The self-styled World Championships of horse racing take place this weekend. The Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in Kentucky will sign-off the International flat racing season with a 2-day bonanza covering 14 top-class races. It’s the most cohesive-looking meeting of this years calendar, and as a result most of the global big-hitters have made it here after an understandably fragmented season, and the owners and trainers are looking to finish the year on a high. With 2 days of action to pick through, I won’t overwhelm you here by dissecting every race, but the international nature of this field means that I can give you steer on some of the races that overseas raiders are targeting.
The Breeders’ Cup Track
Widely regarded as the number one track in the US, Keeneland is the HQ of American racing. Over 95,000 people witnessed the 2015 BC here, and its bi-annual meets coupled with the premium thoroughbred auction house keep this the epicenter of global racing. The dirt track is 1 1/16-mile, and the turf track is a 7 ½ furlong oval. Favorites have a 31% strike rate in Breeders’ Cup races.
Future Stars Friday
Juvenile Turf Sprint – Pick: Golden Pal – 7/4
Day 1 of the meeting will be contested by the 2 year olds. The Juvenile Turf Sprint is a recent addition to this meeting. Wesley Ward has the ammunition to dominate this for years to come. 2 year olds and speedballs are his trademark, and Golden Pal is a worthy favorite having won at Saratoga and hitting the post at Royal Ascot in the Norfolk Stakes. In addition, this race averages a winning ticket payout of $7.08, making it the chalkiest race on the slate. Worthy of a mention here is Mighty Ghurka. He’s ridden by Hollie Doyle, a jockey who has shattered the glass-ceiling in Britain recently, and as a result is picking up top rides like this. She recently won her first Group 1 race and has flown past the record of 117 seasonal winners for a female jockey.
Juvenile Turf – Pick: Battleground – 7/2
The Juvenile Turf, like most of the races on grass, has attracted the top Europeans. French entries Sealiway and Go Athletico will go well, but the one I like is Battleground. The O’Brien stable have won this race four times and that is a good trend to stay on the right side of. Gretzky The Great could run a big race looking to become the first Canadian winner of this, having run up a hat-trick at Woodbine.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – Pick: Classier – 10/1
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is the showpiece of Fridays racing. Jackie’s Warrior is a short-priced favourite. He led from the gun and won his 4 races to date easily. However, this represents a step-up in trip, and I’m happy to take him on with the Bob Baffert trained Classier. A $775,000 purchase with a sole maiden win at Santa Anita to his name, this horse should improve a bundle. He’s a working mans price so gets my vote here.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint – Pick: Glass Slippers – 12/1
The BC Turf Sprint is the first race of the day. It includes my strongest fancy, meaning I could be in for a long afternoon. Glass Slippers is a 4 year old filly who really comes into her own in the fall. She beat the flying-machine Battaash in the Prix L’Abbaye at Longchamp last season. The horse ran ok last time out but due to the bottomless ground she is excused.
Breeders’ Cup Mile – Pick: Kameko – 3/1
7 overseas connections have targeted the BC Mile. Circus Maximus is a grand performer but will find a couple too good here. Uni bids to go back to back in this race after winning in 2019 and is 2nd favorite to do so. I like Kameko. I have a personal interest in the horse having seen him win the first ever Group 1 race run on a synthetic surface at my local track Newcastle last season. He went on to take a classic in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. Classic form here does it for me. Front runners have a bad record in this event, therefore Kameko can stalk the pace before coming home in front.
Breeders’ Cup Turf – Pick: Tarnawa – 7/2
The BC Turf is historically the biggest US v The World showdown on the card. There really are no overwhelming trends here, making it difficult to put the smudge of doom next to a single animal. Front-runners and closers have both had their day. 13 of the last 26 winners were Irish-bred and in addition Aidan O’Brien has trained 4 of the last 9 winners and 6 overall. He saddles the top 2 in the market here, Magical and 2018 runner-up Mogul. Mogul may prove a very tough nut to crack. However, there is another Irish raider lurking in the field, and I fancy Tarnawa to take them all down. The Dermot Weld trained filly has been aimed at a fall campaign and has won impressively twice in France.
The Big Race – Pick: Improbable 5/2
The BC Classic is the finale on day 2 and rightly so. The $6 million race features the winner of 2 of this years triple crown races, and they take on the older horses here to determine the champ. Tiz The Law was the talking horse after winning the Belmont bloodlessly. However, in the Derby, Authentic took the honours after a stretch battle. Tiz The Law swerved the Preakness to come straight here. Statistically Authentic has a tough assignment. The Classic is a graveyard for Derby winners, only American Pharoah managing the feat since 1990. The 4 year old Improbable comes here after trouncing Maximum Security in the Awesome Again Stakes 4 weeks ago. That was his 3rd straight Grade 1 win and the step up to 1m 2f has brought about serious improvement in this horse and in conclusion, he wins.