Submitted by Noel Michaels on Sunday, October 28, 2018 at 12:00 AM
For horseplayers, the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships means world-class horses, big wide-open fields, great betting races, and loads of potential big wins and wagering value throughout the two most anticipated race cards of the year.
The 2018 Breeders' Cup returns to Churchill Downs for the first time since 2010-11 and will again be run over two days on Friday and Saturday, November 2-3. There will be a small format change this year with the event's five 2-year-old races all being run on Friday and the remaining nine races to be run on Saturday, culminating with the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic. There will be a brand-new Breeders' Cup race making its debut this year - the Juvenile Turf Sprint - and the other 13 races will stay the same as last year but with various distance changes due to the Churchill track configuration. The Filly & Mare Turf will be run at 1 3/8 miles for example, and the Turf Sprint will be run at 5 ½ furlongs. The Dirt Mile will be run around one turn.
For the most part, the 2018 Breeders' Cup card has come-up very strong, perhaps with a few exceptions. The races will mostly either be wide-open affairs, and some will feature Eclipse-Award showdowns where the winner more or less will take all.
Most of all, the Breeders' Cup will be great fun for horseracing fans and handicappers. No matter how much of a racing fan you are, an event like the Breeders' Cup can always be made better and more enjoyable if you are winning and cashing tickets, let's face it. So please read onward for some insight and tips for each of the 14 races of the 2018 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs. I hope your picks are all winning ones.
Friday, Race 5 - Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint
The Juvenile Turf Sprint makes its Breeders' Cup debut as the first race of the 14-race world championships Friday and Saturday. This race mainly was added as a way to lure more European shippers and to make the event even more international as a whole. The inaugural Juvenile Turf Sprint looms as a difficult handicapping puzzle that has drawn the winners of all the newly-created preps for this race, including the Indian Summer at Keeneland (winner: Strike Silver), the Futurity at Belmont (Uncle Benny), the Hollywood Beach at Gulfstream (Bulletin), the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint (Moonlight Romance) and the Speakeasy Stakes at Santa Anita (Its Gonna Hurt), all of whom will be trying to beat the top Euro invaders such as Soldier's Call, Sergei Prokofiev, and trainer Wesley Ward's winner on both sides of the pond, Shang Shang Shang. Add Larry Rivelli's Polytrack monster Big Drink of Water into the mix, and all signs point to an "all button" race to begin the Breeders' Cup 2018 festivities.
Friday, Race 6 - Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
Trainer Chad Brown dominates the Juvenile Fillies Turf, having won the race four times including 3 of the last 4 years. He'll send out the favorite again this year with potential budding superstar Newspaperofrecord, who began her career with two blow-out wins including in the Miss Grillo at Belmont where she crushed the field. Brown will need to hold off a strong Euro contingent led by three Aidan O'Brien invaders, but nevertheless, Newspaperofrecord looks like one of Breeders' Cup weekend's surest bets.
Friday, Race 7 - Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
The Juvenile Fillies might not be one of the Breeders' Cup glamor divisions and it's now run on Friday, but this year's Juvenile Fillies might well be the race of the weekend. The race will be a showdown that brings together all of the impressive winners of the various preps across the country with the Eclipse Award hanging in the balance - to be decided on the track just as it should be. The horse to beat would have to be considered the Simon O'Callaghan-trained SoCal monstress, Bellafina, who has been unbeatable in four starts so far including three stakes capped off by a dominating victory in the Chandelier Stakes where she successfully stretched out. She'll face still competition, however, from Frizette winner Jaywalk, Alcibiades winner Restless Rider, Pocahontas 19-length winner Serengeti Empress, Spinaway winner Sippican Harbor, and Florida star Cookie Dough.
Friday, Race 8 - Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
European invaders have won the Juvenile Turf in 8 of 11 runnings and they look like the standouts again this year, so start there if you're looking for the winner. Aidan O'Brien could have the two favorites with Anthony Van Dyck, who exits perhaps the world's best prep for this race, the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, and Broome, who hit the board in a Group 1 race at Longchamp. The top American hope appears to be Current, a horse exiting a very sharp G3 win at Keeneland for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Friday, Race 9 - Breeders' Cup Juvenile
The 2018 Breeders' Cup Juvenile should come down to a classic east versus west match-up between the Bob Baffert-trained undefeated Game Winner, who took both the Del Mar Futurity and the American Pharoah at Santa Anita, and the Chad Brown-trained winner of the Champagne Stakes, Complexity. Brown upset this race last year with Good Magic.
Saturday, Race 3 - Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
The power in this race seems mostly California-based with Bob Baffert leading the way with his 3-year-old and 4-year-old 1-2 punch of undefeated Dream Tree and Marley's Freedom who is 3-for-3 in Graded stakes since coming to Baffert's stable in May. Both Baffert challengers shipped to win at Saratoga, with Dream Tree taking the Prioress and Marley's Freedom winning the Ballerina. Another fast one from California will be the John Sadler trainee Selcourt, who won the Santa Monica back in March but has been unseen ever since. The wild card in this race will be Churchill Downs horse for the course Finley'sluckycharm, who exits a dud at Saratoga but is 6-for-7 in the win-column under the twin spires.
Saturday, Race 4 - Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint
To be run at 5 ½ furlongs at Churchill Downs, these races usually favor speed on the local oval, and at least three of these American challengers appear to have plenty of that including World of Trouble, who has won 2-for-2 in stakes since switching to turf sprints for trainer Jason Servis, Florida turf sprint standout Pay Any Price, and the well-traveled Peter Miller speedster Conquest Tsunami. Those horses and others will have their hands full trying to hold off the stampede of horses trying to pass them including the likes of Belmont Turf Sprint and Jaipur winner Disco Partner, and defending Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint champ Stormy Liberal who always seems to find ways to win and currently looks as good as ever.
Saturday, Race 5 - Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
Most of the handicap division's best horses did not end up in the Dirt Mile, and we are left with an un-interesting grab-bag of horses and some interesting 3-year-olds. The question to ask yourself in this race is if you are with or against the clear favorite and obvious standout Catalina Cruiser, who is undefeated and unchallenged at 4-for-4 and beat last year's Dirt Mile-winner Battle of Midway last time out in Del Mar's Pat O'Brien. Overwhelming favorites sometimes have delivered in the history of the Dirt Mile, but sometimes have not. The Dirt Mile is run around one-turn at Churchill Downs, and that seems to favor the most likely upsetter in the race, Firenze Fire. Trained by Jason Servis, Firenze Fire exits a 6F win in the Gallant Bob at Parx and looks like a one-turn mile specialist with victories in the G3 Dwyer, the Jerome, and the G1 Champagne Stakes at this trip.
Saturday, Race 6 - Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Chad Brown versus the world. Brown's female turfers dominated on his side of the pond this season, and any of his top runners in this race could win including G1 Beverly D, Diana, and Jenny Wiley-winner Sistercharlie, G1 Flower Bowl-winner Fourstar Crook, and G1 Just a Game and G1 First Lady-winner A Raving Beauty, who may be the best of them but perhaps would want shorter than the 1 3/8-mile distance of this race this year at Churchill. European competition will be strong this time, however, with Wild Illusion invading off a G1 win at Longchamp on Arc Day, and Aidan O'Brien's Magical invading off a G1 British Champions Day win on Oct. 20 at Ascot. Magic Wand, also trained by O'Brien, adds to the depth of the field, having beaten Wild Illusion earlier this year and sporting sneakily-improving Timeform speed figures.
Saturday, Race 7 - Breeders' Cup Sprint
With Mind Your Biscuits likely heading to the Classic, the Breeders' Cup Sprint shapes-up as a battle royale between defending champion Roy H and the horse he narrowly defeated last year, Imperial Hint. Last year Roy H won on his home turf at Santa Anita, but he took most of this year off, and with the Breeders' Cup out of California this year, the big advantage this time around goes to Imperial Hint, who has been nothing short of a total beast this year in races like the G1 Vanderbilt, G2 True North, and the G1 Vosburgh, which was essentially a public workout that took nothing out of him. Ready for career best now.
Saturday, Race 8 - Breeders' Cup Mile
People seem to think foreigners dominate this race for some reason, but they couldn't be further from the truth. Except for Goldikova, foreigners have rarely ever won this race the past 15 years. Therefore, before you go rushing off to bet a horse like British bookmakers' darling Polydream or G1 Prix de la Foret winner One Master, or G1 Prix Moulin de Longchamp third-place finisher Expert Eye - all of whom are serious contenders - you should first consider this division's North American leader this season, Oscar Performance, who is already a Breeders' Cup race winner (Juvenile turf 2016), and won both the G1 Woodbine Mile and G3 Poker this year. One word of caution, Oscar Performance needs firm turf and hates any give in the ground at all. His Arlington Million flop was listed as "firm", but the course that day really was yielding and he doesn't handle that. The getting-good-at-the-right-time longshot Next Shares also deserves a look in this race at a price.
Saturday, Race 9 - Breeders' Cup Distaff
Not the best year for this division, the 2018 Breeders' Cup Distaff is ripe to be picked-off by a 3-year-old this season and Monomoy Girl looks like just the filly to do it. Coming out of an unjust DQ from first in the G1 Cotillian last time, Monomoy Girl's record shows hardly the slightest blemish this year with Grade 1 wins in the Ashland, Kentucky Oaks, Acorn, and the Coaching Club Oaks. She'll be looking for competition amongst the older fillies and mares but may not find any, unless of course last year's Distaff runner-up Abel Tasman can rebound from her stunning fifth-place flop last time in the Zenyatta at Santa Anita for Bob Baffert.
Saturday, Race 10 - Breeders' Cup Turf
This division totally lacks American standouts or star power this year, with the possible exception of the good version of Robert Bruce, who may be better at 1 ¼ miles and not 1 ½ miles anyway. So we all should get used to the idea of another European winner of this race in 2018. The question is, who? .Back-to-back winner of the Arc de Triomphe Enable for John Gosden is the real dead and will be tough to beat, despite the fact that Arc winners usually come over for the Breeders' Cup Turf and always lose after their long seasonal campaigns in Europe take their tolls. Enable, however, has run only twice this year and seems perfectly set-up for a Breeders' Cup victory as the favorite. If not, the winning will likely come from amongst Andre Fabre's Waldgeist, Sir Michael Stoute's Crystal Ocean, of John Gosden's second-stringer, Roaring Lion.
Saturday, Race 11 - Breeders' Cup Classic
Not your typical Breeders' Cup Classic this year with no eastern handicap division standout and no Triple Crown race winner in the field since Justify retired months ago. The overwhelming Classic favorite and only real star older horse this year will be Accelerate, and he will be a single on many people's tickets based on five G1 or G2 wins in six outings this season, including victories in the Santa Anita Handicap, the Gold Cup, the Pacific Classic, and the Awesome Again. His only loss, however, was the only time he left California in the Oaklawn Handicap where he lost by a neck to City of Light. That race was at 1 1/8 miles, however, and at the Classic's 1 ¼-mile distance Accelerate is undefeated this year with a career-high 115 Beyer figure in the Daily Racing Form. West Coast finished second to Gun Runner last year and he'll be back again to challenge, but he prepped just once with a loss to Accelerate in the Awesome Again since also settling for second in his prior races in the Pegasus Gold Cup and the Dubai World Cup.
It will be interesting to see how many Horse of the Year votes Accelerate can steal from Justify with a victory, but before we have that discussion, he will need to beat a diverse group of 3-year-old challengers in the Classic including UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn, Pennsylvania Derby winner McKinzie, improving Indiana Derby winner Axelrod, and the extraordinarily interesting Catholic Boy, whose 2018 journey took him from dirt disappointment, to budding turf star, and then back to the dirt for redemption by winning the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. If any of these is going to be good enough to upset Accelerate - and that's a big if - it very well might be Catholic Boy.
Best of luck, and enjoy two great days of racing from the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs! Click here for my BC selections or call 1-888-777-4155
By Noel Michaels