Clearly the rumors that I had retired to pursue my dream of chasing scantily clad Sherpa women through a series of increasingly complex obstacle courses in front of live studio audiences was a bit premature. Yes, like an older champion thoroughbred returning from an extended layoff and hoping to recapture lost glory, the Prodigal Son hath returned to the racing blogosphere. At least temporarily.
It’s been a long time, my friends (too long) – since June to be exact, and admittedly my absence deserves a brief explanation. As much as I’ve wanted to continue writing regularly about the sport we love, the facts of life simply caught up with me (though thankfully I can still outrun Mindy Cohn). Working full time, commuting long distances, and raising two young boys just didn’t leave anywhere near enough time to collect my thoughts and organize them into something worth posting. Thankfully the proverbial torch has been passed to some more than capable writers/bloggers, some of whom I’m lucky enough to count among friends.
This weekend, however, is simply TOO BIG to ignore. Zenyatta, my beloved “slow cheetah” aiming for a repeat in the Classic and a fitting wrap to her perfect career? Goldikova trying to make it 3 in a row against the boys? An Arc winner still in the mix (at least as of this writing) for the Turf? Saying nothing would be akin to being bound and gagged and left in some swamp conditioned pit of despair. It’s Breeders’ Cup time – that moment of the year where even my love of collegiate football cannot keep me from obsessing over the happenings at the race track. I won’t be in actual attendance this year – the days of such distinguished honors having seemingly passed, but I will be here to cover both racing days in full – undoubtedly to the spattering of a handful of golf claps.
Let’s kick things off by looking over the Friday Breeders’ Cup races from Churchill Downs:
Well, the skinny is that I’m 0 for 2 in “marathon’ events. Not exactly the kind of grand return to the handicapping scene I was hoping for. The way I see this race, I’ve never been a GIANT OAK fan and I’d really only take the tepid morning line favorite, AWESOME GEM, if the conditions were wet, so I’m going to shake things up and try something new. It’s interesting to note that the Euros have done well in this race the last two years, so perhaps I roll the dice with one of them? Obviously they aren’t running over synthetics this year, so it’s a bit of a risky proposition, but what the hey? Two contenders fit the description, BRIGHT HORIZON and PRECISION BREAK, with the better odds available on the latter.
- #9 Bright Horizon (10/1)
- #11 Precision Break (15/1)
- #12 A.U. Miner (9/2)
Race 6: The Juvenile Fillies Turf (1 Mile)
Usually the Juvenile Fillies Turf would be a race I’d throw darts at a wall and hope for the best. This year feels different though, thanks in large part to the presence of WINTER MEMORIES. The daughter of El Prado has looked very impressive finding the winner’s circle in each of her 2 starts. She seems to have a decent stretch burst when she puts in her run, and I like the versatility she’s shown in those two starts over firm and yielding turf courses. She’s capable of taking another step forward in her 3rd career start. KATHMANBLU is another late running type that has prevailed at the lower stakes level. A victory from the daughter of Bluegrass Cat would reward trainer Ken McPeek with his first Breeders’ Cup victory and is not out of the question at all here at 10/1.
- #7 Winter Memories (2/1*)
- #4 Kathmanblu (10/1)
- #13 Together (5/1)
Race 7: The Filly & Mare Sprint (7 Furlongs)
This could be the most wide open race on the card. RIGHTLY SO drew a horrible post position in the 13 hole, which means we’ve got the warning flag out right away on a vulnerable 3/1 favorite. Of course her front running style could render that less of a factor if she found her way out in front and was able to come over and save ground while relaxing a bit. The presence of RINTERVAL in the 10 hole means that she may have to run a bit harder than her connections would like early on, and longshot MOONTUNE MISSY could also add to the pace equation. Call me crazy but I think you roll the dice here. In my heart I’d like to select INFORMED DECISION, since she’s been so good to me in the past, but I have to side elsewhere this year. I’m going to take a stab with GABBY’S GOLDEN GAL, who I thought made a good impression during Monday’s episode of “The Works”. She’s not consistent, but her recent workouts suggest to me she may be primed for her best, and at 15/1 I don’t need much convincing. SECRET GYPSY also makes a bit of sense here at 12/1 value. I have a feeling folks are all over the board in this race so if you’ve got an opinion this looks like a good place to take a stab at a nice value play.
- #7 Gabby’s Golden Gal (15/1)
- #3 Secret Gypsy (12/1)
- #5 Evening Jewel (15/1)
Race 8: The Juvenile Fillies (1 1/16 Miles)
A field of 13 horses awaits the call to post for the 2010 Juvenile Fillies. Admittedly I’m a bit torn here between A Z WARRIOR and AWESOME FEATHER. Ultimately I’ll assume that A Z WARRIOR may be the superior horse, although what this daughter of Bernardini has lacked in terms of stringing together consecutive victories thus far in her young career is easily contrasted by the consistency of her primary foe. AWESOME FEATHERS has been nothing short of her name in earning a perfect 5-for-5 mark. Needless to say I’d suggest covering both on the exotics. TELL A KELLY seems to be a classy enough daughter of Tapit. The surface switch and post position draw would be the obvious concerns, but the presence of local hero Calvin Borel will ensure the horse takes some action at the window. R HEAT LIGHTNING drew a much more favorable post and is an obvious horse to consider in the exotics.
- #8 A Z Warrior (7/2*)
- #4 Awesome Feather (6/1)
- #2 Theyskens’ Theory (10/1)
Race 9: The Filly & Mare Turf (1 3/8 Miles)
We’ve got 11 horses to consider in the premier ladies’ turf event of the day, but I see this boiling down to a three horse race. In one corner you have MIDDAY who appears a very strong favorite at 6/5. Sarafina, who ran third to her in the Qatar Prix Vermeille, wound up finishing 3rd in the Arc, if that’s any indication. The daughter of Oasis Dream has rattled off 3 consecutive victories and 4 of her last 5 races. The turf course may be a bit firmer at Churchill than the Europeans are accustomed to, but if she’s shipped well she looks mighty dangerous. The primary contender generating the most buzz in the racing world would have to be RED DESIRE, the Japanese-bred filly who couldn’t quite get it done over a yielding turf course at Belmont in her North American debut. If you’ve watched along with TVG’s “The Works”, you’ve no doubt heard she’s reportedly training well. Major player in this race, although admittedly I’d have to use her regardless given my fondness for ladies from that area of the world. The x-factor here may be PLUMANIA, who was less than a length behind MIDDAY (and ahead of the aforementioned Sarafina) in the Vermeille. Considering she was that close at Longchamp, 8/1 seems like a gift.
- #7 Midday (6/5*)
- #10 Red Desire (8/1)
- #1 Plumania (8/1)
Race 10: The Ladies’ Classic (1 1/8 Miles)
With 11 horses entered in the 2010 edition of the Ladies’ Classic, most of the attention will be focused on the big name contenders BLIND LUCK, HAVRE DE GRACE, and LIFE AT TEN. Of the big 3 I prefer LIFE AT TEN at a decent price of 7/2. The daughter of Malibu Moon has prevailed in 7 of her last 8 races, including the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont Park on October 8. The betting public will likely follow the morning line and favor BLIND LUCK, who has every right to win this race. I simply feel she’s too vulnerable to accept 9/5 in this race. HAVRE DE GRACE defeated BLIND LUCK last out yet finds her odds more than double those of her foe at 4/1 on the line. Of the other runners, Unrivalled Belle did defeat Rachel Alexandra back in April, but has had a series of decent-if-unspectacular 2nd place finishes in New York ever since. If you’re looking for a price play, consider using MALIBU PRAYER at 8/1 in the exotics. She may drift upwards on the tote board if the bigger named horses take heavy play and could offer attractive risk/reward potential. I’m thinking LIFE AT TEN will be too much for her foes in the stretch. I expect the other big names will vie for minor awards, but keep an eye on MALIBU PRAYER at a price.
- #1 Life At Ten (7/2)
- #11 Havre De Grace (4/1)
- #10 Blind Luck (9/5*)
Best of luck to everyone and remember to keep that bank roll padded for Saturday!