2018 Breeders' Cup Saturday Picks and Ponderings

October 30, 2018 : Fourstar Crook, trained by Chad C. Brown, exercises in preparation for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs on October 30, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky. Evers/ESW/CSM

Fourstar Crook, second in the Beverly D, gallops over the Churchill dirt on October 30, 2018.  She will contest the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. (Photo: Evers/ESW/CSM)

Breeders’ Cup action continues on Saturday.  Friday the two-year-olds take the stage, but Saturday belongs to the older horses.  The day features several links to Arlington Million Day.  This year’s Arlington Million (G1) winner Robert Bruce will attempt to get a mile and a half in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, the same distance that thwarted him last time out in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1).  Almanaar, second in the Million, tackles the Breeders’ Cup Mile along with last year’s Secretariat Stakes (G1) winner Oscar Performance.  The top three from this year’s Beverly D. (G1) — Sistercharlie, Fourstar Crook, and Thais — all line up for the Filly and Mare Turf.

The Breeders’ Cup will be broadcast on NBCSN from 1:00-3:30pm EDT on NBCSN, and from 3:30-6:00pm EDT on flagship NBC.  Earlier in the day, information and analysis will be broadcast on both TVG and online channels.  For a rundown of other wagering opportunities, the Breeders’ Cup has a chart.

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 November 2 to reflect the scratch of Polydream from the Mile.

Churchill Downs – Saturday, November 3

Race 3: Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, seven furlongs on the dirt, post time 12:00pm EDT

  1. #5 GOLDEN MISCHIEF (10/1) – Though Golden Mischief has been going mostly six furlongs in recent times, she has stretched to seven furlongs with success — a key, given that seven-furlong horses win seven-furlong races.  She has tactical speed, and she comes second off a layoff for trainer Brad Cox, who excels in that circumstance.  This should be when she is ready to fire her best.
  2. #13 MARLEY’S FREEDOM (8/5) – The parking lot post isn’t great, but she has had a breakout year.  Her form at the distance last year was hit-or-miss, but when revisiting it in the Ballerina this summer at the Spa, she never looked a loser.  She hasn’t raced since that August effort, but Bob Baffert knows how to get a horse ready to run big first-up.
  3. #10 HIGHWAY STAR (20/1) – She jumps up in class off a New York-bred stakes win, but she’s as dyed-in-the-wool a seven-furlong horse as there is in this race.  The only time she missed the board at the distance was in the Breeders’ Cup last year, so there is the class question — but at the likely price, it’s worth betting that some trouble on the turn had something to do with that poor performance.  At her best this year, she has been good enough to merit another shot.

Longshot: #9 STORMY EMBRACE (20/1) – This Florida shipper has proven her mettle at extended sprint distances, and also (unlike some Princess Rooney winners) shown that she can win away from Gulfstream Park.  She may well get ignored off a disappointing effort in a state-bred stakes last up, but in that outing she was nowhere near as close to the pace as she prefers to be.  If Tyler Gaffalione can situate her near SELCOURT (who almost certainly guns it from the rail), she could surprise late.

Race 4: Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), three-year-olds and up, five and a half furlongs on the turf, post time 12:38pm EDT

  1. #11 WORLD OF TROUBLE (6/1) – In the winter he looked like a plucky dirt sprinter, but he has moved forward and become even better on the grass.  He is sharp early but has both grit and a rating gear, and his victory two back at Saratoga came over some ground with give. Don’t take too short a price on him — this is his first try against older runners — but anything in this 5/1, 6/1 neighbourhood is attractive for this up-and-comer.
  2. #13 WILL CALL (20/1) – He missed by half a length to BUCCHERO in the Woodford last-up, but made up an enormous amount of ground late.  This late-flying style is a new thing for the four-year-old son of Country Day, as he was near the lead as recently as this winter.  But, that style has proven effective against classy turf sprinters, and he may get enough pace to come flying again here.
  3. #6 RAINBOW HEIR (12/1) – You don’t often see an active Thoroughbred stud racing, much less in the Breeders’ Cup, but here we are.  He missed by less than a length in the Turf Monster (G3), his first race back after his first season at stud, and that race was fast enough to suggest he is the same old Rainbow Heir.  He is fast, tactically versatile, strong over the distance, and the sort of horse who can run his race at any track.

Longshot: #3 HEMBREE (20/1) – He rewarded this space’s opinion that he really is a turf sprinter when winning the Nearctic (G2) at Woodbine last month, and now he cuts back to an even shorter trip.  It should suit, and he should get pace to mow down.  Though he loses jockey Irad Ortiz to WORLD OF TROUBLE, he gets Tyler Gaffalione — not only streaking in general, but a regular big-race presence for trainer Mike Maker.

Race 5: Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), three-year-olds and up, one mile on the dirt, post time 1:16pm EDT

  1. #7 FIRENZE FIRE (6/1) – With questions about both chalks (CATALINA CRUISER and CITY OF LIGHT) on top, I cannot wait to bet this horse.  The Dirt Mile is the way it should be this year — a one-turn mile — and this son of Poseidon’s Warrior has thrived at the trip.  He has won three of four starts at a one turn mile, including a comprehensive walloping of SEVEN TRUMPETS and Mendelssohn in the Dwyer (G3).  Though it’s his first try against mature older horses (who might refrain from biting him…), he is fast enough to be a factor and has developed a good rapport with jockey Irad Ortiz.
  2. #1 CITY OF LIGHT (5/2) – Between the pair of chalky California shippers, he is the one who has shipped, having won the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) earlier this year.  He also runs well fresh, important since he hasn’t raced since finishing second in the Forego (G1) in August.  Given his relatively short price I don’t like the fact that he tries the one-turn mile for the first time in this, but it’s a logical spot given his quality seven-furlong form.  Perhaps worth a bit of backup coverage on top, and definitely makes sense underneath.
  3. #6 SEEKING THE SOUL (5/1) – It’s hard to see him winning, but his consistency at Churchill Downs combined with the fact that he has never been out of the exacta at a flat mile makes this a perfect spot.  Probably does not win this, even on his best day, but has strong appeal to run on for a piece of the exacta or trifecta.

Longshot: #2 TRIGGER WARNING (20/1) – This race is not brimming with speed, and Trigger Warning drew relatively inside.  He nipped at underneath shares in the midseason derbies, going a route of ground, but now cuts back to one turn.  He should be fast enough on the cutback to take the early initiative, and this hard-trying son of Candy Ride looks a dependable sort to get to the lead and dig in for as long as he can.

Race 6: Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and three eighths miles on the turf, post time 2:04pm EDT

  1. #1 FOURSTAR CROOK (5/1) – One of five for Chad Brown in here, she had the perfect final prep when she outclassed the field in the Flower Bowl last month.  She has been the only one in the American turf division who has been able to bonk heads with Sistercharlie, and has been the only horse so far this year who has defeated that one. That victory came at a mile and a quarter, and this even longer distance may play even better to FOURSTAR CROOK’s strengths.  She also has enough form over ground with some cut (a win over yielding turf, and a third-place finish in a bog at Woodbine last year in the E. P. Taylor (G1)) to be okay despite the rain.
  2. #3 WILD ILLUSION (7/2) – She is three years old and facing older, but has no problem tackling older mares, as her last two races have been Group 1 wins against older horses.  She has form over softer going or better ground, almost a surprising thing to see for a European who ships to North America.  With tactical versatility and a cozy rapport with rider William Buick, she sits atop the European contingent for this race.
  3. #6 SISTERCHARLIE (3/1) – Shelved since a victory in the Beverly D (G1) at Arlington in August, she returns in as tough a spot as she has faced all year.  The mile and three eighths is a question; she has never gone this far, and may be slightly better in that mile and an eighth range than much longer.  She is also unproven over ground with some water in it — it won’t be the heavy footing that wore her down last March at Saint Cloud, but won’t be the firm going she loves so much, either.  But, she is a consistent mare who can take her race to any track, and can find the frame on that.

Longshot: # 14 EZIYRA (12/1) – Her bearing on track this week has been among the most confident; though she has yet to race outside Great Britain and Ireland, she looked at home from the first day she stepped out for trackwork.  She hasn’t won at the top level yet, but her one Group 1 try this year was not a bad form line to have: third in the Yorkshire Oaks, three and three quarters lengths behind Sea of Class.  (Sea of Class was the one who was good enough to keep Enable honest in the Arc.)  Finally, it’s never a bad thing to have Frankie Dettori in your corner on a huge stage, and she engages his services on Saturday.

Race 7: TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), three-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the dirt, post time 2:46pm EDT

  1. #5 IMPERIAL HINT (9/5) – This horse is the most dangerous kind of sprinter: fast, fast enough to hit the front when he can, but smart enough to rate just off the pace until Javier Castellano pushes the button if he has to.  The one question looming over him at a short price is his 0-2 record at Churchill — but neither of those races came at his favoured six-furlong distance, making them forgivable.
  2. #8 LIMOUSINE LIBERAL (6/1) – He finished behind PROMISES FULFILLED and WHITMORE last time out in the Phoenix (G2), but kept on fighting and gaining after having a nasty trip down the lane.  Though he is perhaps strongest at seven furlongs, he is well-proven going six furlongs as well, and his run at Keeneland shows he is in the sort of form to belong.  And, his affinity for Churchill doesn’t hurt: he has six wins and a second in eight career tries.
  3. #2 PROMISES FULFILLED (6/1) – In this day and age, it’s great to see a three-year-old coming into the Breeders’ Cup having already proved himself against older.  The pace won’t be easy, but he has proven he can slug it out up front and keep on going.  He has an easy win in his only sprint start at Churchill; though that came against maiden company, it shows he’ll handle the course.

Longshot: #4 WARRIOR’S CLUB (15/1) – None of the longer shots are particularly appealing on top, but this one has a chance to run into the frame on his best day.  He has flopped in his last two starts, but really didn’t run his race in either — he got caught up too close to the pace early in both.  Now, with several firecrackers early, WARRIOR’S CLUB can do what he does better: track the pace and try to reel the speed in.  That probably won’t get him all the way there, but it could get him a piece underneath.

Race 8: Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), three-year-olds and up, one mile on the turf, post time 3:36pm EDT

  1. #5 OSCAR PERFORMANCE (6/1) – The Woodbine Mile (G1) has been as live a prep as there is for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, with every winner in the 2010’s trying the Breeders’ Cup Mile — and every one hitting the board.  This proven miler looks primed to keep that streak alive.  There isn’t a lot of speed in this race, suggesting his frontrunning style will be well suited.  He likely makes the lead, even, though can rate if MUSTASHRY goes.  As long as he can handle the going, he will be tough.
  2. #1 ONE MASTER (12/1) – He has won his last two races, a seven and a half furlong G3 at Tipperary, and then the seven-furlong Prix de la Foret (G1) at Longchamp.  A mile is the question, as he is the odd Breeders’ Cup Mile horse who has never tried the distance.  But, he has the pedigree to stretch out and he also has form over softer going.
  3. #7 EXPERT EYE (8/1) – This three-year-old has taken the step forward he needs to run with good older horses.  A winner at Royal Ascot against his own age group in the Jersey (G3), he went on to prove Group-quality against older through the summer. He does have tables to turn on LIGHTNING SPEAR, who beat him in the Sussex (G1), but not only has he had a few more months to develop but also the rain-affected ground plays more to EXPERT EYE’s abilities than LIGHTNING SPEAR.  He also hasn’t raced since September 9, but he has piled up several wins off freshenings, so should be at his best after the breather.

Longshot: #14 MUSTASHRY (15/1) – He used to be a closer, but appears to have found a new, more forward style just in time.  He comes in off a pair of Group 2 wins, the classiest form he has ever shown, both of which came after he forsook his closing style.  Sir Michael Stoute doesn’t fly a horse to the United States lightly, so when he does, watch out.

Race 9: Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and one eighth miles on the dirt, post time 4:16pm EDT

  1. #11 MONOMOY GIRL (2/1) – If the horses bring their best, it looks like a battle between the two Oaks winners.  After Abel Tasman’s last-out flop, she is hard to trust.  This filly, however, remains in strong form, and returns to her home track.  Drawing the outside didn’t faze her in the Kentucky Oaks, and it shouldn’t faze her here, either: she has tactical speed, and can even switch gears completely and close if necessary.  The price won’t be exciting, but she’s a solid one to lean heavily on in multi-race wagers in order to catch a price in another leg.
  2. #9 WOW CAT (8/1) – She has more upside than most in this field.  After three starts in the United States, this Chilean filly has finally gotten her hooves under her for this American campaign.  She won the Beldame easily over the same distance as the Distaff, and keeps Jose Ortiz in the irons from that outing.
  3. #7 MIDNIGHT BISOU (6/1) –  This filly was not quite up to MONOMOY GIRL’s standard earlier in the year, but her outing in the Cotillion (G1) suggests she is closing the gap.  She needed a disqualification to place ahead of that rival that day, but still raced so well against her to suggest they may become real rivals.  If that huge effort didn’t take a lot out of her — and she is really just improving that much with the move to the Asmussen barn — she can find the picture.

Longshot: #8 VALE DORI (12/1) – Blinkers and the switch to Joe Talamo in the irons brought back the VALE DORI of old in the Zenyatta (G1) last time out, form she hopes to hold going into the Distaff.  Is that a sure thing?  No.  But, as opposed to the short-priced Baffert whose form I can’t actually trust because she’s coming off such a bad race with no apparent excuse?  This time, we’ve got a longer-priced Baffert coming off a good race, so the risk/reward works out in favour of finding some use for VALE DORI, at least underneath.

Race 10: Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), three-year-olds and up, one and one half miles on the turf, post time 4:56pm EDT

  1. #2 ENABLE (1/1) – The Arc Winner Jinx is a thing: typically the Arc is the final goal of a full campaign, and the Breeders’ Cup Turf is one race too many.  ENABLE is a special case.  She was laid off for eleven months, had one prep before the Arc, and now comes to the Breeders’ Cup Turf third off a layoff.  That’s not the point a which a horse begins to tire — that’s a point at which a horse is typically rounding into form.  And, with a horse as good as ENABLE, that makes her downright formidable.
  2. #12 WALDGEIST (9/2) – He has form through the top selection, finishing less than two lengths beaten in the Arc last month.  Though he has had a fuller 2018 campaign than ENABLE has, he is still at a positive point of his form cycle — he did get a two-and-a-half-month layoff through the summer, and this has him third-up.  The distance suits him well, he has the ability to handle softer turf, and he is the natural contender to step up should ENABLE remember what an off day feels like.
  3. #5 MAGICAL (10/1) –  This spot was a close one between her and TALISMANIC, who could work out a nice trip from that rail draw.  But, he also has the US familiarity that may depress his price.  MAGICAL has been a bit on and off, but does come off a win the the British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes (G1) at Ascot last month.  She has form on all kinds of turf, making the weather this week a non-issue.  She is also a three-year-old with good form against older, as two of her four starts against older fillies and mares this year have see her in the winners’ enclosure.

Longshot: #3 CHANNEL MAKER (12/1) – He has always been good, but has blossomed at age four.  He covers his best distance in this race, and based on his form this summer, every drop of rain that has fallen brings him closer to springing an upset.  He will not likely set the pace — GLORIOUS EMPIRE will probably try to go great guns — but shouldn’t be far off, and should keep on tenaciously.

Race 11: Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), three-year-olds and up, one and one half miles on the turf, post time 5:44pm EDT

  1. #3 CATHOLIC BOY (8/1) – He is a true mile and a quarter horse, getting his best trip here.  He hasn’t raced since the Travers in August, but trainer Jonathan Thomas is an ace at getting him (and the horses in his charge, more generally) ready to fire off the layoff.  Expect him to stalk off the pace set by MENDELSSOHN and anyone who wants to go with him (perhaps WEST COAST or AXELROD), and outstay them all.
  2. #11 MIND YOUR BISCUITS (6/1) – I spent much of the year baffling as to why the best dirt sprinter in the world was pointing toward route races, but in the Lukas Classic (G3) I finally saw why.  The field he beat wasn’t Breeders’ Cup Classic quality — but he beat them with such ease, such condescension.  It proved he could rate kindly and finish the job in a two-turn race, always something I need to see a stretch-out sprinter be able to do.  It also had the side benefit of proving that he could handle the footing at Churchill Downs.  In short, it was the perfect prep.
  3. #6 MCKINZIE (6/1) – It’s hard to look at the Classic without looking at a Bob Baffert entrant.  The barn has two, MCKINZIE and WEST COAST.  They both have consistent career records, they both come second off a break, but MCKINZIE looked better coming off the shelf.  He also fits the mold of a Baffert Breeders’ Cup Classic winner just a bit better — he has won three of the last four Classics with three-year-olds, after all.  Whether the son of Street Sense will stay the Classic distance is a question — but Baffert should have him as fit as possible for the attempt.

Longshot: #8 PAVEL (20/1) – The PAVEL who came to the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year is not the same PAVEL who ran in the race last year: he’s a fitter, stronger, better model.  He has been a road warrior for the O’Neill barn the last two seasons, but his most successful journey was his visit to Churchill earlier in the year, when he romped easily in the Foster (G1).  This race sends him a furlong further, but he has ran into the placings at this distance twice before.  Beating all of the top contenders may be a tough ask — but running into the placings, on the other hand, is a reasonable thing to ask given the likelihood of seeing the best version of him.


Below are NN’s selections and longshots for all nine Breeders’ Cup races on Saturday, November 3.  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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