Keeler Johnson’s 2016 Breeders’ Cup Selections

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

It's here, folks! We're less than 24 hours away from the start of the 2016 Breeders' Cup, and after days (even weeks!) of handicapping, it's time to finalize our selections. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the thirteen Breeders' Cup races...

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf

Top Selection: From a visual perspective, no horse in this race has impressed me as much as Oscar Performance, who has been simply sensational winning his last two races by a combined 16 ¼ lengths. Granted, he received ideal setups while getting away with uncontested leads, but it's not every day that you see a front-runner on turf blow a race wide open on the far turn, and Oscar Performance has done that twice! He's also showcased tremendous acceleration in the homestretch of his races, particularly in the Pilgrim Stakes (gr. III), where he ran the final five-sixteenths of a mile in :30.25 over a yielding course that was not producing fast times. Furthermore, he's already proven on firm turf, having run the final five-sixteenths of his maiden win in :28.85 seconds.

Drawing post thirteen is a significant concern, as one-mile turf races at Santa Anita favor inside post positions, but I'm hopeful that Oscar Performance has enough speed to secure a good early position stalking Wellabled without going too wide on the first turn. I think Oscar Performance has the potential to be a very special horse, so I'm not going to let his post position scare me off-I'm sticking with him as my top choice.

Second Choice: I could have easily gone with one of the European shippers, or impressive Summer Stakes (gr. II) winner Good Samaritan, but I have a hunch that Keep Quiet is sitting on a big run. Time-wise, he didn't run all that fast while winning the Bourbon Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland, but he showed great determination to track the pace and hold off multiple challenges in the final quarter-mile. He has since been training with stablemates Tepin and Classic Empire and even held his own against Tepin in a recent workout, and I'm hoping that top turf jockey Florent Geroux can work out a good trip from post two and guide Keep Quiet to a strong finish at 12-1.

Live Longshot: Channel Maker couldn't have had a much tougher trip when finishing third in the Summer Stakes (gr. II). After battling for the lead through a quick pace, he got shuffled back along the rail and seemed to get a bit rank at that point, carrying his head high while looking for a way out. Coming off the final turn, Channel Maker had nowhere to run and got held up and jostled around in traffic while Good Samaritan got a clear run on the outside, but when Channel Maker finally got room to run, he came on again to finish third, beaten three lengths. He's drawn well in post three and should be able to work out a ground-saving trip while staying fairly close to the pace, and at 30-1, I think he's an interesting candidate to hit the board or even upset the field.

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile

Top Selection: While I'm not certain that Dortmund is invincible in this race, he does look like a very deserving favorite after chasing home California Chrome in three races this year, including the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) last time out. I'm not sure that a two-turn mile is his best distance, given that he doesn't seem to be able to accelerate on turns, and he could be compromised by both the short run to the first turn and the short homestretch of this race. However, his speed figures have been better than ever and he's looked excellent in his morning workouts, much better than I remember from the 2015 Triple Crown. Assuming he can work out a good trip and avoid getting into a speed duel with Runhappy, Dortmund could be one of the most likely winners of the 2016 Breeders' Cup.

Second Choice: I've liked Gun Runner since his debut, and while he's yet to win a grade I race, he's run some big races against the best three-year-old colts in the country, including third-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and the Travers Stakes (gr. I). Despite a busy season, he's shown steady improvement and most recently finished second in the Pennsylvania Derby (Gr. II), beaten a half-length despite going wide on the far turn while the winner got through on the inside. I think a two-turn mile will suit him perfectly, and he's made a very nice impression training at Santa Anita. I think he's better than he was in the spring, and he's got enough tactical speed to stay close to the pace, but enough versatility to settle back if a speed duel unfolds in front of him. There might be other horses with a better chance to win, but if I had to pick one horse that I think will hit the board, Gun Runner is the one.

Live Longshot: I'm not sure a 3-1 morning line second choice counts as a live longshot, but it seems as though most people will be playing against Runhappy in the Dirt Mile, and I suspect he'll drift up a bit from his morning line odds. Although he could only finish fourth in the Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) on October 1st-his first race of the season-I thought Runhappy ran well in defeat, given that he dueled for the lead while racing wide and was beaten just 2 ½ lengths while coming off a long layoff. He's got a lot more speed than he showed in the Ack Ack and should appreciate the faster track at Santa Anita, plus he showed flashes of his brilliant speed when breezing five furlongs in an effortless :58 2/5 on October 29th. I think he's going to sprint to the lead in the Dirt Mile and play "catch me if you can," and I think he's got the brilliance to take this field a long way on the lead-maybe even all the way.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

Top Selection: This is a race where you can make a case for six or eight fillies to win and everyone else to hit the board, so narrowing the field down to one top selection isn't easy. That said, I believe the European shippers have an advantage this year, and I'll take a shot with Spain Burg has my top choice. Unlike many European two-year-olds, Spain Burg has plenty of experience on turning courses, and she displayed a very nice turn-of-foot when winning the Shadwell Rockfel Stakes (Eng-II). This is a fairly big step up, and she's since been sold and transferred to the U.S. trainer Kathy Ritvo-this fairly significant change is a bit of a concern so close to the race. However, she'll have Frankie Dettori in the saddle and has drawn very well in post four-if she gets a good trip, I think she'll be there at the finish.

Second Choice: Intricately doesn't have much experience on firm turf (her three best races have come on soft going), but she proved herself to be a very high-class filly by winning the seven-furlong Moyglare Stud Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket, gamely holding off Hydrangea through the uphill homestretch to prevail by a nose. Trained by Joseph O'Brien, who won the 2011 Breeders' Cup Turf as a jockey, Intricately broke her maiden on the right-handed course at Gowran Park and should stay a mile; I'd use her equally with Spain Burg in the multi-race wagers.

Live Longshot: Cavale Doree could only finish fifth in the one-mile Prix Marcel Moussac (Fr-I) last time out, but she was beaten just 3 ¾ lengths while trying to close ground over a course that was favoring speed horses. She had previously won the Prix du Calvados (Fr-III) at Deauville with a nice late rally, and she just missed over a right-handed course when second in her debut. She'll be ridden by Flavien Prat, one of the top turf jockeys in California, and I don't think it's out of the question that Cavale Doree could win or hit the board at 15-1.

Breeders' Cup Distaff

Top Selection: Separating the "big three" in this race is like splitting hairs, but I believe that youth will prevail and Songbird will triumph. The unbeaten three-year-old filly has never been seriously challenged in any of her eleven races, with her smallest margin of victory being 3 ¾ lengths. While her speed figures and finishing fractions aren't as impressive as Beholder and Stellar Wind, Songbird's effortless running style and easy wins make me believe that she has that unquantifiable "something special" that will allow her to step up and hold her own against her older rivals. Drawing post position one could seal the deal-she's the only true front-runner in the race and should have no trouble securing the lead, and if the track comes up speed-favoring, she could be very tough to catch.

Second Choice: Beholder has been winning grade I races (and Breeders' Cup races!) since 2012, and at the age of six, there's little that she hasn't accomplished. Although she brings a three-race losing streak into the Distaff, she's been running as well as ever this year while facing very tough competition. After two losses against Stellar Wind while setting the pace, Beholder has drawn outside and should be able to stalk the pace, which seems to be her best running style. She's also made a fantastic impression training and Santa Anita in recent weeks, and it would be no surprise if the three-time champion ends her career with a third Breeders' Cup win.

Live Longshot: I think the "big three" will be hard to beat, but if a longshot is going to get into the mix, I think it might be Curalina, who finished third in this race last year. She's scored a couple of big wins this year and enters off a runner-up effort in the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I), the same race that her stablemate Stopchargingmaria used to prep for a winning effort in the 2015 Distaff. She's training well, and I wouldn't count her out at 12-1.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies

Top Selection: I'll admit that this selection is a bit outside the box, but I think Champagne Room has a shot to pull off a 20-1 upset in the Juvenile Fillies. After two solid efforts to begin her career, including a win in the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II), Champagne Room acted up before the start of the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) and didn't run her best race, but still finished third after making a strong mid-race move to challenge for the lead.

Most recently, Champagne Room contested the 8.5-furlong Chandelier Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita and didn't get a good trip at all. Very eager to run early on, she got boxed in behind horses heading into the first turn and had to steady in traffic, and she appeared very uncomfortable with her position. Despite this, Champagne Room stayed on fairly well in the homestretch to finish fourth in a race dominated by the early leaders. She came out of the Chandelier with some cuts and scrapes, but has been training very well in preparation for the Breeders' Cup, most recently breezing five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 on October 29th. This workout was particularly notable because Champagne Room wound up being part of a four-horse mini-race that involved Breeders' Cup Classic contender Hoppertunity; not surprisingly, Hoppertunity won the workout, but Champagne Room did well to finish about three lengths behind him despite giving him a head start and going four-wide around the turn.

Champagne Room will be a big longshot in the Juvenile Fillies, but I don't think we've seen her best yet. Drawing post six should give her options to get into her comfort zone, and at 20-1, I'm willing to give her the benefit of doubt and make her my top choice.

Second Choice: Noted and Quoted won the Chandelier Stakes after a hard-fought battle with fellow pacesetter With Honors, and while Noted and Quoted was slowing down at the finish and might not truly relish this distance, she's trained beautifully since the Chandelier and must be respected.

Live Longshot: I'm a bit surprised that Yellow Agate is 8-1 on the morning line, and at anywhere near that price, I think she'd be an overlay in this race. She showed a determined closing kick to win the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) despite failing to switch leads in the homestretch, and in her maiden win, she unleashed a similar rally to prevail by a half-length with a solid 84 Beyer. If the pace gets heated, Yellow Agate looks like a candidate to rally from the back of the pack and post a mild upset.

Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf

Top Selection: This is a deep race with a lot of contenders, but I find it hard to look past Lady Eli. As I mentioned in last week's blog post (click here to read), she's 7-for-8 in her career and 2-for-2 going ten furlongs, including an impressive win in the Flower Bowl Stakes (gr. I) last time out. She obviously relishes very firm turf courses and proved that she can successfully ship to California when she romped in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. I) two years ago. Chad Brown has won this race in three of the last four years, and reports suggest that Ladi Eli's most recent workout was one of her best in a long time. Lady Eli reminds me a lot of Stephanie's Kitten in that she can rally from far back if the pace is fast or stay closer to the lead if the pace is slow, and while she's drawn just a little wide in post position eight, I don't think there's a filly or mare in this race that can match her homestretch acceleration over a firm turf course. I view Lady Eli as a possible single for the multi-race wagers.

Second Choice: Lady Eli's stablemate Sea Calisi could only finish third in the Flower Bowl, but was compromised by the slow early pace and actually gained a little ground on Lady Eli through the final quarter-mile, which was run in a rapid :22.92 seconds. Chad Brown mentioned that Sea Calisi wasn't fully cranked for the Flower Bowl and should improve off that effort, and given how well Sea Calisi ran while winning the Beverly D. Stakes (gr. I) in August-defeating a very deep field that included Al's Gal and Zipessa-Sea Calisi should be a major threat from off the pace, although she might prefer some moisture in the turf course.

Live Longshot: I'm going to mention two live longshots for this race. Speed can be surprisingly dangerous in the Filly & Mare Turf (Dayatthespa, Dank, and Intercontinental come to mind), making Avenge a filly to watch out for at 15-1. Trained by Richard Mandella, Avenge has won three straight turf races coming into the Breeders' Cup, including the ten-furlong Rodeo Drive Stakes (gr. I) here at Santa Anita, in which she got an easy lead and led all the way to win in 1:58.52 seconds. There's a fair amount of speed in this race, but if Avenge gets clear early, she can take this field a long way on the front end.

The other longshot I like is Nuovo Record, a five-year-old mare that has kept great company in Japan and Hong Kong, with one of her best runs being a second-place finish in the Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) behind A Shin Hikari. Nuovo Record's form this year hasn't been as good, but she showed signs of returning to form when finishing fourth in the Sapporo Kinen (Jpn-II) on August 21st, just 1 ¾ lengths behind the very talented Maurice. She's drawn very wide in post thirteen, which could be a disadvantage since the Filly & Mare Turf starts on a turn, but 12-1 is a solid price on a mare that has repeatedly faced, beaten, and held her own against the best male horses in Japan.

Breeders' Cup Sprint

Top Selection: I had originally made Lord Nelson my top choice in this race, but he was unfortunately scratched earlier today. After rethinking the race, I'm going to take a wild chance with Mind Your Biscuits as my top choice. I'll be the first to admit that he needs to take a step forward to contend, but he's been a different horse since blinkers were added in July, and he was compromised by slow paces in his last two races, particularly the King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I), where he did well to finish just four lengths behind Drefong after racing wide. In a race that is absolutely loaded with speed, Mind Your Biscuits is the only true deep closer; if Masochistic, Drefong, Delta Bluesman set a blazing pace, with A. P. Indian, Noholdingbackbear, and Limousine Liberal close behind, Mind Your Biscuits might have a chance to make the last move and pass then all in the homestretch at 20-1.

Second Choice: I've been a big fan of A. P. Indian since his debut and have been amazed at the improvement he's shown over the last couple of years; his 6-for-6 record this season with four graded stakes wins to his name is eye-catching and impressive. He's got a strong blend of tactical speed and finishing power, but he doesn't have experience chasing truly blazing pace fractions like the kind he'll likely encounter in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He's also coming to the end of a very busy season, having raced at Monmouth, Parx, Belmont Park, Saratoga, and Keeneland while training at Fair Hill in Maryland. For these reasons, I think he could be a bit vulnerable in this race, although depending on how the track seems to be playing, I could still change my mind and make him my top choice-after all, I'm still reanalyzing this race following the scratch of Lord Nelson. Watch this space for updates!

Live Longshot: Limousine Liberal has yet to win a stakes race, but took a big step forward when adding blinkers in the Phoenix Stakes (gr. II) and nearly upset A. P. Indian, finishing just a nose behind him after tracking a quick pace. He also finished second in the 2015 King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I) behind Runhappy, and much like Mind Your Biscuits, Limousine Liberal could benefit from a fast pace in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and looks live at 15-1.

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint

Top Selection: Good luck separating the contenders in this race! The always-competitive Turf Sprint has drawn a full field of fourteen. The eight-year-old veteran Obviously deserves a lot of respect as he cuts back in distance and runs down the hill for the first time since 2013; he ran six furlongs in 1:07.86 on his way to a third-place finish in the City of Hope Mile (gr. II) last time out, so we know he still has the speed to be competitive in a race like this. I like his chances, but in a race that could unfold at a very fast pace, I'm going to take a shot with the versatile Holy Lute. If you excuse three sub-par efforts on the downhill turf course last winter, when he wasn't in good form at all, he has a great record over the course, finishing first or second in each of his other five starts. Following a layoff earlier this year, he finished third in the Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar, then won a five-furlong allowance race at Del Mar by a neck and returned to the downhill turf course to win a division of the Eddie D. Stakes (gr. III) by 1 ¼ lengths in a sharp time. He's very versatile in terms of running style, being able to track the pace or come from farther back in necessary, and he's drawn very well in post thirteen. I love the way he's looked training at Santa Anita over the last two weeks, and get the feeling that he's sitting on a career-best effort. Time will tell if he's good enough to beat a field of this caliber, but 10-1 is a very fair price on an accomplished course specialist.

Second Choice: I've been a big fan of A Lot since his win in the Paradise Creek Stakes last year, when he ran the final furlong in less than :11 seconds to win the seven-furlong race by 5 ¾ lengths. Although he's been campaigned primarily at a mile or longer (even finishing second in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap last time out), he's been impressive going shorter as well, and I suspect that 6 ½ furlongs on the downhill turf course will suit him perfectly. Don't forget, he won the seven-furlong Elusive Quality Stakes in 1:19.23 earlier this year, and he was beaten just 1 ¼ lengths in the six-furlong Jaipur Stakes (gr. III), which was run in 1:06.76.

Live Longshot: Holy Lute and A Lot are both solid prices on the morning line and certainly qualify as live longshots, but another I like at 8-1 is Celestine, who won the one-mile Just a Game Stakes (gr. I) earlier this year in the brilliant time of 1:31.64. She's another with good sprint speed and the stamina of a miler, which is often the mark of a horse that can successfully cut back in distance over this course. Jockey Joel Rosario won the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint two years ago with Bobby's Kitten, and it would be no surprise to see Celestine in the winner's circle after this race.

I'll also throw in a good word for Green Mask, who has been in sharp form this year and just missed in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational Stakes on October 8th despite a bit of a troubled trip. He was only beaten three-quarters of a length when third in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland, and while he doesn't win often, he's usually right in the mix and could be a good candidate to spruce up the exotics at 15-1.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Top Selection: This was a tough race to handicap, but I finally settled on Gormley, the John Shirreffs-trained colt that is 2-for-2, including an easy three-length win in the FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita. While he did get a perfect trip that day, securing an easy lead to steal the race in gate-to-wire fashion, he capitalized on his advantage by opening up a big lead in the homestretch and cruising to a three-length win. He had his ears up throughout the race and didn't appear particularly focused-a trait that he has also shown in subsequent workouts-but in a workout last week, he seemed more focused when rating behind a workmate, pinning his ears and passing him easily before losing focus when taking the lead. With the speedy pair of Syndergaard and Three Rules likely to set the Juvenile pace, Gormley should be able to settle behind them from post seven and use them as a target, which could help take another step forward and deliver a winning performance.

Second Choice: I could have easily picked Not This Time to win this race, and perhaps you should consider Gormley and Not This Time to be my co-top selections since I would use them in equal strength in multi-race wagers. After a fifth-place finish in his debut, Not This Time stretched out to a mile at Ellis Park and absolutely blew away a field of maidens by 10 lengths, running his final quarter-mile in a sensational :23.33. He was just as impressive in the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, overcoming a slow start to effortlessly cruise past his rivals on the far turn and win by 8 ¾ lengths. There's a reason why the notes for these performances are "Vanquished foes" and "Hopped start, at will," because Not This Time was never remotely in danger of losing these races, and you get the impression we've only seen the tip of the iceberg regarding what he can accomplish. Gormley might have the slightest edge in this race, with his combination of tactical speed, better post draw, and home court advantage, but I think Not This Time has a big chance as well.

Live Longshot: Trainer Todd Pletcher has a strong record in this race and will send out two starters this year, including Theory, who is 12-1 on the morning line despite being 2-for-2. After a big maiden win at Saratoga, he was temporarily sidelined by a foot bruise, but came back to win the Futurity Stakes (gr. II) in a solid time, and he galloped-out another quarter-mile past the wire in eye-catching fashion. Even though he's never run farther than six furlongs, my impression is that he might be better going farther, and if Syndergaard and Three Rules hook up on the lead, Theory-like Gormley-could get an ideal trip stalking the pace.

Breeders' Cup Turf

Top Selection: Although the Aidan O'Brien-trained pair of Found and Highland Reel look tough in this race, they ran huge when 1-2 in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) on October 2nd and both have had very busy seasons; can they deliver peak efforts just five weeks after the Arc? With this in mind, I'll side with the former European Flintshire, who finished second in this race two years ago. Although he was beaten over yielding turf in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. I) last time out, his form on firm turf has been flawless this year, including impressive wins in the Manhattan Stakes (gr. I) and Sword Dancer Stakes (gr. I). With a little bit of luck, I think he can go one better than he did two years ago and give Chad Brown his first winner in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Second Choice: Ulysses is only three years old and doesn't have nearly the reputation of Found and Highland Reel, but with the exception of a twelfth-place finish in the Investec Derby (Eng-I) over a soft course, he's been steadily improving and won the Gordon Stakes (Eng-III) going twelve furlongs two starts back at Goodwood. He looked good training over the Santa Anita turf course, and trainer Sir Michael Stoute has a great record in the Breeders' Cup-in fact, he won the Breeders' Cup Turf three times from only six starters. I think Ulysses has a live chance to hit the board at 12-1.

Live Longshot: Money Multiplier doesn't care for wet turf, so I'll forgive his fourth-place finish in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. I) last time out. He had previously finished a strong second behind Flintshire in the Sword Dancer Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, beaten just 1 ¾ lengths despite running into traffic on the far turn and getting a worse trip than Flintshire. I don't think he's as far off his stablemate as some might think, and I think he's got a shot to hit the board at 20-1.

Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint

Top Selection: In a race that has favored older mares and tried-and-true sprinters over three-year-olds and horses cutting back in distance, I think 30-1 shot Wonder Gal has a shot to win the Filly & Mare Sprint. She's been a very solid runner over the last three seasons, placing in four grade I races (including the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita, in which she was beaten just a length.) Her form was tailing off at the beginning of 2016, but after undergoing breathing surgery, she came back with an impressive 11 ½-length romp in a 6 ½-furlong allowance race for New York-breds at Saratoga, earning an eye-catching 100 Beyer speed figure. She didn't fire in the Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) a month later, finishing fifth by 5 ½ lengths, but that raced was contested over a muddy/sealed track that she may not have cared for. If you're willing to forgive that race, I think Wonder Gal looms as a major contender, for her combination of tactical speed, proven ability to stay a mile, and excellent post draw should help her out-stay the sprinters and out-sprint the stayers at this in-between distance of seven furlongs.

Second Choice: Haveyougoneaway has made steady improvement throughout the year and enters the Filly & Mare Sprint off of three straight wins, including the seven-furlong Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. She might be the truest sprinter in the race and is in career-best form, but she'll be the favorite and might be in for a tough trip from post two.

Live Longshot: Wonder Gal is my best live longshot in this race, but I'll also put in a good word for Irish Jasper, who unleashed a nice late kick to beat Stonetastic in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland on October 8th. She's drawn wide in post eleven and might not get enough pace to really set up her late run, but she was a two-time Grade 3 winner last year and seems to have taken a step forward this season-I wouldn't count her out.

Breeders' Cup Mile

Top Selection: I've been going back and forth between a few horses in this race, including the European shippers Alice Springs and Limato, but I finally settled on a bit of a price play with Ironicus. He's got a terrific turn-of-foot and fell just a head short of winning the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. I) despite being at a major disadvantage due to a slow early pace. Earlier this year, Ironicus ran second behind Flintshire in the ten-furlong Manhattan Stakes (gr. I), and last year, he set a course record at Saratoga while winning the Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. II) in 1:38.54 seconds. This is a race where I'd want to spread in multi-race wagers, but Ironicus should be closing ground fast in the homestretch, and with a good pace in front of him, he might get lucky and be the first across the wire at 8-1.

Second Choice: It would be no surprise to see Tepin score a second straight win in this race, and she's a deserving favorite after winning the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) and Woodbine Mile (gr. I) this season. However, she's had a long campaign, making her seasonal debut in February, and has looked just a little vulnerable since returning from her victorious excursion to Royal Ascot. I've always felt she might be a little better when there's some give in the ground, and the rock-hard turf course at Santa Anita might not be to her liking. I wouldn't want to leave her off my multi-race wagers, but there might be others that offer more value in the win pool and at the top of vertical exotics.

Live Longshot: I don't know if Spectre will appreciate the very firm turf course at Santa Anita, but she's kept great company in France while competing and holding her own against some of the very best milers in Europe. She's drawn well in post three and should be able to work out a ground-saving trip under Javier Castellano, and if she stays near her morning line odds of 20-1, I think she's worth including in multi-race wagers.

Breeders' Cup Classic

Top Selection: I've been on board the Arrogate bandwagon since his broke his maiden in June, and after giving it a lot of thought, I'm not going to jump off now. In his first three wins, he showcased a powerful late kick in the homestretch, and that acceleration didn't desert him in the ten-furlong Travers Stakes (gr. I), when he set a solid pace and kicked clear with a :23.84 final quarter to win by 13 ½ lengths with a 122 Beyer speed figure. Can he repeat that performance? Only time will tell, but he's been training beautifully in preparation for this race and was effortless in a half-mile workout on October 31st, going in :46 4/5 while just cruising around under no urging. He's drawn well in post ten, which should help him steer clear of traffic and take full advantage of his abundant stamina. If any horse can beat California Chrome, I think Arrogate is the one.

Second Choice: I could have easily picked California Chrome on top, and for all practical purposes, he's my co-top selection along with Arrogate, as I will use them equally in multi-race wagers. California Chrome has been sensational all year long, going 6-for-6 with huge wins in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) and Pacific Classic (gr. I) among the highlights. He's a true star at ten furlongs, with a 5-1-1 record from seven starts, and he just missed in this race two years ago when he wasn't as good as he is now. To me, this Classic is a two-horse race between Arrogate and California Chrome, and I would be surprised if they don't run 1-2 in either order-I think they're that good.

Live Longshot: For pure consistency over several years, no horse in the Classic can top Hoppertunity, who has finished in the superfecta in 21 of his 22 starts while competing almost exclusively in graded stakes races. He seems to thrive on frequent racing and enjoys ten furlongs; he finished third to California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) and won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) last time out. Bob Baffert told Santa Anita Publicity that "Hoppertunity looks the best he's ever been right now," and at 15-1, I think he has a huge chance to finish in the trifecta, and maybe even the exacta if one of the "big two" doesn't fire.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the thirteen Breeders' Cup races?


To help simplify the process of choosing and keeping track of everyone's prime horse selections in our 2016 Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic Handicapping Challenge, I would like to ask everyone to please submit their prime choice each week by leaving a special comment on the official blog page for the contest. This will greatly reduce the chances of any prime horse selections getting overlooked, and will also make it simpler to double-check the standings. Thanks, and enjoy the racing!


J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website

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