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By Barry Faulkner
As I have noted elsewhere on this microsite, since the Breeders’ Cup was expanded to its two-day format, with the additions of new divisions in 2007, the favourite win percentage has plummeted from 36% in the first 23 years to 26% in the last eleven.
It is clear that not all favourites are created equal and below I suggest three that are worthy of their place at the top of the market and three that I think may be worth opposing at the prices on offer.
Three to believe; three to leave…
All three of the horses I think will justify their place at the top of their respective markets run on Friday’s ‘Future Stars’ card.
(JUVENILE FILLIES TURF, FRIDAY 8:00pm)
Favourites may not have a good record in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, with just one winning in the ten runnings of the division to date, but trainer Chad Brown does, having welcomed four of his pupils to the winner’s circle.
His Newspaperofrecord arrives at Churchill Downs with a personal record of two from two. An impressive maiden breaker at Saratoga in August was followed by an explosive win last time out in the Miss Grillo G2 at Belmont. She put over 6 lengths between herself and her rivals in each of those races and, as both were contested at eight and half furlongs on yielding turf, the forecast rain in Louisville will hold no terrors.
For her last run she got a Beyer Speed figure higher than the par for this race and she certainly gave the impression that there is much more to come from this Irish bred daughter of Lope De Vega. The ticket is boosted further with his regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr, who heads the US jockey list based on number of wins, getting the leg up. So far this year his mounts have earned over $22million and he could add another significant chunk to that on Friday.
The Newspaperofrecord for horseracing across the pond is the Daily Racing Form, and I’m expecting them to be reporting a win for this girl in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
(JUVENILE FILLIES, FRIDAY 8:40pm)
Last year Simon Callaghan arrived at the Breeders’ Cup with the favourite for the Juvenile Fillies in the shape of Moonshine Memories. She turned up off wins in the Del Mar Debutante G1 and the Chandelier G1 at Santa Anita and this time around it’s Bellafina that has taken that route to this race. Moonshine Memories was used early to get a position before fading into a tame 7th last year and connections will be hoping that lightning doesn’t strike twice.
I think it is unlikely based on their comparative records and the visual impression created by Bellafina last time out. Overall her form looks stronger to me that last year’s contender from the barn. She’s clearly speedy, as evidenced by her Beyer number for her sprinting success in the Sorrento G2 at Del Mar in August. That was her maiden breaker and, following a regulation score in the Debutante, she took the Chandelier in fine style. She only beat four rivals in each of those events and that is often used as an argument against California contenders – they don’t beat much and they are usually the same horses.
However, it was the style of that latter win that caught my eye. Once she hit the front she was clearly ‘saving a bit for herself’ and I think greater competition with help rather than hinder a lass who clearly has a bit of ‘character’. She is running out of state for the first time which is an unknown but I think that may help the price with the locals getting stuck into the Kentucky-based and East Coast runners on the local tote. So shop around, she could be a very backable price by the off.
Overall Bellafina has more positives than negatives and that will do for me.
ANTHONY VAN DYCK
(JUVENILE TURF, FRIDAY 9:22pm)
Aiden O’Brien has an excellent record in the Juvenile Turf with four victories courtesy of Mendelssohn last year, Hit It A Bomb (2015), George Vancouver (2012) and Wrote (2011) at Churchill Downs. This time around he is represented by Anthony Van Dyck who has an excellent profile for this race.
Already successful at G2 level in the Futurity at the Curragh in August, his two latest runs were even better. He chased home Quorto (2nd favourite for the 2000 Guineas) in the National Stakes G1, also at the Curragh in September and followed that up with a creditable 4 lengths 3rd placing in the Dewhurst behind Guineas favourite Too Darn Hot, who put up THE two year old performance of the year in that race.
He has also won twice in races including a left-hand turn, his maiden breaker at Killarney, which has a tight home turn, followed by a score in the Tyros G3 at Leopardstown. He has shown decent form on a variety of underfoot conditions, so the rain in the Louisville weather forecast should not worry him.
There are four other Euros entered but none of them look to be in his league and the local challengers all have to find significant improvement to reach his level of accomplishment. He does have a tricky post to overcome being drawn on the complete outside of the field but, in terms of what we have seen so far, I think he towers over this field.
Anthony Van Dyck looks a bet to me and if he is anywhere near the 4-1 morning line on the local tote, I know where I’ll be playing.
In contrast to the ‘Believe’ contenders, the ‘Leave’ group all compete on Saturday and one of them, before the afternoon racing over here has concluded.
(FILLY AND MARE SPRINT, SATURDAY 4.00pm)
Marley’s Freedom showed a pretty decent level of form for most of last year, and her first two starts in 2018, for trainer Bob Hess Jr. She finished runner-up to Selcourt, who re-opposes here, in the Santa Monica G2 at Santa Anita in April.
However, since moving to the barn of Bob Baffert it’s been a case of 3-2-1 as she has run up a hat-trick of graded wins in the Desert Stormer G3 and Santa Anita in May, the Great Lady M G2 at Los Alamitos in July and finally the Ballerina G1 at Saratoga in August, the race that announced her arrival on the national stage.
That last run showed her to good effect closing to win at the end of the seven-furlong trip, the same distance she will be facing on Saturday. So far so good; so what is the downside? The competition she will be facing for a start!
Her speed figures are good but not spectacular and there are some pretty talented lasses ranged against her and not just the aforementioned Selcourt. Finley’sluckycharm, whose lack lustre effort in the Ballerina G1 needs forgiving, is one of them. She has home field advantage with six wins from seven starts sprinting at Churchill Downs and a string of strong efforts on her CV, even though she can throw the occasional clunker.
Marley’s Freedom looks to have been put in the market at a shorter price than she warrants based on her trainer rather than her achievements.
(DIRT MILE, SATURDAY 5:16pm)
The Dirt Mile still struggles to establish its identity as evidenced by the fact that ten of the sixteen pre-entries were cross entered in either the Sprint or the Classic. In the end this division has ended up with ten runners with the six-furlong event managing only nine, although that looks a much stronger race than this one.
One of the things that has been cited as why this remains fairly anonymous is the lack of a true champion at the trip. Goldencents, who effectively turned this into a one-mile sprint at Santa Anita in 2013 and again in 2014, was the nearest.
This time around the West Coast contingent will be hoping that John Sadler’s Catalina Cruiser could fit the bill this year and in the future. Much has been made of the fact that Sadler, who has two favourites this year – this lad and Accelerate in the Classic – but is 0/41 with the Breeders’ Cup runners so far. Ignore that. Heading into the 2001 renewal, Bobby Frankel, no less was 0 for 35 before Squirtle Squirt broke his duck in the Sprint at Belmont and, even then, he was only 1/41 at the end of the meeting.
However, I am prepared to play against Catalina Cruiser who has won all his four starts to date - with an impressive set of speed figures in the last three too- but not because of his trainer’s record. His wins were, in effect, time trials which leads to impressive figures.
Catalina Cruiser will be facing a deeper field than he has so far on Saturday and I think, at the price, he is one to take on.
(TURF, SATURDAY 8:56pm)
One of the most important things to remember about the Breeders’ Cup is that the fundamentals of betting should not be left at the door in the desire to back a winner. A betting decision has to be guided by the price available. Enable is the most likely winner on the whole of the Breeders’ Cup card but – and I know statements like this enrage punters who don’t get the concept of value – that doesn’t necessarily mean she is a bet.
Much has been made of the abysmal record of Arc winners at the Breeders’ Cup, which is true but that is countered the fact that, unlike all the others, Enable started her season late and has had fewer runs that the others who headed straight from Paris.
The other claim made for the ones that failed to follow up historically was that the Turf was an afterthought. For what it’s worth, while I can see the point of the light campaign, I still think this Turf try is an afterthought. If it isn’t, and the Arc was the prep for this, John Gosden has pulled off the boldest training move since Maurice Zilber used Irish Oaks as prep for King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes for the mighty Dahlia in 1973.
And what about her run last time? She clearly looked like she was curling up slightly at ParisLongchamp, as she was perfectly entitled to do off such a light prep but that was clearly a tough race for her. Will she progress or will she regress? How did she take the travel? How will she handle the track?
She’s got the best rider for the assignment, and her talent is evident but, at the price, and with a number of imponderables, Enable is not for me.