2018 Breeders' Cup Turf Expert Predictions and Betting Odds
The first horse race I ever wrote about professionally was the 1997 Breeders' Cup Turf. The event was at Hollywood Park. I was fresh out of college, had a decent job, and wanted to fly down for the races. But I didn't want to pay for it. And the Turf saved me. Chief Bearheart, the favorite that year, was a Canadian like me. I convinced a beer company here that they needed to make him a hero, so they sent me down there to shadow the horse and document his win. I had crazy access - the night before the race I got drunk with, among others, Gary Stevens' mother. I spent far, far too much time telling her how much I worshipped her son. In the race itself, the Chief was way, way off the pace much of the way, and I had my heart in my throat. I wasn't confident my expenses would get covered if the horse had lost badly - I may have oversold his chances to make the trip happen. But as they rounded the turn he was charging like a runaway train, and with no time to spare he took the lead for good. I've never felt more patriotic. The beer company went out of business the next year, but I don't think it was the horse's fault.
There are no Canadian horses in the race this year, so my loyalties are more wide open. But that isn't the case for many people - this is seen as a one-horse race by many people. Enable, a spectacular four-year-old European filly, is at even money in the morning line and is all but a lock to be the lowest price horse on the card. If she doesn't win this race, we will see massive payoffs for the Pick Six and other big multi-race bets because so many tickets will have this filly singled.
Enable's record is stunning. She won a week after the 2017 Kentucky Derby in Britain, and she hasn't lost since in eight starts. And she isn't cherry picking her races looking for soft spots, either. Five of her last six wins were in Group 1 races, and she won at Ascot going away. What stands out, though, is her twin triumphs in the Arc de Triomphe, arguably Europe's most significant race. She won it last year after five prior wins. She was out of action after that win last October until September of this year, but after an easy win in a prep race she went back on October 7 and won the Arc again. She's a freak, and the best horse in this field by an impossibly wide margin. The challenge in handicapping her, though, is that past Arc winners have been disastrous in the Turf. The time between the races is short, and that race is brutally tough. Eight times the Arc winner has come over to collect more hardware in the Breeders' Cup, and eight times they have failed. Can Enable be different? Well, the biggest thing she has going for her is how fresh she is. The typical Arc winner wins off a season more like she had last year. After a long season and a tough Arc effort, the trip across the ocean and the tough Turf race is too much to ask. But Enable has run only twice this year, so she is much more rested. She is also more talented than many of the horses that tried. I'd love to be able to toss out a favorite like this one given the price, but it can't be done here. She's the real deal.
I'm not just going to roll over and concede, though. There are a few horses I like to give her a test. Glorious Empire, 12/1, has found his game as a seven-year-old and has won three in a row - the last two in stakes. He likes the distance, and he will try to run away with the lead. Channel Maker has won two of three, with his only loss being a runner-up effort to Glorious Empire. His sire, English Channel, won this race in 2007, so he is suited to the challenge. And Robert Bruce has two wins in four tries since arriving from Chile, where he was ridiculously dominant. Chad Brown has him dialed in, and he feels like he is sitting on a big race.
Finally, we can't talk about this race without looking at Aidan O'Brien's Magical. She's a great reminder of how differently we look at rest with our horses here than they do in Europe at times. Magical ran in the Arc on October 7, finishing so far behind Enable it was almost as if the filly was in a different race. To shake off that dismal 10th-place finish, the filly came back on the 20th, winning a Group 1 at Ascot. And now she is here, her third race in three countries and two continents in less than a month. If a horse runs here on less than a month's rest anymore, people get concerned she won't be fresh.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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