As we await the official list of pre-entries for the 36th Breeders’ Cup, we’ll finish up our three-part series looking at vulnerable favorites in this year’s World Championship.
It is tough this far out to get locked onto any one idea, but it’s also important to start laying out a framework of where you may want to take a stand against a short-priced favorite.
In Part 1 of this series, we started with the last race on the card by evaluating McKinzie’s chances in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and laid out a possible approach to bet against him in the win spot in exotics. In Part 2, we broke down why historical trends in the Filly & Mare Sprint may play against Covfefe winning at Santa Anita Park in less than two weeks and how the pace may heat her up early, especially if she draws an inside post position.
It just so happens that I initially identified a vulnerable favorite at the end of the Saturday card and one in the early races on that card. Now in Part 3, we’ll dive into the Juvenile Fillies to identify a potential play against on the Future Stars Friday card.
I didn’t plan it this way, but if you’re able to identify a value play or get a longshot home during Friday’s five races, then a spot play in the early part of the Saturday card, and end it with a bang in the Classic, then you can really leverage the other races’ stronger favorites around their more vulnerable counterparts.
I’ll be building out that whole wagering strategy in the Racing Dudes’ Inside Track to the Breeders’ Cup Wagering Guide, which is available for pre-order now.
In the meantime, let’s start targeting our plays in the Juvenile Fillies in this edition of the Breeders’ Cup Skinny now!
Juvenile Fillies: Is Bast the Best?
Just like the Filly & Mare Sprint that we discussed in Part 2 of this series, the Juvenile Fillies historically has produced big prices on the tote board recently:
- Last year, Jaywalk went gate-to-wire at Churchill Downs to pay a healthy $13 to win
- In 2017, Caledonia Road made a sweeping move from ninth to first to collect $36.60 to win at Del Mar
- Champagne Room became a Breeders’ Cup winner in 2016 with a payout of $69.20 for the win, pressing the pace; that was the most recent time that this race was held at Santa Anita Park
Yes, the great Songbird dominated the Juvenile Fillies as an odds-on favorite in 2015, but in the preceding two years, Take Charge Brandi shocked the world to pay $125 to win in 2014, and Ria Antonia paid $66 to win via disqualification in 2013. Three of the past six winners paid $66 or more to win! Prices have been there quite often in this race.
Will another longshot light up the Santa Anita Park tote board this year?
A medium-sized field of nine is expected to fill the gate in this year’s Juvenile Fillies, and the strong choices at the top of the market are led by the likely favorite, Bast. The Bob Baffert trainee enters off of romping Del Mar Debutante (G1) and workmanlike Chandelier Stakes (G1) wins.
The major knock on Bast is that she was not visually impressive in the Chandelier. She sat off of a slow pace set by the Schuylerville Stakes (G3) winner Comical while going the same 1 1/16 miles of the Juvenile Fillies. Bast, the 1/5 favorite, was all out in the stretch to reel in that foe and won by only a neck. Those backing Bast will contest that she wasn’t fully cranked for that race because her real goal was the Breeders’ Cup. Baffert’s post-race comments are important to evaluate:
BAST punches her ticket to the @BreedersCup! @ChristinaBlackr connects with Winning Trainer Bob Baffert who shares how he prepared for today’s race, thoughts on her performance and speaks to Johnny V’s exciting 661st graded stakes win @SantaAnitaPark: pic.twitter.com/0RDattyE0d— TVG (@TVG) September 27, 2019
Baffert says, “I trained her light for this (the Chandelier). I wasn’t really too hard on her.” Maybe Bast has more left in the tank. The biggest question in the Juvenile Fillies is if the daughter of Uncle Mo will get back to her Del Mar Debutante form when she throttled that field by 8 3/4 lengths and getting an 85 Beyer speed figure. If she does, then she’ll be tough to beat.
Juvenile Fillies on the Rise
It didn’t take long after Bast’s narrow win for a slew of new fillies to rise to the occasion and compete for the division’s throne. Leading the parade was the impressive debut maiden-breaker Donna Veloce. The daughter of Uncle Mo won in gate-to-wire fashion by 9 1/4 lengths while going 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita Park. For her win, she received a 91 Beyer speed figure.
Trainer Simon Callahan has had plenty of success in the past with young fillies, including Moonshine Memories, American Gal, and Abel Tasman (before her owners switched her to Bob Baffert’s care). Donna Veloce’s hype is building. Her second dam, Cash Run, won the 1999 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. It’s possible that she may vie for favoritism in the division’s biggest race, which would be only her second career start and her first time around two turns stretching out to 1 1/16 miles.
Donna Veloce will only be giving up a couple of races in experience, though. Bast only has three lifetime starts, and each of the next two likely choices in the wagering – the Alcibiades Stakes (G1) winner British Idiom and the Frizette Stakes (G1) winner Wicked Whisper – only have a pair.
Unlike Donna Veloce, though, British Idiom has two-turn experience after sitting off of an average pace, then pouncing and trouncing an overmatched Alcibiades field at Keeneland. The Brad Cox trainee was a modest $40,000 yearling purchase and is sired by Flashback, but she has had buzz since she was unveiled at Saratoga, where she impressively broke her maiden in mid-August.
Wicked Whisper has yet to stretch out to two turns, but she looked like she could run all day, demanding the lead early and never looking back in the Frizette at Belmont Park. Out of the freshman crop of Liam’s Map and trained by Hall-of-Famer Steve Asmussen, Wicked Whisper will need to stretch out from the one-turn mile of the Frizette. Like British Idiom, she also impressed at Saratoga on debut, winning by 6 1/4 lengths.
With Wicked Whisper and Donna Veloce each winning their last races in gate-to-wire style, and with Comical having led early in the Chandelier, this race should have a contested pace. Many fillies will try to take command early, including Comical’s Doug O’Neill stablemate Lazy Daisy. Like Comical, she also showed early speed before taking the Pocahontas Stakes (G2). And also like Comical, Lazy Daisy was no match for Bast; she finished fourth in the Del Mar Debutante.
The pace may get cooking early if another gate-to-wire winner, Two Sixty, enters for trainer Mark Casse. She has raced four times, all at Gulfstream Park, and won the Florida Sire My Dear Girl Stakes last out with an 80 Beyer speed figure.
She may be set it up perfectly for her stablemate, Perfect Alibi. The Adirondack Stakes (G2) and Spinaway Stakes (G1) winner was gritty and determined in her wins at Saratoga, but she wasn’t as good in her runner-up Alcibiades performance last time out. Maybe Perfect Alibi was precocious at Saratoga and better going one turn, or maybe British Idiom was just that good in the Alciabides. She’ll get plenty of pace to chase in the Juvenile Fillies, so perhaps she can prove herself again.
The expected field of nine will be completed with the Chandelier third-place finisher K P Dreamin for trainer Jeff Mullins.
Verdict: Play Bast Defensively
I have an issue whenever I see horses break their maidens in person when I’m at Saratoga. I automatically fall in love with them, especially if I make money when they win. This is the case with British Idiom. I had my best day at the track this summer when British Idiom won the second race on a Thursday at the Spa.
The Dudes had gotten word before the race that British Idiom was the real deal, and I loved Uncontested to wire a good allowance sprint field in the third. I played a strong double and profited handsomely.
I later hit the late Pick 4 for $2 and was singing Ice Cube’s “Today Was a Good Day” on my drive home from the track. I had gotten to the track at 5:30 a.m. to interview Shug McGaughey about Code of Honor before he won the Travers, too, so it was definitely one of my best days of 2019.
Anyway, I was all over British Idiom when she ran in the Alcibiades next, and she didn’t let me down there, either, giving another awesome performance and earning me another profit. I ain’t backing down from her here. She should sit behind the speed and mow down the leaders late with a very good chance to win, even if Santa Anita is playing to speed.
To be honest, it’s more that I’m in British Idiom’s corner than that I’m really against Bast. When I originally came up with this series idea and identified Bast as a vulnerable favorite, I thought that I was being clever. Let’s try to beat a Baffert and cash in! That’s what I thought, but since then, the Bast hate has gone a bit too far. On top of that, the Donna Veloce love has increased at a fevered pitch.
Maybe it’s really true that Baffert didn’t have Bast cranked last time out. She didn’t really respond when jockey John Velazquez asked her, though, which is a reason to play against, but maybe she has more in the tank. If she is the favorite, it may be in the 5/2 or 3/1 range, so she’ll still provide some value in the exotics.
Additionally, Donna Veloce and Wicked Whisper will take a lot of money, so all four of the top choices should be close in the wagering. That means that you have to pick two and just pound them on your tickets to get a good return on investment. You can’t pay them all and you have to have conviction on these big cards.
I like the British Idiom / Bast exacta box in this spot; that way, I won’t get beat by Baffert if Bast gets back to her best ability. I will play them heavily in my multi-race plays, too, including the two-day double to the Distaff, going heavy to Midnight Bisou and buying a small backup to Paradise Woods.
Earlier, I reviewed how this race produces big prices, so I will use Comical – a filly who will be totally dismissed after running big in the Chandelier – in the trifecta under British Idiom and Bast. If I can get both the inexperienced Donna Veloce and the need-the-lead Wicked Whisper beat, then the trifecta payout will be nice. I’ll also throw Perfect Alibi underneath in the trifecta, as I expect her to close late into the fast pace.
That’s what I’m thinking right now. Obviously, all of this is subject to change before I provide my final tickets next week in the Racing Dudes’ Inside Track to the Breeders’ Cup Wagering Guide.
Stay updated on all of my Breeders’ Cup thoughts by following me on Twitter @SaratogaSlim. I’m putting together my annual “Know Your Euros” column where I go through replays for the top Europeans coming for the Breeders’ Cup, so stay tuned!