Book Your Flight to the Breeders’ Cup

It is time once again for horse racing’s version of Rubik’s Cube with bettors laying down their money with every twist. The Breeders’ Cup has proven to be the sport’s most enjoyable way to lose your money. It’s a strange feeling hitting a couple of longshots or exactas and still losing money over the two days. I’m not here to offer trifectas and superfectas, only some live horses and potential longshots and you can put them together to form an exotic bet if you wish. But no matter how you do, you still have Flightline to look forward to and then we’ll know just what kind of freak this really is. ~ Steve Haskin

Book Your Flight to the Breeders’ Cup

By Steve Haskin

We all know the 2022 Breeders’ Cup goes wherever Flightline takes it, and everyone will be waiting with bated breath for the Classic to see if the skies of Lexington will be filled with rockets, flares, and fireworks following the race. And no matter what is said or not said, most people know deep down inside that this very likely will be the final flight of this extraordinary horse and that Lane’s End Farm already is starting to roll out the red carpet. As the old song goes, “Johnny, we hardly knew ye.”

But we’ll have to deal with that another time. Right now, let’s see if there is anyone who can put an end to this unprecedented reign, as brief as it’s been.

And there are plenty of other races in which bettors can sink their teeth. And that’s why we’re here. My previous Breeders’ Cup handicapping columns and analyses have focused on finding longshots and potential overlays. I will continue in that vein to an extent, but will try to diversify a little this time.

But let’s start with the Classic and get that out of the way. As I alluded to in a recent column about whether Life is Good is capable of upsetting Flightline, I am going to keep that same thought, but spread it out a little. There is an excellent chance that Flightline cannot be beaten, barring something unforeseen like a horrendous trip or him simply not having his best day. But from a Thoro-Graph perspective he could regress 10 lengths and still win.

To me, there is only one question mark with Flightline and that is, what will he do if someone looks him in the eye at the quarter pole or eighth pole and makes him actually run down the stretch for the first time. He has never had a horse anywhere near him from the five-sixteenths pole to the wire and has won all his races geared down, winning most of them with ridiculous ease.

Life is Good’s trainer Todd Pletcher well aware what he’s up against, but he also knows how fast his horse is, as evidenced by the way he made the front-running Horse of the Year Knicks Go look slow in the Pegasus World Cup. We just don’t know if he is as effective at 1 ¼ miles. But Flightline has nver faced an opponent with Life is Good’s speed, combined with class. As for Epicenter, his Travers was visually one of the most impressive races of the year, and we have all watched him grow into a man since the Triple Crown. But his Thoro-Graph number in the Travers was surprisingly slow, so make of that what you wish. If Life is Good and Hot Rod Charlie can stick around long enough to make Flightline know he’s in a race then we could have some drama in the stretch.

But to me this is a race to watch and not get too hung up on trying to beat Flightline. Sure anything can happen in a race, so for the sake of providing some kind of action I’ll throw Life is Good and the vastly improving Taiba in a trifecta box. There would be zero value putting Epicenter in there. But if you get past Flightline then anyone is capable of winning or placing. Yes, even Rich Strike, whose only start at Keeneland was a fast-closing third after a troubled trip. He could sneak into the superfecta.

OK, I guess it’s best to go back to the beginning.

JUVENILE TURF SPRINT – With the speedy English filly THE PLATINUM QUEEN drawing post 12 it opens the door to a number of other fast juveniles, mainly the Wesley Ward-trained LOVE REINS, Queen Mary Stakes winner DRAMATISED, and my longshot pick, Godolphin’s MISCHIEF MAGIC, who could be coming late under William Buick in a race loaded with speed.

JUVENILE FILLIES – In a wide-open race with no standout I’m going to take a shot with ATOMICALLY, who was sent to Pletcher after romping in the My Dear Girl division of the Florida Stallion Series, her first try going two turns.I have been very impressed with the Chad Brown-trained RAGING SEA, but good luck breaking from the 14 post. For my bomb, if you’re looking for a 20-1 shot trained by Bill Mott you have to take a look at AMERICAN ROCKETTE, who had a bad trip when fourth in the Spinaway Stakes, and I will forgive her fourth in the Frizette Stakes in the slop. This will be her first two-turn race and I think she could improve stretching out in distance.

JUVENILE FILLIES TURF – I don’t know if anyone can beat MEDITATE if she handles the two turns, but I give a big shot to the Jessamine winner DELIGHT, who loves the Keeneland turf and the two turns and is improving with every start for Jonathan Thomas. My longshot pick at 20-1 is the Canadian invader LAST CALL, who is improving with distance and won the Natalma Stakes last time out at 21-1 with first race blinkers off and first time racing without Lasix. And I like the move from the big Woodbine turf course to the tighter Keeneland course.

JUVENILECAVE ROCK could be a world beater and you can’t knock what FORTE has accomplished and the courage he showed winning the Breeders’ Futurity over the Keeneland track. Remember though that Forte got a faster Thoro-Graph number last out than Cave Rock. But there is no value here with either one and I’m not sure about BLAZING SEVENS, so I will take a shot with Pletcher’s other horse LOST ARK, who looked sensational in his first two starts, including the one-mile Sapling Stakes, then had the trip from hell in the Breeders’ Futurity, where everything went wrong early, putting him at the back of the 14-horse field. This is a horse with good tactical speed and having to come from so far back he had no shot to do much of anything and at least closed to be a respectable sixth. I’ll give him a shot at 20-1, breaking from post 8 and getting the services of Luis Saez.

JUVENILE TURF – This is another wide-open race with a European invader, Godolphin’s SILVER KNOTT, a major threat with the ability to win from on the pace or far back. ANDTHEWINNER IS and REALLY GOOD are both coming off excellent efforts in their 1,3 finish in Keeneland’s Bourbon Stakes and could be the second and third choices, right there with California’s best 2-year-old turf horse PACKS A WAHLOP riding a three-race winning streak. Really Good is running second race with blinkers on and did not have the best of trips last time out and should improve. Brendon Walsh has a 20-1 shot who may outrun his odds. RECKONING FORCE had a rough trip last out when seventh in the Bourbon Stakes, but won a stakes at Kentucky Downs in his previous start and has a good enough closing kick to make his presence felt in the stretch.

FILLY AND MARE SPRINTCE CE, ECHO ZULU, CHI TOWN LADY, and GOODNIGHT OLIVE look to be the standouts, but I never throw out the classy OBLIGATORY, coming off 11 straight graded stakes, six of them at seven furlongs. With a contentious pace she should be coming strong in the stretch at 8-1 morning line odds.

TURF SPRINT – The usual crap shoot with the exception of GOLDEN PAL, I am intrigued with the decision to drop CASA CREED back to 5 ½ furlongs two starts after he won the Grade 1 Fourstardave at Saratoga going a mile. But he did win the Grade 1 Jaipur Stakes going six furlongs the race before and I am convinced this 6-year-old warrior can come home fast at any distance up to a mile and I’ll bank on him going off higher than his 6-1 morning line odds. For a real bomb I love the way CAZADERO is improving and is beginning to look like the brilliant 2-year-old we saw win the Bashford Manor Stakes by open lengths in 1:09 3/5 and romp in his career debut going five furlong in : 57 3/5.

DIRT MILE – There are some tough, classy horses in here who are going to be tough to beat, including one of my early Kentucky Derby favorites SIMPLIFICATION, but there are also some live longshots like SENOR BUSCADOR, who looked like a potential contender early on the Derby trail. He returned from California and looked good winning the Ack Ack Stakes. I am looking for a big effort from SLOW DOWN ANDY, who made his mark on the Derby trail, is a graded stakes winner on grass and dirt, is tough as nails, and game as they come. His solid third in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes sets him up for a big effort here.

FILLY AND MARE TURF – I plead ignorant in this race. I can’t separate the American horses, none of whom are standouts, and I don’t know if any of them can handle the second and third-place finishers of the Prix de l’Opera, NASHWA and ABOVE THE CURVE, and the Epsom Oaks winner TUESDAY, who was beaten by the aforementioned two fillies in the Prix de l’Opera. But at 20-1 we have the Irish Oaks runner-up TOY, winner of a listed stakes last out in Ireland at a distance of one mile, which is too short for her. No strong feelings here.

SPRINT – The bizarre scratch of Jack Christopher with an equally bizarre explanation was a crushing blow to this race. Things appear to go a lot deeper than what is on the surface, but we have no choice but to move on. JACKIE’S WARRIOR, ALOHA WEST, the vastly improved ELITE POWER, and the filly KIMARI all look strong. For a price, AMERICAN THEOREM looks like a new horse since returning to sprint races and could be tough here at 10-1, as could former Derby trail star O BESOS, who is coming off two excellent sprint efforts. Those two would be my longshot picks.

MILE – The top choices all look strong and deep and I’m not seeing any longshots I like to beat ANNAPOLIS, DREAMLOPER, MODERN GAMES, KINROSS, REGAL GLORY, and ORDER OF AUSTRALIA. But there are still prices out there. Who knows how DOMESTIC SPENDING is going to come back off such a long layoff? And you have to give 20-1 BEYOND BRILLIANT and 15-1 MALAVATH a shot. The latter just missed winning the Juvenile Filly Turf last year, flying at the end, and is coming off a powerful second to Kinross in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret, the race Goldikova used as a prep for two of her  three Mile victories.

DISTAFF – I’m sitting back and enjoying this one. Just too many top-class fillies who can win. SEARCH RESULTS and BLUE STRIPES look like the logical longshots, but to beat all three of the Curlin fillies, Nest, Malathaat, and Clairiere is a daunting task.

TURF – Again no standout, which is why WAR LIKE GODDESS has a huge shot to win this race. The Euros are sending some solid horses, such as NATION’S PRIDE, REBEL’S ROMANCE, and MISHRIFF. But for a big price you never know when the inconsistent BROOME is going to have a big day, as he did in last year’s BC Turf and this year’s Sword Dancer. And there were victories in the group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and group2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. That Broome can win this, especially considering his worst races have come on soft and heavy ground, and he has shown he likes the firm courses in the United States. I must also mention CHANNEL MAKER making his fifth start in the Turf. Although he’s been inconsistant throughout his career it has to be noted that he’s made five starts at Keeneland and has never finished worse than fourth (a win, second, third in the BC Turf, and two close fourths). Watch for him at 30-1.

Racing historian, author, and award-winning retired journalist for the Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse, Steve Haskin was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor in 2016. Known for his racing knowledge and insightful prose, he has been an exclusive contributor to since 2020.


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