Garrity's Saturday Breeders Cup Picks: He looks to beat underlays Gamine, Life Is Good, Jackie's Warrior, more
The big day is here: It’s Breeders Cup Saturday at Del Mar. There are nine championship races, and they need no introduction, so we will get right to it: we expect fast dirt on the main track, firm going on the turf course, and for both surfaces to play fair. There is money to be made, so let’s go.
Del Mar, Race 4, 3:05 pm ET
Grade 1 Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, 7 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
The first Breeders Cup race on the Saturday card at Del Mar is the Filly & Mare Sprint, and it is well that it leads off, because it drew just six entrants, a disappointingly small field for any Grade 1 race, let alone a race of this magnitude. Potential runners were no doubt scared off by the presence of 5-Gamine, who has won nine of her ten career starts, her only loss coming in last year’s Kentucky Oaks. She has been deadly in races around one turn, the best filly sprinter to come down the pike in many, many years.
But while there is no question that she has been brilliant, there is some uncertainty about whether Gamine will be as good in this race as she has been in the past. For one, she has not been quite as impressive, either visually or against the clock, in 2021 as she was in 2020, and it’s fair to ask whether she has lost a step. Another question is pace: she has dominated her races by virtue of her speed, but the presence, right next to her, of 6-Bella Sofia, who has even more natural speed than she does, raises the prospect of a speed duel, of blazingly fast early fractions that may leave both of them out of gas in the race’s later stages.
That, in fact, is what we are expecting, and that makes the pick 2-Estilio Talentoso, a 4-year-old filly who should be flying down the stretch. She is not the equal in ability to either Gamine or Bella Sofia, but we think this race will be an example of how the winner of a race can be the horse who is not necessarily the best, but who gets the best trip from a pace standpoint. We think Estilio Talentosa will spring the upset, and will bet her to win at 12-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 4, $25 to win on 2-Estilio Talentosa.
Del Mar, Race 5, 3:40 pm ET
Grade 1 Breeders Cup Turf Sprint, 5 furlongs, Turf, 3 & Up
A full field of fourteen lines up for the Turf Sprint. The headliner is 1-Glass Slippers, who won this race last year. She could win, but we are against her, as her form this season has not been as good as it was last year, and also because she, as defending champion, will get plenty of attention at the windows. That makes her an underlay, and a bet-against.
We like 2-Emaraaty Ana. The 5-year-old gelding has been busy this year, running eight times, all in England, since March. While he has been generally competitive in all of his races, he has been particularly good since the summer, and was excellent in his last, when he won a Group 1 at Haydock Park on Sept. 4. That shows that he is in razor-sharp form, and another positive indication is that he has shown an affinity for the kind of firm turf he will get here. And unlike many European horses, including Glass Slippers, he has tactical speed, which should allow jockey Andrea Atzenia to work out a good trip around the tight turns on the Del Mar turf course. This is Atzenia’s only mount in any Breeders Cup race, and we think it is a very positive sign that he came all the way from the UK just to ride Emaraaty Ana in this race. We will bet him to win at 5-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 5, $40 to win on 2-Emaraaty Ana.
Del Mar, Race 6, 4:19 pm ET
Grade 1 Breeders Cup Dirt Mile, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up
The DIrt Mile drew a field of eight. We’re against favored 5-Life is Good, who could win, but who figures to be wildly overbet. We think that whatever edge he may have on the rest of the field is slight, which makes the prospect of taking 4/5 on him thoroughly unappealing.
The pick is 3-Ginobili. He’s a 4-year-old gelding trained by Richie Baltas, and we like his last race, when he won the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien at Del Mar on Aug. 28. One thing we suspect is that he’s a late bloomer; one thing we know is that his Pat O’Brien win shows he likes the surface at Del Mar. We think he can get a good trip just behind Life is Good, who figures to set the pace, and move to the front as the field turns for home. His recent morning workouts have been sensational, which suggests that Ginobili is sitting on a big race; we will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 6, $35 to win on 3-Ginobili.
Del Mar, Race 7, 4:59 pm ET
Grade 1 Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf, 1⅜ miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
An even dozen line up for the Filly & Mare Turf. The defending champion, the French-bred 12-Audarya, who won last year’s edition at Keeneland, returns, and while she may win, we give the edge to another European filly, 6-Love, who edged her in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal Ascot meet in June. The two of them both beat the boys that day, running 1-2 in one of the biggest races of the year in Europe, and while Love has been somewhat disappointing since, going winless in three races, she did run pretty well in each, and did so against some incredibly difficult fields. This 4-year-old Coolmore homebred, and Aidan O’Brien trainee, simply oozes class, has the right running style for the Del Mar turf course, and has a post position that gives her an edge over her Ascot rival. Add it up and Love is the pick; we will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 7, $40 to win on 6-Love.
Del Mar, Race 8, 5:38 pm ET
Grade 1 Breeders Cup Sprint, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up
A good group of nine sprinters goes to the gate in the Sprint. 2-Jackie’s Warrior is favored, and deservedly so, after earning big speed figures in his last two starts, the Grade 1 Jerkins at Saratoga in August and the Grade 2 Gallant Bob at Parx in September. He is another favorite who could win, but who will probably be an underlay, and we are consequently betting against him.
We like 9-Dr. Schivel. He’s a 3-year-old colt who showed some promise as a juvenile, winning the Del Mar Futurity two Septembers ago, but who has been much improved this year, winning three straight races, including two stakes races, coming into this spot. His recent works have been sizzling, which marks him as an improving 3-year-old, and horses of that sort are always dangerous at this time of year. He has won on the lead, and by stalking. In this spot, we see him sitting behind the early leaders, and moving to the front when the field turns for home. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-Dr. Schivel.
Del Mar, Race 9, 6:20 pm ET
Grade 1 Breeders Cup Mile, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up
The Breeders Cup Mile is one of the toughest races to handicap at every Breeders Cup, and the 2021 edition is no exception, with 14 horses going to the gate. We like 9-Mother Earth, a 3-year-old Coolmore filly, trained, like all Coolmore horses, by Aidan O’Brien, who finished second in the Juvenile FIllies Turf at last year’s Breeders Cup, and then won this year’s 1,000 guineas at Newmarket in May. It is incredibly difficult for a 3-year-old filly to beat older males in any race, let alone a race of this magnitude, but Mother Earth seems up to the task, having competed quite favorably against some of the best turf milers in Europe. O’Brien is taking a gamble by running Mother Earth here, rather than against her own sex. We think he will be rewarded for his daring, and will bet her to win at 8-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 9, $40 to win on 9-Mother Earth.
Del Mar, Race 10, 7:00 pm ET
Grade 1 Breeders Cup Distaff, 1⅛ miles, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
Eleven fillies and mares will line up to run a mile-and-an-eighth in the Distaff. The pick is 1-Private Mission, a lightly-raced 3-year-old filly who has an excellent race record, with four wins in five career starts, but who also seems to be on the come, as she has improved steadily in her three starts this year. Further improvement will be required for her to win this, but she seems capable of doing just that, which makes her a major contender here. Her natural speed, her inside post, and the presence of top rider Flavien Prat should result in a good trip; we will bet her to win at 8-1. The bet: Del Mar, Race 10, $40 to win on 1-Private Mission.
Del Mar, Race 11, 7:40 pm ET
Grade 1 Breeders Turf, 1½ miles, Turf, 3 & Up
Most of the time, handicapping Breeders Cup races involves a lot of projection, trying to figure out which horses are capable of running well enough to win these kinds of races. That is not the case in this year’s Turf, as one runner, 7-Walton Street, has already run fast enough to take a race of this magnitude, and he did so very recently: his win the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine on Sept. 18 was sensationally fast, and we think he will be even better today, partly for having that race under his belt, but mostly because the turf in Toronto that day had a bit of cut in it, and we think Walton Street will run better on the firmer Del Mar sod. He didn’t beat that much that day, and this is a much, much tougher field; but the figures don’t lie, and they say Walton Street is the likeliest winner here. At 8-1, that makes him a fantastic play. We will bet him to win. The bet: Del Mar, Race 11, $40 to win on 7-Walton Street.
Del Mar, Race 12, 8:40 pm ET
Grade 1 Breeders Cup Classic, 1 ¼ miles, Dirt, 3 & Up
The main event at the Breeders Cup is the Classic, and some years, after all the great races that precede it, it can feel like a bit of an anticlimax. That will not be the case here, as a sensational group of nine lines up to run a mile-and-a-quarter in the fading California sunshine. This is the best Classic field in quite a few years.
It’s a tricky race to handicap, partly because there are so many high-quality runners, but mostly because figuring out the pace, figuring out how the race will be run, is even more of an exercise in guesswork than usual. Several strong and marginal contenders 3-Hot Rod Charlie, 5-Knicks Go, 6-Art Collector, and 8-Medina Spirit, are all speed horses, and if they all go for the lead at the same time, the early fractions will almost certainly be unsustainably fast, compromising the chances of all the horses in this group.
We think that kind of scenario, that kind of suicidal speed duel, is unlikely to happen. We see a pace that is quick, but not unreasonably slow, and a kind of race shape that will allow any horse to win -- provided he is good enough.
Which brings us to 4-Essential Quality, who figures to get an excellent trip, sitting behind the pacesetters early, saving ground around the turns, a position from which he should be able to run the best race of which he is capable. We think that his effort in the Travers, when he won in very game fashion and in very fast time, shows that he is good enough, but what is scary is that he may be even better today than he was in the Travers, which was his most recent start, was in August, and he appears to have matured physically since. He looks to us to be the best horse, and the 2021 Breeders Cup Classic will be a reminder, we think, that the nature of this game is the same in a $5,000 claimer as it is in a $6 million stakes race: identify the best horse, and bet him to win. Essential Quality looks to be the best to us, and the race shape looks to favor him; so we will indeed bet him to win, and do so enthusiastically. The bet: Del Mar, Race 12, $75 to win on 4-Essential Quality.
That’s all for today. Until the next time, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.