Tag Archives: Breeders Cup

Preview: Breeders’ Cup Classic 2018

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9.44 Churchill Downs: Breeders’ Cup Classic, 1m 2f

It’s always hard to assess US form properly if you watch the Dirt racing only with one eye. So, when I dismiss the home raiders in the blink of an eye I do so knowing full well it may turn out to be a foolish move in a few hours time.

But if it comes to this years Classic I feel pretty strong about two European runners. For different but then also somewhat similar reasons. In either case, the one of Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn, a lot will depend on the start of the race, I believe. It’ll make or break their chances.

Thunder Snow in gate one faces an uphill task. He’s never showed tremendous gate speed, so this is a major risk. However, if experienced Sumillon in the saddle is able to push his mount forward, so he’ll not end up behind a wall of horses entering the first bend, but rather tracking the pace in third, fourth or fifth, then the reigning Dubai World Cup champion is in a position to win the race.

That performance back in March is to be taken with a pinch of salt due to the rail bias that day. However, he beat some excellent dirt horses in tremendous style and ever since the Breeders’ Cup Classic was the goal.

A disappointing effort in the Juddmonte International aside, on his return to the US, for the first time after his disastrous experience in the Kentucky Derby, Thunder Snow ran a tremendous race in defeat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

He was more sensibly ridden than the two pace setters, but still was pushed forward rather aggressively from the widest gate. That must have cost vital fuel. Contrast that with the eventual winner of the race, who had pretty much the perfect race and ride and simply picked up the pieces in the closing stages, having the most left in the tank.

Thunder Snow tracked the pace from a long way off in third place throughout the race and was gradually closing in until catching the leaders entering the home straight. He led in the final furlong, eventually beaten on the line by the fast finishing Discreet Lover.

That was an excellent run, the second after a break and only a prep for today – you would think there is still a bit to come from him, hoping he’ll peak when it matters most: today.

His form on dirt reads an impressive 11P21212 – so clearly Thunder Snow is a classy individual. Everything hinges on the start. If he can get through that without getting too far behind, then I’m confident Godolphin has a major shout at celebrating a first Classic Success.

A first one in this regard it would also be for team Ballydoyle. I’m sure there are quite a few who’ve already given up on Mendelssohn at this stage, given in three starts over in the US, ever since producing that sheer unbelievable performance in Meydan, he’s yet to come close to winning.

I see it from a different perspective: today was always the goal. Knowing Aiden O’Brien, you can be sure he’ll have Mendelssohn spot for the race they want to win desperately. Also, something that seems overlooked: Mendelssohn, for whom the way races are run in the US must have been a bit of culture shock, has steadily improved from race to race over there.

You can easily draw a line under the Kentucky Derby; since then 3-2-3, the last two in Grade 1 contests over the Classic trip. I’ve been mightily impressed with this most recent performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Mendelssohn was sprinting forward right from the start, racing for the lead with odds-on favourite Diversify – the two set mad fractions and where more than ten lengths clear halfway through the race! They were caught eventually, but it was Mendelssohn who battled on toe finish a two lengths beaten third in the end.

One could argue, only with some sort of soft lead, steeling the race from the front, Mendelssohn will have a chance to win today. He’s not quite up to the standard to be considered a major contender, otherwise. That is probably an assessment not too far of the truth, by all we know up until now.

I see it from this perspective, though: Mendelssohn is improving. His latest run was a new career best. He’s still not got too many miles on the clock. He’s got an ideal draw to move forward today. He had a pretty ideal preparation, stays the trip and is a returning Breeders’ Cup winner, i.e. he has class!

I might be totally wrong. Overestimate these two Europeans, and underestimate the US horses, like favourite Accelerate, Mckinzie and Catholic Boy. I might overvalue the merit of the Jockey Club Gold Cup performances. And if I fancy the second and third of that race, I should fancy the winner, Discreet Lover at massive odds of 50/1 even more so today, right?

Well, I stick to my analysis, that both Mendelssohn and Thunder Snow didn’t have ideal races that day, ran big despite the factors against them, and both offer significant upside coming into the Breeders’ Cup Classic today.

Selections:
10pts win – Thunder Snow  @ 14/1 Coral
10pts win – Mendelssohn @ 10/1 PP

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Preview: Pegasus World Cup

Can newly crowned 2017 American Horse Of The year, Gun Runner, finish his career in the most lucrative fashion? He certainly is the red-hot favourite for the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.

Whether even money is a good or a bad price depends on individual perspective. Undisputed is, however, that the reigning Breeders’ Cup champ has all the credentials to win a fifth consecutive Grade 1.

He drops down a furlong from his impressive Del Mar success, which isn’t a problem given his excellent record over 9 furlongs. SO, can he beaten?

Absolutely! Drawn wide, he’s got to be at his very best to prevail in a deep field. He’s had a tough campaign last season, including a trip to Dubai. That can take a toll on horses, as we have seen in this very same race only twelve months ago, when California Chrome flopped spectacularly.

Is he going to be at his very best coming off a near three months lay-off? Possibly – Steve Asmussen knows the horse best and will ensure his star is ready for one final big performance.

Nonetheless, at even money I have to oppose him, simply from a betting perspective, with other exciting options available to back against the favourite.

Pacific Classic winner – inflicting a painful defeat to Arrogate – and BCC runner-up Collected rates a big danger on that form. He has no problems with the trip, usually travells well and is gutsy.

He flopped in a Grade 2 at the back-end of the 2017 season; some recent reports from the US suggest he did not impress in his workouts. That’s not to say he can’t be back to his best when it matters most – but maybe those big runs have left a mark?

West Coast looks more likely to cause the ‘upset’. Impressive Travers Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby successes, followed by a third placed- and far from disgraced effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

A drop to 1m 1f should suit this horse down to the grounds. From a perfect draw he should be in a perfect position when it really matters. Castellano gets the leg up. He is still only four, so could potentially improve. He’s a big player here and one I like allot. 7/1 looks a good price.

That says, 10/1 for Sharp Azteca looks even better in my book. The speedball has a perfect draw to suit his running style, though could face competition for the lead. He proved versatile, on the other hand, and seems to have no problem tracking the pace either.

He landed a first Grade 1 success at Aqueduct in the Cigar Mile in most impressive style despite carrying top weight. If the Pegasus would be run over a mile, Sharp Azteca would be hard to beat. It isn’t, though. Hence the additional furlong is the key question.

Plenty are of the opinion he won’t stay the trip. Once taken on by the big guns in the home straight he will falter. You can point to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile where exactly that happened. Though there were some slight excuses, possibly, that day.

On the plus side: even though only on Grade 3 level, he won the Monmouth Cup over 1m 1/2f by more than seven lengths back in July last year. He didn’t appear to be stopping – and albeit better opposition awaits here – I do not see how Sharp Azteca is down as not staying 9f in the book of so many.

On pedigree there is certainly every chance he could even stretch out to 10 furlongs. Furthermore, Gulfstream Park is a track he already won twice at; it is a course to favour his running style in general. So I think there is every chance that Sharp Azteca is in the right place when it matters.

At 10’s I feel he is overpriced. Yes, he is not the most likely winner in the race. But he is the biggest value being fully unexposed over the trip, coming here in the form of his life, with a perfect draw and conditions to suit.

Selection:
10pts win – Sharp Azteca @ 10/1 PP/BF

Jockey Cam Winner!

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I love jockey cams. We need more of them. They provide incredible insight into how a race is run and what it looks and feels like from jockey’s perspective.

As the armchair jockey I am, I do relish those rare insights immensely. So all the happier I was when this incredible footage of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race emerged – uploaded by the official Breeders’ Cup Youtube Channel!

Ride with Mike Smith and win the race on Caledonia Road – a 20/1 upset – how he gets rolling from the back of the field to make progress on the outside and eventually brings the bacon home.

For full context: the race replay can be watched here. Fair to say it was a hell of a ride!

2017 Breeders’ Cup – Selections

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The juggernaut that is the Breeders Cup is nearly upon us! In fact it’s only a couple of hours away. The pinnacle of the US racing season also brings down 2017 for many  of the European equine superstars too.

Del Mar it is this year –  a change from Santa Anita for once, though with that we do stay in California. Racing starts on Friday with ten races on the card. Historically I haven’t done overly well from a pure betting point of view, though I immensely enjoy watching the event on NBC. The TV coverage is all class.

I keep my bets to a minimum this time. Three selections – that is all!

…….

Friday 9.25: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, 1m

Without the shadow of the doubt Aiden O’Brien’s Happily is the form horse in the field. She won two major Group 1’s on the bounce, including the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere when beating the boys.

Granted, she had a long season with six starts and coming here at the end of the year isn’t easy – if she reproduces anything close to her recent form, she is hard to beat, though. On paper that is.

Question marks are over her pace in the early stages of the race. She has got a perfect draw but will Happily be able to utilize it? Ryan Moore will want to have her settling close to the speed in an ideal world.

She appeared a bit outpaced early on in France the other day, and had trouble catching up with the leaders in the home straight. She grinded it out, more than anything. Fast ground at Del Mar will be not forgiving, if she does not gets quickly out of the blocks.

That says, on pedigree the ground should suit. She’s got more experience now and you would think that Ran Moore, given the clear disadvantage settling off the pace, will be a bit more vigorous pushing her forward, if needed.

Happily should not lack stamina, so once moving, she will keep moving for as long as it’s needed.

There is juice in the price in my mind. I expected her to be good deal shorter, given the opposition in the field is not as good as what she faced in her last two starts.

Selection:
10pts win – Happily @ 4/1 PP

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Saturday 11.37: Breeders’ Cup Turf, 1m 4f

One last hooray for Highland Reel. He’ll go to stud after this – a race he won last year. Or shall we say stole? He got away under a perfect ride by Jamie Heffernan that day.

The globetrotter had another productive season in 2017. Winner of the Coronation- and Prince of Wales’s Stakes. When he gets his preferred conditions Highland Reel is clearly tough to beat.

I feel that’ll be the day here. Trip is perfect, fast ground is what he loves, a perfect draw will enable him to be up with the pace, if not even attempting to make all. The tight, turning track poses no problem to him either.

Main threat is obviously the superb Ulysses. Though the trip is probably slightly on the far side for him and the track configuration may not play to his strengths either.

Best chance for the home team is multiple grade 1 winner Beach Patrol. A wide draw isn’t ideal as Highland Reel, once in front, is unlikely to stop.

Selection:
10pts win – Highland Reel @ 9/4 Bet365

……

Sunday 00.25: Breeders’ Cup Classic, 1m 2f

It’s already past midnight when they’re off in the Classic! The question many ask: can Arrogate find back to his best? Since his return from Dubai in two subsequent starts he never looked the same horse that was crowned best in the world in 2016.

Can Gun Runner outgun him? Well, he’s been bloody impressive in his last three wins and deserves the favourite tag. However he never won over the 10f trip and was comprehensively outstayed by Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.

The answer must lie somewhere else: West Coast? Maybe. Won two Grade 1’s on the bounce. Landed the Travers. Not much wrong with that. He stays the trip, has the right form in the book and is an interesting price.

You can, if you want, knock the form, though. None of those beaten behind him would be fancied to go close in Classic at all. In fact, Travers runner-up Gunnevera is considered a 50/1 shot!

Improving Collected won the Pacific Classic, beat Arrogate that day. So he stays the trip and is still a progressive sort. The wide draw is a concern but he should be thereabouts.

Aiden O’Brien tries his luck once more. He throws Churchill into the ring. It’s unlikely the dual Guineas winner will enjoy this test on dirt I suspect, but I can see why “the lads” do it.

If he runs well if will enhance his commercial value as a stallion. If he doesn’t perform it won’t devalue anything he did the last two seasons.

The seemingly second string is War Decree. A much more interesting case, I feel. From a pedigree perspective he is bred to act on dirt and is a half-brother to Declaration Of War who came quite close to win the BCC some years ago.

Nonetheless the immense test this race is may still come as a shock to the system. Until he runs we don’t know whether he really acts on the dirt or not. It’s more likely he won’t. However I love a couple of facts if it comes to War Decree:

He’s still lightly raced and had a significantly lighter season than most in the field. He demolished a fair field in a Dundalk Group 3 when last season, travelling like a really good horse. Of course he meets different class and a different surface here – still War Decree looks in tip top form.

Taking it all in, he’s no 50/1 chance in a Breeders’ Cup Classic field that is wide open in my mind. With the places paying at 1/4 odds, this looks a tremendous bet.

Selection:
10pts win e/w – War Decree @ 50/1 Bet365

Chrome vs. Arrogate 2.0

On a day like this where our beloved sport produced its finest moments just to be followed by  incredible tragedy, it’s comforting that we racing fans can drown our sorrow – at least for a moment – in excitement about the next big race.

It might be fickle, it might feel wrong but this is simply the circle of life in our game of horse racing. Greats come, Greats go, the next star’s just been borne… but that is racing also: legends are never forgotten.

And a legend we’ll never forget is the great Many Clouds, who sadly left us today, after a heroic win at Cheltenham. I had the privilege to see this almighty horse winning the Grand National in 2015 – a historic performance is was. What a warrior, what a star, a true Great of our game. RIP big fella….

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But there it is, the next big race – its protagonists deserve our full attention. This big race is the inaugural Pegasus World Cup. World class prize money on offer, with a purse of $12 million it’s the richest race on earth! although it’s debatable whether the tag “World Cup” is justified, given it’s a race on dirt with no foreign raider in the 12-runner line-up and only two of them truly deserve to be called world class.

Nonetheless this is an intriguing contest like few others, purely because those two world class horses are no less than the recently crowned number one and two of the world rankings: Arrogate and California Chrome!

A single pound between the two in the ratings indicates what a close contest we might witness tonight – effectively a match-race, much like when these two met the first- and last time. That was in November, in the Breeders Cup Classic, a day when the three year old Arrogate prevailed by half a lengths after a thrilling finish down the home straight.


Arrogate won fair and square that day in my humble opinion. In fact he looks special, which became evident to me after his sensational performance in the Travers Stakes. It looked almost unreal the way he demolished his rivals in what was a top notch Grade 1!

However is he really better than California Chrome? The jury is still out, I feel. Let’s not forget Arrogate received a handy little weight for age allowance in the Breeders Cup Classic, and no doubt he endured a much less gruelling season leading up to the big race at Santa Anita than the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner certainly did.

Chrome in contrast travelled the world, ripped the Dubai World Cup field apart and went on to win two more Grade ones, making super mare Beholder look ordinary in the Pacific Classic. Whether he was still at 100% in November, when on go for so long, where one big race followed the next is hard to say.

What is easy to say: Chrome is not slowing down. He’s as good as ever, judged on  an easy prep run at Los Alamitos in the middle of December. Arrogate in contrast didn’t have another race since the Breeders Cup. A disadvantage? I reckon it’s not. For all he’s still the younger horse, with fresher legs and upside.

Tactics will be interesting today. Arrogate is drawn on the inside, Chrome widest on the outside. Two tricky gates to start from. Chrome may need to work to get up with the pace where he usually wants to sit whereas Arrogate has to be careful not to get boxed in.

Nonetheless when it really comes down to it, these two will fight it out. Who’s going to win? Impossible to say. My gut feeling is that Chrome might have a little bit more going for himself here. The run under his belt last month, he meets Arrogate at level weights today and the not insignificant drop to nine furlongs could be more in his favour too.

After all, it’s probably fair to say that this is a coin flip. With that in mind I got to go with California Chrome. He’s a the value price. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets outstayed in thrilling finish by the extra special Arrogate. In less than two hours we’ll find out.

Selection: California Chrome @ 6/4 Skybet

Preview: Breeders Cup Classic

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Breeders Cup Classic (Grade 1)

All about American Pharoah of course! Can he end his amazing career with a triumph in the Breeders Cup Classic? Well, he’s the favourite, but surely has to be at his best to see of some strong competition. Mind you he has been on the go for a long time this year.

I’m prepared to take him on. You could say he was a bit unlucky in the Travers where he battled with Frosted from a long way out. nonetheless it might have been also a fact of him having so much racing this season. Did it wear him down?

Honor Code is seen as one of the main dangers. He’s usually spectacular when he wins. But the trip is a question mark today. It could be too far.

Tonalist was more than five lengths beaten in the Classic last year but has been in excellent form lately. He can go close but needs things to fall right for him to win. Keen Ice the Travers winner can’t be expected to follow-on from this success. He profited from the two main contenders making their respective moves way too early.

No doubt Gleneagles is an intriguing contender. It all evolves around his ability to handle the dirt. His fate might be obvious after the first furlong ran in case he struggles then. His ability is there, of course, but I find it hard to have to much believe in that this is the right kind of test for him.

Whether Frosted is good enough to land a major Grade 1 remains to be seen. The jury is still out. He has improved with his racing this year, though, and fought one or another battle with American Pharoah before. That says he is not quite as talented as the Triple Crown winner, but looked excellent when landing the Pennsylvania Derby in excellent style.

One a Grade 2, but it proves Frosted holds his form and must rate a major contender today. For me he is the value in this race and I expect him to outrun his price tag.

Frosted  @ 20/1 Ladbrokes / 5pts Win 

Preview: Breeders Cup Mile

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7.30 Breeders Cup Mile (Grade 1)

Very hot race which becomes even more open since the ground has further dried out. The French have a strong hand in this with Make Believe a clear favourite. The colt has top form in the book and has a good draw at his disposal. However there are a couple others who are likely to join him in a bid for the early pace.

French filly Impassable is a lovely progressive sort and with first time lasix must enter calculations. I fancy her to go well. Another filly, Tepin, makes appeal for the home team. She has been in excellent form lately and I like her, but feel she is a right price, the same as the French filly.

Esoterique and Time Test are top notchers too and should do well if the pace isn”t too hot form them.

There is some value to find here in this race on Grand Arch I feel who is way overpriced. A winner of the Group 1 Shadwell Turf mile here at Keeneland, he has top form and may get the race to his liking. Stalking a strong pace and then kick on when it matters.

Grand Arch @ 33/1 Coral – 5pts Win