It was a big blow to Breeders' Cup weekend on Thursday morning when Beholder was scratched from the Classic. That's only one race out of 13, though, and it still promises to be a thriller even without the great mare. That disappointment aside, we are very close to the start of two great days of racing action. That means that it is time to make my annual Breeders' Cup predictions. I'm not talking about picking winners in all the races. These are bigger-picture pronouncements:
The state of the turf will be a big storyline: The weather has been just lousy in the week heading up to the Breeders' Cup - plenty of rain. That's not a particular concern for the dirt - the new track drains brilliantly, and there is no more rain in the forecast. We should have a fast main track.
The turf is a different story, though. It is very soft now, and it takes a long time for that to change. It will be well below firm by race day. That means that it will be heavier and tougher to run through. That's a factor for all horses, but it could be a particular concern for the European entrants. Turf courses in the U.S. are typically much firmer than European ones. As a result, European trainers often aim their horses that best handle firm tracks towards the Cup. The further from firm the turf is, then, the more of a disadvantage it could be for the Euros in general.
It is very important, though, to pay more attention than normal to how horses run on off turf - it could illuminate some nice value bets.
Favorites will do their job: Favorites win about a third of all races. That means that with 13 Breeders' Cup races on tap that we would expect to see four or five races won by the top betting choice. That seems like it could certainly happen. There is no shortage of strong favorites.
Liam's Map is very tough in the Dirt Mile. I love Songbird in the Juvenile. Legatissimo is the horse to beat in the Filly and Mare Turf. Golden Horn will have to beat himself in the Turf. Things got much, much easier for American Pharoah with the defection of Beholder. The majority of those horses will win, and several others are more than legitimate, too.
Chad Brown is going to have a frustrating day: Brown is the best turf trainer in the U.S. right now, and it's not close. He is second in earnings among all trainers on the year. He has won five Breeders' Cup races on the grass, including three wins last year, with a second-place finish for good measure. This year he has a dozen entrants, with all but one on the grass. He'll have multiple entrants in four races, including three each in the Filly and Mare Turf and the Turf. Quantity is not matched by quality this year, though. Last year was a fairy tale. This year it really won't be.
Mike Smith will add to his record of 21 Breeders' Cup wins: It is absolutely incredible to think that Smith already has 21 wins. He has seven more tries to get a win this year, and he will be successful once - at least. Songbird in the Juvenile Fillies is the most obvious choice, but Time and Motion in the Juvenile Fillies Turf is intriguing, and Masochistic has a chance just like almost every other horse in the incredibly wide-open Sprint.
We won't see a repeat winner in the same race: Sounds like a bold pronouncement, but with the defection of Untapable in the Distaff this week we actually only have three defending champs back looking for the repeat. Oftentimes a shot at a repeat makes for easy handicapping - Mizdirection, Groupie Doll, Wise Dan, Goldikova, Midnight Lute, Conduit, Royal Delta and Goldencents have all won two of the same race (or three in the case of Goldikova) in a row in the last decade.
This year, though, I don't see any of the three possible repeaters joining the great horses that were listed. Bobby's Kitten looked great in the Turf Sprint last year, but the race has been shortened from 6.5 furlongs to 5.5 furlongs this year because of track layout, and that doesn't play well into his late-running style. Karakontie was a long shot that benefited from a perfect trip last year in the Mile. I'm not at all confident that he will get another one here. Judy The Beauty probably has the best shot at repeating the Filly and Mare Sprint, but she hasn't been nearly as sharp this year as she was - a second and two thirds in three starts - and her works leading up to the race haven't inspired.
It's interesting to note that there is another horse looking for a title in a second race - Stephanie's Kitten won the Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2011 and will look to win the Filly and Mare Turf after finishing second in the race last year. Until she was scratched Thursday morning, Beholder was looking for a win in a third different race, adding the Classic to previous wins in the Juvenile Fillies and the Distaff.
At least one classic race winner will win this weekend: It's a pretty amazing time for fans of the classics. Not only do we have the winner of all three Triple Crown races this year represented by just one horse - and that would be enough by itself. We also have the winner of last year's Belmont in the Classic - Tonalist. And Golden Horn, the prohibitive favorite in the Turf, won the Epsom Derby this year, which is the biggest of the British classics. At least one will cross the wire first. Heck, who am I kidding - I feel really good about two of them doing so - and I don't mean Tonalist.
It is going to be two spectacular days of racing: This one is a stone cold lock. I've made this prediction every year, and I have never been wrong yet.
Doc's Sports has a great offer for new clients. You can get $60 worth of picks from any Advisory Board handicapper for any sport he handicaps - including Breeders' Cup picks. All with no obligation and no credit card needed. Claim your free picks today .
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Most Recent Breeders' Cup Handicapping
- 2015 Breeders' Cup Predictions
- 2015 Breeders' Cup Top Prop Bet Picks for Head-to-Head Matchups
- 2015 Breeders' Cup Handicapping Advice: the Trainers
- Handicapping the 2015 Breeders' Cup Jockeys
- Breeders' Cup Betting Advice 2015: Horses to Watch
- Breeders' Cup Long Shots with Betting Value for Underdog Profits
- 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Picks and Predictions with Opening Betting Odds
- 2015 Breeders' Cup Sprint Picks and Predictions with Opening Betting Odds
- 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Picks and Predictions with Opening Betting Odds
- 2015 Breeders' Cup Distaff Picks and Predictions with Opening Betting Odds