Simon Clare’s Breeders Cup Blog and Saturday night tips
Breeders Cup Friday was a slow-burner, starting early but with five non-Breeders Cup races to get through before finally the serious action started. Under gradually darkening skies and cooling temperatures the first four Breeders Cup races were run serving up some extraordinary performances and great storylines.
The organisers couldn’t have asked for more than a Frankie Dettori show to open proceedings. This is a jockey that many people predicted would retire after losing the Godolphin job. The same predictions circulated after he lost the ride on Treve. Yet the Italian’s determination not just to continue, but to do so at the very top of the game, has seen him emerge as the most sought after European jockey amongst the US trainers at this year’s Breeders Cup, with rides on Hootenanny and No Nay Never for Wesley Ward, Imperative in the Classic for George Papaprodromou, to go with his mounts on Osaila for Richard Hannon and Chiquita for Aidan O’Brien. His ride on Hootenanny was up there with the best of his career, and gives hope for all us 40+ year olds, as he skilfully restrained his mounts desire to run hard just enough to conserve the required energy to reel in his stable-mate at the death. Cue the trade mark flying dismount and the Breeders Cup was underway.
Goldencents then defied logic with an incredible performance in the Dirt Mile being gunned from the gate, surging forward at what looked a suicidal pace only to keep going all the way to the line, repelling a late challenge by Tapiture. He surely could have won more comfortably with a more measured ride? Lady Eli was quite brilliant in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and the US punters clearly expected her to be as she was sent off at just 2/1 on the boards having been freely available at 6/1 in the UK all day.
Then Untapable put up a display of courage and brilliance in equal proportions to win the Distaff with jockey Rosie Napravnik wowing the crowd and TV viewers, and thrilling the media and organisers with her announcement that she was pregnant and retiring on Sunday to start a family. As my colleague Graham Cunningham quickly quipped, “That’s why they call this the Breeders Cup”.
So Friday entertained but definitely left us wanting more, and more is what we’re going to get today, much, much more. Nine Breeders Cup races which look as competitive and as hard to fathom as I can remember at this meeting but that won’t stop me trying to find the winner of each of them so here goes.
Angela Renee won the Chandelier Stakes here at Santa Anita and is a logical favourite but worth opposing on value grounds with Puca. Coincidentally Puca was third to yesterday’s impressive turf winner Lady Eli at Saratoga in August before winning her maiden at Belmont by 16 lengths in the most eye-catching manner possible. Bill Mott has trained nine Breeders Cup winners and never over-faces his horses so the fact that she runs at all means she is well fancied to go close. I also fancy Top Decile to run a big race at a price under mum-to-be Rosie Napravnik. She closed from way back in the Alciabades at Keeneland last time and looks tough as nails, the perfect type for a gruelling race like this.
Filly and Mare Turf
Jamie Spencer is ultra-confident in the chances of Just The Judge and as a result so am I. Charlie Hills is also very positive about her chance. Her form ties in closely with Stephanies Kitten who may be her biggest danger. Spencer plans to send Just The Judge for home some way out to try and run the finish out of the speedier amongst her rivals. If Dank wins it will be an incredible training performance but the long layoff, her poor form in mid-summer and some uncooperative displays on the track this week all make it easy for me to pass her over. I can see Fiesolana running well over a trip she’s only tried once before and won over.
Filly And Mare Sprint
Even by tonight’s standards this looks a trappy contest. Sweet Reason travelled beautifully when winning the Test Stakes and there was no disgrace finishing second to Untapable over an extended mile in the Cotillion. She must go close. I also like Leigh Court who’s won all three tries over this trip and was mighty impressive last time out at Keeneland. Reverse exactas on the pair seem a good way to go.
Even by this races standards this is unbelievably competitive and nigh on unfathomable. History says horses with previous course and distance form on this unique downhill track should be sided with and that makes Reneesgotzip very attractive but also suggests outsiders like Ambitious brew and Home Run Kitten are worth chuck away bets. However I’ve decided to keep this very, very simple. Wesley Ward trained yesterday’s Juvenile Turf winner and second, and then the runner-up in the Fillies version, yet he told media colleague Jon Lees this morning that No Nay Never is the best horse he’s ever trained. He’s a hugely impressive physical type with speed and stamina and Frankie will be on fire after yesterday’s success. I can’t have Bobby’s Kitten or Silentio dropping back in trip but may have a few patriotic dollars each way on Caspar Netscher who’s looked in magnificent condition this week.
Todd Pletcher has a very strong hand in this now American Pharoah is out. Daredevil looks the one to beat even though his two wins came on sloppy tracks very different to todays. However I fancy two against him. One Lucky Dane was mighty impressive in breaking his maiden last time at Santa Anita and hails from a trainer, Bob Baffert, who specialises in this type of race. I will also have a few quid on Upstart who finished second to Daredevil in the Champagne but on this faster track could turn that form around.
This is a race that the Europeans simply have to win. Brown Panther is up against it. There was rain last night but Michael Owen’s horse needed a deluge. Chiquita is a talented but very tricky mare and Frankie will have to work his magic to win this. It looks a match between Telescope and Flintshire. The form points to the latter given his runner-up in the Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe but he always finds a way to lose. Telescope is not exactly a winner machine himself but he has been pointed to this race for months and looks the ideal type for this fast ground mile and a half test. He also has the massive asset of Ryan Moore on board.
I really fancy the Hong Kong raider Rich Tapestry to repeat his recent Santa Anita success against this deeper field. Fast Ana will burn along up front and the likes of Private Zone will be pressuring him but it could all set up nicely for Rich Tapestry. The Santa Anita specialist Big Macher ran no race last time but could go well at a big price.
Toronado is the best horse in the race but at 2/1 I was willing to oppose him as everything still needs to right for him and if he misses the break or gets crowded out at the bend it will be a case of goodnight Vienna. That said he is now drifting out to a very backable price. If I can get 7/2 or bigger I will have a few quid on him. I prefer Mustajeeb however. Dermot Weld desperately wants to get rid of his record of never having trained a Breeders Cup winner from 14 starts so he is picking his fights carefully. He clearly thinks this horse will relish the ground and track. I also like Karakontie despite the wide draw. He won the French 2000 Guineas back in May but things haven’t gone right for him on his last two starts. He’s looked great in the mornings here at Santa Anita and can go well at a big price.
Shared Belief may be unbeaten but I can’t back him at 5/2. He’s yet to completely convince on dirt and I genuinely believe that Toast Of New York can turn the tables on him. Toast of New York runs like a dirt horse, grinding away without quickening. At Del Mar Shared Belief has the better toe but here on the Santa Anita dirt I think Toast Of New York could put up a career best effort. It would be a great way for Jamie Spencer to end his career. That said he may have to settle for a place as Tonalist is the one I fancy strongly. He proved his stamina winning a Belmont but then with blinkers removed he showed great tactical speed in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He’ll do for me.