Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Breeders' Cup, Day 1: Distaff Lineup Faces Talented European Invaders at Santa Anita

By Steve Brady

The Breeders’ Cup is a two-day event. With one exception (The B.C. Marathon), Day 1 is dedicated to distaff events (female horses only), and Day 2 is for male horses (although there will be some significant females “taking on the boys”). Breeders' Cup events handicapped below begin with Race #3, Fri., Nov. 6, at Santa Anita Race Track, Arcadia, California. Televised coverage begins on ESPN2 at 3:35 p.m. EST.

Breeders’ Cup Marathon, $500,000, Three-Year-Olds and Up, 1 3/4 Miles
The Marathon kicks off the festivities this year. It’s about as long a race as you ever see in North America. The heavy favorite in this race is Mastery. He has the highest Racing Post numbers (kind of the English equivalent of Beyers); is used to these marathon distances; has been consistently finishing in the money in Graded Stakes races in Europe; and has the pace-tracking style that has been successful on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface this meet. He’s also going to have world-renowned jockey Frankie Dettori on his back, who is a proven commodity at Santa Anita and in the Breeders' Cup. Still, Mastery has very little experience on anything other than turf, and if he doesn’t handle it well, you’ll feel like a chump buying in at low odds. A nice alternative in this event is another European, Father Time (pictured, above). He’s lightly raced, but is proven at long distances, and has won on synthetics. He will be closing. It would also be reckless to overlook last year’s winner in this event, Irish runner Muhannak. He’s not favored, as it’s seen as a stronger race this year. Still, he’s proven over this distance and surface, and that’s tough to ignore at 12-1. I also like another 12-1 shot here—Black Astor. His last race at Del Mar, he ran absurdly fast, 10 lengths ahead of the pack, and then sputtered out in the lane. I am hoping pace specialist Alex Solis can get him to relax, let Nite Lite take the lead, and reserve some energy for the lane. Black Astor is a turf specialist, but judging from his recent workouts, I’m sure he can handle the Pro-Ride just fine.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, $1,000,000, Two-Year-Old Fillies, 1 Mile (Turf)
Juve fillies. Even at the top level, this can be an unpredictable bunch. They’ve been protecting the turf for the past month, saving it for this day. That means the rails will be at zero, and closers will have an even chance. Not only that, while there isn’t any blistering speed in this race, several of these feel comfortable racing towards the front. I think that’ll open the door for some closers, and another European. My top pick is the morning line favorite, the Irish filly Lillie Langtry (pictured, above, winning at Newmarket). Calculating off her Racing Post figures, she seems the toughest of the group. Plus, I always give an edge to young horses who can close—it shows they’ve got a head on their shoulders. For many of the same reasons, my second pick here is the ML 2d favorite, House of Grace. I’ll also take a look at Dale Romans’ trainee, Tapitsfly. She’s a frontrunner, but she’s been in the company of next-out winners, and she wired the field in her only turf attempt at a mile and a sixteenth. Garrett Gomez is waiting in the wings on one of two also-eligibles, who could get in if there are any early scratches.

Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (Grade I), $2,000,000, Two-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles
Juve fillies again, this time running long on the Pro-Ride. This seems to be a pretty wide open affair. Blind Luck and Connie and Michael are the two ML faves—a closer and a speedster (both styles I don’t like on the main track at S.A.). I want something close to the pace, but not setting the pace. Those two may be near the wire at the end, but I’m leaning towards Devil May Care. She already won a G-1 in New York, and already won going long, despite stumbling at the break. Todd Pletcher knows what he’s doing, right? Plus, you get John Velazquez in the driver’s seat.

Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (Grade I), $2,000,000, Fillies and Mares, Three-Year-Olds and Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
Fillies and mares, going long on the grass. The ML favorite is Forever Together. 2d favorite is Magical Fantasy. I like Midday (pictured, left) at 4-1. She’s been facing some tough competition in Europe (four straight G-1’s), and she’s got a good, tracking running style. Also, she seems to do much better on firmer turf, and she’ll definitely be getting that in Arcadia. Plus, odds of favorites go down, and odds of third favorites go up, so I think I’ll get better than 4-1 at post time.

Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (Grade I), $1,000,000, Fillies and Mares, Three-Year-Olds and Up, 7 Furlongs
Fillies and mares sprinting. I finally get to pick Garrett Gomez. Ventura is the morning line favorite, and seems like the clear choice to me. This mare has faced the boys a few times over the past year and done consistently well. Best last-out Beyer; most consistent Beyers. She doesn’t get a super fast pace to run at, but at least six of these should be running towards the front. This is the closest I have to a single for the two days.

Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (Grade I), $2,000,000, Fillies and Mares, Three-Year-Olds and Up, 1 1/8 Miles
Two in a row, I’m going with the chalk. I don’t really see a way around Music Note (left) at 8-5. She’s got the Beyers, the pace set-up, and is a very consistent performer. It’s possible Careless Jewel could get loose on the lead and wire them; it’s also possible M.N. could try to stay too close to C.J. and tire out, and open the door for Life Is Sweet. Meanwhile, I don’t ever remember seeing M.N. jockey Rajiv Maragh riding at Santa Anita, so his lack of familiarity with the track could create problems. Still, looking at the horses alone, I think Music Note should take it.

Steve Brady is Sports Media America's Los Angeles-based handicapper. When he's not working as a commercial actor or comedy improviser, Steve can often be seen trackside at Santa Anita, Del Mar, Hollywood Park and other California horse palaces.

Next Up: Breeders' Cup, Day 2: Plucky Females Try to Show Who's Boss
Undefeated mare Zenyatta takes on the big boys in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and Goldikova (right) defends her title in the Breeders' Cup Turf Mile. Bookmark SMA and check back tomorrow for Brady's analysis.

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