Vulnerable Favorites at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup

Vulnerable Favorites at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup

Stellar Wind winning the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes (gr. III) on August 30, 2015 at Del Mar. © BENOIT PHOTO

When many of the best horses in North American and Europe gather to compete at the Breeders’ Cup, you can bet that there will be a few surprising results among the thirteen races. Horses that would be clear favorites to win a typical Grade 1 race find themselves as mid-priced contenders in deep fields, and among the thirteen horses that will be given the status of wagering favorite by the bettors, it’s probable that only a handful will win.

With this in mind, here are four morning line favorites that I believe could be vulnerable to an upset in their respective Breeders’ Cup races… (Complete fields and morning line odds are available at

Stellar Wind (5-2, Breeders’ Cup Distaff)

In terms of accomplishments, the six-time Grade 1 winner and Eclipse champion Stellar Wind is a clear standout in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. But the five-year-old mare has been racing at the highest level for three years now, and while she’s 3-for-3 this year, she’s been winning narrowly in races with slow paces and small fields. The Breeders’ Cup Distaff is shaping up to be a much tougher race, and her most recent workout–in which her rider had to ask her with the whip to out-finish stablemate Kristo–seemed a little disappointing, even though the time was sharp. Stellar Wind can certainly win this race, but her odds might not be high enough to warrant a play.

Unique Bella (9-5, Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint)

It might just be a statistical oddity, but no three-year-old filly has ever won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, which makes it hard to take a short price on the lightly-raced Unique Bella, no matter how impressive she has been. Following a layoff to recover from shin issues, Unique Bella won the 6 1/2-furlong L. A. Woman Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita by 3 1/2 lengths, but she got off to a slow start that day–which has historically been an issue for her–and while she relaxed nicely after that, she has shown a slight tendency to be rank in previous starts. Since there’s little room for error in a race like the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, I’m tempted to side against Unique Bella at a short price.

Ribchester (7-2, Breeders’ Cup Mile)

In might opinion, Ribchester might be the most vulnerable favorite in the thirteen Breeders’ Cup races. The Godolphin-owned four-year-old has won three Group 1 races this year and has generally established himself as perhaps the best miler in Europe, but he enters the Breeders’ Cup just two weeks after finishing second over a tiring, bog-like turf course in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot. That has to have been a very testing effort, and he wasn’t even certain to come for the Breeders’ Cup until fairly close to the drawing of final entries. Now he’s drawn a fairly wide post position (10) in a race with two sharp turns, which he may or may not be able to handle. With all of this in mind, I’ll be playing against Ribchester on Saturday.

Additional insight into Ribchester’s credentials, including race replays, can be found on

Ulysses (7-2, Breeders’ Cup Turf)

It’s hard to knock anything that Ulysses has done this year, as he’s won a couple of Group 1 races and enters the Breeders’ Cup Turf off an excellent third-place finish in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) at Chantilly. But Ulysses’ biggest wins came at 10 furlongs and 10.5 furlongs, and in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf he could only finish a non-threatening fourth despite a pretty good trip. Obviously he has improved a ton this year and has to be respected, but I get the feeling that twelve furlongs might be just a bit beyond Ulysses’ best distance, especially if the race winds up unfolding at a fast pace, which seems possible with Highland Reel, Oscar Performance, and Beach Patrol all likely to flash early speed. I think Ulysses is beatable as the favorite.

Looking forward to betting the Breeders’ Cup? TwinSpires has a free Breeders’ Cup Betting Guide to help you out!

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Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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