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).

2017 Breeders’ Cup: Saturday Analysis, Selections, and Wagering Strategies

Saturday is arguably the biggest day of the year in horse racing. It’s the second day of the Breeders’ Cup, and nine Grade 1 races are on tap, most with year-end championship implications. Furthermore, even the sport’s top horses will be bettable prices (most of them, anyway), which gives the event an extra layer of intrigue. I’ll preview all nine Breeders’ Cup races below, and hopefully, we can work our way to a nice score!

NOTE: To view Friday’s analysis, selections, and wagering strategies, click here.

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES

Right away, we’re met with a real head-scratcher. The Juvenile Fillies drew a field of 13 2-year-olds, and there are reasons to like most of them. Furthermore, a few of the betting favorites wound up with post positions that were, to be kind, less than ideal.

I’ll get to a few of them in a moment, but my top pick is #7 MOONSHINE MEMORIES. She’s 3-for-3 in her career, and two of those wins came in Grade 1 races. Her first two-turn effort was a sharp one, as she was comfortably best in the Chandelier at Santa Anita. Additionally, when trainer Simon Callaghan gets a horse good, they tend to stay good. Over the past year (through Wednesday), he’s 8-for-17 with last-out winners on dirt, and she’s worked as though more improvement is in the cards on Saturday.

#1 HEAVENLY LOVE and #13 SEPARATIONOFPOWERS also won important prep races, but they’ll bookend the field after getting the worst of Monday’s never-ending post position draw (shoutout to friend Ed DeRosa, who quipped that they’d brought back the Breeders’ Cup Marathon and renamed it the Breeders’ Cup post position draw!). Both can win, but of this pair, I prefer Separationofpowers, who was very green but still powered away late in the Grade 1 Frizette. She runs like a horse that wants two turns, and if Jose Ortiz can save even a bit of ground early and keep this daughter of Candy Ride out of trouble, she can certainly win.

The wild card in this race (to me, at least), is #11 WONDER GADOT, one of three in here for trainer Mark Casse. She’s 2-for-3 and took a major step forward in winning the Grade 3 Mazarine. The caveat here is that she’s never run on dirt, but her works on dirt at Churchill have been quite good. It would not be a shock if she takes to this surface, one that can be very kind to the early speed she’s shown she possesses.

BREEDERS’ CUP TURF SPRINT

The Turf Sprint has drawn some of the fastest horses in the world to go five furlongs. This includes some sharp European invaders, and your favorite is a horse that has made seven starts across three countries.

That’s #3 LADY AURELIA, and when she’s right, she’s probably the top turf sprinter on the planet. Her effort two back at Ascot in the Group 1 King’s Stand was sensational, and she did everything but win last time out in the Group 1 Nunthorpe. She has plenty of tactical speed but does not need the lead, and all signs point to her sitting a dream trip.

This race, though, features a rematch with #6 MARSHA, who won the Nunthorpe head-bob before finishing second in a Group 1 at Chantilly. She’s incredibly consistent, with 15 top-three finishes in 17 lifetime starts, and her best race is certainly good enough to win this (especially given the addition of Lasix in her North American debut).

Of the horses that have spent most of the year in the U.S., I most like #1 DISCO PARTNER, who has won four of five starts this year. The lone defeat came in the Grade 1 Fourstardave, which was run over a very wet turf course at Saratoga going much longer than he wants to go. The rail draw does not scare me one bit, and in fact, it could be an advantage. Deep closers are traditionally up against it going five furlongs, and this could mean Irad Ortiz Jr. keeps him a bit closer to the pace out of the gate.

Of the horses that may get bet a bit in here, the one I want no part of is #12 PURE SENSATION. If this race were contested at Parx, where he’s been flat-out unbeatable sprinting on turf, he’d be one of the favorites. However, this is a far different surface, and horses breaking from the far outside in Del Mar turf sprints traditionally do not do well. He’s got some speed, but if he goes too fast early on, it probably compromises him turning for home. As such, he’s a bet-against for me at his likely price.

BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY & MARE SPRINT

One of the shortest favorites of the day runs in the Filly & Mare Sprint. While that favorite is my top pick, I don’t think she’s unbeatable, and there may be room for a few prices in the exotics.

#11 UNIQUE BELLA has been sensational, winning her last five starts. She was sidelined for much of the year, but she came back running with a win in last month’s Grade 3 L.A. Woman. Her workouts have been jaw-dropping, and all signs are that she’s ready to go ahead of her biggest test to date.

However, there are reasons to think that she may not be a cinch. Her Beyer Speed Figures don’t tower over this group, although part of that is because of how easily she’s won and how Mike Smith has geared down on her. With that said, he had to ask her in the L.A. Woman, and it’s not like that was a stellar group she beat that day. I’m using her, but I’m not singling her.

#9 FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM had every excuse to run poorly in the Grade 2 TCA at Keeneland. She broke poorly and rated behind slow early fractions that day, but she still found a way to win. She’s 9-for-12 lifetime with two second-place finishes, and 6-1 seems like an overlay for a horse with her talent.

There are several other contenders, especially if you’re looking for “underneath” horses. #2 PAULASSILVERLINING’s race in the Grade 1 Ballerina was too bad to be true, #8 CONSTELLATION goes to Bob Baffert’s barn and could sit a stalking trip at a great price, and #12 SKYE DIAMONDS hasn’t been beaten in five one-turn outings this season. Yes, Unique Bella is a deserving favorite, but I feel like there are ways to find value in this spot.

BREEDERS’ CUP FILLY & MARE TURF

Due to the configuration of Del Mar, this year’s Filly & Mare Turf will be run at a mile and an eighth, as opposed to its usual distance of a mile and a quarter. This benefits a likely favorite immensely, and the draw also helped that one, too.

Of course, I’m referring to #9 LADY ELI, one of the best stories in racing. She can write an improbable ending Saturday with a win in this race, one that seems likely given her recent form. It’s not like she’s incapable of running well at a mile and a quarter, but she’s probably better going a mile and an eighth. If that was last year’s distance, she probably holds off #10 QUEEN’S TRUST, who nailed her on the wire and returns in search of her second straight Breeders’ Cup victory.

Del Mar’s turf course is a bit quirky, and the horses who like it REALLY like it. With that in mind, I think #6 CAMBODIA merits a long look at a nice price. She won both the Yellow Ribbon and John C. Mabee earlier this year over this turf course, and while this spot represents a class test, it’s clear she does her best running here. At her likely price, I’ll at the very least want her on some of my tickets.

The big loser at the post position draw was #14 RHODODENDRON, who will somehow need to work out a trip from the far outside. Essentially, this is a three-turn race given the chute that the field will exit before coming under the wire the first time, so the far-outside post is unfortunate for this one’s camp. With that in mind, she may very well be talented enough to overcome it. She ran second to top-class fillies Enable and Winter in separate Group 1 races earlier this year before breaking through and nabbing such a win in last month’s Prix de l’Opera. If you’re playing exotics, I still think this talented 3-year-old is a must-use.

BREEDERS’ CUP SPRINT

I think this is the most wide-open race of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup slate. A logical case can be made for as many as seven of the 10 horses signed on, and I’m very thankful that the folks in power kept this race out of the late Pick Four, as it probably would’ve been an “ALL” race for me. It IS the payoff leg of the early Pick Four, and that fact makes that wager very tricky.

#2 DREFONG won this race last year, and he seems like every bit the horse he was 12 months ago. His erratic behavior in the Bing Crosby is a red flag, but he was extremely impressive when romping in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga. Is that enough to make me think he’s a cinch here? Not even close.

We don’t have any idea how good #10 IMPERIAL HINT is. He’s won his last five races and stopped the timer in 1:07 and change when last seen in September. Can he respond to the jump in class and the change in location? #8 ROY H has won four of his last five, and his lone defeat in that stretch was a tough-luck second in the Bing Crosby when he was hindered by a rider-less Drefong. The winner of that race was #9 RANSOM THE MOON, who may have needed his clunker in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship and has worked well since then.

But wait! There’s more. #7 TAKAFUL’s lone loss around one turn came in the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens, and he rebounded from that with a sharp win in the Grade 1 Vosburgh when rating behind talented sprinter El Deal. Furthermore, #5 WHITMORE and #6 MIND YOUR BISCUITS were both highly-regarded earlier in the year, and both could benefit from a pace meltdown (which isn’t out of the realm of possibility given the early speed that’s signed on).

See how one could find this race challenging? I wouldn’t be stunned if Drefong won by daylight, but I also wouldn’t be surprised with any number of other scenarios.

BREEDERS’ CUP MILE

The late Pick Four starts here, and it boasts a guaranteed pool of $3 million. I’d be a fool not to take a shot, and I’ll go out on a limb and say that this race seems like the most likely in the sequence to feature a big price in the winner’s circle.

#10 RIBCHESTER is squarely the one to beat. He’s won three prestigious Group 1 races overseas, and he generally runs the same high-class race every time out, as evidenced by 14 top-three finishes in 15 career starts. His lone start over anything close to a firm turf course this year was a win in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, and if he’s ready to run, he’ll be tough.

Having said that, this will be Ribchester’s third race in three different countries in less than two months. If he turns out to be over the top, the door is wide open for an upset. With the race shape setting up for a closer, my second selection is #8 SUEDOIS, who capitalized on a similar scenario last month in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. They flew home over a pretty slow turf course that day, and while he’s done solid work sprinting on turf, there’s evidence that says he may have been a miler all along. He’s 2-for-3 with a second-place finish in starts at eight furlongs, and given the likely fast pace, I think he’s got a big chance.

It wouldn’t be terribly shocking to see #5 WORLD APPROVAL win. He’s won four of his last five starts, and that stretch includes decisive wins in a pair of Grade 1 races at a mile. He’ll likely get first run at the leaders turning for home, and a repeat of the Woodbine Mile would put him right there. If there’s any hesitation here, it’s because the early pace may be quick enough to fry anyone close to it. Additionally, Woodbine form sometimes does not travel well. That’s a one-turn mile with a very long stretch run, and this race is a two-turn affair with a short stretch. It’s a minor strike against him, but it’s worth noting.

In playing my late Pick Four, I want closers that could come flying in the event of a pace meltdown. That includes #4 LANCASTER BOMBER, #7 OM, and #11 BALLAGH ROCKS, all of whom should be going the right way late. I’ll also throw in #12 ROLY POLY, who’s won three of his last four (with all of those races being Group 1 events at a mile) and goes out for the powerful duo of Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore. That’s seven of 14, and I haven’t even touched on #1 MIDNIGHT STORM, #2 HEART TO HEART, or #13 BLACKJACKCAT, all of whom are talented enough to win on their respective best days but may not get a scenario conducing such an effort. Midnight Storm and Heart to Heart figure to duke it out early, while Blackjackcat has to negotiate a trip from the 13-hole.

BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE

Hey, Breeders’ Cup? You know what we handicappers could really use? How about a race with a consensus single, one that would need to regress considerably off of his best effort in order to lose? Think you could make that happen?

Oh, hey, here we are with the shortest-priced favorite of the entire weekend! That’s #11 BOLT D’ORO, who will likely be shorter than his 9/5 morning line odds in the Juvenile. He’s 3-for-3 and was supremely impressive in the Grade 1 FrontRunner, where he stormed away to win by nearly eight lengths in a very fast time. He earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure that day, and only one other horse in the race, #3 FIRENZE FIRE, has earned as high as a 90.

Bolt d’Oro would probably need to regress in order to lose, and one of the others would likely need to run a new career-best as well. Is that impossible? No, but it’s pretty unlikely. Bolt d’Oro will be a single for me (and, I imagine, for many others) in the late Pick Four, and if he doesn’t win, I lose.

If you’re hell-bent on playing this race in vertical wagers, the one I’m intrigued by for “underneath” purposes is #1 U S NAVY FLAG, who has established himself as Europe’s top 2-year-old following three consecutive graded stakes wins. He’s never tried dirt before, but his last-out Timeform Rating of 112 translates pretty well to this event and he gets Lasix for the first time. If you think Bolt d’Oro can’t lose and want a bit of a price underneath for a Dave Weaver-style “ice cold exacta,” U S Navy Flag may be worth a shot.

BREEDERS’ CUP TURF

This race was marred by the scratch of #5 ULYSSES, who may have gone off as the favorite. He was fourth in this race last year and seems to have gotten better since then. With his scratch, another European looks much more imposing.

#3 HIGHLAND REEL won this race last year thanks to a heads-up, aggressive ride. Some have said he’s taken a step back this year, but I don’t agree with that assessment. Highland Reel has always done his best running over firmer ground. He’s run five times this year. Only twice this year has he caught ground rated “good” or better, and on both occasions, he’s won Group 1 races. He goes second off the layoff in here, and I think he’s every bit the horse he was a season ago when he went wire-to-wire.

Of the Americans, I most prefer #12 BEACH PATROL, who may have wanted to run marathon races all along. He romped in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont last time out, earning a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 109 in the process. Some regression is possible, and if you’re playing a skinnier Pick Four ticket, I could understand leaving him off. However, he’s the last horse I’m throwing onto mine. I simply can’t justify leaving a Chad Brown trainee that finally seems to have put it all together off of this ticket.

BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, this is your main event. $6 million is on the line in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which doubles as the likely spot where a Horse of the Year will be crowned. Bob Baffert has four in here, including 2016 Classic winner #1 ARROGATE, while Steve Asmussen will saddle #5 GUN RUNNER, who has won his last five stateside starts and was a strong second behind Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.

I’m not getting cute. I’m using the two horses I mentioned in the late Pick Four, and of the two, I narrowly prefer Gun Runner. The son of Candy Ride has never been better than he is right now, and while he has tactical speed, he can sit off the early leaders and make his move turning for home. The classic distance of a mile and a quarter is a bit of an unknown, but it’s not as much of a problem as it could be. Del Mar’s track configuration is such that the stretch is very short compared to other tracks, and as such, horses that may not get 10 furlongs elsewhere can sometimes get it where the turf meets the surf.

Gun Runner gets my top pick, but I’ll be covered if Arrogate channels his previous form. The rail draw does not concern me, as he won the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup from a similar post. His lack of an affinity for Del Mar is a concern, for sure, but it isn’t like he ran a horrible race in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. He earned a 114 Beyer Speed Figure that day, and a similar performance likely puts him right there in this spot.

Of the others who may get bet, the one I do not want any part of on top is #11 COLLECTED. Yes, he won the Pacific Classic at this route. However, there’s other early speed in here, and he won’t have nearly as easy a trip as he did that day. This is a significantly tougher group, and in seeking out key stats, I found a big negative one. Per DRF Formulator, Bob Baffert and Martin Garcia are 0-for-20 together over the past six months with horses going off at odds of 4-1 or higher. That’s a damning statistic, and while I could see Collected hanging on for a piece of it, I’ll be pretty stunned if he fends off all comers once again.

PICK FOUR TICKETS

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #5

R5: 1,3,6
R6: 9,11
R7: 9
R8: ALL

60 Bets, $30

I constructed this ticket to where I could hit the “ALL” button in the Sprint without breaking the bank. Unfortunately, this means I could not include Cambodia in the Filly & Mare Turf. I think she’s got a real shot, but Lady Eli is my top pick, and I feel more comfortable singling her than Unique Bella. If you don’t mind spending an extra $30 (or can narrow the Sprint down), Cambodia is the one I’d encourage you to use, and I will be hedging with her in doubles.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #9

R9: ALL
R10: 11
R11: 3,12
R12: 1,5

56 Bets, $28

If the Mile is formful, this may not pay much. What I’m banking on is that the $3 million pool will guarantee a reasonable return on investment, even with the consensus single (Bolt d’Oro) in the second leg. With some luck, we’ll get a price home in the Mile, the rest of the sequence will be formful, and we’ll wind up with a nice score.