Plonk: Breeders' Cup Favorites: Boom or Bust?

By Jeremy Plonk  (Xpressbet Editor-in-chief) 

November 3, 2022 03:28 AM
Flightline

 

Friday and Saturday’s 14 championship races at the Breeders’ Cup are among the most rewarding handicapping challenges on the horse racing calendar each year. The evaluation of these races, which match the best from America and the world, starts with the query: Can you beat the favorite?

Let’s look at the races in order from Friday to Saturday with a closer inspection of the morning line (or presumptive) favorites.

Juvenile Turf Sprint

Favorite: The Platinum Queen (7-2)

Case For: Historic victory by this 2-year-old filly against older males in a French Group 1 sprint on Oct. 2 puts her in a powerful position back against only fellow 2-year-olds in this race.

Case Against: She drew post 12 and that’s difficult because of potential ground loss on the turn. Further, she’s never raced around a turn, only straightaway dashes in Europe.

Bottom Line: Very vulnerable.

Juvenile Fillies

Favorite: Chocolate Gelato (7-2)

Case For: Winner of New York’s Frizette Stakes, which has produced more Breeders’ Cup winners in any of the divisions than any other lead-in race. Trainer Todd Pletcher exits a strong performance at the Keeneland Fall Meet where his runners won a trio of Grade 1 stakes races.

Case Against: The final half-mile of the Frizette was disappointingly slow even in victory, and this filly has yet to race around 2 turns in her career. Pletcher has struggled in the Juvenile Fillies with an 0-14 record all-time.

Bottom Line: Somewhat vulnerable.

Juvenile Fillies Turf 

Favorite: Meditate (4-1)

Case For: Irish filly has finished first or second in all 6 career starts, including back-to-back Group 1 races in the UK. Trainer Aidan O’Brien’s $27 million in career earnings at the Breeders’ Cup ranks second in the event’s history.

Case Against: The Juvenile Fillies Turf will be the longest race of her career and first time extending around any turns, much less two of them from a wider, post position 10. She was beaten as the 8-5 and 1-1 favorites in her last two when runner-up. For all of O’Brien’s success in the BC, he’s 0-15 in this particular division.

Bottom Line: Very vulnerable.

Juvenile

Favorite: Cave Rock (4-5)

Case For: He’s absolutely crushed all 3 fields he faced, including Grade 1 races at Del Mar (around 1 turn) and Santa Anita (2 turns). He has the best early and late speed in this race and should be first or second throughout with little excuse for a bad trip. Bob Baffert has won this race 5 times, the most of any trainer.

Case Against: This will be his first road trip outside California.

Bottom Line: Very dependable.

Juvenile Turf

Favorite: Silver Knott (3-1)

Case For: A winner in 3 of his last 4 races in England, including 2 of those around a turn, this one is heavily favored as low as 6-4 among the British bookmakers. Trainer Charlie Appleby won this race last year and has a ridiculous 6-for-11 record in Breeders’ Cup races, easily the best strike rate all-time. He has drawn a positive post position in the 4-hole.

Case Against: He was defeated on soft ground in the Champagne at 3-5 odds and will be making his first trip outside England.

Bottom Line: Dependable.

Filly and Mare Sprint

Favorite: Goodnight Olive (3-1)

Case For: She rolls into Breeders’ Cup with a 5-race winning streak and not really challenged late in any of those. Filly is 3-for-3 at the 7-furlong distance needed Saturday and has the ability to relax just off what looks to be a fast pace. And, she’s already a proven winner at Keeneland.

Case Against: None against her, but the competition includes last year’s Filly and Mare Sprint winner Ce Ce as well as another Breeders’ Cup champ from 2021, Juvenile Fillies winner Echo Zulu.

Bottom Line: Very dependable.

Golden_Pal

 

Turf Sprint

Favorite: Golden Pal (2-1)

Case For: Defending Turf Sprint champion also won the Juvenile Turf Sprint, so he’s seeking a third title at the Breeders’ Cup. Golden Pal has dominated his Keeneland attempts, winning all 4. Trainer Wesley Ward far and away is Keeneland’s leading trainer in turf sprint races.

Case Against: He has not been quite as brilliant in 2022 as 2021, particularly in the first 50 yards from the gate. If he’s not able to daylight the pack early, he could succumb to a better finisher late.

Bottom Line: Somewhat vulnerable.

Dirt Mile

Favorite: Cody’s Wish (5-2)

Case For: He’s just a neck away from 7 straight victories, and defeated America’s sprint champion Jackie’s Warrior last time out at Saratoga. He’s 5-for-5 at the one-mile distance. Sired by Curlin, whose offspring handle Keeneland very well.

Case Against: All 5 of his mile victories came in 1-turn miles, and this will be a rare, 2-turn start for him (0-2 around a pair of turns). He has not carried more than 120 pounds in a race this year and picks up 6-8 pounds while facing his toughest test. Note: reasonable chance public leans toward Laurel River as the post-time favorite.

Bottom Line: Vulnerable.

Filly and Mare Turf

Favorite: Nashwa (5-2)

Case For: European 3-year-old fillies have had a strong hand in this race in recent years, and this French Oaks winner has proven to be high-class against Europe’s best older fillies and mares. Her four races closest to the 1 3/16 miles distance for Saturday have netted 3 victories and a narrow runner-up. Trainer John Gosden has secured 5 Breeders’ Cup trophies in his illustrious career.

Case Against: Favorites have lost the Filly and Mare Turf 8 straight years, the longest current skid in any Breeders’ Cup division. Nashwa was defeated when second by three-quarters of a length in the Prix de l’Opera in France in her only start since July.

Bottom Line: Dependable.

Sprint

Favorite: Jackie’s Warrior (4-5)

Case For: Reigning champion sprinter in America, Jackie’s Warrior easily has the most early speed in this race and could find himself in a potent, lone-speed situation. He finished first or second in all 5 starts this year with this race circled as the goal throughout the campaign. And, he’s 4-for-5 lifetime at the 6-furlong distance. The defection of Jack Christopher from this race removed his most difficult potential rival.

Case Against: The worst race of his career sprinting came in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint when a tiring sixth after an excruciating early duel. He was defeated in his most recent start when bet to 15 cents on the dollar at Saratoga, by Dirt Mile morning line favorite Cody’s Wish.

Bottom Line: Very dependable.

Mile

Favorite: Modern Games (7-2)

Case For: European is 2-for-2 raiding North America, winning last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and adding the Woodbine Mile in September of this year. Trainer Charlie Appleby, a fantastic 6-for-11 in the Breeders’ Cup heading into this year, won the 2021 Mile with Space Blues, and this one is arguably better-equipped.

Case Against: This will be his seventh straight Group 1/Grade 1 start and a second intercontinental trip in less than 2 months. The wear of a difficult campaign could show at some point. Upset by a 33-1 shot when finishing second Oct. 15, coming back quicker in 3 weeks’ time.

Bottom Line: Somewhat vulnerable.

Nest

Distaff

Favorite: Nest (9-5)

Case For: Smashing winner of 3 straight races since her historic bid in the Belmont Stakes came up just short in second. She won Keeneland’s premier 3-year-old filly stakes in the spring by more than 8 lengths, so the course and distance are snuggly checked off already. Trainer Todd Pletcher won 3 Grade 1 stakes at the recently concluded Keeneland Fall Meet.

Case Against: The best horse she’s defeated in her career to date has been Secret Oath, who is a 15-1 shot in this year’s Distaff. Her four overmatched rivals in the Beldame hardly guaranteed that she can handle the best of the older fillies and mares in America. In a recent workout in tandem with elder stablemate and Distaff rival Malathaat, it was her opponent who appeared stronger of the pair. And beyond Malathaat, there are several very good challengers in this race to accept a short price.

Bottom Line: Vulnerable.

Turf

Favorite: Rebel’s Romance (3-1)

Case For: Breeders’ Cup strongman Charlie Appleby, as noted previously, has a 6-for-11 mark in the championships all-time and won last year’s Turf with Yibir, a lesser candidate than this year’s favorite. English-based, he’s proven worthy of travel with back-to-back German Group 1 stakes wins. He’s carried 132 pounds in recent tries and gets a rare weight break to 126 for this test. He’s 4-for-4 at the Turf distance of 1 1/2 miles.

Case Against: He was steered clear of Europe’s best races in England and France this year, and while unbeaten in 4 starts in 2022, he was favored in all and won by more than one length just once.

Bottom Line: Dependable.

Classic

Favorite: Flightline (3-5)

Case For: Undefeated star has never even been tested for his best, winning by margins between 6-19 lengths in 5 lifetime races. That biggest margin came most recently in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, his first attempt around 2 turns and first try at the Classic’s 1 1/4 miles distance. He passed with an A+ performance that drew comparisons to Secretariat’s 1973 Belmont Stakes. He’s proven capable of travel, routing New York’s Grade 1 Met Mile in June.

Case Against: This will be by far the toughest field he’s faced, and no doubt Pegasus World Cup winner Life Is Good will be the fastest pacesetter he’s had to chase. You never know how a horse will react when the proverbial schoolyard bully finds things challenging for the first time.

Bottom Line: Very dependable. 

 

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