One of the great elements of the Breeders' Cup is the ability for defending champions to return for another shot at glory. In the Triple Crown that obviously can't happen, but here we get to see if the greatest stars can become even greater. It has worked very well for many horses, while others, like the incredibly great Zenyatta, have come back just one too many times. This year, somewhat incredibly, we have nine returning champions back for more. Sadly, one of those is not American Pharoah, but it's still a very impressive group. That also doesn't include beholder, who won the Distaff in 2012 and 2013 and is back for another shot at that race for the final outing of her career, and Lady Eli, who won the Juvenile Filly Turf in 2014 and is the likely favorite in the Filly and Mare Turf this year. Let's look at the nine returning horses and their chances of adding to their hardware collection. In alphabetical order:
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Catch a Glimpse, Turf Sprint or Filly and Mare Turf: The Filly and Mare Turf is her first choice, though it's hard to get excited about her in either spot. After winning the Juvenile Filly Turf last year she piled up a nice collection of wins in lesser graded stakes. She took a shot at the big time in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland on Oct.15, though, and just looked awful - she was a badly-beaten seventh as the favorite in the eight-horse field. It's tough to imagine her bouncing back to top form so soon after that.
Found, Classic or Turf: This filly won the Turf last year in a crazy effort - it was her third race in three countries in five weeks. This year she is back again, and on the same schedule - she won the Arc de Triomphe in early October and then was second in the Champions Stakes two weeks later. She seems a better fit for the Turf, but her first preference is in the Classic, where she would be making her dirt debut against a strong field. She's too good to ignore, but it seems like a tough spot for her.
Hit It a Bomb, Mile: He came from Europe last year to win the Juvenile Turf in just his third career start. After a long layoff this year he disappointed as favorite in his first two starts then was shockingly outclassed in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. It's hard to argue that he belongs in this race right now, and he would have to be a whole different horse than he has been all year to contend. He likely won't even get a chance as the race is heavily oversubscribed, and he finds himself deep on the also-eligible list.
Mongolian Saturday, Turf Sprint: He was a fairly surprising winner of the Turf Sprint last year at 16/1. After that he headed to Hong Kong and England, but he was really lousy in both spots. He returned here and won against a weak field at Keeneland earlier in October. Hard to take him seriously in this spot. He'd be a bigger upset this year than he was last year.
Nyquist, Classic: He won the Juvenile last year, and the Kentucky Derby this year, so you obviously have to respect him. He got caught in a speed duel which he lost in the Preakness, though, and since then he has been a shell of his former self. He hasn't been good enough against underwhelming three year olds this summer, so why would he be good enough against a strong group of older horses led by the best dirt male on the planet right now?
Runhappy, Dirt Mile: It has been a rough year for last year's Sprint winner. There was real drama as his trainer was fired right after the Sprint for no apparent reason. He came back in the Malibu the day after Christmas at Santa Anita and won handily. But then the wheels fell off. He was injured and wasn't ready until the Ack Ack at Belmont at the start of October. He got crushed there as a heavy favorite - so badly beaten that the Sprint was out of consideration. He's in very deep against Dortmund here. I really don't like his chances.
Songbird, Distaff: She's the best three year old in training, and it's not even close. Perfect through 11 races, she has barely even been challenged. This is her first time against older horses, and the Distaff field is deep and very tough, but she will be hard to beat.
Tepin, Mile: This great mare won the Mile last year as the second in a very impressive eight-race win streak. She got a huge win at Ascot in June to cement her position as a world-class grass mare. Since returning from England, though, she had to work way too hard to win the Woodbine Mile and was a flat second at Keeneland on Oct. 8. That race didn't take a lot out of her, but she still has looked a good step off of her best lately, Can she bounce back here? She's likely to be favored to do so.
Wavell Avenue, Filly and Mare Sprint: She won this race last year but then has done basically nothing of note since. She has one win in six starts since, and that was in her lone ungraded stakes appearance. She just doesn't seem to be in any form at all right now. She's not even working very well coming into this race. Little chance of a repeat.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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