Most of my Friday Breeders’ Cup stakes analysis appears on Picks and Ponderings. This includes my looks at the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI), the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI), the Las Vegas Marathon (GII), the Damascus Stakes, and the Golden State Juvenile Fillies.
However, Paul covered three of the races that day: the Twilight Derby (GII), the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI), and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GI). My picks in those races are in the spreadsheet at the bottom of that post, but here is my analysis of those three races.
Race 4: Twilight Derby (GII), three-year-olds, one and one eighth miles on the turf, post time 1:10pm PDT
Selections: Long On Value (10), Divine Oath (4), Ring Weekend (11)
There is very little early speed in this race, and it looks like it may well set up for someone near the front. Yard Line is the only one who needs to goes to the lead, but he faltered in his one turf outing in allowance company at Del Mar. Even his typical dirt speeds are sluggish at best compared to this bunch. Long On Value is not usually right on the front, but has led a merry chase before. He may well default into the early speed here. He does stretch to the longest distance of his career, but if his field of off-pace types lets him go long enough, he could be going, going, gone. Divine Oath takes a step back up in class here after winning the Kent (GIII) at Delaware last out, at this nine furlong distance. He has run races from near the pace or farther back, showing good versatility. Something similar to what he showed in the Kent last out should suit him well here, though he showed in his maiden win that he can come even closer to the pace if he needs. He gets jockey Jose Caraballo back from that race last out, and 24% shipper trainer Todd Pletcher would not be sending him west unless he thought Divine Oath had a serious shot here. Finally, Ring Weekend seems to have finally found his place after some early attempts at being a dirt horse. He has returned to turf in his last three starts, and won at a mile and an eighth in his last two. The biggest question surrounding Ring Weekend is how he will handle the grass at Santa Anita; his last two starts have been wins over turf rated “soft” and “good”. However, there is some rain in the forecast, suggesting he will have at least some give in the ground. He wired the Tampa Bay Derby over dirt, showing he is not out of place right on the front, though it would seem more likely that he would stalk a few lengths off and then pounce, as he has in all four of his starts over grass.
A runner I’m taking a stand against here is Enterprising (6). He has been good in the past over the Santa Anita grass, and actually run fairly close to the pace in those starts. However, those were with Gary Stevens riding; Mike Smith has the call here. In all three rides with Smith aboard, Enterprising has come from the clouds. Enterprising may like to run that way, but the result here will likely be the result he had in the Del Mar Derby (GII) last out: he’ll just have too much left to do.
Longshot: Patriots Rule (5)
Patriots Rule is taking a step up in class here, but has shown a real affinity for the Santa Anita grass. In three starts over it, he has two wins and a second-place finish. He keeps jockey Fernando Perez from all three of those starts. He came in from the clouds to win an open allownace at Santa Anita last out, but was able to close for second into relatively slow fractions in the Snow Chief stakes earlier this year — a race run at this distance over the Santa Anita grass. These runners are a tougher lot than those Cal-breds. He crossed the wire tenth in the Oceanside Stakes at a mile, but even so, he was only beaten a shrinking four lengths all told. He has already proved he can get nine furlongs, a distance he has already proved he can get. At the very least, he could spice up lower rungs of intra-race exotics for a big price.
Race 6: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI), two-year-old colts and geldings, one mile on the turf, post time 2:25pm PDT
Selections: Commemorative (4), Aktabantay (9), Luck of the Kitten (3)
The European shippers tend to do the best in the Juvenile Turf, and this year’s running appears to be no different. There should be a moderate early pace in this race: nothing that falls apart by any means, and nothing that detracts from the chances of a good forwardly-placed horse given the course’s recent liking of early speed. Enter Commemorative. He is well-proven at this distance, having won both of his career attempts at a mile. He has been up front early in both of those attempts, and should have both the speed and stamina to be a severe threat here. Aktabantay comes in from the Prix Jean-Luck Lagardere – Grand Criterium (GI – FR) at Longchamp, in which he finished sixth beaten two and a half lengths. All said, two and a half lengths behind the likes of Gleneagles going seven furlongs is nothing to sneeze at. He is a GIII winner in England, with a second in a GII there as well. Pacewise, he should sit off it early, but not far enough to ever lose touch. This will be his first attempt at a mile, but should have more than than enough stamina to get there being by Oasis Dream out of a Falbrav mare. Finally, we get to Luck of the Kitten: the only American-bred who looks the least bit attractive here for the likely price. This Kitten likes being forwardly placed, and survived an early speed duel to win the one-mile Zuma Beach Stakes (Listed) last out over this very course. That ability to survive a fight will help him here, as he will not get an easy lead with the likes of Hootenanny in the field. He takes a jump in class here to his first attempt in graded company, but should have enough speed to be in the mix early. He gets a rider change to Mike Smith, but given Smith’s success both at Santa Anita and in the Breeders’ Cup, it hardly seems a loss that previous rider Frankie Dettori defected to ride the chalky Hootenanny.
One worth taking a stand against here is the morning line favourite, Hootenanny (5). He is a good horse, the only other American-bred in this field who has a chance across the pond, at least to some extent. He whooped a field of 24 in the Windsor Castle at Ascot — but that was going just five panels. He followed that up with a good second behind The Wow Signal in the Prix Morny (GI – FR), but again that was at six furlongs. Sure, sire Quality Road may end up imparting some stamina. Still, the underside (out of a Hennessey mare, half to turf sprinter Love This Kitty) suggests sprinting may be better, and Wesley Ward has not had the most success stretching his sprinters to routes in graded company. For a longer price the class would be appealing, but for chalk, take a pass. Another I’m swinging against here is War Envoy (7), particularly on top. He is perfectly logical for lower rungs of intra-race exotics, but his one-for-seven record inspires little confidence that he is going to wake up on this side of the pond. He has hit the board in Group company in Great Britain and Ireland, but he keeps finding ways to come up just short. He didn’t wake up with Ryan Moore in the irons in either of his last two races, and it’s not worth betting he will do so here.
Longshot: Wet Sail (1)
Chad Brown has been strong with his two-year-olds this year, but it does not look to be his year with either Startup Nation or Offering Plan this year. Instead, let’s go back across the pond. Wet Sail ships here from England, and stretches from six furlongs to a mile for the first time. Jamie Spencer gets in the irons here; Spencer does not ride often in the States, but when he does, he has quality, live mounts. Wet Sail is no different. His pedigree (by Henrythenavigator out of a Riverman mare) suggests a mile should be within his grasp. He steps to graded company for the first time, but last out was able to navigate a field of twenty-three and finish a respectable third. That race was an improvement over his maiden win last out in that he showed significantly better speed. Handling the ship and avoiding the dreaded bounce may be a tall order here, but the price should be good enough to bet that he will run well.
Race 8: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GI), two-year-old fillies, one mile on the turf, post time 3:50pm PDT
Selections: Osaila (2), Sunset Glow (3), Sivoliere (5)
Two runners look particularly strong in this race: Osaila and Sunset Glow. Osaila gets the slight nod due to the the bit tougher company she has faced as of late, but both of them have strong chances to win this race, and leaving either off the top rung seems folly. Osaila comes from midpack last out to take down a stakes at Newmarket last out. That wasn’t a Group race, but three back she won a Grup III at Ascot, and two back she was fifth beaten just 1 1/4 lengths behind Cursory Glance in the Moyglare Stud Stakes (GI – IRE) at the Curragh. Those last two outings have been at seven furlongs; she stretches to a mile here. That should be well within her scope, given her breeding (by Danehill Dancer out of an Entrepreneur mare). Frankie Dettori, who has ridden Osaila to all three of her wins to date, returns to the irons here. Sunset Glow has done most of her racing here, but was second in the GIII Albany Stakes at Ascot — two lengths behind Cursory Glance, the same runner who won the aforementioned Moyglare. She won the Sorrento (GII) in sharp wire-to-wire fashion at Del Mar back in August, and followed that up with a gritty off-pace win over Her Emmynency in the Del Mar Debutant (GI) later that month. She has been on the shelf since then, but has been working frequently at Keeneland, and trainer Wesley Ward wins at 21% off of 46-90 day layoffs. Victor Espinoza, who has ridden her in her last four outings (including the one at Ascot), returns here. Finally, consider Sivoliere. She has not raced since a third in the Prix du Calvados (GIII – FR) in August, but has been working regularly stateside for trainer Chad Brown. Brown wins at 32% with runners first off the ship to the US, suggesting an ability to condition and place his globetrotters. She has not raced past seven furlongs, but her breeding (by Sea the Stars out of a Kingmambo mare) suggests that routing, not sprinting, ought to be her bag. She is an off-pace type; as long as Gary Stevens does not get her too far out of touch, and she finds some racing room late, she should have plenty of run to contend.
One to take a swing against here is Qualify (14). With a better post, she would still be an underlay, given that she was not the most consistent filly when racing on the other side of the Atlantic. With her somewhat disappointing runs in the Moyglare Stud (GI – IRE) and the Debutante (GII – IRE) plus the fact that she was marooned in the 14 hole? Definite underlay. She is not without a chance here, and I would not fault using her in a multi-race, just in case she improves that much with first-time Lasix. Still, with so many other quality runners in this race, it’s hard to get excited about a short price breaking from the next county over.
Longshot: Isabella Sings (5) could very well be the speed of the speed on a grass course that has been kind to early speed. She wired her debut from the outside post of seven, and is not posted nearly so far outside here. She may just send, since the only likely need-the-lead here is Lady Zuzu, and Isabella Sings is faster. Still, if she does not get the early lead, she isn’t out of contention. Her second time out in the Natalma (GII), she showed a different side. She was several lengths off the pace early, clawed her way to the front, and was just nailed late by Conquest Harlanate. That was over yielding going; she should have something firmer and more to her liking on Friday. That versatility should serve her well, as should the jockey upgrade to John Velazquez. Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher mean business when they combine, and could direct Isabella Sings to outrun her odds here.