Breeders Cup moves to Del Mar – a quaint seaside course with tight turns and short straight whose standout feature is the dirt track’s depth (very holding) making stamina crucial. Don’t expect too many Euro dirt winners.

Some rain is forecast for the weekend but the going is likely to remain FIRM (Turf) and FAST (dirt). FLAVIEN PRAT is by far the track’s leading turf jockey (30% strike rate and +21.80 level stake profit) while Victor Espinoza is next best (22% strike rate and +17.50 level stake profit).  Of the trainers (turf stats) SIMON CALLAGHAN (massive 47% strike rate; +21.90 profit) and Doug O’Neill (23% strike rate; +17.50 profit) dominate while Bob Baffert, despite a 27% strike rate has produced a level stakes profit (loss) of –5.20

On dirt, top jock is also Prat (26% strike rate) but most winners have been ridden by Evin A Roman and Prat (23 each). BOB BAFFERT has the most winners (12) on dirt but the best strike rate goes to William E Morey (5 winners from 10 starts or 50%) followed by Michael McCarthy (9 from 23 or 39%) Michael Pender (4 from 13 or 31%). BOB BAFFERT’S strike rate is an excellent 24% from 51 starters.

Four Breeders Cup races are scheduled for Friday, starting at 2.25pm West Coast time (4.25pm Ja time).  We begin this year’s Breeders Cup with a NAP!

BREEDERS CUP JUVENILE FILLIES TURF (Grade 1; 2yo Fillies; 1 mile; Firm; 4.25 pm Ja Time)

Naturally, the Europeans are favoured and Ryan Moore rides #2 Happily for Aidan O’Brien who has swept all before him this year and looks to launch a serious Breeders Cup challenge. She’s ante-post favourite but has had a busy season running 8 races from her June 8 debut; was a scratch on her intended last run at Newmarket (October) with a vet’s certificate; and had two very hard races before that in France on October 1 (Chantilly; Group 1; Grand Criterium; 1m; soft; driven out to beat maiden winner Olmedo by 1 14/l) and at the Curragh on September 10 (Group 1; Moyglare Stud Stakes; 7f; soft/heavy; led/disputed lead then under pressure to rally final furlong getting up final stride to beat Magical a SH).

This is not one to back at skinny odds on firm ground so look elsewhere. The best of the home contingent is likely to be #8 Significant Form or #11 Rushing Fall both lightly raced (only 2 career starts each), unexposed sorts representing hot USA turf trainer Chad Brown.  The former, after winning and being disqualified on debut at Saratoga officially broke her maiden in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont (8.5f) beating #1 Best Performance (re-opposes) by a length after stalking the leaders; leading over a furlong out and keeping on strongly final furlong.

The latter is 2 for 2 winning a maiden at Belmont (1m; Firm) before showing marked improvement to win the Grade 3 Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland (8.5f; soft; stayed on strongly final furlong after being held up in rear) by more than 3l from Stainless. Although Rushing Fall has produced better form it has been on soft so, of the 2 Chad Brown inmates, #8 Significant Form is preferred on the ground and with a better draw. The last 3 Chad Brown winners of the Juvenile Fillies Turf all won the Miss Grillo.

But, this time, the strong USA contingent could fall victim to Aidan O’Brien’s “second string” #10 SEPTEMBER who showed a nice turn of foot (essential around American tracks) in the Chesham at Royal Ascot to beat Nyaleti 2 1/4l (subsequently less than 2l behind O’Brien’s top juvenile filly, Clemmie on good to firm; 1/2l behind Laurens on good to soft; and a hd behind #13 Juliet Capulet) before flopping twice on softish ground and then coming back to her best on good ground at Newmarket (Grade 1 Fillies Mile; badly hampered over a furlong out; switched twice; 2l down inside final furlong before storming home; just failing by a nose to catch Laurens). That was only her 5th career start and there’s plenty more to come. Seamie Heffernan rides.



BREEDERS CUP DIRT MILE (Grade 1; 3yo+; Dirt; 1m Fast; 5.05pm Ja Time)

Only 10 run but lots of early pace from the likes of #3 Sharp Azteca; #8 Accelerate ; #6 Mor Spirit and #4 Gato De Oro.

So, punters are best served to look for a closer the best of which is definitely Chad Brown’s #10 Practical Joke who has won all 5 starts over a mile or less and lost all the other 5 over further. None of his wins have come around two turns and he’s drawn in the car park so, again, there’s no value in supporting him at likely skinny odds.  Another slight negative is that his 5 wins have come in New York, his losses out of that State.

The other late threat is #5 Awesome Slew who runs best at Churchill Downs and has something to find on form but will have the race run to suit. It seems best to look for a winner from the second-wave speed (what the Americans call “stalkers”) all of whom have won Graded Stakes this year.  They are #1 Iron Fist (looks exposed and with something to find); #2 Giant Expectations [3/4l 2nd to Gato De Oro (received 6lbs) over course and distance in late July; won Grade 2, going away, over 7f at Del Mar next time; below form (Grade 1; 6f) at Santa Anita latest] #7 Cupid (quirky Baffert inmate who won over course and distance penultimate start) and #9 BATTLE OF MIDWAY [slammed Gato De Oro (received 4lbs) by 6 1/4l over course and distance].

The selection is an improving 3yo coming on at the right time of year and Flavien Prat is booked.



BREEDERS CUP JUVENILE TURF (Grade 1; 2yo Colts & Geldings; 1m; 5.50pm JaTime)

Aidan O’Brien’s #1 MENDELSSOHN may regret being handed the plum draw as such a tall colt might prefer not to have to hug these tight corners but there’s no disputing the level of his form especially on fast turf.  His keeping on 2nd in the Dewhirst from the “wrong” side of the track was as impressive as it gets and this extra furlong will be the tonic he needs.

The Brits also send #6 Masar winner of the Group 3 Solario Stakes at Sandown but he was beaten by a filly (Happily) in the Grand Criterium and will have to show marked improvement to get by the selection.

The home team is led by Chad Brown’s #8 Voting Control who would be 2 for 2 but for a horrid trip at Belmont in the Grade 3 Pilgrim (1/2l 2nd to Seabhac) but who takes the speculative ship west while #9 Encumbered, trained by Simon Callaghan, won his first 2 races over course and distance before spoiling his perfect record in a Grade 1 on dirt at Santa Anita. He’s a likely upsetter and the probable winner should the selection slip up on the bends.



BREEDERS CUP DISTAFF (Grade 1; 3yo+ Fillies & Mares; Dirt; 1m1f; Fast; 6.35)

A small field (8 starters) but a high quality one.

The key to this race is the almost certainty that #7 Paradise Woods (Flavien Prat) should get a soft lead which she needs to run up to her best. Her best runs have all been at sharp, speed favouring Santa Anita and she flopped badly (fluffed the start) her only run at Del Mar but Richard Mandella has accepted blame for not schooling her adequately at the gate and she has worked very well on the track during the summer meet. The deep nature of the surface will also be against her but, if she looks like starting at anything near to double digit odds, she is the value bet.

Other contenders are #2 Stellar Wind (likely to chase and jockey Victor Espinosa, who’s ridden her 13 times says “she doesn’t do much on her own. I have to ask her every time” which isn’t good for one who could be doing donkey work and asked to finish strongly) and #5 ELATE (another improving 3yo working brilliantly who should be perfectly suited by a two turns 9f race AND by the way the race should be run especially if Stellar Wind puts early pressure on Paradise Woods).

This will be Stellar Wind’s third attempt to win this race so the two to concentrate on must be ELATE and Paradise Woods


Exotic BET OF THE DAY: #5 ELATE/#7 Paradise Woods (Exacta Box0

Good Luck!



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