Friday, November 4, 2016

2016 Breeders Cup Preview Part 2: Saturday's Races

Nine races to preview, let's get to it:

Juvenile Fillies

Synopsis: 1 1/16 miles for 2 year old girls on the dirt.  As always, we recommend that you either go with the chalk or a bomb in this race.  Picking a horse between 8-1 and 20-1 to win has been a disastrous proposition. Fortunately, the lowest price on the morning line is 9-2 and over half the field is below 12-1.

Favorite: It's a little unclear who's going to go off the favorite in this race, but we'll take a guess it'll be Noted and Quoted, who won the local prep (the Chandelier Stakes) in her last.  She's trained by Bob Baffert and has nice tactical speed.  That said, she doesn't hold much of an edge over the rest of the field.

Price Horse to Consider: Sweet Loretta is 6-1 on the morning line but we expect a higher price than that - she hasn't been out in 2 months, dead-heated in her last, and hasn't run particularly fast.  Whatever.  She's trained by Pletcher, cost a fortune at auction and is perfectly bred for this type of race.  If Todd's got her ready to run, she's dangerous.

Betting Approach:  Spread.  This race was a lot easier years ago when the runners actually had run a bunch of times and we could assess their form.  Here, the 12 entrants have run a total of 34 times - less than 3 starts per runner on average.  It's a lot of guesswork.

Selections: Let's do a little process of elimination.  We don't buy Jamyson n' Ginger repeating her gigantic speed figure when it's a fast track, and also don't like Rudy Rodriguez shipping cross-country (so we'll also toss Colorful Charades).  Union Strike's had 2 good starts but has a new trainer because the owner fired the prior trainer - who was also his daughter! - and replaced her with Craig Dollase, who stinks.  We don't love American Gal stretching out in the 12 post.  And Dancing Rags, Daddy's Lil Darling, Champagne Room and With Honors all look too slow.  We'll side with Yellow Agate on the improve and otherwise just cross our fingers.

1.  Yellow Agate
2.  Noted and Quoted
3.  Sweet Loretta

Filly and Mare Turf

Synopsis:1 1/4 miles on the turf for fillies and mares.  This race has developed into one of our favorites over time because it's had a mixture of everything: Hall of Famers, complete shockers, memorable performances and great stories.  Speaking of which...

Favorite: Lady Eli is going to be the focus of 800 soft-focus tales this week, and it's a great story.  She won the Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2014 over this same track, looking like an absolute star.  She confirmed that her three year old year, winning her next three races with aplomb, and people were talking Eclipse Award for her (which would be unusual - turf horses never win the 3 year old Eclipse Awards).  Less than a week after her big Belmont Oaks victory, she stepped on a nail, contracted laminitis and nearly died.  Trainer Chad Brown took a year and nursed her back to health, and she came back to the races in August, losing her comeback in Saratoga by a head but winning the Flower Bowl in her last.  The fact she's alive is amazing; the fact that she has won a Grade 1 this year is insane.

Price Horse to ConsiderSentiero Italia is about as hard-knocking a horse as you'll get.  She has good tactical speed, consistently runs a solid race, and is always near the front at the end.  We don't think she's good enough to win this race, but don't toss her from your exactas and trifectas.  If you want a total bomb, Japanese shipper Nuovo Record was running fabulously last year, but is not in the best form this year.  If she somehow reverts to her 2015 self, look out.

Betting Approach: Somewhat narrow.  We think only 4 horses have a legitimate shot at winning this race.

Selections:There should be a TON of speed in this race, including Catch a Glimpse (who won the Juvenile Fillies Turf last year), Pretty Perfect (who is basically a rabbit), Avenge, and Zipessa.  We think this sets up for a closer, and while we think Lady Eli has a shot, we're more interested in her stablemate, Sea Calisi, who had no shot in the paceless Flower Bowl.  We think she improves off that effort and mows down her stablemate in the stretch while holding off European imports Seventh Heaven and Queen's Trust, both of which have big shots as well.

1.  Sea Calisi
2.  Queen's Trust
3.  Seventh Heaven


Synopsis: 6 furlongs on the dirt for the brave and the fleet.  Last year's winner Runhappy probably would have been the favorite here, but his connections went for the Dirt Mile instead, which is a tougher race at a distance he doesn't like for less money.  Sounds like a great plan.

Favorite: Masochistic is going to be the worst favorite of the entire weekend, especially if he's anywhere near his 2-1 morning line price.  Sure, he has two wins this year and has a pair of nice speed figures.  Those two wins came against a total of 6 opponents, and his last win was in a 3-horse field where nobody else challenged him for the lead.  They were also at longer distances; he has a career terrible record at 6 furlongs (5 starts, 1 win, 1 second).  He's as likely to finish last as he is to win.

Price Horse to Consider: We're not sure if his 15-1 morning line is realistic, but Limousine Liberal merits a very close look especially underneath.  He's been in the exacta 6 of 7 times at the distance, and ran a really nice second in the Phoenix last out.  Importantly, that was his first start with blinkers.  Solid chance they made the difference and made him a real contender.

Betting Approach: Narrow.  We're against the three year olds in this race - neither Mind Your Biscuits nor Noholdingback Bear has run fast enough to competitive, and we don't trust Drefong once he gets challenged on the front end.  Delta Bluesman looks too slow.  And in case it wasn't clear, we're against Masochistic.

Selections: We had a long exposition on how we loved Lord Nelson in this spot, but he scratched yesterday with an injury.  Bah.  To heck with it. We're going with our longshot to win..

1.  Limousine Liberal
2.  A.P. Indian 
3.  Drefong

Turf Sprint

Synopsis: 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill for everyone interested.  We usually crap on this race but this is by FAR the best field it's drawn since it was inaugurated in 2008.  There are multiple horses in here that would have been competitive in the Mile and have been competing in legitimate Grade 1 races the last two years.  It's not just a collection of Grade 3 horses trying to get a big paycheck.  That doesn't make it any easier to decipher, of course.

Favorite: This is another race where you could see favoritism going in a few directions, but we think it'll ultimately land on Obviously, who's run in the Breeders Cup Mile the last 4 years.  He was perpetually the pace-setter and usually faded after 6 furlongs, so you can see why they want to cut him back in distance.  That said we're dubious - he's getting a new jockey, hasn't had a ton of success at this track or at the distance, and he is 8 years old.  Wouldn't surprise us if he's won, but we're going to look elsewhere.

Price Horse to Consider: Two of the three horses we like are going to be a fair price and we'll discuss below.  For a total bomb, why not Calgary Cat, who won his last and seems to like the distacne?

Betting Approach: Spread.  In this race, it's always spread.

SelectionsOm has always been a horse that we've been high on and we love him on the turnback here.  He's extremely talented on both surfaces and we think the cutback suits him well.  He's also the answer to this random trivia question:

Yep, he's the horse to beat American Pharoah in his first start.  Underneath we like Celestine, who had a huge win in the Just a Game back on Belmont Day, and Home of the Brave, who's the best of the Euros.

1.  Om
2.  Celestine
3.  Home of the Brave


Synopsis:1 1/16 miles on the dirt.  After this race being fairly irrelevant for the purposes of the Kentucky Derby for years, last year's winner Nyquist won the Derby, and the winner two years ago (Texas Red) validated how good American Pharoah was.  So maybe it's back to being germane to three year old form?

Favorite: There are quite literally 5 horses we could see favored in this race, not because they all look the same, but because they all have different positive attributes.  The morning line favorite is Not This Time, who romped in the Iroquois in late September and has been the subject of a lot of chatter among horse cognoscenti.  We think favoritism is more likely to go to either Syndergaard, who ran an excellent second in the Champagne after hotly contesting the pace - and yes, we do think he'll get bet from casual fans because of the name - or Gormley, who won the Front Runner stakes handily in his last.  Californians often make California horses the favorite.

Price Horse to Consider: We had never heard of Jose Pinchin before a few weeks ago, but he comes in with Three Rules, who's undefeated in 5 starts in Florida, all in fairly convincing fashion.  Yes, he's never taken on horses better than Florida-breds, and he has early speed that might get fried here.  But he has sneaky-good breeding (we love Gone Astray as a sire and think he just needs better mares) and has been working out splendidly.  He'll be at least 10-1 and merits strong consideration.

Betting Approach: Spread.  We're not in love with the three longest shots in this race (Term of Art, Lookin at Lee, Star Empire) but can make a credible case for the rest.

Selections:  Working backwards again, we don't love Gormley as we think he basically lucked into an uncontested lead and walked to a win in the Front Runner.  That ain't happening again.  Syndergaard is probably a 1-turn horse.  Theory doesn't have enough distance foundation.  Practical Joke, who rode the best part of the track and a gift setup last time, doesn't seem fast enough to us.  We have some interest in Klimt and we'll probably use him defensively, but we don't love the rail draw and have to draw a line somewhere.  We're siding with Classic Empire, who would probably be in here undefeated if he hadn't lost his rider coming out of the gate in the Hopeful.  His Breeders' Futurity was really a nice performance, and we expect to see some improvement on it.

1.  Classic Empire
2.  Not This Time
3.  Three Rules


Synopsis: 1 1/2 miles on the sod for all comers.  In the last 20 runnings, 14 of the 21 winners (there was a dead-heat in '03) were Europeans that shipped in, and another (Main Sequence) was a Euro who campaigned in America all year.  Of the 6 Americans, 4 were prices (Buck's Boy, Little Mike, Better Talk Now and Johar) and only two were really considered championship caliber horses: English Channel and Chief Bearhart.  In short - be very wary taking a stateside horse to win, especially at a short price.

Favorite: Flintshire looks to do what Main Sequence did two years ago - spend the year in the US, win our turf races, then take the Breeders Cup Turf.  He was pretty dominant in his first three races, but ran a bad 2nd in his last to Ectot on a yielding turf.  Most will excuse that as a race where he didn't like the surface but we're a little concerned.  Clearly he prefers a hard surface (which he'll get Saturday) but he had a class edge on the field and really wasn't compromised by a bad trip.  Definitely need to use, but be wary.

Price Horse to Consider: Money Multiplier has never won a graded stakes race and finished 3 lengths behind Flintshire in his last race.  And yet, we're very interested at 20-1 or higher.  His Sword Dancer two back was really good, as was his allowance race before that, and he had a sneaky really good second in the United Nations before that, which was also not on a firm turf.  We think he's on the upswing and will benefit even more from Santa Anita's hard surface.  Very live.

Betting Approach: Narrow.  We think a chunk of this field has no business running this weekend (looking at you, Rallis, Twilight Eclipse, Ashleluvssugar, Texas Ryano), that Da Big Hoss has had a good year beating up on cheap horses, and that Ulysses isn't good enough.  We're also against Highland Reel, we know he ran 2nd in the Arc, but somehow this races seems like an afterthought to his connections.  Finally, Mondialiste is in the wrong race.  He should be in the Mile.

Selections: We have been very impressed with Found's 4 year old season, which in the last month and a half has included a win in the Arc (Europe's big race) and an excellent second to Almanzor in the Champion Stakes last out.  Heck, she beat Minding in September, and Minding may be the best turf horse on earth.  If she keeps her form and takes to the track, she should repeat, and lay waste to this Arc-Breeders Cup "curse."  Underneath, we'll use all of Flintshire, Money Multiplier and Ectot, whose win in the Hirsch last out shouldn't be overlooked.

1.  Found
2.  Money Multiplier
3.  Ectot

Filly and Mare Sprint

Synopsis: 7 furlongs on the dirt for fillies and mares three years old and up.  We have no idea why this is the third-to-last race on the card, rather than the Juvenile, regular Sprint, or frankly, anything else.  It's an okay race.  But hardly deserving of a prime time spot.

Favorite: Haveyougoneaway hasn't been out of the exacta this year and exits a nice win at the distance in the Ballerina.  She's 3-1 on the morning line and she's a good value play if she's that price.  By contrast, Carina Mia is going to get bet and we don't like her at all.  We remind everyone that 3 year olds are terrible plays in this race - they never win and are underrepresented in exactas.

Price Horse to Consider:  We don't understand remotely what the heck Ian Kruljac is doing with Finest City but she's not impossible here at a price.  Her start in the Santa Monica at the start of the year was a good 7 furlong effort, as was her sprint back in April.  Then for some reason he stretched her out to a mile, then threw her on the turf at middle distances where she was okay-not-great.  So she's turning back and switching surfaces.  We feel like anything between a DAFL and a romp at a big number is in play.

Betting Approach:  Spread.  Almost everyone is in the 92-99 speed figure range.

Selections: Not only do we not like Carina Mia, we don't see Wavell Avenue repeating last year's win, her form is just too spotty.  We like the horses exiting the Ballerina and will take them over our goofy longshot, and maybe a piece of Wonder Gal at a huge number.

1.  Haveyougoneaway
2.  Finest City
3.  By the Moon


Synopsis:1 mile on the turf for the fast and the strong.  Our favorite race every year somehow got the on deck circle again in the race sequence.  Whatever.  We think this race is a lot of fun.

Favorite: Last year's winner Tepin is back and has had a really excellent year: 6 wins in 7 starts over five different tracks, including Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Woodbine and Royal Ascot.  Her Queen Anne Stakes win at Ascot was a really neat victory, but since then she's had a workman-like victory in the Woodbine Mile and lost in the First Lady.  Has she tailed off from her best form?  Or did she just have good excuses in her last two (long layoff, front runner freaked)?  One of the toughest reads of the day.

Price Horse to Consider: There are a few.  Everyone is presuming Midnight Storm is going to get fried up front.  Maybe.  But don't overlook that he's won three straight in front-running style through tough fractions, and is working out well coming into this race.  Spectre has been competitive all year in Europe (if rarely victoriious) and adds Lasix.  Shades of Domedriver, who won this at 26-1 in 2002.  And then there's last year's Juvenile Turf winner, Hit It a Bomb, who's sown very litle this year in 3 starts, but maybe just needs to return to the US and a harder surface.  We simply can't dismiss him based on how well he closed last year.

Betting Approach: Spread.  To us, there are a two key questions in this race - what do you do with Tepin (discussed above) and what do you do with Limato, the European shipper who's excellent at 6-7 furlongs but not much of a performer at a mile?  We're leaning against both.  There's just too much good competition in this race to take horses with these flaws at short prices.

Selections: Our feeling on the race shape is that there's going to be a lot of early speed - Photo Call, Midnight Storm, What a View, maybe Tepin, maybe Limato - that a strong closer is the way to go.  There's none better here than Ironicus, who has had success at longer distances and ran a great 2nd in the Shadwell last out.  We are professed fanboys for trainer Shug McGaughey, but we think he's the best horse here and is sitting on a huge effort.  He's probably our best bet of the weekend.  Underneath, we like the best Euro, Alice Springs, and Miss Temple City, who's had a really nice year that's gotten overlooked and may sit a good trip just off the frontrunners.

1.  Ironicus
2.  Miss Temple City
3.  Alice Springs


Synopsis:1 1/4 miles on the dirt for all comers.  Yes we know, we usually do a whole separate post on this race.  But we admit we're a little pressed for time and besides, we think most of this field isn't competitive.

Favorite: 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome had something of a lost 2015 and was forgotten after American Pharoah's Triple Crown last year.  But he's had a great 2016 - after winning his first start at Santa Anita, he shipped to Dubai, won a prep race and the $10 million Dubai World Cup, then came back and won the San Diego Handicap, Pacific Classic and Awesome Again, each in dominating fashion over the best handicap horses, including Dortmund and Beholder.  He's living proof that horses really peak at age 5 and makes us wonder what other Derby winners could have done had they stayed in training (we're looking at you, Big Brown and Point Given).  Alas.

Second ChoiceArrogate came into the Travers having made 4 starts for Bob Baffert and showing some good talent in allowance races.  Then this happened:

Jesus.  That translated to a 122 Beyer, and was the fastest Travers ever.  It's a tall order to ask him to duplicate that, but man.

Price Horse to Consider: He's gotten no attention, but Shaman Ghost has turned into a nice horse. Last year he won the Queens Plate in Canada - their equivalent of the Kentucky Derby - and was given the rest of the year off after losing his next race.  He came to the States this year and after losing an allowance race, won the Brooklyn Handicap (at 12 furlongs!), overagressively ran in the Suburban and lost, before pulling off an upset in the Woodward, a Grade 1 at 9 furlongs.  He likes to run long, runs best fresh, is on the improve and has good tactical speed.  He's going to need some luck to win.  But to hit the board at 30-1?  We're very interested.

Betting Approach: Narrow.  We have now named every horse we think can win this race.  No, we're not buying Frosted, who ran a great Met Mile but we think wants no part of 10 furlongs, or Melatonin, who hasn't run in 5 months.

Selections:  We're not going to get too creative here.  California Chrome is the best horse in the world, and has had a great year.  Unless Arrogate duplicates his Travers, he should win this going away.  And it would be a great cap to a stellar year by the former Derby champ.

1.  California Chrome
2.  Shaman Ghost
3.  Arrogate

Enjoy the Breeders Cup everyone!!


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