all of them Grade 1’s and she is the reigning FM Turf champion. She has run to a very consistent level of form, with the exception of her most recent win, which was slightly underwhelming. It is to her credit that she still got the job done, catching her pacemaker and resisting the tepid challenge of Mrs Sippy, and she is simply head and shoulders above the rest of the home team.

But even without Magical she will face resistance from a number of genuine European Group 1 performers.

Joseph O’Brien has brought Iridessa across. She won her only ten-furlong start, in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh in June, and she’s backed that up with a second G1 score in the Matron during Irish Champions Weekend. She was a little tapped for toe over a mile in the Sun Chariot last time and this looks her trip.

The Sun Chariot winner was Billesdon Brook, victorious also in the previous year’s 1000 Guineas, both on the same straight Newmarket Rowley mile. She’s only gone ten furlongs once before, when fourth in last year’s Nassau Stakes and the jury is out on whether she has enough stamina for the task.

Fleeting has been incredibly unlucky this season, failing to get a run in both the Prix de l’Opera and the Champion Filly & Mare Stakes. But those runs were on soft ground; on firm she was only fifth in the Vermeille and fourth in the Beverly D (behind Sistercharlie). Adding the fact she raced in mid-September and twice in October, she may be vulnerable at this stage of the season.

As well as Fleeting, Aidan also saddles Just Wonderful, a three-year-old who has been beaten in her last eight starts. Three transatlantic trips have netted a second in the Belmont Oaks in between two thumpings, in the Juvenile Fillies Turf at last year’s Breeders’ Cup and in the First Lady at Keeneland last time.

The French have just two runners at the entire meeting this year – if you exclude Trais Fluors, recently moved to Ken Condon in Ireland – and they both line up in this. Villa Marina was a brave if slightly fortuitous winner of the Opera, holding off Fleeting’s luckless charge by a fine margin. She has a really good ten-furlong record – three wins and two places from five starts – and she handles all ground.

As a French filly, she also has tactical speed which may be required if Sistercharlie’s pacemaker Thais gets loose on the lead, as she has done in her last two. Villa Marina’s only defeat in her last four starts was when patently failing to stay in the twelve-furlong Group 1 Prix Vermeille. She does have a tough draw in 9 to overcome, as they start in a chute on a bend, but is otherwise a definite player for me.

The other French filly is Castle Lady, winner of the French 1000 Guineas earlier this year. She was given a lot – like, a heck of a lot – to do in the Coronation Stakes, never really contending there, and she again had plenty to do turning in on her US debut at Keeneland last time out.

When the split came there, however, she couldn’t reel in Chad’s Cambier Parc, and that form looks shy of this assignment. Also, that run was her first at beyond a mile with this race another furlong again; it is far from certain she will stay.

The former David Simcock-trained Mrs Sippy got close to Sistercharlie in the Flower Bowl last time but she looks flattered by that effort, her two US performances being some way behind all bar that last day near-shock on the favourite’s 2019 CV.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has been blackballed from this year’s Breeders’ Cup, so his two starters race with Dan Ward, his assistant, listed as the trainer. (I mean, really, what’s the point?). They saddle Vasilika here, a seasoned veteran of 35 races. She’s won 18 of those, some feat, including two Group 1’s since switching to Hollendorfer at the start of last year. [He claimed her for $40,000 and has since won around $1,500,000 with her!]

And get this: her Santa Anita record reads 121111111111. Eleven wins from twelve starts! She’s only raced once at this mile and a quarter range, winning the G1 Rodeo Drive at here.

Frankie will have to be at his brilliant best if Fanny Logan is to overcome her parking lot draw in 12 of 12. He did win the last renewal held here, aboard Sir Michael Stoute’s Queen’s Trust, from stall 11 so if anyone can, Frankie can.

Her form profile is interesting: she’s five from five at this trip, has won her last four and handles fast ground. But she’s not won above Group 3 level and there are legitimate, and better drawn, Group 1 performers aplenty in opposition.

Still, seeing the old Sheikh Mohammed colours – now representing the ownership of his estranged wife Sheikha Al Jallila – at the Breeders’ Cup again will be lovely for sentimentalists like myself.

And that leaves Mirth, winner of this year’s Rodeo Drive. She’s had nine starts in 2019, and had been beaten in all bar one of the previous eight, most of them claiming races. She has a kind draw and a track and trip G1 score, but she ought not to be remotely good enough.

Trends Contenders:

Sistercharlie, Fanny Logan, Billesdon Brook, Castle Lady

Form Contenders:

Sistercharlie, Iridessa, Villa Marina

Filly and Mare Turf Selection:

Chad Brown has won four of the last six FM Turf’s and two of the last three at Santa Anita. In the defeat at this track, Queen’s Trust just pipped Brown’s Lady Eli in a classic finish. His Sistercharlie is a very obvious winner: she has towered over her peer group this year, has drawn ostensibly well (though her waited with style may confound her post position), and she is the defending champion.

Against her, Iridessa should be able to sit handy from stall one and has bits of form to go close; Villa Marina has been slightly underestimated, though stall nine is sub-optimal; and Vasilika is a local win machine.

Ultimately, I think the jolly will probably win but I don’t like the price in a race where hard luck can make an ‘all in’ play very expensive. I’d rather back a couple ‘without Sistercharlie’.

Suggestion:

Back Villa Marina each way 10/1 general and/or ‘without favourite’

Back Iridessa each way 7/1 365, Victor, Fred, Boyle and/or ‘without favourite’

Consider exactas with Sistercharlie to beat Iridessa, Villa Marina and/or Vasilika

Filly and Mare Turf Review:

Iridessa got a perfect stalking trip after jockey Wayne Lordan bounced her out from stall one and negotiated the tricky junction on to the main track. Thereafter, she got the jump on favoured Sistercharlie and gamely held off the super-improved Vasilika in a thrilling finish. Thrilling, that is, if you backed Iridessa. She paid 13/1 on the US tote, but only 8/1 back home.

Villa Marina did plenty of late running to finish a six-length seventh, but being 16 1/2 length back after 60% of the race is just plain bonkers.

The exacta suggestions were close but no cigar, with Iridessa beating Vasilika and Sistercharlie. The exacta paid 64.5/1 and the trifecta 147.3/1. Woulda coulda shoulda.

 

9.36pm GMT: Breeders Cup Sprint (6f, Dirt)

Key Trends (35 renewals to date)

  • Since 2007, the BC Sprint winners came into the race with a combined 71/137 lifetime win record (52%)
  • Last 25 winners had at least 50% 1-2 strike rate at 6f
  • 33/35 won a G1-3 that season
  • 1+ 6f wins AND ran sharp 7f last 12 months a solid recent angle
  • 20 of the last 26 had 2+ 6f wins that season
  • 12 of the last 21 winners were 50%+ lifetime winners ('18 Roy H 'only' 38%)
  • 12 of last 15 winners had 5 or fewer seasonal starts
  • 18 of last 25 winners showed a bullet workout (not ’17/'18 winner, Roy H, in either season)

How the runners fit

Pace:

There must be a prospect of at least two of Mitole, Shancelot, Matera Sky and Catalina Cruiser locking horns from the gate, though the last named has been running over further and may not have the toe to mix it with the other two. Imperial Hint led last time, too, making the balance of probabilities that it will be fast from the get go.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

Always a terrific spectacle, and one where the ideal combination is that of speed and stamina: specifically, an excellent win record at six furlongs and a win at further. If that trend is to continue this year it will be courtesy of one of Mitole, Shancelot, Catalina Cruiser and Hog Creek Hustle.

Mitole is favoured, and for good reason. He’s won three of his last four, all Grade 1’s, and he’s been convincing each time. His record at six furlongs is six wins from ten starts. But… the one time he raced in a 6f G1 he was beaten more than seven lengths, and that was against a couple of horses who re-oppose here.

In his defence, the winner that day, Imperial Hint, set a new track record and Mitole’s early duel cooked his goose. However, with another searching gallop from the stalls expected, he might be one to field against.

Imperial Hint is an obvious alternative. Now six and a veteran of 23 lifetime starts, he has won 14 of them, ten (from 16) at this distance. He was third in last year’s BC Sprint (where they probably didn’t go fast enough early for him) and 2nd in the 2017 renewal (where they did).

He’s been kept to six furlongs this term but won over 6 ½f last season and 7f the season before; there are few doubts about his ability to see things out.

Shancelot has the biggest ‘number’ in the field, a whopping 121 achieved on only his third run. This three-year-old son of BC Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby won his first three before settling for place money in his most recent two of five all told.

Those last two were both in Grade 1 company, and both defeats were heart-on-sleeve carried-out-on-shield valiant efforts: he led all the way to the last strides in both before succumbing by a head each time.

It is fair to expect he’d have bounced (i.e. underperformed after a massive effort) in the H Allan Jerkens but, that monster 121 aside, he’s not run fast enough to take this field out. Moreover, he’s going to face pace contention from Mitole and perhaps others. He’s naturally not without a chance but I’m looking elsewhere.

This is an interesting choice of spot for Catalina Cruiser. John Sadler’s lightly-raced five-year-old has not competed over six furlongs since his first two starts, both of them wins at Santa Anita but neither of them stakes. Clearly, then, he stays further but he failed big time when an odds-on favourite in the Dirt Mile last year, his only stab at Grade 1 horses. He’s not an impossible winner by any means but has plenty more on this time.

Firenze Fire has failed to, erm, fire in his two Breeders’ Cup starts both at the mile distance. Likewise, he’s been beaten generally this campaign, though he got to within a nose of a front-running Imperial Hint in the G1 Vosburgh last time. That run may flatter a touch, however, as it was Imperial Hint’s first off a two month layoff, the winner’s trainer clearly leaving something to work on for this big day.

The second half of Steve Asmussen’s uncoupled entry, alongside Mitole, is Engage. Generally just shy of Grade 1 level as a three-year-old last year when trained by Chad Brown, he’s been tenderly handled this term: not hitting the track until mid-July, he was beaten in an optional allowance claimer, from where Asmussen fished him.

Since the trainer switch, Engage is two-from-two, first in ungraded stakes company and then in the G2 Ogden Phoenix, a race taken in by Work All Week twice en route to BC Sprint success in 2013 and 2014. He’s likely to sit just off the early sizzle and has a good draw in five.

Closing Engage down in the Ogden Phoenix and within a length or so were both Whitmore and Hog Creek Hustle. Whitmore is six now and will be running in the race for the third time. A no show in 2017 at Del Mar, a track which wouldn’t have suited, was followed by second place twelve months ago at Churchill. That oval probably plays to his late running style slightly better than Santa Anita but he is certainly a horse to benefit from overly fast early fractions, which may come to pass here.

Likewise, Hog Creek Hustle is a deep closer. He ran into a pocket when a close fifth in that Grade 2 but had run first and then second in a brace of seven-furlong Grade 1’s immediately prior. If they go crazy on the front he is interesting at a price.

It’s impossible to know what to make of the Japanese runner, Matera Sky. He’s been beaten in his last seven starts back home and in Dubai, usually when leading, though he was a very good second in the Grade 1 Golden Shaheen at the Carnival.

That leaves the three-year-old rising star, Landeskog. Well beaten behind Hog Creek Hustle in the G1 Woody Stephens over seven, he was also run down in a Grade 2 last time. The time was pretty quick there but he looks susceptible both to the bounce off that clear career top and to stronger early speed as well as capable finishers. Landeskog has been withdrawn.

Trends Contenders:

Imperial Hint, Shancelot, Catalina Cruiser

Form Contenders:

Imperial Hint, Shancelot, Mitole

Sprint Selection:

I’m against Shancelot and Mitole here. Not because they can’t win – they are perfectly capable high-class sprinters – but rather because I am betting that the early speed battle won’t sustain those involved to the finish.

The one I like most is Imperial Hint. He’s a really talented horse who comes here on the back of two Grade 1 scores. Indeed it’s the exact same preparation that saw him run third last year. He should be able to stalk the pace from his wide draw and be placed to have first crack at the leaders if/when they start to tire.

At bigger prices, I also quite like Whitmore and Hog Creek Hustle. If the race is super fast early, and that’s my contention, then the closers should get a sniff. They’re both huge prices and worth a tiny tickle.

Suggestion:

Back Imperial Hint at 4/1 with Hills / 888sport

Back Whitmore 20/1 general and/or Hog Creek Hustle at 33/1 general each way

 

Sprint Review:

Imperial Hint was withdrawn on veterinary advice, leaving the two join favourites Mitole and Shancelot to fight it out. The latter led with the former running him down in the last furlong. Whitmore ran on from his usual far back - eight lengths behind after a quarter mile - to finish third at 20-odd/1.

 

10.20pm GMT: Breeders Cup Mile (1m, Turf)

Key Trends (35 renewals to date)

  • The last 17 winners had 4-6 seasonal starts
  • 15/17 winners since 2002 had 2+ mile turf wins (exceptions, Karakontie 2014, Expert Eye 2018)
  • Repeat winners common (Miesque, Lure, Da Hoss, Goldikova, Wise Dan)
  • 15 of the last 23 were US winners; 7 French-trained (UK/Ire 1 for 70 since 1995, Expert Eye in 2018)
  • Only Goldikova (x3), Karakontie & Expert Eye have stemmed US dominance since 2004
  • 8/10 3yo winners were Euros (4 fillies); 11/12 5yo+ winners were US (exception Goldikova #3)
  • Euro G1 win important, US any Graded win (Expert Eye no G1 win)
  • 23 of the last 25 ran 123 last time, or finished within 4L of the winner
  • Career record at 1m of BC Mile winners since 2002: Runs 133, 1st 75 (56%), 2nd 30 (23%)
  • Thus, the last 15 BC Mile winners had a collective 79% 1-2 record at the distance
  • No front runner has been 1st or 2nd since 2000

 

How the runners fit

Pace:

Unusually for this race, there’s not a whole load of speed. Hey Gaman may be the one to take them along, which would probably be smart from his wide berth in any case; Circus Maximus should be handy; and Bolo has front run regularly in the past. There are lots of horses who are generally waited with and this looks messy.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

A full field and probably a steady gallop on a very tight circuit could make the outcome unpredictable. Overall US leads Europe 21-14 in the Mile, but at Santa Anita the score is 5-4 to Europe, thanks in large part to two of Goldikova’s three wins.

But in the last five Californian BC Mile’s (including Del Mar in 2017), US leads 4-1, and at all venues in the last eight years the home team leads 6-2.

Moreover, prior to Expert Eye’s victory last year, the previous UK or Irish winner was Barathea. In 1994! That run extended to 62 starters before the peerless Sir Michael Stoute/ Frankie Dettori axis struck.

The French have a good record but are unrepresented this year, unless you count Ken Condon’s recently acquired Trais Fluors.

Since 2004, only Karakontie, Expert Eye and Goldikova (x3) have stemmed US dominance.

Those are sobering stats if you’re tempted to pile into a British or Irish runner. Of course, one can win, but the nature of the tight inner oval and a race around two turns catches most Euros out.

In spite of history, Circus Maximus is favourite. That’s naturally because his form is good. He won the G1 St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, and he won the G1 Prix du Moulin at Longchamp. On both occasions he was ridden just behind the leader and got first run off a decent pace, which he sustained to victory.

But when he was beaten in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, also over a mile, the pace was steady and he was readily outkicked by Too Darn Hot, most likely a seven furlong horse.

The ground was on the soft side of good for both of his G1 scores, but it was quicker – like Santa Anita – when he was outrun at Goodwood. I backed him at 7/1 after the Moulin but I think he’ll again be outsped despite getting first run in the short straight.

A brace of US fillies are next in the betting, Got Stormy and Uni. Got Stormy is a four-year-old with three wins from six starts this season, all at a mile on the turf. She won a Grade 1 at Saratoga against the boys in course record time, beating Uni, in August, and has since finished second to longshot El Tormenta in the G1 Woodbine Mile.

In the Woodbine race there were five horses within a length or so at the finish: it was a muddling affair and the winner ran her down. She looks sure to be on the premises and her price fully reflects that.

Chad Brown has got a real tune out of the five-year-old mare Uni in the last two years. During that time she’s won six of seven, the defeat coming in the aforementioned Saratoga G1 behind Got Stormy. There, she finished well but just failed to get up. She is not as quick as Got Stormy but if the pace is steady it will not be overall speed that wins the race. She has shown an impressive turn of pace to get races won, notably in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland on her most recent start.

She was beaten on her sole recent start against boys but I’m not certain that is material rather than coincidence.

The Richard Fahey-trained Space Traveller is predominantly a seven-furlong horse, similar in that regard to last year’s winner, Expert Eye. He did win on his sole attempt at a mile, however, last time at Leopardstown in G2 company. I’d be a little worried about his hold up style from an inside draw as it might be difficult to fashion a clear passage.

It’s always worth considering a domestic runner at a price in the Mile, and Bowies Hero was a Grade 1 winner last time. There he ground down the leaders in the straight in a very messy finish – the margins were ¾, nose, nose, nose, nose, ½, ½, dead heat, neck: two lengths covering the first ten home!

He does have three wins on the Santa Anita turf track and seven from 15 starts at a mile, so he’s far from an impossible winner even from stall 14.

Something of a ‘wise guy’ horse is the former John Gosden inmate, Without Parole. Winner of the same Royal Ascot race last year as Circus Maximus, he has been missing in action ever since. Now moved to Chad Brown, his main target is said to be the Pegasus Turf at Gulfstream in January; but it’s not hard to imagine that a change of scenery, the application of Lasix and some Chad magic can revitalise a horse headed for the top last summer. He’d be a win only play as he’s just as likely – more likely, in truth – to finish last as he is to win.

Lord Glitters and Suedois are very much in the veteran stage now. The latter was third in that bunched finish Shadwell Turf Mile behind Bowies Hero last time, and was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar in 2017. He’s eight now, which would make him the oldest BC Mile winner, and arguably past his prime for all that it was an encouraging run at Keeneland.

Lord Glitters is ‘only’ six, an age at which four winners, including in 2011 and 2013, struck. He’s capable of top class form, as when winning the straight track Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. Prior to that he was third to Almond Eye in the valuable Dubai Turf at the Carnival. He was disappointing, however, on his previous visit to North America, running down the field in the 2018 Woodbine Mile.

Hey Gaman ought not to be good enough, and yet he will quite possibly lead or be second and he is the seven-furlong horse that is arguably needed for this test. He’s been beaten in all five of his G1 races and I have to let him beat me.

My eye keeps getting drawn to Trais Fluors. Formerly with Andre Fabre, the five-year-old has switched to Ken Condon ahead of his Santa Anita engagement. He’s been first or second in eight of his eleven mile races but often seems to be set too much to do.

Arguably his best of recent form was a 2 ½ length third to Olmedo and Mountain Angel. I quite strongly fancied Olmedo for this race, and backed him, but he didn’t travel over. Sigh. Anyway, Trais Fluors has a touch of Karakontie about his profile and he’s a very big price. As such, he will suck a few dollars from my wallet on the US tote.

Meanwhile, back with the local mob, El Tormenta was a 44/1 bomber when providing Canadian trainer Gail Cox with her biggest triumph in Woodbine Mile last time, turning over Got Stormy no less.

The question is whether that was a fluke or not; and the answer is probably not. He has very solid form at 7f and a mile – 12141, the 4 coming in a luckless run where he might actually have won – and might get a similar set up to the Woodbine Mile again. Both World Approval and Tepin scored in the same race before winning the BC mile. He’s a dark one.

Lucullan was a disqualified third in El Tomenta’s race, and since won a Grade 2 at Belmont. He’s rested less than most but it’s not enough to say he can’t win. I didn’t like the way he lugged out under pressure at Woodbine, for which he got the DQ, and most of his best form is over slightly further.

The former Johnny Murtagh-trained True Valour arrives here on a hat-trick. Now with Simon Callaghan, he’s won a Grade 3 and a Grade 2 prior to setting his sights on this Grade 1. The G2 score, over course and distance, was another absolute blanket job with the first seven separated by a head, nose, head, neck, ½, nose, ½ - 1 ½ lengths or so. I wouldn’t back him to land the G321 trio.

Bolo has five of his six career wins on the Santa Anita lawns, including when wiring his field in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile three back. He was 32/1 that day and is currently 66/1 in Britain. That’s because since the win he’s run poorly twice including over this track when seven lengths behind True Valour.

Trends Contenders:

Circus Maximus, Got Stormy, Uni, El Tormenta

Form Contenders:

It’s complicated!

Mile Selection:

This is a real head scratcher. Should almost certainly be filed under ‘too difficult’. The first thing is that we have to take a view on how the race will be run: depending on whether we think slow or fast, we might choose different bets.

For instance, if I thought it would be quick I’d like Circus Maximus, the class of the field. If I thought it would be truly run with a solid but not stupid end-to-end gallop, I’d plump for Got Stormy. But I don’t. I feel like there’s a good chance it will be steadily run and my wagering approach is framed accordingly. If they go quicker, I’ll have to wear that.

The one with the best kick is probably Uni. She is exhilarating to watch as the turbo kicks in from far back with 2 ½ furlongs to go in her races. But that’s a dangerous tactic and there are plenty in here that could get the nod in a blanket verdict: as you’ll know from the summary section, such finishes are not uncommon.

Two at massive prices to consider chancing for the latter scenario are El Tormenta and Trais Fluors; and if Bolo wheeled back to his ‘A’ game he’d be more like 16/1 than 66/1.

Suggestions:

Try Uni to win at 5/1 Hills

Consider El Tormenta each way at 20/1 Black Type (16/1 general)

Consider tiny Hail Mary’s on Trais Fluors (US tote) and/or Bolo 66/1 Victor/Coral

Mile Review:

Bolo was a non-runner, Trais Fluors was a no show (he was that sort of a punt). El Tormenta, a horse that hadn't led in its last seven starts, decided to engage in a suicide pace pact with Hey Gaman. That was curtains for him. Happily, Uni again showed her dazzling acceleration in the home turn and hurtled down the straight to win.

11.00pm GMT: Breeders Cup Distaff (1m1f, Dirt)

Key Trends (35 renewals to date)

  • 28/35 won by 3 or 4yo's
  • 17/35 won by 4yo's (including 10 of the last 17)
  • 34/35 finished top 3 or within 4L of winner last time out
  • 21 of the last 28 winners ran 6-8 times in the year
  • 25/31 1m1f Distaff winners had won at the distance already
  • Layoff: 28/35 35 days or less (all since 1998, BUT NOT 4 of last 5 winners)
  • 24/31 1m1f Distaff winners had won a Grade 1 in same year
  • The favourite is 15/35 (43% SR)
  • 33/35 had recorded a Beyer of 100+

How the runners fit

Pace:

Mo See Cal, Secret Spice and Serengeti Empress are expected to break smartly and set a busy early tempo. Strong favourite Midnight Bisou has a perfect draw to stalk the pace.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

This race revolves around Midnight Bisou, winner of all seven starts this year and heavy favourite. Third in the Distaff last year, she is unbeaten since. The highlight of that super septet was a nose verdict over Elate in the G1 Personal Ensign, the latter a single-figure price to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It was nine lengths back to the third horse that day.

Perhaps unsurprisingly after such a huge run, she bounced a little on her most recent start but still had enough to win the Grade 2 Beldame by three lengths-plus from re-opposing Wow Cat. Tactically versatile and with verdicts over nearly all of her Distaff rivals, she has a plum draw which makes it very hard to see how she can be beaten.

One filly yet to square up to Midnight Bisou is Dunbar Road. Trained by Chad Brown she was only third in the G1 Spinster over this nine-furlong range last time, Blue Prize and Elate finishing in front of her there. A collateral line through Elate gives her a little to find, though she is a steadily progressive three-year-old.

Blue Prize has been consistent all season, and was scoring back-to-back wins in the Spinster last time out. She’s been in the first two in ten of her twelve races over the Distaff distance. The outside stall is unhelpful, however, even for a mid- to late runner, as she bids to improve on fourth in the race last year, just a head behind Midnight Bisou.

The aforementioned Wow Cat, like all runners bar Blue Prize referenced so far in this race, ships across from New York. Also trained by Chad, Wow Cat was second in last year’s Distaff after a win in the Beldame. This time she was only second, and a respectful second at that, behind Midnight Bisou.

That recurring theme, “behind Midnight Bisou”, does not apply to the Churchill Downs filly, Street Band. Unfashionably bred, she is a story horse who gave British jockey Sophie Doyle (sister of James) her maiden Grade 1 win when coming from near last to first in the Cotillion Stakes last time. The Parx track was playing favourably for closers that day which, from a technical perspective, takes a little of the gloss off the performance.

Prior to that she’d been second to Dunbar Road, but that was over ten furlongs on a sloppy track, very different conditions to this fast track nine. Street Band is likely to be played quite late.

Serengeti Empress completes the list of shippers, she too heading from east to left coast for the Distaff party. A winner of her only start at the trip, she’s another faintly progressive three-year-old chancing her arm. A regressive effort last time after a career best on the clock two back when second in the seven-furlong G1 Test Stakes, her single nine-furlong score was in none other than the Kentucky Oaks. But even her best run gives her a few lengths to find with Midnight Bisou.

It may be worth noting that seven of the nine Santa Anita Distaff’s have been won by Southern Californian fillies and mares. With that in mind, let us consider the home team.

Ostensibly the most likely of this quintet is five-year-old Paradise Woods, winner of the Grade 2 Zenyatta on this track last time over a half furlong shorter. Earlier in the season she’d won a course and distance Grade 2 by more than ten lengths, and she has back class from her three-year-old season (when she was third in the Distaff) that matches up with Midnight Bisou. She’s run her best races on or close to the lead and has trap one from which to set that up. I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of rider Abel Cedillo, mind, his style of encouragement being fairly ‘agricultural’.

Secret Spice was second in the Zenyatta, as she was in a brace of Grade 1’s prior to that. All three of those bridesmaid efforts were at the slightly shorter distance of a mile and a sixteenth. It’s difficult to say whether she’s not the most resolute or she doesn’t quite stay; given that her best two speed figures have come at a mile the latter is probably more credible and certainly more charitable. In a truly run race, she might struggle to finish her race off.

On form there wouldn’t be more than a beach towel between Paradise Woods, Secret Spice and Ollie’s Candy, the last named beating Spice in the Clement Hirsch two back before running third to the other two in the Zenyatta. They may again finish close together but predicting in which order is close to impossible.

The field is completed by La Force, who has been well below her 2018 form this term, and Mo See Cal,  who has never raced beyond a mile and is stepping into Graded Stakes company for the first time in a 16 race career.

Trends Contenders:

Midnight Bisou

Form Contenders:

Midnight Bisou

Distaff Selection:

You can probably see where this is going... Midnight Bisou has been dominant this year. From a spectator perspective she has looked like she might get beaten a furlong from home on a number of occasions; but from a punting perspective she’s always converted that compelling drama into victory.

This will be another trip to the well and another hard race is virtually certain. Freshened 35 days since her last win, she will be extremely tough to beat and, as much as these things can be, she actually looks a bit of value at 5/4.

If you’d rather back one each way, Paradise Woods would make the frame on one of her going days. And Blue Prize has an excellent record at the distance, finishing 1st or 2nd on ten out of twelve occasions. Her late running style could enable her to pick up the pieces or round out the exacta.

Suggestion:

Back Midnight Bisou at 5/4 general

Consider Midnight Bisou to beat Blue Prize and/or Paradise Woods in exactas

Consider Blue Prize and/or Paradise Woods in the ‘without favourite’ market

Distaff Review:

Midnight Bisou was the best filly in this race but seemed to resent the deep surface on the track. Blue Prize picked up the mantle, emerging from 8 1/2 lengths behind at the first call (after a quarter mile) to win. No horse made up more ground to win over the weekend, and she likely benefited from the combination of a liking for the deep surface as well as abundant stamina. Argentinian breeding, which is often to get staying types, is a possible factor in the winner, who had a wholly Argentine pedigree.

11.40pm GMT: Breeders Cup Turf (1m4f, Turf)

Key Trends (35 renewals to date)

  • 24/25 winners to have raced at the distance had been at least 2nd (Found in 2015 the exception)
  • Layoff: US 35 days or less; Euro any
  • 35/35 aged 3-5yo; 6yo+ 0/52
  • Euro 3yo's 7; US 3yo's 2 (last one in 1989)
  • 27/35 won G1 that season (7/8 exceptions were Euro, & averaged 13/1)
  • 12/22 Euro winners last ran in the Arc (not usually the 'obvious' one, though Enable doubled up in '18)
  • Arc winners are 1/7 in same season (Enable first horse to do the double)
  • 8 US winners ran in Joe Hirsch, six of them winning that key prep (Arklow '19)
  • 22/25 since '94 had 3-8 starts - 3-4; 4 or 5-6; 6 to 8-12 (5 of last 7 had 6-8 seasonal runs, Enable won off just 2 runs in '18)
  • Every winner to have had at least two 1m4f runs won or was 100% ITM at the distance
  • Europe 6 1/2 US 5 1/2 in SoCal (DH in 2003)
  • Last 20 renewals: Europe 15 1/2 US 4 1/2

 

How the runners fit

Pace:

A couple of US-trained horses, Acclimate and Channel Maker, are likely to make this a firm test; Bandua has led in two of his last four also. That may not play to the suspect stamina of the best American turf horse this year, Bricks And Mortar. It should suit the European runners.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

Always a fascinating race even if it is one in which I generally develop a strong opinion (and commensurate wagering position) on a horse that loses!

This year we have the Derby winner, Anthony Van Dyck, taking on the undisputed best domestic turfer, Bricks And Mortar. Both are classy, neither is bombproof.

Bricks And Mortar has won ten of a dozen lifetime starts and is unbeaten in six in the last two years. He’s won at Gulfstream, Fairgrounds, Churchill Downs, Belmont and Arlington; he’s won on firm turf, good turf and yielding turf; but he’s never won at a mile and a half.

True, he’s never run at that distance: his trainer Chad Brown agonized over whether to drop down to the Mile or up to the Turf, eventually plumping for the latter, and longer, trip. If this race was a mile and a quarter, he’d be sent off significant odds on, and likely win. But it’s not. It’s at a mile and a half, and what looks like being a truly run mile and a half at that. That is a major question mark.

A minor question mark is his layoff – 84 days, since early August – which is unconventional for a US runner in this race. He’s the favourite and likely to be bet down to about 6/4 on the tote; and that’s a bet against, though if he stays he probably does win.

Meanwhile, across the pond, Anthony Van Dyck went from a soft ground Lingfield Derby Trial victory to Epsom glory… and then to defeat in the Irish Derby, defeat in the King George at Ascot, and defeat in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Excuses abound: he was given too much to do in the Irish Derby, where the front-runner stayed in front; he resented the soft ground at Ascot; and trip was too short in the Irish Champion. All plausible – reasonable even – but we have to consider whether we want to accept 9/4 about a horse that has lost his last three and seven of his twelve lifetime starts.

This is no match race. Oh no, sir. Charlie Appleby, whose Breeders’ Cup record reads 116012, has thrown Old Persian into the mix. The four-year-old son of Dubawi has won three of five this campaign, all of them overseas, all of them on good or quicker turf, all of them over twelve furlongs. It may be that he benefits from the application of Lasix, or perhaps the competition is a notch below; either way, he fits here and his trainer’s record is most appealing.

AvD’s stablemate, Mount Everest, is next in the betting. Owned by Flaxman Holdings, or The Niarchos Family as we know them, he looks about ten pounds short of the requisite standard on current form. With just seven runs on his CV he could improve but a heavy ground Listed win at a shorter trip is a quirky preparation for a battle that normally involves Arc-calibre horses. He fits the ‘wrong Euro’ profile that so often bags the spoils in the Turf – to my persistent chagrin – and he’s the type I’d have to let beat me (again, sigh).

German entry Alounak was behind Old Persian in the Grosser Preis von Berlin in August but more recently ran a solid second in the Canadian International, a 1 ½ mile Grade 1 in Woodbine. There he ran a close second to Desert Encounter having not had the smoothest passage; I don’t think he was an unlucky loser necessarily but he can be marked up marginally. On Timeform ratings his best run gives him nothing to find with Anthony Van Dyck.

The rest are American horses where a stretch of the imagination is required to see them repelling the European challenge. Let’s review them all the same.

Arklow has run 23 times and yet his most recent – a half-length verdict over Channel Maker and Sadler’s Joy in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch at Belmont – was his best. Prior to that he’d fill minor placings in a raft of Graded Stakes, trading places with the likes of Channel Cat, Zulu Alpha, and Channel Maker.

There is very little between the group of them. The aforementioned five-year-old Channel Maker has arguably the best form but his Santa Anita record – one third from three starts – is off-putting.

Channel Cat was fourth in the Joe Hirsch, just 2 ¼ lengths back, and had previously won the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes, sandwiching third in the G1 Sword Dancer between those two.

Zulu Alpha is six now, older than any winner of the BC Turf. Indeed, Turf runners aged six and above are a combined 0-from-52. That’s a pretty big knock to overcome, especially when your form is not quite good enough anyway.

Bandua, formerly with Dermot Weld and now in the care of Jack Sisterson, has been whacked on both attempts at this far, including in Latrobe’s Irish Derby.            

Phil d’Amato saddles Acclimate. Alas, his runner here is a stone and more below what is normally needed, and will likely sacrifice himself on the front. That said, the likes of Highland Reel – obviously higher class – have won from the front. He’s a son of Acclamation and has never run this far.

Richard Mandella is a trainer who has nine Breeders’ Cup wins, including two – well, one and a half – in Santa Anita BC Turf’s, courtesy of Kotashaan in 1993 (Arcangues’ Classic year, remember him?) and Johar’s dead heat with High Chapparal in 2003. He also trained Beholder to three Breeders’ Cup wins, so he knows how to get the job done at this festival. His Turf record is 106441023: six of nine finishing in the first four.

His United is lightly raced but has never run and never run fast enough to suggest he can win a race of this quality. That said, he was a running-on third in a ten-furlong Grade 2 last time and it’s not impossible he could improve for the extra 440 yards.

Trends Contenders:

Anthony van Dyck, Old Persian

Form Contenders:

Anthony Van Dyck, Old Persian, Bricks And Mortar

Turf Selection:

A fascinating race which could go one of many ways. At the prices – always ‘at the prices’! – I’m inclined to let AvD or B&M beat me, which they very well might.

But I think Old Persian looks a very solid each way bet, notwithstanding that a place will incur a small loss on stakes. His form overseas is strong, and his trainer’s form at this meeting is bombproof. He’s tactically versatile so stall ten shouldn’t be a hindrance. William Buick rides.

I’m not convinced it’s worth chancing a big price as the top three really ought to win it between them; but it is conceivable that one or both of Anthony and Bricks miss the board for different reasons (and also that Old P does, natch).

In that spirit of adventure, windmill-tilters may do worse than chance Alounak, whose Canadian form is fair, and/or United, whose trainer’s Turf record is impeccable and who could conceivably improve for the longer trip.

Suggestion:

Back Old Persian each way at 4/1 general

Consider either Alounak 20/1 general and/or United 66/1 general on the US tote

 

 Turf Review:

Bricks And Mortar had a rough trip throughout but was still able to show tenacity, speed and stamina to win. He'll likely be US horse of the year now, which is quite rare for a turf horse. Anthony Van Dyck had a difficult passage too, with the gap probably not there in the straight for him. I doubt he'd have won in any case, but he might have.

Old Persian was dreadful and clearly failed to give his running, while Alounak ran respectively in fifth. United, a massive price with whoever he was backed, ran an absolutely mighty race to finish a head second at something like 50/1.

12.44pm GMT: Breeders Cup Classic (1m2f, Dirt)

Key Trends (35 renewals so far)

  • All of the last 18 Classic winners had 3-8 runs that season
  • 34/35 ran 1-2-3 LTO (21 x 1st; 8 x 2nd; 5 x 3rd)
  • 31/35 won a G1 that season
  • 35/35 aged 3-5 (6yo+ 0/31) – 3yo 12 wins; 4yo 14 wins; 5yo 9 wins.
  • 20 of last 30 posted stamina (6f+) workout since last run
  • 10/11 40+ day layoffs posted Bullet AND/OR Stamina works since last run
  • 9/12 3yo winners ran in at least one Triple Crown race (1 exception was a Euro, 1 was 2016 winner, Arrogate)
  • 21 of the last 24 posted 100+ Beyer last time but below previous best
  • Where no distance form, check breeding for stamina credentials

How the runners fit

Pace:

A bit of a mess, this. McKinzie wants to lead and will probably get the chance to unless Vino Rosso tries to gun from stall ten. McK has more speed, Vino more stamina, so the Baffert runner may get his own way at the head of affairs.

Key Trials:

See https://www.geegeez.co.uk/breeders-cup-2019-video-form-guide/ for race videos

Summary:

A sub-par Classic lacking a real superstar. While that’s a touch disappointing from a ‘story’ perspective, it makes for a terrific betting puzzle.

The favourite all year has been Bob Baffert’s McKinzie and he’s still clinging on to that mantle, albeit by a thread and at 4/1, a price which well reflects how open the race is and how much some bookmakers want to ‘get’ this guy.

Why? Because he is probably more of a miler than a mile and a quarter horse. This year he’s won just two of six starts, both at nine furlongs or so, and run second on the other four occasions. He was beaten out of sight when just 3/1 in last year’s Classic, and was a nose behind Gift Box in his sole other attempt at the distance. That horse was subsequently beaten by Vino Rosso and Seeking The Soul, both of whom line up here, demonstrating McKinzie’s frailties in terms of superior form credentials.

Regular jockey Mike Smith has been jocked off in favour of Joel Rosario, Baffert conceding that Smith was ‘just finishing second on this horse too often’. He was beaten by Mongolian Groom when 1/5 last time, and swishes his tail under pressure: not a sign of great resilience.

Battling for market primacy are Vino Rosso and Code Of Honor, 1-2 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Vino Rosso was first past the post but the placings were reversed due to some fairly minor interference in the home straight. The Todd Pletcher-trained Curlin four-year-old has ‘won’ twice at the Classic range this year, including at Santa Anita, and he is a certain stayer where McKinzie is not. He is quite likely to go after Baffert’s horse in the early part of the race thought may not be fast enough to get the lead.

Code Of Honor was third in a soupy Kentucky Derby before winning the G3 Dwyer and, more notably, the Grade 1 Travers, both by three lengths. Then came the stretch drive dust up with Vino Rosso. There ought again to be little between the pair.

The five-year-old mare Elate is a strong stayer at the trip – she’s three from three over ten furlongs – and dodges Midnight Bisou in the furlong-shorter Distaff to take on the boys, a la Zenyatta. Second in her most recent two starts, both at the Distaff trip, she takes on the boys for the first time in an 18-race career.

Yoshida is the ‘wise guy’ horse. He’s not won a race since September last year, a run of six defeats, but – so the argument goes – he needs them to go hard as he’s a very strong stayer. That may be partially true – he does stay well – but he’ll never have a better chance to win a Classic than last year when they went a ridiculous 46 ½ seconds for the first half mile; in spite of the ensuing pace collapse, Yoshida could only run on into fourth. They are unlikely to go as hard this time and it is unlikely to set up for Bill Mott’s five-year-old (unplaced in his two 10f races).

It’s big prices the rest but such an open renewal demands scrutiny of the ‘rags’. Higher Power represents last year’s Classic-winning connections of John Sadler and Hronis Racing. He has a distance score in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar two back but hasn’t got another run close to backing that up. It’s possible he bounced a little last time in the G1 Awesome Again over a furlong shorter last time and would be involved if reverting to the Pac Classic form.

Brad Cox’s three-year-old, Owendale, has won three Grade 3’s this season and was third in the G1 Preakness, part of the Triple Crown. But he clunked in the mile and a quarter Travers and doesn’t look like an improver: despite freshening since his last race he’s been on the go since January.

Mongolian Groom caused a 25/1 upset in the Awesome Again last time, and had a speed figure that would make him competitive the time before; but there’s a solid chance he’ll bounce off that significant career best as well as his trip form suggesting he doesn’t stay this far.

Math Wizard was an even bigger shock G1 winner last time, scooping the Pennsylvania Derby at 30/1. If nothing else these two prove that bombs do happen in Grade 1’s this year. He too may bounce off a marginal career top, but if he doesn’t he’s slightly over-priced. He was able to quicken off slow early fractions and saw the trip out best of all. Stepping up to ten for the first time could eke out further improvement; he’s been largely consistent this season, his one heavy defeat coming when trying to close on a speed-favouring track in the West Virginia Derby.

Another three-year-old 33/1 shot is War Of Will, who was the meat in the Kentucky Derby sandwich when his owner-mate Maximum Security got sensationally disqualified from first (sensational also because I backed the promoted winner, Country House, at 65/1!). He was behind Math Wizard in the Penn Derby, but had previously won the Preakness. Drawn 4 he will stalk the early pace and looks as though he stays the trip. Not entirely out of it.

That leaves the six-year-old elder statesman of the field, Seeking The Soul. His form of last year would give him a squeak but Stewart Dallas’s charge has been hopelessly out of form in his last two. Prior to that he did record a competitive figure when winning the Stephen Foster at Churchill but I don’t think he stays this far.

Trends Contenders:

Code Of Honor, Elate, Higher Power

Form Contenders:

Most of them

Classic Selection:

This really is a bugger’s muddle. McKinzie has some class and he will probably lead, but he looks a non-stayer. Vino Rosso and Code Of Honor are both sure to see out the trip and have form to win: they are reliable but hard to separate.

Elate is the story horse – mare, I should say – but I can’t quite see her being quick enough. I don’t particularly like Yoshida, though in truth I don’t particularly like any of them..!

The most solid win proposition may be Code Of Honor. Despite a long season he’s looked progressive in his last three runs and, if he can stomach one last skirmish, he ticks the most boxes. His wide draw is mitigated by a closing run style and he should be able to drift towards the rail at the tail of the field.

It’s the sort of race where it might just pay to try a Hail Mary play, too. In that context, Math Wizard is not impossible. He is untried at this distance and the way he finished in the nine-furlong Penn Derby gives hope he might improve for it. It’s possible he’ll bounce off the last run but if he brings his ‘A’ game he can play for places.

Similarly, War Of Will, a Triple Crown race winner this season, would not be the worst big-priced guess up.

Suggestion:

Back Code Of Honor at 9/2 Victor, 888, 365

Consider Math Wizard 33/1 (Coral, 365) and/or War Of Will 33/1 (Lads) each way

Classic Review:

This is the race which smarted most in terms of the Compendium. Obviously it was a/the key race and despite it being messy, with what we know by post time about the track, I already knew Code Of Honor couldn't win. He'd simply be too far back and not able to get into it.

I also felt strongly that McKinzie, who might get first run, would fail to stay, as can be seen from the selection section blurb directly above. The line which followed that was, "Vino Rosso and Code Of Honor are both sure to see out the trip and have form to win: they are reliable but hard to separate."

Well, when the track came up the way it did, they were not hard to separate but the Compendium had gone to print and the die was cast.

From a personal perspective what was equally galling is that, having backed Vino Rosso for small money at 12/1, I deemed 9/2 too short to go in again. That was a very poor, and fatigued after a long day, choice.

Math Wizard ran a fair race to be fifth, and best of the three-year-olds; though that looks to be damning him with some very faint praise.

Breeders’ Cup 2019: Five Takeaways

The 2019 Breeders' Cup returned to Santa Anita for the tenth time. Much of the preamble to the weekend was familiar, then, but this year there was a difference. A near palpable atmosphere of anxiety and introspection pervaded proceedings; and, in spite of forensic levels of veterinary scrutiny, BC36 was not to sail smoothly across its troubled waters. That story, amongst others, is recounted in these five takeways from the meeting.

1 JOSEPH & HIS AMASSING TECHNICOLOR PALMARES

Where were you in your career path when you were 26? For most of us mere mortals, college days were behind us and we were taking our first fledgling steps in a job or career. Joseph Patrick O'Brien, barely past the quarter century, has already summited a career in the saddle which began promisingly but perhaps little more with a piece of a three-way tie for the Irish Champion Apprentice title in 2010.

The following year, he enjoyed Classic success with Roderic O'Connor in the Irish 2000 Guineas, and rode another two UK or Irish Group 1 winners, the last of which was Camelot in the Racing Post Trophy. A fortnight after that Doncaster highlight, O'Brien raised his own bar by scoring aboard St Nicholas Abbey in a Churchill Downs edition of the the Breeders' Cup Turf at the age of 18.

2012 was Joseph's - and Camelot's - year as the pair won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the 2000 Guineas and Derby, before being cruelly denied victory in the St Leger by a horse trained by the subsequently disgraced Mahmood al Zarooni who admitted charges of using performance enhancing drugs on his horses.

That year, 2012, Joseph proved he could do quantity as well as quality as he won his first Irish Jockeys' Championship, an award he retained with a record score in 2013.

By 2016, still aged just 23 - twenty-three! - he swapped the saddle for the demands of training and, to nobody's surprise, hit the ground running, his first Group 1 win coming in the Moyglare Stud Stakes of the same year with Intricately. [It was rumoured that he had also trained Ivanovich Gorbatov to win the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle in March that year, but let's stick to published record].

As a trainer, in less than three years and at the age of 26, he already has an Irish Derby, a Melbourne Cup and now a Breeders' Cup win to his name. The game triumph of Iridessa - who bounced out of the stalls from box one and got a great position under Wayne Lordan - in the Filly and Mare Turf on Saturday was Europe's sole victory at the meeting, and made Joseph the youngest trainer to win a Breeders' Cup race.

Naturally, given his prior exploits aboard St Nick, he is also the youngest person to record a Breeders' Cup win as both a jockey and a trainer. The sole other member of that most exclusive of Breeders' Cup clubs is Freddie Head, the French horseman who won two multiple Miles with both Miesque (as a jockey, aged 40 and 41) and Goldikova (as a trainer, aged 61, 62 and 63). Chapeau to Freddie, but Joseph is emerging as an altogether different jus.

 

2 AIDAN OFER'BRIEN

While O'Brien Jr was further enhancing his CV, father Aidan was enduring what might legitimately be dubbed a minor crisis. To some that may sound preposterous, so allow a little context: this year, Aidan has trained 15 Group or Grade 1 winners, last year the international G1 tally was 14; but in 2017 it was 28, in 2016 it was 22 and in 2015 it was 17.

At such rarefied altitude and on such small sample sizes it is perfectly reasonable to account for the differential as the dreaded variance - statistical slings and arrows if you will. And that's probably right enough.

But, in the microcosm of the Breeders' Cup, Aidan has now gone 35 runners without a victory since Mendelssohn prevailed in the opening race at Del Mar, the Juvenile Turf, in 2017. Again, it's a small sample. And he was dealt the rummest of rum deals at the post position draw with almost all of his nine entries exiting a double digit stall.

But Bricks And Mortar won the Turf, with a troubled trip, from nine when Anthony van Dyck lost from five. In the same race, Mount Everest, presumed the pacemaker (which may be incorrect), fluffed the start and was never nearer than at the line. Uni won the Mile from stall 11 where Circus Maximus was drawn nine; Just Wonderful missed the kick and was never nearer than fifth in the Filly and Mare Turf from stall 11; Tango and Etoile, drawn eight and 14 respectively, finished eighth and tenth having both broken moderately and struggled to get track position; Arizona, drawn 12 in the Juvenile Turf, was slow at the gate and never nearer than his final position of fifth; Fort Myers ran respectably in seventh from 13 in the same race, though he too was no better than tenth as they passed the stands first time; and King Neptune actually broke alertly in the Juvenile Turf Sprint but wasn't persisted with for a position and entered the turn in seventh place before finishing eleventh.

What is the recurring theme? In fairness, there are two, and one of them is the draw, which is out of the hands of the trainer. The other is the number of times Aidan's horses - again, in fairness, most European horses - broke slowly and were simply in a borderline insurmountable position on a tight inner turf track which was riding like lightning. Even when the races were a little more tactical on the turf, a slow start meant as many as a dozen horses in a 4 x 3 or 3 x 4 phalanx ahead: it is very, very difficult to overcome a pedestrian beginning.

Aidan quite rightly says that he spends all year trying to get horses to settle and relax, and that is the way to win European races. But if a horse doesn't have early tactical toe in order to secure a position, it is almost game over in double-digit US fields. It has been suggested that perhaps he should use American jockeys who are more accustomed to pinging a horse from the gate but, firstly, it's not necessarily something a jockey can influence especially, and secondly, the local lads would generally need to take care not to spurn their bread and butter.

While chatting with one New York punter the somewhat harsh soubriquet Aidan Ofer'Brien was coined, ofer meaning zero for, as in zero for 35 since Mendelssohn in 2017. It is fantastic, and likely extremely important, that Ballydoyle continue to send top division horses to the meeting - it would be an event lighter on entries, far less interesting from a European perspective, and less compelling as a wagering proposition, too, if he didn't - but if they are to be more than making up the numbers, gate speed 101 looks in order. Here's hoping the peerless trainer of his generation reverts to his longer-term type at Keeneland in 2020.

 

3 THE TRACKS

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It doesn't matter where you are in the world, if your horse is unsuited to conditions it is unlikely to win. So let's discuss the tracks, the already mentioned in despatches turf course first.

It was lightning fast. They haven't had meaningful rain in LA for six months, a fact evidenced by the desperately unfortunate wildfires that are raging in the north of the state. Sure they've watered the course and continued to hydrate it. But the temperatures have been 30C+ for much of the past fortnight and before. The water table is non-existent. It was suggested by a Clockers' Corner wag that, when going to inspect the turf track in white shoes, the horseman in question returned with green soles. Well that's one way to make brown turf look green!

Of course that's almost certainly just bluster - as easy on the ear as it is - but the fact remains that if you don't have a horse that can handle Bath firm, you probably don't have a horse for the race when the Cup heads west.

Another point on the turf track, specifically in relation to the Juvenile Turf Sprint. In its inaugural running in 2017 (on the undercard), Declarationofpeace - for Aidan O'Brien, in the opening race on the Saturday - led home a Euro superfecta from 'our' only four entries. The winner had the best Euro form around a turn, and was slowly away in a race run too fast, the pace collapsing.

Last year, when none of the Euro entries had winning form around a turn, we did no better than third. This year, although Europe did even less well, the best finisher - fifth-placed Dr Simpson, a rank outsider on the US tote at close to 60/1 - was two from two on turning tracks, by seven lengths at Chester and then in a Group 3 against the boys. She is also a fast starter. Although she wasn't good enough to win, that's the sort of horse you want for this gig. If Dr Simpson's trainer, Tom Dascombe, had sent lightning breaker and turning track specialist Kachy across, he would have been seriously interesting in the Turf Sprint.

In bigger fields and at longer trips, it is often the 'best trip' - that is, the horse which gets least interference excluding front runners whose record is terrible, that wins. There is so much traffic and misfortune to factor into pricing these races up from a value perspective that they are almost a blanket 'no bet'. The sensible approach to hardier punters is to back an American horse with a British bookmaker and hope for a good trip. Races like the Mile are peppered with big-priced winners through their history, Tourist (US horse, 11/1 US tote, 33/1 UK books), Karakontie (French, 29/1 US tote, 16/1 UK books) and Court Vision (US, 64/1 US tote, 50/1 UK books) being three since only 2011 in that particular event.

The DIRT track had been harrowed very deep, and rode slow. The Classic was a truly run race and it was won in a time of 2:02.80. The previous Santa Anita Classic, in 2016, was won in a time of 2:00.11, and the Santa Anita Classic's before that in 1:59.88, 2:00.72, 2:00.11, 2:00.32 (Zenyatta, Pro-Ride), 1:59.27 (Raven's Pass, Pro-Ride), 1:59.88, 2:00.83, and 2:00.40.

Appreciative that this is labouring the point but, to spell it out, the 2019 Classic was two seconds - something like eight lengths - slower than the next slowest of seven Santa Anita dirt Classics, excluding the slightly quicker Pro-Ride surface which was controversially installed and even more controversially ripped up again in and around 2008/9.

And yet Vino Rosso was given a legit number for his win. Timeform US had him on 133, six spots higher than the next best winner at the meeting; Beyer had him at 111, a point behind Mitole (his closest pursuer on the Timeform numbers). That's by way of reaffirming the slowness of the track.

There were good reasons for that, which we'll get to. But what it meant in racing terms was that it was extremely difficult to win from off the pace. You still needed stamina and no little class to get the job done, but only one horse - Blue Prize - was able to win from some way off the pace across the seven dirt races.

The best parallel for British and Irish bettors is that the surface was something akin to Southwell: deep, with serious kickback, where early speed is sustained more often than not and very little comes from far back. This year's Breeders' Cup was, for a lot of dirt race entries, like coming from a fast track qualifier at Lingfield, Chelmsford or Kempton to Finals Day on the Rolleston beach.

It was a necessary step to harrow the course that deep but, in many racing ways, an unsatisfactory one.

 

4 WELFARE

Here's why it was necessary. California is a liberal state and a perfect example of the emerging anti-racing sentiment we are seeing in Britain and in other jurisdictions around the world, notably Scandinavia. There is a war raging between traditionalists and revisionists inside of racing. It's a lop-sided skirmish outside of the bubble.

Governor Gavin Newsom in September called racing at Santa Anita "a disgrace". Newsom wasn't pulling any punches in this New York Times article where he was quoted as saying,

“What happened last year was unacceptable, and all of the excuses be damned. We own that going into the next season, and we’re going to have to do something about it. I’ll tell you, talk about a sport whose time is up unless they reform. That’s horse racing. Incredible abuses to these precious animals and the willingness to just to spit these animals out and literally take their lives is a disgrace.”

That was in response to news that more than thirty horses had been put down as a result of injuries sustained either training or racing at the Arcadia track. Despite the trash talk style (notably, emotive language like "precious animals"), there is plenty of substance behind this soundbite, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic now tapping into an animal welfare zeitgeist among their constituents. Indeed, California's senior Senator, Dianne Feinstein, is of the same view and has publicly expressed it.

That's obviously bad news for racing.

What is worse is that some of the reasons for fatalities may have been avoidable. I see three main factors as conspiring: a fashion for breeding precocity and speed at the expense of durability and stamina; over-training young horses whose limbs cannot yet sustain the level of work demanded of them; and the increasingly sophisticated use of medication to patch up injuries and/or supplement punishing training regimes.

Clearly I'm not a vet and I present the above as no more than conjecture - my take, if you like. I'd very much welcome an educated rebuffal of any or all from any reader qualified to do that.

For me there are two bottom lines on the racing welfare debate. Firstly, whilst fatalities are inevitable - a point racing has to defend explicitly and unequivocally - the current levels are very likely unsustainable. And not just in California, or even America as a whole.

Second, this is an extremely complex debate peppered with flexible morality codes. Anyone who feels vehemently one way or the other probably hasn't given the subject enough thought.

 

5 WHERE NEXT (LITERALLY) FOR BC?

It was in the aftermath of Governor Newsom's comments that extensive vetting was implemented ahead of this year's Breeders' Cup. That led to the high profile scratchings of Imperial Hint, Fleeting and Suedois among others, on veterinary advice. Last year at Churchill Downs, Polydream, favourite for the Mile at the time, was withdrawn under similar circumstances.

Thus, naturally but even more than ever, organisers were praying for an incident- and injury-free Breeders' Cup. They almost got it.

Going into the Classic, the final race of 14 across two absorbing days of pageantry and sport, horsemen and administrators alike would have been justifiably feeling like a job well done. Alas, for racing just now it seems, if it wasn't for bad luck it wouldn't have any luck at all.

The perfect Mongolian Saturday... in Kentucky

The perfect Mongolian Saturday... in Kentucky. But not in Santa Anita

In amongst the millionaires and the billionaires and the silent powers of horse racing exist an ownership group called the Mongolian Stable and their trainer, Enebish Ganbat. They love their racing, are passionate about it, and share their passion with anyone who feels similarly. In 2015 at Keeneland, they enjoyed their greatest day as Mongolian Saturday won the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. He raced without Lasix, the near ubiquitous diuretic said to restrict the likelihood of a horse bleeding. He was the only horse in the field not to receive it.

These guys don't sit in a box quaffing Veuve; they are out in the cheap seats in full national dress posing for pictures and glad-handing anyone and everyone. They, and people like them, are what the sport needs.

In the Classic, they had sportingly supplemented Mongolian Groom, who had beaten Classic favourite McKinzie over the Santa Anita track in their respective final preps, and who it should be noted did run on Lasix.

Their horse broke well and was second throughout the first mile, a length off pace-setting War Of Will, with last day foe McKinzie right there as well. But disaster struck for Mongolian Groom, Mongolian Stable, Ganbat, the Breeders' Cup and American racing, as the horse suffered an injury to his left hind leg which could not be treated. Very sadly, he was taken into the horse ambulance and euthanized.

It was deeply distressing on so many counts, primarily for connections, whose love of the game and for their animals is more transparent than most top tier ownership collectives; and all the more so that the ramifications of this event, as another inquest will inevitably be held, will overshadow their own feelings of loss.

The next Breeders' Cup is in Keeneland, far from the madding Californian crowd, then nominally at Del Mar in 2021. But Del Mar is in Southern California, and Churchill Downs may again be on standby as it was reported to be earlier this year in case matters at Santa Anita became irreconcilable.

So yes, Keeneland and Del Mar have been officially unveiled for 2020 and 2021, but will the Breeders' Cup return to Santa Anita in 2022, as was widely expected? Indeed, in light of the political firestorm expected to play out in the state, the question may be whether the Breeders' Cup will ever return to Santa Anita.

Monday Musings: O’Brien’s Everywhere!

As the advance guard of the 67,000 crowd began to gather at Santa Anita Park, Los Angeles, at 9 a.m. Saturday – some might say unseemly early - for phase two of the Breeders’ Cup and the first of three warm-up races, about 5,500 miles, eight time zones further east and at least 25 degrees Fahrenheit cooler, one of the O’Brien racing clan waited in driving rain at Chelmsford racecourse for the first of two winning rides on the evening card, writes Tony Stafford.

Not for Donnacha O’Brien the warmth of Santa Anita and the Breeders’ Cup. That was the centre of focus for the rest of the family, for Ryan Moore and Wayne Lordan, whose minimum riding weight of 8st fits more readily into the structure of American, and indeed Australian, racing. Wayne will be going on to partner one of the seven family horses – there along with a few former inmates – in tomorrow morning’s Melboune Cup.

The truly amazing thing about Donnacha O’Brien is that he has regularised – in the manner of a Lester Piggott or more recently George Baker – his weight so that as little as 8st12lb is not impossible.

Earlier in his career – and he’s still only 21 - Donnacha was routinely listed in racecards as *possible 2lb overweight, with 9st2lb the absolute minimum. That discipline which characterises every day of his riding career was tested to the full on Saturday as the wind came across the arid wastes of the old Essex Showground along with the squalls of rain that drenched your correspondent as he waited in the paddock for the debut of Ray Tooth and Clive Washbourn’s Mayson Mount.

Donnacha was in attendance –along with Seamie Heffernan, whose ride in that race had to be withdrawn – on the second leg of a brief UK tour based around Friday night’s eventual running of the Vertem Futurity, switched from waterlogged Doncaster six days earlier. Rather than a six-runner affair with Andrew Balding’s Kameko the only interloper preventing an Aidan O’Brien monopoly, the switch to a first floodlit and all-weather UK Group 1 resulted in a field of 11 with four home and two other Irish challengers.

The main new element was Ralph Beckett’s once-raced Kinross and I bet now Rafe wishes he’d stuck to the original plan of the Horris Hill Stakes, also switched from the previous weekend at similarly-inundated Newbury to Newmarket on Saturday. Kinross had recently made his impressive debut in very soft ground there and as a result was the short-priced favourite on Friday but he never made an impact. In the end Kameko won impressively, leaving the O’Brien contingent having to be content with the next four home with Heffernan second on Innisfree and O’Brien only fourth on original short-priced favourite Mogul.

Donnacha’s initial interest at Chelmsford was the once-raced Battle of Liege, a War Front colt whose full-brother Hit It A Bomb had won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in the same Evie Stockwell colours four years earlier under Ryan Moore at Keeneland. Facing Battle of Liege was a once-raced Charlie Appleby juvenile Desert Peace, a $1.3 million colt who’d won nicely on debut at Kempton and he started 100-30 on. In the event it was the Clive Cox colt Emirates Currency who split the pair.

It was probably a decent race, evidence being that Ahmad Al Shaikh, once the resident journalist and television presenter for Sheikh Mohammed in Dubai but nowadays a notable owner of among others last year’s Gimcrack winner Emaraaty Ana, was a surprise arrival before the race to see his Emirates Currency make his second start.

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In the manner of one of my usual coincidences he greeted me with: “I was just talking about you to someone an hour ago!” as he swept into the owners’ room while I tucked into my first bowl of the always excellent soup. There’s no need to go into the whys and wherefores but it surprised me that he would choose to be there on such an awful evening at what Derek Thompson always refers to as “Essex’s principal racecourse” <of one!>. He said: “We like the horse very much,” prophetic words as Emirates Currency produced a fine second effort.

Preceding Ahmad to the paddock, I saw Clive Cox and said: “Your owner’s here” to which he replied: “He’s not!” It’s never disappointing to prove someone wrong and the look on the trainer’s face as Mr Al Shaikh approached was one of my moments of an interesting evening.

In the race, Mayson Mount, experiencing not just the racecourse for the first time, but floodlights and the horrible gusting winds and torrential rain, never put a foot wrong in the preliminaries. He did start a little slowly, but set off after the pack with such gusto that by the approach to the turn he was on terms with the leader. “Then at the two he just blew up,” said Josie Gordon to Shaun Keightley. The eventual distance behind the fourth horse was 14 lengths but the promise he showed was great encouragement for the future.

Then yesterday, Ray’s other horse with Shaun, the Pour Moi gelding Waterproof, made his planned hurdling debut at Huntingdon. Now rated 51 after his good second of 16 at Chelmsford the previous Saturday night, he was confronted by a field of vastly superior Flat-race horses. The eventual first two have both held ratings around two stone higher than his. Waterproof jumped very well and finished third to Building Bridges (ex Jessica Harrington) and Silkstone. His proficiency had first been set in motion with early schooling by Josie and she showed her team ethic by turning up and helping saddle him beforehand, then welcoming him back with a bucket of water.

As I said before, it’s doubtful Ray has another Punjabi on his hands, but the way he jumped and the enthusiasm he showed were two big positives.

While Donncaha was back home riding his final winner of a second c


hampionship season at Naas yesterday, elder brother Joseph was making the journey down to Australia where he has four contenders as he tries to win a second Melbourne Cup following Rekindling two years ago when in only his second year as a trainer.

On Saturday, in the Filly and Mare Turf race, Joseph added to his status as the youngest-ever jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race, when Iridessa pounced late under Lordan in a race expected to be a benefit for Sistercharlie, who finished only third. Iridessa, who has won five times, including in a maiden on debut under Seamie Heffernan, has chosen her spots well. All her subsequent wins have been at Group or Grade 1 level and each time Lordan has been in the saddle.

Lordan will partner proven stayer Il Paradiseo for Aidan as Ryan Moore stays with his recent Cox Plate fourth Magic Wand and Heffernan gets on Hunting Horn, ridden by Moore to a six-figure win on the Cox Plate under-card last weekend.

Joseph’s quartet could hardly be much stronger. His 2018 Irish Derby Latrobe will be ridden by top Australian rider James McDonald; Frankie Dettori comes in for Master Of Reality; Winx’s rider Hugh Bowman is on Twilight Payment and John Allen stays with Downdraft, my fancy for the race; while many thousands of miles away, Joseph has master-minded a true Australian training and racing schedule for the tough Downdraft, winner of four of his previous eight races prior to his trip to Australia.

Nine days ago he was a close fourth under Allen in Hunting Horn’s race, then on Saturday he did the traditional “Cup paid work-out” over a mile and a half of Flemington racecourse collecting more than 100k in facile fashion. He’ll be super-fit and he’s my pick.

I feel sad for Hughie Morrison, whose 2018 runner-up Marmelo was denied a second shot at last year’s winner, Charlie Appleby’s Cross Counter, when ruled out by the veterinary panel, a decision that the trainer may well pursue, such was his chagrin after two highly-regarded vets had declared him sound. Aidan O’Brien also had the disappointment of a veterinary decision ruling out his main hope Fleeting from Iridessa’s race when she must have been a serious contender.

It was a luckless meeting for Ryan Moore and it will have been no consolation for the jockey that Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck has clearly come back to form in finishing a closing third to Bricks And Mortar in the Turf race. Bar being hampered, causing a slight stumble at a crucial stage, they might have won thereby questioning Bricks and Mortar’s right to what looks an assured Horse of the Year accolade.

Mention of Morrison cannot pass without thanking him for the training of Say Nothing and Sod’s Law, two Ray Tooth home-breds that sold very well at Tatts last Wednesday. Ed Dunlop and Luke Comer, their respective new trainers, can win as many races as they like as Ray still has both dams up at Andrew Spalding’s Hedgeholm Stud.

 

Stat of the Day, 4th November 2019

Saturday's pick was...

1.40 Ayr : Gold Opera @ 3/1 BOG 3rd at 5/2 (Chased leaders, reminders after 11th, lost touch next, left modest 3rd after 4 out, plugged on)

Monday's pick runs in the...

3.40 Plumpton:

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

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Sir Egbert @ 3/1 BOG

...in a 7-runner, Class 3, Handicap Hurdle for 3yo+ over 2m on Soft/Heavy ground worth £6238 to the winner...

Why?...

Here we have a 6 yr old gelding trained by Tom Lacey and I could make this piece very short by saying just back all Tom's hurdlers for a near 20% strike rate and a near 45% return on your money, but I never advocate blind backing, so which of Tom's hurdlers in particular should we be backing?

Personally, I'd stick to those sent off at evens to 8/1 in handicaps, for they are 40 from 134 (29.9% SR) for 81.8ppts (+61.1% ROI) since the start of 2016, from which there is a myriad of profitable angles you could consider. I've done that digging for you and here are "just" ten such angles/filters, all relevant/applicable today...

  • 35/110 (31.8%) for 78.43pts (+71.3%) within 60 days of their last run
  • 21/54 (38.9%) for 49.96pts (+92.5%) n fields of 7-9 runners
  • 20/55 (36.4%) for 57.83pts (+105.1%) after 1 or 2 runs in the previous 90 days
  • 14/47 (29.8%) for 46.07pts (+98%) on Soft/Heavy ground
  • 8/34 (23.5%) for 6.41pts (+18.9%) with champion jockey Richard Johnson in the saddle
  • 7/26 (26.9%) for 10.31pts (+39.6%) at Class 3
  • 7/17 (41.2%) for 23.39pts (+137.6%) after 1 run in the previous 90 days
  • 6/19 (31.6%) for 10.53pts (+55.4%) over a 2 mile trip
  • 6/11 (54.6%) for 29.11pts (+264.7%) in November
  • and 2/5 (40%) for 7.18pts (+143.6%) here at Plumpton

Now I know that many of you like a composite angle you can pop into your Query Tool for future reference, so if that's the case, I'd stick to the first three or four datasets ie how recently have they run, how often have they run recently, how many rivals are they facing and what is the ground like, but open them up slightly to give a more realistic sample size...

...ie those racing in fields of 7 to 9 runners within 60 days of their last run, having had 1-4 runs in the previous 90 days are 24 from 65 (36.9% SR) for 67.66pts (+104.1% ROI), including 7/23 (30.4%) for 25pts (+108.7% ROI) on Soft/Heavy ground...

...backing up...a 1pt win bet on Sir Egbert @ 3/1 BOG as was offered by Coral, Hills, Ladbrokes & Unibet at 4.50pm on Sunday, whilst Bet365 were a third of a point bigger for those able to take advantage. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting later...

...click here for the betting on the 3.40 Plumpton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

SotD Update, 28th October to 2nd November 2019

So another week, another wipeout, meaning this is now the worst run of form I've had since we started the SotD project 8 years ago.

There were some signs of a slow return form with this week with finishes of 335833, but more improvement is needed. I'm confident it will come, but I'd prefer it to happen quickly!

Selections & Results : 28/10/19 to 02/11/19

28/10 : Bryn Du @ 3/1 BOG 3rd at 11/8
29/10 : Cold Harbour @ 6/1 3rd at 5/1
30/10 : Mischief Star @ 10/3 BOG 5th at 11/4
31/10 : Timoteo @ 7/2 BOG 8th at 6/1
01/11 : North Star Oscar @ 3/1 BOG 3rd at 9/4 
02/11 : Gold Opera @ 3/1 BOG 3rd at 5/2

28/10/19 to 02/11/19 :
0 winning bets from 6 = 0.00% SR
P/L: -6.00pts

October 2019 :
0 winners from 27 = 0.00% SR
P/L: -27.00pts
ROI = -100.00%

November 2019 :
0 winners from 2 = 0.00% SR
P/L: -2.00pts
ROI = -100.00%

2019 to date :
55 winners from 244 = 22.54% SR
P/L: +28.75pts
ROI = +11.78%

Overall:
645 winners from 2420 = 26.65% S.R
P/L: +525.16pts
ROI: +21.70%

P.S. The full month by month SotD story can be found right here.
P.P.S The review of SotD's 2012 performance is
here.
Whilst the details for 2013 are now online here.
And the figures for 2014 are
now available here.
Our review of 2015 can be found right here
Whilst 2016's details are right here
And here is the full story from 2017.

2018 was the latest full year for SotD and the yearly review is right here

Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so why not take the plunge and get involved right now?

Click here for more details.

Breeders’ Cup 2019 Notes and News

All of the horses have now arrived at the track for the 36th Breeders' Cup in Santa Anita, California.

The Europeans are settling in, the east coast and midwest challengers likewise. Final preparations are underway and the talk is everywhere. Soon it will be talking for the horses to do their own talking but, for now, here are the latest soundbites from the training track, courtesy of the excellent Breeders' Cup notes team.

EUROPEAN TEAM

The first international horses to leave the quarantine barn yesterday morning were three English contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. David O’Meara’s duo of Lord Glitters and Suedois led Richard Fahey’s Space Traveller onto the training track with all three doing a steady canter.

Charlie Appleby was once again trackside to see Old Persian (Turf) have a canter on the main track. On Saturday the son of Dubawi will be racing in his fifth country this year having already raced in Dubai, England, Germany and Canada. “All is fine, he had a nice leg stretch and he seems to be taking everything in his stride,” Appleby said.

James Tate’s duo of Dream Shot (Juvenile Turf Sprint) and Hey Gaman (Mile) went out with Old Persian and did two laps of the main track at a steady canter. Dream Shot was slightly awkward coming into the stretch on the first occasion but was much better second time round as he got to know the track.

Japanese representatives Full Flat (Juvenile) and Matera Sky (Sprint) both went on the main track with Matera Sky breezing 4f in 49 2/5. Both horses returned to the quarantine barn via the paddock. Matera Sky’s connections reported “He seems in great form, we did a nice breeze up the stretch and he looked good.”

The turf track was used for the first time and six European challengers went out at 7.30. First on was Fanny Logan (Filly & Mare Turf) wearing a hood.

John Gosden was trackside to watch the daughter of Sea The Stars do a strong canter on the turf with race rider Frankie Dettori in the saddle. “It’s great to be here and Fanny Logan did a nice canter there. Frankie was happy with her,” Gosden said.

When asked by one of the outriders how many horses he had for this year’s Breeders’ Cup, Gosden replied, “Just the one this year, I’m running out of ammunition!”

Castle Lady (Filly & Mare Turf), one of only two French challengers for this year's Breeders' Cup, did her strongest piece of work at Santa Anita yesterday morning going 3f on the dirt in 36 seconds.

Andrew Balding’s Shadn (Juvenile Fillies Turf) followed Fanny Logan onto the turf and did a similar piece of work before returning back to the barn through the paddock.

Roger Varian was on hand to watch Daahyeh (Juvenile Fillies Turf) also do a steady canter on the turf. “I am really happy with her at the moment she’s in great shape and she comes into this race as a real live contender,” Varian said.

Living In The Past (Juvenile Fillies Turf) and Dr Simpson (Juvenile Turf Sprint) also cantered on the turf and both seemed happy with the Santa Anita surface.

A’Ali (Juvenile Turf Sprint) also did a canter on the grass and seemed well at ease in his new environment. Simon Crisford’s son Edward was once again trackside and said, “All is fine, really happy.”

Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac winner Albigna (Juvenile Fillies Turf) went out onto the main track shortly after 8 o’clock and seemed very well in herself. Before traveling to Santa Anita, Jessica Harrington said of her filly, “She has come out of the ParisLongchamp race in great form so we are going to strike while the iron is hot. The owners [Niarchos family] are huge fans of the Breeders’ Cup and it will be my first runner at the meeting so it is very exciting.”

The one European horse who was slightly uneasy on the turf was the Ken Condon-trained Trais Fluors (Mile) who was reluctant to go it alone. The son of Dansili was accompanied by a pony and did two circuits of the track before returning to the quarantine barn.

English 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook (Filly & Mare Turf), with regular work rider Luke Catton in the saddle, seemed extremely happy on the main track and did a steady canter for three quarters of a circuit.

Band Practice (Juvenile Turf Sprint) pleased her trainer Archie Watson and went a lap of the main track at a steady canter. Watson, who arrived here late Tuesday night said, “I am really happy with my filly, she is really well, but that will be it now, we will keep her wrapped up until race day.”

Joseph O’Brien (pictured above right) was trackside for the first time to see his Breeders’ Cup contenders Alligator Alley (Juvenile Turf Sprint), Unforgetable (Juvenile Filles Turf) and Iridessa (Filly & Mare Turf) on the main track who all did a steady canter. O’Brien, who was riding a pony on track said, “I got into L.A. last night and it is great to be here with runners. My grooms are delighted with how the horses travelled and have settled in really well so we couldn’t be happier. They all did a little canter to stretch their legs and all seems good.”

Last out onto the track after the second renovation break was the Jane Chapple-trained Ambassadorial (Dirt Mile) who trotted half a lap of the track before turning and cantering down the stretch with regular work rider Abi Harrison in the saddle.

SELECTED OTHER TURF RUNNERS

Bricks and Mortar –Turf favourite Bricks and Mortar continues to impress as he prepares to stretch out to 12f in the weekend’s top grass affair for trainer Chad Brown and owners Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence. On Wednesday morning, he left Barn 48 along with stablemates Sistercharlie and Dunbar Road and galloped 1¼m on the Santa Anita main track.

The son of Giant’s Causeway, who is slated to go to stud in Japan after this final test, has yet to race beyond 10f, but has proven dominant up to that trip, including a rousing victory last out in the Arlington Million in Chicago. Brown believes his charge has every right to get the job done against a field that includes Investec Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck and Longines Dubai Sheema Classic winner Old Persian.

“Occasionally he can be a little bit of a headstrong horse with a touch of a light mouth, but he’s been really settling nicely in his works,” Brown said. “If he runs in this race the way he’s been settling, he’s going to run quite well. It’s a solid field and there’s several horses in there who if they run their best race, they’re going to be equally as tough.”

Got Stormy – Exercise rider Kim Carroll has had her arm strength tested this week as Got Stormy has been a handful – in a good way – each time the duo hits the track.

As has been the norm for her since arriving in California, the Grade I-winning daughter of Get Stormy bounced her way onto the main track and then flaunted all kinds of energy in her gallop while tracked by stablemate War of Will. The two barn companions each stood in the gate Wednesday with Carroll joking that if that Got Stormy had gone out the front “we’d be in Pasadena in a heartbeat.”

“She’s good right now. I’m sure Kim will be happy when she gets to run,” trainer Mark Casse said.

Uni – Mile runner Uni continues to train well as she prepares for her first clash with the boys on Saturday. Owned by Michael Dubb, Head of Plains Partners, Bob LaPenta and Bethlehem Stables, the daughter of More Than Ready won the 1m First Lady n flying style at Keeneland last out. In 2012, Brown used the First Lady as a springboard to Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf success with Dayatthespa. This time, he decided on a different plan with Uni.

“With her running style, I’m not sure it would be a good idea,” Brown said. “At a mile, I think she’s better, especially with pace in front of her.”

On Wednesday morning, at 9:05, Uni was joined by Barn 48-based Brown-trained stablemates Thais and Wow Cat and galloped 1 ¼m on the Santa Anita main track.

 

Sistercharlie – Peter Brant’s heavily favoured Filly & Mare Turf defending champ Sistercharlie galloped 1¼m on Wednesday morning. Based in Barn 48, the Chad Brown trainee left (at 8:05 a.m.) and returned with stablemates Dunbar Road and Bricks and Mortar.

“She’s really training great,” Brown said.

A four-time winner, Brown will attempt to win back-to-back editions with the same horse for the first time. The lone mare to win the race twice, legendary champ Ouija Board, won it in 2004 and 2006. Sandwiched between those was a second to Bobby Frankel-trained Intercontinental in 2005. Brown happened to be Frankel’s assistant at the time.

 

Eddie Haskell – Eddie Haskell was first to the track today following the 7:45 a.m. renovation break ahead of a parade of Breeders’ Cup entrants for his continued training ahead of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.  His trainer, Mark Glatt, kept watch as the consistent gelding galloped 1m and jogged another 1 1/2m.

“He’s ready to run, so we’ll be doing less with him in advance of the race now,” Glatt said.

Eddie Haskell has been installed as the morning-line favorite over his 11 rivals in the 5f turf race.

 

Andesite – Kent Spellman and Madaket Stables LLC.’s Andesite hasn’t let his connections down yet in three career starts and trainer Brad Cox is expecting more of the same from his consistent, hard trying colt in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf presented by Coolmore America. The son of The Factor has a record of 1-1-1.

“He’s doing well,” Cox said. “He’s a horse that tries every time. We’ve led him over there three times and he’s given us big efforts every time. He had a tough trip at Saratoga (when third in the With Anticipation Stakes) and came back to run a big race in the Pilgrim (when second by a head). I think if he hadn’t been a green 2-year-old that day, he could have gotten there. He’s a solid horse, not a big horse, but he gives you a big effort every time. He’s a very honest, solid horse.”

 

Eddie Kenneally (trainer of Abscond, Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Scabbard, Juvenile) – Trainer Eddie Kenneally was happy to have some cool temperatures greet him during his first morning at Santa Anita Park to oversee his Breeders’ Cup contenders. He was more pleased to see that his young runners appear to be enjoying the conditions as much as he is.

Kenneally got to see for himself how his horses are getting over the track Wednesday, monitoring Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender Scabbard and Juvenile Fillies Turf entrant Abscond as they galloped under Leandro Contreras.

Scabbard was first of the duo to hit the track, coming out shortly after 6:30 a.m. and going through his paces. The son of More Than Ready was second behind Juvenile morning-line favorite Dennis’ Moment last time out in the Sept. 14 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, putting in a sneaky good run after having to steady near the half-mile pole.

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“He’s taking everything in stride and seems to get over the track really nicely here,” Kenneally said. “I’ve been happy enough with what I’ve seen here this morning. I think he had a good performance last time out where he didn’t have the best trip. He kind of got stopped at a bad time in the race and had to check and get going again. He did well to kick it back in and keep running and didn’t give it up. He was beaten less than two lengths that day.”

Abscond had far better luck than her barnmate in her most recent start, a top-level victory in the 1m Natalma Stakes at Woodbine that earned her a fees-paid berth into the Juvenile Fillies Turf. That outing marked the second win for the daughter of Blame in her third career start and was her first try beyond sprint distances.

“She’s gained weight and she’s just been training really well,” Kenneally said. “She keeps moving forward and I think the mile race here will suit her fine. I think the firm turf here will suit her, I think she’ll love it. I think we’re ready.”

 

Crystalle – Tobey Morton and her husband Mike bought a daughter of Palice Malice in April that they thought was headed to a career on dirt. Six months later they will watch Crystalle run Friday in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

The Mortons sold a stake in her to Chuck Hovitz before she debuted at Saratoga this summer and she has brought the partners to the Breeders’ Cup. It has been an unusual ride that began with her being disqualified from first to third in her first start. She broke her maiden in a stake, beating another Breeders’ Cup-bound subsequent stakes winner (Sweet Melania) and just missed in the Miss Grillo in her third race.

Trainer John Kimmel said the move to the grass was an experiment.

“She was training with some colts that were outworking her,” Kimmel said. “Even though she was finishing pretty well she didn’t really seem to have much early speed. In the summer, if you didn’t want to get facialed in a 2-year-old sprint race, the option was to stretch her out and put her on the grass.

“Not knowingwhat the outcome would be – I had worked her one time on the grass – we ran her a mile and a sixteenth on the grass. True to form, she kind of broke, fell back to trail the field by seven, eight, 10 lengths, then started picking up horses. When she reached the second turn she started to cruise, got to the top of the lane, switched leads and she took off.”

Though Crystalle won easily by 2 ¼ lengths, the stewards ruled she had bothered other horses and dropped her to third.

Rather than try again in a maiden race, Kimmel and the owners opted to jump to a stake. Fearing that she might not get into the field of the Natalma at Woodbine, they ran her in the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga. She missed the break because the assistant starter was holding her head in the gate, roared from behind and caught eventual Jessamine stakes winner Sweet Melania at the wire. In the Miss Grillo at Belmont under Joel Rosario on Sept. 29, she turned in another big performance behind a slow pace.

“He just left her a very lot to do,” Kimmel said. “She came flying and just didn’t get there in time, even though she ran her last quarter in 22.17 seconds, which is extremely fast for a 2-year-old filly.”

Crystalle, though just one for three in her career, showed her connections enough to try to the one-mile Juvenile Fillies Turf with their “dirt” horse

“Hopefully this race will be a much more pace-orientated race,” Kimmel said. “The takeaway is that it’s going to be a sixteenth shorter, so it’s going to be a tough task. You can’t have an encumbered run. Basically, she is going to have to make her run and not stop. There is no room for error in this race with 14 horses. She’s a very happy girl and hopefully she’s going to come out and have a fighting chance to have this thing done.”

 

Fair Maiden – Trainer Eoin Harty, who won his only Breeders’ Cup for owner Godolphin Stable, is hoping to add another to their trophy case Friday with its homebred Fair Maiden in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.  The chestnut daughter of Street Boss had a starting gate session before galloping 1 1/2m with exercise rider Humberto Delgadillo up.

“We always thought highly of her, but felt she was something special after her first work,” Harty said. “That’s when you can usually tell with the really good ones. I took her to Woodbine because I couldn’t find a race for her in Chicago. She won her first grass race easily, then zig-zagged a bit when losing by a neck in the next one, so we added a small blinker with a cutout at the back.”

On assessing the race strategy, he added, “She has some strategic speed, so maybe that will help us get first run on those European horses, because you don’t want to run toe-to-toe with those closers.”

 

Selflessly – Klaravich Stables’ Chad Brown-trained Selflessly went out in a group with stablemates Structor and Without Parole at approximately 6:45 a.m., leaving Barn 48 and proceeding to gallop 1 1/4m over the Santa Anita main track.

The daughter of More Than Ready, one of the more successful sires at the Breeders’ Cup in recent history, last out won the Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont Park as a maiden. She had finished second in her debut at Saratoga one month prior. She will break from post 13 in the 1m Juvenile Fillies Turf and is the 8-1 co-fourth choice on the morning line. Javier Castellano rides.

“That’s not a good draw for her, but she’s training well,” Brown said. “With 2-year-olds, as they’re rapidly developing earlier on in their careers, you want to see them coming around at the right time and she seems to be doing that.”

Brown has dominated this race, with a record of 23-5-2-0, including the past three editions with Newspaperofrecord, Rushing Fall and Newmoneyhoney. He also won with Lady Eli in 2014 and Maram, his first Breeders’ Cup starter, in 2008.

More Than Ready has a record of 21-6-2-2 with progeny at the Breeders’ Cup, including two winners of the Juvenile Fillies Turf: More Than Real (2010) and Rushing Fall (2017). Eighteen of his 21 starters have finished in the top six, earning purse money.

 

Vitalogy – With trainer Brendan Walsh leading him to the track himself, the son of No Nay Never put in another gallop Wednesday under Paul Madden.

 

Wesley Ward (Cambria, Four Wheel Drive and Kimari) – All three of trainer Wesley Ward’s horses arrived at Santa Anita Tuesday shortly after lunchtime and were bedded down in the stable of trainer and longtime friend Blake Heap.  The trio—Cambria, Four Wheel Drive and Kimari—are all entered in the same race, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, and collectively, they sport an impressive eight wins from nine starts.  Four Wheel Drive, the lone colt among the three, is the morning-line choice in the 5f dash.

Wednesday, the threesome had the chance to stretch their legs, jogging around the 1m oval, then walking back through the paddock under the watchful eye of Heap.  Speaking to their relationship, Heap said.

“We’ve know one another since we were teenagers,” Heap said. “My father (longtime Midwest trainer Lamont Heap) employed Wesley when he was 14 to walk horses.  When Wesley first started riding, I was working around the shedrow and we became buddies.  He’s been shipping his horses out to me for years. We go back about 50 years together.”

 

BREEDERS' CUP CLASSIC RUNNERS

Code of Honor – William Farish’s homebred colt jogged for a while Wednesday morning, then galloped 1 1/2m for exercise rider Lexi Pradun.
Rider and horse returned to the barn area through the paddock at Santa Anita and returned to the paddock in mid-morning for more schooling in preparation for Saturday’s $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Code of Honor drew the outside post in the field of 11 and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. He will be ridden for the eighth consecutive time by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
Trainer Shug McGaughey said he was happy with the way the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner moved on the track.
“It looks like to me that he gets over it fine,” McGaughey said. “I asked Lexi too and she said fine. She took hold of him the whole way. I can’t worry about the track.”

McGaughey has nine victories in the Breeders’ Cup, but is winless in eight starts in the Classic. His best finishes have been seconds by Seeking the Gold in 1988 and Easy Goer in 1989.  McGaughey said he feels good about his chances of finally getting his Classic with Code of Honor.

“There are two really major races in the United States that I haven’t won, the Preakness and the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” he said. “I’ve been close in both of them, so they’re both on my list. I hope that maybe this year we can get the one behind us.”

After Code of Honor was moved up from third to second in the Kentucky Derby, McGaughey decided to skip the last two Triple Crown races and ran the Noble Mission colt back in the 1m Dwyer on July 6 at Belmont Park. He won by 3¼ lengths then won the Travers and the Gold Cup, on the disqualification of Vino Rosso.

“I think the key to him is that after the Derby he got a little bit of time until the Dwyer and then he got a little bit of time until the Travers,” McGaughey said. “For me to see his development, not only mentally but physically too, has been something I’ve seen in very few horses. As much as he’s grown up, as much as he likes doing what he’s doing, is something.

“A lot of that was the Dwyer when he was kind of back there going a mile and Johnny kind of made of a move and he had to bully his way through a hole. I think the horse learned a lot that day and maybe we learned a lot about how he wants to run and how he wants to be ridden. We kind of laugh and say we wish we had this horse today on Derby Day, but we didn’t. It’s an entirely different horse now than it was then.”

 

Elate/Yoshida (Bill Mott) – Elate and stablemate Yoshida both galloped Wednesday and went through the paddock with exercise rider Juan Quintero aboard each.

With this being the 10-year anniversary of champion Zenyatta becoming the first and – to date – only female runner to win the Classic, more than one observer has mentioned how fitting it would be should Elate match that feat Saturday. That Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott is even putting such a challenge before the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro speaks volumes about his confidence in the multiple Grade I winner.

“We’re throwing her in deep water. We seldom run the fillies against the colts unless we think we’ve got a top class horse and one that would fit the race,” Mott said.  “I think she fits the conditions of the race very well and she’s proven it. Of course we’re running against good competition so she still has to run her very best race to compete.”

Yoshida is winless in five starts this year but, with Grade I triumphs on dirt and turf, is one of the most versatile runners on the entire Breeders’ Cup card.

“It’s very rare. Generally, with most horses they are either clearly one or the other,” Mott said of Yoshida’s dual surface top-level ability. “I mean it’s just interesting how sometimes you can have a horse who is so good on the dirt. I mean you can have a champion horse and run them on the turf and they just don’t do that well. It should make him an interesting stallion prospect just the fact that he’s done both.”

 

Higher Power  Hronis Racing’s Higher Power galloped and stood in the gate Wednesday, coming to the track around 6:30 a.m. along with stablemate Ollie’s Candy.

This year’s Classic field is widely considered one of the more wide open editions of the race, as evidenced by the tepid 3-1 favoritism for McKinzie on the morning line. Higher Power has been worse than third just once in his past seven starts and scored a victory in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 17. Though trainer John Sadler said the son of Medaglia d’Oro still needs to prove he can duplicate that form, the bay colt is far from the only one with questions hanging over them heading into Saturday.

“It’s an interesting field, it’s probably a great gambling race this year because you could take a lot of horses and say they have a pretty good chance,” Sadler said. “There are a lot question marks on all of them. With Higher Power, can he repeat that performance that he had at Del Mar and do it again? Because he’s got that one. But he has to do it again. Can McKinzie go a mile and a quarter? That’s another one. Then, how do the 3-year-olds stack up against the olders? So there are a lot angles you can look at. (Elate), she looks like she wants that distance, she’s also a Medaglia d’Oro. That’s another fascinating look at that race.”

 

Math Wizard – Pennsylvania Derby winner Math Wizard jogged once around the Santa Anita track under assistant trainer Sabine Langvad Wednesday on the morning after arriving from South Florida to prepare for the Classic.

“He got in late last night. He got in around 10 [p.m.]. His flight was delayed because of weather,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “He ate well. He traveled well. He likes to travel. Whenever he travels, he wakes up when he gets there.”

Math Wizard, who woke up at Parx to post a 31-1 upset victory in the Sept. 21 Pennsylvania Derby from the rail post position, will break from post one again Saturday.

“I like the one. We actually wanted the one. A lot of people don’t like the one but in Pennsylvania he was one and in Ohio he was one, and those were his two best races,” said Joseph, whose trainee finished second in the Ohio Derby at Thistledown in June. “We were actually rooting for the one. He’s not a front-runner, but he can sit off them and save some ground.”

Math Wizard is owned by John Fanelli, Khalid Mischref, Cash Is King LLC, LC Racing LLC, Collarmele Vitelli Racing Stables LLC, Ioannis Zoumas and Bassett Stables.

 

McKinzie –What’s in a name? For Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, there is a significant emotional attachment for McKinzie, his morning-line favorite for the Classic.
The chestnut son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense was named for the late racing executive Brad McKinzie, a Baffert pal since their college days at the University of Arizona and a friend of the co-owners, Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. Purchased for $170,000, he is 7-5-0 in 13 career starts and has earned more than $2.2 million. More important, he has more than delivered as a tribute to Brad McKinzie, who died of cancer at 62 in August 2017.

Baffert typically has a cool approach, but he was visibly moved after McKinzie won the Whitney on Aug. 3 at Saratoga Race Course.

“A lot of people don’t think I have a heart, but I do,” Baffert said. “I’m a softy and Brad was the biggest softy of all. I remember when I won my first Kentucky Derby I was up on the podium and I looked down and see Brad and he’s in tears, he’s just crying. We have known him forever and that’s just the kind of guy he was. My No.1 fan. He’d show up for all the Triple Crown races. When he got sick, that last year it was tough watching him go through what he went through. And, the things he sacrificed in life to take care of his family. And he would never complain. Until the last day. I would always say ‘Brad, how are you feeling?’ ‘Great.’ That was him. He didn’t want anybody to feel sorry for him. He was tough. I wish I could be that tough.

“To me, I think we’re all living through this horse, thinking about Brad. He’s got a lot of friends. You’d be surprised of the inner circle that he had of people. I feel a little extra pressure on me when this horse runs because I know we’re all thinking about him. I’m just glad that we named a really good horse after him because it would have been horrible if I had to geld this horse.

“Brad was probably one of the funniest guys I’ve ever been around. We just loved him. We still tell stories when my family gets together. There was no one more fun to be with when you went to a football game because he was just hysterical. But a great human being. He’s still very missed.”

On Wednesday morning McKinzie jogged a mile under exercise rider Humberto Gomez.

 

Mongolian Groom – Trainer Enebish Ganbat said he is using the same recipe for success with Mongolian Groom as he approaches the biggest test of his career.
Ganbat sent the 4yo gelding for his morning exercise Wednesday and morning and had rider Jesse Cardenas jog him a mile then gallop a half-mile.
“I want to do exactly what I did before the Awesome Again,” Ganbat said.
It proved to be a winning approach when Mongolian Groom led from gate to wire to win the “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race at odds of 25-1.
Abel Cedillo, who worked out the Awesome Again victory, will ride Mongolian Groom in the Classic.

 

Owendale – Rupp Racing’s Owendale made his presence felt Wednesday, his first morning to gallop at Santa Anita since arriving Tuesday from Kentucky and the confidence he was exuding carried over to his trainer Brad Cox.

“He’s moving as well as he can move, looks as well as he can look,” Cox said. “It’s a step up from the Oklahoma Derby, but’s a nice horse going the right way at the right time.

“He hasn’t run a bad race all year. Once he took off this spring, when he won the Lexington, that was his coming out party. It showed he can run with the big horses. His training has been the exact same all year. He’s a very consistent horse and keeps getting better. He galloped a mile and a half this morning and was putting off 16s for every eighth (of a mile). He couldn’t be doing any better.”

           

Seeking the Soul – Charles Fipke’s Stephen Foster Handicap winner Seeking the Soul followed his usual routine of galloping 1 ½m before daylight and continues to “train beautifully,” according to his trainer Dallas Stewart.

 

Vino Rosso – Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Vino Rosso galloped 1 3/8m and stood in the starting gate at Santa Anita Wednesday morning in preparation for a start in Saturday’s Classic.

“He’s doing great,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He showed a lot of energy going on and off the track.”

Vino Rosso already has a 1 1/4m GI victory at Santa Anita on his resume. The 4yo son of Curlin captured the May 27 Gold Cup, seven weeks after finishing fourth in the 7f Carter Handicap at Aqueduct.

“The Carter was a Grade 1 opportunity and he’s always run well at Aqueduct. Unfortunately, it was probably the slowest half-mile pace in the history of the Carter and it didn’t set up well for him,” Pletcher said. “If we could do it all over again, we’d probably put a pacesetter in there to insure that there’s decent fractions. But you’d never expect a Grade 1 sprint to go almost :47 to the half.”

The Carter experience did, however, move Vino Rosso forward.

“He was training super and it seemed like the Santa Anita Gold Cup was coming up at the right time,” Pletcher said. “He was doing well and we felt getting a race over the track would let us see where we are as far as the Breeders’ Cup.”

Vino Rosso stalked the early pace in the Gold Cup before moving to the lead on the turn into the homestretch and edging away to victory by three-quarters of a length.

“It gives us encouragement. He has a good race over the track at the distance,” Pletcher said. “It’s good to know that.”

 

War of Will – Trainer Mark Casse is always encouraged whenever the son of War Front gets to bucking on the track, and War of Will threw in one of playful jumps while galloping along with stablemate and Breeders’ Cup Mile contender Got Stormy Wednesday morning.

With Shane Tripp in the irons, War of Will visited the gate after his routine exercise.

It would be unfair to frame a campaign that includes a Preakness Stakes triumph and two other graded-stakes wins as a disappointment but War of Will has stumped his connections with some less than stellar runs that didn’t have obvious excuses. The bay colt trained in superior fashion leading up the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, but could only manage a fifth-place run that day. His third-place effort in the Pennsylvania Derby was an improvement but trainer Mark Casse felt the colt lost focus in the lane, hence the decision to add blinkers to War of Will for Saturday’s Classic.

One of the many reasons why War of Will’s Kentucky Derby outcome – in which he was elevated to seventh via disqualification after being interfered with by Maximum Security – stung so deeply for Casse was because he felt his charge was coming into that race in peak form.

“In all honesty, he’s thrown some clunkers at us that I don’t really know why. So that’s a bit disappointing,” Casse said. “He needs to come with his Derby race (on Saturday). Everything we’ve kind of done up to this now has been looking at how we did the Kentucky Derby. I think he came with his ‘A’ game in the Kentucky Derby. Probably a B-plus game in the Preakness. Our feeling is he’s older, he’s more mature now and why not. If he comes with his big race, then everyone will know he’s there.”

Monday Musings: Sod’s Law Indeed!

So I got it wrong. It wasn’t Graham Lee and Frankelio who got up to deny Sod’s Law and Danny Tudhope on the line at Pontefract last Monday, hours after the almost-uncannily correct prediction appeared in these pages, but Joe Fanning, that other regular rider for Wilf Storey back in the day. Joe gathered the Mark Johnston-trained front-running Bo Samraan for a renewed effort just before the line and won by a head, writes Tony Stafford.

There were 14 runners that day in the Yorkshire mud and only two of them truly acted on it. We knew Ray Tooth’s homebred would cope, but timing was all. Danny did nothing wrong except come up against a Johnston horse who’d been absent for half the year recovering from injury. Any normal trainer would have waited until next year to bring the son of Sea The Stars back – how unfair to run a mile and a half-bred horse against us at a mile and a quarter! MJ couldn’t wait.

And where were the other twelve? Well if I tell you the extended distances were ten lengths back to the third, then 3.25; 5; 1.25; 4; 4.5; 3.5; 11; 2; 2.5; 6 and 1.25 lengths you can picture the scene as horses rolled about all over West Yorkshire with everyone coming home as though they’d been on an SAS Survival course in the Brecon Beacons.

Thus Sod’s Law finished his honourable service career for Ray <possibly> on a questionable note. Timeform, those arbiters of equine quality, managed skilfully to face both ways at once. They more than questioned his honesty by applying the dreaded “squiggle” – shush! - alongside his rating while at the same time raising it by a full 6lb to 92. So he goes to Tattersall’s Autumn Horses in Training sale on Wednesday on a highly-saleable mark and proven to stay ten furlongs which had not been fully established before Pontefract.

The Halifax firm produce a special book evaluating all the horses in that sale and every Middle Eastern buyer aiming at filling his orders will be marching around with one under his arm from today. I’ll be going up later this morning for a preliminary skirmish prior to Wednesday when Sod’s Law goes under the hammer in the evening with the second batch of the Hughie Morrison contingent.

I felt a bit sorry for the old boy – the horse not the trainer! – as he’d needed to dig pretty deep to get where he did on a day of attritional racing. Up the hill and over his longest distance yet, he even gave indications that a mile and a half might not stretch his capabilities while there were whispers that maybe even jumping could be a possible, although there haven’t been many of the Maysons try it.

What of Frankelio, who as I said last week, has been a constant nagging at the back of my brain ever since I discovered his form connection with The Revenant. I saw Micky Hammond before the race, suggesting I feared his horse and he candidly said: “I’m not sure he’ll stay and in any case when we gelded him in the summer it seemed to take a lot out of him. It’s going to be all about next year for him.”

For the record, Frankelio was almost 45 lengths back in 11th place but more annoyingly, Rake’s Progress who’d come late to deny our chap at Nottingham the previous week, this time was never in contention and more than 18 lengths behind in fifth at the finish.

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Now it’s up to the bidders and Ray doesn’t ever let them go for nothing. That will apply too for Say Nothing, his three-year-old filly by Nathaniel who is due to sell in the earlier batch of Hughie’s Wednesday auction items. She is one of nine declared for a mile and a half handicap at Southwell early tomorrow evening. The Morrison horses always do well on Fibresand and the hope is she’ll finally earn a winning bracket and then go straight on to the sale in advance of Wednesday.

She’s a looker and for a while we were tempted to send her hurdling as her half-brother – and the mare I Say’s first foal – Nelson River was fourth in this year’s Triumph Hurdle for Tony Carroll. With a robust physique that had Hughie calling her “little Enable” when he first saw her, she would attract at least a look from dual-purpose shoppers. The Enable point is easily made. The great mare is by Nathaniel out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. Say Nothing is also a daughter of Nathaniel, and I Say has Sadler’s Wells as her maternal grandsire.

It was Sod’s Law for us again on Saturday evening. Waterproof, running in a 16-runner classified race, also finished runner-up, this time by half a length again with the rest of the field trailing along behind, though not quite in such disarray as Pontefract. There was an element of slight misfortune too as Shaun Keightley’s gelding got a hefty bump from the winner a furlong out. “If it had been a head we might have got it,” said the trainer. It wasn’t so we didn’t.

While preparing for Chelmsford, Waterproof has also been schooling over hurdles and is due to make his debut at Huntingdon on Sunday while the boys prepare to fly back from the Breeders’ Cup in Santa Anita over the previous two days. In encouraging Raymond to try jumping: “The Pour Moi’s do well over hurdles”, I repeatedly suggested, again there was a Sod’s Law element. When we sent Laughing Water to Coolmore, Pour Moi seemed a good choice, as he’d already sired the Derby winner Wings Of Eagles for the Coolmore partners and Aidan O’Brien. But even before Waterproof was a year old, Coolmore had switched the Derby winner to their NH division.

Today I read that poor old Pour Moi has now been seconded to a French stud, reflecting his having covered fewer than 60 mares this year. The supreme irony for the stallion is that his son Wings of Eagles, having attended to the mating requirement of four times as many mares as daddy in his native France, is coming back the other way to Coolmore. Who said money talks?

There were so many Sod’s Law moments this week, most of them encapsulated in the two days’ Flat racing scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Doncaster and Newbury both succumbed to the deluge – if you were wondering, Ray’s potentially smart jumper Apres Le Deluge is having a break at Hedgeholm stud – but the big races have been reprieved.

Again last week, I suggested Aidan O’Brien had no prospect of clawing back the money deficit to John Gosden, but with five of the only six declarations for the Vertem Futurity at Doncaster, he would have had a chance of heading his rival for a couple of days at least. The race has been reopened and will be run on Friday night’s Newcastle card and added to the eight races already scheduled. Ralph Beckett plans to add Kinross, impressive on debut at Newmarket recently, while Andrew Balding’s Kameko, the only non-O’Brien acceptor last week will run. Aidan apparently will stick with the quintet already listed.

Newbury’s Horris Hill Stakes was also lost and transfers to Newmarket on Saturday. That had been Beckett’s original target for Kinross, and HQ’s management will be hoping that the course’s noted drying capacities will provide acceptable conditions for its two-day finale.

I suppose Phoenix Thoroughbreds can afford the odd setback, but they had a Sod’s Law moment par excellence at ParisLongchamp yesterday. Only four horses were declared at the final stage for the Criterium International (which Ray won in 2011 with French Fifteen), two by Aidan and one Joseph. The only non-O’Brien was the German-trained Alson, in the private stable of Gestut Schlenderhan handled by French-born Jean-Pierre Carvalho.

The heavy ground caused the morning defection of Wichita, one of Aidan’s pair leaving Alson and Armory, respectively second and third in the Lagardere on Arc Day, to renew rivalry. Joseph’s entry was the supplemented filly Lady Penelope, recently bought to remain in his stable by Phoenix. The supplementary fee would have been more than dealt with by the guaranteed third-place money, but she flipped over in the stalls denying Group 1 black type and Shane Crosse a moment of Group 1 glory.

That left just the two and after a very short time it was clear that Armory and Donnacha O’Brien were not coping with the ground while Alson clearly was. With Armory eased off, Frankie Dettori enjoyed his 19th Group 1 win of the year and it was surely easier than any of Enable’s during her entire career as the 20-length margin was announced.

Afterwards Donnacha expressed his amazement that no French horse could be found to contest that race and no doubt many others will have similar thoughts about the paucity of English challengers for some of our top domestic race.

I’m not sure I’ve really taken to the way the Breeders’ Cup has evolved into its present two-day structure and certainly for UK watchers, the first set of races offers few points of interest, although no doubt the Editor will already have been sorting out the likely longshots in the dirt races to fund his trip.

One race that will attract universal attention will be Magical’s run in the Filly and Mare Turf race on Saturday. If she wins she’ll have to have beaten the US crack Sistercharlie, but don’t be surprised if that perennial over-achiever Billesdon Brook goes close. I don’t think Richard Hannon has had anything like the credit he deserves for keeping her going at the level he has.

- Tony S

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