2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
There are two different types of fields in the Juvenile. Some years there is a wide-open group of talented runners, and we need the race to see who actually is any good. Anything can happen, and it makes the race very tough to handicap - though usually lucrative if you do figure it out. Other years there is one colt that towers over the field, and the race is all about seeing if he is worthy of the hype. If he is then he'll run away with the division title and face massive Derby expectations. If he isn't then someone will win at a fat price, and bettors will be left to figure out what it all means.
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This year fits strongly in the second category. Bolt d'Oro absolutely towers over an otherwise decent enough field and will be one of the biggest favorites on the card. His presence in this race makes handicapping relatively easy - you are either with him and you have to figure out how to make money with that opinion and his very low returns, or you are against him and you'll get fat prices no matter what you do as long as you accept that there is a good chance you'll lose. Here's how the top of this field sets up:
Bolt d'Oro, 9/5: This colt won his first two races - at the beginning of August and September. Both came at Del Mar, so he clearly likes this track - another positive for him here. They were both sprints, though, so while enthusiasm was building for him people wanted to see him stretch out. Few expected what we got, though. In the FrontRunner at Santa Anita he absolutely humiliated the field, winning by almost eight lengths in an effort that was even more visually impressive than the impressive stats suggest. That it came in a race that in the last decade has produced three two-year-old champions that have gone on to win a Triple Crown and two more Triple Crown races - American Pharoah, Lookin at Lucky and Nyquist - only served to amplify the hype.
Another thing that makes this horse so interesting is that he doesn't come out of one of the mega-factory stables that has stars in bulk every year - like a Pletcher, Baffert or Brown. Mick Ruis owns the horse, and he is also the trainer. It's a crazy story. He is the son of a trainer that trained himself a decade ago and was also a jockey, but in recent years he had been an increasingly active owner. Early this year he went through three different trainers, including his own daughter, before taking out his license and taking over himself. This colt possesses his only two graded stakes wins. It's not a rags to riches story by any means - Ruis shelled out $630,000 to buy the colt - but it's certainly interesting.
The talent is remarkable, he loves the track, and no one has been anywhere near as impressive. It's his race to lose - and I'm not at all convinced he will lose it. I also think it's almost certain that the odds at post time will be much lower than this.
Free Drop Billy, 5/1: Horses like this kind of drive me crazy. On one hand, his win in the Breeders' Futurity last time out was impressive. He won by four lengths and made it look very easy. It was an attention grabber. But when you look at it closer the concerns arise. It was a slow race that gave us very concerning speed figures. In other words, he beat what can't be a very good field, and if he were to replicate that effort here it wouldn't be near good enough. Overpriced.
Firenze Fire, 6/1: Here's another one that is a bit concerning. He won the Champagne last time out, and the winners of that race are typically relevant. He closed from really deep, though, and when you watch the replay it really felt like he was just taking advantage of a field full of horses that didn't want the distance. At least one colt here definitely wants the distance, and that could be a problem here.
Good Magic, 8/1: This lightly-raced Chad Brown colt is interesting mostly because of his breeding - he's a son of Curlin out of a Hard Spun mare, so his courage will never be questioned. He was second to Firenze Fire in the Champagne last time out, and though he was beaten at the end he was the only other one in the field who seemed not to hate the distance. He's a maiden who has only run twice, so he needs to take a big step forward. He also trained in New York right up to this race and hasn't been stellar in those works. I'd prefer if we'd seen more of him in California. I'm intrigued enough to consider him for exotics - as much as you can play exotics with a favorite likely to be as heavy as this one - but it's an uphill climb for him.
Solomini, 6/1: Bob Baffert has won this race three times, and is always a factor in stakes races in California, so we have to consider his colt here. He's another son of Curlin, this time out of a Storm Cat mare, so the breeding is to his credit. He was badly beaten by Bolt d'Oro last time out, but he was second best in the field. That was his stakes debut and only his second start, so he'll improve, too. He has been training very well since that race, firing two bullets. He's easy to like at this price.
U S Navy Flag, 8/1: It's notable when Aidan O'Brien, the British trainer who has set a world record for the most Grade 1 victories in a year this year, enters a horse in this race. It doesn't happen often, but he did win it in 2001 with Johannesburg, so it's notable when he does. This colt accounts for two of those record G1 wins, and he has 10 starts, which just wouldn't happen here, so talent and experience are on his side. He's not only making his North American debut, though, but he'll also be on dirt for the first time if he starts this race. The price will really have to be right.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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