Bet the Breeders Cup! Garrity takes a first look at 'Future Stars Friday' races, possible big-money wagers
There are fourteen Breeders Cup races this year, five Friday and nine on Saturday. We want to take a look at Friday’s races, not so much to determine wagering strategies -- it’s still too early for that -- but to begin to get a feel for the fields in each race, to begin to think how each race will play out, and from that to begin formulating our betting strategies.
One thing that we can say with certainty is that the good folks at Keeneland have lucked out with the weather: the forecast for Friday and Saturday is ideal, with sunny skies and highs around 70 degrees. This is about as good as it gets for early November in central Kentucky, and with a run of dry days in the recent past -- the last rain was over the weekend -- it’s 1/9 that track conditions at Keeneland will be perfect, the dirt fast and the turf firm, for both days of the Breeders Cup.
Since 2007 at Monmouth Park, when additional races were added and the Breeders Cup became a two-day, rather than one-day, event, the event’s organizers have tinkered with the scheduling of the races, especially regarding which of them are held on Friday. For a while, they tried to sell the notion of “Filly Friday,” when the top races for females, like the Distaff and the FIlly & Mare Turf, were run, but we think that was a poor idea, as some of the sport’s biggest stars in recent years have been female. We particularly remember the 2016 Distaff, in which Beholder and Songbird engaged in an absolutely scintillating stretch duel -- this was as good a horse race as anyone will ever see -- and it was manifestly unfair for it to be relegated to a Friday night, when a vastly smaller audience saw it than if it had been run on Saturday.
This year, the Friday races are labeled “Future Stars Friday,” and all feature 2-Year-Olds. Colts and fillies each get a dirt race at a 1 1/16 mile distance; and the two sexes also get mile turf races as well. The fifth race is a turf sprint at 5 ½ furlongs. We are on board with this decision: running the juvenile races on Friday gives diehards something to root for and to bet on, and it does so while saving the sport’s biggest stars, those whose names even a casual fan may recognize, for Saturday afternoon.
There is another reason to like putting the juvenile races together: These are perhaps the races most likely to result in big prices. While there have been longshot winners of every Breeders Cup race, it makes sense that the baby races are less formful than races for older horses, as 2-year-olds this time of year lack the established form of their older colleagues, and are capable of huge improvements in very short periods of time. Put simply, a much larger part of the handicapping equation in these races is guesswork, and that can lead to chaotic results and big prices.
This brings us to the quintet of races that will be run at Keeneland on Friday. Let’s take a look at them, in the order they will be run.
Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint
5 ½ furlongs, Turf, 2-Year-Olds
Race 6, Post time: 2:30 pm ET
A full field of fourteen colts will go to the post in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, and all eyes will be on the one all the way on the outside, 14-Golden Pal. He’s a Wesley Ward trainee who is 8/5 on the morning line off a very good second in the Norfolk Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting in England in June, and a freakishly fast win in a minor stakes at Saratoga on August 21. Golden Pal is probably the best horse in the field, but at a short price, he will probably be worth playing against, as in a race this short, and with a field that is so big, there is far too much that can go wrong to stomach taking a short price. If Golden Pal does falter, there does seem to be plenty of talent in the rest of the field, plenty of runners who should be able to step forward and take advantage. This looks like a race to look for a winner at a big price.
Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf
1 Mile, Turf, 2-Year-Olds
Race 7, Post time: 3:10 pm ET
European horses have dominated this race since it was first run in 2007, and that trend looks likely to continue, as seven of the fourteen runners are Euro imports, and as a group seem to be a cut or two above the U.S. contingent. We are particularly intrigued by 5-Cadillac, an Irish-bred who won a Group 2 race at Leopardstown in Ireland in September, and who looks like the kind of runner who may improve dramatically on firm turf. But a couple of the other Euros look good as well, and it’s not out of the question that an American horse could win. This is another terrific betting race.
Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies
1 1/16 Miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Old Fillies
Race 8, Post time: 3:50 pm ET
This is the only race of the day with a short field, with only seven juvenile fillies entered, but a couple of them appear to be very, very talented, particularly 1-Simply Ravishing, 3-Dayoutoftheoffice, and 7-Princess Noor. All three are undefeated after three races, all three have run very fast, and a win by any of the three will earn them the Eclipse Award as the year’s best juvenile filly. This could be a race to take a stand, either with one of the favorites or against all three, and leverage that opinion in a multi-race wager.
Breeders Cup Juvenile FIllies Turf
1 Mile, Turf, 2-Year-Old Fillies
Race 9, Post time: 4:30 pm ET
The Juvenile Fillies Turf, on paper at least, is the day’s most wide open race. The favorite is a very lukewarm 3-1, and a quick pass through the past performances makes it seem as though any one of the fourteen could win. In addition, the the European contingent does not seem to be quite as dominant as it does in the Juvenile Turf an hour earlier. This race could very well produce the day’s longest-priced winner, but finding her ahead of time will take some doing. It’s a real handicapper’s race, and one we look forward to diving into, and playing.
Breeders Cup Juvenile
1 1/16 Miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds
Race 10, Post time: 5:15 pm ET
7-Jackie’s Warrior is a deserving favorite, and a deserving headliner, in the Juvenile. He’s been absolutely brilliant this year, winning all four of his starts, and earning sensationally fast speed figures doing so. He is 7/5 on the morning line on merit, and if he wins here, he will be both a unanimous choice for champion 2-year-old colt, and the consensus favorite for next year’s Kentucky Derby, whenever it is held.
But a horse like Jackie’s Warrior is the kind of horse that makes betting the Breeders Cup so great: he could win, but he could also very easily lose, as he’s never run in a race with a field this big, or this talented. And if Jackie’s Warrior does lose, we could see a winner at a huge price.
Is the smart play to pound the chalk? Or is it to deem the favorite an underlay, and throw him out, even if he’s the colt who looks to be by a pretty wide margin the most talented? Decisions like these are what makes playing the Breeders Cup great, and the rewards, both intellectual and monetary, are enormous – if you can get them right.
We will look at Saturday’s races in our next installment. Check back for that here soon.