Breeders' Cup 2014

In his latest blog, Paul Quiqley looks at the seven champions that are set to defend their crowns at Santa Anita and gives his views on the early ante-post market for the Classic.

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Cup Countdown

21 October 2013

Some like the Breeders’ Cup for the class competition and others the international rivalry. Although those aspects are appealing, for me it’s the betting that is primary.

Those two days at Santa Anita will provide decent sized fields and many contentious contests. You would think with all the national and international form out there, the markets won’t have many kinks in them but that is often not the case. The betting public gravitate to certain horses sometimes making a marginal contender into an overbet favourite.

In contrast, the other feature of these big race days in America is how many true 50/1 and bigger shots, go off at 10 or 12/1. That can only help the price of the leading players.

There may be as many as seven Breeders’ Cup champions back to defend their crowns this year. It will be interesting to know how the market shapes up in some of those races. With the big event less than a fortnight away, are any of them worth backing ante-post? Conversely, are any too short in the betting?

At first glance, US Horse of the Year Wise Dan looks as good as ever. He was 5 for 5 in 2013 until losing to Silver Max on Polytrack at Keeneland. The surface shouldn’t have been an excuse although the front-running winner may have been suited by the wet track. The problem with his victories is he’s frightened off most of the competition all year. The last two horses he beat Za Approval and King Kreesa won their next starts, both stakes at Belmont.

Not many layers have priced up the Mile but Dan is around even money and he makes no appeal at that price at this time. Memo to self: re-assess and look nearer the time when the field has been finalised.

The Classic may be more tempting from an ante-post point of view. Fort Larned is 10/1 to repeat his 2012 success. He is very talented but does run the odd stinker.

His trainer Ian Wilkes found an easy race for him in September and he’s had a light campaign. Last year, he was well beaten in his prep and still went off a lower price than you can get now.

Fort Larned is not the only Classic contender with some upside right now. Game On Dude has been at his brilliant best all year. In fact, he’s not lost since being the beaten favourite behind Fort Larned in last year’s event. He’s 4/1 and that’s about borderline to my way of thinking. That’s not the case with the half a length runner-up Mucho Macho Man. He’s squarely priced at 8/1. The five-year-old looks to have been trained for this race and is peaking at the right time. If they go fast, he can sit off a duel. If they go evenly, he has the tactical speed to stay close.

One final point about the Classic: if you shop around, it’s just a shade over even money the front six in the betting coupled. If I was to pick, I’d much prefer that sextet than the field. If you want to firm it up add in a few 16/1 chances and you’d have the race locked up at about 4/7. Food for thought?

What about Royal Delta and her Breeders’ Cup three-peat attempt. Her trainer Bill Mott knows how to get her to peak on the day. You don’t win back to back Ladies’ Classics by accident. Her Distaff credentials are obvious but she was beaten on the square by Princess Of Sylmar in the Beldame. Now she is likely to meet that filly and a couple of other top class three-year-olds in Beholder and Close Hatches. Add in the consistent Authenticity and she has plenty of opposition. At present, Princess of Sylmar isn’t even quoted in most lists. That’s probably due to her connections changing their mind about her participation. If she goes to post favourite, it won’t be the biggest shock in the world. Neither will it be if she beats Royal Delta and the rest.

It will be interesting to see what price Filly and Mare Sprint champion Groupie Doll is when the market is formed. Her last race at Keeneland would have earned no more than a C minus grade. She may be worth another chance but a lot will depend on the odds whether she’s a play or stand against.

In the Breeders’ Cup Turf, it may be a filly that is Little Mike’s biggest danger of a double up. The Fugue could take on her own sex over shorter at Santa Anita but the signs are that connections fancy the twelve furlong event. Although The Fugue is entitled to be at the head the market, Little Mike shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s taken a while to find his form this year but he impressed at Belmont in his final prep. The six-year-old has an adaptable running style and obviously handles the Santa Anita turf track. Although many of his rivals didn’t run their best last year, Little Mike did beat a deep field. He’s 7/1 which even if The Fugue takes her chance is pretty acceptable.

Defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Trinniberg disappointed in his final race before Santa Anita. He’s bounced back from a stinker before and worked a swift four furlongs at Santa Anita recently. Maybe don’t get out the red pencil out just yet. He’ll have plenty of other early speed to deal with but he did that well enough last year.

Reigning Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection hasn’t raced since trying a mile in a Grade 1 at Belmont in June. On the face of it, that wouldn’t seem an ideal preparation but it is worth bearing in mind that she was successful last year off an even longer lay-off. The reports from the morning work watchers in California are very positive. She has to be on or near the top of the list of contenders in a grab-bag of a race.    

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