The 2022 Breeders’ Cup is upon us. The two-day event starts Friday at Keeneland, with five races for 2-year-olds and an intriguing undercard that also offers plenty of wagering opportunities.
In addition to my analysis down below, I’ve been fortunate to be part of some awesome shows and podcasts leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. You’ll find those videos embedded below, and links to podcasts will be there as well.
Alright, time for a huge block of text. As I did last year, I’ll spend more time and energy on races where I have strong opinions (me blabbering on and on in races where I don’t feel strongly about any particular runner doesn’t help anybody). Let’s get to it!
RACE #1: I’m not crazy about the post position #8 OPEN ROAD draws, but I think he’s a 3-year-old set to make significant progress late in the year. He comes in off of a win in a first-level allowance over a loaded field. The runner-up, Strong Quality, has talent, and third-place finisher Tiz Rye Time came back to win at next asking.
I think he’s got the tactical speed to clear some of his rivals early and establish position, which isn’t necessarily something likely favorite #6 B DAWK can do. Let’s see if we can get the likely second choice home to kick off the day.
RACE #2: I sincerely hope the daughter of Tapit and Songbird, #2 MAGICAL SONG, gets bet, because I don’t like her. Her works are just-OK, and debuting at seven furlongs is no easy task.
I prefer second-time starter #6 KLASSY BRIDGETTE, who closed to be second in her debut at Churchill and should get plenty of pace to run at. If you want a first-time starter, I’d recommend #8 VIVID DREAMS, whose most recent drill was very sharp, but again, this is a tough first assignment.
RACE #3: #11 MARSALIS will be a very heavy favorite, and he’s my top pick. If you want to extract some value, I’d suggest playing him in exactas with #3 SPARTAN ARMY (who goes second off a long layoff) and #6 PRO OXIDANT (who ran very well in his debut at should come back to form on a cutback in distance).
RACE #4: #9 ARABIAN LION is another heavy chalk that seems live. It’s a Bob Baffert trainee coming in off of earning a 92 Beyer Speed Figure in an impressive first-out win last month. He’s the one to beat, but I don’t think he’s a cinch.
#11 TRES SOLES and #12 PROTEGE both intrigue me at bigger prices. The former wound up on the lead by default in his debut, is bred to want the added distance he gets here, and boasts the Steve Asmussen work tab I love (the two-back work is fast, the most recent drill is a maintenance move). The latter, meanwhile, was professional in victory first time out for a barn whose debuting runners don’t often win. That day’s runner-up was six lengths clear of the third-place finisher and has since come back to win.
If Arabian Lion wins, will I be shocked? No. Will I probably still be alive? Yes. Do I think he’s a single, though? No.
RACE #5: The Grade 2 TAA (formerly the Breeders’ Cup Marathon) has no proven marathoners, and anything can happen. If ever there was a time to hit the “ALL” button, it’s here.
RACE #6: Breeders’ Cup action starts here, with the Juvenile Turf Sprint, and it’s a confounding race. My “Drank’n Champagne” co-host, Josh Rodriguez, really likes #2 LOVE REIGNS. I see why, and that one wouldn’t shock me, but to be honest, I can say the same about nearly half this field.
I’ll give two bombs that you probably want on those late Pick Five tickets. #6 PERSIAN FORCE was a half-length behind Blackbeard in the Group 1 Prix Morny two back, and that day’s rider, the ever-dangerous Frankie Dettori, sees fit to ride back. In addition, #9 SHARP AZA TACK was sent away at 1/5 odds in a stakes race at Kentucky Downs, where I think he bounced and still nearly won. Cutting back in distance should help, and if the same horse that won the Tyro by nearly eight lengths shows up here, he’s got a big chance at a square price.
RACE #7: My first strong play-against comes in the Juvenile Fillies, as I’m against #10 CHOCOLATE GELATO. I don’t think we can judge anything fairly when it comes to the prep races at Aqueduct, which were contested in boggy conditions that may never be replicated again. The post position is tough, this field is imposing, and I simply prefer others.
#7 CHOP CHOP is the wise-guy horse, and she makes a ton of sense. There should be plenty of speed signed on to set up for her late kick, and a step forward from her hard-luck second in the Grade 1 Alcibiades would make her tough. I don’t think it’s as simple as relying on just her, though.
#2 YOU’RE MY GIRL was second in the Frizette, and her debut was sensational. She has the speed to make the rail draw an asset, but I also don’t think she necessarily needs the lead. In addition, I’ll give #11 AMERICAN ROCKETTE another shot. She lost all chance at the start of the Grade 1 Spinaway, but made up a metric ton of ground to finish fourth. Again, I see the Frizette as a throw-out, and with the lively pace we’ll likely get here, she hits me as one that could step up.
Finally, I’ll give you a bonkers longshot that could clunk up for a share. #1 VEGAS MAGIC was 3-for-3 going into the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, where she likely bounced off of a solid score in the Grade 2 Sorrento. Her pedigree says two turns won’t be a problem, and we know she can close. Can the winner of the Alameda County Fair’s flagship 2-year-old race, the Everett Nevin, win this one? Probably not, but if you’re playing tri’s and super’s, I wouldn’t leave her out.
RACE #8: As you may have seen in the shows and podcasts I’ve done, the Juvenile Fillies Turf houses one of my biggest plays of the entire weekend. Remember what I said about there being no value in Aqueduct preps? That applies here in a big way.
#6 BE YOUR BEST had no shot in the Grade 2 Miss Grillo, where the top two ran in place from start to finish. Toss that race, and you’re left with a 2-year-old filly that won a pair of starts at Saratoga by a total of seven lengths. She saved no ground in her debut and won anyway, defeating #4 FREE LOOK in the process. She then crushed an overmatched group in the P.G. Johnson, and in both instances, she rallied into paces that were pretty soft.
I think there’s plenty of early speed in here, and several of the likely pace-setters have drawn terrible outside posts. This opens the door for Be Your Best to do what she wants and come running late. Should she do so and get the money, she’ll likely be a square price. She’s a very heavy play for me on top.
If you want to go deeper, I’m most intrigued by #5 PLEASANT PASSAGE, who exits back-to-back bullet drills, and #11 G LAURIE, who had a nightmare trip in the Grade 1 Natalma and gets a massive rider change to William Buick. However, Be Your Best will be a single on most of my tickets, and if she wins, Friday will likely be a fantastic day for me regardless of anything else that happens.
RACE #9: Single #3 CAVE ROCK in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and move on.
RACE #10: For reasons that don’t make much sense to me, we finish with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and let’s hope this year’s renewal is less eventful than the 2021 running.
#4 SILVER KNOTT and #8 I’M VERY BUSY are logical top two choices, and they’ll both be on my tickets. However, I also really like #5 BATTLE OF NORMANDY, and for many of the same reasons I like Be Your Best two races earlier.
Like Be Your Best, Battle of Normandy ran well twice at Saratoga while closing in paceless races. Like Be Your Best, Battle of Normandy never had a chance in a prep over a boggy turf course at Aqueduct. Like Be Your Best, Battle of Normandy figures to finally get some speed to chase, and will do so at an overlaid price.
In addition to all of that, the rider switch to Jose Lezcano cannot be ignored. Kendrick Carmouche is a fine jockey, but Lezcano has been one of the top turf riders on the New York circuit for years. This is a significant upgrade for a horse that should have every reason to fire a big shot on a big stage.
If you want to go even deeper, #1 VICTORIA ROAD and #2 PACKS A WAHLOP are my “B horses.” However, the first three will take most of my action, and if Battle of Normandy wins, it’ll likely put plenty of cash in my account heading into Saturday’s program.