Santa Anita, 1st & 2nd November 2019

Breeders' Cup Countdown

American racing expert Peter Fornatale answers some interesting questions surrounding the upcoming 2019 Breeders' Cup meeting at Santa Anita.

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There are lots of interesting questions surrounding this year’s Breeders’ Cup as we sit just a few weeks away. Let’s analyze a few of the most captivating.

Will we see Enable return to defend her crown in the Turf?

This possibility was all but ruled out earlier this season by John Gosden but with the way the narrative is developing around her Arc run, it seems they may reconsider. Both Gosden and Dettori have put the result at ParisLongchamp down to the more testing ground she ran over last Sunday.

If ground is the issue, where better to go than Santa Anita, where the turf is typically firm at this time of year?

My best guess at an answer: I think the temptation to provide the storybook ending connections were denied in Paris will prove too much and Enable will make the journey across the Atlantic. Enable goes out on a winning note providing one of the greatest moments in the history of the Breeders’ Cup.

Watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November.

In which race will Omaha Beach compete?

For those who don’t recall the backstory here, way back in the spring, Omaha Beach had stamped himself as the most exciting prospect of his generation. He was expected to be the favorite for the Kentucky Derby when an entrapped epiglottis forced him to the sidelines.

Other minor setbacks ensued and he wasn’t seen on a racecourse in the afternoon until last weekend, when he faced a serious rival in Shancelot going a seemingly inadequate six furlongs.

It seemed the plan was to prep him there and then go on to the Dirt Mile, potentially setting up a run at a target like the Pegasus early next year that would still give him a chance to go to stud in 2020.

The brilliant race he ran last weekend and defeating Shancelot has potentially complicated the initial plan. On one hand, he looked so good sprinting, it’s not crazy to think about keeping him short for the Sprint.

In the other direction, it must be tempting to try and really make history – and potentially win Horse of the Year – by running him in the Classic.

My best guess at an answer: I think connections will stick to the first blueprint I mentioned. While the Classic is an open race, the Dirt Mile will be the easiest of the three targets based on the competition.

I’m not sure he gains enough to try the more difficult test of the Classic. I think he goes on to the Dirt Mile and wins, wins again in the Pegasus, and goes to stud as a very exciting prospect.

Who will emerge from the Breeders’ Cup as the Horse of the Year?

This one is so wide open it makes my head hurt. Honestly, if Enable does what I suggest above, she might see some support. Omaha Beach with a Classic win would definitely be Horse of the Year, and he’d have claims with a win in the Dirt Mile.

The Classic winner will very likely win Horse of the Year if it’s McKinzie or Code Of Honor, and others might go close as well.

Then there’s the possibility of a horse winning from one of the other divisions. Bricks And Mortar with a win in the Mile would be tough to deny – that would be a perfect season capped with four Grade 1s and just a silly amount of money won.

Midnight Bisou is drawing live to finish her season a perfect eight for eight. She may be penalized by voters for electing not to run against males, but if all the other storylines collapse she could be a very appealing alternate.

Mitole is another who’ll have his supporters should he win the Sprint (or Dirt Mile should connections decide to go there) and something wild happens in the Classic.

My best guess at an answer: There are reasons for McKinzie to bounce back and win the Classic – both the track and pace in the Awesome Again favored horses who were near the front. If he wins at the Breeders’ Cup, he’ll have posted a season where he was never worse than second competing in true Grade 1s all year and will have won the Championship race.

That will earn him top honors even if some of the other narratives develop.

Who will be the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile?

As is so often the case, the top contenders for this race are all coming in off of monster performances in different races: Three Rings, Dennis’ Moment, Maxfield, and Tiz the Law.

Despite the big wins from the latter two this past weekend, on figures, it should be a battle between the top two. Note that there are also rumors that Tiz The Law might skip the Juvenile to run in the Remsen at Aqueduct in November. This would be a disappointing result for race fans and hopefully the horse will be doing so well that he will be seen at the Breeders’ Cup.

My best guess at an answer: I think Eight Rings will emerge as the market leader, with Dennis’ Moment close behind. Even though Eight Rings has the one blemish on his record from where he dropped the rider in the Del Mar Futurity, that race is easy enough to throw out.

At that point you’re left with very competitive figures and a horse racing on his home track for Bob Baffert, no stranger to winning this race. He’ll go to post as the jolly old favorite.

Breeders' Cup Countdown