Racing Roundtable: Reflections on the 2022 Breeders' Cup

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TwinSpires Staff

November 8th, 2022

With the 2022 Breeders' Cup now in the history books, the Racing Roundtable is back to  reflect on the 39th edition of the series held at Keeneland last weekend.

Besides Flightline, which Breeders' Cup performance were you most impressed by?

James Scully: In terms of sheer dominance, Goodnight Olive, Meditate, Rebel's Romance, and Wonder Wheel were worthy of distinction, and it's easy to appreciate how Elite Power and Mischief Magic angled their way through traffic to prevail, but I came away most impressed with the top three from the Distaff (G1) — Malathaat, Blue Stripe, and Clairiere laid it all out in the final stages.

It kept me on edge to the wire. At first, Clairiere appeared on her way to victory, charging up the rail in midstretch, but the pendulum suddenly swung to Blue Stripe, who clung to a short advantage late between rivals. However, Malathaat swooped to get the money in the final strides, delivering another scintillating finish to Distaff lore. The top three were separated by a pair of noses on the wire.

Kellie Reilly: Meditate was stunning in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), ripping the anti-European trend in that race to shreds. Although the Aidan O'Brien trainee had outstanding form in the book, the stretch-out to a mile was a step into the unknown — especially for a filly with a hitherto forward running style. The key for me was her change of tactics at Keeneland. Settling well off the pace revealed an entirely new dimension, and allowed her to flaunt her class to the maximum degree. Aside from establishing herself as a proper contender for next spring's 1000 Guineas (G1), Meditate boosted her hot sire No Nay Never, who's emerging as Coolmore's next big progenitor.

Vance Hanson: I'd second the thoughts on the Distaff, which surely entered the Breeders' Cup Hall of Fame in terms of sheer, spine-tingling excitement, and Meditate's highly impressive performance.

My own contribution would be Forte, who looks like the current stick-out among the juvenile males heading into the winter. That division will certainly gain more depth in the coming months, but Forte is sure to get a lot better, too.

Which Breeders' Cup performance were you most surprised or disappointed by?

JS: Caravel's coup in the Turf Sprint (G1) rates as the biggest stunner — I was against Golden Pal, but he was the only horse I could envision leading wire-to-wire. When the favorite missed the break, 42-1 Caravel seized the advantage, and the five-year-old mare gamely turned back a challenge in midstretch to win by a half-length.

After tabbing Nest in the Distaff, I came away disappointed by her flat fourth-place effort.

KR: I thought with every fiber of my being that Nest was the kind of exceptional three-year-old filly who could defeat her elders in the Distaff. Granted, enduring the widest trip in the whole race made it nearly mission impossible. According to Trakus, she covered 45 feet more than her victorious stablemate Malathaat. Even bigger were her differentials with the near-miss second and third, Blue Stripe (65 feet) and Clairiere (57 feet). Still, the trip and race dynamics don't entirely explain her lackluster fourth. Nest wasn't really traveling with her usual panache, and she was working harder to get past Secret Oath, whom she'd left well behind at Saratoga. After her relentless upswing over the summer, perhaps Nest had gone over the top.

VH: I'll join the chorus and vote Nest as a huge disappointment in the Distaff. Given the historically lopsided rate of success for older fillies and mares in that race, I should have been more suspect, especially as she was coming out of a weak prep and was a very heavy favorite.

I'd also mention Nashwa in the Filly and Mare Turf (G1) and Highfield Princess in the Turf Sprint of whom I expected a lot more. Neither had much of a visible excuse for not seriously contending for the win.

Do you have any regrets or takeaways regarding your Breeders' Cup handicapping?

JS: The Alcibiades (G1) and Breeders' Futurity (G1) served as local preps for the Juvenile (G1) and Juvenile Fillies (G1), and I misjudged both winners, Wonder Wheel and Forte. In fact, I came away favoring the runner-up from each event — that was a mistake. After leading wire-to-wire in the Alcibiades, Wonder Wheel moved forward while switching tactics in the Juvenile Fillies, offering a bold turn of foot from off the pace to win going away by three lengths. Forte, who earned a neck win in the Breeders' Futurity, launched a powerful rally on the far turn and rolled past odds-on favorite Cave Rock to score by 1 1/2 lengths in the Juvenile. I thought both were terrific in their second start at Keeneland.

KR: Among my many whiffs, the personally most annoying ones were the two-year-old dirt races. I overreacted to a couple of the preps and foolishly changed my mind. I had the right ideas about both Cave Rock (not quite sold) and Wonder Wheel (upbeat) about six weeks ago. But their final stepping stones made me revise my opinions in exactly the wrong ways, getting off the winning Wonder Wheel for the Juvenile Fillies and being persuaded toward busted favorite Cave Rock in the Juvenile. It would have been a lot smarter to take the prep evidence on board in a measured way, without doing a complete flip-flop.

VH: My prognostications both days were rather dreadful, but I especially regret not taking a stand against Cave Rock in the Juvenile and Nations Pride in the Turf (G1). Both were terribly under-priced, and the horses that beat them eminently logical.