The Breeders’ Cup is just about to get underway at Churchill Downs. It’s grown from humble beginnings in 1984 to one of the highlights in the racing season. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more competitive gathering of racehorses in North America. This of course, translates into one heck of a betting bonanza as the number of legitimate runners increases in each race. There have been some very live longshots that have crossed the finish line in the past (e.g. 30-1 Miesque’s Approval in the 2006 Mile), and I expect there will be some toteboard fireworks this weekend.  Here’s a closer look at some of the more well-known races on Saturday. And just a note on where you can watch the races – they will all be shown on TSN/TSN2 and online at DRF.com.

 

5th Race - Churchill Downs – Saturday, November 5th, 2011

STAKES. 6 Furlongs Dirt. Purse $1,500,000. Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Grade 1).  (11:37 PM PST) (9)
# Horse Odds Jockey Wgt A/S M/E Trainer
1 Euroears (KY) 4/1 Rafael Bejarano 126 7 H LA Bob Baffert
2 Giant Ryan (NY) 8/1 Cornelio H. Velasquez 126 5 H L Bisnath Parboo
3 Aikenite (FL) 8/1 Javier Castellano 126 4 C LA Todd A. Pletcher
4 Hamazing Destiny (KY) 10/1 Robby Albarado 126 5 H L D. Wayne Lukas
5 Jackson Bend (FL) 7/2 Corey S. Nakatani 126 4 C LA Nicholas P. Zito
6 Force Freeze (KY) 10/1 John R. Velazquez 126 6 G LA Peter R. Walder
7 Amazombie (CA) 5/1 Mike E. Smith 126 5 G L William Spawr
8 Big Drama (FL) 5/2 Ramon A. Dominguez 126 5 H LA David Fawkes
9 Apriority (FL) 30/1 Joel Rosario 126 4 C LA David Fawkes

Sprint: This six furlong dash seems to be quite competitive, and I’d say at least five runners have a legitimate chance at taking it. One comment trainer Bob Baffert made about last year’s Breeders’ Cup was that horses shipping in from California were at a disadvantage for not being able to work over the track surface earlier. It’s a valid point, as the dirt surface at Churchill Downs is known to be deeper than other tracks, and more taxing on endurance. Jackson Bend is cutting back from a mile, and was second to Uncle Mo in the Kelso. He’s two for two at the distance and also gets 2006 Sprint winning rider Corey Nakatani abord (who’s been having a surprisingly good year). Amazombie took the Ancient Title, a key prep race for the Breeders’ Cup, and should be game. His odds might not be as appealing as Hamazing Destiny’s though. A closing second in last year’s Sprint, Hamazing Destiny also boasts a good record at Churchill Downs, having run in the money in four of his five starts. The 2010 winner, Big Drama, is also taking a shot at a repeat win but is coming off a very long layoff.

 

8th Race - Churchill Downs – Saturday, November 5th, 2011

STAKES. 1 1/2 Mile Turf. Purse $3,000,000. Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (Grade 1).  (01:45 PM PST) (9)
# Horse Odds Jockey Wgt A/S M/E Trainer
1 St Nicholas Abbey (IRE) (IRE) 9/2 Joseph Patrick O’Brien 126 4 C L Aidan P. O’Brien
2 Sarafina (FR) (FR) 5/2 Christophe P. Lemaire 123 4 F Alain De Royer-Dupre
3 Dean’s Kitten (KY) 10/1 Ramon A. Dominguez 126 4 C LA Michael J. Maker
4 Stately Victor (KY) 30/1 Mike E. Smith 126 4 C LA Michael J. Maker
5 Teaks North (FL) 20/1 Javier Castellano 126 4 G LA Justin Sallusto
6 Await The Dawn (KY) 7/2 Julien R. Leparoux 126 4 C L Aidan P. O’Brien
7 Sea Moon (GB) (GB) 4/1 Ryan L. Moore 122 3 C L Sir Michael R. Stoute
8 Brilliant Speed (FL) 20/1 John R. Velazquez 122 3 C LA Thomas Albertrani
9 Midday (GB) (GB) 4/1 Thomas P. Queally 123 5 M L Henry Cecil

Turf: This race has always featured prominent European turf runners, lured in by a $3 million dollar purse and a substantial boost in stud fees if a winner. Sarafina heads the field of invaders this year. Owned by HH the Aga Kahn, she’s been running superbly in G1 races in her native France. While she lost by six lengths in the Arc, keep in mind the winner Danedream exploded in the stretch to take it by five lengths. She figures to improve in an arguably weaker race here, and should get a better trip in this field of nine runners. On the domestic side, Dean’s Kitten looks to be a promising contender. He was a close second to the classy Cape Blanco in the Turf Classic at Belmont Park earlier in October. He might get overlooked with all the European horses running. Speaking of which, Sea Moon will be shipping over from the UK and figures to have a good shot. He’s lightly raced and can handle the mile and half distance.

 

9th Race - Churchill Downs – Saturday, November 5th, 2011

STAKES. 1 1/16 Mile Dirt. Purse $2,000,000. Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade 1). (02:25 PM PST) (13)
# Horse Odds Jockey Wgt A/S M/E Trainer
1 Take Charge Indy (KY) 30/1 James Graham 122 2 C L Patrick B. Byrne
2 Dullahan (KY) 8/1 Kent J. Desormeaux 122 2 C LA Dale L. Romans
3 Crusade (KY) 12/1 Julien R. Leparoux 122 2 C L Aidan P. O’Brien
4 Drill (KY) 8/1 Martin Garcia 122 2 C LA o Bob Baffert
5 Hansen (KY) 10/1 Ramon A. Dominguez 122 2 C LA Michael J. Maker
6 Prospective (KY) 30/1 Luis Contreras 122 2 C LA Mark E. Casse
7 Creative Cause (KY) 7/2 Joel Rosario 122 2 C L Mike Harrington
8 Speightscity (KY) 20/1 Corey S. Nakatani 122 2 R L Gary C. Contessa
9 Alpha (KY) 15/1 Garrett K. Gomez 122 2 C Kiaran P. McLaughlin
10 Union Rags (KY) 2/1 Javier Castellano 122 2 C LA Michael R. Matz
11 Daddy Long Legs (KY) 12/1 Ryan L. Moore 122 2 C L Aidan P. O’Brien
12 Fort Loudon (FL) 20/1 Luis Jurado 122 2 C L Stanley I. Gold
13 Optimizer (KY) 15/1 Robby Albarado 122 2 C L b D. Wayne Lukas

Juvenile: Up until Street Sense in 2006, no horse had ever won both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby. Chalk it up to injuries, a regression in form, or poor training, it just didn’t seem possible. To be honest, I don’t see it happening again this year. Union Rags is getting all the hype so far, with comparisons being drawn with last year’s winner, Uncle Mo. Both horses won the Champagne Stakes by multiple lengths. So while he can certainly win, his odds won’t be very attractive and there’s a bigger field this year. On top of that, Uncle Mo is breaking from post ten. Digging into history, six of the seven Juvenile races held at Churchill Downs had winners breaking from posts seven and below. Now that ain’t much of a sample size, but it’s still something to consider when backing a horse at short odds. Looking at other horses, Take Charge Indy is an interesting runner who has raced only on polytrack. He should take to the dirt, as his sire AP Indy was no stranger to success on dirt tracks. His dam, Take Charge Lady, was also a very accomplished racehorse, coming second in the Kentucky Oaks and winning the Delaware Handicap. Hansen is another horse that has been dominating his competition, although on polytrack. While talented, his long parallel running style suggests he may be best on turf.

10th Race - Churchill Downs – Saturday, November 5th, 2011

STAKES. 1 Mile Turf. Purse $2,000,000. TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (Grade 1).  (03:07 PM PST) (13)
# Horse Odds Jockey Wgt A/S M/E Trainer
1 Goldikova (IRE) (IRE) 7/5 Olivier Peslier 123 6 M L Frederic Head
2 Zoffany (IRE) (IRE) 20/1 Ryan L. Moore 123 3 C LA Aidan P. O’Brien
3 Courageous Cat (KY) 8/1 Patrick A. Valenzuela 126 5 H LA William I. Mott
4 Mr. Commons (KY) 20/1 Mike E. Smith 123 3 C LA John A. Shirreffs
5 Gio Ponti (KY) 4/1 Ramon A. Dominguez 126 6 H L Christophe Clement
6 Get Stormy (KY) 15/1 Garrett K. Gomez 126 5 H LA Thomas M. Bush
7 Jeranimo (FL) 20/1 Martin Garcia 126 5 H L Michael Pender
8 Byword (GB) (GB) 12/1 Maxime H. Guyon 126 5 H Andre Fabre
9 Court Vision (KY) 30/1 Robby Albarado 126 6 H LA Dale L. Romans
10 Sidney’s Candy (KY) 15/1 John R. Velazquez 126 4 C LA Todd A. Pletcher
11 Strong Suit (AR) 10/1 Richard Hughes 123 3 C L Richard M. Hannon
12 Compliance Officer (NY) 30/1 Alex O. Solis 126 5 G LA Bruce R. Brown
13 Turallure (KY) 8/1 Julien R. Leparoux 126 4 C L Charles Lopresti

Mile: Goldivoka is back for a fourpeat. She’s on track to make history on Saturday and trainer Freddy Head is very confident of her chances. I’d be leery of betting against her, but if you must, don’t back Gio Ponti. I may be eating crow on Sunday, but while a solid turf runner, Gio Ponti has had his best success running in small fields. I figure he has not aged as well as Goldikova also, with him being soundly beat in the Arlington Million and Manowar Stakes. Woodbine Mile winner Turallure should be a stronger contender, along with Mr. Commons.

 

11th Race - Churchill Downs – Saturday, November 5th, 2011

STAKES. 1 1/4 Mile Dirt. Purse $5,000,000. Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade 1). (04:00 PM PST) (13)
# Horse Odds Jockey Wgt A/S M/E Trainer
1 Prayer For Relief (KY) 30/1 Rafael Bejarano 122 3 C LA Bob Baffert
2 Flat Out (FL) 6/1 Alex O. Solis 126 5 H LA Charles L. Dickey
3 Drosselmeyer (KY) 15/1 Mike E. Smith 126 4 C LA William I. Mott
4 Ruler On Ice (KY) 30/1 Garrett K. Gomez 122 3 G LA Kelly J. Breen
5 So You Think (NZ) (NZ) 5/1 Ryan L. Moore 126 5 H L b Aidan P. O’Brien
6 Ice Box (KY) 30/1 Corey S. Nakatani 126 4 C LA Nicholas P. Zito
7 Rattlesnake Bridge (KY) 30/1 Calvin H. Borel 122 3 C LA Kiaran P. McLaughlin
8 Game On Dude (KY) 10/1 Chantal Sutherland 126 4 G LA Bob Baffert
9 Stay Thirsty (KY) 12/1 Javier Castellano 122 3 C LA Todd A. Pletcher
10 Havre De Grace (KY) 3/1 Ramon A. Dominguez 123 4 F LA J. Larry Jones
11 Headache (KY) 30/1 Paco Lopez 126 5 G LA Michael J. Maker
12 Uncle Mo (KY) 5/2 John R. Velazquez 122 3 C LA Todd A. Pletcher
13 To Honor And Serve (KY) 12/1 Jose Lezcano 122 3 C LA William I. Mott

 

Classic: This race has the biggest purse, but quite possibly the weakest field in some time. Uncle Mo has talent, but has had a troubled year with health issues. Will he prove his doubters wrong at a distance? One thing’s for certain, he will be facing much more pressure on the front end. Havre de Grace, Stay Thirsty, and Game on Dude should be in the mix early, setting up what could be some fast fractions. The entry of So You Think is very intriguing, given it’s his first race on dirt. His accomplishments tower over the field, having won over $7.5 million. There’s no doubt he’s a classy horse, but how will he run? Turf writer Steve Haskins has a saying: “If the proven have proven little, go with the unproven, because you never know what they will prove”. It’s worth taking a shot with So You Think, but I’d also give thought to Drosselmeyer who could be fresh off a single race in October. Headache may be reaching in this spot, but should like running from an outside post and could grab a share if the race really implodes in the late stages.

1 Comment

  1. Carol Anderson
    November 5, 2011

    Thank you for your articles in The Sun today about Breeders’ Cup. Personally, hockey and football are not interesting to me and many others. However, I’m not sure you realize that Chuck Fipke, from British Columbia, won the $2 million Filly and Mares Turf with a mare he bred; Perfect Shirl. The filly is trained by Roger Attfield in Toronto where she has run several of her races. You may know Chuck through his exploits in the Diamond industry and Diamet.

    Racing has more stories attached to it than any other sport I think. It has a lot of highs and lows, but like one owner said, “I’d rather by on a roller coaster than a merry go round.” It is an international sport and the one thing that keeps us all together is the majestry of the Thoroughbred.

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