What would you do? 5 pending Breeders' Cup race decisions

October 09, 2019 11:08am

There’s much left to sort out with the Breeders’ Cup fields, as we won’t know who actually made the cut until pre-entries are announced Oct. 23. But then there are these five horses.

They will get in a race of their connections’ choosing, and each will have an impact on the wagering within that division.

Horses can be cross-entered in multiple races, though the days of remaining in the body of two fields so long as the events run on different days are gone with the Breeders’ Cup going to an all-juvenile lineup of Friday races.

So these decisions must be made by Monday of race week for the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Saturday at Santa Anita Park. Here’s a little bit of insight.
Omaha Beach

We’ll start at the top. He just defeated a top contender in Shancelot going the Breeders' Cup Sprint’s six furlongs over this course. That was with, as trainer Richard Mandella said, only about two weeks of preparation geared toward the distance.

Options now include the $6 million Classic stretching to 1 1/4 miles; the $1 million Dirt Mile; and $2 million Sprint. There, too, lingers the question of what this colt’s future looks like, given he missed most of his 3-year-old season yet is scheduled to retire to stud in 2020.

The crystal ball: If it’s indeed going to hold that Omaha Beach could be running his last race in the Breeders’ Cup, why not try the Classic? He’d have every excuse to be defeated, looks like the type to at least hit the board and could seriously enhance his legacy.

But if there’s more racing to be done — such as later targeting a race like the Pegasus World Cup (G1) 
 the shorter races start to make sense. Smaller purses, but a better chance to win second off the layoff after a tough race.


He holds “Win and You’re In” berths to the Sprint and Dirt Mile, with this colt expected to be cross-entered in both. Having never run in a graded event before April, he has since won a trio of Grade 1s, with his only defeat in more than a year while running on a dead Saratoga rail — and coinciding with Imperial Hint’s record-setting performance in Saratoga’s Vanderbilt (G1).

The crystal ball:
While Mitole owns a win at the Dirt Mile’s distance in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1), he’d have to go around two turns at Santa Anita and for half the purse money as the Sprint. Either way he’ll be a favorite, but it feels like a far less vulnerable one in the Sprint.

That, too, has been hinted at as the course of action by connections. But they’ll first wait to get a look at the fields, as is their right.

Catalina Cruiser

It was a bit of a surprise Tuesday to see the Daily Racing Form report after speaking to trainer John Sadler that last year’s defeated Dirt Mile favorite may have the Sprint as an option next month. While the son of Union Rags has won around one and two turns this season, he’d be a significantly shorter price in the Dirt Mile.

The crystal ball:
This feels more like due diligence than anything. Sadler is a numbers guy, and he’ll want to evaluate the respective fields before making the final call.

There’s also the Mitole factor. No matter the distance, Catalina Cruiser has a better shot of winning if he’s not facing the likely Eclipse Award winner.

Bricks and Mortar

During the back half of this season, trainer Chad Brown has expressed concerns about distance limitations when it comes to the United States’ premier runner on grass, who has never gone the full 1 1/2 miles of the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf. The $2 million Mile could also prove a difficult task against more speed-oriented runners.

The crystal ball:
Brown has said he’s leaning toward the Mile, but it just feel like a situation I’ll believe when I see. The barn has other contenders for the Mile — Uni emerged over the weekend when winning Keeneland’s First Lady (G1) in record time — but nothing of significance for the Turf.

Bricks and Mortar had a measure of his competition going 10 furlongs in the Arlington Million (G1). While well-rested another two may dull his kick, but he has always appeared a grinding type anyway.

Catholic Boy

The Grade 1 winner on dirt and turf is more than a year past those victories as a 3-year-old. This season, he has run twice, winning Pimlico’s Dixie Stakes (G2) off the bench before defeated in Belmont’s Suburban (G2) in his most-recent start back on July 6.

Trainer Jonathan Thomas said each of the Classic, Dirt Mile and Mile are options. There’s been no tipping of his hand aside from recent works, the last two of which were over the grass, where he has traditionally breezed on only before entering a turf race.

The crystal ball: Catholic Boy’s work tab seems like a giveaway, but then again, he’ll be entering the Breeders’ Cup off a four-month layoff and a defeat. Tackling some of Europe’s best on the grass seems to make less sense than taking on the Dirt Mile as an assignment.

Last year, Thomas was fond of saying the mile and a quarter’s right for Catholic Boy, regardless of surface. But in the Suburban, he failed to relax early going that distance. Maybe he needed the race. But the same could be true as he heads into the Breeders’ Cup.


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