Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
Every year, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships provides an opportunity for racing fans and gamblers to uncover a hidden gem that might reward them with bragging rights or a mammoth payoff.
The 13 championship races bring the best racehorses together in one venue for a series of races in which multiple Grade 1 winners can step into the starting gate at odds of 20-1 or higher.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the horses I’ll be using as key value bets and longshot plays. These are not necessarily horses I’m picking to win each race, rather I’m trying to identify horses with morning-line odds of 10-1 or higher that have a chance to win or at least spice up the exacta and trifecta payouts.
Be sure to watch the four Breeders’ Cup races on Friday on NBCSN from 5-8 p.m. The Breeders’ Cup Saturday races will also be on NBCSN from 1:30-8 p.m. ET, with the exception of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will be televised on NBC during its 8-9 p.m. telecast.
Friday, Nov. 3
Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (5:25 p.m. ET)
13. Juliet Capulet (12-1)
This race is a great opportunity for value as there are five interesting European invaders. My win pick is September (#10), who I think really showed improvement stretching out to a mile, but the value horse I really like is Juliet Capulet. I think she has the speed to rate just off the pace and be the first of the Europeans to launch her bid. She enters off a very nice Group 2 win at Newmarket and has run very well in her last four starts for trainer John Gosden, who has a 4-for-32 record in the Breeders’ Cup, including two with 2-year-olds on the turf. Distance is the big concern, but I expect she’ll be fine going an extra eighth of a mile on the firm California turf.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (6:50 p.m. ET)
14. Rajasinghe (30-1)
I’m just going to take a swing for the fences here with a European invader who drew a brutal post-position and probably will end up at closer to 40-1. My hope is that Rajasinghe just didn’t like the softer ground in his most recent start in the Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes. Turf conditions are a huge part of handicapping European races, and many times the trainers who ship to the U.S. for the Breeders’ Cup feel like their runners will improve significantly on the firmer turf in the U.S., especially in Southern California. Rajasinghe ran well on good to firm turf to best 17 opponents in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes in June and then ran a solid third in the Group 2 Arqana July Stakes. At 30-1 there are going to be blemishes, but I’ll use him to try to spice up the exacta and trifecta. And if he wins, I’ll have a monster bankroll for Saturday.
Saturday, Nov. 4
14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (3 p.m. ET)
4. Gio Game (15-1)
I admit I like all three of trainer Mark Casse’s runners in this race — Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades winner Heavenly Love (9-2), Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes winner Wonder Gadot (8-1), and Gio Game. But in this exercise of looking for value, I think Gio Game has a chance to take a significant step forward and win at big odds. A half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Isotherm, she was entered in turf races in her first two starts, closing for second in the first which was rained off the grass and then finishing a troubled third (she was elevated to second via a disqualification) to future graded stakes winner Significant Form. In her first start on a fast main track, the Gio Ponti filly drew away to win by nine lengths after pressing the pace. The 97 Equibase Speed Figure she earned places her solidly in contention and she should be able to track just off the pace. Two of Casse’s three Breeders’ Cup wins came with 2-year-olds, so I’m taking Gio Game for the win at a big price.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (3:37 p.m. ET)
12. Pure Sensation (10-1)
I think the winner of this race will be one of the three favorites: Lady Aurelia (#3), Marsha (#6), or Disco Partner (#1), but don’t overlook last year’s Turf Sprint third-place finisher Pure Sensation. He posted a career-best 117 Equibase Speed Figure in his last start, a victory in the Grade 3 Turf Monster Stakes at Parx Racing, and he’s 4-for-8 at this five-furlong distance.
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (4:14 p.m. ET)
14. Ami’s Mesa (20-1)
I expect 9-5 morning-line favorite Unique Bella (#11) to win this race, but the pace could be hot and set up for a closer to sweep in for second or third. Ami’s Mesa has never raced on dirt, but she’s been very good on synthetic with six wins and one second in seven starts on the main track and is 4-for-5 at this distance. She enters the Filly and Mare Sprint on a four-race winning streak, having won the Grade 3 Seaway Stakes at Woodbine on Aug. 26 and the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes on Sept. 18. If she can run a similar race on the dirt, Ami’s Mesa has a big chance in here. I’m going to pair her with Unique Bella for the Filly and Mare Sprint exacta.
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (5 p.m. ET)
2. Senga (20-1)
10. Queen’s Trust (12-1)
This is a fantastic field of talented turf females with the best runners from a strong group based in the U.S., plus five European invaders. I landed on a longshot and a value bet in here, but I’ll start with Senga. Look at her past performances and draw a line through the two races on soft turf — she now has three wins and three more top-three finishes in seven races, including a victory on firm turf in the Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines (French Oaks). The results look even better if you look only at the races she’s had on firm turf, which is no surprise given her sire is U.S.-based Blame. I don’t believe the competition was especially strong in the French Oaks, but she also won a Group 3 race to begin the year and ran third in two other Group 1s, so she has the class to compete at this level and the odds are very enticing. She’s my pick to win.
I also really like Queen’s Trust’s chances to improve significantly on the firm turf, which it appears was a key factor in her win in this race last year. She has not won in five races this season, but she’s been within a few lengths in Group 1 competition and her best race of the year, fourth by two lengths against males in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot was her only start on the type of ground she prefers. I’ll use 5-2 morning-line favorite Lady Eli with Senga, Queen’s Trust and one other runner and try for a nice exacta/trifecta.
TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (5:37 p.m. ET)
1. Calculator (20-1)
5. Whitmore (15-1)
I feel pretty strongly that the winner comes from one of these three: champion sprinter Drefong (#2), Imperial Hint (#10), or Roy H (#8), but someone will challenge Drefong early to prevent a runaway win and there is potential for a sizzling pace. That could really benefit closers Whitmore and Calculator. I plan to use them in second/third for exactas and trifectas.
Breeders’ Cup Mile (6:19 p.m. ET)
6. Zelzal (20-1)
13. Blackjackcat (15-1)
Everywhere you look there is value in the Mile. If you have a strong feeling about any of the entrants, you should have a great opportunity to make money. I’m not picking either of the above horses to win, but I do like their chances for a top-three finish at a nice price. After a great year in 2016, Zelzal is winless in three races this season but has not lost by more than 2 ½ lengths and has faced Group 1 competition in his last two starts. He’s lightly raced and was terrific on firm turf in 2016.
Blackjackcat is in career-best form, he’s 3-for-5 at Del Mar and this is his best distance — he won four of five races at a mile. He does his best from just off the pace, so a good start is critical, but he could be in perfect position to take the lead at the top of the stretch on his home turf. I could see him holding on for a top-three finish.
Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (7:37 p.m. ET)
9. Seventh Heaven (20-1)
I’m not picking Seventh Heaven on top, but I do expect her to outrun her odds and compete for a top-three finish. She’s yet another runner who seems to benefit from getting away from the softer ground in Europe. She finished fourth by 1 ¾ lengths despite trouble in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Her last two races look terrible on paper, but they came on soft and yielding turf. The start before was a Group 2 win on more suitable ground. I’ll slot her in second/third for exactas and trifectas.
Breeders’ Cup Classic (8:35 p.m. ET)
11. Collected (6-1)
OK, so he doesn’t fit the criteria of 10-1 or higher, but I do think I’ll get at least 7-1 on Collected for the Classic and I plan to invest heavily. He’s 7-for-7 on a dry (fast) main track and in career-best form with his best race to date on this track and at the 1 ¼-mile Classic distance. I expect last year’s winner Arrogate (#1), improving 3-year-old West Coast (#8), and morning-line favorite Gun Runner (#5) to get hammered at the betting windows while Collected sails under the radar.