Breeders Cup Picks and Analysis Thread

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Wed Nov 08, 2017 4:04 pm

Kennedy wrote:One of the ways I like to analyze races is simply determine how fast each entrant is at the relative distance and surface. I take Beyer, BRIS and the DRF speed rating and average them out to come up with a single rating.

The top ranked horse wins a BC race about 21% of the time since 2002 which is a bit below the average rate over thousands of "regular" races which sees the top ranked horse win around 28% of the time. The reason for this is most assuredly the high percentage of Europeans that come over for the races but rarely have applicable or measurable speed by the system. It's not something you get on a really continual basis throughout the year.

Still here are the top ranked horses this year

Juvenile Fillies Turf - Rushing Fall
Dirt Mile - Sharp Azteca
Juvenile Turf - Voting Control
Distaff - Stellar Wind
Juvenile Fillies - Moonshine Memories
Turf Sprint - Disco Partner
FM Sprint - Finley'sluckycharm
FM Turf - Lady Eli
Sprint - Roy H
Mile - World Approval
Juvenile - Bolt D'Oro
Turf - Highland Reel
Classic - Gun Runner
Top ranked KSR horses went 13-4-1-4 and returned $34 (30.7% profit) Definitely better than my own personal selections.

Bar of Gold and Battle of Midway were the only winners to earn a rating and be ranked "too slow" to win. All other winners were either Europeans with no rating or were rated as "fast enough" to win.
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Wed Nov 08, 2017 7:23 pm

Kennedy wrote:
Perfect Qualifiers this year are

Juvenile Fillies Turf - Happily/Juliet Capulet/Rushing Fall/Significant Form
Dirt Mile - Sharp Azteca/Mor Spirit
Juvenile Turf - Masar/My Boy Jack/Snapper Sinclair/Untamed Domain
Distaff - Abel Tasman/Elate/Romantic Vision/Stellar Wind
Juvenile Fillies - Moonshine Memories/Alluring Star/Caledonia Road/Separationofpowers/Heavenly Love
Turf Sprint - Hogy/Pure Sensation/Marsha
FM Sprint - By the Moon/Highway Star
FM Turf - Lady Eli/Dacita/Rhododendron/Birdie Gold
Sprint - Roy H/Drefong/Imperial Hint
Mile - World Approval/Heart to Heart
Juvenile - Bolt D'Oro
Turf - Beach Patrol/Itsinthepost/Seventh Heaven
Classic - Gun Runner/Arrogate/Collected

So 40 qualifiers over 11 races. It would cost you $80. We'll see how it works out.
40 qualifiers, 11 races, 5 winners and a $9.40 loss (11.8%)
The overall record of perfect qualifiers was 40-5-8-1.

Sharp Azteca, Untamed Domain, Abel Tasman, Beach Patrol and Rhododendron all finished second as "perfect qualifiers" while losing to a horse that wasn't. It feels like just a touch of racing luck could have turned a losing meet into a winning one but the numbers don't lie.
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Wed Nov 08, 2017 7:46 pm

How the heck did Jay Privman find 6 winners out of that mess?

I don't think I could have managed that if picking at the sixteenth pole
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Thu Nov 09, 2017 11:31 am

Kennedy wrote:Juvenile Fillies Turf
It’ll be interesting to see how the public reacts to Rushing Fall against the really strong European representation in this race. Obviously Rushing Fall looks like a fantastic option and it can’t be a shock to anyone if she sweeps by them all. Personally though I wonder if she might be one who falls victim to the full field and the tighter track. It’s interesting that many trainers recently have commented that this course favors the come from behinders but I don’t really see that at Del Mar. I feel like we see this all the time with an impressive late runner from Keeneland taking a lot of money but Somali Lemonade, Winter Memories, Harmonize all came up short. I much prefer someone who is going to able to get first run on the speed which should present a fair pace for the race. Among the home side I really feel like Orbolution might be the best representative from the stalking style group. I thought she was fantastic at Saratoga and I think her effort in the Miss Grillo was just a bit rough and maybe she looked a bit exposed in the lane. She still made a handy move but couldn’t sustain a drive while kind of getting pinched a touch in between horses. I don’t want to make too much of it but I do think she could improve and her latest work on turf which seems to stand in significant contrast to other works might point to a top effort coming.
Still the European challenge has to be inspected and respected. I think it’s rather striking that Aiden O’Brien has done so poorly with his fillies in this race. In fact for all his dominance at the Breeders’ Cup Found is the only filly he has ever won a race with. He’s started 27 fillies and had just the 1 win and that was actually against the boys. This race in particular has never been won by the best backed European. Now far be it from me to say that Aiden O’Brien couldn’t train the winner of a female turf race but perhaps there is something in the type he chooses to bring? He often has one of these big Galileo fillies and Happily fits that mold. I’m surprised she’s here because she looks every inch an Oaks winner who is going to out gallop her foes on testing tracks. I don’t see her as the quick filly with a turn of foot to hit holes. I don’t think she drops right out of the back but can she pick her way through a crowd around tight turns? September looks as though she can although she has a propensity to drop a long way out of it. She’s quick a bit smaller and shorter coupled. If someone flies through the straight to nail them all I feel like it’ll be September maybe even more so than Rushing Fall.
I think that Juliet Capulet has really caught my eye. She’s a very handy horse and has more speed than is typical. I feel like on a real staying track she’d be exposed at a mile but around two turns she might be the perfect horse….However I also looked back through my selections for this race (where I am 0 for 9 by the way) and it seems like I have a particular weakness for this kind of horse. I so often look for the speedy/handy European with good quickness and the results never bear out. So I’m sticking with Orbolution for Pletcher and hoping that the home team extend their dominance. The late runners scare me but I hope she can have just enough.

Rushing Fall
The Post Mortem begins...

Obviously you don't get any credit for getting it wrong but I think I had a decent line on one thing....How to play the O'Brien challenge. Happily was not the horse for this course and September was live but was going to have so much to do.

I think the main thing I missed here was the ability of Rushing Fall to be a bit more tactical than she was in her first two. She got a good ride to be closer, at the key point of the race so that in the stretch she could really just show off her quality. She fit my profiles, she was the fastest on my figures chart and even held the second largest "speed" advantage over the rest of the field. She was the logical play that I simply chose to go against for tactics.

While Orbolution both didn't work out a trip and perhaps wasn't good enough I think it's interesting to note that of all the non-sprint turf winners of the Breeders Cup Rushing Fall was the only one who profiled as the one run closer. Mendelssohn, Wuheida, World Approval and Talismanic all sat the sort of "close stalking" trips that I envisioned out of Orbolution. Given that so many results seem to come out of left field I'm not sure how bad I should feel about chasing a price in a spot where the running style probably was the most likely for success.
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Thu Nov 09, 2017 11:53 am

Kennedy wrote: Dirt Mile
Every way I look at this race I keep on coming back to 2 horses. Sharp Azteca and Mor Spirit. It would likely surprise no one that I think these are the two best in the race. In terms of speed and class I just think they are a pretty awesome pairing. However I also have some real doubts over Mor Spirit and this layoff. I know Bob is the master but when he came off a similar layoff between the Derby and the Malibu he came back rank and out of sorts. Ironically he faced Sharp Azteca that day as well but I just feel like he isn’t positioned to fire his best shot despite his quality and ability. Sharp Azteca on the other hand has gone from strength to strength and should likely be the favorite. With Midnight Storm out I think he’s the controlling speed and they’re going to have trouble reeling him in. Gato Del Oro may provide some pressure but Sharp Azteca should burn him off pretty early.
So is it just that simple? He goes to the front and no one can catch him? Obviously alternate scenarios always need to be considered.
I think the 3 year olds need to be considered and Practical Joke may be the higher profile entrant but I want to keep Battle of Midway on my radar. I think he is better suited to two turns than Practical Joke and has a nice win over the track, in fact it is his career best performance. He needs to improve to mix it with this salty group of older horses but I think it’s within his scope.
Accelerate was a horse that at one time I thought might be a sneaky play for the Classic so he definitely has to be given a shout in this race. My only issue with him is that he looks likely to take a minor placing. He was very much like Battle of Midway in profile when he ran so well in this race last year. But I do wonder if he can run down a good horse like Sharp Azteca.
I’m not a big Cupid fan, I feel like he can run well but he’s just not for me.
For an absolute bomb I would consider Iron Fist. I know it’s a stretch but he has some decent form over the track, he’s got to be doing well in the confidence department after winning 3 of his last 4. It struck me that few horses could have had a tougher start to their career. In his first 3 starts he faced American Pharoah, Om, Calculator and Lord Nelson all while still a maiden! Since that start he has hardly rubbed shoulders with the top tier but has quietly assembled a decent resume. I like that he is 5 for 7 at a mile and 3 for 15 at all other distances and surfaces. All of his 8f wins came around two turns. Perhaps a sneaky beneficiary of a fast pace?

Sharp Azteca
Battle of Midway
When they hit the wire my initial reaction was that I had the right pieces in the wrong order. I was not really surprised that Battle of Midway won, I certainly expected him to run well but during the actual running of the race I was surprised that they didn't use Sharp Azteca's speed more. It's almost as if they wanted to be cautious with his speed instead of letting him roll. I think that lack of aggression cost him the race.

At one level I feel like some of the bravery I had with Orbolution maybe should have translated into taking a horse like Battle of Midway here as my primary but it is hard to walk away from lone speed.

Accelerate, along with everyone else from the Sadler barn, was an absolute disaster and just didn't run a step.
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Thu Nov 09, 2017 12:07 pm

Kennedy wrote:Juvenile Turf
In the pre-entries it looked like O’Brien would have the two favorites for this race and now when the race is drawn he’s a bit of a footnote. The Europeans have had a lot more success in this race than they have in the filly version and they look string again here. Although it feels like there is a bit of quantity over quality this year. It’s hard to get excited about any member of the home team as well. It seems to be a pretty ordinary group. Reading the Europeans is made quite difficult by the fact that there seems to have been a ton of wet weather in Europe this year which I think obscures the form given that we’re going to have pretty dry hot weather and the track should be very firm. So I feel like it’s a wide open race with limited quality and much of the true form is obscured. It’s safe to say I’d spread in this race and won’t really be shocked by anyone. So who can you take if you could take anyone? For me it’s about finding one or more that you are most comfortable with. Since I like to boil my thoughts down to a single horse, these races are tough but I don’t think speed figures are particularly meaningful for this field. I do like statistical profiles and they can help but I find myself leaning towards a horse that lies a bit outside the traditional mold. He may go off at a price as well since he doesn’t come from a big barn and missed the frame last time out but Beckford has really won me over. I like his running style and the fact that he seems to try really hard. He was only 5th last time out but I think a few things were against him. For one it was a race where the forwardly placed horses really dominated. He looked like he struggled to really get into gear on the ground and really had to fight for it. With about 100 yards to go it looked like he could be 10th then almost unbelievably he grinds his way past half the field to be 5th. It could be a camera trick but I think he did really well to finish where he did. Some may look at the fact that he was favored as a stroke against him given that he failed but I prefer to see it as a mark of his quality that he was favored over US Navy Flag and the others. I think he’s a tough and honest horse who should be coming with a rush and will improve over firm ground. Another horse I really like is Masar. He seems a little more upper crust to Beckford’s blue collar. His form lines are interestingly intertwined with Happily and September who will be running two races earlier but I think my respect for him won’t lead me to select him. I am just a little wary of the fact that it may be too little too late for him.
From the home side I really like the progression of My Boy Jack. Almost never would I advocate a Californian turf juvenile but Desormeaux is quite good at getting his juveniles to progress despite asking a lot of them and I think My Boy Jack finally put things together after a frustrating run of second place finishes. I think lead changes was his issue and he seems to have sorted that out. He’s another late runner but I think he has real potential and is a must use in exotics.
A more on the pace play that I’d want to use is Snapper Sinclair. Asmussen is not really thought of as a turf trainer but he’s done really well with his BC runners on the grass. Seems to always get a good run out of them. Snapper came west nearly a month ago to prepare for this race and incredibly worked a bullet which is a rare occurrence in the barn. The Asmussen style is slow works and it seems like only his real stars ever deviate from that. Snapper Sinclair may not have gone after any of the bigger races in the division but he did chase the money in a 350k stake at KD. I thought he struggled a bit over the European styled course with it’s many undulations and he had problems with his leads in the stretch but he won and I think it was only around 2 lengths because he was struggling. He looked much more comfortable at Saratoga then they brought him to SA and he fires a bullet on the turf in a work. I think he’s set to punch above his weight. No surprise at all if he gets it done.

My Boy Jack
Snapper Sinclair
I was completely off track in this race. Beckford actually did have some run but was given an impossible task when he was allowed to basically drop off the back of this field. My other selections were basically just outclassed. I like to think that they were not as unreasonable on paper as some of the horses who wound up winning but they just weren't good enough to work anything out.

I find that I often get O'Brien juveniles wrong in Breeders' Cup races and I think it's because most of his winners have a sullied record of some kind. Mendelssohn was an absolute disaster in half of his races and his main accomplishment was running second at 50/1 but clearly O'Brien knew there was some quality in there. George Vancouver had a similar up and down campaign and I think the lesson here is that male juveniles from this barn are live even if they have some spotty form.

I think it would be hard to take this horse if you knew he was the favorite but he won and looked a shade comfortable doing it.

Lesson learned - Don't ignore O'Brien and you should probably include the best Chad Brown entrant as well. That guy isn't too bad.
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Thu Nov 09, 2017 12:55 pm

Kennedy wrote: Distaff
In 21 runnings of this race my primary pick has won just once but has run second 8 times. I’ve almost resigned to the fact that despite my best efforts whoever I pick will just run second. So who is the lucky bridesmaid nominee this year? I think the safe choice is Stellar Wind. Fastest horse in the race, most wins over the track, highest career winning percentage, greatest number of G-1 wins. Her case really adds up but one thing I have against her. She lost her three biggest tests to date. Twice she has failed in this race and was flat in the KY Oaks. Can she not put it together on a big day? In her “normal” races she has almost become a match race specialist, one who despite having a seeming propensity for running late has found a way to really engage lone speed horses and grind past them. Maybe they get away from that style too much in big events hoping that others take on the role of keeping the pace honest. I feel like the withdrawal of It Tiz Well means that Paradise Woods has a major chance of stealing this race and someone needs to keep her honest. If it’s not Stellar Wind it may not be anybody in here even though I have a ton of respect for Elate. I think Elate isn’t quick enough to get in front or put real pressure on Paradise Woods despite being a far better finisher. She might need the help of someone to really make sure the pace comes back to her. I think nothing would thrill me more than seeing Elate vs Stellar Wind down the lane duking it out. I usually get the order of finish wrong but I see Stellar Wind prevailing this time.

Stellar Wind
Paradise Woods
So when watching this race "live" I jumped off Stellar Wind and onto Paradise Woods. Neither call actually worked out but given how badly the Sadler horses did I think it was a poor choice to hitch to that wagon to begin with. I think some warnings signs were there with this being her last race and the 0 for 3 record in big events plus her record in 9f races matches her "big event" record.

Lesson learned - Don't confuse the safe choice with a lack of imagination. Objectively I think I settled into Stellar Wind and while she had a good case on paper there were enough questions to make you really consider other options I just didn't take them. It feels like a lazy pick in retrospect. I feel Like Forever Unbridled is a hard type of horse for me to pick. Very lightly campaigned this year and her victory over Songbird is likely the main pointer on her upside potential but then with Songbird being retired shortly after it took some gloss off in my eye. I think the way to really get behind Forever Unbridled here was to put a lot of stock in the Personal Ensign performance.

Maybe the angle for myself would have been to really question the "speed ratings" represented in the race. 4 horses came out as fast enough and they ranked in this order.

Stellar Wind
Forever Unbridled
Abel Tasman
Paradise Woods

If you make the call to see beyond Stellar Wind all the rest would have been easy to feel good about taking after the fact.
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Fri Nov 10, 2017 9:56 am

Kennedy wrote:Juvenile Fillies
I feel like I gravitate towards being a contrarian. I always want to question mainstream thought. It makes me oddly biased towards horses who have lost their last race instead of sometimes simply accepting that the winner might be the best. I bring this up to say that I feel like I’ve gone full circle on Moonshine Memories over the course of her career. As she has been winning I have definitely been in the camp of those who thought that she is not really a two turn filly. Not a true stayer and that someone else will emerge and really take the mantle in this division. But now I find myself asking if that’s simply reading too much into a race where there may be few other quality options. She doesn’t have to be next year’s Distaff winner in order to win this race and she looks ideally suited to win this race. I feel about her like I felt about Nyquist except instead of avoiding Nyquist this time I’m taking them! Heavenly love looks like the main danger but Moonshine really does have a home track advantage here I feel. She is so athletic and professional I think she’ll be too much for the emerging class of Heavenly Love. I know this race often descends into the depths and the winner comes from an almost unplayable place on paper so you need to be prepared for that. I think the oddball horse in this race that I like is Gio Game. Meant for the turf she took a huge jump when going two turns on the main track. Separationofpowers looks vulnerable to m. She looks like a one turn horse she’s got the bad post, her action is pretty wild, it looks like limbs are flying all over the place and I just don’t see her getting better going longer. I feel like Caledonia Road is a bit of a sucker horse and she’s already had her big moment in a top race. Alluring Star may be the only one I see as a legitimate threat to Moonshine and Heavenly Love

Moonshine Memories
Heavenly Love
Gio Game
I feel like I got suckered because Moonshine Memories is the type of horse I usually go against but I decided to overlook that and take her. Turned out to be a terrible call. It's interesting to me that Caledonia Road and Alluring Star were nearly an exact mirroring of the horses who took the juvenile with Good Magic and Solomini. Almost the only difference is that Good Magic failed to win his first start while the other 3 did. But clearly the profile to back this year was the 2 start improver who failed to win their last while running sharply.

As for Caledonia Road herself I think there were signs there that you could choose to believe. The fact that it was her first try at two turns and her first time on a fast track I think could either cause you skepticism or convince you that the talent there really hadn't had a chance to shine. I wish I had been in the latter crowd.

From a statistical perspective Caledonia Road ticked all the right boxes and was among the fast enough crowd despite having a fairly low BSF for her maiden. Perhaps the pointer here is that she had the highest avg BRIS speed figure in the entire race, second for BRIS avg was Blonde Bomber who filled out the trifecta at 30/1.

Lesson learned - Keep a better watch out for reasons to be optimistic about horses at prices. Juveniles can improve quickly.
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Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:11 am

Kennedy wrote: Turf Sprint
Many people seem to think that this race runs through the two fillies, Lady Aurelia and Marsha. Personally I think it runs through Christophe Clement so I’m starting there. Disco Partner and Pure Sensation are the two best horses in the race when at their best and the fillies won’t be able to handle them. But for Disco Partner the trip makes me nervous and for Pure Sensation….he just makes me nervous. I’ve selected him 3 times in his career and he’s lost every time. I’ve picked against him once twice and he beat me on one of those occasions. He’s a good horse that I just can’t wrangle. I think, despite him looking “perfect” in my profiles that I’m going to oppose him once again. I think his best race is amazing but he’s really only been at that elite level once in 5 starts this year and I don’t trust him enough to work out a good trip. I think he ideally wants a fast pace where he isn’t setting the pace and I’m not sure he’ll get that here. Disco Partner is a fearsome little rocket and it’s hard for me to envision this race without him bearing down hard on the leaders late. But can he get there? I personally think that the pace will be moderate for this level and the distance is short. I feel like he is a must use in multi-race wagers because he is the best horse that is likely to run really well but I think I might go against him.
I’m feeling the lure of the unsung horses in this event. We’ve had 3 Turf Sprints not at Santa Anita and the winners were Mongolian Saturday, Chamberlain Bridge and Regally Ready. Regally Ready was tepid favorite in a race devoid of quality but the minor placing went to Country Day and Perfect Officer. Not flashy or accomplished horses just kind of regular horses who could have good days. I feel like these 5f events really lend themselves to that so horses like Hogy and Richard’s Boy come into my thinking as good “types” to affect the race.
One note on the female entrants, I’m generally bearish on the quality of European sprinters. They aren’t that good and I feel that they are behind the international standard even of countries like Australia and Hong Kong. Generally they’re just too slow early and can’t really get going on our courses. I know some horses adapt and do run well here but I’m not taking a short price on the prospect. Lady Aurelia’s career has been fun to follow but her reputation is based on her ability to outfoot a division of horses known for being slow early. I don’t think she waltzes into this race with any kind of edge in quality. She’s a 3yo filly who’s never faced a decent sprinter stateside. She may win because she is one with superstar potential but she’s such a bad prospect to just take blindly at a short price. Her career top Beyer Speed Figure is lower than every single American based competitor in the race.
Back to hard knocking local crowd, I think there is a real case for Richard’s Boy. I think he is a real 5-5.5f horse who has the speed to lead this race and gets the home field advantage. I don’t think too many entrants really want to tear it up here so he might be allowed to have things his own way. In races shorter than 6f on the grass in California he is 5-3-1-1 and ran really well even when losing. He tried to take his show on the road and encountered some trouble but actually finished with a 3-1-1-0 record from his east cost trip. It’s kind of rare to see Californian turf sprinters having any success at all outside the home state. I think his form is solid as evidenced by his heart breaker down the hill last time at Santa Anita. It was really impressive how he kicked away from Tribalist and held him off through the lane only to get pipped by another coming from the clouds. He is a major threat in this race. Another one I like is Hogy. I know he’s 8 and unlikely to get better but he runs some pretty solid races at 5 panels. In 18 tries at the distance he’s been in the exacta 13 times which is pretty amazing considering the wild and fickle nature of these races sometimes. What he lacks in brilliance he makes up for with dependability.

Richard’s Boy
Disco Partner
When Stormy Liberal broke through the pack and just got up to beat Richard's Boy I was fairly certain that this Breeders' Cup wasn't going to go my way. There are few things that are harder to take in racing than a narrow loss with a horse that you feel like you really did a great job to unearth. A hidden gem among all the logical contenders. Around the far turn the faint hope begins to rise and then when he hits the front the celebrations are just about ready to begin, then from seemingly out of nowhere an even more impossible horse slashes through the field and nails you on the line. My condolences to those who had Ami's Mesa as well.

I was proud of Richard's Boy. I thought he ran his eyeballs out and when he finally got past Pure Sensation I really thought it was going to be his day. I think that his connections would have been pretty gutted with this one if they didn't also own and trainer the winner.

Disco Partner looked lively and I think for pure quality he is the class of this division but it's always going to be hard for him to get by everyone on a course this small at a distance this short. I hope they would keep him in training and that he could be in good form for next year because the long stretch at CD will play nicely for him.

Stormy Liberal is a hard horse to take in retrospect. All his good form came down the hill at Santa Anita and if this race were in Arcadia I'd have been all over Stormy as a hidden horse for course. But in this spot at a new distance on a track he has never particularly liked and off a long layoff I think he took quite a bit of imagination. Maybe sometimes you just get beat.

I think a good takeaway from this race is something I did point to before it began but don't put so much stock in European form for sprinters. Those races look impressive and prestigious but they're slow early and I just don't think they ever really translate unless they're at Woodbine (or maybe a long stretch like CD)
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Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:35 pm

Kennedy wrote:FM Sprint
I think this race has the potential to be quite exciting. There is real pace in the race, there are some good stalkers, not many identified closers but with 14 horses you know that many will be shuffled back and will need to work from off the pace. One of the key stats that I’m using to guide my thoughts here is just how badly well back 3yo fillies have done in this race. Every year we have one and they just never seem to live up to their billing. Unique Bella should be good enough to win this but I think one of the members of the older generation is a better bet. For all her talent this is Unique Bella’s first attempt in a G-1 race. I think she may find it harder but she does have a lot of talent and the seeming ability to rate as well. But of the older set I like Skye Diamonds, Paulassilverlining and Highway Star. Skye Diamonds really hit some top form over the summer and has had a nice break. She is a pretty relentless finisher and has the ability to stay close to the pace or attack from a bit deeper. I don’t expect her to press in a race like this with so much speed but if she can be within a length of the lead at the top of the stretch I like her chances to out finish the rest. She completely outclassed Constellation twice which seems like a decent benchmark for quality. My one worry is that often these horses that rise to prominence in the summer, like Haveyougoneaway, lose that bit of form by the fall.
Paulassilverlining might get a little overlooked because she comes off a bad race but it seems like slow paced affairs are her kryptonite as much as a they are a huge boost to By the Moon. I think that there is a feeling that she isn’t at her best at 7f but she outfinished Finest City at the distance in May. I don’t think bad races are her new normal and Chad Brown is pretty good at getting his horses to run well in here. Highway Star is interesting because her rise through the ranks has almost gone unnoticed. She has run 13 times and won 8 of those races (61%) and yet has been favored just once. 6 of those starts even came in statebred company. She’s never missed the frame in a Graded stakes race and her loss by a head in the Ballerina is the only defeat she has suffered in a sprint race. There is a real runner inside that unimpressive frame and while she may have been confined to NY during her career I don’t think she would necessarily struggle. Timeform rates her as the best closer in the race, this race may play for a closer.

Highway Star
Skye Diamonds
I wonder if they should rerun this race because I'm not sure the result is correct :) If you told me before the race that a NY-bred closer was going to win over a horse coming off a pair of graded sprint stake wins I would have whole heartedly agreed because that's exactly who I had in my exacta. Throw in a classy Chad Brown entrant looking to get back to the higher expectations set for her and I'd also look no further than my own trifecta selection.

My only problem was there were two horses fitting all those descriptions and I got the wrong one in every case. The fact that Bar of Gold was the late running NY bred to take advantage of this pace is somewhat confusing to me. I get the argument that they're all good horses so no one should be overlooked but clearly Highway Star had the better chance on paper. What she did not have was a better rider and while Irad Ortiz decided to be nowhere near the pace Arroyo put Highway Star much closer. At one level you can hardly blame him for putting her where she was relative to the other contenders but the pace collapsed and patience paid off.

Only two horses in the race entered off of back to back graded stakes sprint wins Sky Diamonds and Ami's Mesa. At one level it felt quite logical to go with the horse with a perfect record over the track but it turns out the one who had never raced on dirt was the better call.

Chad Brown is dynamite in this race and I think you have to move up his entrants but again I got the wrong one.

It may sound like sour grapes but in a way I feel like the framework of my analysis was sound. I just got the application all wrong in almost comical fashion. I avoided the highly touted 3yo filly, I saw the potential pace collapse I liked the horse I thought was the best closer. I feel for those who came up with Ami's Mesa. An excellent pick foiled in the last stride by a pretty unlikely winner. Maybe one of the takeaways here is just to keep an eye open for the horse with the "dirty" form. It's the second year in a row where the winner was exiting a race that was not a main track sprint.
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Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:48 pm

Kennedy wrote: FM Turf
I don’t want to be too simplistic and say that Lady Eli cannot be beaten. I thought that last year and she unbelievably lost to a horse to never looked good enough and has subsequently confirmed that she isn’t good enough. It’s racing, things happen but all signs point to Lady Eli being the safest single of the Breeders Cup meet. She is really quite good and the shorter distance makes her even tougher in my opinion. I think she has a tendency to maybe let her opponents back in the race once she cruises to the front which shortens margins and makes you think there might be something there but I don’t think there is. I think her greatest challenges come from her own stablemates. Both Grand Jete and Dacita are dangerous in this spot. Grand Jete if the pace is slow or moderate and Dacita if the pace is fast. I do not expect that Grand Jete will be a part of the pace. A horse like Avenge would pretty much laugh her off in the early going. I think she’s perfect for sitting in a behind some pace and bursting through with a run. Her flower bowl was better for the fact that she showed the versatility to go in front. Dacita is pace dependent and if they go too fast she can catch just about anyone. Don’t forget she nailed Tepin in a race at Saratoga. I think that she has done well in her races this year because she hasn’t really caught those good setups but has performed with credit. I think there will be an honest pace and firm turf and it’s the setup she loves. I don’t see much from the European challenge here and I think that a horse like Cambodia has done well away from the limelight but will struggle when exposed to the scrutiny of the upper echelon. Chad Brown may just sweep this race.

Lady Eli
Grand Jete
I predicted a Chad Brown 1-2-3 and we got a European 1-2. I feel a bit sheepish because I actually picked Wuheida to win the QE II a few weeks back. Obviously she scratched from that event and my short list for the FM Turf included her and the Brown horses. During the course of prepping for this race I managed to convince myself that she wasn't ready for the home team older mares in here.

Europeans, not trained by O'Brien, who come off a light campaign in France can be quite deadly. It's hard to pick them sometimes because I think in many ways she was the same play as Zelzal in the Mile who didn't work out at all. Both had some back class and good form on firm ground but had recently had some tough results on soft ground and were coming off light campaigns. Both looked somewhat tactical with a nice turn of foot.

I suppose backing both of them was better than taking both favorites in the FM Turf and Mile (which is what I did)
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Fri Nov 10, 2017 4:05 pm

Kennedy wrote:Sprint
Anytime you look at a race with real quality it feels like you need to really identify a stat or angle that resonates with you that you can really hang your hat on. When coming into this race I tried to approach it by looking for weakness in Drefong and specific strengths in others. In the end I think I became a little more enamored with the favorite. One thing in particular about him is this notion that he is actually better at 7f. That may well be true but he’s actually unbeaten at 6f in races where his jockey stuck around the whole time and despite having the speed to lead this race he has never lost ground in the last 1/8th of a race aside from his maiden. Maybe that’s where the 7f staying power comes in.
If he is vulnerable I think it’s perhaps in his ability to run down someone else on the lead. He’s never had to grind past a stubborn foe.
I think the pace in this race is likely to be fast but not crazy although I think if I were to try and beat Drefong I would try to get in front of him early. Maybe Imperial Hint is the horse who can do that or maybe it’s Takaful. Outside those two I don’t think anyone really can get in front of him. I do expect the speed to more or less hold in this race so the closers like Mind Your Biscuits and Whitmore will likely be limited to a minor share of the placings.
I realize that I’ve more or less talked myself out of Roy H who was actually the first name I put down as a top contender to beat Drefong. I feel like he doesn’t have the speed to get in front of him and Drefong has too much stamina to get rundown.
I think Takaful is the future of this division and will give the fave all he can handle but I do think Drefong will be just a bit too much for him.
I like Imperial Hint but to me he is the kind that can either get the lead and win or will likely be off the board so he might be one to use as cover but not as a primary

I think the margin for error is very slight in the sprint and Drefong fell afoul of the wrong side of that equation. He kind of broke well but not well enough and before you know it he was shuffled back and done. The inside post can be pretty unforgiving.

I was disappointed in Takaful but he more or less continues the trend of Belmont main track prep winners who completely bomb in California Breeders' Cups. He's a good horse who is capable of much better than that.

Obviously failing to back Roy H is a miss straight up. He was one of the most logical winners of any Breeders Cup race and his backers have to be thrilled with nearly 5/1 on him. I wonder if this does anything to the strong trend of barely racing your sprint contenders if you have one? Likely not but I like the fact that a winner of a recent prep managed to win the race they were prepping for. It's almost counter cultural these days.

Roy H was just about as perfect a sprint candidate as you could hope to see. I feel like I saw and recognized him., which I'm sure everyone did but where I feel flat was in the actual choosing.
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Fri Nov 10, 2017 4:19 pm

Kennedy wrote: Mile
This is usually my favorite race. For whatever reason I’ve always loved the turf mile division. I like following these horses year round and the BC Mile is kind of the culmination of all those events. For me the complexion of the race completely changed when Midnight Storm decided to run here instead of the Dirt version of this event. Both Midnight Storm and Heart to Heart seem like major threats in the race but neither really seem to win without controlling a race from the front. They actually met once before in a race that wound up being the best career performance for Midnight Storm and an off the board finish for Heart to Heart. Midnight Storm has looked just a bit off form this season, I thought he most definitely should have won his last two races but seemed to have very little fight despite having things in his favor. I’m not if we’ll get to see his best race here which makes him hard to use here and hard to assess. His top end is definitely good enough to win although I think I see him getting caught here by one or more of his competitors. I feel for Heart to Heart because he’s really likeable, he’s in good form and he was so close to that all important G-1 win last time. But I feel like the formula is simple with him, get a clear lead – likely win. Do not get a clear lead – he will lose. He is 20-13-2-2 when leading for the first 3 calls and 11-0-3-1 when failing to establish himself on the lead. My sentiment is with him but I think Midnight Storm completely torches his chances and I can’t take him on the prospect of sudden reinvention in the toughest race of his life.
World Approval is going to be my main play here. I know that a soggy Saratoga and a mile over Woodbine’s course are not really similar to tight and fast Del Mar so I do worry about a big bullish horse like him being able to adapt and really fire through those holes as they present themselves. I like that he’s a good mixture of speed and stamina. He’s won a G-1 at 11f but has the speed to dictate and dominate a G-1 mile race right from the start. I feel like if he gets in front he’ll be really hard to pass. I think his suitability in this spot also has much to do with his form. Early on he seemed like one of those “nearly” horses. In 2015 and 2016 he ran in 12 graded stakes races and won just 3 times. Now this year he’s 4 for 5 overall. I feel like Casse has finally got him into a good rhythm and he’s never been better.
One horse that could use a bit of rhythm is Om. He’s on a 9 race losing streak with 7 straight on the board finishes, all of which saw him within 2 lengths of the winner at the line. If you aggregate his speed figures in the last year over the distances relevant to a mile on the grass he’s the second fastest horse in the race. You have to wonder what it’s going to take to get him home in front. A big part of me doubts that this will be the time but I also feel he’s a must use in the exotics and you just never know when he might forget himself and accidentally win. I’m not a huge fan of any of the Europeans however I recognize the lack of depth and consistency among the home side and I think beyond World Approval there are few horses to really anchor off. Which means everyone has a chance. Suedois is a danger given the explosion he showed in his last and the path his trainer already blazed with Mondialiste. I feel like a good run is definitely possible but I don’t know that I want a horse who just ran the best race of their life. I am a little more drawn to Zelzal as one with a bit of obscured form. I feel like he has the potential to be that horse who bursts through a seem, kicks to the front and everyone takes a feverish glance down at the program to see who he actually is. To me he is classically French, something about the slender athletic elegance, the quickness and the slightly large ears. I know that his best race is good enough to win the Mile which is encouraging. Although I feel like we haven’t seen much of that form for a year. It could be a legitimate dip in form or it could be that he just hasn’t caught his ground or his trip. In the biggest win of his career he caught a pretty sharp pace on firm ground. He was able to sit mid-pack and come with a burst. I can see him getting that trip here and after watching him in his last I definitely saw that burst again but for some reason he didn’t finish that race. Maybe it was the soft ground or coming off the layoff but he seemed like the talent was there and the fitness was not. Maybe he got something from that run and the fitness comes back?
I’ve gotten this far without even talking about the favorite Ribchester. I want to acknowledge that he is seriously talented and should handle the ground fine but my worry here is tactical. He is a presser/speed type in Europe and seems to really get into a good gallop and just grind away from his competition. Actually I see him as very similar to World Approval but I give the edge to World Approval because Ribchester is going to be much further out of his comfort zone and what he has known but he can win, he’s not a toss in here. I just don’t want him because I trust World Approval more.
I feel like boxcars in the exotics is a real possibility here because I also think that Ballagh Rocks has a major chance. Bill Mott is a dangerous trainer with Milers and did of course win this race last year. Ballagh Rocks is a bit less developed. He’s only been in 5 stakes races and looks a real talent. It would be a bit of a scalp for him to even hit the frame but I think he’s live.

World Approval
I feel like the length of my post illustrates how much I agonized over this race so it is kind of rewarding to have this as my only winner. Throughout my history with the Breeders Cup the Mile has often been the lone bright spot.

World Approval was able to work out a nice trip and I think was just too strong and classy for anyone to outfinish. Casse got another top class miler and I think it was a pretty astute call with this horse to turn him back and make a specialist out of him. I hope they give him another year. It would be a shame to pull the plug on a horse who just now seems to be in a good rhythm.

This has little to do with handicapping but I was shocked to see Blackjackcat hit the frame. He was taken completely out of what he had typically done and it was super impressive to see him put in that rally.
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Fri Nov 10, 2017 6:59 pm

"I hope they give him another year. It would be a shame to pull the plug on a horse who just now seems to be in a good rhythm."

I think I saw something about WA possibly targeting Royal Ascot, maybe for a showdown against the Wonder Mare Winx. Of course, so much can happen between now and June. ;) :P
ETA: And there's this: ... urf-spring
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Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:50 pm

WA is a gelding. I'm sure he will race as long as he is happy to do so.
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