2019 Breeders' Cup Distaff Predictions and Expert Betting Picks
The Breeders' Cup Distaff was long the main event of Friday's program, but it has jumped to a more prominent position now, lined up right before the Turf and the Classic on Saturday afternoon. Whenever it takes place, the Distaff often provides some of the best drama and competition of the weekend. Memorably, the last time the race was at Santa Anita in 2016, Beholder beat Songbird in a duel for the ages. This year the field shapes up as one horse head and shoulders - and so much more - better than the rest of the field. The challengers aren't slouches, but they will have to have a perfect race to beat Midnight Bisou. Here's how the highlights of the 11-horse field set up, with track morning line odds:
Midnight Bisou (6/5): Mike Smith, the runaway leader in Breeders' Cup wins, rides this Steve Asmussen filly that is not only the best in her division but would be tough to beat in the Horse of the Year race with a strong win here. She was third in this race last year as a three-year-old, but she hasn't lost in seven starts since, including three wins in Grade 1 races. She doesn't just win races, either - she wins with style. She's not dependent on a single style of race, either. She can run near the lead as she did last time out in the Beldame or from well off the pace as she did the time before in the Personal Ensign. Smith wasn't aboard for the Distaff last year, but he's here now, and that's a benefit - horse and rider have strong chemistry. If she runs anywhere near her capabilities, this one won't be much of a race. But it will be a sight to see. How good is this horse? Elate, the second-best runner in the division, opted to face the colts in the Classic to avoid losing to this horse again. The price will be bet down solidly from this morning line, but there is still a lot of room for her to be a value bet - especially as a single in multi-race bets.
Paradise Woods (5/1): If you are a sports bettor, you surely have a team that you just can't figure out. They are bad when you expect them to be good and dominant when you write them off. In the Distaff division, Paradise Woods is the equivalent of that team for me. When she's good, like she was last time out in the Zenyatta here at Santa Anita, she's a force of nature. She can beat Midnight Bisou on those days with a little luck. But when she doesn't fire, like in her second to last race when she was strongly favored, what she does best in burn money. Mike Smith has ridden her three times this year, so he knows how to beat her. And he probably will - unless Paradise Woods has one of her special days.
Dunbar Road (6/1): This Chad Brown trainee is three and has had only six starts. But she has won four times, has never finished worse than third, and bagged a Grade 1 two races back. She faced older horses for the first time last time out, though, and fell well short. She's a talented, well-bred horse on the right trajectory. She'd have to take a massive step forward, though, in order to be good enough here. A win feels like too much to ask, but she is certainly capable of hitting the board. It feels, though, like this outing is, as much as anything, a chance to earn experience for this race next year when she could be a major threat.
Blue Prize (6/1): This six-year-old veteran is making her second straight start in this race, finishing a fading fourth last year. At her best she's dangerous - last time out she beat both Elate and Dunbar Road to win the Spinster. But we don't see those efforts consistently, and that is for one big reason - she is very dependent on getting her race. She's a stalking closer, so she needs the pace to be hot up front early on. She was laid off for six months after the Distaff last year, and has raced only once since August 18, so you don't have to question her freshness. If your success depends on hoping that Midnight Bisou falters, though, then you aren't in an ideal spot.
Serengeti Empress (12/1): Let's be clear up front - this filly probably isn't winning. But if you feel like gambling on a longer shot, you can at least paint a scenario that could bring this year's Kentucky Oaks winner to success. In the Oaks, she took the lead out of the gate and just ran away from the field. And taking the lead and setting the pace is what she does. It's at least possible she can get the lead alone in this one. And while she has not been particularly impressive since the Oaks, the distance here could suit her. With luck she could at least make this one a little interesting. Or she could force Midnight Bisou to work too hard too early and really blow things open. She feels like an all-or-nothing proposition here, though - and the latter is far more likely.
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