With only a little more than five weeks left until the 2019 Breeders’ Cup, time is ticking.

The next two weeks are the final preps for many of the big horses who will line up at Santa Anita Park for the 36th annual world championships. It’s mind-boggling to think that there will be a total of 23 “Win and You’re In” (WAYI) races between Belmont Park, Santa Anita Park, and Keeneland over the next two weeks.

It’ll be tough to wrap your head around what you see. The action will come fast and furious, so you’ll have to pick your spots wisely if you’re playing the races over the next two weekends.

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My advice is to only make smart wagers where you see opportunities to leverage your strongest opinions. Use this time to study the races with an eye towards the Breeders’ Cup. Learning by just watching is more important than pressing a wager, simply to have action, especially when you don’t have a strong opinion.

Remember: discipline is one of the most important virtues if you want to win in the long run. To that point, let’s highlight the juvenile divisions that will be most affected by the upcoming WAYI races in part one of this week’s Breeders’ Cup Skinny. Part two will look at the WAYI events for the Classic (G1) and the Sprint (G1).

(Note: without knowing what Europeans are coming over for the Breeders’ Cup, it is very difficult to project the fields or likely favorites for the turf events. We’ll tackle those races in future editions.)

With Santa Anita Park (the home to the 2019 Breeders’ Cup) opening this weekend with “Win and You’re In” races, it’s time to buckle in (Photo: Jim Safford)

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile: Will Eight Rings Rebound?

As Santa Anita Park’s fall meet opens this Friday, we’ll get our first chance to see how the newly-renovated track is playing.

All eyes will be on Bob Baffert’s top charge Eight Rings to see if he can bounce back in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1), a WAYI for the TVG Juvenile (G1). He was heavily-favored in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), but during his debacle of a start, he bolted and threw jockey Drayden Van Dyke. If Eight Rings wins here, then he could vie for favoritism with the Iroquois Stakes (G3) winner Dennis’ Moment and the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) winner Green Light Go. The latter will get his chance to shine in next weekend’s Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, going a one-turn mile.

Before he reaches the Breeders’ Cup, though, Eight Rings will need to prove himself against a strong American Pharoah field that will likely include the Peter Eurton-trained Storm the Court. After Eight Rings interfered with him in the Del Mar Futurity, he also threw his rider. Nucky, the upset winner who earned a paltry Beyer Speed Figure of 59, will try to prove his skeptics wrong for trainer Peter Miller.

Others expected in the American Pharoah (with trainer) include the Del Mar Futurity third-place finisher Defense Wins (Doug O’Neill), the Best Pal Stakes (G2) winner Collusion Illusion (Mark Glatt), the impressive maiden-winning American Pharoah colt American Theorem (George Papaprodromou), and Express Train (John Shireffs), who was second on debut behind Eight Rings before breaking his maiden easily to end the Del Mar meet. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will ship in Hopeful (G1) runner-up Shoplifted our west to contest the American Pharoah, while Tremont winner Fore Left will get in the starting gate for trainer Doug O’Neill.

American Theorem worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.60 on September 21 at Santa Anita with jockey Tiago Pereira up (Photo: Ernie Belmonte)

The aforementioned Champagne at Belmont Park and the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland (which will be headlined by the Hopeful Stakes [G1] winner Basin) will conclude the TVG Juvenile WAYI action next Saturday, October 5.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will be live in both of those races, as his impressive maiden winner Gouverneur Morris is likely to make his next start in the Breeders’ Futurity and Alpha Sixty Six is expected for the Champagne. Both will need to prove that they can stretch out after breaking their maidens going one turn.

Right now, the horse that I’m looking to play underneath in exactas and trifectas is Scabbard, who finished second behind Dennis’ Moment in the Iroquois. “We’re definitely going to target the Breeders’ Cup after that,” trainer Eddie Kenneally said. “We’re very proud of his effort that day to overcome adversity as he did, after encountering trouble in the turn and to close ground as much as he did. He definitely passed the two-turn test and I think he’ll fit very well in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.”

Scabbard, who formerly ran under the name Noose, was also second in the Saratoga Special behind Green Light Go. It’s that type of consistency – hitting the board behind the best horses in the crop – that I like to leverage on big days at a price.

Green Light Go winning the Saratoga Special with Junior Alvarado up over Scabbard (Photo: NYRA)

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies: Is Bast the Best?

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly (G1) favorite may be anointed in the Chandelier Stakes (G1) this Friday at Santa Anita Park if Bast gets the job done for Baffert. A follow-up triumph after her Del Mar Debutante (G1) romp, where she won by 8 3/4 lengths, would make her very tough come November.

Bast’s Debutante win was flattered when that race’s fourth-place finisher, Lazy Daisy, won the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs and put herself in the Juvenile Fillies gate.

Another filly returning out of the Debutante is the Schuylerville Stakes (G3) winner Comical, who will try again to beat Bast after finishing third last time. Between she and Lazy Daisy, O’Neill may have a say in this division, but Comical will have to improve 9 lengths from her defeat.

Bast winning the Del Mar Debutante under Drayden Van Dyke (Photo: Ernie Belmonte)

The west coast fillies look strong, but it’s possible that a strong candidate could emerge from the Kentucky region. The Alcibiades Stakes (G1) will run at Keeneland on Friday, October 4, and the under-appreciated Adirondack Stakes (G2) and Spinaway Stakes (G1) winner Perfect Alibi is expected to make her final Breeders’ Cup prep for trainer Mark Casse.

Meanwhile, the best in New York will line up in the Frizette Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on Sunday, October 6, over the one-turn mile. Impressive Saratoga maiden winner British Idiom, who scratched out of the Pocahontas to focus on this spot for trainer Brad Cox, has a lot of buzz coming into this one.

Perfect Alibi won two stakes at Saratoga, including the Spinaway (Photo: NYRA / Janet Garaguso)

On to the Next One

There is so much to boil down for the Breeders’ Cup, and we’re just scratching the surface. It’s important to not get overwhelmed by the massive amount of races and horses to follow as we build towards the big day.

Don’t forget that later this week, we’ll look at the WAYI preps for the Classic and the Sprint, so make sure you keep an eye out for it. Next week, we’ll highlight where we stand with the fields for the Longines Distaff (G1), the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), and the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1). Once we get more information about which Europeans may show up, we’ll start dissecting the turf races.

Good luck betting the big cards at Santa Anita Park and Belmont Park this weekend. Keep following me on Twitter @SaratogaSlim for my thoughts and updates along the way!