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Championship Saturday brings Quality, Diversity and Uncertainty to Churchill Downs

Championship Saturday brings Quality, Diversity and Uncertainty to Churchill Downs

Horseracing is usually referred to as “The Sport of Kings.”

However Breeders’ Cup Championship Saturday at Churchill Downs options extra variety than the present British Royal Household in each its equine and human members.

There’s a Corridor of Fame coach and his jockey whose trophy rooms have to be bigger than your home to include all their hardware, a BC Basic contender bought for $10 thousand in 2015 that has gained $1.Four million in 44 begins and his Caribbean-accented coach from Trinidad, a Champion sprinter that has cleaned his plate at not more than Eight furlongs whose connections have as an alternative entered him within the longer Basic, one other coach who has banked greater than $113 million in profitable over 2,100 contests and has by no means gained a Breeders’ Cup race, and…

…properly, we might go on, however you get concept: Bob Baffert, Mike Smith, Discreet Lover, Uriah St. Lewis, Thoughts Your Biscuits, John Sadler and a number of different notable and not-so-notables take to the most important stage in North American (some say world) horseracing Saturday vying for a share of $30 million and a web page within the sport’s historical past.

If “Future Stars Friday” options 2-year-olds with scant racing credentials, “Championship Saturday” is fats with information, figures and decisive opinions. We’ll evaluate all two days of Breeders’ Cup races and outcomes later this weekend, so let’s race forward to Saturday’s preview and prognostications. With 9 Grade 1 races on the Breeders’ Cup card, let’s  start on the finish. We’ll spend a little bit of time and phrases on the three largest contests then canter by means of the remaining six as we strategy submit time on “Future Stars Friday”.

Race 9 (5:44 pm EDT)


1 1/Four miles – $6 million

Speed up dominated California racing this yr and oddsmakers have him leaving far outdoors publish 14 because the 5-2 favourite. Coach John Sadler has amassed an enviable document with a 15 % victory fee this yr alone, however he has by no means gained a Breeders’ Cup race. And this one has moved from the 5-year-old’s pleasant confines in Southern California to a chillier Churchill Downs the place the skies have cleared after heavy rain earlier this week however the temps stay within the 40s.

Sadler stated publish 14 “…is a perfect spot for him. He won’t be bothered out there.”

Historical past says he in all probability gained’t win both since just one Basic winner has began from that gate in 34 years. Jockey Joel Rosario will battle 13 different horses and that historical past.

Chad Brown’s Dash Champion Thoughts Your Biscuits strikes the pose after his shock defection to the BC Basic. ©Evers/ESW/Breeders Cup

Then there’s the competitors. Second selection 5-1 West Coast with John Velazquez aboard for this one was third in final yr’s Basic. Thoughts Your Biscuits has been moved by Chad Brown from the Dash to the Basic and leaves publish 11 at a surprisingly brief 6-1, the identical odds as Baffert-trained McKinzie…

…who? OK, let’s get this out of the best way. The 800-pound absence on this subject is Bob Baffert’s second (American Pharoah, 2015) Triple Crown winner Justify, retired to stud very shortly after his Belmont win. That has left many followers sad.

McKinzie missed the Triple Crown with an ankle damage. Baffert introduced him again on the monitor to win the G3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. He was disqualified for interference within the San Felipe and moved from first to second, then gained a favourite BC prep, the G1 Pennsylvania Derby. In accordance to Baffert, earlier than his damage, “McKinzie was Justify before there was Justify.”

Baffert might be nearly as good a showman as he’s a coach, however the oddsmakers appear to be taking him at his phrase and his new cost’s efficiency to date. Mike Smith selected the journey as a result of West Coast will probably be retired to stud quickly whereas McKinzie will proceed racing.

‘Nuff stated on the topic.

To exhibit the standard of this subject, contemplate the subsequent decisions.

There’s Catholic Boy who gained the Travers, the “Midsummer Derby,” at Saratoga. There’s Japanese champion Yoshida, the previous two UAE Derby winners, Thunder Snow who gained this yr’s Dubai World Cup, and Mendelssohn, who redeemed himself with an excellent third-place run within the G3 Dwyer after a disastrous mud-caked last-place end within the Kentucky Derby and an excellent job ending second within the Travers, then operating down velocity service provider Diversify earlier than operating out of fuel to end third within the Jockey Membership Gold Cup. Talking of which race, there’s the feel-good story of the yr, Discreet Lover, who gained the JCGC.

Toss in Qatar Racing’s way-underpriced at 20-1 Roaring Lion, gritty fan-favorite Gunnevera, winner of the G1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs Pavel and 30-1 two-time G3 winner Axelrod, and you’ve your self a horse race so full that Bafferts’ Collected and 2014 BC Basic runner-up Toast of New York didn’t make the minimize.

It’s onerous to select Speed up given the transfer East, the hard-luck 14 publish and the harder-luck John Sadler. However there’s all the time room in racing for an additional feel-good story, so he ought to at the very least be within the combine.

Speed up trains to go from favourite to victor in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Basic. ©Evers/ESW/Breeders Cup

Aidan O’Brien has educated Mendelssohn earlier than our eyes whereas bringing him again whereas studying himself concerning the American fashion of dust racing: “It’s so aggressive! I’ve never seen anything like it in the world.” O’Brien is nearly as good a scholar as he’s a instructor. He’s discovered this lesson.

Thunder Snow is claimed to be joyful this time at Churchill, although he’s drawn publish 1, shut once more to the bell, which can have spooked him in his Derby since it isn’t utilized in Europe or Dubai. These all ought to be within the combine on the finish.

However you possibly can’t utterly dismiss Discreet Lover, or Yoshida, or…

…properly, you get the thought. We finish as we started. This area is filled with high quality, variety and uncertainty. If ever there was a Basic any horse might win, it’s this one.

Race Eight (Four:56 pm EDT)                           

LONGINES TURF           

1 half miles – $Four million

Final yr’s winner at Del Mar Talismanic is right here. So is Nice Britain’s Waldgeist. Each run for fantastic French coach Andre Fabre. So is Aidan O’Brien’s Three-year-old Galileo filly Magical in addition to Searching Horn. Chad Brown is saddling Chilean star Robert Bruce. Eire’s Superb Empire is right here as is Brazilian runner Quarteto De Cordas, Argentina’s Hello Pleased, and Sadler’s Pleasure.

Sadly for all of them, consecutive two-time winner of the FR-G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Allow is right here, too.

Consecutive Prix de ‘Arc de Triomphe winning filly Enable has jockey Frankie Dettori hoping to do his trademark flying leap dismount in the BC Turf winner’s circle. ©Evers/ESW/Breeders Cup

Jockey Frankie Dettori rode for a few years because the main retained rider for Godolphin earlier than shifting on to Qatar the place he reinvented himself with a brand new racing residence and this Four-year-old filly.

She is so good that, after profitable six G1s and a G3 in her 9-Zero-1 profession, coach John Gosden might say in sometimes understated British style: “I would have liked to come here on the crest of a wave…but she has won an Arc this year.”

If she loses this race, guess on the Arc de Triomphe to collapse.

Race 7 (Four:16 pm EDT)                           


1 1/Eight miles – $2 million

Shifting the Distaff to the identical day because the Basic and the Turf is like having three birthdays on back-to-back-to-back days. Unquestionably, the Distaff is usually probably the most compelling race on the two-day Breeders’ Cup card.

Who can overlook beloved jockey Rosie Napravnik’s tearful goodbye to racing as she introduced her being pregnant and retirement from the winner’s podium at Santa Anita after guiding Untapable to victory in 2014? Or the stirring stretch run between these two magnificents, Songbird and winner Beholder in 2016?

Need one other a type of? You bought it.

This yr’s race is principally being seen as a match race between the previous two winners of the G1 Kentucky Oaks, Abel Tasman with Mike Smith up and Monomoy Woman with Florent Geroux within the saddle. Abel Tasman has gained or positioned in 9 of her 12 graded races in an Eight-Four-Zero profession. In a yr when there was no Triple Crown winner, Monomoy Woman may need been Eclipse Award Horse of the Yr, and in all probability will nonetheless get some votes if she wins this race given her continued sterling efficiency and Justify’s abrupt retirement. She’s Eight-2-Zero and can be 9-1-Zero save for her being moved from first to second for a controversial interference ruling by Parx stewards on this yr’s Cotillion Stakes. She is the heavy 2-1 favourite over her 7-2 challenger.

Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Woman leaves the gate because the 2-1 favourite over final yr’s Oaks winner Abel Tasman within the BC Distaff. ©Evers/ESW/Breeders Cup

There are a number of wild playing cards within the 11-horse area. There’s Midnight Bisou, awarded first over Monomoy Woman within the Cotillion. John Velazquez will attempt to information her to victory from publish 7 with out controversy for coach Steve Asmussen.

Canadian filly Marvel Gadot, second within the Oaks, is flying from submit 5. She is claimed to be emulating her Celebrity actress namesake, Gal Gadot, leaping playfully throughout her morning exercises at Churchill to the delight of followers and the fear of coach Make Casse. Irad Ortiz, Jr. will get to calm her down.

Globetrotting, grizzled Argentinian Champion Vale Dori will attempt to get a bit of the purse from submit Eight for Bob Baffert with Joe Talamo up. Fellow Argentinian Blue Prize in joins his countryman from gate 10. Chilean Wow Cat will get to separate the Argentinian foes from gate 9.

Abel Tasman begins from submit 2 and Monomoy Woman from submit 11. If this race follows—and historical past—they are going to be publish 1-2 on the finish.

Race 6 (Three:36 pm EDT)                           


1 mile  $2 million – Turf

UPDATE: Polydream scratched

The 5-1 favourite, Polydream, is a late scratch. There isn’t any additional info at this writing of the rationale. We hope it isn’t critical. Condolences go to coach Freddy Head, who had hoped his new miler would emulate three-time Mile Champion Goldikova. There are also feel-bad tales in racing.

The late scratch of the favourite on this race is probably going to shuffle the chances extra dramatically than the sooner scratch of 30-1 Hunt.

There have been three 6-1 second decisions, one in every of which is probably going to assume the favorites place.

Oscar Efficiency will hope to give one for jockey Jose Ortiz and coach Brian Lynch. Chad Brown saddles Analyze It. Irad Ortiz, Jr. will get the experience and will get to renew his pleasant sibling jockey rivalry. Catapult will hope to…proper, catapult…first throughout the end line for coach John Sadler, who’s…proper, saddled with an Zero-for-Breeders’ Cup profession to date. Drayden Van Dyke will attempt to repair that image.

Aidan O’Brien fields Fortunately with Wayne Lordan his rider and Gustav Klimt paints with Ryan Moore holding the palette for Eire, and I Can Fly with Jamie Spencer is within the irons for Nice Britain. Fortunately began at 15-1, the opposite two runners each previously at 10-1. Which will change. We by no means rely out the Ballydoyle Grasp and his workforce.

Be cautious of former Eight-1 selection, Professional Eye, representing Nice Britain for coach Michael Stoute and properly positioned in publish 7 within the now 13-horse subject. Frankie Dettori is within the saddle of this lesser-known runner. Dettori is understood for his flying leap when he dismounts within the winner’s circle of Grade 1 races. After this race and the Turf with Allow, the 47-year-old could also be in want of knee alternative.

Race 5 (2:46 pm EDT)                          


6 furlongs – $2 million

That is the horseracing equal of the 100-meter sprint in monitor and subject. So we’ll be fast!

Reigning 2017 winner Roy H is available in a really slight underhorse to Imperial Trace. Each of their possibilities have been improved when X Y Jet was scratched.

There’s lots of competitors however the scratch of X Y Jet places the favourite label on final yr’s BC Dash winner Roy H to repeat this yr. ©Jamey Worth/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup

Roy H began his yr with a win, then completed a really strong third within the Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup Day, dropping by solely Three/Four of a size. He additionally gained the G1 Santa Anita Dash Championship in October.

Imperial Trace has three consecutive wins, two of them G1s.

Among the many remaining challengers within the small subject of 9, Guarantees Fulfilled, Whitmore and Limousine Liberal will get a second look after ending 1-2-Three in close by Keeneland’s G2 Phoenix.

We consider you could have to beat the Champion to declare the title, so we’ll go together with 6-year-old veteran Roy H to retain the crown.

RACE Four (2:04 pm EDT)


1 Three/Eight miles – $2 million

There’s a full area of 14 on this race. Sistercharlie is the Three-1 favourite and has earned three wins since coming to the U.S. from France and entrusted to coach Chad Brown. Among the many wins have been the G1 Diana at Saratoga and the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington. She has been rested since that Aug. 11 win.

Wild Phantasm is a daughter of the good Dubawi and one of many excessive hopes for Godolphin this Breeders’ Cup. Racing in England and France, she gained the Group 1 Qatar Nassau at Goodwood and the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera Longines at Longchamp. The second selection on this race at 7-2, she additionally was runnerup within the Group 1 Investec Oaks at Epsom earlier within the yr. William Buick has the experience for coach Charlie Appleby.

Magic Wand has cut up her two races with Wild Phantasm. The Galileo filly bested her within the Group 2 Ribblesdale and was second to her at Longchamp.

After these come Fourstar Criminal and Magic Wand, each at 5-1 for Chad Brown and Aidan O’Brien respectively. Fourstar Criminal gained the G1 Flower Bowl after ending second within the Beverly D. Brown has gone all in for this race, additionally fielding lengthy shot trio Santa Monica, A Raving Magnificence and Thais.

Considered one of 5 entries by coach Chad Brown within the BC Filly & Mare Turf, German mare A Raving Magnificence seems the half on an autumn morning at Churchill Downs. ©Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM

A remaining fascinating selection is Eziyra, a Teofolo filly ridden by Frankie Dettori. That is his first journey with this horse, which can account for the longer 15-1 odds additionally shared by one other Aidan O’Brien entry, Athena.

The Euros and notably O’Brien’s group, are all the time a menace in these races, however Brown have to be feeling good concerning the hand he’s holding, so the chances recommend one among his playing cards is an ace.

However, keep in mind, the Joker is wild.

RACE Three (1:16 pm EDT)

DIRT MILE       

One mile – $1 million

This can be a one-turn race at Churchill. With the scratch of Superior Slew, 9 runners will enter the gates.

Catalina Cruiser at Eight-5 with Drayden Van Dyke the rider is picked to cruise to a win for John Sadler. He’s gained all 4 of his races at distances starting from 6 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, so we don’t actually know his correct distance. His wins have all are available California, so we actually don’t know if that streak might be stretched coming East to chilly Churchill. And he’s drawn the surface submit. We actually do find out about that.

Metropolis Of Mild is shut behind within the odds at 5-2 and on the rail. His Four-Four-1 resume over 9 races is enhanced by 4 graded-stakes wins together with one within the Oaklawn Handicap over Basic favourite Speed up earlier this yr.

In search of The Soul and Firenze Hearth spherical out the highest decisions at 6-1 and 5-1, however Bravazo will in all probability get some help at a curious 20-1.

The submit and expertise appears to favor Metropolis Of Mild on this race, notably with the questions surrounding the favourite.

RACE 2 (12:38 pm EDT)


5 1/2 furlongs – $1 million

That is a type of races the place predictions are hazardous to your lungs and/or your pockets.

There’s a full subject of 14 for this fast journey. Stormy Liberal, Disco Companion and Richard’s Boy are again to give it a go within the race gained final yr by Eire’s Clearly.

Maybe due to his third-place end final yr, Disco Companion returns to the grass because the 7-2 favourite. Climate might have a say in his possibilities because the 6-year-old is probably not as spectacular on the rain-softened turf at Churchill.

Stormy Liberal and Richard’s Boy beforehand met in Dubai within the Al Quoz Dash on World Cup Day. Stormy Liberal ran properly however misplaced to Jungle Cat and Richard’s Boy was an unimpressive sixth.

You can learn over the shape guides, examine the climate forecast or pour over their data, however none of these will inform you far more than you’d study from getting out your dart board.

Save your lungs and/or your cash.

RACE 1 (12:00 pm EDT)


7 furlongs – $1 million

Properly, right here we’re on the finish. Or, somewhat, the start.

You may give you the chance to study early if this would be the day John Sadler will get the proverbial monkey off his again…or if Bob Baffert jumps on. Each trainers have an entry on this race. They couldn’t be a lot farther aside on the monitor with Sadler’s Selcourt in gate 1 and Baffert’s Marley’s Freedom in gate 13. Nor might they be a lot nearer on the oddsmakers’ books, with Baffert holding the favourite’s hand at Eight-5 and Sadler’s the second selection at Four-1. Mike Smith is on Marley’s Freedom and “Big Money Mike” is all the time a bonus, whereas Tyler Baze is on Selcourt.

Marley’s Freedom is a daughter of Blame, who famously beat Zenyatta by a pug’s nostril within the 2010 BC Basic, her final race and solely defeat in 20 begins, at…guess the place? Proper, Churchill Downs. Oh, and Zenyatta’s jockey that day? Proper, Mike Smith.

Favourite Marley’s Freedom needs clear crusing for Bob Baffert with Mike Smith captaining within the BC Filly & Mare Dash. ©Jamey Worth/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM

One might make a case for Finley’sluckycharm, Skye Diamonds or Golden Mischief, all at 10-1, however the well-known Horseracing Gods, worshipped by all of the hopefuls on the $2 window appear to have ordained this one as a big dose of redemption for John Sadler or a smaller one for Mike Smith.


With that, we finish our prolonged, and we hope pleasurable, preview of each days’ Breeders Cup races. Be certain to make amends for our earlier articles for info which may not be included on this one.

And examine again with us Saturday morning BEFORE submit time for our profile of an ideal Breeders’ Cup underdog story to begin YOUR protection of Saturday’s races.

We’ll even have an entire wrap-up of the outcomes from each days of racing over the weekend.

Till then, benefit from the races and let’s all hope the horses and riders come house safely. And, for those who select to wager, do it correctly and depart the deed to your home within the protected!


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