Race of the Week (Part 1): Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
Saturday November 3rd: Race 4 at Churchill Downs. The $1,000,000 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, run at five and a half furlongs on the turf, for three year olds and upward. (Post Time: 12:38 PM EDT).
[A notice to all readers: The turf course at Churchill Downs on Friday was listed as yielding due to the heavy amount of rain it received earlier in the week. As such it is likely that the course will remain in a similar state for today’s full card of racing. Thus all selections for this race were provided using a yielding turf course as the basis for handicapping this field. Even if the course conditions slightly improve such that it is rated good for today, the selections will remain the same.]
(11) World of Trouble: One of three runners in this field for trainer Jason Servis, this three year old son of Kantharos will be making just his third career start on the lawn after beginning his career racing on dirt. Today’s race, against a formidable array of accomplished older turf sprinters, will mark a major class test for this colt as his two prior efforts on grass had come in listed stakes races in New York. However, it does appear that World of Trouble has accepted this new role and really taken to racing on turf. In his most recent effort, back in the beginning of September at Saratoga, World of Trouble posted a 107 Bris Speed Rating (BSR) when racing over a good rated six furlongs and in fact that speed figure is the highest amongst the entire field for last out speed ratings. If he can back up that effort or at least come fairly close to that figure that bodes quite well for his chances of success today.
World of Trouble has brilliant early speed; in fact the TimeForm Pace Projector has indicated that it is quite likely that he will be out front setting the initial fractions in this race. However, in some of his past efforts over dirt, World of Trouble has displayed a grittiness and has demonstrated that he can be a bit tactical and does not need to go right to the lead every time. There are two other runners in this race that have shown good early speed, Richard’s Boy and Conquest Tsunami; yet, both of them lack quality efforts over ground with a lot of give in it and both runners are marooned to the outside of World of Trouble. Thus if either of those horses don’t break well or for some reason don’t fire today, World of Trouble could find himself alone on the lead and he could be quite dangerous if any of his rivals attempt to try and run him down. Both of his efforts on turf have come over ground with some give in it, so theoretically World of Trouble should have no issues handling a potentially yielding turf course today at Churchill. His trainer, Jason Servis, has posted some remarkable stats in recent years. Among them: over the past four years, when sending out last out winners that are running in turf sprints following layoffs of 45-60 days, Servis boasts a remarkable 40% win rate along with a $3.39 R.O.I. Additionally, over the past three years, Servis has done well when shipping in runners to race, having won 32% of his last 391 starts. Irad Ortiz will get the call to ride today and he has not only been really good when racing on grass this year (23% win rate) but also over the past 60 days when riding for Servis, he has won with 43% of his last 28 mounts. World of Trouble appears to be the one to beat in this race, but beware as he will likely be heavily bet down from his 6-1 ML odds.
(9) Stormy Liberal: Also one of three runners in this field for trainer Peter Miller, last year’s winner of this race and a six year old son of Stormy Atlantic, Stormy Liberal ships in today from California looking to defend his title. He is coming into this race in excellent form having won his last three turf efforts out West (pay no attention to the deceivingly narrow margins of victory in each of those races as Van Dyke was not forcing his charge in any of those starts). Stormy Liberal has finished in the exacta in five of six races this year, but even in the races he did not win, he still ran quite well. Additionally, over the course of his career, Stormy Liberal is a perfect three for three at today’s distance of five and a half furlongs.
Stormy Liberal’s running style is that of a pace stalker with some versatility as to where he can be positioned but he has shown that he is somewhat dependent upon a strong initial pace up front in order to have a chance at closing late. The biggest question in this race for him is his form over ground with substantial give in it as the last time he encountered ground with any sort of give in it was back in March in Dubai when he ran over a good rated turf course. Thus it is really unknown as to how exactly he will handle an even softer going today. Additionally, the trip that he pulled off last year to win this race will likely not get the job done today especially considering that the rail he rode last year boasts incredibly soft ground this year and runners were steering well clear of it on Friday. Over the past three year’s trainer Peter Miller has returned last out winners back to the winner’s circle at a 24% rate and finished in the money 53% of the time all from 417 starts. In addition, Stormy Liberal will have jockey Drayden Van Dyke aboard once again today. Van Dyke has been winning turf races at an 18% rate this year. It would be somewhat of a surprise to see Stormy Liberal win this race today, and he certainly won’t be doing it at 30-1 odds like he did last year, though there is the distinct possibility he can hit the board and at a fair price.
(1) Ruby Notion: Trainer Darrin Miller sends out this five year old daughter of Great Notion today and she will be facing as major class test in that not only does she meet male runners for the first time but also this will be her first attempt in a Grade 1 level race. Over the course of her career she has run decently at this distance, having finished in the trifecta in six of ten attempts at five and a half furlongs. However, since Miller took over her training, she has really blossomed as a turf runner, culminating with victory in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint Stakes (G3T) back in September over six and a half furlongs. Additionally, she posted a 109 BSR in a $200K listed stakes race over a soft rated turf course at Saratoga back in July and that speed figure is actually the highest in the entire field at this distance. If she can find a way to come close to that figure once again, she will be a major contender in this race.
Ruby Notion’s running style is somewhat adaptable as she has demonstrated that she can run well whilst rating just off of the pace as well as closing from further back. She should be able to get a decent trip in this race with Geroux aboard as she can save some ground having been drawn to the far inside with all of the early speed runners to her outside; however, she will likely need to avoid the rail as the ground along it is incredibly soft due to the heavy rains earlier this week and because that portion of the turf course has been unused since the middle of the summer. A turf course with significant give in the ground should not present any issues for her as this year she has demonstrated that she can handle softer ground conditions. Although Darrin Miller has not had many runners over the past three years, his numbers when returning trainees to racing off of layoffs of 45-90 days (17% win rate) and when returning last out winners back to the winner’s circle (17% win rate) are actually pretty good. Additionally, Florent Geroux has the mount once again and he has been quite good with P-type horses such as Ruby Notion as over the past year he has been winning with that type of horse at an 18% rate. Finally, there is a definite possibility that Ruby Notion could be overlooked on the toteboard today and if she remains around her ML odds of 20-1, she will offer excellent value for inclusion as an underneath in exotics.
There were a number of worthy candidates that qualified as potential underneath plays in this race but ultimately the (2) Bucchero received that honor. A six year old son of Kantharos and two time winner of the Grade 2 Woodford Stakes at Keeneland, today marks the final start in a long and illustrious career for this gritty Indiana-bred trained by Tim Glyshaw and owned by Ironhorse Racing Stable. Following this race, regardless of the outcome, Bucchero will be heading down to Florida to take up stud duty. In last year’s Woodford, Bucchero stunned the racing world, scoring a victory at upset odds of nearly 27-1 and since then his career has just taken off. He has finished in the trifecta in eight of thirteen lifetime attempts at the distance, has hit the board in three out of four races when making his third start off of a layoff, and has finished third twice over this course at Churchill Downs. An off rated turf should not bother him, he has a good tactical gear, and provided Fernando De La Cruz can give him a good clean trip (Bucchero seems to have a knack for getting into trouble in nearly every start), then he certainly can be in contention as the field turns for home. Bucchero has garnered the reputation of a fan favorite so provided he is not too heavily bet down in this race, he will offer great value playing in all levels of exotic wagers.
Saturday November 3rd: Race 7 at Churchill Downs. The $2,000,000 Grade 1 TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint, run at six furlongs on the dirt, for three year olds and upward. (Post Time: 2:46 PM EDT)
(9) Roy H: The barn of trainer Peter Miller sends out this six year old son of More Than Ready looking to defend his title as last year’s winner of this race. While history has not been on the side of repeat winners in this race (over the past five years, just one runner has followed up a victory with an on the board effort and that horse finished third), Roy H does appear to be coming into this race following a prep pattern similar to what he employed last year that garnered him the victory in this race. Over the course of his career, Roy H has finished in the exacta in seven of eight attempts at six furlongs and he has also hit the board in all four of his races this year. Moreover, the Miller trainee is also two for three when making his second start off of a layoff and most importantly as he has drawn the far outside post today for this race, Roy H has won three of four starts when breaking from the far outside. If the 105 BSR he posted in his last out effort in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) is indeed accurate, then it appears that Roy H is coming into this race in near peak form and if he can go forward from that last outing, then he will be especially dangerous today.
There is a lot of good early speed entered here, namely in the form of rivals Promises Fulfilled, Imperial Hint and Roy H’s stablemate Distinctive B. With regards to Distinctive B in this race, it appears that he has been entered in to try and help soften up whichever horse or horses attempt to take the lead and hopefully allow Roy H to get an ideal pace set up such that he can close well and take over the race in its latter stages. Roy H’s running style is fairly versatile but if he encounters a fast pace today, he will likely be taken back after the break and rate just behind the leaders. Additionally, due to the fact that all of the early speed in this race has drawn to Roy H’s inside, his jockey, Paco Lopez, appears to have several options with regards to how he can position his mount in order to give him the best trip possible. Another indication that Roy H is coming into this race ready to fire off a massive effort is the incredibly sharp effort he ran over the training track at San Luis Rey back on October 23rd. Over the past three years Miller has done very well with runners making their second start off of a layoff as he has been winning under those conditions at a 25% rate. Additionally Lopez has posted a 22% win rate in sprint races this year. Ultimately while there are others who deservingly have excellent chances at winning this race, Roy H gets top billing here as he offers more value and is less suspect than Imperial Hint and should get an excellent set up in this race that will allow him to repeat as the Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion.
(2) Promises Fulfilled: Ever since trainer Dale Romans decided to cut this son of Shackleford back to sprints, Promises Fulfilled has arguably become the best three year old dirt sprinter in the country. He has proven himself going six furlongs as he is a perfect two for two at the distance and although his only win over the main track at Churchill Downs came back in his first career effort when he broke his maiden, he did demonstrate that he can handle the surface. Additionally, he has finished in the money in five of his seven starts this year including three straight graded stakes victories since July all while sprinting. Although his speed figures at the distance are a notch or two below those of his older, more experienced rivals in this field, Promises Fulfilled could still be improving and a forward move speed figure wise is not outside of the realm of possibility in this race today.
The TimeForm Pace Projector has indicated that Promises Fulfilled will likely go straight to the lead today, provided he breaks well, as he is extremely fast. Yet it is also quite likely that he will be harried by at least one other runner if not more as rivals Imperial Hint and Distinctive B also have very good early speed. Now there is a clear possibility that if Promises Fulfilled can somehow withstand the pressure he will be facing from those other forwardly placed runners, that he could very well kick away from them and make it quite difficult for them to catch him down the stretch. Promises Fulfilled’s last several works have gone quite well and have been fairly sharp so that should serve as a good indication that he is coming into this race in good form despite this being the eighth start of his three year old campaign. Over the past three years, Dale Romans has won with 18% of his sprinters running in 474 races while jockey Luis Saez has posted a 19% win rate in sprint races this year. As Promises Fulfilled is the co-third choice on the ML at 6-1, he may offer up some value playing in all positions in exotics, provided he is not over-bet.
(1) Whitmore: This five year old son of Pleasantly Perfect comes into this race for trainer Ron Moquett following a narrow loss to Promises Fulfilled in the Phoenix Stakes (G2) at Keeneland last month. In that effort, while he did post a career best 103 BSR for six furlongs, he had every chance to run down Promises Fulfilled in the stretch but just was unable to get up at the wire. Part of the reasoning for that may have been due to the fact that he was a bit closer to the pace than he might have normally preferred and this could have sapped his stamina just a bit. Yet over the course of his career, Whitmore has proven himself to be a hard hitter who shows up and runs every race, demonstrated by his record of 13-9-2-1 over six furlongs and his having finished in the exacta in six of his seven starts this year.
Whitmore’s usual running style is that of a pace-stalker or mid-pack closer and it is this versatility that makes him a threat in this race given the projected fast pace scenario; it is quite likely that if this race sets up well for him, Whitmore will be flying late as the field turns for home. Whitmore’s last two works, both over four furlongs on the Churchill main track, have been phenomenally sharp and this should help alleviate some of the concerns about him handling this surface (as he has won just once in three previous tries at Churchill). Moquett over the past three years has done decently in both sprint races (14% win rate from 1110 starts) and with runners racing on dirt (14% win rate from 1593 starts). Additionally, Ricardo Santana who has been aboard Whitmore for every one of his starts this year returns to ride again today and he has posted a 20% win rate in sprint races this year. At 6-1, Whitmore potentially could be overlooked on the toteboard and certainly could hit the board today thus meriting his use as a possible value play in exotic wagers.
If someone were to look up the definition of a “horse for course”, he or she would likely find a picture of (8) Limousine Liberal under the heading for Churchill Downs. This six year old son of Successful Appeal, trained by Ben Colebrook, has over the course of his career posted a remarkable record of 8-6-1-0 under the Twin Spires. Additionally, he boasts a record of 10 for 12 in finishing in the trifecta for six furlongs, although he may be better going slightly longer. The trip he endured in his last out race, the Phoenix Stakes (G2) at Keeneland last month was absolutely horrendous and likely cost him the race. However, despite that troubled stretch run, he was only beaten by half a length and still managed to post a career best 102 BSR for six furlongs. Additionally, there is the possibility that he could be coming into this race a bit under the radar despite having hit the board in all six of his efforts against Graded Stakes company this year. Limousine Liberal’s running style is that of a mid-pack closer and should he encounter a fast pace today there is a definite chance that he can run well once again and will likely find himself in contention late in the race. Over the course of his career, Limousine Liberal has handled everything that has been thrown at him – whether it has been fast goings, off tracks, rider changes, etc – and today should prove no different. Jose Ortiz gets the call to ride today and thus far this year he has been winning sprint races at an 18% rate. It is doubtful that Limousine Liberal wins this one but he is an incredibly consistent runner, he’s racing over his favorite surface, and he should offer some value on the toteboard, so he certainly is worth inclusion as an underneath play in any and all exotic wagers for this race.