Hello racing fans, hi to all handicappers, and bonjour turfistes. It’s Breeders’ Cup liveblog time with the first of nine races on the main Saturday card now just under an hour away, and unless you are one of the very lucky few with a pass for Keeneland, we’ll all be sharing the experience remotely this time around.
The Friday card was something of a dry run for today in terms of staging one of the biggest days in American racing amid strict social distancing rules, and with no-one in the stands to generate an atmosphere. As we discovered in Britain during Royal Ascot back in June, it’s a. possible, b. necessary and c. perfectly enjoyable, while also being d. something you’d very much only want to do once. If the meeting is going to return to Keeneland in two years’ time as planned, there will need to be fans in grandstands or the whole game will likely be up.
The horses certainly played their part on Future Stars Friday, when Golden Pal’s lightning speed in the Juvenile Turf Sprint was an early aperitif for next year’s Royal Ascot, where he’s likely to be aimed at the King’s Stand Stakes. Aunt Pearl too was a convincing, front-running winner in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf, and though with a European hat on, it was disappointing to draw a blank from the three turf contests, there are big chances ahead today in the four that remain.
If you’re mainly looking to check in on the turf races and runners from Europe, the crucial off-times (GMT) are: 5.39pm for the Turf Sprint (Glass Slippers, Equilateral); 6.57pm for the Filly & Mare Turf (Cayenne Pepper, Peaceful, Terebellum, Audarya); 8.15pm for the Mile (Circus Maximus, Kameko, Lope Y Fernandez, Siskin, Safe Voyage, Order Of Australia); and 9.33pm for the Turf (Magical, Tarnawa, Mehdaayih, Donjah, Lord North, Mogul).
On the dirt, meanwhile, the big highlights are at the end of proceedings, where the Classic at 10.13pm is preceded by a much-anticipated first (and almost certainly last) meeting between the outstanding females Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Swiss Skydiver is going up against older horses for the first time – something her trainer, Ken McPeek, has compared to a college athlete going up against professionals – after an exceptional three-year-old season which included a rare win for a filly in the Preakness. Monomoy Girl, meanwhile, has been first past the post in 13 of 14 starts including the 2018 Kentucky Oaks, missed 2019 due to injury and looked likely to be retired, but then returned to Brad Cox at the age of five for what is, so far, an unbeaten campaign.
The Classic looks exceptionally open, for all that Bob Baffert has three of the 10 runners and all three are priced up at 6-1 or shorter. Tiz The Law will be a popular choice too for 82-year-old Barclay Tagg, who started out in racing as a jump jockey, was a work rider on the legendary Ruffian and has been saddling winners in his own right since the 1970s.
Video form for the leading contenders will be posted here in the run-up to every race, along with the results as soon as they’re official along and news on what the future holds for the winners and also-rans. The optimists among you might also want to know what my picks are for today’s races, if only to remove them from calculations. It’s one of the best days in racing, let’s get it rolling ….