The Jury: Bets and fades for Breeders' Cup weekend

November 4th, 2022

Day 2 of the 2022 Breeders' Cup at Keeneland is the obvious highlight of racing worldwide this first weekend of November. The TwinSpires Jury of James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson convene to give their views on all the action.

What is your best bet?

James Scully: #6 Nest (9-5) flourished in the second half of her sophomore season, winning three consecutive stakes by a combined 26 lengths, and a recent romp in the Beldame (G2) sets her up for a top performance in the Distaff (G1). The Todd Pletcher-trained filly registered 107 Brisnet Speed and 112 Late Pace ratings last time, overcoming a less-than-favorable inside post, and Nest drew perfectly in post 6 here. She will get the jump on stablemate Malathaat and become the 12th three-year-old filly winner.

Vance Hanson: The Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) might simply come down to who you like to fill out the exacta behind the imposing Flightline, and for me that would be the rapidly-improving Taiba. After rushing into the Kentucky Derby (G1) last spring, trainer Bob Baffert likely circled the Classic and worked backward, and the extremely talented colt has turned in two sterling efforts since. Though nipped by Cyberknife in the Haskell (G1), Taiba turned the tables decisively winning the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) by three lengths. Flightline might be in a different league than these, but Taiba can beat the rest. The play is a cold exacta: #4 with #1 in the Classic.

Ashley Anderson: #8 Goodnight Olive (3-1) in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). The four-year-old filly has been on a tear since finishing second on debut at Gulfstream Park. Since then, she’s won five straight, including the Ballerina H. (G1), in which she beat a number of today’s race rivals, including #7 Obligatory (8-1), #12 Lady Rocket (10-1), and #4 Ce Ce (4-1), last year’s Filly & Mare Sprint champ. Goodnight Olive’s 107 Brisnet Speed figure in the Ballerina is not only the highest last race speed rating among the field, but the best speed rating at today’s distance. She’ll also keep regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., a 14-time Breeders’ Cup winner who has a pair of victories in the Filly & Mare Sprint.

Who is the horse to fade?

JS: #7 Nations Pride (7-2) is set to make his first start against elders in the Turf (G1) and figures to be overbet following a win over a suspect group in the Sept. 17 Jockey Club Derby (G3) at Aqueduct. He defeated a miler winning the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Derby (G1) two back, and his fellow European-based rivals, and several domestic challengers, have earned better Brisnet Class numbers in recent starts. I will take on the expected favorite.

VH: I'm 0-for-2 siding against the wickedly-fast #8 Golden Pal (2-1) in Breeders' Cup races the past two years, but willing to go to the well again as he defends his title in the Turf Sprint (G1). If he breaks as well as he can, watch out, but Golden Pal has struggled on occasion with slow starts. He can't afford to do that here, especially facing the likes of Highfield Princess.

AA: #7 Cody’s Wish (5-2) in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), Race 5 on Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup card. The Curlin four-year-old is 5-for-5 at today’s distance but has yet to score a win at a two-turn mile. In two previous tries around two turns, he finished third in a 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight at Saratoga in July 2021 and a neck second to Scalding in the 1 1/16-mile Challenger S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. With the way Keeneland’s track is set up, there’s a short run to the first turn and a short stretch after the second turn. With that added variable in the Dirt Mile, I’ll look elsewhere. Fourth-place Kentucky Derby finisher #2 Simplification (15-1) is an intriguing longshot who can pull off the upset if he gets good positioning around the first turn.

What else is worth noting?

JS: #11 Wicked Halo (10-1) is a longshot of interest in the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). The three-year-old filly is peaking at the right time, moving forward from previous efforts when capturing the Oct. 22 Raven Run (G2) by four easy lengths, and she drew perfectly for a stalk-and-pounce trip in post 11. The favorites appear vulnerable in my estimation, and I will look to get my Saturday Breeders' Cup off to a good start with Wicked Halo.

VH: One of the non-heavy favorites I have a good deal of confidence in is #3 Nashwa (5-2) in the Filly and Mare Turf (G1). The John Gosden-trained three-year-old has been pointing to this for much of the season and has made few errors in a highly accomplished campaign. Ignore her close loss in the Prix de l'Opera (G1) last time, when she drew poorly and carved out much of the pace. She'll be in chasing mode here, and I expect her class to shine.

AA: Leading first-crop sire by earnings, Bolt d’Oro has a chance to add to his win total with a trio of sons racing at Keeneland this weekend. In the opening race on Saturday, #8 Rocket and Roll (12-1) will make his first start in a seven-furlong maiden special weight for trainer Brad Cox and has the pedigree to pull off a win on debut. His dam, Shine Softly, has produced six winners from six starters, including a stakes winner, and Cox is a 24% winner at the maiden special weight level. Proud Man S. winner #15 Mounsieur Coco (30-1) is an also-eligible in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) and will need a couple of scratches to gain entry into the 5 1/2-furlong event, but even with a spot in the starting gate, his speed figures have been a bit low to warrant consideration among the field. However, #13 Major Dude (10-1) could spring an upset in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), Friday’s finale at Keeneland. The two-year-old is coming off a win in the 1 1/16-mile Pilgrim (G2) at Aqueduct and will cut back in distance here for trainer Todd Pletcher. His outside draw will be a challenge, but he has a chance to improve in his second grass start, with Pletcher winning 20% of the time with horses running a second time on turf. Irad Ortiz Jr. is also winning at a 32% clip when paired up with Pletcher over the last 59 races together.