Handicapping the Turf Races on Breeders’ Cup Saturday
By Jordan Sigmon
The turf races at the Breeders’ Cup can often be the hardest to handicap with a number of foreign horses shipping in to run. Many people will either dismiss a horse because they’re unfamiliar, or do the opposite and use a horse just because it’s from overseas because the common belief is that their turf horses are better than ours.The first of four turf races in the main part of Saturday’s card is the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (GIT), which runs as race five at approximately 1:43 pm PT. The morning-line favorite for this race and my top selection is Lady Eli. Her accomplishments go without saying, and though she may not hold much value, she does make the most sense here. There should be plenty of pace for her to run at, and even without it, she’s proven to be very tactical in the past. The two biggest reasons for picking her are her undefeated record at the 1 ¼-mile distance and the fact that this is her third start off the layoff. If she’s improved from her last start, she will be very tough to beat.
My second choice is the Japanese mare Nuovo Record, who offers much better value at 12-1 on the morning line. Nuovo Record hasn’t won since March of last year, but even in her off-the-board finishes, she’s never far behind. A horse that always runs their race is not one to leave off of your ticket. Also, some of her best performances have come on a firm surface, and having encountered good and yielding ground in her last two starts, she should appreciate getting on some ground with a little less give to it.
My third selection for the race is the local filly Avenge. It’s always smart to include one of the pace horses on your ticket, and as of those Avenge looks like the most likely to stick around for a piece of it. With the other main speed Catch A Glimpse to the inside of her, Avenge should be able to establish good position with a clean break. A winner of three straight in California, Avenge provides some value at 15-1 on the morning line.
My sleeper for the race is one of the Euros, but not one that you would expect. Queen’s Trust was at a disadvantage in the Qipco British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes (GIT) when she found herself far behind a very pedestrian pace early. By the time she had found her best stride, there was just too much distance between her and the 1-2 finishers, though she did rally strongly for third. At 6-1 on the morning line, Queen’s Trust should get a much better setup and will have every chance to win should she bring her best race.
The next turf race on the card is the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GIT), the seventh race on the program, which is scheduled to go off at approximately 2:05 pm PT. My top selection in this race is Washington DC who has been a fast finishing second in three of his last four starts, all of which came at five furlongs. The extra distance and this course should suit him well, and his trainer nearly won this race in 2014 with No Nay Never, so he certainly has the right connections to prepare him for this spot. My co-second choices are Om and Obviously. One of the best angles to play on the downhill turf course is horses who have shown speed at a mile cutting back in distance. Both of these horses did just that in the City of Hope Mile (GIIT) and both figure to have a formidable chance in here. My third selection is Holy Lute, who most recently won a division of the Eddie D Stakes (GIIIT). At six years old, Holy Lute seems to be finding his best stride at the right time and a win over the course has proved useful in the past. In this race, my sleeper is the Canadian invader Calgary Cat, another horse who seems to have found his best stride at the right time. Having shown the ability to lay close, as well as the ability to come from way out of it, Calgary Cat should be able to work out a comfortable trip for himself if he’s good enough.
One of the easier of the four turf race to figure out is the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (GIT), which runs as race nine at approximately 3:22 pm PT. In this race, I’m going with the Aidan O’Brien-trained Highland Reel on top. Drawn to the far outside (#13 Metaboss has been withdrawn), he should be able to use his speed and clear the field early. He’ll be on firm ground, which he loves, and if he can put some separation between him and the rest of the field on the far turn, he has the talent to keep them all at bay. I also have co-second choices in this race, those horses being Found and Flintshire. Both are coming off of losses, but for good reasons. Flintshire, a horse who excels on firm ground, encountered a soft turf course last out and wound up a distant second to Ectot. With little rain expected in California, he should get the firm ground he loves. The Arc winner Found was beaten on the square in her most recent start, but there is no shame in losing to a horse like Almanzoor. She always puts her best foot forward, and there’s no reason to believe she won’t do the same here. My third choice is Da Big Hoss, who has been racking up the wins at marathon distances this year. A former claimer, Da Big Hoss ran sneaky good in this race last year and is coming in a stronger, better racehorse. Ulysses will be my sleeper in this spot, as he is for many. The group 3-winner was 12th in his only other grade/group 1 attempt, but if his breeze over the turf course Thursday is any sign of how he will run, he poses a major threat to the top contenders.
The final turf race on the Saturday card is the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GIT), scheduled as the 11th race on the program and set to go off at approximately 4:40 pm PT. My top selection in here is the lightly raced Shug McGaughey trainee Ironicus. Ironicus was a very unlucky second in the Shadwell Turf Mile (GIT), he will benefit greatly from the faster pace he should get in here, and if he gets clear sailing in the stretch, he’s going to be very difficult to hold off. Drawn directly to his outside in post 10 is my second choice Limato, who has been a star sprinter in Europe this season. In his only other attempt at a mile, Limato was a close fourth to the likes of Belardo, Euro Charline and Endless Charm. That was a much different course than he’ll experience here, and he should have no issue getting the mile. He appears to have traveled well, even bucking quite a bit in his gallop over the turf course Wednesday. My co-third choices are Alice Springs, and Tepin, both girls up against the boys. Alice Springs has blossomed into a top-class miler this season, rolling to three group 1 victories against very talented fields. Tepin won this race last year and had not lost since until her most recent start when Photo Call got too far in front for her to catch in the First Lady (GIT) at Keeneland. I’ll use Ring Weekend as my sleeper for this race; he’s not always the most consistent of horses but he does hold a grade 1 win over this course, and when he does run his race, he can be a very tough customer.