The best thoroughbred racing day of the year is upon us, with a multitude of wagering options and exceptional equine athletes available at tantalizing prices. Multiple story lines will share the day. A wily veteran takes on new shooters in the Sprint. Euro invaders look to repeat their continent’s prior success over the Keeneland lawn. A former champion, perhaps now at the height of her career, takes on a talented young upstart, campaigned masterfully in throwback fashion, in the Distaff. Two early Horse of the Year candidates look to rebound from their only losses of the season against a Baffert triumvirate in the Classic. All those tales will be told as dawn turns to dusk this first Saturday of November at Keeneland.
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint – Race 4
Most Likely Winner – Gamine won her three one-turn races by more than 30 combined lengths this season. Keep in mind that 2 of those were grade 1 contests held on the two biggest days of racing in the state of New York. She will face pressure from Serengeti Empress from the outset, but she ran nearly a full second faster than that foe in different races over the same track on Travers Day. It’s unlikely anyone can match strides with this absolute machine of a thoroughbred early, or late.
Value Play(s) – Bell’s the One will be well positioned as always to pick up the pieces of a hotly contested pace up front. Her last out victory at Churchill on Derby day was a career top. She’s had plenty of time to recover, and has trained well in the interim. The daughter of Majesticperfection hit the wire in front twice in four prior appearances at Keeneland. Another with an affinity for the local surface is Speech. She will also be coming from off the pace, and if her tour de force in the Ashland back in July is any indication, she relishes the surface here.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint – Race 5
Most Likely Winner – If you take away a block of 4 discordant performances in 2019 when he just was not getting enough air due to a throat issue that has since been remedied via 2 myectomy procedures, Imprimis has crossed the line first in 4 straight stakes and 6 of his last 8 trips to the post. The son of Broken Vow is 8 for 11 lifetime ignoring those 4 attempts when he just could not breathe. His versatility suits him well in this spot, and his prior victory over course and distance is likely the most impressive past performance of any in the field.
Value Play – Front Run the Fed looked quite well in his two most recent trips, getting back to sprint distances after trying the mile distance for a spell. He made the top selection work quite hard to earn the score over a soft course at Kentucky Downs last out, and a repeat of that effort would certainly make him a prime contender.
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – Race 6
Most Likely Winner – Knicks Go ran off the screen in a non-winners of 3 other than optional claimer on opening weekend of the meet last month. He’s been breathing fire in the mornings ever since, and while he comes into this championship meet in somewhat unconventional fashion, his primary rival, Complexity, took the worst of it at the post draw, allowing the son of Paynter to inherit this role.
Value Play(s) – Perhaps Knicks Go and Complexity go absolutely bonkers on the front end. Enter another Brad Cox trainee. Owendale is a sneaky good 2 for 2 at the mile distance, owns a prior stakes success over this main track, and would be one of the primary beneficiaries of a pace collapse. Art Collector looks to similarly capitalize on a cut back in distance and an affinity for the surface. Pirate’s Punch has put up some strong figures in spots that might not catch the eye of the casual observer, and it’s possible, albeit unlikely, that War of Will falls through the cracks due to his exclusively green campaign of 2020.
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf – Race 7
Most Likely Winner – Rushing Fall has been the fastest of this field since her 2020 debut in June. The lone blemish on her 5 for 6 record over the local lawn came thirteen months ago on a day when she clearly was not her usual self. The big question with her is distance. This will be the longest trip of her career, and the presence of Mean Mary makes it unlikely that Castellano can simply walk the dog on the front end.
Value Play(s) – Civil Union has reeled off 4 straight for Shug McGaughey, hitting peak form at just the right time. Terebellum looks to benefit from the firmer footing on this side of the pond and looms a major threat under the brilliant Frankie Dettori.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint – Race 8
Most Likely Winner – Past performances suggest the pace might not be all that ridiculous, and that bodes well for Yaupon. The son of Uncle Mo is unbeaten and, for the most part, untested in four lifetime starts. He is well drawn to the outside of the other primary pace threat, Frank’s Rockette, giving Joel Rosario the option to sit just off that fine filly’s flank and apply pressure when necessary. This sophomore colt is very lightly raced and still has plenty of upside.
Value Play – Diamond Oops is 3 for 5 at the distance and won the course and distance prep in the grade 2 Phoenix. The faster Yaupon and Frank’s Rockette go up front, the more devastating his late kick will be.
Breeders’ Cup Mile – Race 9
Most Likely Winner – Uni is the defending champion, and after a pair of lackluster efforts to begin the year she seemed to finally find herself last time out in the First Lady over this same course and distance. She needs pace to set up her late run, and she just might get enough from the likes of Factor This and Halladay.
Value Play – Safe Voyage has been running very competitive sheet numbers as of late, and his running style should keep him close enough to make his presence felt through the lane.
Breeders’ Cup Distaff – Race 10
Most Likely Winner(s) – This shapes up on paper as an absolute cracker of a match race between the 2018 champion three-year old filly and winner of this race, Monomoy Girl, and the presumptive 2020 champion three-year old filly and this year’s Preakness victor, Swiss Skydiver. Monomoy Girl has crossed the wire first in all but one of her 14 starts, and trainer Brad Cox is white hot with two Breeders’ Cup winners on the Friday card. Swiss Skydiver is a throwback that thrives on racing and will be making her 10th start of the year. Find a good spot and enjoy the show.
Value Play – Horologist has displayed material improvement since joining the Mott barn this summer, posting a pair of graded wins in her three trips to the post. She looked like a champion breezing a half mile in :47 and 2 on Sunday over the local strip. If that form carries over she can add value to the exotics.
Breeders’ Cup Turf – Race 11
Most Likely Winner – Magical is the most consistent and classiest individual in the field. Her best form gets the job done, but she is far from a lock in a wide open field.
Value Play – Arklow has looked exceptional in his morning works since his victory at Kentucky Downs and appears to be hitting full stride at just the right time for a barn that is busting at the seams with top notch contenders at this meeting.
Breeders’ Cup Classic – Race 12
Most Likely Winner – Bob Baffert has a 30% chance – making him three times more likely to win as anyone else in the race.
Value Play – Tom’s d’Etat would likely be the favorite in this race had he not stumbled out of the gate in the Whitney. He recovered to finish 3rd, beaten less than 3 lengths by Improbable that day. His speed figures stack up well with the best of this field, and while he lacks vast experience at the distance, his running style suggests the 10th furlong should not be a problem. Value is found when the wagering public overreacts to a recent, totally explicable, subpar result. This son of Smart Strike was the leading candidate for Horse of the Year prior to his Saratoga stumble. A clean break today makes him a leading contender for the classic garland.
Enjoy the world’s best racing and best of luck wagering.