9 races featuring the world’s best!
You don’t have to be a world-class equestrian to appreciate the Olympics, and you don’t have to be a master handicapper to enjoy the Breeders’ Cup. Check out HN’s picks and recaps in this open post.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not a horse racing expert. I’m not a handicapper, I can’t recite pedigrees or tell you all about outcrosses or dosage or recite jockey stats. I just like horse racing, and I know just enough about it to know I don’t know that much at all (but I’m learning more every day). And I’m willing to bet that a lot of our readers who also like horse racing are pretty much in the same boat. So I’m inviting you all to watch the thirteen races of the Breeders’ Cup with me, share your predictions and enjoy the highlight of the North American racing season this weekend.
I’m still reeling from the Longines Distaff last night — both for the incredible stretch duel between Songbird and Beholder, the kind of finish that any racing fan dreams of witnessing, and also for the tragic loss of the Argentine mare Corona Del Inca. Injuries and accidents are a tragic part of any facet of the horse world but that doesn’t cushion the blow when a lovely animal is lost.
There are nine star-studded races on today’s card, so let’s take a closer look — and let’s hope my picks today are a bit better than my picks yesterday!
14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies: 12:05 PM PDT post, 1 1/16 miles over dirt
Last year’s champion was the until-very-recently undefeated Songbird — just for a brief history lesson of the kind of quality we might see in this race today. Valadorna is the current favorite at 5-1 but coming off of only two starts with her single win coming against relative nobodies, I’m not entirely sure she will live up to the hype. This Curlin daughter may impress us all but I think she has a lot of ground to make up today.
Two daughters of Union Rags look pretty interesting; Dancing Rags is coming off of a couple of wins while Union Strike heads to the Breeders’ Cup off of an injury. However, her previous win was impressive. Both fillies have impressive half-sibling route winners, but in this race I have to go with Yellow Agate. This daughter of Gemologist is reportedly a keen stalker and should be well-placed to take the lead from the pace setters; she’s already earned two wins in two starts. This is a pretty wide-open field and should make for an interesting race.
Post-race thoughts: Lots of credit to American Gal for making up a lot of ground after getting pitched to the outside into the first turn. My poor gal Yellow Agate was rank into the first turn and then had to check again in traffic out of the turn for home. Noted and Quoted made a great move to the rail out of the gate and led before Champagne Room swept to the front with Valadorna contending just behind. American Gal battled up for third. Avenge led for quick fractions and held on for third.
Filly & Mare Turf: 12:45 PM PDT post; 1 1/4 miles over turf
As always, the turf races include several interesting European picks, where turf is king — and Irish-bred Seventh Heaven should be one to watch with an impressive record in Great Britain and Ireland. However, both the sentimental and the smart pick here should be Lady Eli: smart, because she’s coming in off a great win in the Flower Bowl and a game second at the Spa as well as a Juvenile title here at Santa Anita, but sentimental as well because she’s overcome a scary bout with laminitis after stepping on a nail well over a year ago. If there’s a comeback story that’s waiting for a fairy tale ending, it’s Lady Eli, and I really want to see her win it today.
Post-race thoughts: Another thriller! I confess I may have shouted at the live stream to root for Lady Eli, who got squeezed to the back of the pack at the start and had to thread up through the field to make up a ton of ground. Lady Eli rounded the field at the top of the stretch and fought to the front, bringing Queen’s Trust up with her to drive to a thrilling photo finish. Queen’s Trust got the nod at the wire and Lady Eli certainly has no shame in that particular defeat.
TwinSpires Sprint: 1:21 PM PDT post; 6 furlongs over dirt
Lord Nelson would have been a strong contender but he was unfortunately scratched and retired earlier this week with a career-ending injury. A relatively lighter field now with the additional scratch of Joking leaves Masochistic as an easy favorite at 2-1. This horse has won his last two starts under a hand ride and is expected to roar under the wire in front again, but he may need to contend with early speed from Drefong as well. This latter colt is less accomplished on paper but has reportedly been working beautifully and is expected to be a contender.
However, I have to go with A.P. Indian for the Sprint: he’s won five out of six starts in 2016 (and his second place became a win through disqualification of the winner) and he’s versatile enough to lurk just behind the dueling leaders and then hopefully pounce for the wire. We’ll see if this actually plays out this way but I’m looking forward to this one!
Post-race thoughts: Masochistic and Drefong set a blistering pace and ran the feet off the rest of the field. A.P. Indian was well placed to pounce but came up empty. Mind Your Biscuits made a nice effort to get up for a photo-finish with Masochistic, with Masochistic taking the place. Drefong eased away and won nicely.
Turf Sprint: 2:05 PM PDT post; 6 1/2 furlongs over turf
Santa Anita’s turf sprint course is unique and I got the opportunity to actually see it in action in an undercard race yesterday: the gate is situated at the top of a hill and the field actually runs downhill for the first several hundred yards before hooking an unusual right-handed dogleg turn; the course then sweeps into a “regular” left turn, crosses over the main dirt track and joins back up with the inside turf course to the finish. It’s going to be fascinating to see how runners handle this who are not used to it!
Another interesting field of domestic and foreign runners here: defending champion Mongolian Saturday is back again but he won it a furlong shorter than today’s course and he is not typically strong over this distance. Honestly, most of the field looks like it will be a case of “wins on longer/wins on shorter” regarding distance — Pure Sensation is the current favorite at 5-1 but has never contended with the downhill course. I’m going with Irish-bred Obviously, an eight-year-old gelding who hasn’t quite gotten it done in the BC Miles of years past but has had success over this shorter course.
Post-race thoughts: These Breeders’ Cup races are EXCITING all the way to the wire! A heck of a run for Om to come up to nearly nip wire-to-wire leader Obviously, settled in a photo. Pure Sensation just couldn’t catch Obviously at the end and Om surged, picking his way through the field to just get up. Another thrilling display of racing!
Sentient Jet Juvenile: 2:43 PM PDT post; 1 1/16 miles over dirt
There are a lot of possibilities in the Sentient Jet Juvenile, and this race is always exciting if you consider it to be a preview of what could be next year’s Derby contenders. I’ve actually gone with the favorite here, Not This Time, who has shown both speed and versatility. There are plenty of horses to watch, however, including noted fighter Practical Joke, Grade I Front Runner winner Gormley, and multiple winner Syndergaard. I also like the kind of oddball pick Three Rules. Shaping up to be a great race all around!
Post-race thoughts: Once again, you couldn’t run these races any better if you scripted them. Wow. Another great race, and a great moment to see the next generation stepping forward. Classic Empire (another Pioneerof the Nile son like American Pharoah) seems to have matured a ton and greatly appreciated his blinkers. My pick Not This Time moved up from the middle of the pack and fought every inch of the way — he ran a great race and every time it looked like he might have been empty he found a little more and kept on rolling, losing just by a neck. These will be two to follow into their three-year-old season for sure. Practical Joke came up for third.
Longines Turf: 3:22 PM PDT post; 1 1/2 miles over turf
The Turf is bound to be a great international showdown, with the USA’s strong Flintshire (bred in Great Britain) as just a slight favorite at 5-2. He’ll need to contend with my pick Found, last year’s Turf champion as well as the winner of the Arc de Triomphe in early October. She goes off at 3-1, as does fellow Irish-bred Highland Reel, Found’s runner-up in the Arc. Highland Reel has yet to beat Found but he’s perhaps coming in just a bit fresher. Ectot may be another to watch, upsetting Flintshire in his most recent race.
The rest of the field doesn’t look like it should pose much of a challenge — but in racing, of course anything can happen. Definitely one to watch!
Post-race thoughts: Bam. Highland Reel just schooled us all. He ran right away from the pack at the start and at one point was as far as 12 lengths in the front. Flintshire ran a respectable second, making up some considerable ground to catch up within a few lengths, and Found worked her way forward from second-to-last to get up for third. A beautiful run by Highland Reel!
Filly & Mare Sprint: 4:01 PM PDT post; 7 furlongs over dirt
The favorite Haveyougoneaway is a true tried and tested sprinter, notching three straight wins this summer to establish that she’s a consistent runner. Gloryzapper is going off at 15-1 but might merit more of a look, never finishing lower than second in some gritty races. Last year’s Filly & Mare Sprint champion Wavell Avenue is back to defend her title, but has failed to beat several others in this field in recent starts.
I like Carina Mia, who has been a headliner this summer for being beaten several times by the ridiculously-fast Songbird. As Carina Mia has shown she can set a fast pace for Songbird to chase, I’m confident she can get right to the front again. Paulassilverlining may be another to watch, having beaten Carina Mia over this distance in the recent past.
Post-race thoughts: Well, definitely did not call that one well. Finest City came out ahead despite a great effort from Wavell Avenue, who I did not think had been performing well prior to today. She certainly stepped up and nearly caught Mike Smith’s ride Finest City! A fairly closely-grouped field had this race kind of a muddle until the end of the stretch.
Mile: 4:40 PM PDT post; 1 mile over turf
What A View may deserve more respect than he’s getting at the betting windows; he’s won five races over Santa Anita’s turf though he was beaten by contender Miss Temple City in his most recent start. The favorite is also my pick, the tested and tried international winner and champion Tepin who is defending her win in this race last year.
Limato comes into this race with an accomplished resume in Europe, but most of his wins are at a shorter distance. Alice Springs also looks impressive on paper but is not believed to be much of a threat. However, both of these horses are top picks by bettors at 7-2 and 4-1 respectively.
Post-race thoughts: What A View looked like he was maybe going to pull a Highland Reel and run away with it, but the field closed the gap out of the final turn and Tourist fought up to the lead. Tepin made a furious rally from midpack with a heroic dive to nearly get up, but settled for second. Another exciting finish!
Classic: 5:35 PM PDT post; 1 1/4 miles over dirt
The Classic has become another great story waiting to be written, depending on which way you’d like it to go. California Chrome is the undeniable favorite and my pick to win; I’ve said it all year long that he looks unbeatable and that he’s clearly matured. I think he looks the best he’s ever looked in his life and nothing can stand in his way of conquering this last, unclaimed jewel for his collection of accomplishments. Lest we forget, he was upset in the Classic in 2014 and finished third, and an injury took him out for most of his 2015 year. This should finally be his year.
Except for Arrogate, who some believe will get the best of Chrome after the three-year-old’s stupid-fast Travers that left an entire field of would-be champions way behind in his dust. Bob Baffert has Arrogate primed and ready under Mike Smith, and he’s going in at 5-2. I believe he’ll seriously challenge Chrome if the Travers proves to be Arrogate’s style and not just a fluke win. He’s been training beautifully.
Frosted could also get at least a piece of the action, depending on which Frosted has come to play — this colt has either been on fire or disappointing depending on the day. Effinex may also be a contender. Any way you look at it, the Classic should be a wildly exciting race.
Post-race thoughts: I eat my words. I never thought Chrome would be beaten this year … but Arrogate just opened up those long legs and reeled him right in. WOW. What a Breeders’ Cup it’s been with so many thrilling races, upsets and incredible moments! California Chrome presumably has the Pegasus World Cup to redeem himself (though he really has nothing left to prove) and Arrogate will likely win some year-end honors. What a beauty to watch run.
Go racing, and go riding!