Time for day two of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup from Churchill Downs!
Saturday features nine BC races, starting with the Filly and Mare Sprint and ending with the always much anticipated Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Following is a look at all nine races with my plays.
Filly and Mare Sprint (9:00 a.m.): Any time you get into a Sprint race in the Breeders’ Cup there is always two ways to look at it. One, can someone wire the field? And, two, if there is a lot of speed, who is the closer that will pick them off in the lane? In this case, there is plenty of front-end speed, so it looks like a perfect set up for Marley’s Freedom, the heavy favorite at 8-5. The winner of four straight for trainer Bob Baffert, Marley’s Freedom has the perfect stalking style to sit mid-pack and pounce in the lane. The horse has won on both the West and the East Coast and is coming off a sizzling work on October 27 at Santa Anita. Golden Mischief (10-1) is another runner that seems to have plenty left at the end of the race in her last three starts. Nice value play, but don’t think has it to run with Marley’s Freedom. Selcout (4-1) draws the rail, has speed, has won three straight and beat Marley’s Freedom in her last start. The difference here is the last start was a five-horse field where she got the easy lead, as opposed to this race where there are 14 horses, with at least seven showing they prefer the lead. Finley’sluckycharm (10-1) is my final horse here. The horse has won six of seven starts over the Churchill surface and while blessed with good early speed, I don’t think she needs the lead to contend.
My plays: If someone can beat Marley’s Freedom, good on them. I have to play Marley’s Freedom on the win end, but then will box the horse with my other three in the exacta and trifecta as a way to hedge. A win will be nice but say one of my price horses gets the job done, my exotics will be nice.
Turf Sprint (9:38 a.m.): Might be the toughest race of the two days to handicap. What a difference a year has made for Stormy Liberal Last year’s winner at 30-1, he enters today at 4-1. The winner of three straight thrillers – one by a head and two by a nose – you can say this horse fights all the way. I have always been a fan of Conquest Tsunami (6-1) but am concerned with the No. 14 post draw. He set the pace in his last start but was caught by Stormy Liberal and finished second by a head. Tough to endorse on the win end, but a must have on your ticket. Bucchero (10-1) has some local ownership and was fourth in this race last year. The horse is another that will fight until the end and can’t be counted out of getting a piece. World of Trouble (6-1) is another I want to look at as the horse has won his only two turf sprint starts. This may be too much to ask, but there seems to be something there since he has switched to the turf. Disco Partner (7-2) is the final horse on my ticket. An impressive winner in the last start, the horse has got plenty of reasons to hit the board.
My plays: There is nothing on the win end here as I can’t push anything with confidence. This is all about a five-horse box and hoping the higher priced horses run first and second. This is a pretty contentious race with 14 horses, so the exotics should pay well.
Dirt Mile (10:16 a.m.): Pretty much agreed by most in the industry that this is between the inside horse – City of Light (5-2) and the outside horse – Catalina Cruiser (8-5). Both have multiple 100-plus Beyer figures, with Catalina Cruiser the winner of all four starts, and City of Light the winner of three of his last five. City of Light has lost his last two, both as the favorite. It’s easy to get caught up in a match race mentality here – and they very well could run 1-2 – but I am going to try to beat them both and with a price horse to boot. I am going out with Bravazo here at 20-1. There’s plenty of reason to call me crazy and I won’t be offended if you do. But I love the series of works over the Churchill track for the D Wayne Lukas runner, as well as the fact the horse is scaling back to a mile, a distance he’s one two of his three straights. It’s a risk, but at 20-1, why not? I will throw Seeking the Soul (5-1) on my ticket as well here as he has hit the board in six of his eight starts over the track.
My plays: Bravazo on the win and place bets, with a four-horse box with all four of my horses. Let’s go D Wayne!
Filly and Mare Turf (11:04 a.m.): Another race where the European horses always seem to have a leg up on the field. That being said, I like Fourstar Crook (5-1) a horse out of the Chad Brown barn that has three wins and two seconds in five starts this year. Brown has five runners in the race and I think this is the best of the group. She will be flying in the lane, picking off the tired horses. Wild Illusion (7-2) should lead the European brigade. Sistercharlie (3-1), another Brown horse that started in France before coming stateside last year – has beaten Fourstar Crook in two of their three head-to-heads -is another late runner. Magic Wand (5-1), who was second to Wild Illusion in their last start, goes for Aiden O’Brien, a trainer whose horses always seem to turn it on in the Breeders’ Cup.
My plays: Got to play Fourstar Crook on the win end, then box her with the other three in the exacta and trifecta.
Sprint (11:46 a.m.): One of my favorite races each year, I always love the Sprint, the horse equivalent to the 100-meter dash in the Olympics. Imperial Hint (9-5) was beaten by Roy H last year in this spot, but since then has won four of five, including three straight and is in fine form. Roy H (5-2) is the defending champ and has won two of his last four, including his last as the even money favorite. Promises Fulfilled (6-1) started the year on the Kentucky Derby trail but has since become an elite sprinter, winning three straight races. Whitmore (6-1) is always a scary runner to leave off the ticket, as the horse has been in the exacta in six of seven starts this year. Distinctive B (12-1) might be the sneaky good one here with only one win in the last two years but finished a game second to Roy H in his last start, hanging tough in a front-end duel. All this if you can look past that he was third in an optional claimer at the Big Fresno Fair in 2017.
My plays: I am tempted to play a five-horse box here, but in the interest of other wagers on the day, will go with Imperial Hint on the win end, then over top the other four in my exotics.
Mile (12:36 p.m.): Any time you get a turf race in the Breeders’ Cup, it’s easy to pencil in a European winner and Polydream (5-1) looks formidable here. But the horse did get beat by a 47-1 shot in her last start. I like Oscar Performance (6-1), the winner of two of her last three starts. Last year she set the pace before fading to ninth in this race, but after that has won two of three following some time off. There was some concern back in August when she pulled up and was vanned off in the Arlington Million, but she came back strong winning the Woodbine Mile in mid-September. Catapult (6-1) has won two straight races and three of her last five with a pair of seconds in the other starts.
My plays: Straightforward – Oscar Performance on the win and over top of the other two in the exacta and trifecta.
Distaff (1:16 p.m.): Who will the Belle of the Ball be this year? Abel Tasman (7-2) has always seemed to treat me right since winning the Kentucky Oaks at 9-1 in 2017. She struggled in her last start, finishing fifth after a troubled start in the Zenyatta. Monomoy Girl (2-1) draws the role of the heavy favorite and justifiably so after crossing the line first in nine of her 10 starts and coming a neck away from crossing first in all 10. Midnight Bisou (6-1) has not won in her last three starts, but two of those losses came to Monomoy Girl, including by just a neck in their last start. Wonder Gadot (15-1) is one of those scary horses that when you leave her off your ticket, she can bite you and cost you cash. Not heavy on the win end – only two of 10 this year – but she has hit the board in nine starts this year, only finishing out of the money when she tackled the boys in the Travers.
My plays: I will go with Abel Tasman on the win, then box my four in the exotics and hope for Wonder Gadot to get up there with a big race.
Turf (1:56 p.m.): My least favorite race each year – give it to a European horse – and one I honestly don’t spend a lot of time on. Enable (1-1) is the heavy favorite and has won eight straight races over the last two years. Waldgeist (9-20) has won four of six this year but was handled by Enable in his last start. I want to find a double-digit horse to take a chance on and have just that with Glorious Empire (12-1). The horse won both starts at Saratoga this year, both at double digit prices.
My plays: Does Enable win this race at even money? Probably, but let’s have some fun since I never really like this race. I am going to play a smaller win bet on Glorious Empire and then box the three horses.
Classic (2:44 p.m.): Ah the big dog race! Ask 10 people and get 10 different picks here. I was a big fan of Catholic Boy (8-1) during the Kentucky Derby trail this year before he dropped out after the Florida Derby and I am not going to change now. Yes, he is taking on older horses but the convincing win in the Travers showed me he has earned the chance. McKinzie (6-1) is another 3-year-old in the race and another I have been a fan of since the debut in October of last year. Has crossed the line first in four of his five starts. Accelerate (5-2) is the deserving favorite with three straight wins, including a stunning 12-length cakewalk in the Pacific Classic. To me, Mind Your Biscuits (6-1) is the wild card here. Third in the Sprint last year, the horse has transitioned nicely to route racing with a win and two seconds at distance this year.
My plays: Going all in on Catholic Boy for the win, then will take all four and box in the exotics. If can get my 8-1 om Catholic Boy I will be ecstatic!
Good luck all and have a great day!
By Dennis Miller