When jockeys are in the starting gate, you often hear the starter tell them “Let’s get tied on,” which means they should be ready for the gate to spring open. For people who bet on horse races, the Breeders’ Cup represents the greatest opportunity to “get tied on” in the entire year. Where else will you have two days of 14 world championship races, with large fields and great betting opportunities? Those opportunities are large, as I found out first-hand in 1993, cashing on Arcangues, who was 133-1, representing the biggest winning longshot in the history of the event. It’s a giant jigsaw puzzle, and for every handicapper who has had great Breeders’ Cups, you can be sure that they’ve had some bad ones, as well. However, we all like taking a shot at the big event, so using the model of Top Pick, Value Pick, and Long Shot, here’s a look at all 14 races and the horses that have caught my fancy in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup.
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Friday Races at 2022 Breeders’ Cup
Juvenile Turf Sprint
Top Pick – THE PLATINUM QUEEN (12)
British trainer Richard Fahey has put this one through her paces, including beating older horses in the Prix de l’Abbaye, which usually features the top sprinters in Europe. The performance record of this one has me betting her with confidence.
Value Pick – PERSIAN FORCE (6)
Here’s another strong one from England. The Richard Hannon-trained colt has had 4 consecutive strong performances in top-level European sprint races.
Long Shot – LOVE REIGNS (2)
Huge performance breaking her maiden on the Keeneland course. Also has an impressive win in a Saratoga stakes race for trainer Wesley Ward, a turf sprint expert.
Top Pick – CHOCOLATE GELATO (10)
Hello, Todd Pletcher. He’s always good with 2-year-olds, and this expensive yearling had a great maiden win at Saratoga which she followed up by winning the Frizette on a sloppy track at Aqueduct. It’s a close race, but she gets the advantage.
Value Pick – RAGING SEA (14)
This Chad Brown trainee posted a nice win at Saratoga before getting involved in a “bumper-cars” finish in the Alcibiades at Keeneland. She was disqualified from 3rd to 4th in the race, but she looks like an improving type.
Long Shot – ATOMICALLY (8)
This is Pletcher’s second-string entrant here, but she has posted big scores against Florida-breds in her last two starts. Could hit the board or produce an upset score.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Top Pick – MEDIATE (10)
An Aidan O’Brian trainee who has finished 1st or 2nd in five consecutive top-graded races for 2-year-old fillies in England and Ireland. Might have the class edge here.
Value Pick – BE YOUR BEST (6)
Young trainer on the rise Horacio DePaz has had back-to-back career-best years. This filly was an impressive winner of the P.G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga and followed that up by finishing 3rd on a yielding course at Aqueduct in the Miss Grillo. Should hit the board.
Long Shot – DELIGHT (9)
This one was sold for $400,000 as a 2-year-old, and she seems to be coming into her own in her last two races. Her closing win in the Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland was visually impressive.
Top Pick – CAVE ROCK (3)
Baffert is back, and in a big way. This one posted wins by over 5 lengths in each of his 3 starts. Will be a short price, but he deserves it.
Value Pick – NATIONAL TREASURE (10)
$500,000 yearling purchase who was 2nd to his stablemate (Cave Rock) in the American Pharoah Stakes in his last start. He could be 2nd best here, as well.
Long Shot – VERIFYING (5)
Son of Justify who was purchased for $775,000 as a yearling. Trainer Brad Cox has seen him produce a maiden win in his first start, and then he was 2nd in the slop in the Champagne Stakes. Has a license to improve.
Top Pick – VICTORIA ROAD (1)
Will not be favored in the race but has a classic Aidan O’Brien profile for the Breeders’ Cup. Has won his last 3, and has all the marks of a rapidly improving horse.
Value Pick – SILVER KNOTT (4)
Godolphin runner has the experience of 5 races behind him. Has won 3 of last 4, but his only loss of those was on a soft course. Keeneland should be more to his liking. I expect he’ll be a better price than the 3-1 morning line.
Long Shot – PACKS A WAHLOP (2)
Has won his last 3 for dangerous trainer Jeff Mullins, including his last two in stakes races around two turns. Will be on the pace and dangerous here.
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Saturday races at 2022 Breeders’ Cup
Filly & Mare Sprint
Top Pick – ECHO ZULU (13)
Dominant speed. A winner of 6 of 7, her only loss was in the Kentucky Oaks, which might’ve been too long for her. Her return race in the Dogwood Stakes shows that she’s back to her best form.
Value Pick – GOODNIGHT OLIVE (8)
Chad Brown trainee has posted 5 wins and a second in 6 starts. Last time out, handled her first effort in Grade 1 company brilliantly, with an impressive score in the Ballerina at Saratoga. Would not be surprised at all if she took the first prize.
Long Shot – OBLIGATORY (7)
This Bill Mott filly could be closing down the lane in the Juddmonte colors. Should be a nice price at the windows.
Top Pick – HIGHFIELD PRINCESS (6)
American fans may love Golden Pal, but this filly has won 3 consecutive Group 1 sprint stakes in 3 different countries. Should beat America’s best.
Value Pick – GOLDEN PAL (8)
America’s best, he has posted 8 wins and 2 seconds from 12 starts. The horse that Wesley Ward calls the best he has ever trained might run into a buzzsaw here in Highfield Princess.
Long Shot – CAMPANELLE (4)
It’s easy to forget how truly accomplished Wesley Ward’s second-string horse is here. In an incredible 2-year-old season, she took down a stakes race at Royal Ascot before scoring in the prestigious Prix Morny in France. This year, she has won two stakes races in Kentucky and lost by less than a length in the Group 1 Platinum Jubilee at Royal Ascot. A solid closer.
Top Pick – CODY’S WISH (7)
I always have trouble handicapping the Dirt Mile, but I’ve landed on Cody’s Wish. He has won 6 of his last 7 for Hall of Famer Bill Mott. Seems to be rounding into his best form for this one.
Value Pick – LAUREL RIVER (6)
Three consecutive wins coming into this one for Baffert. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he won the whole thing.
Long Shot – PIPELINE (3)
Third to Cody’s Wish and Jackie’s Warrior in the prestigious Forego Stakes at Saratoga, this one shows he can compete at the highest level. Although he’s never won a graded stakes, he’ll be a solid bet in trifecta and superfecta tickets.
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Filly & Mare Turf
Top Pick – NASHWA (3)
What would a Breeders’ Cup be without a truly classy runner from John Gosden? This one has wins this year in the French Oaks and the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood in England. Her last effort was a second on a very soft course at Longchamp in the Prix de l’Opera. Should like the firmer ground in Kentucky.
Value Pick – TUESDAY (5)
Aidan O’Brien runner was plagued by soft courses in France in his last 2. Has been competitive all year when racing with the best 3-year-old fillies in Europe. Has a very solid chance here.
Long Shot – ABOVE THE CURVE (4)
This might be the most valuable long shot in the entire Breeders’ Cup. Already a Group 1 winner in France this year, she finished a nose behind Nashwa in the Prix de l’Opera in her last start. Should be a juicy price against a tough field.
Top Pick – JACKIE’S WARRIOR (9)
Among true fans of the sport, this one might be America’s favorite horse. Purchased for a modest $95,000 as a yearling, he’s earned nearly $2.8 million as one of the top sprinters in the country for the past few years. Probably the best bet of the day is that if “Jackie” wins, trainer Steve Asmussen will be in tears in the winner’s circle. He’s the darling of the Asmussen barn, and nothing would make them happier than to see him go to his retirement with a front-running win in the Breeders’ Cup.
Value Pick – AMERICAN THEOREM (4)
Son of American Pharoah seems to be at his best when sprinting. His last two races were a win in the Bing Crosby Stakes and a second in the Pat O’Brien. Both of these races were a leap forward for him, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the pattern continue here.
Long Shot – KIMARI (2)
Wesley Ward has so many good sprinters in his barn that this one seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Her last two races, however, have been outstanding wins on the New York circuit, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the pattern continue.
Top Pick – KINROSS (13)
This one is my BEST BET of the entire Breeders’ Cup. He has blossomed as a 5-year-old, and he enters on a streak of 4 stakes wins in a row. The most impressive was the Prix de la Foret, a race that has a history as a prep race for the Mile, with winners such as the great Goldikova winning it in the past. His turn of foot in the final furlong of that race was very impressive, and I feel that American fans may not fully appreciate how good he’s gotten.
Value Pick – MODERN GAMES (4)
Legitimate contender who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last year despite being mistakenly scratched by track officials when they confused him with his stablemate. This year, he’s won the French 2,000 Guineas and had a smashing win in the Woodbine Mile. His legitimacy in this spot is unquestionable.
Long Shot – REGAL GLORY (8)
Chad Brown trainee enters with 5 wins and 3 seconds in her last 8 starts. Always gives a solid effort, but I don’t think she’s as strong as Kinross or Modern Games.
Top Pick – NEST (6)
The biggest handicapping debate of the week will probably be Nest vs. Malathaat. I lean toward Nest because of her tendency to blow fields away. Her last 3 starts were won on the New York circuit by margins averaging about 8 ¾ lengths. She has 6 wins and 2 seconds in her last 8, and the 2nd place finishes were in the Kentucky Oaks and Belmont Stakes. I think she’s in peak form right now.
Value Pick – MALATHAAT (1)
Doesn’t have the dynamic turn of foot that Nest has, but she usually gets the job done. Career record in 13 starts is 9 wins, 3 seconds and 1 third. It’s rare that a Kentucky Oaks winner who has never finished out of the money is not favored, but it may happen here.
Long Shot – SOCIETY (8)
This one represents the next generation of U.S. fillies. A winner of 5 of 6 lifetime, she is sired by Gun Runner and the mare that produced her is by Tapit. Breeding doesn’t get much better than that, and the fact that she is a 3-year-old facing older horses for the first time will produce good odds. An upset is not out of the question.
Top Pick – NATIONS PRIDE (7)
Godolphin runner is a proven factor against U.S. horses, having 2 wins and a second in 3 races in the states this year. A strong 3-year-old on the rise, he won his only start at this distance by a large margin.
Value Pick – WAR LIKE GODDESS (2)
Beaten by a half-length in last year’s Filly & Mare Turf, trainer Bill Mott has entered her against the boys this year, feeling that the longer distance will be more to her liking. To prove that she’s ready, her last race was a powerful win against males in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, going the same mile and a half that she will have to travel in this race. It was hard to separate the top two.
Long Shot – MASTER PIECE (8)
War Like Goddess is the best closer in the field, but as she makes her move, this one should be right on her tail. Might be a 20-1 price or more at the windows.
Breeders’ Cup Classic
The undefeated and future King! Will be a huge favorite, and I see no way he can be beaten.
Value Pick – EPICENTER (6)
In 9 races at a mile or more, he has posted 6 wins and 3 seconds. If Rich Strike didn’t run the race of his life, Epicenter would be the Kentucky Derby winner. It’s a shame that such a reliable horse has to run into Flightline in this spot.
Long Shot – LIFE IS GOOD (2)
Another truly great horse who has had the misfortune to end up in the same race as Flightline. A winner of 9 of 11, the only question mark is the mile and a quarter he’ll have to travel in this spot. He may not win here, but he won’t embarrass himself.
Now you know the horses I am betting in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup. You can bet them if you like, but I would prefer that you go through your own handicapping process. Handicapping opportunities like this are rare, and you should enjoy the challenge of the process. Picking winners is not easy, but when you succeed against 14 races like this, you feel like you are on top of the world!
How to Watch the 2022 Breeders’ Cup
NBC Sports is home to the 39th Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Coverage begins today, Friday, Nov. 4 from 2 to 6 p.m. ET on USA Network and resumes on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 1 pm ET on USA Network before jumping to NBC and Peacock from 3:30 to 6 p.m. ET.