Analysis, Selections, and Tickets: Pegasus World Cup Day (1/27/18), PLUS Thoughts on the Breeders’ Cup Derby

Before I dive into extended race-by-race analysis of Saturday’s tremendous Pegasus World Cup Day program at Gulfstream Park, I wanted to expound a bit on what’s become a touchy subject in the horse racing community.

As reported by many sources, the Breeders’ Cup was entertaining the idea of a Breeders’ Cup Derby. The race would be restricted to 3-year-olds, and as a result of this race’s implementation, the Breeders’ Cup Classic would be pushed back to December.

I tweeted my thoughts on this idea a few days ago. If you didn’t see it, it’s below.

Grade 1 races are supposed to be difficult to win. They should mean something when a horse retires and goes off to stud, not be part of a culture where there are so many Grade 1 races that almost every decent horse gets a piece of the pie (especially in years where foal crops are declining). We do not need more Grade 1 races restricted to 3-year-olds, and we certainly do not need them scheduled near the end of the year, when those horses should be testing themselves against older company.

Standing pat, with the current setup as it was run in 2017, is clearly the solution preferred by a wide margin of racing fans. In fact, in spending time on Twitter, I failed to come across a single positive opinion of the Breeders’ Cup Derby. DRF colleague Matt Hegarty reported that the Breeders’ Cup board did not commit to any changes in their meeting Friday, and that’s a relief.

Now that we’ve gotten through that, let’s take a look at Saturday’s 12-race card at Gulfstream Park. It’s headlined by the world’s richest horse race, the $16 million Pegasus World Cup, which doubles as the final race of Horse of the Year Gun Runner before the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner retires to stud. That race goes as the finale, and there are ample wagering opportunities before Gun Runner and company hit the track.

I’ve got three Pick Four battle plans below the analysis, so if you’re solely interested in those, scroll down. However, with the big fields and juicy prices on tap, I felt each race deserved its own write-up, so that’s what I’m doing. Let’s get started!

RACE #1: Right off the bat, we have what I felt was the toughest race on the card. I’m grateful that Gulfstream carded this one as the opener, which puts it out of all three Pick Four sequences (although it does kick off the early Pick Five).

This is a maiden race for 3-year-old fillies going long on the turf, and there are some first-time starters with flashy pedigrees that bookend the full field of 14. #1 AMERTUME is out of a mare who’s a half to Grade 1 winner First Defence, and her female family traces back to all-time great broodmare Tousseau (who threw Empire Maker and Chester House, among others). Additionally, #14 TOUCH OF GRACE is out of a mare named Sealy Hill, who was one of the top horses in Canada in her heyday. She fetched $275,000 at auction and is trained by Chad Brown, but that post is a killer, and it’s tough to debut going two turns.

I’ll use them both underneath a few horses that have run before. #8 SPECIAL TRIP is my top pick. She was a good second last time out at Belmont, and while she hasn’t run in three months, the past two workouts show she could be sitting on “go.” I’ll also take a bit of a swing with #10 SHOW GIRL, who’s bred to go much longer than the six furlongs she went in her debut. Her recent turf works are lively, she should appreciate the added distance she gets here, and I think she’ll be bet down a bit from her 15-1 morning line. Finally, #12 SMART SHOT is the tepid 7/2 favorite on the morning line, and she was a solid third in her turf debut last month. She could win this, but that last race was a pretty big step up for her, so a bounce is also in question.

RACE #2: This maiden special weight starts the first of three Pick Four sequences. It’ll be contested at a tricky seven-furlong distance, and while that’s a tough route to debut at, two of the four horses I’m using are first-time starters.

#2 CACHE is working impressively ahead of her debut, and she’s bred to be a good one. Her second dam is a full sister to Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Spain, and this one fetched $500,000 at auction and has appeared to move forward in the mornings for Mark Hennig, who’s hit at an alarming rate with first-time starters of late. I’ll also use fellow debutante #3 TAKECHARGEDELILAH, a Todd Pletcher trainee that’s a half to stakes winner Mo Don’t No.

Of the ones that have run before, I prefer second-time starters #6 MUCHACHA UNO and #8 ROMANTIC MOMENT, both of whom are eligible to improve adding distance off of debuts much shorter than they likely want to go. I’m going against morning line favorite #9 COACH ROCKS, who has had plenty of chances and enjoyed a perfect trip last time out, only to get caught. If that one beats me, I’ll live with it.

RACE #3: This is the first graded stakes race of the day. It’s the Grade 3 La Prevoyante, and seven older mares will go a mile and a half on turf. In my opinion, this race houses the day’s most likely winner. Unfortunately, she won’t be any sort of a price.

#7 APPLE BETTY won a pair of stakes races last year going 12 furlongs, and in doing so, she dispatched several rivals she’ll line up against in this spot. Her tactical speed is a big plus, as is the continued presence of John Velazquez. Anything close to the form she displayed in the Grade 3 Dowager is good enough to win this, and she may even be able to afford a slight regression.

If you want to include another horse, I’d recommend #2 SUMMERSAULT, who’s done some of her best running over this turf course. She won three in a row here last winter/spring, and she may relish a return to her favorite track. However, she’d likely have to improve considerably to defeat Apple Betty.

RACE #4: We go back to the main track for this one, a maiden event with a field of 13 3-year-olds going a one-turn mile. There are some intriguing prospects here, but I think you need to use a shipper that may go off at a big price.

The post-time favorite will likely be #4 PERSONAL TIME or #13 LIFE’S A PARLAY. The first horse mentioned is Orb’s younger brother, and while he hasn’t done a ton of running to date, he could easily wake up with the addition of Lasix. Meanwhile, the outside horse is a second-time starter that ran well in his debut after a rough start.

However, don’t sleep on #10 ROSE’S VISION, who comes to Gulfstream off of a solid (albeit winless) campaign at Woodbine last year. There’s a chance he’s a turf horse in need of a race, but if he can run as well on dirt, his 15-1 morning line odds represent a considerable overlay. He was third behind Dixie Moon two back in a $226,000 stakes race, and if he really was in need of a race, why is he getting Lasix? I think he could be ready to run, and if he can run on dirt, he could shake up the exotics at a large number.

RACE #5: This is the male version of the opener, and it’s almost as wide-open as that race was. In my multi-race tickets, I’m five-deep, and I’ve sprinkled some prices in with the logical contenders.

#3 EMPIRICALLY is a logical favorite. He crossed the wire first in his debut, then ran against stakes foes in each of his next two starts before a brief freshening. His comeback race was fine, and he can win this, but I can’t feel confident trimming this down when he had a nice trip last time out against state-breds and couldn’t get the job done.

Additionally, #6 NEEPAWA exits stakes races at Woodbine and has worked well ahead of his 3-year-old debut, and #7 SARGEANT DRIVE was beaten less than two lengths at this level in his turf debut. They’ll both get bet, but I also need to use two prices. #9 PIANTAGRANE was second at this level last time out despite racing greenly, and #11 GUNNISON adds blinkers and has shown zip in the mornings since his last race.

RACE #6: We’ll shorten things up for the sixth, which is the Ladies’ Turf Sprint. While you probably need to use the two shorter prices drawn to the outside, their bad luck at the post position draw opens things up for a horse that may be a bit more of a price.

My top pick is #3 JUSTA LADY, who comes back to the turf after a lackluster showing in an off-the-turf race two months ago at Churchill Downs. Before that, she notched six straight top-two finishes, including a second behind Morticia in a stakes race at Keeneland. Her 2017 form is certainly good enough to win this, and she could capitalize on many others having to endure wider trips.

I’m not completely against #11 BRANDY’S GIRL and #12 BLUE BAHIA, both of whom are certainly talented enough to win this. Neither needs the lead, which helps, but they may lose significant ground going around the turn. I’ll use them, but Justa Lady is my key horse here, and I’m hoping we get the 6-1 morning line price.

RACE #7: Older horses will go postward in the Grade 3 Fred Hooper. This has attracted 11 milers, and this is another case where the race may set up for a 6-1 shot.

#8 TOMMY MACHO spent most of 2017 running against top-notch competition. A look at his running lines reveals names like Sharp Azteca, Mind Your Biscuits, Drefong, Mor Spirit, and Awesome Slew, and this spot is a significant step down in class. Furthermore, he does his best running at Gulfstream Park, having won stakes races at this level and route in each of the past two seasons, and this race should set up for a closer. He’s my top pick in here, and this may be another case where the large field inflates the prices we see come post time.

I’ll also, reluctantly, be using #1 TALE OF SILENCE. I usually don’t like betting closers on the rail, especially at his likely price, but he could get an ideal setup for his style given the abundance of early speed in this field.

RACE #8: The morning line man thinks this is a two-horse race, and I’m inclined to agree. It’s the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight, and I’m not going deeper than #5 BULLARDS ALLEY and #7 OSCAR NOMINATED.

The former ran well in defeat last time out, when he fell a head short in the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens. His 12-furlong form is evident, and on back class, he’s the horse to beat. Meanwhile, Oscar Nominated threw in a clunker last time out at Aqueduct, but he quietly earned more than $600,000 in each of the past two seasons, and his usual race would definitely give him a big shot.

RACE #9: The late Pick Four starts with the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie, and it features a local favorite that will likely be a pretty heavy favorite. I’m using her, but there’s another in here that I find interesting.

#7 CURLIN’S APPROVAL is 7-for-11 at Gulfstream Park, and I might argue her best race here came in defeat last time out. She went a bit longer than she probably wants, but she still ran second behind a talented horse (Lewis Bay). She’ll love the cutback to a familiar distance, and if she runs her typical race, others would have to improve to beat her.

However, I’m also intrigued by #1 MARLEY’S FREEDOM, who was last seen running fourth in the Grade 1 La Brea. Unique Bella and Paradise Woods ran 1-2 in that race, so this spot certainly provides some class relief, and the presence of Mike Smith certainly doesn’t hurt. She’s 10-1 on the morning line, and I highly doubt we get that price come post time.

RACE #10: This is the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint, and I can see this race playing out one of two ways. I think that either the likely favorite goes wire-to-wire, or he gets cooked and a closer picks up the pieces.

If a front-runner wins, that front-runner is most likely to be #8 PAY ANY PRICE. He’s a local favorite, and a distance specialist that has won eight of 10 starts at this distance. He’s an absolute rocket ship out of the gate, and he’ll look to defend his home turf against shippers from around the country.

If Pay Any Price does not win, I don’t think it’s another speed horse that takes the top prize. I think a closer rallies, and that could be one of #6 RAINBOW HEIR, #9 TOMBELAINE, or #11 BLIND AMBITION. Also, while I’m not crazy about him, #7 RICHARD’S BOY did beat Pay Any Price the last time they faced off, so I can’t completely ignore him. At any rate, Pay Any Price is my key horse, but I can’t discount the possibility of him getting worn down trying to make the lead.

RACE #11: We’ll stay on the turf for the South Beach Stakes. With a better draw, the favorite may have been a single for me. However, #11 CELESTINE is parked outside, so while I’m using her, it wouldn’t be shocking if she lost, especially with such a short run to the first turn.

My other two primary horses are #8 PERDONA and #10 STORM THE HILL. Perdona is a price on the morning line (15-1), but she got good in the middle of last year and may have simply hated Woodbine’s synthetic track. She’s got speed and should be forwardly-placed early on, and I’m banking on a return to her mid-2017 form. Meanwhile, Storm the Hill led turning for home last time out before settling for third. That was probably a hair longer than she wants to go, and this cutback should be just what the doctor ordered.

Celestine’s best race certainly wins this, but she’s been off four months and doesn’t draw well, so it won’t be stunning if she’s knocked off. In addition to the two I mentioned, I’ll also have a small piece of #9 STORMY VICTORIA, who was a close-up third behind the talented On Leave last time out. She may be at her best around one turn, but one smaller Pick Four ticket will have her on it.

RACE #12: Here we are at the Pegasus World Cup. #10 GUN RUNNER will be a heavy favorite, and rightfully so. If he’s right, he’s strictly the one to beat, and all indications are that he’s as good as ever heading into his final race.

Much has been made of the post position draw. Gun Runner didn’t draw particularly well given the layout of this route, which features a short run into the first turn. However, if he clears #9 TOAST OF NEW YORK, he should at least sit a manageable trip with regard to ground saved. He doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to win, as he proved in the Woodward, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sit just off the pace before pouncing turning for home.

The question is, can any of the frontrunners survive what could be a scorching pace? #4 SHARP AZTECA and #5 COLLECTED will almost certainly gun for the front, while #1 SINGING BULLET, #2 WEST COAST, and #3 STELLAR WIND may vie for the lead as well (and certainly won’t be far off the pace). Add in Toast of New York and #12 GIANT EXPECTATIONS, and you’ve got the makings of a potential pace meltdown.

Of those runners, I most prefer Collected. I understand his run in the Grade 2 San Antonio was not sharp, but I’m treating that race as a throw-out. He didn’t break well, and Mike Smith tried to rate him behind a very slow pace. He should sit his preferred trip today, and like Gun Runner, he may be better at a mile and an eighth than he is at a mile and a quarter.

Many handicappers have insisted on using #6 GUNNEVERA because of the aforementioned pace scenario, and I understand why. He’s a deep closer that loves Gulfstream and will be a big price. However, the closer I’m throwing on one of my Pick Four tickets in case of a complete meltdown is #7 FEAR THE COWBOY, who figures to be an even bigger price. I really liked his win in the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday, and that was his second graded stakes win of 2017 at this track. Tyler Gaffalione has ridden very well this meet, and I need to use him at least a little bit in case crazy fractions get posted.


Early Pick Four: Race #2

R2: 2,3,6,8
R3: 7
R4: 4,10,13
R5: 3,6,7,9,11

60 Bets, $30

I’m trying to extract some value out of Apple Betty, who may be the second shortest price on the entire card. I’ve got some prices on this ticket, and I think there’s room for an early score here.

Middle Pick Four: Race #5

R5: 3,6,7,9,11
R6: 3,11,12
R7: 1,8
R8: 5,7

60 Bets, $30

The scratch of Game Over (who I’d previously used) makes this a more affordable ticket. I was tempted to single Tommy Macho, but ultimately decided I needed to use Tale of Silence as well given the likely race shape.

Late Pick Four: Race #9

I’m going to go a bit different with this. There’s a guaranteed pool of $1 million up for grabs, and I’ve got three tickets that total $40.

Ticket #1

R9: 1,7
R10: 6,8,9,11
R11: 8,10,11
R12: 5,10

48 Bets, $24

This is the main ticket, and if you’re only playing one, this is the one I’d suggest. There are no singles, but it’s a manageable $24 and it’s got the horses I really like on it.

Ticket #2

R9: 7
R10: 8
R11: 8,9,10,11
R12: 2,4,5,7,10

20 Bets, $10

This one singles my top picks in the first two races (Curlin’s Approval and Pay Any Price), while also opening things up a bit in the last two races. It adds Stormy Victoria in the third leg, while also throwing in West Coast, Sharp Azteca, and Fear the Cowboy in the Pegasus.

Ticket #3

R9: 1,7
R10: 7,8
R11: 8,10,11
R12: 10

12 Bets, $6

Finally, this is a skinnier ticket that singles Gun Runner in the Pegasus. It also adds in Richard’s Boy in the second leg, since he’s not covered on the other two tickets.

Long story short: If we can get the 7-8 double home in the ninth and tenth, we’ll be alive to everything halfway through the sequence. Even if Gun Runner wins the Pegasus, the large field sizes ensure that this won’t pay peanuts, and if we can hit it multiple times, that’s great.

2017 Eclipse Awards: My Ballot, Explanations, and Abstentions

I was accepted into the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters a few months ago, and with that came my first-ever Eclipse Awards ballot. I’m sure there are some people out there who are shaking their heads that I have a vote (I can think of at least two), but the meaning of this process isn’t lost on me. It’s an honor to be able to cast a vote for horse racing’s most prestigious awards, and this post will serve as an explanation for how I voted.

I’ve broken the awards down into several categories, and horses and humans that earned second and third-place votes will be in parentheses after my chosen winner. Like every year, there were some divisions that were easier than others, and there were a few where I could completely understand differing viewpoints. As you’ll see, there were two divisions where I simply could not bring myself to cast a vote, and I’ll discuss why when we get there.

On with the ballot!


Horse of the Year: Gun Runner (World Approval, Forever Unbridled)

Three-Year-Old Filly: Abel Tasman (Unique Bella, Paradise Woods)

Older Dirt Male: Gun Runner (Arrogate, Roy H)

Older Dirt Female: Forever Unbridled (Stellar Wind, Songbird)

Male Sprinter: Roy H (El Deal, Drefong)

Male Turf Horse: World Approval (Talismanic, Beach Patrol)

Apprentice Jockey: Evin Roman (Hector Diaz, Katie Clawson)

Gun Runner assured himself multiple trophies when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap off a stellar campaign. Had Arrogate not turned in one of the most impressive performances in recent horse racing history in the Dubai World Cup, he’d have managed one of the most dominant campaigns by an older horse in the past 20 years.

I was probably more impressed with Roy H’s campaign than some of my fellow voters. Had Drefong not run erratically after throwing Mike Smith in the Bing Crosby, the eventual Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner probably wins that race, which would have given him an undefeated season with three Grade 1 victories (plus a Grade 2 score). I even debated putting him second above Arrogate in the Older Dirt Male category, but ultimately decided against it.


Two-Year-Old Male: Good Magic (Bolt d’Oro, Sporting Chance)

Two-Year-Old Female: Rushing Fall (Caledonia Road, Moonshine Memories)

Both of these are up for some debate. I spent considerable time mulling over my 2-year-old male vote, but ultimately went with the impressive winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. I understand Bolt d’Oro raced very wide most of the way, but even if he’d been closer to the rail, my opinion is that Good Magic was probably still best that day. I also wanted to give an honorable mention to Sporting Chance, the Grade 1 Hopeful winner that has not run since. That proved to be a very live race, and he won despite ducking out badly late. Hopefully, we get to see him step forward in 2018.

I felt much more comfortable with my 2-year-old female vote. Caledonia Road was impressive in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, but I honestly believe this crop of dirt fillies was not that special. Rushing Fall showcased a turn of foot we don’t often see, and there’s a real chance the field she beat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf was better than the one Caledonia Road dispatched.


Three-Year-Old Male: West Coast (Always Dreaming, Oscar Performance)

I’m about to make a pretty unpopular statement. Had West Coast not run a decent third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, I would have likely abstained from this category. Once Oscar Performance faltered in two races against older horses late in the year, this came down to West Coast and Always Dreaming. The former won the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby emphatically, but skipped the Triple Crown races. The latter was brilliant at his best when winning the Florida and Kentucky Derbies, but head-scratchingly awful at his worst when nowhere in the Preakness and Travers.

Thankfully, West Coast finished in the same zip code as your likely Horse of the Year. In doing so, he did enough for me to be able to feel OK about casting my vote for him. Having said that, I’m a believer that there are some years, and some categories, where no horse is good enough to deserve an Eclipse Award. Keep this in mind later.


Female Turf Horse: Lady Eli (Wuheida, Off Limits)

There’ll be one heck of a Hall of Fame debate coming up in a few years with regard to Lady Eli. She won big races at ages two, three, four, and five, and not only survived laminitis, but came back to perform at racing’s highest level. This year, she won Grade 1 races on both coasts, which is not an easy thing to do.

This won’t be a unanimous vote. Lady Eli misfired badly in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, a race in which she suffered an injury. Having said that, the winner of that race, Wuheida, raced just once in North America, and there isn’t nearly enough in the way of qualified other contenders for this award. To demonstrate that, Off Limits got my third-place vote despite having just one Grade 1 victory, which came in the Matriarch late in the year at Del Mar.

Even with the untimely dud, it’s tough to see any horse but Lady Eli winning this award. No other horse did enough to win it, and her story certainly doesn’t hurt. Should her story matter when it comes to Eclipse Awards and Hall of Fame consideration? That’s a question for another column.


Breeder: Clearsky (Besilu, WinStar)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz (Mike Smith, Irad Ortiz, Jr.)

Clearsky Farms bred Eclipse finalists Arrogate and Abel Tasman, as well as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Untamed Domain. That’s a heck of a resume right there, especially for a farm that’s fairly small in size, and I couldn’t look past it.

I went with Jose Ortiz over Mike Smith for a few reasons. Ortiz rode day-in and day-out for the entire year and established a consistent body of work few could match. Mike Smith had a phenomenal year, and he’s established a judicious strategy of picking mounts that extends his career deep into his 50’s. However, that judicious strategy works against him when compared to someone who takes very few days off. That being said, I wouldn’t be opposed to him passing along his map to the fountain of youth.


Owner: Klaravich/Lawrence (Sol Kumin, Juddmonte)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher (Chad Brown, Bob Baffert)

My top pick for this year’s best owner didn’t even make the list of finalists, and neither did my chosen runner-up (more on him in the next paragraph). The finalists are Juddmonte, Godolphin, and Winchell/Three Chimneys, and more than any other category, this one got some scrutiny on Twitter when the finalists were announced.

One note on Kumin: We need new owners who have his apparent passion for the sport. He’s bought in on a lot of horses, and many have had success at the highest level. However, I couldn’t, in good conscience, vote him as the top owner in the country this year. It doesn’t sit well with me that we don’t exactly know how much of each horse he owns. Partnerships have their merits, sure, but if the situation is this murky, how can one partner be deemed more valuable than others who may be involved?

Pletcher wasn’t even a finalist. I understand why, but here’s my thinking. Pletcher won trainer’s titles at Gulfstream and Saratoga, and he also won two-thirds of the Triple Crown with Always Dreaming and Tapwrit. It hurts that his barn went fairly cold to end the year, but I thought what he did in the early part of the year made up for it.


Steeplechase Horse: ABSTAIN

Like many of my fellow voters, I simply didn’t see enough jump races to be able to have an informed opinion. Rather than guess, I’ll leave this one to the experts.

Female Sprinter: ABSTAIN

(ducking the tomatoes and objects you’re throwing at me)

Time to explain the most controversial part of my ballot. I am not against honoring the top female sprinter in the country. However, I’m far from convinced we had a single top-tier runner in that division. Let’s run through the list, shall we?

Had the year ended in mid-August, Paulassilverlining would have been a solid choice. However, she misfired in both the Ballerina and the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. A single in-the-money finish in either event probably would have made her the recipient of my vote, but I simply couldn’t vote for her given when the switch flipped and how big the difference in form was.

Similar can be said for Lady Aurelia. I know most of her campaign came outside the United States. Had she run well in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint against males, though, it would have been difficult to vote against her. Given how much Paulassilverlining tailed off, she probably didn’t even have to win. However, for the first time in her career, she ran a clunker, and given her lack of American-based success, I couldn’t vote for her.

Unique Bella? She won the Grade 1 La Brea, but her only victory against older competition came in a Grade 3, she spent the early part of the year routing, and her dud on Breeders’ Cup day is a big strike against her. Bar of Gold? She did nothing besides a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, which proved to be a very oddly-run race. Finley’sluckycharm? Never won a Grade 1. American Gal? Didn’t run after the Test (which was a shame, because I think she may have secretly been the best 3-year-old filly in the country this year when healthy).

Please tell me, with a straight face, why I should have felt confident casting a vote for any of these horses. Simply put, I didn’t think any of the runners I mentioned put together a campaign from start to finish that merited an Eclipse Award in this category. I can’t praise Paulassilverlining’s early success without mentioning her late-season struggles. I can’t give Lady Aurelia a North American-based award when most of her success came in Europe. I can’t say Unique Bella is an elite sprinter when her lone sprints against older horses were an OK Grade 3 win and a dud in the division’s biggest race, and no other horse did enough to even merit consideration. Add all of this up, and you get an abstention from yours truly.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #5

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

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

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.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 9/2/17


BANKROLL: $878.35

Closing weekend is upon us at Saratoga, and as usual, there’s a lot going on. Saturday’s card boasts two Grade 1 races, one of which is headlined by the top handicap horse on the grounds. Meanwhile, the Labor Day program features the Grade 1 Hopeful, and that’s an intriguing race considering the relative lack of standouts in the 2-year-old male division to this point. This’ll be fun, and hopefully we’ll cash a few tickets along the way!

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: We had nothing behind New York’s Finest in the seventh, and Lem Me Dance was off the board despite an OK effort (missed the break and ran wide). We dropped $30.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’m going to keep this simple with a pair of $25 plays. I’ll punch a $25 double using top Spinaway pick #1 SEPARATIONOFPOWERS with #2 GUN RUNNER in the Woodward, and I’ll play a cold $25 exacta using Gun Runner with #1 NEOLITHIC.



Best Bet: Gun Runner, Race 11
Longshot: Always a Suspect, Race 7


Driven by Thunder
Borsa Vento
Honor Thy Father

DRIVEN BY THUNDER: Drops way down in class for aggressive connections and has never run a bad race on a fast dirt course. This trainer/jockey tandem merits respect, and he seems like the one to beat; BORSA VENTO: Graduated last time out and was claimed out of that race by Steven Asmussen, who does strong work with new acquisitions. This is his first outing against winners, but his most recent effort was solid; HONOR THY FATHER: Drops down in class, and he made some noise as a 2-year-old when running in a few stakes races. It can be argued his best effort was in the Ellis Park Juvenile, which was run around one turn, and he comes back to that route here.


Say the Word

MARAUD: Is bred up and down to be a very good turf horse. He’s a half to graded stakes winner Arklow, his female family is very distinguished, and he’s got a few strong local works on the tap; OROSCOPO: Fetched $325k at auction earlier this year and has the pedigree to love turf. He’s by Orb, whose first offspring have taken to the lawn in a big, big way; SAY THE WORD: Is another bred for the grass, and he ships down for a Canadian owning and breeding institution. A trip through the pedigree leads to third dam Dance Smartly, one of the top Canadian thoroughbreds in history.


Bluegrass Jamboree
Frosty Gal
Palladian Bridge

BLUEGRASS JAMBOREE: Has yet to run a bad race in four career starts. She was second at this level despite a rough trip, and the rider switch to John Velazquez is notable; FROSTY GAL: Has run in three stakes races this season and should find this level more to her liking. Several local workouts are solid; PALLADIAN BRIDGE: Hasn’t won in a while, but comes back to her preferred surface after chasing a next-out stakes winner on turf last time out. She should be prominent early, and her best is good enough for a piece of it.


Slim Shadey
Docs Legacy

SLIM SHADEY: Stood up last time out at this level and route, winning a swiftly-run race for the level. This veteran did get an ideal trip that day, but there’s plenty of speed signed on here and he could come running once again; DOCS LEGACY: Pulled off a 31-1 upset against similar foes earlier in the meet and cuts back in distance. He needs some luck to draw in, but must be respected if he does; INDEBTED: Ran second behind my second selection last time out and was claimed out of that race by a small barn that’s done tremendous work with new acquisitions. He’s another closer that needs a pace to run at, but he should get it.


Phi Beta Express (MTO)
J. S. Choice

J. S. CHOICE: Was a solid second last time out in a weirdly-run race. The winner got loose on an uncontested lead early on, and this one didn’t miss by much. There’s plenty of speed signed on here, which is a plus; FUNTASTIC: Graduated last time out in his turf debut, and this trainer/jockey combination has been tremendous all meet long. He could be good enough to beat winners in his first start at the level; LUNAIRE: Has run against much better horses for most of this season and was way too far back last time out at Delaware Park. He should appreciate the class relief he gets in this spot. DIRT SELECTIONS: PHI BETA EXPRESS, LENSTAR, SOUND OFF.



LIONITE: Chased the possible Hopeful favorite last time out in his debut for a barn whose runners sometimes need a race to get going. He could take a big step forward today, and his pedigree suggests the added distance won’t be a problem; SLOT: Ran on well late to be third in his debut behind a few live runners, including one that runs in Monday’s Hopeful. This is another that should improve stretching out at second asking; VENEZUELA: Seems the most live of all of the first-time starters in here. He fetched $300k at auction last year, has worked well, and has a strong female pedigree (his dam, second dam, and third dam were all stakes-winners).


Always a Suspect
Gift Box
Servis entry

ALWAYS A SUSPECT: Came off a brief freshening last time out and ran well, finishing less than a length behind Woodward entrant Neolithic. There’s a lot of speed signed on here, so I’m inclined to pick a horse that doesn’t need to be on or near the lead to run well; GIFT BOX: Was a highly-regarded 3-year-old in 2016 and ran fourth behind Arrogate in the Travers. He hasn’t run since, and while his best race likely wins, he also probably wants to go much longer than this route; SERVIS ENTRY: I prefer STILL KRZ, who was third in the Decathlon behind two next-out winners. One of those horses was Vanderbilt winner El Deal, so there’s lots of back class here.


Create a Dream
Dubb entry

THAIS: Makes her North American debut after showing plenty of class in Europe. Her prior connections thought enough of her to try her against boys in last year’s Group 1 Grand Criterium, and she’s since hit the board in two Group 3 events; CREATE A DREAM: Makes her 2017 debut after a solid 2-year-old campaign saw her win a stakes race and run fourth in two graded events, including the Albany at Royal Ascot. Chad Brown could easily run 1-2 in this spot; DUBB ENTRY: TRUTH IN THE LIES steps up in class after an impressive win in her first start for these connections, while LITERATA won a stakes race here last time out and is the one to beat if this gets rained off the turf.


Bricks and Mortar
Voodoo Song

BRICKS AND MORTAR: Is 4-for-4 and looked great in winning a Grade 2 here earlier in the meet. He’s improved with every start, and is strictly the one to beat in here; YOSHIDA: Was beaten less than a length by my top pick last out and is another that seems to be improving with experience. He’s hinted at major talent in the past and can’t be ignored; VOODOO SONG: Has won three times at this meet and takes a step up in class in his search for a fourth local win in less than two months. I’m not sure he’s got the talent of my top two, but he figures to make the early lead, and at least you know he loves this turf course.


Pure Silver
Lady Ivanka

SEPARATIONOFPOWERS: Was probably the most impressive maiden-breaker of the entire meet. She dominated an overmatched field earlier in the meet, and if she improves off of that performance, look out; PURE SILVER: Ran away with the Grade 2 Adirondack and will likely be favored. A repeat of that race would make her tough, but I’m just not sure what she beat that day; LADY IVANKA: Romped by eight in her unveiling last month. She looked great that day, but the runner-up threw in a clunker at next asking, and that’s a red flag.


Gun Runner
Rally Cry

GUN RUNNER: Is arguably the best older horse in the country and romped at this route in the Grade 1 Whitney. He should sit another perfect trip, and his best race wins this handily; NEOLITHIC: Clearly needed the race last time out when all-out to top optional claimers going shorter than he probably wants to go. He was third behind Arrogate and Gun Runner in Dubai, and I think he’ll take a big step forward in his second start off the layoff; RALLY CRY: Was very sharp in winning the Alydar, and he’ll likely take most of the “wise guy” money from those looking to go against my top pick. However, that race was a considerable step forward, and he didn’t beat a lot there, so a bounce is very possible.


War Flag

SARANDIA: Ran well in her North American debut when beaten less than three lengths in the Grade 1 Beverly D. by several top-notch runners. I’m taking the stance that that was a much tougher race than the ones others in here exit, and as such, she gets my top pick in a wide-open race; WAR FLAG: Was a close second in the Grade 3 Matchmaker, and among those she beat was Grade 1 winner Miss Temple City. She’s bred to go this route of ground, and note the presence of Jose Ortiz; ESTRECHADA: Beat many of these rivals in the Grade 3 Waya at a similar route. Javier Castellano rides back, and she merits respect.

Saratoga Race Course Analysis, Selections, and Bankroll: 8/5/17


BANKROLL: $975.25

Just how bad was my luck Thursday? After 10 top picks led to nine in-the-money finishes but just one win, I went to an establishment near my apartment for dinner. I ordered a sandwich with no mushrooms or onions, and it was delivered in two halves. One half was made as ordered. The other half of the same sandwich, you guessed it, had mushrooms and onions. When something as confounding as that happens, you know you’re having a strange day.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS: Petrov was ultra-impressive in victory in the eighth race. Our exactas got split by a longshot, but our $22 post-scratch investment returned an even $30 thanks to a successful win-place bet.

SATURDAY’S PLAY: I’ll take a shot in the early Pick Four, which begins in the second race. I’m punching the “ALL” button to start things off, and I’ll use #1 APPLE BETTY and #4 SUFFUSED in the third, include #5 STRONG CURRENT, #6 ECLIPSED MOON, #8 SEABHAC, and #10 SURVEY in the fourth, and single #5 DELTA PRINCE (one of my best bets of the day) in the fifth. I’m hoping we get a price or two home early in the sequence before Royal Delta’s little brother takes the stage. As usual, this wager assumes all races carded for the turf stay there.



Best Bet: Projected, Race 7
Longshot: Schivarelli, Race 11


Dubb entry
Sandy’z Slew
Uncle Youdge

DUBB ENTRY: This owner has a powerful hand, as GRAND SKY is a major player if this stays on turf and stakes-winner MARRIEDTOTHEMUSIC is strictly the one to beat if it gets rained off; SANDY’Z SLEW: Improved last time out in his second start off a layoff and has run some strong races at this route in the past; UNCLE YOUDGE: Ships up from Monmouth Park and seems like the main speed in here. The outside draw isn’t great, but he may be fast enough early to clear the field. DIRT SELECTIONS: MARRIEDTOTHEMUSIC, LOVE THAT JAZZ, NOBODY MOVE.


Zap Zap Zap
Godolphin entry
Ride On Faith

ZAP ZAP ZAP: Goes to the barn of Todd Pletcher and exits a very fast race at this level downstate. The runner-up came back to crush similar company earlier in the meet, and this gelding gets a big rider switch to John Velazquez; GODOLPHIN ENTRY: Either part of this entry could win this, but I prefer FULLY VESTED, who was a solid second in his debut for a barn whose horses often need a race to get going. The addition of Lasix could make a big difference; RIDE ON FAITH: Ran into the promising Phi Beta Express last time out and has improved with every start. Further progression would likely lead to a piece of it here.


Apple Betty
Guilty Twelve

SUFFUSED: Loves this turf course and gets a bit of class relief. She was beaten less than a length in a contentious Grade 2 last time out, and this seems like a bit softer of a spot; APPLE BETTY: Took advantage of a slow pace last time out against a number of rivals that also show up here. A similar scenario could present itself here, as there isn’t much other speed signed on; GUILTY TWELVE: Has won two in a row, including a Grade 3 at Delaware. She’s in career-best form and boasts a win over this turf course.


Super Sermon (MTO)
Eclipsed Moon
Strong Current

ECLIPSED MOON: Came flying late in his unveiling and was beaten just a neck. This barn’s horses usually get better with experience, and given the $400k pricetag, it’s safe to assume big things are expected; STRONG CURRENT: Didn’t do much running in his debut, but he’s bred to go long and adds blinkers here. First-crop stallion Orb has already sired one turf winner this meet; SURVEY: Is another who was one-paced in a sprint debut, but this pedigree says he’ll love going long on the lawn. He also didn’t get an ideal setup in his unveiling, which featured a very slow early pace. DIRT SELECTIONS: SUPER SERMON, VARIANT PERCEPTION, ROAMING UNION.


Gift Box (MTO)
Delta Prince

DELTA PRINCE: May not be the same kind of horse as sister Royal Delta, but he’s shown plenty of ability. He was a close second in a Grade 3 earlier this year, and if he’s ready to run off the bench, he’s strictly the one to beat; MUTAZEN: Was third in a classy allowance race downstate and has shown plenty of early zip. Lezcano getting off is a bit befuddling, but this one should be prominent early; STRIKE MIDNIGHT: Hasn’t won in a while, but has plenty of back class. His last win came off a long layoff similar to what he returns from here, and he was third in a Grade 2 on this turf course last summer. DIRT SELECTIONS: GIFT BOX, DELTA PRINCE, VULCAN’S FORGE.



ENGAGE: Has worked like one of the top 2-year-olds on the grounds ahead of his debut. He boasts a lofty $550k purchase price, and these connections must be respected; SLOT: Has a dam whose full brother is Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Trinniberg. He’s bred to be a rocket ship, and it’s tough to ignore the tag team of Pletcher and Castellano; ARRIVAL: Probably lost all chance at the start in his debut. He salvaged fourth that day, and improvement is logical at second asking.


Ring Weekend
Camelot Kitten

PROJECTED: Has run second in back-to-back graded races and drops into the ungraded ranks. A repeat of either of those efforts would make him very tough to beat; RING WEEKEND: Won a Grade 1 in 2015 and captured a pair of Grade 2 events last year, but hasn’t shown as much in his 2017 campaign. His best race wins this, but it’s unclear if he can channel that form; CAMELOT KITTEN: Won four graded events as a 3-year-old and makes his seasonal debut here. His back class is substantial, but he faces many heavy hitters here (including my top pick, a stablemate).


American Gal

AMERICAN GAL: Is undefeated in sprint races and was extremely impressive in her 2017 debut. She won the Victory Ride by nearly five lengths, and her recent works indicate she bounced out of that race very well; FAYPIEN: Has won three in a row and merits respect shipping east for Bob Baffert. She won a Grade 2 going longer when last seen, and the recent works are very strong; CHALON: Took advantage of an easy lead in an ungraded stakes race downstate. She’ll be prominent early, and this California-based barn is firing on all cylinders.


Gun Runner
Breaking Lucky
Keen Ice

GUN RUNNER: Has gone from a very good 3-year-old to an excellent 4-year-old. His only loss since the 2016 Breeders’ Cup came when Arrogate put forth an otherworldly performance in Dubai, and while the likely wet track is a bit of a concern, note that it was wet in Dubai, too; BREAKING LUCKY: Hasn’t won in a while but may benefit from the likely race shape. Unlike many in here, he does not need the lead, and he could sit a perfect stalking trip just off the ample early speed; KEEN ICE: Sprang an upset in the Grade 2 Suburban downstate for his first win since the 2015 Travers. The race shape figures to suit him, but he may want even more ground than the nine furlongs he’ll get here.


Clipthecouponannie (MTO)
Sassy Little Lila
On Leave

SASSY LITTLE LILA: Was a close second in the Grade 1 Just A Game last time out and figures to be the main speed in here. Her back class is substantial, and she ran a massive race over this turf course last year on closing day; ON LEAVE: Is a Grade 2 winner and the other major player in here. She may be best around one turn, but she’ll certainly be running well late; ELYSEA’S WORLD: Drops down in class a bit after spending her entire 2017 campaign to date against graded stakes company. Her best race puts her right there, but this isn’t much easier than the fields she’s faced of late.


Mo Town

NEOLITHIC: Ran third to Arrogate twice earlier this season and begins his summer/fall campaign here. This may be a bit shorter than he wants to go, but if he’s right, he’ll be very tough to beat; SCHIVARELLI: Drops back down the class ladder after chasing some tough sprinters in his last two. He won at this route last year, and this distance hits him right between the eyes; MO TOWN: Is very tough when he’s right, but his two 2017 efforts were total duds. He’s been working well, though, and he’d certainly benefit from a wet track.