Keeler Johnson's Breeders' Cup Saturday Spot Plays

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November 1st, 2018

As usual, the Breeders’ Cup Saturday card is packed with large fields, competitive races, and exciting wagering opportunities. When you pit this many talented horses against each other, you’re bound to find an abundance of live contenders offering appealing odds.

With this in mind, I’ve gone through the Saturday card gathering up a few “spot plays.” Basically, I’m just looking for non-favorites and longshots that I believe can outrun expectations at high odds. Whether you’re looking for win candidates or horses to include in multi-race wagers or at the bottom of trifectas, here are a few horses that I’ll be strongly considering throughout the day….

Race 2 (Cherokee Run Stakes): #12 Super Sol (4-1)

When Bob Baffert ships out a contingent of big-name horses for a day of big races, it’s wise to keep an eye on the lesser-known names he sends along for the undercard, as they’re usually well-meant and ready to roll. #12 Super Sol seems to fit the bill. The lightly-raced son of Awesome Again broke his maiden in gate-to-wire fashion at Del Mar with a 94 Beyer and came back to win an allowance race at Los Alamitos by three lengths after pressing a fast pace. He’ll be able to stay out of trouble and use his speed from the outside draw, and the presence of the Florida Derby (gr. I) winner #3 Audible—who could be vulnerable while cutting back in distance and making his first start since the Kentucky Derby—should ensure that Super Sol starts at a nice price. If you want to go bolder, box Super Sol in the exacta with fellow California shipper #1 Cool Bobby, 12-1 on the morning line.

Race 3 (Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint): #5 Golden Mischief (10-1)

I wouldn’t talk anyone out of playing Baffert in this race as well—he trains the morning line favorite #13 Marley’s Freedom, who was so impressive winning the Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) this summer—but the 10-1 morning line odds on #5 Golden Mischief are too appealing to pass up for a spot play. This up-and-coming sprinter from the barn of Brad Cox has won three straight stakes races, including the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland, in which she rallied from behind a slow pace to win in game fashion. That race has historically been a very productive prep for the Filly & Mare Sprint, and Golden Mischief’s half-mile breeze in :47 flat on October 28th—the fastest of 113 morning workouts at that distance—suggests she’s ready to roll. At 10-1, I’d happily bet her to win and box her in the exacta with Marley’s Freedom.

Race 5 (Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile): #3 Isotherm (20-1)

Call me crazy, but I don’t think #3 Isotherm is out of the mix here. The last two winners of the Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs were cutting back in distance from longer two-turn races, including Dakota Phone, who parlayed a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes (now the Awesome Again Stakes) into a stunning 37-1 victory in the 2010 Dirt Mile. Isotherm will be attempting the same strategy, having made a strong mid-race move in the Awesome Again to challenge for the lead before flattening out late to finish third behind the Breeders’ Cup Classic favorites Accelerate and West Coast. Obviously Isotherm will have to step up his game to beat the likes of #10 Catalina Cruiser and #1 City of Light, but Isotherm hasn’t run in a one-turn race on dirt since his debut more than three years ago, and who’s to say he won’t relish the change? If he gets a good pace setup, I think he can at least hit the board at a very big price.

Race 7 (Breeders’ Cup Sprint): #2 Promises Fulfilled (6-1)

There are plenty of fast horses in the Sprint, but I don’t think any of them can run as fast early on as the three-year-old #2 Promises Fulfilled, who has clocked sub-:43 half-miles on two occasions this year. After using his speed to dominate fellow sophomores in the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. III) and H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, Promises Fulfilled stepped up against older horses in the Phoenix Stakes (gr. II) and prevailed in gate-to-wire fashion, going out quick and coming home fast to win by a head. Three-year-olds have a strong record in the Sprint, including wins from Trinniberg in 2012, Runhappy in 2015, and Drefong in 2016, and I think there’s a strong possibility that Promises Fulfilled can join them by simply out-sprinting his rivals on Saturday.

Race 8 (Breeders’ Cup Mile): #15 Divisidero (30-1)

On paper, this doesn’t look like the toughest renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Mile, so why not take a shot with a “horse for the course” specialist like #15 Divisidero? He’s won three of his four starts over the Churchill Downs turf course, including back-to-back wins in the 2016-17 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. I), and he would probably be unbeaten over this course if not for a traffic-filled trip in the Wise Dan Stakes (gr. II) back in June, where he closed fast after getting shuffled back on the far turn to be beaten less than a length.

Last time out, Divisidero encountered a poor pace setup while finishing fifth in the Woodbine Mile (gr. I), and being a one-dimensional deep closer, that’s hardly the first time he’s been compromised by pace. In the Breeders’ Cup Mile, he might finally get a more favorable setup, and with rain expected in Louisville later this week, he should also get a rain-soaked course that should be to his liking. Is he the most likely winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile? No, I don’t think so. But I think his recent form is a lot better than it looks at first glance, and at 30-1 I’m definitely going to be playing him.

Who do you like on Breeders’ Cup Saturday?