Saturday evening in America will hopefully make the Breeders’ Cup Classic picture slightly clearer with two major preps featuring international runners.
The main trial is the Group One $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, which features Godolphin’s Thunder Snow, who is 25-1 for November 3, and Aidan O’Brien’s Mendelssohn, who is 16-1. They take on the home team, which is led by Diversify, who won the Group One Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, and who is 10-1 for the Classic, and the former Jeremy Noseda-trained Gronkowski who is coming back after a disappointing run in the Travers Stakes and can be backed for the big one at 25-1.
At Churchill Downs the Grade Three Lukas Classic will feature the return of Toast of New York, who is testing the waters ahead of the Breeders Cup at Churchill Downs this year and can be backed at 66-1 for next month's feature, and the dual Group One winning sprinter, Mind Your Biscuits, who has proven himself capable of getting longer distances with his second in the Grade One Woodward at Saratoga.
As for picks on Wednesday, there is a good card in France at Maisons-Laffitte while on this side of the Channel with the ground a question mark the All-Weather at Wolverhampton will suffice.
This Amateur Rider’s claimer is far from being the best race on a decent Maison-Laffitte card but it probably represents the best bet of the day in the shape of Ajmany.
This 13-times winner has been supplemented for this race by German trainer Hans-Albert Blume, who has booked multiple French Champion Amateur Florent Guy for the ride. This consistent eight-year-old has won three of his last four starts (twice in claimers at Vichy and once in a claimer at Clairefontaine) and wasn’t given the best of rides when a narrowly beaten runner-up in an apprentice race last time out at Saint-Cloud. His French morning line price of 4-5 is short but perfectly reasonable.
The feature race on the Maison-Laffitte card is the Listed 6 ½f Prix Saraca for two-year-olds and British-based trainers send out 4 of the 11 runners.
French maestro trainer Andre Fabre appears to have a very nice filly in the shape of Bravo Sierra (a daughter of Siyouni), who was very impressive when winning at Chantilly over 6f earlier this month.
Her dam won a Listed race here at Maisons-Laffitte as a three-year-old and hails from the family of Dancing Brave. The word from France is that she is very useful and her French morning line price is 3-1.
This American-bred daughter of 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags was eye-catching on her debut run at Kempton last month, making up a lot of ground late to go third on the line under an educational ride by Jim Crowley.
The horse who finished fourth that day, Gold At Midnight, came out to win on Monday at Kempton and now top apprentice Jason Watson gets aboard for the first time.
Falathaat’s dam is the half-sister of the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mind That Bird and therefore big things are expected of this juvenile.
Since trainer David Lanigan put blinkers on Lexington Empire the horse has improved dramatically with two wins and two placed efforts from four starts after barely beating a horse home in four previous starts.
One of these victories came over the same course and extended 9f distance, while the second win came two starts ago at Chelmsford over 10f.
Up in grade and up in trip to 12 furlongs last time out resulted in the gelding finishing a close third at Kempton and now he should be a player dropped back down to a trip that he has previously won over.
The 14 days off the track is ideal as his previous win came following the same time frame off after a third-placed effort and stall one suits as this son of French Derby winner Intello is a front-runner.
Rachel Candelora's best bets: