What to Know About Championship Saturday Races at the Breeders’ Cup

Uni, shown winning the First Lady Stakes last month at Keeneland, will attempt to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile for the second year in a row on Nov. 7. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Nov. 7 is the day racing fans have been waiting for all year: Breeders’ Cup Championship Saturday! Day Two of racing’s All-Star weekend at Keeneland Race Course features nine championship events, headlined by the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic. That race will, as usual, go a long way to determining the Horse of the Year.

You can watch the Breeders’ Cup on the NBC Sports channels, beginning at noon ET. NBCSN has coverage from noon to 2:30 p.m., then the action flips to NBC until 6 p.m. Post time for the Longines Classic is 5:13 p.m. ET

Here’s a brief rundown of Saturday’s nine races. Check out my analysis of the Future Stars Friday Breeders' Cup races here.

Gamine (Eclipse Sportswire)

Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

Distance: Seven furlongs on dirt

Post time: 12:02 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/Place/Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Jackpot Super High-5, Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4

Background: First contested in 2007, the Filly and Mare Sprint will kick off the Saturday Breeders’ Cup action. It’s one furlong longer than its male counterpart, at seven-eighths of a mile. As such, closers have more of a fair shot in this race than they do in the Sprint, with an extra eighth of a mile to make their rally. In 13 runnings, no horse has taken the field gate-to-wire.

Three-year-olds have won back-to-back runnings, with Shamrock Rose winning in 2018 and Covfefe taking the title in 2019. Prior to those two, no 3-year-old had won this race. Covefe was also the first favorite to win this race since Judy the Beauty in 2014. In the four editions in between, every winner had gone off at 8.70-1 or more.

Favorites: This looks to be a small but select field, with nine horses likely to go postward. Gamine, for trainer Bob Baffert, looks like the favorite. She was uber-impressive in winning the Longines Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park in June, scoring by 18 ¾ lengths while going a mile in 1:32:55. She followed it up with a dominant win in the Longines Test Stakes at Saratoga. Stretching out to 1 ⅛ miles last out in the Longines Kentucky Oaks, she flattened out and finished third. Her backers are hoping the shorter distance on Saturday works to her favor.

A front-runner, Gamine will likely encounter lots of pace pressure on the front end. The most prominent pacesetter is Serengeti Empress, the winner of the 2019 Kentucky Oaks. She’s known for moving right to the lead and then trying to go as fast as she can, as far as she can. Last out, she lost the Derby City Distaff Stakes Presented by Derby City Gaming by a nose after setting a breathtaking pace.

Interesting Storylines: Inthemidstofbiz carries the “rags to riches” storyline in the field. She started her campaign competing in a $16,000 claiming race at Oaklawn Park, which was restricted to horses who had never won two races. No one claimed her out of that race, which she won by 3 ½ lengths, but they might have wanted to in retrospect. Since then, she’s won four races, including her last three in a row. Last out, she pulled off an upset win in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland. She would give trainer Cipriano Contreras his first Grade 1 win.

In addition to Gamine, there are a plethora of 3-year-old fillies in this race. They include Eight Belles Stakes Presented by Twinspires.com winner Sconsin, Central Bank Ashland Stakes winner Speech, and Lexus Raven Run Stakes winner Venetian Harbor. If any of them win, it would mark just the second time in Breeders’ Cup history that 3-year-olds won a race three straight years. The other time occurred between 2014-16, when Bayern, American Pharoah, and Arrogate won the Longines Classic.

Leinster (Coady Photography)

Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Distance: 5 ½ furlongs on turf

Post time: 12:39 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/Place/Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Jackpot Super High-5, Daily Double, Pick 3

Background: This race has a reputation as the most difficult race to handicap on Breeders’ Cup weekend. It often features a full gate and no clear-cut favorite. Although the favorite has won it five times in 12 runnings, no winner has gone off at less than 2.30-1. The biggest favorite in the race’s history, Lady Aurelia, was soundly defeated at 9-to-10 odds in 2017.

Favorites: This year’s favorite might be locally-based Leinster for trainer George Arnold. He’s won two stakes races this year, both of them at Keeneland. In his last start, he won the Woodford Stakes Presented by TVG by half a length, after a game stretch battle. He’s also seeking some redemption; he was seventh in last year’s Turf Sprint. 

Imprimis also figures to get some action, off a win in the Runhappy Turf Sprint Stakes at Kentucky Downs. He also crossed the wire first in the Troy Stakes, but was disqualified and placed third. 

No filly or mare has won this race since 2013, when Mizdirection won it for the second year in a row. Got Stormy looks to change that. The venerable mare, who finished second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile, comes in her off back-to-back stakes wins against female horses, most recently in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes at Keeneland. This will be her fourth start against males this year. She finished second in the Frank Kilroe Mile and the Fourstardave Stakes, and fourth in the Poker Stakes.

Interesting Storylines: Trainer Peter Miller has held a stranglehold over this race in recent years. He’s won it three years in a row, taking it with Stormy Liberal in 2017 and 2018 and Belvoir Bay last year. This year, he’ll send out Texas Wedge, most recently fourth in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico. If Texas Wedge wins, Miller will become the first trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race four years in a row.

No European-based horse has ever won this race, but few European entrants in this year’s running are as good as Glass Slippers. This filly won the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland, and has finished second in two other stakes races events this year.

California-based Big Runnuer is an interesting late bloomer. He didn’t race until late in his 4-year-old year, which is unusual for Thoroughbreds. He won his first start, and has also won his last three races, including two stakes races. Look for him to be prominent in the early pace.

Complexity (Joe Labozzetta/NYRA Photo)

Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

Distance: One mile on dirt

Post time: 1:18 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/Place/Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Jackpot Super High-5, Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4

Background: First contested in 2007, this race tends to attract horses not quite at the level of those in the Longines Classic, or sprinters who find the six furlongs of the Sprint too short. It’s been won by the favorite only twice, with heavy favorites Goldencents and Liam’s Map winning in 2014 and 2015, respectively. This race tends to favor horses with early speed. In the past eight years, horses who were on or near the pace have won seven times.

Favorites: Complexity, for trainer Chad Brown, looks like the prospective favorite. He was a strong second in the Forego Stakes Presented by America’s Best Racing at Saratoga, losing only after Win Win Win mounted a powerful closing rally. Last out, he stalked the pace and won the Kelso Handicap at Belmont going away. 

Interesting Storylines: Knicks Go’s most impressive races have come at Keeneland. As a 2-year-old, he pulled a shocking 70-1 upset in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity. On Oct. 4 at Keeneland, he set a track record for 1 1/16 miles on dirt, crushing an allowance field by 10 ¼ lengths in 1:40.79. He got an easy gate-to-wire trip in that race, and with a lot of quality speed in this race, it may be difficult for him to work out a similar trip. Still, he can’t be discounted off that big win.

2019 Preakness Stakes winner War of Will will race on dirt for the first time this year in this spot. Two starts back, he won the Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes at Keeneland on turf. If he wins Saturday, he’ll be just the third Preakness Stakes winner in the past 30 years to also win a Breeders’ Cup race. Curlin (2007) and American Pharoah (2015) are the other two. 

Janet Garaguso/NYRA Photo

Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf

Distance: 1 3/16 miles on turf

Post time: 1:57 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/Place/Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Jackpot Super High-5, Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 6

Background: This race will be run at the unique distance of 1 3/16 miles for just the second time; the first time was the last time it was at Keeneland, in 2015. European shippers have held the upper hand in the last few years, having won three of the last four runnings. There’s been at least one European in the top two in each of the last five runnings. The last American-based horse not trained by Chad Brown to win this race was Perfect Shirl, back in 2011.

Favorites: Like in past years, the Europeans have a prominent presence. Perhaps the most notable is Audarya, who won the Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet Stakes at Deauville in France two starts back. Last out, she was beaten just a length in the Group 1 Longines Prix de l’Opera Stakes. Peaceful, for Aiden O’Brien, won the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas earlier in the year, and hit the board in two more Group 1 events. 

Chad Brown has pre-entered three horses, and all of them figure to get some action. The likely favorite among this group is Rushing Fall, who has won three stakes on the year. Two of them were Grade 1s, including a narrow win over Mean Mary in the Diana Stakes at Saratoga. 

Veteran mare Starship Jubilee has had a fantastic campaign this year at age 7. She’s won five stakes races in 2020, and won the biggest race of her career last out, beating males in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile Stakes. Her only defeat on the year came in the Diana Stakes, where she fell too far behind the early pace on a speed-favoring course. She’s got a big shot to get her first Breeders’ Cup win in this spot.

Interesting Storylines: Another Brown entrant, Sistercharlie, won the Filly and Mare Turf in 2018, in the midst of a six-race winning streak. Her bid for a repeat win last year fell short, as she finished third, beaten 2 ½ lengths. She’ll try again for her second win in this race, and look to recover her best form. In two races this year, she’s finished third both times.

Civil Union, for trainer Shug McGaughey, looks to interrupt the dominance of Europeans and Brown. She’s won four races in a row, including three stakes in New York. This late-blooming 5-year-old didn’t break her maiden until she was three, and only cleared her non-winners-of-two condition in June. Hall of Famer McGaughey is seeking his first Breeders’ Cup win since Pleasant Home won the Distaff in 2005.

BENOIT photo

Breeders’ Cup Sprint

Distance: Six furlongs on dirt

Post time: 2:36 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/Place/Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Jackpot Super High-5, Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 5

Background: The first “original seven” race on Breeders’ Cup Saturday, this race will pit the country’s top sprinters against each other, in a three-quarter mile dash. In contrast to its female counterpart, speed does quite well in this race. Each of the last eight runnings have been won by a horse who was no further than 3 ½ lengths behind the lead at the opening quarter-mile marker. It’s also been a pretty formful race as of late. The last winner to go off at more than 4.90-1 was Work All Week, who surprised at odds of 19.10-1 in 2014.

Favorites: As noted earlier, Peter Miller’s had plenty of success in the Turf Sprint, but he’s done well in this race, too. He won it in back-to-back years with Roy H in 2017 and 2018, and he’ll look to win it again with C Z Rocket. This gelding has found his best self at age six, rattling off five wins in a row in Kentucky and California. He showed heart to win the Santa Anita Sprint Championship last out, getting up by a head after a stretch battle.

Vekoma has the talent to win this race, but he’ll need to shake off some rust. He won two Grade 1s at Belmont Park earlier in the year, taking the Runhappy Carter Handicap and the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap in impressive style. George Weaver has elected to sit chilly with his colt, and the Breeders’ Cup will be his first start since July 4. It’ll also be Vekoma’s third start in the past 12 months. Can he get it done despite the long break?

Interesting Storylines: It’s been 25 years since a filly or mare won the Sprint, when Desert Stormer upset the field in 1995. The brilliantly fast filly Frank’s Rockette will seek to change that. She’s won five times from six starts on the year, with four stakes wins. She drew away impressively from a field of fellow 3-year-olds in the Prioress Stakes, then crushed her elders in the Gallant Bloom Handicap. Although she’s also pre-entered in the Filly and Mare Sprint, trainer Bill Mott has indicated that he’s leaning towards this spot. She’d be just the second 3-year-old filly to win this race. The first, Very Subtle, pulled the upset over heavy favorite Groovy in 1987.

Steve Asmussen won this race last year with Mitole, and it looked like he’d have the favorite again this year. Volatile won two stakes this year, looking brilliant both times. Unfortunately, he was retired before the Breeders’ Cup, but Asmussen will have three chances to get another Sprint score. Nashville has only raced twice, but he’s looked very good in both of those starts. He won them by a combined 21 ¼ lengths, while being geared down in the stretch. If he wins this race, he’d be the first horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race for older horses without having competed in a stakes race before.

Asmussen sends out two other 3-year-olds here. Echo Town won the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes Presented by Runhappy at Saratoga in August with a strong rally from behind. Most recently, he was third in the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland. Yaupon is another undefeated 3-year-old, bringing a perfect 4-for-4 record into the Breeders’ Cup. He’s won two stakes races: the Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga, and the Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico.

Uni (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF

Distance: One mile on turf

Post time: 3:15 p.m.

Wagering Menu: Win/Place/Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Jackpot Super High-5, Daily Double, Pick 3, Pick 4

Background: This race is usually considered among the toughest to analyze on Breeders’ Cup weekend. Once a showcase for Europe’s top horses, the race has taken on a decidedly American flavor in recent years. Since Goldikova’s three-peat from 2008-2010, only two European-based horses have won this race.

Favorites: Among the European invaders, Circus Maximus looms largest. He won the prestigious Queen Anne Stakes, the traditional kickoff race of the Royal Ascot meet. Since then, he’s finished second or third in three Group 1 races in Europe. He’s seeking a rebound off a disappointing effort in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last out. Aiden O’Brien has won 12 Breeders’ Cup races, but he’s never won the Mile.

A pair of European 3-year-olds also look like they have a big chance. Kameko won the Qipco English 2,000 Guineas earlier in the year, and is coming off a win in the Group 2 Shadwell Joel Stakes. Siskin is this year’s Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas champion, and placed in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes against older horses. 

Interesting Storylines: The American answer to O’Brien, Chad Brown, will send out three horses. One of them, Uni, is seeking her second win in the Mile after a come-from-behind win last year. She prepped for this race with a sharp win in the First Lady Stakes at Keeneland Presented by UK HealthCare. Uni would be the fifth horse to win the Mile multiple times, joining Miesque, Lure, Da Hoss, and Goldikova. 

Brown also has Digital Age, the recent winner of the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs, and Raging Bull, most recently second in the Shadwell Turf Mile. Both of them are stone-cold closers, and there’s a lot of speed horses in the field. If the pace melts down, those two could take full advantage.

Swiss Skydiver (Coady Photography)

Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Distance: 1 1/8 miles on dirt

Post time: 3:54 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/Place/Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Jackpot Super High-5, Daily Double, Pick 3

Background: This race is the equivalent of the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic for fillies and mares. The Distaff winner has gone on to be an Eclipse Award champion in seven of the past ten years. Last year’s renewal saw an upset, with 8.90-1 Blue Prize defeating heavy favorite Midnight Bisou.

Favorites: There was lots of speculation about if Preakness Stakes winner Swiss Skydiver would tackle the boys once again in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but trainer Kenny McPeek has made the decision a few days ago to race her in the Distaff. Off her gutsy win in the Preakness, where she battled with Derby winner Authentic down the stretch, she looks like the prospective favorite. She’s won four other stakes races on the year, and was second in the Longines Kentucky Oaks.

Her chief rival figures to be Monomoy Girl, who won this race in 2018. After missing all of 2019, she’s bounced back nicely in 2020. She won the Ruffian Stakes at Belmont Park and the La Troienne Stakes Presented by Oak Grove Racing and Gaming at Churchill Downs, with minimal opposition each time. She has not been tested all year, and will have to face a stalwart field to win her second Distaff. She is coming in a lot fresher than her main rival; this is just her fourth start of the year. Swiss Skydiver, meanwhile, has already raced nine times this season.

Interesting Storylines: Bill Mott has won the Distaff five times, and he’ll have a chance to win a sixth in 2020. Horologist, a New Jersey-bred mare, is coming off a victory in the Beldame Invitational Stakes at Belmont. She was also an impressive winner in the Molly Pitcher Stakes at Monmouth Park. If Horologist wins the Distaff, she’ll be just the second Jersey-bred to win a Breeders’ Cup race, joining Open Mind in the 1988 Juvenile Fillies. 

Magical (Leopardstown Racecourse Photo)

Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf

Distance: 1 ½ miles on turf

Post time: 4:33 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/Place/Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Jackpot Super High-5, Daily Double

The co-feature of Breeders’ Cup Saturday drew a competitive field of top European and American grass horses. There’s an unusually large number of fillies and mares in this year’s running, with as many as four set to go postward. Four female horses have won the Turf; the most recent one was Enable in 2018.

Favorites: Top European trainers Aiden O’Brien and John Gosden each have a pair here. O’Brien will send out Magical, a two-time Group 1 winner this year, along with Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris Stakes winner Mogul. Mogul is looking to become the first 3-year-old to win this race since Magician, in 2013. Magical finished second to Gosden-trained Enable in 2018.

Lord North looks like the top contender from the Gosden barn. He won the prestigious Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. He’ll seek a rebound off a disappointing tenth-place finish in the Champion Stakes last out. 

However, it’s possible neither O’Brien nor Gosden have the top European. Tarnawa, for trainer Dermot Weld, has won back-to-back group 1 events in France. She handily won the Prix Vermielle two back, then won the Prix de l’Opera by a neck.

Interesting Storylines: O’Brien has already won the Turf six times. If he wins this year, he’ll become the first trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race seven times.

Another European shipper, Donjah, won the Preis von Europa Stakes at Cologne Racecourse in Germany earlier this year. He’d be the second German-bred to win the Turf, joining Shirocco in 2005.

Tiz the Law (Eclipse Sportswire)

Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic

Distance: 1 ¼ miles on dirt

Post time: 5:13 p.m. ET

Wagering Menu: Win/Place/Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta, Jackpot Super High-5

Background: This is the showcase event of the Breeders’ Cup, featuring the country’s top long-distance horses. Historically, the race has gone a long way to determining who wins Horse of the Year, but that has not been the case in recent years. Of the past ten Classic winners, only two, American Pharoah in 2015 and Gun Runner in 2017, went on to win Horse of the Year. This year will probably be different, however. The top contenders all have serious cases for the year-end hardware. Barring a big upset, the winner of this race will likely be crowned the champion of American racing.

Favorites: The top two finishers in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve will get lots of attention in the betting. Going into the Derby, Tiz the Law was the heavy favorite, off big wins in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and Runhappy Travers Stakes. However, TVG.com Haskell Stakes winner Authentic set the pace in the Derby and held on to win by 1 ¼ lengths. Tiz the Law has been freshened since then, while Authentic lost the Preakness by a neck to Swiss Skydiver. Whoever finishes ahead of the other will likely be crowned as champion 3-year-old male.

Authentic is part of a strong contingent for trainer Bob Baffert, who is seeking his fourth Classic win. Improbable has won three Grade 1s this year, most recently taking the Awesome Again Stakes. Stablemate Maximum Security was second in that race, and has won three of four starts this year, including the lucrative Saudi Cup overseas and the TVG Pacific Classic.

Interesting Storylines: Seven-year-old Tom’s d’Etat is seeking redemption in the Longines Classic. He was one of the frontrunners in the Horse of the Year race going into the Whitney Stakes. He could not recover from a bad start, and finished third behind Improbable and Longines Classic entrant By My Standards. This will be his first start since the Whitney, and he could still make himself into a Horse of the Year contender with a Classic win. 

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!