Breeders’ Cup 2017 Saturday picks

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Breeders’ Cup Saturday, the main course in racing’s annual smorgasbord run this year at Del Mar, presents challenge after challenge after challenge in the form of nine World Championship races culminated by a Horse of the Year showdown in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The Classic, featuring defending champ Arrogate and Gun Runner, is just one difficult puzzle for horseplayers along with races for 2-year-olds, sprints for males and females and grass races at a variety of distances. Friday’s four races served as the perfect appetizer for the gorge-fest that awaits at Del Mar.

The action gets underway early on the West Coast, with a first post at Del Mar of 10:10 a.m. (1:10 p.m. ET) and the first Breeders’ Cup race going off at noon (3 p.m. ET). The $2 million Juvenile Fillies leads off and the Classic closes the curtain at 5:35 p.m. (8:35 p.m. ET), with a national television audience in prime time on NBC.

The coverage of the day starts on cable on the NBC Sports Network from 1:30-8 p.m. before the action switches over to the main network NBC for a one-hour broadcast from 8-9 p.m. ET. The races can also be heard from our friends at the Horse Racing Radio Network from 3-9 p.m. Saturday.

Speaking of friends, the TIHR handicappers are joined again by a trio from The Saratoga Special in handicappers John Shapazian and Charles Bedard and staff writer Ben Gowans as they try to dissect the nine championship races. Just like Friday there was some full or near consensus in several races – Juvenile Fillies, Filly and Mare Sprint, Juvenile and Sprint mainly – and a wide difference of opinion in others.

Tom Law was the lone handicapper with a winner during Friday’s card, two in fact. Tom picked Rushing Fall ($8) in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and Battle Of Midway ($30.40) in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. 

Here are the picks for Breeders’ Cup Saturday. Enjoy and good luck.

14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Post time 3:00 p.m. ET

Usual fare for the lead-off event of the Saturday card with the best from the East taking on the best from the West. The latter is Moonshine Memories, Alluring Star and Piedi Biancho, the first three from the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita, while the latter is Separationofpowers, Calendonia Road and Maya Malibu. Separationofpowers took the worst of it at the draw, landing in post 13 and likely losing all chance from way out there. Moonshine Memories brings 3-for-3 record, and a pair of wins that include the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante at the track.

Sean: Moonshine Memories, Separationofpowers, Caledonia Road.
Joe: Moonshine Memories, Maya Malibu, Heavenly Love.
Tom: Moonshine Memories, Alluring Star, Maya Malibu.
John: Moonshine Memories, Alluring Star, Piedi Bianchi.
Ben: Moonshine Memories, Heavenly Love, Separationofpowers.
Charles: Heavenly Love, Wonder Gadot, Gio Game.


Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Post time 3:37 p.m. ET

All eyes on international superstar Lady Aurelia, a two-time Group 1 winner in Europe shipping out of Wesley Ward’s base at Keeneland. A 3-year-old filly taking on older horses, daughter of Scat Daddy has handled that type of opposition before and will be tough to beat from post 3 under John Velazquez. Christophe Clement sends out the Generazio homebred duo of Disco Partner and Pure Sensation while Bucchero tries to cap a dream fall for Indiana-based trainer Tim Glyshaw.

Sean: Lady Aurelia, Disco Partner, Marsha.
Joe: Lady Aurelia, Disco Partner, Marsha.
Tom: Disco Partner, Marsha, Lady Aurelia.
John: Lady Aurelia, Disco Partner, Bucchero.
Ben: Lady Aurelia, Pure Sensation, Hogy.
Charles: Marsha, Holding Gold, Pure Sensation.


Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Post time 4:14 p.m. ET

Unique Bella missed her chance in the Kentucky Oaks with an injury this spring but showed no signs of regression when she returned from seven-month layoff to beat older foes in Grade 3 stakes at Santa Anita last time. Daughter of Tapit is 5-for-6 lifetime and might garner some consideration for championship honors if she can top deep field that includes defending champ Finest City, Carina Mia, Paulassilverlining and Finley’sluckycharm.

Sean: Unique Bella, Skye Diamonds, Constellation.
Joe: Unique Bella, By The Moon, Finley’sluckycharm.
Tom: Unique Bella, Paulassilverlining, Bar Of Gold.
John: Unique Bella, Skye Diamonds, Constellation.
Ben: Carina Mia, Unique Bella, By The Moon.
Charles: Unique Bella, Finley’sluckycharm, Proper Discretion.


Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Post time 5:00 p.m. ET

Lady Eli makes her final career start and gets a rematch with Queen’s Trust, who nosed her out last year at Santa Anita. That race was at 10 furlongs but because of the configuration of the turf course at Del Mar this year’s edition is at 9 furlongs. Lady Eli is 3-for-3 at 9 furlongs and is proven on the West Coast. Queen’s Trust doesn’t come in this year with the same form as a year ago but she merits respect for Sir Michael Stoute.

Sean: Queen’s Trust, Lady Eli, Senga.
Joe: Cambodia, Lady Eli, Queen’s Trust.
Tom: Lady Eli, Rhododendron, Avenge.
John: Lady Eli, Dacita, Rhododendron.
Ben: Grand Jete, Lady Eli, Queen’s Trust.
Charles: Zipessa, Wuheida, Senga.


TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Post time 5:37 p.m. ET.

Drefong bounced back from scary incident when he lost the rider in Bing Crosby this summer at Del Mar with easy win in Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga. Bob Baffert used similar spacing last year with son of Gio Ponti, who went from a Grade 1 sprint win in late August to Breeders’ Cup Sprint win in early November. Roy H also carries the flag for the home team, while Imperial Hint, Takaful and Mind Your Biscuits ship East and are within a chance.

Sean: Drefong, Imperial Hint, Takaful.
Joe: Drefong, Roy H, Imperial Hint.
Tom: Drefong, Whitmore, Mind Your Biscuits.
John: Defrong, Ransom The Moon, Roy H.
Ben: Imperial Hint, Drefong, Roy H.
Charles: Imperiant Hint, Drefong, Mind Your Biscuits.


Breeders’ Cup Mile. Post time 6:19 p.m. ET

Six handicappers and four different horses picked, the duplicates being Woodbine Mile and Fourstardave winner World Approval and multiple Group 1 winner Ribchester. Mike Smith lands the mount on Home Of The Brave, who finished 11th in last year’s Turf Sprint and stretches out to 1 mile for just the second time. Suedois shipped from England to win Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile, shipped back and returns to California for David O’Meara. Tall order against top group.

Sean: Home Of The Brave, Ribchester, World Approval.
Joe: Ribchester, World Approval, Suedois.
Tom: World Approval, Ribchester, Midnight Storm.
John: Suedois, Ribchester, Blackjacket.
Ben: World Approval, Ribchester, Lancaster Bomber.
Charles: Ribchester, Suedois, World Approval.


Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Post time 6:58 p.m. ET

The undefeated Bolt d’Oro nearly made it a clean sweep for the handicappers. Son of Medaglia d’Oro is the top pick by five off victories in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and FrontRunner. He deservedly could be the shortest priced favorite of the weekend. Free Drop Billy showed signs he’d appreciate two turns when second in two sprint stakes this summer at Saratoga then dominated Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity going 1 1/16 miles last month at Keeneland.

Sean: Bolt d’Oro, Free Drop Billy, The Tabulator.
Joe: Bolt d’Oro, Firenze Fire, Free Drop Billy.
Tom: Bolt d’Oro, Free Drop Billy, Solomini.
John: Bolt d’Oro, Free Drop Billy, Solomini.
Ben: Bolt d’Oro, Free Drop Billy, Hollywood Star.
Charles: Free Drop Billy, Bolt d’Oro, Firenze Fire.


Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. Post time 7:37 p.m. ET

Here come the Europeans. Full field of 14 features defending champ Highland Reel, Decorated Knight, Talismanic, Seventh Heaven and Cliffs Of Moher representing overseas connections. Who gives the Americans their best shot? Beach Patrol, Fanciful Angel, Oscar Performance and Oscar Performance were the first four under the wire in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and might sneak into the trifecta. The race lost a major player Friday when Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe third Ulysses was scratched due to injury.  

Sean: Oscar Performance, Highland Reel, Decorated Knight.
Joe: Highland Reel, Oscar Performance.
Tom: Highland Reel, Beach Patrol, Talismanic.
John: Beach Patrol, Talismanic, Sadler’s Joy.
Ben: Highland Reel, Sadler’s Joy, Oscar Performance.
Charles: Highland Reel, Bullards Alley, Decorated Knight.


Breeders’ Cup Classic. Post time 8:35 p.m.

The centerpiece event features the marquee showdown between Arrogate and Gun Runner. Nine others are in the field but it’s all about Arrogate and Gun Runner. Arrogate won last year, adding the Classic to his record-setting win in the Travers, then returned this year to take the $12 million Pegasus World Cup and $10 million Dubai World Cup. He lost back-to-back starts this summer at Del Mar, the second showing some improvement from a total disaster in the Grade 2 San Diego. Gun Runner finished second to Arrogate in Dubai and brings three-race win streak in Grade 1 stakes – the Stephen Foster, Whitney and Woodward – into the Classic. If either wins they’re Horse of the Year. What about the rest of the field? West Coast tries to duplicate stablemate Arrogate with Travers-Classic double and he won the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby in between for Bob Baffert. Collected won the Pacific Classic, beating stablemate Arrogate by a half-length, and could be the dark horse in the field for Baffert.

Sean: Gun Runner, West Coast, Arrogate.  
Joe: Gun Runner, West Coast, Arrogate.
Tom: Arrogate, West Coast, Gunnevera.
John: Gun Runner, Collected, Arrogate.
Ben: Arrogate, Gun Runner, Collected.
Charles: Gun Runner, Arrogate, Churchill.