by Scott Shapiro

In addition to the pre-entry announcement on Wednesday morning, the Breeders’ Cup also released the race order, wagering menu and guaranteed pools for the World Championships held next weekend at Del Mar.

One thing captivated me as a racing fan while a couple of the sequences peaked my interest as a professional handicapper.

From the perspective of a horizontal horseplayer, I can understand the frustration of including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) as part of the Late Pick 4 due to the presence of heavy favorite Bolt d’Oro. However, as a fan of the game and of the Triple Crown, I support the decision to have this $2 million event for two-year-old males toward the back of the card.

So much attention is paid to the Kentucky Derby (G1) prep season and the three Triple Crown events held during the spring. Therefore, it made little sense to me to have essentially the first major prep, and the masses first glance at next year’s early contenders for the annual “Run for the Roses,” buried in the middle of the card. It is one of the races I look forward to most each year at the Breeders’ Cup, so I am glad to see it in a more prominent spot than it was at last year’s festivities.

Very few things excite me more than the opportunities available in horizontal pools on a massive day of Thoroughbred racing, and few weekends offer better chances to score out than the two days at the Breeders’ Cup each fall.

The $500,000 guaranteed Pick 5s offered in Races 1 through 5 on both Friday and Saturday will certainly be at the top of my list, but the undercard races will not be out until early next week.

The Friday All Breeders-Cup Pick 4, with a $1.5 million dollar guaranteed pool, will certainly be on my list of wagers.

I find the sequence that gets started in Race 6 to be particularly challenging this year due to the wide open full fields in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and two races later in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Additionally, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) could also produce a price horse for the second straight year after Tamarkuz ran past Gun Runner in 2016 to pay a juicy $25.80. Despite the presence of formidable logical contenders like Mor Spirit, Sharp Azteca and Accelerate, there is still the potential of an upset in the first dirt race of the World Championships.

The Saturday multi-race sequence that appears most appealing on first glance is the $1 million guaranteed Pick 4 commencing in Race 5.

The four-race slate begins with a wide-open rendition of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), a race that last year produced $69.20 winner Champagne Room. I would not be surprised to see another double-digit winner hit the wire first in 2017.

The Juvenile Fillies is followed by the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). With the race being run at five furlongs this year at Del Mar, anything is possible in the 12-horse field.

A lot of handicappers will choose to single Unique Bella in the third leg of the Pick 4, but while she may be the most talented horse in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), her running style and soundness issues have me questioning whether she will be a significant underlay next Saturday. As of now I am planning on taking a shot against the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained three-year-old, which could really bust things open.

The sequence closes with the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Lady Eli will likely be a common single in the final leg. I am not opposed to the idea of pushing most of my chips in on the Chad Brown charge, but she was defeated last year by Queen’s Trust and will have to be at her best to turn the tables in this year’s rendition run at 1 1/8 miles out of the chute.

With more than a week of time to prepare there is still plenty of homework to do, but the blood is pumping and the mind is racing as we approach one of the best weekends of the year.