Native Dancer: The Nearly Perfect Grey Ghost of Sagamore
Part of the allure of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships every year is picking out a horse few others saw as a serious contender and watching him or her surprise everyone in the stretch.
When you have 14 championship races that draw the best horses from around the world, the result is deep, talented field throughout the entire card, which happens to be a terrific recipe for longshot winners. That’s why on Breeders’ Cup weekend you can bet a horse at 12-1 or 15-1 or even 25-1 odds and still put your money on a graded stakes winner in good form.
Finding value also happens to be a key tenet to basic handicapping. You want to bet horses that you think have a better chance to win than their odds indicate, which is called an overlay (see our primer on common gambling terms). Conversely, in general you want to avoid picking a horse to win who you thought offered value at say 6-1 and might even be bettable at 9-2 if he or she is bet down to 2-1 or 5-2, which is called an underlay.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of horses entered in the Breeders’ Cup that I believe will outrun their odds on Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland Race Course.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (2:30 p.m. ET)
Ubettabelieveit (20-1 morning-line odds)
Wesley Ward has four 2-year-olds entered in this race, plus three additional entrants on the also-eligible list who would need defections to get into the race. Ward’s Golden Pal is the heavy morning-line favorite at 8-5 odds, while several others will warrant respect. Aidan O’Brien runners also tend to be bet heavily so I’d expect Lipizzaner to be much lower than his 20-1 odds, and because of that I think both Mighty Gurkha and Ubettabelieveit could offer value as European shippers with upside. Ubettabelieveit was eased in one of his five starts, but ran well in the other four and he was really game in winning the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes Sept. 11 at Doncaster. He looks like he prefers firm ground and should get that at Keeneland, and I expect him to be a solid value in the range of 20-1 on the tote board.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Presented by Coolmore America (3:10 p.m. ET)
New Mandate (12-1 odds)/Go Athletico (10-1 odds)
The Europeans bring over a powerful contingent for this race, including highly regarded Sealiway and Cadillac and improving Aidan O’Brien runner Battleground. I was really surprised at the generous morning-line odds for all three and expect them to be lower on race day, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on Battleground and the others on the tote board.
Another European who should provide even more value is New Mandate, who has won three straight for Ralph Beckett (1-for-5 at Breeders’ Cup). New Mandate, with top European rider Frankie Dettori aboard, has the explosive turn of foot you like to see in young turf runners and he has a win at this distance.
I also am interested to see near post time the price on Go Athletico, who defeated Sealiway in the Group 3 Prix la Rochette and most recently finished second by three-quarters of a length in an Oct. 10 Group 2 on heavy turf in France. He’s never finished worse than second and never lost a race by more than a length in five starts.
TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (5:10 p.m. ET)
Rombauer (15-1 odds)/ Keepmeinmind (30-1 odds)
I’m a believer in Jackie’s Warrior, but strange things can and do happen in the Juvenile … you only have to look to last year as a reminder when Storm the Court won at 45.90-1 after 9-10 favorite Dennis’ Moment stumbled out of the starting gate. So while I think Jackie’s Warrior is the most likely winner by a fairly wide margin, I’m going to place a win bet on Rombauer and try to pair the two in an exacta. Rombauer will need to improve in the Juvenile but he is coming out of a runner-up finish, beaten by three-quarters of a length, in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes Sept. 26 at Santa Anita. A closer who started his career on the grass with a win and an unplaced finish in a stakes, Rombauer could improve in his second start on dirt for Mike McCarthy, who won the Dirt Mile in 2018 with City of Light.
Another option to spice up exotics is Keepmeinmind. Although he is still looking for his first win, he’s Grade 1-placed in a two-turn race, does his best running from off the pace, and could surprise at 30-1 odds on the morning line. I plan to use him on exacta and trifecta tickets.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (12:39 p.m. ET)
Bombard (15-1 odds)
This race has produced the highest average win payout of $24.93 from all of the World Championships races, so it’s worth spending extra time looking for a big price. I’m going to go against the grain here – I usually prefer runners coming from off the pace on the Keeneland grass – and try a Southern California shipper that I think could take control early and lead a long way for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. The 7-year-old gelding has finished first or second in 10 of his 15 starts on grass and his hiccups have generally occurred when stretching out to a mile. Bombard has been very effective in sprints and I think the race shape could set up ideally for him because he’s got some stamina if he can get to the front or settle in second.
Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (1:18 p.m. ET)
Art Collector (6-1 odds)
I would not classify this as a longshot but rather a value play I REALLY like and wanted to include. Much of the talent pre-entered in this race opted for other races like the Longines Classic or the Sprint, and I’m not really all that enthused about the older runners in here, who are fine but there’s nobody who would scare you. So, I opted to take a shot on 3-year-old Art Collector to bounce back from a fourth-place finish, beaten by 10 lengths, in the Preakness Stakes. He had some minor injuries that kept him out of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, so my guess is we simply might not have seen the best version of this Bernardini colt. Prior to the Preakness, he had finished first by open lengths in five straight races, including a dominant win over Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. I love Art Collector and I’m hoping he might drift up to double-digit odds.
Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (1:57 p.m. ET)
Terebellum (20-1 odds)/Civil Union (12-1 odds)
I strongly believe that Terebellum is significantly better than her 20-1 odds on the morning line. She won a Group 2 race at 1 ¼ miles on firm turf back in June and has gotten good to soft, soft, and heavy ground in her three most recent races. In two of those, she was beaten by less than a length in a Group 1 at a mile, and most recently (on heavy turf) faded to fifth, beaten by 3 ½ lengths in a Group 1. I believe the added distance and firmer ground will play more to her strengths. Trainer John Gosden previously was based in the U.S. and knows which horses to bring over with five wins and 10 top-three finishes from 36 starters.
The competition Civil Union will face in the Breeders’ Cup is significantly better than the six fillies and mares she defeated in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes, but you could do much worse than a 12-1 winner of four straight from the barn of Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. She has some serious closing speed, finishing with a final quarter-mile in 22.77 seconds according to Trakus data in the Flower Bowl, and that’s always been her calling card. Is she fast enough to finish with the elite Euros coming over for this race? Perhaps not, that’s why she’s a longshot, but I’ll bet she drifts up near 20-1 and at that price I’m willing to pay to find out.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint (2:36 p.m. ET)
Collusion Illusion (20-1 odds)
Three-year-olds have performed well over the years in the Sprint, having won 30% of the last 20 editions. Collusion Illusion has two wins and a third in three starts since June, including a win in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes in August. With a 116 Equibase Speed Figure for the Bing Crosby and a 115 for his third, beaten by 1 ¼ lengths, in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes, the Twirling Candy colt is fast enough to win, especially if he can take a small step forward with six weeks rest entering his eighth career start. He already has a Grade 1 win on his résumé and tactically he can stalk or press the pace.
FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF (3:15 p.m. ET)
Safe Voyage (15-1 odds)
Let me start this off by saying that I was stunned by the morning-line odds here, especially Irish Two Thousand Guineas winner Siskin at 15-1 and Digital Age at 8-1. I thought they would be flip-flopped and planned to make Digital Age my longshot play here, but alas I went looking for higher odds for this post since I already used my “value” play on Art Collector. If Digital Age is closer to 12-1, I plan to play him to win and I’ll use him on top with 6-1 English Two Thousand Guineas winner Kameko in exacta and trifecta tickets regardless.
Safe Voyage is an Irish-bred multiple Group 2 winner who has been very good this year as a 7-year-old. His last five starts include three stakes wins and a third on heavy ground. He’s won a pair of Group 2 races and most recently finished third by a neck to Mile contender One Master in the Group 1 Qatar Prix de la Foret on heavy turf. He’s fast enough to stalk and was ultra-game in victory in Group 2 Boomerang Mile Sept. 12 at Leopardstown. I’m not a huge fan of European sprinters stretching out in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but I like what I see from Safe Voyage and we should get great value.
Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (5:13 p.m. ET)
By My Standards (10-1 odds)
With a record of four wins and two seconds in six starts this year, By My Standards is about as consistent as you’ll find for a 12-1 longshot. He earned a career-top 118 Equibase Speed Figure for his second to Improbable in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes. This 4-year-old has tactical speed, enters off a Grade 2 win in the Alysheba Stakes Presented by Sentient Jet, and has run only one bad race in his entire career, which came in his lone start on a sloppy track. Not sure if he’s quite fast enough to win, but I expect him to run well and be in with a shot in early stretch.