Breeders’ Cup Friday 2014 picks

- -

Don’t call it Ladies Day. Don’t call it the opening act, an appetizer or a lead-in. Just call it what it is: Breeders’ Cup Friday.

The 2014 Breeders’ Cup World Championships gets underway in earnest right around happy hour on the East Coast and mid-afternoon on the West Coast, four races to get North American racing’s last big weekend off to a strong start. The four races – down from five a year ago and six from 2009 to 2012 – are a mix between dirt and turf, older horses and juveniles.

The Breeders’ Cup Distaff, one of the original seven championship events, is the last of the four. The 2014 Distaff doesn’t have a Lady’s Secret, Personal Ensign, Azeri or Zenyatta, but it still has a pretty strong field and is a fitting finale to Day 1.

The usual This Is Horse Racing handicapping trio – Joe Clancy, Sean Clancy and Tom Law – will be joined again this weekend again by familiar names for readers of The Saratoga Special with John Shapazian and Chad Summers offering their picks.

For what it’s worth, Sean, Joe and John picked three winners from the 14 races at last year’s Breeders’ Cup, while Chad tabbed two and Tom just one.

John was the not only the clear leader in The Special, but for all handicappers picking races at Saratoga in 2014. He picked 131 winners from 413 races at Saratoga, a strike rate of 32 percent. Tom was a distant second with 114 winners.

One less race this year – the Breeders’ Cup Marathon was dropped – so one less chances for success. To paraphrase a page from the FOX announcers during Thursday’s night’s Game 7 of the World Series, that logic means there’s one less chance for failure, too.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Post time 5:25 p.m. ET

Interesting entry for trainer Wesley Ward in 3-1 morning-line favorite Hootenanny and 8-1 co-fourth choice Luck of the Kitten. Hootenanny lost at odds-on in Rollicking Stakes back in May at Pimlico then scooped a stakes at Royal Ascot and nearly won one of Europe’s most prestigious juvenile stakes when second in the Group 1 Darley Prix Morny in August at Deauville. Luck of the Kitten was second in debut the second day of the Saratoga meet, graduated at Arlington Park a month later, finished second in Kentucky Downs Juvenile and won the Zuma Beach at Santa Anita in successive starts for the Ramseys. The race’s other major players are Europeans War Envoy, who tries to end six-race losing streak, Commemorative Aktabantay and Wet Sail, along with the East Coast-based Imperia, Startup Nation, Lawn Ranger and Danny Boy.

Joe: Commemorative, Startup Nation, Hootenanny.
Sean: Commemorative, Wet Sail, Imperia.
Tom: Commemorative, War Envoy, Conquest Typhoon.
John: Imperia, Hootenanny, Wet Sail.
Chad: Commemorative, Imperia, Startup Nation.

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Post time 6:05 p.m. ET

Goldencents is the shortest price of any of the morning-line favorites at 6/5 despite only one win in five starts since last year’s win in the Dirt Mile. He’s finished second in three of those losses, however, including the Grade 1 Met Mile and Santa Anita Sprint Championship last time out. Won from Post 11 last year and draws the rail for this year’s edition against familiar field. Golden Ticket (second), Fed Biz (sixth) and Pants On Fire (seventh) are back for another try. Tapiture was no match for Bayern last time and might give good read on much ballyhooed 3-year-olds for Saturday’s Classic.

Joe: Fed Biz, Goldencents, Pants On Fire.
Sean: Fed Biz, Goldencents, Bronzo.
Tom: Goldencents, Vicar’s in Trouble, Tapiture.
John: Goldencents, Fed Biz, Tapiture.
Chad: Golden Ticket, Tapiture, Goldencents.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Post time 6:50 p.m. ET

Chad Brown takes on the world in this year’s renewal of race where he landed his Breeders’ Cup win back in 2008 with Maram. Brown sends out Partisan Politics, Lady Eli, Sivoliere and Tammy the Torpedo, a strong quartet that will need to be at their best against Europeans Osaila and Qualify and Wesley Ward’s Sunset Glow. Lady Eli is shortest price of the four off win in Grade 3 Miss Grillo, but Tammy the Torpedo was probably his most impressive 2-year-old filly to win on the grass at Saratoga and Sivoliere could continue successful pipeline of French-raced fillies for owner Martin Schwartz.

Joe: Qualify, Sivoliere, Sunset Glow.
Sean: Lady Eli, Rainha Da Bateria, Conquest Harlanate.
Tom: Osaila, Qualify, Sivoliere.
John: Lady Eli, Osaila, Partisan Politics.
Chad: Partisan Politics, Lady Eli, Qualify.

Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Post time 7:35 p.m. ET

The main event for Day 1 lost a little shine with defection of defending champ Beholder but still packs plenty of punch with three-time 2014 Grade 1 winner Close Hatches, Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable, Beldame winner Belle Gallantey and Juddmonte Spinster winner Don’t Tell Sophia. Close Hatches threw in clunker last time, finishing fourth in Spinster, so big questions are whether she’s heading in direction older females often do late in the season or if it was just a toss race. Another overlooked angle in the race are the locals. Iotapa is 6-for-7 in the exacta at Santa Anita and Tiz Midnight gave Beholder a tough test in the Zenyatta.

Joe: Close Hatches, Don’t Tell Sophia, Iotapa.
Sean: Close Hatches, Untapable, Stanwyck.
Tom: Close Hatches, Don’t Tell Sophia, Stanwyck.
John: Untapable, Iotapa, Close Hatches.
Chad: Untapable, Close Hatches, Don’t Tell Sophia.


Check back Friday for Breeders’ Cup Saturday picks.