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

Friday is the first day of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup, and in a lot of ways, the four championship races on tap represent the best of what the event is supposed to offer. With big, talented fields going postward that include some of the top horses in training, it makes for a fun Pick Four sequence, as well as four races with standalone wagering value.

These previews, needless to say, will be a bit more substantial than what you’ve seen from me in the past. I’ll have a Pick Four ticket at the end, but given the subject matter, I feel it appropriate to expound on each race. With that being said, here we go!


Five of Europe’s top 2-year-old fillies have come across the pond for this one, and the invaders are led by #2 HAPPILY. She comes in off a pair of Group 1 races, including one against the boys at Chantilly. Only one other European filly in this field can approach her top Timeform rating of 105, and if Happily runs her usual race, she’ll be tough to beat.

The most-bet American runner will probably be #11 RUSHING FALL. She’s 2-for-2, and the Chad Brown trainee most recently captured the Grade 3 Jessamine with a huge late move. She rallied from twelfth to win going away, and there appears to be plenty of pace signed on here. This is a much tougher field than what she’s faced in the past, but based on numbers and the likely race shape, she’s a must-use.

There’s a bigger price signed on that I think merits consideration as well. #6 ORBOLUTION is 20-1 on the morning line, but she’d have been less than half of that if this race was held before the Miss Grillo, and in that race, she had a sneaky-awful trip. She’s a smaller filly who had shined going two turns, but in that one-turn race, she was between horses throughout and clearly intimidated. She tried that day, but it wasn’t her ideal trip or route of ground. She gets a two-turn trip today, and 20-1 is way too big a price.


The big question here is this: Which version of #6 MOR SPIRIT do we get? His Met Mile win was one of the best races we’ve seen all year long, but he hasn’t run since. A repeat of that effort probably means everyone else is running for second money. However, if he’s not ready, that opens the door for another runner in what turned out to be a pretty salty field.

#8 ACCELERATE is incredibly logical. He’s 3-for-4 at Del Mar, and his lone local loss came in the Pacific Classic, when he chased Collected and Arrogate going longer than he wants to go. There’s no doubt he does his best running over this surface, and his last two workouts indicate that he seems to be ready to fire his best shot.

The other logical horse is #3 SHARP AZTECA. He’s cruised to two straight wins since running a distant second behind Mor Spirit in the Met Mile, although it’s worth noting that he hasn’t beaten much in either of those races. However, I put him behind my top two because of the likely race shape. There’s other early speed signed on, including Mor Spirit’s stablemate, #7 CUPID. Sharp Azteca’s best race puts him right there, but in constructing a multi-race wager during cards like these, you need to take stands somewhere. As such, I’m leaving him off of most of my tickets.

I’m also against #10 PRACTICAL JOKE, who’ll likely get some play. In the defense of the multiple Grade 1 winner, though, it’s not his fault that he was caught between two Breeders’ Cup races. The Sprint’s six-furlong distance is a bit short for him, but this year’s Dirt Mile is a two-turn route, which he’s shown isn’t his best game. He could rally for a piece of it, but I’m looking elsewhere on top.


If you’re constructing a Pick Four ticket, my advice is to take a stand somewhere. Why? Because, for my money, the Juvenile Turf is the most wide-open race of the entire two-day event, and I think you may need to hit the “ALL” button here. I wish I could tell you that I had some kind of confidence in something here. The truth is, I don’t, so instead, I’ll recommend two big prices that I feel merit consideration.

#3 SANDS OF MALI comes over from Europe, and he ran a clunker last time out in a Group 1 behind U S Navy Flag (who we’ll see in Saturday’s Juvenile on dirt). However, he was very sharp in two races before that, including one where he earned a 104 Timeform rating. There’s a very real chance his last-out effort was simply a bounce off a new career-best, and I like that he’s shown tactical speed. This race doesn’t appear to have a lot of early pace signed on, so that gives him a potential advantage if Flavien Prat gets him on or near the lead out of the gate. He’s 30-1 on the morning line, and I think that’s too big a price. If I play a contest on this card, chances are I’ll use him and hope for the best.

#4 CATHOLIC BOY, meanwhile, is 2-for-2 and pulled off a 12-1 upset in a Grade 3 last time out. Jonathan Thomas isn’t a household name, but he’s a former Todd Pletcher assistant who has won 30% of his starts this season. His local work on October 29th was very good, and further progression would make this 12-1 shot a major player.


Friday’s main event is the Distaff, and this could settle the races for several Eclipse Awards. #2 STELLAR WIND and #6 FOREVER UNBRIDLED are the leaders among older female horses, while #4 ABEL TASMAN, #5 ELATE, and #7 PARADISE WOODS could secure 3-year-old filly honors with a victory here.

Personally, I’m of the belief that this year’s group of 3-year-old fillies is subpar. Abel Tasman’s recent middle moves raise a big red flag, while Elate was bred up and down for the 10-furlong Alabama and didn’t beat much in the Beldame while running pretty slowly for the level. Of the 3-year-old fillies in this race, the only one I think has a significant shot is Paradise Woods, and that’s because of the race shape. There isn’t much other early speed here, and over a track that’s traditionally very kind to early speed, that one could be a formidable foe if she’s allowed to coast on an easy lead.

However, she’s not my top pick. That distinction goes to Stellar Wind, who has never lost at Del Mar. She’s 3-for-3 over this track and could sit an ideal stalking trip just off the early speed. I have a great deal of respect for Forever Unbridled, but she may be left with too much to do late given the race shape and track tendencies. With all things considered, I’m singling Stellar Wind and hoping she runs her usual Del Mar race.


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 2,6,11
R7: 6,8
R9: 2

84 Bets, $42

My thinking here is that Stellar Wind, who is 5/2 on the morning line, almost certainly won’t go off above 3-1. If I’m alive going into the last leg, at worst, those are the odds I’ll get (given how wide-open the Juvenile Turf is). If a price comes in in the third leg and/or Orbolution wins the Juvenile Fillies Turf, I could potentially be alive to a nice, nice score.

There are other ways to make money on the card. For instance, the favorite in the Juvenile Fillies Turf is 7/2, which means exacta wagers could pay well if you’ve got a few horses to key in on. Additionally, if you can narrow down the Juvenile Turf to a few horses, playing doubles starting and ending there could be fruitful given the chaotic odds board we’re likely to see. Simply put, it’s a really good four-race sequence, and hopefully it sets the table for plenty of fireworks on Saturday.

Belmont Park, Santa Anita, and Penn National Analysis & Tickets (6/3/17)


$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 5
R2: 1,7,8
R3: 4,6
R5: 6,7

96 bets, $48

I’m going against a favorite right away at Belmont Park. The field is not great, and if My Uncle Al channels his California form for new trainer Robertino Diodoro, he probably wins. However, the lack of a published workout since his most recent start is a big red flag to me, so I’m looking elsewhere. I don’t think there’s much speed in the race, and that leads me to likely second choice Correjon. He took a step forward last time out with the addition of blinkers, and I’m hoping he gets brave on the front end against a less-than-inspiring group.

The second race is tough due to a similar lack of early speed. I don’t love the May 10th race many in here exit, so while I used Violet Blue and Blenheim Palace, I also threw in Camisole on the rail, who may benefit from the marathon distance she tries in this spot. Brewing and Monster Mash both drop down in the third, and I’m using both. I prefer the former at a slightly better price, though, as he could work out a prime stalking trip just off the plentiful speed that seems to exist on paper.

I bought the fourth race because I did not have a clue (hey, at least I’m honest), and I’ll look to close this out by using River Date and John’s Island in the payoff leg. River Date seems like the lone speed on paper, but John’s Island goes out for a barn that is very solid with new acquisitions after being claimed following an April win at Aqueduct.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7

R8: 3,4,6,10
R9: 7,9
R10: 8

80 bets, $40

We have another “I do not have a clue” race to kick things off, so hopefully we get a price home in the first leg. The eighth isn’t much easier, and it may be the best betting race on the card. My top pick is Summer of Joy, who switches surfaces and drops down in class, but it’s far from a situation where I absolutely love the horse.

I narrowed things down a bit in the Pennine Ridge, which goes as the ninth race. There’s potential for a major speed duel between Oscar Performance and Secretary at War, so I used Ticonderoga and Good Samaritan, both of whom would love such a setup given their closing styles.

We finish the sequence, though, with my best bet of the day. Starstruck Kitten is a full sibling to Bobby’s Kitten and Camelot Kitten, among others, and his debut was far from bad. He was wide turning for home, but was beaten less than three lengths. The drop into the maiden claiming ranks may raise a few eyebrows, but the Ramseys have said they are downsizing their racing operation, so this doesn’t seem like a panicky drop. Additionally, this does not appear to be the strongest field for the level, and if Starstruck Kitten improves at second asking, I think he’ll be very tough to beat. He’s 5/2 on the morning line, and I’ll be very happy if we get that price come post time.


$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1

R1: 5
R2: 3,4
R3: 4,6,7
R4: 3,5,6
R5: 1,2,4

54 bets, $27

I’ll start things off with a single. Kenzou’s Rhythm drops back down to the right level following a failed stakes try last time out. Before that, he reeled off three in a row, including a win two back at a similar level over what was probably a better field than he faces here. As such, I’m singling the 8/5 morning line favorite to kick off the Pick Five.

I think the second is a two-horse race between 6/5 favorite Individual Design and 9/5 second choice Trinitys Turn, so I’m using them both before going three-deep in each of the last three legs. I’m using the three likely favorites in the third race, but my price play of the day comes in the fourth.

Yes, Algorhythmic has won two in a row coming down the hill, and Jeremy’s Legacy has a ton of back class. Either can win, but don’t sleep on Lindeza, who’s a square 12-1 on the morning line. Her most recent effort was a return off of a 15-month layoff, and she didn’t break well while being stuck with the dreaded rail post at this route. However, despite being forced to run well off the pace and being hounded by fellow rivals turning for home, she didn’t quit and was only beaten 1 3/4 lengths for third. I think there are a lot of positive things to take from that effort, and her most recent workout was sharp enough to make me think an improved performance is on the horizon here. Getting off the rail will certainly help, as will a clean start.

Finally, I’ll use three short prices in the fifth to close things out. Privy has worked well for John Sadler and may not have to be much to beat this group, but Lostintranzlation comes back to dirt while dropping in class and Gypsy Treasure adds blinkers after an encouraging debut. There may be some very short prices in this sequence, but if Lindeza shakes things up in the fourth, we could still be rewarded handsomely.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 1,3,7
R7: 3,4,7
R8: 1,2
R9: 3,4,7

54 bets, $27

Right away, we have a beatable favorite in the first leg. I used Quality Line, but this appears to be a race without much early speed, save for Awesome Image to the outside. Gary Stevens riding Scatter the Moon is also worth noting, especially given that one’s eye-catching debut at Turf Paradise.

The seventh is the Shoemaker Mile, and I’m betting on a pace meltdown. Heart to Heart and What a View both want the lead, and my hope is that their duel will set things up for one of three closers to fly home late for the winner’s share of the purse and an all-expenses-paid trip to this fall’s Breeders’ Cup Mile. Of the three I used, I like Bolo most. He was probably too close to the pace last time out, and this trip should be more to his liking.

The Beholder Mile will only have three starters. I used Vale Dori and Stellar Wind and opted to leave Finest City off my ticket. I just think that one wants one turn, not two, although I can’t fault the connections for trying this spot (especially given the short field!).

Finally, we’ll end the card with a downhill turf sprint. Conquest Smartee and Tina’s Exchange will likely be the top two betting choices, but this race also features Aussie Fox, a first-time starter from the Carla Gaines barn. The dam of this 3-year-old colt is graded stakes winner Foxysox, which makes this colt a half to multiple stakes-winning mare Curlin’s Fox. She’s run some very strong races coming down the hill, and given the pedigree, I had to use her little brother.


$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6

R6: 4,7
R7: 2,4,7
R8: 4,5
R9: 7,8

24 bets, $12

I’m not spending a ton of money on this ticket, because I think there’s a real chance it doesn’t pay a whole lot. Having said that, given the likely pool and the stakes races that are involved, this is still a sequence worth playing.

Adorable Miss will be tough in the Penn Oaks, but I had to use Party Boat, who comes in on an upward numbers trend and won a $100,000 stakes race last time out. I was tempted to take a stand against Richard’s Boy in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup, as I’m far from crazy about the two-week turnaround (especially since he traveled back to California following his win in Maryland). Still, the five-furlong distance fits him like a glove, so I couldn’t leave him off the ticket. I used likely second choice Rainbow Heir, and I’m also using Take Cover, who was a price play for me last time out at Pimlico. He ran a nice race that day, flying late to be beaten less than two lengths by Richard’s Boy. He won this race last year, and he’ll likely be running well late here at a nice price.

If Matt King Coal makes the lead in the Mountainview, I think he’ll be very difficult to beat. However, if a pace duel ensues, hard-knocker Page McKenney stands to benefit. This horse has run 47 times in his career, and he’s hit the board on 36 occasions. The four-legged ATM could sit a dream stalking trip behind a fast pace, so I threw him in.

Finally, I’m going two-deep in the Penn Mile. Big Score is probably the best horse in the race, and he’s an easy horse to root for given the modest pedigree and his running style. However, I also used Frostmourne, who’s improved in every start and makes his second run off the bench here. The presence of Irad Ortiz, Jr., is a big plus, and he could sit a perfect trip.