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 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. As I write this on Thursday, the track in Louisville is sloppy and appears headed for muddy the rest of the day. The forecast calls for clouds into Friday and Saturday, but no rain. I am handicapping under the assumption of a dry main track and a turf course with moisture and give in the ground.
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Rather than handicap one race in its entirety, this year I’ve chosen to do a small vignette on each of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races and give you a horse who I think should be used in vertical or horizontal wagers. If you’re reading this in advance, Friday’s selections have already been posted to The Grapevine in a companion Breeders’ Cup post.
Race 3: BC Filly & Mare Sprint (Post time–9:00 PST)
Take: # 5 Golden Mischief 10/1
Cut and dried, # 13 Marley’s Freedom (8/5) is the morning line favorite and by the time your eyes scroll down to her on form, you immediately realize she’s going to take some serious beating. Mike Smith rides Marley’s Freedom for Bob Baffert, who has interestingly enough never won this race. Smith won aboard Judy the Beauty in 2014 and Finest City in 2016. Will the every-other-year pattern continue for Smith aboard Marley’s Freedom? San Francisco Giants fans probably are beli(even). If Marley doesn’t fire, then # 5 Golden Mischief could find her way into this. This edition of the Filly & Mare Sprint is chalk-a-block with speed, including big speed coming from # 1 Selcourt. Golden Mischief rallied boldly in the TCA at Keeneland and she should appreciate the lively pace on top of extra real estate. Brad Cox is a terrific trainer coming into his own and she sports a big, big bullet on top of this race.
Race 4: BC Turf Sprint (Post time-9:38 PST)
Take: # 11 World of Trouble 6/1
Lots of different ways to go in this wide open affair but World of Trouble looks compelling to me. Granted, he’s three and stepping up to take on older in his first Grade I, but the upside is undeniable and the human connections provide a nice reassurance in terms of backing him. Whether Irad Ortiz chose World of Trouble over Disco Partner is a question I do not know the answer to. Disco Partner looks tough and should be in a perfect spot to pounce but he lacks value in a deep race and also his lackluster efforts seem to circle around a heavier surface. I want to see the California shippers step up and run their best races after shipping over a surface that may not cater to them.
Race 5: BC Dirt Mile (Post time–10:16 PST)
Take: # 6 Seeking the Soul 5/1
No, I do not have an exclusive rights contract that mandates I bet this horse but I just seem to fall for him every time. He’s a Churchill specialist and was good to me after picking him in this column when he won the Ack Ack at 7/2. There is speed everywhere and a few newly-minted three-year-olds testing the waters against older foes. It’s a square price on a horse who is perfectly spotted to do damage on a surface he enjoys. I may be obsessed with him, but he’s been good to me in the past so I’m going to back him one more time. # 10 Catalina Cruiser at 8/5 is the one to beat, but is not the one to bet…that’s the distinction.
Race 6: BC Filly & Mare Turf (Post time–11:04 PST)
Take: # 10 Magic Wand (Ire) 5/1
Not a lot of fancy analysis here. This is a true grab bag and should be a cavalry charge to the finish. It’s tough to envision the Europeans not getting a couple of victories in the grass races and Magic Wand looks real solid on paper and also grabs Lasix for the first time which could be a real big deal. Ryan Moore knows her well.
Race 7: BC Sprint (Post time–11:46 PST)
Take: # 8 Limousine Liberal 6/1
Obviously, just like any Breeders’ Cup race, there are some tough sons of guns in this cast. # 9 Roy H is the 5/2 second choice and his resume is fairly unimpeachable. The same can be said largely for race-favorite, # 5 Imperial Hint (9/5). Imperial Hint could be the right one but he’s favored in a race that’s tough as nails and he’s failed to hit the board in two prior starts at Churchill. I want to see Roy H show up with his A-game on the road and if he does that, he’ll be tough to deny. But Limousine Liberal is always there and he provides real nice value along with a penchant for loving Churchill Downs with six wins in eight tries! Trainer Ben Colebrook pulled off quite a caper with Knicks Go in the Claiborne Futurity so you know he can train. Perhaps I just like alliterations, who knows, but this horse just really fits well on Saturday.
Race 8: The BC Mile (Post time: 12:36 PST)
Take: # 7 Expert Eye (GB) 8/1
Once again, this is a feel race on grass and it really will boil down to who handles this amount of undulation the best. I want a horse who is well drawn that can work out a good spot from the dispatch and that’s why I landed on Expert Eye. The Juddmonte homebred figures to be put right off the flank of # 4 Oscar Performance and have every chance to be a factor if good enough. His last few races against older horses have been respectable and as with Magic Wand, I love the addition of Lasix with Dettori up.
Race 9: The BC Distaff (Post time: 1:16 PST)
Take: # 3 La Force (Ger) 20/1
Sure, she’s not a win machine and this is her toughest assignment she’s faced in her career to this point. But she’s really steady and has been a reliable conveyance with her shift to the dirt. Can she win? I’m not sure. But she can hit the board if things break her way in terms of a good pace to chase and don’t be too hard on her from the simple standpoint that she’s been having to chase really good horses out west while stuck in very small fields. I think she’s better than she looks on paper and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see her face emerge on the screen inside the final eighth. # 2 Abel Tasman and # 10 Monomoy Girl will get a lot of the money, but this race is no gimme for the big chalks.
Race 10: The BC Turf (Post time–1:56 PST)
Take: # 4 Robert Bruce (Chi) 10/1
# 2 Enable is even money and shows up as what will no doubt be an odds-on favorite in the BC Turf. She’s a repeat winner of the Arc d’Triomphe from Longchamp and her resume is really eye-dropping. She’ll be a popular multi-race single for many but it’s horse racing and you just never know. What if for some reason she doesn’t respond well from the ship? Or, in the alternative with her running style, what if she doesn’t break well and finds herself pinched at the start? Things happen out there. Robert Bruce was no match for Channel Maker at Belmont but heading into that race, I felt like Robert Bruce wouldn’t be fully cranked in that spot having come off a big effort in the Arlington Million (Oscar Performance who was favored in the ‘Million came back to win at Woodbine). Now Robert Bruce goes from even money to 10/1 and I’m definitely interested in getting some of that. I just think he’s going to be right there and he gets a good post.
Race 11: BC Classic (Post time–2:44 PST)
Take: # 11 Mind Your Biscuits 6/1–(Long Shot Value Play: # 8 Pavel 20/1)
As we all know by now, they will have to run to beat # 14 Accelerate (5/2), but he’s not a foregone conclusion in the ‘Classic. Mind Your Biscuits is simply put the definition of a race horse. He can get in there and grind on the dirt and just doesn’t care whether he’s running in a sprint, middle distance, or even Saturday’s classic distance of 1 & 1/4 Miles. He’s always in the hunt and Saturday should be no exception. Yes, Rosario left him two starts back but Tyler Gaffalione got to know him and ‘Biscuits was ‘bisquick’ over this surface in the Lukas.
If the pace is crazy, # 8 Pavel (20/1) really interests me. Accelerate just drilled him by 12 lengths at Del Mar, I get it, but Pavel has shown a fondness for this track and he’s going to be a huge number. He’s been handled by some of his foes already, but he looks sneaky in here and they will be rolling out on the front end.
**Bonus coverage: Golden Gate Fields Race 10 (Post time–5:15 PST)**
Take: # 7 Fiery Lady 4/1
If any of you have the misfortune of finding yourself face down on the mat after 14 Breeders’ Cup races this weekend, I think Fiery Lady can play the role of cut woman and put you back together. Her Golden Gate turf races are her best and there is ample speed in front of her for her to reel in. It’s a nice race to end the day at Golden Gate Fields, but this daughter of Lady Railrider looks best to me in a situation where you might really need her.
Good luck to everyone on Saturday.