Welcome to Stabile’s Breeders’ Cup Countdown. In the weeks leading up to the 30th annual Breeders’ Cup, to be held this year Friday, November 1st and Saturday, November 2nd at Santa Anita in Arcadia, CA. VegasInsider.com handicapper Anthony “the Big A” Stabile will cover the major prep races in almost every Breeders’ Cup division, culminating with his annual Breeders’ Cup Breakdowns, an extensive look at the contenders in each event, talk about how the race should set-up and provide some strategies on how to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to betting on the race in the week leading up to the event.. If you want to know what “the Big A” will be betting on both Breeders’ Cup days, make sure to check back on Friday and Saturday to purchase Stabile’s Breeders’ Cup Picks and Plays of the Day, a look at how he’ll wager on each and every race, available EXCLUSIVELY at VegasInsider.com.
Super Saturday is in the books but another action packed weekend of stakes awaits us as over a dozen preps with Breeders’ Cup implications will take place this weekend throughout the country. Let’s not waste any more time and get straight to it.
While familiar names of older starts like G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic winner Little Mike and G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Ron the Greek stole the show with gritty and explosive wins, respectively last Saturday, this weekend it will be all about the juveniles as Belmont will play host to four stakes for two-year-olds that should impact all five of the Breeders’ Cup races for juveniles.
The highlight of the weekend at Belmont figures to be the 142nd running of the G1 Champagne on Saturday going one mile on the dirt. It features not only the leader of the division in Hopeful winner Strong Mandate but also ultra-impressive debut winners Havana and Honor Code.
After breaking his maiden convincingly in gate-to-wire fashion when adding blinkers in his second start for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Strong Mandate sat off the early pace and turned what appeared to be a tough renewal of the Hopeful into a laugher, as jockey Jose Ortiz wrapped up on him in the final furlong to win by a widening 9 ¾ lengths in the mud.
While Lukas is bringing a more seasoned runner to the Champagne, his former assistant Todd Pletcher is hoping Havana can win the Champagne off just a Saratoga maiden win, just like his Uncle Mo did in 2010 in his Eclipse Award winning juvenile season.
I say “just” a Saratoga maiden win but believe me it was spectacular. Breaking from the rail, Havana gunned to the lead as the overwhelming 2-5 favorite and improved his position at every call while cutting wicked early fractions of :22 and :44 2/5 before stopping the clock at 1:02 3/5 for 5 ½ furlongs to win in a hand ride by 2 ¾ lengths. Irad Ortiz, Jr. replaces John Velazquez in the saddle.
While Havana and his maiden tally were all about speed, Honor Code and his 4 ½ length romp shocked many because at the ¼ pole of the seven furlong event it didn’t look like he’d hit the board, let alone win while drawing away.
Rarely do Shug McGaughey juveniles get pounded at the windows like Honor Code did and it wasn’t until late in the wagering that he went up to his final odds of 3-1. When the gates opened, Honor Code dropped back immediately and three furlongs into the race he fell even farther behind before unleashing one of the most impressive rail rallies in the slop that these eyes have ever seen, stopping the clock over a second faster than another juvenile maiden race run later on in the card. Another ridden by Johnny V in his debut, Javier Castellano will have the mount in here.
Hopeful runner up Casiguapo, stakes winners Debt Ceiling and Long On Value along with maiden winners Ride On Curlin, Grand Arrival and possibly Intense Holiday round out the Champagne field.
One race earlier, Sweet Reason will look to prove that her two slop wins at Saratoga, including last out in the G1 Spinaway, were no flukes as she takes on six other lassies in the G1 Frizette going a flat mile.
After coming from far back to break her maiden in an off-the-turf event in her debut at almost 10-1, Sweet Reason took all the money in the Spinaway, eventually going off as the 5-2 second choice and sat much closer to the early pace before sweeping to the front at the head of the lane to win by a similar margin. Alex Solis rides for Leah Gyarmati.
Pletcher’s Stopchargingmaria may have been no match for Sweet Reason in the Spinaway but she did open some eyes in her debut score over a fast Saratoga strip and didn’t appear to love the wet surface last out. Castellano has the return call.
New York-bred Artemis Argotera wowed ‘em in her debut, winning by a double digit margin going six furlongs in 1:10 2/5 on the lead the entire way against statebreds for trainer Mike Hushion. Jose Lezcano replaces the injured Joel Rosario.
Recepta was touted as a good one and ran to her billing in her debut over a sloppy track for trainer Jimmy Toner last out at the Spa. Though bred to love the surface she galloped home over, Recepta didn’t find her best stride until mid-stretch then put it all together to win by an easy 4 ½ lengths under Junior Alvarado.
Maiden winners Tea Time, Ria Antonia and Divided Attention complete the field.
On Sunday at Belmont in the G3 Pilgrim going 1 1/16 miles on the turf, new Pletcher trainee Due Diligence, an impressive debut winner sprinting on the lawn at the Spa for Chad Brown makes his first start for his new connections against a field of eight others as a couple of current Brown runners in Shadow Banking and Bobby’s Kitten figure to be his main opposition.
Also on Sunday, a full field of twelve juvenile fillies will line up for the G3 Miss Grillo. The first three finishers from the PG Johnson at Saratoga - Granny Mc’s Kitten, Duff One and Miss Frost - will be joined by debut winners Bikini Beauty and Sky Painter as well as French import Testa Rossi going 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
Over at Keeneland, a pair of 2012 Breeders’ Cup winners will make their final starts before this years’ championship weekend, hoping to defend their respective titles as part of the FallStars weekend at the Lexington, Kentucky oval.
Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan will follow a familiar formula when he leads a big field over for the $750,000 G1 Shadwell Turf Mile for the second consecutive year. Keeneland management has done a fine job considering they had a field of twelve last year and managed to muster up a field of ten this season.
Like he did in 2012, Wise Dan roars into Keeneland off a pair of easy scores in the G2 Fourstardave at Saratoga and G1 Woodbine Mile at Woodbine in Canada. This years’ Woodbine score may have been his best effort to date as he did it with awesome ease and just missed the world record for a mile on the turf without breaking out of a gallop. John Velazquez will ride for Charles Lopresti.
Silver Max figures to try and steal it on the front end for trainer Dale Romans and jockey Robby Albarado off a pair of front running scores in the G3 Oceanport and G2 Baruch at the Spa but could face pace pressure from the rail drawn California invader Winning Prize.
Trained by the always dangerous Neil Drysdale, Winning Prize made his first start since December 2012/U.S. debut a winning one last out when he demolished an optional claiming field on the front end at Del Mar. Garrett Gomez rides.
Willcox Inn, second to Wise Dan here last year and Summer Front could pick up the pieces should a speed duel develop.
2012 B.C F&M Sprint winner Groupie Doll will look to use the G2 TCA going six furlongs over the Polytrack as a springboard to this years’ Cup when she faces just five others on Saturday.
And just like last year, Groupie Doll comes into this off an easy score in the G2 Presque Isle Downs Masters, also run over a synthetic surface. In fact, Groupie Doll has won four of five career starts over synthetic surfaces while earning $830,000. Regular rider Rajiv Maragh rides for trainer Bill Bradley.
If she is to win back-to-back TCAs, Groupie Doll will have to handle a couple of other synthetic specialists in Judy the Beauty and Gypsy Robin who are a perfect 5 for 5 combined over the Keeneland surface.
Third in the PID Masters, Judy the Beauty has won both of her Keeneland starts for trainer Wesley Ward. John Velazquez rides. Gypsy Robin, a former Ward runner now trained by Mike Puype out west, won both the G2 Beaumont and G2 Raven’s Run over this course in 2012 and comes into this off a minor stakes score at Del Mar over their synthetic course. Garrett Gomez has the mount.
Saturday’s card also features three other graded stakes, the wide-open G3 Woodford going 5 ½ furlongs on the turf for three year olds and up, the equally contentious G1 Breeders’ Futurity going 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack and the G1 First Lady going one mile on the turf.
In the First Lady, Dayatthespa, two for three this year with her lone defeat coming at the hands of multiple G1 winner Laughing, takes on Hungry Island, Better Lucky and Daisy Devine, all of whom are looking to get back to their winning ways and snap their losing streaks, as well as Euro import Say from the powerful Aidan O’Brien stable.
Then on Sunday, Emollient returns to the scene of his biggest win, the G1 Ashland earlier this year, to take on her elders for the first time in the G1 Spinster going 1 1/8 miles over the Polytrack. Trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Mike Smith, Emollient won the G1 American Oaks on the turf at Del Mar two back before finishing off the board in the G1 Garden City after a troubled trip last out. Byrama, Wine Princess and Summer Applause figure to provide her the stiffest competition.
Sunday’s card also features the G3 Bourbon going 1 1/16 miles on the turf for two-year-olds. The Pletcher trained Bashart, winner of the G2 With Anticipation at Saratoga last out, leads a full field with John Velazquez aboard.
At Santa Anita on Saturday, defending B.C. Sprint champ Trinniberg is seeking his first win since last years’ Cup when he takes on seven others in the G1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship going six furlongs on the dirt.
Since his score last year, Trinniberg failed in his trip to Dubai, was off the board in the slop at Churchill and finished second in the G2 Smile at his home base of Calder last out. He’ll get a new rider in Jose Valdivia, Jr. for this.
G1 Triple Bend winner Centralintelligence and G1 Pat O’Brien winner Points Offthebench along with the speedy three-year-olds Declassify and Goldencents should provide plenty of competition for the defending champ.
Obviously will look to stamp his ticket for the B.C. Mile and another crack at Wise Dan when he faces a seemingly overmatched field of nine in the G2 City of Hope going a mile on the turf. Already a three time graded stakes winner this season, including the G1 Shoemaker Mile last out, Obviously was third behind Wise Dan and Animal Kingdom in the Mile last year.
Finally, Teddy’s Promise and Executiveprivilege, one of the top juvenile fillies last year, will look to earn their way into the B.C. F&M Sprint with solid efforts in the $100,000 L.A. Woman going 6 ½ furlongs on the dirt.
Mike DempseyMike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup. The 2015 Triple Crown saw Mike correctly predict American Pharoah to win both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Mike nailed the Exacta and Trifecta in the Belmont Stakes. Mike had a solid 2014 Triple Crown race season, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick. Mike also had past succes in the Kentucky Derby, winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively. No handicapper in the industry works harder to bring you analysis that produces profits at the track! Mike's Reports include his selections, detailed analysis, a fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for the entire card. Join Mike daily with top picks from Belmont or Keeneland. You can also get his Weekend Best Plays Report in his Multi-Track package or sit at the track with him for 30 Days with his Monthly Horse Package!
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Jerry SessaJerry "Shots" Sessa has been involved in horse racing for over 30 years. He now brings his meticulous handicapping style to VegasInsider.com. When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins. Jerry opened the 2016 Triple Crown season by hitting his Derby Day best bet, Nyquist. He also nailed the Derby exacta for a $30.60 payout. On 4/16/16 at Keeneland, Jerry hit an $819 exacta that led to a $38k Trifecta & a $300k Super.
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