Friday Breeders’ Cup Pick-4 Analysis

Friday’s Breeders’ Cup races at Del Mar will present quite a challenge for multi-race bettors as two of the four races are comprised of full fields of two year old turf runners. Half of the Breeders’ Cup races on Friday will be on the turf, with three races going exactly one mile–while the Distaff is run at nine panels.

Those horizontal bettors that find themselves alive to the Distaff will have a nice shot at a decent payout thanks to only eight entries in the $2,000,000 race that will have major Eclipse Award implications.

Starting in race six of the ten-race card “where the turf meets the surf”, the all-Breeders’ Cup pick-4 is challenging, but not daunting.  We’ll take a shot at the minimum fifty cent pick-4, going 6x5x3x2 which equates to 180 bets, for a ticket price of $90. The goal is to be alive to the Distaff, where two of the eight runners look most appealing.

Here are the races in the sequence and the horses we’ll use to try to take down the B.C. pick-4 (not to be confused with the race 7 late pick-4 that includes the Grade III Senator Ken Maddy Stakes which is a five furlong turf sprint for fillies and mares three years old and up):

Race 6, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (Grade I, $1 Million purse, one mile on turf)

#1 BEST PERFORMANCE (12/1)

#2 HAPPILY (9/2)

#5 ULTIMA D (12/1)

#7 CAPLA TEMPTRESS (6/1)

#8 SIGNIFICANT FORM (8/1)

#11 RUSHING FALL (7/2)

This is by far the trickiest Breeders’ Cup race on Friday, and we’ll have to go deep, selecting six of the fourteen runners. It is one of those betting situations where we’ll have an opportunity to catch a winner at a square price, but could just as easily be out of the pick-4 after the first leg.

The top choice here is Happily. This daughter of Irish super-sire Galileo comes into the race having won four of her six career starts. She’s only failed to end up in the exacta once– in her debut where she finished a disappointing seventh, ten lengths behind race winner September (who also runs in this edition of the Juvenile Fillies Turf). Having won back-to-back Group I races abroad, under the tutelage of trainer Aidan O’Brien, with jockey Ryan Moore in the saddle, she’s the class of the race.

Rushing Fall became a graded stakes winner her last time out, capturing the Grade III Jessamine at Keeneland, going 1-1/16 mile on the turf. Trained by Chad Brown, and ridden by Javier Castellano, this daughter of More Than Ready is North America’s best shot in this race.

Capla Temptress may be a tier below both Happily and Rushing Fall, but she did win a Grade I race at one mile on turf last time out at Woodbine. Her victory in Canada was her first start outside of Great Britain, but she showed a lot of heart edging Dixie Moon, who also runs in this race. Her speed figures are not as impressive as the first two mentioned, but heart goes a long way, and she’s got the requisite class to warrant a play.

Significant Form may be referred to as “the other Brown” in this race, as she’s stablemates with Rushing Fall. But this one is a graded stakes winner on her own accord, and bested both Best Performance and Orbolution in her win at Belmont  on October 1–both of those contenders race here. She was nearly an even-money favorite last out, but will be an overlay in this race. She’s useable.

Speaking of Best Performance, she has a terrible case of “seconditis”, as she’s been the bridesmaid in four straight races after winning her debut in May. Her last effort was her best, so maybe the proverbial “light” has come on, and she’s sitting on a winner. Although she’s yet to try the Del Mar turf, or go exactly one mile, trainer Christophe Clement will have her ready to roll. She’s a back-up play, to be sure.

The longshot of the race that warrants a play is Ultima D. She’s nowhere near as classy as those listed above, but she has a few things going for her here. First, Wesley Ward has a knack with two year olds. Second, she won a better-than-on-paper race at Kentucky Downs where she drew clear of Best Performance (2nd again!) in a $348k non-graded stakes race. She has a decent post position, and may try to get to the front again, forcing the others to come get her. She’s a legitimate longshot.

Race 7, Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (Grade I, $1 Million purse, one mile on dirt)

#1 IRON FIST (12/1)

#2 GIANT EXPECTATIONS (12/1)

#3 SHARP AZTECA (9/2)

#6 MOR SPIRIT (3/1)

#9 BATTLE OF MIDWAY (10/1)

First things first–Sharp Azteca is the best runner in this race that didn’t freak in the Met Mile. His finish behind Mor Spirit that day garnered him a 112 Beyer speed figure, but he took home second-place money. He comes in more in form than Mor Spirit, who has yet to run since his 6-¼ length romp (117 Beyer) that cemented him as a verifiable force in the handicap division. These two are your main contenders, and need no introduction. It’ll be interesting to see how “ready” trainer Jorge Navarro has Sharp Azteca.

Battle of Midway is shaping up as a trendy play in this race, but there is plenty of merit there. He’s won on this course at this distance, he has Flavien Prat aboard, with Jerry Hollendorfer as the trainer–and these two know California racing. Yes, Battle of Midway ran a clunker in the Haskell, but two of his last three works have been bullets at Santa Anita, and he’s a threat to hit the board at a price. It would be a shame to leave him off a pick-4 ticket as a double-digit odds winner. He’s a safety play.

It’s important to know that this race will be run with a very short distance to the first turn. Outside horses with a lack of early gate speed could be shuffled back, and in traffic for longer than they’d like.

Conversely, horses to the inside can benefit from the race configuration, and that is built into the selections of Iron Fist and Giant Expectations. For the latter, throw out his last effort, as he was obviously not ready mentally, evidenced by his fractious nature at the gate. He’s not as classy as the main contenders, but he’s run here twice and has won at the distance. The other longshot pick is Iron Fist, a five year old gelding son of Tapit who has won four of his last seven starts.

You can’t play a pick-4 in the Breeders’ Cup without playing against good horses, and here, we’ll play against Awesome Slew, Cupid, Accelerate, and Practical Joke. If we can get past the first two races with a live ticket, it will get much easier in the second half of the sequence.
Race 8, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (Grade I, $1 Million purse, one mile on turf)

#1 MENDELSSOHN (8/1)

#6 MASAR (9/2)

#12 HEMP HEMP HURRAY (8/1)

Masar is the best chance for Godolphin to win a Breeders’ Cup race this year, and he will be bet accordingly. He’s the top pick to win, and has just a few “knocks” against him. A Group III winner, he was beaten in his last effort by the filly Happily, who runs in the female version of this contest two races earlier. He gets to carry four pounds less this time out, and all runners carry equal weight. He’ll be trying Lasix for the first time, which can only help. If you could pick a race to “single” on Friday, this could be it, and he could be that single.

Mendelssohn was a $3 Million purchase at Keeneland September last year, and a win in a million dollar race would go a long way in helping to pay for that purchase. His race at Doncaster two back was terrible, but in his latest effort, he came in second to U S Navy Flag–who will test the Sentient Jet B.C. Juvenile on Saturday. His finish 2-½ lengths behind U S Navy Flag in a Group I race at Newmarket is reason enough to play him with Masar here. He could win at a nice price.

Hemp Hemp Hurray is not a high pick, but you’d hate to see a ticket without him go up in smoke. Wesley Ward is good with two year olds. We’ve established that. This one will be a crowd favorite to be sure.

Playing against James Garfield, Voting Control, Encumbered, and Snapper Sinclair.

Race 9, Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Grade I, $2 Million purse, 1-⅛ mile on dirt)

#2 STELLAR WIND (5/2)

#6 FOREVER UNBRIDLED (4/1)

Last year’s Distaff, with the epic battle of Beholder and Songbird is tough to beat, and this race won’t come close. Forever Unbridled is our top pick to win here, even though she’s yet to run at Del Mar, where Stellar Wind is 3-for-3. Having won four times in seven tries at this distance, Forever Unbridled has the advantage over Stellar Wind, who has only one second place finish in her three attempts at nine furlongs.

Stellar Wind’s failures at nine panels have been in back-to-back editions of this race, as well as a fourth place finish in the Kentucky Oaks. This race will be more like the 2015 edition at Keeneland than last year’s historic run at Santa Anita. These two are the top-two choices, and it’s not even close.

Toss Champagne Room, Mopotism, and Romantic Vision, and the only other contenders are Grade I Alabama-winning Elate, Bob Baffert’s Abel Tasman, and Paradise Woods–all three year olds trying to beat the venerable Forever Unbrideled and Stellar Wind. It won’t be the year for three year olds. Lock those two in.

Best of luck!

Del Mar, Race 6 50-cent pick-4: 1,2,5,7,8,11 with 1,2,3,6,9 with 1,6,12 with 2,6 (total $90)

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