11/01/2016 6:11PM

TimeformUS's top three most likely 2016 Breeders' Cup pace meltdowns

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TimeformUS creates a Pace Projector for most races in North America, including the Breeders’ Cup. Deploying TimeformUS Pace Figures in the service of a battle-hardened, exhaustively tested algorithm, and modified up to post time as scratches warrant, the Pace Projector predicts both the position of each horse at the official first call of the race and the likelihood that the pace will be extreme, be it slow or fast, and thereby favoring one running style over another. The official first call is recorded at the quarter-mile point for races at less than a mile and at the half-mile point for races at a mile or longer. To be sure, closers tend to take the worst of it in horse racing (a fact that is reflected on the tote board), but our Pace Projector has identified three races, in particular, that seem likely to be exceptions in this year’s Breeders’ Cup.

Distaff

An average-sized field of eight is set to contest the nine-furlong Distaff on dirt. Despite a field size that is smallish by Breeders’ Cup standards, a fast pace seems probable in the Distaff because the top three morning-line choices all have shown in their recent races that they possess sufficient ability to be on or near the early lead.

Favored Songbird has never been more than a length behind after a half-mile and has led most of her races early. There is the sentiment that she’ll be sent from her rail draw in the Distaff and that she may be loose on a comfortable lead. We’re not buying it.

Co-second choice Beholder has been first or second after a half-mile in all five of her 2016 starts. Stellar Wind, her nemesis this year and the other co-second choice, has shown the ability to stay right with Beholder early and outfinish her late. In addition to those three, Curalina and I’m a Chatterbox have also shown early speed and could be early pace factors. For her part, Stellar Wind also has shown the ability to rate off the pace, a strategy – should it be employed – that will serve her well if, as we expect, a hot pace works against the chances of her main rivals.

This may not be your traditional “meltdown” scenario, where a pace battle begins as soon as the gate opens, but at some point before the stretch, the horses up front will be challenged and have to deal with multiple quality speed horses, possibly setting it up for the most patient rider.

Top late threats: Stellar Wind (5), Forever Unbridled (6)

Sprint

The Sprint drew a field of nine, but Joking (4) is likely to be scratched due to illness, reducing the field to eight.

TimeformUS running style designations list Noholdingback Bear as a Leader. Drefong and Delta Bluesman are listed as Speed. Three others are listed as Trackers. Although six furlongs is a distance that generally makes meltdowns unlikely, none of the horses that figure to be on or near the lead have shown the ability to finish races strongly, according to TimeformUS Late Speed ratings. By Breeders’ Cup standards, this is cheap speed.

Therefore, we expect the winner to emerge from the middle of the pack – if not the back.

Top late threats: Mind Your Biscuits (1), Joking (4) if he isn’t scratched as expected, and Lord Nelson (6)

Juvenile

A field of 11 was drawn for the Juvenile, and many in the field have shown high speed.  The brilliant Syndergaard, Three Rules, and Star Empire are all listed as Leaders in TimeformUS past performances. Klimt, Theory, and Gormley are projected as Speed types. Three more are shown as Trackers – horses that are likely to race just off the leaders.

Consequently, this race should be run fast early. Typically in such situations, after their early exertions, the front-runners then receive a respite as the speed horses sort themselves out, achieving a sort of tense equilibrium, but we expect that respite to be especially short-lived in the Juvenile, with more challenges coming as the horses enter the final turn. In short, it will take a very strong effort to win this race on or near the early lead, and closers should have every chance to win this race in the lane.

Top late threats:  Practical Joke (9), Not This Time (10), Lookin At Lee (11)

Craig Milkowski is TimeformUS chief figure maker.

Get a handicapping edge with the TimeformUS Breeders’ Cup Package. Includes Pace Projectors, which project where a horse will be at the opening quarter mile of a sprint or the opening half mile of a route. Also, you’ll get international speed figures to help you handicap foreign horses entered in Breeders’ Cup races.