The wait is almost over as the iconic Keeneland racetrack is set to play host to the Breeders’ Cup for the very first time on October 30 & 31.
Our racing expert marks your card with his three best bets from this year’s meeting.
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf - Back Legatissimo to win at 5/4 with Betfred.
David Wachman’s triple Group One-winning filly Legatissimo is currently trading at a short price for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, a race captured by the likes of European raiders Dank, Midday and Ouija Board in recent years, and this daughter of Danehill Dancer looks as good as any of those.
Legatissimo has already landed the 1000 Guineas, Nassau Stakes and Matron Stakes this term, and bids to cap a tremendous year at Keeneland later this month.
Her three-year-old career has been nothing short of exceptional, travelling across the Irish Sea to land the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, picking up leader Lucida with a powerful turn of foot to score by three quarters of a length.
Two short head defeats followed when stepped up in distance in the Epsom Oaks and the Pretty Polly Stakes, but genuine excuses can be made for both narrow defeats.
Legatissimo was able to get back to winning ways in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood next time out, once more displaying a fierce turn of foot inside the final two furlongs to ultimately win by a comfortable couple of lengths.
From there, David Wachman’s charge dropped back to a mile for the first time since the 1,000 Guineas when running out a devastating winner in the Matron Stakes last month.
Legatissimo has won over a mile, a mile and a quarter and she was only beaten a short-head over a mile and a half. Very few fillies are capable of that at the highest level, and she looks ready made for the Breeders’ Cup.
Her turn of foot and ability to pass her rivals and put the race to bed in a matter of strides is frightening, so it’s hard to envisage any of her likely opposition beating her.
Legatissimo looks outstanding value at odds-against, and I make her the standout bet of the whole meeting.
Breeders’ Cup Mile - Back Esoterique to win at 7/2 with William Hill.
The Europeans also appear to have a stranglehold on the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Frenchman Freddy Head’s Goldikova lit up the $2million race with a hat-trick of victories between 2008 and 2010, and the huge purse could be heading back to French shores courtesy of the brilliant Esoterique.
The five-year-old mare has taken her form to a new level this season, winning the Prix Jacques le Marois and the Sun Chariot Stakes (video above), while her narrow seconds behind Solow and Muhaarar at Ascot and Deauville respectively, are held in the highest regard given what the duo have achieved this term.
Esoterique has had a long season, but has held her form marvellously and she is proven to travel well. Although she’s arguably seen at her best on a straight course, I have no doubts she’ll be able to handle the two turns of the Keeneland turf course, and her closing kick could prove too strong for her rivals to handle.
Stablemate and duel Group One winner Make Believe (9/2) rates the biggest danger, while I’d be keen to take on Time Test at current odds of 7/2, who doesn’t deserve to be that short in the market on the strength of his win last time out in a poor Group Two at Newmarket.
Breeders’ Cup Turf - Back The Pizza Man each-way at 14/1 with William Hill.
Epsom Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Golden Horn has landed in Keeneland ahead of his last ever race, and many have him down as the banker of the meeting, but I’m willing to take him on following a tough season, and i’m hoping The Pizza Man can deliver at juicy odds.
The Roger Brueggemann-trained six-year-old races sparingly each season, but has racked up 15 victories in 24 lifetime starts, including three from four this term.
The son of 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner English Channel rolled to victory in the Arlington Million in August on his penultimate start, and finished a narrow second when dropping in trip in the Shadwell Turf Mile on his final prep run.
The Pizza Man was unfortunate not to win that race. Winner Grand Arch was given an enterprising ride, with The Pizza Man gaining on the runaway leader with every stride, erasing a six-length deficit to barely a head at the winning post.
His fast finishing over an inadequate trip suggests he is primed for a big run in the Breeders’ Cup Turf over slightly longer, and he proved that day that he handles the tight circuit.
With the likes of Postponed ruled out, and Flintshire going to Japan, opposition to Golden Horn is thin on the ground, so at 14/1, The Pizza Man looks a cracking each-way bet as I expect him to make the frame at the very least.