Arcadia, California- For the 6th time the Breeders Cup will be contested at Santa Anita. As a purist who has attended over half of these events including last 3 editions in the greater Los Angeles area, this is the best place for it. I love Churchill Downs, but the weather is always on the cool side for the fans. Let’s be real, the weather in the Midwest & Northeast in November is not ideal (case in point, look what “Frankenstorm” just did, it even knocked the DRF off-line), but in Southern California this time of year it is picture perfect.
In 2008 & 2009, the racing community had controversial views of having the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita because a synthetic surface was installed in 2005. Most of the east coast horses boycotted the races that were held on the main track. That issue has since been resolved as Santa Anita last year went back to a conventional dirt surface, that opens the stage for any and all to participate.
Controversy does still exist as all two year olds will start without the bleeder medication Salix (lasix); this much debated subject has been about down the middle between owners, trainers, and officials. Both of the 2 year old turf races remain fully subscribed although it appears a few were “chased” away from the main track juvenile races. Next year a complete ban of lasix will be in play, I would venture the connections of a poor performance might just stir the pot.
I came into this Cup with two definitives: 1> I was betting Mr. Commons & 2> I was betting against Game on Dude. I have since changed course on both of those ideas. It proves on a point about horse racing, many factors are involved and zigging and zagging is what it is all about when placing bets.
From wagering option menu we will still have .10 cent Superfecta’s available on all races as well as .50 cent Pick 3’s, Pick 4’s, and Trifecta’s available, but they also added a .50 Pick 5 for both days.
The weather leading up the event has been seasonal temps with little precipitation; the forecast for both Friday and Saturday call for warm temps and sunny with no chance of precipitation, it should allow for a fair playing racing strip.
Thursday’s race card showed some cushion on the track which tended to favor stalkers and closers on both the main track and the green.
Enough chatting, let’s look a little deeper into the races:
Race 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint
The 2nd edition of this race might unfold much like the last year’s inaugural running as it looks to run to form on paper. All but 1 entrant ran on lasix in last start, will that factor?
# 3 Merit Man– Hess trainee is 2 for 2 in his career taking the local minor Conway stake in last impressively pulling away late, all signs point he is going in the right direction and I expect he’ll get a similar pressing trip that Secret Circle got last year, The choice.
# 5 Super Ninety Nine– Named to be a great one and has so far lived up to that billing, but the biggest jump out there is from maidens to winners. Clocker’s buzz has this guy doing good things in the AM, but Baffert beasts usually get the buzzword before they run and get way over bet and this guy was only 4 to 1 in his bow, mixed feelings.
# 2 Ceiling Kitty– Only runner in the field who hasn’t raced on lasix in her last so if you’re looking for an angle, might stop there. Shumoos was a Euro import last year who came flying up the fence for a place finish. This filly might not be as good but did beat 26 rivals at Royal Ascot this summer, surface switch only question mark.
Intriguing race to start off Cup weekend as no lasix for all the runners with a good mix of boys and two girls, favorite shouldn’t end up less than 6 to 5 whoever the public decides on, expecting a popular result.
Race 5 Breeders Cup Marathon
This is my favorite race, last year I had all but 2 runners in my pick 5 and ended up dutch betting those two runners which included the winner Afleet Again turning out to be a positive expectation. This will be the 5th edition with the Euro’s having won the first two on the synthetic at Santa Anita now we go to the dirt, regardless I still like the European influence and that is where I am focusing.
# 2 Fame And Glory– Not doubt he is in the twilight of his career, but so was Ray Lewis before he got injured a few weeks ago was still making tackles and causing havoc. Two-time Arc entrant finished 5th & 6th losing by less than 5 lengths in both outings. Sheds a few pounds for this which is huge in a distance race, only question mark will be the surface switch. If he shows up with his B game, he’ll be a major factor.
# 1 Atigun– Racing style suits this guy as he should be doing his best running late; his figs keep showing improvement so I think he will even be better as a 4 year old. Might be biting off too much here to ask him to go a ¼ longer than he’s ever been, but I think he’s worth a flier. A trifecta & superfecta filler at the very least.
#5 Jaycito– Safe to say he’s underachieved in his career, but the fact they still are moving forward with him as a 4 year old tells me someone is still optimistic about him. He’s actually never missed the board on the main track here and he does have Baffert in his corner. I think he’ll need to sit, save ground, and pounce at the right time as he looks like he has one move, a stab.
This race has always been fun since it’s a distant rarely raced in the US and it typically attracts a decent size field and this field is full. It’s also a race the favorite has never won; lowest price winner paid $14. I love my top pick, but if you’re not following my lead, I recommend price shopping, simply a great betting race. (last leg of pick 5)
Race 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf
Arguably the best betting race of the weekend as we get a full field of 14 with very talented North American and European runners clashing once again. No lasix that means 9 of the 14 runners will be coming off lasix, the runners who have never raced on lasix: 1,3,4,10,12….maybe box them?
#4 Flotilla– This is a very deep race, I can make a case for numerous scenarios and outcomes. If they ran a computer simulation, I am not sure any horse would win more than 10 times nor anyone not win at least 5 times, this race is that tight. I was always told when the competition is tight, roll the dice and that is what I am doing here. The French filly has shown a quick turn of foot and has never caught firm sod yet; inside draw should keep her close enough to pounce at huge odds.
#13 Flashy Ways– She’s made 81K so far in her brief career but her connections thought enough of her to put up 100K just to run in here, she only cost $3,500. As a horse owner, I would have saved my money is this deep field, but I am biting as a gambler. I think the post hurts so demand a price, home court heroines looking for a three-peat.
#3 Sky Lantern- The likely post time favorite, she’s never missed the exacta in 5 lifetime starts. Now she stretches out another 1/8 of a mile while carrying the least amount of weight in her career. Sounds to me like a recipe for success, can’t argue anyone for endorsing her, but she will be too short for my taste.
Typically outside posts from post 12 out are very dismal over this turf strip’s distance and I am even playing 1 of those gals. I am either reaching way too deep in the bag of tricks or have finally fallen off my rocker. In the previous 4 editions, the lowest price winner was 6 to 1; the highest price winner was 13 to 1. One of the best races to watch and wager on all weekend.
Race 7 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
History shows this has been a chalk race with 9 of the last 10 year’s winner paying under $14. I didn’t even mention in my selections the ML favorite of Baffert’s (Executiveprivilege) who trained very marginally up to this and has been stuck on speed figures, a logical horse to try to beat.
#8 Kauai Katie– Pletcher’s other entrant, Dreaming of Julia is a more accomplished runner, but this young lass grabs my eye. She’s only gone ¾ of mile so far but has impressively went well in all her sprints; her pedigree says two turns shouldn’t be a problem. I am expecting her to take the next step.
#1 Beholder– Interesting that both my top pick and this selection were both cross-entered into the juvy sprint, more interesting is they both landed here. I am not as convinced this gal can go two turns but her eye popping 108 Beyer in last sets up for a catch me if you can race. Regardless of the outcome, I think she’ll be a sprinter going forward but a nice spot to try to build her breeding resume.
#3 Spring in the Air– Ascending Beyer’s in every start and faced two bulky fields in her last two races, she tries her third surface in as many starts and I see no reason to not think she can do it. Should be moving well late and with all the speed it might play right into her hands.
With that short compact field, I think you’ll get a square win price if you can pick the winner. The likely public favorite looks very vulnerable and there are some girls who look ready to take the next step. Doubt you’ll get rich here, but you can post a mild upset and pad your bankroll.
Race 8 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf
The Gal’s turf race usually draws more entrants then the boys, not this year. The Euro contingent is strong once again; however, they are currently only 1 win out of the last 4. I think that trend will end, but who will do it?
#10 Ridasiyna– I have stated this for years, the European turf runners are that much better than the US contingent. I think we are closing the gap. Any winner on the Arc undercard that shows up stateside must be taken very seriously, this lass will likely be very well supported but the whisper is she might like deeper sod of which she won’t get here. She stills looks to classy to dismiss, but I would tread lightly as some of the other Euro’s could beat her. Footnote, she will be the only starter to NOT race on lasix.
#4 The Fugue– Was actually favored over Shareta (entered in the Turf) who would be even money in this spot, she ran well that day only losing by a neck. My only knock on her is she has been absent since that loss after a regular schedule all summer, did something go wrong or was this the race she was pointed to? 70 days since that start, if Gosden has her ready, look out.
#8 Nahrain– Had the lead last year in deep stretch before being gunned down, maybe the long ship just took enough out of her. This year she got a local prep at Belmont and didn’t disappoint. If she runs back to either of her North American races, she’ll get her number hung on the board.
I do like the Euro runners but this group isn’t as strong as some of the others we have seen in past years. I still will be focusing my wagering around the imports, but wouldn’t be shocked if one of the American runners makes it a three-peat. With that said, I still put an 80% chance a European based runner will win this.
Race 9 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic
The deepest most competitive field the entire weekend, looks like a true championship as every top distance filly or mare is entered. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3 across the track at the wire.
#6 Royal Delta– I am not big about picking a horse to repeat in a Breeders Cup race as it’s hard enough to win it the first time, but I still land here. I can’t argue with anyone for trying to beat her as she has shown vulnerability having lost 3 starts this year. She’s not in the same breath as Zenyatta, but her connections think she is as they sent her to Dubai and have already stated they want to try the boys in the 2013 Classic. The competition should make her a square price, the queen until dethroned.
#8 Love and Pride– Her last two were awesome posting triple digit Beyer’s, like the fact that they sent her out early to get a tour of the track. I expect she will get a similar trip that she did in the Personal Ensign and oh yeah she was able to best my top pick that day. Main track does play to speed and I think the only thing that could hurt her is if she gets coaxed into a speed duel, in peak form and the main threat.
#5 Awesome Feather– Frank Stronach paid 2.3 Million for this opportunity, hard to argue with a perfect 10 for 10, but she has only had 4 starts in last two years that is an obvious sign of physical problems. I know she was prepped for this so like a few others she could be sitting on the race of her lifetime and already has a BC trophy in her closet, couldn’t argue with anyone who wants to back her in the win pool.
For a horseplayer, this is a race you beg for and unfortunately rarely get anymore. I could make a case for every runner at a certain price. Find your horse and back it as I expect there will be value on most of the runners. I didn’t mention any of the 3 year old fillies because I think their elders experience will prevail, but I couldn’t argue against any of them, especially My Miss Aurelia.
Race 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
Similar to girl’s juvenile turf, this race is deep and wide which could make some interesting payouts. Euro runners haven’t ran on lasix before so I think that gives them a leg up especially since the infield is what they mainly run on in Europe.
#6 Dundonnell– Juddmonte youngster is getting faster every start and has been a huge fan favorite in Great Britain having been the heavy chalk in his last 3 outs; as mentioned, I think a lot of the Euro invaders are interchangeable so I wouldn’t get married to this pick. The most logical of the across the pond shippers.
#9 Noble Tune- Chad Brown looks like he might have a good one, won going away in both career efforts and neither of these efforts were a secret considering the wagering support.
#8 Balance the Books- Brown’s other entrant looks just as good but he’ll be coming from the clouds which might be tough to do in this quality of a field hence why I rated him lower. Trainer expects both to run good as do I.
I do think the stateside horses have a chance to win this as both Brown entrants look solid as does Gervinho who sports a win over the track. It’s still hard to dismiss the 5 Euro runners as they have stepped up in the past and should do so again, especially with the lasix angle in their favor. Box them and throw in the 3 NA runners and you will cash.
Race 5 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
Normally a race that has a lot of plots and subplots only got 10 entries to the gate as a stand out mare has probably chased a few away. Groupie Doll is the lowest priced horse on the morning line of all the Cup races and if she goes off at that number, might actually be of value.
#9 Groupie Doll– She has just blossomed as a 4 year old after coming north from her winter in Florida. Since that time, she has won all 4 of her starts by open lengths impressively. She shipped out West and has two bullets in her holster outworking 18 & 34 others. The whisper on the backside is that she couldn’t be doing any better, will take a malfunction to beat her.
#6 Turbulent Descent– Will be making her 14th career start and will be bucking a trend as she has been the post-time favorite in every race in her career. To have that kind of support tells a story of what kind of talent she has. If she runs back to her A+ game, it could be a race in the lane.
#10 Switch– Reminds me of Brett Favre as she just keeps coming back, she has been the runner-up in this race last 2 years and it wouldn’t shock me if that happens a third time. Like Favre though, she isn’t as good as she once was and this might be her swan song. But Court Vision stepped up huge in his last hoorah; this is her preferred distance and track.
Groupie Doll should win and will win, she isn’t sneaking up on anyone. The others do have talent, but they are going sideways or backwards. Take the short price or pass, but don’t play against her.
Race 6 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
This is the mile on the main track where only 9 will go the gate, not as deep and wagerful as past contests with no Euro invaders. Some good runners in here, but certainly not the same flair as the one contested on the turf.
#4 John Scott– Local Cal bred showed some big promise as a 2 year old and disappeared until his 5 year old season. Must have had a major injury but for a trainer to keep going for 3 years shows how special they think he is. The big knock on him is he seems more suited for the synthetic as he is 0 for 3 at SA. Will be the largest price of his life and worth a reach.
#1 Rail Trip– Old timer has gotten back on his game in sunny Southern California and gets some much needed class relief. The way the track has been playing, if he sits and pops no reason to think he can’t pull a George Foreman on a group of Michael Moore’s’. He sports a 3 out 4 mark on the SA main with his only loss to the ML favorite in the Classic, Game on Dude.
#5 Fed Biz– Speaking of horses for courses, this youngster is 2 for 2 here and comes off a big effort in the Indiana Derby. A Baffert runner who has been well supported in his career at the windows coming into this as his third race off the form cycle, primed to run a big one.
Emcee & Shackleford are speed balls that should ensure an honest pace upfront. If the track plays like it did Thursday, a runner sitting off the pace likely will win this, a small field and a lot of questions make this a race to enjoy more than wager on.
Race 7 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
Thank you God for bringing back the BC to California and this is a completely different race when you can get 14 horses going 6 ½ down the unique downhill course. The even betters news is it will be back next year, saddle up.
#5 Next Question– NY bred finally tested grade stakes in last and passed his test in Canada taking the grade I Nearctic with a lifetime best Beyer. I feel the winner of this race will need to get involved early but have enough finish to stay on for distance and I think he fits that running style, time to see if he can go across the country and face the toughest task of his career.
#8 Great Attack– Great win on the Derby undercard but hasn’t started since that day, also has never shown going beyond 5 panels so why I am lured? I respect the heck out of trainer Ward as he is batting 23% off these layoffs. Scary if primed.
#13 Unbridled’s Note– Just scored in the Eddie D over this same trip from a similar post, have to like the advantage that offers. Might end up being the public’s choice, can’t argue with that but I will try to beat at a short price.
California Flag is the speed of the speed and drew the rail, he’s been away since April but training like a gorilla in the morning so I think a hot pace is all but insured, I can’t see him staying on for the win, but he could take a few down with him. A ace that could yield any type of result but absolutely fun to watch and wager on.
Race 8 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
A nice mix of 9 freshmen runners which won’t necessarily produce a Derby runner, again the lasix ban might have chased away some that don’t want to be tested this far, this early, in their careers, let’s look at the ones who did.
#4 Shanghai Bobby- The hope of the east coast impressively enters this off some daylight victories while stretching out a bit farther each time, he’s definitely the best of the East and I am curious as if he can tackle the west runners. At the BC kickoff party Thursday night, Pletcher was asked about all of his horses and if anyone stood out to which he replied, “I really like my juvenile runners”. While maybe not mentioning in name I think this is the guy he was talking about.
#7 Capo Bastone– Rosario’s return to Cali has been fruitful as he rode 4 winners on the Thursday card and this guy he maneuvered from last to 3rd in the Grade I Frontrunner. That running style along with the track bias might be the perfect setup.
#1 Title Contender– Baffert & West’s other runner, Power Broker will likely be played a lot heavier but I think this runner his every bit as big a chance of running a big one. This is his first race against winners and that is a huge leap, but he waltzed around this very oval before professionally finishing strong, will be a much better price then his stable mate.
I watched every race Shanghai Bobby has run and they have been ultra impressive, while I can only comment of watching the replays of the West coasters they just don’t look as strong to me, Pletcher at shorts odds.
Race 9 Breeders’ Cup Turf
The normal appetizer to the Classic has now got knocked 3 races down on the card because the fields keep getting shorter and the American contingent keeps getting weaker, a trend this year that looks to be reversed. 12 to the gate and an American runner that is the early favorite.
#1 Point of Entry– Alright I’ll bite, normally I try to find which Euro horse will win and last year even boxed the 4 Euro’s for my doctor and had a nice ROI for him and he hasn’t made a bet since. This is more about Shug than the horse as he doesn’t just show up for the big races to enter; he usually shows up to win. This guy only needs to run back to his last two and the race is for place.
#3 St. Nicholas Abbey– Young rider O’Brien showed up at the kickoff party sporting a St. Nicholas Abbey hat and says he stretched his legs Thursday; this horse has really blossomed since his score is last year’s Turf and with 4 Million on his card a repeat isn’t out of the question.
#5 Shareta– Ran a game 2nd in the 2011 Arc on firm footing and was demolished on the soft footing in the 2012 edition, not sure this turf course is as hard as she wants but it will be a lot firmer then she saw in her last out and if you put a lice through that race her form jumps off the page, another serious contender Point of Entry will have to deal with.
Great race to bet as even Dullahan or Optimizer could step up and run a huge one, don’t dismiss the Euro’s as they could easily win this but even if they don’t they will be on the board.
Race 10 Breeders’ Cup Sprint
Not sure why this race could moved back in the pecking order, maybe because we got a full field which makes this like the Turf Sprint a much more fun race to watch and wager on.
#4 Coil– Seems like he has gotten much better since they shortened him up to 1 turn, has ran his best two career speed figures going 6 furlongs, the biggest head of Baffert’s 3-headed monster.
#9 Trinniberg– might end up being the speed of the speed, love the way this horse covers the ground although this (not even the Derby) will be his biggest test of his career. The hood goes on and it’s time to play catch me if you can.
#8 Capital Account– A rallier that actually might prefer a little more land, but hasn’t missed the board in 5 tries at this track; will be picking up the pieces in the stretch and was favored in his last over my top pick and a few other runners in here.
It’s so nice to see this race go back to a full field, lots of plots and subplots in this race. I don’t like the 10,12,13,14 but all the rest are very playable although I think Baffert holds a strong hand in here and will have a solid chance of unsaddling the winner.
Race 11 Breeders’ Cup Mile
No Goldikova this year, but Freddie Head does have an entrant for the 5th straight time in Moonlight Cloud whose claim to fame was almost upsetting Black Caviar at Royal Ascot. I truly wish there would have been 12 or 14 runners in here to add some spice but the 9 present are top caliber.
#6 Excelebration– would be 5 for 5 if he hadn’t run into the world’s highest rated runner Frankel twice this year, adds lasix and subtracts weight for this, both huge positives. Even without Frankel, this is a damn good field with a rabbit signed on. Won’t be a gimme but we will get to see just how good he is.
#2 Wise Dan- If Excelebration is the best racing miler in Europe than Wise Dan is the best in North America and they get to clash. A versatile runner who has been equally effective on dirt & poly, I see him sitting 3rd or 4th and getting the first run on the speed, a very logical choice to keep his streak going.
#4 Obviously– The lone true speed and this guy is an absolute burner, owns the track record at both Delmar & Santa Anita going a mile, can put up 1:09 for 6 panels and still kick home in 23, to put things strictly in perspective according to speed, Wise Dan last 3 wins averaged a final quarter mile of 24. He hasn’t been more than 2 lengths off the wire in his last 10 starts. If speed on the lawn is holding they won’t catch him.
This race will be a true litmus test of where we are against the world as far as our turf milers go. I am 6 deep in here as in addition to my picks Mr. Commons, Moonlight Cloud, or Animal Kingdom could factor. The bias also could shuffle my picks, a fun race to be run.
Race 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Normally this is a deep and competitive race, but I don’t feel that way this year. I have been waiting all year for some sub plots to develop, but let’s be realists, our handicap division just isn’t what it used to be. All year, I kept telling my gambling buddy I can’t wait to bet against Game on Dude in the Classic. Well the day has come and how can I not bet him!
#5 Game on Dude– He’s 5 for 5 over the main track here, training like a monster, and has picked up Bejarano (no offense to the recently retired Chantal Sutherland, but the fact is Bejarano is a better rider). I have been a naysayer all summer after his Meydan flop that he would get crushed in the Cup, but barring a speed duel or a track bias against him, he should be a short priced score to cap of the Cup.
#11 Mucho Macho Man– Really blossomed as a 4 year old, hasn’t been off the board in 5 tries. A true east coast horse who will be venturing west for the first time, rider Smith has won 2 of the last 3 Classic’s so has the right rider in tow. Would have made for a much better story had Chantal still been on Dude, still a horse with upset potential.
#10 Ron the Greek– If you put a line through his last race, he fits in here like a glove. Trainer Mott won this last year and knows a thing or two about training horses. You have to like that he ventured out west earlier this year and bested 12 rivals over this strip in the Big Cap. Price will be inflated due to his recent flop, but he’ll outrun those odds.
Game on Dude is a single in the pick 4 & pick 6, I think even money actually will be fair value so I am assessing his chances of winning at 70% or greater. Getting out tripped or a monster effort will likely be the slim chance of him not avenging last year’s loss. All factors point to him.
Good Luck and enjoy the greatest two days of racing on the Earth
-Professional handicapper at TheEquineinvestor