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Breeders Cup Friday By: Kdawg
BC Juvenile Turf – Friday – Race 6
The official start of the Breeders’ Cup championship races comes Friday in the 6th race at Santa Anita. The Juvenile Turf features a field of up to 14 runners going 1 mile over the turf. Juvenile racing can be tough to handicap because you don’t have much of form to scrutinize. Additionally the horses can be in the middle of quite significant form improvements, especially at this point in the latter stages of their 2-year-old development. Making matters even more confusing, the turf events tend to attract a number of foreign based “shippers” that are not as familiar to U.S. handicappers.
All things being equal, you generally start of by respecting the European shippers in the grass races. It’s not that they cannot be beat – but the nature of racing on our two continents is quite different, with the emphasis being on turf racing in Europe and on dirt racing here in the U.S.
Looking over this field, we have as many as six such horses making the move from Europe to California and looking to cash in on their ability. We’ll start with the obvious contenders. #5 Hootenanny (3/1) is Group 1 placed in France and owns a victory at Ascot in the U.K. The son of Quality Road (who himself was sired by Elusive Quality, the sire of Smarty Jones) has been extremely competitive since switching to turf racing. Note as well that this horse actually began his racing career here in North America, having broken his maiden on the (then) synthetic surface at Keeneland before venturing into my neck of the woods at Pimlico. So he’s more than just a tourist. He is something of a prodigal son returned to demand his fortune. To do so he’ll need to be able to stretch out and cover the mile distance, something he hasn’t been asked to do thus far.
Trainer Charles Hill sends out #4 Commemorative (8/1), who exits a pair of victories against competition that is about a notch below what Hootenanny last faced. You’d prefer to see how horses like these appear in the flesh before making a final selection, but in terms of paper form there’s no reason to count this horse out. Unlike Hootenanny, Commemorative has been asked to go the mile distance in both of those last two starts and has responded wonderfully.
Aidan O’Brien always ships a contingent of horses for the Breeders’ Cup, and the first we will see this weekend is #7 War Envoy (9/2). It’s been a while since the son of War Front has seen the winner’s circle, but he’s been keeping good company overseas. He exits a 5th place finish against Group 1 types at Longchamp in France and is among the European horses adding the racing medication Lasix for the first time.
Further to the outside we have #9 Aktabantay (12/1), who like War Envoy also adds Lasix and exits the same Group 1 race in France. Aktabantay was behind War Envoy by just under a length that day, but prior to that had been in the Exacta in all 5 lifetime races.
Shifting our attention to the American contingent, we get our first of the ubiquitous “kitten” named horses from Ken and Sarah Ramsey in #3 Luck of the Kitten (8/1). The front-running chestnut seems to only know one way around the course; gate-to-wire – and it’s important to note that on occasion such a style can actually surprise and shock the European runners that are accustomed to a more casual opening ¼ mile or so. Although given Hootenanny’s experience sprinting, in this race that doesn’t figure to be the case.
The rest of the “American” field features the eager #6 Conquest Typhoon (12/1), who while technically Canadian still likes to sit on or quite near the lead. The Chad Brown duo of #8 Offering Plan (20/1) and #10 Startup Nation (12/1) appear to be well placed and not without a shot. Lastly we have Godolphin Stables #11 Imperia (6/1) and the “other Ramsey” horse (this time not a kitten) in #12 International Star (12/1).
Look, this race is wide open. I’m picking Hootenany as my top choice for two primary reasons despite my concern about the stretch-out – he’s beaten a 24 horse field at Ascot, and he gets jockey Frankie Dettori in the saddle. Dettori always seems to be good for at least one of his trademark flying dismounts at the Breeders’ Cup. If you are playing any multi-race exotic races on Friday I would suggest that the two turf races (both this and the Juvenile Fillies Turf) are where you want to spread deep and get some coverage.
- #5 Hootenanny (3/1)*
- #4 Commemorative (8/1)
- #3 Luck of the Kitten (8/1)
BC Dirt Mile – Friday – Race 7
A field of 10 will contest the Dirt Mile at Santa Anita, which as the name suggests is a mile long race over the – you guessed it – dirt track. Of course it wasn’t always so simple. Not long ago the “dirt mile” was being contested at Santa Anita over a surface other than dirt. At this risk of confusing readers with trivial tales of racing-surfaces-past, we’ll simply say the name is now apropos and move on.
The dirt mile looks like a two horse race to me despite featuring a field of 10 horses on paper. Really I think it comes down to #1 Goldencents (6/5) and #8 Fed Biz (7/2) for the win here. The Rick Pitino owned Goldencents has reportedly worked lights out for this effort, and the 6/5 odds assigned to him on the morning line are a good indication of how heavily he’s expected to be bet. Although it is a little alarming that last out he was nailed, in a similar position, by a horse thought inferior to him in Rich Tapestry.
Fed Biz comes off a pair of second place finishes and has been behind his primary rival the last few times they’ve faced, although he did best him last summer at Del Mar in the Pat O’Brien Stakes. Still, with the crafty Bob Baffert training him, you can never count Fed Biz out of a fight, especially on a day like this.
I really don’t see anyone else pulling the upset here, but I do look for #9 Tapiture (6/1) to be moving well late and trying to get up for a minor award. I think this horse has improved in his last two starts, and he’s an absolutely gorgeous animal to see on the race track.
I’m keeping things very simple in this one.
- #1 Goldencents (6/5)*
- #8 Fed Biz (7/2)
- #9 Tapiture (6/1)
BC Juvenile Fillies Turf – Friday – Race 8
Much like the Juvenile Turf (race 6), the Juvenile Fillies Turf features a wide open field of up to 14 fillies going 1 mile over the Santa Anita turf. The same rules apply here as did in the Juvenile Turf – respect the Euros, and look for horses ready to win now.
Morning line favoritism has been assigned to #3 Sunset Glow (7/2), a gray filly for trainer Wesley Ward who has won 3 of 5 lifetime races and has finished in the Exacta in all of her starts. This includes a brief foray across the pond to Royal Ascot where she ran a very respectable 2nd in a 21 horse field for the Group 3 Albany Stakes in June. Obviously this is a well meant filly with a big shot here if she runs her race. I had originally intended to try to beat her in this spot, but the more I look over her profile the more I imagine she will be quite formidable in this spot.
Looking through the rest of the field, one longshot in particular caught my eye; #6 Sivoliere (12/1). For starters, the horse is handled by the familiar Chad Brown barn, and picks up the services of Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. She’s also a daughter of the phenomenal Sea the Stars, and as such has won 3 of her 5 lifetime races. She’ll be running with Lasix for the first time this afternoon, and provided she’s shipped well (something that we can never be certain about), I think she’s in line to run a very big race.
Another interesting filly is #2 Osalia (5/1) for trainer Richard Hannon Sr. The Irish-bred lass has compiled a similarly impressive racing resume with 3 wins and 1 second from 6 lifetime starts. She’s also won at Ascot, which is never easy to do – but note that she did finish behind Sunset Glow in her second career start. That could give us a bit of a barometer for comparing these two well-intentioned runners.
Of the North American runners, I was probably most intrigued by #5 Isabella Sings (12/1), but partly because she’s a chestnut daughter of Eskendereya, who many thought had the possibility to be a real freak of nature type horse in his own right. She got caught by #11 Conquest Harlanate (10/1) in her last start over a yielding turf course but should find the anticipated firmer footing of Santa Anita much more to her liking.
Lastly there’s always my boy Graham Motion, who in this race sends out #7 Rainha Da Bateria (12/1). Like I always say, “Graham doesn’t run ‘em just to run ‘em,” though she didn’t come up in my top picks. I never let a ‘Motion horse go off in a race I’m watching without a little something on them on the side.
- #3 Sunset Glow (7/2)*
- #6 Sivoliere (12/1)
- #2 Osaila (5/1)
BC Distaff – Friday – Race 9
The feature race of the evening on Friday is of course the Distaff – formerly known (briefly) as the Ladies’ Classic. This one is for top honors for the “older” (3-and-up) Filly and Mare division, and a field of 11 has signed on.
Really though, in most people’s minds, this is a two horse race between the monstrous #10 Untapable (5/2), and always game #11 Close Hatches (3/1). Anything outside of those two would be a pretty large upset.
Untapable took on the boys in the Haskell this summer after rattling off 4 straight beat-downs of her 3-year-old filly foes to start the 2014 campaign. The Haskell try didn’t go as planned, as she ran a distant 5th. Yet she bounced back well enough to win the Grade 1 Cotillion at Philly in late September. I’ve only seen glimpses of her workouts on TVG and she looks like the big, bad mamma-jamma she always is.
Ready to face her will be Close Hatches, who comes out of a very disappointing 4th in the Spinster at Keeneland last month. Prior to that she had been a perfect 4-for-4 against the older fillies and mares and seemed poised to roll right into the Breeders’ Cup with an unblemished record for the year. Now she’ll have to prove she has overcome that last start. Trainer Bill Mott has her working lights out to get ready for this, with a series of bullet workouts adding to her intrigue.
What the public is hoping for is that near the top of the stretch Untapable draws up alongside Close Hatches, they look each other in the eye, and then it’s a fight to the finish for the wire. If we don’t get that, the tote board is going to light up in the exotics. Horses like #7 Don’t Tell Sophia (5/1) and #4 Belle Gallantey (6/1) would make logical sense as possible upset candidates, but I’m going to go in another direction.
#2 Tiz Midnight (10/1) has every right to be on the lead in this race for trainer Bob Baffert. Obviously if Close Hatches and her hook up together in an early duel then all bets are off as they will probably cook each other out of having any chance whatsoever. But if this one works out a decent trip I could see her being right there and very tough to real in as they get to the wire. Remember it was her mother, Tough Tiz’s Sis, who used to put up fairly game fights against Zenyatta several years back, notably finishing a close second by just a half-length in the 2008 running of the Vanity Handicap. You get these horses from the Tiznow line every once in a while that are just stubborn sons (daughters) of guns and refuse to lose even when the other horses have passed them. I think this one’s a fighter, and I think this one gets party of the money.
- #10 Untapable (5/2)*
- #11 Close Hatches (3/1)
- #2 Tiz Midnight (10/1)
Kdawg’s Saturday Preview will be posted Friday morning, come by and check it out.