By J.J. Hysell
He opened the Santa Anita meet with a bang, and it appears his fortunes could continue into this weekend’s Breeder’s Cup.
Trainer Doug O’Neill has nine total Breeders’ Cup entries and six in undercard races. While only one of his entries is a favorite – Private Zone in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint – several appear to have solid chances to have an impact at long odds.
Home School (30-1), a son of Intense Focus out of a Galileo dam, will add blinkers for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. The colt has experience over the surface with a fourth in the Zuma Beach that was better than it looks on paper. He also retains top rider Rafael Bejarano, who gets the call on all three O’Neill horses for Friday’s races. He was never worse than third while racing in Ireland, including in two Group 3 races. While the win spot in this race will be a tough sell, he’s appealing for exotics.
Goldencents (4-1) wasn’t helped by an outside draw that put him in post 12 for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Still, he’s a perfect fit for this distance and he’s been training exceptionally well for this test.
Clenor (8-1), a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf contender, has evolved into an unbeatable turf powerhouse since arriving to the O’Neill barn after three races in Ireland. She boasts a win over this surface and has overcome adversity in a few of her races. Her off-the-pace style should suit this race well and she’s a superb bet at 8-1.
One of the most intriguing long shots of the Saturday card is Concave (15-1), who will make her first start on dirt in the Juvenile Fillies. The daughter of Colonel John won her first two races impressively, including a Grade 2 that featured the talented She’s A Tiger. She was a bit farther back under Patrick Valenzuela in the seven-furlong Del Mar Debutante and still rallied for third behind a torrid pace. This is a very tough field with many up-and-coming runners, but this filly is one who could step up on the surface switch and stretch out under the guidance of Mario Gutierrez.
Renee’s Titan (30-1) has been off form lately, and this doesn’t appear to be her optimal distance, but she does like this track. Handsome Mike (30-1) is also one who needs a turnaround in recent form, but he does spark some interest for exotics with the switch back to turf and the cutback in distance.
A spot where O’Neill holds some very interesting cards is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Both his entries, FrontRunner winner Bond Holder (8-1) and Rum Point (30-1), show a lot of upside. Bond Holder, a son of Mineshaft, stepped up with the switch to dirt and the move to routing, as his pedigree suggested was optimal. He is only one of three with a win at this distance. Rum Point is a son of Malibu Moon whose only win came on the lead while sprinting, but he’s had valuable experience rating in his past two races, and it should be noted the Breeders’ Futurity was run on a soaked synthetic surface. A Malibu Moon first-time dirt can be dangerous and he’s received positive reviews from work analysts at Santa Anita this week.
Private Zone has also drawn attention in the morning during works and is coming into the Sprint in excellent form.
Will this be a Breeders’ Cup to remember for O’Neill?