2023 Breeders’ Cup Future Stars Friday Picks, Predictions and Best Bets: Locked looks like a lock

Santa Anita Horse Racing Turf
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Ron Wood

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Handicapper for Racing Post and Pickswise, specializing in US and Dubai horse racing with over two decades of expertize and experience. For Ron Wood media enquiries, please email contact@pickswise.com.
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One of the highlights of the horse racing calendar has arrived, as the Breeders’ Cup gets underway on Friday, November 3, this year from beautiful Santa Anita racetrack in California. As usual, the 2-day event kickstarts with Future Stars Friday, and our renowned international horse racing expert Ron Wood, who has more than two decades of experience picking winners, is on hand to deliver his best bets for all the big races. Let’s dive in!

Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint best bet: No Nay Mets 6/1 (5:00 pm ET)

Fast and firm conditions in the Southern Californian sunshine for the 40th Breeders’ Cup and the main action begins with this speed test for two-year-olds. The last time the meeting was staged at Santa Anita, in 2019, this race was won by a front-runner from gate 9, and the following day’s Turf Sprint winner made all from post 12. However, there are five confirmed forward-going types in this and they are drawn 1, 2, 3, 4 and 11. Crimson Advocate and Big Evs ran on the same card at Royal Ascot and posted identical times for their opening furlongs (Big Evs fractionally quicker overall but his race came almost four hours later on a drying day), and Tiger Belle is quick.

Maybe, then, the second wave of runners will be in the prime spot and hopefully, that’s where NO NAY METS finds himself. He was a bit slower the following day than Crimson Advocate and Big Evs at Royal Ascot, although he has since looked pretty rapid back in the States. In any case, the stakes race he won at Colonial Downs produced the winner of this race here in 2019 and this colt is a strong sprinter who was set some stiff tasks early in his development and is really coming good now. Cherry Blossom is the second pick.

Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies best bet: Life Talk 25/1 (5:40 pm ET)

No one will be getting rich backing Tamara, for all that she’s exciting and is bidding to emulate her dam, who won this race at Santa Anita in 2012, and there is a slight stamina doubt about her. The other last-time-out Grade 1 winners Candied and Just F Y I are the obvious alternatives, but LIFE TALK is the most tempting option. She has to prove she’s good enough but her maiden win offers hope that she might be. She had excuses next time and she looks poised to post a career-best now upped in trip getting two turns for the first time.

Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf best bet: Porta Fortuna 11/2 (6:20 pm ET)

There’s not a lot of obvious early speed in this race so it may not be strongly run, which would make it hard for the wide-drawn runners to tuck in — that’s the concern for the otherwise likeable She Feels Pretty — and so a low-berthed filly with gears looks the way to go, with PORTA FORTUNA fitting the bill. She won the Albany and Cheveley Park over six furlongs in the UK. Last year’s winner of this race at Keeneland, Medidate, who shares the same grandsire as Porta Fortuna, namely Scat Daddy, had finished first and second respectively in the same two races.

Buchu is a nice type but may get too far back, and backing Carla’s Way from post 9 would mean relying on a European runner having the gate-speed to establish a good spot — she is fast but it still feels like a risk — so Laulne is second pick.

Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile best bet: Locked 7/2 (7:00 pm ET)

A quality race that is narrowed down to Timberlake, LOCKED, Muth and Noted. It’s Locked who can prove best, as he was able to run fast at Keeneland despite doing a lot wrong — his speed figures stack up well in this field — and if he improves, which he ought to with the benefit of that added experience, he’ll be hard to beat.

Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf best bet: River Tiber 5/2 (7:40 pm ET)

My Boy Prince looks like getting a soft lead. He doesn’t seem good enough on turf to last the whole way but if he does get loose up front, a runner with speed who doesn’t give away too much ground might be the answer, so step forward RIVER TIBER. This one is seemingly reaching peak readiness and Aidan O’Brien has won three of the last eight runnings of the race. O’Brien has another likely type in Unquestionable, who shares the same sire as the selection. Tok Tok and Stay Hot also make some appeal.

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