The 13-race Breeders’ Cup serves as Thoroughbred racing’s championship event and I will give my take on five questions to be answered in this year’s 35th edition:
Will Abel Tasman rebound?
I’m skeptical and will let her beat me.
With BRIS Speed ratings as high as 112, Abel Tasman is the fastest member of the Distaff (G1) field on paper but the six-time Grade 1 winner exits a real head-scratcher in the September 30 Zenyatta (G1), failing to fire at 1-9 odds and finishing 10 lengths up the track in fifth. My first thought after the Zenyatta was last year’s San Diego (G2) when Arrogate threw in a complete clunker; he was never the same again and despite training well in preparation, Arrogate wound up a non-threatening fifth as the 2-1 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
Abel Tasman was unplaced in her first start this year, the La Troienne (G1) on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, but that performance bore no resemblance to the Zenyatta as she stayed in contact with the field throughout and missed by 3 ¼ lengths. She was a shell of herself last time and it appears the August 24 Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga, a thrilling race in which Abel Tasman laid it all on the line to narrowly defeat Elate, exacted a supreme toll upon both classy runners (Elate now sidelined).
Will Euros sweep Saturday’s major turf events?
I think so and will lean on the European team in the Turf (G1), Mile (G1) and Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
One of Saturday’s Head2Head wagers is “Elate versus the field” in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) and even if the two-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner falters, Waldgeist, Magical and Talismanic can still carry the banner for the international contingent. Europeans loom large as well in the Mile (G1) with eight of the 14 contestants, including morning-line favorite Polydream. The French filly is one of four Group 1 winners (One Master, Happily and Lightning Spear) and I like the improving form of Group 2 scorer Expert Eye.
The Filly & Mare Turf (G1) is the potential stumbling block. Wild Illusion and Magic Wand rate as prominent contenders for the foreign team, but the Chad Brown-trained duo of Sistercharlie and Fourstar Crook can’t be dismissed from win consideration. I’m going with Wild Illusion.
Who will be the early Kentucky Derby favorite on Saturday?
Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner.
The Juvenile features an East-West showdown between Champagne (G1) winner Complexity and American Pharoah (G1) hero Game Winner, and I’m tabbing Code of Honor off a troubled runner-up in the Champagne. The winner comes from this trio.
Will John Sadler win his first Breeders’ Cup race?
John Sadler enters the Breeders’ Cup with a 0-for-41 record but will send out a pair of morning line favorites (Accelerate in the Classic and Catalina Cruiser in the Dirt Mile) and the second choice (Selcourt) in the Filly & Mare Sprint. Selcourt drew a tough rail post and Accelerate looks vulnerable to me, but unbeaten Catalina Cruiser won’t be denied.
Who wins the $6 million Classic?
Mind Your Biscuits.
The 1 ¼-mile Classic came up extremely competitive, with Accelerate, Catholic Boy, McKinzie, Mendelssohn, Thunder Snow, West Coast and Yoshida all viable win contenders in my estimation, but I give the edge to the hard-trying Mind Your Biscuits, who earned his first win past seven furlongs when romping in the September 29 Lukas Classic (G3) under the Twin Spires. He’s one of only two runners with a win over the track (along with Pavel) and Mind Your Biscuits registered a 109 BRIS Speed rating last time, the same threshold reached by every Classic winner since 2010. Tyler Gaffalione is a rising star in the jockey ranks and Mind Your Biscuits possesses the tactical speed to receive a perfect trip behind the speed before offering his best.
Enjoy the Breeders’ Cup!