Hanson: Betting the two-day Breeders' Cup Doubles

November 1st, 2023

In addition to all the rolling Doubles available on the two Breeders' Cup programs, there will also be a trio of two-day Doubles offered to bettors, linking one race on Friday and one on Saturday.

Here are thoughts on two of the three two-day Doubles.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1)/Breeders' Cup Classic (G1)

On paper, there doesn't appear to be a lot separating the top three or four betting choices in the Juvenile. And one could even make cases for the next two or three in the betting, too.

I'm going to limit my coverage to two in the Juvenile. Although mildly upset by stablemate Prince of Monaco in the Best Pal (G3) two back, #10 Muth (4-1) was back in his element when decisively scoring in the American Pharoah (G1) next out, improving his Santa Anita record to 2-for-2. This one has seemingly been the barn's ace two-year-old all along, and I think he'll be tough defending his home court.

I've mentioned #9 Fierceness (6-1) elsewhere as a horse to consider in this spot, despite a poor showing in the Champagne (G1) as an odds-on choice. Given his impressive debut win in a key Saratoga maiden on Travers Day, and connections' apparent belief that he deserves a redo at this level, I wouldn't put it past him rebounding while getting an opportunity to run over a fast track for the first time.

The conventional wisdom for months has been that this year's Classic (G1) would showcase the three-year-old class, given the apparent weakness of the older male set. Now that attrition over the last week has taken away some of the leading sophomore contenders for the race, perhaps it's time to revisit that conventional wisdom.

To me, the most impressive Classic prep was turned in by #3 White Abarrio (4-1), who romped by more than six lengths in the Whitney (G1) over #2 Zandon (12-1), who subsequently flattered the form by winning the Woodward (G2) in similarly good style. White Abarrio has not had the cleanest of preparations over the past couple weeks, with several local works delayed, and I've always found him potentially suspect over 1 1/4 miles. Nonetheless, trainer Rick Dutrow has experience winning this race, having done so with the well-managed Saint Liam in 2005.

Zandon was runner-up behind several freakish performances before the Woodward, none of which were bad efforts on his part. He's entering the Classic in career-best form and seems a bit overlooked in this spot.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1)/Breeders' Cup Turf (G1)

Everyone is seemingly aware that European runners have dominated the Juvenile Turf in recent years and throughout its history. However, that has not specifically been the case when the Breeders' Cup has been held at Santa Anita in the last decade. U.S.-based runners, in fact, have won the last three runnings of the race held at Santa Anita, though the Wesley Ward-trained Hootenanny had run twice in Europe beforehand.

#2 River Tiber, trained by Aidan O'Brien and likely a much shorter favorite than his 4-1 ML, is "supposed" to win this. He's the class of the field, basically, having won the Coventry (G2) at Royal Ascot before placing behind the impressive Vandeek in both the Prix Morny (G1) and Middle Park (G1).

If, for some reason, River Tiber doesn't get there because of trip, the extra quarter-mile, or the recent trend against Europeans on this course, it might be worth using some American boys on smaller tickets. Two I'll use are Pilgrim (G2) winner #7 Agate Road (8-1) and #1 Air Recruit (20-1), who was at least visually impressive taking the Laurel Futurity by open lengths and who might be better than the numbers would suggest.

I'd be hard-pressed to deviate from the European contingent in the Turf, though our best turf performer, Up to the Mark, is somewhat intriguing. But basically all the major European beasts would have to run below par, and I don't see that happening.

I'll key on #11 King of Steel (4-1), who to me is better positioned this time to outfinish the talented but often quirky Auguste Rodin and to outstay the highly-capable Mostahdaf.