Matt Brocklebank pinpoints the best long-range bets at this year's Breeders' Cup in Santa Anita, with America's leading turf horse backed to win the Mile.
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The preps are all but done and it’s time to fire off a handful of shots at the Breeders’ Cup before certain plans get officially confirmed and prices begin to cramp.
Let's start with the bet of the meeting as things stand and the only juvenile selection I’m happy to recommended at this stage in the game.
KIMARI, whose target is undisputed, wants some significant investment at 4/1 for the Juvenile Turf Sprint.
This race only became part of the official Breeders’ Cup schedule for the first time last year (had previously been run on the undercard) and, despite half the field representing Europe, it went to Bulletin for Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano and WinStar Farm.
No doubt the British and Irish will look to have plenty of runners once more but in Wes Ward’s Kimari we already know that whatever turns up will have a serious job on their hands.
The useful element in terms of known ability is that Ward brought her to Royal Ascot in June, where she was narrowly denied by Raffle Prize in the dying strides of the Queen Mary.
That was a massive effort given the bad ground and she was clearly beaten by a top British two-year-old filly, whose subsequent win over Daahyeh (second to Albigna in the Moyglare and won the Rockfel after that) and defeats to Earthlight (won the Middle Park since) and Millisle are obviously rock solid.
Kimari had the best part of two months off to get over her trip to Britain and returned with a wide-margin win over Abscond (won the Grade One Natalma since) at Saratoga, before a sensational performance in the Grade One Indian Summer Stakes at Keeneland last time.
She’s not a typically fast starter from the Ward barn but she is blessed with push-button speed when required and regular partner Johnny Velazquez will be back in the saddle at Santa Anita, after Mike Smith stepped in for him at Keeneland.
She will revel in the quick conditions and fast-pace scenario that seems bound to unfold in the Breeders’ Cup opener.
If she’s the day one banker then I’m dead keen to build the Saturday staking plan around BRICKS AND MORTAR in the Mile.
Europe’s recent record in this event is a bit skewed by the brilliant Goldikova, who won it three times on the bounce for Freddy Head, the next seven editions all going to the hosts.
Expert Eye broke the home dominance with victory for Sir Michael Stoute last year but the overseas challengers don’t look up to much this time around, arguably headed by Irish duo Circus Maximus and Romanised.
It’s a matter of time before Chad Brown wins the Mile (he saddled the third Analyze It last year) and in Bricks And Mortar he has a genuine Cartier Horse of the Year contender, who possesses all the weapons to enjoy a perfect swansong.
He's been a revelation since returning from injury, having missed just about all of his four-year-old campaign, winning six on the bounce. He was trained to peak in the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup Turf and slammed Magic Wand, while he beat the same horse – only narrowly this time – when landing the Arlington Million in August.
After that it had been suggested in some quarters that the Breeders’ Cup Turf could be a realistic option for the son of Giant’s Causeway, but his career record over distances of 1m, 1m½f and 1m1f reads 1133111 and it’s the wicked turn of foot at the end of his races which is his most potent asset. It would seem counter-productive to try a new trip now.
He’s definitely one the locals won’t be able to resist and could get extremely short on the day, so with 5/1 (General) still out there, he’s a must bet before connections confirm the Mile plan.
Brown – undisputed king of the North American turf scene – looks to have the Filly & Mare Turf cornered with last year’s winner Sistercharlie (7/4) and the significant emerging talent Uni (7/1) topping the betting.
The latter still needs to be supplemented for $100,000 and that’s just about enough to put me off her despite the fact that the current price discrepancy between the pair could look far too generous in the fullness of time.
Star Catcher’s plans are still up in the air but with Anapurna winning in France last weekend it wouldn’t be a shock to see her head to Ascot under Frankie Dettori, in which case John Gosden might just consider America for the Ribblesdale and Irish Oaks heroine Star Catcher.
The Filly & Mare Turf cutting back a furlong to 10 this season might not absolutely play to her strengths but a forward, controlling ride from Frankie could make her very interesting if turning up here, especially with likely favourite Sistercharlie invariably played late from off the pace.
Preference is for a bet in the Turf, a race in which Europeans have won nine of the last 10 renewals and plenty more on top of that.
Aidan O’Brien is unsurprisingly the main man here with four Turf wins on his CV and there’s a lot to like about ANTHONY VAN DYCK’s profile with this particular race in mind.
A teak-tough two-year-old who got loads of experience in top-class company last year, he was sent off favourite for the Juvenile Turf at Churchill but got no luck in the run and could finish only ninth behind Line Of Duty in what was a messy and rough race.
He’s only really had the one blip this term, when fitted with cheekpieces on soft ground in the King George, and it was great to see him back to something close to his Investec Derby-winning form when third in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
After a layoff, over an inadequate trip, that was a super effort and O’Brien was quick to nominate the Breeders’ Cup as his next port of call.
A recent workout on the Dundalk Polytrack raised a few eyebrows with the Classic still alluding O'Brien and the Ballydoyle team, though the way they campaigned Mendelssohn - and the lessons they learned last year - does make it seem unlikely a horse like Anthony Van Dyck will be pitched into the race 'cold' with no dirt experience.
There are some similarities with him and O'Brien’s 2013 Turf winner, Magician, who came into the race a fresh colt following a setback, and Anthony Van Dyck is tactically versatile so a wide draw wouldn’t be the end of him as a realistic candidate either.
With greater participation doubts over the five horses ahead of him in the antepost betting – namely Enable, Waldgeist, Japan, Magical and Sottsass – prices of 6/1 make plenty of appeal.
The uncertainty surrounding Richard Mandella’s star three-year-old Omaha Beach, who could yet run in the Sprint, Dirt Mile or the Classic following his comeback win over Shancelot earlier this month, makes having a bet in one of the major dirt races a dicey business at present.
The noises from the States suggest he won’t be running in the Sprint, which could pave the way in that race for Mitole, who has been consistently good all year and evidently has no issues with the seven-furlong trip.
The Filly & Mare Sprint – also at seven furlongs – looks a good clash between budding star Covfefe and the five-year-old COME DANCING.
The three-year-olds have found this a tough spot in the race’s short history, Shamrock Rose breaking the mould with victory at three last year, and preference is for the older horse this time around.
Covfefe is clearly naturally gifted and still so unexposed following her top-class score over Serengeti Empress in the Test Stakes at Saratoga, but Come Dancing also remains open to further improvement.
She's really lightly raced for her age and looks to have fully matured this term, winning four of her five starts.
The sole defeat came at the hands of red-hot Distaff favourite Midnight Bisou at Belmont in the summer but that clearly hasn’t set her back with subsequent victories at Saratoga and Belmont.
Those wins came at seven and six and a half furlongs respectively and it is her proven stamina that will stand her in good stead here against the relatively speedy Covfefe.
Carlos Martin has deliberately left four to six weeks between races for Come Dancing this year and it’s paid off handsomely so the timing of last month’s Grade Two Gallant Bloom Handicap win ties in nicely with her Breeders’ Cup schedule.
She looks all set to make a big splash representing one of the less-heralded handlers shipping in from the east and can be backed with confidence at 5/1.
Posted at 1445 BST on 10/10/19