Keeneland is the venue, the dates are Friday, Oct 30 & Saturday Halloween and quality will be in full force in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup. Granted, we are still weeks away from the action but let’s try to project how some of the principals are coming to the race with a winning edge.
A total of 13 BC races will be run over the 2 days and there will surely be thrills, chills and probably a couple of spills. Unlike last year when Untapable was highly popular when winning the BC Distaff, the race this year is a bit more wide-open at this point.
The great Zenyatta won this race in 2008 and only 2 horses have won this race twice, Bayakoa and Royal Delta.
For 3-year-olds and older, the Distaff goes at 9 furlongs on dirt and if somehow the connections of Beholder decide not to go in the BC Classic, she would be the legitimate favorite in the Distaff.
Untapable held off Iotapa and Don’t Tell Sophia in 2014 but she has changed her style this season. Last year she was comfortable sitting off the pace and kicking but she has only won once this year and she has been forwardly placed in defeat in her last couple of efforts.
Sheer Drama is consistent as the day is long. She has not been out of the exact all year, brings tactical speed to the party, has earned over $1.3 million and won her last 2 races, both Grade 1s including the Personal Ensign with a 98 Beyer.
Let’s take a look at the BC Juvenile Turf to try to get a clue as to what has happened in the past and what may happen the day before Halloween. With the Europeans that are likely to come over, this race kind of sets up for a foreigner in most years. Those horses are just further along in their grass experience and basically that is what they were born to do.
Last year trainer Wesley Ward owned the Juvenile Turf. Ward proved he could get the set off the layoff and Hootenanny came back 2 months later and got an ideal 3-hole trip in the BC Juvenile Turf to win at 6-1.
Ward also saddled Luck of the Kitten in the Juvenile Turf last year and that runner set the table for Hootenanny and ran second. Anything Ward saddles this year will be live.
Some handicappers love betting on juveniles as they can often just run as fast as they can and the best horses tends to win but add a factor like grass, to possible a new distance, a new surface and the toughest foes around and these are the issues that make the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at a mile a very challenging test for all.
If Acapulco shows up at Keeneland for this race, pay strict attention. She was dead short in her racing debut on dirt in May but then shipped across the pond to race in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at Ascot.
Face it; Europeans that comes over for the Juvenile Fillies Turf must be given an extra-long look. In 2013 Chriselliam was coming off a win in the Group 1 Shadwell Fillies Mile at Newmarket before her stateside debut at Santa Anita and she didn’t disappoint.
Respect anything that Chad Brown saddles for this race. He trained the inaugural winners of this race Maram and he also saddled last year’s heroine Lady Eli.
In sports, the television networks salivate over a possible East/West showdown when it comes to the Finals, whether it would be in the NBA, in the World Series or even in the Super Bowl but racing fans also get pumped up for geographical rivalries and they could get it this year.
Over the years the Juvenile has been run to current form. Going into the last year favorites won 37% of the Juvenile and last year Texas Red took advantage of a hot pace and came from dead last to be the Juvenile victor at 13-1. The average Juvenile winner had paid over $17 before the surprise by Texas Red and note the Juvenile favorite has been in the exacta in the last 9 years.
This year Nyquist will come to the BC Juvenile unbeaten and if he wins, he will be the leader in the clubhouse looking toward the 2016 Kentucky Derby. He took the Front Runner recently at Santa Anita but had to work but he made it. He chased the rank outsider Go Long early, took over at the top of the lane but had to work very hard to stave off Swipe to win by three quarters of a length.
If Air Force Blue shows up in the Juvenile he will not be here for the frequent flyer miles. He won three of his first 4 races including a pair of Group 1s and is in the world-class hands of Aidan O’Brien. Give an edge to the youngsters that have tactical speed.
The BC Mile generally attracts the best from Europe and America and this year will be the same.
Karakontie will try to defend but it won’t be easy against top horses like Dutch Connection, King Kressa and The Pizza Man.
THE BIG RACE
This brings us to the granddaddy of them all – The Classic….and it should be a doozy.
It will put the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 37 years American Pharoah against the super mare Beholder.
Beholder is going in super form having beaten the boys in the Pacific Classic and then tuning up for the Halloween tilt with an easy win the Grade 1 Zenyatta.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Honor Code has a brilliant late burst, Tonalist just defended his Jockey Club Gold Cup title successfully and if Aidan’s O’Brien’s star Gleneagles shows up, this will be one of the best Classics ever. Gleneagles, a son of Galileo, was 4th in his debut but he has finished first in his next 8 races. He was disqualified from one of those events but has won 5 Group 1s in his career.
If he can adapt to the dirt, the rest could be looking at minor awards.
Gleneagles pedigree suggests he’ll take to the dirt. His dam was a double winner but more importantly, his dam is kin to Giant’s Causeway, who was a monster on turf and also was beaten in a photo in the BC Classic.
Remember, take your time, and don’t get caught up in the hype on BC Day and pay attention to pace and how the races figure to shape up – Good luck.
JOHN – JUMP to page 26
use Keeneland photos on page 18
ADD American Pharoah photo on page 26 near paragraph – THE BIG RACE