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Churchill Downs Race 3 (4.00pm) The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (Grade 1) – Fillies and Mares – 3-year-olds and upwards – 7 Furlongs - Dirt
Despite an oversubscribed field, there will be a short-priced favourite here. Marley's Freedom (13) has looked an improved filly since joining Bob Baffert in the spring. She has been successful in a hat-trick of graded affairs, the latest was a three plus lengths Grade 1 success at Saratoga. That was in late August. Her absence may have been by design to keep her fresh for this race. In what looks to be a speed-laden race, Mike Smith is likely to have her sat a few lengths in arrears and gradually move her up.
The last time Selcourt (1) was in action, she was a wide margin winner of a Grade 2 at Santa Anita from none other than Marley's Freedom. There are two issues with her. The first is her last race was in March. Maybe more importantly, she will likely have to be used from the get-go from that rail draw with a plethora of other pace types drawn to her outside. One of them is Finley'sluckycharm (11). She folded badly behind the favourite at Saratoga last time but can be given a chance off a clear-cut victory in a Grade 2 at Saratoga in July. Defeat in a Grade 1 in May was her first loss in seven tries over the Churchill strip.
A trio of these ran well in an established Grade 2 prep for this race over six furlongs at Keeneland last month. The streaking Golden Mischief (5) was a head winner from Chalon (6) with Miss Sunset (2) a close up fourth. The trio look more place than win chances. That said, the winner is a progressive four-year-old.
Skye Diamonds (7) looks one of the more attractive price chances in here. She had been away a couple of months when beating Anonymity (12) in a Grade 2 at Santa Anita last month. In last year’s event, she ran fourth which was a fine effort the way the race was run. If we get a repeat of that pace meltdown, Shamrock Rose (14) and Highway Star (10) come into the reckoning. The first named is a three-year-old on a stakes four timer. She needs to improve but may do so. Highway Star has took her time to find her form after not firing in last year’s renewal. She beat New York breds only a fortnight ago but has had a quiet second half of the year. Her best effort makes her a podium chance.
Selection: HIGHWAY STAR (10) E/W
Exotic Play: Reversed Exacta (2 Bets) Highway Star (10) and Marley's Freedom (13)
Churchill Downs Race 4 (4.38pm) The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (Grade 1) – 3-year-olds and upwards – 5 ½ Furlongs - Turf
This race is not far off a ‘dart throw’. With that in mind, its’ hard to endorse those at the front of the market. The galloping grey Disco Partner (5) is a good as anything in here. He found five furlongs too sharp when third in this race last year. The extra ground today helps but he’ll get behind and need luck in running. The pair that beat him at Del Mar are in this event. Stormy Liberal (9) has proved his shock victory was no fluke rattling up a hat-trick of stakes wins back in California this term. Ground easier than firm is an unknown for him. His barn mate and runner-up in 2017 Richard's Boy (12) lost a tight one to Stormy Liberal in August.
Bucchero (2) got back on track when just lasting home over the fast finishing Will Call (13) in a Grade 2 at Keeneland last month. The placing’s were reversed when they met here in May. A speed duel up front would suit Will Call. He is likely to get it. One of Jason Servis’s three entrants may be part of pace brigade. The improving three-year-old World of Trouble (11) comes off back to back stakes victories in New York. He acts on rain-softened ground too. Of the favourites, he’s the one that looks the most dangerous. His barn mates Vision Perfect (4) and Rainbow Heir (6) filled the places in a Grade 3 at Parx in September. The last named is better than his last run suggests. He beat Richard's Boy in a stake at Gulfstream in January.
It is hard to know if Lost Treasure (7) and Havana Grey (10) will handle this sharp sprint track. The first named is a three-year-old showing progressive form. Havana Grey (10) ran with credit in the Group 1 Nunthorpe and the Prix de l’Abbaye. In between, he won a Grade 1 at the Curragh. He may slip through the cracks on the US tote board more than Lost Treasure who represents high profile connections.
Selections: HAVANA GREY (10) and WILL CALL (13) No exotics
Churchill Downs Race 5 (5.16pm) The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (Grade 1) - 3-year-olds and upwards – 1 Mile - Dirt
A pair of talented Californian-based colts are likely to dominate the market. Catalina Cruiser (10) is unbeaten in a quartet of career starts. The lightly-raced four-year-old won back to back Grade 2s by wide margins at Del Mar in the summer. He’s not raced since but has been working up a storm at his home base of Santa Anita. He looks to be the dominant speed of this contest although his outside draw gives jockey Drayden Van Dyke tactical options. On form, he’s likely to take plenty of beating although the likes of City of Light (1) have ran as fast as him in the none too distant past. He was outstayed by good yardstick and Breeders’ Cup Sprint contender Whitmore in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga last time out in late August. He’s never raced over a mile. As he a Grade 1 victory at seven furlongs and a Grade 2 success over nine, today’s distance will not be an issue. He’s won at the highest level from a rail draw too.
It could be as big as 7/1 bar two with Seeking the Soul (6) possibly next best in. Unlike the Big Two, he has form at Churchill including three victories. The latest was in a Grade 3 over course and distance where he had Giant Expectations (9) back in third. If the Californian-trained pair falter, he’s one who could outfinish them. Another is Firenze Fire (7) although he won’t be as far back early. He comes off a gritty Grade 3 victory at Parx in late September. If he runs back to his nine-length demolition of Seven Trumpets (7) in a Grade 3 at Belmont in July, he’s more than a place chance. That was over a one turn mile like today.
Selection: FIRENZE FIRE (7) No exotics
Churchill Downs Race 6 (6.04pm) The Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (Grade 1) – Fillies and Mares – 3-year-olds and upwards – 1 3/8 Miles - Turf
Godolphin’s Wild Illusion (3) is an improving three-year-old. She beat old rival Magic Wand (3) in the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp on ‘Arc day. That was on firm ground but she won a Group 1 as a juvenile in the soft. In both her tries behind 10 furlongs she was well held by Aidan O’Brien trained fillies. The latest was by Magic Wand in the Group 2 Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot. Judging by back to back Group 1 victories since, she’s a better filly now than then. A two-month late summer break means she comes into this race relatively fresh. Magic Wand (3) has now ran second in back to back Group 1s. She finished ahead of stablemate Athena (13) last time.
Top US trainer Chad Brown runs five here. The shortest price of them will be Sistercharlie (6). The former French based filly has won three Grade 1s Stateside. In the latest in August, she narrowly beat barn mates Fourstar Crook (1) and Thais (2) in The Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington in August. The runner up did the form no harm when winning a Grade 1 herself at Belmont next time. She’s nothing but a stayer and this race plots to be run steadily. By contrast, another Brown entrant A Raving Beauty (9) could get the run of the race. She is a two-time Grade 1 winner over a mile. She’s not looked lacking in stamina over nine furlongs including when unlucky behind Sistercharlie in July. If Javier Castellano gets her on a soft lead, she may get very brave.
The booking of Frankie Dettori for Dermot Weld’s Eziyra (14) catches the eye. She’s won four of her last five starts. Her only defeat came when she was third to Sea of Class and Coronet in a fine renewal of the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks at York.
Selection: A RAVING BEAUTY (9)
Churchill Downs Race 7 (6.46pm) The Twinspires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Grade 1) – 3-year-olds and upwards – 6 Furlongs - Dirt
The one-two from last year’s race renew rivalry. Roy H (9) stalked the pacey Imperial Hint (5) and outfinished him by a length at Del Mar. The defending champion has had a light campaign. He ran well in Grade 1s at Meydan and Del Mar before winning one on her reappearance last month. He ran down the speedy Distinctive B (7) and drew off nicely. Trainer Peter Miller is hoping for deja vu all over again’, repeating the same pattern of races and rest as in the second half of 2017.
Imperial Hint (5) may be a tougher nut for Roy H Et al to crack this year. Besides a run when used when used up in the slop, he’s been perfect in all his races. What makes him dangerous is he has developed a stalking gear to his game. That means if the likes of Promises Fulfilled (2) and Distinctive B (7) are gunned for the lead, Javier Castellano may be content to sit in second.
Imperial Hint managed to hold on from the charging Whitmore (1) in a Grade 2 at Belmont in June. That five-year-old never runs a bad race. He’s ran super since he returned in August, winning a The Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga before losing a tight one in a Grade 2 at Keeneland. The winner was three-year-old Promises Fulfilled (2). He did make all that day and may have to work very hard if the same tactics are to be employed. Beaten half a length into third at Keeneland was Limousine Liberal (8). He was in tight at a crucial stage. He’s the horse for course here with six victories from eight starts at Churchill Downs. As his form is not far behind the principals, he looks a fair play at about 8/1.
Selection: LIMOSINE LIBERAL (8)
Exotic Play: Reversed Exacta (2 Bets) LIMOSINE LIBERAL (8) and IMPERIAL HINT (5)
Reversed Exacta (2 Bets) LIMOUSINE LIBERAL (8) and ROY H (9)
Churchill Downs Race 8 (7.36pm) The Breeders’ Cup Mile (Grade 1) - 3-year-olds and upwards – 1 Mile - Turf
There is a lack of pace in this race. Unless one of the riders on the classy Europeans is allowed to change tactics, Oscar Performance (5) is likely to get an easy lead. The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner has managed a Grade 1 victory in each of his two seasons since. His latest was the Woodbine Mile where Irad Ortiz ‘walked the dog’ on the front end.
Freddy Head’s Polydream (4) is a controversial vet’s scratch for this race. She had the trip from hell when favourite for The Group 1 Prix de la Foret on ‘Arc Day. The horse that beat him in Paris was One Master (1). He is progressive but is another has to prove himself at a mile. Not so Gustav Klimt (13) who lacked room late on in that common race. He ran well in defeat in some decent races over a mile before Aidan O’Brien tried him in sprints.
Expert Eye (7) has tactical speed. He’s ran in defeat in a couple of Group 1s this year after a winning Group 3 the time before. There is a chance he may be forwardly ridden, possibly in stalk mode off Oscar Performance. That’s a tactic that could pay dividends the way this race is likely to be run. He did run second Lightning Spear (11) in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes in August. That seven-year-old may not have appreciated the soft conditions in The Group 1 QEII at Ascot last month. I Can Fly (8) certainly did. She gave hotpot Roaring Lion a real fright. The ground may have come for her. The worry is being anchored at the rear in a paceless affair.
Happily (3) had a troubled trip when favourite for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. She’s winless this term but a had runner-up in the Group 1 Sun Chariot at Newmarket last time was a career best effort.
Selection: EXPERT EYE (7)
Churchill Downs Race 9 (8.16pm) The Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Grade 1) – Fillies and Mares – 3-year-olds and upwards – 1 1/8 Miles - Dirt
The winners of the last two running’s of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks are likely to dominate the market. If they are to dominate the race itself, the four-year-old Abel Tasman (2) has to rebound from a stinker she ran when 1/10 to win a Grade 1 at Santa Anita in late September. Even her trainer Bob Baffert, never a man for ‘no comment’ couldn’t shed any light on the run. Ignore that run (if you can) and she’d won back to Grade 1s. The first was by open lengths. At Saratoga, she edged out top class Elate with Wow Cat (9) 10 lengths in arrears. She ran second in this race in 2017. if forgive and forget is your motto, she is very playable.
Monomoy Girl (11) has been first passed the post in all but one of her career 10 starts. Midnight Bisou (7) and Wonder Gadot (5) filled the places behind her in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in May. Two more Grade 1 victories followed until a midsummer break in July. She looked to have the Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx in the bag on her return in late September. That was until she drifted out badly in the stretch and hampering old rival Midnight Bisou who was awarded the race. She was value for more than the neck she won as she was on a ‘bad’ inside for most of the way. Given second time back improvement, she looks the filly to beat.
Midnight Bisou (7) looks a solid place chance. Others that come into that category Vale Dori (8). She took advantage of Abel Tasman’s poor run to win that Grade 1 at Santa Anita. It was her best run since the Spring of 2017. Victory was only by a neck from La Force (3).
Chad Brown’s Wow Cat (9) was put in her place by Abel Tasman at Saratoga. She subsequently what was not a vintage renewal of the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational at Belmont. On the same vein, the progressive Blue Prize (10) edged out Champagne Problems (1) in not the best edition of Keeneland’s Grade 1 Spinster ever run.
Selection: MONOMOY GIRL (11)
Churchill Downs Race 10 (8.56pm) The Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (Grade 1) – 3-year-olds and upwards – 1 ½ Miles - Turf
Some will regard dual Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Enable (2) at 4/7 akin to finding money on the street. Maybe she is banker material for doubles and trebles. The same stable’s Golden Horn came into this event in 2015 with a similar perceived edge and came up short at 4/5. Maybe the filly’s late start to the campaign and only having two races will see her improve off her ‘Arc run. She does appear to tower over her rivals class-wise. From a personal standpoint I’d like to be against her but I am not massively in favour of any of her rivals. Second or third favourite Waldgeist (12) has less than two lengths to find with Enable from Longchamp. Whereas the winner had a perfect trip, he was in tight in the straight and would have finished a little closer to her. The four-year-old has had a breakthrough year winning four times including the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint Cloud. His stablemate Talismanic (1) never picked a leg up in the ‘Arc. He did cause an upset in this race in 2017 so can’t be ruled out.
Prior to 2017, Aidan O’Brien had won three out the four running’s of this event. His first string is Magical (5). She had a really poor draw in the ‘Arc and has since beaten her own sex in a Group 1 at Ascot on Champions Day. She’s unexposed at a mile and a half. Her trainer has a knack of knowing which of his stable can take a succession of quick, hard races. The fact that she’s here suggests she’s one such.
At the odds on offer, it appears to be 1/5 or longer that Europe wins this event. However, there are some talented American based runners capable of producing a shock result. Before being put in his place by Channel Maker (3), Robert Bruce (4) would have been a single figure price for this. The Grade 1 Arlington Million winner may not have cared for the soft footing in the Grade 1 Turf Invitational at Belmont. The winner clearly relished it. Sadler's Joy (11) who is a bit of a law unto himself these days ran poorly in the same race. He ran well when fourth in last year’s event.
Todd Pletcher’s Hi Happy (10) is dangerous if he makes the lead on his own.
Selection: WALDGEIST (1)
Churchill Downs Race 11 (9.44pm) The Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade 1) - 3-year-olds and upwards – 1 ¼ Miles - Dirt
Only a neck defeat in April stops Accelerate (14) being on a seven-timer today. His form was inconsistent in 2017 but not so this term. The highlight was a dozen lengths drubbing of Pavel (8) in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August. He ran below his best albeit in victory in the Grade 1 Awesome Again in late September. Maybe trainer John Saddler had him a little underdone with this race in mind. He is very playable at 4/1 or thereabouts as a main bet or at very least as a saver.
Accelerate beat Bob Baffert’s West Coast (7) last time. Last year’s runner-up (to superstar Gun Runner) was making his first start since a well held runner in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March. The question is whether he comes on enough for that run at Santa Anita. Jockey Mike Smith doesn’t to think so as he seems to prefer barn mate and lightly-raced and progressive three-year-old McKinzie (6). He made it a hat-trick of graded stakes when taking the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx at the end of September. He was almost two lengths too good for fellow improver Axelrod (12). This will likely be a different test pace-wise. McKinzie may be up to the task but he seems a tad short at 9/2 considering he needs to improve and is untested against the big boys. He is one of a quartet of Grade 1 winning three-year-olds in here. Catholic Boy (3) is another. He’s won back to back top-flight stakes. The latest came when returned to the dirt in late August. He was four lengths too good for Mendelssohn (9) in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga. Both colts were coming off lay offs. Maybe Aidan’s needed the run as he ran much better next time in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont. Ryan Moore sent him hard in pursuit of the leader on a suicidal pace. To the horse’s credit, he stuck on really well on the straight when he was entitled to fall out of the back of the TV. He finished two lengths third to shock winner Discreet Lover (13) with Group 1 Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow (1) beaten a head. On paper, it was an encouraging effort by the Godolphin-owned runner and he contends off his Meydan victory. The worry is if before the race if someone had said he’d finish a neck behind the previously limited Discreet Lover, it would have been regarded as a below par effort.
The other late summer Grade 1 at Saratoga that a few of these ran in was the Woodward. Yoshida (10) beat fellow late runner Gunnevera (4) by two lengths. The winner was making his first start on dirt, something his trainer has done successfully over the years with a few high-class turf runners. Both horses have claims if the early fractions are quick and destructive. The winner may be bet like a ‘Wise Guy’ horse for this. It may be worth recalling that Gunnevera ran well in this event last year but fifth was what he could manage.
There are a pair of quality X Factors in here. Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Mind Your Biscuits (11) successfully stepped up to nine furlongs last time. He has an even running style so may get the extra yardage of this event. He is certainly has enough quality to win. There is no question Roaring Lion (2) has the class alright. He’s racked up a Grade 1 four timer in Europe since July. The question for this reformed character is the dirt. His dam sire won the Kentucky Derby but he is from basically a turf family. From a betting point of view, at bookmakers prices he makes limited appeal. If he’s getting on for his 20/1 morning line in the US tote, he’s worth at least a saver.
Selection: MENDELSSOHN (9)
Exotic Play: Reversed Exacta (6 Bets) MENDELSSOHN (9), MIND YOUR BISCUITS (11) and ACCELERATE (14)