By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
Pre-entries for the 2019
Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita were released on October
23, prompting handicappers from around the globe to start perusing the
prospective fields and formulating early opinions on the competitive races.
While I'm still going over the pre-entries myself (with a
lot of research still to come!), a few horses already stand out as runners I'm
either eager to play or eager to oppose.
Who's the most likely winner of the championships? The
most vulnerable favorite? The best live longshot? Here's my take on these three
If the field comes together as expected in terms of
cross-entries, Omaha Beach will face
just eight rivals in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, and it's going to be tough
for anyone to take him down.
Sophomores have a strong record in the Dirt Mile, scoring
three wins and a trio of exacta finishes since 2011, and Omaha Beach looms a
perfect candidate to keep this streak of success going. Although health issues
kept him away from the races for most of the spring and summer, he returned
with a terrific victory in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), in which
he shortened up to six furlongs for the first time and somehow reeled in the
talented Shancelot to win by a head with a 103 Beyer.
This marked the second time Omaha Beach has posted a
triple-digit Beyer, following up on the 101 he threw down in the 1 1/8-mile
Arkansas Derby (G1) in April. The fact Omaha Beach has already demonstrated
high class around two turns is a big positive since the Dirt Mile will be
contested under those conditions at Santa Anita. Even better, Omaha Beach has
the tactical speed to work out a perfect stalking trip over a track that has
been favoring speed. To me, this is a recipe for a powerful triumph.
I'm also eager to support Wicked Whisper in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Trained by
Steve Asmussen, this daughter of Liam's Map is 2-for-2 and had no difficulty
winning the one-mile Frizette Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in gate-to-wire
fashion. Her front-running speed will be an asset in a race frequently won by
pacesetters, and she's also the fastest of the stakes-experienced fillies in
terms of Beyer speed figures.
the fastest horse on paper in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but I'm not sure I
want to trust him at a short price. For all his talent—and he's unquestionably
one of the top horses in the country on his best day—he's managed to lose four
of his six starts this year, including a trio of defeats at odds of 3-2 or
In the 1 1/8-mile Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa
Anita last month, McKinzie was compromised by tracking modest fractions over a
speed-favoring track. But he also had every opportunity to pass pacesetting
Mongolian Groom in the stretch, drawing within a half-length at the eighth
pole, and instead flattened out when it counted. I'm not sure stretching out
another furlong in distance will help McKinzie's chances.
"Longshot" is probably the wrong way to describe Got Stormy, but with so many European
raiders pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup Mile, it's possible this talented
filly could get lost in the shuffle. In my opinion, that would be a mistake.
Conditioned by Mark Casse, who saddled the filly Tepin to
win the 2015 Breeders' Cup Mile, Got Stormy has turned into a monster miler
this year. After easily beating fillies and mares by four lengths in the De La
Rose Stakes at Saratoga, Got Stormy came back and trounced males by 2 ½ lengths
in the Fourstardave Handicap (G1), blazing the one-mile distance in 1:32 flat,
a course record. Finishing third was fellow Breeders' Cup Mile pre-entrant Uni, who returned to crush the First
Lady Stakes (G1).
True, Got Stormy was beaten in the Woodbine Mile (G1)
last time out, finishing second behind 44-1 shot El Tormenta. But Got Stormy may have moved too soon into hot
fractions (:44.43 and 1:08.33), striking the lead at the quarter pole in a
departure from the deep-closing tactics she employed when faced with a similar
pace in the Fourstardave. With a better setup in the Breeders' Cup, Got Stormy
can bounce right back to the winner's circle.
Now it's your turn! What impressions do you have after
examining the Breeders' Cup pre-entries?
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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.