by Jon White
November 2, 2017
$1 MILLION BREEDERS’ CUP JUVENILE FILLIES TURF (FRIDAY)
Selections: (1) Rushing Fall, (2) Happily, (3) September
Good Price Play: Fatale Bere (15-1 on the official Breeders’ Cup morning line)
Rushing Fall (7-2 ML) is two for two, with Beyer Speed Figures of 85 in her debut victory and 84 in the Grade III Jessamine at Keeneland. She’s coming into this race with better Beyers than Lady Eli when she won the 2014 BC Juvenile Fillies for the same trainer, Chad Brown. Lady Eli also was two for two going into the BC Juvenile Fillies, with Beyers of 72 and 78. Considering the Beyer situation, I think Rushing Fall has a very good chance to give Brown his fourth BC Juvenile Fillies victory. Brown won this race in 2008 with Maram and 2016 with New Money Honey in addition to Lady Eli.
Happily (9-2 ML) beat the boys in the Group I Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere in France, her fourth victory in her last five starts. She is a two-time Group I winner. She also won the Group I Moyglare Stud Stakes in Ireland. Happily certainly is quite capable of giving record-breaking Aidan O’Brien his first BC Juvenile Fillies victory. O’Brien already has broken the late Bobby Frankel’s world record for most Grade/Group I wins in one year. O’Brien registered his 26th Grade/Group I win when Saxon Warrior captured the Group I Racing Post Trophy in England on Oct. 28. Frankel’s record of 25 had stood since 2003.
September (6-1 ML) is another contender in this race for O’Brien. September had a troubled trip and still lost by just a nose when second in a Group I race in England on Oct. 13. However, keep in mind Happily has defeated September both times they have met.
While Capla Temptress is not a huge price on the morning line at 6-1, I think she is very live at whatever her price she ends up being. I was going to make her my “good price play,” but have opted instead for Fatale Bere because she is a much bigger price on the morning line at 15-1.
Capla Temptress looked good when victorious in the Grade I Natalma on the turf Sept. 17 at Woodbine after winning two of three in England. Dixie Moon and Wonder Gadot finished second and third in the Natalma. Capla Temptress’ Natalma performance looks even better now in light of what has happened since that race. Dixie Moon won the Cup and Saucer on the grass Oct. 8 at Woodbine Wonder Gadot won the Grade III Mazarine on synthetic footing Oct. 7 at Woodbine.
Fatale Bere rallied from 10th to take the Surfer Girl at Santa Anita on Oct. 9 after winning two of three in France. As I said Tuesday on Steve Byk’s radio show “At the Races,” I think Hall of Famer Desormeaux not only is currently at the top of his game, he always has ridden particularly well at Del Mar. I believe Desormeaux is someone to pay attention to at this year’s Breeders’ Cup, especially when he rides a longshot like Fatale Bere.
$1 MILLION DIRT MILE (FRIDAY)
Selections: (1) Sharp Azteca, (2) Mor Spirit, (3) Accelerate
Good Price Play: Battle of Midway (10-1 ML)
Sharp Azteca (9-2 ML) was no match for Mor Spirit in the Grade I Met Mile on June 10 at Belmont Park. Mor Spirit had to settle for second when Mor Spirit won the Met Mile by 6 1/4 lengths while posting a fantastic Thoro-Graph figure of negative 7 and a big Beyer Speed Figure of 117. In terms of a Thoro-Graph figure, the lower it is the better. But a concern for Mor Spirit is he has not raced since the Met Mile, whereas Sharp Azteca has twice won impressively since then. Sharp Azteca won the Grade III Monmouth Cup by 7 1/2 lengths on July 30 and Grade II Kelso Handicap at Belmont by four lengths on Sept. 23. Because Sharp Azteca has raced twice since the Met Mile, I’m going with him instead of Mor Spirit in this race. And it’s not as if Sharp Azteca has never beaten Mor Spirit. When Mind Your Biscuits won the Grade I Malibu at Santa Anita last Dec. 26, Sharp Azteca finished second, while Mor Spirit ended up third.
Mor Spirit (3-1 ML) annihilated a strong Met Mile field. If he runs like that this Saturday, he probably will win. If anybody can win this race with a horse away from the races since June 10, it is Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Accelerate (7-2 ML) is cutting back to one mile after finishing third behind Collected and Arrogate in Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 19. This is a much better distance for him. Keep in mind he is three for three when running in a race shorter than one mile at Del Mar. He finished third at a huge price (42-1) in this race last year at Santa Anita.
Battle of Midway, a 3-year-old, is meeting older rivals for the first time. He looks capable of making noise in this race at what should be a nice price. Gun Runner and Accelerate hit the board in this race last year as 3-year-olds. Perhaps Battle of Midway will hit the board as a sophomore this year.
$1 MILLION JUVENILE TURF (FRIDAY)
Selections: (1) My Boy Jack, (2) Masar, (3) Encumbered
Good Price Play: Catholic Boy (12-1 ML)
Unlike the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, Euros have done quite well in this race. Seven of the nine editions of the BC Juvenile Turf have been won by a juvenile who last raced in Europe. And a Euro, Masar, is the 9-2 morning-line favorite this year.
I am going to take a shot with My Boy Jack (8-1 ML). I liked what I saw from him when he won Santa Anita’s Zuma Beach as a maiden on Oct. 9. My Boy Jack’s Zuma Beach Thoro-Graph figure of 8 1/2 puts him in the mix with anybody else in this race. Adding to My Boy Jack’s appeal to me is Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, who has been riding in superb form this year.
Masar finished third in a Group I race in France on Oct. 1 won by the filly Happily (a contender in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf). Prior to that race in France, Masar won a Group III race in England on Sept. 2.
Encumbered (15-1 ML) won a pair of grass races at Del Mar during the summer, highlighted by a victory in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf. He beat My Boy Jack both times, though not by a lot (three-quarters of a length and a half-length). Encumbered no doubt will appreciate a return to the turf in this race after running a clunker on the dirt in Santa Anita’s Grade I FrontRunner, a race he lost by 24 1/2 lengths. Perhaps Encumbered will be able to win this race and keep his perfect Del Mar grass record intact. His 15-1 morning-line price is extremely attractive in relation to his chances to succeed.
Catholic Boy, trained by former Todd Pletcher assistant Jonathan Thomas, is two for two. Does Catholic Boy have a prayer in this race? I think so. After a maiden victory on the grass July 20 at Gulfstream Park in his debut, he won the Grade III With Anticipation on the turf Aug. 30 at Saratoga.
$2 MILLION DISTAFF (FRIDAY)
Selections: (1) Stellar Wind, (2) Elate, (3) Forever Unbridled
Good Price Play: Paradise Woods (9-2 ML)
I was very, very, very tempted to go with Elate (3-1 ML) in this race. But there are two main reasons why Stellar Wind (5-2 ML) is my choice to win it. First, Stellar Wind has a “home field advantage” in that she’s three for three on the dirt at Del Mar. And second, Stellar Wind proved her mettle to me last year when she was good enough to beat the great Beholder not once, but twice.
Elate looked like a rising star when she won her first career start by 12 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct on Nov. 26, 2016. That was her only start at 2. She lost her first four starts this year. But Bill Mott then showed once again why he is in the Hall of Fame by getting this filly back on the beam. Elate won three of her next four, with her lone loss in that sequence when she finished second, a head behind Abel Tasman, in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on July 23. After the CCA Oaks, Elate won the Grade I Alabama by 5 1/2 lengths on Aug. 19 and Grade I Beldame by 8 1/4 lengths at Belmont on Sept. 30. It looks like Elate could not have trained any better since the Beldame for Mott, who has won this race five times (Ajina in 1997, Escena in 1998, Unrivaled Belle in 2010, Royal Delta in 2011 and 2012).
Forever Unbridled (4-1 ML) is a wonderful mare who finished third behind Beholder and Songbird in this race last year at Santa Anita when Stellar Wind ended up fourth after a poor start. Forever Unbridled is two for two this year. She won the Grade II Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 17 and Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 26 by a neck over multiple Eclipse Award winner Songbird.
Paradise Woods will not be a huge price, but I consider her a “good price play” at her morning line odds of 9-2, a higher price than Stellar Wind, Elate, Abel Tasman and Forever Unbridled. Paradise Woods’ 11 3/4-length win in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks was sensational. I ranked it as the second-best performance by a Thoroughbred in the United States during the first half of 2017. The only better performance, in my estimation, was Arrogate’s track-record setting win in the Grade I, $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28. Paradise Woods’ margin of victory was the biggest in the history of the Santa Anita Oaks. In 1988, Winning Colors won the Santa Anita Oaks by eight lengths before going on to win the Grade I Santa Anita Derby and Grade I Kentucky Derby. After the Santa Anita Oaks, Paradise Woods finished eleventh in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks and sixth in the Grade III Torrey Pines. But Richard Mandella then showed once again why he is in the Hall of Fame by getting this filly back on the beam. She won the Grade I Zenyatta by 5 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita on Sept. 30.
$2 MILLION JUVENILE FILLIES (SATURDAY)
Selections: (1) Wonder Gadot, (2) Seperationofpowers, (3) Moonshine Memories
Good Price Play: Gio Game (15-1 ML)
I am really looking forward to this race because I think Wonder Gadot (8-1 ML) has a good chance to win this race at a mouth-watering price. I think this situation could be similar to West Coast earlier this year in the Travers. I felt West Coast possibly was the best horse in the Travers, yet he was going to be a good price in the wagering. West Coast won the Travers at 6-1.
Trainer Mark Casse told Steve Byk on his radio show “At the Races” that from day one, Wonder Gadot “has trained like a superstar,” which includes how she trained on the dirt at Saratoga before her first race. Prior to Wonder Gadot’s first race, after Patrick Husbands had worked Wonder Gadot a couple of times at Woodbine, he said to Casse “she’s the best horse I’ve ever been on.” As a maiden, Wonder Gadot won an allowance race on the grass first-time out Aug. 26 at Woodbine as a steppingstone to the Natalma. Wonder Gadot was sent off as the 2-1 favorite in the Natalma, but she finished third in that Grade I grass affair. Casse then ran Wonder Gadot in the Grade III Mazarine on synthetic footing Oct. 7 at Woodbine in order to get a two-turn race into her for the BC Juvenile Fillies.
Casse said he wanted a “big, strong race out of her” in the Mazarine, which is way he told Husbands: “I want you to let her run some. And kick on out afterwards.”
In the Mazarine, Wonder Gadot “flew home,” as Casse put it. “Patrick said he couldn’t pull her up after the race. So, she is a wonder woman.”
Wonder Gadot races for Gary Barber, the head of MGM Studios. The filly is named after Gal Gadot, the actress who this year starred in the movie “Wonder Woman.”
Separationofpowers (4-1 ML) has the look of a major player, but she must break from post 13. After she won her career debut by 11 3/4 lengths at Saratoga on July 30, she regressed and finished third as a 3-5 favorite in the Grade I Spinaway at the Spa. Separationofpowers rebounded to win the Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park while posting a laudable 1 3/4 Thoro-Graph figure. And there is a real possibility that Separationofpowers could regress in this race off her 1 1/4 Thoro-Graph fig. Wonder Gadot has not come close to a 1 1/4 Thoro-Graph figure…yet. But this is one of the reasons Wonder Gadot will be a much better price than Separationofpowers in the BC Juvenile Fillies.
Gio Game gives Casse another interesting possible upsetter in this race. In Gio Game’s third career start, she showed dramatic improvement to win a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Keeneland by nine lengths on Oct. 6 in 1:44.74. Later that day at Keeneland, the Casse-trained Heavenly Love won the Grade I Alcibiades by 5 1/2 lengths in 1:45.32. Heavenly Love also is entered in the BC Juvenile Fillies at 9-2 on the morning line. Casse said he feels Gio Game is going into the BC Juvenile Fillies much like Valadorna last year. Valadorna finished second to Champagne Room in the 2016 BC Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita.
$1 MILLION TURF SPRINT (SATURDAY)
Selections: (1) Lady Aurelia, (2) Marsha, (3) Pure Sensation
Good Price Play: Richard’s Boy (10-1 ML)
At five furlongs, this will be the shortest BC Sprint in history. I think it’s imperative to focus on those who already have done well in five-furlong grass sprints. And I mean five-furlong grass sprints, not even 5 1/2-furlong grass sprints.
Look for Lady Aurelia (5-2 ML) to show early zip and prove extremely tough to beat. This will be her first start since she finished second the Group I, five-furlong Nunthorpe on Aug. 25 in England when nosed out by Lady Aurelia. How close was the finish? Frankie Dettori, aboard Lady Aurelia, celebrated in the saddle immediately after the finish in the belief that he had won. But, to the embarrassment of Dettori, the photograph showed that 8-1 Marsha had eked out a narrow victory over 4-5 Lady Aurelia.
I will be surprised if Lady Aurelia does not get her revenge this Saturday vis-a-vis Marsha. In fact, I very nearly made Lady Aurelia my most probable winner at this year’s Breeders’ Cup.
Marsha (7-2 ML) is a quality grass sprinter who deserves respect. Make no mistake about that. After Marsha’s Aug. 25 win in England, she finished second as the 2-1 favorite in the Group I Prix de l’Abbaye, France’s most important sprint, on soft ground Oct. 1 at Chantilly. It’s certainly not impossible for Marsha to beat Lady Aurelia again, though I do not anticipate that happening.
Pure Sensation (10-1 ML) has a very good record in five-furlong grass sprints. He’s coming off a victory in the Group III, five-furlong Turf Monster at Parx on Sept. 4. Pure Sensation must start from the outside post in the field of 12, which means he likely will have to be sent hard away from the gate.
Richard’s Boy has upset potential in that he has done well in five-furlong grass sprints at Del Mar (four starts, two wins, a second and a third). In fact, he is the only horse in this race other than also-eligible Paquita Coqueta to have won a five-furlong grass sprint at Del Mar.
$1 MILLION FILLY & MARE SPRINT (SATURDAY)
Selections: (1) Unique Bella, (2) By the Moon, (3) Skye Diamonds
Good Price Play: Finest City (12-1 ML)
Unique Bella (9-5 ML) is seeking her sixth straight victory. During her winning streak, her closest call has been a 2 1/4-length victory over Abel Tasman in the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita on March 4. Abel Tasman would go on to win the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, Grade I Acorn and Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks. Unique Bella’s only loss came when she ran second as a 1-5 favorite in her career debut, a performance that seemingly was compromised by tender shins. Unique Bella went on the shelf after her debut loss.
Unique Bella has Breeders’ Cup blood in her veins. Her dam, Unrivaled Belle, won the Grade I BC Ladies’ Classic (aka Distaff) at Churchill Downs in 2010 vs. the likes of Blind Luck (voted a 2010 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly) and Havre de Grace (voted 2011 Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year and champion older female). Unrivaled Belle is a daughter of Unbridled’s Song, who won the BC Juvenile in 1995. Unbridled’s Song is a son of Unbridled, who won the BC Classic in 1990.
By the Moon (12-1 ML) is coming off a win in the Grade I Ballerina at Saratoga on Aug. 26. I am a By the Moon fan. She typically goes out there and gives it her all. She has finished first or second in 13 of 19 career starts.
Skye Diamonds (5-1 ML) is in excellent hands with veteran trainer Bill Spawr, who saddled Amazombie to win the BC Sprint in 2011. Since being claimed for $40,000 at the 2016 Del Mar summer meet, Skye Diamonds has run good race after good race. And bear in mind she’s two for two on the main track at Del Mar.
Finest City won this race last year at 8-1. She’s 12-1 on the morning line for this Saturday’s renewal. By the time Finest City finished third as a 6-5 favorite in the Great Lady M. at Los Alamitos on July 8, it appeared to me that the mare was worn out physically and/or mentally. She has not appeared under silks since the Great Lady M, which means she’s coming into this race fresh. I think that makes her dangerous.
$2 MILLION FILLY & MARE TURF (SATURDAY)
Selections: (1) Lady Eli, (2) Cambodia, (3) Grand Jete
Good Price Play: Rhododendron (8-1 ML)
Lady Eli (5-2 ML) is one of the best stories in American racing in terms of her comeback to win multiple Grade I races after a life-threatening battle with laminitis. She won the 2014 BC Juvenile Fillies Turf and just missed when the runner-up to Queen’s Trust in the 2016 BC Filly & Mare Turf. Chad Brown, who was voted a 2016 Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer, conditions Lady Eli. With a stellar career record of 10 wins and three seconds from 13 career starts, Lady Eli is without question one of the best Thoroughbreds in recent years to not have been voted an Eclipse Award. According to Brown, Lady Eli has trained better coming into this race than ever.
Cambodia (8-1 ML) is two for two on the grass at Del Mar, having won a pair of Grade II races during the summer meet (Yellow Ribbon Handicap and John C. Mabee Stakes). Can trainer Tom Proctor pull off a BC Filly & Mare Turf upset with Cambodia? Keep in mind Proctor accomplished one of the biggest upsets in Breeders’ Cup history when One Dreamer won the 1994 Distaff and paid $96.10. And Cambodia’s young rider, Drayden Van Dyke, has become a marvelous Fernando Toro-ish rider in grass races.
Grand Jete (6-1 ML) probably should have won the Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington Park on Aug. 12. She had a brutal trip that day. She also might have won the Grade I Flower Bowl at Belmont on Oct. 8 if the race had unfolded differently in that she set the pace, not her preferred running style. If Grand Jete does get better racing luck, she definitely can win this race.
Sure, Rhododendron (8-1 ML) had the misfortune to draw a poor post position (14). But the winner of the Group I Prix de l’Opera in France has the class to possibly get the job done anyway. And one thing the bad post does is it should help her price in the betting.
$1.5 MILLION SPRINT (SATURDAY)
Selections: (1) Drefong, (2) Imperial Hint, (3) Roy H
Good Price Play: American Pastime (12-1 ML)
Drefong (5-2 ML) has reeled off six consecutive victories excluding this year’s Grade I Bing Crosby at Del Mar on July 29 in which he ducked in sharply leaving the chute and unseated jockey Mike Smith. Drefong rebounded from the Bing Crosby debacle to win Saratoga’s Grade I Forego by four emphatic lengths at Saratoga on Aug. 26, a performance that produced a career-best Thoro-Graph figure of negative 3 1/4 and career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 107. It appears to me the Drefong of 2017 is better than the Drefong of 2016. And the Drefong of 2016 was good enough to win the BC Sprint at Santa Anita as a 3-year-old by 1 1/4 lengths when he posted a Thoro-Graph fig of negative 1 and Beyer fig of 103.
Imperial Hint (9-2 ML) looks capable of possibly giving Drefong a serious run for his money. Imperial Hint has won five in a row by margins of six, 3 1/4, 2 1/4, 4 3/4 and 6 3/4 lengths. I will be surprised if he goes off at 9-2 odds or higher. Imperial Hint’s victory in the Donald Levine Memorial at Parx on Sept. 4 produced a career-best Thoro-Graph fig of negative 5 1/4 and career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 109, both figs better than any of Drefong’s. That give you a hint of how seriously Imperial Hint should be taken in this race. In the Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Wager Guide, Dick Jeraradi of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote that he “has only seen one sprint at Parx that compares with Imperial Hint’s easy win on Sept. 4. That would be Smarty Jones in the second start of his life as a 2-year-old in 2003.”
Roy H (7-2 ML) is having a sterling 2017. He should be five for five this year. His lone 2017 defeat came when he finished second to Ransom the Moon in the aforementioned Bing Crosby. Because of the riderless Drefong, Roy H was carried out so wide coming into the stretch that, for a moment, I worried that he might end up in the Pacific Ocean. Roy H actually showed a lot just to finish second that day. After the Crosby, Roy H won the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Oct. 7 (negative 1 1/2 Thoro-Graph figure, 106 Beyer Speed Figure). In Roy H’s sparkling win in Belmont’s Grade II Truth North on June 9, he earned figures (career-best 4 Thoro-Graph, career-best 111 Beyer) that give him a license to prove a tough customer in this race.
American Pastime, a talented 3-year-old, looks like an up-and-comer. He acquitted himself well in defeat when second to speedster Coal Front in the Grade III Gallant Bob at Parx on Sept. 22. American Pastime appears to have trained in sharp fashion leading up to this race.
$2 MILLION MILE (SATURDAY)
Selections: (1) World Approval, (2) Suedois, (3) Midnight Storm
Good Price Play: Blackjackcat (15-1 ML)
World Approval (9-2 ML) has blossomed into a tiger in mile grass races. He won the Grade I Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga by 2 1/4 lengths on yielding turf Aug. 12 at Saratoga. That was followed by a 2 1/2-length victory on firm turf Sept. 18 in the Grade I Woodbine Mile when his final time was an impressive 1:33.05.
Suedois (6-1 ML) roared home from off the pace to win the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 9 at Keeneland when 9-1. Another big effort by him in the BC Mile could be in the cards.
Watch out for Midnight Storm (15-1 ML). He finished third in this race last year at Santa Anita when 12-1. He might hit the board again this year at a nice price. Runners have fared well in this race through the years if they have started in it previously.
Blackjackcat was well regarded early in his career when he was something of an underachiever. But after winning just one of his first eight starts, he now has rattled off four consecutive victories. He’s two for two on the grass this year at Del Mar. He also is two for two when ridden by Kent Desormeaux.
$2 MILLION JUVENILE (SATURDAY)
Selections: (1) Bolt d’Oro, (2) Solomini, (3) Free Drop Willy
Good Price Play: Golden Dragon (30-1 BC ML)
Bolt d’Oro (9-5 ML) probably will be one of the shortest-priced favorites at this year’s Breeders’ Cup. He impressed me a lot when he won his career debut in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race at Del Mar on Aug. 5. It was a better performance than I think many realize. In my column here at Xpressbet.com, I described him as “an eye-catching winner” at first asking even though “he didn’t have the best of starts” and even though he was assigned only a 77 Beyer Speed Figure.
I considered Bolt d’Oro to be the horse to beat when he made his next start in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs on Sept. 4. Even though he again did not have the best of starts, he rallied to win by three-quarters of a length at 7-2 while recording an 85 Beyer Speed Figure.
And then, in Santa Anita’s Grade I FrontRunner at 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 30, Bolt d’Oro won by 7 3/4 lengths in a super impressive performance as a 4-5 favorite. His final time was 1:43.54. On that same track that same afternoon in a race at the same distance, 3-year-old filly Paradise Woods won the Grade I Zenyatta in 1:44.34.
According to Andy Beyer, Bolt d’Oro’s “raw figure” in the FrontRunner was 113. Beyer did not feel 113 was accurate in that such a big figure would lead to unrealistically career-best figures for the vanquished. Consequently, Beyer arbitrarily lowered Bolt d’Oro’s FrontRunner figure all the way down to 100.
I can understand why Beyer felt it prudent to lower Bolt d’Oro’s figure, but I think Beyer went too far. I believe Bolt d’Oro deserves to get a better speed figure than Paradise Woods for their respective performances that day. Paradise Woods was assigned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for the Zenyatta, a figure that Beyer said he considers “to be rock solid.” I think assigning Bolt d’Oro a 107 or 106 rather than a 100 would have been more appropriate under the circumstances. A 107 or 106 would make Bolt d’Oro’s Beyer Speed Figure better than Paradise Woods’ 105.
It found it interesting that Bolt d’Oro was assigned a TimeformUS Speed Figure of 125 for his FrontRunner. According to TimeFormUS Speed Figures, Bolt d’Oro’s 125 was a bit higher than Paradise Woods’ 122 for the Zenyatta.
In terms of Thoro-Graph figures, which I consider to be superior to Beyer Speed Figures, Bolt d’Oro’s FrontRunner was a negative 1 1/2 compared to Paradise Woods’ 1/2. Again, as with the TimeformUS figures, Bolt d’Oro’s FrontRunner Thoro-Graph fig was better than Paradise Woods’ Zenyatta fig, as I believe it also should be regarding the Beyer Speed Figures for those two performances.
In any case, Bolt d’Oro is my choice as the most probable winner at this year’s Breeders’ Cup. I began writing this column for Xpressbet in 2004. My most probable winner at the Breeders’ Cup has won 10 of the 11 last years. Here is my most probable BC winner going back to 2004:
2016 Dortmund in the Dirt Mile (finished fourth)
2015 Songbird in the Juvenile Fillies (won)
2014 Goldencents in the Dirt Mile (won)
2013 Wise Dan in the Mile (won)
2012 Groupie Doll in the Filly & Mare Sprint (won)
2011 Goldikova in the Mile (won)
2010 Goldikova in the Mile (won)
2009 Zenyatta in the Classic (won)
2008 Zenyatta in the Ladies’ Classic (won)
2007 Midnight Lute in the Sprint (won)
2006 Ouija Board in the Filly & Mare Turf (won)
2005 Ouija Board in the Filly & Mare Turf (second)
2004 Ouija Board in the Filly & Mare Turf (won)
Underneath Bolt d’Oro in the BC Juvenile, I am picking Solomini (6-1 ML) second and Free Drop Billy (5-1 ML) third. Solomini ran second to Bolt d’Oro in the FrontRunner. I think another Bolt d’Oro and Solomini exacta finish is feasible. Free Drop Billy was visually impressive when he won Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity by four lengths on Oct. 7, but his final time (1:45.43), Thoro-Graph figure (5) and Beyer Speed Figure (79) were not impressive.
Golden Dragon is racing on the dirt for the first time after winning two of four starts on the grass. Daily Racing Form’s Mike Welsch and XBTV’s Richard Migliore both raved about Golden Dragon’s five-furlong bullet workout Monday in :59 flat at Del Mar. Migliore thought enough of the drill to say he expects Golden Dragon to outrun his odds.
$4 MILLION TURF (SATURDAY)
Selections: (1) Ulysses, (2) Highland Reel, (3) Beach Patrol
Good Price Play: Seventh Heaven (20-1 ML)
Ulysses (7-2 ML) is my choice to win the 2017 BC Turf after being my favorite “good price play” at last year’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. He finished fourth as a 3-year-old at 10-1 in the 2016 BC Turf. I think Ulysses, now that he is 4, is an even better horse than he was last year. He has won two of his last four starts. But I do not hold those two losses against him in that both times he faced mighty Enable, the best Thoroughbred on the planet in my eyes. Ulysses has been pointed for this race all along by the great trainer Sir Michael Stoute. And I like it that Ulysses is coming into this race fresher than 2016 BC Turf winner Highland Reel.
Highland Reel (5-1 ML) won this race last year and certainly could do so again this year. He is much more comfortable on the firm ground he is expected to get at Del Mar than the soft ground he raced on when third in the Group I Champion Stakes in England on Oct. 21. But I liked the way Highland Reel went into last year’s BC Turf better than this year. He is coming back in just two weeks after the Champion Stakes, whereas he had four weeks between the Arc and BC Turf last year.
Beach Patrol (4-1 ML) won both the Grade I Arlington Million on Aug. 12 and Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont on Sept. 30. He ran well in his only start on Del Mar’s grass course, finishing second to Annals of Time in the Grade I Hollywood Derby late last year. It was no disgrace losing to Annals of Time, a colt with considerable ability who unfortunately was not able to run at this year’s Breeders’ Cup due to an injury.
Beware of Seventh Heaven. She is capable of making a lot of noise in this race at a big price in the betting because of her preference for firm ground.
$6 MILLION CLASSIC (SATURDAY)
Selections: (1) West Coast, (2) Arrogate, (3) Gun Runner
Good Price Play: Pavel (20-1 ML)
West Coast (6-1 ML), a 3-year-old colt trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, is who I am picking to win the 2017 BC Classic. When it comes to the BC Classic, why not look for an improving 3-year-old who looks like he possibly is ready to step it up and beat his elders? And the icing on the cake is if the improving 3-year-old happens to reside in Baffert’s barn.
This angle has worked like a charm for the past three years, producing BC Classic victors Bayern (whose $2 win payoff was $14.20), American Pharoah ($3.40) and Arrogate ($5.40).
Inasmuch as I have been on the West Coast bandwagon all year, I am not about to jump off it now. I am sticking with him and letting the chips fall where they may.
West Coast is coming into the BC Classic with a five-race winning streak. Baffert has pointed out that West Coast is just a head away from coming into the race having won seven straight.
One of the primary reasons I am picking West Coast to win the BC Classic is he appears to be a true 1 1/4-mile horse. Another reason he’s my choice is I believe we might not have seen the best from him yet. That Arrogate still might have room for improvement is important because Arrogate probably does need to run a career-best race to beat such tough older foes as Gun Runner and Collected.
Arrogate (2-1 ML) won this race by a half-length last year at Santa Anita, running down an outstanding older equine athlete in California Chrome (voted Horse of the Year in 2014 and 2016). But Arrogate went off form after his other-worldly triumph in the Group I Dubai World Cup on March 25, a race in which he swept past Gun Runner in the stretch to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths after a dreadful start. Seemingly, that effort in Dubai really knocked him out. In a shocker as a 1-20 favorite in Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap on July 22, Arrogate didn’t fire and finished fourth while losing by 15 1/4 lengths. He did much better in the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 19, but he lost again, finishing second as a 3-5 favorite, a half-length behind Collected.
If Arrogate brings his “A” game to the 2017 BC Classic, he probably will win. His “A” game would mean a performance like those seen from him when he won the Travers in 2016, the BC Classic in 2016 or the Pegasus World Cup in 2017. He recorded Beyer Speed Figures of 122 in the Travers, 120 in the BC Classic and 119 in the Pegasus.
I think it’s fair to say Arrogate’s effort last time out in the Pacific Classic was his “B” game. If we see his “B” game this Saturday, it possibly could be good enough for him to win, but probably not.
There is no question that if there is a person capable of getting Arrogate back to his “A” game this Saturday, it is Baffert, whose Triple Crown sweep with American Pharoah in 2015 is but one of the trainer’s many significant achievements. And the signs from Arrogate’s training in the a.m., especially in the last week or so, have been encouraging enough to suggest we just might see Arrogate’s “A” game this Saturday.
Gun Runner (9-5 ML) has been nothing less than brilliant in his last three starts. He won the Grade I Stephen F. Foster Handicap by seven lengths on June 17 at Churchill Downs. Next, he won the Grade I Whitney by 5 3/4 lengths on Aug. 5 at Saratoga. And then came his tour de force in the Grade I Woodward at Belmont, which he won by 10 3/4 lengths on Sept. 2. But all three of those victories were in races at 1 1/8 miles. He’s being asked to go 1 1/4 miles in the BC Classic. Gun Runner is winless in three starts at 1 1/4 miles, a statistic that does not make me lick my chops to take such a short price on him in a 1 1/4-mile race. Nevertheless, even at 1 1/4 miles, there is no doubt that Gun Runner merits the utmost respect this Saturday.
Pavel (20-1 ML) might be the “surprise package” in this year’s BC Classic. What the 3-year-old colt has done in a short period of time and with so little experience has been remarkable. He won a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race on July 1 at Santa Anita in his career debut. With just that one sprint race under his belt, he ran fourth in Saratoga’s Grade II Jim Dandy at 1 1/8 on July 29. He finished a head behind Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and a head in front of Preakness winner Cloud Computing. After the Jim Dandy, Pavel won the Grade III Smarty Jones at 1 1/16 miles by six lengths on Sept. 4 at Parx. And then, in just his fourth lifetime start, he finished third behind older rivals Diversify and Keen Ice in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 7 at Belmont. After Pavel ran such a respectable race in the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup, I’d say it’s far from silly to think this 20-1 morning-line longshot might make his presence felt during the stretch run of this Saturday’s 1 1/4-mile BC Classic.