2014 Breeders' Cup Handicapping: Horses to Watch
by Trevor Whenham - 10/28/2014
When betting on the Breeders' Cup there are the favorites - the horses that get all the attention. Then there are the long shots - the horses that people pin their hopes and dreams to. With this list of Breeders' Cup horses to watch, what I want to focus on are the horses that fit between those two groups. Here I'm looking at the horses that stand a reasonable chance of making some noise, and which are going to go off at a respectable-but-not-gaudy price. These aren't the superstars, but they are the legitimate contenders. Think of them as this year's Kansas City Royals of horse racing - and as I write the Royals are five games into the World Series despite not measuring up on paper to the 'better' teams out there:
Cigar Street, Classic (12/1): In a race dominated by the strong three-year-old class, this horse is an outlier - and a bit of a mystery. He is five years old, but injuries have limited him to just eight career races, and he hasn't run in a stakes race since May of 2013. He has improved in each of his two races this year, though, and few trainers are better at getting a horse ready for a big day at the Breeders' Cup than Bill Mott. He could get in trouble if he looks to duplicate his most common race shape and challenges Bayern and Moreno for the lead. If he can relax, though, and he keeps improving, then he could at least be a factor in the exotics. When the top three year olds are destined to be bet down hard, some price relief to boost up the trifecta payoff would be welcome, and this horse could offer it.
Obviously, Mile (8/1): The Mile is a different race than we are used to because neither the great Goldikova, nor the legendary Wise Dan, are in it. In other words, we actually have to handicap it this year. The best of the field are European runners - not surprisingly. Those horses are not used to early speed, though, and that is what Obviously provides. He will certainly lead early, and the fractions will be lightning-fast. When he wins - which he does frequently - he gets going fast and doesn't look back. If the Europeans get caught sleeping, or panic and chase him, then he may just be able to run away with this one, too.
Indianapolis, Sprint (12/1): Bob Baffert knows how to win this race - he has done it four times before, including last year with Secret Circle. That horse is back to defend his title, but Baffert also brings back this interesting runner - and you never want to ignore Baffert's second horse in any race. He's lightly-raced, stepping up in class significantly, and hasn't posted speed figures yet that would compete with the best here. There is big talent, though, and Baffert must have had some reason to point him to this pot at almost the last minute. He likes the track, and he could get a piece of the action.
Puca, Juvenile Fillies (6/1): This horse stands out for one big reason - Bill Mott trains her. After already talking about Cigar Street, I know it sounds like I have a crush on Mott. I really don't, but this is a noteworthy spot. Mott does not rush horses, and he rarely has much success with two year olds as a result. When he does bring a horse along for a big spot like this in a hurry, then, it is because he likes what he sees. She faces a big jump in class, but at the price in a wide-open field she will be interesting.
Leigh Court, Filly and Mare Sprint (4/1): This is a wide-open race - lots of nice horses, but no obvious stars. This horse has had a very light season - just two starts - but she balances price and potential best in the field in my eyes. She opened her year in August by winning over the same seven-furlong distance as this race, though that one was on a synthetic track. Next, she went to the dirt of Keeneland and won a nice race there impressively. She has trained very well out of that race, she's obviously fresh, and her second race was a nice improvement over her first this year. She could be sitting on a big one.
Tiz Midnight, Distaff (10/1): We've focused only on Saturday so far, so let's leave you with a rooting interest for Friday to finish things off. This race is wide-open with the defection of Beholder, so it isn't impossible to imagine a lightly-raced talent like this one breaking through. The only time this late-blooming four year old faced stakes company was her last start, but she was a very respectable second to the great Beholder in the Zenyatta. She was no real challenge to the champ, but she also wasn't intimidated, and she looked like she could have more to give. She loves this track, has improved steadily in her last three, and is bred well. She's a factor.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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