The Breeders’ Cup World Championships head to Keeneland in 2022, with Saturday’s betting card featuring nine championship races, including the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. I’ll break down each race and offer some betting advice with predictions for every race.
Filly and Mare Sprint
The card starts with a full 14 horse field. Unlike last year where Gamine looked like a standout in a short field, this year’s field has the full 14 horse complement, including a Japanese horse. Ce Ce, last year’s winner who beat Edgeway and Gamine in an upset, is back and comes off an impressive win in a Grade 3 race in California. She had three good and three poor performances since last year’s win. Edgeway has had three wins in 4 races since, including a win at Del Mar in her last race, recording a very average Beyer figure. She was soundly beaten at Churchill Downs in May by Obligatory, who in turn was well beaten by the morning line favorite Goodnight Olive in the Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga in August. Goodnight Olive posted a fast 102 Beyer figure in the field in that race and has recorded five straight wins including an 8-length maiden victory at Keeneland in October of 2021. Echo Zulu returns to the Breeders’ Cup after soundly defeating a good field last year in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She disappointed in the Kentucky Oaks but bounced back with a solid win at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes in very good time. The outside post shouldn’t be an issue in the sprint race. Wicked Halo has won four races in a row and can’t be discounted, while Frank’s Rockette has the best Beyer in the field at 104 when defeating lesser horses at Charles Town, and while his Beyers are good, he appears to be a bit outclassed. Slammed looks like a contender, but the rail will be an issue as she will likely have to go right to the lead or be trapped inside. The Japanese horse Chain of Love also looks outclassed.
Filly and Mare Sprint Prediction: Winner: Echo Zulu (6/1). 2nd Choice: Goodnight Olive (3/1) Long Shot Possibility: Slammed (15/1)
Golden Pal, last year’s winner of this race, will try and win three Breeders’ Cup races in a row. Wesley Ward already said that this will be the horse’s last race as he will be retired to stud. The horse has won three races since, but had a sound defeat at Ascot. It’s clear the horse doesn’t like racing overseas as he is 0 for 3 in England, but he looks the horse to beat here. Casa Creed appears to be Golden Pal’s biggest North American challenger as he won two races rather easily in New York before faltering in the Turf Handicap at Keeneland to finish fifth. There’s no question that the 5 ½ furlong distance of this race suits him better than a mile. There are several European horses that can challenge Golden Pal. Highfield Princess has won 3 straight Group 1 races throughout Europe on different footings and has earned very high Timeform figures in the process. She was beaten by Naval Crown and Creative Force in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes at Ascot, but Naval Crown has not impressed in recent races and Creative Force has only run so-so in two races since, but is owned by Godolphin and ridden by William Buick, so can’t be counted out. Bran and Arrest Me Red could be serious threats if the pace is fast and neither Emaraaty Ana nor Campanelle can be counted out either.
Turf Sprint Prediction: Winner: Golden Pal (2/1). 2nd Choice: Highfield Princess (7/2) Long Shot Possibility: Arrest Me Red (15/1)
Unlike last year when Life is Good was a lock, this year’s race is wide open with 11 runners. Cody’s Wish comes into the race on a three-race winning streak, including a resounding win at the Forego Stakes at Saratoga where he recorded a very impressive 112 Beyer rating. Gunite has won 4 of the last five, including a stakes race at Keeneland, and his only loss was to superstar Jack Christopher in a race he may have upset the winner if not for a bad bobble at the start. Laurel River has three impressive wins in a row in California, including a huge win at 7 furlongs in the Pat O’Brien Handicap, recording a 108 Beyer rating. He is a Bob Baffert trainee and the the Juddmonte Farms’ owned horse is undefeated at the one mile distance. It will be interesting to see the reception Baffert is given in Kentucky as this will be his first race back since he was suspended. Cyberknife seems to be the only other real threat. The horse was trounced in the Kentucky Derby but won the Haskell and finished third at the Travers Stakes. He is cutting back to a mile here, but given his running style that shouldn’t be too big a concern. Pipeline is given a chance at the morning line but I think the distance is too far for him.
Dirt Mile Prediction: Winner: Laurel River (9/2). 2nd Choice: Cody’s Wish (5/2) Long Shot Possibility: None
Filly and Mare Turf
This is an intriguing race with a few good North American horses and a few good Europeans. From the North American side, the favorite is In Italian, which despite the name has run exclusively in the United States. The horse has run only on turf and has recorded two impressive wire-to-wire wins at Saratoga and Keeneland, recording Beyer figures over 100 in both. Virginia Joy was running in Germany but moved to New York and has run some good races including a well-earned win in the Flower Bowl Handicap. Rougir was running in France, but ran this race last year finishing seventh and has run exclusively in North America since. Most recently Rougir made a big late move to win the EP Taylor Stakes at Woodbine. Moira was running in the Canadian Triple Crown series and won both the Woodbine Oaks and Queen’s Plate before deciding to try the grass in the EP Taylor Stakes. She had a troubled race but still charged to finish second, albeit disqualified from that position as the race favorite. Her connections may have been smarter to run her in the Distaff. On the European side, Nashwa appears the best of the lot. She has four wins in 6 races in 2022, including big wins in England and France. Most recently she barely lost on a soft turf course in the Prix De L’Opera at Longchamp on Arc Day as the favorite. She did beat Above the Curve in that race, a horse with three wins in five races this year. The other horse that seems intriguing is Tuesday, who beat Nashwa in the Epsom Oaks. She clearly needs firmer ground to have a legitimate chance.
Juvenile Fillies Turf Prediction: Winner: In Italian (7/2). Second Choice: Nashwa (5/2). Long Shot Possibility: Moira (10/1)
Jackie’s Warrior returns as the 4/5 morning line having won four out of 5 races this year, with the only loss being his last time out in the Forego to Cody’s Wish, who is favored in the Dirt Mile. The horse was a massive 1/2 favorite in the Sprint last year but faded badly and ended up losing to Aloha West, who is returning to defend his title. Jackie’s Warrior also was heavily favored in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2020 but tired and finished 4th to Essential Quality. No doubt bettors will be concerned at his lack of Breeders’ Cup success. Aloha West only ran three times since the win last year and finished third to Jackie’s Warrior and fourth to Frontline, who will be the heavy favorite in the Classic, but won his last race in a minor stakes race. Kimari comes off two straight wins against the girls, recording the second best Beyer figures behind Jackie’s Warrior. Elite Power enters having won four races in a row, including the Grade 2 Vosburgh most recently while recording a good Beyer figure. And American Theorem seems to be an upset chance, having run second to Laurel River last time out in California who I picked to win the Dirt Mile. Prior to that American Theorem won the Bing Crosby Stakes recording an impressive 104 Beyer figure.
Sprint Prediction: Winner: Jackie’s Warrior (4/5). Second Choice: Aloha West (12/1). Long Shot Possibility: American Theorem (10/1)
This race is usually dominated by the Europeans and there are six Europeans and eight North American horses in the race. The top European horse, Modern Games won the Juvenile Turf last year in what turned out to be a snafu. The horse trotted out of the gate after Albahr flipped in the starting gate and had to be scratched. Modern Games, whose stall was next to Albahr, trotted out of the gate and was inadvertently scratched by the stewards. The horse was fine, however, so he was allowed to race for purse money only. He made a huge stretch run and won going away. Since that race he won the French Guineas, the Woodbine Mile and was second in the Queen Elizabeth II race at Ascot recording a 118 Timeform figure. He also had a 112 Beyer figure in the Woodbine Mile, a race he won by 5 lengths. The 3 year-old Godolphin horse, ridden by William Buick, should go off as the favorite. Dreamloper beat Order of Australia by five lengths in France in his last race in September, recording a 123 Timeform rating. In his two prior races to that he struggled at longer distances. Kinross has won four straight Group 1 and Group 2 races and has Frankie Dettori as the jockey. He is stretching out an extra furlong for this but his running style suggests he should handle it. Order of Australia was a shock winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland in 2020, but has struggled of late, losing to Modern Games, Dreamloper and Annapolis. The latter horse has won two straight races, including the Keeneland Turf Mile, which got him a spot in this race. Regal Glory has had four consecutive races with Beyer figures over 100 and most recently lost to In Italian and Casa Creed who both are favorites in earlier races. Prior to that, Regal Glory won four straight races in three different states. Domestic Spending loves to charge in the stretch, but likely will prefer a longer distance, plus he hasn’t run since 2021. His workouts of late have been great however. Ivar, Smooth Like Strait and Pogo can’t be totally discounted either.
Mile Prediction: Winner: Kinross (9/2). Second Choice: Regal Glory (6/1). Long Shot Possibility: Pogo (20/1)
Malathaat was my pick in this race last year and the horse likely could have won, if not for a bump at the beginning. She was charging through the stretch and only lost by a half length. Since then, she has three wins and two seconds in 5 starts, including most recently a win in the Spinster Stakes at this distance at Keeneland. Her biggest handicap may be the number 1 post position. Clairiere beat Malathaat twice before losing badly to her and Search Results in the Personal Ensign Stakes. She has been resting since that race in August and has been training well. Search Results has raced against Malathaat a few times and has been right there at the end only to finish second each time. Nest finished second in both the Kentucky Oaks and Belmont Stakes and has recorded three very impressive wins against the girls in New York since. She has the most consistent Beyer figures in the race. Society has two impressive wins at Charles Town and Parx, but was trounced by Nest in the CCA Oaks and is likely a step behind these.
Distaff Prediction: Winner: Nest (9/5). Second Choice: Clairiere (4/1). Long Shot Possibility: None
Another race dominated by the Europeans, Rebel’s Romance is the morning line favorite. The Godolphin horse has won four straight races in England and Germany, recording a 120 Timeform figure for each. Prior to that he was running in Dubai with mixed results. There is no question he is better suited to turf. William Buick has chosen to ride Godolphin’s other horse, Nations Pride. The 3 year-old did well in lesser races in England before getting trounced in the Epsom Derby. He has since won three straight races in the United States, including a 6 length win in a Grade 3 race last time with Frankie Dettori aboard. The Beyer figures, however, were nothing spectacular. Mishriff has been running against the best horses in Europe but hasn’t won in over a year and has had some poor races mixed in as well including an 18 length loss in the Arc de Triomphe. He clearly needs a firmer turf. Broome barely lost this race last year to Yibir, but he was also beaten after bobbling at the start in the Sword Dancer Stakes this year. Other than an impressive win in a Group 2 race at Ascot, he has shown little. War Like Goddess seems to be the best chance for the North American side. She finished third, beaten a half length in the Fillies and Mares Breeders’ Cup race last year and this year she’s recorded three wins and a neck loss in 4 races, including a very impressive win in the Turf Classic Invitational last time out at Aqueduct.
Turf Prediction: Winner: Rebel’s Romance (3/1). Second Choice: War Like Goddess (9/2). Long Shot Possibility: Broome (12/1)
All eyes for this race will be focused on Flightline. Many experts feel that this horse may be the best North American horse since Secretariat, if not the best horse ever. The horse is 5 for 5. He won his maiden in California last year by 13 lengths in a time that would have competed with the best sprinters in the country, recording a 105 Beyer figure. He followed that up with a 13 length win in Allowance company at Del Mar in a faster time, recording a 114 speed figure and finished the year with an 11 length win in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita despite a poor start and recorded at 118 Beyer figure. He started this year with a six-length win in the Metropolitan Handicap in New York despite a slow start, recording a 112 Beyer figure and most recently he won the Pacific Handicap at Del Mar by over 19 lengths recording a time of 1:59 1/5, just over a second off the world record time for a mile and a quarter set in 1979 by Spectacular Bid. He was bumped at the start and was eased up at the end by Flavien Prat. Had he raced all out there is every reason to believe he would have set the new record. In that race he got a Beyer figure of 126. In Longine’s World’s Best racehorse rankings just released, Flightline was given a ranking of 139 which is the second highest figure ever given only behind the undefeated European superstar Frankel, who recorded a 140. He is four points better than European superstar Baeed. Since each ranking represents a length, Longines rates him 14 lengths ahead of Epicenter and Life Is Good who are the second and third choices in this race. Life is Good won the Dirt Mile impressively last year and has 8 wins in 10 races with losses only to Jackie’s Warrior last year and a fourth place finish in the Dubai World Cup earlier this year. In that race, Hot Rod Charlie finished second. Life is Good has won three straight races in New York and will be on the lead here, but the loss in Dubai suggests a mile and quarter may not be a distance he can handle. Epicenter finished second in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and ran away with the Travers, suggesting he is the best 3 year old in the country. Olympiad won the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but was beaten soundly by Life is Good before that. Rich Strike produced a shocking win in the Kentucky Derby but has done little besides that, although he was closing well in his last race. Taiba has run some good races for Bob Baffert but appears to be a step behind these and has the rail.
Classic Prediction: Winner: Flightline (3/5). Second Choice: Epicenter (5/1). Long Shot Possibility: None
Read insights from Hartley Henderson every month here at GamblersWORLD!