The Breeders' Cup has come early this year. With nine graded stakes races and an incredible eight G1 events culminating in the Belmont Stakes, the final jewel of American racing's Triple Crown, there's plenty to get excited about on this fantastic 13-race card. As usual, our in-house handicapper has you covered with picks for every race, as well as detailed analysis of all nine stakes races.
If you happen to be looking for picks elsewhere around the country on Saturday, be sure to check out our Free Horse Racing Picks via the gold button below.
The day’s G1 action kicks off with the Woody Stephens, which features a fascinating rematch between Jackie’s Warrior (#3) and Dream Shake (#4), who were separated by a head in the G2 Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard. These two absolutely threw it down in that race as they battled through wicked early splits and ran head-and-head for the duration of the stretch, with Jackie’s Warrior coming out on top. As well as Dream Shake ran in the Pat Day Mile, and despite the small margin between them at the finish, I don’t really see much reason to believe he’s going to turn the tables on Jackie’s Warrior here. The best performance of Jackie’s Warrior’s sensational campaign came over this track (a win in the G1 Champagne that earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 100) and the cutback to seven furlongs is going to make him all the more dangerous.
In my mind there’s a chasm between these two and the rest of the field, but I suppose Caddo River (#6) has an outside shot as he turns back in distance. His sojourn on the Derby Trail didn’t pan out, however he had previously shown a good deal of ability around one turn and I could see him getting involved if Jackie’s Warrior and Dream Shake get locked into a prolonged duel.
Order of preference: 3-4-6-2 Multi-race focus: 3
Race 4 (G2 Brooklyn)
The one non-G1 stake on the docket, the G2 Brooklyn still provides a terrific betting race. There are more than a few different ways to go in this race, but I’m most interested in Ajaaweed (#7) as he tries a dirt marathon for the second time in his career. His last race in the 1 â -mile Flat Out on this track seemed to come out of nowhere, but it’s possible this is just what he’s wanted to do all along, and the way he ran certainly corroborates that. While the race was won by Musical Heart (#5), Ajaaweed was held up in traffic around the far turn and got rolling a little too late, though he closed a lot of ground to get within a length of Musical Heart on the wire. If Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez can get him in gear sooner, this horse should be able to mow them all down in the stretch, especially as he gets an additional furlong to work with.
Tizamagician (#8) looks like the horse to beat coming off a resounding score in the G3 Tokyo City at this distance at Santa Anita, however I’m a little worried he could be compromised by Musical Heart, and there’s also no telling if he’ll be able to replicate his good recent form on the East Coast. My preferred alternative is Lone Rock (#9), who is simply in excellent form at the moment for trainer Robertino Diodoro. Given his strong recent results, Lone Rock is another who may have found his niche as a dirt marathoner, and there’s no reason to believe he’s not going to deliver another top effort.
Order of preference: 7-9-5-8Multi-race focus: 7,9
Race 5 (G1 Acorn)
As is the case with a handful of other races on the card, the G1 Acorn didn’t come up with a bulky field, but it certainly isn’t lacking for quality. The main attraction in the Acorn is G1 Kentucky Oaks runner-up Search Results (#6), who missed by a neck in the Oaks in her bid to remain undefeated. I was a bit skeptical of the form of the G3 Gazelle heading into that race, but it’s hard to argue with Search Results performance in the Oaks; she ran very well but was just second best to a superior filly in Malathaat. With her tactical speed and versatile running style the cutback to a mile is not going to be an issue for her, and if anything this could be her ideal trip, though I have a feeling she may be forced to play bridesmaid again.
A G1 winner over this track and distance last fall, Dayoutoftheoffice (#4) was sensational in her return in the G2 Eight Belles on the Oaks undercard. The 90 Beyer she earned may not quite stack up to the number Search Results ran in the Oaks, however she pressed a rapid pace before opening up a daylight lead in the stretch, only to get run down late by longshot Obligatory (#2). It was a terrific effort from Dayoutoftheoffice in her seasonal debut, and I’m expecting her to move way forward off it as her connections were surely pointing to this spot all along. At three or four times the price of the favorite, I think she’s going to offer ample value.
Order of preference: 4-6-3-2Multi-race focus: 4,6
Race 6 (G1 Jaipur)
While nominally a part of the cavalcade of G1 events on this card, the ragtag crew assembled in the Jaipur doesn’t really deserve that distinction, save perhaps Bound for Nowhere (#6), who I believe is a standout. Not only is Bound for Nowhere a cut above his Jaipur counterparts in terms of class, but there’s also shockingly little early speed signed on for this six-furlong turf dash, which he can take full advantage of. He’s not the easiest horse to trust given the plethora of layoff lines in his PP’s, but when Wesley Ward has him right he’s unquestionably one of the best turf sprinters in the country. As Ward is connecting at an other-worldly 42% at the meet, I’m expecting another top effort from Bound for Nowhere.
Behind him, there really isn’t much I’m interested in betting. Casa Creed (#2) was a bit of a revelation last out in the one-turn Elusive Quality as he overcame a glacial pace to beat some quality sprinters, however the pace doesn’t figure to be much quicker in this race and he’s going to have one less furlong to negotiate. Gregorian Chant (#8) has also been transformed since focusing on sprints three starts ago, which has resulted in three straight victories, but I’m worried he may not be able to deliver a top effort here as he has to ship cross-country for this race.
Order of preference: 6-8-2-10 Multi-race focus: 6
Race 7 (G1 Ogden Phipps)
The defection of Swiss Skydiver was certainly a blow to the G1 Ogden Phipps, and she would’ve been my top pick had she run, but there’s still a pretty intriguing lineup to parse through. I hate to say a speed duel seems inevitable, as you know what they say about the best laid plans, but it does feel as though speedsters Letruska (#3) and Shedaresthedevil (#5) aren’t going to blink in the early stages of this race. G1 Apple Blossom heroine Letruska can win, and she is a horse I have an affinity for, however I believe she’s going to be pushed hard throughout and is vulnerable in this spot.
It’s not going to be easy to win this race off a long layoff, but I have to give the nod to Valiance (#2) as she returns following a strong try in last year’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. This mare’s transformation into one of the top dirt runners in her division in 2020 is really quite remarkable, and given her runner-up finish in the Distaff to close out the year I think it’s safe to say she’s for real. The 97 Beyer she earned for that race doesn’t even really do her justice considering she was hung very wide around the far turn and came with a steady, sustained rally to outfinish some quality runners. I’m not sure this is her ideal configuration, but the race figures to set up well for her and I’m an ardent believer in her ability.
I want no part of Shedaresthedevil, who I thought took a big step back last out in the G1 La Troienne despite winning, however I do have interest in her stablemate Bonny South (#7). I’ve never really been a big fan of this filly, but she ran well in her 2021 debut in the G3 Doubledogdare and should move forward in this spot. She’s another that would probably benefit from more distance and two-turn racing, but I think she’s going to get the right kind of trip to make a major impact in this race.
Order of preference: 2-7-3-6 Multi-race focus: 2,7
Race 8 (G1 Just a Game)
The G1 Just a Game is easily one of the most wide-open races on the program, with a full field of 12 fillies and mares signed on, including four trained by Chad Brown. Of the Brown quartet, I prefer the two that are likely to be the biggest prices, Regal Glory (#4) and Tamahere (#10). The former was actually entered in the G3 Intercontinental on Thursday, but her connections have opted for this much tougher spot instead. Perhaps that’s a vote of confidence, and given the lack of a standout in this race it’s easy to see why they would take a shot here, but Regal Glory herself is no worse than any of her stablemates, yet she’s probably going to be fourth in the betting among them. The same can be said for Tamahere, who is coming off a useful 4-year-old debut in the G1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland behind Juliet Foxtrot. If Juliet Foxtrot were in this race she’d certainly be among the favorites, and Tamahere should move forward off that effort in her second start of the year.
As hard as it is to bet against Brown in a G1 on turf when he trains a third of the field, there are no superstars in this race, which is why my top picks are Sweet Bye and Bye (#2) and Althiqa (#8). Like Regal Glory, Sweet Bye and Bye was entered in the Intercontinental but scratched out of it, possibly because of rainy conditions on Thursday. Whatever the reason, I don’t think this mare is discernibly slower than any of her Just a Game peers, and I think the configuration of this one-turn mile is going to be absolutely perfect for her. She traded decisions last year with one of the likely favorites in this race, Blowout (#10), and it’s possible she’s in even better form since being transferred to the barn of Saffie Joseph, Jr. for her 6-year-old season. I expect her to drift up from her 12-1 morning-line odds and offer excellent value.
I like Sweet Bye and Bye from a price standpoint, but this Just a Game feels ripe for an overseas invader, which is why Althiqa is a very narrow second choice for me. Her stablemate Summer Romance (#9) could get more wagering attention, and I can’t say it wouldn’t be for good reason as she beat Althiqa by three lengths last out in the G2 Balanchine, but I think Althiqa is the one you want in this spot. Two races ago, Althiqa blew the doors off Summer Romance going about a mile at Meydan, and it’s likely the frontrunning Summer Romance is going to be pressured early in this spot, or taken out of her element entirely. With plenty of pace signed on to set up her late kick, I think the talented Althiqa makes a ton of sense here.
Order of preference: 2-8-10-4Multi-race focus: 2,4,8,10
Race 9 (G1 Met Mile)
The depth of the G1 Met Mile is a little disappointing, but like the day’s marquee attraction the Belmont Stakes, this race does feature some real heavy hitters in its division. The horse to beat is clearly Knicks Go (#6) as he looks to bounce back following an unsuccessful venture to Saudi Arabia for the $20 million Saudi Cup. Admittedly I was expecting him to run much better in that race, but he can be forgiven for throwing in a clunker halfway around the world. His prior form in the States is nothing short of sensational and a one-turn mile should be right in his wheelhouse, especially given the dearth of early speed signed on. He’s going to be a very short price, but I don’t think there’s any way to get around using him in multi-race wagers.
Since I do have some reservations about Knicks Go with respect to his odds, my top pick in the Met Mile is the streaking Silver State (#3). While he can’t compete with Knicks Go in the Beyer department, Silver State has won his last five races at a variety of different distances, and I think this configuration is optimal for him. If Mischevious Alex (#1) is able to apply some pressure to Knicks Go, I think Silver State can run him down at a square price.
Speaking of Mischevious Alex, I really don’t have much interest in him in this race as he figures to be chasing Knicks Go throughout. Although he’s clearly a talented sprinter, I don’t think he’s nearly as good as the 109 Beyer for his win in the G1 Carter makes him seen, and despite his trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr.’s sterling record in New York this year, I believe this horse is due for massive regression as he stretches out to a mile.
Order of preference: 3-6-5-2 Multi-race focus: 3,6
Race 10 (G1 Manhattan)
This is a fascinating renewal of the G1 Manhattan dominated by trainer Chad Brown, who will saddle four of 10 runners as he attempts to pull off his second three-peat in this race. The morning-line favorite Colonel Liam (#10) is not among Brown’s quartet, however I do think his Domestic Spending (#4) is going to be awfully tough to beat as he makes his second start of the year.
Domestic Spending and Colonel Liam actually dead-heated for the win last out in the G1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Domestic Spending ran the better race. A late-running type by nature, Domestic Spending took up his customary position near the back of the pack in the Turf Classic as subsequent G1 winner Smooth Like Strait set tepid early splits. As if the adverse pace scenario wasn’t enough, Domestic Spending wasn’t able to angle into the clear when the real running began at the top of the stretch and was instead forced to rally through traffic, which he did willingly. It wasn’t until the final eighth of a mile that he got adequate running room, and he responded with a quick burst to catch Colonel Liam on the wire, who sat an absolutely perfect trip. Domestic Spending showed a lot of potential as a 3-year-old, but his performance in the Turf Classic was sublime and an obvious improvement on his promising sophomore campaign. Between his stablemate Tribhuvan (#8) and Channel Cat (#7), he should get plenty of pace to run at in this spot, though it may not even matter for this 4-year-old son of Kingman, who has fired in all six of his career starts regardless of circumstance.
Behind Domestic Spending, one of the biggest questions that needs to be answered in this edition of the Manhattan is what to do with the horses coming out of the local prep for this race, the G2 Fort Marcy. Won by Tribhuvan in wire-to-wire fashion, the Fort Marcy came back an exceptionally fast race, perhaps impossibly fast given the horses involved. Despite the ostensibly aberrant performances by Tribhuvan and runner-up City Man (#1), I’m inclined to believe those two are for real. I don’t love that City Man was initially entered in a New York-bred stakes race on Memorial Day and only ends up in the Manhattan because that was taken off the turf, however given his seasonal bow in the Fort Marcy I believe he may have taken a big step forward as a 4-year-old. The 102 Beyer he earned in that race makes him a major player here, and I suspect the added ground of this race is going to be to his liking.
I also wouldn’t discount Gufo (#9) following a somewhat underwhelming effort in the G1 Man O’ War. He doesn’t seem to have improved in the same way at 4 as Domestic Spending and City Man, but he may have needed a race in the Man O’ War, or just found the 1 â -mile distance to be a bit too far. He lost twice to Domestic Spending in 2020, but both came by narrow margins and he was arguably best on both occasions. Don’t sleep on this honest closer.
Order of preference: 4-1-8-9Multi-race focus: 4
Race 11 (G1 Belmont Stakes)
The G1 Belmont didn’t come up with a deep field, but the top contenders are all very good horses that provide needed intrigue in this final leg of the Triple Crown. I’m not going to beat around the bush here, my top pick is also the public’s likely choice, Essential Quality (#2). Despite registering his first career loss in the G1 Kentucky Derby, I thought he actually ran really well and even turned in a career-best effort. He wasn’t away alertly in the Derby, but he was able to attain a good position heading into the clubhouse turn and stayed on gamely in the stretch even after launching a wide rally around the far turn. I had some questions about his stamina heading into that race, however upon watching it back I’m confident he’s going to be able to handle this distance, and in a smaller field his versatility is going to assure he gets a far better trip this time around.
My narrow second choice is G1 Preakness winner Rombauer (#3). I can’t tell you where his smashing Preakness victory came from, but if he runs back to it he’s going to be a force in this race. On a track that was decidedly inside-favoring for most of the weekend, Rombauer rallied strongly down the center of the track in the Preakness and absolutely inhaled both Midnight Bourbon and Medina Spirit in a truly dominant performance. If we’re basing our opinions solely on each horse’s last race, then Rombauer would be my unquestioned top pick; however, given his prior form, which is quite pedestrian compared to the top runners in this field, I have some nagging doubts with him. As it stands now I’m ambivalent, but I won’t at all be surprised if he runs another huge race.
Oddly, the horse I’ve been highest on throughout this year is the one I’m least interested in among the Belmont’s leading triumvirate. Hot Rod Charlie (#4) was my top pick in the Derby and ran about as well as I could’ve hoped in the ‘Run for the Roses.’ I thought Flavien Prat executed an absolutely beautiful ride to save ground around the far turn and tip out in the stretch, but despite the picture-perfect trip Hot Rod Charlie was ultimately turned back by both Medina Spirit and Mandaloun. It was a solid effort nonetheless and should set him up nicely for this race, however I have slightly more conviction that the added ground of the Belmont is going to benefit Essential Quality, who arguably ran the better race in the Derby. Hot Rod Charlie is no doubt a contender, but I don’t know how well this race suits him.
Initially I thought I was going to have a good deal of interest in Known Agenda (#6) in this race, but while I think he should rebound some off a distant ninth-place finish in the Derby, he really didn’t have as much excuse for that subpar outing as I would’ve thought. It’s an almost impossible task to win from the one-hole in the Derby, however Known Agenda worked out a fairly good trip all things considered and was just not competitive in the stretch. A less bulky field and better post is going to help him steer clear of any traffic trouble, but I think his win two back in the G1 Florida Derby over Soup and Sandwich represents his ceiling. The trouble is he’s going to need to improve upon that effort to have a legitimate chance of winning.
One of the calls I’m proudest of from the Derby is that I wanted absolutely no part of the race’s second choice, Rock Your World (#7), and I’m standing by that position in the Belmont. While he does have a major excuse for the Derby since he broke a bit slowly and was slammed on both sides shortly thereafter, I wouldn’t expect him to just immediately get back to his breakout win in the G1 Santa Anita Derby in this spot. One of the big reasons I was against Rock Your World in the Derby is that he is very lightly raced, especially on dirt, and had to ship cross-country for the race. Both of those things remain true in the Belmont, with the added question of his ability to negotiate this marathon distance. I’m expecting him to underperform again.
Order of preference: 2-3-4-6Multi-race focus: 2,3
*If you're interested in seeing payouts for these races or any others, you can find them on our Results page linked to below*