The main event. Final act. Ok, well, final acts. Nine Breeders’ Cup World Championship races the chance to get some clarity to a year that doesn’t make much sense in so many ways.
The finish line provides that clarity; our game is settled on the track, not in a boardroom, on paper or, aghast, at the ballot box. At least not yet, Eclipse Award voting doesn’t open for a while and thankfully doesn’t take long to count.
Before we get to any of that though there’s Breeders’ Cup Saturday at Keeneland Race Course, hosting its second championship in the cradle of the Thoroughbred industry but without spectators amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Everything started with the Future Stars Friday card, which featured powerful performances by Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Vequist in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. They locked up championships and others look to do the same Saturday, including a star-studded group in the headlining $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Everything starts Saturday at 10:15 a.m. ET with three undercard stakes before the first Breeders’ Cup race – the Filly and Mare Sprint – at 12:02 p.m. The Classic goes at 5:18, about a half-hour before sunset in Lexington.
The handicappers are back with picks for the nine championship events and their opinions vary in spots and agree in others. Paul Halloran enjoyed the best day Friday, picking Golden Pal ($3.60) in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, Vequist ($15.20) and Essential Quality ($9.40). Charles Bedard came up with two winners – Golden Pal and Aunt Pearl ($7.20) in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. John Shapazian, Joe Clancy, Sean Clancy and Tom Law are on the board with one win after tabbing Golden Pal. None of the handicappers tabbed Fire At Will ($62.40) in the Juvenile Turf, although Charles picked him in the third spot.
Television coverage starts at noon on NBC Sports Network before moving to NBC for the bulk of the card from 2:30 to 6 p.m. Fans can also listen to the races on Horse Racing Radio Network from noon to 6 p.m.
Enjoy the races, stay safe and good luck.
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1). Post time 12:02 p.m. ET.
Remember the old days when the Sprint led off? Things started fast and intense back then and figure to this year with Gamine and Serengeti Empress in the field and expected to bang it out on the front end early. Who’s there at the end? That’s the big question.
John: Serengeti Empress, Gamine, Come Dancing.
Joe: Come Dancing, Serengeti Empress, Bell's The One.
Tom: Come Dancing, Speech, Venetian Harbor.
Sean: Serengeti Empress, Gamine, Come Dancing.
Paul: Serengeti Empress, Speech, Sconsin.
Charles: Serengeti Express, Bell’s The One, Come Dancing.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Post time 12:39 p.m.
Keep with the speed and how’s this for wide open? Our six handicappers came up with five horses on top, with only Paul and Charles in agreement on transformed turf sprinter Got Stormy. She’s won her last two since shortening up and takes on fellow female Oleksandra, Imprimis, Leinster and others.
John: Imprimis, Leinstar, Big Runner.
Joe: Oleksandra, Got Stormy, Imprimis.
Tom: Extravagant Kid, Leinster, Got Stormy.
Sean: Leinster, Oleksandra, Got Stormy.
Paul: Got Stormy, Leinster, Imprimis.
Charles: Got Stormy, Imprimis, Bombard.
Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Post time 1:18 p.m.
Back to the main track and around two turns for another puzzler. Some of these would not seem out of place in the Classic; alas, another puzzler with this race even among the championship events but that’s a conversation over a beer at Henry Street. Art Collector, War Of Will, Knicks Go, Rushie, Mr Freeze, Complexity and Owendale make it one of deepest renewals in history.
John: Complexity, Art Collector, Knicks Go.
Joe: Art Collector, Knicks Go, War Of Will.
Tom: Knicks Go, Art Collector, War Of Will.
Sean: Knicks Go, Complexity, Rushie.
Paul: Knicks Go, Owendale, Sharp Samurai.
Charles: Mr Freeze, Owendale, Sharp Samurai.
Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1). 1:57 p.m.
One of two races where our team came close to a consensus, with Rushing Fall fancied by four of our handicappers. She’s 5-for-6 on the Keeneland turf course and brings 3-for-3 record to 1 3/16-mile test against stablemates Sistercharlie, My Sister Nat and Nay Lady Nay, and Europeans Magical, Cayenne Pepper and Audarya. Don’t discount Starship Jubilee, Mean Mary or Civil Union.
John: Rushing Fall, Sistercharlie, Mean Mary.
Joe: Cayenne Pepper, Mean Mary, Rushing Fall.
Tom: Rushing Fall, Civil Union, Starship Jubilee.
Sean: Rushing Fall, Peaceful, Cayenne Pepper.
Paul: Starship Jubilee, Terebellum, Rushing Fall.
Charles: Rushing Fall, Audarya, Peaceful.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Post time 2:36 p.m.
C Z Rocket, 2-for-2 at Keeneland and unbeaten since being claimed for $40,000, drew inside while unbeaten 3-year-old Yaupon drew toward the outside in another loaded event. If it doesn’t come down to those two perhaps it’s time for another filly to win, Frank’s Rockette, maybe it’s Whitmore’s year or Japan’s Jasper Prince.
John: C Z Rocket, Yaupon, Diamond Oops.
Joe: Yaupon, C Z Rocket, Whitmore.
Tom: Yaupon, Whitmore, Frank’s Rockette.
Sean: Yaupon, Frank's Rockette, Diamond Oops.
Paul: Frank’s Rockette, Diamond Oops, C Z Rocket.
Charles: C Z Rocket, Frank’s Rockette, Yaupon.
FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile presented by PDJF (G1). Post time 3:15 p.m.
Kameko, a son of Kitten’s Joy born and raised just up Versailles Road at Calumet Farm and sold at Keeneland as a yearling, returns home and looks to add the Mile to strong season highlighted by victory in QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas in June. He’s one of several Europeans with strong credentials, along with Circus Maximus, Siskin and Safe Voyage. The American contingent is led by defending champ Uni, who prepped with a win in the Grade 1 First Lady; Shadwell Mile winner Ivar, Old Forester Turf Classic winner Digital Age, Fourstardave winner Halladay and Shoemaker Mile winner Raging Bull.
John: Uni, Ivar, Kameko.
Joe: Ivar, Circus Maximus, Uni.
Tom: Kameko, One Master, Digital Age.
Sean: Kameko, Halladay, Ivar.
Paul: Kameko, Siskin, Digital Age.
Charles: Ivar, Uni, One Master.
Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Post time 3:54 p.m.
Monomoy Girl, the 2018 Distaff winner who missed all of 2019, looks to complete unique double and stay unbeaten against deep group that includes Preakness and Alabama winner Swiss Skydiver, Apple Blossom winner Ce Ce, Beldame winner Horologist and Juddmonte Spinster winner Valiance. Our team almost split the votes between Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver.
John: Momomoy Girl, Ce Ce, Horologist.
Joe: Swiss Skydiver, Monomoy Girl, Valiance.
Tom: Swiss Skydiver, Ce Ce, Valiance.
Sean: Horologist, Monomoy Girl, Swiss Skydiver.
Paul: Monomoy Girl, Valiance, Swiss Skydiver.
Charles: Monomoy Girl, Dunbar Road, Swiss Skydiver.
Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Post time 4:33 p.m.
The Europeans historically have a hammerlock on grass marathon and a formidable group came across the Atlantic Ocean for this year’s $4 million test. Magical, second to global superstar Enable in the 2018 Turf at Churchill Downs, returns for Aidan O’Brien along with her stablemate and Group 1 winner Mogul. Tarnawa represents the Aga Khan, one of the world’s leading breeders and a two-time-winning owner in the race with inaugural winner Lashkari and Kalanisi in 2000. The Americans can’t be discounted with Arklow going for Brad Cox, who won two Breeders’ Cup races Friday, 2019 runner-up United going for Hall of Famer Richard Mandella and multiple Grade 1 winner Channel Maker going for Hall of Famer and two-time Turf winner Bill Mott.
John: Magical, Arklow, United.
Joe: Magical, United, Mogul.
Tom: United, Channel Maker, Magical.
Sean: Magical, Mogul, United.
Paul: Tarnawa, Lord North, Mogul.
Charles: Magical, United, Arklow.
Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Post time 5:18 p.m.
The main course of the main event, with divisional championships and Horse of the Year on the line in the $6 million headliner at 10 furlongs. Bob Baffert sends out the formidable trio of 5-2 favorite Improbable, Kentucky Derby winner Authentic and multiple Grade 1 winner Maximum Security against a deep cast led by Belmont and Travers winner Tiz The Law, Tom’s d’Etat, By My Standards and Global Campaign.
John: Tom’s d’Etat, Improbable, Tacitus.
Joe: Tiz The Law, Tom's d'Etat, Improbable.
Tom: Tom’s d’Etat, Tiz The Law, By My Standards.
Sean: Improbable, Tom's d'Etat, Tiz The Law.
Paul: Tiz The Law, Maximum Security, Improbable.
Charles: Tiz The Law, Improbable, Maximum Security.