Finding Longshots at the Breeders' Cup
T.O. Whenham of Doc's Sports Picks
The Breeders' Cup is heaven for everyone who likes to play the ponies. The prices are better than you see any other day of the year - the average win ticket pays $25. It's also a perfect day for longshot hunters. With full fields of 14 expected in seven of the eight races there will be 10 or more legitimate longshots in each race. The class of horses is so high that there are very few horses on the card that can be ruled out entirely. That makes handicapping a real challenge, but it's a rewarding and potentially lucrative challenge.
Everyone will have their own longshots that they are loyal to. Here are four that I have my eye on:
Miesque's Approval, Mile - Despite the perceived power of the Europeans in this race, seven of the last ten Mile winners have been American. Miesque's Approval fits that bill. No horse is better bred for the race, either - his sire's dam, Miesque, won the race twice. He is going to be discarded by many after a fourth place finish in his last race, the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland, but I am willing to completely discard that race. The horse is based in Florida, and his flight to Kentucky for the race broke down twice and took almost four times as long as it should have. That's a lot of stress for a horse to overcome, and he clearly didn't. Before that outing, Miesque's Approval had won three in a row on the grass, including a great win in the Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap on the same Churchill turf he will face in the Mile. He's only finished off the board once this year, and he is working well. Winning is admittedly an outside chance, but Miesque's Approval is an old brawler who could very well fight his way into the exotics.
Too Much Bling, Sprint - I admittedly have a weakness for Bob Baffert, but regardless this horse deserves a look if the price is right. The Sprint is likely to offer great value beyond the top horses, because both Henny Hughes and Bordonaro come into the race off incredible preps that will draw piles of money their way. This is not a race for favorites, though - only five have won in 22 tries. The three-year-old Too Much Bling has won four of five this year. The sole loss was a second to Songster, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Bettors may be scared off by the fact that the horse hasn't run since July 15, but he's been healthy and training well since then, so he comes into the race well rested. History has shown in the Sprint that long layoffs are not a problem. Several winners were out of action since the summer before their victory. The horse knows how to win, so Too Much Bling will look good if the value is right.
Round Pond, Distaff - This is another race that will provide value because Fleet Indian is likely to be a solid favorite, and the field is deep. To get value in this race you need to find a way to get Fleet Indian, who hasn't lost in eight starts, beat. For the right price I am willing to consider that Round Pond is a good choice to do so. She was third to Fleet Indian and Balletto in the Beldame in her last start after setting the pace early. She struggled with her health before that race, however, and she missed a couple of works. There is no way, then, that she was fully fit for the Beldame. Since then she has been working great and will be ready for the Distaff. Fleet Indian has shown that she will fight hard to win, but she will be targeted in this race and could run into some traffic. A horse that can stay clear of that trouble could be rewarded.
Film Maker, Filly & Mare Turf - This race is as wide open as any on the card. Ouija Board, who has a first and a second in the last two runnings of this race, is the likely favorite, but several other top contenders won't be in the field. Gorella, the monster of the division, is likely heading to the Mile instead, and the undefeated but inexperienced Vacare is staying on the sidelines. One horse that will get some attention, especially since she is trained by Todd Pletcher, is Honey Ryder, the recent winner of the Flower Bowl. She's a solid horse, but for my money Film Maker is a very similar betting proposition and she will come in at a much more attractive price. She was a close second to Honey Ryder in the Flower Bowl. She had two starts before that this year - a win in the All Along stakes and a second in the Beverly D. In the latter, she ran into some serious traffic at the top of the stretch and Gorella was able to get away from her. Last year she was third in this same race despite a bad stumble early on. That was her second straight in-the-money result in the Filly & Mare Turf, and for the right price I would happily bet that she will add a third.
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