Breeders’ Cup 2017 Picks and Analysis

4- JUVENILE FILLIES, 8.5f, 3:00

The day begins with a nearly full field of two year old fillies which are always tough to separate. We’ll give the edge to Bris Prime Power selection SEPARATIONOFPOWERS, who holds the field high Bris and Beyer speed figures (104, 86) for her last out score in the 8f Frizette. That came over a dirt course labeled good and wasn’t a two turn race, so she’s not without questions drawing into the widest post of all for Chad Brown here. But the way she won that race driving through the finish combined with perhaps the strongest pedigree (by Candy Ride out of an Empire Maker mare) in the field leads us to conclude she will enjoy the added ground here. There isn’t a lot to knock about morning line favorite MOONSHINE MEMORIES, who is undefeated in three career starts, two of which came on this track and one of which was at this distance. She shows the fastest Beyer at the distance (86) and should a pretty clear trip from the center of the field. HEAVENLY LOVE is another winner at two turns as she exits a romp in the Alcibiades at Keeneland where she earned the field’s highest Brisnet figure at the distance (91). In a race where the pace often goes faster than expected, she’s worth using on top as she also boasts the best Late Pace figure at this distance on dirt. We will use these three in multis. WONDER GADOT looks like an interesting long shot after posting a solid figure winning her last. She’s never raced on dirt but is certainly bred for it and could conceivably move up here on the surface switch, and is another that could be moving late. ALLURING STAR may hang around for a piece as the likely pacesetter but fell back when beaten handily by the favorite in her last.

Picks:

1) Separationofpowers 4-1

2) Moonshine Memories 7-2

3) Heavenly Love 9-2

4) Wonder Gadot 8-1

5- TURF SPRINT, 5f, 3:37

Always one of the trickiest handicapping puzzles of the Breeders’ Cup event, this year’s turf sprint presents a unique paradox for bettors, as the two standout shippers most accomplished at the 5f distance are also the two least familiar with navigating races around a turn. Three year old filly LADY AURELIA looms large here off of two Group 1 wins at 5f and 6f in Britain over turf labeled good, and her towering field high Racing Post Rating (124) would seem to confirm her status as the one to beat here. Both of those races came over straight courses, but she does have a stateside win around a bend on firm ground to fall back on from April at 5.5f (101 Bris, 97 Beyer), which is good for the fastest Bris figure in the field at less than 6f in 2017. If you’re sold on her, then MARSHA deserves some respect as well considering she nosed her last out at this distance, although she wasn’t able to duplicate that performance in her last, and there’s some concern as to her ability to handle the turn here as she has never contested such a course. Still, her 122 RPR combined with her form lines and experience at the distance makes her a contender. She will receive first time Lasix here. PURE SENSATION figures to be the speed of the speed and this distance suits him, although he draws a tough outside post. He shows the highest Beyer this year at this distance (110) and a competitive RPR (118), and is probably the best pure 5f horse in the field. He held on well to be third in this race last year, and of course that race was run at 6.5f on a downhill course, so he should find this distance a bit more to his liking. He has won three of his last four at this distance, although all three have come at Parx and over turf with some give. DISCO PARTNER has been hot of late but has never raced a distance this short. Closing type will have to work out a trip from off the pace and may find this contest a bit too sharp. Bris Prime Power selection shows a 109 Beyer and 108 Bris figure at 6f and a 118 RPR so he isn’t without a shot; will need to stay in touch with the pacesetters as he did in his last, and that may be doable from the rail. HOLDING GOLD is another deep closer with competitive figs (107 Beyer, 107 Bris, 116 RPR) that may be overlooked off his last and offers value at his double digit morning line; could be the type to spice up the trifecta for those keying the favorite. For multi-race purposes, it feels like you either need to take a stand and single the favorite, or go at least five deep.

Picks:

1) Lady Aurelia 5-2

2) Pure Sensation 10-1

3) Marsha 7-2

4) Disco Partner 9-2

Longshot: Holding Gold 15-1

6- FILLY AND MARE SPRINT, 7f, 4:14

All eyes will be focused on the highly acclaimed and accomplished UNIQUE BELLA in this race, and this three year old filly may go off as the biggest favorite of the day. She has fired a ridiculous seven consecutive bullet works, including two since winning her last at 6.5f over Grade 3 company. That came after a long layoff and she should be fully cranked for this off of the field high Brisnet Last Race figure she posted there (102). A three year old filly has never won this race but aside from that she is tough to knock on talent and is a must use on top; while she doesn’t hold a considerable edge on figures, the feeling is that she has room to improve and hasn’t yet shown her best. Those looking to beat her could do worse than to land on Bris Prime Power Selection FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM, who showed a new dimension when winning the TCA at 6f in her last (98 Beyer, 101 Bris) sitting off the pace and taking over through the stretch. That’s a tactic that could suit her well in this race, and while she’s been more successful at 6f than 7f over her career she does have a win at this distance to her credit this year over Grade 3 foes. It bears mention that the winners of 5 of the 10 renewals of this race have used the TCA as their last prep. The horse for the course is SKYE DIAMONDS, who enters off a 6.5f win here in her last (97 Beyer, 99 Bris) and is two for two at Del Mar. She has a three month layoff to contend with but has won five of six starts this year. She bested last year’s champion FINEST CITY two back, and that one also enters off a long layoff similar to the one she used to spring this upset last year. She threw up a bullet 4f work last week and the back class is there off the freshening; not impossible. CURLIN’S APPROVAL owns the field high speed figures at the distance (104 Beyer, 106 Brisnet) for her Princess Rooney score at Gulfstream three back in July, but hasn’t been able to reproduce that form away from her home track, losing to three of these two back in Grade 1 company. If she can run back to it, she could grab a piece at long odds. PAULASSILVERLINING (3rd in this race last year) and BY THE MOON must be considered contenders as well, but the feeling here is that both have done their best running on off courses and that both may be slightly past their prime.

Picks:

1) Finley’sluckycharm 6-1

2) Unique Bella 9-5

3) Skye Diamonds 5-1

4) Finest City 12-1

Longshot: Curlin’s Approval 20-1

7- FILLY AND MARE TURF, 9f, 5:00

Traditionally run at 10f, this race cuts back a full furlong this year over the Del Mar course, and that could have a significant impact on the outcome. It certainly sets things up well for the beloved favorite LADY ELI in her final career start. She’s won her last three starts, two at this distance, posting field high 9f speed figures in the process (104 Beyer, 101 Brisnet). She was just nosed at the wire in this event last year, and should appreciate the shorter distance combined with the relative lack of pace after a ten week layoff. The best shot to beat her may reside with foreign invader RHODODENDRON, who owns the field’s best Racing Post Rating (117) and enters off a Group 1 win in France at 10f for Aidan O’Brien on Arc Day where she bested three of today’s fellow shippers.  That win came over softer ground but she does show a Group 1 win at 8f in Britain last fall and a Group 1 runner up this year at 12f, both over good ground, so she’s versatile in terms of both surface and distance. She’s in the right spot of her form cycle as O’Brien wins with 33% of his runners third off the lay. First time Lasix could be just the boost she needs and this distance could suit her perfectly if she can navigate a wide post with Ryan Moore in the saddle. If we like that one then it’s hard to dismiss the chances of WUHEIDA at a nice price, considering she finished just a half length behind her in 4th last out, and has also won an 8f Group 1 in France over good ground and gets first time Lasix as well. Her Racing Post Rating (114) is equal to that of the favorite and she has worked well this week over the track. Defending champion QUEEN’S TRUST hasn’t won since this event last year, and let’s face it, she needed every inch of that 10f to get there, which she won’t get this time. Closer hasn’t been in the best form this year running over soft courses and could benefit from the surface switch but the race shape doesn’t exactly set up for and she is likely to desire more ground. The same can be said for Beverly D winner DACITA, who has won at 9f but does her best running over more ground, and WAR FLAG, who bested that one last out over 10f. Of the three, we prefer DACITA’s chances best to be flying for a piece. She has defeated GRAND JETE in her last two, and that one continues to attract more money than she should to our eyes. CAMBODIA earns horse for the course honors here and steps up in class off of back to back wins at Del Mar and five consecutive ascending speed figures; she’ll need another one to hit the board here. The most interesting shipper longshot is probably SENGA, who may be overlooked here after a poor showing in her last. That came over soft turf at a longer distance though, and a closer investigation reveals that all three of her career wins have come over firmer ground. Her high RPR of 112 won’t get it done here, but she stands to improve with first time Lasix, bombs away underneath.

Picks:

1) Rhododendron 8-1

2) Lady Eli 5-2

3) Wuheida 20-1

4) Dacita 8-1

Longshot: Senga 20-1

8- SPRINT, 6f, 5:37

Ten runners line up for a highly competitive edition of this race a year after a short, somewhat watered down field. Four runners figure to vie for the lead; they are difficult to separate and it is hard to see any of them backing up much at this distance. The strongest and most consistent has been ROY H, and the 111 Beyer he posted in June at Belmont tops the field at this distance. He’d be undefeated this year if not for fanning six wide two back due to having to avoid a riderless colt he’ll see today, and he still managed to hang on to 2nd. His position outside here should allow a favorable trip to rate just behind the speed and get first run in the stretch, and an old rule of thumb of ours in this race has been to simply key in on the fastest 6f speed figure; all else equal, that horse is often the winner. The aforementioned colt of course is defending champion and Bris Prime Power Selection DREFONG who will break from the #2 post just as he did last year and enters off a similar pattern, having been rested 10 weeks since a 7f win at Saratoga (107 Beyer, 106 Brisnet). He meets a far saltier group this year however and it’s hard to imagine him getting as easy a trip as he received last year, same post position or not, although he is fortunate to be drawn between mostly off-the-pace types. He’s clearly the one to beat but could be a bit more vulnerable than his odds suggest. Perhaps more intriguing in terms of upside is IMPERIAL HINT, who steps up in class here following a Grade 3 win at this distance where he won in an absolutely absurd 1:07.2 (109 Beyer, 111 Brisnet), good for the best last race figures in the field and his fifth consecutive triple digit numbers. He’s been working gangbusters since, posting two bullets and could really be any kind. We like his draw outside the speed as well. TAKAFUL figures to be the one most likely to hook up with the favorite on the early lead based on his field high Early Pace numbers as he lines up in the middle of the field. Talented three year old holds the field high Brisnet speed figure at this distance (114) and has found his niche sprinting in the second part of the year, but it’s fair to wonder whether engaging the defending Sprint champion in an all out speed duel bodes well for his win chances. Closers like MIND YOUR BISCUITS (3rd last year), CALCULATOR and WHITMORE seem better suited to 7f races, especially in a spot such is this where the speed isn’t cheap and feels unlikely to collapse.

Picks:

1) Roy H 7-2

2) Imperial Hint 9-2

3) Drefong 5-2

4) Takaful 5-1

 9- MILE, 8f, 6:19

Speed on the rail! The two main speeds in the race drew posts one and two, which virtually ensures a wicked pace. We’ll toss MIDNIGHT STORM and HEART TO HEART, both talented six year olds that figure to lock up early and expend too much energy in this spot. WORLD APPROVAL has really found his niche at this distance and this race has treated the home team well in recent California editions. Winner of his last two at 8f including a decisive score over today’s foe LANCASTER BOMBER, grey owns the best speed figures at that distance (duplicate 108 Beyers, 103 Brisnet) and a competitive RPR relative to the Euro shippers (123). What we really like is his ability to rate off the likely torrid pace with a target to run at and time his move forcefully as he owns the best Average Late Pace figures in a field loaded with speed; he will take a lot of beating with John Velazquez aboard. Of the shippers, our preference is the French-based ZELZAL, who gets first time Lasix and has done his best running over firmer courses, showing a Group 1 win at this distance over good turf last summer. His career high RPR of 122 fits here and if he can move up a bit from that number on the firm turf with the Lasix addition, he’s a win contender at a giant price. On paper, British shipper and morning line favorite RIBCHESTER looms the horse to beat in his final career start off his field high 127 RPR and four career Group 1 wins at the distance. Something feels a bit off here though, with his subpar performance in his last, defeated by a colt who had just lost to today’s foe ROLY POLY, combined with a quick turnaround of just two weeks (space between races this year has consistently been five weeks). We’ll use him on top defensively in multis but will maintain that the value in this race may lie in keeping him off the top line in exactas and trifecta. Bris Prime Power Selection SUEDOIS deserves a look off his closing win in the 8f Shadwell (Beyer, 100 Brisnet). He’s one of the few Euro shippers to have won in the US this year but will need to improve on that number. The aforementioned ROLY POLY (RPR 116) and LANCASTER BOMBER (RPR 119) round out the Euro threats and deserve a look as well based on their class lines. The latter seems more likely to benefit from the race shape despite a quick two week turnaround, while the former may be better suited to a straight course than a wide draw around a turn.

Picks:

1) World Approval 9-2

2) Zelzal 20-1

3) Ribchester 7-2

4) Suedois 6-1

Longshot: Lancaster Bomber 20-1

10- JUVENILE 6:58, 8.5f

At least on paper, this is the race on the card that offers the most glaring mismatch. Therefore, to single or not single BOLT D’ORO becomes the biggest decision of the Late Pick 4 sequence. He holds a towering speed figure advantage over this field, having posted a 100 Beyer (revised down from 113) for his Front Runner win at this distance, a 10 point advantage relative to his closest foe. Before that, he won two races over this track. Drawing into Post #11 should allow him to allow him to stalk the pace setters and get a great trip near the lead. Simply put, if he runs back to his Front Runner, he wins by open lengths. The argument against singling him is that everyone else will be doing it, so in the event he loses, having another horse could provide payoffs much higher than it would in the regular win pool. FREE DROP BILLY looks to have the most upside off his two turn win the Breeders’ Futurity (79 Beyer). That figure equates to a double digit length gap to make up against the favorite, but the ease with which he won that race might indicate that he wasn’t asked for his best. Strong pedigree is there (by Union Rags out of a Giant’s Causeway made) and he’s been working brilliantly, posting a bullet on 10/21 that was the best of 70. A couple of Curlin progeny round out our picks as both figure to improve. SOLOMINI was 2nd in the Frontrunner behind the favorite, but that was good enough for an 86 Beyer, the 2nd best two turn figure here. He had previously broken his maiden over this track. GOOD MAGIC was a hard luck 2nd in the Champagne, posting an 89 Beyer after leading in the stretch. We’ll give him a shot to turn the tables on the horse that beat him there, FIRENZE FIRE, who hasn’t looked great over the track this week. British turfer US NAVY FLAG strangely lands in this spot instead of the Turf race where he would have been favored Friday, and while he deserves a look based on his connections, he’s never contested a dirt race or a route race.

Picks:

1) Bolt D’Oro 9-5

2) Free Drop Billy 5-1

3) Solomini 6-1

4) Good Magic 6-1

11- TURF, 12f, 7:37

A very deep field of turfers are led by the defending champion globetrotter HIGHLAND REEL, who slips into a cozy spot along the rail with Ryan Moore in the saddle. It’s unlikely he will go off anywhere near his morning line odds, especially considering he went off at 4-1 last year, but he may be overlooked enough off his recent form to still offer value. He switches back to firm turf after two well beaten starts over softer going. He had won two Group 1 events prior to that over ground labeled good (123 RPR, highest in the field at this distance over firmer turf), beating two of today’s fellow shippers, and a repeat of last year’s performance (112 Beyer, 114 Brisnet) would likely earn a repeat trip to the winner’s circle; none of these runners have equaled those figures on a firm turf course since then. He may see a bit more pace in this spot than he did a year ago, but he doesn’t have to have the lead and doesn’t figure to expend too much energy early. This is one of our strongest win choices on the day. Morning line favorite ULYSSES returns after a 4th place finish in last year’s event, boasting a field high 127 RPR off his Group 1 win in the 10.5f Juddmonte International over soft ground two back and a respectable 3rd in the 12f Arc de Triomphe in his last. He’s improved massively in his four year old season and beat the top selection three back at this distance, again over softer ground. His record over firmer surfaces leads us to lean another direction here but he would certainly be no surprise and must be used on top. These two appear a cut above the American contingent, but in the event that a pace meltdown does in fact materialize, SADLER’S JOY might be the most likely to capitalize from off the pace. Winner of the 12f Sword Dancer two back at this distance (105 Beyer, 104 Brisnet) closed into a slow pace in that race and never really got moving in his last when 6th. With a bit more pace to run at, he could be flying late. Bris Prime Power Selection BEACH PATROL, who beat him in has last, has gone from a horse whose limit was once believed to be 9f into the top turf threat in America following wins in back to back Grade 1 races run at 10f and 12f (109 Beyer, 111 Brisnet, 117 RPR). Whether he can withstand added pace pressure against this kind of quality remains to be seen but he is certainly eligible to be around at the end. He seems far more potentially impactful than OSCAR PERFORMANCE, who has put together a nice year as a beneficiary of easy leads the likes of which he isn’t likely to see here. BULLARD’S ALLEY freaked in his last and enters with the highest speed figures in the field at this distance (114 Beyer, 120 Brisnet) but those numbers are such massive outliers to his prior form over a long career that they certainly have to be attributed to the soft turf that day. A few more shippers enter with longshot potential. DECORATED KNIGHT won the Group 1 Irish Champion at 10f (121 RPR) in his last and actually finished ahead of the favorite at that distance and over good ground  in the Group 1 Prince of Wales. He may not want to run quite this far and never has, but he’s run well at shorter distances against classy company. The opposite may be true for SEVENTH HEAVEN, who takes on the boys having finished a closing 4th in last year’s Filly and Mare Turf; that race is too short for her this year. She is a Group 2 winner at 12f this year (120 RPR) over firmer ground and had won two Group 1 events at that distance as a three year old over turf labeled good. She should appreciate both the distance and surface in this spot.

Picks:

1) Highland Reel 5-1

2) Ulysses 7-2

3) Sadler’s Joy 12-1

4) Beach Patrol 4-1

Longshot: Seventh Heaven 20-1

12- CLASSIC, 10f, 8:35

It’s hard to believe that Bob Baffert has won the last three editions of this race with three-year old colts. Enter WEST COAST, who looks poised to continue that trend as the value of this year’s event. Winner of five straight is proven at the distance, having impressively wired and drawn away from the Travers field (108 Beyer, 112 Brisnet) in his lone 10f try. He absolutely destroyed the Pennsylvania Derby field in his last and has been firing bullets since. Drawn in Post #8, he should be able to work out a nice tactical ride outside the main speed. Javier Castellano picks up the mount from Mike Smith, who jumps off to ride ARROGATE, and one can hardly blame him. Defending champion is clearly the horse to beat on paper if he can return to his early year form and 2-1 will look like an absolute gift if he does. He posted the highest number of the year when winning the 9f Pegasus in January (119 Beyer) and overcame a ton of adversity when running against his style to close and win the 10f Dubai World Cup in March. He fired a bullet work on 10/30, will be sent early from the rail where he started for two of his greatest victories, and should be expected to turn the tables on today’s foe COLLECTED, who hung on to pull the upset last out over this track at 10f. Amazingly a colt that couldn’t even make last year’s Kentucky Derby field finds himself in position for Horse of the Year honors coming off an upset of what was once widely considered the world’s greatest horse. COLLECTED will see a bit more pace pressure here and doesn’t appear to be bred for 10f but the proof is in the pudding. He’s never lost in seven starts on a dry dirt surface and he must be considered a candidate for the win. Morning line favorite GUN RUNNER has done absolutely nothing wrong and seems to be getting better with every race. His ten length romp in the 9f Woodward in his last produced career high figures (115 Beyer, 114 Brisnet), and he’s earned nothing but rave reviews working over the track. The main concern with him at these odds is that while he has never turned in a bad effort, he is 0/3 in 10f attempts, beaten twice by ARROGATE. Those two figure to go at it early and we won’t let him kill our Late Pick 4 ticket, but all else equal we prefer the champ for the top of vertical wagers. Our Triple Crown favorite GUNNEVERA comes in off a career best in his last when 2nd in the Travers. He’d be a surprise for the win but has the kind of push button speed that could make an impact in exotics if timed correctly. He improved 24 Brisnet figure between his last two starts; if he can improve even half that many, who knows? Euro shippers CHURCHILL and WAR DECREE find themselves in ambitious spots here in terms of distance and surface compared to this competition. We feel confident that out five will cover the superfecta.

Picks:

1) West Coast 6-1

2) Arrogate 2-1

3) Collected 6-1

4) Gun Runner 9-5

Longshot: Gunnevera 30-1

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