Happy Breeders' Cup Friday, everyone! It's time for the first part of horse racing's two-day championship event at Keeneland, and five fields of 2-year-olds will celebrate the occasion by competing for Eclipse Awards and massive purses.
With this five-race sequence comes an all-stakes Pick Five, one that will likely draw a colossal pool. I think you can play this sequence for an affordable price, and I'm looking forward to punching my ticket. Here's how I'll play it!
RACE #6: The first of two popular singles on my ticket comes in the kickoff leg, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. While this race's heavy favorite draws a terrible post, I simply think he's far more talented than his competition.
#14 GOLDEN PAL turned in one of the most impressive 2-year-old performances of the year when romping in the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga. He carved out fast fractions and stopped the timer in 1:00 4/5 while not being fully extended, and a similar sort of effort would likely thump the foes lining up against him here. I think he's fast enough to clear most of the field early, and if he sits his desired trip, I simply can't imagine another runner beating him without taking a substantial step forward.
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RACE #7: This is the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, and it may be the best betting race of the day. Seven of these runners ship in from Europe, and while several of them seem well-meant, my top selection is an American I've been high on for months.
#4 PUBLIC SECTOR won his debut like a very good horse and was an odds-on favorite in the Grade 2 Pilgrim at Belmont. He never had a chance rating behind very slow fractions that day, but he still ran second, and I think he'll get a far friendlier race shape here. Any sort of a pace to chase would up his chances considerably, and I think he'll be the one they have to hold off late.
In a sign of how deep this race is, though, I'm going six-deep. My ticket also includes #2 NEW MANDATE, #5 CADILLAC, #9 BATTLEGROUND, #11 GRETZKY THE GREAT, and #12 GO ATHLETICO. Battleground hits me as the most likely favorite due to his world-class connections and pedigree. He's an Aidan O'Brien trainee by War Front out of 2015 Breeders' Cup Turf winner Found, and if he brings his Great Britain form with him to Keeneland, he's got a big shot.
RACE #8: My second single comes in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. This is the shortest field of the sequence, and it may also boast its shortest price.
#7 PRINCESS NOOR is a perfect 3-for-3, and the Bob Baffert trainee has done nothing wrong. She's won her last two races (both graded stakes) by a combined total of 14 3/4 lengths, and she's been working very well ahead of her trip to Kentucky. The outside post hits me as a major plus, and her tactical speed should carry her to a prime spot going into the first turn. With a clean trip and any effort resembling the ones she's put forth in the past, I think she'll be tough to beat.
RACE #9: I have no such confidence, however, in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Like in its brother race, I'm going six-deep, and once again, despite a strong European contingent that shows up, my top pick is based in the U.S.
#5 AUNT PEARL ran a huge race in the Grade 2 Jessamine over this very turf course. She went wire-to-wire that day in stakes-record time, and I love that she went fast early and had plenty left late. There's other speed signed on, so she may have a tougher time getting comfortable, but I think there's lots to like, and she gets my tepid nod.
My ticket also includes #3 ALDA, #4 PLUM ALI, #9 MADONE, #10 CAMPANELLE, and #11 ROYAL APPROVAL. The latter two are trained by Wesley Ward, and the longer price intrigues me the most. Royal Approval won the Grade 3 Matron going six furlongs, and her pedigree hints that she wants every part of this two-turn route of ground. The outside post could be a challenge, but at her likely price, I think she offers real value.
RACE #10: I debated ending this ticket with my third single, and many will go that route in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. However, while I'm using the favorite, and while that favorite is my top pick, I felt the need to include another runner as well.
#7 JACKIE'S WARRIOR is 4-for-4, and his last two wins have been easy scores against Grade 1 company. He's got plenty of tactical speed and will be very tough to run down if he's left alone up top. This is his first start going two turns, but the short-stretch configuration at Keeneland means that isn't much of a problem. If he continues to improve, he's a very likely winner.
I'm also going to use #8 CLASSIER, who's 12-1 on the morning line but may very well go off as the race's second choice. The Bob Baffert trainee was an impressive first-out winner at Santa Anita, and everything about his pedigree says he wants to go as long as possible. He's by Empire Maker and out of a Bernardini mare, which screams that he'll get better as races get longer. Jackie's Warrior may hit me as the likeliest winner, but I couldn't toss Classier.
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