Less than a week from today, the racing world will be
entranced by all things Breeders’ Cup. Fourteen championship races will be
contested at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, featuring some of the
best Thoroughbred athletes in the world. Five races will be run on Friday,
November 1 and the remaining nine will be held on Saturday, November 2.
So who are the top contenders in each of the nine Saturday Breeders’ Cup races?
Check out my top five horses for all of these races below and be sure to take a
look at my similar post for Friday’s races here.
The richest race in North America, the Classic has shaped up to be one of the most competitive races of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup. The race is rather wide open, featuring America’s best handicap horses and Declaration of War, a multiple group one-winning European. I chose to leave last year’s Classic victor, Fort Larned, out of my top five, but that does not mean he is incapable of winning.
1. Game On Dude: Will the third time be the charm? Although he greatly disappointed as the favorite in the Classic last year, finishing seventh, he is entering the race this year better than ever. He has won each of his five starts this year – sweeping California’s three premier handicaps – by a combined 24 ¼ lengths. He has not raced since August 25, but is training up to the Breeders’ Cup extremely well. It is worrisome that last year’s Classic was one of the worst races of his career, but it must be kept in mind that he ran a superb second in the Classic at Churchill Downs in 2011.
2. Mucho Macho Man: Runner-up in this race last year, Mucho Macho Man seems to be getting good at just the right time. 2013 began in a rough manner for him when he was eased in a sloppy Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes, after which he took five months off. After finishing third in the Criminal Type Stakes at Belmont, Mucho Macho Man finished a promising third in the Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga. He then shipped west for the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita, in which he captured his first grade one win with ease, finishing 4 ¼ lengths ahead of Paynter. He has looked spectacular while training at Santa Anita – a track he seems to love.
3. Declaration of War: 2013 has been this four-year-old’s best year yet, as he has captured a pair of group ones: the Queen Anne Stakes (gr. I) at Royal Ascot and, most recently, the Juddmonte International Stakes (gr. I). Even in his four losses this year, he has run respectably against top-class horses such as Al Kazeem, Dawn Approach, Farhh, Moonlight Cloud, and Toronado. He may be better at a mile than at ten furlongs, but he is capable of winning at a mile and one-quarter, which he made evident in the Juddmonte International. Perhaps the biggest doubt surrounding Declaration of War is his ability on dirt, but his pedigree suggests that the surface should not be an issue, as he is a son of War Front – who excelled on dirt – and is out of a half-sister to 2012 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Union Rags.
4. Ron the Greek: After winning the Sunshine Millions Classic in the slop by a breathtaking 11 ¼ lengths to commence 2013, Ron the Greek finished either third or fourth in each of his next five starts. But when he did find the winner’s circle again, he did so with style, upsetting the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational Stakes (gr. I) by 6 ¾ lengths in the fastest final time since 2002. He seems to be rounding back into form and certainly has an affinity for Santa Anita, a track over which he was an easy winner of the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) in 2012.
5. Palace Malice: Arguably the best three-year-old colt in the nation, Palace Malice matured slowly, but always showed promise. A 3 ¼-length winner of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), Palace Malice was a clear winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) over Will Take Charge – to whom he finished fourth in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) after a very poor break that cost him the race. Last out, he finished 6 ¾ lengths behind Ron the Greek in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but was nearly two lengths clear of Flat Out and completed the race in a time that would have won the past nine runnings. Nonetheless, he will need to improve off of his last race to win here.
competitive race, the Juvenile Fillies has attracted a strong group of
two-year-old fillies from both coasts. Sweet Reason is the closest there is to
a standout in this race, but she will have rather tough adversaries to
overcome. A plentiful amount of capable fillies should go off at high odds,
1. Sweet Reason: After dominating a maiden
special weight at Saratoga, Sweet Reason was an easy 5 ¾-length winner of the
Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) over a sloppy track at the Spa. A poor break from the
gate hindered Sweet Reason’s chances in her most recent start, the one mile
Frizette Stakes (gr. I), but she closed in a breathtaking manner to seize
second. The extra sixteenth of a mile of the Juvenile Fillies should suit her
well, though she has yet to race around two turns.
2. Artemis Agrotera: Undefeated in two
starts, Artemis Agrotera was as impressive as they come in winning by 11 ¾
lengths in her debut at Saratoga. She held off Sweet Reason to win the Frizette
Stakes (gr. I), but it was clear that Sweet Reason was the best that day.
Against an even tougher field in the Juvenile Fillies that includes that rival,
Artemis Agrotera will need to use every ounce of her talent to win.
3. She’s a Tiger: No worse than second in
any of her five lifetime starts, She’s a Tiger first found stakes success in
her second race, winning the Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park. A game second
behind Concave in the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II) set her up for a determined win
in the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (gr. I). Her final race before the Breeders’
Cup was a head loss to Secret Compass in the Chandelier Stakes (gr. I) at Santa
Anita. She’s a Tiger is clearly one of the best West Coast fillies, but they
have exchanged places on numerous occasions, suggesting there is no true
standout in California. She is incredibly game and this hardiness will be to
her advantage in the Juvenile Fillies.
4. Concave: Another filly based in
Southern California that has taken turns with her familiar competitors in
graded stakes events, Concave won the first two starts of her career, including
the Sorrento. She has not raced since finishing third behind She’s a Tiger in
the Del Mar Debutante, but has trained very well at Santa Anita and appears
primed to return to her winning ways.
5. Untapable: Unbeaten in two starts at
Churchill Downs, Untapable won the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II) last out,
grinding out a half-length triumph. Her times are not incredibly impressive,
but she is maturing and has the right amount of resilience to be an
Filly & Mare Turf
strong field of turf runners from the United States and Europe, the Filly &
Mare Turf should be an exciting event. It was slightly difficult to select and
order my top five, as several consistently remarkable fillies and mares have
aligned to fight for the championship.
1. Dank: Dank has three wins and a third
from four starts this year, including a scintillating victory in the Beverly D.
Stakes (gr. I) at Arlington Park. Prior to that 4 ¼-length win, she was
an easy winner of a group two at The Curragh. Her only loss this year occurred
in a group two at Royal Ascot, in which she was only beaten by ¾ of a length. She
has not raced since August, but each time she has come off a layoff of two
months or more, she has returned a winner.
2. Tiz Flirtatious: This daughter of
Tizbud has always been a classy racehorse, but in 2013, she has been better
than ever. Her only loss this year was a narrow defeat by Marketing Mix in the
Gamely Stakes (gr. I) at Hollywood Park in May. Since then, she has won a pair
of graded stakes, including a narrow win over Marketing Mix in the Rodeo Drive
Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita. Five of Tiz Flirtatious’ twelve lifetime races
have been contested over Santa Anita’s turf course, four of which have resulted
3. Laughing: Unbeaten in her four starts
this season, Laughing won a grade three at Monmouth over Dayatthespa prior to
taking the Diana Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. Following a game victory by a neck
in the Ballston Spa Stakes (gr. II), Laughing won her final prep race for the
Breeders’ Cup – the Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (gr. I) – by a determined
half-length. She is obviously among the top turf females in the nation, but has
a tendency to not travel well, which would be a major disadvantage for her if
that is the case. In addition, she has received an easy lead in her past three
wins and is not as likely to have that advantage in this race.
4. Marketing Mix: Marketing Mix began her
2013 campaign with a pair of graded stakes wins at Hollywood Park prior to
finishing fourth behind Dank in the Beverly D. A return to California saw her finish
a dogged second behind Tiz Flirtatious in the Rodeo Drive. Second in this race
last year, Marketing Mix has an affinity for Santa Anita’s turf course, having
never finished worse than second over it.
5. Kitten’s Dumplings: This
Ken and Sarah Ramsey “Kitten” has won half of her starts this year and since
May, she has been remarkable, losing only once. After a disappointing start to
2013, Kitten’s Dumplings scored her first victory of the year in the Edgewood
Stakes at Churchill Downs in May. Following wins in the Regret Stakes (gr. III)
and the Lake George Stakes (gr. II), Kitten’s Dumpling shipped west for the Del
Mar Oaks (gr. I), in which she only managed fourth as the favorite, but closed
willingly. Since then, she has captured the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup
Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Had Groupie Doll
put together the same campaign as she did last year, she would be the clear
choice in here. However, she is not the same horse she was in 2012, making this
race more difficult to decipher. There is no obvious top horse in the Filly
& Mare Sprint, but it has drawn numerous talented sprinters, making it quite
the competitive event.
1. Book Review: After winning the La Brea
Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita at the end of 2012, Book Review remained in
California, finishing second in the La Canada Stakes (gr. II) going a mile and
one-sixteenth before again playing the role of runner-up in the Santa Maria
Stakes (gr. II) at the same distance. But off a five-month layoff, Book Review
returned to sprinting distances, winning the seven-furlong A Gleam Stakes (gr.
II) at Hollywood Park. She has not raced since August, when she shipped east to
Saratoga to finish a mere head behind Dance to Bristol in the Ballerina Stakes
(gr. I). She has never run a bad race at Santa Anita and has been a model of
consistency in each of her starts since December.
2. Dance to Bristol: After finishing
second in a stakes race at Laurel Park in January, Dance to Bristol won seven
consecutive races. She began competing against graded stakes company during the
summer, winning the Bed o’ Roses Handicap (gr. III) and the Honorable Miss
Handicap (gr. II) before garnering her first grade one victory in the Ballerina
Stakes (gr. I), in which she gamely held off Book Review. In her most recent
start, Dance to Bristol finished five lengths behind the undefeated Cluster of
Stars in the Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II). This will be the most challenging
start of her career and although she is very gifted, Dance to Bristol will need
to be on top of her game in order to achieve victory.
3. Sweet Lulu: Sweet Lulu began her racing
career in May and won her first four races, including the Test Stakes (gr. I).
After gamely winning this grade one contest by a head, she stretched out to a
mile and one-sixteenth in the Cotillion Stakes (gr. I), in which she finished
two lengths behind Distaff contender Close Hatches. A return to seven furlongs
should suit Sweet Lulu well, making her an imposing participant.
4. Groupie Doll: Fourth is perhaps too low
of a ranking for the defending champion, but it is clear that Groupie Doll is
not the same horse she was last year. She did not start in 2013 until August,
when she finished a lackluster third in the Gardenia Stakes (gr. III). Her only
victory in her three starts this year came in a track record-setting
performance in a grade two at Presque Isle over Purely Hot and Judy the Beauty.
However, in her final race before the Breeders’ Cup – the Thoroughbred Club of
America Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland – Groupie Doll finished a disappointing
third behind Judy the Beauty. The old Groupie Doll will need to show up if she
wants to find the winner’s circle.
5. Judy the Beauty: A very
consistent runner, Judy the Beauty has never finished off the board. After
winning at the allowance level at Keeneland in April, the Wesley Ward trainee
placed in three graded stakes events prior to winning the aforementioned TCA
Stakes at Keeneland. Judy the Beauty has never run a bad race, but she has also
never won on dirt.
The Turf Sprint
has assembled a strong group of sprinters and will serve as a thrilling contest
over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course. Among this group is the reigning
champion, Mizdirection, as well as a plethora of other talented turf sprinters.
This race provides many options.
1. Mizdirection: The defending champion of
this race, Mizdirection won her first three starts of the year – all over Santa
Anita’s turf course, and two of which were contested on the downhill course. She
shipped east for the one mile Just a Game Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont, in which
she finished fifth over a yielding course. But this effort should not be held
against her, as the conditions were not to her liking. She has not started
since that race, which was in June, but she won the Turf Sprint off a longer
layoff last year. She is undefeated over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course.
2. Reneesgotzip: Reneesgotzip got a
late start to her 2013 season and has only raced twice this year. After winning
a stakes-quality allowance at Del Mar by 5 ¼ lengths, Reneesgotzip was an easy
winner of the Rancho Bernardo Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar, setting a new track
record for six and one-half furlongs. Third in this race last year, Reneesgotzip
has not raced since August, but has always run well fresh.
3. Chips All In: Chips All In has an
affinity for Santa Anita’s turf course, having won four of his five starts over it
– including two graded stakes wins going downhill. His only loss was a nose
loss over the downhill course. Last out, he defeated a tough field in the Eddie
D Stakes (gr. III) over the downhill course. He is a much more consistent horse
than he was last year.
4. Unbridled’s Note: Runner-up in the Turf
Sprint last year, Unbridled’s Note does not appear to be quite the same horse
he was in 2012. His only win in his four starts in 2013 was his first of year.
Since then, he has placed in a pair of graded stakes races and finished far
back in a graded stakes event at Churchill Downs. But it is worth noting that he
is a fan of the downhill turf course.
5. Caracortado: Caracortado has only raced
once since January of 2012, finishing a respectable fourth in the Eddie D over
Santa Anita’s downhill turf course in September. A horse boasting back class,
Caracortado has won twice on the grass at the Great Race Place, including a
strong win in the Daytona Stakes (gr. III) going downhill. It will be very
difficult for him to win against some of the highest quality turf sprinters in
the country with only one start behind him in the past twenty-one months, but
on class alone, Caracortado is among the best horses in this race.
The Juvenile is
one of the weakest divisions of this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Havana is perhaps
the clearest leader and certainly the strongest hailing from the East Coast. It
is quite possible that the West Coast’s best chance rests on the shoulders of a
horse that only has a maiden special weight win under his belt: Tap It Rich.
1. Havana: For anyone who chooses to use
speed figures to determine a horse’s superiority and likelihood of winning,
this is the top horse in the race. But speed figures aside, the quality of
Havana’s competition make him the one to
beat. Undefeated in two starts, Havana was an easy maiden winner at Saratoga
before holding off the excellent Honor Code in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I). Distance
is likely the biggest question surrounding Havana.
2. Tap It Rich: This promising Bob Baffert
trainee has only started once, winning a maiden special weight at Santa Anita
on October 12 by an effortless 4 ¼ lengths. No horse has ever won the Breeders’
Cup Juvenile with only one previous start, but Tap It Rich may possess a
greater amount of sheer talent than the other horses aligned for this race.
3. Bond Holder: Bond Holder raced four
times, improving with each start, before he broke his maiden, but garnered his
first win in style, capturing the FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita. In
this grade one event, Bond Holder closed into a brisk pace to draw off to a 2
¼-length victory. With possibly much pace in the race, the Juvenile could set
up for him, but he will need to continue to improve. He, along with the other
Southern California two-year-olds other than Tap It Rich, have been rather slow
4. Dance with Fate: Among the
somewhat uninspiring California juvenile crop, Dance with Fate was a poor
eighth in his debut before winning his second start, in which he defeated Bond
Holder. He then finished second in both the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) and the
FrontRunner. He will need to step it up in order to win.
5. Strong Mandate: After a disappointing
fifth in his debut, Strong Mandate broke his maiden with ease at Saratoga prior
to running away with the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) in the mud. But a seventh-place
effort in the Champagne makes it difficult to have confidence in his abilities.
However, he has trained very well since and when he is at his best, he is a
very tough competitor.
The Turf has
shaped up to be a very competitive race, as the U.S. turf division has been
stronger than usual this year. But perhaps most importantly, this race has
attracted the brilliant England-based mare The Fugue and marks the return of the
extraordinary Point of Entry. Each of these five horses has a chance to win.
1. The Fugue: Her connections hold a
preference for this race over the Filly & Mare Turf and rightfully so, as
she easily defeated males in the Irish Champion Stakes (gr. I) last out. She
was a troubled third in the Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita last year, but
is approaching this year’s Breeders’ Cup better than ever, reeling off two
group one victories. She is a very daunting competitor.
2. Big Blue Kitten: This five-year-old has
emerged as one of the top turf horses in the United States in 2013. He came to
life over the summer, winning two grade ones with impressive rallies. In his
final race before the Breeders’ Cup, the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational
Stakes (gr. I), Big Blue Kitten encountered traffic troubles and closed to
finish second, beaten just a nose by Little Mike. This will be his biggest
challenge yet, but he has been spectacular this year and is among the best.
3. Point of Entry: The only thing that
prevents him from being ranked higher is his layoff due to injury. One of the
best turf horses the United States has produced as of late, Point of Entry
underwent surgery after being injured in his win in the Manhattan Handicap (gr.
I) and as result, has not raced since that start in June. However, he is a
brilliant horse, having won seven of his last eight starts – five of which were
in grade ones. His only loss in those eight races was an unlucky runner-up finish in this race last
year. Returning off a layoff in the Breeders’ Cup is not an easy thing to do,
but Point of Entry is a special horse.
4. Real Solution: A colt who began
his career in Rome, Real Solution’s 2013 debut was also his U.S. debut. This
came in the Fort Marcy Stakes (gr. III), in which he finished fourth. Following
a respectable third in the Manhattan behind Point of Entry, Real Solution ran
an incredible race in the Arlington Million Stakes (gr. I), finishing second at
the wire but being promoted to first after the disqualification of The Apache. He
most recently was defeated by just over a length in the Joe Hirsch behind
Little Mike and stablemate Big Blue Kitten. He is worthy of being in this race,
but this is certainly his toughest test to date.
5. Little Mike: Looking to become
the first back-to-back winner of the Turf since Conduit achieved that feat in
2009, Little Mike had a poor start to the year, finishing off the board in his
first four starts of 2013. His only other start resulted in a nose victory in
the Joe Hirsch. Although he is still the same determined horse he has always
been, he enters this year’s Breeders’ Cup with much poorer form than last year
and will need to step up.
The Sprint is
abounding with inconsistent horses and although it includes many classy horses,
it is a race in which an upset would actually not be overwhelmingly surprising.
To me, the most intriguing horse is Secret Circle, who will be making his
second start off an eighteen-month layoff.
1. Private Zone: A trifecta of runner-up
finishes in graded stakes in Southern California saw Private Zone make a trip
to Dubai for the Dubai Golden Shaheen (gr. I), in which he finished ninth. But
this race can certainly have a line drawn through it, as five months later,
Private Zone was a game winner of the Pirate’s Bounty Stakes at Del Mar before
he shipped east to be a resilient winner of the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) over
Justin Phillip. He has finished second in each of his starts at Santa Anita.
2. Secret Circle: Secret Circle has
only raced once since April of 2012, winning an allowance optional claiming at
Santa Anita on October 14 in a rather easy manner. Prior to the injury that
kept him away for eighteen months, Secret Circle was absolutely spectacular. An
undefeated juvenile, Secret Circle captured the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Sprint at Churchill Downs after a pair of impressive wins in California. As a
three-year-old, he suffered only two losses – running second in the Sham Stakes
(gr. III) and the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) – and captured a pair of graded stakes
at Oaklawn Park. He is undefeated at the six-furlong distance of the Sprint and
has only lost one of his three starts at Santa Anita. Racing in the Breeders’
Cup in only his second start off a lengthy layoff will be no easy task, but
this is a very good colt and he is training exceptionally well.
3. Justin Phillip: Justin Phillip has
finished in-the-money in seven of his nine starts this year, winning three of
those races. Among his wins was a 2-length victory in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt
Handicap (gr. I) in August, a race that preceded a third in the Forego Stakes
(gr. I) and a second in the Vosburgh. He is clearly one of the best sprinters
in the country, but he does have a propensity to run very poorly on occasion.
4. Gentlemen’s Bet: A horse who could
offer a savvy price play, Gentlemen’s Bet has never won a graded stakes race,
but was a tenacious winner of the Iowa Sprint Handicap prior to encountering an
intense speed duel in the Vanderbilt that left him third behind Justin Phillip.
He was then fourth in the Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland, but this
result can be ignored, as he did not seem to be fond of the synthetic surface.
Of course, he’ll need to improve to win here, but he is appealing.
5. Bahamian Squall: Bahamian Squall
has only won once this year, taking the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) over
defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Trinniberg. Since then, he was second
to Justin Phillip in the Vanderbilt and a disappointing fifth in the Vosburgh.
He will need to rebound here.
The Mile boasts
one of the strongest groups of horses of this year’s Breeders’ Cup, but all
attention is on the reigning champion, Wise Dan. He will face stiff competition
in Olympic Glory, a group one winner traveling to Santa Anita from Europe, as
well as an abundance of strong American milers.
1. Wise Dan: Despite suffering his first
loss since June of 2012 last out, Wise Dan remains the king of this division.
The conditions were stacked up against him last out, as he did not care for the
wet synthetic surface. He has not lost on the turf since October of 2011 and
will relish the return to his favorite surface.
2. Olympic Glory: After winning a group
three at Newbury in April to begin his 2013 season, Olympic Glory finished a
disappointing eleventh in a group one at Longchamp. He was a narrowly beaten
second behind the outstanding Moonlight Cloud in a group one at Deauville at Longchamp
in August, which preceded a runner-up effort in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp
(gr. I). Last out, Olympic Glory was an easy winner of the Queen Elizabeth II
Stakes (gr. I) at Ascot. This is a very classy horse who will serve as a dangerous
threat for Wise Dan’s defense of his title, but racing just two weeks before
the Breeders’ Cup and having to travel overseas may be to his disadvantage.
3. Silver Max: The only horse to
defeat Wise Dan since last June, Silver Max has won three consecutive graded
stakes, including not only his grade one victory over the 2012 Horse of the
Year, but also easy wins in the Oceanport Stakes (gr. III) and Bernard Baruch
Handicap (gr. II). He is in the best form he has been since the first half of
2012, during which he won six straight races.
4. Obviously: Third in this race
last year, Obviously was second in the San Simeon Stakes (gr. III) over the
downhill turf course in April prior to forming a string of three graded stakes
victories between Hollywood Park and Del Mar. Obviously was spectacular in each
of these triumphs, but most recently, weakened to fourth in the City of Hope
Mile Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita.
5. No Jet Lag: After a rather unsuccessful
beginning to his career in Europe, which spanned seven races, No Jet Lag made
the move to America, where he has been unbeatable in two starts. Following a
win at the allowance level at Del Mar, No Jet Lag showed a remarkable turn of
foot to take the City of Hope Mile. He’s clearly talented, but it remains to be
seen how he will fare against this caliber of horses.