DEL MAR, Calif. – Friday’s Breeders' Cup (BC) card includes four championship races anchored by the $2 million Grade 1 BC Distaff for fillies and mares on the dirt going 1 1/8-miles. The Friday undercard includes the BC Juvenile Turf, the BC Dirt Mile and the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf races leading up to the Distaff. All four races will be shown on the NBC Sports Network from 5 - 8 p.m. EDT.
Saturday will feature the remaining nine BC races culminating in the $6 million Classic. One trend to watch on Friday is how the Europeans handle the likely firm ground of the Del Mar turf course. They mainly run over soft or yielding surfaces across the pond, but most of the horses that have come over here likely won’t have a problem with firm turf. In addition, East coast dirt horses have tended to struggle at the BC in the four years this decade at Santa Anita. How they handle the Del Mar track will be interesting on Friday starting with Practical Joke in the Dirt Mile and Elate in the Distaff.
Be sure to check Saturday's print editions of The News for my advance on the Breeders' Cup Classic and the field of 11 that will feature a much anticipated matchup between Gun Runner and last year’s winner Arrogate. The Classic will head to the post at the beautiful Del Mar Thoroughbred Club at 8:35 p.m. EDT in prime time on the flagship NBC Network (Ch. 2).
Let’s preview the four BC races with my top four selections, including a longshot play.
$1 million BC Juvenile Fillies Turf (Race 6, 5:25 p.m. EDT)
A full field of 14 juvenile fillies will run a mile on the turf course including a quick run to the first turn that could cause some concern for the outside horses trying not to be caught wide. The race attracted six European shippers that will make the handicapping all the more difficult.
7-Capla Temptress (6-1) comes out of a key race at Woodbine in the Natalma, where she handled the firm E.P. Taylor turf course without issue. Trainer Bill Mott has 10 BC wins on his resume and stands fourth all time on the BC money list for trainers. Aidan O’Brien brought a full stable of charges to Del Mar and his 2-year-old daughter of Galileo (the leading BC money winning sire of all time) will be utilizing first time Lasix. 2-Happily (9-2) comes out of an impressive Group 1 win at Chantilly and will have Ryan Moore in the irons.
The Chad Brown-trained due of 8-Significant Form (8-1) and 11-Rushing Fall (7-2) should not be discounted. With top riders Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Javier Castellano in the irons, respectively, Brown is loaded once again in the BC turf races. I’m likely five deep in the late Pick-4, adding the Euro 10-September (6-1), out of the O’Brien barn.
Post Time Outlook: 1-Capla Temptress; 2-Happily, 3-Significant Form, 4-September
Longshot: Fatale Bere (15-1)
$1 million BC Dirt Mile (Race 7, 6:05 p.m. EDT)
A fairly wide open field of 10 is led by tepid favorite 6-Mor Spirit (3-1) out of the Bob Baffert barn. I’m tossing 10-Practical Joke (6-1) who drew the outside and is 0-for-5 around two turns. A one-turn specialist and East coaster trying the Del Mar surface for the first time is enough to let him beat me. The horse that looks the part is 8-Accelerate (7-2) for John Sadler. The son of Lookin at Lucky cuts back after winning the Pacific Classic on the hometown track. He’s won 3-of-4 at Delmar and sports a nice workout last Saturday.
Second-place Derby finisher 9-Battle of Midway (10-1) has down little wrong during his 3-year-old season and will likely sit off the lead before making his run at the front runners. That likely front runner is 3-Sharp Azteca (9-2) with Paco Lopez in the irons for Jorge Navarro. If the track is souped up, this one may run them off the board. Cupid scares me, but I’m leaving him on the sidelines with Practical Joke.
Post Time Outlook: 1-Accelerate, 2-Mor Spirit, 3- Battle of Midway, 4-Sharp Azteca
Longshot: Gato Del Oro (30-1)
$1 million Juvenile Turf (Race 8, 6:50 p.m. EDT)
Another tough race to project, with 14 juveniles scheduled to run a mile over the Del Mar turf course. We’ll take a shot with 8-Voting Control (8-1) and Javier Castellano in the JFT. With a couple of trip note issues within the running line of the Pilgrim, we’ll look for the daughter of Kitten’s Joy to rebound off that effort. Second in a Group 1 in his last, 1-Mendelssohn (8-1) and Ryan Moore will look to make his first trip to the States a winning one. The son of Scat Daddy will also be using Lasix for the first time.
6-Masar (6-1) is another Euro who can’t be discounted with William Buick aboard for Charles Appleby. First time Lasix and a couple of decent efforts against two top fillies running in Race 6 shows that he fits. Keep an eye on the results of the JFT when betting the son of New Approach. Graham Motion’s 2-Untamed Domain (8-1) bounced back from his third-place finish in the With Anticipation at the Spa to take the Summer S. at Woodbine. If you like him, you also have to consider 4-Catholic Boy (12-1) and 12-Hemp Hemp Hurrray (8-1).
Post Time Outlook: 1-Voting Control, 2-Mendelssohn, 3-Masar, 4-Untamed Domain
Longshot: Catholic Boy (12-1)
$2 million Longines BC Distaff (Race 9, 7:35 p.m. ET)
Friday’s feature race pits the year’s top 3-year-old fillies with a pair of older mares. While it will likely not top last year’s epic duel between Songbird and Beholder, the race has a lot of intrigue. I’m going with the sophomore fillies 5-Elate (3-1) and 4-Abel Tasman (4-1). The Alabama winner comes in off solid form in taking on elders for the first time. Jose Ortiz will be aboard the Medaglia d’Oro filly for Bill Mott and she looks the part.
Abel Tasman is a versatile filly who has a win over the surface during her 2-year-old campaign and has the all-time leading jockey in Mike Smith riding. 2-Stellar Wind (5-2) has won all three of her 2017 races since faltering in last year’s Distaff at 5-2. The late running 6-Forever Unbridled (4-1) should be picking up the pieces in the stretch and should be used in the exotics.
Post Time Outlook: 1-Elate, 2-Abel Tasman, 3-Stellar Wind, 4-Forever Unbridled
Longshot: Champagne Room (15-1)
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.