I attended my first Breeders' Cup in 1997 at Hollywood Park. It was an epic event, with wins by greats like eventual Horse of the Year Favorite Trick in the Juvenile and Skip Away in the Classic. As a Canadian, though, my highlight that year - and perhaps my all-time Cup favorite moment - was when Canadian-bred-and-based Chief Bearheart won the Turf with a monstrous stretch drive. It was a proud moment for Canadians and a nice win for North Americans - 18 of the 31 editions of this race have been won by European invaders. This year it is another European invader who will make all the headlines leading up to this race and who will be a single on many Pick Six tickets. Is he worth the hype? And who are his biggest threats?:
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Golden Horn (3/5): This three year old is a mega-freak. He has run eight times, with seven wins and a second by a short neck. He's simply one of the top horses in the world right now. Those results come in some of the biggest races Europe has to offer, including the incredibly prestigious Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last time out. He has been as good as a horse can be this year, and you could make the argument that he could be just a shadow of his best and he'd still win here. Call me a contrarian if you will, but I can't help but be a little skeptical about him despite his incredible record - at least for the price he is sure to go off at. This is his eighth race of the year and the seventh track he has raced at. That's a lot to ask of any horse - never mind a three year old. More significantly, though, the win in the l'Arc came only on Oct. 4. Combine the enormity of the task with winning that race with the trip overseas, and it is a quick turnaround. Only four other l'Arc winners have tried to pull off the double. None have pulled it off. Put it all together and you have a very tough handicapping challenge - he's by far the best horse in the field. But will we see his best race here? And do we even need to see his best? And how low is still acceptable for the price here?
He got a break in that Postponed, probably his biggest threat, was removed from Cup consideration last week after a bad medical checkup. This is one of those decisions I'll be going back and forth on a bunch before it's all over with, but it will be very tough to ignore him. Oh, who am I kidding - he's the best here and it isn't even close. There is one thing that could get in his way, though - the track. He generally prefers firm turf. The grass is soft already, and a whole bunch of rain is forecast for the first part of the week heading into the Cup. It could be a very soft course on race day, and that could get in his way. Wow, it's going to be tough how to bet this mess of a race.
Big Blue Kitten (10/1), Slumber (15/1) and Shining Copper (30/1): These three are all trained by Chad Brown, so they make sense to discuss together. They are also strategically linked. Shining Copper is all but certainly entered primarily as a rabbit - he'll go out fast early to set an aggressive pace so that things are set up for Big Blue Kitten, a closer and probably the best American horse in the race, to finish strong. In other words, don't bet on Shining Copper.
How about Big Blue Kitten? He's coming off a win, but it was ugly - he was giving away his lead with every stride and just barely got saved by the finish line. I'm holding a grudge with this horse, though. In 2013 he came into this race in better form than he is now, and I backed him heavily. He crossed the finish line about a week after the winner. It was a lousy race for him. So, as a seven year old can he be trusted to do better? Or to overcome a Euro superhorse? The price would really have to be right. And Slumber? He has had showdowns with Big Blue Kitten last four times out. He has a first, two seconds behind Big Blue Kitten and an ugly eighth to show for it. That win was his only one in the last two years, and he's seven years old now, too. Hard to get too excited about him - or about the Brown stable, really.
The Pizza Man (12/1): Stop me if you have heard this one before - this is a seven-year-old American horse. He's a rare Illinois bred, and he's a total rags-to-riches story. He only won his first Grade 1 in August of this year - beating Big Blue Kitten and Shining Copper - but it was his third win in a row. His last outing was here at Keeneland. He finished second, but that was over just a mile behind a very good horse, so it is an admirable result and a good preparation for this race. I don't think an American horse will win this race, but if one does this would be my choice.
Found (8/1): Back to the Euros. This is a three-year-old filly - and one of those has never won this race before. Remember how I was worried about Golden Horn coming back to this race after the l'Arc? Well, not only did Found also race there, finishing a disappointing ninth, but she ran again two weeks later. So, this will be her third race in her third country since Oct. 4. And she has shown that she is better at finishing second than first. No, thank you.
Ordak Dan (30/1): Here's an interesting one - a seven year old who will be making his first start outside of Argentina. I will admit that I don't exactly keep up on Argentinean racing, and direct comparisons are tough here. He's trained pretty well lately, but his last race was in May, and prior to winning that he was winless since May of 2013. I might have to put a win bet on him just so I can say I did if he somehow pulls off the miracle. It will be a very small bet, though.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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