2018 BREEDERS’ CUP: Saturday Analysis, Selections, Betting Strategies, and Tickets

The 2018 Breeders’ Cup is upon us. While Friday’s program features races for 2-year-olds, Saturday’s slate focuses on older horses, and is headlined by the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. World-class horses like Enable, Monomoy Girl, Abel Tasman, Accelerate, and others will be in action, and each race brings with it plenty of potential to make some money.

If you didn’t see my write-up of Friday’s card, it’s available here. This will follow the same template, as I’ll give A, B, and C horses, expound with some analysis, and provide tips for betting each individual race on a $20ish budget. At the end, I’ll dive into the multi-race exotics sequences and offer a few tickets for wagers that are likely to boast pools of several million dollars.

It’s a great betting program, and there’s a lot to decipher, so let’s get to it!

BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY AND MARE SPRINT

A’s: 13
B’s: 5,10
C’s: 8,11,14

We’ll start off the day with a favorite that seems very imposing on paper, for a variety of different reasons. It’s not exciting, and starting off with an 8/5 shot that will likely drift down towards even money won’t win me any awards for bravery, but #13 MARLEY’S FREEDOM seems much the best and should be bet as such.

Let’s approach this from a variety of different angles. Marley’s Freedom has won four in a row, and in that stretch, she hasn’t seriously been tested. Bob Baffert has her in career-best form, and the recent bullet workout indicates she’s fully loaded for this race. Furthermore, there appears to be a lot of speed signed on, and that should set up for this one’s closing kick. The outside draw is cushy, and while it wouldn’t necessarily be shocking if she lost, it would be a mild surprise.

If Marley’s Freedom doesn’t win, I don’t have a clue who does. I’m taking the stand that the race sets up for a closer, and because of that, my two B horses are ones that don’t need the lead. #5 GOLDEN MISCHIEF has won three in a row and turned in a very strong workout on Sunday (the best of 113 at the distance), while #10 HIGHWAY STAR is a closer that would benefit from the likely pace scenario. That one seems a cut below my top two choices, but if they go :44 for the opening half-mile, Jose Ortiz will be smiling widely aboard this consistent mare.

Two of my C horses are speed horses that need a lot to go right, but could hang on for a share. #8 MIA MISCHIEF has finished worse than second just once in 10 career starts, while #11 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM loves Churchill Downs and may have bounced last time out. Having said that, both need the lead to run their best, and the latter has misfired twice in her last three outings. I’ll also lightly use 20-1 shot #14 SHAMROCK ROSE, who capitalized when the Grade 2 Raven Run fell apart. The quick turnaround isn’t ideal, but she could get that race shape again, and if you’re playing tri’s and supers, she may be worth throwing on the bottom rungs of those wagers.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll key the chalk on top of my two B horses in exactas. Ideally, I’d like to key Marley’s Freedom in doubles, but the Turf Sprint is an absolute mess, so I’m trying to steer far clear of it.

$10 exactas: 13 with 5,10 ($20)

BREEDERS’ CUP TURF SPRINT

A’s: 14
B’s: 7,9,10
C’s: 2,4,5

Good freaking luck, folks! I found the Turf Sprint to be the toughest race of the entire Breeders’ Cup program, and there’s a real chance that I’m passing this race if the tote board isn’t displaying odds I like on my top choice.

I hate the post position #14 CONQUEST TSUNAMI drew, but he certainly looks like the controlling speed in this race. #11 WORLD OF TROUBLE has speed, to be sure, but Conquest Tsunami is lightning quick and cuts back to a distance that should be more to his liking. His only poor race for trainer Peter Miller was going much further than he wanted to, and if he can clear the field (which I think he can), I think he’s got a big, big shot.

If he doesn’t clear the field…well, then it’s anyone’s guess who wins. The two morning line favorites, #5 DISCO PARTNER and #9 STORMY LIBERAL, both have a history of not running as well outside of their home states (though the latter ran very, very well in Dubai earlier this year, his duds at Belmont and Hong Kong can’t just be ignored).

Stormy Liberal is a B horse for me, as are two European invaders that are prices on the morning line. #7 LOST TREASURE has hit another gear late in his 3-year-old season, as he’s put up three straight Timeform Ratings of 112 or higher coming into this race. Meanwhile, #10 HAVANA GREY would move way up if this race was contested over soft going (which seems likely). His form over firmer going is no great shakes, but he won a Group 1 over yielding ground at The Curragh two back and gets Lasix. Both Euros are 20-1 morning line, and while I think they’ll both drift down, anything 15-1 or higher would hit me as an overlay.

Disco Partner is one of three C horses. The second is #2 BUCCHERO, a consistent, hard-knocking sort that’s very easy to root for. He may be a cut below the top tier, but he always tries hard and is usually going the right way late. Finally, I’ll include #4 VISION PERFECT, strictly because Jason Servis is one of the top trainers in the country when it comes to turf sprints. He hits with 33% of such runners, and Javier Castellano’s presence can’t be ignored (especially considering he doesn’t ride much for this outfit).

Betting on a Budget

Conquest Tsunami is 6-1 on the morning line, and that seems fair. Anything above 9/2 would make him an OK win/place play, and 8-1 or higher would be a significant overlay. If not, I’m likely passing the race.

$5 win/place: 14 (conditional on him being 9/2 or higher)

BREEDERS’ CUP DIRT MILE

A’s: 1
B’s: 10
C’s: 6,9

Like many, I’m seeing the Dirt Mile as a two-horse race between #1 CITY OF LIGHT and #10 CATALINA CRUISER. The former is the only horse to top Accelerate to this point in the year, but comes in off of two straight defeats. The latter, meanwhile, is a perfect 4-for-4, and was last seen running away from a pair of Grade 2 fields at Del Mar this summer.

I’m siding with City of Light. The most damning reason is a statistic that will be cited ad nauseum between now and Saturday: Trainer John Sadler is 0 for 41 with Breeders’ Cup runners. To be fair, he had a few tough beats with Stellar Wind in the 2015 and 2016 Distaffs, but this isn’t an 0 for 7 or 0 for 8 stat. This is a significant sample size, and if I’ve got a reason to go against a Sadler trainee, I’m going to do it.

My thinking here is that Catalina Cruiser, as talented as he may be, hasn’t really beaten anyone. Yes, he beat Battle of Midway in the Pat O’Brien, but that one was making his first start since the 2017 Breeders’ Cup and absolutely needed the race. As Dirt Miles go, this race isn’t bad. City of Light is a two-time Grade 1 winner, and my two C horses exit what I feel was a live prep race (the Grade 3 Ack Ack at this route). Catalina Cruiser may be a freak, and I won’t be stunned if he beats me, but I’ll take slightly better odds on a horse that this distance should hit right between the eyes.

#6 SEEKING THE SOUL won the Ack Ack, and his connections were hoping he’d make the Classic. However, he wouldn’t have drawn in off the AE list, so they settled for running here. This is his favorite track, and he’d benefit from a fast pace. I also need to consider #9 GIANT EXPECTATIONS, who may have needed the Ack Ack coming off a six-month layoff. He has a tendency to find trouble, and that’s a red flag sometimes, but he could easily improve off of that effort, and his best would certainly be good enough to hit the board.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll key City of Light on top of trifectas that include my other horses underneath. Additionally, I’ll play a small, cold double singling both City of Light and a live longshot in the Filly and Mare Turf.

$3 trifectas: 1 with 6,9,10 with 6,9,10 ($18)
$5 double: 1 with 14 ($5)

BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY AND MARE TURF

A’s: 3,6,14
B’s: 10
C’s: N/A

I have very few hardcore tenets when it comes to the Breeders’ Cup, but this race emphasizes one of them: Never, ever, ever, ever bet against Frankie Dettori when he’s on a live turf horse.

Here, he rides #14 EZIYRA, who’s 15-1 on the morning line but may be considerably shorter come post time. She’s won four of her last five starts, and the lone defeat came in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, when she was third behind an all-world talent in Sea of Class. She’s never finished worse than third in 11 career starts, soft turf will not be a problem, she likes this distance, and she’s got arguably the best turf rider in the world on her. 15-1 would be a ridiculous overlay, and anything over 8-1 would be more than fair.

The other two A horses are the two likely favorites. #3 WILD ILLUSION is a three-time Group 1 winner, while #6 SISTERCHARLIE has flourished since coming to America last summer. She’s a head away from being undefeated this year, and while she does stretch out in distance a bit, she’s won going similar routes of ground overseas, so I don’t see it as an issue. These favorites are legitimate, and I think they’re both must-uses in any multi-race exotics ticket you come up with.

Aidan O’Brien can’t be ignored here, as he saddles possible third choice #10 MAGIC WAND. She hasn’t won in a while but has kept tremendous company, running in Group 1 races in five of her last six starts. Here’s what I don’t get, though. Three back, she was fifth in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks. You know who was third that day? Eziyra. Eziyra is three times the price of Magic Wand on the morning line, and while a lot of that has to do with the O’Brien factor, it’s a ridiculous disparity. The bigger that is come post time, the more value this race has to this handicapper.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll box my top three horses in exactas and lean on Eziyra in a few other wagers. I’m splurging a bit compared to other races, but Eziyra is my price play of the weekend.

$2 exacta box: 3,6,14 ($12)
$1 exacta key box: 14 with 3,6,10 ($6)
$3 win/place: 14
$6 double: 14 with 5

BREEDERS’ CUP SPRINT

A’s: 5
B’s: N/A
C’s: 1,8,9

This race houses one of the easiest horses in the country to root for. That’s #5 IMPERIAL HINT, who will likely be a pretty heavy favorite. A horse christened by many as “a little rocket ship,” he ran second in this race last year and has since won four of five starts. His last two have been brilliant victories in Grade 1 company, and it certainly seems like he would need to regress for another runner to win.

That’s not to say he can’t lose, though. If Imperial Hint takes a step back, a number of others could potentially pick up the pieces. If the track is fair, and if closers are making up ground, #1 WHITMORE has a big shot to capitalize on a favorable pace scenario. There’s an abundance of early speed (as there is in most renewals of this race), and while the rail draw isn’t ideal, if the frontrunners post a sub-:44 opening half-mile, that could set things up perfectly for this Grade 1-winning closer.

#9 ROY H won last year’s renewal of this race, and comes in off a victory in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship. His best effort could absolutely win this race, but it’s fair to wonder if he’s lost a step from his brilliant campaign a season ago. He does have the right running style to succeed here, as he doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well. Having said that, he may need to run back to last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint effort to get the job done here, and in his first start at this track, off of a few races that weren’t his best, I’m not sure that’s in the cards.

The other horse I need to use in vertical exotics is #8 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL, who loves this strip and is another that could be going well late. He’s won six of eight local starts, and while he may not be quite as talented as some others in this field, he’s done his best running at Churchill Downs and will be a bit of a price. I don’t think he wins, but it wouldn’t shock me if he closed late for second or third at a nice number.

Betting on a Budget

I’m going to try to keep Roy H out of the top two, as an exacta involving the two favorites won’t pay much. I’ll key Imperial Hint on top in exactas with the other two horses I’m using, as they should be big enough prices to make the wager pay reasonably well.

$10 exactas: 5 with 1,8 ($20)

BREEDERS’ CUP MILE

A’s: 5,7,8
B’s: 2,14
C’s: 1,4,10,13

The Breeders’ Cup Mile has taken a number of hits to it this year. Most notably, several top European runners that were pointed to the event (Alpha Centauri and Laurens, to name two) did not ship, and the American group of milers has largely been pretty subpar.

This is good news for gamblers, though, as the assemblage of runners makes for a fascinating betting race. Whatever horse you like is going to be a square price, and if you’re right, you’ll be in line for a nice score.

The thing that jumped out at me, in looking at this race, is a real lack of early speed. #5 OSCAR PERFORMANCE has capitalized on a number of these scenarios in the past, and there’s a chance he’ll once again be gifted an easy lead early on. He’s shown he can’t be left alone on the front end, but it certainly doesn’t seem like many others want to be on or near the lead early. If there’s a concern here, it’s that he may not like give in the ground, but given that he won’t be a short price, that doesn’t scare me.

Remember my Frankie Dettori mantra? That’s part of the reason #7 EXPERT EYE is one of my top picks. He’s competed against some of the best milers in Europe this year and gets Lasix for trainer Sir Michael Stoute. While it’s a bit concerning that most of his best efforts have come at seven furlongs (not a mile), this isn’t the best Breeders’ Cup Mile field, and he’s certainly good enough to win. I like #8 I CAN FLY for similar reasons, as she’s coming off a tough beat at the hands of top European runner Roaring Lion in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot. She’s another that gets Lasix in her first North American start, and she’s shown she can be effective over softer going, which is another big plus.

#2 NEXT SHARES seems to have realized his potential. After running second and third in a pair of Grade 1 events earlier this year, he’s won two in a row, and his win in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland was very good. I’m not sure he can repeat that type of performance, but he’s in career-best form, and that has to be respected to a certain extent. My other B horse is #14 MUSTASHRY, and I wanted to like him more than I do. He’s won five of his last seven starts and gets Lasix for Stoute, but the post is a killer and he’s clearly much better over firm ground than soft ground. If the turf course dries out, he’ll be a major player. If not, he’ll have a fair bit to overcome, despite what appears to be a world of talent.

Three of my four C horses are European runners. #1 ONE MASTER was a 47-1 upset winner of the Group 1 Prix de la Foret at Longchamp, while #4 POLYDREAM stretches out for Freddie Head of Goldikova fame and #13 GUSTAV KLIMT has spent most of his career earning minor awards in Group 1 races for Aidan O’Brien. Finally, #10 CATAPULT is a John Sadler trainee who’s won a pair of graded stakes races on the West Coast. It’s tough to be too enthusiastic about Sadler at this event given the previously-mentioned 0-for-41 mark, but he’s in career-best form and entering a wide-open race, so I couldn’t just ignore him.

Betting on a Budget

In multi-race wagers, I’m spreading. In vertical wagers, I’m gambling that Oscar Performance will get left alone and have every chance to earn his second Breeders’ Cup victory. I’ll use him in exactas above and below my A and B horses and hope I’m right.

$4 exactas: 5 with 2,7,8,14 ($16)
$2 exactas: 2,7,8,14 with 5 ($8)

BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF

A’s: 2
B’s: 10
C’s: 7,11

I’m supposed to see this race as a matchup between likely Champion 3-Year-Old Filly #10 MONOMOY GIRL and last year’s Eclipse Award winner, #2 ABEL TASMAN. I don’t. I respect Monomoy Girl and what she’s accomplished, but I love Abel Tasman in this spot, and I’m happy to explain why.

Yes, Abel Tasman’s run in the Grade 1 Zenyatta was absolutely horrible. With that in mind, though, a look at her running lines hints that something bigger was in play. She’s just 1 for 4 at Santa Anita, and the lone win was in an unremarkable maiden race. It’s a bit weird to say, but perhaps she just does not like Santa Anita as much as other tracks.

She needed her seasonal debut in the Grade 1 La Troienne, but her races two and three back were smashing. A return to that form would absolutely make her the one to beat, and it would make her 7/2 morning line price a significant overlay. Bluntly, I think she should be favored here, and I’ll be happy to plunk down my money if she isn’t.

I don’t even like Monomoy Girl for second in here. #10 BLUE PRIZE has gotten quite good, having won three in a row and four of her last five. She took an abrupt right turn in the stretch of the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland, but still held on to win that day beneath Joe Bravo, who rides her back in this race. She’s 3 for 5 at Churchill Downs, with two second-place finishes, and I don’t think she’s ever been better than she is right now.

My two C horses are the two 3-year-old fillies. Monomoy Girl merits respect. She’s never finished worse than second, she’s got plenty of tactical speed, and if she’s left alone, she could get brave. Meanwhile, #7 MIDNIGHT BISOU was put up to first in the Grade 1 Cotillion last time out and figures to be running well late. Having said all of that, I’m just not sold on the quality of this year’s group of 3-year-old fillies. #5 WONDER GADOT is seen as one of the top three or four in the division, and her two wins this year were both against restricted company in Canada. I suppose either of those two fillies could win, but if they do, a lot of my tickets will turn into confetti.

Betting on a Budget

This one’s pretty simple. While I’ll hedge a bit in my Pick Five ticket, from a single-race standpoint, I’m riding or dying with Abel Tasman and hoping that the Zenyatta was an isolated incident. I’ll play a cold double to my best bet of the afternoon, which should come as no surprise.

$20 double: 2 with 2

BREEDERS’ CUP TURF

A’s: 2
B’s: N/A
C’s: 12

We’ve come to my best bet of the weekend. It’s a popular one, and it’s not on a ridiculous price. In fact, #2 ENABLE may be the shortest price on the entire Breeders’ Cup program. Having said that, she is an extraordinary talent that provides star power to an event that desperately needs it, and I think she’ll be incredibly formidable in the Turf.

Enable has won back-to-back editions of the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the richest race in Europe. She’s done so over world-class groups that have included the likes of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf winner (#1 TALISMANIC), Sea of Class, and Ulysses (who would’ve been favored in last year’s renewal, but scratched the day of the race). No Arc winner has ever added this race, but she seems leaps and bounds better than this group, and she’d need to seriously regress in order for someone else to catch her.

The only horse that may be able to capitalize if this scenario unfolds, I think, is fellow European invader #12 WALDGEIST, who was beaten by a bit less than two lengths in the Arc. Before that, he had reeled off four consecutive wins in France, including one in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. He’s run well over soft going in the past, and conditioner Andre Fabre is no stranger to success on this stage.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll channel former TVG colleague Dave Weaver and put together an ice-cold exacta in an attempt to get some value out of Enable.

$20 exacta: 2 with 12

BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC

A’s: 1,6,7
B’s: 3,10,11
C’s: 4,9

I’m saving my biggest stand of the weekend for the weekend’s biggest race. This is the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, and I’ve mentioned eight horses without talking about #14 ACCELERATE, the race’s 5/2 morning line favorite.

I respect what Accelerate’s done to this point in the year. However, I have major questions about the fields he’s beaten. The older horse division in Southern California has been sorely lacking in talent all year long. Yes, he beat #7 WEST COAST in the Grade 1 Awesome Again, but that was West Coast’s first start in six months, and by trainer Bob Baffert’s own admission, he didn’t have the horse fully cranked for that race. Am I supposed to be excited by wins over Mubtaahij, #8 PAVEL, and a running-way-too-far City of Light? Add in Sadler’s putrid record at this event, plus Accelerate’s inexplicable no-show in last year’s Dirt Mile (which, I may add, was contested at his favorite track), and I’ll happily try to beat him.

I understand this may be completely unexpected, but Bob Baffert has a powerful hand in the Classic. Now that you’ve all picked your jaws up off the floor following that stunning revelation, let’s look at #6 MCKINZIE and #7 WEST COAST. Both can win, though I prefer the latter since he’s shown he can run well at this distance. They’ll likely be this race’s second and third choices in some order, and justifiably so.

My other A horse is this race’s ultimate wild card. We all remember #1 THUNDER SNOW doing his impression of an angry bull at a rodeo during the 2017 Kentucky Derby, and when he’s bad, he’s REALLY bad. When he’s good, though, he’s one of the best horses in training. He may have ridden a track bias to his smashing score in the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup, but he’s also a Group 1 winner on turf, and he showed some flexibility when second in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. At his likely price, I need him on my tickets.

#3 CATHOLIC BOY is an interesting case. He was terrific when smashing the field in the Grade 1 Travers, and by all accounts, he’s looked strong in the mornings. I’m not quite sure he’s fast enough to contend with my top three, but he’s in strong form, and at least we know he can get the distance. That last tidbit isn’t necessarily the case with regard to #10 YOSHIDA and #11 MIND YOUR BISCUITS, who both come into this race off of sharp wins at a mile and an eighth but are unproven beyond that route. Talent isn’t the question with regard to these horses. It’s strictly a matter of if they’ll get the distance, or if their closing kicks will be dulled a bit by the extra eighth of a mile.

My two C horses are fun ones to root for. #4 GUNNEVERA was a late-running second behind Yoshida in the Woodward, and the faster they go early, the more he’ll like it. That’s in stark contrast to #9 MENDELSSOHN, the well-traveled Aidan O’Brien trainee who held on for third despite pressing a ridiculously-fast pace in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He was also second to Catholic Boy in the Travers, and it’s not inconceivable to think he’ll be the one they have to run down going into the far turn. How far he may be in contention after that, though, is anyone’s guess.

Betting on a Budget

No Accelerate for me, but the question is, how does one try to beat the favorite? I’m going to box my top three picks in exactas, and because he’ll likely be the biggest price of the trio, I’ll have a small win-place bet on Thunder Snow. Between this and all my multi-race exotics tickets that will not have Accelerate on them, if he loses, I want to be in position to make money.

$4 exacta box: 1,6,7 ($24)
$3 win/place: 1 ($6)

MULTI-RACE EXOTICS

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #4

R4: 2,4,5,7,9,10,14
R5: 1,10
R6: 3,6,10,14
R7: 5

56 Bets, $28

Spread, two-horse race, mini-spread (with my top pick being a 15-1 shot), then Imperial Hint to finish it out. Of the multi-race tickets I intend to play, this isn’t the one I’m most excited about, but if we get a price or two home in the first and/or third legs, this could still provide an OK return.

$2 Pick Six: Race #6

R6: 3,6,14
R7: 5
R8: 2,5,7,8,14
R9: 2
R10: 2
R11: 1,3,6,7

60 Bets, $120

I don’t usually play Pick Six tickets, simply because my fairly-small budget doesn’t allow for them. Having said that, this is a fairly economical ticket with three singles (two of heavy favorites, one of 7/2 second choice Abel Tasman) and a few “spread” races. If you’re a Pick Six player on a budget, or a group that wants a ticket they can split X different ways, this is the one I’d suggest.

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #7

R7: 5
R8: 2,5,7,8,14
R9: 2,7,10,11
R10: 2
R11: 1,3,6,7

80 Bets, $40

My two singles will be popular. My hope is that we’ll knock out some tickets in my spread races. Note that I did go a bit deeper in the Distaff on this ticket. This is simply because only going five-deep in the Mile gives me a bit of budgetary room.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8

R8: ALL
R9: 2
R10: 2
R11: 1,3,6,7,10,11

84 Bets, $42

Simply put, if this goes big price, Abel Tasman, Enable, logical horse that isn’t Accelerate, this has the potential to pay big money. I’m six-deep without the favorite in the final leg, so if I’m alive, chances are it’ll be to a nice chunk of change (provided we can beat the favorite with a mid-priced alternative).

2018 BREEDERS’ CUP: Friday Analysis, Selections, Betting Strategies, and Tickets

The 2018 Breeders’ Cup is upon us. The first of two days of action at Churchill Downs consists of five 2-year-old races, and several of the fields make for real puzzles.

This year’s analysis features insight on my top selections, as well as multi-race tickets for certain sequences and single-race betting strategies for those on a budget. There are prices that come in every year in these races, and hopefully, we’ll be able to catch a few of them.

Here we go!

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE TURF SPRINT

A’s: 2,4,7
B’s: 8,10,11
C’s: 1,9

We kick things off with a race few people seemed to ask for, yet one that was miles better than the idea of a Breeders’ Cup Derby and an event staggered over several months (it is our duty as horse racing fans to never, ever, ever forget how dumb those concepts were). This race drew a field of 12, and many of the top contenders are ones coming from across the pond.

I’d be pretty surprised if the 9/2 morning line odds hold up on #2 SOLDIER’S CALL, because he seems like the class of the field. Through seven career starts, he’s yet to run a bad race, and he won a pair of graded stakes races before finishing a close-up third in a Group 1 at Longchamp in France. He’ll get Lasix in this race, which often moves European runners up considerably, and he should be in the mix from the get-go. If he runs the type of race he’s run in Europe, he’ll be tough to beat.

If he doesn’t, though, I think there’s room for a price. Of the American-based runners, I’m most interested in #4 STILLWATER COVE, who cuts back in distance after running a deceptively good race in the Grade 1 Natalma at Woodbine. She led going into Woodbine’s ridiculously long stretch, but faded to fifth in the final furlong. This distance, which she won at two starts ago at Saratoga, should be much more to her liking, and it doesn’t hurt that that day’s rider is back aboard in this race. She’s one of four in here trained by Wesley Ward, and his quartet also includes Royal Ascot winner #7 SHANG SHANG SHANG, who hasn’t run since that event. Having said that, she’s worked well ahead of her return to the races and certainly seems like one of the likely pace-setters in here.

Many of my secondary runners are European imports. Aidan O’Brien will saddle both #8 SERGEI PROKOFIEV and #10 SO PERFECT, and neither would be a shock (though I think it’s telling that Ryan Moore lands on the former following his Group 3 triumph at Newmarket). Having said that, the one I may be most intrigued by, especially given the likelihood for a softer turf course, is #11 QUEEN OF BERMUDA. On firmer going, this filly isn’t anything special. However, she moves way up on a wet turf course, and was just a length behind So Perfect earlier this year over “good to soft” going at Chantilly. Keep her in mind if the skies open up this week, especially given the presence of Flavien Prat and the chance that she’ll be a huge price compared to some of her fellow invaders.

Finally, while I don’t love morning line favorite #1 STRIKE SILVER or #9 CHELSEA CLOISTERS, I feel the need to at least use them as C horses. The former hasn’t run a bad race in three lifetime starts, but I’m not crazy about the race he exits at Keeneland (which seemed to fall apart late). Meanwhile, the latter has run well in her last three starts, but hasn’t won since her debut at Keeneland and almost certainly needs to step it up from a figure perspective.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll use Soldier’s Call in exactas above and below my A and B horses. Additionally, if the turf course comes up wet, I’ll throw an across-the-board bet on Queen of Bermuda, since her likely price will almost certainly be an overlay.

$2 exacta part wheel: 2 w/4,7,8,10,11 ($10)
$1 exacta part wheel: 4,7,8,10,11 w/2 ($5)
$2 WPS: 11 ($6)

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES TURF

A’s: 3,6
B’s: 4
C’s: 1,5,12

One of the heavier favorites of the weekend will run here. That’s #6 NEWSPAPEROFRECORD, the Chad Brown trainee that has looked exceptional in a pair of victories in New York. She has ample tactical speed in a race that otherwise seems pretty light on it, and from a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, she towers over her American counterparts. Only two other runners in the field have Beyers of higher than 78, and she’s never run worse than that. A repeat of the Grade 2 Miss Grillo would make her tough, and improvement would make her very formidable.

Of the Europeans coming across the Atlantic to take her on, I most prefer #3 LILY’S CANDLE, who has improved with every start and most recently captured a Group 1 at Longchamp. She overcame a bit of trouble that day when rated off the pace, and she’s 2-for-2 at a mile, so we know the distance won’t be a problem. We’re likely to get somewhere close to the 8-1 morning line price, and that hits me as a bit of an overlay given the talent she’s shown.

The Euro that’s most likely to be bet is #4 JUST WONDERFUL, an Aidan O’Brien trainee that exits a Group 2 score at Newmarket. She’s shown a strong turn of foot, and her best race makes her a contender, but I’m concerned about the likely race shape. She may need more pace than she figures to get, and while the connections merit respect, I’m more partial to Lily’s Candle, who has shown more of an ability to be close to the pace.

If you have the budget to go deeper, there are a few potential prices to consider. #5 LA PELOSA rallied from way back to take the Grade 1 Natalma in her North American debut, while #12 SUMMERING has worked very well since a disappointing showing at Santa Anita and should be forwardly placed. Finally, #1 CONCRETE ROSE is 2-for-2 to this point in her career, and while I’m not crazy about the group she beat in the Grade 2 Jessamine, it’s not out of the question to think she’ll be fairly close to a moderate early pace given the rail draw.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll box my A and B horses in exactas, and throw those horses on top of the two longshots I put in my third tier in smaller exactas as a saver play.

$3 exacta box: 3,4,6 ($18)
$1 exactas: 3,4,6 with 5,12 ($6)

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES

A’s: 4,8
B’s: 2,10
C’s: 7

I found this race to be the most puzzling of the Friday quintet. None of the favorites give me too much confidence, and of the horses that will likely be bigger prices, only one really piques my interest.

That longshot is #8 SIPPICAN HARBOR, who has been training up to this race since a smashing win in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga. While the first quarter-mile of that race was swift, the interior splits actually weren’t that fast, so her last-to-first rally wasn’t entirely the result of a race totally falling apart. I wish Joel Rosario had kept the mount, but Irad Ortiz, Jr., is no slouch, and there’s a lot of speed signed on in a race with many runners that have questions about how far they want to go. If nothing else, this one will be going the right direction late, and that could be enough.

Of the shorter prices, the one I like most is #4 RESTLESS RIDER, who exits a win in the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland. She’s yet to run a bad race, and she’s bred to run all day long. Perhaps most importantly, she does not need the lead to run well, and she could get first run at the tiring pacesetters turning for home. She was second in the Spinaway behind my top selection, but the move to two turns could help her turn the tables in this spot.

My two second-tier horses are quite similar. #10 BELLAFINA is the likely favorite, and she’s done very little wrong to this point. She hasn’t come home particularly quickly in either of her last two starts, and that’s a concern in a race with plenty of other early speed signed on, but I suppose there’s a chance she could grind her other rivals into submission. Another one that will want to be on or near the lead early is #2 SERENGETI EMPRESS, who exits a pair of runaway wins for trainer Tom Amoss. She, too, went fast early in her last start, which she won by nearly 20 lengths, and it certainly helps that she’s shown she likes this track. However, she didn’t beat much at all in that race, and this is certainly a step up in class.

The other horse likely to take significant money at the windows is #7 JAYWALK. She went wire-to-wire in the Grade 1 Frizette, and did so in a sharp time, but I’ve got some doubts. She’s bred for speed, up and down, being by Cross Traffic and out of an Orientate mare, and I’m not sure she wants to go two turns. Furthermore, that track at Belmont played very quick and was extremely kind to early speed, so it wasn’t a shock that she got out in front and improved her positioning. She’s not completely without a chance, but 7/2 seems like an underlay.

Betting on a Budget

I won’t be playing this race too heavily, and I’ll be spreading in my pick four (which I’ll dive into later). I simply don’t have a ton of conviction, and thankfully, there’s no rule saying one HAS to play every race on a card. Having said that, if Sippican Harbor is 8-1 or higher, I’ll have a win/place bet on her and hope she can pick up the pieces.

$10 win/place: 8

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE TURF

A’s: 3,5
B’s: 2,4,14
C’s: 1

The post position draw made this race very interesting. #14 ANTHONY VAN DYCK drew the far outside post, and while he may be talented enough to overcome it, there’s a chance he gets parked wide going significantly further than he has to this point in his career.

With that in mind, I’ll look to another European as my top selection. That’s #5 LINE OF DUTY, who has won two in a row for trainer Charles Appleby. He’s bred to go long and get better as he gets older, and true to form, he’s 2-for-2 going a mile or longer and has taken significant steps forward in every start. Lasix will be added, and the tactical speed this one possesses could mean a perfect trip at a nice price. He may drift down a few ticks from the 10-1 morning line, but anything at or above 6-1 seems fair.

My other “A horse” figures to be prominent early in a race that doesn’t seem to have much zip. That’s #3 MUCH BETTER, and while it’s been a while since Bob Baffert had a serious turf runner on his hands, this one could be any kind. After a nice maiden win at Del Mar, he tried two turns on turf and went very fast early on. Despite posting a :45 and change opening half-mile, though, he held well for second and was more than two lengths clear of the third-place finisher. He shouldn’t have to go nearly as fast early on, and he could get brave if he’s left alone beneath red-hot rider Drayden Van Dyke.

Anthony Van Dyck can certainly win, and I need to have him on my wider tickets. It’s tough to ignore three straight triple-digit Timeform Ratings, and Aidan O’Brien has to be respected with a good horse in good form. I’ll also throw in a pair of last-out Belmont winners. #2 UNCLE BENNY showed a new dimension in taking the Futurity and is bred to love the added distance, while #4 FORTY UNDER is 2-for-2 on turf (with both wins coming at a distance of ground).

If you have room in your budget, and want to throw in another price, you can do worse than #1 ARTHUR KITT. He chased a solid pace in a Group 2 at Newmarket last time out and gets Lasix here. His second behind eventual Group 1 winner Too Darn Hot two back was pretty good, and his price figures to be inflated given the last-out dud.

Betting on a Budget

While I’ll have Anthony Van Dyck on my pick four ticket, I’ll try to beat him in my smaller wagers. I’ll start $10 doubles with my two “A horses” and single my top pick in the Juvenile.

$10 doubles: 3,5 w/9 ($20)

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE

A’s: 9
B’s:
C’s: 8,11

We arrive at the day’s main event, and it houses my best bet of the day. That’s #9 GAME WINNER, the likely favorite in the Juvenile. He’s 3-for-3 with a pair of Grade 1 wins to his credit, and he proved he could get this distance with a romp in the American Pharoah last time out. He’s worked well since that race, and he’d need to regress off of that effort to lose this race.

I’m going against #6 COMPLEXITY, who figures to be the second choice. Much like Jaywalk, he rode a speed-friendly track to a win in the Grade 1 Champagne, and there are distance questions given his pedigree. He shouldn’t be alone on the front end, and for that reason, I prefer others underneath.

The two I’d recommend using behind my top pick are #8 STANDARD DEVIATION and #11 CODE OF HONOR. The former had a sneaky-awful trip in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. He didn’t break well, took tons of dirt going into the first turn, and had to set well off of a moderate early pace going a route that included a short stretch run. He did well to salvage third money, and unlike others, the distance won’t get him beat here. I think he has a real chance to outrun his odds and punch up some of the exotic payoffs.

Code of Honor, meanwhile, will likely be this race’s “wise guy horse.” He broke terribly in the Champagne, and rallied from last to be second behind Complexity. Trainer Shug McGaughey doesn’t rush his horses along, so the ambitious spotting is a huge vote of confidence. The post position isn’t ideal, but he’s worked well and has shown versatility, both of which make him one to respect.

Betting on a Budget

I’ll keep this simple and key my best bet on top of my two underneath horses in cold exactas.

$10 exactas: 9 w/8,11 ($20)

MULTI-RACE TICKETS

I’ll focus on the Pick Four starting in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. I can’t, in good conscience, offer a Pick Five encompassing all of these races. Such a single ticket would simply cost too much money, and I can’t give out a ticket I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing on my own. If you feel like constructing one within your budget, plug my A, B, and C horses into DRF TicketMaker, and that’ll spit out a number of different combinations you can pick and choose from. Having said that, here’s the Pick Four.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 3,4,6
R7: 2,4,8,10
R8: 1,2,3,4,5,14
R9: 9

72 Bets, $36

This ticket uses all of my A and B horses, and also uses a C horse in the Juvenile Turf (simply because he’s a big price and I can afford to throw him in). Game Winner will be a popular single, but if we can get a price or two home along the way, this could still pay pretty handsomely and set us up well going into Saturday.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/23/18

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $945.50

Two things. First, for anyone who saw Sunday’s Pink Sheet, a clarification: I was 4 for 11 Saturday, and 7 for 21 through the first two days of the meet. Through two racing days, that puts me three winners behind Liam Durbin, who’s gotten off to a tremendous start. Going forward, I’ll put my stats on the top of what I post online at AndrewChampagne.com.

Additionally, those who followed me last year will remember that, every Tuesday, I publish pieces called “The Dark Day Files,” which can range from handicapping discussion to streams of consciousness. This week’s edition goes live on AndrewChampagne.com Monday night, and will focus on the Grand Slam, an often-neglected multi-race wager that can sometimes provide considerable value.

SUNDAY’S RESULTS: Best bet Tied Up ran like anything but, as she faded badly (and abruptly) in the opener. That meant the $22.50 Pick Five ticket I played went up in smoke.

MONDAY’S PLAY: Once again, a reminder that tickets here assume turf races stay there. I’ll keep things simple, as I really like #3 TRIPLE CHELSEA in the featured Caress Stakes (race #7). I’ll bet $15 to win and place on her and hope we get the 3-1 morning line price on a mare that’s going really well right now.

TOTAL WAGERED: $30

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Sunday’s Results: 3 for 10
Meet Results (to date): 10 for 31

Best Bet: Triple Chelsea, Race 7
Longshot: Wingman, Race 5

R1

Shanghai Schwartz
Mantle
Metaphorical

#5 SHANGHAI SCHWARTZ: Makes his first start since December for a new trainer, having been shipped to the Chad Brown barn. He drops in class, and his debut effort sprinting has aged well given that the two finishers in front of him (Soutache and Pony Up) both turned out OK; #1 MANTLE: Disappointed when favored against straight maidens in his debut for high-profile connections. He’ll take money, and perhaps he’ll improve, but the panicky drop of a $400,000 purchase raises a red flag; #3 METAPHORICAL: Was an OK second at this level last time out at Belmont Park. His two works since have been solid, and he’ll likely be a square price.

R2

Gabriella
Shanghai Dreams
Sardonyx

#8 GABRIELLA: Completely missed the break last time out and lost all chance, so it’s easy to draw a line through that race. She drops in for a tag for the first time, and if she repeats her two-back effort, she’ll be the one to beat; #7 SHANGHAI DREAMS: Ran a decent fourth in her debut against straight maidens after a wide trip. She drops down and gets Lasix for the first time, so there’s reason to expect a step forward; #6 SARDONYX: Has several OK races at this level, and it’s worth noting that Irad Ortiz, Jr., chooses to ride back.

R3

Seam
Overbook
Stormy Change

#5 SEAM: Broke through last time out in a big way, when she graduated by four lengths downstate. Her form looks much better if you toss the two Aqueduct races, she may be figuring things out, and this is far from the strongest race at this level; #3 OVERBOOK: Cruised home at Finger Lakes in her first start for Jeremiah Englehart and tries winners for the first time here. These are aggressive connections, so the spotting makes sense, and she’s the alternative if you’re not crazy about the morning line chalk; #1 STORMY CHANGE: Routed low-level maiden claimers at Monmouth and seems best of the rest. She showed improved early zip that day, which could come in handy here given the rail draw.

R4

Bourbon Mission (MTO)
The Postmaster
Somelikeithotbrown

#9 THE POSTMASTER: Got caught in the final strides last time out at Belmont, but ran a decent race in defeat and looms large in what seems like a soft group. The slight cutback in distance should help her, as should her experience edge on most of this bunch; #10 SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN: Makes his debut for Mike Maker, whose horses sometimes need the debut effort, but he’s been working well, and the presence of Tapit on the bottom of the pedigree is noteworthy. The outside post isn’t ideal, but he could be a runner and may be a square price; #5 PLEBE: Was third in the race my top pick exits and ran OK there despite it being his racing debut. He’s got some ground to make up on the aforementioned rival, but could step forward in his second start. DIRT SELECTIONS: BOURBON MISSION, WOODBURY, SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN.

R5

Ekhtibaar
Wingman
Transistor (MTO)

#9 EKHTIBAAR: Is slated to try turf for the first time, and his pedigree (by Bernardini, out of a Danzig mare) says he should love it. Additionally, if this race is rained off the turf, his main track races seem best of this bunch; #3 WINGMAN: Comes back to turf and drops down in class after running in races that were quietly pretty strong. The jockey switch to Luis Saez is noteworthy, and he could be flying late at a price; #7 ZORZOR: Hails from the Brad Cox barn, which has been hitting at a very high rate all year long. He’s kept solid company this year and must be respected. DIRT SELECTIONS: EKHTIBAAR, TRANSISTOR, ADMIRAL BLUE.

R6

Danebury
Stretch’s Stone
Becker’s Galaxy

#3 DANEBURY: Gets my tepid top pick in an optional claimer I found perplexing. He’s run well since coming off a brief freshening in March, and his affinity for wet tracks could come in handy; #2 STRETCH’S STONE: Stretches back out to two turns after running well in two sprints following a long layoff. Cross out the 2017 Wood Memorial, and you have a horse that’s never finished off the board; #4 BECKER’S GALAXY: Has changed hands a lot this year and comes back to a two-turn route of ground, which seems like his preferred trip. He’s made $400,000 the hard way and is easy to root for, but his 1 for 17 mark on wet tracks makes it tough to be too bullish in the event of rain.

R7

Triple Chelsea
Kirby’s Penny (MTO)
Tillie’s Lily

#3 TRIPLE CHELSEA: Has reeled off three wins in a row and is four for five this year, all in stakes races. She’s found her niche since being claimed by Joe Sharp, and she also seems like the lone closer in a race full of early speed; #10 TILLIE’S LILY: Is perfect over four different courses at three different tracks in three different states, which is a phenomenal achievement. She’s worked well since her most recent score downstate and would also loom large if this was rained off the turf; #2 MORTICIA: Got back on the beam with a win at Penn National. She’s ultra-consistent and hasn’t finished off the board since 2016, but has lost to my top pick twice this year. DIRT SELECTIONS: KIRBY’S PENNY, TILLIE’S LILY, FAYPIEN.

R8

Make the Rules
Harangue
Macha’s Reward

#1 MAKE THE RULES: Hasn’t done much wrong in two starts and stretches out first off the claim for Mike Maker. His running style hints that two turns won’t be a problem, and Javier Castellano’s presence inspires confidence; #3 HARANGUE: May have needed his last race, which came off of a five-month break. His best races have come going two turns, and Ricardo Santana’s gotten off to a great start at the meet; #9 MACHA’S REWARD: May be figuring things out, judging by the last two efforts (a win at Oaklawn and a second at Churchill). He’ll likely show speed from his outside post, though whether or not the form from other circuits will come with him is a valid inquiry to make.

R9

Mama Mary
Quietly Quick
Dreamers and Me

#10 MAMA MARY: Was bet heavily in her debut and ran OK to be third. The runner-up came back to win, and the fourth-place finisher, Shanghai Dreams, runs in the second race. If that one runs well, it flatters this second-time starter; #9 QUIETLY QUICK: Comes back to turf and cuts back in distance for a barn that’s done well with similar stock. Over the past two years, this trainer is 9 for 29 (31%) with similar turf cutbacks at NYRA tracks bet to 10-1 or lower (per DRF Formulator), and her turf races have shown promise; #1 DREAMERS AND ME: Was a solid second in her debut at a price for a barn that isn’t known for success with first-time starters. The rail draw isn’t ideal, but a repeat of her last-out effort could be good enough for a big piece of this.

Thoughts from UMBC’s Stunning Win, Plus Saturday NCAA Tournament Picks/Analysis

Word has long been out on Las Vegas serving as the place to be during the first week of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Every casino with a sports book holds an event, and lines to bet often rival those at ritzy nightclubs (except these lines actually move and you may get something out of your investment).

What happened Friday night only served to emphasize that point further. 1-vs.-16 games aren’t the most fun to bet on. Most major sports books don’t even offer money lines for those games, and point spreads are often in the 20’s. Prior to this year, top seeds were 132-0 against the perceived runts of the litter, only occasionally being driven to the point of having to work for a victory.

And then, UMBC came along, and this year’s tournament suddenly ascended to a level that had never been seen before.

This wasn’t the plucky, lovable upstarts from Hickory High eking out a one-point victory to win the state title. No, this was Delta Tau Chi raising holy hell on Faber College’s homecoming parade. UMBC didn’t heroically stick with Virginia for 39 minutes before running a miracle play at the buzzer. The Retrievers systematically destroyed the Cavaliers, solving the ACC champs’ relentless defense with 16 assists on 26 made fields goals while outrebounding their opponents 33-22. Mind you, this was a squad that lost to an average UAlbany team by the score of 83-39 earlier this season, and one that was down nine points with less than nine minutes to go in a true road event that doubled as the America East championship game.

This is the fifth year my dad and I have made the trip to the desert for the first two rounds of March Madness. We didn’t have money on the game, and we watched most of it from a restaurant between Flamingo and The Linq. In the second half, when the Retrievers couldn’t miss, the entire place was rocking with gasps and shrieks. Through all of the talk about how a 16-seed would eventually win a first-round game, it seemed as though we were all stunned that it was actually happening.

This was underscored by what happened in the last minute. In that moment, there was no hooting and hollering. Nobody had winning tickets to celebrate. This wasn’t a great gambling moment, like so many games have already been this year. This was a seminal sports moment, certainly the greatest upset in the history of college basketball, and it was as if we all decided to savor it.

One note on Virginia before we move to plays for Saturday: It’s entirely possible that program has been on the receiving end of the two most shocking defeats in college basketball. Their loss to Chaminade in the 1980’s looms large as well, and while it takes a snake-bitten program to take the top two spots on that dubious list, it’s tough to argue anything else threatens that pair of inglorious moments.

The tournament moves on without them, as it also does for traditional power Arizona and fan favorite Wichita State. The round of 32 kicks off Saturday, and while it’s appealing to back prospective Cinderella stories once again, I’m taking the stance that the slate of games offers several chances for college basketball to experience a reversion to the mean.

#3 Tennessee -5 ½ over #11 Loyola-Chicago
#5 Kentucky -5 ½ over #13 Buffalo

It isn’t that I like being a killjoy (though others may disagree with that), but both of these games have very similar storylines. Loyola-Chicago and Buffalo are far from powerhouse programs, but they won in fun ways. The Ramblers beat the buzzer in knocking off Miami, while Buffalo played a perfect second half in dispatching Arizona.

With that in mind, sentimental money has certainly come in. Both of these lines opened at -6 and dropped down, which stuns me. While it’s fun to root with one’s heart, I’m betting with my head. I think the two SEC teams are simply much better than their opponents, so I’ll give the points and hope for blowouts.

#4 Gonzaga vs. #5 Ohio State: OVER 143

Gonzaga could not have POSSIBLY played worse against UNC Greensboro. In that 68-64 win, the Bulldogs went 5-for-23 from three-point range and 13-for-25 from the free throw line. They did just enough to get by, and with that clunker out of their systems, I think they’ve got a real chance of snapping back into a groove. Ohio State, meanwhile, prevailed in one of the most fun games of the tournament, an 81-73 shootout against South Dakota State. Still, by the numbers, the Buckeyes weren’t all that efficient. They shot 37.5% from the floor, prevailing in large part thanks to the Jackrabbits’ inability to get anyone but Mike Daum going (he was 9-for-20, while everyone else went 15-for-43).

What I’m saying here is that both offenses have a lot to build on, and because of that, a 143-point total seems low. I’ll happily take the over and hope for a shootout between two teams that can certainly provide one.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 7/22/17

BANKROLL

BANKROLL: $980

Not many brilliant 2-year-olds win Grade 1 races as 5-year-olds. Lady Eli has done that, all after overcoming laminitis. She headlines a renewal of the Grade 1 Diana that’s short on quantity, but not on quality. It’s also drawn fellow Grade 1 winners Antonoe and Dickinson, among others, and if Lady Eli continues conquering such fields this summer and fall, it may be time to start discussing her Hall of Fame credentials.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Victory to Victory faded and Dream Dancing never fired, so our doubles fizzled out and we dropped $20.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ve got much more confidence in the early part of today’s card than in the later races, so I’ll play a 50-cent early Pick Four (contingent on turf races staying there). I’ll use #1 DADDY’S HOME and #9 MINISTER’S STRIKE in the second, single #5 UNTAMED DOMAIN in the third, press the “ALL” button in the fourth, and finish with #3 TAP DADDY, #4 SPORTING CHANCE, and #8 MACHISMO in the fifth.

TOTAL WAGERED: $21

ANALYSIS/SELECTIONS

Best Bet: Untamed Domain, Race #3
Longshot: End Play, Race #7

R1

Marshall Plan
Mr. Crow
Adulation

MARSHALL PLAN: Has run two sharp races behind stakes-quality 3-year-olds and may have found a softer spot here. The horse to his inside has potential, but based on his body of work, this one’s the one to beat; MR. CROW: Was a close-up second in his debut, where he outran his 11-1 odds and was credited with a solid 89 Beyer Speed Figure. The July 8th bullet seems to indicate he’s continued to develop since that performance; ADULATION: Has been away since November but ran against several stakes-quality horses as a 2-year-old. He may need a race, but he fits based on last season’s form.

R2

Sheep Pond entry
Minister’s Strike
Prize Fight

DADDY’S HOME: Was an impressive debut winner two back, but misfired against much better last month downstate. A return to two turns should help him, and these waters aren’t nearly as deep; MINISTER’S STRIKE: Has spent his entire season to date in stakes company and takes a much-needed class drop here. Both of his wins have come going two turns on turf; PRIZE FIGHT: Lost all chance last out and was in too deep two back in the Grade 2 Penn Mile. His form from earlier this season in Florida would be good enough for a piece of this. DIRT SELECTIONS: CURTIS, ESCAPE VELOCITY, HONOR THY FATHER.

R3

Untamed Domain
Pete Marwick
Another

UNTAMED DOMAIN: Is bred up and down to go long on turf, and he had plenty of traffic trouble in his debut. He came flying late that day, and the addition of Lasix is a major plus; PETE MARWICK: Has three starts of experience and tries turf for the first time. His pedigree says he could take to it, and he nearly graduated two back downstate; ANOTHER: May need a race, but has the pedigree to be a good one. His dam is a half-sister of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another, and the July 4th work on the Oklahoma track was very sharp. DIRT SELECTIONS: PETE MARWICK, PLETCHER ENTRY, HONORABLE TREASURE.

R4

Voluntario
Shuffle Up
Alex the Terror

VOLUNTARIO: Was outclassed two back in the Grade 3 General George and likely needed his last race, which came off a substantial layoff. He drops in for a tag and seems well-meant in a race that, to this writer, was a mess to handicap; SHUFFLE UP: Won two in a row by daylight at Aqueduct before misfiring last out at Belmont. He’s got plenty of early zip and could be tough to catch if left alone early on; ALEX THE TERROR: Disappointed first off the claim, but ran a strong race at seven furlongs three back against much better. This is another who may be helped by the drop in class he gets in this spot.

R5

Machismo
Tap Daddy
Sporting Chance

MACHISMO: Fetched $500k at auction last year and has been working like a very good horse ahead of his debut. This isn’t an easy spot, but if this one runs to his potential, he could be a buzz horse moving forward; TAP DADDY: Hails from a barn that doesn’t usually work horses quickly, which makes several of his drills very interesting. He’s bred to go much longer than this, but all indications are that there’s plenty of talent here; SPORTING CHANCE: Did very little wrong when second in his debut last month at Churchill Downs. He was well clear of the third-place finisher, but that field may have been weaker than what he faces here.

R6

Born for a Storm
Gucci Factor
Fleet Irish

BORN FOR A STORM: Comes off a nine-month layoff, but ran two very strong races here last year. He’s been working well here ahead of his 4-year-old debut, and Brown and Castellano have won plenty of races together; GUCCI FACTOR: Ran off the screen in his seasonal debut last month at Belmont, winning by 16 lengths and appearing to have more in reserve. This is a much tougher spot, but he may have figured things out in a big way; FLEET IRISH: Hasn’t won since his debut last November, but this distance hits him between the eyes, and he’d benefit from an early speed duel, which could happen given the huge field signed on.

R7

Still Krz (MTO)
End Play
Partly Mocha

END PLAY: Comes in off a win downstate and is ridden back by Luis Saez, who’s been aboard for all three of his career victories. He ran well here twice a season ago, and 8-1 is a square price for a horse that appears to be in peak form; PARTLY MOCHA: Has been running against some of the top turf sprinters in the country and should certainly appreciate the shallower waters this race provides. The post position isn’t ideal, but he should be running well late; EVACUATION: Was thought of highly enough by his previous connections that they tried Group 1 company down under last year. He makes his North American debut for Wesley Ward and has attracted jockey John Velazquez. DIRT SELECTIONS: STILL KRZ, BOLITA BOYZ, LUNA DE LOCO.

R8

Annie Rocks (MTO)
Gioia Stella
Pricedtoperfection

GIOIA STELLA: Assuredly needed her 2017 debut after the layoff and wasn’t helped by that race being moved off the turf. Her two-turn turf efforts are among the best races of her career, and she gets such a route here; PRICEDTOPERFECTION: Makes her first start for a new barn and will be seen in the afternoon for the first time since September. Her back class is considerable, and she’ll be a major player if she’s ready to run; STELLA ROSE: Was third in a high-level allowance in her 2017 bow and won here a season ago. She’s run up against some high-quality horses, and this is a logical spot. DIRT SELECTIONS: ANNIE ROCKS, JOSEPHINE’S MOMENT, BROWSE.

R9

Direct Dial
Admiral Jimmy
Baffin

DIRECT DIAL: Did the dirty work in the Tremont, setting very fast fractions. He still hung on for second money that day, and he figures to be the main speed in a renewal of the historic Sanford; ADMIRAL JIMMY: Was nosed by my top selection in the Tremont and showed an ability to rate off the pace in that performance. He’d benefit from a fast pace, which could materialize; BAFFIN: Was never threatened in a sharp debut victory at Churchill Downs. It’s curious that Steve Asmussen (Direct Dial’s trainer) also enters this one here when there are ample 2-year-old races around the country.

R10

Lady Eli
Antonoe
Dickinson

LADY ELI: Won a scorching renewal of the Grade 1 Gamely at Santa Anita in May and appears to be as sharp as ever. She’s aided here by what appears to be a lack of early speed, and it wouldn’t be surprising if she led early on; ANTONOE: Flew home to capture the Grade 1 Just A Game and improve to 2-for-2 in North America. This race shape may not set up as well for her, but she’s certainly talented enough to continue her winning ways; DICKINSON: Was herded in the Just A Game, but likely wasn’t beating Antonoe that day. She did, however, top Lady Eli on the square two back, and she’s another who could be forwardly-placed.

R11

Doyouknowsomething (MTO)
Souperfast
Blarp

SOUPERFAST: Was impressive downstate in his last appearance and was claimed out of that race by David Jacobson. Many in this field may prefer one turns to this two-turn route, but he’s shown to be equally effective at either configuration; BLARP: Had a world of trouble when last seen and returns to a turf course he’s won on in the past. He has ample back class and should improve with a better trip; MILLS: Was third behind my top pick in his last outing and has since joined the Rudy Rodriguez barn. He’s one of the best on the circuit with new acquisitions, so improvement wouldn’t be a surprise. DIRT SELECTIONS: DOYOUKNOWSOMETHING, CARVE, MILLS.