Two days. 14 races. $31 million in purses. It can only mean one thing – it’s Breeders’ Cup time!
It all goes down starting Friday at Keeneland, with five races on what has become “Future Stars Friday,” where all five races feature 2-year-old runners. Saturday brings nine championship races to the table, topped off by the Breeders’ Cup Classic, bring the best dirt horses from around the world together.
Friday kicks off at 11:30 a.m. with the Juvenile Turf Sprint, and ends with the Juvenile at 2:15 p.m.
Saturday the action starts with the Filly and Mare Sprint at 9:02 a.m., with the $6 million Classic ending the day at 2:18 p.m.
I will break down each of the 14 races, starting today with the future stars!
Juvenile Turf Sprint (11:30 a.m.): There are 14 runners set to go here in this 5.5-furlong sprint over the grass. Trainer Wesley Ward has four horses in the race, including the 8/5 favorite Golden Pal, who drew the No. 14 post. The horse has won one of his three career starts; an impressive three-length win in in the Skidmore at Saratoga in late August. The horse is all speed and retains the services of Irad Ortiz.
I like Bodenheimer, a 10-1 morning line runner trained by Valorie Lund and ridden by Brian Hernandez. The horse has won three of four starts, including his last start, one that came over the Keeneland surface he’ll be running on here. It was a wire-to-wire score and his 82 Beyer trails only Golden Pal’s 92.
One other interesting speedster is Into the Sunrise, a 15-1 shot trained by Ward. What makes the choice appealing is the horse is dropping back into a sprint from a route effort in his last start. Rafael Bejarano is back up here after setting the early pace before finishing fourth. It is a solid move by the barn and one that could the key for the proverbial “other Ward horse.”
There are at least five speed horses here, guaranteeing what should be a quick pace, meaning finding a quality closer could be your winning pick. Second of July, a Philip Gleaves trained horse, is 8-1 and draws Dylan Davis for the ride. The horse has a pair of wins in two starts, both of which came in closing style. The last came Oct. 14 in the Futurity at Belmont Park, a race where he flew home four-wide, beating a pair of horses that are also entered here.
Northern California trainer Jonathon Wong sends out Windy City Red (20-1) here and appears to have some late run as well.
Juvenile Turf (12:10 p.m.): There are 14 entered here, with seven being shipped across the pond from Europe, a regular occurrence for the turf races in the Breeders’ Cup.
The race is set for one mile on the grass and with half the field coming from overseas, it can be tough to get a good feel for the race. That’s the case here as Mutasaabeq is the lukewarm morning line favorite at 5-1.
In his last start the Todd Pletcher trained horse charged down the lane, rallying from dead last early before going five-wide turning for home to get the win Luis Saez returns for the ride.
Cadillac and Battleground are the two European runners at 6-1 as your second choices. Battleground comes from the barn of Aiden O’Brien and draws the services Ryan Moore. Cadillac is trained by J Harrington and has Shane Foley with the ride.
I am intrigued by Outadore, a Ward trained horse that comes in at 8-1 and has Jose Ortiz riding. He has won both starts and stretches from a sprint to the mile distance. Ortiz has been up for both starts – both wins and we should see a stalking trip. The key is will have much juice when they turn for home. He’s looked strong at the end of both sprints, so I think he warrants a good look here.
Juvenile Fillies (1:50 p.m.): The winner here becomes the early favorite for the Kentucky Oaks next year!
The morning line favorite is Princess Noor, a Bob Baffert horse that comes in at 8/5. Three starts, three wins, and all three with Victor Espinoza as the pilot. The horse has shown the preferred style as a stalking one, sitting just off the pace and pouncing in the lane.
There are a pair of horses at 5/2, the co-second choices and both look strong. Simply Ravishing, out of the Kenneth McPeak barn has won all three of her starts and has gotten better in each. Luis Saez is up again and is coming off a six-length win in the Alcibiades over the Keeneland surface and the same distance.
Dayoutoftheoffice is the other co-second choice and is also a perfect 3-for-3 and getting better each start. The Timothy Hamm trained horse is coming off as smashing win the Frizzette at Belmont Park in early October, earning a Beyer of 95, the best Beyer mark in the field. This another that prefers to set or push the pace.
With the three front runners all preferring to be on or near the lead, it could set up a closer and with only seven horses in the field, there won’t be a lot of traffic to contend with here.
Crazy Beautiful, another McPeek entry, has shown to be able to come from well back to figure in the outcome. In her last two starts, the horse has finished second, but she was no match for Simply Ravishing in the Alcibiades. Still, she was the favorite in the race before losing and this does figure to be race with a strong pace so she may be worth a shot.
Juvenile Fillies Turf (1:30 p.m.): A field of 14 will go to post in the one-mile race, with four of the horses from Europe. Aunt Pearl is an Irish horse but has run and won both of her starts in the United States. The morning line favorite at 3-1 is conditioned by Brad Cox and will be ridden by Florent Geroux.
The winner of both starts, the last of which came at Keeneland in a longer distance makes Aunt Pearl look strong here. In the last – the Jessamine – she wired the field and picked up an 83 Beyer, the best in the field.
Plum Ali and Campanella are both 4-1. Plum Ali is trained by Christophe Clement and will be ridden by Joel Rosario. The winner of all three starts, the last being the Miss Grillo at Belmont where she stalked the pace, then pulled away in the lane to be by over two lengths, earning an 82 Beyer in the process.
Campanella is another Irish horse that won her first start at Gulfstream before being shipped over to Europe where she won her next two starts. Ward is the trainer and he’s been successful with his turf runners running well in Europe. In addition, he gets Frankie Dettori in the irons.
Juvenile (2:15 p.m.): The big race of the day almost always establishes the early favorite for the next Kentucky Derby.
Jackie’s Warrior is the 7/5 morning line favorite for the 14-horse field and has won all four of his starts. The last was sensational 5-length win in the Champagne at Belmont, earning a 100 Beyer figure for trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Rosario.
Essential Quality is your second choice at 4-1 for Cox, with Saez back up for the second straight race. The winner of both starts and the betting favorite, this is a horse that likes to sit back and make a late run. With at least seven speed horses entered, a late runner could be a great choice.
Reinvestment Risk is 9/2 for trainer Chad Brown and jockey Irad Ortiz. The horse has two seconds and a win, earning 90 Beyer marks or better in all three races. The last start his second would have won most races, but he ran into Jackie’s Warrior in the Champagne. Part of the speed brigade expect him to be pushing the pace.
One longshot that draws my interest is the rail horse Camp Hope at 30-1. There is plenty to be concerned about such as this is just his second start and it’s a big step up in class. But except for two horses, every runner in the race has three career starts or less. Drawing the rail makes it easy for jockey Robby Albarado to take the horse back and save ground. It’s a treat to see a McPeek horse come out with 30-1 odds.
By Dennis Miller