Here we go with day two of the 2022 Breeders’ Cup from Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky!
Saturday features nine races, following a Friday where we saw five world champions crowned in the 2-year-old world.
Saturday’s action starts with the Filly and Mare Sprint at 8:50 a.m. PDT and ends with the iconic Classic set for a 2:40 p.m. post.
Let’s run through all the races with thoughts and plays for each race. I have never been a big fan of betting on the turf races, but I do love watching them.
The European horses are always so tough on the turf and I don’t really follow them, so my thoughts on the turn races are not as thorough.
Filly and Mare Sprint (8:50 a.m.): The defending champ is back in CeCe (No. 4), but last year was Del Mar and now we are at Keeneland were she failed to hit the board in her lone start. The best field she has faced this year was in the Ballerina at Saratoga where she was fifth. I will look elsewhere and that starts with Frank’s Rockette (No. 5). The Bill Mott runner is the horse in the race with three straight 100-plus Beyer figures, but that has resulted in only one win and against much softer fields than this. Goodnight Olive (No. 8) was second in her debut in May of 2021 and has not lost since, running off five straight wins. She had trouble at the start of the Ballerina and battled back to win by over two lengths. Echo Zulu (No. 13) was the winner of the BC Juvenile Fillies, has a 2-for-2 record at the distance and has only a loss to Secret Oath in the Kentucky Oaks earlier this year as the lone blemish in three starts since last year’s BC. There has never been a horse with a win in the Juvenile Fillies and the F&M Sprint. One final runner I like is Obligatory (No. 7). If there is a pace meltdown, here a horse that will take advantage. Has only one win in her last three starts, so there is work to do, but this will be a fast pace, so finding a good closer is not the worst thing to have as part of your ticket.
My play: I’ve got to roll with Echo Zulu on the win, but then come with four-horse boxes for the exacta and trifecta of 4-7-8-13.
Turf Sprint (9:29 a.m.): The defending champ is back in American runner Golden Pal (No. 8). The 2/1 morning line favorite out of the Wesley Ward barn has eight wins in 12 starts. After winning last year she was off until of June of this summer when she shipped over to England for the Royal Ascot. In her first start in seven months, she got hammered, being eased up in the race. Since returning stateside, she was two wins including the Woodford over the Keeneland course in early October. Highfield Princess (No. 6) seems to be the best bet of the European contingent with five wins in nine starts this year. Trainer Charles Appleby has turned the Breeders’ Cup turf races into his own little playground the last few years, coming into this weekend he had six winners in 11 starts in the BC. Friday, he picked up in a win in the Juvenile Turf Sprint. Appleby has a pair entered here with Creative Force (No. 1) and Naval Crown (No. 9).
My play: Not getting crazy here. Will play a win ticket on perhaps the best chance for the United States to get a turf winner today – go with Golden Pal.
Dirt Mile (10:10 a.m.): Always one of my favorite races each year, the field is always deep and talented, bring some up from sprints and some down from longer routes, including former horses from the Derby trail. The three morning line favorites will be starting next to each other. Gunite (No. 5) has four straight, 100-plus Beyer figures with three wins coming in those four races. The last came over the Keeneland surface, but against a much softer field. Laurel River (No. 6) has won both starts this year for Bob Baffert, with the last coming in the Grade II Pat O’Brien at Del Mar, earning a 106 mark. Cody’s Wish (No. 7) dropped an insane 112 Beyer in winning the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga in August. He has a three-race streak. Cyberknife (No. 9) found a lot of love after winning the Grade I Haskell in July at Monmouth but has followed with a second in the Travers and a third in the Pennsylvania Derby.
My play: That win in the Forego I can’t get out of my head and that’s why my win play will fall with Cody’s Wish. After that lets put together a 4-6-7 box for the exacta and trifecta.
Filly and Mare Turf (1:50 p.m.): I have no interest in the race, but will say there a pair of runners from European trainer Aidan O’Brien – he had two winners and a second Friday – and there are three horses entered from the Chad Brown stables, representing the best turf trainer in the United States.
Sprint (11:30 a.m.): The equivalent of the 100 meters in the Olympics! You have the fastest horses on dirt in the world knocking heads. There is no doubt Jackie’s Warrior (No. 9) is the deserving 4/5 favorite here, boasting 12 wins in 17 career starts. Did get beat by Cody’s Wish in the Forego, but still pulled a 109 rating. He has four straight races where he earned a 105 or higher. The lone red flag is last year when he went off as the heavyweight favorite in the BC Sprint at Del Mar, he messed the bed, finishing sixth. But after a break he has come back to run off four wins in five starts for trainer Steve Asmussen. There is no questioning the style as he will go from the time the gates open. Kimari (No. 2) has run off two straight impressive performances, earning a 105 and a 106 in wins for trainer Wesley Ward. Elite Power (No. 6) has won four straight for Bill Mott but only one was a graded race. It took four starts before he won a race, but the light looks to have gone on! One to watch at what should be a value play is American Theorem (No. 4). He spent a chunk of route races before switching back to sprints and now he comes from the parking lot and has won two of his last three – all graded races.
My play: I got burned last year in the Sprint by Jackie’s Warrior but will chalk that up to the East Coast based horse not liking California! I am going no where but a substantial win/place ticket on the king!
Mile (12:10 p.m.): One of the more popular races in terms of entries as 14 go to post here. To the surprise of no one, the one to beat is Modern Games (No. 4). Trained by Charles Appleby and ridden by William Buick, this is one that should appreciate the firmer turf of Keeneland as compared to some of the European courses. The top U.S. runner is Domestic Spending (No. 14) out of the Chad Brown barn. The horse has won six of eight and could have the best shot of beating the favorite.
My play: Not making any bets.
Distaff (12:55 p.m.): The top of the race for the weekend for the ladies. Nest (No. 6) is the heavy favorite for Todd Pletcher at 9/5 and with good reason. She has won 7-of-10 overall and three straight, by margins of 12-lengths, 4-lengths, and almost 10-lengths. And these were a pair of Grade I’s, and a Grade II. Malathaat (No. 1) out of the Todd Pletcher barn and 3/1 when the betting opens, has won 9-of-13 starts but is a 4-year-old and will face the 3-year old Nest for the first time. She has done almost nothing wrong, but still takes a back seat coming in to Nest. Clairiere (No. 4) sits a 4-1 for Steve Asmussen and has traded wins with Malathaat, winning two of the last three where they have squared off. Search Results (No. 7) is a Chad Brown runner that has been running second and third to the other 4-year-olds that are low-priced.
My play: Got to stay with Nest on the win end, but there is no surprise if either Malathaat or Clairiere gets up for the win. Going to play just a win/place wager on Nest as I just don’t see any value in the exotics.
Turf (1:40 p.m.): The big turf race of the weekend and carries a purse of $4 million. So, we get into the biggest turf race of the BC weekend, and we get two favorites, both from the barn of Charles Appleby! Rebel’s Romance (No. 5) is 3/1 and Nations Pride (No. 7) is 7/2. Rebel’s Romance switched to dirt four races back and has won all four. The last two wins have come in Germany, and he would be the first horse to win a BC race coming off a prep in German. Nations Pride has been here since early July and has three starts in the states. He has two wins and a second here. It’s also the same prep pattern 2021 Turf winner for Yabir who is out of the same barn. I actually like a runner here in Bill Mott’s War Like Goddess (No. 2). The horse is 9/2 and is 9-for-12 in her career. She is also 5-for-5 at the distance and has won both starts over the Keeneland course.
My play: Going with a win bet on War Like Goddess and hope we get all the 9/2 morning line.
Classic (2:40 p.m.): The Super Bowl of Super Bowl weekend for racing. This is what determines the best of the best and we might be seeing one of the all-time greats here. Flightline (No. 4) out of the John Sadler barn and ridden by Flavian Prat is 5-for-5 career and 6-lengths is the smallest margin of victory with the other four wins being double digits. His lowest Beyer mark is 105 in his debut, with his win in the Pacific Classic earning a hard to fathom 126 in his 19-length win. If you want to nitpick, he has only one start out of Southern California and that was 6-length win. While he likes to be on or near the lead, he may give it up to Life is Good (No. 2), a runner from the barn of Todd Pletcher. The winner of 9-of-11 starts, the horse would be one of the favorites in any other year. He has never trailed at any point in his nine wins. The HUGE question here is – can he handle the distance? He is 0-for-1 at the distance and most of his success has come in the sprints. He has shown capable in his last three route starts. Epicenter (No. 6) is the second favorite at 5-1 and did run second in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. After taking a break, came back to win the Jim Dandy and the Travers. Will stalk the pace and a pace he will have to run at! Rich Strike (No. 8) is the Kentucky Derby and as he showed in the Derby, he is fearless and will close from the parking lot. If enough of a speed duel develops up front it will be fun to watch the stretch run. Taiba (No. 1) is a nice horse and since Bob Baffert has gotten back into game, he has a first and a second. This just seems too big of a spot right now.
My play: It is going to be interesting to see how fast they go early and if it will set up for a big closing performance. On paper that sure looks logical, but then go back and watch the Pacific Classic. Flightline just kept running and looked like he could have gone 2-miles without slowing down. If he is one of the all-time greats, then we will find out today. Dumping cash on the win, but just really looking forward to watching the race.