The two days of championship racing kicks off with five races on Friday, all Juvenile (2-year-old races). The first post is at 1:12 p.m., with the last of the five set to go off at 4:03 p.m.
Following a run through of each of the five Friday races, with my picks for the respective races.
JUVENILE TURF SPRINT (1:12 p.m.): Five furlongs on the turf for 2-year-olds gets us going – it is the fifth race on the Santa Anita card. Wesley Ward has the top two favorites in the race which will get the Cup off to a sizzling start.
Four Wheel Drive (Irad Ortiz, 3-1) has won both of his starts, each by over three lengths. The last start, an easy win in the Grade III Futurity at Belmont. The American Pharoah colt has sat just off the lead in both starts before pulling away in the lane.
Kimari (John Velazquez, 7-2) is an interesting runner in that she won her first start at Keeneland by 15 lengths, then shipped to the Royal Ascot (a typical Ward move) and was second by a head in the Queen Mary stakes. Coming back stateside, the horse won two straight overcoming a tough start in her last race before rallying for a win in the Indian Summer back at Keeneland.
Half of the field is from overseas and as usual with any turf race in the BC, the European horses are always a threat.
A’Ali (Frankie Dettori, 6-1) is a runner out of the Simon Crisford barn and has three wins in five starts. If it’s the Breeders’ Cup race on the turf and Dettori has the mount, the horse is going to be live.
If you are looking for a price here, go with a closer as there is plenty of speed to get it going. I am going to take a long look at Chimney Rock (Jose Ortiz, 10-1), a a Michael Maker that can close from the crowds even in a sprint. He only has one win in five starts, but the three races have seen him come from well back, including a second to Kimari in the Indian Summer.
My pick: Three horse exacta and trifecta box with two Ward runners mentioned above along with Chimney Rock.
JUVENILE TURF (1:52 p.m.): One mile on the turf for 14 horses looks to be wide open, well apart from the favorite. Aiden O’Brien has won four of the 12 Juvenile Turf races contested and he sends out the 5-2 favorite Arizona (Ryan Moore). Moore has been up for all four of O’Brien’s wins and will be the heavy favorite here.
Even though it’s easy to get hooked up with the European horses, I will never count out Chad Brown horses on the dirt. Structor (Jose Ortiz, 5-1) has won both his starts, the last coming in the Pilgrim at Belmont.
Decorated Invader (Irad Ortiz, 4-1) has pretty much done everything asked of him by trainer Christophe Clement, winning two of three starts, including the last two, improving each start.
I am thinking of taking a flyer and throwing in Graceful Kitten (Hector Berrios, 15-1). The Amador Sanchez comes in as one of the pacesetters and is vastly overlooked despite winning three all three starts, the last two wire to wire at Gulfstream. Yes, it appears to be a step up, but hey, let’s make some money.
My picks: I will throw together a four-horse trifecta box of the four horses I mentioned but will also make a nice little win bet of Graceful Kitten on the off chance to horse gets out and doesn’t get caught.
JUVENILE FILLIES (2:32 p.m.): To me it looks like Bob Baffert’s race to lose as nine fillies will tackle the 1-1/16-mile race on the main track. Bast (Johnny Velazquez, 5-2) has won her last two starts, including the Chandelier over the Santa Anita track. Throughout the years, when the Breeders’ Cup goes to Santa Anita, the horses that have shown success over the track have done well.
There has been a lot of buzz about Donna Veloce (Flavian Prat, 3-1), a Simon Callaghan runner who won her only start – a 9-length maiden score at Santa Anita. That came at 6.5 furlongs and now she steps up to two turns.
My pick: I am not going deep or in-depth here. Making a win bet on Bast and moving on to the next race – that is after I get done cashing my ticket!
JUVENILE FILLIES TURF (3:12 p.m.): I have never been a fan of the turf races at the Breeders’ Cup and it’s no exception here in third one-mile challenge for the young ladies.
Sweet Melania (Jose Ortiz, 5-1) – another horse out of American Pharoah – is one of the top runners and hails from the Todd Pletcher barn. The winner of two of her five starts, the last start was the most impressive when she drew off to win by five in the Jessamine at Keeneland. Ortiz has been up the last three starts – two wins and a second.
The Europeans come in well represented by Daahyeh (5-1) and Albirgna (9-2). Chad Brown will send out Selflessly (Javier Castellano, 8-1), the winner of one of two starts, taking the top honor in the Miss Grillo at Belmont.
My picks: Sweet Melania and Selflessly exacta box and a win wager on Sweet Melania.
JUVENILE (4:03 P.M.): The winner of this race is immediately crowned the early favorite for next years’ Kentucky Derby. So, who get that mantle this year in this field of nine runners?
Dennis’ Moment (Irad Ortiz, 8-5) gets the nod as the morning line favorite. The Dale Romans runner lost the jockey in his debut, but then came back in the second start to crush a maiden field by 19-lengths. There he went wire to wire, but in his last start he showed diversity, coming from off the pace to win by 3-lengths in the Iroquois.
Eight Rings (John Velaquez, 2-1) is one of Bob Baffert’s runner and has also won two of his three starts, opening with an easy maiden score, then losing his jock in the Del Mar Futurity, and finally cruising in the American Pharoah over the San Anita track.
If you are looking for more value, take a gander at Scabbard (Mike Smith, 8-1). The Eddie Kenneally runner was second to Dennis’ Moment in the Iroquois, rallying late. If you like the favorite, you need to take a look here as well.
Northern California will be represented with Anneau d’Or (Juan Hernandez, 15-1) a runner out of the Blaine Wright barn. One start over the Golden Gate synthetic produced an 8-length win and impressed the connections enough to enter here.
My picks: Absolutely going to play Dennis’ Moment on the win end and then box the horse in the exacta and trifecta with Eight Rings and Scabbard.
By Dennis Miller