Who can surprise in each of the Breeders Crown races

by Brett Sturman

With the formality of last week’s Breeders Crown elimination races complete, the real racing began last night (Oct. 27) with the 2-year-old divisions. Tonight (Oct. 28) features the 3-year-old and older divisions and just like on Friday, there is the expectation for a series of hotly-contested matchups. While there will be many well-backed and well deserving in-form favorites, here are possible upset candidates in each of tonight’s races. Some perhaps more of a stretch than others.


Refined was impressive in tracking down M-M’s Dream last week at 12-1 odds and I don’t think it was a fluke. She offered similar odds when winning the Armbro Flight earlier this season over Bella Bellini, and McNair has driven her to both those wins. Refined and M-M’s Dream went to the half in :57.1 last week which was actually fast when compared to the baby race-like half-mile time of :59.2 from the elimination won by Jiggy Jog. For Jiggy Jog, she started the year as the undisputed best of this division, was beaten a couple of times by M-M’s Dream, but now it looks like the pendulum is once again turning back.


The complexion of this race changed entirely with the break of Mommamia Volo in last week’s elimination. With three straight bruising wins, she would have been the likely favorite in this race if not for last week’s mishap, and that role will now go to Bond. With her win in 1:52.2 last week, Bond’s elimination win was nearly three full seconds quicker than fellow Svanstedt stablemate, Special Way’s elimination win time. With Tetrick driving for the third time, Special Way will be the obvious alternative to Bond, though she herself will still offer a short price. For a longer chance, Railee Something at 10-1 is in a pretty decent spot from the second tier. She’ll go second-time Dunn for trainer Burke and may be able to work out a cover trip and not have to be used hard early as she’s been in races throughout the year, including how she raced in the Hambletonian Oaks.


After starting the year 0-for-11 while racing almost exclusively against the division’s killers, Zanatta has now won three of her last four. It looks like she gained some confidence in the Jugette and Courageous Lady, and then used that to somehow surge in the final sixteenth of a mile last week to track down Twin B Joe Fresh; the first time she’s been able to get to that rival this year. Bongiorno has her moving in the right direction and will be well positioned once again. Strong Poison continues to fire almost every race and had her elimination well in-hand on the front past a :57.3 half mile and used that to comfortably stave off Sylvia Hanover, who will be grinding into it once again as an underlay. Twin B Joe Fresh may actually offer relative value in this spot.


At a 12-1 morning line and likely double-digit odds, Air Power jumps off the page. When right, he might actually be the fastest horse in here. Erratic for sure, he’s shown more than enough flashes of brilliance and he looked like he was about to clear to the lead on that final turn in the Kentucky Futurity two races back before promptly breaking. This is a wide-open division and any of the other usual suspects throughout the season in here are all capable of winning depending on how that trip plays out. That includes Hambletonian winner Tactical Approach, who between starting from the second-tier and the Hoosier Park passing lane, may not even need to leave the inside yet again. Helpfirstedition looks like he’s making good on the gamble as the lone supplement into this year’s Breeders Crown. Indiana-sired champion was a powerful elimination winner last week when moving clear late of Ari Ferrari J, though that one was roughed up early following a belated leave attempt and is another square-priced threat.


Max Contract may not be as long of a price as some others, but her form right now is undeniable. Even that sick scratch from a month ago couldn’t derail her, and she steamrolled them last week in the stretch once she tipped out from fourth at the top of the lane. She was equally impressive against lesser over this same track in September and Miller may only need to work out a smooth cover trip from the rail to set it up for her late kick. Grace Hill didn’t have the incentive I suppose to keep her eight-race win streak going, which came to an end in last week’s elimination when she was taken back at the start. She’s been the scourge of this group all year. Kobe’s Gigi was sharp in her elimination score last week but very similar to Strong Poison from two races back, may find a more pressured pace this time around. Mikala was run down last week by Max Contract but I’d say she does her best work when closing. She’s already shocked earlier in the year and will get a cover trip while starting from the second tier.


No knock whatsoever against Confederate who has proven his tremendous ability all season long and who some consider to be the greatest 3-year-old since Somebeachsomewhere, but I have a feeling that El Rey is going to be a trendy pick to pull off the shocker. It seems like ages ago, but he was last year’s Governor’s Cup winner hitting his best form at this exact time last year, and he looked as good as ever last week when debuting for new connections. Fresh off the half-million-dollar sale price, he delivered immediately for new trainer Andrew Harris and new driver Dexter Dunn, defeating Cannibal. He just might be good enough right now to give Confederate a race. Coach Stefanos is another who might attract some attention by virtue of his :24.2 final quarter from his elimination win last week. That win greatly flatters ISS-champion Why Not Now, who races earlier on the card in race 5.


I know that recent New York form is bad, and he was also a non-factor when he took on these types in the Cashman in August, but Delayed Hanover was really decent last week at 70-1. A top Hambletonian contender from 2021, he was legitimately strong through the stretch last week when visibly moving fastest of all and backed up on paper by that :26.3 final quarter. A 20-1 programmed chance from the rail; stranger things have happened. Alrajah One is a machine. This is only his seventh start in North America over the past two years but he makes them count. Logan Park impressed last week in his wire-to-wire score turning away Southwind Tyrion, did well for himself to back up those three straight 1:50 and change miles from Woodbine Mohawk Park.


In the final Breeders Crown race, the accuracy of the Hoosier morning-line oddsmaker throughout these elimination and finals races should be noted. It’s unheard of these days to project out what the actual odds should be, such as Confederate being listed in the morning line last week at a correct 1-9 and Geocentric listed correctly in the program at 1-5, and on and on. It gives far more credibility to the race program than having these same horses listed at 3-1 or 5-2 in the same spot elsewhere. That said, in this race with Tattoo Artist listed at even money and Bythemissal at 3-1, I wonder if it’s partially backwards. Yes, Tattoo Artist brings his seven-race win streak with him into tonight’s final including a win over Bythemissal three back at Dayton, but it’s a different kind of race now and I’d prefer Bythemissal, especially with the improved post position. As a longer chance, Charlie May can come rallying. Dave Miller has sprung upsets with him before and I wouldn’t hold last week’s first-over try against him too much.