Keeneland race course, located in the heart on America’s horse country in Lexington, KY will host the thoroughbred World Championships, better known as The Breeders’ Cup, the first time ever in this events 31 year history. That’s the good news. The bad news for handicappers… there’s no history.
We cannot research past Breeders’ Cup races to determine who might have the advantage on this turf course… the Euros or Americans? A glimpse at the extended weather forecast which calls for cooler temps, with lows in the 40’s and highs barely reaching 60, one may lean towards the Euros.
Looking specifically at the Juvenile Fillies Turf contested at one mile, six (6) of the fourteen (14) 2-year-old fillies entered are/were based in Europe… #3 - Alice Springs (IRE), #10 - Illuminate (IRE) and #14 - Last Waltz (IRE) will be making their North American debut. Two (2) others started their careers in Great Britain and then shipped to the states to get a race under them prior to the Breeders’ Cup. The KY-bred #9 - Nemoralia was runner-up in the G1 Frizette at Belmont on Oct. 3rd while Irish bred #13 - Mirage headed to the west coast for a tune-up in the $100k Surfer Girl at Santa Anita, was placed second.
European shippers have dominated this event in recent years when run over the Santa Anita turf course… Flotilla (FR) in ’12 and Chriselliam (IRE) in ’13. In the four years prior (’08-’11) U.S. based 2-year-old fillies have been led to the Breeders’ Cup Winners Circle. All four were Kentucky-bred as was the 2015 winner Lady Eli. Therefore, it’s anyone’s guess whether the Keeneland turf course will favor the foreign or U.S. based runners.
Some other facts to know before you bet…
… If you are a Chalk player, you may want to skip this race. Since the inaugural running of the Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2008, the Post Time favorite has only won once (7: 1-1-1). That occurred last year when Lady Eli easily won as the 2.40-1 favorite. Amazingly, prior to 2014 the shortest priced winner was Stephanie’s Kitten ($14.20) in 2012.
… Only twice has the favorite been in the Exacta. Obviously, last year with Lady Eli winning and 2nd choice Sunset Glow was runner-up to complete the $35.00 Exacta (based on $2). The only other time was in 2010 when even money favorite Winter Memories rallied through traffic just to get up for the Place purse. She lost by 2 lengths to More Than Real who returned $29.20, the biggest $2 WIN payoff for this event.
… Chad Brown is the only trainer to have won this event more than once. He saddled the 2015 winner Lady Eli (’15) and won the inaugural race in 2008 with Maram. This year he has two (2) chances to get the hat trick as he’ll send out Last Waltz and Pricedtoperfection. Todd Pletcher will attempt to equal Brown’s feat of two winners when Thrilled goes postward.
… No jockey has won this race more than once. Previous winners trying to for their 2nd BC Juvenile Fillies Turf win are… John Velasquez aboard Thrilled, Jose Lezcano on Gliding By and Irad Ortiz, Jr. will try to go back to back when he gets a leg up on Pricedtoperfection.
… since the start of the Keeneland Fall meet the turf course has played “fair”. In the seventeen (17) racing days from Oct. 2nd – 24th there have been thirty (30) turf contests of one mile or greater. Only 3 winners went in gate to wire fashion while 16 winners came from just off the pace to mid-pack and 10 deep Closers were victorious. It is interesting to note that in the four (4) most recently run turf distance races (Oct. 22nd & 23rd), 1 winner went gate to wire and the other 3 winners all raced within a few lengths of the lead throughout while 2 of the 3 pace-setters held on for PLACE.
So do these recent Keeneland turf course statistics indicate it would favor fillies who lie close to the pace? Or will the recent rain in the Lexington vicinity once again change it to favor runners who come from well off the pace? When it comes to either bucking or following trends in horse racing, the latter is the camp I tend to fall into, but picking the horse that fits your most successful handicapping theories is the nest way to go. With that being said, here’s my take on the race, in Post Position order…
#1 - Tin Type Gal (KY) 12-1 (L. Saez / G. Motion) - WILL BE SCRATCHED
Motion’s been patience with this daughter of top-sire Tapit. With 3 career outings, each appeared well thought out leading up to this event. 2 for 2 on the turf after getting an education sprinting in debut when off the turf; gutty win in the G3 Miss Grillo; has displayed an amazing turn of foot when asked in mid-stretch in both turf outings.
#2 - Thrilled (KY) 12-1 (J. Velazquez / T. Pletcher)
Who would have thought we’d see an Uncle Mo on the grass? But owner Michael Tabor loves grass runners and employed the dynamic duo of Pletcher & Velazquez who go for their second Juvenile Fillies Turf victory. Though impressive in beating (#8) Harmonize by a nose in career debut, followed by two runner-up finishes to earn black-type, her speed figures do not indicate continued improvement.
#3 - Alice Springs (IRE) 6-1 (R. Moore / A. O’Brien)
The most royally bred filly in this field for the turf and distance. Therefore, first start going two-turns should help her chances. Couldn’t get to (#10) Illuminate, runner-up in the 6 furlong Group 1 Connolly’s Red Mills Cheveley Park Stakes in 6 furlong. Trainer Aidan O’Brien has made eight (8) trips to the Breeders Cup Winners Circle… all have been male runners. He is 0 for 17 with fillies and mares. Gets Lasix for the first time.
#4 - Catch a Glimpse (KY) 5-1 (F. Geroux / M. Casse)
Went north of the border to in late summer making short work of 2-year-old turf fillies at Woodbine, leading from gate to wire in both her maiden win and G2 Natalma Stakes (replay below), earning a 98 Brisnet# in the latter which is tops in this group. Jock needs to avoid speed duel with (#5) Ruby Notion, as the rest of the field will welcome quick early fractions. It’s a guessing game as to whether Geroux will (or can) take back versus putting the pedal to the medal when the Starter opens the gate. Use or toss at your own risk.
#5 - Ruby Notion (WV) 12-1 (R. Hernandez / W. Ward)
On thing is certain, she’s be part of the early pace as she’ll try to carry her speed 2½ furlongs further than she has had to thus farther in her four (4) race career. This well-traveled daughter of Great Notion makes her first start on her home track, the fifth different location in as many starts. Took on the boys at Ascot in a field of 27 (yeah, 27!) when Rosario burned her out in the first 2 furlongs, yet she finished a respectable 5 less than 4 lengths behind the winner, but none of the 22 who finished behind her have done much since. Can she become the first WV-bred to win a Breeders’ Cup race? If she can relax, Catch a Glimpse doesn’t challenge her early and she has the stamina to go one mile, she could easily steal it. Dam (Modena Bay) won multiple races going long on the grass.
#6 - Andreya’s Reward (KY) 30-1 (E. Prado / M. Wolfson)
Having a Hall of Fame jockey with four (4) Breeders’ Cup wins on his resume’ is what this daughter of Warrior’s Reward has going for her. The 48-year-old Prado has found the Fountain of Youth in south Florida and recently has been on a hot streak. His mount is the only one in this field who can boast a perfect 2 for 2 at this one mile distance. Her Brisnet#’s are on the light side, so she needs to take a giant leap forward just to hit the board.
#7 - Sapphire Kitten (KY) 10-1 (J. Leparoux / J. Sharp)
Trainer Joe Sharp’s first Breeders’ Cup runner; gave (#7, 7-2 M/L favorite in here) Harmonize all she could handle in the “Win & You’re In” G3 Jessamine stakes over this same Keeneland turf course, missing by a neck. There’s no question when it comes to her pedigree as she’s by super turf sire Kitten’s Joy. Never at a loss for words, owner Ken Ramsey said on Tuesday when asked about his BC runners, “I think Big Blue Kitten is my best shot…” but when asked about this gal, he stated, “The trainer said she’s doing great and expects her to move forward (off the Jessamine).” A must use in your exotics at a price if you believe coming up a neck short of the 7-2 favorite is worth 10-1.
#8 - Harmonize (KY) 7-2 (J. Alvarado / W. Mott)
It’s logical that she is the Morning Line favorite having the highest Brisnet Prime Power number (152.8) in the field by a unusually wide margin, Catch a Glimpse is second highest with 139.9. She was all out to get by and hold off (#7) Sapphire Kitten 27 days ago as the even money favorite in the “Win & You’re In” G3 Jessamine Stakes (reply below) here. To her credit, she was AT LEAST 8-wide on the turn, probably covering 9 furlongs in that 8 furlong contest. Post Time favorites are just 1 for 7 in this event… that one came last year (Lady Eli).
#9 - Nemoralia (KY) 15-1 (J. Rosario / J. Noseda)
More Than Ready simply produces turf winners and did so in the male version of this event in 2011 when Wrote scored at 11-1. Took an unorthodox route to this turf event. Shipped from Arlington Park to begin career in Great Britain where she raced 6–7 furlongs four times, breaking her maiden in her third try, on synthetic then followed that up with another victory in a handicap race. Shipped to the states to make her dirt debut, with 1st time Lasix put in a runner-up effort in the G1 Frizette over a sloppy, sealed Belmont track. Rosario retains mount, probably by default as Frankie Dettori, who was aboard for both her victories took mount on (#11) Illuminate.
#10 - Illuminate (IRE) 9-2 (L. Dettori / R. Hannon, Sr.)
She looked happy on Tuesday morning galloping on the Keeneland main track, her first opportunity to stretch her legs since being released from quarantine as were all other European shippers. Her sire (Zoffany (IRE)) failed miserably in his only two starts in North America, 8th in the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile and 9th in the G1 BC Mile. Her unraced dam was out of Green Desert, a sprinter. Find it hard to back her going one mile when her resume’ (4:3-1-0) which includes Group 2 victory and most recently a one half length loss in a Group 1 event, shows nothing but turf sprints.
#11 - Pricedtoperfection (KY) 20-1 (I. Ortiz, Jr. / C. Brown)
This late blooming daughter of Temple City made her career debut just 68 days ago, finishing third behind (#1) Tin Type Gal. Her next, and maiden winning start came just 14 days ago when sent off as the 4-5 favorite. Takes the big jump but when you have Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz, Jr. on your team, anything is possible. IMHO, asking a 2-year-old filly to compete against the best turf fillies in the world, in the third race of her career just 14 days after beating non-winners is a bit too much.
#12 - Gliding By (KY) 30-1 (J. Lezcano / W. Mott)
The most lightly raced filly in the field having raced just once, a maiden breaker on the turf at Woodbine on Sept. 25th. She didn’t beat a bunch of bums as the runner-up was 6-5 as a 1st time starter and the third place finisher came back to win last Saturday. Gets Lasix for the first time in her second career start. Trainer Bill Mott elects to with Jose Lezcano, who teamed up with him for a pretty good Saratoga meet where they had a number of babies win at nice prices. Her sire (Artie Shiller) was a one mile turf specialist and won the 2005 BC Mile. If she moves forward off her debut as most runners do, then she needs to be considered a live longshot.
#13 - Mirage (IRE) 30-1 (J. Spencer / S. Callaghan)
Jockey holds a Breeders’ Cup record he would rather not own… most mounts (18) without a win. Spencer has been second twice and third three times. Trainer Simon Callaghan seeks his first Breeders’ Cup win. His best finish has been 6th (on 2 occasions) from 4 starters. If those facts haven’t already discouraged you from putting money on this gal to WIN, then here is some encouraging news, well maybe… she won at first asking across the pond, shipped to California to prep for this event in a one mile turf minor stakes (replay below) at Santa Anita where she finished third but was placed second, due to being impeded in deep stretch. She wasn’t going to get to the winner as the jock was asking her for everything she had just to get close to the runner-up prior to being fouled. None of the fillies in that race showed up for this one.
#14 - Last Waltz (IRE) 20-1 (J. Castellano / C. Brown)
Makes North American racing debut. The Morning Line odds here appears to be generous for a Group 3 stakes placed runner (replay below; jock w/ light blue silks & cap, 2-path early, rail late) who will have one of the best turf riders in the country at the helm for a trainer who seeks his record 3rd BC Juvenile Fillies Turf victory. Gets Lasix for the first time. Will be hampered by the far outside post as it’s a short run to the first turn. Dam sire (Trempolino) was runner-up to Theatrical in the 1987 BC Turf after winning the Group 1 Arc de Triomphe.
There is one Also-Eligible, and she will get into the field with the scratch of Tin Type Gal
#15 - Time and Motion (KY) 30-1 (M. Smith / J. Toner)
Still a maiden after two races, but she earned black-type in her second outing as she placed third in the G3 Miss Grillo, just 1½ lengths behind the winner (#1) Tin Type Gal. If she happens to draw into the field, she’ll break from the far outside. Though this post position can be compromising to most runners, at least this daughter of Tapit who does her best running late, can save ground out of the gate and duck in behind the rest of the field.
How I see it:
Only two in this field have a race over this turf course. Harmonize (#8) and Sapphire Kitten (#7) who ran 1-2 in the G3 Jessamine in their most recent race. On paper, there is a chance the race could be stolen on the front end as there is a lack of early speed. Just two fillies, Catch a Glimpse (#4) and Ruby Notion (#5) appear to be destined to hook up as a team on the front end right out of the gate, as the dozen others will stalk just off that pace, travel in mid-pack or make one big run from the rear.
Anticipate early fractions of 23 flat and 46 and change with little change in the runner line through the first three quarters. As with most turf races, as the field enters the stretch, likely fanned 8 wide, the course will hold true to how it has been playing, giving way to those who rally strongly in deep stretch.
Top Pick: #7 – Sapphire Kitten (10-1)
Also use in your Exotics: #8 – Harmonize (7-2), #12 - Gliding By (30-1) and #14 – Last Waltz (20-1)