Breeders Cup Classic

Breeders Cup Classic

Breeders' Cup Classic Field and Analysis
by T.O. Whenham

The 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic has a very good chance of being, well, a classic. It's going to be a very small field in Breeders' Cup terms - only nine horses have been entered, and one of them would prefer to run in the Mile. That certainly doesn't make it any easier to find a winner, though. Unlike most years there is not a single horse in this field that you can toss out with confidence. Here's a look at the Breeders' Cup Classic field as it stands after pre-entries have been announced and analysis has been included.

Any Given Saturday - This Todd Pletcher trainee is the first of five entries that we saw in the Kentucky Derby this past May. The fact that so much of the field met then, and have met since, make the race particularly interesting to look at. It would be easy to consider this horse the lesser of the Big Five in this race because of his problems in the Derby, but that would be a mistake. Though not as high profile as Curlin or Street Sense, the horse has had a summer that is as least as good as any in the Breeders' Cup Classic field. His signature win was over Curlin in the Haskell Invitational, and that's particularly relevant given that it is on the same Monmouth track as the Classic will be. He followed that up with a victory in the Brooklyn at Belmont. He overcame some heavy contact there to prove that he doesn't need a perfect trip to win. Given that, his love for the track, and his comparative lack of public appeal, it seems likely that Any Given Saturday will be available at an overlay.

Awesome Gem - If you were to rank the field in order of likely odds, Awesome Gem would probably be at the bottom of the list. That doesn't mean that he stands no chance, though. He doesn't have the flashy record of some, but he has been in the top two in 11 of 14 career starts, so he is rarely completely out of a race. He's a West Coast invader whose best efforts have been second place finishes in the Pacific Classic and Goodwood (a duel with Tiago, who is also in this race). Both of those races were on synthetic surfaces, though, so they don't translate exactly to the dirt of Monmouth. He's only run once over the classic distance on dirt, and that resulted in a disappointing last place showing in the Santa Anita Handicap. More intriguing than his record, though, is his breeding for this race. His Sire, Awesome Again, won in 1998, and Ghostzapper, the 2004 champ, is another son of the 1998 champ.

Curlin - This is the most potentially explosive and talented horse in the field, but also the most potentially frustrating. When he is at his best, like in the Preakness or the Jockey Club Gold Cup, then I'm not sure that there's a horse in the world that can beat him. When his mind isn't on running, though, like in the Haskell, then he's extremely vulnerable. I would recommend him without hesitation (and I should say up front that I love this horse and will probably be backing him) if his worst effort of his career weren't over Monmouth. In the Jockey Club he looked like he was beat by Lawyer Ron, but he made a stretch drive that was truly incredible. His critics will point mostly to his inexperience (he only started racing in March of this year), and to the fact that he will likely be the favorite at a low price. There may not be a ton of value in him, but there is infinite potential.

Diamond Stripes - He's entered in the Classic, but his first choice is in the Dirt Mile, and we'll likely see him there. That's a better spot for him as this distance would be a challenge, and Lawyer Ron has owned him in the past.

George Washington - File this one under M for Mystery, because there is no way to know what we will see from this horse. Last year he was one of the top horses in Europe, but he faltered and finished sixth in the Classic. That seemed like an odd spot for him, as both the distance and a dirt surface were new to him. He headed to the breeding shed this year, but, as is every guy's nightmare, he fired only blanks. Back on the track he has been largely disappointing, and he has not tried the dirt again. You could argue that he is outclassed here, but he certainly has the class to contend, and there must be a good reason that his connections have chosen this spot. I'll need a much better reason to back him then I have currently, but I won't rule him out completely.

Hard Spun - The eternal bridesmaid finally got to be the bride when he beat Street Sense in the Kentucky Cup Classic as his final prep. Hard Spun likes the lead and has impressive speed. He showed off his fleet feet in winning the seven-furlong King's Bishop this summer. Despite that, his connections resisted the temptation to turn him into a sprinter and sent him to the Kentucky Cup. He took the lead from the start and never let Street Sense back into the race. Earlier in the summer he showed he enjoys the Monmouth track with a second place showing in the Haskell. His impressive maturation and consistent efforts have put him into the upper echelon of his class. That isn't always typical of a horse who is good, but not good enough, in the Triple Crown.

Lawyer Ron - He's only four, but lawyer Ron is the elder statesman of the field. He's unquestionably the top older dirt horse in the country, as proven by the fact that none, other than Awesome Gem, are challenging him here. His win in the Woodward Stakes, an 8 1/4-length massacre, was perhaps the single most impressive performance of the summer. Wins in the Whitney and the Oaklawn were no less impressive. He has the talent to win, but he fails to settle down and relax at times. If there is a flaw with Lawyer Ron, it is that his only two efforts at the classic distance have been disastrous. He was 12th in the 2006 Derby, and ninth in last year's Classic. The most interesting result of this race will be to see just how good this year's three year olds are. Trainer Todd Pletcher will certainly be hungry for a rematch with Curlin.

Street Sense - The Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby winner has little to prove. No horse has ever managed that double, and his summer, with wins in the Jim Dandy and Travers, was as good as any Derby winner in recent years. Despite that, though, he's facing all sorts of questions coming into this race. His two biggest wins have come over the same track, Churchill Downs. His Travers win, though stirring, was a hard fought win over Grasshopper, a horse who went on to lose badly against a weak field in his next outing. Hard Spun proved to be too much for him in his last prep. To critics, this is all proof that the Derby champ is not a legitimate Classic contender. To supporters, it just means that he'll go off at a much better price than you would have guessed six weeks ago.

Tiago - This West Coast three year old, half brother to 2005 Derby winner Giacomo, has been lightly regarded by most of the racing world, but he's quietly put together an impressive year. A win in the Santa Anita Derby was followed up by a seventh in the Kentucky Derby. Forgotten in the Belmont thanks to the stunning duel between Rags to Riches and Curlin was a very solid third place finish by Tiago. He's run just twice since then, but he hasn't lost. He won the Swaps in July and the Goodwood, holding off Awesome Gem, in late September. He has to prove that he can run as well on dirt, and that he can measure up to the best of the East Coast. If you believe that he can then you certainly should be able to get a fair price on him.

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Re: Breeders Cup Classic

Street Sense impresses in final tuneup for Breeders' Cup Classic
October 23, 2007

OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) -The Kentucky Derby winner is ready for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Street Sense wowed the backstretch crowd at Monmouth Park on Tuesday morning with an impressive workout, the colt's final tuneup before Saturday's $5 million BC Classic.

With regular rider Calvin Borel aboard, Street Sense accelerated around the far turn and covered five furlongs in 1:01 1-5. The 3-year-old colt galloped out with authority, too, and was timed in 1:38 2/5 for a mile.

``He's amazing, an amazing horse,'' trainer Carl Nafzger said as he made his way back to the barn following the breeze. ``He worked great, right on schedule. He relaxed real good with Calvin and then picked it up and finished off strong. He needed to test the track and he did.''

Street Sense, who also won the Jim Dandy and the Travers over the summer, will take on Preakness winner Curlin and six others in the 1 1-4-mile Classic - the final race of his career before he is retired to stud.

Borel was all smiles as he led Street Sense back to the barn.

``He was awesome,'' Borel said. ``When I asked him for a little something he was there. The horse is doing good. He is going very forward. I'm not worried about the rest of the field.''

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Re: Breeders Cup Classic

Curlin and Hard Spun tune up for the Breeders' Cup
October 22, 2007

OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) -Curlin and Hard Spun had their final workouts Monday for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.

The Classic on Saturday is the richest of the 11 races at Monmouth Park on Oct. 26-27.

Preakness and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Curlin went four furlongs in 50.20 seconds at Keeneland for trainer Steve Asmussen. Curlin is scheduled to arrive at Monmouth on Tuesday.

Curlin and Hard Spun were the only colts to run all three legs of this year's Triple Crown.

Hard Spun drilled five furlongs in 1:00.20 at Delaware Park. The Kentucky Derby runnerup is coming on strong late in the season with consecutive stakes victories in the King's Bishop at Saratoga and the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park.

``He couldn't be doing any better,'' trainer Larry Jones said. ``He's training better now than he ever has.''

Hard Spun will be vanned to Monmouth on Tuesday morning.

CLOUDY FORECAST: Monday was a delightful afternoon on the Jersey Shore with temperatures in the mid 70s and abundant sunshine, perfect weather for a Breeders' Cup.

Unfortunately, the outlook for the weekend is not as bright.

The long-range forecast Monday afternoon by weather.com called for partly cloudy skies Friday and showers Saturday with high temperatures both days in the upper 60s.

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Re: Breeders Cup Classic

The Classic
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The Classic
1 ¼ miles; $5 million; 3up; 5:35 Saturday

The History Ferdinand, Alysheba, Unbridled, A.P. Indy, Skip Away, Awesome Again, Ghostzapper, Invasor. Just look at that list. Let’s not forget Tiznow’s thrilling back to back win over European invaders Giant’s Causeway and Sahkee in 2000 and 2001. Arcangues and a guy named Jerry bailey paying $269.20 in 1993. And, of course, Sunday Silence holding off the great Easy Goer in 1989. It’s not called the Classic for nothing.

Favorites: 7 for 23 (30%); Average Win Price: $31.49

The Best In a race full of the nations’ top three-year-olds, it’s the four-year-old Lawyer Ron who’s been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite. This year, he’s won the G1 Woodward and G1 Whitney in spectacular style at Saratoga the G2 Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park as well as an optional claimer to start the season at Gulfstream. He’s been second in the G2 Salvator Mile at Monmouth, the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in his most recent start and was third in the prestigious G1 Met Mile on Memorial Day at Belmont for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Street Sense, winner of the G1 Kentucky Derby, G1 Travers, G2 Jim Dandy and G3 Tampa Bay Derby is here as well and is looking to join the likes of Unbridled and Sunday Silence as horses who have won the Derby and Classic in the same year. He was also second in the G1 Preakness, G1 Bluegrass and G2 Kentucky Cup Classic most recently. Trainer Carl Nafzger is once again employing the Polytrack to dirt angle he’s used in the past with Street Sense. Before both last years Juvenile and the Derby this year Street Sense was defeated on Polytrack before running the best race of his life both times.

Curlin has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the Thoroughbred game. Consider this: he didn’t even begin his career until February 3rd and all he’s done since then is win the G1 Preakness, G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup last out, G2 Arkansas Derby and G3 Rebel. He was also second to Rags to Riches in one of the most thrilling and memorable stretch duels in the history of the sport in the G1 Belmont and was third in both the Derby and G1 Haskell at Monmouth.

Haskell winner Any Given Saturday, who ran the race of his life in what is normally the biggest day of the year at Monmouth, is looking to continue his post-Derby roll and prove that Pletcher was right all along, thinking that he’s the best three-year-old around. After suffering a foot injury when seventh in the Derby, he’s been absolutely amazing, crushing his foes in the G2 Dwyer, the Haskell and in the G2 Brooklyn last out in what amounted to nothing more than a paid workout, giving him 5 weeks between starts.

The Rest
Awesome Gem has finished second in the G2 San Diego, G1 Pacific Classic and Goodwood, all on Polytrack, in his last three starts. He’ll be seeking his first G1 victory and did win the G2 San Fernando over dirt to start the year.

Diamond Stripes was being pointed to the Dirt Mile but wound up here after a change of heart by his connections. He finished third in three consecutive G1’s this year- The Foster, Whitney and Woodward - before winning the G2 Meadowlands Cup just three weeks ago.

Hard Spun won the G1 King’s Bishop at 7 furlongs two back before defeating Street Sense in the G2 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway last out, his second win over that Polytrack this year. In his lone Monmouth start, he was second in the Haskell.

Tiago was as gutsy as they come when winning the G1 Goodwood in his first try against older horses last out after winning the G2 Swaps back in July. He won the G1 Santa Anita Derby and was third in the Belmont earlier this year.

George Washington will try the Classic for the second time having finished sixth in last years running. Winless in three starts since it appears as if his connections may be grasping at straws while trying to figure out how to get this multiple G1 winner back to the winners’ circle since he proved infertile at stud last winter.

The Scenario Hard Spun will be loose on the lead. Lawyer Ron and Any Given Saturday figure to be stalking behind the leader. Curlin, Street Sense, Tiago and Diamond Stripes should follow with George Washington and Awesome Gem coming from behind.

The Strategy When all is said and done, I wouldn’t be surprised if any one of three horses wound up going off favorite. Still, the favorite should still be around 7-2 or 4-1, offering value on anyone that you like.

The Bomb Tiago figures to be the forgotten three-year-old in this field. He was kept a bit closer last out, perhaps with this race in mind, and should be in the 10-1 to 15-1 range.

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Re: Breeders Cup Classic

Curlin captures Breeders' Cup Classic
October 27th, 2007

Oceanport, NJ (Sports Network) - Preakness Stakes winner Curlin took the lead at the top of the stretch on his way to winning the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park. The victory by the three-year-old puts him in position to become the 2007 Horse of the Year.

The pace in the 1 1/4 mile race was set by Hard Spun with Lawyer Ron running second and Diamond Stripes in third. Curlin, with jockey Robby Albarado, settled off the pace away from the rail.

On the turn for home Curlin began picking off horses and drew even with Hard Spun at the quarter-mile pole. Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense was in third around the final turn, but could not keep up with the front two horses.

Curlin took over the lead coming off the turn and cruised to a four length victory. Hard Spun finished second with Awesome Gem third and Street Sense fourth in the nine horse field.

George Washington, sixth last year, dislocated an ankle in the stretch and was euthanized.

The time for the Classic was 2:00 on a sloppy track.

Curlin is owned by Padua and Stonestreet Stables and trained by Steve Asmussen. The colt has won six-of-nine career starts and adds $2.7 million to his earnings. He has won $5.1 million in a career that began in February of this year.

Along with the Preakness he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup in his last start and posted a third in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont Stakes.

Curlin returned $10.80, $5.20 and $4.20. Hard Spun paid $7.60 and $5.80, and Awesome Gem paid $9.40 to show.

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