By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
Pre-entries for the 2022
Breeders' Cup were released in Wednesday, which means it's time for
handicappers to dive deep into the past performances in search of winning horses
for the Nov. 4-5 championships at Keeneland.
It's too early to settle on
specific wagers since final entries won't be drawn until Monday. But I've
already uncovered a trio of longshots I'll be interested to play in some form
The Breeders' Cup Distaff
(G1) is being billed as a showdown between last year's champion three-year-old
filly Malathaat and this year's probable champion three-year-old filly Nest.
Both enter in red-hot form with multiple Grade 1 wins to their credit this season.
But while I'm a big fan of
both Malathaat and Nest, I believe it could be a mistake to overlook Clairiere.
The 2021 Cotillion S. (G1) winner was beaten less than a length when fourth in last
year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, and she was in elite form earlier this spring and
summer, finishing second in the Apple Blossom H. (G1) before rattling off
back-to-back wins in the Ogden Phipps S. (G1) and Shuvee S. (G2).
It's easy to forget, but
Clairiere defeated Malathaat in both the Ogden Phipps and the Shuvee. She subsequently
fell out of the spotlight when trailing throughout in the Personal Ensign S.
(G1) at Saratoga (a race won by Malathaat), but Clairiere had trouble at the
start and reportedly cut her tongue, so she may have had an excuse for her
Clairiere has been training
steadily at Keeneland in preparation for the Breeders' Cup and is eligible to
bounce back in a big way. If she recaptures her Malathaat-conquering form from
the spring and summer, Clairiere isn't out of the mix against this deep Distaff
The last time the Breeders'
Cup took place at Keeneland, in 2020, trainer Brad Cox walked away with four
victories. One of his most impressive triumphs came courtesy of Knicks Go, a
flashy winner of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
Cox probably won't repeat
his four-race sweep in 2022; he's only pre-entered five horses in this year's
Breeders' Cup. But he has a solid shot to score another Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
win courtesy of Cyberknife.
Cyberknife has a couple of
noteworthy stats in his favor. He's cutting back in distance off a third-place
finish in the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby (G1), a positive angle since
sprinters stretching out in distance rarely win the Dirt Mile.
Indeed, there have been 15
editions of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, and 12 winners prepped in a race over
one mile or farther. That's bad news for key 2022 Dirt Mile contenders Laurel
River, winner of the seven-furlong Pat O'Brien S. (G2); Cody's Wish, winner of
the seven-furlong Forego S. (G1); and Gunite, winner of the seven-furlong
It also helps that Cyberknife
is three years old. Sophomores have won the Dirt Mile in 2011, 2013, 2017,
2019, and 2021, giving them a solid record of five wins from 15 editions.
Cyberknife didn't fire his
strongest shot in the Pennsylvania Derby, but his overall record this season is
excellent. He defeated Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Secret Oath in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas
Derby (G1) and later won a strong edition of the 1 1/8-mile Haskell S. (G1),
counting Pennsylvania Derby winner Taiba and H. Allen Jerkens S. (G1) hero Jack
Christopher among his beaten rivals. Cyberknife also stretched his speed over 1
1/4 miles to finish second behind leading three-year-old Epicenter in a fast edition
of the Travers S. (G1).
The Pennsylvania Derby marked
a definite regression for Cyberknife, but he wouldn't be the first sophomore to
rebound from a subpar prep to win the Dirt Mile. Battle of Midway upset his
elders in 2017 after finishing second in the Oklahoma Derby (G3), and Caleb's
Posse parlayed a third-place finish in the Indiana Derby (G2) into victory in
the 2011 Dirt Mile.
In short, what's not to like
about Cyberknife? He fits well from a Brisnet Speed rating perspective and
looks ready to challenge for victory at enticing odds.
You're My Girl
From a Beyer speed figure perspective,
the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) hasn't come up especially strong. Chocolate
Gelato is shaping up as the favorite after winning the Frizette S. (G1) at
Aqueduct, but the 83 Beyer she posted isn't remarkable. The other key
contenders have likewise been posting Beyers in the low 80s and high 70s, which
means a longshot shouldn't need much improvement to challenge for victory.
That's why I'm keen to
support the Frizette runner-up You're My Girl. A 14 1/2-length debut winner
against New York-breds at Saratoga, You're My Girl gave Chocolate Gelato quite
a tussle in the Frizette. After carving out the pace for nearly six furlongs,
You're My Girl stubbornly stuck with Chocolate Gelato down the homestretch to
finish second by one length.
The track was sloppy and
sealed for the Frizette, and I'm not convinced the inside was the best part of
the track. You're My Girl raced closer to the rail than Chocolate Gelato but nevertheless
ran strongly, so I believe she can turn the tables in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Is You're My Girl the most likely winner? Not necessarily. But Chocolate Gelato
figures to be favored, and You're My Girl may start at double-digit odds, so
the odds difference is too enticing to pass up.
Now it's your turn! Which
live longshots do you like in the 2022 Breeders' Cup?
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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.