by Dustin Fabian
October 3, 2019
Last weekend, Breeders’ Cup tickets were punched everywhere from New York City to Louisville to Los Angeles and everywhere in between.
This weekend, it’s more of the same.
The venues change slightly (Churchill Downs in Louisville is replaced by Keeneland in Lexington) but outside of that change, this weekend is loaded with more great races as the sport’s top tracks.
Last week I previewed each of the races and noted the horses whose Breeders’ Cup chances hinged on a big effort. My top picks won five races and I’m clearly most proud of picking 9/1 outsider Cleopatra’s Strike in the John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita.
We’ll try to do more of the same this week, with top picks and ‘Horses to Watch’ identified for each key Breeders’ Cup prep race.
But before we get started, as you know, it’s time to hit a brief commercial break to talk about some of the big promos we have going on Saturday and Sunday at Xpressbet:
Now, let’s get to the picks:
Friday, October 4
Phoenix Stakes (G2) – Keeneland – Race 8 (4:57PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint
A free Breeders’ Cup berth is on the line in the G2 Phoenix at Keeneland and with an 11-horse field entered, you have to expect this will be a highly competitive event. None of the entrants here look like a Sprint favorite, necessarily, but with Imperial Hint looking beatable in his prep last weekend and two-time defending champ Roy H. officially out of the race, you may find more horses taking a chance. For this race, I think you’re looking at WHITMORE (4/1), RECRUITING READY (4/1), DIAMOND OOPS (8/1), HOG CREEK HUSTLE (5/1), PROMISES FULFILLED (3/1) and ENGAGE (8/1) as being legitimate Breeders’ Cup threats. My top pick will be ENGAGE, as he draws well to the outside and was sharp in his last start.
Key Breeders’ Cup Horse(s) to Watch: Engage (Top Pick), Whitmore, Recruiting Ready, Diamond Oops, Hog Creek Hustle, Promises Fulfilled
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Medium to High, with multiple horses likely to move on to the World Championships
Alcibiades Stakes (G1) – Keeneland – Race 9 (5:30PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
On paper, these horses have yet to run fast enough to compete with the likes of Bast or Comical (the 1-2 finishers of last Friday’s Chandelier at Santa Anita), but a Top 3 here would catapult just about any of these fillies into the Breeders’ Cup conversation. On top end talent alone, about 3 or 4 of these look more than capable but my top pick will be Shug McGaughey’s ALANDRA. She did a lot of things I really like in her debut, namely being a first-out winner for McGaughey (that doesn’t happen often) and also winning at 7 furlongs, which is a tricky first race. Being a daughter of Blame and out of an A.P. Indy mare should suggest she gets two-turns with ease. You also have to keep an eye on the ‘big barns’ of Brad Cox (BRITISH IDIOM), Mark Casse (PERFECT ALIBI and WESTERN TAFFY) and Wesley Ward (SEQUIN), who might actually be a better fit for the Juvenile Turf Sprint.
Key Breeders’ Cup Horse(s) to Watch: Alandra (Top Pick), Perfect Alibi, Western Taffy, British Idiom, Micheline, Sequin
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Very High; I see as many as 5 or 6 of these ultimately running in the Breeders’ Cup, whether it’s in the Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile Fillies Turf or Juvenile Turf Sprint
Saturday, October 5
Woodford Stakes (G2) – Keeneland – Race 6 (3:54PM ET)
Even though this isn’t a ‘Win and You’re In’ prep for the Turf Sprint, it’s well worth outlining here. On talent alone, IMPRIMIS is the best horse in this field, bar none. When he won the G2 Shakertown over Bound for Nowhere at Keeneland in the Spring (despite a stumbled start), I thought he was the best turf sprinter in the nation. From there they went to Royal Ascot (he finished 6th in a G1) and Kentucky Downs (he finished 4th in a G3), but this is his first effort at 5 furlongs in months and I think that’s just what the doctor ordered. EXTRAVAGANT KID is a horse I’ve always really liked and FAREEQ ran a very fast race at Arlington two back. LEINSTER won the G3 Troy over Disco Partner and Pure Sensation at Saratoga and has been in awesome form as well.
Key Breeders’ Cup Horse(s) to Watch: Imprimis (Top Pick), Leinster, Extravagent Kid, Fareeq
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Medium, with 1 – 3 horses likely to move on to the Breeders’ Cup
Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) – Keeneland – Race 7 (4:29PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
The field for this year’s TCA Stakes is somewhat light on star power, but you can also make the case that horses like TALK VEUVE TO ME, DANUSKA’S MY GIRL, CHALON, SPICED PERFECTION and MIA MISCHIEF are Breeders’ Cup caliber. Adding to that, ‘DANUSKA’ and SPICED PERFECTION are already stabled in California, so the ‘Cup’ would be a run in their backyard. I’ve always been a fan of CHALON and trainer Arnaud Delacour and the five-year-old mare is my top pick here. She was second, beaten just a head, in this race in 2018 before running second in the Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs.
Key Breeders’ Cup Horse(s) to Watch: Chalon (Top Pick), Spiced Perfection, Danuska’s My Girl, Mia Mischief, Talk Veuve to Me
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Medium to High, with 2-4 horses expected for the Breeders’ Cup.
First Lady Stakes (G1) – Keeneland – Race 8 (5:04PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Not positive the one-mile distance for this race is the ideal prep for the one and a quarter-mile Filly & Mare Turf but you can’t argue with the depth of this 14-horse field. Between three Europeans, multiple California invaders and a few horses from Chad Brown (and one from Brad Cox), there are plenty of potential winners. I’m interested to see how VASILIKA does in her first trip outside of California since moving over to Jerry Hollendorfer and this race should set up for her and UNI. I see a bunch of speed horses and a number of ‘cutbacks’ which are always dangerous in races like this. Oh…and don’t forget RUSHING FALL and her overwhelming 4-for-4 Keeneland record. Her only loss this year was to Sistercharlie, the likely F&M Turf favorite.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Vasilika (Top Pick), Awesometank, Juliet Foxtrot, Uni, Indian Blessing, Rushing Fall, Ms Bad Behavior, Just Wonderful
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Very High, with half of the field seemingly poised to move on to the Breeders’ Cup with a strong effort
Breeders’ Futurity (G1) – Keeneland – Race 9 (5:39PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
This race seems to separate the Juvenile contenders from the pretenders in a big way, with TAP IT TO WIN, GOUVERNEUR MORRIS and AJAAWEED appearing a step above the rest of this crew. I was incredibly impressed with Pletcher’s GOUVERNEUR MORRIS in his Saratoga debut on September 2 (a 9-length win) but I’m not wild about his draw. TAP IT TO WIN, who starts on the rail, might have get the best trip of the favorites.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Tap It To Win (Top Pick), Gouverneur Morris, Ajaaweed
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: High, with up to 3 horses moving on to the Breeders’ Cup and at least one should be second or third choice.
Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) – Keeneland – Race 10 (6:15PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Mile
Like the First Lady, this field is loaded on size and talent, with 14 horses (and two also eligible horses, entered). I love to see Charles Appleby bringing VINTAGER over for this (and moreso, I love seeing James Doyle in town to ride), but with Aidan O’Brien, Chad Brown, Phil D’Amato, Mark Casse, Harry Dunlop and David O’Meara in the entries, there’s no getting comfortable with an easy race. As many as half of these could/should go on to the Breeders’ Cup and that makes this as key a Breeders’ Cup prep race as it gets.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Vintager (Top Pick), Next Shares, Van Beethoven, Valid Point, Admission Office, Robin of Navan, March to the Arch, Suedois, Divisidero, Real Story
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Very High, with most of these horses showing Breeders’ Cup potential
Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational – Belmont Park – Race 5 (2:32PM ET)
Despite this being an ungraded race due to it being new(ish) to the racing calendar, this has Breeders’ Cup implications as SHEKKY SHEBAZ has run back-to-back huge races on the turf at Saratoga and DISCO PARTNER is a divisional veteran, even if he doesn’t quite handle the shorter Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint distances as well as he does slightly longer races like this.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Disco Partner (Top Pick), Shekky Shebaz
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Low to Medium; with Disco Partner getting my nod here by Shekky Shebaz would in the Breeders’ Cup
Matron Stakes (G3) – Belmont Park – Race 6 (3:05PM ET)
Not a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint ‘Win and You’re In’ but the Wesley Ward team is high on KARAK and she is a perfect Breeders’ Cup contender based on her 2-for-2 record in the US (her lone loss came at Royal Ascot on soft ground). ALMS, who breaks from the rail for Mike Stidham, would also merit Breeders’ Cup consideration with a solid effort.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Karak (Top Pick), Alms
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Low to Medium, with 1-2 potential Breeders’ Cup starters
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) – Belmont Park – Race 9 (4:50PM ET)
Amazingly not a ‘Win and You’re In’ for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, this race still packs a strong punch with a big field. SADLER’S JOY is a Breeders’ Cup veteran and he ran 3rd in the Turf last year, while CHANNEL MAKER was 14th in the same event. Both merit solid consideration here. ARKLOW looks like a fringe Breeders’ Cup horse, but of the 30/1 ML in the ‘Cup variety. Ultimately, as long as Enable, Magical or any other top level Europeans show up, this year’s Americans don’t have much of a chance.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Sadler’s Joy (Top Pick), Channel Maker, Channel Cat, Arklow, Ya Primo, Zulu Alpha
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Low; plenty of these ‘could’ go on to the Breeders’ Cup but none would make much of an impact on the result
Champagne Stakes (G1) – Belmont Park – Race 10 (5:22PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Belmont’s final graded stakes race of the day is the G1 Champagne and, like most of the other juvenile races, it’s hard to separate the contenders from the pretenders based on such few works. TIZ THE LAW ran huge in his Saratoga debut and selfishly you’d love to see the maroon and silver silks of Sackatoga Stable (they of Funny Cide fame) back at the Breeders’ Cup. You’ve also got to appreciate GREEN LIGHT GO, who is 2-for-2 for Jimmy Jerkens.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Green Light Go (Top Pick), Tiz the Law, Alpha Sixty Six, Three Technique, Gozilla
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Medium, with 2-3 horses showing real Breeders’ Cup potential
City of Hope Mile (G2) – Santa Anita Park – Race 8 (7:00PM ET)
This one gets a Breeders’ Cup prep value nod due to it being run on the same course as the Breeders’ Cup, but most of these will need to step up if they’re to be in the winning conversation on November 2. CATAPULT was beaten just 1/2-length in last year’s ‘Mile, but he’s 0-for-4 since then and the efforts aren’t getting better. His regular jockey, Drayden Van Dyke, is also on another horse here. BOLO has already earned his Breeders’ Cup spot by virtue of his G1 Shoemaker Mile win, but his ‘need the lead’ style is a dangerous game that rarely works. PRINCE EARL ran huge in his 4YO debut at Del Mar while SYNCHRONY is 9-for-24 but always seems to hiccup against this caliber of horse.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: True Valour (Top Pick), Catapult, Synchrony, River Boyne, Prince Earl
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Somewhat Low, with none of these appearing like a big Breeders’ Cup threat at this time
Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) – Santa Anita Park – Race 9 (7:30PM ET)
A ‘Win and You’re In’ Prep Race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint
Our last race is also one of the biggest as 3YO stars OMAHA BEACH and SHANCELOT square off in this ‘Win and You’re In’ for the Sprint. Before his shocking defeat in the G1 Allen Jerkens, SHANCELOT was considered by some to be the premier sprinter in the nation. And before his injury the week of the KY Derby, OMAHA BEACH was considered the race’s likeliest winner. So they’ll need to restore some reputation. If SHANCELOT is as good as we think he is, I don’t expect him to lose. He’s drawn outside of OMAHA BEACH and he just appears best suited for 6 furlong races. OMAHA BEACH may end up in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile off this freshener.
Key Breeders’ Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Shancelot (Top Pick), Omaha Beach
Breeders’ Cup Prep Value: Medium, with Shancelot and Omaha Beach both having the potential of exiting this race as Breeders’ Cup favorites
Sunday, October 6
Bourbon Stakes (G3) - Keeneland - Race 8 (5:10PM ET)
A 'Win and You're In' race for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
You've got to love the huge field, but you feel for horses like VITALOGY and ETE INDIEN, who are stuck in the outside posts. And in most cases, you'd love a horse like VITALOGY here - especially off a third-place-finish in a G1 race at Woodbine, but it's tough to back him from that post. This field is relatively light on credentialed horses, but that could set things up for a horse like THE THIRD SECRET, who blew them away in a maiden race at Kentucky Downs, or FIGHTING SEABEE who was the 5/1 winner of the G3 With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga.
Breeders' Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: The Third Secret (Top Pick), Fighting Seabee, Vitalogy, Field Pass, Nettleton, Deviant, Prince of Thieves, Peace Achieved
Breeders' Cup Prep Value: Medium; Many of these have Breeders' Cup aspirations but none looks like a threat to go on and win the Juvenile Turf
Spinster Stakes (G1) - Keeneland - Race 9 (5:45PM ET)
A 'Win and You're In' race for the Breeders' Cup Distaff
This one should be fun! On one end of the spectrum you've got the impressive three-year-old filly, DUNBAR ROAD. On the other end, you've got the venerable veteran mare, ELATE. And in between you've got defending champion BLUE PRIZE, who went on to run 4th in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff. Jose Ortiz, who had the choice to ride either DUNBAR ROAD or ELATE stuck with the five-year-old, and probably for good reason. ELATE is a two-time winner this year and has seven wins in her career with earnings of $2.2 million. And assuming all goes well on Sunday, Bill Mott will sit down and decide whether he wants to run her in the Breeders' Cup Distaff against Midnight Bisou (she's 0-for-3 against her this year) or in the Classic against the boys. A big performance makes the Classic seems that much more likely.
Breeders' Cup Prep Horse(s) to Watch: Elate (Top Pick), Dunbar Road, Blue Prize
Breeders' Cup Prep Value: High, with Elate a Breeders' Cup lock (either Distaff or Classic) and Dunbar Road and Blue Prize likely to move on as well