16:05 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies 2014 winner – Take Charge Brandi
The first race of Breeders’ Cup Saturday is the Juvenile Fillies, a race which has seen 55% of the winners sent off at favourite. The current favourite is Songbird who has a perfect career record with three wins from three, including two at Grade 1 level, and was an extremely impressive all the way winner of the Chandelier Stakes last month, finishing almost five lengths ahead of second and a further eight lengths clear of third. She was similarly impressive in the Del Mar Debutante, showing good early speed to break from a wide berth and had enough in the tank to confidently see off her rivals so definitely sets the standard here.
Rachels Valentina has been drawn in stall nine, just on the inside of Songbird, and looks to be the main danger to the favourite. She also arrives with an unblemished career record with two wins from two runs and warmed up for this by winning the Spinaway Stakes in September, beating the re-opposing Tap To It. She has shown great battling qualities in both her wins and looks the most likely to challenge Songbird.
Nickname was only fourth behind Rachels Valentina on her racecourse debut but has won twice since, most recently in the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes (usually a good yardstick for this race) and has some appeal at a likely each way price.
Dothraki Queen won the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes in September before a solid second in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades here at Keeneland earlier this month. He probably doesn’t quite have the class to beat the market leaders but could sneak third at a decent each way odds.
Songbird – 11/8 WIN
16:45 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint 2014 winner – Bobby’s Kitten
Of the seven previous renewals of the Turf Sprint the favourite has won three times to give a strike rate of 43%, although any further analysis is difficult given that the race has seen three differing race distances. In a race of this nature it is difficult to be overly confident on any selection and of all the Breeders’ Cup races this is the one to tread carefully in.
Last years winner Bobby’s Kitten returns to defend his crown but has only raced twice this season and has been largely disappointing on both occasions. He needed just about every inch to get up over six and a half furlongs so the drop back to five and a half furlongs here isn’t sure to suit and based on his form this season he looks easily opposable.
Undrafted also returns for another crack at this race after finishing 3rd last year. A ½ length winner of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Ascot in June 2015, he is re-united with jockey Frankie Dettori who should be determined to win this after being touched off in the final strides last year when aboard No Nay Never.
Lady Shipman has already raced nine times this year, winning seven of these and was only just denied a five timer when a close second in the Franklin County Stakes earlier this month. Providing her busy season hasn’t caught up with her she is probably the form pick of the field.
At a bigger price Pure Sensation is worth a mention. He arrives with a 100% win record in 2015, winning the Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap en-route here, and has finished in the top three positions in ten of his thirteen career runs. This is a step up in grade and stall 1 isn’t ideal but in a tricky looking race he cannot be discounted.
Pure Sensation – 14/1 E/W
17:25 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint 2014 winner – Judy The Beauty
This years’ Filly and Mare Sprint looks a tough nut to crack. The favourite has won the last three renewals but prior to this there has been a 20/1 winner and an odds-on favourite turned over since its inception in 2007 so there is no guarantee that the favourite will oblige again here.
2013 runner up and last years’ winner Judy The Beauty comes in to this race with a bit of a point to prove after failing to win in three runs so far this year, although it could be argued that she was a little unlucky on her latest outing. She will no doubt have her supporters and will be buoyed by trainer Wesley Wards’ confidence in his star mare but current odds of around 5/1 seem a little short considering her recent form and the strength in depth of the opposition.
La Verdad will likely go off close to the head of the market and its not difficult to see why. Unbeaten in six races during 2015 and overall career record of sixteen wins from twenty two runs, she has already beat both Judy The Beauty and Dame Dorothy this year. The only concern for me is that her latest run was just last week so even though she ran out an easy winner she now races again just seven days later.
Fioretti has shown a big improvement in her last three runs with two wins from three culminating in winning the Group 2 Thoroughbread Club of America Stakes, a key pointer towards this race in previous years. Despite this she is still considered an outsider for this race and is probably looking at a place at best.
Cavorting has emerged victorious in five from seven career runs including the Grade 1 Longines Test Stakes and most recently the Grade 2 Prioress Stakes, running on strongly to win with relative ease. She is the early market leader and should be good enough to get her head in front again today, yet odds of around 5/1 show just how competitive the race is.
Of the remainder, Dame Dorothy beat Judy The Beauty in May 2015 but has not been at her best since returning from a summer break yet with seven wins from eleven career runs she to be considered at a likely bigger price.
La Verdad – 11/2 E/W
18:10 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf 2014 winner – Dayatthespa
Legatissimo has been labelled as the banker of the meeting by many and although Europeans have a good record in this race, Legatissimo would become the first Irish trained winner if successful. The multiple Group 1 winner lists the 2015 1000 Guineas and Nassau Stakes amongst his victories and only lost out by a head in the both the Investec Oaks and Pretty Polly Stakes so brings arguably the best form to the table for this race.
The Andre Fabre trained 2014 1000 Guineas winner Miss France comes next in the early markets and although has only raced twice this season she has finished a close second on both occasions and has to have a chance here as long as she stays the extra distance.
Secret Gesture has finished in the first three places in eleven of her fifteen career races, winning four, and returns to attempt to improve on her 5th place finish in this race last year. She finished ahead of the re-opposing Stephanie’s Kitten and Watsdachances in the Beverley D Stakes but was subsequently disqualified for interference. Nevertheless she looked the best of the three and should confirm the form again here.
Stephanie’s Kitten leads the charge for the US runners and was an impressive repeat winner of the Grade 1 Flower Bowl earlier this month. At the age of 6 she would become the oldest winner of the race should she emerge victorious but the 2011 Juvenile Fillies Turf winner and 2014 Filly and Mare Turf runner-up is clearly still at the top of her game and cannot be discounted.
Talmada is relative outsider at odds of around 25/1 but has been in great form recently having won a listed race in September before finishing just over a length behind Curvy in the Group 1 E.P Taylor Stakes and is another to consider for minor honours.
Legatissimo – 5/4 WIN & Secret Gesture – 14/1 E/W
18:50 TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint 2014 winner – Work All Week
Private Zone returns for his third crack at the Sprint and despite a best placed 3rd last year he is still the early favourite after winning three and placing twice from his five runs this year. A great front running performance saw him go pillar to post in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes so he appears to be arriving here at the top of his game, although isn’t drawn best to be able to get to the front here.
Runhappy is a course and distance winner and arrives here on the back of four straight wins including winning the Phoenix Stakes on a sloppy track despite a poor break and his saddle slipping part way round. Last years’ winner Work All Week won the Phoenix prior to his Sprint win and connections of Runhappy will be hoping that he can follow the same path.
A winner of two Breeders’ Cup challenge races, Wild Dude also warrants serious consideration at a likely each way price. He has already beat both Masochistic and Kobes Back in both these challenge races and his fast finishing style could suit with Private Zone and Runhappy likely to attempt to set a brisk opening pace.
Wild Dude – 14/1 E/W
19:30 Breeders’ Cup Mile 2014 winner – Karakontie
An open looking Mile contest with last year’s winner Karakontie arriving without a win in 2015, although his prep for 2014 wasn’t ideal either so he cannot be discounted in a race where in recent years the likes of Goldikova and Wise Dan have returned to defend their crowns.
Vying for the head of the market is the Andre Fabre trained duo Make Believe, winner of the Prix De La Foret, and Sun Chariot Stakes winner Esoterique. Fillies/Mares have a great recent record in this race so Esoterique has to be considered a real threat, although there is a suspicion that she may be better suited to a straight track. 3 year old Make Believe also fits with recent stats as the last three 3 year old winners of this race were trained by French trainers. In truth, there is a great case for both and although if pushed I would side with Make Believe I simply can’t tip one over the other.
Time Test has a career record of four wins from seven including the Group 2 Shadwell Joel Stakes when last seen, his first attempt over a mile. The draw hasn’t been kind to him though (drawn in stall twelve) and odds of around 5/1 seem on the short side.
Impassable has solid form on soft ground, winning the Group 2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein at Longchamp earlier this month and has an impressive record of three wins and a second from four when racing over a mile. She also fits the stats being a 3 year old, French trained filly and offers more value at an each way price of around 8/1.
Grand Arch and Tepin have both won valuable races this season and rate as other possible each way options at bigger likely double figure odds.
Impassable – 8/1 E/W
20:10 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 2014 winner – Texas Red
Nyqvist has a perfect record of four wins from four runs, including the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes and the Del Mar Futurity, and attempts to follow his sire Uncle Mo by winning this race. There is an argument that he wasn’t at his best in the FrontRunner Stakes, only just holding off the challenge of the re-opposing Swipe, however was still well clear of the rest of the field and showed his battling qualities to get the job done. This may go some way to explain why he isn’t the early favourite and can still be backed at an each way price at the time of writing.
The Champagne Stakes has been a decent yardstick for this race in recent years and this years’ winner Greenpointcrusader ran out an impressive four length winner on a sloppy track. If the rain continues to fall he looks to have a great chance of following up with a win here.
Brody’s Cause looks likely to head the market after winning the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders Futurity earlier this month, beating the re-opposing Exaggerator in to second. He was unimpressive on his debut, finishing only eighth, but returned a 33/1 winner next time out before winning the Futurity and could keep on improving here.
Nyqvist – 6/1 E/W
20:50 Longines Breeders Cup Turf 2014 winner – Main Sequence
The penultimate race of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup revolves around the Epsom Derby and Prix De L’Arc de Triomphe winner Golden Horn. Likely to go off at a very short price he may not be much of a betting prospect, especially when you consider that only two out of seven odds-on shots have actually won here. Furthermore, with all the rain around he is unlikely to get his preferred ground and being drawn in stall 1 isn’t ideal…. but despite this I think it would still be a surprise if he didn’t sign off his great career with a win here.
The Aiden O’Brien trained Found is also worthy of a mention having only failing to finish in the top three in one of his ten career runs. This came in the Prix De L’Arc de Triomphe where she had a torrid time and finished down the field in ninth, five lengths off the winner Golden Horn. She returned just two weeks later to finish second in the Champion Stakes at Ascot and this will be her third race in just under a month so may not arrive in her prime and offers little value at odds of around 4/1.
Big Blue Kitten warmed up for this by beating rivals Slumber, Twilight Eclipse and Red Rifle and setting a course record in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes, a race run over the same trip as this race. He has only failed to finish in the top three in three of his twenty nine career runs, a career spanning five years and counting and should be capable of maintaining this record with a top three finish again here.
The Pizza Man actually beat the aforementioned Big Blue Kitten by a neck in the Arlington Million in August and has a career record of fifteen wins from twenty four runs. He was only a neck away from making it four wins from four in 2015, finishing second in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes earlier this month but was ahead a stride after the line and will appreciate the step back up in trip here.
The Pizza Man – 12/1 E/W & Big Blue Kitten – 16/1 E/W
21:35 Breeders’ Cup Classic 2014 winner – Bayern
“the defining event of the international racing season”
The final and most distinctive race of The Breeders’ Cup was dealt a huge blow on Thursday with the news that Beholder, already a dual Breeders’ Cup winner having won the Juvenile Fillies in 2012 before returning in 2013 to win the Distaff, will miss the race. She became the first filly ever to win the Pacific Classic when beating her male rivals, who included last years’ Classic winner Bayern, by over eight lengths and warmed up for this race by cantering to her third Zenyatta Stakes and making it a perfect five from five in 2015 so while I absolutely agree that safety and wellbeing should always come first it is disappointing that we won’t get to see what could have been a classic duel.
This leaves the door wide open for 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah to end his racing career on a high and return back-to-back winners for trainer Bob Baffert. With eight wins from ten career races he will likely go off as a short priced favourite but, despite his amazing win record he arrives here on the back of a defeat in the Travers Stakes. It is worth noting that those close to the head of the betting have done well in this race in recent years although the favourite doesn’t have a great record, with only 26% of favourites going on to win. Furthermore, only one of five odds-on shots have finished the race with a win. Having said this it would be a surprise if American Pharoah didn’t emerge victorious.
Tonalist is probably best known for winning the Belmont Stakes when California Chrome could only manage fourth in the last leg of his Triple Crown attempt in 2014. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup for the second year running as part of his preparation for the Classic and will be looking to improve on his fifth placed finish last year, although is more likely to be fighting it out for minor honours.
Honor Code got up in the final strides to beat Liams Map in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes (with Tonalist back in third) and boasts an impressive career record of six wins and three placed efforts from ten runs. He is another likely to be in the mix and is one to consider while still available at each way odds.
At the time of writing it is still unsure if Gleneagles will run but if Aidan O’Brien decides to let him loose then he’ll be an interesting contender. The thing that confuses me is that he has been pulled whenever the ground has come up anything less than good in recent months, yet he was given the go-ahead to race in the QEII at Ascot two weeks ago on good-to-soft ground and could only manage a lacklustre sixth. It is possible that Aidan O’Brien was just desperate to get a run in to him prior to this race and, despite the fact that he’s never gone further than a mile before and never raced on dirt before, I can’t shake the feeling that he has been sent here to run a big race and may be tempted to have a small each way before the off.
A final mention needs to go to both Keen Ice and Frosted who both ran huge races to upset American Pharoah in the Travers, finishing first and third respectively. They will both need to be at their very best again to get in the mix here but have already proved that they have the quality to mix it with the Triple Crown winner and will likely ensure he doesn’t have it all his own way here.
American Pharoah – evs WIN