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Talismanic, Thunder Snow Lead Brigade of Bettable Breeders' Cup Longshots

by Dustin Fabian

October 30, 2018

The highlight of betting the Breeders’ Cup – or one of them at least – is finding those ‘bomb’ horses to include in your bets and take a good day and make it a great day.

At last year’s World Championships at Del Mar, five horses (of 13 races) paid $30 or more.  They were Bar of Gold ($135.40), Stormy Liberal ($62.40), Caledonia Road ($36.60), Battle of Midway ($30.40) and Talismanic ($30.20).  That led to massive payouts across the board. 

Is more in store for 2018? That’s anyone’s best guess. But at the 2011 Breeders’ Cup – the last time it was at Churchill – five horses won and paid $30 or more, including Mile bomber Court Vision, who paid a remarkable $131.60.

I didn’t have many rules for my selections here, but all picks must be at least 8/1 ML (paying $18 or more).  Horses that I view as too-low on the ML didn’t make the cut, even if I thought they’d go up from their listed price. 

Now, I can’t guarantee that any of these horses will win. Or that any will even hit the board. The favorites are favorites for a reason, and I won’t be shocked if we find that horses like Enable, Accelerate, Game Winner, Newspaperofrecord, Imperial Hint, Bellafina and Abel Tasman all show up and bring their ‘A’ game. It’s not incredibly likely, but it could happen and it wouldn’t be a massive headscratcher.

Classic – #1 Thunder Snow (12/1)

This race went a little sideways at the draw as the 5/2 favorite, Accelerate, drew the 14 Post. Not a death knell, but worth noting that he hasn’t always run well when drawn outside.  Other horses I like - #6 McKinzie (6/1), #7 West Coast (5/1) and #11 Mind Your Biscuits (6/1) – are all too low on the ML to factor into this piece.

I think #1 Thunder Snow (12/1) is one of the horses that ‘won’ the draw. I’ve always appreciated how this horse is handled and it seems like Saeed bin Suroor is more than happy to let him race himself into shape. I guess we’d call him a ‘progressive’ type.  This is the type of horse that needs a race or two to get into shape – his Dubai World Cup win earlier this year was his fourth race in 2 1/2-months – and this will be his third start since August 22. He drew well and can stalk in behind the speed horses and get run on the closers. 

Turf – #1 Talismanic (12/1)

#2 Enable (1/1) is the lowest-priced horse in the Breeders’ Cup and she obviously won’t be easy to beat.  Outside of her, there’s more bite to the European contingent in the form of #12 Waldgeist (9/2) and #5 Magical (10/1).  The American contingent is so-so at best and it appears very likely that the winner will be European.

But where’s the love for #1 Talismanic (12/1)? He won this race last year and his form this time isn’t that much different. Last year he ran third in the G1 Prix Foy at Chantilly before shipping to Del Mar. This year he ran second in the ‘Foy (behind Waldgeist) and was a no-show 13th in the Arc behind Enable. His best career races came in California and Hong Kong, so I don’t want to be too hard on him for his Arc. If nothing else, you’re getting a horse that has already been to the winner’s circle in this race. That’s gotta count for something, right?

Distaff – #9 Wow Cat (8/1)

A few months ago, Abel Tasman and Monomoy Girl would’ve been ‘can’t beat’ for this race. But Monomoy Girl looked a little gassed in the Cotillion at Parx (and I wouldn’t blame her if her long campaign was catching up) and Abel Tasman was abysmal in the G1 Zenyatta at Santa Anita.  Popular wise guy longshot, #10 Blue Prize, is a ‘feels too low’ 6/1 on the ML.  She doesn’t have a high ceiling, in my opinion. 

On the other hand, Wow Cat is a filly on the rise. Her win in the G1 Beldame was her top performance in the US and it’s not often you get ‘longshot’ status on Chad Brown and Jose Ortiz. Abel Tasman beat her by 10-lengths in the G1 Personal Ensign but times are different now and they seem to be moving in separate directions. Her ceiling is through the roof as evidenced by her 9-for-11 career mark, including a perfect 8-for-8 in her native Chile. 

Mile – #3 Happily (15/1)

I’ll admit that I love #5 Oscar Performance (6/1) in this race, but the price is too low to be considered a longshot. This race is full of price horses and it’s hard to make heads or tails of this European contingent. They seem to have all been hot and cold all season. Any could win – and any could lose. The ones drawn outside - #13 Gustav Klimt (10/1) and #14 Mustashry (15/1) – would merit attention, but those posts are so bad. 

I’ll take a shot with the ‘other’ Aidan O’Brien horse, #3 Happily (15/1). Aidan O’Brien entered two here and his go-to rider, Ryan Moore, picked Gustav Klimt, but I’m not sure he would’ve after seeing the draw. Happily was dead last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last year, but she’s at her best going this distance (or so it seems). Earlier this year she finished third (against the likes of Alpha Centauri and Laurens) in the Irish and British Guineas and she was beaten just a neck in the G1 Sun Chariot last out at Newmarket.

Sprint – #7 Distinctive B (12/1)

Impossible race to nail a longshot at 8/1 or higher as just four horses in this nine-horse race fit the bill.  #5 Imperial Hint (9/5) will go favored and defending champ #9 Roy H (5/2) will take a ton of money.  I’m skeptical as to whether or not #1 Whitmore (6/1) and #8 Limousine Liberal (6/1) will stay that low, but I made the rules and I’m going to stick with them. 

Distinctive B is a solid horse that continues to improve for Peter Miller.  He just finished second behind Roy H in the G1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship and he’s finished in the Exacta in 13-of-27 starts. His outside draw should allow him to track the speed and maybe he can sit 4th or 5th and get a piece of the puzzle.  Of all the races, this is the one I had the toughest time making a case for a longshot.

Filly & Mare Turf - #9 A Raving Beauty (10/1)

This is a strong and top-heavy field, with Chad Brown sending out #6 Sistercharlie (3/1) and #1 Fourstar Crook (5/1). Both drew great and will be backed at the windows. Similarly, #3 Wild Illusion (7/2) drew great and should factor and #10 Magic Wand (5/1) will be in the picture.

Who remembers the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Lone Star Park? I do. Intercontinental, regarded as a top miler that couldn’t get the distance, was allowed to lope on the front end in a paceless under Rafael Bejarano for Bobby Frankel. She paid $32 to win. I see some similarities with A Raving Beauty, even if she’s not as good as Intercontinental ever was. There may not be much speed in here, at least from the domestics. If Javier Castellano asserts her here, as Johnny V did last out in the G1 First Lady at Keeneland, they’ll be staring at her backside for much (or all) of the trip.

Dirt Mile - #9 Giant Expectations (15/1) & #4 Seven Trumpets (15/1)

The favorites are formidable here but they could’ve drawn better. #10 Catalina Cruiser (9/5) is outside and that will at least let Drayden Van Dyke set – or track – the pace.  #1 City of Light (5/2) would probably be a little more outside as the rail will force Javier Castellano’s hand. He can’t take back and get caught in traffic and the last time they started from the rail he took the field in the G1 Malibu gate-to-wire.

I’m very intrigued by #9 Giant Expectations at 15/1 on the ML.  I had previously written him off as a need-the-lead type as his only recent start of note was a gate-to-wire score in the G2 San Antonio at Santa Anita. But in his first start since March, he ran really well in the G3 Ack Ack at Churchill on September 29. He got away slowly from an inside post before making a wide bid and getting tired late. That was obviously a prep for this and he should move forward. If Julien Leparoux can get him out of the gate and put him in the race early, he should be around for a while.

#4 Seven Trumpets (15/1) is also a longshot worth considering. The key for him is one-turn racing. He’s 7-3-2-1 around one-turn and 4-0-1-0 around two.  Plus he’s 3-for-3 at Churchill and Dale Romans is the winningest trainer in this history of Churchill Downs. 

Turf Sprint - #8 Chanteline (15/1)

This race is such a difficult one as distance and turf condition make all the difference when it comes to handicapping. Turf sprints at Santa Anita are downhill and at 6 1/2-furlongs. Del Mar dashes are 5-furlongs. And Belmont favors the 6-furlong sprint trip. Churchill’s trip is 5 1/2-furlongs and that could prove problematic for the favorites. #5 Disco Partner (7/2) may want slightly longer. #9 Stormy Liberal (4/1) may not like the softer Kentucky course. #14 Conquest Tsunami (6/1) seems to want to go longer.

One horse that loves this 5 1/2-furlong trip – and loves it on Kentucky sod, nonetheless – is the six-year-old mare, Chanteline. She won the G3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes at Keeneland on October 12 and her lone loss in her last four starts came on soft ground at the Spa.  She’s got enough tactical speed to sit midpack and enough of a kick to come flying late. She’s sharp right now.

Filly & Mare Sprint - #14 Shamrock Rose (20/1)

Speed is the name of the game in this tricky 7-furlong dash, as the California contingent of #1 Selcourt (4/1), #2 Miss Sunset (15/1), #7 Skye Diamonds (10/1) and #12 Anonymity (15/1) is loaded with early pace, and Easterners like #3 Happy Like a Fool (20/1), #4 Kirby’s Penny (30/1), #8 Chalon (15/1), #8 Mia Mischief (15/1) and #9 Stormy Embrace (20/1) all want to be up front too.

So what gives? Obviously if this falls apart, #13 Marley’s Freedom (8/5) benefits. But what if she doesn’t fire?  How about giving Shamrock Rose a look. She has won three in a row for Mark Casse and was dominant in taking the G2 Raven Run at Keeneland by more than 2-lengths on October 20 in a race that was fast-early, fast-late. What if the same happens here? The breadcrumbs are here for a pace meltdown and she would benefit. At 20/1, let’s take a swing.

Juvenile - #8 Standard Deviation (12/1)

I think the book – at least the early book – is out on a number of these and speed is the name of the game. #9 Game Winner can rate and should win this, but what happens if he tussles early with #4 Tight Ten (30/1), #5 Well Defined (20/1), #6 Complexity (5/2), #7 Mind Control (20/1) and #10 Knicks Go (30/1). All seem to really relish racing up front.

The best closer is #12 Gunmetal Gray (10/1), but I think he’ll be a ‘wiseguy’ horse and will take money. Let’s turn our attention to #8 Standard Deviation (12/1). He broke his maiden with ease at Saratoga for Chad Brown and Javier Castellano and was regarded enough to go right into the G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. Unfortunately, he drew miserably that day (13 of 13) and never had a prayer. He tried hard though but couldn’t cut into Knicks Go’s big lead. Castellano stays aboard, they draw better and he adds blinkers.

Juvenile Turf - #8 Opry (15/1)

With the race’s lukewarm favorite, #14 Anthony Van Dyck (4/1), marooned in the outside post for Aidan O’Brien, things are even more wide open. Todd Pletcher’s ‘A’ horse, #12 Current (5/1) is also outside drawn. But hey, in a race where the favorite is 4/1, price shopping is easy.

I’m going to make the assumption that Todd Pletcher’s #8 Opry (15/1) hated the yielding course in the G3 Pilgrim at Belmont. It’s easy to forget he was the 8/5 favorite that day (over #4 Forty Under (5/1) and #7 Somelikeithotbrown (12/1)) and now he is a 15/1 outsider? I’ll take my chances there, especially with Javier Castellano in the irons. Other considerations in this spot were #2 Uncle Benny (15/1), #5 Line of Duty (10/1) and #7 Somelikeithotbrown (12/1). 

Juvenile Fillies - #8 Sippican Harbor (12/1)

It’s easy to lose sight of Sippican Harbor, especially since #10 Bellafina (2/1), #2 Serengeti Empress (7/2), #7 Jaywalk (7/2) and #4 Restless Rider (9/2) have all raced – and won big – more recently.  And you can make a strong case for each.  Bellafina looks like a freak and she drew OK for her running style.  She has won two straight from outside draws, but granted each of those was Post Position #5.  She’s 10 here.

Lost in the shuffle may be #8 Sippican Harbor (12/1) who won the G1 Spinaway last out at Saratoga.  And she beat Restless Rider in the process that day by 2-lengths.  Bob Baffert’s Chasing Yesterday, who came back to win a stakes race at Santa Anita, was also in the field. I don’t love that Sippican Harbor’s regular rider, Joel Rosario, opted to ride Jaywalk, but I’m more than OK with the fact that Irad Ortiz Jr. is the replacement. If they go fast early, Sippican Harbor can sit-and-wait and, with Orb and Deputy Minister in her pedigree, she should love the added ground.

Juvenile Fillies Turf - #2 The Mackem Bullet (15/1)

This is the race where I feel strongest about the favorite, as I’m having a tough time making a case against #6 Newspaperofrecord (2/1), who just looks like a monster in this division. In two starts in New York, they haven’t finished within 6-lengths of her and Chad Brown is a master of winning this race. 

For value, I’ll take a slight try with #2 The Mackem Bullet (15/1).  She has never been well-backed in Europe (20/1, 25/1 and 25/1 in her last three races) but she continues to get better.  Her Timeform ratings have jumped with each start – 38 > 60 > 72 > 80 > 91 > 100 and she comes in wither better numbers than any of her Euro counterparts.  She drew well and I won’t be surprised if she moves into contention later in the game. 

Juvenile Turf Sprint - #4 Stillwater Cove (20/1)

It’s like this race was written for Wesley Ward, who sends out a third of the field, including ML second choice #7 Shang Shang Shang (5/1). He won a G2 race at Royal Ascot in June but hasn’t been seen since. And between him and #4 Bulletin (10/1), as well as #1 Strike Silver (4/1) and #9 Chelsea Cloisters (8/1), they should be moving fast up front.

If that’s the case, I won’t be shocked if Ward’s “other, other, other” horse, #4 Stillwater Cove (20/1) gets his picture taken. She won the Bolton Landing Stakes up at Saratoga (over Chelsea Cloisters) in August and was part of a pace meltdown in the G1 Natalma at Woodbine.  Irad Ortiz was aboard when she won the Bolton Landing and I loved the ride that day.  A similar trip puts her in the conversation here at a big price – the biggest of all the Ward horses!