Thursday, November 05, 2009

Breeders' Cup, Day 2: Foreigners and Females Challenge the American Big Boys

By Steve Brady

Breeders' Cup events handicapped below begin with Race #2, Sat., Nov. 7, at Santa Anita Race Track, Arcadia, California. Televised coverage begins on ABC at 1:45 p.m. EST, and then switches to ESPN at 3:30 p.m. EST.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (Grade II), $1,000,000, Two-Year-Old Colts and Geldings, 1 Mile (Turf)
Two-year-old colts on the turf. I like the favorite, Interactif (4-1) [pictured, left]. Seems to have thrived with the switch to turf routes. He’s got a good closing style in a group that might be bunched up. Viscount Nelson (6-1) will be a little closer to the lead, but will probably save a little something for the finish. I’m also throwing in a longshot here: Gallant Gent. Aside from the fact that his name sounds like a men’s magazine from the '70s, at 30-1, this guy could surprise. He’s been in the money in all of his races, including the Grade 1 Norfolk, a tightly contested race, in which he held on for third by 2 ½ lengths to Lookin At Lucky (the 8-5 favorite in the more prestigious B.C. Juvenile) after going too fast early. The other pace-setters in that race folded on the turn, but G.G. held on quite well. He’s trying grass for the first time, but judging from his two turf workouts since then, it looks like he loves the stuff. Did I mention he’s 30-1??

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, $1,000,000, Three-Year-Olds and Up, About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
Santa Anita has the coolest turf sprint course in the country. The horses make the only right turn in the U.S., run down the hill, cross the main track, then pick up the turf again and take it all the way to the finish line. The ML favorite is California Flag (7-2). C.F. has ridiculous early speed, which was on impressive display last year for 5 ½ furlongs. Problem is, the race is 6 ½ furlongs. The race seems to set up better for him this year, as there doesn’t seem to be anyone to really challenge him up front, and he still holds the track record. Last year’s upset winner (at 36-1), Desert Code, is here again. Guess what? He’s gonna be 30-1 again. They’re saying he’s off form. Well, if he was on form last year, why did they let him go off at 36-1!! He gets the Mig at the helm again, and he’s got a lot more experience at this trip than anyone else in here. He also seems to be working okay over the turf again. I’m not saying I’m picking him, but it’s sure food for thought. I’m also looking at Delta Storm (10-1). He’s got the coveted outside post on this course, and should be tracking C.F. the whole way. He’s also got Gomez at the controls. When the favorite’s 7-2, no one knows what the hell’s gonna happen.

Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (Grade I), $2,000,000, Three-Year-Olds and Up, 6 Furlongs
Big favorite (7-5 ML) in this race is Bob Baffert trainee Zensational (left). He’s won four straight sprints; three straight Grade 1s. Look at his workout line—four straight bullets, including a sub-58 five furlongs. Looks like a total monster. But I think he can be beat. He’s never faced competition like this, and there’s a lot of guys who are going to gun it early. A logical alternative is second favorite, Gayego (5-2), a sprint record holder on this track who likes to pick them off in the stretch. But I may actually take a crack at a much longer shot, Capt. Candyman Can (15-1). He also comes from off the pace, has competitive Beyers, and won’t be coming from quite as far back. And I’d like jockey Javier Castellano to fly back to New York with a smile on his face.

Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (Grade I), $2,000,000, Two-Year-Old Colts and Geldings, 1 1/16 Miles
Once again we have the big favorite, Lookin At Lucky. I guess that makes sense. He’s another of Baffert’s charges, and he’s undefeated. He just won a Grade 1 Stakes race on this track. But I don’t know if I’m gonna take 7-5 in a race like this, especially when L.A.L.’s stuck out in hole #13, and when there’s just not the same kind of speed to go after. If I’m gonna use a closer, I’m gonna need a price. Beethoven is a good candidate. The Aiden O’Brien trainee ships in from Ireland with a big Racing Post number, and has a lot of experience in big fields. And get this: He’s 15-1! Bam. Actually, I’m leaning toward D’Funnybone (5-2). He’s won three of four races, and came in second in one by only a half length, and he seems to have thrived since moving to Richard Dutrow’s barn. He’s never run a route, but it looks like he’ll prefer a little more distance. Wait! Who’s this Noble’s Promise? Ken McPeek colt. Looks pretty sharp at 8-1. And he’s proven at this distance on synthetics. Won a G-1. This is a tough race. Good luck.

TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (Grade I), $2,000,000, Three-Year-Olds and Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
Girl Against Boys Alert!! (Pt. 1 of 3) This is the race filly Goldikova won last year. Pound for pound, the best horse in the world. She’s no Zenyatta; she’s kind of a slight little thing, but man can she run. She shows up from France last year, and damn if she doesn’t up and run a 107 Beyer. Against some of the world’s best male turfers!! Will she do it again? Probably. But she does have to contend with that outside post, and she did show a little hiccup last month at Longchamp. Perhaps stayed a little too close to a fast pace. This time, she’ll be chasing Cowboy Cal (6-1) and Gladiatorus (20-1) on the lead. And Court Vision is certainly eligible to come on fast in the stretch. There’s also a Brit named Zacinto (10-1) who may be tracking her every move. I think she’ll do it, but it’s certainly no lock. Ya'gotcher Olivier Peslier in the saddle. What the hell, let’s root for the French!!

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (Grade I), $1,000,000, Three-Year-Olds and Up, 1 Mile
Here’s a funny point to consider: The horse that holds the track record at this distance is not running in this race. That’s right. El Gato Malo is running in the downhill turf sprint—as a 30-1 shot. WTF!! Anyway, we can only work with what we have. And what we have is a lot of question marks. Ireland’s Mastercraftsman (above, left) is the prohibitive favorite at 6-5. But if he’s so great, why isn’t he running in the Classic? Huh? Answer me that! Why isn’t he going against Zenyatta two races later? Meanwhile, this whole group seems like the discards from the more significant races—and is Exhibit 1 in making the case that the Breeders’ Cup should be streamlined back to a single day event. Other interesting runners include Furthest Land (20-1) who ran a career best Beyer of 106 under Gomez last out at Turfway Park; that figure is certainly better than Midshipman’s last Beyer of 98 at Belmont. Still, Julien Leparoux is on Furthest Land, and Gomez is taking the call on Midshipman. Maybe Gomez believes in him. He sure showed promise last year, when he won the BC Juve, but he’s only had one race since then—a 6.5 F optional claiming race at Belmont, which he won. Still, it was no Grade 1. He’s been working steadily since, but nothing that really pops off the page. Who knows what to think?

Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (Grade I), $3,000,000, Three-Year-Olds and Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
They start this race at about the same place they start the turf sprint, but then, after they pass the finish line, they go around the track another time. Red Rocks is running in this event for the fourth straight year. He won it in 2006; came in third in 2007; and was tenth last year. He doesn’t seem at the top of his game, and the pace doesn’t seem to favor him, so I guess that’s why he’s 20-1. Conduit (7-5) won this race last year, and seems to be returning in good form, but I don’t think the pace will help him either. That opens the door to Girl Against Boys Alert 2!! Dar Re Mi (3-1) is a filly owned by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. She was famously robbed of a victory in the Grade 1 Prix Vermeille, when French stewards evidently didn’t like the idea of an English filly winning their race. (Hmmmm… I may take back my pick in the Mile.) She also finished fifth to Sea the Stars in the Arc de Triomphe (Conduit was fourth). I kinda like Dar Re, but I also like Presious Passion (4-1). In fact, I saw this guy just a month ago, when he came in from New Jersey and wired the field in the G-1 Clement Hirsch. It was a pretty impressive win. That was at a mile and a quarter, but he’s run the mile and a half several times and done quite well at the distance. Elvis (Trujillo) is in the house for this ride, and I think he just might wire this field. Meanwhile, the ML favorite is Spanish Moon (5-2), who has impressive Racing Post figures, and who should also be up pretty close to the pace. When it’s a toss-up, I take the higher price, so I’m going with Presious.

Breeders' Cup Classic (Grade I), $5,000,000, Three-Year-Olds and Up, 1 1/4 Miles
Girl Against Boys Alert 3: As much as I’d like Zenyatta (left) to defeat this field and make a strong statement in the argument that she’s the best female horse in the world, I just can’t recommend a bet on her at 5-2. It’s too short a price in a field like this. (She’s never faced males before, and until I looked at these past performance lines, I didn't realize Zenyatta had faced so many five- and six-horse fields—going against 12 might be an eye-opener to her.) I actually wonder if Zenyatta will go off as the favorite; the public could easily overrule oddsmaker John White and make Rip Van Winkle the favorite by post time. Anyway, there are several in here who could win, and I’d rather go after a price. I can get Gio Ponti with Ramon Dominguez riding at 12-1? Really?!!? Richard’s Kid just won the Pacific Classic over Einstein and Rail Trip, and I get him at 12-1?!!? I can have Einstein at 12-1?!!? I can take all three of them at what is effectively
4-1?!!? It’s absurd. We’ll see what these prices are like at post time.

Meanwhile, there’s an even longer longshot that I like in the Classic race: Twice Over, another Brit (left). He’s won three straight Grade 1 events; he’s been in the money in 12 of his 15 lifetime starts; he’s been in the money in six of seven lifetime races where there were 10 or more competitors; and just a little over a year ago, he just beat and then was just beaten by Raven’s Pass, last year’s Classic winner. The knock against him seems to be that he faded when he faced Sea the Stars and Rip Van Winkle in the Eclipse Stakes on July 4. But if you watch that race, you will see that Twice Over was bumped in the stretch, just at the time he was beginning to move forward, and he had to put on the brakes. He was taken completely out of the race, and he finished 17 lengths behind. If you throw that race out, he's always there at the finish. There’s also a question of whether or not he can run on synthetics. (All 15 of his career races are on turf.) I’m gonna guess if they shipped him over here, they think he can do it. Unfortunately, he’s got no published works, so we won’t have any idea how he travels over the Pro-Ride until Saturday afternoon. Finally, I’m glad to see his jockey for his last eight races, Thomas Queally, is coming over for the ride. (Aside from the ones I mentioned, I think these other horses could come in the money: Colonel John; Quality Road; Regal Ransom.

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.