2017 Breeders' Cup Turf Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
The Breeders' Cup Turf - the annual American playground for European runners. In 33 editions of the race, the winner has come from over the big pond 21 times. Two trainers have dominated when coming from Europe. Sir Michael Stoute has won the race four times. And Aidan O'Brien, who has already set a world record for the most Grade 1 race wins in a year this year, has won it four times in the last six years. Both will be factors again here - Stoute has the likely favorite, and among O'Brien's multiple starters is the defending champion. Here's how the top of the likely fully-subscribed field sets up this year:
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Ulysses, 7/2: Stoute's likely favorite is coming off a third-place finish in the Arc de Triomphe last time out. That was a decent performance, and it felt like this was the spot he was being aimed for. He had to deal with a soft track last time out, which isn't his preference, so he should be happier at Del Mar as long as the standard lack of rain in San Diego holds up - which is what the forecast predicts. He had a nice win two back - one of three graded wins on the season - and Stoute obviously knows his stuff. The price isn't going to be great here, but if you think he isn't at least a factor here then you are fooling yourself. Last year he was fourth in this race, but the field was deeper then and he is more accomplished now.
Beach Patrol, 4/1: Chad Brown, the king of American turf racing, brings the likely top American hope here. He has won two in a row - the Arlington MIllion at a mile and a quarter and then the Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont over this same marathon distance at the end of September. He's in career form, and he has run at Del Mar - a second-place finish in the Hollywood Derby last December. He has the best chance of any American horse. The problem, though, is that the American group just doesn't feel that strong this year. I'm not convinced that he is good enough.
Highland Reel, 5/1: This horse won this race last year. Let me rephrase that - this horse stole this race last year. He got loose on the lead, was never really threatened, and just kept running right up to the wire. It was an impressive outing. He has run six times since, and it's a mixed bag. His first two outings in Hong Kong and Dubai were underwhelming. Then he won twice in June and looked impressive. But then he disappointed in July and laid a total egg last time out. That last race is what makes this horse so hard to figure out. It was a flat third at Ascot. On one hand you can discount it significantly because it was on a soft track which the horse does not like. Del Mar's surface should be much better for him. On the other hand, though, that race was just two weeks ago, which is the shortest layoff of his career, and Ascot is a long way from Del Mar. I don't much like him here, but then I didn't much like him last year either, and that didn't go well for me.
Oscar Performance, 10/1: This is the top American three-year-old turf horse this year. The problem here is that three-year-old American horses have been notoriously uncompetitive in this race. He was third behind Beach Patrol and Fanciful Angel last time out, and that was his first time running at a mile and a half. My gut tells me that this year is all about experience and that he will be a real contender here down the road.
Sadler's Joy, 12/1: This horse had a career outing two back in the Sword Dancer at this same distance. He couldn't follow that up last time out, though, finishing fourth behind Beach Patrol in the race that produced so much of this field. More than any other horse in the field, this guy is pace dependent - he needs a fast early pace so that his deep closing kick is competitive. I am not convinced he'll get the race he needs or that he is good enough to capitalize even if he does. No thanks.
Fanciful Angel, 12/1: This five-year-old has 25 career starts but has gone through a lot of recent change. His first 23 were in Europe, but then he came over here for the Arlington Million in August and then was transferred to Chad Brown's barn before his last start in the Turf Classic Invitational. He was second in both of his American starts, so there is a high likelihood that he'll stick around here for the rest of his career - whatever that turns out to be. I respect the horse, and really respect Brown, but there isn't a Grade 1 or Group 1 win among those 25 starts, and it is hard to imagine him getting his first one here.
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