Breeders’ Cup Saturday: the rest of the story

All of my Saturday selections are up on Picks and Ponderings in the chart, and my analysis of five of the races (the Golden State Juvenile, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Filly and Mare Sprint, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) is published there as well.  My full-length analysis of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint is up on ShapperDaCapper.

However, that still leaves six races for which I have shared selections in the grid, but not yet shared my rationale.  Here it is.

Race 1: Juvenile Turf Sprint, two-year-olds, about six and a half furlongs on the turf

Selections:  Stormy Liberal (11), Cool Comfort (1), War Alert (8)

Stormy Liberal has two attractive things to recommend him here: he will be a strong price, and he has already won on the hill.  In his first time out he faltered in a sprint over the polytrack at Del Mar, but trainer Leandro Mora (substituting in for Doug O’Neill, who trained her in her first start) sent him down the hill on October 10.  He was forwardly placed early, got away approaching the stretch, and held on to win by a length.  He will have some fight for the lead here, but the outside post gives him a good chance for good position around the turn.  He has a sharp work since then, and should be ready.  Cool Comfort, a Wesley Ward filly trying the boys, should be another one forwardly placed.  She showed in her second-place debut that she could at least stay interested if she didn’t get the lead straight out.  She won third out in a sprint at Kentucky Downs, and then stretched out (and took a big class jump) in the Jessamine (GIII) last out.  She was sent an ocean clear early, but faltered and finished fourth: five and a half lengths behind Reinha Da Bateria.  She gets a welcome class drop and a cutback in distance, and Julian Leparoux returns to the irons from her maiden win.  If she likes the hill, she should be well set.  Finally, War Alert has a strong chance here.  There is a chance that the pace could get plenty hot, with Cool Comfort, Lamontagne, Gambler’s Roll, Tizcano, and Stormy Liberal all showing themselves to like the lead.  War Alert generally comes from farther back.  She should get the firmer turf she prefers, and she gets rider Jamie Spencer back from her maiden win.  She has not gone past six furlongs so far, but her pedigree (War Front out of a Lemon Drop Kid) mare suggests no question about the stretch.

Longshot: Ocho Ocho Ocho (3)

Ocho Ocho Ocho is lightly raced, having only hit the track one time.  That was on October 11, and he won going five and a half furlongs over the Santa Anita dirt.  He swaps to turf here, but both sire Street Sense and damsire Horse Chestnut have a perfectly respectable 11% first-time turf win rate.  He has put up a sharp work over the green stuff at Santa Anita since that last race, suggesting he will be able to handle it.  The extra furlong should be no question given that pedigree, too.  The inexperience and first-time turf factor should ensure a square price; if he runs as well from off the pace as he did in his maiden-breaker, he should be right in it.

Race 3: Senator Ken Maddy Stakes (GIII), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, about six and a half furlongs on the turf

Selections:  Gender Agenda (5), Velvet Mesquite (4), On the Backstreets (10)

There is a lot of early speed in this race, and Gender Agenda likes to come from off of it.  She was merely okay across the pond, racing in Great Britain through October of last year with just a nursery-level win to her name.  She was off the map for almost a year, shipped here, and won an allowance at a mile at Del Mar in her first race back.  She then cut back to six and a half and tried the hill last out in the Unzip Me, and finished second just a neck beaten by Alexis Tangier: a daughter of hill wizard Cambiocorsa.  Trainer Carla Gaines is 23% third off the lay, and even though rider Joe Talamo hops off to ride Fanticola instead, Javier Castellano is no schlub.  Velvet Mesquite is a hillside specialist: she has run that course six time, won five of those times, and was only a length and a half beaten in that lone loss, an allowance back in March.  She keeps Mike Smith from the ride last out.  This is a class jump from that Cal-bred stakes last out (her first career stakes attempt), but this being her second race off a lay, there is room for her to show the improvement she needs.  On The Backstreets is wheeling back quickly for this run; she race don October 25, finishing a well-beaten ninth in the Autumn Miss (GIII) against three-year-olds.  She cuts back to six and a half furlongs, which is a better distance for her.  She is feast or famine on the hill: in six starts, she has three wins, and three out-of-the-money finishes.  Pacewise, she does her best work from a bit off early, which is good given how many in the field like to be right on the front.  Peter Miller has to be wheeling this one back for a reason; if she finds her stride third off the lay, we already know she likes the hill.

Longshot: Fanticola (11)

Fanticola takes a step up in class here to graded company for the first time, but this seems like the perfect place to do it.  She has had three tries down the hill: an allowance win last year, a third-place finish (beaten just a neck) in a restricted stakes last winter, and then a third-place finish (beaten half a length) last out in a classy allowance optional.  She is working well going into this, including a move over the turf, and keeps regular rider Joe Talamo.  Her only off-board finish in eleven career starts was a fifth-place finish two back — but, that was after a trainer change and a five-month lay, and she was beaten by the likes of Reneesgotzip and Top Kisser.  Nothing suggests she won’t be as honest as always tomorrow.

Race 7: Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GI), three-year-olds and up, about six and a half furlongs on the turf

Selections:  Undrafted (11), Home Run Kitten (10), No Nay Never (14)

A lot of the talk has been about Reneesgotzip, since she finished a strong second down the hill last year.  Tightend Touchdown did, too (it was a dead heat), though there is less talk about him than about our zippy friend Renee.  However, both have been in inconsistent enough form this year to make it worth looking at a few newer shooters on top.  Undrafted is the “Wesley Ward B” entry, if you will.  (We’ll get to “Wesley Ward A” in a moment.)  He may not have ever gone down the hill before, but his turf sprint credentials are sharp.  On these shores, he won the Jaipur (GIII) on the Belmont undercard, and was third beaten a dwindling half length in the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash.  (“Dash” is a bit of a misnomer there; the race is a six and a half furlong test.)  The Kentucky Downs course has a bit of a bias toward early speed in sprint races, making that better than it looked, since he came from over half a dozen lengths off early.  He also travelled to Newmarket in the summer, finishing a creditable fourth (getting the worst of a place photo, in fact), just 1 3/4 lengths behind Slade Power.  He has proven he can hang with world-class turf sprint competition; if he brings that form to the hill, he will get home for very attractive odds.  Home Run Kitten has only gone down the hill twice, but made both times count.  He broke his maiden down the hill in January, but was repeatedly tried in routes.  Trainer David Hofmans did not shorten this three-year-old colt bac up until last out, in the Eddie D (GIII) — in which he came on like a freight train to nail Ambitious Brew at the wire for the win.  He will need to progress one more step to get it done here, but why can’t he?  His last effort was not a huge step up figurewise from his previous runs, and there should be plenty of zip for him to attack late.  Finally, we do get to “Wesley Ward A”: No Nay Never.  This lightly-raced three-year-old win his return in the Woodford (GIII) last out, against admittedly easier company: the improving Mongol Bull ran a monster that day, but most of his competition here is a cut above that.  Then again, No Nay Never should be better here, too.  Wesley Ward wins a healthy 26% of the time second off the lay, and he has been working well.  Ward came to his senses and decided to run him here, instead of going through with suggestions that he would try this colt in the dirt sprint instead.  That seems a wise move, especially in that he he is undefeated on turf, but well beaten by Spot (another who, like Mongol Bull, is a familiar face from Hawthorne…) in his only attempt on dirt.  He has a cushy outside post, he can come from on or off the pace, and he has a real shot.

Longshot:  Ambitious Brew (5)

Lots of ink has been devoted to Reneesgotzip and Ageless, but they’re not the only fillies taking on the boys.  There is also California-bred Ambitious Brew.  This lightly-raced four-year-old filly has only headed to the post eight times — and never finished worse than second.  This included four trips down the hill, from which she has three first-place finishes and a second.  This isn’t her first rodeo against boys: in fact, it’s not her first downhill graded stakes against boys, either.  Last out, she plowed in from off the pace, and was just nosed out by Home Run Kitten at the wire.  She has run well from on or off the pace, crack Breeders’ Cup rider Mike Smith has the call, and she could do well again on her beloved hill for a bomb price.

Race 9: Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI), three-year-olds and up, one and a half miles on the turf

Selections:  Telescope (1), Hardest Core (9), Chicquita (11)

Telescope will be chalky, but it is hard to dispute him in this spot: he is a legitimately elite-level European turf runner at this distance, and he is the sort who prefers firmer going.  Pacewise, there will be very little on the front (possibly only Imagining!), but he should be able to get a stalking trip.  He should also get a ground-saving one, given that he drew the rail.  Ryan Moore, who regularly rides him across the pond, ships for the ride today.  If he can hang with the likes of Noble Mission, Taghrooda, Mukhadram, and The Grey Gatsby (not to mention completely demolish Canadian International winner Hillstar, which he did in June), this field is a class drop for him.  Hardest Core returns here for the first time since the Arlington Million.  He is intriguing here for very similar reasons that he was intriguing in the Million: we have not seen the best from this one.  Coming into the Million he had proven his stamina in the 1 1/2 mile Cape Henlopen Stakes at Delaware, but not faced world-class company.  He stepped forward in the Million, passed Magician strongly, and won.  Pacewise, he has such versatility: he can be right near the pace, midpack, or come from the clouds.  Expect him a bit closer to the pace here given the lack of early speed.  This is another step up yet from the Arlington Million, but he looks fit, ready to go, and may well have enough undisplayed potential to spring another upset.  Finally, look at Chicquita.  She broke her maiden last year in the Irish Oaks (GI), but then disappeared for over a year.  She returned in September.  Though she has not won, she has hopped right back into group company.  She finished a creditable second first back.  She faltered in the Arc de Triomphe, but bounced back to finish third last out in the British Champions Fillies and Mares (GI) last out.  She likely would have won, but had a bout of The Crazy, and bolted late.  Here she gets first-time Lasix, a three-pound weight break, and Frankie Dettori in the irons.  She likes firmer going, and she is world-class when not going crazy.  She has been far enough under the radar that her odds are likely to drift lower than her 8/1 morning line, making that a bet worth taking.

The last one who I cut out of my top three is Main Sequence (12).  He has done nothing wrong since shipping out to the States, winning all three of his races.  All three have been Grade I.  Still, this is an even tougher field yet, and Main Sequence was merely useful across the pond.  Especially given what little early speed there is, this honest horse’s carriage seems likely to turn into a pumpkin.

Longshot: Imagining (3)

There is very little early speed in this race.  It’s basically Imagining and Twilight Eclipse…and Twilight Eclipse has also shown the tendency to rate, something he did quite well last out in the Turf Classic (GI).  This leave Imagining with a great chance to get the sort of uncontested trip he got in the Sword Dancer two back.  If he is contested early, as he was in the Turf Classic last out, he may not quite hold on to win, but he will gamely keep on when headed, and could easily hang in there for a share.  Speaking in terms of figures, his Brisnet figure in the Turf Classic was his regression off of the Sword Dancer — setting him up well to get back on track here.  He gets regular rider Joel Rosario back; if he gets Imagining on a relaxed lead early, the others will be playing catch me if you can late.

Race 11: Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI), three-year-olds and up, one mile on the turf

Selections: Obviously (2), Toronado (5), Tourist (13)

Toronado will likely go off the favourite, and there is a lot to recommend him here.  His only bad race in recent times was a well-beaten sixth in the Juddmonte International Stakes (GI – GB) last year, but that was at 1 5/16 miles.  At a mile, he is a multiple Group I winner, including the Queen Anne at Ascot this year over the likes of Verrazano and Anodin.  He gets regular rider Richard Hughes shipping in, and is going first-time Lasix.  The biggest question about Toronado is the pace; there is not a lot of early speed, and he does tend to be an off-pace type.  It would be foolish to toss him on that, but that makes it worth looking for an upset candidate on top.  Enter Obviously.  He is likely the speed of the speed here.  Given that inside draw (with only Grand Arch, who is not a leading type, inside him), he has a great chance of getting the inside lead, saving ground, and daring the field to catch him late.  He has been off for two months, but that should not be a big deal: he has won off of longer layoffs than that.  He also like the Santa Anita grass a lot: in nine starts, he is 4-2-1 over it.  Obviously would need most things (if not everything) to go his way to beat a field this classy — but the way the field and draw shook out, it looks likely they will.  Finally, Tourist comes in here for his first start since the Secretariat Stakes (GI) in mid-August, and faces older for the first time.  He also, even more importantly, cuts back to a mile here.  That 1 1/4 miles last out was too long, but he has won both starts to date at the flat mile.  He tends to be near the front, though has been able to be just off it early and still get the job done.  That will come in handy; unless he has grown up a lot since the Secretariat, he is probably not going to outgun Obviously, especially from that 13 post.  Still, he should be able to get in for an outside stalking trip, and his form was seriously flattered by Secretariat Stakes conqueror Adelaide taking down the Cox Plate last weekend.

The one specifically worth taking a swing against is Anodin.  He is classy, and stands a chance of hitting the board on that class alone.  He shouldn’t be that far off the pace, and is a fast enough horse to threaten this group.  However, he will probably be a bit of an underlay on the “full brother to Goldikova” factor, and has not won in eight races dating back to June of last year.  He has kept solid company, Group I and Group II in France and Great Britain.  However, Toronado has kept company that classy and been able to win.  Anodin has had a case of the second-itis, and is probably best left for lower rungs.

Longshot: Summer Front (10)

Recently the bridesmaid, Summer Front has been second in has last three outings.  That last out was the Eddie Read (GI), and he has been on the shelf since then.  He has been working frequently and creditably in the meantime, however, and trainer Christophe Clement does send his charges fit and ready to run off of layoffs.  Summer Front himself has won off a four-month lay.  He is in the best form of his career this year, consistently putting up efforts this year that surpass what he has been able to do before, and putting him right in the running with the ones in this race.  Though he comes from the clouds most of the time, he has also done well from not too far off the pace, as he showed in the Eddie Read.  That style should serve him well in light of the possible lone speed.

Race 12: Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), three-year-olds and up, one and one fourth miles on the dirt

Selections:  Tonalist (11), Shared Belief (6), Cigar Street (2)

This race basically came down to a dead heat between two three-year-olds with Grade I victories against the older set: Shared Belief and Tonalist.  Tonalist is listed on top only because he is likely to go off at a better price than Shared Belief will.  It is warranted that Shared Belief goes off the shortest price in the bunch: he is undefeated in seven starts, and has a win over the Santa Anita track.  There will be no hopeless Baffert B like Sky Kingdom to push him to the next county over: this is the Classic, and the whole field is in to win it.  Pacewise, he should have plenty to attack, with the presence of speedballs Bayern and Moreno in the field.  Top Breeders’ Cup jockey Mike Smith returns to the irons, and should know him quite well by now.  The biggest question surrounding Shared Belief is how much the Awesome Again victory took out of him.  It was the first race in which he was truly tested, and as much trainer-speak as there has been to say he came out of it great, the proof will be in this race.  That said, there is a positive side to that last out as well: if he came in untested, no one would know how Shared Belief handled adversity.  With that Awesome Again, we know exactly what he will do: he will bust his tail to get to that finish line first.  Tonalist comes into this race off his win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.  That race was at the same distance as the Classic, and stamina was no question for this son of Tapit (how many times do you get to say that?) since his win in the Belmont this year.  He is another versatile sort, having won races both from a stalking pace as well as from far back early.  He got caught up pushing Bayern in the Travers (GI) over the summer, but with Moreno in the field, there should not be that sort of problem — hopefully Joel Rosario learned his lesson, and will let Tonalist run this race.  The biggest question surrounding Tonalist is whether he can bring his form west with him.  Like the question surrounding Shared Belief, that’s a question that will only be answered in the race, but I am willing to believe the disappointing finish in the Travers was less due to the change in track than it was to the questionable decision to send against Bayern.  Both Shared Belief and Tonalist are in sharp form coming into this race, they have garnered Grade Is against older, and they are serious Classic contenders.  Best among the rest is Cigar Street.  He should be stalking close to Moreno and Bayern early, and should have first crack at them when they start to fade.  He is third off of a seventeen-month lay, but has bee rounding back into form.  His prep races have not been of the calibre others’ preps have: he was second behind Pick of the Litter in a muddy allowance at Saratoga, and then got his revenge on that particular Kitten with his clear win in the Homecoming Classic at Churchill last out.  He stretches to 1 1/4 miles for the first time, but the best race of his career was the 2013 Skip Away (GIII), a 1 3/16 maile affair in which he stalked early and won going away.  Bill Mott would not put Cigar Street in the classic unless he thought he was fit and ready to go, and if he runs back to that Skip Away this time out, he will be a stiff challenge for anyone here.  He is the class of the older crew here.

Longshot: Majestic Harbor (14)

If the pace gets a little hotter up front than expected, a longshot could come and pick up the pieces.  Majestic Harbor looks like just the guy to do it.  He has looked a beast in morning workouts this week, and is a Grade I winner over the Santa Anita dirt.  That win came at the same distance as the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita this year.  He won a Grade III going even longer, the mile and a half Tokyo City Cup, making it very clear that Majestic Harbor has stamina in spades.  His speeds are on the slow side for the field, but not too far out of the realm.  If he come back sharper in the Classic — a distinct possibility given how he is working — he could be in for a piece, or the whole shebang if the speed gets speedier than expected.

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