The Breeders’ Cup 2018 Weekend is about to begin, and what a way to kick off the festivities at the end of the main portion of the racing calendar. On Friday, the Breeders’ Cup debuts the new Juvenile Turf Sprint, the start up to the rebranded Friday card – Future Stars Friday. Five championship races for two year-olds will be on tap as we begin the World Championships of Thoroughbred Horse Racing. Joining me to cover the Friday card is John Piassek (@theyreoff), the co-founder and handicapper for The Daily Gallop and the managing editor and handicapper for DanonymousRacing.com.
Race 5 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint
5.5 Furlongs – Turf – 2yo – $1,000,000
– by Michael Tartaglia
It is not an easy inaugural edition of this race – not at all. Filled with international talent, the Juvenile Turf Sprint starts off the weekend in very tough fashion. Soldier’s Call may be the morning line favorite, but only at 9-2 odds; this one for Archie Watson was third last out against older horses in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp, and looked very good trying to beat his elders. Aidan O’Brien brings in Cornwallis winner Sergei Prokofiev, who has been getting a lot of attention from the handicappers after his win last out and a win on softer ground in Ireland back in the spring. Meanwhile, Wesley Ward, who is expected to keep this race filled every year, brings in Norfolk winner Shang Shang Shang, who hasn’t raced since her Royal Ascot Success, back-to-back runner up Chelsea Cloisters, Bolton Landing winner Stillwater Cover, and impressive Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Moonlight Romance. The Ward quartet is expected to be very tough in this.
(2) Soldier’s Call gets the call on top for me. Even before nearly beating older horses last out, he has looked so much the best against his competition, winning strongly in the Prix d’Arenberg and the Flying Childers. He is the type that fights on the front and battles out the whole entire race, showing a lot of skill and grit throughout. Hard to doubt one with so much talent and speed that has looked like a world beater all season long.
(6) Moonlight Romance is far from Wesley Ward’s most talented horse in this race, but is fresh and coming off a sensational win in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint. While the figures out of that race aren’t too high, the way she won was just wow. Her turn of foot is one of the best in this field and I’m not looking to go away from her today. She is a very long striding filly and should love the Churchill Downs turf course.
(8) Sergei Prokofiev has been getting lots of love from handicappers after his Cornwallis Stakes win at Newmarket, and rightfully so. Ryan Moore gets aboard this one for Aidan O’Brien and should get soft turf, which he used to runaway with a race at Navan in the spring before easily taking the Rochestown Stakes in his next start.
I’d also recommend using Pocket Dynamo, Shang Shang Shang, and Stillwater Cove underneath to boost any exotic wagers that you may be playing.
Race 6 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
8.0 Furlongs – Turf – 2yo Fillies – $1,000,000
– by John Piassek
Some of the finest turf 2-year-old fillies in the western hemisphere will take center stage in this race, which features the presence of one of the likeliest winners in Breeders’ Cup history. That would be the brilliant filly (6) Newspaperofrecord, who has won her first two races in dominating fashion. She won her first race at Saratoga on August 19, destroying the field by almost seven lengths. Following that score, she took the Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont Park on October 6, winning by 6 ½ lengths while under light urging.
Newspaperofrecord looks like an absolute cinch. There is a better chance of the Red Sox losing the World Series than of Newspaperofrecord losing the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and the Red Sox have already won the World Series. From a speed figure perspective, she towers over all her rivals. On the brisnet scale, she earned a 99 while winning the Miss Grillo Stakes. Only one American horse in the field has earned a 90 in their careers, and that would be (9) Varenka, who was soundly defeated in the Miss Grillo. It would take a big regression from Newspaperofrecord and a drastic improvement from any American for one of them to win.
On paper, the European contingent looks formidable, as they always do. However, there are two problems with that group. Firstly, the Juvenile Fillies Turf has historically been dominated by Americans. Since the race was created in 2008, European horses have won just two times. What’s more, both of those winners had run at a mile at least once before. Only one European has run at a mile, and that was (3) Lily’s Candle, who grinded her way to victory in the Prix Marcel Boussac Criterium des Pouliches in France. Finally, every time a formidable American filly has run in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (Lady Eli in 2014, Rushing Fall in 2017, etc), they’ve won.
There’s two more factors that make Newspaperofrecord a standout. One, her trainer, Chad Brown, is one of the best turf trainers in the country, and has won this race three of the past four years. Two, there is rain in the forecast for Churchill Downs on Wednesday and Thursday, which means the turf will likely be wet on Friday. Both of Newspaperofrecord’s wins came over turf courses labelled “yielding”. Her first race was run less than 48 hours after an absolute monsoon came through Saratoga. If the turf comes up wet, all the better.
In my opinion, if Newspaperofrecord goes off at 2/1 or higher, she’s worth a win bet. Betting horses that short usually won’t make you much money, but in the case of a horse like her, getting $2 back for every $1 you invest would be generous. She will be a single on my pick 4 plays, as I don’t think it’s worth spending a lot more money trying to beat her. Finally, I will key her on top of a few others in the exacta. The others will be the aforementioned Lily’s Candle, Varenka, and Concrete Rose, who won the Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland in impressive fashion.
Race 7 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
8.5 Furlongs – Dirt – 2yo Fillies – $2,000,000
– by Michael Tartaglia
Going into this race, I was really hoping that I could sneak away a price from the tipping favorite of Serengeti Empress… until I saw the morning line. This looks on paper like a three horse race, and I’m not here to try and sway you off of any of the top three.
(10) Bellafina gets the top nod for me, although I was really hoping that I’d be able to get a bit more than 2/1 on her seeing how much love Serengeti Empress has been getting. Nonetheless, the more I have watched of her, the more I absolutely love her. She is a very large 2yo filly who never lets that hinder her. In her last three, she just went towards the front with absolute ease, never moving a muscle, and then gunning home like a rocket without ever being asked. She put away some talent in her last three, such as Del Mar May, Brill, and Mother Mother, all without breaking a sweat. I thought that blinkers would have been her answer to the flat race she ran first out… and then she takes them off and just disappears from the field in the Chandelier. She looks to be my top pick for the whole weekend.
(7) Jaywalk gets to sit second here on my ticket after a lightning quick and easy win in the Frizette last out. This was a visually impressive, yet under the radar, prep where she won in all three facets of the race, beginning, middle, and end. I’m a huge fan of Brisnet figures, and she had a 90+ figure for the E1, E2, and LP parts of her last race, the only such horse in the field to have that last out. She has already shown prime ability to win if the dirt comes up wet and even more ability on a dry track. Her versatility is clear.
(2) Serengeti Empress rounds out my top three after watching how easily she has drawn away in her last two, the Ellis Park Debutante and the Pocahontas right here at Churchill Downs. In her last race, she was slowed down to a walk and still added on lengths of separation. Her ability to take the lead and stride on clear is going to be key in a race that lacks a lot of early pace. My only questions for her is about who she has beaten, but if she is anything close to what she was in her previous two, boom there she goes.
I’ll be looking at Splashy Kisses, Sippican Harbor, and Restless Rider to round out my exotics, although I won’t be looking to win big money in this race.
Race 8 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
8.0 Furlongs – Turf – 2yo Colts & Geldings – $1,000,000
– by Michael Tartaglia
In my opinion, this is the most difficult race to predict of the day. Every horse in this field is as close to the next in terms of talent as can be. I do not like my chances here, but will take a shot with three of them.
(4) Forty Under will be overlooked by many on Friday, but I wouldn’t dare. Since switching to the turf after a not so good first race on the dirt, he has looked sensational, getting better after each run. Last time out in the Pilgrim was easily his best, where he ran lights out at every point of call. He gobbled up ground late with a great turn of foot and seemed to relish the softer going. I like how he has been training over the Churchill Downs turf and his running style should suit here.
(12) Current should come in with a bit of a nice price tag off his Bourbon effort, where he just narrowly prevailed for the win. His race two back on good turf was a lot better and against a very tough group. He has shown that he can win against top class turf horses and has been improving very nicely as of late. He needed last race and should be coming into this one better than previously.
(5) Line Of Duty looks like the best Euro in the field, but that isn’t saying too much. However, the way he ran over the field in the Prix De Conde over soft going is telling of the talent that he has. He is still growing, so the best may be yet to come, but he certainly looks like a type that can win here.
For more prices, I’ll be using Henley’s Joy, Opry, and King Of Speed in my exotics, but will need to spread deep in this one for any multi-race wager.
Race 9 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
8.5 Furlongs – Dirt – 2yo Colts & Geldings – $2,000,000
– by Michael Tartaglia
The headlining race of the new Future Stars Friday is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Bob Baffert ships over American Pharoah winner Game Winner to try and win his fourth of this race, although none of his wins have been with his dominant 2yos and every Baffert horse to win this race was injured shortly thereafter. Perhaps this year will be different, but he will have to face a pair of Chad Brown runners who have been fun to watch in Complexity and Standard Deviation.
(6) Complexity doesn’t seem like that complex of a horse to get to and has impressed in two straight in New York for Jose Ortiz and Chad Brown. He hasn’t had everything go his way in either of his two starts, but both driving wins and last out was just ultra-impressive.
(5) Well Defined was one that I didn’t love on paper but was wowed once I went back and watched his last two races. Although running against much lesser that what he will be facing today, his long striding drive makes him a major contender here (and getting Mike Smith helps too). He has never really been asked to do much yet, so we have no idea where his ceiling is, but his floor is much higher than a good part of this fields ceiling, so he will at least be in it for us throughout. If I can get anything near 20/1, I will be betting hard.
(8) Standard Deviation finds himself in a spot with a lot of speed. He is a closer who can eat up ground in no time at all. He fell flat late in a very oddly run Breeders’ Futurity, but I will give him one more look this time, especially as the lone closer in the field. Also, if you are looking for a horse to move up on wet dirt, look no further than this son of Curlin; we already know very well what Curlin himself and his progeny can do on a wet track.
(1) Dueling will be a rare fourth horse in the field for me, and one that should be at a huge price. Jerry Hollendorfer rarely takes huge shots with his 2yos, especially when it requires shipping them. This is a big step up for a horse that just broke his maiden in his last start, but nonetheless, has looked good in three starts. Two back, he was second by nearly 6 lengths to Game Winner, but next out stepped up to a mile and ran away with one. Now he gets another shot to see where he fits. I like his chances.
Other ones to use underneath are of course Game Winner and Gunmetal Gray, but also look for Mind Control and Tight Ten to have a chance to spring an upset or finish very well to close out an exotic play.
With that, enjoy Future Stars Friday of the Breeders’ Cup 2018!