Watch key replays plus analysis by our experts - and read the betting strategies suggested by Rachel Candelora
By Rachel Candelora
MOONSHINE MEMORIES is the stand out in this field of 13. She ticks all the right boxes – has a perfect career record of three from three and is a dual winner at Del Mar.
Her victories have included the Grade One Del Mar Debutante and she an impressive 2¾ length winner of the Grade One Chandler Stakes at Santa Anita over this distance last time out. Even her post position, in the middle of the gate, should work in her favour.
Alluring Star, runner-up to the selection at Santa Anita, is open to improvement on only her third start and she also boasts a victory at Del Mar on debut. Of the big price fillies Caledonia Road may stay on for a piece of the pie late.
Betting strategy: Sometimes you keep looking at a race just for the sake of trying to take on an obvious favourite but it is worth remembering that over the first 33 years of the Breeders’ Cup approximately 33 per cent of all the races have been won by the Post Time US Pool Favourite. There seems little point in taking on Moonshine Memories but if a short-price win bet on a two-year-old filly isn’t your thing (and it isn’t mine) boxed exactas using Moonshine Memories, Alluring Star and Caledonia Road could be the way to go.
America has an undefeated record in the Turf Sprint and LADY AURELIA is their best hope to maintain that perfect record. She faces a tough international line up but this flying filly is the one they all have to beat.
Lady Aurelia has a 100 per cent record when running in the US, albeit this is only her third US start, and also has a perfect record with jockey John Velazaquez aboard. Also, remember this has been the end of season goal for the whole year, not some last minute plan as it appears to have been for her main market rival Marsha.
When the draw came out and Lady Aurelia was posted in three you couldn’t wipe the smiles off the faces of her connections if you tried. She is the inside speed, she rails like a greyhound, just don’t blink and miss her.
Marsha is the main danger, but she will have to work out a trip over the shortest Grade One turf stretch in North America.
Another player that brings some value is Disco Partner who connections have supplemented for $100,000, even though they also have Pure Sensation in the race. Disco Partner has never run over 5f before but he owns the world record over 6f and will be closing fast. If the early speed cooks some of his rivals, he might be able to pick up the pieces.
Betting strategy: Lady Aurelia, 6-5 with Betfair and Paddy Power, should win. It may be possible that she will be bigger in the American Tote pools than she will be with British bookmakers so contemplate using the American pools which most bookmakers allow you to bet into.
The fact no three-year-old has won this race (this is the eleventh renewal) has to be a big worry given Unique Bella is one of the shortest-priced favourites in the 13-race Breeders’ Cup series this year.
Ignore that stat and she is very solid because she has won her past five races by an aggregate of 34 lengths and is already a winner (of her maiden last November) over this Del Mar strip. But she has never yet contested a Grade One race and that has to be a worry given she faces the likes of reigning champion Finest City and last year’s third PAULASSILVERLINING, who has since gone on to win two Grade One races over this most specialist distance of 7 furlongs.
Skye Diamonds is two for two at Del Mar, and may be dangerous outsider speed which could compromise the favourite just to her inside.
Betting strategy: A tricky race which is one of the least appealing betting races of the whole series. I couldn’t back Unique Bella to win as short as she will be so this is a small stakes exotic-play race for me using Paulassilverlining, Finest City, Unique Bella and Skye Diamonds.
This could be the “feelgood” contest of the Breeders’ Cup with LADY ELI seeking to end her career with a victory after just going down by a nose in this race last year.
Lady Eli developed laminitis during her three-year-old season but showed her gutsy determination to get through that illness and battled back to the top level.
So far in 2017 she has shown arguably her best level of form to date and trainer Chad Brown knows what it takes to win this race as he has done so on three occasions.
The most important weapon in Lady Eli’s armory is that this year the Filly and Mare Turf is being run over 9f, which suits her. She is a perfect three out of three over the distance, and 9f represents a disadvantage to several of her 10f-loving rivals.
War Flag would be the main danger for veteran US trainer Shug McGaughey. This daughter of War Front won the most important of the US trials for this race last time in the Flower Bowl at Belmont – six of the 11 North American winners of this race have come from the Flower Bowl.
Another daughter of War Front to note of is Cambodia, who is two from two over the Del Mar surface and has been one of the talking horses this past week at Del Mar.
Of the European runners, Queen’s Trust is the reigning champion for Sir Michael Stoute who has won this race on three occasions, but he has been winless since this contest 12 months ago and while Frankie Dettori is back aboard the shorter 9f trip might not suit her.
Aidan O’Brien brings the multiple Group 1 winner Rhododendron to the party but post position 14 might end her race before it has begun because the first three furlongs are run around a swooping turn.
While the anti-bleeder medication Lasix may help Rhododendron (she bled in the Diane) take note that O’Brien’s record in this race is 0-10.
The Prix de Diane winner, Senga, could be the best of the European challengers. Her best runs have been on good to firm ground in France and she should love hearing her hooves rattle. Stephane Pasquier has been booked by the owners (Flaxman Holding/Niarchos Family) on some of their American horses on the undercard so he can get a “sighter” of riding around Del Mar.
Betting strategy: Lady Eli is a solid win play for me and to build a bit of value using her in exactas with War Flag, Senga, and Cambodia.
Reigning champion DREFONG looks very hard to beat in his quest to become only the second dual winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
If he does so he will emulate the other dual winner Midnight Lute by coming into the race with only one completed run this year – interesting to note that both Drefong and Midnight Lute are trained by the sprint champion himself, Bob Baffert, who has won this race a record five times.
Drawn in two and with amazingly little other early speed in the Sprint, jockey Mike Smith will just gun him from the gate and he will be the horse to catch – and they won’t catch him.
Mind Your Biscuits, who was promoted to second in this race last year, can figure again with his late running style, although the short stretch at Del Mar will not be to his advantage, and the unexposed three-year-old Takaful brings the famous Sheikh Hamdam silks to the Breeders’ Cup off the back of his win in the Grade One Vosburgh, a race that used to be the key exit race for the Sprint several years ago.
Betting strategy: Drefong is the solid win play here and I would look to bookmakers offering the bigger price on him than the American tote pools because if Bob Baffert has an earlier winner, his price will go very short in the States.
The record of Europeans is not what you might expect in this race with the current score reading Europe 13–US 20. Of the 13 European-trained winners, ten of them hailed from France and only Barathea (Luca Cumani) in 1994 was trained in Britain.
Since trainer Mark Casse switched WORLD APPROVAL back down in trip to a mile he has been a revelation this year, winning four of his five starts (his loss was over 10f) including his last two in Grade 1 competition.
His post position of 4 will be perfect as he can sit off the early inside speed set by Heart to Heart and be able to get a jump on the late closers down the short stretch.
The Europeans have half the field and Suedois for David O’Meara is the leading contender for a European upset off the back of his win in the Shadwell Turf Mile, traditionally the key American exit race for this.
Aidan O’Brien runs Lancaster Bomber and Roly Poly. The latter looks solid on her form, but stall 12 might prove too much to overcome, and note, given the prices, that O’Brien is 0-17 in his attempts to win this race.
To many, Ribchester is the best of the Europeans but stall 10, the quick turn around, and the fact that this appears to be very much an afterthought has me leaving him off all tickets.
Betting strategy: This is a fantastic betting race and I am taking a stand against Ribchester. World Approval (3-1 with Bet 365) is the win play but I will hold off to back him in the US Tote Pools on the night as I think that he will offer more value. For me this is a big exotics play race as if you hit a ticket it will pay – so my exactas and trifectas will include Heart to Heart, World Approval, Suedois and Roly Poly. If Ribchester hits the board, I lose.
Many in North America consider BOLT D’ORO as one of the certainties of the Breeders’ Cup series and if you are a “numbers player” (of which I certainly am not!) you will be all over this unbeaten son of Medaglia d’Oro.
On paper, his claims look almost too good to be true given he won his first two races here at Del Mar, including the Grade One Del Mar Futurity, and then romped to a 7¾ length success in the Grade One Front Runner at Santa Anita.
Trained by successful businessman, turned self-styled horseman Micky Ruis and ridden by salty veteran Corey Nakatani he is one of the stories of the Breeders’ Cup, but his prices reflects it.
Should he win on the form? Yes. Would you want to back a two-year-old from gate 11? No. At Santa Anita Bolt d’Oro beat Solomini, but the runner-up can be expected to improve now on his third start as trainer Bob Baffert rightly has a reputation of peaking his horses on the third run of their form cycle.
Free Drop Billy would be the best of the non West Coast horses coming into this off the back of a win in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. Trainer Dale Romans has hit the board in this race for the last two years and can do it again here.
O’Brien runs US Navy Flag, the Middle Park and Dewhurst winner, but stall 1 may have sunk any chance for the trainer to collect his second win in the race.
Betting strategy: Bolt d’Oro, a standout 11-8 with SkyBet, should win this race but my play has to be Solomini each-way at 16-1 with William Hill. Other firms go 12-1.
Reigning champion HIGHLAND REEL bids to become only the third dual winner and give Aidan O’Brien a record seventh win in the race.
When the post positions were drawn and Highland Reel drew three his chance of victory was done no harm as he is now the inside speed. If given a similarly attacking ride to last year he will take all the beating, especially with the short Del Mar Stretch.
On the opening day of the Del Mar meet on Wednesday the three turf races run around two-turns were all won by horses who went forward including one who made all of the running.
Ulysses, fourth last year, comes here off the back of a brilliant third in the Arc de Triomphe, but with his hold-up run style he will need a little luck.
Arguably the best of the Americans is Beach Patrol for trainer Chad Brown, who stepped up to 12f for the first time in the Turf Classic at Belmont and blew away the field by five lengths; although he wasn’t facing the same competition there as he will here. Talismanic hails from the brilliant Andre Fabre yard and of the European runners he will be the one who steps up for the lightning quick ground at Del Mar.
Betting strategy: Back Highland Reel, 9-4 with Bet 365 and Paddy Power, to win. Also in the markets for number of European winners or number of winners for Aidan O’Brien – this is the one.
The question in the Classic is which Arrogate will show up? If the Arrogate of old appears then everyone else is playing for the minor money, but if the Arrogate from his last two runs shows up in the starting gate it could be anyone’s game.
Bob Baffert, seeking a fourth consecutive win in the Classic, is confident that Arrogate is coming back to himself and from post position 1 jockey Mike Smith has said they will send him.
Gun Runner has been unbeatable since coming back from Dubai and has been eye-catching in the mornings leading up to this. He is a fantastic, high-class racehorse, but he has one major chink in his armor and that is the stamina to go 10f – he is 0-3 at the distance including twice when beaten by Arrogate.
Baffert brings a record four runners into this contest and the up and coming three-year-old West Coast brings a five-race winning streak with two Grade 1 successes into this party, and if Arrogate doesn’t show up, to me he is the one to beat.
The Classic is one of the few races left in the World that Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore crave and have yet to be successful in 14 attempts. War Decree and Churchill represent them this time.
While Churchill has the better overall body of form, War Decree is more interesting given his dirt pedigree and his 10f Dundalk Group Three success last time. But for me, with my head and my heart, ARROGATE is the horse who will win the Classic.
Betting strategy: I have already backed West Coast each way ante-post at some juicy prices but now Arrogate, a general 5-2, represents value with British bookmakers. My assumption is that he will be back to near his best and that he may become the value play of the race.