Back Golden Horn and the Pharoah for historic double
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
The Breeders’ Cup is a meeting where it is often dangerous to take too short a price on any favourite given the depth and quality of the fields but sometimes there are favourites that are simply unopposable. Liam’s Map was one of those and duly won easily yesterday despite blowing the start, and in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies there is a similar type favourite that just can’t be taken on. Songbird is odds-against in the UK yet I expect her to go off 4/5 or shorter in the US. She as the perfect profile winning all three starts, her time figures improving every time she stepped up in trip, from 6f, to 7f and then over 1m ½f in the Group 1 Chandelier stakes at Santa Anita. She’s won all three by four lengths or more and just looks bombproof. I would also back her in a range of doubles and trebles with the likes of Golden Horn and American Pharoah.
Win: Songbird (update…Songbird won at 5/6 favourite)
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
For the last three years the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint has been staged on the unique downhill turf course at Santa Anita on firm ground over 6 ½f. This year it will be run over a furling shorter on dead ground round a conventional track. It couldn’t be more different. Yet I am still convinced that two of the best performers in last year’s race are the ones to be on today. Bobby’s Kitten has had just two runs this season and neither looks great on paper. A well beaten 7th and then a well beaten 9th. But those races were over 7f and a mile and he hated being restrained when what he likes to do is run as fast and as free as possible. Over this trip he will get outpaced early but on this tiring ground he has the class to pick them up late at a decent price. The horse to beat is Undrafted. He was third last year, came to Royal Ascot and won the Diamond Jubilee, and is in the capable hands of Wesley Ward who came up just short in this race last year with No Nay Never and this chap. Frankie Dettori is on board and knows the horse well, and I rate him as the main danger to Bobby’s Kitten.
Win: Undrafted (update….finished 5th)
Each Way: Bobby’s Kitten (update…finished 4th)
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint
The Sophie Doyle story is another to dwell on for just a second when looking at this race. The sister of Godolphin jockey James, and former trainer Jackie, gave up riding in England because of a lack of rides and headed to America to chance her arm over here. She started helping out trainers in their yards, then started work riding, before finally picking up a few rides in races. The rest is history. She has now ridden over 60 winners from over 600 rides and has established herself as a go to jockey for many trainers in these parts. In this race she makes her Breeders’ Cup debut on Fioretti, winner of a strong Group 2 last time out. Her draw in one will be tricky however so I suspect a fairytale ending to this story won’t be forthcoming.
The horse to be on is Judy The Beauty. She won this race last year and has been brought along steadily by Wesley Ward with this race as her season-long aim. She is ideally suited to this 7f trip and has a formidable record at Keeneland winning four of her five starts at the track. I am confident she will win this at a decent price.
The one to back each way is Super Majesty. She’s a very lightly raced three year old in the ‘could be anything’ category and is trained in California by the skilful Jerry Hollendorfer who would only have a crack at this race with such an inexperienced horse if he knew she belonged. She’s also travelled from West to East before to win the Dogwood Stakes last time out at Churchill Downs so she’s no stranger to travelling.
Win: Judy The Beauty (update…finished 5th)
Each Way: Super Majesty (update finished 12th)
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
With a little bit more luck Legatissimo would have won five Group 1s in a row this season and up on the podium with Golden Horn and American Pharoah as one of the star turns at this Breeders’ Cup. As it is she’s won three and in great style too. Her trainer has been talking about this race for her since mid-summer and the Coolmore team sent Found to the Turf in order to keep the road clear for Legatissimo in this race. She is going to be tough to beat with the best jock of them all on board.
Freddie Head has been confidently predicting a bold show from Queen’s Jewel all week, and the vibes for Miss France from her travelling team are also very positive. Both come into the race with the potential to run big races from trainers that know how to deliver on this stage but I remain unconvinced. In fact I am going to side with the proven hard knocking form from this side of the Atlantic. Stephanies Kitten seems to have been around for years. She win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf back in 2011 and then came up just short in this race to her stablemate Dayatthespa. She nearly always runs her race but why I fancy her so strongly is her form on ‘Non-firm’ tracks. She has run seven times on tracks that are Good, yielding or soft and has won five and been second the other two. Her late running style is clearly at its best when the horses in front are stopping. She’s my each way play of the day. Secret Gesture beat her fairly in the Beverley D on a yielding course and ran a blinder in this race on faster ground last year. She has the help of a brilliant local rider who flashed his tactical brilliance yesterday on Catch The Glimpse and I can see him making the running on this filly today. She can grab a place.
Win: Legatissimo (update…finished 2nd)
Each way: Stephanies Kitten (update….Won )
Each Way: Secret Gesture (update….finished unplaced)
Breeders’ Cup Sprint
By now I hope you’ve heard the story behind Runhappy, favourite for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. If you haven’t it really is a Hollywood-type script with a wealthy local Lexington businessman spending $200,000 on a horse and after a few runs for another trainer, deciding to send it to a completely unheard of 32 year old trainer called Maria Borell who had never trained a winner. His reasoning for doing this? Because she cared about her horses in a way that he felt the bigger name trainers didn’t and she also never allowed them to run on drugs which was something he was passionate about. Needless to say the incredible Hollywood script kicked in and young Maria trained Runhappy to rise through the ranks over six starts winning the Grade 1 Kings Bishop two runs ago and then the Grade 3 Phoenix Stakes earlier this month. His running style is charismatic too as he usually misses the break, then surges through the field to lead, and never looks back. It would be a fairytale if he won and he should go close.
However this is a deep field that could throw up a shock so I’m taking Wild Dude and Big Macher at fancy prices to come late and fast to nail Runhappy and the other speedsters. Both are California-based sprinters which have a great record wherever the Breeders’ Cup is held and both are coming into the race off big runs. I’ve never been a big fan of cheesy Hollywood endings, but I will have a few quid on Runhappy just in case!
Each way: Big Macher (update…unplaced)
Each Way: Wild Dude (update…unplaced)
Breeders’ Cup Mile
I’m not sure the European challenge for the Breeders’ Cup Mile has ever had such strength and depth. Any one of the four French challengers alone have the class and form to win a race of this nature, and deciding who will come out on top of that quartet is tough enough. I’m loath to desert Karakontie having backed him last year but this slightly softer surface is enough of a reason to look elsewhere. The Andre Fabre pair are very difficult to split but I’m favouring Esoterique over Make Believe on the basis of experience and consistency. She’s a tough classy filly and will thrive on this dead surface. Make Believe has far less experience and whilst his latest win in the Foret was a fine effort, things didn’t go right for Limato and I’m not sure how strong that form is. Impassable just looks a step behind the Fabre pair on her form to date.
Time Test isn’t drawn well but Ryan Moore proved on Hit It A Bomb that he can overcome such obstacles and he may become the forgotten horse on the American PMU. It’s still an act of faith in Roger Charlton’s belief in him as his form on the track is still below what’s required here.
The American’s don’t look good enough. Tepin is the most interesting after a demolition job in the First Lady here at Keeneland but Crowley’s Law finished second which suggests it wasn’t the strongest Group 1 contest ever staged.
Win: Esoterique (update…unplaced)
Each Way: Time Test (update…unplaced)
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
In advance of his big race ride on Gleneagles in the Classic, Ryan Moore has already had one sighter riding on dirt yesterday on War Envoy in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile which finished last, and his chances on Waterloo Bridge in the Juvenile don’t look any better. This turf speedster is easily passed over in what is always a gruelling attritional race for two year olds.
Of the big Group 1 races that tend to produce most of the runners for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, I liked the Breeders Futurity staged here at Keeneland the most. Brody’s Cause won the race and is a really solid contender for this but watching the race has convinced me that Exaggerator is the one to be on. In the Futurity his jockey panicked and kicked for home halfway round the bend because the leader Sheikh of Sheikhs was still several lengths clear. The pacesetter then folded like a pack of cards but Exaggerator’s bolt had been shot, and he was a sitting duck for the patiently ridden Brody’s Cause. In this bigger field Kent Desormeaux won’t make the same mistake again.
A horse at a good each way price is Unbridled Outlaw. He finished third at Churchill Downs last month but was badly hampered during the race before running on at the death behind Cocked And Loaded. He is over-priced.
Win: Exaggerator (update…unplaced)
Each Way: Unbridled Outlaw (update…unplaced)
Breeders Cup’ Turf
In America they are describing American Pharoah’s bid to add the Breeders’ Cup Classic to his US Triple Crown as The Grand Slam. Well you could just as easily argue that Golden Horn is on the brink of completing an International Turf Grand Slam by adding Group 1 victory in America’s biggest turf race, to those he has won in England (Derby and Coral-Eclipse), Ireland (Irish Champion) and France (Arc De Triomphe). On form and class terms he towers above the field he faces in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Found at least deserves to be on the premises given her Irish Champion and Champion stakes performances, but she couldn’t beat Golden Horn in Ireland and she isn’t going to beat him in America. Golden Horn has looked well in the mornings, and has the right balance of speed and stamina to perform on good ground at a tight American circuit.
The race will be run to suit the two European challengers. Shining Copper will blast off in front, while most of the field including Found will likely be held up, so Golden Horn should get the stalking position that Frankie Dettori likes to adopt on him. Found’s late running style will ensure she grabs second place, and there is so little between several of the American horses you could put them all in a trifecta and hope to get a long shot in third place.
The bet everyone should also strike is a big race double and Golden Horn and American Pharoah. These are the two best three year olds on the planet, both bidding for a place in equine immortality, and if they make history on Saturday night, I want to be cashing a winning ticket that I’ll never forget.
Win: Golden Horn (Update….agonising second)
Forecast: Golden Horn to beat Found (Update….finished the other way around)
Win Double: Golden Horn and American Pharoah (Update…..missed by half a length)
Breeders’ Cup Classic
There’s only one place to start. American Pharoah. He has already achieved something that American horse racing fans had waited thirty eight years to see, a horse winning the US Triple Crown. But now those fans will get the chance to see something that has never been done before, a Triple Crown winner bidding for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Will he win it? Well we now know he’s not unbeatable as he got a roughing up by Frosted and then a mugging by Keen Ice in the Travers last time out. But Bob Baffert is quietly confident that he has American Pharoah back to his best and that best, particularly with his major rival Beholder out of the race, will be good enough.
Tonalist is an admirable sort but saves his best for Belmont while Honour Code isn’t certain to relish this trip and grinding test. American Pharoah won’t get beaten by Keen Ice again. But something has to chase him home and against my better judgement I am going to chuck a few quid at Gleneagles.
There are so many reasons why that seems foolhardy. He hadn’t raced for four months then ran two weeks ago which can hardly have given him the conditioning required for such an attritional race like the Classic. He has flashed all his brilliance over a mile, and this 10 furlong trip is definitely a big question mark. And then there is the dirt surface. His pedigree doesn’t scream dirt but there is some evidence that he could act on it. But all that being said, he is a top class well-bred turf horse representing one of the best trainers in Europe, ridden by the best rider in Europe, and if he can show his form on this surface I think he’ll be placed. Joseph O’Brien described his chances in the big race as “a shot in the dark”. Well I’m willing to risk a few quid just in case that shot hits the target.
Win: American Pharoah (Update….won in spectacular fashion)
Each Way: Gleneagles (Update…..bombed out completely)