Friday, November 1, 2013

2013 Breeders Cup Preview Part II: Saturday's Races

[SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: Yesterday's card featured an absurd speed bias that allowed utter bombs to win on the undercard, let Goldencents ran impossibly fast early in the Dirt Mile and hold on comfortably, and killed most closers.  Watch out for it today.  We're not changing our picks, but are a little more reticent about tossing front runners than we were.]

Let's jump right into Saturday's races, which start off with three excellent races, slow down for two races that we're not particularly excited about, then close with a strong Pick Four. We'll preview the Classic in a separate post that will go up later today.

Juvenile Fillies

Synopsis: 1 1/16 miles on the dirt for 2yo fillies. Historically this has been the most formful race of the Breeders Cup, and last year was no exception with second choice Beholder winning. We've had only two horses win at more than 5-1 in the last 12 years: She Be Wild in 2009 and Tempera in 2001. We're hopeful that we can get a price this year though. Really.

Probable Favorite: Part of the reason we think we can get a price is that we don't trust the favorite Sweet Reason at all. Ignoring that she drew the 9 post in a short run to the first turn, her big figure was on a sloppy track, she hasn't been around two turns, and her recent workouts have been terrible. We're inclined to toss her completely and look elsewhere.

Price Horse to Consider: Off of three fair efforts on a synthetic surface, Concave makes her dirt debut here. She has fine breeding for the dirt, and we saw He's Had Enough go from synthetic to dirt in the Juvenile to take second at 17-1. There's no reason she can't do the same thing here.

Betting Approach: Spread. We don't trust Sweet Reason, think there are a bunch of holes in Artemis Agrotera that make her a poor play at 3-1, and trust nobody coming out of the extremely slow Chandelier. But we're not inclined to say this is utter chaos, because we don't think the longest shots in the field are any good either.

Selections: It looks like there's decent speed in the race which has us looking for a closer. We prefer Rosalind, who closed well (if slowly) in the Alcibiades at Keenleand last out and is bred to like this distance. Untapable also interests us, though we're hesitant to put on top a horse that's made 2 starts and none in nearly two months.

1. Rosalind   2. Untapable   3. Concave

Filly and Mare Turf

: 1 1/4 miles on the turf for fillies and mares 3yo and up. For all the talk about how Euros dominate American turf racing, 5 of the last 6 horses that have won this race had their primary campaigns in North America. For what it's worth, three of them were also good prices.

Probable Favorite: European Dank shipped into Arlington Park for the Beverly D on August 17 and absolutely dominated the race in one of the most impressive performances we've seen all year. The only real knock on her is that she hasn't run since then, but that's mostly because she got soft turf in the races she was scheduled to run in. If she's fit and ready to go, she's a very strong favorite.

Price Horse to Consider: Could I interest you in a horse that has been in the exacta at Santa Anita in 5 of 7 starts, has success at the distance, and is making her second start at a layoff, which has been a good value play for her trainer at 20-1 or so?  Yes?  Then take a look at Lady of Shamrock, who's a lot more interesting than the horses she just lost to (Tiz Flirtatious and Marketing Mix) because she's be 5-10 times the price with a fair chance of success.

Betting Approach: Narrow. One of the biggest sucker bets in the Breeders Cup are domestic 3yo fillies who have never, ever, ever done anything of note in this race. So feel free to look past Alterite, Emollient and Kitten's Dumplings. Ditto for Laughing, who's only in this race because she was guilted into it.

Selections: The three California horses all have a shot, but we're leaning towards to the two Euros here and feel like we have the race 90% covered using just them in the Pick-Somethings. If Dank runs back to her Beverly D, her only real competition should be Romantica, who's out of 2001 winner Banks Hill and comes in off a loss to Arc winner Treve. We like Romantica a bit more because of the recency on the track.

1. Romantica   2. Dank   3. Lady of Shamrock

Filly and Mare Sprint

Synopsis: 7 furlongs on the dirt for fillies and mares 3yo and up. This race concludes the ladies only portion of the card. Fortunately for us, it's a really fun race.

Probable Favorite: Groupie Doll dominated this race last year then came back to run a superb second against males in the Cigar Mile. Since then she's done...well, very little of note. She ran a blase third at Ellis Park, won a relatively uninteresting stakes race at Presque Isle Downs, and was beaten by fairly ordinary Judy the Beauty and another horse in her last. She seems to have lost a few steps from last year's greatness.

Sentimental Favorite: Dance to Bristol is the fan favorite, as trainer Ollie Figgins and jockey Xavier Perez are Breeders Cup neophytes with a horse who has a big chance. Her loss in the Gallant Bloom snapped a 7-race win streak at 5 tracks at 3 different distances which included 3 graded stakes wins. She's never been out of the exacta at 7 furlongs and has a huge shot.

Price Horse to Consider: We'll get to that below.

Betting Approach: Spread. We have a clear preference, but there are a lot of horses that are competitive in this race.

Selections: As expected, there is a good amount of speed in this race: we expect all of Teddy's Promise, Ismene, Starship Truffles and Sweet Lulu to run fast early. There are a lot of quality closers in this race, but we prefer three: the aforementioned Dance to Bristol; Book Review, who barely lost to Dance to Bristol in her last, and Summer Applause, who's turning back from a route and is 12-1 on the morning line. She's one of our best value bets of the day.

1. Summer Applause   2. Dance to Bristol   3. Book Review

Turf Sprint

Synopsis: 6 1/2 furlongs on the downhill turf for all comers. According to the Daily Racing Form, Gary Stevens thinks this is the best race in the world. Oh.

Probable Favorite: We could see the betting public going a lot of ways, but guess they're likely to side with Mizdirection, who won this race last year and is undefeated both at Santa Anita and at the distance. The fact she hasn't run since June isn't that big a deal because she won this race last year off an even longer layoff.

Price Horse to Consider: Spring to the Sky is 30-1 on the morning line despite having a competent trainer (Bruce Brown), one of the best jockeys in the world (John Velazquez) and a fair record on the year (5/1-2-1). No horse deserves to be 30-1 in this silly race with anything resembling fair credentials.

Betting Approach: We complain about this race and say it's chaotic, but since Desert Code took the initial running at 36-1, it's been a parade of logical horses that have won. So we say go narrow with logical horses on top.

Selections: We think the big question is whether Capo Bastone takes to the turf, because if he does, his closing kick should outdo Mizdirection, Chips All In and everyone else that will be sitting off a strong pace. We say it does.

1. Capo Bastone  2. Mizdirection   3. Unbridled's Note


Synopsis: 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. For some reason this race just bores us this year, it's probably because none of the entrants have run very many times.

Probable Favorite: Havana is 2-for-2 for Todd Pletcher off a scintillating maiden win and a wire-to-wire win in the Champagne where he held off Honor Code, who's passing on this race. He'll be compared to 2010 winner Uncle Mo, which we think is unfair; Uncle Mo looked like a beast by this point, while we think Havana just looks good.

Price Horse to Consider: He has the lowest last-out speed figure in the race, but we really like Conquest Titan. Set aside his form for a second (his 2 races can be downgraded because they were on synthetic) - he went at auction for $475,000 despite having fairly unfashionable breeding (Birdstone by a Mineshaft dam) that should translate to good stamina. He likely has stellar conformation and we think he's eligible to run a huge race as the longest shot on the board.

Betting Approach: If you trust Havana, he's a potential single. If you don't, it's a chaos race because...

Selections: Here's the thing - we don't love Havana, but don't see any obvious alternatives. Strong Mandate flopped in the Champagne and drew the 14 post. We Miss Artie looks like a synthetic/turf horse. We can't endorse Tap It Rich, who's making his second career start here. Cleburn is very slow. So are all the horses that exited the Front Runner.

We're more inclined to like some of the price horses in this field, and give Mexicoma, Conquest Titan and New Year's Day shots. But the one we like the most is Medal Count, who still broke his maiden on a dirt track (albeit in a slow time) then ran evenly on a goofy synthetic track during a horrible storm. He has good dirt breeding, some tactical speed, and connections (Dale Romans and  Albarado) that could pop an upset at a price, a la Action This Day in 2003. He's the pick.

1.  Medal Count   2. Conquest Titan   3. Havana


Synopsis: 1 1/2 miles on the turf for all comers. The fact that we have a whopping two horses from Europe this year is reason enough to get the Breeders Cup back to the East Coast, pronto.

Probable Favorite: Our pick to win the Filly and Mare Turf last year, The Fugue, is back to now run against the boys at a longer distance.  What's scary is that she's better than she was last year, having taken down the boys convincingly in the Irish Champion Stakes in her last.  There isn't a horse here as good as the competition in that race.

Price Horse to Consider: Honestly, we don't like a single horse in this race that's going to be over 8-1. If we had to pick someone that could light up the superfecta at a price, I guess we'll say Twilight Eclipse, who at least has some success at the distance.

Betting Approach: Single/Very Narrow.  We like exactly three horses in this race at all, and honestly, think The Fugue is a bit ahead of the other two.

Selections: To dispense with some of the faux contenders, we have no interest in Indy Point at a distance beyond 10 furlongs, have never thought Real Solution was particularly good, respect but don't like Big Blue Kitten, and have never cashed a ticket with Little Mike. The only real competition for The Fugue we think comes from Point of Entry, who we'd love if he wasn't coming into this race off a long layoff caused by an injury suffered in the Manhattan, and Magician, who ships over for Coolmore and was very highly regarded before flopping in the St. James.  We think their quality towers over the field and they make a futile run at The Fugue late.

1.  The Fugue   2.  Point of Entry   3.  Magician


Synopsis: 6 furlongs on the dirt for 3yos and up. This race looked to have a pretty solid favorite in Pointsoffthebench, but he tragically passed away last week after suffering a catastrophic injury working out.  It's very sad that he's not here to compete.

Probable Favorite: We can see the betting public going a few ways here but will guess they side with Private Zone, who won both of his 6 furlong sprints since returning from Dubai, the last impressively at Belmont Park.  He's run 2nd in his 3 starts at Santa Anita and has good early speed.  If he doesn't get fried by the early speed duel, he's a legitimate favorite.

Price Horse to Consider: If you think there was a distinct rail bias at Belmont when they ran the Vosburgh then closer Bahamian Squall merits a longer look at double-digit odds. He likes the distance and has fair tactical speed to sit off the pace and make a rally.

Betting Approach: Narrow. We think there's a lot of flotsam in this race (Wine Police? Laugh Track? Really?) and a few horses with big names and little chance. For example, we don't see Trinniberg or The Lumber Guy, who ran 1-2 last year, repeating since they have been terrible all year. Nor do we love Justin Phillip from the rail or Sum of the Parts because he won the Phoenix, which hasn't been a particularly relevant race since Keeneland went to a synthetic surface.

Selections: We say often, but we still find it remarkable that only one horse (Zenyatta) has won different Breeders Cup races. We think Secret Circle has a good chance to make it two, even though the first race he won (the Juvy Sprint) was discontinued this year. He's undefeated at the distance, loves Santa Anita, has rateable speed, and looked great in his comeback.  We like him over Fast Bullet, who probably has the most talent in the field, and Gentlemen's Bet, who is likely to be ignored but whose best race puts him among the contenders.

1. Secret Circle   2. Fast Bullet   3. Gentlemen's Bet


Synopsis: 1 mile on the grass for 3yos and up. This has always been our favorite race, both parimutuelly and aesthetically. The last 5 editions were won by an all-time great, a Horse of the Year and a 66-1 bomb. It involves horses shipping, stretching out, shortening up, changing surfaces, and using wacky layoffs. It's as good as racing gets.

Probable Favorite: Wise Dan is back to defend his title, having won all 5 of his starts on the turf this year and suffering a good loss to Silver Max in his last race, which was rained off the turf at the last minute. We're not holding that against him.

Price Horse to Consider: We have two. Bright Thought is a horse we've been interested in since the post draw; he was great earlier this year, but hasn't run since March. He's also cutting back in distance significantly. On the plus side he's working out fabulously, and we think his talent isn't that far behind Wise Dan's. From Europe, we think Cristoforo Colombo is interesting at a huge price. He hasn't done a ton all year, but was extremely well-regarded as a 2yo and perhaps will prefer a firmer surface and the addition of Lasix. At 20-1, there are crazier ideas.

Betting Approach: Single.  Part of our reason for saying this is that we're not in love with the horses next in the order of betting.  Front runners are horrible bets in this race, and we think Silver Max and Obviously burn each other out. Olympic Glory has been panned by the European racing press and seems to have no interest in a firm ground. Plus he ran 2 weeks ago. We're not interested.

Selections: Those who say that Wise Dan hasn't been brilliant this year haven't been watching most of his races.  His Woodbine Mile was fabulous.  His Firecracker was great considering he was toting 15 pounds more than all the other horses.  He won on the Kentucky Derby undercard on a mushy turf with complete ease.  He's a great horse in fine form, and we like him over Bright Thought and No Jet Lag, who ran a credible race in winning the local prep.

1.  Wise Dan   2.  Bright Thought   3.  No Jet Lag

Coming up later today: Our countdown of the Classic, which we find fascinating this year.

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