Racing

10 Underrated Breeders’ Cup Contenders

How bout a little respect?

Hoppertunity exercises in preparation for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park. (Photo by Zoe Metz/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

The Breeders’ Cup is the equivalent of the Super Bowl and Christmas combined for horse racing fans. The motto of the Breeders’ Cup is “the best is yet to come”, and that has held true. Each year, the world championships provide fans with some of the most memorable and thrilling races of the year.

This year, the action at Santa Anita promises to be some of the most exciting yet. While everyone knows the big stars—California Chrome, Songbird and Tepin—there are plenty of horses flying under the radar that are worth a look, too.

Get caught up | 2016 Breeders’ Cup Entries and Odds 

Gun Runner

Dirt Mile
ML Odds: 9-2

Gun Runner
Gun Runner

The winners of the three Triple Crown races—Nyquist, Exaggerator and Creator—have all retired to stallion duty which leaves Gun Runner as the most prominent sophomore standing from the Triple Crown trail. From seven races this year, his only poor performance came over an off track and can be excused. Otherwise he has been the model of consistency while knocking heads with the best of his generation. It is a tough task to tackle the formidable giant Dortmund, but his recent workouts at Santa Anita have been sharp and he could have a breakthrough day.

 

Victory to Victory

Juvenile Fillies Turf
ML Odds: 12-1

Trainer Mark Casse has had an exceptional year. While his stable has been anchored by the globe-trotting champion Tepin, he has saddled over 25 graded stakes winners and over 200 victories altogether in 2016. Victory to Victory added to those totals by breaking her maiden in the Natalma Stakes at Woodbine and stamping her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup. She is following a similar path to Catch a Glimpse, the 2015 winner of this race who also comes out of the Casse barn.

 

Made You Look

Juvenile Turf
ML Odds: 12-1

Though this is another turf race with a history of European dominance, this domestic colt is interesting. He was a graded stakes winner on the turf at Saratoga and trainer Todd Pletcher won this race in 2010 with Pluck, another son of turf specialist sire More Than Ready. This colt also has a royal female family—his granddam is the incomparable Serena’s Song, second in both the Juvenile Fillies (1994) and the Distaff (1996). On pedigree alone, he is worth a look.

 

Beholder

Distaff
ML Odds: 5-2

Richard Mandella (left) keeps a close eye on his superstar.
Richard Mandella (left) keeps a close eye on his superstar.

Hardly a longshot, but there have been plenty of skeptics who think Beholder has lost a step here at the tail end of her 6-year-old season. There is no doubt she will be up against it facing the likes of Stellar Wind and the undefeated Songbird, but you cannot discount this champion just yet. She is a 3x Eclipse Award winner with a pair of Breeders’ Cup wins under her belt (Juvenile Fillies, 2012 and the Distaff, 2013). Though she has lost her last three races, trainer Richard Mandella remains confident in her ability to end her career like the great mare that she is, and no one knows this horse better than Mandella.

 

Obviously 

Turf Sprint
ML Odds: 6-1

How can you root against this veteran gelding? This Irish bred will be making his fifth consecutive Breeders’ Cup appearance though it will be his first time cutting back in distance and trying the Turf Sprint instead of the Mile. Of his four prior tries, the best he has managed was a third-place finish in 2012, but in all fairness he has been catching some of the toughest winners in Breeders’ Cup history, like Wise Dan (2012, 2013) and Tepin (2015). He loves Santa Anita and is quick enough on the front end to keep up with the fastest of the sprinters. Here’s hoping the hard-knocking 8-year-old gets his moment in the sun.

 

Da Big Hoss

Turf
ML Odds: 20-1

Talk about a rags to riches story. Just two years ago, Da Big Hoss was running in claiming races and could have been had for the price of $50,000. Now he is set to compete in one of the richest races of the year—the $4,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf. While this race has a tradition of being dominated by top class Europeans, it is difficult to find fault with this veteran’s form this year. He has won five of his six races, each over different tracks. He is a hard-nosed gamer who only gets better as the distance gets longer.

 

Tara’s Tango

Filly and Mare Sprint
ML Odds: 8-1

If you judge a horse by the company they keep then Tara’s Tango definitely deserves some credit. She has been knocking heads with champions Beholder and Stellar Wind, and while her last race was average, she is cutting back in distance here and may find this field more within her scope. It is also worth noting that two of her three career graded stakes victories have been at Santa Anita.

 

Midnight Storm

Mile
ML Odds: 12-1

While this is one of the most competitive races in the Breeders’ Cup lineup, home track advantage does count for something. Midnight Storm, a five-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile (the same sire as last year’s Triple Crown/Classic champ American Pharoah), has been a force to be reckoned with on the West Coast this year and is heading into the Mile off of three straight victories against graded stakes competition.

 

Miss Temple City

Mile
ML Odds: 12-1

This year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile features such a deep field that there are two very worthy and very underrated horses stepping up to try to dethrone defending champion Tepin. Miss Temple City has had a masterfully campaigned season, defeating male rivals in two Grade I’s. Ironically, both of her GI wins are a result of trainer Graham Motion dodging Tepin. Now these two tough fillies will get to square off and see who really is superior this year. Don’t overlook Miss Temple City—she has proven multiple times this year she is good enough to compete with the best male milers. Now she just needs to prove she can beat the best female one, too.

 

Hoppertunity

Classic
ML Odds: 15-1

Hoppertunity exercises in preparation for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park. (Photo by Zoe Metz/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)
Hoppertunity exercises in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park. (Photo by Zoe Metz/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Hoppertunity has earned over $3.5 million on the racetrack and has done so largely by consistently showing up and hitting the board in major races. He broke through and earned his second victory of the year in the (GI) Jockey Club Gold Cup last month at Belmont. While he will need to run the race of his life to defeat California Chrome, he could get an ideal pace set up if 3-year-old sensation Arrogate can engage California Chrome early, leaving Hoppertunity to pick up the pieces.

 


About the Author

Jessica Paquette is a lifelong equestrian who works as the Director of Communications for Suffolk Downs and Starlight Racing.

File Under