It's finally here, the weekend we've all been waiting for since the moment it ended at Keeneland last fall. The Paulick Report staffers are here live at Santa Anita, and we will be bringing you the latest up-to-date information and recaps of all the major races as they happen here at the Great Race Place.
The racing action kicks off early Friday afternoon with the G2 Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct for juveniles over a mile on the main track. Capitaine is the morning-line favorite in the five-horse filed off a strong maiden special weight performance.
At Santa Anita, the first graded stake on the card is the G2 Marathon, formerly called the Breeders' Cup Marathon and still run in conjunction with the Breeders' Cup races each year, over 1 3/4 miles on the main track. Ontario-bred Melmich is the top choice on the morning-line, but Scuba has been running very well on the East Coast and will be difficult to run down. Also, Hard Aces has been placed in this spot instead of contesting the Classic as he did last fall, and the last time he contested a similar marathon distance of 12 furlongs, he won easily.
The first Breeders' Cup race on Friday afternoon is the Juvenile Turf, over a mile on the grass for 2-year-olds. Oscar Performance was particularly impressive winning the G3 Pilgrim at Belmont Park, and Big Score looked good winning the local prep race under top turf rider Flavien Prat. Good Samaritan was also strong winning at Woodbine in his final prep for this race.
Up next is an exciting version of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, in which Dortmund will take on Runhappy and Gun Runner. While Dortmund has been chasing California Chrome all year, Gun Runner is one of very few 3-year-olds to have contested a Triple Crown race that is still running, and he has consistently shown up in tough company. Runhappy was unimpressive in his comeback race at a mile at Churchill Downs, and is stretching out from the Sprint champion's well-practiced six-furlong distance to a full mile. Still, the horse is talented and has proven to love Santa Anita. Tom's Ready is a solid contender though the mile might be a bit beyond his optimum, and longshot Texas Chrome has a real chance based on back-to-back gutsy wins in the Super Derby and Oklahoma Derby.
In the Juvenile Fillies Turf, 2-year-old fillies will contest a mile on Santa Anita's grass course. International shippers have brought a strong contingent led by Roly Poly, Hydrangea and Intricately, but the American contenders still have a chance in Lo Coronel and Spain Burg.
The big race on Friday's card may well be the most anticipated of the entire weekend: the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff. The undefeated sophomore Songbird will take on her elders for the first time in her career, including champions Beholder and Stellar Wind. While the top three are extraordinarily talented, several other contenders in the eight-horse field may pose a legitimate threat, including I'm A Chatterbox, Curalina, and Forever Unbridled, all G1 winners this year.
Closing out the racing action on Friday is the G2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita, for 3-year-olds at nine furlongs on the turf. Free Rose should be tough to beat off consecutive wins at Del Mar, but Oscar Nominated was impressive winning at Kentucky Downs last out.
Kicking things off on Saturday is the G3 Senator Ken Maddy at Santa Anita, for fillies and mares over the downhill turf course. Lady Shipman is the morning-line choice, but she did not perform particularly well over this course in her last start and may be vulnerable. Acapulco appears poised to be dangerous in this spot off a solid win at Churchill.
Up next is the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, in which Union Strike will try to defend her Del Mar Debutante victory from a new barn. Noted and Quoted was impressive last out winning the Chandelier, and Yellow Agate was game winning at Belmont. One of the horses that appears to be being overlooked is Sweet Loretta, a daughter of Tapit trained by Todd Pletcher who is undefeated in three career starts but hasn't raced for eight weeks; Pletcher is always dangerous when he points to a race like this.
In the Filly and Mare Turf, over 1 1/4 miles on Santa Anita's grass course, Lady Eli will attempt to win her second Breeders' Cup race off a big win in Flower Bowl. She was off for over a year battling with laminitis, but seems to have returned to her previous talent and will be formidable. European Seventh Heaven is listed as the second choice with Ryan Moore in to ride.
Up at Aqueduct, the G3 Tempted Stakes features 2-year-old fillies over a mile on the main track. Miss Sky Warrior, Sky Gesture and Cursor will likely vie for favoritism in the well-matched seven-horse field.
Back at Santa Anita, the Breeders' Cup Sprint has scratched down to a seven-horse field to go six furlongs on the dirt, but there are still a number of legitimate contenders. Masochistic will be the favorite, and he has done nothing wrong this season, but Drefong is extremely talented coming from the barn of Bob Baffert. A. P. Indian is the top East Coast sprinter, and Noholdingback Bear has been on a tear this season to earn a spot as a longshot.
In the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, Pure Sensation is the slight favorite in a well-matched full field to contest Santa Anita's downhill turf course. Obviously poses a chance, as do A Lot, Celestine, and defending champion Mongolian Saturday.
A very contentious edition of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile follows, with Not This Time holding slight morning-line favoritism over the 11-horse field. Practical Joke has been particularly impressive winning in New York from off the pace, and Syndergaard was game to finish second to that horse last out. Klimt has been good on the West Coast, though Gormley got an easy lead last out to defeat him. Three Rules is undefeated against lesser company in Florida, but has never really been tested. Classic Empire also poses a legitimate threat.
In the Breeders' Cup Turf, defending champion Found will taken on a talented field of 13, including her stablemate Highland Reel, second behind her in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and Flintshire, undefeated on firm ground this season. Ectot defeated Flintshire last out, though he got an easy lead and soft ground. Mondialiste has been running very well this season, and shouldn't be left out.
Up next is the Filly and Mare Sprint over seven furlongs, featuring Haveyougoneaway and Carina Mia in what should be a contentious match-up. By The Moon will be a legitimate threat, as well as Wavell Avenue if she can return to her earlier form.
Over at Churchill Downs, fillies and mares will contest the G2 Chilukki over a mile on the main track, with Birdatthewire the solid morning-line choice for trainer Dale Romans.
Back to Santa Anita, the Breeders' Cup Mile, over a mile on the turf, features defending champion Tepin as the slight first choice over European invader Limato. Fellow Euro Alice Springs is also a threat, along with Ironicus and Miss Temple City in a tough 14-horse field.
Finally, it will be time for the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic. California Chrome is the richest horse in the field, and undefeated this season, but Arrogate was extraordinary in the Travers and has been prepared by master conditioner Bob Baffert. While many handicappers are anticipating a two-horse race, there are others in the field who may be a threat, including Frosted, Melatonin, and perhaps even Effinex. Keen Ice has been entered in the field after a transfer to trainer Todd Pletcher's barn, and while he has only been raced once since a lengthy layoff, he has proven to be able to defeat talented horses before, as he did with American Pharoah in last year's Travers.
Closing out the action on Saturday is Woodbine's G3 Maple Leaf Stakes, for fillies and mares over 10 furlongs on the turf. Strut the Course is the heavy favorite, but Uchenna is entered for Mark Casse and he has been tough to beat at Woodbine this season.
On Sunday, the action kicks off with Churchill Downs' G3 Long Island Handicap, featuring fillies and mare over 12 furlongs on the turf. Todd Pletcher shipped in Itsonlyactingdad, who should be contentious with the class relief though Achnaha has been good this season.
Woodbine's G2 Autumn Stakes features a tough matchup between Are You Kidding Me and Lukes Alley over 1 1/16 miles on the Tapeta.
At Santa Anita, the G2 Goldikova Stakes features the Chad Brown-trained Zindaya over a mile on the turf for fillies and mares. Other contenders should include Nancy From Nairobi and Majestic Heat.
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