There are nine championship races on Saturday at Churchill Downs, including the Classic with Havre de Grace trying to become just the second distaffer to win it in history and the Mile, which is stacked also. So, let's get right to it with the 1 3/4 Mile Marathon to kickstart the Saturday:
The Marathon- I am siding with the defending champion, Eldaafer, who will be a generous price again it appears in trying to defend his championship in this race. He won at 11-1 last year and is already 10-1 on the morning line here. Eldaafer has picked up a couple of wins since that BC score last year and his last workout was a bullet. The filly, Meeznah, is worth a definite look in here with Tom Queally aboard. She won a Group 2 two back at 1 13/16 miles on the turf at Doncaster. However, she was well-beaten in August in the only try against mixed runners.
The Juvenile Turf- Caspar Netscher will be the top choice in this race, which appears relatively wide-open to me. Kieren Fallon was up two starts back on September 17 at Newbury, the only time he was paired with this colt, and the end result was a Group 2 victory. If there a longshot that leaps out here, I like 15-1 Farraaj. He has been to the post four times with two wins and two places in Great Britain. He was the betting choice in three of those efforts. However, he has yet to go one mile in any of those four attempts. 7 1/4 furlongs is the longest he has gone in those four starts, which was one of the wins.
The Sentient Jet Sprint- Big Drama is back to try and win this race again, but I am leaning toward Giant Ryan in here. He did win the Grade 1 Vosburgh over a muddy track (making him 3 for 3 in the mud), but regardless of the wetness of the surface, I like him here. He is riding a six-race win streak into the Sprint. Amazombie posted a 104 Beyer figure in winning the Grade 1 Ancient Title on October 8 at Santa Anita. On the DRF Past Performances, there are four races on his list on a regular dirt surface, three wins and a second are the results.
The Turf Sprint- I am taking two shots in this race with, first, Perfect Officer, who has been absent from the Winner's Circle since scoring at Monmouth in the ungraded Wolf Hill. He could be sitting in excellent position to win, especially if there is any kind of speed duel on the front end. Garrett Gomez is aboard the other longshot I like in here with Broken Dreams, which I am hoping not to have any of this weekend. She rallied late to win a Grade 3 at Santa Anita on September 30 plus her last workout on October 27 at Keeneland was a bullet five furlongs in 59 4/5 seconds.
The Dirt Mile- Bob Baffert will hopefully have The Factor ready to roll on Saturday. He didn't finish off the deal in the Grade 1 Ancient Title, fading late to finish fourth. Martin Garcia has the ride and there's a bullet workout that stands out on Halloween at Santa Anita. Jersey Town is my pick to possibly pick up the pieces at long odds. He shocked everyone last November to win the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct with a 111 Beyer at odds of 35-1. You might be able to get that price on him again here.
The Emirates Airline Turf- To be honest, this might be the worst race of the weekend all the way around. The Cup officials actually moved the Turf away from its traditional place right before the Classic because the Mile is the more attractive spot. Therefore, instead of selecting two horses, I am going to make a modest play on St. Nicholas Abbey. He has not won since the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Ascot in June and finished 5th in the Grade 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.
The Grey Goose Juvenile- Who will be crowned the early Derby favorite after this one? Most folks think it will be Union Rags, however, I am on the cause of Creative Cause. Joel Rosario piloted him to a win in the Grade 1 Norfolk at Santa Anita in his final prep for this one. He appeared to make a more impressive step forward than his West Coast rival, Drill, who is also in this field. Crusade gets the riding services of Julien Leparoux, who has been winning everything in sight lately. This Euro colt is also coming off of a nice win at Newmarket in a Group 1 there on October 8.
The TVG Mile- This promises to be the race of the day just because of the depth of the talent in the field. From top to bottom, it might be the best race of the year. The three-time defending champion, Goldikova, drew the rail, but I am partial to Gio Ponti this time around. He wore down the competition to win the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland last time out and he was second in this race last year to Goldikova. I think he turns the tables here. If you want to fetch a price here, try Turallure. The strapping grey rolled from way out of it to win the Woodbine Mile last time out on September 18. His last work is a bullet at Keeneland on October 24. Julien Leparoux gets the call here.
The Classic- Bob Baffert's trainee, Prayer For Relief, scratched out of this race after the draw, which cedes the rail to my top pick, Flat Out. He won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 1 in the mud, just missed catching Havre de Grace in the Woodward, and won the Grade 2 Suburban back in July. However, he is 0 for 2 over the Churchill Downs track so far. He did post a blistering four furlong workout on Ocotber 30, covering the distance in 46 3/5 seconds. Stay Thirsty might be able to salvage a Horse Of The Year nod with a win here and his price is an especially generous 12-1. Javier Castellano is aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher. Most people are looking at his stablemate here, Uncle Mo, but I just don't think he can go 1 1/4 miles and win.
Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Enjoy Breeders' Cup weekend, play smart and win big. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!