Spring Venture (above) has been impressive in three victories at Woodbine and looks dangerous in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). (Photo by Michael Burns/WEG)
I vividly remember following the Breeders’ Cup as a young, burgeoning racing fan (read – obsessed child), being fascinated with Sheikh Albadou’s longshot win in the Sprint (sounded exotic to me as a middle schooler), Arazi’s mind-blowing Juvenile performance, and in later years, crushed by Swain’s constant drift in a memorable Classic. While the Kentucky Derby (G1) is a massive singular event, the Breeders’ Cup gives fans of all ages a chance to latch on and ride an incredible wave for hours – and now, two full days.
The stories told in this blog are often a product of the data, and in this year’s case, the data from many of the juvenile prep races offer the most interesting storylines. Below, a review of some of that key data and an opinion on how that data could translate into Breeders’ Cup betting opportunities. Good luck and enjoy!
Juvenile (Dirt, Turf, Sprint)
It was difficult to not look at the Trakus data following the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland Race Course and dream of what might be for some of the under-placers going forward. Joha drew the rail that day, grabbed the early lead under Rajiv Maragh, and never looked back. Specifically, Joha covered 77 feet less than second-place finisher Dynamic Sky and 83 feet less than sixth-placer Hightail. Restated, Dynamic Sky covered the equivalent of about nine lengths more than Joha, while Hightail covered just short of ten lengths more. Meanwhile, both Dynamic Sky and Hightail recorded the second fastest final furlongs of an otherwise even-paced affair, coming home in 12.69 seconds each.
Joha drew post ten for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), and is almost assured to lose more ground over the mile trip in that race than in his Keeneland victory. Dynamic Sky is just one of nine in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), drawn in post six. On the surface, the Mark Casse trainee stands to cover a shorter trip given that draw. Hightail, who cuts back in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, breaks from the rail and probably will sit well off the early gallop, facing a trip that is meaningfully more ground-saving.
Power Broker holds the mark on Trakus data. Of the 34 two-turn dirt races at Santa Anita through this current meet, Power Broker’s performance in the Frontrunner Stakes (G1) was incredibly impressive. While the final margin of victory was more than six lengths, he also covered the most ground in the field, something not accomplished by any of the other 33 winners at the meet. Adjusting for the extra ground, Power Broker’s 6 ½-length win seems more like a gaudy 10 ½-length tally factoring the ground loss.
Synopsis: Joha is a significant play against in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf given his likely trip, especially at his 6-1 morning line. Power Broker might just be a single in the pick six off his dominating performance when wide in the Frontrunner. Dynamic Sky is almost assured a better trip than he endured at Keeneland and offers value in the Juvenile at his 12-1 morning line, at least from a board-hitting perspective. Ground loss might not be a concern for Hightail, but his ability to close on the cut back could be in question.
Juvenile Fillies (Dirt and Turf)
The top four finishers from the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G3) at Keeneland all return in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), and there is no question that George Weaver trainee Summer of Fun had the worst of it then, and maybe the best of it now. Summer of Fun covered 24 feet more than winner Moonwalk and 25 feet more than Kitten’s Point, but was beaten by only a neck. She also covered 32 feet more than fourth-place finisher Oscar Party. The blanket finish was a thriller, but if you adjusted the final margins to account for the ground loss endured (and no other variables), Summer of Fun was about 2.5 lengths better than Moonwalk, 2.7 lengths better than Kitten’s Point and 3.7 lengths better than Oscar Party. Drawn in post two for her Breeders’ Cup bid, the chance for added ground saving does come into greater focus, and a 30-1 morning line invites interest.
Spring Venture caught our attention when winning her debut, with some gaudy ground coverage data, and we further explained the stark differences between the fillies in the Natalma Stakes and colts in the Summer Stakes in a previous blog.
“[Spring Venture] traversed 28 feet more than the second-place finisher Sure Would, who came back and ran 13th in the Natalma. Using the Trakus stats to adjust for added ground traveled, Spring Venture’s final official margin of 4.25 lengths seemed more like a 7.5-length tally. Nancy O, fifth in Spring Venture’s maiden score and covering 41 feet less than Spring Venture, came back to run a strong third in the Natalma, and match Spring Venture’s final eighth in 11.89 seconds.”
Perhaps most impressive was how the filly by Spring At Last re-broke past the finish line, galloping out well in advance of her competition. Second-place finisher Spring in the Air, who goes in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), came back to win the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, overcoming a wide trip on a course that rewards saving ground. Overall, Spring in the Air went 49 feet more than Broken Spell, who takes a spot in the Juvenile Fillies. While the margin of victory was just a length, when accounting for extra ground coverage relative to Broken Spell, Spring in the Air traveled an extra 5.8 lengths.
SPRING IN THE AIR
Synopsis: Spring Venture still gets massive support from the data and anything close to her 5-1 morning line is juicy. Spring in the Air ran big at Keeneland and is bred to handle the dirt, which suggests 15-1 is an overlay in the Juvenile Fillies. If you draw a line through Nancy O’s lone dirt try, and accept Summer of Fun’s ability to manage a decent trip from gate two with the razor sharp skills of Ramon Dominguez, both are with chance to run third or fourth at a monster prices in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Breeders’ Cup Mile
There is little question that if you want to win this year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), you will have to pass Obviously at some point. Unbeaten at a mile on grass since stretching out from sprints, the son of Choisir has never been headed, including a win in the Del Mar Mile Handicap (G2) and most recently, the Arroyo Seco Mile Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. Joe Talamo knows what he needs to do to get to Mike Mitchell trainee home.
While the focus for this race has rested with Wise Dan, Excelebration, Moonlight Cloud, and even 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, this compact field of nine must find the speed to keep up with Obviously. In those last two wins, Obviously has run remarkably consistent fractions, and was just off the course record last time out. In the Del Mar Mile, he actually ran a faster fourth and final quarter mile after getting a 23.64-second breather in the third quarter of the race.
Synopsis: The class is telling here, but Talamo knows the rest of the field will have to catch Obviously. Ignore this Irish-bred at your own peril.