The first weekend of September is finally here, but horsemen and horseplayers are looking ahead to the first weekend in November and the 40th addition of the Breeders' Cup.
The wheat will continue to be separated from the chaff in a pair of races with major Breeders' Cup odds implications this Saturday in the Grade III Mint Millions Stakes and the Grade I Pacific Classic, the latter of which holds a "Win and You're In" berth for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Without further ado, let's dive into these two contentious affairs.
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Mint Millions Stakes odds, prediction, and best bet
- Race: Kentucky Downs Race 10
- Post time: 6:28 p.m. ET
- TV: FanDuel TV
|9||Get Her Number||15-1||+1,500||+1,500||+1,500|
|12||Max K. O.||30-1||+3,000||+3,000||+3,000|
Odds as of August 31, 2023.
No. 10 Annapolis (8-5, morning-line favorite) has made three starts this year, and has just one win to show for it. However, the only horse that's managed to beat him this year is Casa Creed, who is more than likely looking at the Breeders' Cup Mile as a year-end goal.
Annapolis was far from disgraced in finishing second in the both the Grade III Kelso and the Grade I Fourstardave at Saratoga this year, and managed to beat a stout rival in Churchtown despite spotting that foe a recency advantage in the Opening Verse Stakes to kick off his campaign.
This Todd Pletcher trainee is Grade I caliber based on his Turf Mile triumph at Keeneland last fall. He'll need to be at the top of his game to beat this salty field, but the Mint Millions Stakes looks like Annapolis' race to lose.
No. 6 Ancient Rome (8-1) was last seen snaring the Chesterfield Cup at the Glorious Goodwood meeting and retains Jamie Spencer on the ship in from across the pond. The son of War Front found Group III company in France too tough this year, but just last May this colt was holding his own vs. the heralded Modern Games.
No. 5 Smokin' T (9-2) has raised his stock in this division with two wins in his last three tries, with his only loss coming to the well-regarded Big Everest in the Cliff Hanger Stakes at Monmouth two starts ago. John Velazquez — aboard for both of this colt's recent victories — ships in for the call.
No. 8 Churchtown (4-1) had a nightmarish trip when last seen in the Grade II Connaught Cup after being taken out of his element from a tactical perspective. This naturally speedy son of Air Force Blue profiles as the one to catch, if new rider Julien Leparoux allows him to do his thing early on. He's yet to post a victory in 2023 but did capture the Gio Ponti Stakes at Aqueduct late last season.
Best bet: $5 exacta 10/5,6,8, $5 win 6 ($20)
Pacific Classic odds, prediction and best bet
- Race: Del Mar Race 10
- Post time: 9:13 p.m. ET
- TV: FanDuel TV
|1||Geaux Rocket Ride||5-2||+250||+250||+200|
|6||Order and Law||30-1||+3,000||+3,000||+4,000|
|7||Slow Down Andy||8-1||+800||+800||+1,100|
Odds as of August 31, 2023.
No. 1 Geaux Rocket Ride (5-2, morning-line favorite) gave arguably the best performance by any three-year-old this year in his Grade I Haskell Invitational victory last time out, and now he gets a weight break as he tries older foes for the first time in the Pacific Classic. I believe he'll pass the audition for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar this Saturday and stamp himself as a legitimate Horse of the Year threat.
The speed figures certainly suggest Geaux Rocket Ride can post the victory in this spot, and the pedigree (by Candy Ride out of an Uncle Mo mare) doesn't preclude him from taking to the 10 furlongs. Mike Smith worked out a brilliant ground-saving ride on this Richard Mandella trainee when last seen, and the rail draw should enable the Hall of Fame rider to plot out a similar journey.
No. 5 Defunded (4-1) was a flat fourth in the Grade II San Diego Handicap — the local prep for the Pacific Classic — last time out, but I'm willing to draw a line through that effort.
The 1 1/16-mile voyage in that heat just doesn't seem to be long enough for him. Based on his win and runner-up result in back-to-back years in the Santa Anita Gold Cup, the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Pacific Classic should enable him to get back to his best form. Del Mar's leading rider Juan Hernandez has the call for the ever-dangerous Bob Baffert.
No. 9 Arabian Knight (3-1) chased the top pick home in the Haskell off a sizable layoff, and he had every right to tire in the lane. Nevertheless, I think Geaux Rocket Ride still had something in the tank that afternoon and may simply be better than this one. Flavien Prat sees fit to take the assignment for Baffert.
Best bet: $10 exacta 1/5, $4 exacta 1/9, $4 exacta 5/1, $2 exacta 5/9 ($20)
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Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic Schedule
|February Stakes*||February 19||Tokyo Racecourse (Japan)||Lemon Pop|
|Kentucky Derby||May 6||Churchill Downs||Mage|
|Preakness Stakes||May 20||Pimlico||National Treasure|
|Belmont Stakes||June 10||Belmont Park||Arcangelo|
|Metropolitan Handicap||June 10||Belmont Park||Cody's Wish|
|Stephen Foster Stakes*||July 1||Ellis Park||West Will Power|
|Haskell Stakes*||July 22||Monmouth Park||Geaux Rocket Ride|
|Whitney Stakes*||August 5||Saratoga||White Abarrio|
|Juddmonte International Stakes (turf)*||August 23||York (UK)||Mostahdaf|
|Travers Stakes||August 26||Saratoga||Arcangelo|
|Pacific Classic*||September 2||Del Mar||TBD|
|Jockey Club Gold Cup*||September 2||Saratoga||TBD|
|Pennsylvania Derby||September 23||Parx||TBD|
|Awesome Again Stakes*||September 30||Santa Anita Park||TBD|
|Lukas Classic||September 30||Churchill Downs||TBD|
*denotes "Win & You're In" race for Breeders' Cup Classic