By Michael Patricks
Breeders’ Cup 35 has arrived and the action from Churchill Downs is sure to be fast and furious. Doors open at the Jockey Club at 9:30 a.m. on Friday and 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. I will post Breeders’ Cup selections for Day 2 sometime on Thursday afternoon and will give out my top selection for every Breeders’ Cup race with a brief analysis. I am handicapping under the assumption of a dry main track and a turf course with a little give in the ground. As we all know, the weather can change everything so make sure to stay on your toes. Let’s get to Day 1, which they are branding as “Future Star Friday”.
Race 5: BC Juvenile Turf Sprint (Post time–12:21 PST)
Take: # 5 Bulletin 10/1
As expected, there is a ton of precocious talent in this race and while it’s tempting to go with a European juvenile in this spot, I can’t look away from Bulletin. He’s owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club et al. and 2018 has truly been there year with Justify’s Triple Crown obviously making history for these connections. Anytime I see a horse debut from the rail against winners…while making it look freakishly easy in victory… I’m going to be on the band wagon for the next step in that journey. 10/1 is a healthy price to start the day. Put a ring around # 5 Bulletin.
Race 6: BC Juvenile Fillies Turf (Post time–1:00 PST)
Take: # 3 Lily’s Candle (FR) 8/1
I was between Lily’s Candle and # 4 Just Wonderful (6/1) in this race and opted for ‘Lily for a few reasons. I like that she’s been tested at the one mile distance and is 2-for-2 at eight furlongs. Further, I really like that she’s been facing the boys in three of her five races, thus facing only the girls this time around could be to her benefit. ‘Lily has had success with a little cut in the ground and draws a nice post. Just Wonderful grabs Lasix for the first time for Aidan O’Brien, but have a feeling she could be a bit ove rbet based on her well-known handlers. The race-favorite is #6 Newspaperofrecord (Ire) at 2/1. She’s dominated in her first two races, but bottom line is that I’m not prepared to take 2/1 on her in a field of 14 where anything can happen. She’s the one to beat, yes, but she’s valueless.
Race 7: BC Juvenile Fillies (Post time–1:40 PST)
Take: # 4 Restless Rider 9/2
Future star Friday continues with the Juvenile Fillies. I really like this filly and I’m excited about her chances in this race. On paper, this looks like a speed brigade dispatching from the gate, which you would expect with sophomore fillies going two turns. This gray Distorted Humor daughter has already demonstrated that her preferred style of running is sitting in behind horses and making an explosive run around the far turn. She’s 2-for-2 at Churchill Downs and just won the Grade I Alcibiades from Keeneland for fun. Keeneland and Churchill are tracks that play differently; normally that would concern me a bit, but her past success here quells my fears and insecurities about pulling the rubber band off and firing away. All the other key players, including race-favorite # 10 Bellafina look like they have a ton of early gas. Restless Rider draws perfectly, and she should be moving onto the scene of some pretty spiffy fractions. Restless Rider is my best bet of the day on Friday.
Race 8: BC Juvenile Turf (Post time–2:22 PST)
Take: # 2 Uncle Benny 15/1
With Anthony Van Dyck (Ire) drawing post position 14 in a one mile turf race, I’m going to try and blow up the tote board by tabbing # 2 Uncle Benny as my “Budweiser Long Shot”, for those of you old enough to remember that. Uncle Benny did it easy when he broke his maiden in his debut at Monmouth, running hooked from ‘down along on the inside’-Ed Burgart. I love his 15-point Beyer jump and even though he got smacked pretty good leaving the gate in the Futurity from Belmont, ‘Benny found his stride around the far turn and finished with nice movement, giving every indication he would appreciate going longer. Well, he gets an extra two furlongs of ground in the Juvenile Turf and he draws ideally. Irad Ortiz got to know him and sticks with him once again…I think ‘Benny can hit the jets and find his way onto the ticket, especially with the aforementioned chalk who is post-compromised.
Race 9: BC Juvenile (Post time–3:05 PST)
Take: #9 Game Winner 9/5
Bet the nine horse in the ninth race at nine to five! Actually, I was surprised to learn that Bob Baffert has only won this race three times in its history (2002 Vindication, 2008 Midshipman, 2013 New Year’s Day (same owners as Game Winner)). Game Winner has done nothing wrong and seems to bring his best effort each time out. He’s been the best Juvenile in California by far, and with the Baffert boot camp as his foundation, it’s my belief he could just be further ahead developmentally than the rest of his competitors. The Candy Ride son seems to have a good head on his shoulders and he also has the lucky stall back home which other barn-greats have run out of leading to great success. # 8 Standard Deviation adding Blinkers interests me to potentially fill out the verticals. He’s got room for improvement and had to have needed his race in the Claiborne last time out, but anyone who finished behind #10 Knicks Go who prevailed at 70/1 in that spot does not get the benefit of the doubt from yours truly.
Race 10: The Marathon (Bonus Coverage–Post time: 3:43 PST)
Take: # 1 Term of Art (20/1)–if the track is wet
Take: #8 Honorable Duty (4/1)–if the track is dry.
Good luck to everyone on Friday.