Breeders' Cup Picks

Our team of writers and handicappers put their heads together this week to pick a trio of winners for the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will be held on Saturday at Oak Tree, Santa Anita.

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Last year, European horses won a record five of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races, while six Europeans finished second. Rip Van Winkle is one of two European horses to run in this year’s Classic (15/1 mid-range long shot Twice Over is the other) and we love the 3-year-old to emerge victorious on Saturday.

Rip Van Winkle was dealing with foot problems when he went on the track at Santa Anita early in November, but his Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien recently said that “everything is fine” with the colt and barring a set back he should be ready to run this weekend.

Rip also carries some momentum into Saturday’s Classic, as he finished first, first and second in his past three outings. Throw in the fact that his jockey Johnny Murtagh has two Breeders’ Cup victories on his resume and we’re confident that Rip Van Winkle will pay of (and pay out) for bettors at this year’s Classic.

2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic Free Pick to Win: Rip Van Winkle 10/3

There’s a reason why Zenyatta is currently a 3/1 favorite to win the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic: She hasn’t lost a race yet in 2009.

Zenyatta placed first in all four of her races in 2009, picking up wins at the Lady’s Secret on October 10, the Clement L. Hirsch in August, the Vanity H. in June and the Milady H. in May.

Last season, Zenyatta was perfect as well, picking up wins at the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, the Lady’s Secret S., the Vanity H., the Milady H., the Apple Blossom H. and the El Encino S.

Besides her sparklingly record, another reason to like Zenyatta this Saturday is that her jockey Mike Smith was ranked among the top 20 riders in North America with earnings of $6,777,058 and has won 85 races from 513 mounts.

The only thing keeping us from picking Zenyatta over Rip Van Winkle is that Rip is a European horse and no filly or mare has ever won the Breeders’ Cup Classic since its exception in 1984.

2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic Free Pick to Place: Zenyatta 3/1

Perhaps one of the best values this Saturday is Mine That Bird at 15/1. Many pundits believe that the only reason Mine That Bird won the 2009 Kentucky Derby was because of the track’s horrible weather conditions.

But when Mine That Bird came out and finished second at the 2009 Preakness, he earned some more credibility. And had his jockey Calvin Borel not open up too early in the 2009 Belmont, Mine That Bird probably would have won his second Triple Crown race of 2009 instead of finishing third.

Part of the reason Mine That Bird has such favorable odds is because he didn’t have a good showing on October 10 at the Goodwood S. at the very same Oak Tree track that he’ll race on Saturday. But as he proved at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, Mine That Bird shows up with the most on the line.

Another reason to line Mine That Bird on Saturday is that Borel is a natural winner. He has won 100 races from 567 mounts and has earned $7,778, 738 to rank 10th among all North American riders. Borel is a veteran, knows what Mine That Bird is capable of and should at the very least place in the top 3. He’s worth a shot at 15/1 to win as well.

2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic Free Pick to Show: Mine That Bird 3/1

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Posted: 11/7/09 12:00PM ET

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