Breeders’ Cup saddle cloths at Churchill Downs (c) Rickelle Nelson/Horsephotos.com
by Scott Shapiro
If you are a Pick 4 player, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is a wonderful two-day experience and, with three opportunities each on both Friday and Saturday, there are plenty of chances to get involved.
One of the Pick 4s that I like most is the early Pick 4 which begins with the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) on Saturday. Here are my thoughts on the four events:
RACE 4: Turf Sprint
This is one of the most challenging races of the weekend to handicap so I advise using several, including my top choice World of Trouble (#11) (6-1). The son of Kantharos was on the Kentucky Derby Trail for a bit this winter, but got back to sprinting in his last three tries, including two wins over the sod in New York. His wire-to-wire score in Belmont Park’s Allied Forces Stakes going six furlongs on good turf stamps him as a major player and my top choice in this year’s Turf Sprint.
My favorite value option in this race is Chanteline (#8) (15-1). The Ten Broeck Farm mare makes her second start of the form cycle on Saturday after a three-quarter length win in the Franklin County Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on October 12. The daughter of Majesticperfection has won four of seven in 2018 and illustrated she can perform over a soft turf at Saratoga this summer when she ran second in the Caress Stakes.
RACE 5: Dirt Mile
The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) has produced prices the last couple of years with Tamarkuz and Battle of Midway, but it looks like a race that one of the two favorites is likely to capture in 2018.
Catalina Cruiser (#10) (8-5) enters the Dirt Mile unbeaten in four career starts for trainer John Sadler, but has never won away from his Southern California home and has not raced since a 7 1/4-length romp in the Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2) in late August. The son of Union Rags has had trouble staying on the racetrack, but when he has raced he has been extremely impressive. There is definitely a chance that he clears from his outside draw and takes this group wire-to-wire, but he is too short of a price for me to get excited about.
City of Light (#1) (5-2) is the clear second choice in this one and my top choice. The son of Quality Road is more battle tested than Catalina Cruiser, has won outside of Southern California and should thrive over this configuration. Jockey Javier Castellano will have to navigate a clean trip though from the rail draw if he wants to get the best of the 8-5 morning-line chalk.
The only price horse worth inclusion as a potential separator is Giant Expectations (#9) (15-1). The New York-bred was in over his head in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) and Santa Anita Handicap (G1) this winter, but got some much-needed time off before returning to the races in the Ack Ack Stakes (G3) in late September at Churchill Downs. In that first start off the bench, the son of Frost Giant got off to a tardy start and had little chance given the slow early pace, but should move forward considerably after shaking off the rust. If he can get back to his form late last year he has an outside shot to get to the wire first.
RACE 6: Filly & Mare Turf
Europeans hold a strong hand in all of the turf races this weekend and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) is no exception. Wild Illusion (#3) (7-2) has won two in a row for trainer Charles Appleby, including a one-length victory in the Prix de l’Opera (Fr-G1) at Longchamp. She has proven form over a turf course with some give in it and is my top choice.
Chad Brown has five entered in this year’s edition of the Filly & Mare Turf. My favorite of the bunch is late-running Fourstar Crook (#1) (5-1). The six-year-old mare has won 12-of-19 career races, including her first Grade 1 win last out in the Flower Bowl Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. The daughter of Freud has proven she can perform well over wet grass and should be rolling late under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
RACE 7: Sprint
This year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) features a rematch between the top two in last year’s edition.
Roy H (#9) (5-2) put in a clunker in the Bing Crosby (G1) this summer, but after a nine-week break was his old self in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1). The defending champion pulled away late at even-money and draws well to the far outside in this year’s Sprint.
Imperial Hint (#5) (9-5) has won three straight and four of five since running second to Roy H at Del Mar last November. The Florida-bred did not post a big BRIS Speed rating when last seen in the Vosburgh Stakes (G1), but he did it with such ease that the decreased figure should be taken with a grain of salt. The son of Imperialism should get the jump on his main rival. The zero for two record over the Churchill Downs surface though is a concern.
If the top two horses on the morning line are to get beat it is likely to come in gate-to-wire fashion. Promise Fulfilled (#2) (6-1) has a ton of early zip and should be in front early. The three-year-old took on older runners for the initial time last out in the Phoenix Stakes (G2) and showed a lot of grit beating Whitmore (#1) (6-1) and Limousine Liberal (#8) (8-1) by a head and a half-length, respectively. He will need to continue to move forward, though, if he wants to win his fourth in a row.
TICKET 1: ($1 Pick 4)
Race 4: 4+6+8+9+11
Race 5: 1
Race 6: 1+3
Race 7: 2+5+9
Ticket Cost: $30
TICKET 2: ($1 Pick 4)
Race 4: 4+6+8+9+11
Race 5: 1+9+10
Race 6: 1+3
Race 7: 5+9
Ticket Cost: $60
TOTAL BUDGET: $90