Finding vulnerable favorites in the 2023 Breeders' Cup

October 28th, 2023

Before diving into this year's list of seemingly vulnerable Breeders' Cup favorites, a bit of transparency. The record in this department has not been stellar the last couple of years. After going 3-for-5 in 2020, I misjudged the scenes in 2021 and 2022 with a 1-for-3 record both years.

Sometimes right, sometimes wrong. That's horse racing.

The fundamental usefulness of finding and standing against vulnerable favorites remains. They reduce outlay and boost the value of the tickets you do cash.

Here, then, are several horses I'll be looking to beat on Breeders' Cup weekend. All figure to go off favored or attract significant play.

Songline: Breeders' Cup Mile (G1)

The withdrawal of Paddington from this race not only reduced the depth of the European contingent, but now possibly elevates to mild favoritism this Japan-based mare.

There's nothing much to dislike about Songline's form, other than it's hard to know how well it truly stacks up. She's been the top miler in her native land this year, capturing the Victoria Mile (G1) against mares and then a second straight Yasuda Kinen (G1) against males. She barely missed winning her nine-furlong prep for this in early October.

You have to go back to February 2022 to get a better read on her relative talents. At that time, in a 6 1/2-furlong Group 3 on the Saudi Cup undercard, she just lasted by a neck over a fast-closing Casa Creed, who she meets again here but he often has trouble reproducing his best outside New York (Saratoga especially).

A mare who tends to burst on the scene late, the primary fear is the possibility of traffic in this congested field and over a course with a much tighter configuration than she is used to running on. Attrition gives her a strong chance, but there are simply too many unknowns for me to accept a short price.

Auguste Rodin: Breeders' Cup Turf (G1)

The four-time Group 1 winner will get the course conditions he undoubtedly prefers, and his class is undeniable. Still, it's hard to make sense of his poor efforts in both the 2000 Guineas (G1) and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1). Both were held in contesting conditions he won't find at Santa Anita, but how do you square those no-shows with his apparent handling of even heavier ground in the 2022 Futurity Trophy (G1) at Doncaster?

The bottom line is that this colt, perhaps, is a little quirky. One deserving of all the respect, mind you, but not necessarily one to depend on as the logical favorite. He's finished ahead of King of Steel in two of their three previous encounters, though I think that rival enters this showdown in a much stronger place than he was at either Epsom or Leopardstown, where Auguste Rodin finished first. The older Mostahdaf is another serious rival who looms a big chance. I'll be leaning on those alternatives over this colt at the odds.

Arabian Knight: Breeders' Cup Classic (G1)

This three-year-old colt's inherent talent is widely respected on the Southern California circuit. Although he was able to gut out a victory in the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (G1), where his only serious rival on paper was fellow sophomore Geaux Rocket Ride, he'll seemingly have a much tougher assignment here, with more speed signed on and far more depth of talent to outstay.

This was probably the stable's best classic hope last winter before he was sidelined, and his form over the summer validates that they really had something. There's definitely better coming from him, but there's seemingly so little separating the top players that accepting yet another miserly price on him doesn't make a whole lot of sense.