Handicapping with Jeff Siegel
A terrific 12-race Breeders’ Cup Saturday program begins at 10:15 a.m., with the first of nine championship events starting with the fourth race. It’s the kind of card serious horse players dream of.
The first race is a downhill turf sprint for two-year-olds; this is not an actual Breeders’ Cup race but it’s called the Juvenile Turf Sprint and boasts a competitive field with plenty of talent. #3 Ocho Ocho Ocho was a convincing winner from off the pace in his debut and has the style and pedigree to excel over this course and distance. He’s a high potential type offering considerable value at 8-1 on the morning line and is worth using in the straight pool at anywhere near that price. #1 Cool Comfort is a fast filly turning back to a sprint and despite the rail could be quick enough to establish the pace. Both of her turf sprints were excellent and chart very well in a race that her trainer won last year with a filly. We’ll use both in our rolling exotics.
The second race is the Golden State Juvenile for state-bred two-year-olds over a seven furlongs and came up surprisingly strong. #1 Acceptance earned a strong speed figure in a runaway debut maiden score and could have won by even more if he hadn’t been taken in hand and geared down in the final sixteenth of a mile. The rail shouldn’t be much of an issue assuming he leaves with his field. #6 Mischief Clem has the perfect style for this seven furlong trip and seems better than his decent (but not great) speed figures give him credit for. He’s clearly the most dangerous of the closing types. We’ll be surprised if the winner isn’t one of these two; we’re expecting Mischief Clem to be a tad better price than Acceptance so we’ll give him a very slight edge on top while using both in our rolling exotics.
The third race is the Sen. Ken Maddy Stakes for fillies and mares sprinting down the Hillside course; it’s a tough race with several possibilities, so rolling exotic player probably will need to spread. #3 Stars Above Me was used on the pace and then was worn down late in the Unzip Me Stakes over this course and distance last month; she might benefit from the kind of patient handling she received when she won her U.S. debut in a Saratoga turf sprint stakes last summer. She’s reunited with Ortiz and offers considerable value at anywhere near her morning line odds of 8-1. #5 Gender Agenda, second in the same race Stars Above Me exits, should be a strong late threat once again while switching to Castellano and is another offering value at 8-1 on the morning line. #6 Richies Party Girl won the Juvenile Turf Sprint under these conditions last year and arrives in winning form for Ward. She’s quick but doesn’t need the lead and Espinoza knows her well. We’ll use all three in our rolling exotics; perhaps Richies Party Girl deserves an ever-so-slight edge on top but trips and racing luck probably will decided this one.
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies is the first championship race on the card. #8 Puca switches to Rosario following a 16-length maiden win at Belmont Park and really could be any kind. She was never asked a drop in that race and the good (but not off-the-charts) speed figure probably doesn’t do her justice. This could be an exceptional filly; she has the kind of tactical speed to keep her free of trouble and recent workouts (:47 flat breezing over the Belmont Park training track, fastest of 92) indicate that yet another major forward move could be forthcoming. Of course, she’s facing a considerably tougher group that she did when breaking her maiden; on the other hand, the others have to face her. Let’s make her a strong straight play and rolling exotic single.
The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare turf is carded as the fifth race. Defending champ #3 Dank hasn’t had much of a year; she’s started only twice and has been away since June. However, reportedly she’s been training like her old self and we assume she’s in peak form; otherwise, there would be no reason to ship her all the way from England. Another dangerous Euro, #5 Secret Gesture, doesn’t quite have Dank’s resume but the daughter of Galileo is just a cut below the very best and reportedly loves firm ground. She’ll get ideal conditions today and it wouldn’t surprise use to see her absolute best performance. #6 Fiesolana was tried against the very best middle distance runners in Europe on Arc day and wasn’t disgrace when seventh in the Prix de la Foret; she’s been primarily a miler throughout her career but should stay 10 furlongs under these conditions. At 8-1 on the morning line she has to be used. We’ll give Dank a very slight edge but at the price both Secret Gesture and Fiesolana are quite intriguing as well. All three should be used in rolling exotic play.
The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint is carded as the sixth race. Surprisingly, there’s very little early zip in the field and that makes #3 Stonetastic extremely dangerous as the potential controlling speed. Her runaway win in the Prioress at Saratoga two races back was sensational; she didn’t repeat that effort at Keeneland but over the speed conducive strip at Santa Anita the Breen-trained filly could be very hard to catch. #6 Leigh Court just ran past Stonetastic in a dominating three length graded stakes win in Kentucky earlier this month; the daughter of Grand Slam had excellent Canadian form prior to that and her style seems ideal suited for this seven furlong journey. She should be within striking range throughout. #7 Judy the Beauty, an excellent runner-up in this race last year, has done little wrong since and has won three of four starts in 2014, including the Rancho Bernardo at Del Mar in August in her most recent start. She can fire fresh and has training like she’s ready for another monster try. Of the three Stonetastic probably will be the best price so we’ll put her slightly on top but you have to use all three in rolling exotic play.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf sprint goes as the seventh race; it’s a 14-runner affair down the Hillside course with legitimate contenders literally top to bottom. It’s entirely possible that #1 Reneesgotzip and #14 No Nay Never will cancel each other out; however, if one can shake loose of the other we just might see a parade. Reneesgotzip has been second in this race the last two years and without Mizdirection to worry about she could finally break through with a win despite her disadvantageous rail post position. No Nay Never has been beaten just once in five career starts and that defeat came on dirt; otherwise, he’s perfect and the former Royal Ascot winner has been training specifically to peak for this race by Ward. There are several closing types in the field that possess the type of late kick that can be devastating. #5 Ambitious Brew, #10 Home Run Kitten and #11 Undrafted all can blast home but will need good racing luck through a crowed stretch drive. We’ll go five deep in our rolling exotics – heck, if you can afford to buy the race go right ahead – and without any great conviction we’ll put Home Run Kitten and hope he can run perform as well as he did in the Eddie D.
The eighth race is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Pletcher holds the aces with two exceptional prospects, #9 Carpe Diem and #12 Daredevil. They’re both undefeated in two starts with the former having the benefit of a Grade 1 victory around two turns, while the latter is faster on speed figures but has yet to run on anything other than a wet track. We’ll put Daredevil on top – Pletcher says he’s just as good on a dry surface and that’s good enough for us – but you have to include Carpe Diem as well. It’ll be surprising if the winner is anybody other than one of these two.
The ninth race is the Breeders’ Cup Turf and once again the European contingent can be expected to dominate. #1 Telescope is an exceptional performer and will race on Lasix for the first time; trained by Sir Michael Stoute the son of Galileo has been facing the very best in Europe while more than holding his own. He’ll get the top-of-the-ground conditions that he reportedly prefers. #7 Flintshire hasn’t won since July of 2013 but his recent runner-up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is as good of a race as anything in here has run and he’s another who will thoroughly enjoy the firm Santa Anita turf course. #9 Hardest Core is unbeaten as a 4-year-old and his win over Magician in the Arlington Million was legitimate. He can get the 12-frulong trip and due to his low profile connections probably doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
The Breeders’ Cup Sprint is carded as the 10th race and small ticket players looking to take a stand could opt for #6 Rich Tapestry. He’s a world traveler out of Hong Kong who came to Santa Anita specifically for this race, and in his local debut he ran down no less a colt than Goldencents in winning the Santa Anita Sprint Championship in exceptional fashion. He’s not what you’d call a prototype late-running sprinter but he does pack a powerful late kick, and if he can secure room from the quarter pole to the wire he could very well win again. Long shot players should consider #12 Fast Anna. The lightly-raced colt has blazing speed (he could be the quickest in the field) and is putting blinkers back on. He’ll go as fast as he can for as far as he can. If there’s a complete and total pace meltdown, why not toss in #14 Bourbon Courage. He’s undefeated in two starts (his first two career outings) at six furlongs and has returned to winning form after a series of route attempts. Perhaps he’s always wanted to be just a sprinter?
The Breeders’ Cup Mile is the 11th race and once again the Europeans are loaded. #3 Veda is a lightly-raced but extremely talented filly trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, who only ships when he’s convinced he can win. This filly certainly has that capability; she’ll be a first time Lasix user over firm ground she reportedly demands, and with excellent tactical from a favorable draw she should have every chance to pull off a surprise at 12-1 on the morning line. #4 Mustajeeb, another import that will race with Lasix for the first time, won the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot and has Racing Post ratings that make him extremely dangerous at 6-1 on the morning line. The best of the Europeans, though, is #5 Toronado, and if he brings his “A” game he’ll be hard to beat, for sure. First or second in nine of 11 career starts while racing against the very best milers overseas, the Hannon-trained colt reportedly greatly favors firm ground and tight turns, and he’ll have those conditions at Santa Anita. We’ll use all three in our rolling exotics; at the price Veda is especially intriguing so we’ll press a bit with her on top.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic concludes the program and what a race it promises to be. #13 California Chrome has trained like his old self since his disappointing Pennsylvania Derby performance and we’re expecting the Derby and Preakness winner to show up with his very best performance over a track we know he loves. He’ll get the in-the-clear, pace-prompting trip he needs, so there should be no excuses. We like him to win. The 9/5 morning line favorite, #6 Shared Belief, is perfect in seven starts but this will be by far his toughest test to date. A win today and he’s champion three year old and horse of the year. The only concern is just how much that his most recent win, the first thoroughly taxing effort in his career, will affect him today. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.