by Dustin Fabian
September 26, 2019
It’s one of the top weekends of racing on the horse racing calendar as horses look to punch their Breeders’ Cup ticket at tracks like Belmont, Santa Anita and Churchill Downs.
Dozens of horses entered to run this weekend will likely show up in the World Championships on November 1 and 2, so I highly recommend keeping a watchful eye on these races. You’re going to see these horses down the line.
I did my best to line up the horses to watch for the Breeders’ Cup – and the horses to bet this weekend – so please enjoy the below analysis.
In the meantime, I did want to mention a handful of huge promos we have going on this weekend at Xpressbet:
Here are my previews:
Friday, September 27
Chandelier Stakes (G1) – Santa Anita Park – Race 5 (6:10PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Santa Anita’s Chandelier is a key prep race on the path to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert has won this race a record 10 times. Conversation here starts with his BAST, who won the G1 Del Mar Debutante last time out by 8 3/4-lengths. She’s 3/5 on the ML and I would expect her to run that way. Peter Miller’s LEUCOTHEA had a tough trip in the aforementioned Debutante when she finished 8th and should perform better this time around.
Key Breeders’ Cup Horse(s) to Watch: Bast (Top Pick), Been Studying Her, Leucothea
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: High, with 2-4 horses expected to move on to the Breeders’ Cup
Eddie D Stakes (G2) – Santa Anita Park – Race 6 (6:40PM ET)
Normally this race wouldn’t rank particularly high on the Path to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint but a California World Championship changes things up a bit. Horses that wouldn’t ship cross country for the Breeders’ Cup may try to enter if they’re running out of their barn. Two-time Breeders’ Cup champion STORMY LIBERAL is back here, but his form isn’t as sharp as it was a year or two ago. MR VARGAS is the new ‘it’ horse off two turf sprinting victories at Del Mar and his early speed makes him tough to beat. If the pace falls apart, EDDIE HASKELL is a bulldog and has won 10-of-23 races. He gets a new jockey, Joel Rosario, which should be a positive.
Key Breeders’ Cup Horse(s) to Watch: Eddie Haskell (Top Pick), Pee Wee Reese, Mr Vargas, Tribalist, Stormy Liberal
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Very High, as many as 4-5 of these horses could ultimately compete in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
American Pharoah Stakes (G1) – Santa Anita Park – Race 8 (7:40PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Like the above two races, the American Pharoah jumps up in importance due to this being a Santa Anita Breeders’ Cup. It’s hard to say that any of these nine entrants is not a Breeders’ Cup contender simply based on owner/trainer aspirations. Bob Baffert’s EIGHT RINGS tossed his rider at the start of the G1 Del Mar Futurity (he was the 0.50/1 favorite) and they’ll obviously looking for him to get back to his top form. I was really impressed by AMERICAN THEOREM in his debut on August 31 and I think the future his bright for him.
Key Breeders’ Cup Horse(s) to Watch: American Theorem (Top Pick), Eight Rings, Express Train, Nucky, Storm the Court, Shoplifted, Collusion Illusion
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Very High, with as all contenders holding legitimate Breeders’ Cup aspirations and the top 3 finishers likely to move on to the World Championships
Saturday, September 28
Vosburgh Stakes (G1) – Belmont Park – Race 4 (2:35PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint
As we head to Saturday and New York, we’ll find trainers that are a bit more discerning of the cross-country trip to the Breeders’ Cup. They still want to go, but a lackluster final prep may make them less likely to shell out the time and money. In the Vosburgh, three of these look like legitimate Breeders’ Cup horses – IMPERIAL HINT (the heavy favorite), PROMISES FULFILLED and FIRENZE FIRE. All contested in last year’s World Championships with IMPERIAL HINT (3rd) AND PROMISES FULFILLED (4th) filling out the Superfecta in the Sprint and FIRENZE FIRE running 4th in the Dirt Mile. My pick in here is IMPERIAL HINT – he set a track record at Saratoga last out – and I’m not sure the Breeders’ Cup suits the latter two horses as much due to the Dirt Mile being a two-turn race this year.
Key Breeders’ Cup Horse(s) to Watch: Imperial Hint (Top Pick), Firenze Fire, Promises Fulfilled
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Medium, with 1-3 horses likely to move on to the World Championships. Imperial Hint should be Sprint favorite off a victory here.
Beldame Invitational (G2) – Belmont Park – Race 8 (4:43PM ET)
This is a one-horse race and it’s hard to envision anyone other than MIDNIGHT BISOU or WOW CAT using this as a springboard to legitimate Breeders’ Cup consideration. MIDNIGHT BISOU is 11-for-17 in her career, ran 3rd in the Distaff last year and hasn’t been beaten since. WOW CAT was actually 2nd in the Distaff last year (and won this race) but she has yet to regain top form in 2019. VEXATIOUS has an outside shot at the Breeders’ Cup, but wouldn’t be a serious contender.
Key Breeders’ Cup Horse(s) to Watch: Midnight Bisou (Top Pick), Wow Cat
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Medium, with 2 horses likely to run in the Breeders’ Cup. Midnight Bisou would vie for favoritism in the Distaff.
Pilgrim Stakes (G3) – Belmont Park – Race 9 (5:16PM ET)
I’m not overly impressed with this year’s Pilgrim field but you have to tip your cap to the big barns as Chad Brown sends out favored STRUCTOR and Todd Pletcher has entered NO WORD. Since no horse in this field owns more than a maiden win it’s hard to envision anyone is ‘off’ the Breeders’ Cup Trail at this point, except perhaps NY-bred NO LIME, as he is not nominated. Keep in mind, though, that a 3rd or 4th place finish here will likely force an owner to think twice about a cross-country trek.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Our Country (Top Pick), Structor, No Word, Maxwell Esquire
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Medium, with top barns represented here. Only 2-3 horses are expected to move on to the Breeders’ Cup.
Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) – Belmont Park – Race 9 (ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic
Only five horses entered the Jockey Club but four seem to be very serious Breeders’ Cup Classic threats and I’d expect all four to move on to the ‘Cup if they’re healthy. Three year olds CODE OF HONOR and TACITUS ran 1-2 in the Travers and appear ready to take on their elders. PRESERVATIONIST won the Woodward and Suburban and is 2-for-3 at Belmont, while VINO ROSSO won the G1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita, solidifying his place in the division. Any of the four would not come as a surprise here but I continue to be impressed by CODE OF HONOR’s progression and would place him atop the list.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Code of Honor (Top Pick), Tacitus, Preservationist, Vino Rosso
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Very High, with 4 horses expected to move on to the Breeders’ Cup Classic as moderate/low-priced horses.
John Henry Turf Classic (G2) – Santa Anita Park – Race 7 (6:30PM ET)
Despite a home at Santa Anita, this is traditionally not an impactful Breeders’ Cup prep race and this year appears to be no exception. Not many of these horses come to the table with world-class credentials and it’s hard to envision any of these starting in the Breeders’ Cup at odds of 30/1 or less, especially if Europe sends a strong contingent. CLEOPATRA’S STRIKE is an interesting contender. He has run really well in two starts for Phil D’Amato and this is his second try off the bench.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Cleopatra’s Strike (Top Pick), United, Acclimate
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Low, with no legitimate Breeders’ Cup race contenders entered.
Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1) – Santa Anita Park – Race # (7:30PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
There are a number of top mares running in California in this division (a slight contrast to prior years) but this race didn’t come up quite as strong as I’d have hoped, with Vasilika and Toinette sitting this one out and Juliet Foxtrot, who was beaten a nose in the G2 Mabee, not shipping west again. This race has a slight lack of pace and that would set up for horses racing in the initial vanguard. Perhaps we give EXCELLENT SUNSET or BEAU RECALL a look based on that? Other potential Breeders’ Cup horses are PAVED (12th in last year’s Filly & Mare Turf) and ELYSEA’S WORLD, but I don’t like their deep-closing style for this race.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Beau Recall (Top Pick), Excellent Sunset, Paved, Elysea’s World
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Low, with 1-2 potential longshot Breeders’ Cup starters.
Awesome Again Stakes (G1) – Santa Anita Park – Race 10 (8:00PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic
The big name in here is MCKINZIE. A win makes him, with near certainty, the Breeders’ Cup Classic favorite. And let’s be fair, he checks all of the boxes. He’s 3-for-6 at Santa Anita, won the G1 Whitney, the G2 Alysheba and the G1 Malibu since last year’s Breeders’ Cup (where he ran 12th in the Classic off an abbreviated campaign) and I fully expect a victory here. HIGHER POWER is a Classic contender off his G1 Pacific Classic win and DRAFT PICK and SEEKING THE SOUL assuredly have Breeders’ Cup aspirations – whether they go in the Classic or Dirt Mile is to be determined.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: McKinzie (Top Pick), Higher Power, Seeking the Soul, Draft Pick
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Medium, with all eyes on McKinzie. I’m interested to see how Higher Power performs and Draft Pick and Seeking the Soul are fringe Breeders’ Cup contenders.
Ack Ack Stakes (G3) – Churchill Downs – Race 7 (9:05PM ET)
The Ack Ack is more of a regional race than a key Breeders’ Cup prep race and it appears unlikely to send anyone to the World Championships. That said, MR. JAGERMEISTER has developed into a strong sprinter, with wins this year at Oaklawn, Colonial and Canterbury. A big effort here would probably have lead the connections to consider the Breeders’ Cup with this Minnesota-bred, but he’s not BC nominated. MR. FREEZE flashed a ton of talent when he won the West Virginia Derby last summer by 8-lengths but he’s winless since. His last race was by far his best since then and if he takes another step forward here, I could see Dale Romans rolling the dice and going in the Dirt Mile. TIMELINE, formerly in Chad Brown’s care, makes his first start of the season for new trainer Steve Asmussen. He’s never shown Breeders’ Cup-level talent but a huge effort here would make the connections at least think about it.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Mr Freeze, Timeline; Top Pick Mr Jagermeister is not Breeders’ Cup nominated.
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Very Low, with one Breeders’ Cup fringe contender, at most, likely to emerge from this field.
Lukas Classic (G3) – Churchill Downs – Race 9 (10:11PM ET)
Like the Ack Ack, it’s hard to envision this race having a Breeders’ Cup impact. Sure, horses like TENFOLD, QUIP and SILVER DUST are going to look at the World Championships off a win, but it’s hard to see anyone from here making a huge impact. QUIP is probably the class of this field, especially since he was beaten a neck in the G2 Stephen Foster here in June, but his no-show effort in the G1 Pacific Classic wasn’t pretty at all and it’s hard to envision him being a 1 1/4-mile horse. SILVER DUST is extremely consistent and is 2-for-6 at Churchill and won the G3 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes last out. Mexico’s KUKULKAN, who has improved with every start, is not Breeders’ Cup nominated.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Quip (Top Pick), Silver Dust, Tenfold
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Low, with 1-2 horses with Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile aspirations.
Sunday, September 29
Oklahoma Derby (G3) – Remington Park – Race 12 (9:24PM ET)
This year’s Oklahoma Derby came up extremely strong, with MUCHO GUSTO, TAX and OWENDALE among the horses that could conceivably parlay a top finish into a Breeders’ Cup trip. MUCHO GUSTO is probably the likeliest winner, as Bob Baffert ships well and this is a nice class drop for the Haskell and Travers where he finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively. There’s nobody like CODE OF HONOR or MAXIMUM SECURITY in Oklahoma.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Mucho Gusto (Top Pick), Tax, Owendale
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Medium, with those three horses possible for the Classic or Dirt Mile (probably the latter) with a good performance here.