Breeders’ Cup Race Previews and Picks
by Robert Criscola
All week long on Danonymous Racing, we’ll have picks & analysis for all 13 Breeders’ Cup races from the Danonymous cast. Here, we’ve got the Turf covered by one of our Southern California handicappers, Robert Criscola!
Take it away, Robert!
2016- Highland Reel
2014- Main Sequence
2012- Little Mike
The 34th running of the Breeders’ Cup Turf is just one of many star-studded showdowns slated for Breeders’ Cup Saturday at Del Mar. The $4 million Turf will occupy its customary spot as the penultimate Breeders’ Cup heat, with the finale being, of course, the Classic. Estimated post time for the 1 1/2-mile grass event is 7:37 p.m. Eastern. Aiden O’Brien will be looking for his seventh score in this race, and he has another good shot this year with defending champion HIGHLAND REEL in the entries, but an accomplished field stands in his way. I’ll go over the Turf field on a horse-by-horse basis before giving out selections on the bottom. Don’t forget to check out the additional Breeders’ Cup analysis columns on this site!
#1 TALISMANIC (15-1) has hit the board in all five starts this year while winning a Group II but hasn’t even tried a Group I in 2017. The last time he was in a Group I was the 2016 Arc de Triomphe, where he ran 11th. Not seeing it.
#2 BULLARDS ALLEY (15-1) beat what looked like a soft field in the Grade I Canadian International by 10 lengths at 42-1 for his first win in 10 starts this year. Betting against a repeat of that effort.
#3 HIGHLAND REEL (5-1) is looking to become the first winning favorite in the Turf since 2009 as well as the first repeat winner of the race since that same year (Conduit). HIGHLAND REEL’s bold front-running gambit paid off dividends last year but he’s unlikely to get away with that again. He’s been well-beaten in his last two starts but both were over soft courses. In three starts on good or firm going since last year’s Turf he’s taken two Group I events and placed in another. HIGHLAND REEL is the real deal.
#4 DECORATED KNIGHT (15-1) enters off her fourth Group I win of the year but was beaten twice by ULYSSES this year and once by HIGHLAND REEL; mixed signals.
#5 ULYSSES (7-2, morning-line favorite) was a soundly-beaten fourth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf but looks much more intimidating this year at age 4. Going into last year’s race, ULYSSES boasted just a win and a place in two Group IIIs. In 2017, ULYSSES has two Group I wins as well as a Group III win from six starts. Two of his losses came to the highly-regarded Enable, including his most recent start, the Arc de Triomphe. He’ll need to find a way to turn the tables on HIGHLAND REEL, who beat him in last year’s Turf as well as this year’s Prince of Wales at Royal Ascot. A win is in the realm of possibility.
#6 CLIFFS OF MOHER (20-1) has failed to hit the board in four straight and has been buried by his fellow Europeans in recent starts; in too tough here.
#7 ITSINTHEPOST (15-1) won both of his starts at 1 1/2-miles this year (two Grade IIs) and took the John Henry Turf Championship in preparation for this. However, his 8-0-3-1 record over the Del Mar turf course is a huge red flag. Use underneath only, if at all.
#8 BIGGER PICTURE (15-1) is a likeable, hard-trying horse but his signature win this year (the Grade I United Nations) was aided by a great setup and a near-perfect ride by Joe Bravo. Others entice more.
#9 SEVENTH HEAVEN (20-1), fourth in last year’s Filly & Mare Turf, hasn’t even been remotely competitive in her last two; toss.
#10 FANCIFUL ANGEL (12-1) was unable to even sniff BEACH PATROL in the stretch in Belmont’s Turf Classic; not classy enough to compete with these.
#11 HUNT (15-1) had a solid summer campaign at Del Mar, winning both the Eddie Read and the Del Mar Handicap, but took a big step backwards in the John Henry last month at Santa Anita. As it stands, he seems too slow on paper to be a factor in this heat.
#12 BEACH PATROL (4-1), Chad Brown’s most respected charge in this race, was a convincing winner of Belmont’s Turf Classic when last seen. He seems to have overcome his ‘seconditis’ with consecutive wins (the other being the Arlington Million), but the Turf competition will be unlike anything BEACH PATROL has ever encountered.
#13 SADLER’S JOY (12-1) was a discouraging fourth behind several of today’s rivals in Belmont’s Turf Classic last time out. However, that was his lone off-the-board performance in seven starts this year, so he’s tough to leave out entirely.
#14 OSCAR PERFORMANCE (10-1) has only run well when gifted the lead this year and that certainly won’t happen in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. This “first-or-nowhere” type should be left off the tickets.