2-year-olds take center stage on Breeders’ Cup Friday at Santa Anita. With that in mind, I’m doing things a bit differently here, as I’ll be previewing all five of the card’s championship races for juveniles in this space.
There’s no shortage of wagering opportunities this week in Southern California, and if you’re right, you stand to make a pretty penny given the large fields and inflated odds on world-class thoroughbreds. It’s some of the most fun you’ll have handicapping horse races, and I’m excited to dig in!
RACE #5: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint
For whatever it’s worth, I thought this was the toughest race of the quintet. Turf sprints are often chaotic. Add in a full field of inexperienced runners, many of whom are shipping from other time zones (or even other continents), and you have a recipe for pandemonium.
#7 KIMARI is the horse to beat. She’s 3-for-3 in the U.S., and her lone loss came by just a head when she trekked to Royal Ascot earlier this year. She showed a new dimension when rallying from far back last time out at Keeneland, and if I had to make a horse my top selection, she’d be it.
Having said that, she’s obviously no cinch. #9 FOUR WHEEL DRIVE hasn’t done anything wrong, and #10 A’ALI gets Lasix for the first time and will once again have the services of Frankie Dettori.
In addition to these logical horses who figure to take money, though, #3 ANOTHER MIRACLE also hits me as a must-use given his likely price. He rated last time out in the Grade 3 Futurity, and I’m willing to believe the connections were attempting to gauge his flexibility ahead of this event. That race showed he wants to be close to the pace, and I think he’ll sit that sort of trip in this event.
RACE #6: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
#12 ARIZONA comes over from Europe and will take plenty of money. With a better post, I’d really like him. By all accounts, he’s the second-best 2-year-old colt in Europe behind the freakishly-gifted Pinatubo, and it’s tough to quibble with the world-class trainer/jockey combination of Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore.
However, that post is a big problem. He’ll have to have a lot go right in order to avoid losing significant ground early on, and while he may be talented enough to overcome such a trip, my top pick is #4 DECORATED INVADER. He won the Grade 1 Summer last time out and gets Lasix for the first time in this spot. The early pace figures to be fast, which should set up perfectly for his late-running style.
If you’re looking for a price to throw into the mix, I’d recommend #3 PEACE ACHIEVED. He may not be quite as fast as some of his opponents, but he’s 3-for-3 since being stretched out to route distances by trainer Mark Casse. He’s overcome wide draws in his last two outings and draws a considerably better post here.
RACE #7: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
One of my favorite handicapping axioms, popularized by the great Harvey Pack, is to never bet a horse, as the favorite, to do something it’s never done before. In #1 DONNA VELOCE, that’s what we have. She looked tremendous in her debut victory, but tries both winners and two turns for the first time. Furthermore, she draws the rail, which isn’t ideal for an inexperienced horse.
It’s entirely possible she’s good enough to win despite all of this, but I’m going to try to beat her. My top pick is #4 BRITISH IDIOM, who took to two turns like a duck to water in the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland. She won by more than six lengths that day and beat a strong field in a professional manner. A repeat performance would make her a major player.
Additionally, #6 BAST is the Southern California contingent’s most likely winner. She’s won back-to-back Grade 1 races, and while her win in the Chandelier at this route could be seen as a step back, she certainly merits respect. The Bob Baffert trainee may very well have bounced off of her impressive score in the Del Mar Debutante, and a bounce-back could be enough to put her in the winner’s circle.
I’ll use those two in conjunction with fellow Grade 1 winners #3 PERFECT ALIBI and #7 WICKED WHISPER. If Donna Veloce wins, I can deal with her beating me. She’s the type of favorite I was raised to try to beat, and that’s precisely what I’m going to attempt to do.
RACE #8: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
This race features a strong European contingent, and I’ll absolutely be using several of them. However, my top pick is an American runner I’ve been high on for months, and I think she’ll be a very nice price.
#7 CRYSTALLE had one of the most brutal trips of any Breeders’ Cup runner last time out in the Grade 2 Miss Grillo. She went (and this is not a typo) nine-wide when trying to rally from far behind a slow pace. Despite all of that, she was beaten less than a length. Given that journey, and the fact she’ll likely be a nice price in this event, I absolutely have to bet her back. There figures to be some speed signed on, and I think she’ll come running late with a better trip (honestly, it can’t get much worse).
#5 DAAHYEH and #9 ALBIGNA head the runners from across the pond, and they both seem well-meant. I slightly prefer the former, as the latter’s best race by far came over a soft turf course that’s unlikely to materialize here. However, both runners could win, and I’d advise using them in multi-race exotics.
RACE #9: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
All of my multi-race exotics encompassing these Breeders’ Cup races will end with the same single. That’s because #1 DENNIS’ MOMENT is my best bet of the day.
This isn’t a bad field, nor do I think this is a slow crop of 2-year-olds. However, Dennis’ Moment seems exceptionally well-meant. After breaking his maiden by a city block at Ellis Park, he cruised home in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs and earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure despite not being fully extended. We haven’t seen his best yet, and I think he’s sitting on a dazzling performance Friday afternoon.
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