With more than 200 horses to be pre-entered next week for the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, it’s not too soon to start studying. I suggest next Friday you pick up the Daily Racing Form Breeders’ Cup advance edition to get familiar with the fields.
I’ve already begun my handicapping, so I thought I’d share five horses I think will sneak under the radar and won’t be favored. A lot can change in two weeks, so these are merely horses to think about, not final selections.
Atta Boy Roy will be a huge long shot in the Sprint. His last race, eighth in the grassy Woodford at Keeneland, colored his otherwise fine form. He has a ton of early speed and will be ridden by Calvin Borel, the king of Churchill Downs. He also won the Churchill Downs Handicap on Kentucky Derby day.
I hope trainer Ken McPeek runs Bridgetown in the Turf Sprint. Bridgetown ran an even fifth in the Nearctic last time out but is much better than that. His top race is fast enough to envision an upset at monster odds. If McPeek uses a Churchill jockey such as Borel, Robbie Albarado or Julien Leparoux, he’ll be included on all my tickets.
It’s odd to mention Gio Ponti as a long shot in the Turf Mile, considering he won last year’s Eclipse Award as grass champ. However, Goldikova will be even money and other Euros figure to take betting, so Gio Ponti should be a mid-priced horse despite his last win in the Shadwell Mile, which was a thing of beauty.
Havre De Grace has proven herself the equal of Blind Luck, yet she figures to be no better than fourth choice in the Ladies Classic. Her stalking style is perfect regardless of the pace. Without the big mare Zenyatta, the rest of the distaff division appears evenly matched.
Finally, Stay Thirsty is a colt who will be ignored in the Juvenile behind Boys at Tosconova, Jaycito and his uncoupled stablemate, Uncle Mo. His pedigree by Bernardini out of a Storm Bird mare suggests a stamina colt and a big player in next spring’s Triple Crown. In the Breeders’ Cup, he’ll be double-digit odds.
■ ZENYATTA PROPS — John Avello is first again at Wynn Las Vegas, this time with a pair of Zenyatta Breeders’ Cup Classic head-to-head props. Zenyatta (minus-120) is favored over Blame (minus-110), then Zenyatta (minus-130) is a bigger chalk over Lookin at Lucky (even money). Avello also lists Blame (minus-140) over Quality Road (plus-110) in the Classic.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.