2018 Breeders' Cup Expert Handicapping: Horses to Watch
We have spilled a lot of virtual ink about the Breeders' Cup by this point. I just wrote about live long shots who are interesting. Our picks of the most likely winners will be available to purchase on Friday . What I want to look at for the last article of the year about horse racing is the horses that fit between those two groups. These are horses that aren't the most likely winners in their races, but they are horses which, as I have looked at the races, have burrowed into my brain. They've captured my imagination, and I can't let them go. These are my Breeders' Cup horses to watch:
Line of Duty, Juvenile Turf (10/1): This is, for starters, a beautifully-bred horse. And his trainer won this race in 2013. The colt was second in his first two outings. They took a step back and gave him some time before bringing him back. He ran much better when he returned, winning his maiden race. Then he came out in a Group 3 race and won it handily - going longer than he will need to here. He showed a lot of improvement between races two and three, and even more between three and four, so he is on a nice trajectory for this spot. In a wide-open race he is definitely a factor at this price.
World of Trouble, Turf Sprint (6/1): This is a colt that was on the Triple Crown trail this spring but didn't quite measure up. They shortened him up and put him on the grass, and he showed massive improvement. His first win was on a yielding surface, too, so the weather won't impact him. He is making his graded stakes debut on the grass, so that step up is a concern. But he has improved rapidly. His speed figures are solid, and he clearly has room to improve. He could have really found his niche.
Promises Fulfilled, Sprint (6/1): This colt ran in the Kentucky Derby this year, finishing 15th. He needs revenge on this Churchill surface. He has won three in a row since shortening up, including a monster effort in the Amsterdam. I'm not convinced there are superstars in this field this year, so I am intrigued by a young horse who has shown a lot of aptitude and is still learning the sprinting game. Trainer Dale Romans basically grew up on the Churchill backstretch, too, so he knows the track as well as anyone.
I Can Fly, Mile (10/1): This three-year-old Euro filly has a couple of nice wins this summer. Last time out she was very impressive in narrowly getting beaten by Roaring Lion, one of the best colts in Europe who is here for the Classic. She's tough, and she is obviously in form - that last effort was just two weeks ago. She's clearly talented, and trainer Aidan O'Brien is as good as it gets. So, in a race that could go several different ways and lacks a clear choice, I can't argue with the price at all.
Wow Cat, Distaff (8/1): This race is billed as a showdown between the last two Kentucky Oaks winners, Abel Tasman and Monomoy Girl. And it should be - both are brilliant horses. But there are more good horses here, too, and one I am drawn to is Wow Cat. She raced last year in Chile where she was absolutely dominant. She has been with Chad Brown for just three races this year and has looked better in each. She won the Beldame handily last time. And though it wasn't the greatest field, she looked the part. She is on the rise and could throw a wrench into the party here. Given the betting attention on the top two, her price could go up as well.
Channel Maker, Turf (12/1): It's all about the incredibly talented two-time Arc winner Enable in this one. And it should be - she is a freak. But eight other Arc winners have failed to win at the Breeders' Cup, so it doesn't hurt to look elsewhere just in case - at least for exotics if nothing else. This four-year-old ran the best race of his career last time out, and he did it on a softer track like he will face here. His sire, English Channel, won this race, so we know he is bred for the challenge. And he has shown versatility, both winning from the front and closing. He stands out among the also-rans for me.
McKinzie, Classic (6/1): This is far from an off-the-page pick - it's a Bob Baffert horse ridden by Mike Smith, so others might bet on it, too. But before Justify was Justify, this was the star colt in Baffert's barn. An injury derailed his season, but he showed real spark in his return. Smith chose this colt over West Coast, which is a big endorsement for me. I don't buy into Accelerate as the favorite, and the upside of this horse really grabs me in a field that lacks a superstar presence like the race has had the last few years.
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