About 72 miles of Kentucky bluegrass separate Lexington’s limestone looker of a racetrack, Keeneland, from horse racing’s best-known venue, Churchill Downs. But the two tracks are a world removed atmospherically.
Like Louisville, the city in which it lies, Churchill is bigger and bawdier, with more mass appeal. But for more refined fans of the sport, nothing compares to Keeneland, the host of this year’s Breeders’ Cup, which will be run on Friday and Saturday.
The last time Keeneland hosted a Breeders’ Cup was in the COVID-stricken year of 2020. As a result of the pandemic, the event was only open to participants and essential personnel. This year, then, should prove particularly joyous — not only because attendance restrictions are a thing of the past, but because the fields for this year’s races are dynamite.
Looking for betting angles? We’ve got a few, which can be found below and are in no way to be taken as locks in a competition where literally every horse is capable of winning.
Saturday Late Pick 4, headlined by Flightline and three others in the BC Classic
BC Mile: Modern Games, Domestic Spending, Order of Australia, Ivar, and Annapolis
BC Distaff: Malathaat, Nest
BC Turf: Rebel’s Romance, Nations Pride, Stone Age, and Mishriff
BC Classic: Flightline, Epicenter, Taiba, and Rich Strike
If Flightline replicates his form from a resounding win in September’s Grade I Pacific Classic, the remainder of the field will be racing for second place in Saturday’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Flightline evoked comparisons to Secretariat by crushing the field in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar by 19 ¼ lengths. As a result, Flightline has been installed as the heavy 3/5 favorite in the finale of this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup World Championship at Keeneland. Horse bettors will be lucky to receive as low of a price at post time, as Flightline will likely be bet down in the final minutes before the race.
While I’m playing Flightline in Saturday’s late Pick 4, I am taking a shot with three others. Chances are you will not cash a large ticket by singling the undefeated favorite. A speed duel may ensue if Flightline’s jockey, Flavien Prat, prevents Life Is Good from breaking away with an uncontested lead on the backstretch. Rich Strike closed into a suicidal pace in the Kentucky Derby, while two others, Epicenter and Taiba, can wait patiently on Saturday to attack. I will be playing Flightline, Epicenter, Taiba, and Rich Strike in my Pick 4.
In the Turf, the Charlie Appleby-trained duo of Rebel’s Romance and Nations Pride are the top two choices on the morning line and could very well hit the exacta. The regally bred Rebel’s Romance is the grandson of former Dubai World Cup winner Dubai Millennium and has champion sire Street Cry in his dam-side pedigree. Rebel’s Romance has won four in a row, including a victory over the highly regarded Sammarco in his most recent start, the Grade 1 Preis von Europa.
I’ll play both Appleby entries in the Pick 4, along with Stone Age and Mishriff. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Stone Age has finished fifth in his last three races, but he was beaten by only three lengths in last month’s QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot. The race featured arguably the world’s top turf horse in Baaed, who was defeated for the first time in 11 career starts. Mishriff (6/1) is on a seven-race losing streak, but at his peak he is among the best in the world, as his victory over Charlatan in the $20 million 2021 Saudi Cup indicates.
In the Distaff, the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Nest and Malathaat are the class of the field. I’ll play both in the Pick 4. I’ll go five deep in the Mile with favorite Modern Games, as well as Domestic Spending, Order of Australia, Annapolis, and Ivar. The latter three are all double-digit longshots on the morning line. The ticket is a little pricey at $80 but will be worth it if several high-priced longshots cash.
— Matt Rybaltowski
You’re My Girl, $10 Win-Place, BC Juvenile Fillies
As is the case with most Breeders’ Cup races involving 2-year-olds, the Juvenile Fillies, run at 1 1/16 miles, is a relatively wide-open affair. Given that dynamic and a deep, 14-horse field, I’m looking for a horse with odds 8/1 or fatter that looks ready to take a big step forward. And in this race, that horse is You’re My Girl.
Supplemented into the race for $100,000 by her owners, You’re My Girl cruised to an easy win in her 6-furlong debut at Saratoga on Sept. 2 before stepping way up in class a month later to finish second behind Chocolate Gelato (a 5/2 favorite here) in the slop in G1, mile-long Frizette (run at Aqueduct this year due to ongoing renovations at Belmont). The John Terranova-trained filly showed a lot of fight, coming back to gain a bit of ground on the winner near the wire after getting passed at the top of the stretch.
At a price of 10/1 and with her owners showing the confidence to stake her into this race, she seems like a great play here.
— Mike Seely
Wound Up, $2 Win-Place-Show, BC Juvenile
Cave Rock, the 4/5 favorite in the Juvenile, has all the tools to emerge as the decisive favorite for next May’s Kentucky Derby. A 2-year-old son of Arrogate, Cave Rock enters the Juvenile off a 5 ¼ length romp in the Grade I American Pharoah.
Still, I will play 30/1 longshot Wound Up across the board and hope to pick up some change in the place and show offerings. Longshots have fared well recently in the Juvenile, with Hot Rod Charlie finishing second to Essential Quality in 2020 at 94/1. Wound Up, the son of 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Mendelssohn, encountered traffic issues in each of his last two starts, both on turf. But he had a nice workout on Oct. 28, going five furlongs in one minute flat on a fast track at Santa Anita.
As with his sire, Wound Up could benefit from a switch to the dirt. Owner Paul Reddam has experienced a modicum of success with 2-year-olds in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, notching victories with Nyquist and Wilko in 2016 and 2004, respectively. I’m betting that Wound Up will hit the board here at a favorable price.
Frank’s Rockette, $20 Win-Place, BC Filly & Mare Sprint
The knock on Frank’s Rockette, a Bill Mott-trained mare who’s finished in the money in 21 of her 23 races, is that she hasn’t faced as much G1 competition as the other frontrunners in this field. But the 5-year-old enters this race flashing the best form of her career, having reeled off three straight triple-digit Beyers in a field that’s pretty short on such speed figures.
With Mott doing the saddling and Luis Saez taking the reins at 6/1, what’s not to like in a race without a clear-cut favorite?
Highfield Princess and Golden Pal, $25 Exacta Box, BC Turf Sprint
The most contentious race on Saturday may come in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, where defending champion Golden Pal boasts a 4-for-4 career record at Keeneland. My money, though, is on Highfield Princess, a European shipper who is enjoying a breakout 2022 campaign. The John Quinn-trained horse is coming off three straight G1 wins in three different countries – Ireland, France, and the U.K.
One of the most exciting horses in the @BreedersCup this year is HIGHFIELD PRINCESS. @RishiPersad1 talks to Con Foley, head lad to trainer John Quinn. pic.twitter.com/4GWl8S4Hk3
— TVG (@TVG) October 30, 2022
Golden Pal is seeking to end his illustrious career with a Breeders’ Cup win for a third consecutive year. While Highfield Princess lacks the speed of Golden Pal out of the gate, she makes up for it with a determined closing kick. I’ll take Highfield Princess to edge Golden Pal in Saturday’s fourth race but will use both in multi-race exotics.
Cody’s Wish, $40 to Win, BC Dirt Mile
I absolutely hate betting favorites, but there’s an exception to every rule. And in the Dirt Mile, I’ll make an exception for 5/2 morning line favorite Cody’s Wish.
Winner of six of his last seven races for trainer Mott, the son of Curlin posted a field-best 112 Beyer to defeat Jackie’s Warrior (the 4/5 favorite in Saturday’s BC Sprint) last time out in the G1 Forego at Saratoga. He came from way off a sizzling pace to win that 7-furlong scorcher, but he’s versatile enough to make an earlier move, which he may have to do in this more tactically inclined field.
Cody’s Wish has made exactly the sort of leap you like to see out of a 4-year-old, and his odds figure to fatten a bit with a high-profile 3-year-old (Cyberknife) and a Bob Baffert trainee (Laurel River) sure to attract plenty of action.
Photo: Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal