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Breeders’ Cup Horses: A Look At The Top Contenders

Art Collector is an interesting bet among Breeders' Cup horses.

The Breeders’ Cup gets underway at Del Mar on Friday, with five championship races for the future stars of the sport, and nine additional races on Saturday highlighted by the $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

This is the second time the Breeders’ Cup will be held at Del Mar. The first was in 2017 when betting favorites went just 2-for-14. Last year at Keeneland, the betting favorites were 5-for-14. Among the upsets last year was Order of Australia winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile paying $148.40 for a $2 wager and Fire At Will winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf to the tune of $62.40. 

The key to success for horseplayers looking to turn a profit over the two days is to find the vulnerable favorites among the Breeders’ Cup horses as well as the live long shots.

What Horses Are Running in the Breeders’ Cup? 

There are several imposing favorites among the 2021 Breeders’ Cup horses, including Echo Zulu (-110) in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Gamine (-175) in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Life Is Good (-125) in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Jackie’s Warrior (+110) in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Letruska (+135) in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. 

Let’s take a deeper dive among these top Breeders’ Cup 2021 contenders and see if we can find a reason to play against the chalk. 

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Echo Zulu Big Favorite in Juvenile Fillies

The first heavy chalk we are going to see is Echo Zulu in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Friday’s card. The filly is currently listed at -110 at Bovada in early wagering and only has to face five foes.

The filly has won her three career races by a combined 16¾ lengths and exits a victory in the Frizette at Belmont Park where she took the field gate to wire and won by 7¼ lengths. She is trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who is now the all-time leading trainer in wins, breaking the record this summer at Saratoga. 

However, at the recent Keeneland meeting, the barn went into a major slump, winning with just one of 57 starters. His main jockey, Ricardo Santana Jr., rode this filly in her first three career starts but went 0-for-81 at Keeneland. The trainer has replaced Santana and Joel Rosario will ride. 

At such a short price, Breeders’ Cup contenders Juju’s Map at +300 and Tarabi at +1200 are going to end up offering more value and are definitely worth a look to pull off the upset.

Gamine Seeks Repeat in Filly & Mare Sprint

We don’t see short fields in the Breeders’ Cup often and we have two this year including this race, which has been reduced to just five with the scratch of Estilo Talentoso. 

Gamine wired the field last year and paid $4.20 and if she wins this year, the price will be even shorter. 

She is perfect in four starts this year for embattled trainer Bob Baffert, who is under extra scrutiny after his drug positive with Medina Spirit in the Kentucky Derby. My inclination is to fade his runners, and if they beat me, so be it. 

Bella Sofia (+300) is the most logical threat. She has won four of her five career starts and is coming off an impressive win in the Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park in her last outing. She is very quick early and that could mean we see a lively early pace. 

Ce Ce (+450) would be the beneficiary if the early pace is hot. The Michael McCarthy trainee has shown some late foot in her races and in this short field will offer a bit of value although things need to set up for her, no sure thing in such a compact field. 

Life Is Good for Pletcher

Life Is Good was originally with Baffert but with all the controversy surrounding the Hall of Fame trainer, the connections of this colt elected to send him to Todd Pletcher. 

The colt was beaten a neck to Breeders’ Cup Sprint favorite Jackie’s Warrior in the H.A. Jerkens (G1) in his first start for Pletcher, then won the Kelso Handicap (G2) in his final prep for the Dirt Mile. 

It is really tough to get excited about backing him at -125, but there are not too many attractive options. Silver State is the second choice at +330 but has lost his last two starts and is sent out by the chilly Asmussen barn. 

Baffert sends out Eight Rings, who is a decent price at +1200, and Snapper Sinclair is at +2500. The Asmussen trainee was a good second in the Eddie D (G2) at Santa Anita in his last outing. 

Ginobili is sent out by Richard Baltas and is currently listed at +500 at Bovada in early Dirt Mile wagering. The gelding prepped by winning the Pat O’Brien (G2) over the Del Mar main track at seven furlongs, his first stakes victory. 

Life might be good for Pletcher after this race. 

Jackie’s Warrior Looks for Redemption

Last year at Keeneland, Jackie’s Warrior was one of the buzz horses, sent off as the chalk in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he came up short in a fourth-place finish. Since cutting back to one turn, he has won four of his last five starts, the loss coming by just a neck. 

The Asmussen trainee won the Gallant Bob (G2) at Parx Racing in his final tune-up by 6¾ lengths and earned a career top Beyer Speed Figure of 110. Now he looks for a Breeders’ Cup win going six furlongs in the Sprint and is a solid favorite at +110. 

He takes on eight foes and it is a solid group led by Dr. Schivel (+500), who won the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) in his last start. That prep has produced the most Sprint winners at eight. 

Special Reserve (+800) was a game winner of the Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland in his final prep, which produced his fourth consecutive triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure. 

Aloha West (+900) was beaten a neck in the Phoenix and is getting some buzz this week at Del Mar. The Wayne Catalano trainee has won four of eight career starts but does not have a stakes win. 

There are several solid alternatives rather than settling with the favorite in this race. 

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Streaking Letruska Tough in Distaff

Letruska has won five in a row and in her career has won 17 of her 22 starts and she appears to be a tough favorite at +135 in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. 

She has earned consistent speed figures over her last five starts and each of her wins came in gate-to-wire fashion. She has won four of her five starts at 1 1/8 miles. 

However, there is plenty of early speed signed up and things may not be easy early for the betting favorite. Private Mission (+900) drew the rail for trainer Bob Baffert and has some early zip.  

The pair to the favorite’s outside are Horologist (+5000) and Shedaresthedevil (+500) and both are quick and can contribute to what should be a brisk early pace. 

If Letruska has to work hard early, she could be vulnerable late. Who would benefit from a fast early pace?

Malathaat (+500) has won six of her seven career starts and came with a good late run to win the Alabama (G1) last out at Saratoga at 1¼ miles. She should be coming when they turn for home. 

Another is Clairiere, who put it all together with a smart win in the Cotillion (G1) at Parx Racing in her last start. She is going to get a good pace set up and is worth a look at +1100. 

Coming up tomorrow, I will have a race betting preview of the $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the marquee event of the two-day championship event. 

Knicks Go is the early favorite at +225 and this field drew a strong group, including top three-year-olds Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie and Medina Spirit. 

On Friday, I will have my 2021 Breeders’ Cup predictions and best bets among the 14 races as we attempt to pad our bankroll.