Is Enable a Single in the Breeders' Cup Turf?

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

October 29th, 2018

From a handicapping and wagering perspective, one of the trickiest and most critical races of the entire Breeders’ Cup World Championships on November 3rd at Churchill Downs is the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I), and not because the race looks particularly wide-open on paper.

Quite to the contrary, I believe that there are only three horses—all European shippers—who have a serious chance to win this 1 ½-mile turf test. The problem is deciding whether to take a stand with the heavy favorite #2 Enable or cover for the possibility that she could be beaten by #12 Waldgeist or #1 Talismanic.

It’s a tricky question, because the sensational filly Enable looks like much the best horse on paper and might be the shortest-priced favorite of the entire Breeders’ Cup. A two-time winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), the most prestigious race in Europe, Enable enters the Turf a fresh horse with just two starts under her belt this year, and if she brings her A-game, it’s unlikely that anyone will defeat her.

Then again, no horse has ever won the Arc and the Turf in the same year (though there’s never been such a fresh and lightly-raced horse to attempt the feat), and the history of the Breeders’ Cup Turf is filled with instances of highly-regarded Europeans getting beaten by fellow transatlantic shippers offering better odds. Indeed, only one favorite has won the Breeders’ Cup Turf in the last fifteen years, and many of the upset winners were coming off of losing efforts in the Arc.

Based on those criteria, the Andre Fabre-trained pair of Waldgeist and Talismanic could certainly have live chances to post the upset. Talismanic won last year’s Turf at odds of 14-1, and his form since then has been reasonably good, though he never challenged while coming home thirteenth in the Arc and he’s been beaten in his last two starts by Waldgeist.

Speaking of Waldgeist, this son of Galileo has always been a high-class runner, but he’s elevated his game to a new level this year. From May through September he won four straight group stakes races, including the 1 ½-mile Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Fr-I), and he arguably ran his best race to date while weaving through traffic in the homestretch of the Arc to finish fourth, just 1 ¾ lengths behind Enable.

Should Enable regress off her hard-fought victory in the Arc, Waldgeist could be right there to take advantage… but for multi-race wagers like the Pick 4, playing both Enable and Waldgeist will double the cost of your tickets as opposed to singling Enable at a short price. Is that a wise investment? And is it even possible to make a meaningful profit in the single-race wagers if you play both on top?

Those are tough questions to answer, but here’s my take—as much as I respect Enable (and I think she’s got a very big chance to sweep the Arc/Turf double), I wouldn’t want to stand alone with her in the multi-race wagers. I would also include Waldgeist, but I’ll take a stand against Talismanic, who might not quite be up to scoring a repeat victory in the Turf while facing a tougher field this time around.

As for the single-race wagers? Beyond Enable and Waldgeist, I can envision a lot of different horses rounding out the trifecta and superfecta, so I’ll keep things simple and just box Enable and Waldgeist in a large exacta. If they run 1-2, I’ll be happy regardless of who wins.

$15 exacta: 2,12 with 2,12 ($30)

Good luck!