I’ll start off this column with a disclaimer: If you don’t want to bet Saturday’s races because of the three-ring circus that happened before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, I completely understand. A lot of people got the short end of the stick with what happened, and I couldn’t write anything else before writing something I posted to Twitter late Friday.
If you want to play, though, there’s plenty to digest Saturday at Del Mar. As with Friday’s races, I’ll spend more time on races where I have a strong opinion and less time on races where I don’t. Let’s take a look!
RACE #1: We’ll start things off with an optional claiming event for older horses. I’m not sure which runner will go favored, but #1 ONE FAST BRO would intrigue me a bit if others took money. His lone recent poor race on turf came in a paceless race at Santa Anita, and it sure seems like he’s taken a step forward late in his 4-year-old season. He’s a stone closer that may need some luck breaking on the rail, but Joe Bravo’s riding style should fit him like a glove, and the jockey got to know this gelding a bit last time out, when he ran second behind next-out stakes-winner Subconscious.
RACE #2: The Grade 2 TAA is the annual marathon race on the Breeders’ Cup undercard, and I think the morning line is off. Yes, #2 LONE ROCK was beaten last time out as a very heavy favorite, but I can’t see #4 TIZAMAGICIAN challenging him for favoritism. I think Lone Rock comes down from his 6/5 morning line price, and that Tizamagician drifts up.
I focused on that because, handicapping-wise, this looks chalky to me. Lone Rock still looks very imposing, and anything close to his races from mid-2021 would make him very tough to beat.
RACE #3: We start cooking with gas in the Grade 2 Goldikova. I respect 8/5 favorite #2 PRINCESS GRACE, who’s won six of seven career starts and wouldn’t be surprising. However, I think there’s value to that one’s inside.
Instead of the chalk, give me #1 ZOFELLE, whose last race is a clear throw-out. She’s shown she detests Belmont Park and its funky one-mile configuration, and she’s also shown she shines going two turns. Her races from early-2021 are sharp, and while the layoff is a concern, she’s been working steadily for a barn that can get fresh horses ready to run.
Zofelle’s best race can win this, and I think things will set up for her. This race isn’t without some early zip, and the faster they go early, the better this one’s chances figure to be. 6-1 hits me as an overlay, and I hope we get that price (or something close to it) come post time.
RACE #4: Many handicappers detest this race, the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. It’s down to a five-horse field, and the likely odds-on favorite, #5 GAMINE, has been in the news several times for the wrong reasons.
However, I think there’s money to be made, as Gamine shouldn’t be alone on the front end. She may be joined by #3 EDGEWAY or #6 BELLA SOFIA, and while she may be good enough to overcome that pressure, I think her likely price is an underlay, and that such a scenario would set things up for #4 CE CE.
Ce Ce didn’t get her desired trip in the Ballerina two starts back. Gamine ran her first quarter-mile in :23 and change, and the race was over at that point. That shouldn’t happen again here, and when Ce Ce gets a pace to run at, she’s very, very good. I wish we were likely to get the 4-1 morning line price, but we’ll probably have to make due with 5/2 or so. Still, she’ll be a single for me on multi-race exotics tickets, and if Gamine loses, the payoff potential on those goes up significantly.
RACE #5: Singling Ce Ce is handy, because the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint is a puzzling race. I’ve been a big fan of #3 GOLDEN PAL all year long, and a win here wouldn’t surprise me. However, if the 3-year-old misfires against open company, any number of his rivals could potentially get the money.
#1 GLASS SLIPPERS won this race last year, and her stablemate, #2 EMARAATY ANA, may be even better than she is. Golden Pal’s stablemate, #9 KIMARI, hasn’t run since April, but she’s been working consistently at Keeneland and is a world-class sprinter when she’s right.
The one I’m most intrigued by at a price, though, is #11 FAST BOAT. Closers in turf sprints make me nervous, but Del Mar’s surface was a fair one on Friday, and a few closers did reasonably well. Additionally, he’s capitalized on several meltdowns against these types this season, and a similar situation may present itself here. His best is certainly good enough to win this, and he’ll be on all of my tickets.
RACE #6: #5 LIFE IS GOOD is a single for me in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (TV won’t say the sponsor, but I will because I’m a rebel and play by my own rules). I can’t see him getting challenged early, and if he gets comfortable, I think he’ll coast.
RACE #7: The Filly and Mare Turf will be a blast. I’m pumped to see #7 WAR LIKE GODDESS tackle the likes of #6 LOVE and #8 LOVES ONLY YOU, who ship in from England and Japan for this event. Consider this: #12 AUDARYA is the defending champ in this race, and she’s the 5-1 fourth choice on the morning line!
The top three choices are all world-class talents, and Audarya would merit attention if not for a terrible post draw. However, there’s another that I need to advise you to consider. #1 GOING TO VEGAS did sit a dream trip last time out in winning the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive, but everything says she could sit that trip again here. There just isn’t a lot of early speed signed on to chase her, and if she gets comfortable, I think she’ll have every chance to grab a big piece of this at a very nice price.
RACE #8: Neither of my two opinions in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint should surprise you. The first is that #2 JACKIE’S WARRIOR looks very tough, by any conceivable measure. His figures only seem to be going up, he’s very fast out of the gate, and he’s shown an ability to grind his foes into dust. He’s my top pick.
My other opinion is that #7 LEXITONIAN, a first-ballot inductee into the Andrew Champagne Gambling Hall of Fame, hits the board. Toss the Forego, where he got left at the gate, and toss the Met Mile, which I think is a toss for every horse that ran in it (it was a WEIRD race). His two-back Grade 1 win in the Vanderbilt was sharp, and it also helps that he ran very well in his lone Del Mar start, when he fell by a dirty nose after a big late run in the 2020 Bing Crosby. Lexitonian’s an honest horse that should be going the right way late, and I think he’ll clunk up for a piece of it at a big number.
RACE #9: The Breeders’ Cup Mile is always a blast. Some of my favorite horses (Lure and Wise Dan, to name two) have won this race over the years, and from a handicapping perspective, you can make cases for a bunch of these runners.
I’m spreading in multi-race exotics. #3 SPACE BLUES is a win machine from Europe, and his best race would absolutely put him right there, but he’s stretching out to a mile from seven furlongs, and that’s not insignificant. By contrast, #9 MOTHER EARTH has won at this distance before and ran into Aunt Pearl last fall in her lone stateside start to date. I need to use her, too, especially since she’s run very well over firmer going in the past. Of the American runners, I prefer #6 MO FORZA and #7 IN LOVE, who both come in off of strong wins in prep races a few weeks ago.
RACE #10: The Breeders’ Cup Distaff features #6 LETRUSKA, who enters on a five-race win streak and figures to be one of the day’s heaviest favorites. However, I’m against her in here. I think there’s a lot of other early speed signed on (specifically #7 HOROLOGIST and #8 SHEDARESTHEDEVIL), and I think the race shape could set up for a closer to come from out of the clouds.
With that in mind, I prefer #2 ROYAL FLAG on top. She exits a very nice win in the Beldame at Belmont, where she won by more than four lengths despite a pretty slow early pace. She’s shown an ability to rally from well back in races without much early zip. Given the likelihood of some fast fractions, I think her chances go way up, and 8-1 hits me as an overlay.
Of the front-running types, I prefer #8 SHEDARESTHEDEVIL, who beat Letruska earlier this year and has shown she doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well. Given how fast they’ll probably be going, that could prove valuable.
RACE #11: I could wind up having plenty of fun in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. #13 TARNAWA is logical and hasn’t run a bad race in more than two years. She could win this for the second year in a row, but there’s another runner I like at a significantly bigger price.
Toss the Arc de Triomphe, and doesn’t the form of #8 BROOME look a lot better? He’s run plenty of races at this distance that would be good enough to win, and I love the presence of Frankie Dettori, whose record in this race is excellent. The same can be said of trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has won this race six times. At his likely price, Broome is a must-use, and he’d be a day-maker for me.
RACE #12: We’ll finish, of course, with the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I can’t go too in-depth on this, as I’ll have a longer, race-specific writeup available on Oddschecker US. However, I think #5 KNICKS GO will be very tough to beat, and you can head over there for my reasoning and betting strategy.