Race Six – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
The Juvenile Turf races are always a tough handicapping challenge. Trying to determine how the American form holds up against the always-tough European horses is the key to the race. This year, I think the race has to go through morning line favorite #5 Hootenanny, a Wesley Ward trainee who won the Windsor Castle Stakes at Ascot in June before being beaten only a length in the G1 Prix Morny in August. He looks to be the main speed of the race, and while he is going beyond 6f for the first time, I believe the son of Quality Road should be capable of staying the mile distance. #4 Commemorative has won his last two races, with his only other effort being a 4th-place effort in his debut. Both of those wins were at today’s mile distance, which makes me confident in his ability to be competitive in this race. Aidan O’Brien’s #7 War Envoy is likely to be the lowest price of the Euro invaders (aside from Hootenanny), at 9-2 on the morning line. In his last race, he was beaten only a length and a quarter while finishing 5th in the G1 Gran Criterium. His racing post ratings are steadily improving, and are among the highest in the field, but I am not convinced that he is the best of this group. He has won only one of his seven lifetime starts, and that was his April debut. That said, the son of War Front should relish the extra furlong he’ll be getting in this race, and even the second- or third-tier European horses are generally better than the Americans on turf. I believe #11 Imperia is the best chance of the American-raced entries. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee has only two starts under his belt, but broke his maiden in the second of those two races – the G3 Pilgrim Stakes. He added Lasix for that race and it resulted in a length victory over Vision Perfect, who came back to win Belmont’s Awad Stakes in his next start. Imperia was awarded an 82 Beyer figure for that win, one of the highest in the field. He should improve off of that race and could prove to be the best of America’s juvenile turf runners. #3 Luck of the Kitten is another major player from America. His win in the Zuma Beach Stakes was impressive, dueling for the lead and pulling clear to win by 1 3/4 length. One concern is whether or not he will have a problem in fellow Wesley Ward trainee Hootenanny, as both are proven speed horses. Luck of the Kitten has never been behind a horse in the first point of call in four lifetime starts.
$2 Win: #5 Hootenanny
$1 Exacta Box: #4 Commemorative / #5 Hootenanny / #7 War Envoy
$2 W/P/S: #11 Imperia
Race Seven – Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
In the Dirt Mile, defending champion #1 Goldencents is hard to look past. He has been consistent all year and has been impressive in the mornings coming up to this race. In his last race, he ran huge to just be beaten in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) by Rich Tapestry. He used the same race as a prep before winning last year’s edition by 2 3/4 lengths. If Goldencents gets beat, I believe #9 Tapiture is the best shot to upset. He is a fighter on the track, and loves to engage with other horses in the stretch. He won two of his three races since a disappointing Kentucky Derby run, his only loss being a runner-up effort to Bayern in the G2 Pennsylvania Derby. He’s cutting back to a mile, which I believe is a much better choice than trying the 1 1/4 Classic, and should be stalking close enough to overtake Goldencents on the lead when the time comes. #8 Fed Biz was defeated by Shared Belief in his last race, the 1 1/8-mile Awesome Again Stakes (G1). Two races back, he was soundly beaten when running second to Goldencents in the 7f Pat O’Brien Stakes (G1), although that was on Del Mar’s synthetic surface. While he’s proven to be a capable and classy runner, I don’t think he’s better than Goldencents or Tapiture.
$2 Win: #1 Goldencents
$1 Exacta Box: $1 Goldencents / #8 Fed Biz / #9 Tapiture
$2 W/P/S: #9 Tapiture
Race Eight – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
The Juvenile Fillies Turf is as tough to handicap as its male counterpart. #2 Osaila is coming off a win in an ungraded stakes at Newmarket. Prior to that, she was beaten only 1 1/4 lengths when finishing 5th in the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes. She looks like the most talented of the group. #3 Sunset Glow is the favored Wesley Ward trainee, having finished second in the Albany Stakes (G3) at Ascot in June – a race in which Osaila finished fifth as a maiden. She returned to the States to post victories in the G2 Sorrento and G1 Del Mar Debutante, both over Del Mar’s synthetic track. She’s quick early but rated in her latest score, so should be content to stalk if #5 Isabella Sings or #10 Quality Rocks, who look to be the other pace horses, are intent on getting the early lead. #14 Qualify is an Aidan O’Brien trainee adding Lasix for her U.S. debut. She won the G3 Weld Park Stakes in her last race, and prior to that was 6th in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, over two lengths behind Osaila. The outside post could be a hindrance for her, but if she can overcome it perhaps she can turn the tables on Osaila and win. #4 Lady Eli is undefeated in two starts, including a dominating win in the G3 Miss Grillo in her last race. She looks to be a legitimate filly and could give the Europeans a run for their money. Another American I believe deserves a long look is #9 Lady Zuzu. The 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale topper was thrown to the wolves in her second start, finishing up the track in the G1 Spinaway after a third place effort in her debut, but on October 9th she returned to win a maiden special weight at a mile on the turf by 6 1/4 lengths. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is high on her, and if she continues maturing after that victory, she is a player here and in the future.
$2 Win: #2 Osaila
$1 Exacta Box: #2 Osaila / #4 Lady Eli / #9 Lady Zuzu
$2 W/P/S: #9 Lady Zuzu
Race Nine – Breeders’ Cup Distaff
The Breeders’ Cup Distaff lost a major player with the defection of Beholder, but has become an even more intriguing race without her presence. #11 Close Hatches has been the leader of the division on the east coast all year, but ran a disappointing 4th in the Spinaway (G1) in her last start, a race that was won by #7 Don’t Tell Sophia. I think that performance can be thrown out despite the lack of any apparent excuse. If she is the same horse she has been all year, she should win, and that poor race should help her odds this time. That Spinaway victory was her best race in a year where her only defeat was behind Close Hatches in the G2 Azeri Stakes earlier in the year. She could be getting good at the right time, and has been a consistent runner her entire career, with 11 wins in 22 lifetime starts. Three-year-old #10 Untapable will be facing her elders for the first time in the Distaff. She is the indisputable champion of her crop, but will likely be favored in this spot and I am not sure if she can be trusted. While an incredibly talented filly, I question whether she peaked too early in the year with her dominating Kentucky Oaks win and prep season. Her Beyer numbers have not come close to the 106 and 107 she ran in the Fair Grounds Oaks and Kentucky Oaks earlier this season; in her last three races she has posted a 94 and two 96 Beyer figures. On her best day, she wins this race, but I don’t think she presents value. #4 Belle Gallantey has been in the form of her life this year, but her best races seem to come when she has the lead and with the likes of #2 Tiz Midnight, #3 Iotapa, and Close Hatches in the race, I don’t think she’s quick enough to obtain her ideal position. California-based Iotapa is very interesting to me. While primarily a speed horse, she has demonstrated the ability to rate to some extent, and always seems to be more than ready to out-game another horse to the finish. Her win in the Vanity Stakes(G1) seems to have been a freak performance, and while she hasn’t replicated it since, I think she has the potential to run another big race in her second start off a brief rest.
$2 Win: #11 Close Hatches
$1 Exacta Box: #3 Iotapa / #7 Don’t Tell Sophia / #11 Close Hatches
$2 W/P/S: #3 Iotapa