Breeders’ Cup Longshot Picks

I’m going to be selective with my longshot picks because there aren’t too many bombs I love and several of the races either have a standout who looks too tough or are very strong at the top, with a number of short-priced contenders who appear too formidable to look past. ~ Steve Haskin

Breeders’ Cup 2021 Longshot Picks

By Steve Haskin


If you’re looking for short-priced horses in this year’s Breeders’ Cup you’ve come to the wrong place. The fun of handicapping these races is looking for the longshots or overlays because there are always plenty of both.

With that said, several of the races this year are terrible betting races if you like depth. Gamine towers over her six opponents in the Filly and Mare Sprint on her best day, with Bella Sofia the only real threat pressing her from the outside, and the Dirt Mile looks very uninspiring with Life is Good a standout. Yes, there is the Met Mile winner Silver State and you always have to respect him, but this year’s Met Mile was not a strong field or a fast run race, and the top California hope Ginobili does not have an extensive resume, with his reputation based on one seven-furlong victory, so he is still unproven. Both these races would be good features on a given Saturday, but they are not “World Championship” caliber.

In the Sprint, another race that lacks depth, it’s going be very tough defeating Jackie’s Warrior, who can run you off the track or beat you in a dogfight.

Letruska obviously looks strong in the Distaff, but there are several other older fillies in there who are on a great speed figure pattern and appear to be peaking, and Malathaat is tough as nails and you know is going to be hounding Letruska from the start. In addition, there are a couple of fillies in there with early speed, one of whom is Shedaresthedevil, who has already defeated Letruska this year, handing her her only loss. But the favorite, who is in the running for Horse of the Year, will still take a lot of beating. It’s just that this might not set up for her as much as her other races when she was in control from the start, and she is not the fastest horse in the field on Thoro-Graph. That filly, Royal Flag, actually is on a stronger Thoro-Graph pattern and is really peaking right now.

As for the turf races, we have a huge contingent of foreign horses from Europe, Japan, and South America, and let’s be honest, the three distance races are wide-open with no standout, except for possibly Tarnawa in the Turf, who drew post 13, so that could compromise her chances, and she is coming off a hard race in the Prix de ‘Arc de Triomphe over a bog. In fact, the three top Europeans in the Turf drew posts 12, 13, and 14, which makes the race even more wide open. War Like Goddess is the top American horse in the Filly and Mare Turf, but has to contend with three top-class Euros — Love, Rougir and Audarya, and one of the leading international stars, the Japanese-trained Loves Only You, who was only a half-length behind the outstanding Mishriff in the Dubai Sheema Classic. Audarya won the Filly and Mare Turf last year, but couldn’t handle Rougir in the Prix de l’Opera and drew post 12 on the far outside.

Love looked like a world beater last year romping in the 1,000 Guineas, English Oaks, and Yorkshire Oaks. She faced the boys for the first time in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in her 4-year-old debut and beat Audarya to keep her winning streak going, but has been beaten in her last three starts, with two solid thirds in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Juddmonte International, but was upset in the Group 3 Blandford Stakes at 6-5 in her last start.

The 2-year-old races look pretty wide-open in general and you never know who is going to step up on this day. Echo Zulu has looked all the rage, but she has never faced opposition this strong, with several other brilliant fillies in there with spotless records and big-margin victories. But good luck trying to beat Echo Zulu at 4-5. The Juvenile favorite Jack Christopher drew the rail, and I’m not sure that’s where they want him in his two-turn debut, as they’ve been teaching him to sit behind horses. But with second choice Corniche, a speed horse, on the far outside, he will be charging to the lead, leaving Jack Christopher down on the inside behind him. The 2-year-old turf races are usually crap shoots, with the Europeans total guesses.

Finally, the Classic is going to be all about strategy. Knicks Go is the fastest horse in the race and has enjoyed uncontested leads in his races, and I doubt he’ll get that this year with Bob Baffert well aware that Medina Spirit’s best races have been on the lead. But he’ll have a tough time getting it from post 8 and Knicks Go breaking from post 5. Art Collector wants to be right up there as well and he’s right outside Knicks Go in post 6. But last year I was sure Tiz the Law and some of the others were not going to let Authentic waltz around there with an easy lead, which is the way he won all his races, but lo and behold everyone went to sleep and let him do it again. My one issue with Knicks Go in addition to never having been a mile and a quarter is that, other than the Whitney, he really hasn’t beaten anyone even remotely in the class of those he’ll be facing in the Classic. I would imagine Brad Cox would prefer swapping the post positions of Essential Quality and Knicks Go and have the former breaking outside Knicks Go instead of directly inside him.

So here are some of the longshots who look as if they are ready for a big effort or simply will be overlooked by the bettors. There are a number of races where I really don’t like any longshots, so I will spend more time on those I do like. I have already given you Tripoli in the Classic, so no need to repeat that. But he is more of an exotics pick, with a shot to win if everything sets up perfectly for him.

Although my first Derby sleeper, Commandperformnce is in the race, he won’t be anywhere close to a longshot, but if he’s up around 7-1 or higher I will bet him. But remember, he is my Derby sleeper and I am looking past the Juvenile, but if he lures me in with his odds I will be happy to comply. His best days surely are ahead of him. Post 10 is a little too far outside on this track, but he’s a big long-striding colt, so better there than down on the inside. As long as he makes his presence felt and takes another step forward I’ll be happy.

That brings us to another horse whose best days are ahead of him when the distances stretch out and definitely looks like a Derby horse with a classic pedigree. I don’t know if Pappacap is quite ready to knock off these horses, but I feel he is going to run the best race of his life, and if that’s not good enough to win it should be to put him in the exotics. However, if I see him at around 15-1 or higher I would put a win bet on him, because you never know with these 2-year-olds, who mature quickly, and I believe he is sitting on a big race.

Mark Casse’s original plan after the colt’s maiden victory at Gulfstream was to run in the Saratoga Special, Hopeful Stakes, and then the Breeders’ Futurity before heading to California for the Breeders’ Cup. But Casse called the owners and told them he had a new plan, which was to go immediately to Del Mar for the Best Pal Stakes and Del Mar Futurity to get a couple of races over the track and avoid all the brilliant 2-year-olds in Saratoga, knowing this colt would be much better going two turns, and that would come in the American Pharoah Stakes. So the son of red-hot freshman sire Gun Runner headed to Del Mar where he crushed his field in the Best Pal Stakes, galloping out a dozen lengths clear of the others and was difficult to pull up, as if he wanted to do a lot more.

In the Del Mar Futurity, he broke from the rail and ducked in sharply passing the gap to the clubhouse turn and then got rank, throwing his head up when restrained by Joe Bravo, while being stuck right behind a scorching half in :44 3/5. He came up empty in the stretch, finishing fourth. Stretching out to two turns in the American Pharoah, he drew the outside post this time and got caught four-wide wide into the first turn. He moved into second and chased the Baffert-trained Corniche all the way. Despite getting beat 3 ¼ lengths he actually got a faster Thoro-Graph number than the winner. A fast-closing Oviatt Class charged by him after the wire, but when he did, Pappacap got competitive again and went right by him on his inside on the turn.

He was always immature as a youngster and when they put him in the Keeneland yearling sale he didn’t get a second look, so they withdrew him. It’s a different story now. Casse’s assistant who has had him in California told him he has put on weight and grown, and it’s amazing how much bigger and muscled up he is now, and how much more mature he’s gotten, which is what you want to see with a 2-year-old. So far he seems more of a grinder, but he is able to sustain his run a long way, never gets tired, and is a beautiful moving horse.

So, although I am looking at him more as a Derby horse, he is a horse I have to pay attention to now in his second start at two turns and with more pace to run at. But I want to see him farther back this time. They would be more than happy to see him finish in the money, but with a little bit of luck he could be a win play at a pretty big price.

There are not a lot of horses in here who have fast closing speed figures on Brisnet, so if there is enough pace, most of the favorites could be vulnerable in the stretch. The horse who has the best closing figures and decent early pace figures to go with it is OVIATT CLASS and he is a must in the exotics. This could be another Texas Red for Keith Desormeaux. The sneaky good closer at a huge price is the maiden winner GIANT GAME, who could be any kind. But his early and middle pace figures are very slow, so he would need a pace meltdown.

First let me say this was written before he drew post 13, which certainly is far from ideal going a two-turn mile on a tight course. So keep that in mind. He needs every break he can get, but at least there are no major standouts in this field, with the top American being the house horse Mo Forza, winner of his last four and eight of his last nine, who looks like the horse to beat, and the one-two finishers of the seven-furlong Prix de la Foret, Space Blues and Pearls Galore, topping the European contingent. Space Blues is a seven-furlong horse, but his turn of foot in the Foret was spectacular and he is likely the horse to beat. All three are top-class horses, but Mo Forza has narrowly beaten the same two horses, Smooth Like Strait and Hit the Road, in his last two starts, and if you want a California horse at a price you can feel comfortable betting Smooth Like Strait, who hasn’t been worse than fourth in his last 17 starts. But we’ll go for a bomb in here.

Casa Creed has had his ups and downs over a four-year career, but his up may be good enough to win this race. He earned a career-high 104 Beyer figure and career-best “0” Thoro-Graph figure winning the six-furlong Jaipur Stakes in 1:08 flat before finishing a strong third in the one-mile Fourstardave, getting a career-best Thoro-Graph number (“1/2”) at a mile. He then dropped back to six-furlongs in the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint and was way too far back in 12th, but rallied through traffic to finish fifth, beaten three lengths in 1:07 4/5.

Now he stretches back out to a mile, his favorite distance, and should return to his regular style of running, which is to lay third, fourth, or fifth. But he can be deadly from anywhere. The key to him is timing your move right and if Junior Alvarado does I can see him coming on strong late. He hasn’t won a lot and ran poorly in last year’s BC Mile, but he does have four stakes victories at four different distances, and we are looking for longshots to either win or fill out the exotics and he is going to be a huge price. And I do love the way he worked at Del Mar, so just maybe he is sitting on a big race coming off that sprint.

This is another race without a true standout, and you don’t have that classic European glamour horse. In addition, most of them drew outside posts, with Teona, Tarnawa, and Japan breaking from posts 12, 13, and 14, respectively. The leading American hope looks to be Domestic Spending, but he has never been a mile and a half and has run only once at a mile and a quarter and was beaten at 2-5. But he’ll be closing for sure. The main danger could be Gufo, who made a very premature move in his last start, but when his move is timed right he is a powerful closer who has gotten a lot more mature with the addition of blinkers and stretching out to a mile and a half. But he is not an easy horse to ride, so Joel Rosario will have to time his move perfectly.

The horse that intrigues me and should be a big overlay is the gutsy, hard-knocking 6-year-old gelding United, who very well could be the most under-appreciated and underrated horse outside of California. He is even disrespected by his own jockey, as Flavien Prat deserted him to ride Domestic Spending, despite having ridden United in his last 16 starts.

All United has done is finish on the board in 17 of his last 18 starts, with his only poor effort coming when he shipped east for the only time in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, and we all know his trainer Dick Mandella is far more effective defending his home turf than shipping back east. The last time they ran the Breeders’ Cup in California, United was beaten a head by eventual Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar at odds of 51-1. I bet him that day so he owes me one.

United can beat you on the lead, just off the pace, from midpack, or as far back as 10th. In his last two races he was seventh at the eighth and flew home to win the John Henry Turf Championship and was beaten three-quarters of a length after a disastrous trip in the Del Mar Handicap.

Mandella is old school and is not afraid to work his horses long. He worked United seven furlongs in 1:25 3/5 before his victory in the John Henry and went one better by working him a mile in 1:37 1/5 last Thursday.

Although he loses Prat, he gets John Velazquez, who is as big a money rider as there is, so all he loses is familiarity. Also, remember, United has three victories and two seconds in six starts over the Del Mar turf course, with his only other race being the fourth, beaten three-quarters of a length, in this year’s Del Mar Handicap when he came from far back, encountering traffic problems in the stretch. I feel he’ll be an overlay and will be fighting to the end.

If you’re looking for European longshot, keep an eye on the 3-year-old German invader, SISFAHAN, a horse with a strong closing kick who won the German Derby and then, taking on older horses in Grosser Preis von Baden, was second, beaten only a length, by Torquator Tasso, who came back to score a shocking upset in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at 80-1. In his last start, the Preis von Europa, Germany’s version of the Arc, Sisfahan ran on well to finish third, blowing by the first two past the wire. The big difference is that the Preis von Europa is run right-handed around one big turn like the Arc, while the Grosser Preis von Baden is run left-handed around two turns like American racing. And I never underestimate the German horses. They are tough.

Another Euro who I find intriguing is BROOME, who has been used as a pacesetter by Aidan O’Brien, and was 56-1 in the Arc. But earlier in the year he won the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud wire to wire and was beaten a nose in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup, so he does have class and could be dangerous if he goes out there by himself. He was also beaten a half-length in the 2019 English Derby, coming from well of the pace, which is another reason I find him intriguing. And he gets Frankie Dettori, which moves him up even more.

We’re being realistic here. It’s difficult enough trying to beat Letruska, but to beat her and Malathaat and Royal Flag is an extremely daunting task. So we’ll just throw these two fillies out there and mention the reasons why either one can run a big enough race to threaten the three top choices or at least be part of the exotics.

Dunbar Road seemed to lose her way after winning last year’s Delaware Handicap and was far from the filly that had won the Mother Goose and Alabama Stakes in 2019. But after an uninspiring fifth in this year’s Shuvee Stakes behind Royal Flag she seemed to wake up in the Personal Ensign Stakes and was flying at the end to be beaten three-quarters of a length by Letruska in a four-horse blanket finish, finishing two heads behind Bonnie South and Royal Flag. She lost a lot of ground, going six-wide at the top of the stretch, was bumped by Royal Flag, and probably would have been second if she hadn’t shied from a left-handed whip and drifted out at a critical point inside the eighth pole and losing just enough momentum.

In the Spinster Stakes, Letruska was allowed to coast along on an easy uncontested lead, and Dunbar Road, racing in fifth in the six-horse field, ran a huge race to finish second, cutting Letruska’s 3 ½-length lead at the eighth pole to 1 ¾ lengths at the finish, while pulling 2 ¼ lengths clear of the late-running Bonnie South. So it was impressive on two counts – gaining on Letruska and pulling away from a strong closer like Bonnie South.

She had run a pair of “1 ¾” Thoro-Graph numbers last year, which is slightly slower than Letruska has been running this year. In her last four races she has gone from a “5” to a “3” to a “2 ¼” to a “2,” so she looks like she is on pattern to take another step forward and be right there with Letruska. She has already been running as fast as Malathaat, but it is Royal Flag who is coming off a “negative-1 ½” in the Beldame, so she actually is the fastest filly in the race right now on Thoro-Graph and is really getting good at the right time, and this race should set up well for her. She could be the overlay in this field as third choice, but is still short for a longshot pick.

As for Clairiere, she is only 3 and has never faced older fillies, and has finished behind Malathaat three times. In her defense, however, she made a premature move in the four-horse Coaching Club American Oaks to put pressure on Malathaat, setting it up for Maracuja, who was able to take back and wait to strike. And that is not the way Clairiere wants to run. She basically was used as a sacrificial lamb to prevent Malathaat from having things her own way on the lead.

She really looks to be peaking now after an impressive victory in the Cotillion Stakes, in which she jumped from a career-best “4 ½” Thoro-Graph figure to a “1 ¼.” What really impressed me was how good she looked working in company with BC Classic contender Max Player last week, in which he was under the whip and she was not being asked, but still finished ahead of him and galloped out ahead of him. So, even though she is a 3-year-old going against exceptional older fillies and mares and the leading 3-year-old filly in the country, she looks ready to run the race of her life. Whether that’s good enough we don’t know, but she, like Dunbar Road, is in great form and will be big odds.

One is an overlay and the other is a megabomb. There is no way I am claiming Dakota Gold is in the same class as Mackinnon, Tiz the Bomb, Dubawi Legend, and the Godolphin pair of Modern Games and Albahr. But if you are looking for a monster price to play with them you had to be impressed with the way Dakota Gold burst clear of his opponents in the Nownownow Stakes at Monmouth Park, winning by 2 ¼ lengths, with another six lengths back to the With Anticipation Stakes winner Coinage. This was Dakota Gold’s grass debut and we really have no idea how good he is. So why not take a shot that he is as good as he looked at Monmouth, and that his turn of foot in the stretch was for real.

Tiz the Bomb is not going to be much of a longshot, but still should be a decent price behind Mackinnon and Dubawi Legend and maybe a couple of others. When Tiz the Bomb broke through the gate in the Bourbon Stakes and ran off a short distance it looked like he had lost all chance, but for him to win anyway from post 12 and looking like he was dropping back nearing the top of the stretch, only to pour it on in the stretch shows how talented he is. And remember, his sire, Hit it a Bomb, trained by Aidan O’Brien, won the Juvenile Turf from post 14.

I try to stay away from the Juvenile turf races, because you never know what’s going to happen, especially figuring out the European form and how they’ll do here. The Euro standout in the Juvenile Turf is the group 1 Dewhurst Stakes runner-up Dubawi Legend, but he drew post 14. So unless he gets lucky and has a dream trip the horse to beat looks like the house horse Mackinnon, who has the turn of foot to match the Europeans and is undefeated in two starts on the Del Mar turf course. Tiz the Bomb’s trainer Kenny McPeek, who is always dangerous in these 2-yar-old races, lost his big Juvenile hopeful Rattle N Roll to a minor injury and I can see him winning this one.

This is not a longshot pick, but a possible overlay to either save on or put under Jackie’s Warrior. What intrigues me most about C Z Rocket is that he is coming into this race looking very similar to Whitmore last year, who proved to be the overlay of the Breeders’ Cup. Both of these old geldings appeared to have lost some of their fastball, but still were competitive against top-class company. Whitmore got things his own way and fired his best shot.

After winning seven of his eight starts, including back-to-back victories over Whitmore this year, and with his only defeat a second behind Whitmore in last year’s BC Sprint, C Z Rocket has lost his last four races, finishing second twice and third twice, closing well but not with the same punch he had shown earlier. But one race was at seven furlongs and one at a mile, and he has been most productive at six furlongs since being claimed by Peter Miller, and this is the type of race in which Miller is most dangerous, as he showed twice with Roy H in the Sprint at age 5 and 6 and twice with Stormy Liberal the Turf Sprint at age 5 and 6. Now he tries with C Z Rocket at age 7. C Z Rocket’s last three starts were his only races without Lasix and I have no idea if that has any bearing on anything. I just know this is when Miller is most dangerous and he just might have the old gun loaded again when the big money is on the line.

I haven’t taken a long hard look at the Turf Sprint, but I was very impressed with GEAR JOCKEY’S last three races since dropping back to sprints, especially his most recent victory in the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint. But, again, he probably won’t be big odds. I try to stay away from this race, because everything has to go perfectly to win and there is so much room for error.

I will leave the Filly and Mare Sprint to Gamine and the Dirt Mile to Life is Good. And the Filly and Mare Turf is just too strong at the top. Echo Zulu also looks too good, and if she’s beaten it likely will be by the second or third choice, Hidden Connection or Juju’s Map.

As I mentioned earlier, I have already written a column on TRIPOLI and his upset chances in the Classic, based on his wide trip in the Awesome Again and getting a faster Thoro-Graph number than the victorious Medina Spirit, but to be honest, anyone can win this race, and it’s very difficult separating Knicks Go, Essential Quality, Hot Road Charlie, Medina Spirit, and Art Collector — the five top choices. But it sure wouldn’t be a shock to see Tripoli, Max Player, or Express Train pop up and run big. So, other than a minimal win bet on Tripoli and maybe Max Player, this looks like a race to sit back and enjoy rather than try to figure out who to bet in the exotics. If you like one of the favorites just be prepared to make a fairly large bet if you want a big return. The overlay of this group could be HOT ROD CHARLIE, who finally is back home after traveling all over the country and having quite an interesting and eventful campaign. But boy does he run hard and never backs down from a fight, and his second in the Belmont Stakes may be the most impressive losing effort of the year. He could be fourth or even fifth choice, and if he is, he certainly would be worth a win bet. But he does have a following, especially in California, so we’ll see how he gets bet.

Look out for our Breeders’ Cup wrap-up column either late Monday or early Tuesday.


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