BREEDERS CUP 2015 PICKS AND ANALYSIS

*ML Odds adjusted for scratches where applicable

FRIDAY

7- DIRT MILE, 8f, 3:10 CST

The connections of heavily favored LIAM’S MAP made a curious decision when choosing to run here rather than the more valuable 10f Classic, ducking the best dirt horses to cut back in distance rather than stretch out. Still, the 114 Beyer he earned winning the 9f Woodward jumps off the page here and he would seem to have a considerable edge on this field in terms of talent, although it is interesting that his 8f speed figures (105) are more along the lines of his competition here, and it’s worth wondering if this race is a bit short of his best distance to merit these odds. The defection of speedster Appealing Tale certainly helps his chances from a pressure standpoint though, and while BRADESTER (109 Beyer) and VALID could add a bit of heat on the front end, it is tough to see any horse in this field running down the favorite. RED VINE had a rough start when 2nd over the slop in the 8f Kelso behind Appealing Tale, who was lone speed that day. He has a couple of triple digit Beyers to run back to at this distance (105,106) and has posted eight straight three-digit Bris figures. Consistent type could get a reasonable setup to launch his closing kick from a ground-saving post, and has been working well leading up to this. LEA is interesting on a couple of angles here, the first being a surface switch from turf back to dirt following a 2nd place finish over a yielding surface. The second is the cutback in distance from previous dirt starts this year, the last three of which were at 9f and delivered Beyers in the 108-110 range. He’s probably more of a 9f horse at heart and doesn’t have the pure speed of the top choice, but should settle in just off the pace from outside the main speed, and has the experience and talent to make an impact after working well over the Keeneland dirt track this week. The concern with him is that his connections seemed unsure of whether this was the right spot for him and his campaign has been a bit scattered and unfocused this year. It’s also fair to wonder if six-year old has lost a step and has gotten long in the tooth. Personal favorite WICKED STRONG seems logical as well from off the pace, although he has been known to run a bit closer to the pace than he should and he’s the perfect example of a horse without a country at Breeders’ Cup time as he really is best at 9f. In a race where many will single the favorite, we’ll go at least a couple deep here in multi-race wagers.

Picks:

1) Liam’s Map 1-1

2) Red Vine 6-1

3) Lea 8-1

4) Wicked Strong 6-1

8- JUVENILE FILLIES TURF, 8f, 3:50

With the Euro shippers all possessing their fair share of question marks, this looks like a good spot to take a shot on the home team. It’s hard to imagine why CATCH A GLIMPSE isn’t favored in here coming off a decisive score at this distance winning the Grade 2 Natalma at Woodbine. The 91 Beyer she earned that day towers over this field, and if she can sit a bit off what is likely to be a rabbit-like pace from RUBY NOTION, she will be very difficult to run down by the closers as there isn’t much else here in terms of speed. It’s also helpful that she won her last over off-going on a course labeled good. Bill Mott’s HARMONIZE will instead be favored here off of two consecutive 8.5f wins, both in vastly different style, the last over this course. Her versatility and form must be respected but with just an 80 Beyer to her credit, would seem to have a lot of lengths to make up on the top choice. She turned the tables on fellow runner THRILLED two back but only held off the closing SAPPHIRE KITTEN by a neck in her last. That one likely needs more distance and pace than she will get today in order compete for the win, but looks like a logical contender underneath that will be flying late, and if you like HARMONIZE at all you have to like her at least a little bit. On the Euro front, Group 2 winner ILLUMINATE figures to vie for favoritism on class but has never raced further than 6f or around two turns, so we are hesitant to recommend her on top here and believe she is worth trying to keep off the board altogether, with memories of Vorda’s 7th place finish in 2013 still fresh in our mind. ALICE SPRINGS has also run no further than 7f and was beaten head to head by ILLUMINATE as well as others overseas and she’s had a tough campaign to ship over from having run her last three races in a 21 day span, so we will try to beat her as well; she does get first time Lasix however. Perhaps more interesting than either is LAST WALTZ, who switches to Chad Brown, who has won this race twice, following the ship from Ireland, where she was Group 3 placed in her last, and her lone win came over a course with a turn. An unlucky wide draw leaves her with a bit of work to do, however, but the price is right as she receives first time Lasix as well. The mystery horse in the field is maiden winner GLIDING BY who won from well-of the pace at this distance at Woodbine and also gets first time Lasix. Bill Mott trainee won’t get much pace to run into, could lose ground from wide post, but has upside; price could be right to find out how much.

Picks:

1) Catch A Glimpse 5-1

2) Harmonize 7-2

3) Last Waltz 20-1

4) Sapphire Kitten 12-1

9- DISTAFF, 9f, 4:35

This is as wide-open a running of this race as we’ve seen in a long time, and as a strong case can be made for at least ten of these entrants, is one to spread deep in multi-race wagers. Siding with the older contingent relative to the three year-olds, we really liked what GOT LUCKY showed over this course last out in winning the 9f Spinster from off the pace. She’s now won three of her last four starts and finished 2nd in the other, showing ascending Beyer figures in each (topping out with a 98 in her last) and looks to be in career form coming into this. Her running style benefited from a rapid pace up front from YAHILWA, who ran the first half in :46.9, and she should get a similar setup today with that one in the race along additional speed types like WEDDING TOAST, MY SWEET ADDICTION, CALAMITY KATE and STOPCHARGINGMARIA. She shows the highest average BRIS Late Pace figures in the field by a wide margin and may be the only true closer. The only horse to beat the top selection over those last four starts was SHEER DRAMA in the 9f Personal Ensign, and as the class of the field that one looms a deserving favorite here, having not missed the exacta this year in seven starts, she will have to navigate out of the widest post of all. She comes in fresh by design off a two month layoff, and has head to head wins over many top contenders here. Her high Beyer of 98 fits here and there isn’t much to knock, although her upset loss to fellow runner FRIVOLOUS three back does indicate she doesn’t always bring her A game, and we’ll take a shot on the top choice to pull a mild upset and turn the tables if she finds herself a bit too close to a hot pace or loses ground from her unfortunate post. Of the 3 year olds, I’M A CHATTERBOX looks most appealing, as she has head to head wins over fellow sophomores CURALINA and STELLAR WIND, and also has won races a variety of ways; versatility gives her an edge racing from the extreme inside. CURALINA is intriguing based on running style here but was no match to her elders when 2nd in her last; stands a chance to improve with more pace to run into this time but we will look elsewhere, especially since her connections wavered on sending her to the Filly and Mare Sprint race, could this distance be a bit beyond her liking? The mare that beat her last out, WEDDING TOAST, is the favorite on the morning line due to owning the field-high Beyer figure of 103 for her win in the 9f Beldame, her third consecutive front-running score and fourth consecutive ascending figure. However, she got an easy lead that day against suspect competition over a track that was playing towards speed, and will face more pressure today up front. Her marquee win over Untapable came at a shorter distance and most of her career success has come around one turn; she also finished behind SHEER DRAMA and STOPCHARGINGMARIA earlier this year, and it’s worth noting that her one start at Keenelend, a 4th place finish in the 7f Madison back in April, was her worst finish of the year. We will take a stand against at a short price on the top line in outrights and use her defensively in multi-race wagers. STOPCHARGINGMARIA will also be forwardly placed today and looks like an underlay to our eyes as the third choice on the morning line exiting a well beaten fourth to the top two choices and entering off a nine week layoff, although she has been working well. YAHILWA is interesting at a price after she set sharp fractions and held on for 3rd last out over this course and based on her two bullet works over the track this week, but again the added pace presence here leads us to focus on mid-pack and closing types on top. She’s usable underneath though, having missed the top pick by less than a half length in her last. PEACE AND WAR drew into this following the Untapable defection and deserves a look underneath at long odds as she has posted fairly competitive closing numbers and could be a factor in the event of an extreme pace meltdown.

Picks:

1) Got Lucky 5-1

2) Sheer Drama 4-1

3) I’m A Chatterbox 7-1

4) Wedding Toast 3-1

SATURDAY

3- JUVENILE FILLIES, 8.5f, 11:05

It doesn’t take much to look over this field and see why favored SONGBIRD is such a clear standout. Aside from being undefeated in three career starts, having a smashing Grade I win over this distance and owning field-high Beyer (90) and Bris (102) figures, it’s simply difficult to see where any potential pace pressure would come from. She figures to have it all her own way on the lead, and that combined with superior talent is difficult to oppose, so we won’t overthink it. Amazingly, each of her three Beyers are higher than the top career Beyer of any other runner in the race. Runner-up to the top choice in the Chandelier at Santa Anita last out was LAND OVER SEA, who comes into this fairly experienced having not missed the board in four career starts. Her lone win came over turf and she’s lost to the top selection by a combined 10.5 lengths over her last two starts, but has experience at the distance and is eligible to improve upon the field’s second best figures, which have been in steady ascent over her four starts. The inside post will help her to save ground as nothing to her outside figures to show speed. RACHEL’S VALENTINA is regally bred and will take action on that angle alone, but is also undefeated in her two one-turn races. She comes off a 7f win in the Spinaway (81 Beyer), has been working well but does pose a few more question marks coming off an eight week layoff and having never run two turns. TAP TO IT closed well to finish just a length behind RACHEL’S VALENTINA at 7f and one could argue that she’ll appreciate the added distance, although it’s unlikely she’ll have as favorable a scenario up front to close into. Perhaps NICKNAME, winner of the 8f Frizette in the slop, is more logical, as she shows ascending speed figures over her three career starts and may be the only other horse that figures to be forwardly placed. However, she but may not appreciate the distance as much and seemed to be backing up in her 8f win, and her sire Scat Daddy has always been a play against for us.

Picks:

1) Songbird 7-5

2) Land Over Sea 8-1

3) Rachel’s Valentina 7-2

4) Tap To It 8-1

4- TURF SPRINT, 5.5f, 11:45

The inclination when handicapping a turf sprint this short, which we do not generally enjoy, is to focus on speed and play against closers, many of which are cutting back to a distance that is shorter than ideal. In this race, most of the main speed is drawn inside, which should help support this angle.  PURE SENSATION starts on the rail and figures to go to the early lead at a distance he has proven to maneuver well, winning two back at 5.5f over softer turf, and having won a Grade 3 at 5f in his last, posting a 101 Beyer in that effort. They’ll all have to catch him as he saves ground on the inside and he has the speed to hold them off; it bears mention that he is 3/3 lifetime in turf sprints and enters off  well-spaced races in his third off the lay, having fired a bullet 4f work at Belmont on October 12th. LADY SHIPMAN tore through her summer campaign, posting dual 104 Beyers at this distance at Saratoga and Monmouth. While her most recent start came at Keeneland and resulted in a runner-up finish by a head to the highly regarded Ageless who got to her late as she veered out slightly, she certainly was not disgraced in that effort and got a feel for the turf course. Her last five starts have all come at this exact distance so this feels like the right fit for the fastest runner; deserving favorite, but by no means a slam dunk. GREEN MASK hasn’t won a race since last May but is appealing from mid-pack coming off a strong 3rd in a Dubai Group 1 race at 5f and a close 4th in a 6.5f Kentucky Turf Dash (95 Beyer) last out after a long layoff. He ran out of ground in two 5f races earlier this year and it looked like the distance of his last was a bit too taxing, so perhaps this is his sweet spot, and four year old has been much improved since switching over to Wesley Ward. He’ll need to improve a bit on figures to compete for the win here, but this would be the right time in his second off the lay getting a cutback in distance, and it’s comforting that he has been based at Keeneland since July and has worked well over the surface. READY FOR RYE has won three straight races, two of them turf sprints, after a fairly impressive dirt sprint campaign this spring. He is a bit light on terms of figures on the turf (90 Beyer) so one has to wonder if this is truly his ideal surface, but three-year old might be improving at the right time and also should be involved early. An even better option though might be THE GREAT WAR, a horse he beat two back but that may have needed the race after a six month layoff. THE GREAT WAR was much improved in his next start and now wheels back in two weeks off that effort for Wesley Ward with Ryan Moore aboard. Defending champ BOBBY’S KITTEN looms as an intriguing prospect on the cutback. He’s never raced at a distance this short as he won last year’s race at 6.5 f on a downhill course from well off the pace, but he also has early speed that he’ll be forced to use out of the #2 post. His morning line could represent one of the larger overlays of the day as one of just two returning champions on the card, and he should be used to cover multi-race wagers in this sequence. UNDRAFTED always commands respect at the windows but might may be worth avoiding here as he draws between the speed and probably is better going longer than this; he should be flying late but figures to run out of ground. It’s also concerning that he missed a scheduled prep for this and has had only one race since returning from Ascot. Liking PURE SENSATION means MONGOLIAN SATURDAY, who lost by just a nose in their last meeting, deserves mention, but his wide draw out of Post 14 bodes poorly for his front-running style. Of all the races on the entire card, this one appears the most difficult to handicap, and we go deepest of all here in multi-race wagers with some reservations still about not using READY FOR RYE, UNDRAFTED and MONGOLIAN SATURDAY, but you can’t use them all. Luckily we have a single in the previous race!

Picks:

1) Pure Sensation 6-1

2) Lady Shipman 5-2

3) Green Mask 15-1

4) The Great War 12-1

5- FILLY AND MARE SPRINT, 7f, 12:25

This looks like one of the most interesting contests of the day from a race shape standpoint. There’s lots of speed in here, beginning with the consistent LA VERDAD, who has posted an impressive six wins in all six of her 2015 starts, but all have come at distances shorter than these. She showed a new dimension in her last when winning from off the pace by design, but as a result of that experiment wheels back on just one week of rest for this. STONETASTIC holds the highest last out Beyer (109, also at a shorter distance, as well as two bullet works) just as she did last year, when she got caught in a hot pace duel and faded to 4th. Those two figure to be among the favorites and appear worth taking a swing against as they are likely to hook up early along with other speed types like SUPER MAJESTY, SWEET WHISKEY, and ARTEMIS AGROTERA, who hasn’t raced since 6th in this event last year, but has been working lights out at Belmont for this difficult spot for a comeback effort. Gearing towards a more versatile runner who might be able to sit back off what again figures to be a hot pace, we land instead on TARIS, who enters third off the lay and retains Gary Stevens. After winning her comeback start at 6.5f, she got caught in an extreme pace duel last out that found her 3rd at the wire, but she should be expected to rate here from a ground-saving inside post after that learning experience. She has a field high 110 Beyer at the distance over this track from last October to run back to, and fired a bullet on Oct 24th at Santa Anita, working 5f in :59.0, the quickest of 85 workers that day. Looking for a closer who could capitalize on rapid fractions, you could do worse than CAVORTING, a winner of three straight from off the pace with a lifetime record of 5/5 at sprinting distances. Three year old will take on elders for the first time and will have to overcome the widest post of all, but seems to be well set up in terms of race shape, as there won’t be any shortage of pace upon which to mount her closing move. Another closer that will offer a bit more value is WAVELL AVENUE, who comes off a career high Beyer figure of 101 last out when she closed gamely into a moderate pace set by LA VERDAD to miss by a half length at 6.5f. She’s never won at 7f but her closing style may benefit from the stretchout here and she might be peaking. Defending champion JUDY THE BEAUTY has a sparkling record at Keeneland, although most of those races were on the old synthetic track. She’s winless in 2015 in her three starts and it is worth wondering whether the six year old has lost a step, but she’s been targeting this race all year and it would be no surprise to see her take a step forward from a beneficial post outside the speed.

Picks:

1) Taris 12-1

2) Cavorting 3-1

3) Wavell Avenue 12-1

4) Judy The Beauty 6-1

6- FILLY AND MARE TURF, 9.5f, 1:10

In a race without any evident controlling pace presence, it is pretty tough to get around classy favorite LEGATISSIMO as the likely winner. A three time Group 1 winner in Europe, three year old is actually just two heads away from sporting a five race win streak at that level coming into this, and has shown success at distances ranging from 8f to 12f. Her top Racing Post Rating of 118 tops the field and she certainly appears the one to beat in this race, especially getting first time Lasix and as she figures to be forwardly placed coming out of the #3 post. We have a soft spot in our heart for STEPHANIE’S KITTEN, who will make her final curtain call in this race out of the #11 post. She took awhile to get going this year but has rebounded in her last two starts, as she was probably 2nd best in the Beverly D at this distance two back and then confirmed that notion by winning the 10f Flower Bowl in her last. She’s certainly one that has shown ability over softer footing which may benefit her nicely today, and while there isn’t much pace to close into, her better races have seen her closer to the lead. Another who may enjoy the softer ground expected in combination with the added distance is BAWINA, who is Group 1 placed at 10f, missing by just a neck two back. She finished 6th beaten just four lengths by the highly regarded Esoterique (who goes in the Mile) in her last at the 8f distance and over a firmer surface, both of which were probably less than ideal for her liking. She shows a 115 Racing Post Rating which looks quite competitive here and she should be a decent price. Rounding out the Euros, we have MISS FRANCE, whose 117 Racing Post Rating is the second best here. Having finished 2nd in her last two Group 1 attempts, she certainly fits on class. The concern with her is whether she wants to go this far, as she’s done most of her racing at 8f, with her worst career finish coming at a longer distance. It’s fair to wonder whether she is in this race to duck Esoterique and Impassable, who she has finished behind this year, and who both go in the Mile. Perhaps more interesting on the Euro front is QUEEN JEWEL, who was a no-show in her last two but has a Group 1 win at 10f in May to run back to. It’s also worth pointing out that both BAWINA and QUEEN JEWEL receive first time Lasix while MISS FRANCE does not. Americans of note include SENTIERO ITALIA, who looms the likely pacesetter and could get away with easy fractions like winner Dayatthespa did last year, as well as DACITA, a stone cold closer who may find herself with too much work to do late here, but did post a 101 Beyer in winning the 8.5f Ballston Spa over Tepin, who would flatter her in the aftermath. Disqualified Beverly D winner SECRET GESTURE deserves a look as well, but we don’t like the long layoff since that race in mid-August combined with the widest post of all for a horse that likes to be forwardly placed. Luckily this is a race where our preference is quite strong for the winner, as ordering out the underneath spots seems quite a task indeed.

Picks:

1) Legatissimo 8-5

2) Stephanie’s Kitten 10-1

3) Bawina 15-1

4) Queen’s Jewel 12-1

7- SPRINT, 6f, 1:50

It is very difficult to envision any horse knocking off the speedy duo of RUNHAPPY and PRIVATE ZONE, front-running types who simply tower over the field in terms of figures and current form (113 and 105 Beyers respectively in recent races). Of the two, we lean with a slight preference towards RUNHAPPY, who has been working like a maniac and comes into this in as good a form as can be imagined. In fact, on Travers Day at Saratoga, both horses ran different 7f races, and RUNHAPPY finished his 4/5 of a second faster, and should benefit from the shorter distance to boot. At 6f, sometimes it is as simple as “the fastest horse wins”, and he is the fastest horse. He’s shown a tendency to struggle at the break, and that seems to be his only negative as he lines up inside a lot of speed, but the price looks fair enough to take a chance that he will either break better or be able to overcome a bad break on talent alone. We have a strong affinity for the gritty, consistent PRIVATE ZONE and supported him in this spot a year ago. The Breeders’ Cup is a difficult spot for this guy, who truly is ideally suited at 7f and would be the choice at that distance, but the feeling here remains that 6f is just a touch short of his sweet spot. The post draw didn’t do him any favors either as he will break from the #13, and his works over the track as well as his trainer’s comments about them have left something to be desired, but he’s consistent as they come, having posted eight consecutive triple digit Beyers, and should be used defensively in multi-race wagers. With speedsters like LIMOUSINE LIBERAL, FAVORITE TALE and MASOCHISTIC (who is amped and ready to roll having posted two consecutive bullet works following a disappointing 4th place finish in his last) likely to be involved early as well, there’s potential for a massive pace meltdown and a serious upset by an off-the-pace type. KOBE’S BACK probably prefers more distance than this and always breaks poorly, but he does have a win at this track at 7f out of the same inside post this April to run back to and shows the highest BRIS Late Pace figures in the field. He’s been working well since just missing by a neck at 6f in his last at Santa Anita, and can drop back and save ground near the rail as the chaos ensues to his outside. The horse that beat him last out is WILD DUDE, and he is another that would benefit from a hot pace up front and can be used underneath as a closer, although he hasn’t raced much outside of the west coast, having shipped only once for a disastrous effort in the Carter at Aqueduct this April. We’ll toss the aforementioned speed along with HOLY BOSS, who was no match for the top choice in his last, and IVAN FALLUNOVALOT, who has showed consistent figures but takes a big class jump here sandwiched between the speed. SALUTOS AMIGOS is another that can close and deserves a closer look the wetter the track gets, and BIG MACHER has some back form to run to as well as the second highest average BRIS Late Pace figure.

Picks:

1) Runhappy 3-1

2) Kobe’s Back 15-1

3) Private Zone 5-2

4) Wild Dude 10-1

8- MILE, 8f, 2:30

Separating the Euros is a tall task in this one, so we will take a shot at some value on a rapidly improving horse and lean towards the home team. TEPIN absolutely romped over the soft Keeneland turf when she won the First Lady in her last, posting a field high 108 Beyer and finishing the race faster than the males did in the Shadwell Mile while under a hand ride. Admittedly, she takes a massive step up in competition here, but you have to love that she already has a win over the course in such effortless, push-button fashion, and the angle is that we’ve not yet seen her best. She’ll need to improve upon the 116 Rating Post Rating she earned that day, but should get a favorable setup just off the pace from the middle of the field. How about an all-filly exacta? IMPASSABLE is a two time Group 2 winner at this distance in France and is the only runner to get first time Lasix here. She hasn’t been running against equivalent competition relative to the other Euros in here, but her 119 Racing Post Rating is extremely competitive for a filly that just keeps getting better and has upside. Look for her mid-pack in a race that could have a fair amount of speed, and she’ll also carry 3-6 pounds less weight than all the others. MAKE BELIEVE got a nice draw near the rail and away from the speed. On paper, three-year old colt probably looks classiest, showing two Group 1 wins at this distance to his credit as well as a 121 Racing Post Rating, but he’s very lightly raced with only six career starts which is the fewest in the field; he still received morning line favorite status nonetheless. He will run without Lasix, and so will five year-old mare ESOTERIQUE (120 RPR), who is also going to take some serious beating coming off back to back Group 1 wins at the distance. Defending champion KARAKONTIE will try to duplicate his off-the pace upset from a year ago, and seems to be getting overlooked again out of a wide post. His form has been a bit off this year, having been easily beaten by ESOTERIQUE two back, and it’s fair to question whether he might have benefited from the firm turf at Santa Anita last year, but he’s not one to write off altogether by any means.On the one hand, he doesn’t appear as seasoned as he was this time last year, coming in off only two starts all year compared to four last year. On the other, he’ll get Lasix for the first time since last year’s win; is that the secret formula? If he is anywhere near his morning line as defending champion we won’t take the chance to find out and will go five deep here as well in multi-race wagers  TIME TEST owns the highest Racing Post Rating of 122, although appears a bit short on form in comparison to his Euro counterparts, having just a single Group 2 win to his credit. He’ll break widest of all, but does retain Ryan Moore on his back, who is 2/2 aboard him. On the rail, GRAND ARCH has an affinity for Keeneland and comes off a perfect trip win in the Shadwell Mile, but is unlikely to duplicate such fortunate racing circumstances today. We’ve supported the speedy OBVIOUSLY, who makes his fourth straight start in the event, in previous runnings, but seven year old has failed to carry his speed on the lead in those prior events, and wet turf would not be to his liking. TOURIST showed a new dimension when running on from well off the pace when 3rd in the Shadwell, but may likely revert to a more forwardly placed style here and looms a wiseguy choice on that angle.

Picks:

1) Tepin 12-1

2) Impassable 8-1

3) Make Believe 3-1

4) Esoterique 7-2

9- JUVENILE, 8.5f, 3:10

EXAGGERATOR was one of the main names in this group after winning the 6.5f Saratoga Special, but suffered an illness in the aftermath, missed some training and had to enter the Breeders’ Futurity over this track off a two month layoff in just his fourth career start. He finished 2nd in the Futurity after holding the lead coming for home, beaten just a length, but that was a race he probably needed to get back into shape, and he earned a solid 86 Beyer for that effort. Son of Curlin now enters off a blazing 5f work in :59.3 over this course; all systems go for this fantastic specimen who stands every chance to improve upon that effort. These same connections pulled a mild upset last year with Texas Red. GREENPOINTCRUSADER owns the field high Beyer (94) off his impressive Champagne win, which came over the slop. Son of Bernardini has yet to run two turns, but probably shows the best pedigree for distance in the field being out of a Cryptoclearance mare, so this isn’t a huge cause for concern. He fired a bullet 4f work in :46.1 over this course last week and looks primed for this. Morning Line favorite BRODY’S CAUSE was the winner of the Futurity over this track after a pretty ideal trip from off the pace earning an 88 Beyer over the muddy track, the fastest two turn figure in here. He deserves respect off that effort but the feeling here is that the top choice has been working better coming into this and should turn the tables.   Searching for value, COCKED AND LOADED looms an intriguing prospect underneath. Besides having a fantastic name, he won the 8.5f Iroquois around two turns, posting an 82 Beyer. We can’t wait to be against third choice NYQUIST, who is undefeated in four starts but draws wide in the #13 post, which is not ideal for a colt that already shows distance concerns on the bottom of his pedigree and wants to race near the lead. His Frontrunner win last out came at this distance but also came up a bit thin in terms of figs (79 Beyer), which have been in decline as distances have increased. The post is the icing on the cake. RALIS won the 7f Hopeful and posted a competitive 93 Beyer there but was off the board over the sloppy track in the Champagne. Was it the track condition or the distance? If it was either, he figures to be in trouble here against this group, and having never won around two turns, we will look elsewhere. RIKER has won around two turns, posting an 84 in the 8.5f Grey Stakes. This was a declining number from the 90 Beyer he posted when winning at 6f however, and son of Include has yet to run on dirt; too many questions abound. RATED R SUPERSTAR figures as part of the early pace and has proven he doesn’t want to run this far, and it’s hard to elevate UNBRIDLED OUTLAW after his 3rd place finish in the Iroqouis, although he did finish well. The wild card in here might be rail-drawn CONQUEST BIG E, a maiden winner around two turns over this track, and was flattered by the Futurity result as he ran within 1.25 lengths of BRODY’S CAUSE at 8f in his career debut. Euro shipper ISOTHERM somewhat curiously goes here instead of the turf race, and WATERLOO BRIDGE is stuck widest of all; tossable from out there as turfer has never run past 7f.

Picks:

1) Exaggerator 6-1

2) Greenpointcrusader 4-1

3) Brody’s Cause 7-2

4) Cocked and Loaded 12-1

10- TURF, 12f, 3:50

Arc de Triomphe champion GOLDEN HORN will enter this race as the heaviest favorite on the entire Breeders’ Cup card, and for good reason. Euro shipper has won six of seven races in 2015, including four Group 1 events with a Group 1 placing as well. In terms of Racing Post Ratings, he owns a decisive advantage with a 132 figure; the next highest figure in this field is 119. He’s a forwardly placed type but he didn’t draw ideally as he will start on the rail alongside Ramsey rabbit SHINING COPPER. That shouldn’t be a huge cause for concern as he’s likely to simply reposition himself two wide from the rail and track the leader, but it bears mention that this colt doesn’t take well to soft footing, and that is one reason to avoid the temptation to single him here at short odds. Those looking for another reason to beat him will point to the fact that Arc winners are 0-10 all time in this event, and that isn’t an insignificant trend. He surely possesses a talent edge over this field that makes him the most likely winner and he won’t beat us as such, but we are hesitant to assume that this one is in the bag. Seven year old BIG BLUE KITTEN has been a consistent type, hitting the board in 26 out of 29 career races. We’ve always been of the opinion that in terms of his ideal distance, the longer the better, and he’s scored two Grade 1 wins this year at 12f and 11f over his last two races. He’s proven over different footing as well, is always coming hard late in races and gets a rabbit today, and seems the most likely American runner to pull off what would be an enormous upset for the home team. THE PIZZA MAN held on to narrowly defeat BIG BLUE KITTEN at 10f in the Arlington Million over yielding turf. He’s been a play against for us for most of his career which has resulted in the destruction of many tickets. The feeling here is that BIG BLUE KITTEN was getting to him late in that race and would have overtaken him easily with the added ground he will receive here, but THE PIZZA MAN does have three career stakes victories at this distance and beyond, and is a gritty fighter that always seems to show up. Rounding out the Euro contingent is three year old filly FOUND. She ran an impressive 2nd to the favorite three back, beaten just a length in the10f Group 1 Irish Champion. Since then though, she was a well beaten 5th in the Arc at 12f, and there’s reason to wonder whether she isn’t better suited to distances shorter than this. Still, with her class and connections (trained by Aidan O’Brien and will be ridden by Ryan Moore), she would be no surprise, and gets first time Lasix here. The worry is that she hasn’t been specifically pointed to this and it may not be the ideal spot for her. SLUMBER traded trips to the winner’s circle with BIG BLUE KITTEN this summer but has been a step slower since, and he may be another that is better suited to 10f than 12f. TWILIGHT ECLIPSE almost always run his race but doesn’t wow us in this spot, especially as he seems quite problematic on softer turf. RED RIFLE ran within 2.5 lengths of Flintshire two back at this distance, and that form was flattered mightily when that winner came back to finish 2nd in the Arc just 2 lengths shy of the favorite. He took a big step back in his last however, finishing an easily beaten 4th to three of today’s American foes, and he may have left his best form on the track against Flintshire.

Picks:

1) Golden Horn 4-5

2) Big Blue Kitten 8-1

3) The Pizza Man 15-1

4) Found 8-1

11- CLASSIC, 10f, 4:35

After two key developments, the speedy Liam’s Map opting for the shorter distance in the Dirt Mile combined with the incredibly disappointing defection of Beholder, the prevailing sentiment seems to be that this race will be completely devoid of pace. We don’t see it that way and believe that there will be enough pressure on the front end from relative outsiders like SMOOTH ROLLER and possibly even FROSTED and GLENEAGLES to keep favored AMERICAN PHAROAH honest up front in opening fractions quicker than :48.0. Looking at it from a contrarian point of view, if all expectations are now for the favorite to be lone speed, that adds incentive for horses to press the pace more than they were initially planning to in order to prevent him from getting loose. This potentially adds pace and should give the closers a fighting chance that seems to be roundly discounted by the handicapping community at large. Another point where we disagree with the general consensus is that HONOR CODE’s 3rd place finish last out in the 8f Kelso wasn’t a good prep for this; to our eyes it seemed perfect. Trainer Shug McGaughey has been burned before after prepping at 10f leading up to this, and that race served as a glorified work following two months of rest before stretching his colt out further. While HONOR CODE has never raced at 10f, he did prove he isn’t a one-turn specialist when closing like a freight train to win the 9f Whitney, gobbling up four lengths in the stretch. He has always run like he wanted more distance, and having posted a 113 Beyer in that effort (highest overall figure in the field), certainly fits here. He would have been our Derby choice last May had he not been de-railed from the trail by injury, and while question marks abound regarding his ability at the distance, he certainly fits on pedigree and the price should be right to find out; gut play for the win, as he’s posted two bullet works at Belmont leading up to this. TONALIST has done nothing wrong this year, hitting the board in all five starts, and the consistent son of Tapit took it to another level when winning the 10f Jockey Club Gold Cup in his last. He has a bit of a reputation as a Belmont specialist, but the 109 Beyer figure he earned there is the highest in the field at this distance and if the track comes up wet will be one to play even heavier. His rail post should allow him to settle back, save ground and make a late run on the leaders as he goes blinkers off here, but he has enough tactical speed to stay close to them should they end up crawling on the front end. We like both of these about equally but give the edge to HONOR CODE on the strength of two head to head wins. As big of fans of Triple Crown winner AMERICAN PHAROAH as we are, he seems a massive underlay here at even money (or less) in his first try against elders. He should get a very favorable pace setup but his speed figures certainly aren’t on par with the older runners in here, as his top 10f Beyer checks in at 105. He also comes in off a two month layoff since being upset in the Travers, and while we’ll use him defensively on multi-race tickets, he looks quite opposable on top of outright bets. Remember, the pressure he received from FROSTED in the Travers was enough to cost him that race, and he’ll see at least that much pressure today. KEEN ICE broke the nation’s heart when he won the Travers and knocked off the Triple Crown winner from off the pace, posting a 106 Beyer, but we’ve touted him as a horse with upside since the spring. Curlin colts tend to hit their stride in the fall, and off of that effort he now shows five straight ascending speed figures and looms a contender underneath that would benefit from a fast pace up front. If you’re of the opinion that he is still improving and that closers have a chance, he’s logical underneath. FROSTED has done nothing wrong and in any other year might have taken a couple of Triple Crown races himself, but with AMERICAN PHAROAH having beaten him head to head so many times it is difficult to make a case to elevate him above that one, although he could very well have say in the race shape, but the feeling continues to be that is he better suited to 9f than 10f. EFFINEX actually knocked off TONALIST at Belmont at this distance while posting the highest Bris speed figure in the field for the distance (110), shows duplicative 107 Beyers at 10f (second highest in the field for the distance) and shouldn’t  be overlooked at long odds. He’s the only runner in the field to have won at 10f at two different tracks, but has shown declining form over his last two races that give us pause here. Then again, perhaps he didn’t care for the sloppy track at Belmont last out, and his no-show in the Woodward can be blamed on gate trouble. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the board if he runs his best race, as he did show ability to close into slow fractions when winning the 10f Excelsior. GLENEAGLES looms a mystery horse shipping over for Aidan O’Brien off of mostly 8f turf form; he’s never gone beyond that distance or run on dirt. He’ll get first time Lasix and has the pedigree to succeed at a distance he’s never navigated before, but many questions abound. SMOOTH ROLLER adds intrigue here as he makes only his fifth career start off an impressive win in the 9f Awesome Again, where he posted a competitive 111 Beyer, the field’s highest last race figure, albeit at a shorter distance. That was a large step forward from any previous efforts, and he did just make his first career start in June and has never run this far, but he figures to be part of the early pace and could hang on for a piece if he runs to his pedigree (Hard Spun out of an Unbridled mare) and doesn’t bounce off that performance in his last, but this might be too much, too soon. HARD ACES appears least appealing of the deep closers and would need to take a big step forward to factor here. Overall, it’s an interesting race given that a third of the field has never contested the distance, and that a sentimental favorite will surely take action despite inferior speed figures in his first try against older horses.

Picks:

1) Honor Code 4-1

2) Tonalist 4-1

3) American Pharoah 4-5

4) Effinex 25-1

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