by Scott Shapiro

Amongst the plethora of wagering options offered to horseplayers over the 12-race Saturday afternoon of the Breeders’ Cup World Championship card are Pick 4’s beginning with Race 2, Race 5 and Race 9.

The second of the three sequences is the one that intrigues me most and offers some of my strongest opinions over the two-day Thoroughbred-racing extravaganza.

The four-race slate commences with the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) and concludes with the $1.5 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

Here are my thoughts on the championship races:

RACE 5: Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

For a five-furlong dash, the 10th running of the Turf Sprint came up surprisingly light on early zip. I think that will make 5-2-morning-line favorite Lady Aurelia (#3) tough to beat given her tactical speed and class for trainer Wesley Ward. Look for John Velazquez to get her out of the gate and into a prominent spot early, which should allow her to have plenty left late to win her sixth race in eight tries.

I will single Lady Aurelia on two of my three tickets and spread a bit deeper on one in case the daughter of Scat Daddy does not take to the tight turn at Del Mar.

Richard’s Boy (#7) has proven form sprinting over the Del Mar lawn and makes his second start off the two-month freshening for trainer Peter Miller. He has early speed that will have him in a good spot early.

Marsha (#6) may struggle with the turn, but if she is able to work out a trip and not leave herself too much to do in the lane she should be rolling late.

Bucchero (#11) could be the speed in here and comes into his first Grade 1 try in great form for trainer Tim Glyshaw. If the Indiana-bred can get to the top he has an outside shot to take them all the way.

RACE 6: Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint

Unique Bella (#11) is the 9-5-morning-line favorite in the 11th rendition of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. I respect the talent of the Don Alberto Stable filly, but think she will be a major underlay in a solid group. I will take a shot against her in this spot.

Skye Diamonds (#12) has been one of the best claims in recent years for trainer Bill Spawr. The California-bred has won five of six in 2017 and draws favorably to the outside. She is my lukewarm top choice.

Constellation (#8) could not beat Skye Diamonds this summer but she has moved to the Bob Baffert barn since the two consecutive runner-up finishes in graded sprints. The daughter of Bellamy Road has performed well at seven-eighths of a mile and should move forward under the care of arguably the best dirt trainer ever. At 15-1, she is worth including.

Finley’sluckycharm (#9) comes in off an impressive effort despite a less than ideal start at Keeneland last month. She is nine-for-12 in her career and merits respect. I just have my concerns on whether she will perform at her best at seven furlongs.

By the Moon (#7) has won seven of 19 in her career and earned more than $1.5 million for Jay Em Ess Stable. She has tactical speed and is a fringe player at a price.

RACE 7: Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

Lady Eli (#9) is the narrative in the final race of her storied career for trainer Chad Brown. She is 10–for-13 in her career, and is all but sure to run her race on Saturday. However, she meets a solid group, so I am not willing to go all in.

Cambodia (#6) has shown an affinity for this course and has continued to move forward in each start for trainer Tom Proctor. She has not faced the quality of this group yet, but she can get the distance and should get the right trip.

Dacita (#7) did not get the right race shape in the Flower Bowl Invitational (G1) in October and still just missed. When she gets an honest pace she comes with a huge run each and every time. I expect her to be rolling late at a juicy price.

Grand Jete (#8) is my least favorite of the three Chad Brown runners, but she was arguably best when defeated by Dacita in the Beverly D (G1) and we may not have seen the best of her yet.

Queen’s Trust (#10) looks to defend her title in the Filly & Mare Turf after nailing Lady Eli at the wire at Santa Anita last year. She has not won in five starts this year, but is hard to completely toss at 12-1 on the line.

Goodyearforroses (#13) failed to fire in the Rodeo Drive (G1) at Santa Anita in late September and draws way outside for trainer Richard Baltas. The outside post is far from ideal, but she ran very well from the 13-hole in the John C. Mabee (G2) this summer. She should be a big price and retains the services of one of the best turf riders around in Corey Nakatani.

RACE 8: TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint

The TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint concludes the sequence and looks like a three-horse race on paper to me.

The defending champion Drefong (#2) is the deserving 5-2-morning-line favorite for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. The son of Gio Ponti has only raced twice this year and ducked in at the gap in the first of those two tries losing rider Mike Smith. His effort in the Forego (G1) at Saratoga was extremely impressive, but this is a much stronger group. I expect a big effort, but he is not unbeatable.

Roy H (#8) has been a different horse in 2017 for trainer Peter Miller. He is four-for-five and his lone defeat came in the Bing Crosby (G1) when he was forced extremely wide into the stretch due to Drefong being loose and without a jockey. He draws well towards the outside and appears poised for a monster performance. He is my top choice and a horse I will wager on at 4-1 or higher in the win pool.

Imperial Hint (#10) ships west for the first time after three dominating performances back east for trainer Luis Carvajal. This is a bit of a different level of competition for the son of Imperialism, but he certainly passes the eye test.

Here is how I will play the Pick 4 that starts in Race 5:

Ticket 1: (50 cents)
Race 5: 3
Race 6: 7+8+9+12
Race 7: 6+7+9
Race 8: 2+8+10

Total: $18

Ticket 2:
Race 5: 3
Race 6: 7+8+9+12
Race 7: 6+7+8+9+10+13
Race 8: 2+8+10

Total: $36

Ticket 3:
Race 5: 3+6+7+11
Race 6: 8+9+12
Race 7: 7+9
Race 8: 2+8+10

Total: $36

TOTAL BUDGET: $90

Good luck this weekend!