Three multiple Oaklawn stakes winners were installed as morning-line favorites during Monday afternoon’s post position draw for the 36th annual Breeders’ Cup World Championships Saturday at Santa Anita.
Tapped early betting choices by Santa Anita linemaker Jon White were Midnight Bisou (6-5) for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), Mitole (9-5) for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and Omaha Beach (8-5) for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
Midnight Bisou, the country’s top-ranked older female dirt runner, is unbeaten in seven starts this year, including Oaklawn’s $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 16 and the $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 14 for 10-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen.
Midnight Bisou is scheduled to break from post 4 under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the 1 1/8-mile Distaff.
Mitole, also trained by Asmussen, won Oaklawn’s $150,000 Bachelor Stakes last year and the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 13. Mitole has won 5 of 6 starts this year under his regular jockey, six-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr.
Mitole is scheduled to break from post 4 in the 6-furlong Sprint.
The Southern California-based Omaha Beach won the second division of Oaklawn’s $750,000 Rebel (G2) March 16 before returning to Hot Springs to win the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 13. He was the morning-line favorite for the May 4 Kentucky Derby but missed the first leg of the Triple Crown following minor surgery to correct a throat problem. Omaha Beach didn’t resurface until the $300,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) Oct. 5 at Santa Anita. Despite cutting back from 1 1/8 miles to 6 furlongs, Omaha Beach ran down heavily favored Shancelot in deep stretch to win by a head.
Omaha Beach is seeking his fifth consecutive victory this year. He is scheduled to break from post 5 under Smith.
Like Midnight Bisou, a leading Horse of the Year candidate, Mitole (male sprinter) and Omaha Beach (3-year-old male) are Eclipse Awards candidates for year-end championships in their respective divisions.
In all, 15 Oaklawn-raced horses are entered in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup races.
Another Oaklawn-raced runner entered in the Distaff is Blue Prize (6-1), who finished seventh in the 2018 Azeri. Also entered in the Sprint are multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Whitmore (15-1) and Landeskog (12-1), runner-up in this year’s Bachelor. Whitmore won the $150,000 Hot Springs Stakes March 9 for the third consecutive year. He ran second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
The Dirt Mile features four other Oaklawn-raced runners, including Coal Front (6-1), winner of the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Feb. 18. Also entered are Giant Expectations (12-1), Improbable (3-1) and Snapper Sinclair (30-1).
Giant Expectations finished third in the $350,000 Essex Handicap for older horses March 16 and fifth in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses April 13. Improbable, as the heavy favorite, finished second in the first division of this year’s Rebel and second in the Arkansas Derby. Snapper Sinclair was a Feb. 17 allowance winner before finishing second in the Essex for Asmussen.
Three Oaklawn-raced horses – multiple Grade 1 winner Elate (6-1), Higher Power (6-1) and Math Wizard (30-1) – are entered in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at 1 ¼ miles.
Elate, who is challenging males, has started three times at Oaklawn, finishing third in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies in 2017, second behind Midnight Bisou in the Azeri and third behind Midnight Bisou in the Apple Blossom. Higher Power was a first-level allowance winner last year at Oaklawn before finishing eighth in the Rebel, his stakes debut. Higher Power earned an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Classic with a 5 ¼-length victory in the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) Aug. 17 at Del Mar. Math Wizard finished fourth as the favorite in the inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational for 3-year-olds May 4. He won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Sept. 21 at Parx in his last start.
Two other Oaklawn-raced horses, Leinster and Girls Know Best, are entered in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at 5 furlongs. Leinster (8-1) made his first three career starts last year at Oaklawn. He finished third to Mitole in his career debut. An also-eligible who would be facing males, Girls Know Best (20-1) was an allowance winner in 2017 at Oaklawn.
Probable post times for Oaklawn-raced horses are 2:33 p.m. (Central) for the Turf Sprint (race 5), 3:10 p.m. (Central) for the Dirt Mile (race 6), 4:36 p.m. (Central) for the Sprint (race 8), 6 p.m. for the Distaff (race 10) and 7:44 p.m. (Central) for the Classic (race 12).