2017 Breeders’ Cup Analysis
By: Josh Pearl
Overview: For those who have read over my prior handicapping pieces, you will know that I am mostly a bias player. I don’t believe anything is more important in racing than a significant track bias, and perhaps no greater advantage in any form of gambling for that matter. I strongly urge keeping an eye on how both courses play this week, as the dirt seemed to be favoring speed on Wednesday.
I am also a firm believer that you cannot win in this game betting favorites on a consistent basis. As you read this document you will often see the term “value”, which is something you MUST demand in this game. The Breeders’ Cup is no exception.
It is not my goal to pick the horses for you, but rather to provide what I hope is valuable insight and a strong analysis for each race. This analysis comes in the form of anticipating the pace of the race, providing insight on a track bias (if one exists), spotting potential overlays and vulnerable short-priced horses.
The last thing I attempt to provide is a reasonable explanation of why a horse should progress/or regress off their last effort(s). This is done often by going back and watching replays. At the end of this document you will find a large set of BC prep race recaps (that I have conducted for my own studying), which I hope you will find useful and to better understand my logic in the document.
Each race should have about a one page summary below. Prep race notes are at the very end. Good luck this weekend!
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf
Top Four: 2-12-8-6
The younger Euros always seem to have at least one or two that are usually leaps and bounds ahead of the US runners. I think this is evidenced in this race by the fact that Fatale Bere was nothing more than a low-level allowance/stakes horse in France and won first start here in the US. Further, Juliet Capulet beat Capla Temptress in GB, and Capla Temptress won first start here in North America. Happily was very impressive in the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagerdare in Chantilly where she simply outfinished her foes (against the boys) and seemed to want more ground. The firm turf may be the only question with her.
I think Capla Temptress was the big benefactor of an EXTREMELY biased turf course at Woodbine in September where horses rallying wide in the stretch were at a huge advantage. Dixie Moon fought a big bias that day and she was very impressive in my mind. She also came back to beat the boys in her next out.
I also think that Fatale Bere was extremely benefited by a blistering pace in the Surfer Girl. Of the NY horses, I thought they are pretty evenly matched, but Orbolution has the most room to improve and you’ll get the best price on her of the three. Rushing Fall has been mighty impressive, but I think the Jessamine unfolded to benefit her and she will be far back on a slow pace, at a short price.
Pace Scenario: Not a lot. I think Dixie Moon will be forced to go with her outside post, but should be able to sit in a comfy spot behind Ultima D. I think Dixie Moon will have the lead coming for home and hopefully will have a bit left in the tank to grab a share.
Most likely winner: Happily
Lively longshot: Dixie Moon
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
Top Four: 3-1-6-10
Probably one of my least favorite races as I don’t have a strong opinion, but I do think it is wide open and ripe for nice vertical payouts. Keep in mind that if the track is speedy/favoring front runners, that they start their mile races very close to the turn and inside runners have a big advantage.
Mor Spirit ran a monster race at Belmont, but I think he was on the better part of the track that day. He’s going to be a short price and he hasn’t run since that effort. In addition, he has looked very sluggish in his preps working up to this. If he runs to that beyer he’s much the best, but I wouldn’t say he’s run his best races in California either and the price will be short.
Giant Expectations loves Del Mar, but his runs have been aided by strong bias in both. Awesome Slew runs his races, but I think it usually just involves picking up the small pieces once others have backed up. I think Iron Fist is back to his best distance and like the fact that he’s run at Del Mar and the inside post should be beneficial to his tactical speed. Of the three-year-old’s I think Pratical Joke has the best shot at making any impact.
I’m hoping a few of the mid-pack horses take shots at Sharp Azteca, but he proves too much without working too hard upfront and that Iron Fist makes his usual strong run at the end.
Pace Scenario: Decently fast. I think the race will feature a lot of speed as Sharp Azteca will be looking to continue his front-running ways. I think you’ve got quite a few in here who want/need the lead (Battle of Midway, Gato Del Oro, Mor Spirit), but I think they’ll be stuck chasing Sharp Azteca unless one of them decides to put themselves in a suicide mission scenario.
Most likely winner: Sharp Azteca
Lively longshot: Iron Fist
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
Top Four: 5-3-6-8
Another wide-open race where you’ll find excellent value everywhere. I don’t think there is a ton of speed in here and I think most of it will come from the Euros as most of them have shown speed in their last overseas efforts. A horse who didn’t make it in, but is worth adding to your stablemail is Admiralty Pier. I thought he ran the best race in the G2 Summer stakes and was on the worst part of the track.
None of the North American runners have impressed me too much, so unless someone takes a big step forward, I’ll look to play mostly Europeans in here. Of the Americans, I think Voting Control has the most room to improve in what will be only his third career start and he didn’t have a ton of pace to run at in his last.
I thought Mendelssohn, Untamed Domain, Flameaway, and My Boy Jack had absolute perfect trips in last and won’t be using them in here.
I’m hoping a few horses sitting just off the pace and saving ground will run well in here. I think Sands of Mali is an unbelievable overlay in here if you get anything close to 30-1. His overseas rating (104) in his race at York is as high as any Euro in here. He was 9/2 against Group 1 company in last and never looked to like the ground that day as he was spinning his wheels half way through the race. Prat knows the local surface. I like Beckford’s chances in here as well with Rosario and his tactical speed. Masar has run with the best company overseas, but he didn’t seem to be screaming for more distance in his race at Chantilly.
Pace Scenario: Moderate. Expect Hemp Hemp Hurray to try and get position from his outside draw, but to have several Euros right there with him. I’d expect Mendelssohn, Sands of Mali, and Masar right there going into the first turn.
Most likely winner: Masar
Lively longshot: Sands of Mali
Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Top Four: 4-5-2-8
Not a race where you’ll most likely find boxcar payouts, but certainly one where you’ll find excellent value on a number of horses. Probably a good race to take a stand on a strong opinion in multi-race wagers.
To me it appears to be a four-horse race as I really don’t think Champagne Room, Paradise Woods, Mopotism, or Romantic Vision have what it takes to win. Paradise Woods seems to be lone speed in the race, but who has she really beaten outside of her one freak win early this year? She beat three horses in her last start on a very pro-speed track. Further, she ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44 1/5th, which was almost a full second slower than Bolt d’Oro ran it on that same day… I don’t like the jockey change on Forever Unbridled.
Elate seems to be the “buzz” horse this week based on workouts, and she was incredibly impressive in her G1 Beldame win where she raced on tiring rail surface and was stymied behind horses in the lane to absolutely crush older mares. I thought Abel Tasman fought a huge bias in last when Mike Smith made a very premature move up a dead rail at Parx. In addition, I thought Abel Tasman fought a very pro-speed bias in her G1 Acorn win. Stellar Wind always runs her race, but I’m not sure she is as good as she was last year. I don’t think there is a lot separating the three I like in here, so I will most likely be playing them based off who presents the best value.
I’m hoping Abel Tasman and Elate can sit off the pace and let Stellar Wind, Romantic Vision and Champagne Room try and put pressure on Paradise Woods.
Pace Scenario: Fast. I expect Paradise Woods to send and try to steal this one as I think it is her only shot unless the track is tuned up and a conveyor belt. I think that forces the hands of the jockeys on Champagne Room, Romantic Vision, and potentially Stellar Wind. My hope is that at least one of the three chasers will take an early shot at Paradise Woods, thus setting up the mid-pack horses.
Most likely winner: Abel Tasman
Lively longshot: Nothing in here
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf
Top Four: 3-10-1-13
I wouldn’t be surprised if one of about five or six in here won the race. That being said, there is excellent value to be found all around. Your favorite is listed at 7/2 in here and I’d be shocked if you see anyone shorter than that at post. Expect Separationofpowers to get bet down as she always does, but post 13 in a route at Del Mar is no bargain and she is going to be hung out wide with all the other speed in here.
In the G1 Chandelier, Alluring Star went too quick in the opening ¼ and Moonshine Memories took advantage late. They went a mile in a slow 1:38.87 and crawled home the final 1/16 to finish 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.32. The field was extremely weak, in my opinion. The G1 Front Runner was won in a time of 1:43.54 seconds for 1 1/16 miles that same day.
I thought Separationofpowers raced on an outside biased part of the track in the G1 Frizette, whereas Maya Malibu raced on a dead rail. Maya Malibu beat Separationofpowers two back, and you’ll get 4 or 5x the price on her Saturday with a big excuse in last.
Princess Warrior and Heavenly Love both looked impressive to me in the G1 Alcibiades, but I thought Heavenly Love just got the jump that day. Taking nothing away from Heavenly Love as she won with ease and had a great stride, but I thought Princess Warrior had little pace to close into, and I expect her to run big on Saturday and to be flying late at an attractive price.
Pace Scenario: Fast and contested. I think this is one of the most likely races to collapse on the two days as many in here want the front. Expect Alluring Star, Wonder Gadot, Blonde Bomber, Moonshine Memories, and Separationofpowers to be all contesting the lead early. I could easily see Blonde Bomber going on a suicide mission in here as I don’t think she has any other option, which forces Talamo to go as well since Alluring Star has not shown the ability to rate.
Most likely winner: Heavenly Love
Lively longshot(s): Princess Warrior and Maya Malibu
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
Top Four: 3-4-6-8
Given the short run into the turn and the tight turn itself, this race was limited to 12 starters. That should be a telling sign of what a disadvantage it is to be on the outside in these 5F turf sprints at Del Mar.
Lady Aurelia is about the best the US has to offer going extremely short on the turf, and she’s proven that overseas as well. In her lone defeat last year, she ran behind Roly Poly who is one of the top 3YO Mile horses in Europe. In her lone defeat this year, she ran behind Marsha who has won two Group 1’s this year and is 10 for 11 ITM at the distance.
I think two intriguing longshots who should improve are Stormy Liberal and Cotai Glory. The fact that Rosario jumps on Stormy Liberal and Norberto Arroyo Jr. gets off is the best thing you could ask for. Everything that Arroyo gets off seems to improve, and Rosario should have this guy in a great tracking position with the inside post. You can toss his race at Belmont as he had no shot with his outside post and the big speed bias that existed on the Belmont turf course most of the summer. See the 1:05 3/5th Six-furlong time they ran in there.
I thought Cotai Glory fought a bias at Woodbine in his last as the track that day was extremely kind to horses rallying wide and he was chasing the pace along the rail. I like the jockey change on Hogy with Geroux getting off.
Pace Scenario: Quick, but not unreasonable. For this race, there are quite a few mid-pack/stalker types and I think you’ll see someone potentially steal this one on or near the lead. I’d expect to see Bucchero and Pure Sensation gun from the start as their outside posts are brutal with the short run into the turn. I’d expect Richard’s Boy, Stormy Liberal, and Lady Aurelia to be in your next bunch right on their tails.
Most likely winner: Lady Aurelia
Lively longshot(s): Stormy Liberal, Cotai Glory
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
Top Four: 2-8-4-1
I’m hoping the inside part of the track is doing well on Saturday, and if that is the case this will be one of my stronger races of the two days as I think there is a TON of value. I can’t knock anyone who likes Unique Bella for her performances to date, but I don’t see any way you could take 2/1 on a horse in this race. Her numbers aren’t that much better than anyone in here, and she’s facing veteran mares who are grizzled winning machines.
I’ve been waiting for Paulassilverlining to come back as she had a big excuse in her last, in my opinion. The track early on Travers Day (Aug 26th) was not kind to horses on the inside. Further, the G1 Ballerina was a very odd race where nobody wanted the lead and as a result By the Moon was able to escape with an absurdly slow 24 second opening ¼ mile and almost a 48 second ½ mile! I think you can toss Paula’s last race, and I’m hoping to get 10 or 12 to 1 on her.
I like the trainer switch to Baffert on Constellation, and she could grab the front in here as there isn’t an absurd amount of speed. I think Finest City is better than her last effort, and she loves Del Mar.
I thought By the Moon had a perfect trip in her last, and doesn’t have much room to improve. Finley’sluckycharm was aided by a strong track bias at Keeneland in her last. I have no issues with Highway Star’s last race, but she was aided by a bias in the G1 Ballerina and she’s never run outside of NY.
Pace Scenario: Quick, but not unreasonable. For this race, there are quite a few who are used to making the lead, but none of them are running anything sub 22 seconds for their opening ¼ mile splits. I’d expect to see Constellation, Princess Karen, and Proper Discretion to be all on the lead, with pack of horses right off their flanks.
Most likely winner: Paulassilverlining
Lively longshot(s): Constellation, Finest City, Carina Mia
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Top Four: 5-9-8-2
This race is as tough as any you will find on either day, and as deep on talent as any. Keep in mind it is only 1 1/8 Miles rather than the normal 1 ¼ Miles this is usually run at. At Del Mar, the 1 1/8 Mile turf races come out of a chute and into a turn and then into a full turn shortly thereafter. I think there is a decent amount of speed in here, but I don’t want anyone coming from way out of it as I think there will be a lot of horses to pass.
I was hoping that Roly Poly would be entered in here as I think she would’ve carried her speed a long way, but they opted to instead put her in the speed-filled Turf Mile. That being said I’m going to look for a runner who’s sat just off her flanks in Europe and that is Wuheida. She’s apparently been training great over here and had no issues switching leads with the left-hand turns. I think she’ll be able to draft in behind the leaders and save ground under the great hands of William Buick. Lady Eli is the easy pick as she is a great story, and always fires, but doesn’t present much value.
War Flag had a perfect trip in last. I don’t think Zipessa is good enough, nor wants the distance. Senga isn’t without chance with her inside post and all three of her wins coming over firm ground. Dacita is a nice mare, but she’s had perfect setups in her last two. Grand Jete never gets a clean run, and is worth using, but I think she’ll get overbet because of her connections. Cambodia and Goodyearforroses both benefited from a race that collapsed in the John C. Mabee. Nezwaah bought a big bias in her last race as the rail was completely bogged down at Woodbine that day, when outside closers dominated. Rhododendron is a very nice filly, but that 14 post is brutal and the value won’t be there for me.
Pace Scenario: Moderate. I expect Avenge and Rhododendron will both be forced to send from their outside posts, and that could setup a nice pace up front. I expect that Zipessa, Wuheida, Senga, and Lady Eli will not be too far behind and hope Senga and Wuheida can save ground in the process.
Most likely winner: Lady Eli
Lively longshot(s): Wuheida, Senga, Nezwaah
Breeders’ Cup Sprint
Top Four: 8-2-5-3
Barring any unforeseen strong track bias, this race seems like the chalkiest race of the two days in my opinion as I think Drefong and Roy H are superior to this field.
Drefong is too fast for anyone in here and I expect he will make the lead from his inside post. I’m hoping that Roy H can sit 4th in here and that Takaful and Imperial Hint might take a shot at trying to make a premature move to catch Drefong.
I think Roy H fought a monster rail/speed bias two back when he was forced wide when Drefong floated him very wide, after Drefong dumped the jockey at the start.
Ransom the Moon was the big benefactor in that race. American Pastime was the unlucky candidate of Kent D. falling asleep at the wheel in the G3 Gallant Bob and thus was backpassed by Coal Front. I liked Whitmore’s last race as I thought Keeneland was pro-speed on opening weekend this fall meet. I don’t like Mind Your Biscuit’s last race as I thought he just didn’t fire, and Takaful will be overbet and had perfect trips in his last two.
Pace Scenario: Moderately quick. I expect Drefong will make the lead in here from the inside and that Imperial Hint and Takaful will take early shots at trying to catch him. I’m hoping that sets up Roy H and a few other closers from off the pace.
Most likely winner: Drefong
Lively longshot(s): Whitmore
Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile
Top Four: 12-11-6-10
In my opinion, this is by far the most contested (hot pace) race of the two days. I do think that the Euros are better than we have here as evidenced by Suedois’ victory in his first career North American start in the G1 Shadwell.
Midnight Storm, Heart to Heart, Lancaster Bomber, World Approval, Home of the Brave, Ribchester, Roly Poly, Blackjack Cat, and Karar all want to be on or near the lead. The fact that Midnight Storm and Heart to Heart are both inside I expect will force their hands even more the set a wicked pace up front. Roly Poly was my pick in the F&M Turf, but they opted to run her in here instead. Her only poor efforts seem to come over the soft going and her win the Group 1 Sun Chariot stakes was ultra-impressive as she was resolute up front and would not give in. That effort came against Nahra and Persuasive who finished 4th and 1st (respectively) in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. My hope is that she can draft in behind the speed with her outside post and find a way to rate on Saturday.
I don’t like World Approval as I expect John V. to sit wide like he often does on the turf. He’s also had great posts in his last two races and don’t think he will get any better than those efforts. Ribchester is a great horse, but I’d expect he won’t present much value in here. Heart to Heart is a winning machine, but I think the pace will do him in on Saturday. Zelzal should be able to save ground at a huge price, and he was only 4/1 against Ribchester two back. Suedois and Ballagh Rocks both benefited from ground saving closers’ trips in the G1 Shadwell, but they should get them again in here.
Pace Scenario: Wickedly fast. I wouldn’t be surprised to see four or five of these across the track going into the first turn. From there, I think you’ll see quite a few premature moves, which should set this thing up for someone off the pace. Take your pick at what should be a great field of closers who will be deep in value.
Most likely winner: Roly Poly
Lively longshot(s): Ballagh Rocks and Zelzal
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Top Four: 5-11-12-2
I watched a lot of the East Coast prep races this year, and you wonder how good Sporting Chance might be. It seems like everything he beat in his debut and the G1 Hopeful have come back to run great in their next outs. He’s not in here though, so enough on him.
Bolt D’Oro has standout numbers, but I’m not sure how good his opposition has been in California. He’s certainly looked very impressive, but he’s had great trips (aided by bias in first two starts) in all three starts and his post is no bargain to take a short price on Saturday. I think the field in his last race was moderate at best. Speed did very well on the day they ran the G1 Front Runner, so I thought Solomini has room to improve off his effort.
For the East Coast runners, I was visually impressed by Free Drop Billy. I thought the pace was soft in that race, and the Keeneland main track was biased towards outside speed that day. Albarado managed to get him to the rail very early in that race, and his leg action was incredible for a 2YO when the real running started.
I thought speed did well on the day The Tabulator won as there was a lot of kickback, so Hollywood Star has a right to improve (he was a mess with kickback upon watching the replay) and you can’t ever go wrong with 1st time Rosario.
Of the NY runners, I thought there was a big outside bias at Belmont the day of the G1 Champagne. Good Magic and Firenze Fire couldn’t have asked for better trips as the pace was wicked in there. I thought Hazit was on the best part of the track, but he had no shot with the pace they ran in there. To me, he presents the best value (with the most room to improve) out of that race.
I don’t know what to make of US Navy Flag on the dirt, but I think it is asking a lot of him and you aren’t going to get great value. Big jockey improvement on Givemeaminit, but he’s going to have to improve a lot to make any impact in here.
Pace Scenario: Moderate. I expect The Tabulator to send as it is his only chance. I do think that Hazit and Bolt d’Oro will keep him honest as they’re pretty much forced to go from their outside posts. I don’t think you’ll see a meltdown, but it should be honest.
Most likely winner: Free Drop Billy
Lively longshot(s): Hollywood Star, Givemeaminit
Breeders’ Cup Turf
Top Four: 3-5-6-8
Another race that is extremely deep from top to bottom, but I think the Euros are just a class above what the US has to offer in the longer distance turf division. I think you’ll see the speed come from the outside, but I don’t expect there will be a big spread in your field as many of these like to sit somewhat close the leaders. Anyone who says jockeys don’t make a difference hasn’t seen the difference that Joel Rosario has made on Beach Patrol since they took Geroux off.
This picture is of Highland Reel’s run (far right) in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot a few weeks ago. To say he lost ground/ran further than anyone else, would be a severe understatement. It would’ve been nice to see his run on the Trakus system… He literally ran along this outside fence searching for the firmest going he could find. In that process, he lost an enormous amount of ground. I think he loves the firm going, and will sit just off the pace, while saving ground and he will be one of my bigger bets this weekend.
Ulysses is very good horse. His only losses this year have come Highland Reel, and to the incredible 3YO filly, Enable, who is arguably the best horse in the world right now. The value isn’t great, but he is hard to leave out. Cliffs of Moher is an interesting longshot in here as he has been a disappointment this year as he is often bet down overseas. I do like that his best efforts came over firmer ground, so I’ll take a flyer at a big price.
I don’t like any of the California horses in here. Sadler’s Joy is a nice horse, but I thought Bigger Picture ran better than he did in the in the G1 Sword Dancer as the pace fell apart up front. Oscar Performance had no excuse in his last and I don’t like him at all. Fanciful Angel ran well in his last and should continue to improve for Chad Brown off the private purchase, but not sure the pace is there for his late kick.
I don’t know where the race came from on Buzzards Alley, but I do know that he was on the best part of the turf course that day, and none of his efforts over the firm going are near anywhere good enough to win this race. I love Rosario and the difference he has made on Beach Patrol, but I can’t take a short price on a brutal post.
Pace Scenario: Not much. I expect Beach Patrol and Oscar Performance to make the lead without much effort. You should see quite a few other “stalker” type horses behind them jockeying for position to save ground.
Most likely winner: Highland Reel
Lively longshot(s): Bigger Picture, Cliffs of Moher
Breeders’ Cup Classic
Top Four: 1-6-7-5
The big one. I think the chances of a meltdown got hurt a bit when Diversify opted out, but I expect that Baffert is going to send Collected to pressure Gun Runner and thus setup Arrogate in here. I do think Arrogate is still capable of running what he did last year, and I’m going to most likely use him regardless of price. With that being said, don’t forget about Mubtaahij who ran very well against a speed favoring racetrack at Santa Anita for the G1 Awesome Again.
I was extremely disappointed to see the connections of Churchill opt to run him in here. He ran an absolutely huge race in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II stakes at Ascot in his last race as he still managed to keep pace with Persuasive and Ribchester late, while being on the worst part of the track. I have no clue if he will take to the dirt or if he wants 1 ¼ miles but I think he’s worth tossing in if you get 15 or 20 to 1 on him.
West Coast is a very nice horse, but I think he’s a notch below these and he’s going to get bet. Gun Runner is obviously hard to knock, but taking a short price on Florent Geroux on the dirt is tough to swallow. Gunnevera was my Derby/Preakness horse and he ran great in the Travers as I thought the track was very speed favoring late in the card and he was really the only horse to make up any ground in that race.
Pace Scenario: Fast. I expect that Baffert is going to make sure he has all of his angles checked off, which means I expect Collected to be gunned from the start to keep Gun Runner honest. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Pavel take a shot and press the pace as well. I’ll be hoping for a meltdown up front.
Most likely winner: Arrogate
Lively longshot(s): Churchill, Mubtaahij