10/28/2015 1:06PM

Crist: Even as first course, Friday’s card still appetizing


Breeders’ Cup Friday remains a work in progress.

The idea of a filly-heavy card was abandoned three years ago, and Breeders’ Cup officials have failed to agree on a different Friday “theme,” such as all juveniles or all sprinters. Races such as the Marathon and Juvenile Sprint have been banished from official Cup status like misfit toys.

Three of the four Friday Cup races preceding Saturday’s nine have no bearing on Eclipse Awards: The Dirt Mile continues to have growing pains and limited appeal, and the two most inconsequential Cup races – the Juvenile Turf and the Juvenile Fillies Turf – compose half the Friday Cup action. Any Cup official or broadcaster who refers to these races as “world championships” should be required to put 50 cents into a liars’ jar. Make that 50 dollars.

None of that, however, should obscure what Friday’s 10 races at Keeneland really are: an excellent card of highly competitive racing. The four Cup races are bookended by a pair of strong Grade 2 races, the Fayette and the Marathon, and there are three guaranteed multirace pools: a $500,000 pick five on races 1-5, a $750,000-guaranteed pick six on races 5-10, and a $1.5 million pick four on the quartet of Cup races.

The first of them, the Juvenile Turf for 2-year-old grass males, drew a full field of 14, and as usual, it’s a fight between European shippers and domestic runners. It’s rarely a fair fight since European 2-year-olds are bred and trained to race on the grass as opposed to dirt. It is the equivalent of racing American dirt sprinters against an international field on foreign soil: The Americans will almost always win, as they do in Dubai most years.

This year’s Euros have their usual strong hand in the Juvenile Turf. It’s hard to look past the imports Cymric, Shogun, and Birchwood. If you’re hunting for a longshot to sneak into the trifecta, you could do worse than Highland Sky, a deeply troubled fourth in his lone stakes try.

The Dirt Mile has perhaps the weekend’s heaviest favorite in Liam’s Map, whose owners surprised and disappointed some fans by entering him here instead of in Saturday’s Classic. He might have been the dominant front-runner in that race with a fighting chance of wiring the field, but his owners decided they would rather be 3-5 in a $1 million race than 6-1 in a $5 million race. Their math might be correct, but their choice seems faint of heart.

In any case, Liam’s Map towers over a Dirt Mile field in which Lea, Tapiture, or Red Vine seem likeliest to complete the exacta. If he replicates either of his last two starts – a narrow defeat to Honor Code in the Whitney and a front-running romp in the Woodward – he’ll be long gone.

The Juvenile Fillies Turf looks even tougher for the stateside crew than the colts’ race. The Irish-bred visitors Alice Springs and Illuminate look best, and Last Waltz must be used if she is even half of her overly generous morning-line odds of 20-1. Harmonize looks the best of the Americans, and her Bill Mott barnmate Gliding By could improve sharply in her first start for the trainer.

The one original Cup race on Friday is the Distaff, which could well settle a championship, though not the one it usually does. Regardless of how she runs against males in the Classic, Beholder is almost certain to be voted the Eclipse for older dirt female. The 3-year-old filly title, however, is very much in play, and a victory or strong second from I’m a Chatterbox, Curalina, or Stellar Wind probably would secure a year-end trophy.

The Distaff is often dominated by a standout, but this year, it is wide open. In addition to the aforementioned 3-year-olds, Grade 1 winners Got Lucky, Sheer Drama, Stopchargingmaria, and Wedding Toast all have good chances and will be decent prices. Wedding Toast might be the fastest of them, and at 4-1, it might be worth testing that hypothesis.

It all adds up to an outstanding day at the races – but just a warm-up for the true championship events on Saturday.

Gary More than 1 year ago
I am talking about the take and not steaks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not betting a dime into the breeders cup. First of all the take is way to high. I am not putting my money in a place where they are chopping 25% off the top. They game is nearly impossible to beat anyways. Also the racing form is way to expensive. It should cost no more than $2.00 per card.
Marc Rogala More than 1 year ago
it is 16% win - place and show 19% all exoric wagers
Gary More than 1 year ago
I agree with anonymous. I don't understand why they always increase the stake on big day Its silly because I am sure they would earn even more when they leave it at what it normally is on other days
Bernie Caplan More than 1 year ago
you should stay at home and knit
AskRubenHow2Bet More than 1 year ago
SC, great article! Though I know we all miss crowning our Juvenile Sprint World Champion! =) wish you were on Twitter, the racing world is strongly gaining momentum there. Good luck and happy photo finishes.
Pete Mackin More than 1 year ago
Is the pick 6 on Saturday a mandatory payout?
Andrew More than 1 year ago
stephen More than 1 year ago
I guess people that don't own these horses competing in such races would lose some steam! these races on Friday are a big deal for breeders and owners and should deservedly so be fully respected and treated as such!
Sal Carcia More than 1 year ago
Two days is just fine. Royal Ascot goes for five days and every day is exciting.
Steve Kendall More than 1 year ago
The 2 Day Breeders Cup is a compete joke!! How about put the original 8 races back on the same day and put all of your other made up races on Friday. Let's change the distaff name to Ladies Classic then change it back to distaff.... Stupid!!! Let's race 2 yo with no Lasix and let other 2 yo races , race with Lasix.... Stupid!!!! You call 4 races a 2 day Breeders cup is a complete joke. Like Steven said two 2 yo turf races, a dirt mile and the distaff is not to me a 2 day BC. It's just regular races. Complete Stupidity!!!
gowanusbaseball More than 1 year ago
This is a lot of anger and energy over a day of racing you are completely free to ignore.
Tom Jicha More than 1 year ago
The problem isn't which races are scheduled for Friday. It's that Breeders' Cup made the same mistake baseball did when greed led to the creation of a second All-Star Game. Breeders' Cup should be a one-day festival, as originally designed.
Eric Stein More than 1 year ago
Live a little Tom a 2nd day won't kill you. Are you also campaigning for Ky Oaks to be on Derby Day. How about 1 game for the NBA Championship in June?
Robert More than 1 year ago
It's all about the gate $$$. Not the fan
John Capps More than 1 year ago
put it all on in 1 day..split the races up..put half on at say Santa Anita and half at Keeneland...more people get to see in person and cut down on all the time in between races..
Steven Crist More than 1 year ago
And how would you suggest the jockeys, trainers and owners decide which half-Cup to attend?
Jack Armstead More than 1 year ago