'Where the Turf meets the Surf' is the slogan for Del Mar in San Diego, the scene of this year's Breeders Cup. I'll have a few previews for the BC this weekend, the first of which comes from a first-time contributor, keen US racing form student, Nathan Cripps, @hoodooguru81.
A dreamy weekend of horse racing begins Friday with the 2017 Breeders' Cup World Championships. This is first time the Breeders' Cup will be held at Del Mar Racetrack, California.
The two day event features 13 races in total capped off by the $6 million (US) Breeders' Cup Classic, the signature event for the Breeders' Cup and one of the biggest horse races in the world.
Breeders Cup Races
Friday's Races (Nov. 3)
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Las Vegas Dirt Mile
Saturday's Races (Nov. 4)
14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies
Filly and Mare Sprint
Filly and Mare Turf
Sentient Jet Juvenile
Weather (info courtesy of theweathernetwork.com)
Conditions for racing should be ideal with mostly sunny days this week in the low 20’s (degrees) including Friday (Day One)
On Saturday, some cloud cover is expected with slight chance of showers, although the report states that the showers that fall are likely to be after midnight, well after race time.
The Turf track is likely to be good to firm. Del Mar is a tight turning track that will favour on speed and horses drawn in.
Longines Breeders Cup Turf G1 (Purse US $4,000,000)
1 1/2 Miles (3 x turns)
1) Talismanic (ML 15/1) - G2 French performer trained by a Breeders Cup master in Andre Fabre and ridden by his regular pilot in Barzalona. He has had a consistent season winning once and being placed twice in G2 company, both at Saint Cloud and Chantilly. 2400m is his ideal trip and off an eight-week let up ran a solid third in the G2 Prix Foy (Cloth of Stars second; went on to finish second in the Arc to Enable). Also, note he has strong form tie-ins into the Melbourne Cup. Two starts back, he beat Marmelo in the Prix Maurice du Neuil, and twice this year he has been narrowly defeated by Tiberian.
Drawn favourably as a speed horse on a tight track, and should almost be able to secure the box seat run behind speed coming across from out wide. He’s not as good as Highland Reel, Decorated Knight and Ulysses, but perhaps he doesn’t have to be here? I would suggest he’s a decent each way hope here at the odds (some 20/1 around). Has knockout claims.
2) Bullards Alley (ML 15/1) - Still coming to terms that he’s here contesting this race. Seemingly a very unlikely BC Turf entrant just a few weeks back, that was until his 10 length upset win in the G1 Canadian International (2400m soft track) at 40/1. Extraordinarily delivering a Beyer rating of 114 in the process, some 20 points higher than anything he’d delivered all year! What? (Highland Reel scored a 112 winning the BC Turf last year!)
Before that win he had been peddling around in meek G3 races and hadn’t won a race all season. Expect him to settle in the first half of the field on the fence, possibly 3 back and suggest he might struggle when the pressure goes on at the 800m
You’ve got to go one way or the other with this guy and I'm against him, suggesting he's had his 15 mins of fame on a wet track against tired Euro's (Idaho) and out of form locals.
Not for me.
3) Highland Reel (ML 5/1) - A global phenomenon who steps out for his swan song in the race he captured last year at Santa Anita, when given a daring and brilliant Heffernan ride (Ulysses fourth) After a taxing 2016 racing season he has had only the four English runs in 2017 culminating in two G1 victories at Epsom and Royal Ascot (defeated Decorated Knight and Ulysses) At his third run in the UK summer he finished a well beaten fourth in the King George (2400m) behind 3yo wonder filly Enable (Ulysses second) on unsuitably wet ground. Given a let up after this he missed the Arc due to the wet conditions and ultimately had to race in the Champion Stakes (2000m) on soft ground to get a run under his belt in prep for this. He finished a seven-length third, coursing a wide path looking for dryer footing. Draws well here (maps to be one out one back), strikes wanted firm ground, Ryan Moore is booked and he’s not disadvantaged one bit by travelling. The Morning Line price of 5/1 is overly generous and unrealistic (9/4 in most circles) but I fear his arch rival (Ulysses) has gone to another level this season and provides not only stiffer competition in this 2017 renewal but also a slightly better price (generally 5/2 available)
He will climb over the US $10 mil mark if successful in this year's edition. It would take a brave (& possibly insane?) person to suggest that he can’t do it.
I can't talk you out of backing him, but I'll be losing if the fairytale plays out.
4) Decorated Knight (ML 15/1) - Roger Charlton's 5yo entire has had himself a break out season and stamped himself as a G1 contender with two G1 victories in Ireland (both on wet ground), including an Irish Champion Stakes win at 25/1. Finished a quality second (SP 10/1) in the G1 Prince of Wales (2000m) at Royal Ascot where he split both Highland Reel & Ulysses. He's not for one lacking in class here and looks adept in all conditions, although perhaps he would slightly prefer cut out of the ground. The major concern with him today is his debut over 2400m at this top level. He will need an economical and inch-perfect ride from his regular pilot in Atzeni. Can settle in the first half, possibly three back the fence or one out two back following Highland Reel, in order to help him get the trip.
Would not surprise to see him in the fight, but with 10/1 mostly on offer, he is a little tight in the market for mine given he's new to the distance.
5) Ulysses (ML 7/2) - Fair to say the Sir Michael Stoute 4yo son of Galileo has risen to new heights this season winning two G1s at home (2000m & 2100m) culminating in a 130 Timeform Rating in the Juddmonte and his gutsy third in the Arc (2400m G1) behind Enable. Although he's had the six runs this year, I believe missing Champions Day at Ascot for this race instead, will prove to be a blessing. He's adept on all surfaces with his trainer suggesting firm ground is a plus for him. Although retiring after this race along with Highland Reel, his Timeform rating's indicate he could possibly still be on the rise, whereas I feel we have seen the best from Highland Reel this year and over his stellar career. Ulysses obtains the champion jockey in Frankie Dettori and he will be focused on reversing the order of finish from the 2016 BC Turf where Highland Reel beat him home by six lengths. Expect from the good draw that he'll race much more forward (settled handy in the Arc) and try to follow Highland Reel into the race. He's got remarkable sustained power & speed and if able to track with cover into the race on the back of a rival going forward, he can let fly with a devastating closing two furlongs. He's the one to beat in my eyes and he's not the favourite with the bookies.
6) Cliffs of Moher (ML 20/1) - Aidan O'Brien trained 3yo who has had a disappointing season given the promise he displayed early on in the year. Finished a slashing second in the English Derby (G1 2400m; Cracksman third) at 5/1 and clearly big things were expected from yet another son of Galileo raced by Coolmore. He started favourite in the G1 Eclipse at Sandown (2000m) against older rivals and finished a plain 4th holding every chance, beaten 4L by the winner in Ulysses. Although he continued to race in G1 company on his next 3 races, he was comprehensively defeated by Ulysses, Decorated Knight and Highland Reel. Likely to be given a positive ride in this and perhaps he'll enjoy his first trip away and firm ground, but he has plenty of ground to make up here and looks unlikely to be capable of doing it.
7) Itsinthepost (ML 15/1) - G2 5 yo American Post gelding in the hands of Jeff Mullins. Yet to crack a G1 but he's G2 form has been solid enough registering three G2 wins in 2017 (2000m - 2400m). Facing the starter for the ninth time this year and although he has run some good races around Bigger Picture he was beaten by Hunt two runs back who I am giving no hope in this. He'll race in the first half of the field but he'll struggle to stay there when the heat goes up. He doesn't look up to this.
8) Bigger Picture (ML 15/1) - 6yo G1 winning gelding in the hands of US trainer Michael Maker, to be ridden by champion jockey John Velazquez. Great story because he was once a claimer and has been quite the claim for his connections! The veteran of the field looks to be having his best season yet judging by his victory in the G1 (SP 10/1) United Nations at Monmouth in the Summer over 2200m, after getting a dream run in transit to get up narrowly. A midfield type, he finished a close third in the G1 Sacred Dancer (2400m) behind Sadler's Joy who powered over the top of him that day. But he has beaten home Sadler's Joy and Itsinthepost this season and his consistency in 2017 can't be questioned. He's put in every single start.
A 1, 2, 3 finish will see him join the US $1 mil club and he's yet to miss a place over the trip in four tries. Last three runs have produced Beyer's in excess of 100 so not the worst in the field, but he does look up against it all the same. Small place chance at best but I can't find a spot for him.
9) Seventh Heaven (ML 20/1) - Aidan O'Brien trains this very capable 4yo filly who was twice a G1 Oaks winner at three. She also finished a brave fourth in the Breeders Cup Fillies and Mares at Santa Anita to close off her 3yo season. Regrettably she's had an interrupted 2017 with a Spring setback reducing her to racing only four times. Her seasonal debut saw her run a slashing second to Jack Hobbs in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic behind Jack Hobbs (2400m; Highland Reel seventh) and then she followed that up by hacking up by five lengths in the G2 Dunaden at Newmarket (2400m) Her two autumn runs (both soft tracks) have been well below her best, albeit one of them being the Arc (SP 25/1)
The fact Aidan has brought her here to race in the Breeders Cup Turf is a sure fire sign that he is confident she has something to offer. She has a great deal of back class and if she can recapture some of her best, I am sure she can make the frame. Expect her to be ridden quietly in the mid division and try and catch the back of one of her European counterparts to bring her forward. In saying this she is awfully short in the market given the amount of trust and faith you have to place in her and her connections.
I wouldn't be surprised if she won. Her trainer is having quite the season? Take on trust and throw her into the multiples.
10) Fanciful Angel (ML 12/1) - Former Euro and Marco Botti trained 5yo grey (Listed Grade Winner) now in the capable hands of Chad Brown. Based on European form he wouldn't get within 10 lengths of Highland Reel & Ulysses. But Lasix has had an instant & positive effect on this guy as he's hit the ground running in his first two US G1 races finishing runner up in both (2000m & 2400m), behind local fave Beach Patrol. Clearly he's got a new lease of life but still he's a backmarker who will require plenty of good fortune to hit the frame. The sums say he cannot beat Beach Patrol home, but I don't think he'll finish last.
11) Hunt (ML 15/1) - This 5yo son of Dark Angel has registered 2 x US G1's this season (1800m & 2200m) both achieving 100 + Beyer ratings. At his most recent start he produced a lacklustre effort when he finished down the track into seventh, in a G2 when well found in the market. Not a lot of excuses to come out of his latest and although has two Del Mar wins to his name and carries Del Mar's leading jockey (Flavien Prat), he looks totally outgraded in this. Likely to be the outsider of the field. No.
12) Beach Patrol (ML 4/1) - This 4yo son of Lemon Drop Kid is a triple G1 winner lifetime and appears to carry the hopes of the locals. Settled on the speed in the G1 invitational at Belmont (2400m) and raced clear midway to win decisively by five lengths and clock a career best rating. That was his first crack at 2400m and he looked to like it. Slight query was that race ended up pace dominated and backmarkers had a difficult time getting into the contest. Advantages for Beach Patrol are that he does have good early speed and could possibly lead this field, although likely Oscar Performance will cross him early. He's on a hat trick of G1 wins and he's clearly on an upward spiral. It would be dangerous to dismiss such an improving type, but personally with the post positions I feel the Euro's will be camped and stalking him from the get go. Simply put, he'll need another career peak and the Euro's to underperform to win this. Place claims only.
13) Sadler’s Joy (ML 12/1) - A local 4yo backmarker who recently joined the US $1 mil dollar club. Scored his debut G1 success two runs back in the Sacred Dancer at Saratoga (2400M) and earnt himself his peak 105 Beyer Rating. Went to Belmont as the favourite in the G1 Invitational (2400m) and after settling 18 lengths off the speed in the early stages did a decent job to claw that back to 6L at the wire to finish fourth (beaten by rivals Beach Patrol, Fanciful Angel & Oscar Performance) Trouble is today he is poorly drawn in 13 and has no early speed in his armour. Will most likely settle in the last few and will need a frenetic pace up at the front end in order to help him pass rivals late. He's got a herculean task ahead of him, and although he will be running on it's likely he won't be troubling the scorers.
Will be stretching out late trying to make the frame. Think that would be an achievement in itself.
14) Oscar Performance (ML 10/1) - The Kitten's Joy 3yo has already three US G1s (1600m & 2000m) to his name and looks the likely leader in this with Beach Patrol perhaps sitting outside of him. Last start he stepped up to the 2400m for the first time at Belmont in G1 grade and wasn't disgraced when finishing third (beaten five lengths) to Beach Patrol and Fanciful Angel. The tight track will certainly suit him but seemingly he has a bit to find on the two horses that defeated him at Belmont (and those two need to be at their absolute top to match the Euro's). Although he may get a fairly comfortable lead, when the pressure goes on at the 800m and he being a little inexperienced at this distance at this level, I'd expect him to be found wanting in the final two furlongs.
All these combining factors seemingly leave the US's best 3yo turf horse looking vulnerable and 16/1 - 20/1 is just too short for my liking. Not for mine.
European horses have dominated this race since it's inception. It looks set to continue in 2017 with Sir Michael Stoute's vastly improving Ulysses poised to take his third Group 1 of 2017 in his finale, and top off a memorable 2017. Talismanic has a lot of positives going for him in this and should be respected at the price.
No knock on the defending champ Highland Reel (he deserves a fairytale ending), but think he's screwed right down in the market and possibly may need to dig out a career best performance to defeat his arch nemesis. Exotic chances to the less fancied Europeans Decorated Knight & Seventh Heaven, with the latter being a real mystery runner.
The best of the locals are Beach Patrol & Sadler's Joy.
3 Highland Reel
9 Seventh Heaven