As I have in years past, I will be posting my 2016 Breeders’ Cup selections in the format of a $2 win bet, a $1 3-horse exacta box, and a $2 W/P/S bet. As I’m not much of a gambler, this isn’t exactly how I will be playing the races (my actual bets will likely be on Twitter), but I’ve found it’s a useful way to gauge my own handicapping success in the Breeders’ Cup.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
$2 Win: 1- Lancaster Bomber
$1 Exacta Box: 1- Lancaster Bomber / 2- Keep Quiet / 11- Good Samaritan
$2 W/P/S: 2- Keep Quiet
I don’t have a very strong opinion in this race, but I do think that Lancaster Bomber, who has been the rabbit for Europe’s best two-year-old in Churchill, will get a nice trip sitting behind Wellabled and Oscar Performance and will be in the best position turning for home. I think the most likely winners are him and Good Samaritan, who will likely be favored. A big-moving Bill Mott runner who is undefeated in two starts, he was very impressive in his G2 Summer Stakes victory and was a complete professional in his debut victory over Ticonderoga, who has since flattered that form with an impressive maiden score and runner-up finish in the G3 Bourbon to Keep Quiet. I went with Lancaster Bomber over him for the win bet because of the likely price difference, and because it’s well-acknowledged that European turf form is often better than American turf form, especially in two-year-olds, as turf is usually more of an afterthought in American racing.
Despite that, I decided to go with Keep Quiet in the exacta instead of Intelligence Cross. By many accounts, Keep Quiet seems to be very highly regarded in the Mark Casse barn, and for good reason. He was very game in his Bourbon Stakes win, engaging with a stubborn Ticonderoga before turning him away and eventually winning by 1 1/4 lengths. His Beyer speed figures have not been as high as some of the other Americans in this group, but I expect him, like Lancaster Bomber, to be in a good position to strike when the real running starts. It was a tough call between him and the other Aiden O’Brien entry, Intelligence Cross, in the exacta, but at the end of the day I decided to side with Keep Quiet’s proven form around two turns. Were I playing horizontally, I would definitely include Intelligence Cross if at all possible.
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
$2 Win: 1- Vyjack
$1 Exacta Box: 1- Vyjack / 3- Dortmund / 8- Tamarkuz
$2 W/P/S: 8- Tamarkuz
Dortmund is the most likely winner of this year’s Dirt Mile, without a doubt, and you don’t need me to tell you why. However, he will be odds-on, and I think Vyjack will prove to be the value in this spot. He is a G1 winner on dirt, and his connections said after his City Of Hope Mile win that they were planning on using the race as a prep for this one, so it’s not as if this was a last-minute change of heart. This race has been his target for a while, and this horse seems to be in career-best form now at the age of six. His last four races have all been very good – he was game in his comeback victory off a six-month layoff in April at Keeneland, and has steadily improved his Beyers ever since. In the G2 Pat O’Brien, he was a well-clear second best to Masochistic, who was at a major pace advantage that day. Vyjack went on to a very impressive score over two extremely talented turf milers in Om and Obviously, and I think even a repeat of that effort without improvement would place him in the running here, and a step up could be enough to get the better of Dortmund.
Tamarkuz is another horse that seems to be in the form of his life at the age of six, and I expect that we’ll see another good effort from him in this race. He needed the Met Mile off the winter layoff, and has finished second in his two most recent efforts since that race. He chased loose leader Anchor Down around the track in the Kelso, posting a career-top 104 Beyer in the process, in his last start. Prior to that, he ran very well when rallying to be second in the Forego behind A.P. Indian. He worked four furlongs in :48.4, well within himself, over the Santa Anita track, and seems to be on the muscle and ready for another big effort.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
$2 Win: 14- La Coronel
$1 Exacta Box: 4- Spain Burg / 13- Roly Poly / 14- La Coronel
$2 W/P/S: 2- Lull
Again, I don’t have a very strong opinion in this race. Roly Poly is the horse to beat, as she has been competitive against top company in Europe, and her run in the G1 Cheveley Park Stakes was ultra-impressive. She looked to be beaten, but when the eventual winner Brave Anna came alongside her, she re-broke a bit to pass Lady Aurelia and even got her nose in front for a stride or two before eventually succumbing. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of speed in this spot, and I think she will be in a good position, coming out of sprint races.
That said, I’m going with La Coronel on top. My opinion on her is similar to my opinion on the Casse/Geroux entrant in the Juvenile Turf – Florent called her the next coming of Catch a Glimpse, winner of this race last year, after her win in the G3 Jessamine, which she won convincingly. She handily defeated eventual G3 Miss Grillo winner New Money Honey in her first try on the turf, and it’s hard to argue with the kind of commanding victories she has had going two turns on the grass.
I had a hard time separating Intricately and Hydrangea, and eventually chose to go with Spain Burg over both of them. Spain Burg showed an impressive turn of foot in her G2 Shadwell Rockfel stakes win, and has since been transferred to trainer Kathy Ritvo. The Shadwell Rockfel was her first try stretching from 6f to 7f, and I think she will improve further with another furlong to work with.
My longshot to hit the board is Lull, who was well beaten by La Coronel last time out, but could be the pace of the race. She tried hard to run with the other filly in the Jessamine but was simply second best. I don’t expect her to win, but she will be a price horse and I think she could hang on for a piece of it.
Breeders’ Cup Distaff
$2 Win: 8- Beholder
$1 Exacta Box: 1- Songbird / 5- Stellar Wind / 8- Beholder
$2 W/P/S: 6- Forever Unbridled
I’m going with Beholder here for a simple reason – she will be outside of Stellar Wind and Songbird this time, and will be running at a target instead of being the one targeted. I don’t have much in the way of clever opinions on this race, but my longshot is Forever Unbridled, as she will be the one running at the end if there is some kind of pace meltdown.