2018 Breeders' Cup Distaff Expert Predictions and Betting Odds
The Distaff, which is back on Saturday where it belongs after too long headlining the Friday undercard, is always a great race. It really can't disappoint. The 2016, in which the great Beholder narrowly beat Songbird by the smallest possible margin, is one of the great races we have ever seen. And almost every year we see great horses giving their all to win this crown. It's the surest gem on the card every year. And this year promises to be no exception. The great young Monomy Girl leads a strong group of youngsters looking to disrespect their elders, led by Abel Tasman, who was second in this race last year to clinch the three-year-old filly championship. This is a very tough race. Monomoy Girl is very special, but she faces a deep and tough field of 11 runners. Brace yourself for another instant classic.
Monomoy Girl has technically won only eight times in 10 races, but one of those losses comes with an asterisk. She was placed second last time out in the Cotillion, but she won the race and was the victim of a disqualification that feels like garbage to me. It was far from major contact. The only other loss came back in November of last year when she did drift way out in the stretch and got beaten by a neck. This year she has five wins aside from the Cotillion, with the highlight being the Kentucky Oaks on the eve of the Derby right here at Churchill Downs. She is facing older horses for the first time here, but she has dominated a solid class of her peers, so she should be ready. And she has two wins and a second on this track. She is, in short, a monster. And she will have to be to justify her 2/1 price.
The biggest challenger she faces is Abel Tasman from Bob Baffert's barn. Interestingly, despite all of his success, Baffert has failed to win this race. His runner-up finish with this filly is as close as he has been. Mike Smith is aboard, though, and his five wins in the race is a record. She has had an up-and-down year since being beaten by a half-length in this race last year. After a layoff, she returned on the Derby undercard at Churchill - a track she obviously likes since she too won the Oaks. She never looked ready. It was easy to write that off as just a rust remover, though, when she came back to win her next two. Returning to California at the end of September, though, she got a lousy start in the Zenyatta and seemed to have quit as a result, never threatening while finishing fifth. At her best she is the best horse in the field, and I am a sucker for her connections. There is risk in betting her that she won't show up, though, and I'm not sure that the 7/2 price fully justifies that risk (Get it - Justify - Baffert - Smith? Sometimes I entertain myself. And maybe only myself.). I don't really see how you can toss out either of the favorites, so betting this race is a big challenge - at least if you are into profits.
It is far from just a two-horse race, though. Midnight Bisou, 6/1, was the filly awarded the win in the Cotillion. After finishing third in the Oaks this spring, she was moved to Steve Asmussen's barn. She had a big win first time out for him and has been in the money since. She's a very nice filly, but perhaps not quite good enough here. She has had Mike Smith aboard for her last eight outings, but he obviously isn't this time. John Velazquez is no slouch, but the change doesn't help in my eyes. Blue Prize, 6/1, is looking to win the race as a foreign bred - something that hasn't been done since 1992. The Argentinian five-year-old mare is riding a three-race winning streak, capped by a win in the Grade 1 Spinster at the beginning of the month. They have picked her spots carefully, though, and she likely isn't fast enough here.
There are other foreign-bred horses, too. Chilean Wow Cat, 8/1, dominated the Beldame last time out. That was only her third race for Chad Brown since arriving from Chile, so there is still room for her to grow. She could get a piece. Baffert's other horse, Argentinian Vale Dori, is coming off a win in the Zenyatta, a race that was unimpressive in general after Abel Tasman flopped. She has talent, but her best racing is more than a year in the past and I don't see any value in her at 12/1. And La Force, a rare German bred in North American racing, was second in the Zenyatta, but feels easy to toss here at 20/1.
Wonder Gadot is a horse that just fascinates me. I am a sucker for top Canadian breds, and for horses that follow odd paths, and she checks both boxes. He spent the winter in the States, capping it with a respectable runner-up finish to Monomoy Girl in the Oaks. Then she headed back home. She was second in the Woodbine Oaks but then beat up on the boys in the Queen's Plate and the Prince of Wales, the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown. Instead of sticking around to go for the sweep, which she would have been heavily favored to get, she instead headed to Saratoga for the Travers, the biggest race for three-year-old colts of the summer. Fillies very rarely try the race, and she didn't help persuade others to go for it. She had nothing to give and was 10th. She next went to the Cotillion, returning to filly company, but ran out of gas late and finished third. I like her breeding and her connections, and I will have some cash on her, but I fear she is on fumes at this point in the season.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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