These next two weekends are thrilling for Breeders’ Cup fans because most of the runners we’ll see over November 1-2 at Santa Anita will be making their final starts before the big event.
Action this weekend kicks off early on Friday, with Santa Anita hosting a brace a G1s for 2-year-olds, both of which are likely to have major implications when it comes to the Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile respectively.
Let’s start off by looking at the Chandelier (11:10pm) from Santa Anita. BAST looks a likely short-priced winner for Bob Baffert. She as imperious in victory last time in a Grade 1 and this added distance should be well within her scope.
There is a little case to be made for Leucothea as well – she raced on a dead rail last time and the speed figure two back is the best in the field. However, it was earned against maiden claimers and I have questions about the distance for her. My gut says Bast just rolls.
Later on the card, for the real night owls in the audience we have the American Pharoah (12:40). I’ve got two appealing notes from SHOPLIFTED’s runs so far. On debut, he impressed me before, during and after the race and I noted that he looked like one who’d run farther.
Last time out he didn’t enjoy the wet surface – you could see him spinning his wheels – and he still ran well. I think the sky is the limit for this one and he’ll represent value with Eight Rings (a contender, but not at an appealing price) taking lots of cash.
Watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November.
SATURDAY: NEW YORK
In the G1 Vosburgh (7:35) I’ll try FIRENZE FIRE to upset Imperial Hint, who will be an odds-on favorite here. Firenze Fire had excuses for his races two and three back as he was running on the wrong parts of biased surfaces.
Last time he showed he still has it, and while Imperial Hint dusted him that day, that rival had a lot of advantages, namely that his likely chief pace rival Mitole was stuck on the rail and had a horror trip.
I believe this time around Promises Fulfilled will show enough to make Imperial Hint work harder early and that things could set up for Firenze Fire. I will back him up with a one-way forecast Imperial Hint – Firenze Fire in case Hint runs back to the last race. If he does, the rest are running for second.
The G1 Beldame (9:43) should turn into the MIDNIGHT BISOU show. She towers over them on form and figures and I don’t have a lot interesting to say about the race. I hope she wins well and we can maybe take her on next time in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
That may prove to be a fool’s errand, but I feel obligated to try.
There are two horses I really like in the G3 Pilgrim (10:16), a race I think could be a key prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
My top pick is OUR COUNTRY who had a rough trip last time, getting lit up after stumbling. Even after that he settled a bit and finished his race. There is immense talent here – he flew home in his maiden win without the benefit of a pace setup and ran numbers that could drown this field.
I do think that NO WORD should go right on improving for Todd Pletcher and he’s the other I’ll bet in this spot. In the paddock before his first race I noted that he was a great type but could have looked fitter to my eye. He won easily anyway. If he comes on for that run he could be dangerous here.
The featured race is the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and it’s a short field but a great race nonetheless, with two of the top ranked three-year-olds taking on two tough older horses.
I’m sticking with TACITUS, a horse I believe has gotten a bad rap. A lot of sharp horseplayers think he’s made his own trouble, I think he’s just been unlucky. I think this is the spot where he puts it all together.
In the G2 John Henry (11:38), the local prep for the BC Turf, I’m going to give GRECIAN FIRE a try at what should be a square price. He’s improved immensely for his new barn, gets Mike Smith back aboard, and just needs to prove he can see out the trip. His damsire, Kitten’s Joy, provides some reason for optimism.
The G1 Rodeo Drive (12:41) could supply the Filly and Mare Turf with a runner or two. I’m going to try a pace play in here with MIRTH, who I could see drifting to a double-digit price despite having a potential pace advantage.
She doesn’t really fit on numbers but the inside draw and presence of Mike Smith could lead her to be alone on the lead for a long time. If there were back-to-lay bets in American racing, she’d be a good one, but I think she’s worth a small flyer anyway, especially if the price goes above the 6-1 of the USA morning line – and it really should.
I don’t really think the latter can lose based on his body of work, affinity for the distance, and the tremendous way he’s been working. The 4-5 of the Morning Line would be a sure bet, and a big one, and I’d probably stick with him as low as 1-2.
If that’s too low for you, an alternative might be backing him now for the Classic – there’s plenty of 4-1 around and even one outlier book at 5-1. I think he’ll be shortening significantly come Sunday morning.