No snazzy intro, let's get right to Saturday's cornucopia of races.
Race Synopsis: Grade II, 1 mile on the turf for 2yo colts, $1 million purse. Much maligned, we usually like this race because the breeding and imports are interesting. Too bad it's buried at the top of the card.
Favorite: Master of Hounds is the probable favorite because he's from Aidan O'Brien's barn and ran well in a G1 in Europe last out, but how excited can you get for a horse that's still 1-for-5 lifetime? Let's look elsewhere for horses to pick.
Price Horses to Consider: Wilcox Inn has done well on the synthetics, is well bred for the turf, and his trainer has good synthetic-to-turf figures. At 20-1, he's interesting despite the outside post. If Rough Sailing's synthetic race two back translates to turf, he could be dangerous off the pace.
Picks: We really like Soldat here, who was the beaten favorite in the Pilgrim when he ran on a yielding turf. The ground's going to be much firmer here on Saturday, and we think he bounces back to a strong performance. We're not going to try to beat the Euros for the next two spots, though.
1. Soldat 2. Mantoba 3. Master of Hounds
Race Synopsis: Grade I, 6 furlongs on the dirt for 3yo and up, $2 million. This used to be the best race of the Breeders Cup. Thanks to the Dirt Mile, Turf Sprint and F&M Sprint, it's been cannibalized once again. Thanks guys.
Favorites: Based on his win in the Vosburgh (NY's Sprint prep race), connections with Godolphin and pretty decent record, Girolamo looks to be the tepid 5-2/3-1 favorite in this race. That's okay, because we don't really like him too much—he's beaten nobody, and while he won the Vosburgh, it's his only win at the distance.
Price Horse to Consider: Pashito the Che has obscure breeding (Flatter? A Pentilicus mare), cost next to nothing at auction ($1700), is trained by Scott Lake who's suffered a fall from grace in recent years, and has never competed in a graded stakes race. But he's still never been out of the money at 6 furlongs, and if Sprint history has taught us anything, it's to respect distance specialists.
Picks: Speaking of distance specialists, the second choice is Big Drama, whose only loss at 6 furlongs was to the now-injured division leader Majesticperfection earlier this year in the Vanderbilt. He's got great tactical speed, loves the dirt, loves the distance, and is working out sharply for the underrated David Fawkes. There's little to not like here. Underneath, we also like Atta Boy Roy, who likes the distance and the track.
1. Big Drama 2. Atta Boy Roy 3. Pashito the Che
Race Synopsis: Grade II, 5 furlongs on the turf for 3yo and up, $1 million purse. The last two years this was run at 6 1/2 furlongs; this year it's at 330 yards shorter. To say we're bored by this race is an understatement.
Favorite: Silver Timber has actually been a dominant force in this "division", winning 4 of 6 starts this year.
Price Horses to Consider: It's rare that you'll find a horse with the highest last out Gowanus Speed Figure to be a price, but if you do, bet them--it's still a borderline positive expectation wager. Here, we have Grand Adventure who's the only horse to run a 100+ GSF in his last race at 12-1 on the morning line. Hey, it worked for Dancing in Silks in the Sprint last year.
Picks: To the extent it's possible to "like" anyone in this crapfest, we'll side with Chamberlain Bridge, who only lost by 1 1/4 lengths to the favorite last out despite having a wide trip. Good enough.
1. Chamberlain Bridge 2. Grand Adventure 3. Silver Timber
Race Synopsis: Grade I, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt for 2yo colts, $2 million. There are seven Grade 1 horses in this race, lead by…
Favorites: Uncle Mo, who we discussed earlier. Boys at Toscanova has done little wrong in his brief career and should also be a short price for Dicky Dutrow of Big Brown fame.
Price Horses to Consider: Biondetti ships in from, of all places, Italy, where he was undefeated. He's never run on the dirt, but he's by 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini, and should adapt okay. Sticking with foreign based horses, we're truly intrigued by Peruvian shipper Murjan. Yes, South American shippers haven't done anything in the Breeders Cup since Paesana. But this guy's also got interesting breeding—Officer by a Tabasco Cat dam—and in a race where most of the entrants have little to no dirt experience, how about a guy with distance breeding who's actually bred to like the distance and surface?
Picks: Everyone's ready to concede this race to Uncle Mo, but we're not so sure. Only one horse has ever won the Juvenile with only two starts (Unbridled's Song, 1995), and Uncle Mo would be bucking history to do that. So would JB's Thunder. The foreigners are intriguing for the reasons just noted, but it's not a coicidence that every foreign invader that's won the Juvenile has been well-raced—neither Biondetti nor Murjan fits that category. Boys at Toscanova and Stay Thirsty could win but they haven't run in 2 months and haven't been beyond 7 furlongs; do you want to take 3-1 and 5-1 on that?
So let's take an entirely different direction: there is a boatload of speed in the race. But there aren't a lot of confirmed closers, with one exception: Rogue Romance, who's making his dirt debut here. A son of Smarty Jones, he should like the dirt and should be fine at the middle-distance of 8.5 furlongs. Trainer Ken McPeek wouldn't be just throwing this guy in the race for kicks…would he?
1. Rogue Romance 2. Uncle Mo 3. Biondetti
Race Synopsis: Grade I, 1 mile on the turf from 3yo and up, $2 million.
Favorites: Goldikova and a bunch of others. After her, the next choice is probably Gio Ponti, the best American turf hope. He's lost two Breeders Cup races before (Juvenile Turf in '07, Classic in '09), can he make it an ignominious 0-for-3?
Horses we Don't Like: For better or for worse, there are a lot of horses we don't like in this race. In addition to Gio Ponti, who we think isn't good enough at 3-1, the Euros other than Goldikova look weak. Beethoven is Aiden O'Brien but isn't any good. Delegator was better a year ago. Paco Boy has been looking at Goldikova's ass all year (3 losses to her). We also note that it's rare to get two Europeans in the triple in the Mile; it's only happened twice in the last ten years (2002 with Domedriver and Rock of Gibraltar; 2004 with Antonius Pious and Six Perfections). Sidney's Candy is an intractable front-runner making his second turf start and has been working out oddly; pass.
Price Horses to Consider: We already discussed Proviso, who we think should be 10-1 or so. But there are others we like even more. Court Vision has been a perpetual tease we've made money betting against--he's usually well-supported and usually loses. But a mile on the turf might be a perfect spot for him: he has 2 wins and a second in four starts at the distance, his only out of the money finish being last year's Mile where he was a fast-closing 4th. Another distance specialist is The Usual Q.T., who's 5-1-0 in 6 starts at a mile on the turf, but lost to Court Vision last out.
Picks: We're taking a shot against Goldikova. Yes, she's got a huge shot, and we're not going to be remotely surprised if she loses, but everyone is just handing her this race. They shouldn't. It's the best Mile field she'll face and for all we know, she won't love Churchill Downs. 3-5 is too short a price on what's at best a 50/50 proposition.
1. Court Vision 2. Goldikova 3. The Usual Q.T.
Race Synopsis: Grade I, 1 mile on the dirt (1 turn) for 3yo and up for $1 million. This is the fourth year of this race but only the first time it's going to actually resemble its name. In 2007, it was at a mile and 70 yards because Monmouth can't do a flat mile. In 2008 and 2009, it was on synthetic.
Favorites: We already mentioned Crown of Thorns, and we think he'll vie for favoritism with Here Comes Ben, who's in top form and loves the track. Charles Lopresti is a trainer we'd never heard of until this guy won the Forego in September, now he's got 2 BC starters (Wise Dan in the Sprint) with chances. Morning Line is the morning line favorite off his Pennsylvania Derby win but is stepping way up in class here.
Horses We Don't Like: Both Godolphin horses look like sucker plays. Gayego looks like a synthetic specialist, not a dirt miler. Vineyard Haven is a nice horse but seems to have stagnated this year. And then there's 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who has lost his last 4 starts by a combined 52 lengths.
Price Horses to Consider: Hurricane Ike is making his third start off a layoff--which is when they say horses are in their peak form--and is at a track and distance he likes. His last two races were too slow, but if he improves as much as his workouts suggest he should, he's a potential player at a big price.
Picks: Tizway has had a very nice year for Jimmy Jerkens since returning from Japan: a good allowance win, a strong 3rd to Quality Road in the Met Mile, then a romp in the Kelso to prep for this. He should be an okay price (5-1?) and get first run on the closers.
1. Tizway 2. Here Comes Ben 3. Hurricane Ike
Race Synopsis: Grade I, 1 1/2 miles on the turf for 3yo and up, $3 million. As it is every year, it's the Euros versus the Americans. Since Buck's Boy bored everyone to sleep wiring the field in the '98 Turf, the Euros lead 9-3 with a dead heat in 2003. Equally impressively, the Euros have taken 17 of the 33 in the money slots in those years, have never been completely shut out of the money, and have only been out of the exacta twice ('04 and '07). Have a guess where we're going with this?
Favorites: Workforce won the Arc and is the deserving favorite. The deserving second choice is the 4th place finisher in the Arc Bekhabad, who had a horrible trip in Europe's top race. It's worth reminding everyone that no Arc winner has ever won a BC race but 8 Arc also-rans have.
Price Horses to Consider: The one American we do like is Al Khali, who ran a bang-up 4th in the Canadian International last out with some horrible traffic trouble.
Picks: We don't love that Workforce's connections are grumbling about the surface already and threatening to scratch the horse if the turf isn't a little softer. We already were high on Bekhabad because of his affinity for the distance and tactical speed, and he's going to be our pick. What to do with Workforce? We're going to play against. This race reminds us a lot of the '02 Turf, when High Chaparral and Golan would dominate a weak American class. High Chaparral didn't disappoint but Golan didn't show up. Given that Workforce has shown the ability to just not show up sometimes, we think it's worth hunting for price plays underneath.
1. Bekhabad 2. Al Khali 3. Dangerous Midge
We'll give the Classic its own post tomorrow.