There is no shortage of opinions for this weekend’s 14-race Breeders’ Cup World Championships program at Churchill Downs. Some information will cost a lot. Some can cost a little. And in this column, the price is really affordable...FREE!
My advice to you is to handicap the races yourself before seeking additional help. What I find most important is to form your own opinions first. Then you can use an expert’s handicapping help to point out horses you may have overlooked.
I am going to point out five horses that will not be favored but are very capable of running a winning race on either Friday or Saturday.
#8 Sippican Harbor (12-1 morning-line odds, Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies)
She showed a devastating late kick in two wins at Saratoga including a 16-1 upset in the Spinaway Stakes last time out. Trainer Gary Contessa opted to train her for nine weeks leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. She was flattered even further when the second place finisher in the Spinaway, Restless Rider, won the Darley Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland in her next start. If you want value, compare this. Restless Rider is 9-2 odds while the filly who beat her, Sippican Harbor, is 12-1.
With soft ground predicted for the Churchill Downs turf course, I’ll put my thumb on the scale in favor of the European grass runners. One angle I like with Line of Duty is that in each of his four career starts his Timeform rating has gone up. That tells me he is improving steadily for trainer Charlie Appleby. This colt won at 1 1/8 miles last time out and is cutting back in distance to a mile on Friday, another handicapping angle that I like.
Two colts, Game Winner and Complexity, are both heavy favorites and deservedly so. However, in finding big longshots one must project the potential improvement in a horse. Dueling has flown under the radar at Santa Anita for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The Violence colt ran second to two very talented horses in Rowayton and the aforementioned Game Winner. Then he broke his maiden nicely going a two-turn mile. This is his first stakes start, but the potential is there for another big move forward.
One thing is nearly certain in the Sprint each year. The early pace will be wickedly fast and many times the front-runners collapse together. When a race potentially sets up for come from behind horses, it is not hard to find value. Limousine Liberal has knocked heads with some of the best one-turn horses in the country and takes a back seat to none of them. The fact he has won six of eight starts at Churchill Downs tells me he loves this main track too.
Trainer Bob Baffert has already won the Triple Crown this year with Justify. But being a man to never rest on his laurels, he is hoping to upset the Classic with last year’s champion 3-year-old West Coast. Baffert is among the best trainers ever to pick a stakes race as a distant target and then hit the bull's-eye with a peak performance. West Coast was away for six months then ran a strong second in the Awesome Again Stakes to Classic favorite Accelerate. His training since has his fans salivating for a big race on Saturday.
Richard Eng is the author of “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies”, an introductory book for newcomers to the sport of horse racing. For two decades, he was the turf editor and handicapper for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He still handicaps the Southern California tracks and his picks are for sale at www.racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick and on Facebook.com.