Breeders' Cup contenders line up
October 10, 2018 3:00 AM
by Dave Valento
The 35th Breeders’ Cup will take place at Churchill Downs on Friday, November 2nd and Saturday, November 3rd. The serious preps have been contested and the races are starting to take shape. The last two weekends were filled with important races designed to ready the runners heading to Kentucky for the year end championships.
Two horses have my attention for the Breeders’ Cup Classic: Mendelssohn and Mind Your Biscuits look like serious threats to the current future book favorite, Accelerate. Mendelssohn won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last year over a strong field. He pressed a fast pace and took command at the head of the lane. While other forwardly paced horses caved in, Mendelssohn kicked on in an impressive effort.
Many thought he should have been in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile given his dirt leaning pedigree. His sibling is the sensational 11-time Grade 1 dirt-winning champion Beholder. Trainer Aidan O’Brien moved him to the dirt in the UAE Derby in Dubai. He freaked in that race, winning by nearly 19 lengths in track record time. He was a main contender in the Kentucky Derby (my top pick) but flopped badly after suffering a terrible trip.
O’Brien put him on a New York-based campaign that would have him peaking for the Classic. After a fading third in the Dwyer (a prep at a mile) he was a game second to Catholic Boy in the Travers. He was fantastic in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in his most recent start. He chased Diversify’s suicidal fractions of 45.3, 1.09 and 1.33.4. It was so fast that the heavily favored Diversify stopped. But Mendelssohn didn’t. He was right there in the final 100 yards with a chance to win before the late runners finally caught him. That race will have him tight for the Classic and he’s expected to go off at double-digit odds.
Mind Your Biscuits beat nothing in the Lukas Classic. It was more the “how” not the “who”. He tracked the pace comfortably, took over at will and dominated in the lane. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal except Mind Your Biscuits has been a sprinter for most of his career. It’s not very often that a trainer is able to turn a sprinter into a classic router in mid-career. It was just four starts ago that Mind Your Biscuits came from far back to win the Golden Shaheen (over Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Roy H) in Dubai on a track that no one was closing on. Since then he was nosed out in the Met Mile, ran second to solo pacesetter Diversify in the Whitney at 1 1/8 miles and then won the Lukas at the same distance. This classy NY-bred has the perfect running style for the way the Classic pace is shaping up.
Gaming Today’s Rich Saber and I will be holding a Breeders’ Cup seminar at Boulder Station at 9 a.m. (PT) on Friday, November 2. This is a free seminar in the sports book and Director Mike Corrigan will have free coffee, donuts and drinks for all that attend. I’ll have my two-day Breeders’ Cup full card analysis sheets available free of charge ($25 value). The seminar usually takes about an hour to 90 minutes as we discuss both Friday and Saturday races and key betting strategies.
Play of the Week
This week’s free play comes in race 6 at Keeneland on Wednesday. The race is an optional $100,000 claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs. Smart Remark (No. 12) has sprinted on the dirt just twice in his nine career races. They both came at Keeneland (the only two starts at the track). The first one produced a runner-up finish by a neck to Grade 1 winner Promises Fulfilled at 11-1. The second was a game win over a deep field. Interestingly, both of those starts were in spots where he drew a wide post position, as he does here. He’s nibbled in turf races since but the move back to the dirt should inspire a better performance. Smart Remark is 8-1 on the morning line. Post time for race 6 is 12:51 PT.