It’s Championship Saturday! Look, I don’t care who you are, if you’re alive and breathing you need to be playing along in the Pick 4 and Pick 6 pools at Santa Anita today. We’ve got 9 championship races – from the Marathon to the Classic. I won’t be giving out a “caveman” ticket here today, as I’ll likely be all over the place and switching things up right up until the cutoff. Instead, we’ll look at each race and I’ll just throw out some horses I think deserve win consideration. Hopefully this helps folks boil down to the horses they can choose from for their exotic wagers.
Race 1: Breeders’ Cup Marathon ($500,000)
- #4 Sixties’ Icon (2/1*)
- #6 Zappa (5/2)
- #8 Cedar Mountain (6/1)
- #5 Muhannak (20/1)
- #3 Delightful Kiss (8/1)
Sixties’ Icon could make this one simple if he shows up in his recent form. He’s got 3 straight wins overseas and won a group 2 race at this distance over the turf at Newmarket in May ’07. As long as he takes to the track it should be his, but that’s always the question with these types.
Zappais the next likely candidate based on his effort in the Cougar II Handicap at Del Mar on 7/30/08. Since then he’s been soundly beaten by the likes of Well Armed and Go Between – who thankfully he avoids today. The key with him is not biting off more than he can chew from a competition standpoint, and he certainly fits with this field.
Cedar Mountainwas my original pick in our polls at the beginning of the week. I heard Watchmaker mention him as well when talking with Matt Carouthers on TVG yesterday. He’s at a fair price and has at least shown synthetic form (and decent at that) compared to the favorite.
My bombs for the race would be Muhannak (20/1) and Delightful Kiss (8/1). I really like Muhannak here. He’s won at this distance on both turf and synthetics. I’ll play him at 20/1 all day long.
Race 2: Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint ($1,000,000)
- #13 Get Funky (9/2*)
- #3 True to Tradition (15/1)
- #2 Fleeting Spirit (5/1)
- #9 Desert Code (30/1)
Turf sprints certainly aren’t my strong suit, but this one appears predictable on paper. Mr. Nightlinger and Calfironia Flag will be part of what should be a white hot pace. This should open things up for my top two picks. Get Funky has crept up in my rankings since I originally picked True to Tradition earlier in the week. I still like them both, and obviously favor the odds on the latter, but Get Funky gets the slight nod now for having experience over the downhill turf course. ‘Funky is the favorite, but 9/2 is a pretty fair price.
Fleeting Spirit warrants consideration not only for being a Euro-invader (always a threat on the grass), but for chasing a talented Marchand d’Or lat time out in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (Group 1). Obviously he’ll have to take to the firm turf at Santa Anita to run big.
My longshot bomb for the race is Desert Code at 30/1. He’s 3 for 5 at this distance and can flirt with a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. One of t he rare times you’ll see a jockey switch from Gomez to Migliore potentially yield rewards.
Race 3: Breeder’s Cup DIrt Mile ($1,000,000)
- #8 Well Armed (3/1*)
- #7 Albertus Maximus (4/1)
- #2 Lewis Michael (5/1)
- #2 Surf Cat (6/1)
The “synthetic mile” got a little less interesting when Mast Track defected (possibly – he’s in one moment and out the next depending on where you turn). I’m pretty chalky here with no real bombs. Well Armed just looks like the play to me. I’m not sure he can be beat, and I suspect he’ll get pounded well below 3/1 at the windows. Lewis Michael will probably float up to 2nd choice, but I wasn’t impressed with the workouts I caught on TVG (and it didn’t seem like they were all that impressed either). Albertus Maximus could offer some “value” if the other two get bet down. Surf Cat probably can’t win this, although I’ll be shocked if he’s not in the superfecta. He’s too good not to hit somewhere. I know my wife wants Pyro here at long odds, but I can’t imagine him pulling off the upset. My Pal Charlie was rumored to have been training well for the event, so take that into consideration when filling out your superfecta.
Race 4: Breeders’ Cup Mile (Turf – $2,000,000)
- #4 Goldikova (3/1*)
- #2 Kip Deville ((5/1)
- #8 Daytona (6/1)
- #11 Whatsthescript (4/1)
- #3 Precious Kitten (8/1)
This one should be about Goldikova - provided she likes the footing here at Santa Anita. The multiple Group 1 winner may “only” be a 3-year-old filly, but she’s part of an excellent crop from Europe and actually enters with a distinct class advantage over the U.S. runners. Note that the last horse to defeat her was Zarkava, who would be odds on favorite here if she had shipped across the pond. Check her out in the post parade, but if she looks good she’s probably the only number you need to cover.
Kip Deville is the best U.S. turf mile runner in my opinion, so if something happens to Goldikova (which is possible), he’d make the most sense in my mind. Oh yeah, he also won this race last year, so don’t sell him short. He wasn’t favored last year either, and has won 2 of 3 races since. His last effort may cause some folks to jump ship, but note that it came over a yielding turf at Woodbine that he obviously didn’t enjoy. Expect a rebound and a much bigger performance today.
Daytona and Whatsthescript are horses that I really like, I’m just worried about each. I’m concerned that Whatsthescript is up against it breaking from the outside as he’ll have to find a way to save as much ground as he can in the 1st turn. Daytona is a Grade 1 winner, but hasn’t been able to defeat Whatsthescript in 2 recent tries. I suppose he could turn the corners if Whatsthescript falters due to the aforementioned reason, so he may be worth taking a shot if you want a price.
For the ultimate upset, though I don’t think it’s going to happen, you could try Precious Kitten at 8/1. She’s probably in over her head here, but if she did pull it off it would be fun to be a part of it.
Race 5: The Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile ($2,000,000)
- #4 Square Eddie (9/2)
- #12 Bushranger (6/1)
- #1 Munnings (7.2*)
- #11 Midshipman (5/1)
- #8 Street Hero (6/1)
- #13 Minethatbird (30/1)
The Juvenile looks a little more wide open than it did to me on first glance. I’m still backing Square Eddie in the hopes that he can move forward off of his victory in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity on October 4. “Baby Curlin” would help keep a good thing going since Zenyatta and Zenyatta Jr. (Stardom Bound) won yesterday on Ladies’ Day. How cool would it be if Curlin and Baby Curlin brought things home today? He’ll have a chance.
Bushranger is a horseI essentially missed in my handicapping at the beginning of the week. He’s a good sprinter from overseas that could run away with this thing if he takes to the track. Word on TVG was that he’d looked pretty good, and 6/1 is a good price all things being considered.
Munnings is the East Coast top 2-year-old. Usually the eastern horses don’t ship as well going west as good as the California horses ship east. That’s just my opinion. Still, this guy has talent and would be hard to leave out of contention.
Midshipman and Street Hero each look like they’ll have a chance, but if you want to go busting the bank take a stab on the 30/1 longshot of the field, Minethatbird. He’s coming off 4 consecutive victories – and it’s not like he can’t run on synthetics. You could do a lot worse at 30/1.
Race 6: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf ($1,000,000)
- #12 Grand Adventure (5/1)
- #11 Bittel Road (7/2*)
- #7 Coronet of a Baron (9/2)
- #3 Westphalia (5/1)
- #4 Donativum (6/1)
- #10 Skipadate (6/1)
It looks to me that you’ve got to go deep here in the exotics as I don’t see a standout. Grand Adventure is my top choice, but Bittel Road does deserve the morning line favoritism. The horse that perplexed me originally was Coronet of a Baron, but the folks at TVG insisted during “the works” that he has looked sensational since arriving at Santa Anita. I have trouble separating Westphalia, Donativum (who struck me as a cool customer when they showed him on TVG), and Skipadate. Good luck on this one.
Race 7: The Sentient Flight Breeders’ Cup Sprint ($2,000,000)
- #2 Street Boss (3/1*)
- #1 Cost of Freedom (4/1)
- #3 Fabulous Strike (4/1)
- #4 Midnight Lute (7/2)
- #7 In Summation (10/1)
My guy for the Sprint all summer long has been Street Boss, but I remain concerned that he may get caught in traffic or leave himself a bit too much to do turning for home. Cost of Freedom is the horse that hung on against him last time out in the Ancient Title, so you’ve obviously got to give that one a fair chance here as well. I do think Street Boss will get the job done, but my confidence has been dulled a bit.
Midnight Lute is the x-factor. There are those that think he runs away with this just like he did last year’s Sprint, but there’s obvious reason to be concerned. He’s been on the shelf and his last races don’t look anything like his triumph last year at Monmouth. If the real Midnight Lute shows up this whole thing is academic, but that still a big “if.”
In Summation is the horse I think could shock everyone. He may have done so in the Ancient Title if not for some traffic trouble. He’ll probably be forgotten at the windows so there will be value here. He’s worth a win flyer in my opinion. Same for Fabulous Strike if he’s 4th choice on the tote board.
Race 8: The Emirates Airlines Breeders’ Cup Turf ($3,000,000)
- #4 Soldier of Fortune (7/2*)
- #2 Red Rocks (5/1)
- #10 Out of Control (10/1)
- #9 Conduit (6/1)
- #11 Eagle Mountain (6/1)
The Breeders’ Cup Turf seems to be all about Soldier of Fortune. A legitimate Group 1 turf runner, he has banged heads with the likes of Youmzain, Zarkava, and Dylan Thomas. If he takes to the firm turf at Santa Anita and the heat doesn’t get to him, he should be able to defeat this field. However, if those things don’t happen, there will be value underneath, and most likely inflated value as you’re not likely to get anything like 7/2 on Soldier of Fortune.
Red Rocks is my next choice due in large part to his defeat of Curlin in the Man O’ War. I think that was a deceptively good turf race since it also featured Better Talk Now, Out of Control, and Grand Coturier (who are also in this race today). Red Rocks made ‘em all look silly in that one, and despite the fact he’s been off for a while, should be able to get back on top. He’s got the European breeding that is always important and he’s thrived in U.S. turf racing.
Out of Control is a longshot that a lot of folks are whispering about. Yet another from that Man O’ War against Curlin and Red Rocks. He posted a 112 Beyer Speed Figure chasing Red Giant last out in the Hirsch. Another effort like that and he’s a player in here for sure.
Eagle Mountain and Conduit are likely to be higher than 6/1 on the board in my opinion, so they are my “bomber” picks. And it goes without saying I’ll have something sentimental on Better Talk Now as I’ve loved “Blackie” for years.
Race 9: The Breeders’ Cup Classic ($5,000,000)
- #9 Curlin (7/5*)
- #1 Go Between (8/1)
- #8 Raven’s Pass (6/1)
- #5 Henrythenavigator (10/1)
Since it’s likely my last chance to bet Curlin – I’ll be all aboard on him in the exotics. Yes, I think it’s possible he gets beat today. Obviously it’ll be the surface if he goes down. I think he was good enough on the turf to expect him to run solid over the Pro-Ride, but I’m not thinking it will be his best effort. This is a tough, tough field to crack, but if anyone can do it, it’s him.
Go Between is the horse for the course I’d make 2nd choice. He also looked a million bucks from what I saw on “the works” on TVG.
Raven’s Pass is the most interesting of the Euros in my opinion. Raven should be able to get the extra 1/4 mile today in the Classic with no problems.
Tough call between Henry and The Duke – but I liked what I saw of Henrythenavigator during the weekly workouts a bit more.
Best of luck to all – Happy Breeders’ Cup Championship Saturday!!!