By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
Let's see... 14 races, and 14 opportunities to cash giant betting
payoffs. The Breeders' Cup isn't just a fantastic sporting event—it's also a
terrific day for horseplayers. Who doesn't like large fields and huge betting
The 2021 Breeders' Cup will take place at Del Mar across
Friday and Saturday, and as usual, we've assembled selections for all 14
championship races. Let's dig in and plan our plays!
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint
Selection: Trainer Wesley Ward excels at conditioning
two-year-old sprinters and has won the last two renewals of the Juvenile Turf
Sprint, so we'll strongly support Ward's #8
Averly Jane (5-2) on Friday. The
daughter of champion juvenile Midshipman is unbeaten and unchallenged in four
starts, including blowout victories over males in the Kentucky Juvenile S.,
Skidmore S., and Indiana Summer S. A speedster capable of setting or stalking
the pace, Averly Jane may prove impossible to catch if she brings her A-game to
Choice: # 9 One Timer (4-1) is also unbeaten with a 3-for-3
record highlighted by triumphs in the Victoria S. and Speakeasy S. The latter
victory saw One Timer carve out blazing fractions of :21.01 and :43.48 before
digging deep to win the five-furlong sprint by three-quarters of a length, so
we know the bay gelding has serious speed and talent.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
Selection: #6 Echo Zulu (4-5) is unbeaten and unchallenged in
three starts, including gate-to-wire scores in the Spinaway S. (G1) and
Frizette S. (G1). Along the way, she's posted a trio of 90+ Beyer speed
figures, stamping Echo Zulu as the fastest filly in Friday's field. The
Frizette has produced five of the last 10 Juvenile Fillies winners, and Echo
Zulu figures to secure a perfect front-running trip in this small field,
setting the stage for a third straight Grade 1 win.
Choice: #5 Juju's Map (5-2) was as impressive as could be in the
Alcibiades S. (G1) at Keeneland last month, tracking a fast pace before kicking
away to score by 4 1/4 lengths. Notably, Juju's Map was the only speed horse to
factor in a race otherwise dominated by closers, so her effort was arguably
even better than it appears at first glance. If anyone can give Echo Zulu a
tussle, it's probably this promising Brad Cox trainee.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
Selection: There are a bunch of directions to go here,
so I'll try for a mid-range price play with #5 Bubble Rock (8-1). Conditioned by Brad Cox (who won this race
last year with Aunt Pearl), Bubble Rock has shown tactical speed sprinting on
the New York circuit, breaking her maiden at Saratoga before employing tracking
tactics to win a quick renewal of the Matron S. (G3). Stretching out from six
furlongs to one mile is a question mark, but sire More Than Ready is
responsible for two previous winners of this race, and three-time champion
jockey Irad Ortiz (a 22% winner on turf) is named to ride.
Choice: #1 Pizza Bianca (5-1) didn't get the cleanest run in the
Natalma S. (G1) at Woodbine, but she nevertheless battled on gamely to finish
second. The Christophe Clement trainee had previously won her debut racing 1
1/16 miles at Saratoga and figures to enjoy a ground-saving trip on Friday. If Pizza
Bianca can work out an unencumbered run down the lane, she can fight for
Breeders' Cup Juvenile
Selection: #10 Commandperformance (5-1) might be a maiden, but
he's run strongly in both of his starts. After charging hard to finish second
in his debut sprinting six furlongs at Saratoga (ahead of next-out winner
Forced Ranking), Commandperformance stepped up in class and distance for the
Champagne S. (G1) at Belmont, where he ran second behind probable Breeders' Cup
Juvenile favorite Jack Christopher.
Commandperformance gained a lot of ground down the
homestretch of the Champagne, closing 2 3/4 lengths through the final furlong.
As a son of Belmont S. (G1) winner Union Rags out of a mare by Tapit,
Commandperformance is bred to relish stretching out around two turns. If Jack
Christopher gets caught up in a hot pace, I believe Commandperformance can turn
the tables at a nice price.
Choice: A Japanese raider has never won at the Breeders' Cup, but
#2 Jasper Great (15-1) may have a
chance to change that storyline. The son of Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner
Arrogate dominated his debut at Hanshin, winning an 1,800-meter maiden event by
10 lengths. Stablemate Full Flat outran expectations when fifth in the 2019
Breeders' Cup Juvenile at odds of 89-1, and I'm optimistic Jasper Great can finish
even higher at Del Mar.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
Selection: #1 Modern Games (5-1) has won three of his five starts
for trainer Charlie Appleby, whose record in the Breeders' Cup stands at an
excellent 7-3-1-0. Chief among Modern Games' triumphs is a flashy 2 1/2-length
score in the Somerville S. (G3) sprinting seven furlongs at Newmarket. The Godolphin
homebred has tactical speed and figures to enjoy a ground-saving trip from the
rail draw, setting the stage for victory.
Choice: #5 Slipstream (12-1) overcame a troubled start to
rally through traffic and win Belmont's six-furlong Futurity S. (G3) by a
length. The son of More Than Ready had previously dominated a seven-furlong
maiden special weight at Belmont in gate-to-wire fashion, so with a clean trip
on Friday, I expect to see Slipstream secure a forwardly placed trip under hot
jockey Joel Rosario. If an American is going to steal the show from the
Europeans, I believe Slipstream is the one.
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
Selection: #5 Bella Sofia (5-2) has been on a roll this year,
winning four of her five starts. The daughter of Awesome Patriot used her tactical
speed to dominate the Test S. (G1) during the summer at Saratoga before
trouncing older rivals in Belmont's Gallant Bloom H. (G2). In a small field
without a ton of pace on paper, Bella Sofia figures to sit a perfect trip vying
with heavy favorite Gamine through modest fractions. From there, I'm willing to
bet the strong finishing speed Bella Sofia has displayed this season is enough
to conquer her more heralded rival.
Choice: #6 Gamine (3-5) has never lost a sprint and dominated
this race by 5 1/4 lengths last season. But in terms of Beyer speed figures,
Gamine hasn't been running quite as fast this season. She's arguably at her
best when allowed to roll along up front through fast fractions, and since the
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint seems destined to unfold at a modest
tempo, I'm willing to take a shot against Gamine.
Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint
Selection: #4 Lieutenant Dan (6-1) hasn't missed the
trifecta in seven starts on turf and is 3-for-3 in 2021. During the summer, he
wired a five-furlong allowance over the Del Mar lawn before romping to a 2
1/4-length win in the Green Flash H. (G3) over the same course and distance.
Lieutenant Dan subsequently delivered a powerful performance in the Eddie D S.
(G2) sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill at Santa Anita, carving out intense
fractions of :21.61 and :42.95 before forging on to win by half a length. With
his speed, consistency, and proven affinity for the conditions of the Breeders'
Cup Turf Sprint, Lieutenant Dan is an appealing choice for victory.
Choice: #3 Golden Pal (7-2) is 4-for-5 in the U.S. and enters
off a confident win in the 5 1/2-furlong Woodford S. (G2) at Keeneland. But
while Golden Pal brings an abundance of tactical speed to the table, last year's
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint hero hasn't run quite as fast as Lieutenant
Dan on the Beyer and Brisnet speed figure scales. Saturday is shaping up as
something of a class test for the speedy son of Uncle Mo.
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
Selection: With three victories from four starts over
the Del Mar main track, it's safe to say #3
Ginobili (4-1) loves this seaside oval. The son of Munnings has developed
into a beast since adding blinkers during the summer, trouncing an allowance
over this track and distance by 9 1/4 lengths before using his speed to
dominate a strong field in Del Mar's seven-furlong Pat O'Brien S. (G2). Ginobili
has a lot of tactical speed, but he's also versatile enough to settle off the
lead if necessary, setting the stage for a winning trip over his favorite
Choice: #5 Life Is Good (4-5) is a neck away from being
undefeated in four starts, including two victories over Breeders' Cup Classic
(G1) contender Medina Spirit in the Sham S. (G3) and San Felipe S. (G2). Life
Is Good recently turned to the winner's circle with an easy 5 1/2-length win in
the Kelso H. (G2) at Belmont, though the form of the race wasn't flattered when
runner-up Fort Peck returned to finish last in the Fayette S. (G2).
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Selection: The 2019
Yushun Himba (G1, Japanese Oaks) winner #8
Loves Only You (4-1) has been competing against elite competition for
several years. During the spring, Loves Only You finished a close third in the
1 1/2-mile Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), beaten only half a length by versatile
Group 1 star Mishriff. Then she cut back in distance for the 1 1/4-mile Queen
Elizabeth II Cup (G1) in Hong Kong, which she won comfortably.
Loves Only You arrives at Del Mar off a game runner-up
effort behind Japanese classic winner Sodashi in the 1 1/4-mile Sapporo Kinen
(G2), which should serve as a perfect prep for the Breeders' Cup. The firm turf
at Del Mar should suit Loves Only You just fine, and she may find the
competition a bit easier after squaring off against males in her last five
Choice: #7 War Like Goddess (7-2) has been a monster
this year, rattling off four straight graded wins over 1 3/8 miles or farther.
The daughter of English Channel routinely produces strong finishes from behind
slow fractions and was last seen dominating Saratoga's Flower Bowl S. (G1) by 2
1/4 lengths, suggesting she's the best of the home team and a must-use in
Breeders' Cup Sprint
Selection: #2 Jackie's Warrior (6-5) is a neck away from
being undefeated in nine starts around one turn, including victories in the
Hopeful S. (G1), Champagne S. (G1), and H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1). The
Steve Asmussen trainee just keeps getting faster on the Beyer speed figures
scale and threw down a massive 110 when dominating the Gallant Bob S. (G2) at
Parx in effortless fashion. If Jackie's Warrior brings his A-game, he may prove
impossible to beat.
Choice: #9 Dr. Schivel (4-1) is 3-for-3 at Del Mar, which
includes a determined victory in the Bing Crosby S. (G1) over Grade 1 winner
Eight Rings and 2020 Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up C Z Rocket. Dr. Schivel subsequently
beat C Z Rocket again when powering to a 3 1/4-length victory in the Santa
Anita Sprint Championship (G2). He hasn't run as fast as Jackie's Warrior on
the Beyer scale, but Dr. Schiveli's obvious affinity for Del Mar can land him a
spot in the top three.
Breeders' Cup Mile
Selection: With eight wins from his last nine starts on
turf, #6 Mo Forza (5-1) is as
consistent and talented as they come. A three-time graded stakes winner over
the Del Mar lawn, Mo Forza boasts a simply wicked turn-of-foot, which he's
utilized to beat Grade 1 winners and fellow Breeders' Cup Mile entrants Smooth
Like Strait and Hit the Road in back-to-back starts this year. Under top turf
jockey Flavien Prat (a 28% winner this year), Mo Forza can win one for the home
team in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Choice: Charlie Appleby's #3
Space Blues (3-1) has long been an elite sprinter, with seven furlongs
being his optimum trip. He arrives at Del Mar off a comfortable two-length
score in the Prix de la Foret (G1) at Longchamp, and his sprinting speed bodes
well for challenging in a typically fast-paced race like the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Breeders' Cup Distaff
Selection: #11 Dunbar Road (15-1) might be 0-for-4 this year, but
she's shown steady improvement and enters off a pair of deceptively strong
efforts. She was beaten less than a length when fourth in the Personal Ensign
S. (G1) during the summer at Saratoga, after which she rallied gamely against
the grain of a modest pace to finish second in the Keeneland's Spinster S.
(G1). On both occasions, Dunbar Road was beaten by Letruska, the heavy favorite
for the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
There's a lot of speed in Friday's field, which may
compromise front-running Letruska and open the door for a late-rallying victory
from Dunbar Road. The daughter of Quality Road finished third in the 2020
Breeders' Cup Distaff and should have every chance to improve her showing on
Choice: #3 Malathaat (4-1) seems to be flying under the radar,
even though she's rattled off victories in the Ashland S. (G1), Kentucky Oaks
(G1), and Alabama S. (G1) this year. Wide trips and slow paces have prevented
the stretch-running sophomore from delivering blowout wins, but the fast pace
shaping up for the Distaff should allow Malathat to produce a career-best
effort and fight for victory at a potentially overlaid price.
Breeders' Cup Turf
filly #12 Teona (6-1) gets in
carrying just 119 pounds, seven fewer than her older male rivals. That's a
significant difference when you consider how Teona arrives at Del Mar off a
gutsy victory in the Prix Vermeille (G1) at ParisLongchamp, where she beat
multiple Group 1 winner Snowfall by 1 1/2 lengths. Teona is improving steadily
but has only run six times, so she has ample upside for improvement in the
Breeders' Cup Turf. Keep in mind, Teona has already beaten males, trouncing
two-time Canadian International (G1) winner Desert Encounter in the 1 7/16-mile
August S. two starts back.
Choice: #13 Tarnawa (9-5) rallied boldly to win the 2020 Breeders'
Cup Turf by one length, but she arrives for her title defense off a hard effort
in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1), where she ran second by a neck over
heavy ground. Tarnawa will need to bounce back with another peak effort to take
home top honors in the Turf, and while that's certainly a possibility, 9-5
seems like a short price to accept.
Breeders' Cup Classic
Selection: There's a ton of speed in the Classic field,
but reigning Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner #5 Knicks Go (5-2) has made a habit of shredding his pace rivals,
so who's to say he won't sprint to the front at Del Mar and forget to stop? He
couldn't have been a more impressive winner of the Lukas Classic (G3) last
month, and that four-length victory was flattered when runner-up Independence
Hall returned to crush the Fayette S. (G2) by daylight. Stretching out over 1
1/4 miles is a question mark for Knicks Go, but his raw talent might just win
Choice: #4 Essential Quality (3-1) is a length away from
being undefeated in nine starts, including top-level scores in the Breeders'
Cup Juvenile (G1), Belmont S. (G1), Breeders' Futurity (G1), and Travers S.
(G1). The latter two victories came with tracking tactics, but Essential
Quality is just as effective rallying from off the pace. Assuming a fast tempo
unfolds on Saturday, Essential Quality figures to be the primary beneficiary,
launching a rally down the lane to fight for victory.
Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the 14 Breeders'
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, 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.