Every year when I go over the Breeders' Cup races I split the fields into groups. There are the horses that I easily and quickly dismiss - never to think of again. There are the obvious contenders that I know I will work into your bets somehow. There are the fringe contenders that will require more thought and consideration. Then there is another group - the horses I know I should pass on but I just can't. For some reason - their story, what they have shown in the past, bizarre circumstances or ridiculous coincidence - sticks with me, and I just can't dismiss them. These are the horses I probably should quit, but I just can't. Here are five that fit into that category this year:
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Classic - Smooth Roller (15/1): This is odd. This four year old only started racing at the end of June - two years later than most horses of this caliber would debut. Since then he has won only four times. He won his maiden race and then an allowance race. In his stakes debut he was underwhelming, finishing fourth against a nondescript field after a horrible start. There was nothing to make you think by this point that he was even a stakes horse, never mind one who would wind up in the Classic - and this was the end of July. Next time out, though, he absolutely crushed a solid field in the Awesome Again - a race won by Classic winners Tiznow, Pleasantly Perfect and Mucho Macho Man, as well as greats like Silver Charm, Lava Man, Game on Dude and Shared Belief. He won by six and did it without effort. There is no way he has enough experience or seasoning for this challenge. He stalked a fair pace and pulled away, though - and we should see a fair pace here unless someone decides to test American Pharoah. There is no way he should be able to win the Classic, or even be a real threat, but the more I watch the Awesome Again replay, and think about how important that race has been, the harder it is for me to dismiss Smooth Roller entirely.
Turf - Found (8/1): The one concern about superstar Turf favorite Golden Horn is that he trying to win this race less than a month after taking the l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Four previous winners have tried for the double, and none have succeeded. Well, Found not only ran in the Arc - finishing a distant ninth - but came back and ran 13 days later in the Champion Stakes at Ascot. She was second. Now she is running here - her third race in her third country in four weeks. That's a crazy amount to ask of a horse, but there's more. She's also a three-year-old filly - and there has never been a three-year-old filly who has won this race. I want to like the horse, and I couldn't respect trainer Aidan O'Brien and his eight Breeders' Cup wins more, but I just don't get this. We could also look at another O'Brien entrant in our search of odd stories. Gleneagles is a top turf miler in Britain, but O'Brien has him here for the Classic - even though he has never run on dirt or further than a mile.
Sprint - Ivan Fullanovalot (15/1): This horse has 11 wins in 19 career starts, including seven in 11 tries at this distance. He has posted some solid speed figures, too. You'd think he'd be a no-brainer in this spot - especially against a field that is deep but not massively talented . The problem, though, is who he has raced against. He has only faced graded stakes company once, and he was only second in a meaningless Grade 3. He only races at regional tracks and hasn't done much traveling, either. He's taking a massive step up in class, here. He knows how to win, though, and as recently as last year we saw that a horse can come from seemingly nowhere to win this race - Work All Week had also only run in one graded stakes, and also toiled mostly in the minor leagues of the sport.
Filly and Mare Sprint - Artemis Agrotera (12/1): I loved this horse coming into this race last year. She came in having won three straight, and the 9/2 price was very nice. She had a horrible trip, though, and never recovered. She finished seventh. I made a note to look at how she came back from that race. I'm still waiting - this will be her first start since last year's Breeders' Cup. It's a crazy layoff, but we've seen it work in the Sprint before. She has been posting eye-opening training efforts lately, and she's not getting much attention here. So, is she worth a look? Or is this just too much to overcome?
Juvenile Turf - Hit It a Bomb (15/1): There is an odd inefficiency in the market here. He is at 15/1 on the morning line here - the eighth choice in the 14-horse field. In British betting markets he is currently the 7/2 favorite. Five of the eight previous winners of this race have been Euros, and a sixth was an American horse that prepped in Europe. It seems to make sense to respect their opinion here - or at least to try to figure out what we are missing.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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