Haskell Champ Cyberknife Among Top Choices In Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

Classy 3-year-old enters Saturday's race as co-third choice with Laurel River

Befitting of his champion 3-year-old thoroughbred, jockey Florent Geroux knifed through traffic in July’s Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park and suddenly found racing room along the rail.

From there, Cyberknife charged past Taiba in the deep stretch to win the $1 million Haskell in a track record time of 1:46.24 for 9 furlongs. While the connections of Taiba have decided to take on the nation’s top older horses in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, Cyberknife trainer Brad Cox opted for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on the undercard.

With the move, Cox ducked prohibitive Classic favorite Flightline, as well as several other accomplished older horses. The unbeaten Flightline has been compared to Secretariat after his dominating 19 ¼ length win in September’s Grade I Pacific Classic. Cox also pre-entered Cyberknife in the Classic, but chose the Dirt Mile as his first preference.

“I think it gives him the best opportunity to win a race,” Cyberknife trainer Brad Cox told FanDuel TV on Oct. 29. “The Classic is obviously a super deep, tough field. I think it’s the best decision in regards to getting him to the winner’s circle.”

For this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships, promotions abound at FanDuel, one of the nation’s top sports betting operators. The company is the title sponsor of the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile, contested on turf on Saturday.

Deep field for the Dirt Mile

In many years, the Dirt Mile is contested around one turn, giving entrants ample running room down a long straightaway before encountering the clubhouse turn. But with tight configurations at Keeneland Race Course, the Dirt Mile on Saturday will be contested around two turns, a setup more favorable to route horses. Cox believes Cyberknife is better suited for a two-turn race, rather than the one-turn variation.

With little running room before the first turn, there will be a premium on securing inside position from the start. Breaking from the No. 9 gate, Florent Geroux may need a quick jump out of the gate before steering Cyberknife to the inside as he reaches the opening turn. Geroux will also face speed to the inside, with Laurel River and Cody’s Wish breaking from the No. 6 and No. 7 gates, respectively.

Cox has been pleased with how Cyberknife has trained at Keeneland since his arrival in Lexington.

“As long as he breaks well and gets involved early, I think he’ll be right there,” Cox told reporters Thursday.

Cody’s Wish, the winner of the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga, has been installed as the 5/2 favorite. In the Forego, Cody’s Wish recorded a 112 Beyer speed figure — the fastest in the Dirt Mile field — in his upset of heavily favored Jackie’s Warrior.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Gunite is the second choice at 7/2. He enters the race with four consecutive triple-digit Beyer. Cyberknife and Laurel River are the co-third choice at 9/2. Cyberknife is named for a procedure that owner Al Gold underwent in December 2020 for prostate cancer.

Cyberknife is not the only Monmouth horse that is entered in the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Sharp Aza Tack, a 15/1 in Friday’s Juvenile Turf Sprint, romped in the $100,000 Tyro Stakes at Monmouth in July. Also on Friday, jockey Paco Lopez will be aboard Sabra Tuff (30/1) in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Lopez won the 2022 Monmouth jockey title with 91 victories.

No fixed odds for the BC at Monmouth

Betmakers, the exclusive provider for fixed-odds wagering at Monmouth Park, is not distributing fixed odds for the Breeders’ Cup to any U.S. entities. Still, the Australian-based company will send horse betting data to a network of international bookmakers outside the U.S., said Dallas Baker, head of international operations for BetMakers. Unlike with parimutuel wagering, fixed-odds betting gives customers the opportunity to lock in a price on a certain horse before post time.

Flightline, the heavy 3/5 favorite in the Classic, is expected to see his odds fall even further as the race draws near. The prices on considerable favorites have fallen steeply in the Breeders’ Cup in the past, underscoring the advantages bettors can receive by wagering through fixed odds.

Three years ago, Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Bricks and Mortar went off at even-money odds at the gate — far below his 9/5 morning line price.

Photo: Peter Ackerman/USA TODAY


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