And now starts our rundown of the races on Friday and Saturday. We're going to do a brief breakdown of all the races, where we give a brief synopsis of the race and the storyline, examine the favorite(s), point out a longshot or two we think is interesting, occasionally discuss why we're against certain horses, and give our picks. Let's get to it!
Race synopsis: Grade III, 1 3/4 miles on dirt, 3yo and up, $500k purse. This is the race nobody really likes because it's a motley crew of horses that nobody would describe at "championship" caliber. We're just sad that the pre-entered Temple City didn't actually make it to the final entries, because his last race comment line of "done early, not abused" is just priceless.
Favorite: The favorite is a horse that sports a 18.4% winning percentage and last won a race on a dirt fast track in January 2007. As you can guess, we're not big fans of Awesome Gem. Or this race in general.
Price Horse to Consider: Precision Break has a win at the distance, albeit on synthetic. But it's something that shows he can get the distance. Hell, he's cutting back in distance for this race: his last start was in the Ceasarwitch Handicap at 2 1/4 miles. That race took a cool 3 minutes, 59 seconds to complete--about half the length of your average Kevin Youkilis at bat.
Picks: We have no idea. A.U. Miner ran well in the Hawthorne Gold Cup last out, so why the hell not?
1. A.U. Miner 2. Precision Break 3. Atoned
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Race synopsis: Grade II, 1 mile on turf, 2yo fillies only, $1 million purse. This race was thought to be headed for the chopping block; we're surprised it's still here.
Favorites: The two horses everyone will be focusing on are Winter Memories and Together. The former is a Jimmy Toner girl that sharply won the Miss Grillo stakes at Belmont, beating a bunch of other Yanks here. Together ships in for Coolmore/Aidan O'Brien off some good efforts in grades stakes in England and Ireland.
Price Horses to Consider: Shockingly, there's a bunch here, making this one of the more interesting races on the weekend. Allure d'Amour is gorgeously bred and looked good breaking her maiden for Todd Pletcher. At 15-1, she's worth considering though the outside post doesn't help. Flood Plain has only run twice but ships in for the always dangerous John Gosden and is perfectly bred for a turf mile. Wyomia won both of her non-turf races, but is a half to turf G1 winner Red Giant and is out of the late good sire Vindication. Also well-bred is Quiet Oasis, who will probably be running late.
Picks: This has the look of a "spread" race in your Pick 3's and 4's, because there's plenty to like. Winter Memories is a legit favorite but we can't endorse taking an American turf girl at 2-1 off of one good race. Given what looks like a lot of speed in the race, we'll go with closer Quiet Oasis for a price.
1. Quiet Oasis 2. Wyomia 3. Winter Memories
Filly & Mare Sprint
Race synopsis: Grade I, 7 furlongs on the dirt for fillies only, $1 million purse. In its 3 year history, closers have won each time. Of course, they have never run this race on fast dirt, so that means nothing.
Favorites: Rightly So exits a win in the Ballerina on Travers Day and is the favorite off the 2-month layoff. Mind you, she's never run outside of New York and won the Ballerina on a pretty rail-biased track, so it's not like she doesn't have any holes. Informed Decision is the defending champ who's had a pretty blah year and is fairly ordinary on the dirt.
Price Horses to Consider: If Switch is anywhere near her 20-1 morning line odds, she's one of the best value plays on the day. Beaten just a half length by Zenyatta in her last race, she cuts back to a sprint distance which makes her a mid-pack/closer type. That's fine with us, there's a ton of speed in the race. If you buy that she needed her last race off a 10-month layoff, Sara Louise is dangerous in her second start of the year.
Picks: We've been high on Switch for a while and will jump at the chance to take her here. The other 3 year old we like is Champagne d'Oro, who's been very consistent in 1-turn races this year and had a sneaky good prep on polytrack last out.
1. Switch 2. Champagne d'Oro 3. Sara Louise
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Race synopsis: Grade I, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt, 2yo fillies only, $2 million purse. The first of the "traditional" Breeders Cup races to be run.
Favorites: It's either going to be A Z Warrior, who impressively won the Frizette, or Tell a Kelly, the beaten favorite in the Oak Leaf. Both look like solid fillies, though Tell a Kelly has yet to run on the dirt.
Price Horses to Consider: Delightful Mary cost $500,000 despite modest breeding (Limehouse out of an unknown French Deputy mare). She must at least look like a champion, right?
Picks: Historically, this race either produces a chalky result or a complete bomb. The favorites look legit to us.
1. Delightful Mary 2. A Z Warrior 3. Tell a Kelly
Filly & Mare Turf
Race synopsis: Grade I, 1 3/8 miles on the turf, 3yo+ fillies and mares, $2 million purse. This is one of our favorite races every year, as it's usually competitive and produces rational results: both longshot winners (Lahudood in '07, Starine in '02) were overlays that were not hard to come up with.
Favorite: Midday, who we gushed about last week.
Price Horses to Consider: Miss Keller has had a strong, consistent year running in New York and Canada. At 8-1, she's very live to hit the board. Keertana loves the distance and comes in off a goofy Flower Bowl where nobody really ran well because the ground was a complete bog. At 30-1, there are worse ideas.
Picks: Much as we love to be contrarians, there's only one horse we can see beating Midday: the Japanese alleged superstar Red Desire. But we don't think it's happening--if she couldn't beat the likes of Changing Skies five weeks ago, why can she beat Midday now?
1. Midday 2. Miss Keller 3. Keertana
Ladies's Classic (nee Distaff)
Race synopsis: Grade I, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt, 3yo+ fillies and mares, $2 million purse. We're missing the Queen (Zenyatta), the defending horse of the year (the now retired Rachel Alexandra), and the other hot filly of the weekend (Goldikova). Still, this is a fun and competitive race.
Favorites: Blind Luck, who we profiled last week and don't need to regurgitate her merits. The second choice is either fellow 3 year old Havre de Grace (more on her in a second) or Life at Ten, who's been the best older mare in the country this year.
Price Horses to Consider: There is only one committed front-runner in this race: Pletcher's second stringer Malibu Prayer. She won the Grade I Ruffian earlier this year, but until now, hasn't faced the best horses in the country. Acoma upset the Spinster at 24-1 last out, and the Spinster used to be a big prep race for the Distaff before Keeneland went to a synthetic surface. Don't dismiss her out of hand for trifectas and superfectas.
Horses we don't like: Unrivaled Belle can't beat Life at Ten. Persistently did upset Rachel Alexandra but under conditions (insanely fast fractions and a tired horse) she won't get here. Havre de Grace will take a ton of money, but has improved her Gowanus Speed Figures in six consecutive races. Noted plagiarist Andrew Beyer once did a study that showed that horses that did that ran a worse speed figure next out over 95% of the time, so we're against.
Picks: Ignoring her loss after an insane speed duel with Rachel Alexandra, Life at Ten has been a model of consistency this year. She's won from on the pace, just off the pace, and runs fast. She's the best horse here and is our pick to win. That said, we can't see Blind Luck completely faltering, and like her to still hit the board along with the speed of the race, Malibu Prayer.
1. Life at Ten 2. Malibu Prayer 3. Blind Luck