This is one of the key weekends of preparation for the Breeders’ Cup – if you’re planning on betting and watching the Cup, this is a good night to stay up late and watch all the preps. And there should be some good wagering opportunities as well. Let’s dive in.
Friday’s Race 8 at Keeneland (10:05) is the Grade 2 Phoenix, a Win-and-You’re-In race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. I like the tough old boy #3 WHITMORE in this spot. There is plenty of pace to set up his late run and as for what happened last time, I think he just didn’t handle that particular surface. It’s true he’d run just fine on off going in the past, but that was proper slop. The form of the previous race is strong. Volatile was the antepost favorite for the BC Sprint before his retirement was announced recently. Here’s hoping that the ugly last running line leads to a bit of a price on Whitmore.
The Win-and-You’re-In action continues in Friday’s Race 9 (5:40), the Grade 1 Alcibiades where the two-year-old fillies take center stage for this important prep for the BC Juvenile Fillies.
I’m having trouble picking between the two I like in this spot and I’m not quite ready to commit to one or the other. Let’s see what the prices are. But whichever one I end up backing I will play a small reverse forecast as well. These are both talented runners I could see making an impact at the Breeders’ Cup if they continue to develop the way I think they will.
#2 TRAVEL COLUMN looks the clear speed on the stretchout. I like that Brad Cox trainees typically improve second out. On breeding, the distance should be her friend and the recent works look good.
I am also inclined to use #4 CRAZY BEAUTIFUL. That was a tough trip last time, against a speed favoring flow and with trouble – she was blocked at a critical stage and showed the courage to run on anyway.
Moving on to Saturday we’ve got the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes, a Win-and-You’re-In for the biggest of the big ones, the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Earlier this week, I wrote a runner-by-runner guide for the race and you can read that here. The short version is that while I respect Authentic and he’s a likely winner, I don’t see much between him and #3 ART COLLECTOR. The latter has worked forwardly since a minor incident forced him to miss the Derby and I think he looks a likely winner who can possibly shake up the three-year-old championship picture – which once looked like a certainty for Tiz the Law – even more.
Back at Keeneland, there are four more WAYI races, starting with the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (Race 7, 9:18), whose winner will receive an expenses-paid birth to the Filly & Mare Sprint.
As much I like turf route form shipping west, I also like dirt sprint form shipping east. That angle leads us to #1 SNEAKING OUT, who has established herself as the leader of her division in California. She’s got a push-button look and has been working lights out, adding to the appeal.
Race 8 (9:51) is the Grade 1 First Lady, a WAYI race for the Filly & Mare Turf, though it’s also a potentially important prep for the Mile, and last year’s Mile winner, Uni, lines up here. That one has to prove that she’s headed back in the right direction form wise before I back her again.
We don’t have prices yet but I’m inclined to say that Uni’s stablemate #4 NEWSPAPEROFRECORD would be worth trying at even money. She looks loose and lonely on the lead and should put that tactical advantage to good use. Granted the same thing was true last time and Beau Recall, who re-opposes here, ran her down fair and square. It’s a fascinating contest, but perhaps more of one to watch than to wager on.
Keeneland’s ninth race on Saturday is the Breeders’ Futurity (10:24), a WAYI race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. On the day of #7 CALIBRATE’s maiden win, I said aloud, “I think I know who I’ll be betting in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.” That’s how impressive he was visually, and the race came out OK on the clock as well. He’s worked well since (with Preakness runner Pneumatic at one point) and Asmussen runners typically come on for the run. I’m interested in betting him here and in the 11-1 currently available for him in the BC Juvenile itself.
The tenth race is the Shadwell Turf Mile (10:57), a WAYI race for (yes, you guessed it) the Breeders’ Cup Mile. I think #9 PARLOR is an interesting item for trainer Mike Maker. It’s exceedingly difficult to run well over Kentucky Downs’ testing turf course off a layoff, and I thought he acquitted himself admirably. I think he almost has to move up with that race behind him, he fits on previous form and figures, and this race should be run to suit. With many interesting runners signed on, including four from the Chad Brown barn, he should be a nice price as well.
For our final WAYI race of Saturday, let’s head east and north to beautiful Belmont Park where the Grade 1 Belmont Derby (Race 9, 10:06) will send its winner to the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
I’m going to go for one at a big price as an each-way play in this spot and that’s #1 NO WORD, a horse I have been following closely since his debut run. The 10-furlong distance suits him and he wasn’t beaten far the last day – won’t take much for him to reverse form with the two who beat him there, and he should be a significantly better price. I also like that he’s worked well since, especially the recent bullet five-furlong move at Saratoga. No prices available yet but this would be a strong play at 6-1.