Breeders’ Cup 2019 Picks and Analysis

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4- FILLY AND MARE SPRINT, 7f

In recent editions, this has been a race to play a bomber, as not only have the last four favorites (all three-year-olds) failed to even hit the board, the winners of those races have checked in at 26-1, 67-1, 9-1 and 10-1. The last three winners have also come from way back after benefiting from a pace meltdown, and a similar scenario appears to be in the cards here, as outsiders like SELCOURT (well-aimed by solid connections but perhaps better at 6f than 7f), BELLAFINA  (light on figures but 4/4 at Santa Anita), HEAVENHASMYNIKKI (takes a class leap) and DANUSKA’S MY GIRL (needs the lead and will be sent) figure to show speed right out of the gate. This is all bad news for the favored three-year old COVFEFE, who draws the rail post directly inside the latter two of those speeds and is likely to encounter pace pressure early. She deserves respect after duplicating 107 Beyers at this distance, but finished third in her lone start this year against elders, and it bears mention that before last year, a three-year-old had never won this race. We will try to keep her off the board entirely. More appealing is the five-year-old COME DANCING, who makes her first start outside of New York but has won four of her five races this year and finished second to the undefeated Midnight Bisou in the other, which came around two turns. Daughter of Malibu Moon boasts the field high Beyer and Brisnet figures at the distance (114) for her Grade 3 score in the Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct back in April. She showed the ability to relax off the pace when winning her last two and makes a lot of sense in this spot. Looking for off the pace upsetters given the expected fast fractions up front, the other two that appear interesting as the lone Brisnet “P” designations in the field both come out of the 6f TCA Stakes at Keeneland, a race that has produced five winners of this event. DAWN THE DESTROYER gobbled up ground to finish 2nd by a nose and seemed to be begging for more. She also finished 2nd to the top selection two back at 7f, and may be overlooked off her slow recent speed figures (90 Beyer), although she does have a 7f win against listed stakes company in January that earned her the field’s third highest Brisnet figure at the distance this year (103). She runs third off the lay for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who wins with 20% of his runners in that stage of their form cycle, and checks a lot of boxes as a potential bomber. SPICED PERFECTION won that TCA race off a long layoff after severe trouble early and has a Grade 1 win at the distance to her credit from April in the Madison at Keeneland (93 Beyer) and should benefit from the stretchout here off her last as trainer Peter Miller wins with 24% of his runners second off the lay. She has won three of her last five at this distance. Horse for the course LADY NINJA is an interesting longshot making a class leap and stretching out for her first try at 7f; she’s won five of nine between 6 and 6.5f over the Santa Anita track (101 Brisnet), many of them from off the pace, and hasn’t missed the board this year in seven starts.

Picks:

  1. #4 Come Dancing (5-2)
  2. #8 Dawn The Destroyer (12-1)
  3. #9 Spiced Perfection (4-1)
  4. #1 Covfefe (2-1)

5- TURF SPRINT, 5f

Always a crapshoot, this year’s Turf Sprint race moves off the famous downhill 6.5f turf course to a shorter 5f distance, which changes the complexion of the race massively. As a case can be made for almost all of these in a wide-open race, our best guess will be to focus specifically on form at the distance. Early in the year, IMPRIMIS seemed an invincible turf sprinter off of back to back scores at Gulfstream and Keeneland, the former of which earned him a field high 109 Beyer at this distance. After a 6th place finish in Britain against Group 1 foes, he returned stateside to encounter two tough trips finishing behind a few of these foes. Running third off the lay here and cutting back, he offers upside at a price as a somewhat forgotten horse if he brings his best race, and is 5/7 lifetime at this distance. Frankie Dettori, who had the mount in Dubai, provides a rider upgrade. It’s hard to believe that PURE SENSATION continues to maintain such solid form at age eight, but 5f specialist has won his last six races at this distance and figures to be the one they all have to catch as one of just two Brisnet “E” designations in the field from his inside post in a shortened race that is truly all about speed. It’s worth mentioning that five of those wins came over turf rated less than firm, including the field high Brisnet figure (108) he earned three back over soft, so he will have to transfer that form to the firmer ground at Santa Anita, where he finished 3rd in his lone career start. Horse for the course EDDIE HASKELL also specializes at this distance, winning 9 of 14 career starts at 5f. His speed figures lag a notch behind the top two selections (97 Beyer, 99 Brisnet) but holds home court advantage and has beaten today’s foes STORMY LIBERAL and STUBBINS in his last three. Astute turf sprint jockey Joel Rosario retains the mount and is second to none in races such as these. BELVOIR BAY also enjoys Santa Anita having won 6 of her 9 starts here including a career top figure at this distance in February (101 Brisnet) and hasn’t been out of the exacta in her last four starts at the distance; she cuts back off a long layoff but can be involved in the early pace breaking widest of all. TOTALLY BOSS has done nothing wrong this year, winning four of his five races between 5.5-6f with competitive speed figures (101 Beyer and Brisnet) albeit favorable trips, beating the top selection at the longer distance in his last. He cuts back here to try the 5f distance he won an allowance as a three-year-old last July, but hasn’t tried since, and draws a tough post on the rail to try to set up his late kick. Closing types OM and STUBBINS may also find this shortened distance a tad sharp, although the former did defeat the top selection closing hard at 5.5f last out, while the latter beat TOTALLY BOSS at 5.5f in last race back in June but has never tried 5f. The aforementioned STORMY LIBERAL has won this race the past two years but seems to have lost more than a step during his seven-year old campaign. We will also oppose the speedy SHEKKY SHEBAZ (102 Beyer, 106 Brisnet) and FINAL FRONTIER (104 Beyer, 107 Brisnet) who have traded trips to the winner’s circle in head to head meetings over their last two, but both take class leaps from stakes company and have posted their wins at longer distances as well. LEINSTER deserves a look underneath on the strength of his 108 Beyer at 5.5f, but tries this distance for the first time. He has beaten both of the top selections over his last three, but lost to TOTALLY BOSS in between. You could easily justify hitting the “ALL” button here in multi-race wagers above any other race on the card, but we will attempt to survive with just the top three.

Picks:

  1. #3 Imprimis (8-1)
  2. #2 Pure Sensation (5-1)
  3. #10 Eddie Haskell (9-2)
  4. #12 Belvior Bay (12-1)

6- DIRT MILE, 8f

A collection of misfits meet for a two-turn mile that many would prefer to see abolished. OMAHA BEACH was forced to defect from the Kentucky Derby and subsequently the entire three-year-old division was thrown into chaos; he would have been our strongest play in that race in many years and rightfully looms a heavy favorite here off his 6f score in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (103 Beyer, 106 Brisnet). A perfect world would have seen him land in the Classic to make amends for missing the Derby, but this world is decidedly not that, so he runs here, beyond the 6f distance of his comeback race but short of his ideal distance. Still, lone Brisnet “E” designation should be able to control the pace up front from a favorable post and is versatile and talented enough to dispatch of these on the strength of a strong work pattern. It would be easy but perhaps unwise to dismiss GIANT EXPECTATIONS off of his 1/11 lifetime record around two turns. Note however that all but two of those races came at distances beyond 8.5f, and that his lone win came over this track around two turns at 8.5f against last year’s Classic winner Accelerate. He stretches out here after giving the highly regarded Catalina Cruiser (who might have been favored in this race if not having opted for the Sprint), all he could handle at 7f, losing by just a head while posting career high figures (104 Beyer, 103 Brisnet) which stack up well here. He was a well-beaten 5thafter a bad start in this race a year ago but appears to be in career from as a six-year-old. IMPROBABLE became our de facto Kentucky Derby pick after the defection of the top selection, and runs third off the lay here for Bob Baffert who wins with 22% of his runners in that stage of their form cycle. He enters off a puzzling 4th place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby but has been working well and figures to be involved early from an inside post if he can break, which is never a given for mentally-challenged sort. He did win before that at this distance while posting figures that make him competitive here (104 Beyer, 105 Brisnet), but it’s hard to imagine him turning the tables on the top selection from their Arkansas Derby battle earlier in the year, when he was never able to draw within a length. He does boast a perfect 2/2 record at the mile distance. SPUN TO RUN enters off a dominating win over lesser foes that earned him figures that tower over the field at this distance (110 Beyer, 108 Bris) but was a well-beaten 3rdto Maximum Security in the Haskell and was no match for two of these after that when 5th in the Pennsylvania Derby. He simply hasn’t been able to duplicate the same figures while stepping up to the Grade 1 level, which is reason enough to question their validity. Speaking of the Pennsylvania Derby, runner-up MR. MONEY got away with murder on the front end in that one, but still couldn’t seal the deal in the stretch, and has seen his speed figures downtick over his last three races following his 8.5f Indiana Derby score (100 Beyer, 103 Brisnet). His sire Goldencents did win this race twice but the feeling here is that this formerly strong contender may be over the top after a strong but tiring campaign, and will be overbet; ask yourself what odds you would have required to bet this colt instead of OMAHA BEACH or IMPROBABLE back in April or May. COAL FRONT is another that figures to be among the leaders early after returning to form winning against lesser at this distance in his last, but winning shorter dirt race in California is not Todd Pletcher’s game or priority. DIAMOND OOPS surprisingly lands in this race instead of the Sprint following a 2ndplace finish on turf in the Grade 1 Shadwell, and was 2ndat 6f on dirt before that in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt, finishing ahead of favored Mitole somewhat by default. He’s perhaps the most interesting underneath after having kept such solid company, and switching from turf to dirt is an intriguing angle for trainer Patrick Biancone, who wins 19% of the time after that surface transition, but son of Lookin At Lucky has not won beyond 6f. BLUE CHIPPER enters with a 7/8 lifetime record in Korea but has never raced around two turns, and who knows what he’s been beating.

Picks:

  1. #5 Omaha Beach (8-5)
  2. #1 Giant Expectations (12-1)
  3. #2 Improbable (3-1)
  4. #3 Spun To Run (6-1)

7- FILLY AND MARE TURF, 10f 

 The disappointing defection of world class filly Magical robs this race of a potential battle of titans and instead seemingly results in a free square for multis. Defending champion and Female Turf Eclipse winner SISTERCHARLIE has won all three of her starts this year as she has steadily stretched out in distance, including the 9.5f Beverly D and 10f Flower Bowl, both Grade 1 events, posting towering speed figures (105 Beyer, 107 Brisnet). She holds a seven race winning streak dating back to last year and holds the top RPR in the field (118) for her 9f win in July off a nine month layoff. She’s proven to be able to unleash her closing kick into any kind of pace setup, which is good news given the scratch of rabbit stablemate Thais. There’s no sound reason to get cute or take a shot against the day’s most likely winner, who may not have yet shown her best. Course specialist VASILIKA stretches out to 10f here but has won an impressive 11 of 12 starts at Santa Anita and was second in the other. Primarily raced in mile events, there’s reason to believe she will relish the added ground, as she shows a Grade 1 win over this course and distance last fall, and her charging 9f score two back resulted in career high figures (98 Beyer, 102 Brisnet, 111 RPR). VILLA MARINA and FLEETING loom the most imposing of the foreign shippers to our eyes, and both own equal RPR tops at this distance (115). Given that VILLA MARINA has won their last two matchups by narrow margins and also shows a 10f win over firmer ground, she is preferred slightly of the two. The trouble-seeking FLEETING also ships to wheel back after just 14 days rest and gets what should be a taxing third race in a month for the O’Brien barn, which is 0-13 lifetime in this race, and was easily beaten this summer by the favorite, while VILLA MARINA comes in a well-rested four weeks after her last race. An interesting longshot could be BILLESDON BROOK, who has contested her last five races at 8f and shorter including a Group 1 win at a mile over softer turf last time out, but could be competitive if she can translate that form to a longer distance here based on figures (116 RPR at 7f). She beat IRIDESSA in that race, although that one has won a Group 1 at 10f before over firmer turf (114 RPR), defeating a pretty tough customer in Magic Wand, but was a badly beaten 7th well behind FLEETING at 12f three back. She will stretch back out after running her last two at 8f; both receive first time Lasix. MRS. SIPPY was beaten only a length by the top selection in her last but would need to improve figure wise (96 Beyer, 101 Brisnet, 108 RPR); may be overbet based on that effort when the top selection may not have been fully cranked, and will need to come from the clouds. Recent Group 3 winning three-year-old FANNY LOGAN takes a class leap off of four straight wins at this distance and has run faster figures over soft ground (112 RPR), but has upside as a wise-guy play from the John Gosden barn with Frankie Dettori in the saddle and also gets first time Lasix. We’ll pass on the classy closer JUST WONDERFUL off her recent form, as she was beaten by two of these foes over her last two races at 8f, but those races serve as a useful measuring stick- she was beaten 5.5 lengths by VASILIKA but just 0.75 lengths by IRIDESSA.

Picks:

  1. #2 Sistercharlie (8-5)
  2. #7 Vasilika (8-1)
  3. #9 Villa Marina (8-1)
  4. #3 Fleeting (6-1)

8- SPRINT, 6f

Perhaps the deepest, most star-studded and most difficult race of the weekend, a case could be made for any of these ten runners to win. That said, we will look toward some recent race shape trends here, as there appears to be a lot of speed early with the three-year-old SHANCELOT (121 Beyer) figuring to be shot out of the gate like a cannonball. In the last 20 runnings, only one horse has wired this race, and we’ve seen several fields weaker than this one in between. Therefore, we will try to beat him in his first career start against elders coming off losses in his last two at odds-on, while acknowledging that his job did get a tad easier after the scratch of fellow speedster Landeskog earlier this week. Entering off a bullet 4f work over the local track last week, he will surely lead the field a long way; while he isn’t a win candidate in our eyes, excluding him entirely probably isn’t a great idea, but his figures in two losses since that freaky performance (96, 102 Beyer) won’t be good enough to hit the board here. As no closer has won this race since 2008 either, what we are looking for here is a running style that can sit within striking distance of the leaders, not too far off the pace while also not being sucked into it. Both MITOLE (108 Beyer) and IMPERIAL HINT (114 Beyer) fit that description like a glove, as the Timeform pace projector shows them 2ndand 3rdon the rail in the early going. The latter got the best of the former in their lone meeting two starts back, but MITOLE had a legitimate excuse after being buried down on a dead rail at Saratoga; versatile sort has done no wrong outside of that this year, having won his other five 2019 races between 6f-8f including three at this distance. A recent bullet work of :58.4 over the Santa Anita track for this usually slow workhorse indicates all systems go, and after opposing him cost us a Pick 4 score upwards of $2k on Belmont Day, that mistake won’t be made again. IMPERIAL HINT finished 2nd in this event two years ago and 3rdlast year, and as a six-year-old looks to be in as good of form as ever after two straight Grade 1 wins at this distance. He drew outside the speed and should sit a perfect trip just off the pace; he wins on talent alone on his best day assuming he handles the Santa Anita surface in his first try over it, and we feel comfortable to escape this race using just those two on top. Looking for closers to pick up the pieces beneath them in trifectas, we have an absolute plethora to choose from. CATALINA CRUISER may have been better suited to the Dirt Mile, but with that race set around two turns at Santa Anita, one-turn specialist winds up here. His dud as the favorite in that race a year ago remains the only loss of his eight race career. He did break his maiden at this distance and won the Grade 2 True North at 6.5 furlongs three back (103 Beyer, 105 Brisnet). As more of a mid-pack closer, he should get first run in the event of a pace collapse but will have to negotiate a tough rail post, although he is 3/3 previously breaking from the rail. Three consecutive triple digit Beyers seems to indicate he belongs with these. FIRENZE FIRE struggles a bit away from Belmont Park, but still looms the most dangerous of the deep closers given his field high 101 Brisnet Late Pace Figure at 6f and enters off back to back runner-up finishes behind the top two selections beaten a combined three lengths (106 Beyer, 104 Brisnet). It’s hard to ignore last year’s runner-up WHITMORE who seems to always fire his shot from way off the pace; he may have lost a step as a six-year-old but has still hit the board in 16 of 17 starts at the distance. Odds may be worth including underneath as he couldn’t quite catch today’s foe ENGAGE in his last, although he did earn a 101 Brisnet Late Pace figure which is tied for the best in the field at 6f this year. He loooks like a stretch for the win spot though as he hasn’t posted a triple digit speed figure in five races, having been beaten by MITOLE and CATALINA CRUISER as well over that span. HOG CREEK HUSTLE looms the deepest of all the closers. His late kick doesn’t seem to be as impactful at 6f as it is at 7f as he’s never won at this distance, but as a pure one turn runner is better suited here than the Dirt Mile even if he finds this trip a tad on the sharp side. He did finish ahead of SHANCELOT two back, will be five times the price, and should have plenty of pace to run into. A case could even be made for shipper MATERA SKY, who finished ahead of IMPERIAL HINT in Dubai, but has shown declining form since then, while the aforementioned ENGAGE enters off two straight wins at 6f and three straight ascending Beyer figures, but would need to move forward again having never run a triple digit number. This year’s Sprint looks like a great race to watch and a rough one to bet; one to either hit the ALL key or go very narrow with speed types if you are playing multis.

Picks:

  1. #4 Mitole (9-5)
  2. #9 Imperial Hint (4-1)
  3. #3 Firenze Fire (12-1)
  4. #1 Catalina Cruiser (4-1)

9- MILE, 8f

Aidan O’Brien has struggled tremendously in this spot over the years, having no wins to show for 23 total runners, one of the more bizarre Breeders’ Cup statistics considering his overall success in the event. As such, this is often a spot to take a shot against the Euro shippers. However, he holds a strong hand here with the well-aimed CIRCUS MAXIMUS, who appears to be lone speed (a severely off-form BOLO doesn’t count as speed) and adds blinkers in a deep but closer-heavy field. Three-year-old son of Galileo is a two time Group 1 winner in Europe at the distance (119 RPR), gets first time Lasix with Ryan Moore in the saddle and seems to relish firmer ground. Connections opted to defect out of a race across the pond due to the soft ground and as such he enters on full rest. HEY GAMAN finished first or second in all four of his starts over firm ground this year, each at 7f, and is interesting stretching out here just as last year’s winner Expert Eye did.  He can be involved early stepping up in class off the strength of two RPRs of 116 against Group 2 foes and finished just a length behind Romanised in one of those races; that one was beaten just a nose by the top selection in his last. Frankie Dettori gets the mount and may have to gun it from a wide post, so he could take this field a long way on the lead at a price receiving first time Lasix; the extra furlong remains a question, but the lack of expected pace should only help. Mark Casse won this race four years ago with the filly Tepin in an unforgettable romp, and we see shades of that potential with his filly GOT STORMY, who impressively defeated the boys in the Grade 1 Fourstardave at this distance and posted field high figures for the home team (109 Beyer, 114 RPR). She also defeated the hot mare UNI in that race, and that one enters with all kinds of steam following three straight ascending speed figures (105 Beyer, 113 RPR). UNI possesses the best pure turn of foot in the field, but the concern is whether she will have enough pace to run into here, especially as she draws wide; GOT STORMY gets the nod for the Americans on the basis of her running style likely being better suited for this race shape. She may offer some value after being overlooked following an upset loss in her last where she moved way too soon into a hot pace. Draw a line through LORD GLITTERS races over soft turf and beyond 8f and you’re left with a resume that stacks up like a potential winner against these, including a field high RPR of 120 from a Group 1 win at this distance in the Queen Anne this spring, beating preferred measuring stick Romanised by 1.75 lengths before finishing three lengths behind the top selection after that. He ships and runs back off just 14 days rest and is another who figures to drop way back early, likely leaving himself with too much to do late if a decent pace fails to materialize. EL TORMENTA will try to duplicate the upset victory over GOT STORMY last time out where he likely benefited from a favorable race shape scenario, as his prior running lines make him an outsider here. Closers SUEDOIS, LUCALLAN, and BOWIE’S HERO are difficult to endorse given the expected pace scenario, while TRUE VALOUR and TRAIS FLURORS appear simply outclassed. It’s difficult to say what WITHOUT PAROLE is doing here for Chad Brown off a five month layoff after five straight well-beaten off-the-board finishes including two behind LORD GLITTERS; maybe he knows something we don’t as his charge gets first time Lasix, or perhaps this is the missing pace element (read: rabbit for UNI). He did show solid form last year as a three-year-old, winning a Group 1 at Ascot with a 120 RPR that would tie for tops in the field if duplicated; adds mystery to an already puzzling race and gets Irad Ortiz aboard. SPACE TRAVELLER was beaten by two of these foes three races back at 7f, but improving sort offers upside entering after a Group 2 score at this distance in his last (114 RPR), especially as rider Daniel Tudhope opts for the mount on this three-year-old over LORD GLITTERS and SUEDOIS.

Picks:

  1. #9 Circus Maximus (3-1)
  2. #13 Hey Gaman (12-1)
  3. #6 Got Stormy (7-2)
  4. #11 Uni (7-2)

DISTAFF, 9f

The undefeated MIDNIGHT BISOU will rightfully be the shortest priced favorite on the day, entering with potential Horse of the Year aspirations on the heels of a perfect seven race campaign. She finished third in this race last year and has since put to rest concerns of her ability to excel at this distance, having won her last two at 9f. She’s by far the most likely winner, but by no means a single in our eyes. For one, her speed figures at 9f don’t exactly tower over these relative to the likely odds gap (104 Beyer, 98 Brisnet); in fact, there are two here that own better Brisnet figs this year. Also, she tends to come from a bit off the pace, which may or may not be an asset in a race that doesn’t have a bonanza of speedy front runners. We give the horse for the course PARADISE WOODS a chance to force tactics and pull the upset. A return to her Santa Margarita score over this track and distance likely wins this race given her field high Brisnet speed figure for the distance this year (100 Beyer, 105 Brisnet), and she enters off a solid prep win here in the 9f Zenyatta, where she showed versatility and the ability to rate and win. The rail post looks tough on paper, but this forces her to be involved early which probably increases her chances, as she was no further back than a half length of the leader at the second call in both of her wins this year. For all her perceived inconsistency, she’s 12-5-3-2 at Santa Anita, and is the only runner to post multiple speed figures that could challenge the favorite on her best day. BLUE PRIZE seems to be getting good at the right time, winning her last two 9f races including the Grade 2 Spinster last out, (97 Beyer, 102 Brisnet) where she turned the tables on the highly regarded Elate in a career-best effort. Six-year old mare stands a good chance to improve upon a 4thplace finish in last year’s race. Three-year-old fillies have fared well against their elders in this race historically, and while DUNBAR ROAD may have been exposed against elders in the Spinster (95 Beyer, 101 Brisnet), maybe lightly-raced daughter of Quality Road deserves a chance to improve after being forced to shoot up a dead rail for 3rd. She appears the cream of the crop of the sophomores, having won both the 8.5f Mother Goose and the 10f Alabama and shows ascending speed figures over the last three races. A fading 3rdover the slop in the Alabama, STREET BAND may have benefited from an ideal setup when winning the 8.5f Cotillion in her final prep (99 Beyer, 98 Brisnet), but the added ground should certainly be to her liking; very usable underneath. SERENGETI EMPRESS has twice beaten her, and in between wired the 9f Kentucky Oaks back in May (88 Beyer, 101 Brisnet). Crazier things have happened in this race (Spain and Adoration come to mind) than for her to get loose with easy fractions and win in similar fashion, but she feels like more of an all or nothing type, and this is a tough spot to endorse the former. Again, we do expect some added pace pressure from the top selection as well as SECRET SPICE (better at shorter distances) and cheap speed type MO SEE CAL to her outside. WOW CAT returns after a runner-up finish last year and seems has really taken an extreme step back from her form a year ago, although she did draw even with the favorite in the stretch of her last race before settling for 2nd, beaten 3.5 lengths.

Picks:

  1. #1 Paradise Woods (5-1)
  2. #4 Midnight Bisou (6-5)
  3. #5 Dunbar Road (6-1)
  4. #11 Blue Prize (6-1)

11- TURF, 12f

 All eyes turn toward the undefeated BRICKS AND MORTAR here as he attempts to nail down Horse of the Year honors. He’s a bit of a horse without a country in this spot, having dominated all competitors at 9f-10f this year, but has never attempted this distance. The feeling here is, however, that this is a better spot for him than the Mile; nothing about closer’s running style in previous races indicates that the added ground should be an issue. He’s won races closing into glacial paces as well. He enters off the longest layoff in the field since his Arlington Million score in August at 10f (104 Beyer, 105 Brisnet, 118 RPR). As he holds the largest Brisnet Prime Power advantage and figure of the entire day (192.5, +18.2) he’s a must use on top defensively at the very least. Still, it’s tough to feel incredibly confident for a closer to win at a distance he’s never tried before at such short odds. Searching for better value, the consistent OLD PERSIAN has far fewer question marks, having won five races at 12f which is by far the most in the field, including a Group 1 in Dubai (field high 122 RPR) and a Grade 1 at Woodbine (100 Beyer, 107 Brisnet). He does step up in class, but there will be tougher calls in this Breeders’ Cup than taking a flyer on the most accomplished horse in the field at the distance who also shows the best speed figures as the third choice. Three-year-old ANTHONY VAN DYCK leads the Euros for Aidan O’Brien, and he has a Group 1 win at this distance at Epsom in the Investec Derby (120 RPR). Connections skipped the Arc in favor of firm turf here and will hope for a better result than the last time he shipped to the United States when he was a well-beaten 9th in last year’s Juvenile Turf as favorite. He did run 2nd at this distance after shipping to Dubai more recently. There appears to be a rather significant drop after the top three, and separating the rest of the Americans underneath the favorite is somewhat of a fool’s errand as it seems ARKLOW, CHANNEL MAKER, CHANNEL CAT and ZULU ALPHA have simply taken turns beating one another. More of an underneath type, ARKLOW has undeniably been the most consistent, hitting the board in his last five races against that group and finally winning his last with impressive career high speed figures (104 Beyer, 114 Brisnet, 113 RPR); he was 4thagainst an arguably stronger field last year. CHANNEL CAT has been consistent as well in that he runs the same race every time; not sure another 110 RPR hits the board here however. ZULU ALPHA has been inconsistent but does have three wins at this distance including one just two back (113 RPR), but threw in a real clunker last out against many of these. CHANNEL MAKER could make an impact on his best day, but his career high RPR (118) came over soft turf and his last four races have been sub-113. ACCLIMATE is the only Brisnet “E” designation and could take this field a long way on the lead. He won at a distance beyond this over this course back in June, but faded at 10f after setting the pace in his last, and has a lot of ground to make up in terms of figures (career high 105 RPR). He also could face some added pressure early from BANDUA, who faded to 3rdafter setting the pace in the Arlington Million, and almost certainly doesn’t want to go this far. MOUNT EVEREST is moderately interesting underneath as the “other” O’Brien as he gets first time Lasix for the class leap after winning a 10f stakes over soft turf in his last (109 RPR). Well-bred son of Galileo is out of Breeders’ Cup Mile winning mare Six Perfections but will need to take a big step forward here at a distance at which he has not yet hit the board in two career attempts. If the pace gets going up front, ALOUNAK could come flying late to hit the board at an inflated price; he finished a charging 2nd at Woodbine at a shorter distance in his last (103 Brisnet), finished just three lengths behind the top selection three races back, and has posted three consecutive 110 RPR numbers. Only the favorite holds a higher Brisnet Late Pace last out figure.

Picks:

  1. #10 Old Persian (4-1)
  2. #9 Bricks and Mortar (9-5)
  3. #5 Anthony Van Dyck (3-1)
  4. #11 Arklow (12-1)

12- CLASSIC, 10f

 It’s a somewhat depressing testament to the weakness of this field and the older horse division overall that the morning line favorite for America’s richest race has never won at this distance in two tries and enters having won only two of his six 2019 starts- and that’s after throwing a total dud in the same race last year. If you’ve been reading up to this point, then you’re already well of the emphasis we place on form at the distance. It should come as no surprise then that we will oppose MCKINZIE (111 Beyer, 109 Brisnet at 9f) for the top two spots here despite his having hit the exacta in 12 of 13 career races and use him only defensively underneath. Joel Rosario takes over the mount after Bob Baffert chose to remove jockey Mike Smith following a disappointingly apathetic ride that cost the win last out in the 9f Awesome Again; we don’t think this is a good change considering Smith had ridden him in all 13 of his prior races. VINO ROSSO gets extra credit for having won two 10f races at this distance (one was stolen via a highly questionable disqualification) including the only win in the field over this track in the Gold Cup while defeating Gift Box, who beat the favorite at this distance in the Big Cap. We’ve had a soft spot for son of Curlin since last spring on the Triple Crown trail and he looks to be in career form, so why jump off now? He crossed the finish line first in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at the same distance in his last before the aforementioned dubious disqualification moved him to 2nd(106 Beyer); he’s arguably the most accomplished at the distance in the field and Curlin progeny tend to be late bloomers. Irad Ortiz retains the mount and that can only be considered a plus, aggressive riding or not; staying in touch with the pace as he did in his last will be crucial, and Timeform’s pace projector has him sitting comfortably in third early. The horse that moved up in that race after losing it by a nose (106 Beyer) was CODE OF HONOR, and he could stake a claim of his own in terms of accomplishment at the distance, having won the 10f Travers going away before that and moving up to 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. He’s a must use underneath but seems beatable on top, as east coast three-year-olds shipping west for this race are a combined 0-21. In a year that’s ripe for an upset, we turn to Bill Mott and Mike Smith who combined to win with Drosselmeyer at 20-1 in 2011, the latter the scorned prior jockey of the favorite. YOSHIDA stacks up well in terms of 9f figures following a runner-up finish in the Whitney behind the favorite and ahead of the top selection after that one suffered a wide trip (108 Beyer), and after closing well to finish 4th last year is in a great spot to surprise here at a price. He hasn’t won at the distance or won often in general but is always gobbling up ground late at shorter trips; should relish the added ground but may not find the pace scenario or track conditions ideal for his closing move. HIGHER POWER owns the best Beyer at the distance from his Pacific Classic score at Del Mar (107); you could do worse than trying to get him involved underneath after stumbling out of the gate when 3rdin his last. Perhaps more interesting however is the $200k supplement MONGOLIAN GROOM, who defeated him and the favorite in his last when wiring the 9f Awesome Again over this track earning field-high last race speed figures (110 Beyer, 105 Brisnet) and could be dangerous again if given an easy lead, but that’s a scenario we consider unlikely. ELATE opts to face the boys at the 10f distance rather than face Midnight Bisou again at 9f, and that might be the right call as she is 3/3 at this distance and hasn’t been able to beat that one in three tries this year. We will oppose her strongly here however in her first start against males, as her storyline screams underlay, and her last race seemed to indicate a regression as she lost the lead in the stretch to a weaker opponent than she meets here. Preakness winner WAR OF WILL looks to set the pace with blinkers added, but hanging on in the stretch against these at 10f will be a tall order, while the 3rdplace finisher in that race OWENDALE will look to pick up the pieces late but was no match for CODE OF HONOR in the Travers. Longshots MATH WIZARD and SEEKING THE SOUL are probably better suited to shorter distances than this.

Picks:

  1. #10 Vino Rosso (4-1)
  2. #5 Yoshida (8-1)
  3. #11 Code of Honor (4-1)
  4. #8 McKinzie (3-1)

 

 

 

 

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