Peter Fornatale's Breeders' Cup Diary
It’s Breeders’ Cup travel day.
Normally I would be there already, on the grounds watching a few horses work this morning. This year is a little different, however, as I had a chance to spend Halloween with my family. I know Halloween isn’t a very big deal elsewhere in the world but to kids in the United States it’s a pretty important night of the year.
The first year I missed Halloween was 2015. We were living in Islington in London for a brief spell and I had to fly back to the states to cover the Breeders’ Cup for my then employer, Daily Racing Form. Interestingly, just the week before, I made my first of what’s become a whole lot of appearances on Sky Sports Racing (then At the Races) TV, previewing the Breeders’ Cup from a Milton Keynes studio along with the great Jason Weaver.
Breeders’ Cup was Halloween night, and we went out in downtown Lexington with a crew of service industry friends we’d just met and they knew all the cool spots to go that weren’t overrun with out of towners like ourselves. It was fun but I missed getting to see Perrin, my daughter, dress up etc. And for the next four years I was away as well, covering the Cup.
This year, for whatever reason, the Cup was run the following week – a potentially risky proposition in Lexington that it looks like we’ll get away with. That opened up the opportunity for us to visit with some family along the route in West Virginia – in a safe, socially distanced way of course. There was pumpkin carving, a haunted hayride, a meal that resembled early Thanksgiving, costumes, trick or treating, and the de rigeur scary movie to cap things off.
There was no costume contest, but had there been, I am confident we’d have won.
Another notable knock-on effect of having the Cup a week later is that now the USA has gone off of daylight savings time. I have to imagine this means the Classic will be run in the gloaming if not the near dark.
I’m up early on Sunday, getting ready to head to the airport to take my first flight since the Thursday of Cheltenham when I had to cut my planned month-long trip to the UK short to return home because of Covid-19. Many friends have expressed envy that I’ll be one of the few racing fans who gets to attend the Cup this year and I take the point – though I contend it won’t be an eighth as fun without getting to do the normal socializing that comes with Breeders’ Cup.
I’ve been lucky to meet many viewers, listeners, fellow pundits, and other members of the racing community over the years and that’s always one of the things I look forward to.
Let’s talk a little racing while we’re at it.
I took a look through the antepost markets yesterday – a topic covered fully elsewhere on the site – and thought I would share a few thoughts. Let’s look at Friday in today’s blog and we’ll get to Saturday tomorrow.
The first race of interest to me is the Juvenile Turf where I’m convinced that NEW MANDATE is good value at current odds of 15-2. The form is strong and he’s shown both handiness and toughness that will serve him well in a test like this. I think he should be nearer to favoritism.
Those who have heard my thoughts on the Juvenile Fillies know that I am against the big favorite Princess Noor. On my Breeders’ Cup Monster Podcast, TV analyst Randy Moss suggested she might not even make the frame.
She will take money and I wouldn’t blame anyone who wanted to wait until the day and just lay her but I do think there is value taking the two fillies out of the Frizette to beat her: DAYOUTOFTHEOFFICE (9-2) and VEQUIST (7-1). This is a race where crazy things can happen so I’ll probably use both strategies.
In the Juvenile Fillies TurfI think the most interesting one at the prices is CAMPANELLE (5-1). We’ve seen Wes Ward use the Morny as a springboard to Juvenile Turf success before with Hootenanny so why can’t he do it in the sister race? I also got a great note from Rob Dove – one of the top 10 pro punters in the UK today – that her effort there was all the more impressive as it came running into a headwind.
I respect Aunt Pearl immensely and could see playing them in a reverse forecast on the day as a saver but I want to bet Campanelle now.
In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, I’m not sure how the market is going to be on the day. The last time I took an early stand on a favorite in this race was with Bolt d’Oro. I got all the value – ending up with 9-5 on a horse that would go off 3-5 – but still got sand kicked in my face.
I’m hoping it will be different with JACKIE'S WARRIOR. I feel the 13-8 currently available is too big on a horse I consider the likeliest winner of the two days. I’m going to grab that to close out my Friday ledger of bets – for now.
More on Saturday's best antepost plays tomorrow.