Matt Brocklebank takes an early look at the Breeders' Cup with a handful of recommended bets including West Coast in the Classic.
Recommended bets: Breeders’ Cup, Nov 2 and Nov 3
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The Breeders’ Cup returns to Churchill Downs for the ninth time, and the first since 2011, with a slight revamp of the schedule and a completely brand spanking new race.
A total of 14 events across Friday November 2 and Saturday November 3 make up this year’s top-class programme, with the opening night now under the banner of Future Stars Friday.
As the new moniker suggests, Friday is the domain of the young champions as all five races are for the two-year-olds, including the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, in which the European challenge appears to be formidable.
Here, Matt Brocklebank picks out five of the most appealing antepost wagers with the vast majority of the trials now done and dusted.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
No doubt Chad Brown will hold the aces here. The New York-based 39-year-old has rapidly become the go-to man when it comes to top-level turf races in North America and, on top of that, his record with fillies over the past few years is second to none. In the 10 editions of this particular event, Brown has won four, including the last two, and 12 months ago in Del Mar it was Rushing Fall who delivered the goods in the hands of Javier Castellano.
This time around he has the forecast favourite in Newspaperofrecord, two from two and hugely impressive in becoming Brown’s fifth winner of the Grade 2 Miss Grillo at Belmont late last month.
She’s a massive threat to all but the potential British and Irish contenders look good enough to at least compete. Chriselliam struck for the Euros in 2013 and, at the prices, it’s tempting to take a chance on Kevin Ryan’s EAST adding to the British tally.
She's ghosted into the picture for this via a most unusual route, but there’s no doubting the Ryan team’s confidence in her and Churchill Downs has already been nominated as the target, which isn’t yet the case when it comes to the shorter-priced Just Wonderful, So Perfect or Pretty Pollyanna.
The selection, a 315,000 euro daughter of Frankel, backed up her Hamilton debut win with a really impressive Group 3 victory at Saint-Cloud, where she shaped like she'd relish the move up to a mile.
She’s probably going to get even further in time and the fear would be that she doesn’t quite have the raw pace to live with this field, but there’s clearly a massive engine to her and any rain in the area – not unheard of in Kentucky at this time of the year – would be ideal.
She’s twice the price of Charlie Appleby’s Grade 1 Woodbine winner La Pelosa (7/1), who is another certain to run here, and that just tips the vote in her favour.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Simon Callaghan is a trainer who seems destined to break his Breeders’ Cup duck sooner rather than later and no doubt he’s learnt a great deal from having a favourite at the big meeting last year.
Newmarket-born Callaghan’s Moonshine Memories was sent off the 9/4 market leader for the Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar last year and she ultimately disappointed in seventh, but there’s reason to believe he has an even stronger candidate this time around.
BELLAFINA has plotted the same path as Moonshine Memories, winning the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, following an easy win first time out, and doubling up at the top level with an easy victory in the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita.
Bellafina was deeply impressive in the Chandelier, justifying strong market support to thrash Michael McCarthy’s Vibrance by six and a half lengths, with the well-touted Brill a further four and a half back in third. Vibrance had won by five lengths on her first appearance and Brill was sent off 7/10 favourite for the Debutante, so there’s substance to the form and the winner was in a different league.
It’s a big enough ask to win a Breeders’ Cup race on your own patch, and shipping to Louisville from the west coast could pose added difficulty, but perhaps Callaghan will benefit from not being under quite so much of the spotlight as last year, and in Bellafina he has a giant filly with a huge stride who should be extremely hard to beat.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint
Only a handful of firms have popped their head above the parapet when it comes to the inaugural running of the Juvenile Turf Sprint but the price for FAIRYLAND taking her record to 5-6 at Churchill Downs is too big to resist.
Aidan O’Brien’s Kodiac filly has oozed class from the start and it was a sign of the regard in which she was held when pitched into Listed level against the colts second time out at the Curragh back in May. She came through that test with flying colours and was arguably a shade unlucky not to remain unbeaten in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot.
She was beaten three quarters of a length by Main Edition – La Pelosa was second – having ‘won’ the race in a group of nine horses towards the far side rail.
She looked badly in need of the run when beating The Mackem Bullet (goes for the Juvenile Fillies Turf over 1m) by a flared nostril in the Sky Bet Lowther at York and confirmed her superiority over the same horse when winning by a neck and opening her Group 1 account in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket last time.
There’s always a chance Fairyland could be put away with a potential Classic campaign in mind next year but owner Evie Stockwell has had a taste of Breeders’ Cup glory in the past, having bred 2015 Juvenile Turf winner Hit It A Bomb, and there’s surely every chance this new race – with a $1,000,000 purse - will tempt the Ballydoyle team into rolling the dice here before even considering what the future holds for a filly whose value is already sky-high.
At 8/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair) the uncertainty over her participation looks well factored in and if she does get the green light then it’s not hard to envisage her being sent off a pretty warm order on the night in receipt of weight from the colts.
Breeders' Cup Turf
There has to be a chance Enable isn’t sighted again until next year. She reportedly had a rough run up to the Arc following her comeback win at Kempton and she clearly went somewhere close to the bottom of the well to repel Sea Of Class in the closing stages at Longchamp.
Roaring Lion is next in the antepost lists despite John Gosden suggesting earlier in the year that he’d not be tried again over a mile and a half, and Champions Day at Ascot - backed by the horse's owners - looks the logical place to sign off for his Classic campaign anyway.
Crystal Ocean is third favourite around 7/1 so there should be some value to be had here and, while not fully convinced by Sir Michael Stoute’s King George runner-up, once again I’m leaning on the raiding party to get one over the home team.
Since Conduit’s first win for Stoute in 2008, seven more Europeans have taken the Turf trophy back over the Atlantic (including Conduit again in 2009) and that should attract a pretty serious assault on the $4,000,000 event.
Capri was back in fifth at Longchamp and he’d be a fascinating contender if connections opt against the Long Distance Cup at Ascot, while stablemate Cliffs Of Moher surprisingly remains lightly raced over 12 furlongs and could be able to better last year’s poor effort in this race.
Talismanic winning in Del Mar will no doubt encourage his trainer Andre Fabre to return for another crack, but preference is for stablemate CLOTH OF STARS, who looked right back to his best when third behind Enable and Sea Of Class in the Arc.
Ten five-year-olds have won in the 34-year history of the Breeders’ Cup Turf so experience clearly isn’t a barrier to success here and Fabre hasn’t been afraid of globe-trotting with him in the past – finishing mid-pack in Harzand’s Derby a couple of years ago and third in the Sheema Classic earlier this year.
He’s taken a while to come to hand this season by all accounts but improved a lot from his comeback run in the Prix Foy to just about match last year’s career-best Arc second back in the big one earlier this month.
Given he was conceding just 3lb to Enable this time compared to the 10lb he had to give her when second last October, he's possibly even improved again and a reproduction of that form in America would obviously give him much stronger claims than the current 16/1 would suggest.
Breeders’ Cup Classic
This year’s Classic has a wide-open look to it which isn’t too surprising after Triple Crown winner Justify was ruled out through injury and the pick of the the-year-olds still standing don’t look a stellar crop.
Mendelssohn is obviously among them and you have to admire the manner in which he’s been campaigned this year, with absolute focus on providing Aidan O’Brien a first victory in American racing’s most coveted prize.
He ran a mammoth race in third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park last month, helping force the ridiculously quick early fractions before trying to tough it out against the closers in the straight.
The Scat Daddy colt has to be rated the best on the day and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him reverse the form with Thunder Snow, despite the fact it was a gut-busting effort so close to his main objective.
With relative freshness on their side, it may be best to hone in on Awesome Against Stakes one-two, namely Accelerate and WEST COAST.
The winner was having just his second run of the season having romped home in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and he was a comfortable winner on the day. However, we’ve seen enough of John Sadler’s five-year-old to know that’s he’s not a world-beating superstar, whereas West Coast still has time on his side.
Unraced at two, the Bob Baffert-trained colt racked up five wins en route to finishing third to Gun Runner in last year’s Classic, where it looked a case of a race too many on the back of a gruelling campaign for the three-year-old.
He appeared again in the Pegasus World Cup in January and the Dubai World Cup in March, running fine races in second on each occasion, but surely he’s entitled to have benefited from a good, long break.
The workout reports suggested he was going to need his comeback run and it duly looked that way in the race at Santa Anita, showing up nicely early and travelling as well as anything until the turn for home.
Accelerate ground out the win by two and a quarter lengths down the centre of the track but Mike Smith wasn’t too hard on West Coast and as preps runs go it was as good as Baffert could have expected.
Still searching for his first win heading into the 2014 renewal, Baffert is now the Classic king with three of the last four going to the Hall Of Fame handler, and no doubt he left something to work on with this target in mind. The general 8/1 could look ridiculous if the momentum grows around this horse and he’s definitely worth getting on side well in advance.
Posted at 0930 BST on 10/10/18.