If there was ever a time to put the chalk down and engage in the wagering version of dumpster diving, a Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar is that time.
Saratoga may be the Graveyard of Champions, but the last time there was a Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, chalky tombstones littered the suburban San Diego track. Favorites went 2-for-14 for a pitiful 14.2% winning percentage. Compare that to what favorites did at the 2021 Del Mar Summer Meet, winning 34.2% of the time.
The eraser got more of the chalk when it came to dirt races. Favorites went winless in Breeders’ Cup dirt races in 2017, posting an 0-for-7 record. Gravestones marked such beaten favorites as 7/10 Bolt d’Oro in the Juvenile (who finished third), 2/1 Happily in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (14th), 3/2 Lady Eli in the Filly & Mare Turf (seventh), 2/1 Mor Spirit in the Dirt Mile (eighth), and 9/10 Lady Aurelia in the Turf Sprint (10th).
The only two favorites to find the winner’s circle were Mendelssohn, who won the Juvenile Turf at 9/2, and 5/2 World Approval in the Mile. Gun Runner, who captured the Classic at 2.40/1, was barely the second favorite behind Arrogate, who was 2.10/1.
If favorites are losing, value is prevailing
The flip side of that chalk eraser comes with some of the prices on the eventual winners. Beating Bolt d’Oro in the Juvenile was 11/1 Good Magic, who would finish second to Justify in the Kentucky Derby six months later. Battle of Midway sunk his rivals in the Dirt Mile at 14/1, the same price Turf winner Talismanic and Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Declaratioinofpeace came home at. Caledonia Road won the Juvenile Fillies at 17/1.
Then, it got real. Stormy Liberal captured the Turf Sprint at 30/1. And that wasn’t even the biggest shocker of the day. That belonged to Bar of Gold, who pulled off one of the top-10 Breeders’ Cup upsets in event history when she won the Filly & Mare Sprint at 66/1. All told, eight double-digit dogs won the 14 races.
You get the idea; every year, there are vulnerable Breeders’ Cup favorites – some more vulnerable and beatable than others. OG News takes a look at three beatable favorites
Jack Christopher (9/5 morning line), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Perhaps recency bias is alive and well here. After all, the memory of Jackie’s Warrior coming in as one of last year’s most dominant horses, complete with the top speed figures of any 2-year-old, then not answering the bell, is also alive and well. The reason? Two turns were a turn too far.
Are they for Jack Christopher? He’s yet to see two turns. Only six times this century — and only twice since 2012 — has a Juvenile winner prevailed without a two-turn race on their CV.
Jack Christopher has the best speed figures of anyone in the field: he’s the only one clocking a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure, a 102 from his Champagne Stakes victory. But 1 1/16 miles from the Del Mar rail – where all the speed sits outside – is a big ask to navigate for a 2-year-old who’s yet to see two turns. He stares at an unfriendly pace, led by his West Coast rival Corniche, who starts on the far outside.
Golden Pal (7/2), Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
Wesley Ward’s talented 3-year-old built himself quite the resume. He’s 4-for-7, including a win in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. The question is, who has he beaten?
The answer is, not a lot of A-list talent, which is what awaits him in this 12-horse field. Golden Pal ran an 88 Beyer and 100 Equibase in his 2 ½-length last-out victory in the Woodford Stakes at Keeneland. Figures like that will get him destroyed in this field, which features the likes of Gear Jockey (5/1), defending champion Glass Slippers (6/1), European shipper Emaraaty Ana (5/1), and, arguably, the most talented runner of the bunch, Golden Pal’s stablemate Kimari (6/1).
Every one of those horses has posted faster numbers than Golden Pal, whose best Equibase was the 105 from last year’s Breeders’ Cup victory. The only time he faced top-level competition came in the Nunthorpe Stakes at England’s York earlier this summer where he finished a woeful seventh, nearly five lengths back. This field is better than anything he’s ever seen outside of England.
Knicks Go (5/2), Breeders’ Cup Classic
Don’t adjust your eyes. Yeah, we went here – with several caveats. If there’s ever a chance to beat the likely Horse of the Year, who is 7-for-7 in two-turn races, it’s in a race like this. And there’s one way this happens. That’s when Knicks Go gets pace pressure from likely front-end challengers Medina Spirit (4/1), Art Collector (8/1), and, maybe, Hot Rod Charlie (4/1).
This keeps Knicks Go from finding that uncatchable rhythm he locks into when nobody’s pressuring him early. Since he’s yet to run 1 ¼ miles, the extra pressure finally sends Knicks Go into the wall around the 1 1/16-mile mark. That opens matters up for either Hot Rod Charlie or Knicks Go’s stablemate, Essential Quality, who was stalking around for just such an occurrence – to pick up the pieces and come home.
It could happen. But if it doesn’t, the only other way Knicks Go loses is if Hot Rod Charlie duplicates his Belmont Stakes or Pennsylvania Derby and somehow outkicks him. Otherwise, you’re looking at another Knicks Go romp – one taking him into the history books.