Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Some Win and Are In Breeders' Cup, Others Opt Out or Hurt
by Greg Melikov
Check out our 2007 Breeders' Cup coverage including live Breeders Cup Odds as well as winning Breeders Cup Picks
Breeders' Cup Limited and six foremost U.S. tracks combined this year to inaugurate "Win and You're In" the BC hunt. A total of winners of 24 qualifying races were guaranteed berths in seven of the eight stakes on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.
So far, only a lone qualifier won't run because of an injury. Fabulous Strike, one of five winners that automatically earned entry into the BC Sprint, contracted a lung infection shortly after capturing the Grade 1 Vosburgh by 5 ¾ lengths at Belmont Park on Sept. 30.
Off Duty won the Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 6, but his owners must decide whether to risk the $180,000 supplemental fee to make the deep Sprint field that will automatically include three others:
Vanderbilt victor Diabolical at Saratoga on July 28, Pat O'Brien winner Greg's Gold at Del Mar on Aug. 19 and Ancient Title champ Idiot Proof at Oak Tree (Santa Anita) on Oct. 7.
Several other winners are in the same financial boat, including BC Distaff qualifiers Ginger Punch and Tough Tiz's Sis. However, both are likely to run.
Unbridled Belle, who scored in the Beldame at Belmont on Sept. 30, is one of six millionaires that would have made their respective BC divisions anyway.
One mare that won't make the Distaff is Take D' Tour, who came out of a last-place finish in the Beldame with an injury to her left foreleg and was retired.
Four of the millionaires that didn't need to win to be in the $5 million BC Classic did. But Del Mar's Pacific Classic winner Student Council is opting for the $2.3 million Japan Cup Dirt on Nov. 24.
It appears quite a few others will dodge Saratoga's Whitney victor Lawyer Ron, Belmont's Jockey Gold Cup champ Curlin and Oak Tree's Goodwood winner Tiago.
And don't forget Kentucky Derby/Travers standout Street Sense, the top money-winning horse for 2007 with earnings of nearly $3 million, or Hard Spun, No. 3 on the list behind Curlin, who also captured the Preakness.
And don't forget Any Given Saturday, who reeled off three straight wins in the Dwyer, Haskell and Brooklyn. He fell only $5,680 short of making a million.
Its no wonder the Classic probably will have the shortest field of the 11 BC contests Oct. 26-27.
However, Lava Man, No. 4 on the money-winning list, won't make the trip to the track by the Jersey shore. Instead, the trailer in the Oak Tree Mile, according to his interests, will be pointed to the $250,000 California Cup Class for state-breds at Santa Anita on Nov. 4. Besides, Lava Man has been ice cold racing off the Left Coast.
English Channel, the 12th and last millionaire on the list, is in the BC Turf because of his victory in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont on Sept. 30. He will face two winners of Arlington Million Day Aug. 11: Jambalaya in the showcase race and Shamdinan in the Secretariat.
English Channel won't have to worry about two game runners: Hirsch runner-up The Tin Man and the game Shakespeare.
"I can't see (the 9-year-old) going," trainer Richard Mandella said. "We'll probably think about the Citation (at Hollywood Park Nov. 23) for him."
As for Shakespeare, his comeback from a serious tendon injury was cut short after winning the Woodbine Mile. He suffered another tear in the tendon of his left foreleg.
"After consulting with the vet we decided we were not going to push on," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "He's a star - it's unfortunate. It's a tough part of the game."
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Pick Four Offers Huge Payouts at Breeders' Cup
by T.O. Whenham
If you are planning to bet on the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 27 (and if you aren't, why the heck not?), and you have a reasonably deep bankroll, then you should probably be taking a look at the two Pick Fours that will be offered. The Pick Four is always an intriguing bet because it is reasonably winnable, quite affordable to play, and the risk-to-reward ratio is often excellent. On Breeders' Cup day, though, the bet holds an extra special appeal. Both bets have a guaranteed pool of $2 million. That means that there will be a pile of money directed towards the bets, and much of it won't be particularly intelligent money. That, in turn, means that high payoffs are very possible. Who wouldn't want a piece of that?
The payoffs can, as I said, be huge. Last year, one $2 ticket paid off a ridiculous $96,907 on the late Pick Four. In 2004, the late ticket paid $46,270. Six of the last eight Pick Four tickets have paid at least $13,000. Even the lowest payout, $3,130 on the early Pick Four in 2004, represents a significant return on investment for an intelligently purchased ticket. Do I have your attention yet?
First, the basics. If you haven't figured it out, the object of the Pick Four is to pick the winners of four consecutive races. You can obviously pick more than one horse in each race (as long as you are willing to pay for the privilege), but you must have the winner in all four races in order to cash in. The cost of a ticket can get very high if you have several horses in each race. You must pay for every single possible combination you choose. The way to calculate the cost of your ticket is relatively simple - you just multiply the number of horses you have in each race together, and multiply that by the $2 cost per ticket. If you chose three horses per race, for example, then the cost of your ticket would be 3x3x3x3x$2=$162. If that's too steep you can always bet the $1 minimum per combination, but that obviously means that your payout will be half the size of the listed payouts. The investment is half as much, though, so your ROI will be the same either way.
If you aren't careful, the cost of a ticket can get way out of control on a day when most of the races will have 14 horses in them. Buying every combination would cost more than $76,000, so you have to limit yourself. To do that you need a strategy and some self restraint. Here are three tips to keep in mind as you are putting together your winning tickets:
1. You can't pick every horse - If you try hard enough you can make a case for every horse in a race. That's true any day, but especially so at the Breeders' Cup when the worst horse in any race would be the best horse at most of the smaller tracks in the country. In your handicapping you have to focus not on every horse that stands a possible chance, but on every horse that you think stands a good chance of winning. You aren't looking to bet every possibility, but rather to spend the minimum amount to give yourself the maximum chance of success. Look at it this way - any horse can win a given race, but over the course of time the favorite will win a third of all races, and the top handful of horses will win the large majority of the races. You need to reject the horses that stand little hope of winning, and concentrate on those that are, in your mind, likely.
2. Think about winning, not the payoff - Sure, you could make tens of thousands of dollars if you picked the longest shot in each race and they all came in, but that just isn't going to happen. You want to buy a ticket that gives you the best chance of cashing in regardless of the price. On Breeders' Cup day even the worst Pick Four payoff is going to ensure you have a very, very good day (and night). Don't be tempted to throw in longshots with little hope of success because all it does is drive up your ticket cost and drive down your return on investment.
3. Not all horses are created equal - Your handicapping will tell you that all horses don't have the same chance of winning, so why would you bet them as if they do. Instead of picking all of the horses that could win and just boxing them to get your ticket, you could reduce your cost and increase your chances of a solid payoff by grading the chances of the horses and betting accordingly. This doesn't have to be as complicated as it sounds. Say you have two horses in each race that you think stand a very good chance of winning, and two more that are the likely winners only if the top two falter. If you were to box the four horses in each race on a $2 ticket it would cost you $512. That's not a terrible investment if you stand a chance at a five figure payout, but you could do better.
Instead, you could buy a $3 ticket on your two top choices in each race for $48, a $1 ticket on your top two horses coming in during one race and your bottom two coming in during the other three races for $64, and every remaining possible combination of your horses at $1 each for $176. That would make your total ticket cost just $288. You would still win in every case that you would with the much more expensive ticket, and you would make more if any of your two top picks were to come in during each race. You've cut your costs, maintained your number of possible winning outcomes, and leveraged your investment towards your most favored outcomes. That's just one example of how you could be creative and craft a ticket that does the best possible job of maximizing your investment.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Here's Some Insight on Monmouth's Grass Course
by Greg Melikov
The year-old grass course at Monmouth Park might make it difficult to handicap the four turf races over the two-day Breeders' Cup spectacular starting Oct. 26.
On that Friday, the new Juvenile Turf contest will be staged at a mile for all 2-year-olds no matter their gender.
The following Saturday, three of the eight races will be on the grass course. "It was redone in '06," said Paul Grimm, editor of the Oceanport Racing Report.
"A new drainage system and base with new sod was installed along with a new innovative five-furlong turf chute," he said. "Depending on who you talk to the grass does or doesn't drain any better, but the strip is seven furlongs and the turns are tight."
Grimm knows Monmouth well. "I have been through all the charts for 2007," he said. "In mile races, outside posts are at a big disadvantage. There were a couple of new course records at this meet (including 1 3/8 miles, the BC Filly and Mare Turf distance on Oct. 27), but most were broken last year as the new grass was faster than the old surface.
"Although when they run the Monmouth meet the heat can tend to bake the course. It gets very firm if we don't get rain, but will play more honest than the dirt as far as speed is concerned.
"The grass held up extremely well and stayed green all summer. They managed to use the entire course with the portable rail so it did not get abused and was actually in very good condition at the end of the meet although we did finish a few weeks earlier this year."
Grimm ought to know. "I have worked here when I was a college student so I have a pretty good feel for its condition."
During this year's meeting that ran from May 12 through Sept. 2, only 17 percent of winners in 108 turf routes led from start to finish. The best place to be: inside.
"English Channel and Better Talk Now have been successful over this course and the American contingent will probably have an advantage here especially if the turf is firm," he pointed out.
On July 7, English Channel won the Grade 1 United Nations at 1 3/8 miles on the grass by a length over Honey Ryder while Better Talk Now finished third another two lengths back in third.
Honey Ryder most likely will run in the BC Filly & Turf. Top contenders in the 1 ½-mile BC Turf are English Channel, 2 for 2 at Monmouth, and Better Talk Now, 1-1-1 in 4 outings at the track.
Two other likely contenders have hit the board on the Monmouth grass: Red Giant, winner by a nose in the one-mile Restoration Stakes on June 17, and 9-year-old The Tin Man, who ran second in a race several years back.
"Monmouth will use the one mile dirt course and the seven-eighths grass course for Breeders' Cup racing," he added. "I don't expect to see the five-furlong turf chute used on BC days, but maybe on Wednesday and Thursday (Oct. 24-25."
There were only 21 sprints staged on the grass during the regular meeting, with 33 percent of the winners leading all the way.
Five BC races will be routes on the main track and probably won't be dominated by speed like in the sprints. However, front-runners did do well during 75 afternoons of the regular meeting.
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In one-mile races, wire-to-wire winners in 80 contests numbered 25 percent. Horses leading at every call of 78 races at a mile and 70 yards did better -- 35 percent.
"I don't know how much the summer condition plays in October because we have never run this late on this strip in a year," Grimm said. "I'm not aware whether the track management will alter the main track to add dirt or not.
"If the track becomes deeper I would have to think that would negate some speed, but we will have to wait and see. The earlier (Wednesday and Thursday) cards before Friday and Saturday should give us an indication."
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Kentucky Derby Alumni at the Breeders' Cup
by T.O. Whenham
For the first time in a long time, the horses that we got to know in May are going to be a serious factor in the Breeders' Cup Classic. The last couple of years we have seen horses run in both the spring classic and the fall one, but not as a legitimate threat. In 2005, Flower Alley and Sun King were the two that did double duty. Flower Alley was second to Saint Liam in the Classic, but at 10/1 to he was not among the elite contenders. Sun King was an also-ran at 30/1. 2006 also saw two dual-runners - Brother Derek and Lawyer Ron. Neither horse was a factor before or during the race. Brother Derek was fifth at 22/1, while Lawyer Ron, who had just moved to the Todd Pletcher stable, was ninth at 20/1.
Things are going to be different this year. As many as five starters from the 2007 Kentucky Derby are on course to start in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic. Top three finishers Street Sense, Hard Spun and Curlin are all being pointed to Monmouth Park, and they are likely to be joined by seventh place finisher Tiago and Any Given Saturday, who was eighth. Here's a look at those five horses as they get ready for their rematch:
Street Sense: Despite having a stellar record this year (four wins and three seconds in seven starts) the Derby champ is going to be the topic of much discussion heading into the race, and it will be difficult to come to a consensus. On the plus side, he followed his Derby win with victories in the Jim Dandy and Travers, so he's proven what he can do. On the downside, though, he has had two serious stretch duels -- with Curlin in the Preakness and Hard Spun in the Kentucky Cup Classic -- and he was beat both times. Both of those horses will be at Monmouth along with several other horses who won't let him get away alone in the stretch. In the Travers Street Sense eked out a victory in a tough stretch duel with Grasshopper. That horse went on to disappoint badly next time out.
If you buy into Beyer ratings then Street Sense has some concerns. He posted a 110 in the Derby and 111 in the Preakness, but he hasn't had a number that high since. Critics will say that the Kentucky Club Classic, in which he challenged Hard Spun down the stretch but never got the lead, shows that he hasn't developed as much as we would hope since the Derby and he is vulnerable. His many supporters would point out that the Kentucky Cup was on a synthetic surface, and jockey Calvin Borel never really worked for the win, so it was nothing more than a glorified workout. I'm not sure which side I'm on, but I have more than three weeks to figure it out.
Hard Spun: After a frustrating Triple Crown trail, Hard Spun came back in the Haskell. He finished second behind Any Given Saturday. Curlin was third. That was his last loss. He beat a fairly decent field in the King's Bishop at Saratoga, and then beat Street Sense last week in the aforementioned Kentucky Cup Classic. In a four-horse field it wasn't difficult for him to get the lead, and he was impressive in maintaining it. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's relatively easy to pick holes in his accomplishments. The King's Bishop was just over seven furlongs, and Street Sense may not have been at full effort in the Kentucky Cup. Beyond that Hard Spun has proven that he is very good, but he has yet to prove that he is good enough to beat the best of his class. His attractiveness will be hurt somewhat by the fact that his victory over Street Sense will cause his odds to be lower than they might otherwise have been.
Curlin: I'll say up front that I absolutely love this horse. I have also been continually confounded by what he will offer on any given day. At the Derby he just wasn't good enough. At the Preakness he looked good enough to beat anything on four feet. His Belmont loss to rags to Riches was an epic stretch duel against a great horse. He was disappointingly flat in the Haskell and I was ready to write him off. He faced probably the top older dirt horse in North America, Lawyer Ron, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. I was certain he wouldn't catch the older horse in the stretch, but somehow he did, and probably earned favorite status in the Classic at the same time. If the Curlin we saw in the Preakness or the Gold Cup shows up at Monmouth then the world is in trouble. If he's flat then he'll still factor in the exotics, but not as the winner. The challenge is figuring out who might show up, and if the low price is worthwhile.
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Tiago: After a seventh in the Derby and a third in the Belmont, the Santa Anita Derby winner went back home to California. He only hit the track there, but there was no one who could beat him. It's very hard to know what to do with this horse. None of the other West Coast three-year-old stars of the spring season are still active, so there is no good measuring stick for the horse's development. He won the Swaps Stakes, but it was against a very undistinguished field. The Goodwood would have been a great test of Tiago, but Lava Man was withdrawn in the days leading up. It was still a decent field, with horses like Awesome Gem and Lewis Michael, but it was far from a classic field. The race was over a synthetic track, too. Tiago is clearly improving, and he's the best the West Coast will likely have to offer, but he was a big step behind the best of the class in the spring, and the price would have to be very high to make it attractive to bet that he has closed that gap.
Any Given Saturday: One of the bigger disappointments of the Derby has turned into one of the biggest surprises of the summer. He hasn't lost since that day at Churchill. He's won three races, and he has the advantage of having beaten Hard Spun and Curlin in the Haskell over the same track was he will face in the Breeders' Cup. No horse in six tries has won both the Haskell and the Classic as a three-year-old, though Skip Away won the Haskell at three and the Classic at four. Any Given Saturday hasn't been over the classic 1 ¼-mile distance since the Derby, and he didn't handle it well then. It will be a challenge for him to step up to that distance again against a deep field. On the other hand, this horse is less glamorous then some of the other top horses, so the price may just be high enough to make it worth a gamble that he's matured into the distance.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Breeders' Cup Betting
by T.O. Whenham
The 2007 Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park in New Jersey is less than a month away. For the first time ever the Championship has been extended to two days, Oct. 26 and 27. Three new races have been added on the Friday, and the familiar lineup of eight races will be run on Saturday. For horse players these two days are the best there are. The Kentucky Derby has a higher profile, but that's full of 20 immature horses facing chaos for the first time, while each Breeders' Cup race features the best horses seasoned by a long, tough year of racing. The betting pools are gigantic, the fields are deep, and the chances for a huge payoff are there every time the gates open and the bell sounds. I'm getting giddy just writing about it and am looking forward to two days of Breeders' Cup betting.
If you aren't convinced that the Breeders' Cup is worthy of your attention as a bettor, all you have to do is take a look at last year's Sprint. The field set up with a clear favorite. Henny Hughes had dominated every field he had faced all year, and looked all but unbeatable. He was sent off at 5/2 in the 14-horse field. Those who didn't like that horse were likely in the corner of Bordonaro, a California invader who was clearly the best of the West Coast. He was 4/1. Siren Lure, 6/1, and Bob Baffert's Too Much Bling, at 7/1, also had support. No other horse was below 12/1. It seemed pretty clear how the race was going to play out.
Horse racing is horse racing, though, so nothing happened as was expected. None of those four horses finished in the top three. The favorite finished dead last. With one of the most impressive stretch drives you'll see, 16/1 shot Thor's Echo won the race by four lengths. Friendly Island, 59/1, somehow found his way to the second spot. Nightmare Island closed hard for third at 29/1. The exacta paid $955.40, and the trifecta was $10,611.80. Bordonaro faded, but still hung on for fourth. Despite his presence, the superfecta paid off at an astronomical price - $113,911.80.
Though the results were a bit like a lottery, they certainly shouldn't discourage you from playing the races. Thor's Echo was an intriguing horse who slipped under the radar, and it was definitely possible to have him among your top picks in the race. If the Breeders' Cup, and especially past Sprints, had taught us anything it was that favorites are vulnerable on racing's biggest day, and anything can happen. The races require discipline and sound thought, but if you apply that, and you have some luck, then Breeders' Cup betting can be fantastically profitable.
You can win at the Breeders' Cup, but you won't do it if you approach the day the same as you approach any other day at the races, or any other day of sports betting. The unique structure of the races mean that you have to be ready, or you will be in a lot of trouble. Here are three things you need to keep in mind to succeed on the last weekend in October:
Bring the bucks - More than any other day, the deep fields of quality horses will mean that you won't win every race. In order to have a good day in the end, you need the ability to cover the horses you like, bet as many combinations in the exotics as are necessary, and have the ability to weather an inevitable loss or two without panicking. If your bankroll isn't deep enough to seriously play the day, then you shouldn't seriously play the day. Be prepared, or be prepared to go broke.
Be choosy - Even with a good bankroll, you won't be able to play everything. There are so many temptations on the card - huge exotic pools on every race, pick threes paying thousands, pick fours paying tens of thousands, and a pick six that could pay millions. You can't afford to play it all, and even if you could you wouldn't have the time to effectively evaluate all bets. Pick the spots that you think give you the biggest edge, and then give those bets the attention they need to get a win.
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Be prepared - If you go to the track to watch the races and bet on them then you are going to see the biggest crowds of the year. There will be lineups to make a bet, and it may be difficult to find a spot to concentrate and study the racing form. To be at your best, you need to have most of your work done before you get to the track. If you have evaluated the program and decided who you like before the day begins then you can spend the time at the races evaluating the horses on TV as they are in the paddock, going over the program a final time, and deciding the combinations you are going to play, and the horses you are going to drop from your consideration. You'll be more relaxed and you'll ultimately be more successful.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Expect a Fast Track at Breeders' Cup
by Greg Melikov
I always want to know how a track is playing before I plunk down my cash, especially with racing strips that I don't normally visit in person or via simulcasting.
Since the 24th World Thoroughbred Championship Breeders' Cup is being staged for the first time at Monmouth Park, I decided to seek expert advice on what to expect at the track by the Jersey shore that ran this year's meeting from May 12 through Sept. 2.
According to Paul Grimm, editor of the online Oceanport Racing Report (Oceanportracingreport.com), "Records fell all over the place. I heard many complaints from owners that the strip was too fast.
"Claimers $20,000-$18,000 were running in the 1:09 range, kind of skewed many handicappers because the speed was so dominant that the bias made horses that were mediocre look better than average for a while."
And good horses looked even better. Of five track records, three were established on the main track. Idiot Proof, a 3-year-old based at Hollywood Park, roared to a 7 ¼-length triumph in the Jersey Shore Stakes in 1:07 2/5 at six furlongs on July 4.
"The record that stood out is the six furlong mark, which was set by Gilded Time as a 2-year-old in 1992 - 1:07 4/5," Grimm said. "I can remember at that time people being up upset that a 2-year-old would set such a time. I never in my lifetime thought that record would fall again."
Through July 21 of this year's 79-day meeting, according to Brisnet.com, 40 percent of the winning horses in 191 races at six furlongs (distance for BC Sprint and Filly & Mare Sprint) went wire-to-wire. That winning percentage fluctuated a bit, but ended at 40 percent after more 300 races.
I would say it deserves the reputation of being a fast track. I recall one of my favorite racing strips in South Florida had the same reputation for many years.
I recall that you could win a bundle wagering on speed horses in the late 1990s at Gulfstream Park. I did so during a paid sabbatical during 1995 when editing and writing for The Miami Herald from 1965 through 2000.
I was no stranger to Gulfstream. I saw many races since graduating from the University of Miami in 1956. Yep, there were complaints back then after the track landed the 16th BC, which I covered.
On that Nov. 6 afternoon in 1999, Artax defeated Kona Gold by a half-length in the BC Sprint, equaling the track record of 1:07 4/5 set in 1973 by Mr. Prospector.
Meanwhile, back at Monmouth, speed at other sprints didn't fall off. While there were only 27 races at 5 ½ furlongs, wire-to-wire jobs were 44 percent.
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Joey P. shattered by a full second the track record of 1:02 4/5 set last year by Man of Danger while winning the opening day Decathlon Stakes for his ninth victory at Monmouth.
"I will say that over the final five weeks or so the times got slower as it looked as if the dirt surface was adjusted," Grimm pointed out. "Quarter and half-mile split times in sprints still ranged from 21 to 22 and 43 to 44, but coming home was 1:11 to 1:12. At the beginning of the meet those races were finishing in 1:10."
Since Gulfstream was renovated for the 2005 season, the main track has played more fairly. Monmouth just might do the same in the future since its main track was redone for the 2007 meeting.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Betting Trends for the Breeders' Cup
by T.O. Whenham
The Breeders' Cup is just around the corner. To get ready to take the money home this year we need to be sure that we are as prepared as we can be. One way to do that, at least before the fields are set and we can do some real handicapping, is to look back on recent history. By understanding what has happened in the recent past we can have a better idea of what works, what doesn't, and where we should be spending our efforts and directing our focus. Here are five recent trends that will help you make the best of your bankroll on thoroughbred racing's second biggest day:
1. Look beyond the low priced horses. The favorites can win, but the public can also get it very wrong. Horses have raced on different surfaces in different countries against different competition, so handicapping properly can be a huge challenge. This is reflected by recent win prices. The average win price in 2006 was $24.60. The average winner in each of the last five years has paid at least 10/1. That doesn't mean that low priced horses can't win - Ouija Board was almost even money last year, and Dreaming of Anna was 5/2. It just means that you don't have to second-guess yourself if your handicapping directs you towards a higher priced horse. Four of the eight winners last year paid off at 14/1 or better, including eventual Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, who went off at more than 15/1.
2. Be careful of supplemented horses. In theory, a horse that has been supplemented to the BC should be well worth a look. Both stallions and foals have to be nominated to the Breeders' Cup. If that didn't happen then the owners of the horse have to pay either nine or 15 percent of the total purse (depending on the situation) in order for the horse to be able to run. You would think that the huge cost would only be paid when a horse is ready to run well, but that isn't always the case. 2004 provided an excellent example. That year, Ouija Board was supplemented to the Filly and Mare Turf, and she won it to prove the investment worthwhile. Eight other horses were supplemented that year, though, and none of them did anything. Moscow Burning was fourth behind Ouija Board, and she was the only one of the eight to even get a piece of the bottom of the superfecta. A supplemental fee by itself is not an indication of race readiness.
3. Don't look for value in the Juvenile Fillies. Of all the races, the Juvenile Fillies has proven to be the most predictable and therefore the least profitable. Dreaming of Anna only paid $7.20 to win last year, yet that was the highest price we had seen in five years. It's usually pretty clear who is at the head of the class heading into the race, and those top runners haven't faltered in recent years. The race has been a good confidence builder early in the card recently, but it has certainly not been a fast road to easy riches. If you are lacking a clear idea when post time draws near for the young ladies, just close your eyes and go with the public.
4. Like Exotics? You'll love the Sprint! The Sprint has seen some high-priced winners, as we saw with Thor's Echo at 16/1 last year. Though the win prices have fluctuated between high and low in recent years, the one constant has been that the superfecta in the race has been spectacular. Last year, Thor's Echo topped a superfecta that paid a whopping $113,911.80. The $35,358 it paid in 2005 was the lowest it has paid in the Sprint in five years, and it was still the biggest superfecta on the card that year. I'm obviously not advocating that you should box the field in the superfecta, but it would have paid off pretty well the last half-decade. Boxing a 14-horse field for a $2 superfecta costs $48,048, for a total cost of $240,240 over five years. The payoff off that period has been $301,256.30. That's a 25 percent ROI with no chancing of ending up with nothing. If only it were always that easy.
5. Consider the Pick Three. For both casual and serious bettors the Pick Three has the ideal combination of being hard enough to win that the payoffs can be sizable, yet easy enough that a solid handicapper can win it once in a while. Over the last few years the Pick Three has been a great place to put your money on Breeders' Cup day. Last year, for example, the average Pick Three payout was almost $4,380, and two of the wagers paid out at over $9,000. Only one Pick Three, the first, paid poorly at $384, but even that wasn't entirely bad. The first and third races in the set had winners in Dreaming of Anna and Ouija Board that could very easily have been keyed, so the low ticket price would still allow for a good ROI despite the low payout.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Steve Haskin's BC Countdown: Pletcher Could be a Shore Thing This Year
It will be interesting to see how the horses-for-courses angle plays out at Monmouth Park, where it has often been an advantage to have either a race or a work over the track. In this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships, there is one trainer who will be coming to the Jersey Shore well prepared.
Below is a race-by-race breakdown of the pre-entered Breeders’ Cup horses who have excelled at Monmouth Park, either winning or running big in defeat, and a few who have run decently and at least have a race over the track. It is important to note that Todd Pletcher trains seven of the horses listed – Any Given Saturday, Lawyer Ron, English Channel, Honey Ryder, Indian Vale, Icy Atlantic, and Host. That should give him some kind of an advantage.
CLASSIC – Any Given Saturday (won Haskell Invitational (gr. I) by 4 1/2 lengths), Lawyer Ron (fast-closing second in Salvator Mile (gr. III). Note --Hard Spun (second in Haskell) and Curlin (third in Haskell) were soundly defeated by Any Given Saturday.
TURF – English Channel (won United Nations Handicap (gr. IT) twice, 2-for-2); Better Talk Now (won United Nations, second in Battlefield, third in United Nations); Honey Ryder (see Filly & Mare Turf); Icy Atlantic (see Mile).
DISTAFF – Hystericalady (won Molly Pitcher Handicap (gr. II) by 6 1/4 lengths); Indian Vale (won career debut in 2005 in her only start at Monmouth); Prop Me Up (won Lady’s Secret Stakes, four wins overall and four seconds on dirt and turf).
SPRINT – Idiot Proof (won six-furlong Jersey Shore BC (gr. III) by 7 1/4 lengths in 1:07 2/5); Smokey Stover (won six-furlong Icecapade Stakes by two lengths in 1:08 4/5 in his last start); Attila’s Storm (won six-furlong allowance race by 5 1/4 lengths in 1:09 1/5 in 2005); Talent Search won six-furlong Teddy Drone Stakes by 6 1/4 lengths in 1:08 4/5). All four are one-for-one at Monmouth; La Traviata won 5 1/2-furlong Post Deb Stakes by five lengths in 1:01 4/5 -- see Filly Sprint).
FILLY & MARE TURF – Honey Ryder (second to English Channel in United Nations).
MILE – Host (won 2006 Elkwood Stakes in 1:33 4/5); Icy Atlantic (won Red Bank (gr. IIIT) in 1:32 2/5); Kip Deville (third in the Oceanport as 6-5 favorite, beaten 1 1/4 lengths)
DIRT MILE – Gottcha Gold (won Philip H. Iselin, Salvator Mile beating Lawyer Ron, 2005 Choice Stakes and two other races at Monmouth); Park Avenue Ball (won Philip H. Iselin, Long Branch (gr. III), Skip Away, Frisk Me Now and Tyro Stakes from 2004 to 2006 and placed in Haskell Invitational, Salvator Mile, Sapling, and 2007 Icecapade to Smokey Stover; 6-for-10 overall, with three seconds and a third); Xchanger won Sapling Stakes and maiden race in first two career starts, only poor effort was in Haskell).
FILLY SPRINT – La Traviata (see Sprint); Wild Gams (won state-bred Eleven North Handicap in 1:09 3/5 and broke maiden, two-for-four at Monmouth); Oprah Winney (won Regret Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:09 1/5).
JUVENILE – Z Humor (third in the Sapling, beaten 6 3/4 lengths, after bobbling at the break).
JUVENILE FILLIES – None
JUVENILE TURF – None
The Pletcher-trained Wait a While has not run at Monmouth, but if the turf course has a lot of bounce to it, as it often does, you can bet the daughter of Maria’s Mon is going to relish it. On a firm course, she is the most brilliant turf filly in the country, and when she runs her race on her kind of going, she literally has been unbeatable. She is unproven at 1 3/8 miles, but even still, if the bettors judge her based on her last race and last year’s Filly & Mare Turf, she could be a terrific overlay, even at 4-1. She and Nashoba’s Key should make quite a powerful firm course exacta box.
Pletcher has the option of running Glencrest Farm’s Panty Raid, winner of the Spinster Stakes (gr. I) and American Oaks (gr. IT), in either the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) or the Emirates Airline Distaff (gr. I). He has pre-entered her with a first preference in the Distaff, but if he should switch to the Filly & Mare Turf, he could then run Glencrest’s Honey Ryder in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, joining stablemates English Channel and Sunriver. Honey Ryder finished second to English Channel in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations Handicap (gr. IT) and would appreciate the extra furlong.
Pletcher also has cross-entered Icy Atlantic in the Mile and Turf, with a first preference in the latter. If he runs him in the Turf, it no doubt would be as a rabbit for English Channel (both are owned by Jim Scatuorchio). That was the same role he played in last year’s BC Turf and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT). However, if Pletcher does run Icy Atlantic in the Turf, which is far beyond the horse’s capabilities, he would be in the unique position of running a rabbit against himself, as he also has the front-running Sunriver in the race. It is possible Sunriver can rate off the pace, but he hasn’t done it yet in his four grass starts, except briefly in the Man o’War Stakes (gr. IT). It is also interesting to note that Icy Atlantic’s two stakes victories this year were at a mile, one coming at Monmouth Park in course-record time.
Breeders’ Cup bites
-- If Dylan Thomas wins the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), he will do it on the birthday of the Welsh poet for whom he was named. The human Dylan Thomas was born Oct. 27, 1914.
-- Handicappers will have a fit if Irish Smoke wins the BC Juvenile Fillies and they threw her out because of her last start. The daughter of Smoke Glacken looked like a potential champion in her first two races, but was a bust on Keeneland’s Polytrack, finishing far back in 10th. No one knows for sure the reason behind her poor showing, but if she comes back and wins or is right there, it will boost many handicappers’ claims that races on Polytrack often prove to be meaningless in relation to races on dirt, and can be a black eye on the record of many top-class horses. Many horsemen will acknowledge the fact that a number of their horses don’t handle synthetic surfaces the way they do the dirt.
We’ve already witnessed Street Sense’s exploits on Polytrack, and how he has used the surface merely as a steppingstone to the big races trainer Carl Nafzger is pointing him for, such as the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I), Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and now the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Street Sense handles Polytrack well enough to be competitive, but is just not as effective or explosive over it as he is on dirt.
The same could be said for Hystericalady, who was brilliant winning the Molly Pitcher Handicap and Humana Distaff (gr. I) by big margins, but could only manage two seconds and a third on Cushion track, which seems closer to dirt than Polytrack. Of course, that is not to say some horses don’t handle both types of surfaces equally (Hard Spun, Tiago, and Awesome Gem are just a few of this year’s Breeders’ Cup horses that do). But, overall, “dirt” and synthetic surfaces are two separate entities, and those handicapping this year’s Breeders’ Cup will have to do a lot more guessing than normal. Hopefully, it will make more sense by next year’s Breeders’ Cup run at Santa Anita, whose Cushion track surface seems to be closer to dirt.
Again, this is merely being mentioned for handicapping purposes and how it relates to the Breeders’ Cup, and has nothing to do with the safety factor. To what extent synthetic surfaces are safer has yet to be determined. It is only hoped it will prove in the long run to be significant.
Who do YOU like…tomorrow?
It is unfortunate that the Breeders’ Cup will be missing such fan favorites as The Tin Man, Lava Man, Perfect Drift, and Brass Hat, whose Cinderella stories would have provided countless feel-good articles in publications throughout the country. And the losses of Invasor and Rags to Riches have to hurt.
The horses who normally would achieve long-range star power with a Classic victory – Street Sense, Any Given Saturday, and Hard Spun – are all scheduled to be retired to Darley at Jonabell after the race, so it is hard for the public to embrace them at this point knowing they’re never going to see them again. Nothing has been made official regarding Any Given Saturday, but the chances of seeing him next year would appear to be slim. Street Sense, with a victory in the Classic, would have been a major star and attraction next year, but that’s not going to happen. Trainer Larry Jones said that Hard Spun is just now coming into his own, is getting stronger, and learning how to settle in his races. There is no doubt he would have made an awesome 4-year-old, but we’ll never know. Curlin certainly has star appeal, but his future is still undetermined. Still, he at least provides a ray of hope for next year.
If racing fans are looking for a long-range rooting interest, Lawyer Ron might be their best hope following the resolution of a lawsuit that allows Ron Bamberger, executor of the estate of the late owner James Hines to retain full control of the colt’s racing career, as long as Lawyer Ron does not finish worse than second on more than two consecutive occasions. If he does, then Stonewall Farm will take control of the horse and retire him for stud duty. So, if there is a reason to root for a horse to keep running well, this is it.
Tiago is another who would capture the public’s interest next year with a victory in the Classic.
But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. There is still one heck of BC Classic to look forward to and a Horse of the Year title up for grabs.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Small but Select Field for BC Classic
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Racing Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and Preakness winner Curlin headline a small but select field of nine horses pre-entered Wednesday for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at New Jersey's Monmouth Park on Oct. 27.
A total of 141 horses were pre-entered for the $23 million, 11-race Breeders' Cup World Championships, held over two days for the first time.
Todd Pletcher, as usual, led all trainers with 15 pre-entries, including two for the Classic in Whitney and Woodward winner Lawyer Ron and Haskell Invitational winner Any Given Saturday, as well as four fillies for the $2 million Distaff - Indian Vale, Octave, Panty Raid and Unbridled Belle. Last year, Pletcher sent out a record 17 horses but came away without a victory.
Final entries and the post-position draw is Tuesday.
The nine-horse field would be the smallest for the 1 1/4-mile Classic since 1997, when Skip Away defeated eight rivals at Hollywood Park. However, the field may be the most talented since '98, when Awesome Again beat the likes of Silver Charm, Skip Away, Victory Gallop and Touch Gold.
The Classic most likely will decide Horse of the Year.
Three new races will be contested, all Oct. 26, highlighted by the Dirt Mile featuring Discreet Cat, who won his first six races before finishing last in the $6 million Dubai World Cup and third in the Vosburgh in his last start.
Also, 24 horses earned automatic bids with victories in Breeders' Cup Challenge races. Of those winners, just 14 were pre-entered in Breeders' Cup races, including Goodwood Handicap winner Tiago (Classic).
Also headed to the Classic are Derby runner-up and Kentucky Cup winner Hard Spun, Goodwood runner-up Awesome Gem, Meadowlands Cup winner Diamond Stripes and 4-year-old George Washington, brought out of retirement this year and recently third in the Eclipse Stakes in England in July.
George Washington is one of 20 horses from Europe headed to the Jersey Shore. Another is Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe winner Dylan Thomas (Turf), who will take on United Nations Handicap winner English Channel as well as two former Turf winners in Red Rocks (2006) and Better Talk Now (2004).
The $2 million Juvenile, which usually determines the early favorite for the next Kentucky Derby, was among six races oversubscribed with 16 pre-entries, two more than the maximum of 14. Champagne Stakes winner War Pass, Lane's End Breeders' Futurity winner Wicked Style and Belmont Futurity winner Tale of Ekati top the field.
The $2 million Filly & Mare Turf will feature undefeated Nashoba's Key. The 4-year-old filly is 7-for-7, with wins on the dirt and the turf, the most recent a victory in the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita. She will be challenged by two Pletcher-trained horses, 6-year-old Honey Ryder and 4-year-old Wait a While.
Nobiz Like Shobiz, winner of the Wood Memorial now 3-for-3 on the turf, was pre-entered in the Mile.
Trainer Bob Baffert has a strong hand in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies with Frizette winner Indian Blessing and Oak Leaf winner Cry and Catch Me.
Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches is sidelined with an injury and will miss the Distaff, although the filly is scheduled to return for her 4-year-old campaign. Among other top horses not competing in the Breeders' Cup are Lava Man (Classic) and Shakespeare (Mile), as well as automatic qualifiers including Student Council (Classic), Jambalaya (Turf) and Fabulous Strike (Sprint).
For oversubscribed races, fields are chosen based on three factors: BC Challenge winners; a points system followed; and a selection committee after the first seven starters have been determined.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
ESPN Networks Have Breeders' Cup Covered
The ESPN family of television networks will devote a record 9 1/2 hours to coverage of this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships from Monmouth Park.
For the first time in its history, the Breeders' Cup will take place over two days, with three races being added to what had been a one-day, eight-race program. The race portions of ESPN's coverage will be Friday, Oct. 26, from 4-6 p.m. EDT on ESPN2, when the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile will all have their inaugural runnings.
ESPN will take over Saturday, Oct. 27, from noon to 7 p.m. ET, with coverage of the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), and Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
In addition, ESPN2 will air a handicapping show Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 4:30-5 p.m. EDT.
ESPN's coverage of the races will include 28 High Definition cameras, including two car-mounted cameras that will move along with the field during races, shooting from inside the rail. In addition, there will be aerial coverage from an overhead blimp, and virtual displays on the course that will mark yardage to the finish line.
Joe Tessitore will host the race telecasts with a bevy of analysts, including Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss. Trevor Denman will call the races.
In addition to the live coverage of the races, both days of Breeders' Cup contests will be simulcast live on ESPN360.com, which will also offer the draw Oct. 23. ESPN.com will offer full editorial coverage of the races. The event will also be broadcast on ESPN International in the Atlantic, Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand), and Latin America Networks as well as on TSN in Canada. ESPN Radio will offer news and information from Monmouth Park.
Feature stories planned for the television shows include subjects Joe Talamo, the 17-year-old riding sensation who has the mount on undefeated Nashoba's Key (Filly & Mare Turf); Carl Nafzger and Calvin Borel (Street Sense); and European trainer Aidan O'Brien (Dylan Thomas, George Washington, and Excellent Art).
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Post positions drawn for 24th Breeders' Cup
October 23rd, 2007
Oceanport, NJ (Sports Network) - Post positions and the morning-line odds have been set for the 24th running of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be held this Friday and Saturday at Monmouth Park for the first time.
The featured race is the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles. The event has drawn an excellent field of nine thoroughbreds, including Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and Preakness champ Curlin.
The favorite for the Classic is four-year-old colt Lawyer Ron, who has established himself as the top older horse in North America. The winner of the Whitney and Woodward Handicaps is 5-2 in the program with John Velazquez riding. The pair will start from the inside post with Street Sense and jockey Calvin Borel next to him in post two.
Street Sense and Curlin are both 3-1 in the morning-line, with Curlin breaking from post four with Robby Albarado in the saddle. There are a total of five three-year-olds in the Classic field.
"I think it's one the best fields that's been put together," said Street Sense trainer Carl Nafzger. "You just can't get a better field put together. You got speed, you got closers. They've been beat, but they've been beat by each other. I think it's going to be a great Classic and I'm just glad to be part of it."
Haskell champ Any Given Saturday, 4-1 in the program, will start from post three with Garrett Gomez riding. Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun has drawn post eight with Mario Pino and is 8-1. Santa Anita Derby winner Tiago is 12-1 with Mike Smith in the saddle. Tiago, coming off a victory in the Goodwood Stakes, will start from the far outside post.
"He's gotten bigger and stronger and he's more focused now, more into his races," Tiago's trainer John Shirreffs noted. "It's a terrific field for the Classic and we're glad to be part of it. It's a real treat for me to be here and stabled with Carl (Nafzger). I have the greatest respect for him. The old bull rider and the ex-Marine, we make a fine pair."
Completing the field for the Breeders' Cup Classic is George Washington, Awesome Gem and Diamond Stripes.
With the addition of three new races, that will be conducted on Friday, there are now 11 Breeders' Cup World Championships races.
The first three Breeders' Cup races will be televised on Friday by ESPN2 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (et). On Saturday ESPN will broadcast from 12:00-7:00 p.m. (et) with the remaining eight races. Trevor Denman will again call the races.
Friday's weather forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, winds from the east at 10 m.p.h. with a high near 65. A few showers are expected on Saturday with a high near 70 and winds from the south at 5-10 m.p.h.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
No Panty Raid in this Breeders' Cup
October 24, 2007
OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) -Panty Raid, a winner of three major stakes this year, will not compete in the Breeders' Cup this weekend at Monmouth Park.
Trainer Todd Pletcher had a pair of $2 million races under consideration for the 3-year-old: the Distaff on the main track and Filly & Mare Turf.
In a surprise at the post position draw Tuesday, Pletcher did not enter Panty Raid in either race.
``We took some blood work on her and numbers weren't what we liked,'' Pletcher said. ``We decided everything would have to go perfect for her and that probably wasn't going to happen.''
Even with Panty Raid on the shelf, Pletcher entered 11 horses for stakes on Oct. and 27.
A MEAN STREAK: Nashoba's Key has a mean streak to go along with an impressive winning streak.
Unbeaten in seven starts, Nashoba's Key is the 3-1 morning line favorite in the Filly & Mare Turf. Her sharp form is matched by sharp teeth. Nashoba's Key will nip anyone in range.
``She's left a few scars around here,'' said trainer Carla Gaines, who makes her Breeders' Cup debut.
The 4-year-old bred in California makes her first start outside her native state while facing 11 rivals in the 1 3-8 miles race.
Nashoba's Key has shown the ability to win on turf and on synthetic dirt tracks. She was also pre-entered for the $2 million Distaff on the main track but her camp opted to keep her on the grass following her turf victory in Santa Anita's Yellow Ribbon Stakes.
``There will be competition from some nice fillies from Europe, but I think she's ready for the endeavor,'' Gaines said. ``She's trained fantastic since the last win in the Yellow Ribbon.''
Joseph Talamo will ride Nashoba's Key from post No. 3.
TENDING A FRIEND: Even though he has four horses running in the Breeders' Cup this weekend, Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel will remain in California with Happy, his 8-year-old dog who has been a longtime presence around the barn.
``Happy is very ill,'' Frankel said. ``I'm not going to leave. I've got lots of good help and I know the horses will be in good hands.''
A SWIFT IDIOT: Idiot Proof broke the Monmouth record for six furlongs when he won the Jersey Shore Stakes on July 4 in 1:07.47.
That prior success here could be an edge in $2 million Sprint where Idiot Proof is 10-1 from post No. 7 with David Flores set to ride.
The 3-year-old is 5-for-8, including a victory most recently in the Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita.
``Idiot Proof is as good a horse as any I've had,'' trainer Clifford Sise said. ``This horse really learned the game in the Ancient Title. It was his most mature race. He had horses on both sides of him and he dug in to win it.''
A PINCH HITTER: Trainer Steve Klesaris thought the dream of finally making the Breeders' Cup disappeared this summer when his top sprinter Diabolical was sold to Darley Stud.
That was before Miraculous Miss stepped up with a strong closing effort to finish second in the My Juliet Stakes at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 29 and earn a spot in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint.
``I'm disappointed that Diabolical won't be walking in the paddock with our colors but you can not lose sight that this is a business,'' Klesaris said. ``It was a blessing to have a horse of his quality and I'll always treasure the memories. Hopefully, the filly will pick up where he left off.''
Miraculous Miss is a closing sprinter, a running style that could be compromised by Monmouth's normal main-track bias favoring speed horses.
``Monmouth is notorious for being tough on closers but there are a lot of fast fillies in there and there should be pace at every fraction,'' Klesaris said. ``Hopefully, we'll get the right set up because I know we'll be coming at the end.''
Jeremy Rose rides the 15-1 shot from post No. 2.
A BUSY HORSE: Forefathers became the first horse to enter two Breeders' Cup races: the $1 million Dirt Mile on Friday and the $2 million Sprint on Saturday.
With the Breeders' Cup expanding to two days this year, the rules were changed to allow dual entries in races on different days.
It is highly improbable that Forefathers will run in both.
Zayat Stable, the owner, and trainer Bill Mott can scratch out of either race until 45 minutes prior to post.
The likelihood a Forefathers scratch from one poses a problem for bettors placing advance wagers starting at noon Thursday. At that time, they probably won't know Forefather's status for either race.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Pletcher Reviews Breeders' Cup Starters
Two days before the Oct. 26-27 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, trainer Todd Pletcher reviewed his 11 starters and shared his thoughts on the upcoming races, including possible scratches should the surfaces turn up wet or yielding due to weekend showers.
Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge! (gr. I): Lawyer Ron and Any Given Saturday
"Lawyer Ron’s turning point was obviously the Whitney Handicap (gr. I), when he stepped his game up to the highest level. He had shown signs of leading up to that, but it was a breakthrough performance.
"The Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) was not quite as good (second to Curlin), but I think we learned a little something about the way we need to ride him in this race, and hopefully not winning that day will have improved his performance this time. I think in the Jockey Club it would have been better to go a little faster rather than trying to restrain him and hold back. I’m not concerned if we’re on the lead or second or fourth; I just don’t want to be in his mouth trying to restrain him more than he wants to be restrained.
"My biggest fear is if Lawyer Ron and Hard Spun get involved in speed duel. We’ll try to avoid that and have to hope that one of us clears off and the other settles to allow both horses to run their races. It looks to me on paper like those two are the main speed."– Lawyer Ron starts from post one under John Velazquez
"Any Given Saturday, when he ran so well in the Haskell (gr. I), (prompted) the decision to focus on the Classic instead of the Travers (gr. I). Everything has gone according to plan; so far so good. He got a great freshening in the Brooklyn (gr. II) and now he’s back at Monmouth, where he ran the greatest race of his career. He shows up here with the credentials to do anything." – Any Given Saturday starts from post three under Garrett Gomez
John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I): English Channel
"When you have a horse like English Channel who is handy and runs turns well, it certainly helps him to (tackle three turns). To me the most important thing and what I try to tell my riders about three turns is that you’ve really gotta try to save some ground on the first two turns. If you’re swung out three wide it’s tough to overcome those kinds of trips. So one thing we’ll try to focus on is getting into a situation where we can save ground at least on the first two turns, and if we can do that to try and be coming forward on the last one. You wouldn’t think on a mile-and-a-half race that post position is critical, but when you’re running horses of this caliber not a whole lot separates them, and a three-wide trip around two of three turns makes a big difference.
"As far as Dylan Thomas is concerned, he’s very, very good, and with what appears to be some give on the ground for a horse like that who has accomplished everything he has, you can have nothing but the highest respect for him. We hope three turns is not his specialty and with him running on the tighter turf course and coming back on short rest after winning the Arc, hopefully things (will) go in our favor." – English Channel breaks from post six under John Velazquez
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf : The Leopard
"We had high hopes for him when got in, and in the back of my mind he has a lot of turf pedigree on the bottom side. He ran well the first time out, broke his maiden second time out at Saratoga, and we went to the Belmont Futurity (gr. II) optimistic that he was going to run well. He ran okay in there, and if the Juvenile Turf had not been an option we probably would have tried him one more time on the dirt. But since that option was there… we sort of at that time changed our focus. But I thought he worked pretty well the other morning; he worked on a soft-to-yielding turf course and seemed to handle it well." – The Leopard breaks from post three under John Velazquez
Emirates Airlines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I): Indian Vale, Octave, Unbridled Belle
"Octave is the kind of filly that as a trainer you absolutely love. She’s run well every start of her life. She’s adaptable to different pace scenarios and is very competitive; she gives a solid effort. It’s been unfortunate for her that she’s run in the shadow of Rags to Riches a little bit, and actually I thought she ran a huge race in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). She’s been a little bit unlucky not to win a couple more races. But she always shows up, she always runs hard, runs well over anything and has performed well at so many different venues. She’s getting a little overlooked here, and that could be a mistake." – Octave breaks from post eight under Garrett Gomez
"Indian Vale didn’t run particularly well over the wet track this year at Churchill Downs this summer (and is now coming off a second-place finish in the Beldame (gr. I) behind stablemate Unbridled Belle)." – Indian Vale breaks from post 10 under John Velazquez
"Unbridled Belle should be interesting. She’s such a big filly and she has such a powerful action she’ll probably handle a wet track fine, but you don’t really know until you get there. We’ll get clues as to how the track’s playing all week; it’ll probably be a Monmouth-type track where speed is good and the inside is good as well." – Unbridled Belle breaks from post 11 under Ramon Dominguez
Emirates Airlines Filly and Mare Turf (gr. I): Wait a While, Honey Ryder
"Wait a While will take a raceday decision where the yielding turf is concerned. If I feel the ground is less than satisfactory with her, I may scratch and go in something like the Matriarch (gr. I)." – Wait a While breaks from post five under Garrett Gomez
"Honey Ryder can handle soft going fine, as long as it’s not a bog. I thought she ran quite well in the United Nations (gr. I) second to English Channel. I expect to see her run one of her best races." – Honey Ryder breaks from post two under John Velazquez
NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I): Icy Atlantic, Host
"The one horse who had a great year I really didn’t expect is Icy Atlantic. He certainly won’t be one of the choices in the Mile but at this time last year we purchased him as a pacesetter for English Channel. He did his job in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. I) and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I), but after that he’s gone on and done very good things on his own. We looked at the possibility of using him as a pacesetter but really didn’t see the need; with Fri Guy we felt there’d be other speed.
"It’s amazing because you try to do everything right with so many horses and things don’t pan out, and we did everything wrong and used him as a pacesetter early in his career. It’s obviously a very tall order for him running against these types of horses, but he does hold the track record at a mile and has shown affinity for the course. – Icy Atlantic breaks from post two under Christopher DeCarlo
"Host, I think is in a little bit of the same boat as Icy Atlantic. It’s a tall order for him; there are some very, very top milers in here. He has run races in his career that would put him in the mix, but he’s obviously gotta run an outstanding race. He’s a grade I winner at a mile and he’s got the kind of style where he’s gonna drop back and make one run. Sometimes those kind of horses can be dangerous if they get a good trip. We’re asking a lot of him, but he’s showed us in the past he’s capable of it and we’re gonna give him a try." – Host breaks from post four under Garrett Gomez
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Quite a Few Breeders' Cup Races Wide Open
by Greg Melikov
This may be the most competitive bunch of Breeders' Cup races since the Olympics of Horse Racing was launched in 1984 at Hollywood Park.
Many of the 11 contests spread over two days starting Friday at Monmouth Park are up for grabs in my mind. That should be a good omen for some attractive odds and great payoffs.
Here's the way I see Friday's three BC races:
$1 million Filly and Mare Sprint at six furlongs: It should be a battle between 3-year-old fillies La Traviata, 3-for-3 with a win at Monmouth, and Dream Rush, 2-for-3 at the distance. Miss Macy Sue, 9-3-1 of 16 at six furlongs, could surprise in 10-horse field.
$1 million Juvenile Turf at a mile: Probably the most wide-open race with 11 entries. Better hope Luck is a Lady this afternoon. I don't have a clue. Main contenders, all with grass experience, are: Prussian, undefeated in two routes, boasting the best Brisnet speed figure at the distance; Cherokee Triangle, working well since winning by 10 ¾ lengths at 1 1/16 miles at Louisiana Downs; and The Leopard, impressive winner by nearly three lengths in his turf debut at Belmont.
$1 million Dirt Mile: Monmouth's track configuration forces this to be staged at a mile and 70 yards. Gottcha Gold, 3-2-0 of 5 in routes at Monmouth, edges Discreet Cat in nine-horse field.
Saturday's eight BC races:
$2 million Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles: Spin the guess wheel. Half a dozen of the 14 can win it -- A to the Croft, Cry and Catch Me, Indian Blessing, Proud Spell, Smarty Deb and Zee Zee.
$2 million Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles: Champagne winner War Pass is colt to beat. Pyro and Z Humor, second and third in same stakes, could upset, while Wicked Style could hit the board in 13-horse field.
$2 million Filly and Mare Turf at 1 3/8 miles: Too close to call. The contenders are unbeaten Nashoba's Key, 7 for 7 and 4 for 4 on grass, Honey Ryder, Danzon, Lauhudood and Wait a While. Longshot possibility: Precious Kitten, 3-3-0 of 6 on the turf.
$2 million Sprint: The deepest field of all the races. Eight of 13 horses have three or more victories at six furlongs and nine have won at least once this year at the distance.
Morning line favorite Midnight Lute comes off an impressive seven-furlong triumph in 1:21 at Saratoga. However, I've found horses that consistently win at six furlongs perform much better in the Sprint.
I like Idiot Proof who defeated Greg's Gold at Santa Anita running the six furlongs in 1:07 2/5 after breaking Monmouth's 15-year-old track record for the same distance in the same time. Smokey Stover will make the trifecta off all five of his trips at the distance, including a victory at the track by the Jersey Shore.
$2 million Mile Turf: Foreign invader Excellent Art will do well even if showers fall while After Market, Remarkable News and Trippi's Storm could complete the superfecta in the 14-horse field.
$2 Million Distaff at 1 1/8 miles: Unbridled Bell and Ginger Punch fight it out with Indian Vale, 6-1-0 of 7 at the distance. Among the dozen horses not out of it: Lady Joanne, Octave and Teammate.
$3 million Turf at 1 ½ miles: English Channel, 2-for-2 on Monmouth's grass and last year's runner-up, battles Irish-bred Dylan Thomas, 3-for-4 at the distance and winner of this year's L'Arc de Triomphe. Don't count out Better Talk Now, '04 champ and '06 runner-up.
$5 million Classic at 1 ¼ miles: Six of nine horses captured Grade 1 races in this country. The hottest of five 3-year-olds: Any Given Saturday, who defeated Hard Spun and Preakness winner Curlin in Monmouth's Haskell.
The top older horse: Lawyer Ron, who captured two stakes with the highest speed figure before losing by a neck to Curlin in Belmont's Jockey Gold Cup.
The winner: Kentucky Derby/'06 BC Juvenile champ Street Sense, who captured both stakes after hitting the board in preps on synthetic surfaces. His final prep for the Classic was a second-place finish on another synthetic surface. He just might win top 3-year-old and Horse of the Year honors.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Analysis of Friday's Breeders' Cup Races
by T.O. Whenham
In an effort to increase the profile of the Breeders' Cup, and to allow more top horses to participate, the event has been extended to two days, and three new races have been added. Though the new events, which will be run Friday, are ungraded this year because they are new, they will all eventually be grade one stakes like the other eight races.
This is an excellent chance for an unrepresented division to show their stuff at the Breeders' Cup. The first year of the event is shaping up to be an epic showdown between two incredible fillies - Dream Rush and La Traviata. Dream Rush, the morning line favorite, has four wins and a second over her last five starts, and the only time she hasn't been in the lead over that time was when she was passed deep in the stretch in the Acorn, and that race was two furlongs longer than this spot. She's been off since August, though, and she has been dealing with a throat problem over that time, so she is not without flaws. Though she's clearly the class of the field of the three year old competition she has met, she will be stepping up against older horses here for the first time. She absolutely has the potential to win, but she isn't a lock by any means.
La Traviata may be her biggest challenge. That filly was originally pointed towards the Sprint, but she'll face her own gender instead. She's a challenging horse to handicap because she only broke her maiden in June and has just three career starts. Each has been an impressive win, though, and her Victory Ride win last time was among the most incredible efforts of the year. What she lacks in experience she more than makes up for in potential. This race brings the two titans of the division head-to-head for supremacy.
They won't be alone, though. There are other potential winners in the field. Miss Macy Sue doesn't have the eye-opening record at glamorous tracks that her opponents do, but she is a distance specialist, she has traveled all over the country, and she knows how to win. Oprah Winney has five wins in nine tries at the distance, and has posted 100+ Beyers twice. She'll likely be bet down, though, as she is being profiled this week on her near-namesakes show. Jazzy and Maryfield are two intriguing longshots I have my eye on.
The addition of this race caught many off-guard, but it has proven to be hugely popular among horsemen. Eighteen horses pre-entered for the 12 available spots in the starting gate. The favorite is Bill Mott's Prussian. He has just two starts, but won impressively at Woodbine last time out. The concern with him, if there is one, is that he's a speed horse who will be challenged by more closing speed than he's seen before. Achill Island, an Irish horse, is one who will be trying to chase him down. His last race, the Royal Lodge at Ascot, is the same race Wilko used to prepare for his Juvenile win in 2004. Domestic Fund is another Irish horse with serious game. He will stalk the pace and will be one of the first to make a move on the pacesetters.
Strike The Deal is yet another Euro worth a look. He's the most seasoned runner in the field with seven career starts. The distance of this race, a mile, is two furlongs further than he has run before, but he's handled past challenges well, and could earn a piece here. Gio Ponti is a good choice for someone looking for a domestic horse that will go off at a solid price - he's 8/1 in the morning line. He's a turf specialist who is unbeaten in two starts, and his off-the-pace running style should suit this pace well. He'll be able to settle off the pace while the less measured runners burn themselves out up front. The Leopard will get more than his share of betting attention because he's trained by Todd Pletcher, but he was moved to the turf after a disappointing stakes debut on dirt, and he has shown little to make us think he is up to this level of competition.
The other two new races are being eagerly anticipated and well regarded, but the Dirt Mile seems to be getting a fair bit of skepticism. It has become the race where horses who aren't good enough for one of the other races to end up. As a case in point, Discreet Cat is the favorite. He was heavily hyped going into a Dubai World Cup showdown with Invasor, but he was far from good enough. The problems there were blamed on a throat abscess, and he was off until returning to get a third in the Vosburgh at the end of September. He'll get plenty of attention thanks to the inside post he drew, his two-for-two record at a mile in the U.S., and his blistering workout this week. He certainly could win, but he won't pay much if he does.
If he doesn't win the there are several others who could. Corinthian is the second choice in the field. His only stakes race at a mile was an impressive victory over Lawyer Ron in the Metropolitan at Belmont. The three races surrounding that, though, were disappointing efforts at longer distances. The Metropolitan effort would likely be good enough to win here, but nothing else he has done would be. Xchanger has faltered every time he has gone against top competition, but he has a graded win, and he is well-seasoned by a year of traveling all over the country. Gottcha Gold comes in with a two-race winning streak in graded events at Monmouth, so he will certainly like the surface. Overall he has won five times in eight tries at Monmouth. He should be close to the lead rounding the final turn. Lewis Michael has reeled off five straight 100+ Beyer races, but none have been on dirt. He's proven he likes the synthetic, but it remains to be seen how he transitions back to dirt. Over his career he has just one dirt win in five tries. If you like High Finance then you have to decide which horse will show up - the one who won the Tom Fool impressively this summer with a 111 Beyer, or the one who was eighth as favorite in the Forego last time out. He a frontrunner who doesn't much like being pressed, so he could be in trouble here.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Ranking the Breeders' Cup Favorites
by T.O. Whenham
The morning line odds are set for the Breeders' Cup. All that's left to do is to handicap and to wait. It's the waiting that's killing me, so I keep coming up with different ways to look at the fields to try and find that extra edge. One of those ways of looking at the horses has been to assess the relative value of the favorites. We will see eight favorites in eight races on Saturday. Traditionally, about a third of favorites win. That means that five or six of the post time favorites will lose. In a perfect world we would bet on the Breeders' Cup favorites that win, and ignore the ones that won't. If only it were that easy.
Power rankings seem to be all the rage in sports these days. With that in mind, here are my power rankings of the eight Breeders' Cup morning line favorites. These obviously aren't done purely on their odds, or even on the relative merits of their careers. Instead, I have tried to look at the field they are running against, the public element involved in the price, and their likelihood of coming out on top.
1. Nashoba's Key, Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (3/1) - This horse makes the top of the list almost by default. I'm a critical guy at times, but you can't find much fault with a horse that has never lost in seven tries, and has beaten the best of her region repeatedly. There are concerns - she's never traveled, for example - but her division isn't the deepest and she measures up well against her best competitors. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Nashoba's Key cross the finish line first.
2. War Pass, Breeders' Cup Juvenile (5/2) - The Juvenile has been tough on favorites over the years, but War Pass looks to have as good a shot as any here. It's hard to dislike a horse that not only has never lost, but has never been out of the lead at any point in any race. He's improved every time out, and his 103 Beyer in his Champagne win is the best in the field. Nick Zito trains him, and he is notoriously conservative with his juveniles, so you know that the horse is up for the challenge if he is entered.
3. Excellent Art, Breeders' Cup Mile (3/1) - Excellent Art isn't the best miler in Europe, but without Ramonti in the field he's the best one that crossed the ocean. He's raced the best in Europe, he's done well at this distance, and he is bred for the surface. Aidan O'Brien is an excellent trainer, and he is very high on this horse. The rest of the field is talented, but most of the top runners - Nobiz Like Shobiz, Trippi's Storm, Kip Deville, Purim, Jeremy - have serious questions that are hard to answer. Excellent Art is the most complete runner in the field.
4. Indian Blessing, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (3/1) - I should be more excited about the favorite in this race, because it has traditionally been kind to the chalk. That's what puts her as high on this list as she is, because she has too many questions on her own. No horse has ever won this race off of just two career starts, so this filly may be too green. She's also coming off a win in Frizette in which she did the last two furlongs in 27.1 seconds. That was obviously fast enough, but it is laughably slow for this level of horse, and raises alarms.
5. Lawyer Ron, Breeders' Cup Classic (5/2) - I don't want to suggest for a second that i don't respect this horse. He is a warrior and I would be neither surprised nor disappointed to see him win. The Classic is just such a ridiculously deep and difficult field this year that any favorite is tenuous. Curlin and Street Sense are both at 3/1, Any Given Saturday is 4/1, and Hard Spun is a relative bargain at 8/1. Any one of those five horses could win with ease, and Tiago is a live option, too. There really isn't a true favorite in a field like this.
6. Dylan Thomas, Breeders' Cup Turf (7/5) - This horse is as classy as any on this card, and I respect him immensely. I just can't get behind him at 7/5. He faces what seems to me to be an almost impossible task. On Oct. 7 he won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe over soft turf in a tough battle. Now we're asking him to fly to an entirely different continent and race against the best turf horses here and several from Europe on another potentially soft track less than three weeks later. The last time he came over to this side of the pond he was disappointing, though that was on dirt. I will take my hat off to this horse if he can manage it, but at this price I am going to let him beat me.
7. Midnight Lute, Breeders' Cup Sprint (2/1) - I don't have anything against this horse and I think that he is a contender, but not one worthy of 2/1. His race in the Forego, with a 124 Beyer, was massive. If he can replicate that he is virtually guaranteed to win. That number doesn't seem sustainable, and there are other horses to like just as much as this one at prices that are much more attractive. Like Dylan Thomas, I am pretty convinced that I am going to let this horse beat me if he can.
8. Indian Vale, Breeders' Cup Distaff (3/1) - Surprised that Indian Vale was made the favorite? You're not the only one. Todd Pletcher trains the horse, and he is on record saying he was surprised. Don't get me wrong, she's a nice horse. If this was 2005 she would be a very legitimate favorite. She missed most of last year with an injury, though, and has struggled to find the form she had before she was injured. She hasn't won a grade one yet this year, and she has faded in her last two efforts. She is a decent horse and she will be a factor here, but in a deep field like this she hardly represents a bargain at this price.
Re: Breeders Cup News and Analysis
Don't Overlook The Pletcher Factor
By Andrew Beyer
When the nation's four best horses face each other in the Breeders' Cup Classic, most bettors will have trouble mustering a strong conviction about the outcome. The horses have been beating each other, and their races have usually been decided in photo finishes.
Curlin's phenomenal rally enabled him to catch Street Sense in the final stride of the Preakness. Curlin also edged the 4-year-old Lawyer Ron by a neck in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Any Given Saturday whipped Curlin soundly in the Haskell Invitational. Street Sense defeated Any Given Saturday twice -- once by a nose.
Although the horses are evenly matched, one factor might help clarify Saturday's $5 million showdown at Monmouth Park -- namely, the Pletcher Factor. Todd Pletcher operates America's biggest and strongest stable, one that includes two of the four principals in the Classic -- Lawyer Ron and Any Given Saturday. Yet Pletcher's record in the Breeders' Cup -- 2 wins out of 41 starters, including an 0-for-17 performance last year -- is too dismal to dismiss as a statistical fluke. Moreover, since August, the performance of the Pletcher barn has been inexplicably poor, even in the types of races he usually dominates. The trainer's magic has temporarily disappeared.
I am not going to fight the evidence. I will not take a short price on any Pletcher starter in any of Friday's and Saturday's races at Monmouth. Even though Lawyer Ron possesses the best Beyer Speed Figures in the Classic, I'm throwing him out -- and Any Given Saturday, too.
The battle to decide the 2007 horse of the year comes down to Street Sense vs. Curlin. Curlin enters the Classic off the best performance of his career, his victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, while Street Sense hasn't won impressively since the Kentucky Derby. But trainer Carl Nafzger's plan all year has been to rev up Street Sense for the races that count most -- the Derby and the Classic. He did the same thing in 1990 with Unbridled and captured both races. Street Sense should be ready to deliver a peak performance and beat Curlin -- narrowly.
The Classic is the final leg of the Breeders' Cup Pick Six. If I were to play it, I would put only Street Sense and Curlin on my ticket, while in the penultimate race, the Turf, I would stand alone with the European invader Dylan Thomas. With four Grade I wins this year and career earnings of more than $6.5 million, he is arguably the best thoroughbred in the world. If the moderate-quality European Red Rocks could beat America's best in the Turf last year, Dylan Thomas should crush this field.
With the final two races relatively manageable, many bettors (especially those with large bankrolls) will play the Pick Six with gusto. But to me, too many of the early races in the sequence appear inscrutable. Almost any one of the 12 entrants could win the Filly and Mare Turf. The Distaff (with three Pletcher fillies among the favorites) is indecipherable. So, too, is the Mile, although I may take a flyer with underrated Trippi's Storm. A good handicapper could use half of the field in any of these races and still omit the winner from a Pick Six ticket.
I am going to resist the siren call of the Pick Six and zero in on other opportunities. I believe I have found at least two good ones. The Breeders' Cup has expanded to a two-day affair this year, with three new events being run Friday, and the Filly and Mare Sprint looks especially intriguing. Three exceptionally fast front-runners are in the field -- Dream Rush, La Traviata and Shaggy Mane. La Traviata has overpowered her rivals in all three career starts. Dream Rush has led all the way to win back-to-back Grade I stakes. But the raw speed of these fillies will surely compromise one another's chances and benefit somebody who can come off the pace. The beneficiary may be Miss Macy Sue. She has won five of her six starts this season, and she overcame a difficult trip in her last start to win a $400,000 stakes at Presque Isle Downs. Though that's not a major-league track, her speed figure indicates she's as good as Dream Rush or La Traviata. With the ability to sit just behind a hot pace, she'll get an ideal set-up.
In the Juvenile Fillies on Saturday, Indian Blessing is a deserving favorite. She delivered a powerful performance in the Grade I Frizette Stakes at Belmont, dueling with a fast rival in a fast pace and then drawing away to bury the field. Bob Baffert's filly will face less pace pressure at Monmouth, and she could easily lead all the way. The second-best horse in the field may be Grace Anatomy, based on her third-place finish in Keeneland's Alciabiades Stakes. She broke two lengths behind the field, rushed into contention, got parked wide on both turns, and lost by little more than a length. She has raced only on artificial surfaces, and her talent on a dirt track is impossible to gauge. But I will nevertheless play an Indian Blessing-Grace Anatomy exacta that I hope will be the key to a profitable Breeders' Cup.