Dirt prices look settled, but the grass market is in upheaval.
At first glance, that probably reads like guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Actually, it is a snapshot of futures odds for the Breeders’ Cup, which arrives at the junction of turf and surf near San Diego in just over two weeks.
Knicks Go, whose stud rights were sold this week for untold millions to Taylor Made Stallions here in Kentucky, has become a firm 3-1 favorite to win the $6 million Classic, even though he has never raced 1¼ miles. His stablemate, Belmont Stakes and Travers winner Essential Quality, is a solid 7-2 second choice in the global market.
Those odds are not going to move much, since all the dirt preps have been done for some time. Meanwhile, thanks to championship races that were run and won Saturday on the hallowed lawn at Ascot, England, the past week has been quite the opposite for the $4 million Turf and the $2 million Mile.
Tarnawa, who was a gallant second this month in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and nowhere near British Champions Day last weekend, shortened to 2-1 to repeat as the winner of the Turf. Just beneath her, Snowfall was ruled out after failing as the favorite in the Fillies & Mares Stakes in England. She joined Hurricane Lane among the contenders who will sit out California.
Mishriff (4-1), the second choice in betting for the Turf, has not quite been confirmed to show up at Del Mar. Co-trainer John Gosden raised hopes of an epic first-time duel with Tarnawa when he told the Daily Racing Form this week that he would consider sending the 4-year-old colt to race in the Turf. Already a winner of the Saudi Cup, the Dubai Sheema Classic and the International Stakes, Mishriff did not take to the soft ground at Ascot and finished fourth as the 8-5 favorite in the British Champion Stakes.
Domestic Spending (9-2) carries the shortest price for a domestic horse to win the Turf, where the 1½ miles will be the longest test yet for trainer Chad Brown’s 4-year-old gelding who has won the Manhattan and finished second in the Mister D., both at career-long distances of 1¼ miles.
Upheaval in the Mile division was even more pronounced. Palace Pier had been the 9-4 favorite, Poetic Flare was the 9-2 second choice and Baaeed carried odds of 6-1. None will make the trip to Del Mar, especially after Baaeed and Palace Pier had a hard fight to finish one-two in last weekend’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. Poetic Flare was ruled out after his June win at Royal Ascot was more than offset by three losses since.
No sooner did it look like Europe was taking a pass on the Mile than Space Blues showed up to prevent a complete Brexit. Trainer Charlie Appleby, who made Godolphin’s presence felt with winning shippers to New York this summer, has pointed the 5-year-old Dubawi horse toward Del Mar after his two-length win on the bottomless ParisLongchamp course in this month’s Prix de la Forêt.
With attrition surrounding him, Space Blues (5-2) opened this week as the new favorite to win the Mile. Mo Forza (4-1) may be America’s best hope to keep the trophy at home, especially since he has won his last three starts at Del Mar. Lightly raced by trainer Peter Miller the past two years, the 5-year-old Uncle Mo horse has won his last four starts, including repeats in both the Del Mar Mile and Santa Anita’s City of Hope Mile.
The international noise for the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf may be coming more from over the Pacific rather than the Atlantic. Loves Only You (5-1) is one of seven horses that make up Japan’s biggest delegation ever for the Breeders’ Cup. Her Group 1 victory last spring at Hong Kong and a close loss to Mishriff in the Dubai Sheema Classic demonstrated her ability to compete with the best of both genders. The only question now is whether she will start in the Filly & Mare Turf or against the boys in the Turf.
War Like Goddess (3-1), a 4-year-old on a four-race winning streak for Bill Mott, has become the firm futures favorite since she won the Grade 1 Flower Bowl last month at Saratoga. Shantisara (5-1), who was a Grade 1 winner for Brown last week at Keeneland, and Teona (5-1), who was last seen winning a Group 1 race Sept. 12 in Paris, also loom as serious contenders in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Although Europe finally won the Turf Sprint last year, U.S.-based horses won the first 12. The American vise grip on the race is reflected in the short odds for Golden Pal (8-5), the Uncle Mo colt trained by Wesley Ward that has won his last four starts on American soil, er, grass. If there were any lingering doubts from his disappointing, seventh-place finish to Mishriff in the International Stakes this summer in England, he should have erased them with his homecoming victory this month in the Woodford at Keeneland.
Since Breeders’ Cup pre-entries are due Monday and will be announced next Wednesday, the risk in betting horses that may not be sent to Del Mar will be reduced. So, too, will their odds. The wise bettor is the one who continues to scour racing news to get clues about the comings and goings around Southern California. And maybe about overlays, wherever they may be.
In addition to this weekly report, Ron Flatter’s racing column is available every Friday at VSiN.com. The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is also available every Friday morning at VSiN.com/podcasts. This week features a discussion among broadcasters whose careers branched beyond their love of racing. Former ESPN host Chris Lincoln, WBAL Radio reporter Scott Wykoff and KKAM Radio host Ryan Hyatt will take part. The RFRP is available for free subscription at iHeart, Apple, Google, Spotify and Stitcher. It is sponsored by 1/ST BET.