Friday, October 30, 2015

Breeders Cup 2015 Preview Part 2: Saturday's Races

8 races to cover and tons of information to digest.  Let's dive right into it.

Juvenile Fillies

Synopsis: 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. We were correct last year in noting that this race either goes to the chalk or the bombs. But for the life of us, we didn't see the case for Take Charge Brandi even on a loose lead.  Yes, she won some races after that, but last year's edition of this race is near the top of the list for most inexplicable Breeders Cup results.

Favorite: Songbird comes in with three dominating wins on the west coast and has been working out well for good connections. There's really not much to dislike here.

Man We're Old: The second choice is Rachel's Valentina, who won her maiden and the Spinaway at Saratoga this summer. She's the daughter of former horse of the year Rachel Alexandra, who we wrote a ton about 6 years ago. Where did the time go?

Price Horse to Consider: Speaking of fast dams, Forever Darling is out of Darling My Darling, a talented filly we really liked in the early '00s who won a couple of stakes races and was grade-1 placed as a two year old. She's been a flop at stud but maybe this ambitiously placed maiden winner can redeem her at a big price.

Betting Approach: Narrow. We really think there are only three possibilities in the win slot.

Selections: We're pro Songbird, but don't love Rachel's Valentina - we are not in love with the long layoff and fear she just loves the Spa. Underneath, we will side with Tap to It, who wasn't much worse than Rachel's Valentina in the Spinaway and should be triple the price, and our goofy longshot.

1.  Songbird
2.  Tap to It
3.  Forever Darling

Turf Sprint

Synopsis: 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf for anyone bold enough to try.  And now for a new distance altogether!  We've seen this race at 5 and 6 1/2 furlongs, so why not try something goofy in between?  Also, this race has our first of three defending champs on the card: Bobby's Kitten, who we don't like at all.

Favorite: Both a horse for the course and a lover of the distance, 3yo filly Lady Shipman has 7 wins and a second in her 8 starts at the distance, and finished second in her only start here 3 weeks ago.  Mind you, this is a horse that's never competed in a graded stakes race or against males.  So there's that.

Price Horse to Consider: Toss out his last race, which was rained off the turf, and Something Extra fits as well as the rest of these horses.  Looks like he could provide some value at his 20-1 morning line price.

Betting Approach: Spread.  Just try to get through this race in your Pick-whatevers and move on to more interesting affairs.

Selections: We prefer younger horses on the upswing to old fogies just trying to cash a check in a stupid race, so we lean towards Ready for Rye, who looked great at Saratoga, and The Great War, who we noted last year as a bomb in the Juvenile (he ran 4th).  We'll take them with the favorite.

1.  Ready for Rye
2.  Lady Shipman
3.  The Great War

Filly & Mare Sprint

Synopsis: 7 furlongs on the dirt for fillies and mares of all stripes.  We could just cut and paste what we said last year - the consistent strategy in this race is to avoid 3 year olds in the win slot.  Last year Judy the Beauty and the not-impossible-to-pick Better Lucky, both mares, beat out 6 three-year olds to make up the exacta.  This is particularly relevant here because...

Favorite: Cavorting comes into this race on a 3-race win streak, including 2 strong wins at Saratoga a 6 and 7 furlongs.  She's undefeated at distances under a mile, has tactical speed but can close if the pace is hot, and is working out fairly well.  She's a very solid favorite if you ignore history.

Price Horse to Consider: Dame Dorothy is somehow 15-1 on the morning line despite: (a) being trained by Todd Pletcher, who always gets bet, (b) being 4-for-5 at the distance, (c) having 3 wins and a second this year against some of the same horses she's running against on Saturday, and (d) coming off a much improved effort in her last.  If she's anywhere near her morning line price, she's a must use.

Betting Approach: Spread.  This is one of the most contentious races on the card, especially because we're not in love with the favorites.  Cavorting should be respected but hardly lays over the field.  Stonetastic has the best last-out speed figure but needs the lead and often gets fried in big spots.  La Verdad has had a great year but only ran a week ago (!) and seems to want no part of 7 furlongs.  And defending champ Judy the Beauty has had an erratic year, but we know she likes the track.

Selections: We think the race calls for someone to come off the pace and win, so we're looking at Dame Dorothy, Judy the Beauty, and an interesting horse on the improve, Wavell Avenue.  She beat Dame Dorothy by a head last out when she didn't have a perfect trip and sports the second-best last out figure.  We think she's on the improve, sits off a very contentious pace and holds off the other two horses we like and Cavorting.  This race should be a lot of fun.

1.  Wavell Avenue
2.  Dame Dorothy
3.  Judy the Beauty

Filly & Mare Turf

Synopsis: 1 3/16 miles on the turf.  In addition to having three defending champs on the card, we also have four-time Grade 1 winner Stephanie's Kitten, who won the Juvenile Fillies Turf 4 years ago.  Sadly, we think she has no shot here.

Favorite: Saying Legatissimo has been good is selling her short - she's two noses away from a 6-race win streak that would include five Grade 1's.  Really, the biggest issue with her is that she's a closer in a race without a ton of speed and that American tracks may not let her uncork her furious rally as well as European tracks.  But she's the best horse from Europe to come over for this race since Ouija Board.

Price Horse to Consider:  Meh.  We think this race is very competitive, but it's mostly between the obvious contenders.  If we had to pick someone that's going to be more than 15-1 to do something, we suppose we'd say Hard Not to Like if she runs back to one of her summer races.  Maybe.

Betting Approach: Single or spread.  If you think Legatissimo is that good, single her and move on to other matters.  If you think that she's beatable, then there are about 5 other options that are equally enticing.

Selections: To us, three horses stand out.  We've already discussed Legatissimo.  Queen's Jewel looks very interesting exiting the Prix de l'Opera on the Arc undercard and her affinity for firm turfs makes us think she'll take well to a somewhat soft American bog.  The real wildcard is Dacita, who's never met a field this good, but closed like an absolute shot in her first race outside of Chile and beat Tepin, who's pretty good.  We intend to use all three at equal strength and gun to our heads, prefer Dacita.

1.  Dacita
2.  Legatissimo
3.  Queen's Jewel


Synopsis: 6 furlongs on the dirt for the fast and bold.  This race took a bit of a hit when divisional leader Rock Fall tragically passed away earlier this month, but it's still a contentious group.

Favorite: Private Zone enters as the most accomplished horse in the field with 3 wins, a second and a third this year, on the heels of a third place finish in last year's Sprint.  He's fast and consistent, but his race record starts to look a little more suspect on closer examination.  6 furlongs isn't his preferred distance, and all three of his wins this year have come against suspect fields or when he's been loose on the lead.  Neither is the case here.

Price Horse to Consider: Barbados is intriguing at his 20-1 morning line price.  He's been solid all year save for his ridiculous turf experiment.  And apropos of what we've said a zillion times, he has a nice race over the surface. He's precisely the type of horse that can clunk of for a piece.

Betting Approach: Narrow.  Some will lean heavily on Private Zone, but we think even beyond him, the list of probable winners is tiny.

Selections: We feel like we perpetually picks closers in this race and are disappointed when the winners are horses that lead gate to wire or from just a length or two off the pace.  So we're going with Runhappy, who undoubtedly has the fastest turn of foot of anyone in this field.  He doesn't always break well but if he gets going in the first 100 yards, he'll be in the front and we think he won't come back to the field.  Underneath, we don't like the shorter priced horses (Private Zone, Wild Dude, Masochistic), and are more interested in Big Macher, who's ripe for improvement second off a layoff, the aforementioned Barbados, and the quickly improving Limousine Liberal.

1.  Runhappy
2.  Big Macher
3.  Barbados


Synopsis: 1 mile on the turf for 3 year olds and up.  Last year Karakontie won this at 30-1, completing a triple with horses at 10-1 (Anodin) and 20-1 (Trade Storm) for an epic triple.  He's back this year to defend his title, and while he'll still be an okay price and has a shot, there's no chance he'll pay $62 once again.

Favorite: There's about 4 horses that can vie for favoritism here, but our guess is that Make Believe will take the most action.  She's won a pair of Grade 1's this year, including her last on the Arc undercard, and loves the distance.  We give her a fair chance but aren't as in love with her as others because of her front-running style.  She's going to face hopeless speedball Obviously and possibly others on the front end.  There's a reason that this race is rarely won wire-to-wire.

Price Horses to Consider: Most of the American horses will be double digit odds but they're not without chance.  Tepin has had a really good year at the mile distance and comes off a blowout victory at Keeneland in her last.  She's never faced males before but may be around 12-1 and is very live.  Tourist ran an excellent 3rd in the Shadwell (Keeneland's prep) that he figures to improve off of for the always dangerous Bill Mott.  For a total bomb, Mshawish ran races at the beginning of the year that would be competitive here and can close to catch a piece at a huge price (30-1?).

Betting Approach: Spread.  Seriously, there are about 8 horses we can see winning this race, and almost anyone can hit the board.  (Sorry to fans of Recepta and Obviously.)

Selections: We do think the Euros have an edge on top, and prefer Impassible, who loves the distance and is on the improve.  We do think that the very dangerous Esoterique needs to be used, but also think Mondaliste is being overlooked off a nice closing win at the Woodbine Mile.  Sit back and enjoy - this is the best race of the weekend.

1.  Impassible
2.  Tourist
3.  Mondaliste


Synopsis: 1 1/16 miles on the dirt for 2 year old colts.  While we knew before last year's Juvenile that American Pharoah was a nice horse, Texas Red's smashing victory in last year's edition in this race - who AP had beaten handily in his last - indicated just how good American Pharoah was as a two year old and was a prelude to this year's Triple Crown.  We're not sure there's anyone on that level present this year.

Favorite: Brody's Cause - which we hope is not a Homeland reference - has two come from behind wins in his two starts on the dirt, including one at Keeneland's prep over a few horses in the field.  He looks like he should improve with distance and is a worthy favorite.

Price Horse to Consider: We're not 100% sure why he's here instead of the Juvenile Turf, but Isotherm intrigues us a little bit at 20-1 or so.  He hasn't won on the dirt yet but his two turf wins were solid and he has tactical speed.  George Weaver is one of our favorite underrated trainers, and if he runs as swiftly on the dirt as he does on the sod, he's very interesting.  For a total bomb, don't overlook Waterloo Bridge, who will be making his first start on the dirt but has a lot of races in Europe (which is a common trait among European 2yos that have run well in this race) and has okay dirt breeding.  His biggest issue is a difficult outside post.

Betting Approach: Narrow.  It's odd to say this, but we don't like any of the horses that come out of the Champagne or Frontrunner, which are generally the biggest preps for this race.  The Frontrunner came up slow, and while we're probably just being narrow-minded, we just can't see a horse trained Dominick Schettino winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile.  We're also not as enamored with bad-trip-in-his-last Unbridled Outlaw as everyone else, who we think may go off as the second or third choice.

Selections: Brody's Cause can win this but we're a little wary of taking a dead closer in a full field with horses of questionable quality, fearing he may have traffic trouble.  We prefer Exaggerator, who was beaten by Brody's Cause in their last race, but may not have loved the sloppy going that day.  He's run well in three straight races, has a race over the track, and has the same connections as Texas Red.  We think he moves a little forward off that race and reverses the result from the Breeders' Futurity.

1.  Exaggerator
2.  Brody's Cause
3.  Waterloo Bridge


Synopsis: 1 1/2 miles on the sod for anyone long-winded enough to try.  8 of the last 10 winners of this race were either based in Europe or began their career in Europe and came here for easier pickings (Main Sequence last year).  To top things off, the crop of American turf horses this year is suspect at best.  So be wary if you want to support an American in the win slot.

Favorite: If American Pharoah is the biggest horse running this weekend, Golden Horn is a close second.  This year he's won the Epsom Derby, Arc, and Champion Stakes.  His only career loss was by a neck in the Juddmonte International.  On the one hand, he's the best turf router to run in this race since Arc winner Dylan Thomas came here in 2007.  On the other hand, Dylan Thomas, like every other Arc winner that's run in the BC Turf, lost.

Price Horse to Consider: If you toss his last race, Red Rifle is as good as any of the American horses running in this race, having put together a pair of nice efforts over the summer.  That said, he lost to Flintshire in the Sword Dancer, and Flintshire was easily beaten by Golden Horn in the Arc.  It's been a few years since we learned the law of syllogisms, but we think that doesn't bode well for Red Rifle in the win slot.

Betting Approach: Single.  Golden Horn is that good.

Selections: The only reason to pick against Golden Horn is because horses trying the Arc-Turf double are 0-for-5.  Frankly, that's a stupid reason to pick someone else.  But that said, we do think there's wagering values in triples and superfectas by going against Big Blue Kitten, who we never have loved and has never run great against big competition, The Pizza Man, who we're just not buying, and Found, who has never been close to beating Golden Horn and ran less than two weeks ago.  We'll instead look at Red Rifle and Twilight Eclipse, who was the best horse in the Hirsch 4 weeks ago.

1.  Golden Horn
2.  Twilight Eclipse
3.  Red Rifle

Coming later: Our Classic breakdown.

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