Breeders' Cup Saturday Best Bet
I’ll stay away from expected short-priced favorites and tab STONETASTIC (#8, 5-1) in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) as my best bet. Off at 3-1 in last year’s Filly & Mare Sprint, the gray miss set the pace before weakening to fourth at Santa Anita. The four-year-old filly returns in better form this year for Kelly Breen, running a big second to next-out Ballerina winner Unbridled Forever (who is currently sidelined) at Saratoga before crushing allowance foes at Parx, registering a field-best 109 BRIS Speed rating for the 15-length decision. Her BRIS Early Pace ratings are outstanding and with trainer Linda Rice saying La Verdad needs to settle in order to have any chance of getting seven-furlongs, Stonetastic can flash to the front and control the action with a hot-riding Paco Lopez (won races Thursday and Friday at Keeneland). Wire to wire.
The lamentable scratch of Beholder from the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) a couple days ago leaves HONOR CODE (#9, 5-1) as perhaps the most likely rival to topple Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Although he's never tried 1 1/4 miles before, his pedigree and Whitney (G1) performance suggest it shouldn't be much of an issue. Prepping in the Kelso H. (G2) backfired on the day when the track came up sloppy and Appealing Tale was left alone on a comfortable lead, and it was far from this one's best performance visually. However, there's been nothing but good news emanating from the Honor Code camp since then and his Belmont works have been sparkling. He's always looked the part, and now just needs an honest pace and earlier bid into contention to give himself his best opportunity. There's a strong possibility it all comes together for him on the biggest stage of the year.
NYQUIST (#13, 9-2) would wrap up two-year-old male championship honors with a win in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), but probably won’t offer much value at the windows. Nonetheless, the bay colt has proven unbeatable so far in his career and could easily maintain that perfection here. After breaking his maiden by a head at Santa Anita Park, the Doug O’Neill trainee traveled to Del Mar for his next pair of races and romped by 5 1/4 lengths in the Best Pal S. (G2) and then 3 3/4 lengths in the Del Mar Futurity (G1). In each case he increased the distance he ran before finally returning to Santa Anita on September 26 to take the FrontRunner S. (G1) going the Juvenile distance of 1 1/16 miles. Nyquist has never earned below a 94 BRIS Speed rating and keeps regular rider Mario Gutierrez aboard for his Keeneland debut.
After my colleagues have all offered reasonably priced chances, I’m going to play it safe. Golden Horn is prohibitive at 4-5 in the Turf (G1). Legatissimo looms as a very likely winner at 8-5 in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and given a solid group of rivals, she may even be a slightly more attractive price at post time. SONGBIRD (#10, 7-5) will also be a short price in the Juvenile Fillies (G1), but with fewer variables in play, Jerry Hollendorfer’s budding star may face a straightforward task to stay undefeated.