Synopsis: 1 3/4 miles on the dirt for all comers, Grade 2 worth $500,000. Not only is this everyone's least favorite race because it involves lesser horses, it also tends to be long and boring.
Favorite: The fave is either going to be a horse that hasn't finished in the money yet this year and was a well-beaten fifth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in his last (A.U. Miner) or a horse that won a Grade 1 earlier this year, then lost 6 straight by widening margins (Giant Oak). See why nobody wants this race on championship day?
Price Horse to Consider: He's not really bred for the dirt, but Irish shipper Harrison's Cave is bred to go a long distance and is coming in off a win.
Picks: Birdrun seems to like going long as is somewhat consistently passable. Why not pick him?
1. Birdrun 2. Eldaafer 3. Giant Oak
Synopsis: 1 mile on the grass for 2yo colts, Grade 2 worth $1 million. We usually like this race because it's an interesting blend of Euros and Americans; somewhat surprisingly, the home team has done well here.
Favorite: It's unclear to us who will be the favorite, actually. We would guess Finale, who's undefeated on the turf, has the Pletcher/Velazquez combo, and has decent breeding. Just to his outside in the 14 post is State of Play, who won the With Anticipation stakes at Saratoga this summer and goes out for Graham Motion of Animal Kingdom fame. Also likely to get a lot of play is Majestic City, who was the runner up in the Breeders Futurity over a synthetic surface, and many (including us) believe that success of synthetics translates well to turf.
Price Horses to Consider: There are a bunch, actually. Wrote is a well-bred Aidan O'Brien horse that ran a decent third in his last, and while he's a second-level horse in Ireland, that may be enough here. But the 12-1 morning line might be unrealistic. On breeding alone, Fantastic Song is an intriguing candidate, as his dam is a half sister to the fabulous Shakespeare and solid performers Lady Shakespeare and Perfect Shirl (who's running on Friday in the Filly and Mare Turf). Needs to run faster, though.
Picks: This has all the looks of a spread race, and we wouldn't be surprised by about 8 different winners. We'll go with Lucky Chappy, who ran well in his American debut for Graham Motion, and use our price plays underneath.
1. Lucky Chappy 2. Wrote 3. Fantastic Song
Synopsis: 6 furlongs on the dirt for all comers, Grade 1 worth $1.5 million. Yes, that's right--they reduced the purse of this race by $500,000 to fund the Juvenile Sprint. Why do the powers that be hate the Sprint, which used to be one of our two favorite races (with the Mile)? For fun, let's look at the probable field with guesses at a morning line that we'd have in the Sprint if they had never created the Dirt Mile or Filly Sprint (listed alphabetically):
- Amazombie, 5-1
- Aikenite, 30-1
- Apriority, 30-1
- Big Drama, 5-1
- Caleb's Posse, 10-1
- Euroears, 6-1
- Force Freeze, 15-1
- Giant Ryan, 15-1
- Jackson Bend, 7-2
- Jersey Town, 20-1
- Switch, 15-1
- The Factor, 9-2
- Trappe Shot, 5-1
- Turbulent Descent, 4-1
Favorites: Big Drama won this race last year and then came back to win the Mr. Prospector stakes in January, running a year-best 120 GSF. Since then he's done...well, nothing of note, having some health issues, winning a minor stakes race in Florida in a pedestrian time, and scratching out of the Vosburgh with health issues. We're against him. The likely second choice is Jackson Bend, who's in career form, but in races at 7 furlongs and a mile. If we've learned nothing else about the Sprint, it's to go with distance specialists.
Price Horse to Consider: Force Freeze has done little wrong since being repatriated this summer, winning the Teddy Drone on the lead and running a decent second in the Vosburgh. He's working out quite well and figures to be around 10-1.
Picks: There are three clear distance specialists in the race. Giant Ryan has won 6 in a row, but he beat nothing of note until the Vosburgh, which fell into his lap when the top two choices had absurd traffic trouble. Amazombie is in career form and can't be dismissed. But we like Euroears the best; he beat Amazombie two back, is 8-for-13 at the distance, is probably the fastest out of hte gate, and had an easy excuse for his last race, as he was annihilated at the start. We also like the fact that his trainer, Bob Baffert, took his other prime contender for the Sprint (The Factor) and pointed him for the Dirt Mile because he's also a front-runner, to us, this means Baffert thinks Euroears is sitting on a big race and he didn't want to duel him into the ground. Look for him to wire the field.
1. Euroears 2. Amazombie 3. Jackson Bend
Synopsis: 5 furlongs on the turf for everyone, Grade 2 worth $1 million. We kvetch about this race a lot, but we picked the winner last year (Chamberlain Bridge) and cashed on Desert Code at 36-1 three years ago, so maybe we should shut up.
Favorite: It's either going to be Caracortado, who's found a second home on the turf but has never run this distance, or Regally Ready, who won the Nearctic Stakes last out and is 5-for-8 on the year.
Price Horse to Consider: At his morning line price of 20-1, Country Day is a steal. He's been in the money 5 of 6 times at the distance and is in good form for good connections.
Picks: We're going to go with all price horses, as this race looks wide open to us and a "spread" opportunity. In addition to Country Day, we like Broken Dreams, who's fast enough and gets Garret Gomez. We'll also take a shot underneath with Camp Victory, who's actually fast enough to compete in the Sprint, but is entered here instead.
1. Broken Dreams 2. Country Day 3. Camp Victory
Synopsis: One mile on the dirt for all comers, Grade 1 worth $1 million. The last two editions were won by longshots Furthest Land (21-1) and Dakota Phone (37-1), meaning we still haven't quite figured this race out yet.
Favorite: Trappe Shot is the morning line favorite (3-1) who we don't think will actually be favored. This is fine with us because we actually like this guy a lot. He's run the two fastest GSF's in the race this year, shouldn't mind stretching out to a flat mile from 6 furlongs, and has an easy excuse for his last. Heck, if he came in off a layoff, he would probably be 7-5.
Horses We Don't Like: Thankfully, the next three choices on the morning line are all tosses as far as we're concerned. As we noted above, we think Baffert separated Euroears and The Factor to make sure the former had a cleaner trip on the front end in the Sprint, but this looks like a tough spot for The Factor to stretch out his speed two more furlongs, especially with some tough speed also in the race. Shackleford has lost 7 of his last 8 races, with his only win being his Preakness victory that we still can't understand. We like turnbacks, but think his form stinks. Wilburn is curiously low on the morning line (4-1) for a horse that's only run a triple digit GSF once, and at that, in a race where he had everything go his way around two turns. He's not a complete toss, but he's a severe underlay at that price, and we think there's a chance he's the favorite.
Price Horse to Consider: Why is everyone ignoring Jersey Town? Off a 9-month layoff, he ran a decent second at a distance he doesn't love (6 furlongs) to Force Freeze, who's not bad. His next race, while he was still rounding into form, he ran a strong second to Jackson Bend, who would be 2-1 in this race. They stretched him out to a mile in the Kelso--the same distance as his big victory in last year's Cigar Mile--where he ran over a muddy track he may not have liked and got into a suicidal speed duel with Uncle Mo. Guess what? Uncle Mo isn't in this race. 15-1 on this horse is a steal.
Picks: Whether or not it was according to plan, Caleb's Posse has developed into a great closing sprinter, with a good win in the Amsterdam and a fabulous win over Uncle Mo in the King's Bishop. His Indiana Derby is a complete toss--we're not even sure why he ran in it--as it was two turns at a longer distance. Look for him to sit off a furious pace and come flying late, passing everyone.
1. Caleb's Posse 2. Trappe Shot 3. Jersey Town
Synopsis: 1 1/2 miles on the turf for all comers, Grade 1 worth $3 million. While 11 of the last 13 winners (including the 2003 dead heat) have been Europeans, American horses have held their own in the 2nd and 3rd slots: the only time the Euros have swept the triple in that span was 2005. There's an excellent chance that happens again this year, as it's a strong crop of Euros against some bad Americans.
Favorite:While ten horses have won multiple Breeders Cup races, Zenyatta is the only one to have won different Breeders Cup races. Midday is attempting to become the second one, and she won the 2009 Filly and Mare Turf, and seeing a weak crop this year in the $3 million Turf, opted to run against the boys. She's had a pretty solid year with 2 wins and 5 placings in Grade 1's and 2's, mostly against the boys.
Price Horses to Consider: Blech. The only horse over 8-1 on the morning line we'd even consider is Brilliant Speed, because at least he's young. But he's really up against it here.
Picks: To be boring, we think the race comes down to the five Euros, but it's tough to pick among them. We'll try anyway. Sea Moon is young and with upside, but doesn't quite class up with the rest of the horses in the field, and it's tough to imagine all 4 of the remaining Euros throwing in clunkers. Await the Dawn is possibly the most talented horse, but has had myriad health issues and we can't endorse picking an entrant at less than full strength. We'll side with O'Brien's other entry, St. Nicholas Abbey, who exits a solid showing in the Arc and has success in American-style turf races (they run the other direction in Europe). Sarafina, who was the beaten favorite in the Arc, can't be dismissed and should be used in all wagers.
1. St. Nicholas Abbey 2. Sarafina 3. Midday
Synopsis: 1 1/16 miles on the dirt for 2yo colts, Grade 1 worth $2 million. In the last 7 runnings, the winners have come from California (2), New York (2), Europe (2) and Kentucky (1). That's balance.
Favorite: Union Rags is 3-for-3, sports the best speed figures and has a versatile running style. About the only negative is his lack of two-turn racing experience. He figures to be one of the strongest favorites on Saturday's card.
Price Horses to Consider: While Union Rags looks tough, we do think there are a lot of fun horses to consider here as well, either as a bomb winner or underneath. European importer Crusade pulled off an upset in his last race and is beautifully bred for the dirt, albeit at sprint distances (Mr. Greeley by La Traviata, who was a multiple graded stakes winning sprinting filly). Alpha couldn't have looked better in his debut, and while he was beaten pretty handily by Union Rags in his last, he does have a right to take a huge step forward in his 3rd career start. For a complete bomb, Take Charge Indy is well bred for the dirt (dam Take Charge Lady was an Eclipse finalist in 2002) and is switching to the dirt and is eligible to move forward.
Picks: His race record is a little lighter than Johannesburg's, but Crusade's breeding is as good for the dirt. We'll take him to post the upset.
1. Crusade 2. Union Rags 3. Take Charge Indy
Synopsis: 1 mile on the turf for all comers, Grade 1 worth $2 million. Historically, you either want to go for a favorite or a double-digits odds horse, this is not the place to try to get horses at 9-2 in the win slot.
Favorite: The incomparable Goldikova goes for her fourth straight Mile and 15th Grade 1 win. There's really nothing more to say.
Price Horses to Consider: He won't be anywhere near his 12-1 moring line odds, but Byword is a must-use underneath and possibly as an upset pick. Trainer Andre Fabre is one of the best in shipping for the Breeders Cup, and while this guy has been running in slightly cheaper races, he does sport a 4/3-1-0 record at a mile, very similarly to 2002 winner Domedriver. American-based Jeranimo has had an underappreciated year on the turf in California and enters in career form. He's very interesting at 20-1.
Picks: We stupidly went against Goldikova last year. We're not going to make that mistake again. Even if she's slowed down a hair, who's going to beat her?
1. Goldikova 2. Gio Ponti 3. Byword
Coming up later today: Our Classic breakdown.