Alex Hammond thinks Secret Circle, Sea Moon and Daddy Long Legs could shine at the Breeders' Cup.
Last Updated: 04/11/11 12:44pm
We go from the best of the Southern Hemisphere racing to the best from North America this weekend with the Breeders' Cup meeting at Churchill Downs on Friday and Saturday.
Let's have a spin through the races and highlight the horses to watch in the 28th running of this racing extravaganza...
Breeders' Cup Friday: Gosden plots elusive Fillies strike
The Juvenile Sprint (Dirt) kicks things off Stateside and Secret Circle looks hard to beat here. Bob Baffert's colt is unbeaten in two starts and is 4/5 with Sky Bet to make it three wins. British interest comes from Brian Meehan's Shumoos (11/1) who was second in the Queen Mary and won a Group Three at Kempton on her penultimate start.
The second race on Friday is the Juvenile Fillies Turf (1m) and there is a very strong chance of this one heading back to the UK as John Gosden's Elusive Kate is Sky Bet's 5/2 favourite. She deserves to be, too, not only is she trained by a man with a huge amount of experience of US racing, but she has won her last four starts culminating in a Group One win in the Prix Marcel Boussac on Arc day at Longchamp. She is top class.
Moving onto the Filly and Mare Sprint over seven furlongs on the dirt. No British interest in this one and Switch at 4/1 may be the value against 7/4 favourite Turbulent Descent. John Sadler's four- year-old should be suited by the return to seven furlongs and it's worth taking a chance on her going one better than her second in this last year.
The Juvenile Fillies looks top notch with three recent Grade One winners lining up. My Miss Aurelia is 9/4 market leader, Grace Hall 4/1 and Wemissfrankie an 11/2 shot. Steve Asmussen trains the favourite and she looked very impressive when winning her Grade One at Belmont last time out. I'm going with her.
There is plenty of European interest in Friday's feature, the Filly & Mare Turf. Stacelita (3/1 favourite) no longer represents France, she is now in the care of Chad Brown after moving across the Atlantic in the summer. She is the winner of four Group Ones in France and has done well since her move winning two Grade Ones, including the Beverely D Stakes.
Frankie Dettori has the plum ride on Nahrain (4/1) for Roger Varian. It's been an outstanding first year with a licence for the rookie trainer who took over from the late, great Michael Jarvis in the spring. What a way this would be to arrive on the world stage if this filly were to win. She is unbeaten in four starts and won the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp last time out.
Andre Fabre sends Announce over from France, she is closely matched with Nahrain as she was touched off a nose in the Prix de l'Opera - she's 5/1. Dubawi Heights is 7/1 along with Misty For Me. The latter is interesting for Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore - albeit from the widest draw. The step back up in trip will be right up her street, she beat Midday in the Pretty Polly over a mile and a quarter. She could be the each-way value.
Finally on Friday it's the Ladies Classic over nine furlongs on the dirt. Gerard Butler has the only chance of taking this prize back to the UK with Pachattack - a 16/1 chance with Sky Bet. There is no standout performer in this race and Plum Pretty is 9/4 favourite for Bob Baffert. Royal Delta is next best for Bill Mott at 3/1 and I think he can get a third win in this race.
Breeders' Cup Saturday: 13/8 Goldikova a steal for Mile Queen
Moving on to the feature day on Saturday and the Marathon gets things underway. Meeznah (7/1) won the Fillies' Leger (Park Hill) at Doncaster on her penultimate start so the trip holds no fears, but she has to adapt to dirt and that makes David Lanigan's filly opposable. A U Miner is the 100/30 favourite and will appreciate the step up in trip. Brigantin is the horse I'm most interested in. He is trained by the master trainer Andre Fabre and at 7/1 looks the value. The form that jumps out at you is his short head defeat of subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden at Longchamp in May (two miles). He ran well in the two-and-a-half-mile Prix du Cadran last time out and drops in trip here.
The Juvenile Turf is a race European horses have a good record in. State of Play (USA) is the 9/2 favourite after winning both his starts on turf and steps up in class. Finale has been on a roll since switching to turf for last year's winning trainer Todd Pletcher. I like 7/1 shot Farraaj, though, he is another leading contender for Roger Varian and I think he has another great chance here. The form of his recent Newmarket second looks strong with the third running well in the Group One Racing Post Trophy. He'll do for me.
Big Drama is going for back-to-back wins in the Sprint for David Fawkes. He broke well and won as he liked last year from stall one but has to come out of eight this time around. He has only run twice since his win here last year and I think he will win again - he is 3/1.
The Turf Sprint once again is without British interest. Havelock is the 4/1 favourite and the same comment applies for the Dirt Mile whose market is headed by Wilburn at 7/2 - the second favourite The Factor has been supported and is now 4/1.
Moving onto the Breeders' Cup Turf and there is plenty to get excited about here. Sarafina is the 5/2 favourite. She finished seventh in the Arc for Alain de Royer Dupre, a race she was sent off favourite for. Sir Michael Stoute would no doubt love a Breeders' Cup winner to turn his season around and Leger third Sea Moon is the 4/1 second favourite. There has to be a concern that the fast turf won't suit him as well as some of the others.
Aidan O'Brien's Await The Dawn is next best at 5/1, the same price as Sir Henry Cecil's Midday. O'Brien also has St Nicholas Abbey - an 11/2 chance. Await the Dawn is a horse I like in this race although he ran below his best when last seen in the Juddmonte International.
He was being touted as a Breeders' Cup Classic horse earlier in the season, but conditions here suit him well. Midday has settled in well to her surroundings and runs in this race rather than the Filly & Mare Turf which she won in 2009. For me this is between Sea Moon and Await the Dawn. The former has the assistance of Ryan Moore as he has been claimed by Sir Michael Stoute who knows what it takes to win this race.
If Aidan O'Brien is without a winner at this stage, I think he could chalk one up in the Juvenile. Daddy Long Legs is a horse I really fancied when he ran in the Champagne Stakes. He disappointed at Doncaster but looked smart when winning the Royal Lodge. Although his form to date doesn't scream 'world beater', this is what he was bred for. His all-American pedigree should mean that the switch to dirt is just what he wants and I hope he runs a big race - Sky Bet have him at 8/1 behind Union Rags who is the 2/1 favourite for Michael Matz.
Goldikova runs her last race in the Breeders' Cup Mile and I think she has a great chance of going out on a high. Sky Bet have her as their 13/8 favourite and I think that's too good to resist. The vibes are good coming out of the Hannon camp - they are responsible for Strong Suit (4/1). I feel a fairytale in my bones though and think this superb mare can win her 15th race at the highest level. She may not quite be the force of old, but she may not need to be.
Strong Suit has been moving well since he arrived in the States, but I think over a mile (and this will be his best chance to stay the mile) he is opposable against this mare. Goldikova's trainer Freddy Head said this week that the mare is in the same form as she was last year when winning her third consecutive Mile and she could be odds on in America - 13/8? Yes please!
To the finale then, and the Breeders' Cup Classic. So You Think is Europe's best chance of a winner for Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore and is 9/2 joint second favourite for the mile and a quarter dirt Grade One.
Dirt could be a dirty word though as the former Australian Superstar isn't certain to act on the surface. He will wear the blinkers for the first time which is something more commonly done in the US. Uncle Mo is the 100/30 favourite despite doubts over his stamina for the race. He was brilliant in the Juvenile last year but could be stretched here. Maybe Havre De Grace at 9/2 could be the call. She is an improving four-year-old and may give the boys a hard time here. Flat Out is an 11/2 chance and conditions are ideal for him. Todd Pletcher who trains Uncle Mo also has Stay Thirsty and he could be the each way bet in the Classic at 14/1.Check out the Breeders' Cup specials from Sky Bet
Fortune to shine on Son off low weight in November Handicap
Closer to home and the domestic flat season ends on Saturday. Doncaster's feature race is the November Handicap. Mick Channon's Montaff is top weight in this and is a 33/1 shot to overcome that. Willing Foe is 13/2 favourite for Saeed bin Suroor who also saddles Burj Nahar (20/1). The former has had a successful season this time last year with three wins under his belt. However, he has just had the one spin this time round and should be sharper for his fourth at Newbury on his first start since being gelded.
John Dunlop won the race last year with Times Up and this time round runs Harlestone Times who is 16s. Roger Varian has a couple of chances in Kentucky but closer to home Pekan Star flies the flag for his Kremlin House stables (he is 11/1). John Gosden runs Zuider Zee - a 12/1 chance. Alan King has his team of horses in good form and of his two in this, I like Samsons Son who is right at the bottom of the weights. At 12/1 I think he's worth a punt because he will enjoy conditions at Doncaster and has the assistance of Jimmy Fortune which is always a bonus. He comes here in good form having won at Goodwood last time out.
All Sky Bet prices quoted for Alex's Breeders' Cup selections (in bold) correct at time of posting.