Our quest for Breeders' Cup longshots started out pretty well on Future Stars Friday. In the five races, two winners popped from 10-1 morning lines to win (Bulletin and Line of Duty), and in the Juvenile Fillies, Vibrance was ignored at the windows, climbing from 10-1 to 35-1 to ignite a $387 trifecta by hitting the board.
The two races where our longshots didn't factor were the two won by favorites. Alas, we must move on to the juicy Saturday card, in search of more double-digit longshots who might do some damage.
Without further adieu:
Filly & Mare Sprint
#5 Golden Mischief (10-1): Trainer Brad Cox isn't roaring the way he was earlier this year, but as good as he's been in 2018, I have to think he'll be back to form at the Breeders' Cup. This talented 4-year-old filly has won four of her last five, three of them by a combined 20 1/2 lengths. Yes, against lesser, but she rocked a best of 113 horses four-furlong breeze Sunday in :47. Her only loss in that five-race stretch came at Churchill, so that's a concern, but at her potential odds, rolling with it.
#6 Chalon (15-1): What the heck, let's also throw in the filly that finished a head behind Golden Mischief in the TCA at Keeneland, the last starts for both. Trainer Arnaud Delacour hasn't won a Breeders' Cup race but his strike rate in sprints is 28 percent and this daughter of Dialed In has hit the board in 10 of 12 starts and hasn't missed the exacta in over a year (six races). She's probably a bit short of Grade 1 material but all it takes is one race to eliminate that issue. She makes a nice exacta/trifecta key at the very least with Javier Castellano aboard.
#6 Rainbow Heir (12-1): Two years ago, 8-year-old Obviously captured this race, so why not this 8-year-old? Rainbow Heir actually retired earlier this year after winning a sprint at Gulfstream Park, covered 40 mares at stud, then returned to the races in September, closing to get third in the Turf Monster. Any improvement off that performance, and with a closing style and good post, he's on the wire at tasty odds.
#8 Chanteline (15-1): She's 4-for-7 at the distance and at age 6, she's in the best form of her career for trainer Steve Asmussen. Drawn well enough and with a stalking style, she should get a good trip. Asmussen won this race at the last Churchill Downs Breeders' Cup with Regally Ready, and Mizdirection beat the boys twice in this event.
#4 Seven Trumpets (15-1): Lot of room for growth as a 3-year-old against older here, and the last two races have been his strongest by a stretch, with paired-up speed figures. Improvement is forthcoming, and betting a Dale Romans trained horse at his home track in a big spot is never a bad idea.
#9 Giant Expectations (15-1): His best finish this year in three starts is a third, but that came in his last start and it happened to be in the Ack Ack at Churchill. A New York-bred will pop somewhere at this Breeders' Cup and this son of Frost Giant could be the one, even if it's just to juice the exotics. Thinking he might run a big one in this middling field.
Filly & Mare Turf
#9 A Raving Beauty (10-1); It's hard to believe a Chad Brown-trained Grade 1 winner is double-digit odds in this race, but that's the “Beauty” of the Breeders' Cup. What makes this particular mare a great longshot bet is that this is a three-turn race due to the configuration at Churchill for 1 3/8 miles on the turf. That means horses with tactical speed and/or inside posts have a distinct advantage. A Raving Beauty has that speed. She went gate-to-wire to win the First Lady at Keeneland in her last start. She picks up Javier Castellano, whom I trust on the grass. I will bet her at close to these odds.
#6 Always Sunshine (20-1): Sure to be at least the co-longest shot in this field of nine, Always Sunshine's previous races, aside from his last start, at least put in him the conversation. And at his price, he is the conversation. Doesn't matter which speed figure you use (and if you use speed figs, this is the race to do it), he's right there if he shows up. Imperial Hint, Roy H. and Whitmore are good horses and one of them will probably win with more filling out the board but this guy will be a forgotten bomb and could light up to the tote at least.
#2 Next Shares (10-1): If you're betting the Head2Head wager of USA vs Europe in this race, note six of the last seven winners have been American-based. With the unfortunate scratch of Freddie Head-trained Polydream, it appears U.S.-based Oscar Performance will inherit favoritism. His post, a dearth of early speed and the one-mile configuration definitely support his chances. But we need double-digits and if we can get close to that on Next Shares, I'll take it all day. He's coming off back-to-back convincing wins, the latest a great-on-the-numbers performance in the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile at 23-1. He's a closer, so he'll need a decent set-up but he'll be able to save ground throughout from the inside and make his bid in the stretch, which I believe he'll do.
#14 Mustashry (15-1): This 5-year-old Euro faces a tall order stranded in the outside post, but his form could hardly be better, having won five of his last seven, although not at the Group 1 level. Trainer Michael Stoute has never won the Mile but between the Filly & Mare Turf and the Turf, he's racked up seven Breeders' Cup victories. Mustashry also has some speed, so there's a chance jockey William Buick, who saw Line of Duty to victory on Friday, could get him into decent position early. In Friday's Juvenile Fillies Turf, East managed to take second from the 14 post at this same distance behind slam-dunk winner Newspaperofrecord. With Stoute having another runner in Expert Eye drawn better, Mustashry could get away in the wagering.
#3 La Force (20-1): Not every Breeders' Cup race will have a double-digit longshot that catches your eye, so sometimes you have to reach. Still, I will make my case with this German-bred filly, and it's not that difficult. Even though she has just two wins from 22 starts, she's recently been a “force” to be reckoned with in the stretch. She's finished second in her last three starts, all Grade 1s, twice losing to Unique Bella, once to Vale Dori. Not bad. The dirt track at Churchill seemed to favor speed Friday, but that could change. No matter, I appreciate a closer who keeps coming and her tacking on a bit of distance from her last couple should only bolster our case. She's at least a good exotics key underneath at her price, since she's hit the board 13 times.
#6 Verve's Tale (30-1): I'm not touting her to win, but just don't ignore her as a longshot option to hit the board. While she only has three wins from 22 starts (kind of like La Force), she's finished in the trifecta 17 times; including last out in a Grade 1.
#3 Channel Maker (12-1): If back-to-back Arc winner Enable doesn't make history with the first Arc-Turf double, I believe it'll be an American horse to win the Turf. US-based horses have held their own in this race, and Channel Maker looks a prime candidate to upset. He doesn't need the lead but went gate-to-wire last out to win a Grade 1 and put up a big number. Trained by two-time Turf winner Bill Mott, ridden by Jose Ortiz, this son of English Channel is in excellent form as a 4-year-old. Inside post, tactical speed. Go. Go try to run down Enable, or make her run you down.
#7 Glorious Empire (12-1): If I'm punching Channel Maker's number, I must throw in this Irish-bred. In their last meeting, Glorious Empire prevailed over fellow gelding Channel Maker; the time before that, they dead-heated. This son of Holy Roman is still rolling at age 7, having won three straight races, from a $65,000 optional claimer to a Grade 1, almost all of it on the lead. Trainer James Lawrence seeks his first Breeders' Cup win while jockey Julien Leparoux his eighth.
#9 Mendelssohn (12-1): I'm kind of at a loss in this race. One of the logical candidates will probably win but in seeking longshots, I need to reach outside the box. Despite his embarrassing Kentucky Derby performance, Mendelssohn, the whopping 18-length winner of the UAE Derby, has slowly been climbing back into form. I don't care what jokes anyone wants to make about the Derby, this guy runs his eyeballs out every time. In the Jockey Club Gold Cup, after sizzling on the lead with Diversity, he put that one away and stayed on to finish a close third. I brazenly question the great Ryan Moore's understanding of how to ride this colt on American dirt, so i don't know if he will provide him the necessary support, but I believe Mendelssohn to be special under the right circumstances. I will back him here one more time.
#8 Pavel (20-1): He's been no match for favorite Accelerate in their recent three races, but he did win a Grade 1 at Churchill two-back. His speed figures are pretty good and with a stalking style he's interesting at his price.
Breeders' Cup Underdogs
By Chelsea Hackbarth
Trigger Warning – Trainer Mike Rone – Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
Based on the central Ohio circuit at Thistledown and Mahoning Valley racetracks, former blacksmith-turned-Thoroughbred-trainer Mike Rone has been galloping his own horses for as long as he can remember. On Thursday, Rone hopped aboard Trigger Warning for a spin around the Churchill Downs oval ahead of an expected start in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
Rone has yet to saddle his first graded stakes winner, but Trigger Warning is the best horse he has trained. Most recently the colt finished third in the G1 Pennsylvania Derby at odds of 81-1. The 3-year-old son of Candy Ride was a bargain $6,000 purchase at the Keeneland September sale and has compiled over $350,000 in earnings with four wins in 14 starts.
Highway Star – Trainer Rodrigo Ubillo – Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
A former exercise rider for Shug McGaughey and Nick Zito, as well as an assistant trainer for Phil Serpe, trainer Rodrigo Ubillo will saddle his stable star mare in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint for the second consecutive year.
The small-string trainer Ubillo has approximately 12 horses in his barn on the NYRA circuit, and Highway Star is far and away his best horse in the stable. The millionaire homebred for Chester and Mary Broman was one of the top choices in last year's running of the Filly & Mare Sprint but wound up too close to the early pace and finished 11th.
In 2018, Highway Star has finished second three times and won her most recent start in the listed Iroquois Stakes at Belmont Park.
Ubillo has won just three races in 2018 from 43 starts, bringing his career record to 109 wins from 1,450 starts and earnings of $7,120,900. Not one of his horses other than Highway Star has captured a graded stakes or earned more than $500,000, and Ubillo is consistently grateful to the Bromans for the opportunity to train the mare.
“This wasn't a great, outstanding horse coming out of the farm at Ocala as a 2-year-old. Rodrigo turned her into one,” Broman said. “I think he's done a great job with her. He's very slow and patient with horses. To me, he's old school. He treats them all like pets. When they're happy, he's happy.”
Always Sunshine – Trainer Ned Allard – Breeders' Cup Sprint
Always Sunshine's win in the Tale of the Cat Stakes at Saratoga gave trainer Ned Allard his first stakes win at the Spa in almost 30 years, when Fuller's Folly won the Grade 3 Seneca Handicap on August 25, 1988. Allard also won the 1985 Grade 1 Alabama exactly 33 years to the day.
“It's been a long while since I won a stakes here,” Allard said. “Mom's Command won the Alabama here and Fuller's Folly won the Seneca here, but they were in the 80s. It's been a while since I've come to Saratoga and done that. It was fun.”
Now, Always Sunshine will start in Saturday's Sprint to try to give his trainer a first Breeders' Cup victory.
“He's a horse with a lot of talent and it seems like if you time him right, he's kind of a dangerous racehorse,” Allard said. “I was real pleased with his effort (in the Tale of the Cat). I thought he kicked real hard the last part of it, and that's when it counts.
“He's a big, heavy horse and he's always had some foot problems, but this year he has really come around super. Frankie [Pennington] just fits this horse really well. The horse seems to like him and Frankie loves the horse. They're just a good combo.”
Discreet Lover – Trainer Uriah St. Lewis – Breeders' Cup Classic
The upset winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup jogged twice around the Churchill Downs track in the clockwise direction Friday morning.
“He looked good,” said Amanda St. Lewis, wife of owner-trainer Uriah St. Lewis. “He was comfortable out there. He won't go to the track on Saturday morning.”
The St. Lewises continue to enjoy their first Breeders' Cup experience with the best horse they have ever had. Based at Parx Racing, St. Lewis owns and trains the 28 horses in his barn and along with his son Uriah Jr. does much of the hands-on work. Their chores include hauling hay and feed to their stable to save on delivery costs. St. Lewis purchases about a dozen 2yos at auction each spring to restock his stable. He prefers buying Thoroughbreds that are the first foals from their dams. Discreet Lover was a $10,000 buy at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale in Timonium, Maryland.
The Lewises' daughter Jere, who works for ESPN, has joined the family to participate in the Breeders' Cup festivities.
Jockey Spotlight: Drayden Van Dyke
In 2013 at Hollywood Park, Drayden Van Dyke could often be found in the jockey's room riding the Equicizer. He liked to practice on the machine in the dark, so he could focus on the feel of the ride instead of visual cues.
One day, Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith walked into the dark room.
“He was like, 'What the heck are you doing?'” Van Dyke recalled. “I explained it, and then he showed me how to take the rubber bands off of the stirrups to make it harder. From there, I guess maybe I impressed him, and he kind of took me under his wing and we've been friends ever since.”
Today, Smith and Van Dyke share the same agent, Brad Pegram, and each is preparing for a big Breeders' Cup Saturday at Churchill Downs.
For a “small town” kid born in Louisville but raised in Hot Springs, Ark., weekends like this one are a dream come true. Van Dyke's parents were separated: his father, Seth Van Dyke, was a jockey who rode just over 200 races, but the man known as “Squirt” mostly worked as an exercise rider in Kentucky and Florida. His mother raised him in Arkansas, but starting at about 8 years old, the young man wanted to spend summers on the track with his father.
“At first, I'd just sleep in the tack room because I was too young to keep my eyes open,” said Van Dyke. “But eventually Jimmy Baker gave me my first job hotwalking, and I started riding the pony a little bit. Then Tom Proctor saw I was wanting to learn how to ride, and he scooped me up from Jimmy after I graduated high school.”
Proctor sent Van Dyke to Glen Hill Farm in Ocala, where he learned to break babies “from the ground up.”
“He made me work hard,” the soft-spoken Van Dyke said. “I've always been disciplined, but he showed me that it's not just the hard work that the jockey puts in, it's also the work everyone else is doing. Now, I just get to show up and ride them and go home, but I know what all goes into it.”
In August 2014, tragedy struck when Proctor called the jockey to tell him that his father had taken his own life. The senior Van Dyke had struggled with alcoholism, and the call shook the young man hard.
“He was a good-hearted person,” said Van Dyke. “It made me appreciate the time I have with people I care about.”
The shocking news propelled Van Dyke to ride even harder, and he would be crowned the Eclipse Award-winning apprentice of 2014. The jockey continued to compile earnings of over $4 million each season, and found himself riding better and better horses.
In January of 2017, disaster struck again when a nasty fall at Santa Anita left Van Dyke with a compound fracture in his right arm. It took six months of rehab before he could return to the saddle, but it was then that he caught the eye of trainer Bob Baffert, and started breezing horses for the Hall of Famer in the mornings.
“I was kind of intimidated by him, honestly,” Van Dyke said. “He likes to mess around with people a lot, but once I got through the first week, I gained a lot of confidence that I was doing a good job.”
Poised to have one of the best years of his career, Van Dyke is showing no signs of slowing down. He is happy to ride morning after morning for any trainer who needs him, and takes each victory in stride, never allowing himself to be cocky. He's exactly where he wants to be.
“Where I come from, everyone dreams of going to California,” said Van Dyke with a laugh. “So I guess I'm living the dream.”
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