Day one of the 2024 Breeders’ Cup gets underway today with the “Future Stars Friday,” featuring five races for 2-year-olds.
The action starts at 2 p.m. with the final race at 4:40 p.m.
Here are my thoughts on Friday’s races.
Juvenile Turf Sprint (2 p.m.): I have always been a favor of a home course runner and have seen this come true in past Breeders’ Cup events.
This could be a perfect example. Slider(John Sadler trainer, Hector Barrios jockey, 8-1) is the only starter with a race on the turf at Santa Anita. After a pair of starts on the main track netted a second, then a win, Sadler moved the horse to the turf in early October in the Speakeasy.
The horse led early, was headed at the top of the lane, then rallied down the lane for the win. Obviously, a step up in class as he has yet to see the class of the European horses, but he has run – and won – over the surface.
The rail horse is Crimson Advocate(George Weaver, John Velazquez, 4-1) is one of three Weaver runners in the race and has won two in a row, including the Grade II Queen Mary at Ascot back in late June. Velazquez made the trip to England to ride the horse that day and is back for another trip here.
Both the wins were on the front end so there is good speed. The rail draw is a concern but if she is out quick, will be tough the catch.
No Nay Mets(Weaver, Irad Ortiz Jr., 4-1) has been here in the United States for the last two starts, has gone off as the prohibitive favorite in both races, and has crushed the field. Another front runner will be setting up a speed dual in the front. Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros is the owner of the horse.
Big Evs (Michael Appleby, Tom Marquand, 3-1) has had the biggest race experience, running in three graded events in Europe, winning two of three.
The lone loss came two back in a Grade I event where nothing went right that day.
Committee of One(Steve Asmussen, Christian Torres, 8-1) is a big closer that is assured a fast pass to run at here. Three starts have yielded two seconds and a win in his last start. Breaking from the No. 12 spot, he will have a clear lane to get in spot.
My play: I am going to play Slider on the win end, along with an exacta box with Committee of One. Might be costly to leave European horses off the ticket but this is a way to build a nice bank of cash on the first BC race!
Juvenile Fillies (2:40 p.m.): I hate to do this in a Breeders’ Cup race, but this is all about Tamara (Richard Mandella, Mike Smith, 4-5).
Two races are a very small sample size, but if you’ve got it, you’ve got it. Two races, two wins, and she showed improvement from the first to the second start. The lone concern is that she had trouble at the beginning in both events. She stumbled in her debut but came back to win by over two lengths.
Her last race came early in September, and she bumped at the start, but then regrouped to win by more than six lengths. The last pair of works were rather pedestrian but make no mistake about it – this is the horse to beat. Candied(Todd Pletcher, Luis Saez, 4-1) and Just F Y I(Bill Mott, Junior Alvarado, 8-1) look like nice runners, but not yet I think. Chatalas(Mark Glatt, Fresu, 8-1) has been getting some mention, but he was beaten by Tamara in the Del Mar Debutante by 12 lengths.
My play: Tamara on the win end, along with her being a single in my horizontal plays.
Juvenile Fillies Turf (3:20 p.m.): It’s not often we see a horse that ran at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton start in a Breeders’ Cup race, but here we are.
Dreamfyre(OJ Jauregui, Hector Berrios, 15-1) made her first start July 9 in the Everett Nevin and beat the boys convincingly at 12-1. Since then, she has won two Grade III races, the first on the main track at Del Mar first, then a one-mile turf score at Santa Anita.
It is easy to overlook the horse as she hails from a Northern California barn and started on the Fair circuit. But, at 15-1 she is well worth a play.
She has done everything asked of her, including beating a pair of horses who also entered here. And a reminder – that came over the track at the distance.
Hard to Justify(Chad Brown, Flavian Prat, 6-1) is one to like as well. If it’s on the grass and Brown is the trainer, that is sign enough to pay attention. Two wins in two starts – both on the turf – and both route races.
My concern here is that shippers from the East Coast often find issues adjusting. Still – could be part of a tasty exacta.
Buttercream Babe (Mike Maker, Luis Saez, 30-1) is one that deserves to be in the conversation if you like Dreamfyre. She finished second by a neck to Dreamfyre in their last race and was closing strong. Just a maiden win in three starts, but has improved the last two starts and another step forward here puts right there.
My play: I am going to play a win/place bet on Dreamfyre and then box the horse with Hard to Justify.
Juvenile (4 p.m.): This is the race each year that gives us the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby the following year. Here there are four horses I like.
Locked(Todd Pletcher, Jose Ortiz, 7-2) is justifiable favorite here, coming off the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland where he closed strongly to get the Grade I win. Has shown in three starts he can sit just off the pace or close hard if something goes wrong early. Has won at the distance.
Muth (Bob Baffert, Juan Hernandez, 4-1) appears to be the best of the West Coast group as evidenced by his convincing win in the Grade I American Pharoh.
Has won setting the pace, as well as coming from off the pace. The beginning of the Baffert Brigade.
The Wine Steward(Maker, Luis Saez, 8-1) was just ½-length back of Locked in the last start for both. Prefers to come from the off the pace and will need an honest pace to have a legit shot.
Wine Me Up (Baffert, Ramon Vasquez, 15-1) another Baffert horse and the biggest from a value runner perspective. He was well back of Muth in the last start. It was his first route race and he did set the pace through the first half of the race before holding on to second.
Has every right to take a step forward here and looking at the last two works, it looks like he is ready to do just that.
Prince of Monaco(Baffert, Prat, 4-1) does have a win over Muth back in mid-August. Has not routed yet but all signs point to being able to handle the increased distance.
My play: I will be watching the tote board and how it figures to fluctuate here. Wine Me Up has the most to improve but we have lived well playing “the other Baffert horse.” Anytime Baffert brings in an undefeated horse into a BC race you must take notice. Prince of Monaco fits the bill there. Only an 11-horse field but still big enough to play a 5-horse box, using The Wine Steward, Prince of Monaco, Wine Me Up, Locked, and Muth.
Juvenile Turf (4:40 p.m.): This wraps up the first day and brings a deep field, creating I think a wide-open race.
In a big turf race – is there a bigger one on day one – the European horses always bear watching.
River Tiber(Aiden O’Brien, Ryan Moore, 3-1) jumps to the top of the list. The connections are always formidable when we come to BC races. He has five starts, resulting in three wins and pair of thirds. The point of concern is the two thirds have been in his last two starts. My question is – where is Vandeek – the horse that beat him in the last two starts.
Unquestionable(O’Brien, Frankie Dettori, 4-1) has one win in five starts. In addition, Moore made the choice to ride River Tiber as he has been the regular rider on both horses.
Endlessly(Michael McCarthy, Juan Hernandez, 5-1) is the top American runner, boasting three wins in three starts. His last race came over the surface and was a convincing one over the course he’ll run on here.
Carson’s Run (Christophe Clement, Dylan Davis, 6-1) is coming off a good-looking win in Canada at Woodbine, coming from well back to cruise to the win. Has won at the distance and will be full of run in the lane.
My play: If pressed on a win play, I would go with River Tiber but my best play here is the three-horse box for the exacta with the two American runners I mentioned.