For racing fans who love to cash a bet at a big price, there is no race like the Kentucky Derby. It offers, in most years. In most years the Derby 20 individual betting interests and there is always a horse or two (or more) in the field at odds of better than 20-1 that has a legitimate chance to win the roses.
At the very least, that horse could push your trifecta, superfecta, Pick 4 or Pick 5 ticket into a range in which youâ€™ll shake hands with Uncle Sam and fill out a tax ticket before accepting your winnings.
As a betting proposition, the Breedersâ€™ Cup World Championships are not far behind. Offering two days of large fields of many of the worldâ€™s best horses, Breedersâ€™ Cup racing offers wonderful opportunities for those who appreciate marvelous horses, love a good wagering opportunity or, like so many of us, yearn for both.
This yearâ€™s Championships at Santa Anita are the 31s since the inaugural event in 1984, and from a fanâ€™s standpoint I cannot remember a deeper roster of delicious wagering opportunities.
It wonâ€™t be the greatest Breedersâ€™ Cup in terms of quality and drama. In my mind, that happened at Churchill Downs in 1988 and it will take a near-miracle to surpass that dayâ€™s heroics by the unbeaten Personal Ensign, Alysheba, the great French filly Miesque and trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who won three races that day, finished second in the unforgettable Distaff win by Personal Ensign with Kentucky Derby-winning filly Winning Colors and had a 1-2-3 parade in the Juvenile Fillies led by champion Open Mind.
But if strong fields of world-class horses at solid prices accelerate your heartbeat, Friday and Saturday will be big days for you.
There will be special Breedersâ€™ Cup Viewing Party post times for live racing and the Breedersâ€™ Cup simulcasts on both days at Churchill Downs. Post time on Friday, Oct. 31 is 2 p.m. (all times Eastern) and Saturday, Nov. 1 is 2:15. Gates open both days at 12:30 p.m.
Now hereâ€™s a race-by-race look at one fanâ€™s opinion on the races youâ€™ll see on the Big Board.
Friday, Oct. 31
$1 million Juvenile Turf:Â #12 Imperia #4 Commemorative #3 Luck of the Kitten #14 Danny Boy
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlinâ€™s Imperia is inexperienced, but quickly improving and reports from Santa Anita indicate he is training beautifully. Englandâ€™s Commemorative has won two in a row back home.Â Danny Boy is an attractive longshot, but the post drawn him no favors.
$1 million Dirt Mile: #9 Tapiture #1 Goldencents #8 Fed Biz #4 Pants on Fire
Goldencents is the very fast defending winner and the rail post should improve his chances, but the 3-year-old Tapiture has had a very strong second half of the year and should be ready for a big run â€“ but needs someone to press the favorite on the front end.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf: #7 Rainha Da Bateria #3 Sunset Glow #11 Conquest Harlanate #2 Osaila
Trained by Kentucky Derby-winning Graham Motion, Rainha Da Bateria unleashed a breathtaking move to win the Jessamine at Keeneland while racing on Lasix for the first time. With some luck, sheâ€™ll be flying late. Sunset Glow has yet to finish worse than second, including a run at Britainâ€™s Royal Ascot.
$2 million Longines Distaff: #10 Untapable #3 Iotapa #11 Close Hatches #5 Unbridled Forever
Untapable, winner of the Longines Kentucky Oaks, has been untouchable this year other than a run against males in the Haskell at Monmouth when she encountered a speed-favoring track over which she had no chance. Iotapa is a 6-1 shot with sharp speed and a home court advantage. Close Hatches wins a lot of races, but has yet to beat a field quite this strong. Unbridled Forever runs late at a price.
Saturday, Nov. 1
$2 million Juvenile Fillies: #11 Top Decile #5 Cristinaâ€™s Journey #3 Danette #8 Puca
Two Churchill Downs-based horses are on top in this one, and if I were to pick out a horse I like most in BC14 it would be Top Decile. Trainer Al Stall Jr.â€™s filly comes off a huge effort in Keenelandâ€™s Alcibiades, and the effort by the Dale Romans-trained Cristinaâ€™s Journey in the Alcibiades also impressed.
$1 million Filly & Mare Sprint: #3 Stonetastic #1 Sweet Reason #5 Artemis Agrotera #2 Little Alexis
Stonetastic was a terrific third in Keenelandâ€™s TCA last out and seems ready for a big front-running effort. Sweet Reason chased Untapable last out and turns back to a preferred one-turn distance.
$2 million Filly & Mare Turf: #7 Emollient #10 Stephanieâ€™s Kitten #3 Dank #1 Abaco
Emollient is getting better with age and could spring an upset with a stalking trip. The consistent Stephanieâ€™s Kitten will be rolling late, but needs some luck. Dank is the defending champ and has made only two starts this year, but she is very talented and 2-for-2 when racing on Lasix in the U.S.
$1 million Turf Sprint: #1 Reneesgotzip #5 Ambitious Brew #9 Free as a Bird #6 Bobbyâ€™s Kitten
This race on Santa Anitaâ€™s distinctive hillside turf course favors a â€œhorse for the courseâ€ more than any on the Breedersâ€™ Cup menu, and the 5-year-old mare Reneesgotzip is just such a runner and could lead the boys on a merry chase from the rail. Ambitious Brew is also experienced on the course.
$2 million Sentient Jet Juvenile: #9 Carpe DiemÂ #8 Souper Colossal #12 Daredevil #4 The Great War
Tuesdayâ€™s defection of speedy favorite American Pharoah improves the chances of Carpe Diem, winner of Keenelandâ€™s Breedersâ€™ Futurity. He should be part of, or sit just behind, a more reasonable pace and figures to improve off his win in Lexington. Unbeaten Souper Colossal is in the sharp hands of veteran Eddie Plesa. Daredevil, unbeaten in two races on wet tracks, drew a poor post. The Great War, a War Front colt trained by Aidan Oâ€™Brien, should handle dirt and the talented Ryan Moore will ride.
$3 million Turf: #7 Flintshire #1 Telescope #3 Main Sequence #8 Magician
Flintshire was a strong second on the Arc de Triomphe, Europeâ€™s greatest race for older horses. Heâ€™s the favorite for a reason.Â Telescope has been running with Europeâ€™s best and Main Sequence is 3-0 since moving to the U.S for Graham Motion â€“ all last-gasp stretch-running wins. Magician is the defending winner, but this yearâ€™s Turf field is better than the 2013 model.
$1.5 million Sprint: #6 Rich Tapestry #11 Bakken #8 Palace #12 Fast Anna
Rich Tapestry has what it takes to be the first Hong Kong-raced Breedersâ€™ Cup winner. Bakken is an improving youngster and Fast Anna should be the one to catch â€“ and he might not stop.
$2 million Mile: #5 Toronado #12 Seek Again #4 Mustajeeb #10 Summer Front
With two-time winner Wise Dan on the sidelines, Toronado and Mustajeeb offer Europe chances to take this trophy back home. Toronado is one of Europeâ€™s top milers and is coming off a tough-luck loss, but U.S. hope Seek Againâ€™s recent loss to Wise Dan is far better than it looks on paper.
$5 million Classic: #11 Tonalist #2 Cigar Street #13 California Chrome #6 Shared Belief
The 3-year-olds are the horses to beat in the Classic, and Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist has a great chance to spring a surprise. The pace should be scorching and a well-time rally from mid-pack makes him very dangerous.Â Cigar Street won Churchill Downsâ€™ Homecoming Classic and this lightly-raced and improving veteran who will sit right behind the speed is the most intriguing of the older horses. Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome drew an outside post, which should help him as he tries to regain his Triple Crown form. Unbeaten Shared Belief is very talented, but has never faced a field of this quality.
Photos by REED PALMER | Churchill Downs