Breeders’ Cup Friday – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

Breeders’ Cup Championship Weekend at Santa Anita Park kicks off with “Future Stars Friday,” a card devoted exclusively to two-year-old races writes SCOTT FINLEY.

Handicapping and tipping juvenile races is always a unique test of the racing analyst, but multiple factors in 2023 make the challenge even more daunting. There is little collateral form to analyse and the European raiders will face a turf course with firm going unlike anything they have encountered in their brief racing careers in Ireland, Great Britain and France.

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Bright skies, a calm breeze and temperatures in the mid to high 20’s in Sunny Southern California may be a pleasure for racegoers, but closely checking all runners in the parade ring and during on-track warm-ups is advised to look for signs of sweating, anxiousness and temperament.

Having said all that, let’s get on to the true task at hand…picking some winners in the five Breeders’ Cup Championship Juvenile races on Friday.

🇺🇸 Race 5 (21:00 GMT) – Juvenile Turf Sprint over 5 furlongs on turf (1000m) starts proceedings with a full field of 12 facing the starter. Note that there are three Reserve runners (“Also Eligibles” in American racing parlance) which will draw in only if one of the 12 confirmed runners is a late withdrawal. Europe are well represented, with half the field hailing from Irish or British yards, primarily due to the Breeders’ Cup Ltd “Win and You’re In” series of sponsored races.

Perhaps the most relevant factor in USA turf sprints (for any age group) is the furious pace at which these events are run. Typically, European shippers are at a disadvantage from the start as the home team fires out of the starting stalls and establishes a clear advantage, hugging the inner rails.

This is precisely the running style of no.2 No Nay Mets, one of three George Weaver-trained entrants in this race.

No Nay Mets would be undefeated but for racing on the unfavourable stands side at Royal Ascot in the Gr2 Norfolk Stakes, where he showed brilliant pace, but tired late, while still keeping on. The first eight home in the Norfolk all raced on the far side or middle. Norfolk winner (at 150/1 SP) Valiant Force is also in the Juvenile Turf but drew stall 10 and may struggle to get a decent position heading into the tight far bend at Santa Anita.

Under America’s Champion jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr, NO NAY METS is a top selection at


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🇺🇸 Race 6 (21:40 GMT) – NetJets Juvenile Fillies over an extended mile on dirt (1700m) poses an extreme puzzle. A field of 13 very lightly-raced two-year-old filles – only one of them having raced more than three times – will line up over a course where draw is highly significant at Santa Anita. With a short run to the first bend, those drawn higher than eight risk being forced wide or having to be used early to gain a tactical position heading down the back straight.

In addition, eight of these 13 baby fillies have yet to ever race around two bends or beyond a mile, including heavy favourite no.7 Tamara (around evens). Thus, pedigree and a demonstrated finishing kick may help determine the Juvenile Fillies winner.

Trainer Todd Pletcher holds a strong hand here with three runners entered; two of which are extremely well drawn; all three demonstrating the ability to stay on strongly and bred to stay beyond a mile. No.1 CANDIED is the top selection and with odds of


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, represents a square price against the favourite.

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🇺🇸 Race 7 (22:20 GMT) – Juvenile Fillies Turf over a mile on turf (1609m) sees another massive field of 16 entered, with two Also Eligibles, which will draw in only if one or more of the 14 confirmed runners is a late withdrawal. Europe are well represented, with five runners hailing from Irish, British or French yards.

Of the home team, no.1 Buttercream Babe, no.3 Buchu and no.11 She Feels Pretty  make the most appeal, with Buchu preferred, especially at likely prices.

The European contingent isn’t particularly strong, although any Aidan O’Brien entrant (no.5 Content) in a Breeders’ Cup race is always to be feared. However, no.9 Carla’s Way, trained by Simon and Ed Crisford in Newmarket ticks the right boxes, having won impressively last out in the Gr2 Rockfel Stakes on good ground; finished strongly over the turns and undulations of Goodwood on soft in the Gr3 Prestige Fillies Stakes and won first time out going a stiff 6.5 furlongs at Doncaster. Nevertheless, around 3/1 is too short of a price to take on the likely post time favourite.

At the current odds, small stakes each-way on BUTTERCREAM BABE 


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and a bit more on each-way on BUCHU


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seems the most prudent play on what is undoubtedly the most difficult of the Friday Breeders’ Cup races.

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🇺🇸 Race 8 (23:00 GMT) – FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over an extended mile on dirt (1700m) is a race that traditionally crowns America’s two-year-old champion colt. Leading American juvenile trainers Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher each have three runners entered, along with a no-hoper from Japan (no.5 Ecoro Neo) and Amo Racing’s no.7 Cuban Thunder, winner of a modest York maiden in May, leaving three additional America-trained juveniles to take on the Baffert/Pletcher juggernaut.

Pletcher’s no.6 Locked is both the likely favourite and top selection. Cheekily prevailing in Keeneland’s Gr1 Breeders’ Futurity over today’s distance, Locked has the pedigree to excel at longer distances and has exhibited a versatile running style in his two wins, both under Jose Ortiz, also in the saddle at Santa Anita.

While it is unlikely for trainer Bob Baffert to go home without a Breeders’ Cup winner, he has better chances on Saturday. No.10 Muth appears as the best of Baffert’s team and should be placed after winning over course and distance in the Gr1 American Pharoah last month.

No.1 The Wine Steward, trained by Michael Maker and ridden by Luis Saez, renown for his alert beginnings in races, was a grudging second to Locked in Keeneland’s Gr1 Breeders’ Futurity. At odds of


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THE WINE STEWARD is a sporting each-way chance upset the field from his perfect rail draw, to go alongside a win on LOCKED


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🇺🇸 Race 9 (23:40 GMT) – Prevagen Juvenile Turf over a mile on turf (1609m) closes out the Friday Breeders’ Cup card, with a full field of 14 heading to post. Surprisingly, only three European raiders have been entered, all from Aidan O’Brien’s powerful Ballydole yard.

No.2 River Tiber and no.8 Unquestionable (pictured below) head the betting. O’Brien’s third runner no.12 Mountain Bear has a bit to find on form with the top two.

Best of the USA-trained contingent may well be no.9 Endlessly, undefeated in three starts, all in California and most recently over course and distance in the Gr3 Zuma Beach Stakes and the Mark Casse-trained no.5 My Boy Prince, yet to race outside of Canada and over a Woodbine turf course that is far more European in design than the Santa Anita grass layout.

Nevertheless, it would seem a struggle to keep A.P. out of the first three, with Frankie Dettori’s mount UNQUESTIONABLE


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the selection to beat stablemate River Tiber


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in what could be a Ballydoyle one-two Exacta.

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SCOTT’S BEST BETS FRIDAY
NAP: NO NAY METS (9.00pm)


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EW VALUE PLAY: THE WINE STEWARD (11.00pm)


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Author: Eugene Morris