2017 Breeders' Cup Saturday Preview

delmar_2017dates_rgb-cropWelcome to Day Two of the 2017 Breeders' Cup!  Picks and Ponderings previewed Friday's four Breeders' Cup races in a separate piece.  Here, we look at Saturday's nine Breeders' Cup races, headlined by Arrogate's attempt to join Tiznow among two-time winners of the Breeders' Cup Classic.

The day features several links to the local circuit -- many of which, to Arlington Million Day.  Arlington Million (G1) winner Beach Patrol will attempt to win a third straight Grade 1 race in the Breeders' Cup Turf, and Secretariat Stakes (G1) winner Oscar Performance joins him in that field.  Dacita's victory in the Beverly D Stakes (G1) this summer earned her a bid in the Beverly D, and she will attempt to join Dank in the exclusive club of mares who have swept the Beverly D - Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf double.

For multi-race players, Pick 4 sequences start in race 2 (making BC races the last two races of that sequence), race 5, and race 9.  The last two Pick 4 sequences only cover Breeders' Cup races.  The day's only Pick 5 starts in race 1, making the last two legs the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf and the BC Dirt Mile.  The Pick 6 starts in race 7, covering all BC races from the Filly and Mare Turf through the Classic.

Selections for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Breeders' Cup Mile, and Breeders' Cup Turf are for grass only.  Updated Saturday, November 4 to account for the scratch of Ulysses from the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Del Mar Racetrack - Saturday, November 4

Race 4: 14 Hands Winery Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), two-year-old fillies, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 12:00pm PDT

Selections:

  1. #1 HEAVENLY LOVE (9/2) rolled in the Alcibiades (G1), her first career try at two turns.  She has the tactical ability to either stalk the pace or come charging from further back -- giving her plenty of options to get the best trip behind a heady pace.
  2. #7 MOONSHINE MEMORIES (7/2) is the proven Del Mar horse, with a pair of victories over the surface already.  Though she may be forward, she stalked and pounced in the Chandelier (G1) last out, and may be the one who gets first run on the speed.
  3. #9 ALLURING STAR (6/1) will be part of the speed contingent.  Though she has tables to turn on Moonshine Memories, she has shown some guts on the lead, and forward positions can be good over this trip.

Longshot:  #3 PRINCESS WARRIOR (12/1) needs improvement and has tables to turn on Heavenly Love, but her impressive debut suggests there may be more yet.  Her late pace shines, suggesting she may take advantage in the likely scenario that the pace gets too hot.

Race 5: Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1), three-year-olds and up, five furlongs on the turf, post time 12:37pm PDT

Selections:

  1. #3 LADY AURELIA (5/2) will be the favourite, but deserves it.  She is a world-class five-furlong horse (unlike Disco Partner, who is great at six but has class to prove going five!), and has been able to handle it well both on the straight and at one turn.  She is fast enough to lead early, but also proved in the Giant's Causeway that she can take back and kick on if others go.
  2. #10 HOGY (12/1) has been in career form this year, and owner Michael Hui supplemented him to the Breeders' Cup.  Though he typically goes longer, he has shown strong enough form and kick going a flat five to make the distance not a concern.  With a strong pace likely, he should be closing best of the American contingent, and should find the frame at overlaid odds.
  3. #6 MARSHA (7/2) upset Lady Aurelia in the Nunthorpe (G1) this summer, though was third behind the top selection at Royal Ascot in the King's Stand (G1).  This will be her first North American tilt, a question, but if she can carry her late charge across the Atlantic, she has been consistently enough running well against top quality company to have a win chance here.

Longshot: #8 COTAI GLORY (20/1) should be rolling strongly late.  He made good account of himself going six furlongs at Woodbine last out, a distance longer than his best.  Here, he cuts back to the five-furlong distance that he loves so much.  He also stands to prefer the firmer going than the soft turf he caught in the Nearctic.

Race 6: Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, seven furlongs on the dirt, post time 1:14pm PDT

Selections:

  1. #11 UNIQUE BELLA (9/5) drew beautifully near the outside.  If she wants to go, she goes, and she should be able to outgun even Finley'sluckycharm.  If she wants to rate, she can, and she can come in from a bit off the pace (as she did when winning the seven-furlong Santa Ynez (G2) earlier this year).
  2. #10 HIGHWAY STAR (15/1) has been the most consistent presence in the New York spur of the filly and mare sprint division, and yet the wagering public continues to underestimate her.  Seven furlongs is her best distance, and she can find her best whether the pace of the race is slow or fast.  She'll be the value of the race.
  3. #12 SKYE DIAMONDS (5/1) is a horse for the Del Mar course, with two wins in two tries.  Her seven-furlong form is a question, as her only try at the distance resulted in a second-place finish in allowance company.  But, she has excellent six-and-a-half-furlong form, a good harbinger, and her stalking style should suit the race well.

Longshot:  #5 BAR OF GOLD (30/1) has been sent long so much, but her connections are finally acting on what I've suspected for some time: she's best at extended one-turn distances.  She has been on the board in five out of six races going this seven-furlong distance, and has also been in the money in the last two editions of the six-and-a-half-furlong Presque Isle Masters (G2).  She gets Irad Ortiz back in the irons, and her best races compare well on speed -- and yet, Bar of Gold's route-muddled form will make her a massive price.

Race 7: Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and one eighth miles on the turf, post time 2:00pm PDT

Selections:

  1. #9 LADY ELI (5/2) was worth trying to beat last year at a mile and a quarter, but this year, at a mile and an eighth?  It's hard to do on paper, and the confidence she has shown on the racecourse all week makes her look even stronger.  (Lady Eli is the best-looking horse I've seen in track work all week.  Period.)  She is a perfect three-for-three at the distance, she has tactical versatility, and she has been able to take her form from coast to coast.
  2. #7 DACITA (8/1) comes in off a head defeat in the Flower Bowl (G1), behind War Flag.  But, the cut back from a mile and a quarter to a mile and an eighth should help her return to her best.  Chad Brown has a strong hand with Lady Eli, Dacita, and Grand Jete -- Lady Eli is the marquee contender, Grand Jete has potential, but Dacita looks the value of his trio.
  3. #14 RHODODENDRON (8/1) has strong distance versatility, with proper Group 1 form going shorter or longer.  Though she comes into the BC off a win in the mile and a quarter Prix de l'Opera (G1), earlier this year she finished second behind Winter in just a mile in the One Thousand Guineas (G1) at Newmarket.  That range will prove an Asset as Rhododendron tackles nine furlongs for the first time.

Longshot: The presence of #5 WUHEIDA (20/1) gave me some pause at first, after the aborted raid on the Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland.  Yet?  She has looked excellent on track all week long, leaving me only with faith in her class.  Wuheida last ran a mile and a quarter, but her classy form at a mile against horses like Hydrangea, Winter, and Roly Poly suggests she can hold her own at a mile and an eighth, such a short distance for the BC Filly and Mare Turf.

Race 8: TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint, three-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 2:37pm PDT

Selections:

  1. #10 IMPERIAL HINT (9/2) was the big winner on draw day, with the clear outside gate and the other speed inside of him.  He has class to prove against these, but he is downright fast both early and late, and should be the right price to play as a spoiler here.
  2. #2 DREFONG (5/2) returns to Del Mar, the site of his unfortunate incident in the Bing Crosby (G1) where he veered into the gap and lost Mike Smith.  He drew inside that day, and drew inside again here.  It's not likely he'll do that again, of course, but it is some concern.  Should he keep his rider?  He'll likely have to send for position from the inside, and will have Imperial Hint to deal with up front.  May he win anyway?  Sure.  But, is the risk-versus-reward ratio as good as Imperial Hint's?  No.
  3. #7 TAKAFUL (5/1) had his coming-out party in the Vosburgh (G1), emerging as a six-furlong horse to be reckoned with.  That day, he sat just off the speedy El Deal and proved best late.  Here, he'll have to take the next step up; he won't likely outgun Imperial Hint and Drefong.  But, Takaful's best puts him on a similar level with that pair -- so if they wear each other out, Takaful's best gets him first run.

Longshot:  #5 WHITMORE (15/1) had all the early-season buzz, though did not quite run to that through the summer.  Though his victory in the Phoenix (G2) was far more on the workmanlike end than the side of brilliance, but his running style may become an asset anyway.  With all the top contenders being frontrunnin sorts, he will be closing formidably -- and if the track plays fairly, they'll have to fend him off late.

Race 9: Breeders' Cup Mile, three-year-olds and up, one mile on the turf, post time 3:19pm PDT

Selections:

  1. #8 SUEDOIS (6/1) comes out for the king of the reinvention, trainer David O'Meara.  Long a sprinter who kept nabbing underneath shares behind Europe's best, Suedois has run his last two races at a mile -- and he has captured top honours both times.  His closing style will be well suited by Midnight Storm and Heart to Heart in the two far inside gates, and his best makes him the giant-slayer here.
  2. #10 RIBCHESTER (7/2) has been at the top of the European turf mile heap this year, despite only catching his preferred better ground once through the year.  He'll get firm footing at Del Mar today.  But, is this one race too many?  He has run a heady campaign since Dubai, and whips back here in just two weeks after the Queen Elizabeth II (G1) at Ascot.  His best romps here.  But, at the short price, there's enough there to argue the risk isn't worth betting we see his best.
  3. #5 WORLD APPROVAL (9/2) focused on routes up until this year, but has emerged as a crack miler just like his half-brother Za Approval.  His Fourstardave (G1) was comfortable -- but his Woodbine Mile (G1) was a monster effort, surviving a contested pace and kicking away while everyone else near him early faded off the scene.  He has had a month and a half to recover from that effort, and if he can return to that kind of form here, he will prove North America's best hope.

Longshot: #11 BALLAGH ROCKS (12/1) would have to run a blinder to win this -- but, last year trainer Bill Mott had another charge of his, Tourist, ready to do exactly that, and beat Queen of the Turf Tepin in track-record time.  But, even Ballagh Rocks's consistently solid "usua;" race gives him a chance to hit the frame.  Ballagh Rocks has pace versatility, able to stalk or rally from well back, and has been a regular presence in the trifectas and superfectas of Grade 1 turf miles all year long.

Race 10: Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile, two-year-olds, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 3:58pm PDT

Selections:

  1. #11 BOLT D'ORO (9/5) is fast and tactically versatile.  Anyone in this field would have to move significantly forward to get up to what he's shown so far.  He's proven at Del Mar, with a pair of wins there this summer, and also proven at the mile and a sixteenth trip thanks to his win in the FrontRunner (G1).
  2. #5 FREE DROP BILLY (5/1) is the one who has shown himself -- at least on dirt (sorry, U S Navy Flag!) -- to be closest to Bolt d'Oro's league so far.  His performance going one turn (despite his pure route breeding) suggested he was a good horse, and then he won the two-turn Breeders' Futurity impressively at Keeneland.  If there was something left in the tank after a performance like that, Free Drop Billy could give Bolt d'Oro a race.
  3. #3 FIRENZE FIRE (6/1) took advantage of a sharp pace in the Champagne, and outkicked Good Magic to the wire in the Champagne.  Running back to that, he should appreciate the fact that the Breeders' Cup Juvenile drew plenty of pace.  The question is whether he stays the distance, as he has not yet tried two turns -- but what he has done so far has been sharp enough, and with another fast setup in front of him, he ran the Champagne like a horse worth trying at just a bit longer.

Longshot:  #6 GOOD MAGIC (8/1) is still a maiden, but he's as fast as many of the winners here.  He has a pair of second-place finishes, once in maiden company behind Hazit and again in the Champagne (G1) behind Firenze Fire.  He faces both foes here -- and with some other speed to keep Hazit company on the front end, Good Magic's ability to run on late should help.  He is still lightly raced enough to improve here, with just those two starts underneath him.

Race 11: Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, three-year-olds and up, one and one half miles on the turf, post time 4:37pm PDT

Selections:

  1. #3 HIGHLAND REEL (5/1) won this race last year, and there are several reasons he can repeat this year.  He was very much pointed for this spot, a plus since some Euros just tack it onto the calendar.  He is a ground dependent sort, and here he will certainly get the firm ground he loves so much.  Though he will not have it as easily on the front end as last year, he stands as the king of the speed -- particularly since Oscar Performance got marooned so far outside.  And yet, if someone flies to the lead, he can still press a bit, like he did when he won the Prince of Wales' (G1) at Royal Ascot.
  2. #4 DECORATED KNIGHT (15/1) will not be 15/1 here; expect more like 7/1 or 8/1.  Still, he has had a breakout year.  Decorated Knight has been holding his own against the likes of Highland Reel and Ulysses, and winning a trio of Group 1 races along the way.  As long as he doesn't get out of his stall Saturday morning (like he did before the 2016 Arlington Million, necessitating his scratch), he should be strong.
  3. #12 BEACH PATROL (4/1) has emerged as a clear leader of the American turf route division, after the division looked like a revolving door for the first two thirds of the year.  He broke through in the Arlington Million (G1), then built on that with a romp in the Joe Hirsch (G1) at Belmont.  The biggest question is the tighter course, since Beach Patrol has emerged at broader courses like Arlington and Belmont.  But, the firm turf should suit him well, he has tactical versatility, and he answered the mile and a half question so loudly in the affirmative with his Joe Hirsch win.

Longshot: #8 BIGGER PICTURE (15/1), winner of the United Nations in July, is the forgotten Grade 1 winner in this bunch.  And, yet, his best races make him competitive with the more heralded contenders here.  He has hit the board in all three tries at a mile and a half in his career, showing he can stay the distance, and has races that are as good on speed as anyone's here.  The biggest question is the barn, as Mike Maker doesn't tend to be the most cranked come Breeders' Cup day.  But, between the likely price and Bigger Picture's own honesty, it'll be worth betting Bigger Picture runs his race.

Race 12: Breeders' Cup Classic, three-year-olds and up, one and one quarter miles on the dirt, post time 5:35pm PDT

Selections:

  1. #1 ARROGATE (2/1) still has to answer the question as to whether he can find his best and beat the best at Del Mar.  But, he took a significant step forward in the Pacific Classic as compared to his non-effort in the San Diego.  And, he can improve -- the Pacific Classic had Collected on a relatively easy lead, but the pace should be hotter here.  With Arrogate likely to run on late, none of the forward horses will be quite so fresh.
  2. #5 GUN RUNNER (9/5) has a chance to turn the tables on Arrogate at the Classic distance here.  He has been the king of the East Coast/Midwest handicap circuit, posting easy frontrunning or close-stalking victories in the Foster, Whitney, and Woodward.  But, the distance gets longer here than the mile and an eighth of all three of those races, and the company gets tougher.  Though Dubai proved that Gun Runner is a better mile and a quarter horse than many thought, the distance plus the classier foes near the front mean this is his toughest ask since Dubai.
  3. #8 WEST COAST (6/1) faces older stakes horses for the first time here -- not an easy ask.  But, it's a move trainer Bob Baffert has made before with success, and West Coast won both the Travers and the Pennsylvania Derby impressively enough to make him a solid candidate to fire in the BC Classic.  Though he won both of those races on the front end, he also has some off-pace form before that, suggesting he may be able to take back off of other speedy types like Gun Runner and Collected.  And, though he loses Big Money Mike to Arrogate, he gets a more than competent big-race rider in Javier Castellano.

Longshot:  #3 WIN THE SPACE (30/1) has never been the most consistent horse at this level, but he's one who always seems to invade the frame when you least expect it.  The lumbering grey is reunited with rider Joe Talamo, a sharp Del Mar pilot who took him to a third-place finish in the Awesome Again Stakes.  Though a complete pace collapse is unlikely, it stands to be at least honest, and he has been able to find the frame in West Coast G1 handicap races in slower or faster paces.  At the odds you'll get, that's enough to give him a look.

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Below are NN's selections and longshots for all nine Breeders' Cup races on Saturday, November 4.  If you have questions or want to talk further about any of the races, post a comment here or tweet us at @picksponderings!

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