J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
for the 34th running of the Breeders' Cup were released yesterday
morning, giving handicappers a few days to analyze the prospective fields
before final entries and post positions are announced on Monday. Since it's
never too early to start planning wagering strategies, here are a few of my thoughts
on the pre-entries....
Which Horse Makes the Best Single?
in 2016, when it seemed very difficult to come up with any logical singles for
multi-race wagers (and only one favorite wound up prevailing), the 2017
Breeders' Cup offers a few races where bettors might feel confident using just
one horse for multi-race wagers.
obvious standout is Bolt d'Oro, who
figures to start as a heavy favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The
unbeaten son of Medaglia d'Oro is 3-for-3 so far and could not have been more
impressive winning the FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita last month by
7 ¾ lengths, posting a final time that was mathematically good enough for a 113
Beyer speed figure (he officially received a 100). Even better, Bolt d'Oro is
2-for-2 at Del Mar, including a late-running win in the Del Mar Futurity (gr.
I). If he runs back to his FrontRunner effort (or even close to it), he shouldn't
lose this race.
horses that figure to attract attention as possible singles are Unique Bella in the Filly & Mare
Sprint and perhaps Lady Eli in the
Filly & Mare Turf. Both will be relatively short prices in the wagering
(Unique Bella in particular), but I personally would be hesitant to single
either of them in these deep and competitive races. I'm actually more
interested in the possibility of singling Drefong
in the Sprint (gr. I) and/or Moonshine
Memories in the Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), as both have looked great training
for their respective Breeders' Cup races and Moonshine Memories seems clearly
best of the California-based two-year-old fillies, having posted back-to-back
wins in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) and Chandelier Stakes (gr. I).
Breeders' Cup Mile Could Produce a
luck trying to find the winner in the Breeders' Cup Mile! Perhaps the Woodbine
Mile (gr. I) winner World Approval
has finally found his niche as a miler, or perhaps Godolphin's multiple Group 1
winner Ribchester will prevail two
weeks after running in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) over soft turf at
Ascot, but outside of these two just about anything could happen.
horses have done well in the Breeders' Cup Mile over the years, and I actually
have a bit of interest in the French-bred Zelzal.
The son of Sea the Stars went 4-for-6 as a three-year-old in 2016, earning a
solid 122 Racing Post Rating when winning the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at
Chantilly. 2017 hasn't been nearly as productive, but Zelzal caught soft
courses in two of his three runs (both Group 1 events) and finished a good
second behind the talented Taareef in the Group 3 Prix Bertrand du Breuil
Longines, his lone run this year over firmer ground.
firm course at Del Mar should be much more to Zelzal's liking, and even in the
Group 1 Sussex Stakes this summer over soft ground, Zelzal was beaten just 2 ½ lengths
while fourth against a deep field that included Ribchester (2nd),
Lightning Spear (3rd), and Lancaster Bomber (6th). Zelzal
could well be 20-1 in the Breeders' Cup Mile, and at that price I think he's
worth a look.
Is U S Navy Flag Unstoppable in the
can make a case that U S Navy Flag might
be the best European two-year-old to ever compete in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile
Turf. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, U S Navy Flag brings a three-race win streak
into the Juvenile Turf, including wins in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes
(Eng-I) and the Darley Dewhurst Stakes (Eng-I), the latter by a decisive 2 ½ lengths.
Speaking strictly in terms of established form, U S Navy Flag is by far the most
accomplished horse in the Juvenile Turf field and will surely be favored to win
if he runs (he's also cross-entered in the Juvenile on dirt).
again, it's worth noting that U S Navy Flag has never raced over a course with any
meaningful turns, so it's hard to say how he'll handle the two tight turns at
Del Mar. In addition, U S Navy Flag prefers to race on or near the lead, which
could prove problematic since the Juvenile Turf could quite possibly unfold at
a pace much faster than he is accustomed to facing.
the European shippers, I'm more interested in James Garfield, Masar,
and Nelson, particularly Masar, who
handled a pretty sharp right turn when winning the Group 3 Betbright Solario
Stakes at Sandown Park two starts back. Last time out, he finished a close
third going a mile over soft turf in the Group 1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere
at Chantilly, and his overall form suggests he will be very competitive in this
also wouldn't count out Voting Control,
a Chad Brown-trained son of Kitten's Joy that broke his maiden impressively at
Belmont Park before finishing a close second in the Pilgrim Stakes (gr. III), rallying
into a slow pace to fall a half-length short of victory. He should get a faster
pace in the Juvenile Turf, and his odds should be in the double-digit range.
How often do you get to play an up-and-coming Chad Brown turf horse at those
Can Champagne Room Win the Distaff?
Cup races this year will be as competitive as the Distaff, which has drawn a
very deep field of nine fillies and mares led by the multiple Grade 1 winners Stellar Wind and Forever Unbridled. One filly that could get lost in the shuffle is Champagne Room, who upset last year's
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at odds of 33-1. She benefited from a good
trip in a slow race that day, but nevertheless defeated a quality field that
included American Gal and Daddys Lil Darling.
Room subsequently finished third behind Unique Bella and Mopotism in the Las
Virgenes Stakes (gr. II) in February, after which she was sidelined with an
ankle chip. However, she returned with a visually impressive victory in the
Remington Park Oaks on September 24th, in which she easily defeated
four rivals in gate-to-wire fashion while earning a career-best 92 Beyer speed
the Breeders' Cup Distaff will mark a huge step up in class, and Champagne Room
has shown a slight tendency to be rank in some of her races, but with the
benefit of a comeback race under her belt, I think there's a chance that
Champagne Room can take a step forward in the Distaff. She's made a nice impression
training for the Breeders' Cup, and if she draws outside and can work out an
ideal pace-tracking trip, I don't think it's out of the question that she could
factor once again at a very big price.
it's your turn! What are your thoughts on the Breeders' Cup pre-entries?
The Unlocking Winners Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic Handicapping Challenge is back for a third consecutive year! Please be sure to post all entries, prime horses, and stable additions on the official contest page. 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 www.theturfboard.com.