October 30, 2012 | Jessica Paquette
I hope everyone weathered the storm well. I spent the duration of the storm at my computer with pages of past performances, working on my analysis for both days of the Breeders' Cup. To me this is the equivalent of Christmas and the Super Bowl rolled into one and I cannot wait for all of the exciting racing this weekend. Just a reminder, we are racing on Saturday so you will also be able to enjoy the final day of our live racing season along with Breeders’ Cup action!
Super Ninety Nine is a well bred colt who is proven over the surface and off of that seems like a logical choice here. He defeated what appears to be a quality field in his debut and has the pedigree to be a very good horse. His dam is a 3/4 sister to the ill-fated but very talented Exogenous and there is plenty of precocity in all sides of his pedigree. Hightail may be an interesting longshot cutting back to a sprint. He is the most experienced of the juveniles here and has performed well without lasix. The speedy Merit Man is the morning line favorite and the speed of the speed.
This has become possibly my favorite of the recent additions to the Breeders' Cup. I love studying pedigree and this race has become a great challenge in looking for hidden stamina and distance in a horse’s breeding. One of the more fascinating of the contenders is the Argentinean horse Calidoscopio . Though his sire, Luhuk’s, most well-known offspring was top sprinter Avanzado, this horse is an incredible router. He has been competing against top company in Argentina and carrying in excess of 130lbs in many of those races. He seems like an iron horse who can run for days and while many of his rivals are backing up, he should have plenty left. I do have a soft spot for Eldaafer who did give me one of the best Breeders' Cup scores I’ve ever had back in 2010. He has a couple of things against him here – he doesn't seem to be in quite the form he was a couple of years ago and he is a glaring 0 for 2 at Santa Anita. He will need to show improvement off of his recent form to earn his second Marathon title but he is fast enough to control the pace and have something left. Fame and Glory has been regarded as one of the best in Europe for years and is a multiple Group 1 winner. He has never raced on a surface other than turf, but he has a ton of stamina and if he handles the dirt he may have a class edge here, too.
JUVENILE FILLY TURF
Kitten's Point could be one of my stronger Breeders' Cup opinions. The new rule of not allowing the juveniles to compete with lasix has sparked much debate. Graham Motion has raced this very talented filly in both of her starts without medication and she looks like she has the ability to hold her own against the formidable Europeans. She is a nose away from being two for two and is proven on both turf and synthetics. Sky Lantern seems like the strongest of the Europeans in this spot and is already a Group 1 winner. She has been very impressive overseas and her only question mark may be the distance. Spring Venture is a perfect three for three and has shown serious ability on a variety of surfaces. She won on synthetics last time out and notched her other two wins on firm and yielding turf courses. She has yet to be seriously challenged from three starts to date and figures on paper to be a contender.
In what calls to mind some of the most immortal East Coast/West Coast Breeders' Cup rivalries (Sunday Silence vs Easy Goer, anyone?), the showdown between the East's Dreaming of Julia and the West’s Executiveprivilege looks like it could be a race for the ages. Though neither filly will have it easy on the front end, both are exceptionally fast and each has their own advantages. Dreaming of Julia gets my nod for one key fact – she is battle tested. She slugged it out with a very talented filly in My Happy Face and proved that she has the heart to match her talent. Executiveprivilege is proven both at this distance and over Santa Anita and home track advantage can count for quite a bit. In addition, she may not be the type that needs the lead – she inherited the lead last time out and was much the best, but has been able to rate. That kind of versatility makes her very appealing. To round out the trifecta, toss in longshot Spring in the Air who may be a question mark over conventional dirt, but is talented and has the running style to capitalize on what could be a sharp pace.
FILLY AND MARE TURF
Nahrain has ton of appeal here because she has proven not just once, but twice, that she can ship across the pond and be successful. She lost by under a length in last year's installment of this race and defeated a quality field of US turf horses in the Flower Bowl at Belmont. Though her European form this year hasn't been as strong as it was going into the Breeders' Cup last year; that last win was sharp and she seems primed for a big effort. The Fugue has had exceptional European form and that usually translates very well on Breeders’ Cup Day. She is a perfect two for two at this distance and her most recent defeat came to the very highly regarded Shareta. Up was a top selection of mine in the Juvenile Fillies Turf last year and ran a good race to finish fourth. Though her other trip to the US was not as successful, a sixth place finish in the Beverly D. this summer, she won two in a row against group company following that and this globe-trotting filly does have some real ability. She isn't the most consistent but she comes out for one of the top barns in the world and they are often very live on Breeders’ Cup Day. An interesting longshot may be In Lingerie trying the turf for the first time. This filly is very talented and proven to be a G1 contender on both dirt and synthetics. That synthetic form, coupled with a bullet over the Santa Anita turf, makes the possibility of her excelling on the lawn very real.
Love and Pride seems like a filly who has gotten very good at the right time and is going for her third consecutive Grade 1 victory. She took down the champion Royal Delta at the Spa and proved at Santa Anita that was not a fluke performance. Her dam is a half sister to Bernardini and she has an incredible female family which it seems like she is finally starting to live up to. She has been generating some buzz on track at Santa Anita in preparation for this race. She will have pressure on the lead, but she may be a main threat. Royal Delta is a champion in every sense of the word and will try to repeat and earn her second Breeders' Cup victory. She has had an exciting, ambitious campaign this year and though I personally wish it culminated with a shot against the boys in the Classic, it is difficult not to root for her. Two Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winners, Awesome Feather (’10) and My Miss Aurelia will put their undefeated streaks on the line here. Both have been lightly campaigned since their championship seasons though it appears My Miss Aurelia has been tackling tougher company, recently defeating Questing (who, as an aside, I think may be the most talented of the group but her tendency to get out in the stretch deters me from picking her). It's hard to argue with an undefeated record but My Miss Aurelia may have more upside here – she is making her third start of the year, second around two turns and looks poised for a big effort.
Per a new rule this year, two-year-olds will no longer be eligible to compete with lasix in the Breeders' Cup. There is no race where that may have more of an impact than this race where the Europeans, who generally have an edge in the turf races to begin with, are all already proven medication free. Dundonnell will be carrying the familiar green and pink silks of Juddmonte Farms and has a phenomenal pedigree. He is by the impeccably well-bred First Defence, the first foal of Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up Honest Lady. In addition, his dam is a full sister to the incomparable Danehill. This colt has all of the goods and has been keeping stakes company overseas. Though he is unproven at a mile, it should be within his scope. Noble Tune may be one of the more interesting of the American based horses here and is a perfect two for two on the turf. He is out of a mare named Serena’s Cat, a granddaughter of champion Serena's Song. (Boy does that make me feel old!) He has been much the best in both starts to date and looks like he has no distance limitations. George Vancouver is another European colt with major pedigree and what seems like some real talent. He has one win from six starts overseas and this high priced colt is a half brother to stakes winner Saarland.
FILLY AND MARE SPRINT
I’d be lying if I said I wasn't rooting for Belle of the Hall to give my favorite stallion, Graeme Hall, his first Grade 1 winner as a stud. That being said, she is up against it here and will have to run the race of her life to win. Is she talented? Yes, but she has yet to prove she is truly a graded stakes sort of filly. There has been a ton of buzz about Groupie Doll and she has apparently been training freakishly well since her impressive win at Keeneland last time out. She has four consecutive wins against graded stakes company this year and this is really her race to win her lose. Though her recent successes have come on synthetics, she dominated on the dirt at Churchill and has been reportedly getting over Santa Anita very well. An interesting filly that may offer some value is Rumor . She has three wins to her credit at Santa Anita and may have a slight home track advantage though she is another one that does need to prove she is a top graded stakes sort of filly – that lone blemish on her record came in her only Grade 1 attempt. It is tough to leave defending Sprint champion Musical Romance off a ticket as well as she has done very little wrong this year and seems to come into this race in good order.
Fed Biz is one of the least experienced horses in this tough field but this lightly raced colt seems to have a ton of talent and has been battle tested in his last two races. He may be the quickest of the speed here and is a perfect two for two at his home track, Santa Anita with all three career victories to date coming at a mile. The fan favorite, Shackleford will try to go out on a high note and cap off what has been a great career. This colt has a big heart and a ton of speed and though he does have the occasionally really poor effort, those have often come over an off track and the weather report is very much in his favor. It is worth noting that while at first glance the veteran Rail Trip looks like a value at 10-1 with three wins from four starts at Santa Anita, those victories came several years ago when the track still had a synthetic main track, not conventional dirt.
Bridgetown is making his third Breeders' Cup appearance and ran second over the Santa Anita turf course back in 2009 in the Juvenile Turf. He was also fourth in the Turf Sprint two years ago and will try to improve off of that performance. His form this year has been excellent and he seems to be in his best, most consistent form yet. Don't count out the European invader Starspangledbanner who returned in 2012 off of an extended layoff. Back in 2010, he was regarded as one of Europe’s best sprinters and earned multiple Group 1 wins. He has tons of back class and very capable of pulling off an upset here. California Flag will compete in his fifth Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, which in itself is a remarkable accomplishment. He won the race back in 2009 and while his most recent two attempts have not been noteworthy, he is a significantly better horse at Santa Anita than he seems to be most anywhere else. He also has only had one start, a winning effort in a G2 in April, but has proven he can run a huge race off of a layoff. He reminds me of a turf version of the blue collar, California based Kona Gold – at this point it would be surprising to not see his name on the entries for this race.
Fortify could be an interesting contender here and while he has only won once from three starts, he is the lone contender in this race to have already won without medication. All of his rivals will be competing without lasix for the first time and it is enough of an angle to make him interesting at what figures to be a price. This colt is impeccably bred with plenty of stamina on both sides of his pedigree and is worth a look. Power Broker is from a great female family, is by a top stallion, comes out of one of the most dominant barns in the country and is a Grade 1 winner at Santa Anita. What’s not to like? He showed major improvement over conventional dirt and was a dominant winner over a good field. He looks like the West Coast's strongest juvenile Shanghai Bobby is a perfect four for four and has done nothing wrong. Despite that, he has yet to really "wow" me and he will have some stiff opposition for the lead.
Point of Entry is the best turf horse in America and will try to cap off his sensational year with a victory against some of the best in the world. This colt has gotten better and better as the year has gone on and has won his last five starts, three of which came against G1 company. He has been training extremely well since his last victory and is a top contender to take on a strong group of Europeans here. It is very tough to get past St. Nicholas Abby , especially when you see the kind of company he has been keeping – Frankel, Nathaniel, Danedream and Snow Fairy to name a few. His last race, the ‘Arc, is too poor of an effort to be true and he is just a better horse than that. He was much the best in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year and has proven he can ship overseas and win. He will look to add another high profile win to his already remarkable resume and it will be no surprise if he succeeds. Now for a longshot. Do I think Optimizer is a good enough horse to beat this group? Not likely, but he could very well hold on for a piece at likely a huge price. He has turned into a different horse since he finally switched back to turf after a really unsuccessful summer of competing in the dirt classics. He has a lot of early speed and if he can get involved early, he should have enough stamina to get the distance. And what's the Breeders' Cup without D. Wayne pulling off a shocker?
Jimmy Creed ran a very good race last time out in what was only his fifth career start and first on conventional dirt. He stands to move up second over the track and his worktab since that race has been strong. While he is lightly raced, he is impeccably bred and is out of a G1 winning mare and a half to California star Pussycat Doll. While he had shown speed in his prior starts, he showed a new dimension on dirt and that growing versatility gives him a big shot. Smiling Tiger , third in the 2010 Sprint, has been turning heads with his impressive worktab since coming to Santa Anita. Though his form this year has been sort of average, he has always been fast enough to keep up with the top horses and seems to excel over this racetrack. Amazombie will try to defend his title in this race after a narrow victory in last year's installment. He does have home track advantage and is a four time winner at Santa Anita. His form this year has been strong and his ability to close makes him appealing in a race loaded with speed.
In what may be one of the most competitive races on the card, the Mile is the race on Saturday I am looking forward to most. I think it is a bold move on Graham Motion's part to bring Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom back off of a significant layoff against a field of this caliber. His comeback race this year off of a similar layoff was very impressive and while his greatest achievement of course came on dirt in the Derby, he may be even better on turf. It was sporting of his connections to bring him back and I hope that is rewarded. Excelebration may be one of the more anticipated horses running on Saturday, for me at least. He has had two very impressive Group 1 wins in a row after getting absolutely crushed by Frankel in his two prior starts. I could go on and on about Frankel, but I will spare you and focus on this horse and this race. Excelebration was simply facing a different league of horse overseas and had it not been for Frankel, he would have been regarded as a superhorse in his own right. Today he will likely get to shine on a major stage all on his own. Wise Dan has been a winning machine this year and will try to earn his fourth straight win, fifth of the year. He has dominated on the turf at three different tracks this season and really seems like an honest, game horse who shows up every time. While there is no denying his record, this is by far the toughest group he has faced to date and he may be vulnerable at 9-5.
It is very tough to argue with Game on Dude 's record and the fact that he is a perfect five for five at Santa Anita. That being said, I wouldn’t blame you for picking him on top but I am going to try to beat him. While I don’t think this is a field full of superstars, it is a field full of very evenly matched, consistent older horses and no one is by any means a lock. Bill Mott has a stacked deck for this race with three extremely talented and extremely different horses in Flat Out , Ron the Greek and To Honor and Serve . My nod here and my pick to win is going to be Flat Out . He defeated the best of the East Coast last time out to earn his second JCGC victory and seems like a horse getting better and better this second half of the year. Look back to last year’s Classic – he had an awful trip and only lost by three lengths. It was a deceptively good effort. He also may get an ideal pace set up here if Alpha shows up (which, by the way, he has not yet proven he can do outside of New York) and hooks "Dude" early. I haven't given up on Alpha entirely though he does tend to disappoint on the big days. This colt has shown some real talent and has proven that he can stretch his speed to a mile and a quarter, so if the real Alpha shows up he is a real threat on the lead. One other horse who I do like (though had he run in the Dirt Mile I would have thought he was an absolute cinch) is the very handsome Nonios . He held his own against a tough group of older horses in the Awesome Again Stakes and may be a young horse who is developing. I had the pleasure of seeing him in person schooling before his disappointing effort in the Travers and he has a real presence. He is bred to get the distance, now he needs to prove he can. So in short, my Classic superfecta is Flat Out over Game On Dude, Alpha and Nonios.
Enjoy the races everyone and good luck!