Now we get serious with the second day of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup from Keeneland in Kentucky!
Nine championship races will take place Saturday, starting with the Filly and Mare Sprint at 9:02 a.m. and ending with the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at 2:18 p.m.
Following I take a run through all nine races!
Filly and Mare Sprint (9:02 a.m.): Arguably the top 3-year-old filly runs here in Gamine. The 7/5 morning line favorite opted for this spot over the Distaff and Swiss Skydiver. Some may say she is ducking the Preakness winner, but I think her future is a sprinter and maybe topping out at a mile. The Bob Baffert runner has taken 3-of-5 starts, including back-to-back wins in the Acorn and the Test. The Acorn was an 18-length win where she earned a 110 Beyer. In the Test saw her cross the line 7-lengths ahead of the field and putting a 108 Beyer on her resume. She set the pace in the Kentucky Oaks before being passed by two in the lane – one being Swiss Skydiver. She’s been off since the Oaks but has been drilling very well and is reunited with regular jockey John Velazquez. She does face older horses for the first time, but she is the one to beat.
Serengeti Empress is your 3-1 second choice for trainer Thomas Amoss and jockey Luis Saez. She was third in the Distaff last year and has opted for route races until her staying power became an issue. Two back she went to 7-furlong Sprints and has been first and second.
Bell’s the One came from the clouds to run down Serengeti Empress in the Derby City Distaff. A true sprinter that likes to come off the pace, this Neil Pessin runner should have some pace to run at in this spot. Does have seven wins in 14 starts.
Speech breaks from the rail for Michael McCarthy and is also 6-1. Javier Castellano returns for the ride for the third straight start. She prefers to stalk the pace and her last start was a fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. She has finished behind Swiss Skydiver twice and Gamine once so success here would be a big step up.
Inthemidstofbiz would have been a pace impact here but has scratched out of the race.
Turf Sprint (9:30 a.m.): Figures to be one of the better value plays on the card as the two, morning line favorite is 7-2, with two more at 4-1 and there are some good-looking entries at 12-1 or higher in the 14-horse field.
With this size field, it will pay to be on or close to the lead. Any deep closers may have too much work to do to get through the mass of runners.
Got Stormy is the 7/2 shot for trainer Mark Casse and jockey Tyler Gaffalione. The owner of three straight 100-plus Beyer figures, the horse had been running routes until her last two starts. She is coming off a win in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County at Keeneland.
Imprimis is one of the 4-1 horses for trainer Joseph Orseno and jockey Irad Ortiz. The 6-year-old has won his last two starts and was awarded Beyer marks of 101 and 102. The last start came in the Turf Sprint Stakes at Kentucky Downs. He was a lukewarm 3-1 favorite that day and used his traditional closing style to just get up for the win. I expect him to try to sit closer to the lead here.
Leinster is the other 4-1 shot and is coming off a win in the Woodford, over the same Keeneland surface on October 3. A true sprinter, he was back to back 100-plus finishes. George Arnold is the trainer and Luis Saez has the mount for the second straight start.
California invader Big Runner sits at 12-1, but Victor Garcia trained horse has turned in a recent pair of quality wins as he stepped into stakes company in his sixth career start. The last was a win in the Eddie D at Santa Anita in a front running ride under former Northern California jockey Juan Hernandez. Another step up, but with a strong showing off speed from the rail, he could play a big role here.
I think you would have to be nuts to leave out a Chad Brown horse in a turf race, so that makes Front Run the Fed a viable contender that starts at 12-1. In his last start he was in a dead heat for second, a neck back from Imprimis in the Turf Sprint Stakes at Keeneland. The 101 Beyer that day makes him a contender here with Javier Castellano up again.
Bombard was the pace setter in the Turf Sprint Stakes before getting caught in the final strides by Imprimis and Front Run the Fed. Richard Mandella is the trainer and Flavian Prat has the ride on the 15-1 horse that has primarily been running in Southern California before shipping back to Kentucky before his last start. He has shown he can sit right off the lead as well.
If you like Got Stormy, then you must take a look at Into Mystic, a 12-1 horse that lost by a neck to Got Stormy in their last start. Brendan Walsh trains and Joe Talamo rides the horse that has a great style here, sitting not far off the pace then closing like a champ. If she has a clear path in the lane, she could be picking them off late!
Dirt Mile (10:18 a.m.): Always one of my favorite races on the BC card and this year is no exception.
Complexity is the 2-1 favorite for trainer Chad Brown and jockey Jose Ortiz. He has won all three starts at the distance and is coming off a sizzling win in the Kelso when he won as the heavy favorite by almost three lengths and posted a 110 Beyer. He doesn’t need the lead but will be very close if not the one setting the pace.
Knicks Go is just back at 7/2 for Brad Cox and Joel Rosario. After ending last year in a series of stakes races, he came back this year easily winning a pair of optional claimers, the last by over 10 lengths at Keeneland. Now he’s back in a Grade 1 for the first time since November of 2018 when he was second in the BC Juvenile. Really wants the lead and will be pace factor here.
Art Collector was going to be one of the favorites in the Kentucky Derby this before scratching out. He took four straight leading up to the Derby, including the Blue Grass, with the last three garnering 100-plus Beyer marks. He came back with a mediocre 4th in the Preakness running evenly but disappointing. Thomas Drury is the trainer and does hit as 23 percent with second off runners. Brian Hernandez, who has ridden the last seven starts is back again. At 6-1 and breaking from the rail he might be an interesting bet.
Mr. Freeze comes in at 6-1 for trainer Dale Romans and jockey Manny Franco. His last start was a win as the favorite in the Fayette at Keeneland. He has shown different running styles and is one I will look elsewhere.
Sharp Samurai might be a great value at 15-1 for Mark Glatt. He’s been largely a turf horse with 18 of 22 starts coming on the grass in Southern California running in nothing but graded races since July of 2018. He did finish second behind Maximum Security in the Pacific Classic this year on the dirt. There is cause for pause given most of his starts have been on the turf, as well as Irad Ortiz up for the first time, but if it’s a big value play you are looking for, this may be your horse, especially in exotics.
War of Will out of the Mark Casse barn, was the horse most interfered with in the 2019 Kentucky Derby as he was starting to wind up before being forced out and checking leading to an 8th place finish. He has found a level of consistency in turf mile races, but now will be running in his first dirt mile and comes in at 10-1. Tyler Gaffalione, who rode the horse in the Derby, is back up.
Rushie (20-1) is a Michael McCarthy runner that a few had on their Derby lists this year before not getting into the field. Third-place finishes in the Santa Anita Derby and the Blue Grass got him close, but he ended up in the Pat Day Mile on Derby Day. He won the race convincingly and retains the service of Javier Castellano for this one.
One final horse I must at it is a personal favorite of mine in Owendale. Brad Cox trains the 8-1 shot. In April of 2019 he took the Lexington at Keeneland at 13-1 and I became a fan of his late running style. From there he’s been up and down but with the last two starts being strong second place finishes, he seems to have found his stride. He is 2-for-2 at the distance and does have a win over the Keeneland surface.
Filly and Mare Turf (10:57 a.m.): Turf trainer supreme Chad Brown will send out four runners in the 14-horse field, including the 5/2 favorite Rushing Fall. Ridden by Javier Castellano, the horse has run off wins in all three starts this year and has won 11-of-14 career starts – all on the grass. Her front-end running style has produced three100-plus Beyer marks this year, including a win in the Grade I Jenny Wiley on the turf course at Keeneland. Castellano has been up for all 14 mounts and says the horse is one of the best filly/mares he has ridden.
Mean Mary (7/2) figures to have something to say about the outcome after just losing by a neck after a thrilling stretch run against Rushing Fall in the Diana at Saratoga. The two were the favorites that day and will be again here. Will want the lead and it will guarantee a good, quick pace. Graham Motion is the trainer and regular rider Luis Saez is up for the mount.
Sistercharlie was the third-place runner in the Diana and is another Brown runner. She can run late but just have enough to run down the top two who have shown they can hold their speed. John Velazquez has been up for all 17 starts and is back here.
As is the case with any BC Turf race, there are European shippers, and this race has four. Only one – Cayenne Pepper -is in single digits 8-1. The trainer is J Harrington and the jockey is Shane Foley. The horse does appear to prefer sitting close to the lead and coming on late. She has run several long races so the distance will not be a problem.
Sprint (11:36 a.m.): Here we go with the speedsters! Always love the sprint as these horses get up and go!
With the loss of Vekoma as a scratch, the race will be without one of the favorites.
The two-cofavorites at 7/2 are CZ Rocket and Yaupon but expect the two to drop in price with the defection of Vekoma.
CZ Rocket is out the Peter Miller barn has gone from an average route runner to a legit threat as a sprinter. He has won his last five with all coming from off the pace. It’s pretty much always assured there will be pace to run at in the Sprint. Luis Saez has the mount.
Steve Asmussen trains Yaupon, a winner of all four career starts. Joel Rosario, who had the middle two races for the horse, is back up. While CZ Rocket comes from off the pace, Yaupon will be setting the pace as he has wired the field in his last three starts.
Firenze Fire (8-1) was one the Derby trail in 2018 but has since reinvented himself as a sprinter. He has won 6-of-11 starts at the distance for trainer Kelly Breen, including the Vosburgh, clearing the field by almost three lengths, earning a 101 Beyer mark. His only bad starts in his last five races have both come on sloppy tracks.
Diamond Oops (8-1) – a Patrick Biancone runner has won his last two starts, both with Florent Geroux in the saddle. He prefers to sit just off the pace and make his move at the end. He’ll need to contend with more speed here than he has faced before so the challenge will be the effort needed to stay close to the pace.
Frank’s Rockette (10-1) has won four straight and 5-of-6 this year for trainer Bill Mott. The horse has been favored in all 10 career starts and gets Junior Alvarado in the irons, a place he’s been for the last two races. He will also be on or near the lead, insuring the fast pace.
Whitmore (15-1) is a 7-year-old that seems to live by the Toby Keith lyrics, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” Trainer Ron Moquette keeps the horse ready and while the wins as further spaced out, the winner of 14 races and over $3 million is still capable of pulling out a big one. Irad Ortiz adds to the appeal of the horse.
Mile (12:15 p.m.): My least favorite race of the Breeders’ Cup because of the heavy influence of European horses which are harder to gauge as they ship over for this race. Of the 14-horse field there are six European horses. Chad Brown, the top turf trainers in the United States, will send three horses out to battle the European contingent.
Ivar (4-1) is a Brazilian horse that has been the United States this year and has four starts in the country, including the last two at the mile distance over the Keeneland track for trainer Paulo Lopo. Those produced a win in his last start, with jockey Joe Talamo up in the Shadwell Turf Mil, earning a 104 Beyer in the process.
Uni (5-1) is Brown’s top runner on paper and is also coming off a graded stakes win at Keeneland. In the First Lady he sat just off the pace then charged home for the win under Joel Rosario, who will be back up here!
Kameko (6-1) is the top Euro entry for trainer Andrew Balding and jockey Oisin Murphy. The winner of 2-of-5 starts this year he seems to prefer coming off the pace, but you will never know how they react to the American turf courses.
Distaff (12:54 p.m.): Always one of my favorite races as the best Fillies and Mares take Monomoy Girl (8/5) is the deserved favorite as all she does is win races for trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux. This year she is perfect in three starts and has won her last 10 starts dating back to 2018. She is perfect at the distance and can run on the lead or site just off the pace.
While it may seem like a tall order to take on Monomoy Girl, Swiss Skydiver (2-1) is loaded in talent. The 3-year-old will be taking on older horses for the first time, but she has taking on the boys in the Preakness and came away with the win. She also took on the boys in the Blue Grass but finished second. Kenneth McPeak has done a wonderful job conditioning her and jockey Robby Albarado picked up the mount in the Preakness and earned the right to fire back here.
Honestly, it’s hard to imagine any other horse winning this race, but for the sake of discussion, I will list the only other horse in the 10-horse field that is in single digit odds.
Horologist (8-1) rounds out your third favorite. She was third to Monomoy Girl two back, but it was a distant third. Bill Mott is the trainer and Junior Alvarado is the trainer.
Turf (1:33 p.m.): There are six Europeans in the 10-horse field, so it will be another race I will not be playing.
Magical (5/2) is the favorite for the dynamic duo of trainer Aiden O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore. The horse has won three of five starts this year.
Arklow and Channel Maker are both 5-1 and are the top American runners in the field. Arklow has won of five starts this year, but it did come in his last start for trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geraux.
Channel Maker is trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Manny Franco. He has won his last two starts, both Grade I affairs and has to be a threat here.
Classic (2:18 p.m.): The big daddy of the day will see 10 horses go to post in the $6 million final race of the Breeders’ Cup.
Improbable is the 5/2 favorite and one of three Bob Baffert horses in the race. Irad Ortiz, who had the mount two back when he won the Whitney. His style is to sit close to the front and hope to overpower all in the lane. The horse has won three-of-four starts this year.
Tiz the Law (3-1) is the second choice and was the popular Triple Crown favorite in this crazy year. He did his part for trainer Barclay Tagg, winning the Belmont Stakes, the first leg this year, then came back to easily win the Travers. He went into the Derby as the overwhelming favorite, but was beaten by Authentic, another horse entered here.
Maximum Security (7/2) is the third choice and the Kentucky Derby winner of 2019 that was disqualified and placed 17th. He came back and won four of his next five starts before being shipped out of the Jason Servis barn and over the Baffert. He won his first two races for Baffert – the San Diego and the Pacific Classic – before falling to Improbable in the Awesome Again. Luis Saez has the mount.
Tom’s d’Etat (6-1) is a horse that has drawn interest throughout the year until he was third in the Whitney in his last start. Albert Stall is your trainer and Joel Rosario is the jockey for the horse that prefers to be a closer.
By Dennis Miller