Here are my thoughts on the nine Breeders’ Cup races for Saturday!
FILLY AND MARE SPRINT (11:55 a.m.): This race promises to get the day off to an exciting start. Covfefe (Joel Rosario, 2-1) is the morning line favorite, but there are some concerns regarding the rail draw. Trainer Brad Cox has been quick to point out that Covfefe is 2-for-2 from the rail and doesn’t think it will hinder the horse that has won five of seven starts, posting a 107 Beyer in his last start.
Come Dancing (Javier Castellano, 5-2) has won four of her last five starts, but the horse has never raced outside of New York. If there is a speed duel out front, it could be Come Dancing that benefits.
Covfefe figures to be out quick from the rail, but who is it that will go with her and keep her honest. Selcourt (Luis Saez, 10-1) and Danuska’s My Girl (Giovanni Franco, 20-1) are two that have shown a propensity to take to the lead. Heavenhasmynikki (Ricardo Santana, 20-1) is another that has shown speed, but this appears to be a step up.
Bellafina (Flavian Prat, 6-1) is one to watch despite not winning in her last three starts. One key fact stands out here – she is perfect in four starts at Santa Anita. I have seen it other Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita – horses that run well over the track are a force.
My picks: I am going to play a win bet on Bellafina, then put an exacta and trifecta box together with Covfefe and Come Dancing along with Bellafina.
TURF SPRINT (12:33 p.m.): Stormy Liberal (John Velazquez, 8-1) has won this race two years in a row but is not the favorite here. The horse has not won a race in six starts since this one last year and has been no better than third in his last four starts. But fans of the runner should rest in knowing that he won at 20-1 two years ago and 7-1 last season.
Eddie Haskell (Joel Rosario, 9-2) is the morning line favorite but is not a strong one for trainer Mark Glatt. The horse was second in his last two starts. He does have 12 starts over the turf course at Santa Anita and his hit the board in nine of them, winning three times.
Totally Boss (Jose Ortiz, 5-1) will go from the rail in the five-furlong sprint and has won two straight, but does have to go from the rail and only once in his last five races has he shown the ability to show early speed.
Pure Sensation (Paco Lopez, 5-1) draws my interest as the winner of four of his five starts. The last three starts have produced three 100-plus Beyer marks and the horse appears to be in good form.
One old timer trying to show he still has it will be Om (Manuel Franco, 15-1). The 7-year-old trained by Peter Miller has only one once in three starts this year but does have 13 starts over the track, winning for times.
My picks: Eddie Haskell and Pure Sensation in an exacta box.
DIRT MILE (1:10 p.m.): One of my most anticipated races of the day as the Mile brings out Omaha Beach (Mike Smith, 8-5). The horse would have been the favorite in the Kentucky Derby before getting hurt before the race. After some time on the shelf, the Richard Mandella runner came back with an impressive in a sprint stake at Santa Anita and has been drilling well since then.
Improbable (Rafael Bejarano, 3-1) is out of the Bob Baffert barn and has won his lone start over the track at Santa Anita is coming off a fourth in the Pennsylvania Derby as the betting favorite.
Mr. Money (Gabriel Saez, 6-1) was second in Pennsylvania and has won four of seven starts this year. Although he has no starts at Santa Anita he has raced and won over a number of tracks, so shipping should not be a problem.
My pick: Though there are 10 runners here, this is a one-horse race for me. My lone bet here will be a win wager on Omaha Beach.
FILLY AND MARE TURF (1:54 p.m.): twelve horses will take on the 1-1/4-mile race over the turf. Depending on who you talk to, this is a one-horse race or it’s wide open.
Sistercharlie (John Velazquez, 8-5) is the defending champion of the race and has won all three starts this year after taking some time off following the Breeders’ Cup last year. The winner of 10-of-14 starts has been turning in solid maintenance works and seems loaded.
There are only four North American-based horses in the race where the Europeans are always a force. Mirth (Mike Smith, 20-1), Vasilika (Flavian Prat, 8-1), and Miss Sippy (Joel Rosario, 8-1) carry the North American banner. Mirth may be the lone speed of the race since Thais scratched from the field.
Vasilika is saddled by Dan Ward with trainer Jerry Hollnderofer banned from running horses at Santa Anita. The horse is a solid play at a decent price given that she has won 11 of 12 starts on the turf at Santa Anita.
Fleeting (Ryan Moore, 6-1) is the best of the Aidan O’Brien barn here but has not won a race in her last seven races.
My picks: Win bet on Sistercharlie, exacta box with Vasilika.
SPRINT (2:36 p.m.): Hard not to love this race, much the same as loving the 100-meter dash in the Olympics.
So, who is the champion sprinter for this year?
Mitole (Ricardo Santana, 9-5) is your favorite and certainly has the credentials warrant the favorite role. The winner of 5-for-6 this year, the horse, that has been favored in the last 10 sprints. The lone race Mitole wasn’t favored was in the Metropolitan, a mile race at Belmont in June where he went out and beat McKinzie, the likely favorite in the Classic later today.
Catalina Cruiser (Joel Rosario, 4-1) won both of his career starts at Santa Anita and has won three straight, including the San Diego (a route race) and the Pat O’Brien (a sprint) at Del Mar this summer. Can go to the lead or sit off the pace.
Shancelot (Jose Ortiz, 4-1) comes from the Jorge Navarro barn and was second to Omaha Beach in a sprint stake at Santa Anita. The horse has had two monster works since that race and seems to be hitting on all cylinders heading into this one.
Imperial Hint (Javiar Castellano, 4-1) has won two straight and has posted over 100 Beyer marks in both races. The winner of 14 of 23 career starts keeps Castellano up for the third straight race.
My picks: This was tough to get the winner. I think any of the four that I mentioned have a legit shot to win here. Despite being the favorite, I think I will stay with Mitole based on that race where he beat McKinzie. I need to have Catalina Cruiser on my ticket with the success over the track. Let’s box with Mitole in the exacta.
MILE (3:20 p.m.): It certainly is easy to pick a European horse here and feel comfortable in doing so.
Circus Maximus (Ryan Moore, 3-1) is out of the Adian O’Brien barn and has won three of six starts this year and seems to be at his best in the mile races. But there some North American horses that can make a big showing here.
Uni (Joel Rosario, 7-2) is an intriguing as the connections paid the $100,000 supplemental nomination fee in early October after winning the First Lady at Keeneland. The horse will close from the clouds for trainer Chad Brown.
Got Stormy (Tyler Gaffalione, 7-2) is out of the Mark Casse barn, a trainer that has won this race twice in the last four years. The horse has been no worse than second in his last four starts but did get beat by El Tormenta in her last race when the horse was 44-1 in the Woodbine Mile.
Brown has another runner here and it is an interesting one in Without Parole (Irad Ortiz, 20-1). It’s not that there’s anything big in her recent resume but this is the first start for Brown which does pique my interest a bit.
My pick: Not big on the turf races, but the sake of the Breeders’ Cup I will make a win wager on Uni as the owners thought enough to shell out the $100,000 to enter the race.
DISTAFF (4 p.m.): One of the races where a majority are penciling in the winner as Midnight Bisou (Mike Smith, 6-5) certainly does appear the prohibitive favorite, both on the tote board and in her resume for trainer Steve Asmussen. She has won all seven starts this year and 12 of 18 in her career. She’s won three of four at Santa Anita, but this will be the first time back on the track in some time.
Paradise Woods (Abel Cedillo, 5-1) gets the services of Cedillo, who until recently had his tack in Northern California. She has won five times in 12 starts at Santa Anita including her last start in the Zenyatta.
Dunbar Road (Jose Ortiz, 6-1) will take some play for trainer Chad Brown, but did get beat by Blue Prize (Joe Bravo, 6-1) in the Spinster at Keeneland in their last start.
I will give some attention to a pair of Southern California runners in Secret Spice (John Velazquez, 10-1) and Ollie’s Candy (Joel Rosario, 15-1) for value plays. The horses ran second and third in the Zenyatta, with Secret Spice winning three of seven career starts over the dirt at Santa Anita. Ollie’s Candy got the best of Secret Service two back in the Hirsch at Del Mar before running third in the Zenyatta.
My pick: Midnight Bisou has done nothing but impress. There is my win bet and I will put her over Paradise Woods, Dunbar Road, Secret Spice, Blue Prize and Ollie’s Candy in the exacta and trifecta.
TURF (4:40 p.m.): This looks like a two-horse event with Bricks and Mortar (Irad Ortiz, 9-5) and Anthony Van Dyck (Ryan Moore, 3-1) and it’s the United States against Europe, which is an actual wagering option on this race.
Bricks and Mortar has won all five starts this year and 10 0f 12 in his career. He has been over 100 on Beyer marks the last six starts and has run the last five races at five different tracks for Chad Brown.
Anthony Van Dyck has won two of five races this year and with Aiden O’Brien as the trainer is a serious threat.
Old Persian (William Buick, 4-1) ran all of his races in Europe until coming over for the Northern Dancer at Woodbine, a race he won by two lengths.
My pick: Straight Bricks and Mortar on the win end here, plain and simple.
CLASSIC (5:44 p.m.): The big daddy of the weekend with a $6 million purse. Some have taken the race to task for not being as “classic” as in years gone by, but I am still excited for it!
McKinzie (Joel Rosario, 3-1) is the favorite in the race for trainer Bob Baffert. After laying an egg and running 12th in this race last year, he has been no worse than second in the next seven starts. The last race saw him run second as a huge favorite to Mongolian Groom (Abel Cedillo, 12-1) in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita. His last work was a quick five-furlong effort earlier this week and he looks ready to go.
Vino Rosso (Irad Ortiz, 4-1) has won two of five starts this year and was third in McKinzie’s win in the Whitney at Saratoga in early August.
Code of Honor (John Velazquez, 4-1) ran second to Vino Rosso on the track in the Jockey Club at Belmont but was put up when the winner was disqualified. Before that he won the Travers at Saratoga and the Dwyer at Belmont.
Elate (Jose Ortiz, 6-1) is a mare taking on the boys here and likes to come from off the pace much the same as Zenyatta, although not from as far off the pace. The last two starts were second place efforts to Midnight Bisou and Blue Prize, two of the runners in the Distaff.
Higher Power (Flavian Prat, 6-1) has three wins this year, but was a badly beaten third behind Mongolian Groom and McKinzie in the Awesome Again. He did have an impressive five-length win in the Pacific Classic this, but that in a weak field for the Grade I event.
Yoshida (Mike Smith, 8-1) is a popular runner that figures to be moving in the lane. He came charging in the Whitney beating Vino Rosso but was unable to catch McKinzie.
Two longshots I have always like are Owendale (Javier Castellano, 15-1) and War of Will (Tyler Gaffalione, 20-1).
Owendale has won four of seven starts this year and was third in the Preakness. He should be full of late run if he can get a good pace to run at here. War of Will was one of the central figures in the mess that was the Kentucky Derby this year and came back to win the Preakness before finishing ninth in the Belmont.
My picks: Thought about going a lot of different ways here, but finally settled on McKinzie on the win end with exacta and trifecta boxes with McKinzie, Vino Rosso, Code of Honor, Yoshida and Owendale. Financially, I would love to see Owendale pull the shocker over the others!
By Dennis Miller