Simon Clare’s third Breeders Cup blog and Friday night tips
It definitely felt like the calm before the storm this morning at Santa Anita. With racing starting at 11.25am local time (6.25pm GMT) the dirt and turf tracks were closed early at 6.45am so there was a disappointing lack of the usual frenetic and chaotic equine activity. In its place was a definite air of calm and tranquillity with just a few hours to go before the 2014 Breeders Cup gets underway.
Surprisingly there’s another storm brewing with local weather forecasts predicting a high probability of rain showers from 7pm local time which rises to a 100% certainty of heavy showers at 1am! The rain is expected to continue until 9am. Whilst the rain may stop, the temperatures look set to be much cooler than experienced here all week. It’s hard to believe this won’t benefit rather than hinder most of the European’s in tomorrow’s turf contests.
One horse who would definitely love the rain to fall and fall hard is Brown Panther. This morning he once again toured the dirt track accompanied by a pony and rider. This has been the tactic every morning presumably aiming to recreate the Santa Anita parade process in an attempt to ensure there is no repeat of the pre-race bolt that cost Brown Panther a place in the Canadian International starting gate. When I asked Dascombe how he thought Brown Panther would handle this very different fast ground, tight track test compared to those he’s faced back in the UK, he just said “Well he’s won round Chester” and shrugged his shoulders and smiled. It would be a remarkable achievement if having won big races over two miles and competed in the Ascot Gold Cup he can show sufficient versatility to win a Breeders Cup Turf. It would be great fun if he did though!
Michael Owen was also on hand to watch his horse have his final morning visit to the track along with trainer Tom Dascombe. Both flew in last night. Owen revealed that he’s also coming racing on Sunday to watch Wall Of Sound run in the valuable Grade 2 Golidkova Stakes. I sensed plenty of confidence in her chance. She ran a big race in the EP Taylor finishing fourth weakening in the closing stages. This drop back to a mile will suit and she has a good draw.
Just The Judge was another to finish of her preparation this morning and she would also relish a bit of rain over night. Charlie Hills was all smiles, but then again he always is and Jamie Spencer reiterated the serious confidence he has in her chance in tomorrow’s Filly and Mare Turf. More immediately we have the small matter of four Breeders Cup races this evening. As always these are hugely competitive races but I have managed to zone in on a few fancies in each.
9.25pm GMT Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf:
English and Irish trained horses have dominated recent renewals of this race and Aidan O’Brien has definitely got the measure of working out what type of horse suits it best. In the last two years he won with Wrote and George Vancouver and came very close to doing the treble with Giovanni Boldini last year had he not become embroiled in a titanic speed battle with Bobby’s Kitten that set up the race for Outstrip. War Envoy looks a perfect fit for this race. He has run well in Group 1 and Group 2 races in France and England over 7 furlongs but looking as if a step up in trip would definitely yield further improvement. He has been given a perfect draw and has the valuable assistance of the red-hot global top jock Ryan Moore. War Envoy will also get a very strong pace to run at with the likes ofHootenanny and Luck Of The Kitten likely to force it from posts further inside.
Frankie Dettori has picked up some excellent rides at this year’s Breeders Cup including Hootenanny but he will surely lack the stamina to go gate to wire in such a deep field. The American challenge looks stronger than usual with the Chad Brown trained Startup Nation looking the lead contender. He was inconvenienced horribly by a poor draw and a slow pace last time when odds-on favourite for the Pilgrim Stakes but had previously destroyed International Star in the With Anticipation. He won’t be far away under Joel Rosario. However you can’t ignore the recent European superiority in this race and I would include both Commemorative and Wet Sail in any exotic bets on this race.
Commemorative has worked well on the turf track handling the tight bends without a bother and James Doyle thinks he’ll be a much easier ride than his one previous Breeders Cup encounter on Dundonnell. Drawn nicely in four he’ll pop out handy and track the pace and should be in a perfect position to kick for home off the bend. Wet Sail has the inside post but Jamie Spencer is very happy with that and plans to pop out in midfield, wait for the gaps to appear and push for all he’s worth. The form of his third to Limatu at Redcar looks strong and offspring of his sire Henrythenavigator nearly all relish a quick surface.
10.05pm GMT Breeders Cup Dirt Mile:
This is very simple. Goldencents will win. He is arguably the best horse running at this year’s Breeders Cup and he’s run in to one of the weakest fields for the Dirt Mile in the race’s history. He won the race with authority last year and looks to be peaking perfectly for a repeat this year. Last year’s second Golden Ticket is out of form and there isn’t any form line that says second favourite Fed Biz can beat Goldencents. Big race jockey Bejarano is in great form and he is in my opinion the banker bet of this year’s meeting.
10.50pm GMT Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
In the first few editions of this race the record of European horses had been surprisingly poor but Flotilla and Chriselliam have improved the stats by winning the last two renewals and in Osaila and Qualify we have two very solid contenders in the bid to make it a treble. Osaila must go close. She represents top class two year old form in France, Ireland and England, stays seven furlongs well and would seem likely to get the mile. There’s a mild doubt about the ground but someone once said “they always go on it once” and whilst that may be total nonsense I’m willing to take a chance on that.
Deciding whether to back Qualify is tricky. She has drawn a shocking post position in 14. Ryan Moore will have to drop her in and ride her for luck and there are always plenty of hard luck stories around this Santa Anita mile course. Lady Zuzu, Quality Rocks and the favourite Sunset Glow are likely go along in front at a fair old clip which should put paid to their chances and set it up for horses in behind.
Lady Eli and Rainha Da Bateria are the two American contenders that I fear most. Chad Brown is responsible for four of the fourteen runners and all have chances to speak of but Lady Eli looks like his main chance. She won the Miss Grillo at Belmont impressively and has reportedly thrived on her works.
Rainha Da Bateria represents the very talented Graham Motion who is in fantastic form. She put up a stunning performance in the Jessamine and her trainer in his own understated way seems really confident that she deserves her place in this field. He never runs his horses in Breeders Cup races for the sake of it. Far from it.
On balance I’m going to focus mainly on Osaila, Lady Eli and Rainha Da Bateria in any exotic bets I place and back Osaila to win with Rainha Da Bateria a decent each way price. I do have a major worry that Ryan Moore will somehow weave his magic and plot a path through the field with Qualify but at the odds I’m willing to bet against her.
11.35pm GMT Breeders Cup Distaff
This year’s Breeders Cup Distaff lacks a star and dare I say a bit of quality. That said it is a fascinating betting race as strong cases can be made against most of the front runners in the market. Close Hatches is easy to oppose. She was desperate in her latest start when beaten at long odds-on in the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland. I can’t back a horse to win a Group 1 effort after a prep like that. Untapable was the star three year old filly back in the spring and early summer winning the Kentucky Oaks during a brilliant four win streak. However her form appears to have regressed and she was wobbling all over the place in the finish when winning a weak looking Cotillion last time.
How Belle Gallantey has suddenly become transformed from a middle of the road mare into a Group 1 dame is anyone’s guess but I’m guessing that remarkable improvement won’t be sustained in this deeper contest. Don’t Tell Sophia is a tough, likeable six year old mare and won the Spinster last time out in good style and will be there or thereabouts. I just think this could be a total boilover race so will go for a couple of longer shots to end the day with a bang.
Iotapa represents a good local trainer, John Sadler, who is yet to win a Breeders Cup race. Today could be he is day. Iotapa has been in good form, loves the Santa Anita track winning three of her seven starts and being placed on the other four occasions.
At a much bigger price I’m going to chance my arm at last year’s Juvenile Fillies winner, Ria Antonia. She won that race on a disqualification and has been in indifferent form all season until posting a much bigger, eye-catching effort last time. She travelled smoothly into the lead and ran out of petrol but not through lack of stamina, just through making too big an effort too early. If her run can be delayed in this open contest she could surprise at a massive price.