Tepin is the 3/1 favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita (4.40pm PDT Saturday) but can she overcome the strong challenge from Europe and retain her title? Here we take a look at her chances and those of the international opposition, concluding this preview with our betting predictions and picks.
Trained by Mark Casse (pictured), Tepin is a force to be reckoned with wherever she goes. She certainly served it up to them in England, winning the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June on soft ground that she hated. Tepin’s class and grit carried her to victory.
We can forgive Tepin for getting beaten at Keeneland in the First Lady in October. Her regular rider Julien Leparoux, like all the other jockeys in the race, let Photo Call (20/1) get away and realized too late that she was not going to come back to them. Leparoux accepted his mistake approaching the wire and did not ride her hard. It was his failure of judgment that ended her eight race winning streak. Tepin’s reputation stands.
Tepin’s strongest challenger looks to be Limato (3/1), saddled by the veteran English trainer, Henry Candy. Candy turned 72 recently and has never had a runner in the Breeders’ Cup before. He says that he has never had the right horse – until now. His four-year-old Limato loves to hear his hooves rattling and missed his most recent engagement in England because the surface was not quick enough for him.
Limato was last seen having his second run outside the UK in early October. He started as the hot favorite at Chantilly in France and won like one. He beat his closest rival three lengths in a top quality race run over seven furlongs. Candy used to think that Limato was a six furlong specialist but has proved that he gets slightly further now.
This will be Limato’s second attempt at this distance. The only other time he tried was in May this year and he was beaten two and a half lengths into fourth place. In his defense he encountered serious traffic issues and did not get a clear run when it mattered. The ground was also softer than the official description of ‘good’ suggested. In his 13 starts that was the only time that Limato has finished out of the first two. He had excuses for that run but has yet to prove his prowess over a mile.
Another concern is that Limato has sometimes been slow out of the stalls. He is usually ridden in the middle of the pack and produced late. On the positive side Candy says that Limato has traveled well and is looking good – he thinks that he has grown since he last saw him a week ago!
A horse from Ireland that has a fair chance is the three-year-old filly Alice Springs (4/1). Her trainer Aidan O’Brien is a regular visitor to the Breeders’ Cup. A year ago Alice Springs was second, beaten less than a length by Mark Casse’s Catch A Glimpse, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland. She started slowly and probably did not enjoy the soft track conditions.
That was Alice Springs’ final run as a juvenile and she took a while to get her act together this year. She has had eight races and won three of them, including her most recent two starts at the highest level over a mile. This daughter of Galileo will be ridden by the UK’s top jockey, Ryan Moore, who can be trusted to get the tactics right.
Alice Springs’ stablemate Cougar Mountain (33/1) will be ridden by O’Brien’s son, Donnacha. This five-year-old has talent but has won only one of his eight races this season. He was beaten more than seven lengths by Tepin at Ascot.
A typical son of Fastnet Rock, Cougar Mountain will enjoy quick ground but is not the most reliable character and is a long shot in the Breeders Cup betting for good reason.
Hit It A Bomb (25/1) is another three-year-old trained by O’Brien. He will be ridden by the stable’s very capable second jockey, Seamie Heffernan. Hit It A Bomb won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf beating Mark Casse’s 4/1 favorite Airoforce a neck for his owner/breeder Mrs Evelyn Stockwell. It was his third run as a juvenile and his third victory.
This son of War Front did not hit the track again until August and has had three starts this year. Hit A Bomb was the favorite in the first two at Leopardstown in Ireland but was beaten two lengths into third in both. In his most recent and only top level start this term Hit It A Bomb was beaten 10 lengths and finished out of the money in ninth. O’Brien has been known to spring surprises but a second Breeders’ Cup win for this colt seems unlikely.
The four-year-old Dutch Connection (20/1) trained by Charlie Hills for Godolphin is another colt from England. Dutch Art started as the 19/5 favorite in the Shadwell Turf Mile last year but was beaten three and a half lengths into fifth. This son of Dutch Art performs best on quick ground so that defeat should not have been a surprise.
Dutch Connection has won one of his six starts this term, it was in a Group 2 contest over seven furlongs on good to firm ground in July. Most recently he finished last in a top class race over a mile at Chantilly in September, beaten eight lengths. That performance inspires little confidence in his chances.
The other European-trained horse is Spectre (16/1). She is trained by her German owner/breeder Markus Munch who knows something about high quality sport. He played for the leading German soccer team, Bayern Munich. Now 44-years-old, Munch trains his string of 20 horses at Chantilly.
Spectre lined up in the same race as Dutch Connection at Chantilly and finished a creditable second, beaten about a length. Spectre has been competing at the top level in France and has always performed well, collecting place money. If this three-year-old daughter of Siyouni handles the fast ground she should run well. Munch is expecting a good show as his filly is a real fighter, he has booked Javier Castellano to partner her.
In 2015 Castellano rode Claude McGaughey’s Ironicus (10/1) in his four starts, winning three of them, including a Grade 2 at Pimlico. This five-year-old could challenge the favorites in a fast-paced race. He has the stamina for further and finished second to Flintshire at Belmont Park in a Grade 1 run over a mile and a quarter in June.
Most recently Ironicus was narrowly beaten by Graham Motion’s four-year-old filly, Miss Temple City (20/1), in the Shadwell Turf Mile. That performance makes Motion’s filly look an interesting prospect too.
Our Preview’s Breeders’ Cup Mile Betting Pick
The international flavor of this race makes it look a tough assignment for Tepin but ‘look’ is the key word. Limato is certainly a class act but he has something to prove over this distance and might wreck his chances by being slow out of the gates. Alice Springs is a possible threat and has the assistance of Ryan Moore but she was beaten in the Breeders’ Cup before and that looks likely to happen again.
So we come to our betting predictions, and the presence of the challengers from Europe coupled with Tepin’s recent, blameless defeat has resulted in this mare being available at irresistible odds.