FirstAndMonday.com is proud to introduce a longtime friend and credentialed horse racing expert, KDawg, and welcome all into his new segment; KDawg’s Sport of Kings. Formerly credited as “The Aspiring Horseplayer,” KDawg boasts years of experience in covering the ponies, with a focus on the East Coast and Maryland beat. He’s our trusted source on the sport’s biggest races, schooled in the paper form as well as the look and feel of a winner, and brings valued content to our ever-growing sports coverage. Please welcome him into our FAM stable, and look forward to keen insight on the ponies, picks and pitfalls of the Sport of Kings.
BC Juvenile Fillies – Saturday – Race 4
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies features a field of 12 horses signed on going 1 1/16 miles over the main track. This is supposed to be the “championship” race for well-bred 2-year-old fillies on the main track and usually leads to an Eclipse Award. In recent history this race has produced champions like Beholder and My Miss Aurelia.
According to statistics from Brisnet, 18 races of 8.5 furlongs (or 1.5 miles, slightly longer than our distance here) have been run so far during the current Santa Anita meet going back to September 26. Of those 18 races, 9 of them have been won in gate-to-wire fashion by front running speed types. That’s a 50% handicapping angle. Nothing to sneeze at to be sure and the highest percentage of winners seem to have come from around the middle starting posts in the 4 through 7 slots.
Looking at this field, we have a couple of horses who fit this profile almost perfectly in the front running #5 Cristina’s Journey (6/1) for trainer Dale Romans and the horse to her outside #6 Take Charge Brandi. Of those two ‘Christina makes a much better win bet proposition being undefeated in two lifetime tries, whereas ‘Brandi looks like the typical kind of physical specimen produced by her sire, Giant’s Causeway, who is still figuring things out on the race track.
Should be easy if we have two horses that fit the winning profile perfectly, right? Not so fast, my friends. The trouble of course is that neither of the above look like the best horse in the field despite having the proper profile. For starters, they will have to contend with a viable duo of Todd Pletcher trained horses breaking from the inside in #1 Fathered (8/1) and #2 Angela Renee (3/1). Angela Renee in particular is a horse to really keep an eye on. The daughter of 2006 Preakness winner and highly regarded sire Bernardini is one of just two Grade 1 winners in the entire field, and exits a race where she defeated several of today’s foes. Jockey John Velazquez gets back in the saddle and should be familiar enough with her having ridden the filly in her first three starts of her career.
Interestingly enough, one filly in this race has actually beaten both of the aforementioned Todd Pletcher trained fillies. Of course I’m speaking of #12 By the Moon (6/1) who will break from the extreme outside. Despite having outrun her odds and earning those defeats against her primary foes, I’m a little cautious here. Both of those races accorded on sloppy, sealed surfaces in New York, and in the running of the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes on August 31, it’s important to note that Angela Renee was “bumped at start.” If you look at those races on all 3 of these horses past performances, it kind of looks like the sloppy surfaces produced subpar efforts for Feathered and Angela Renee and may have boosted the results of By the Moon. Thus, I’m giving the advantage in the rematch to the Pletcher entries.
As for the rest of the field, Mark Casse sends out a very formidable looking filly in #4 Conquest Eclipse (4/1) who has every right to be in the conversation for all the money. And don’t discount the “light bulb” angle on Bill Mott’s recent maiden graduate #8 Puca (6/1). You don’t usually see horses going from maiden races to Breeders’ Cup races and assigned morning line odds of 6/1. Then again, you don’t usually see absolute dismantling of fields like this daughter of Big Brown did in cruising to a 16-length victory in her first two-turn start on the dirt. Plus she’s training lights out. Her father freaked when they first stretched him out on dirt and if this one got the freak gene in her DNA then watch out.
- #2 Angela Renee (3/1)*
- #4 Conquest Eclipse (4/1)
- #8 Puca (6/1)
- Longshot bomber: #11 Top Decile (10/1)
BC Filly and Mare Turf – Saturday – Race 5
The championship race for 3-year-olds and older fillies and mares on the turf features a field of 11 in what could be a very wide open event, with multiple contenders shipping in from overseas. This includes the defending champion of last year’s race and a number of contenders who are Group 1 tested in France and the U.K.
All things being equal, you usually have to give a long look to the foreign shippers coming in from Europe in these races as the European style of horse racing produces superior turf runners compared to the more dirt-centric model here in the U.S. Case in point, #3 Dank (5/2) returns to defend her crown having battled for a ½ length victory in the 2013 edition of the race. The daughter of Dansil came into last year’s race in a bit sharper form, having exited a pair of victories, including the Beverly D Stakes here at Arlington Park. This year the form is a bit darker. They tried shipping her to the United Arab Emirates for a go in Dubai Duty Free and she wound up running a disappointing 3rd, though well beaten by 8 lengths. Next they took on the Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot and were again soundly beaten by a field that included not only males but also world class turf fillies like The Fugue and Treve (who herself is a multiple time winner of the world’s richest turf race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe).
Needless to say Dank will not find competition of quite that caliber in this edition of the F+M Turf, but she must find her prior form quickly if she is to prevail, which could be a tough challenge given that she has been on the shelf for more than 4 months. She should be well rested then, but might she also be a tad rusty? Time will tell.
Nor is Dank the only interesting Euro in this field. Trainer Charles Hill sends out #2 Just The Judge (5/1) after successfully winning the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine last month. Note that Hill also sent his filly straight into the Beverly D Stakes upon arriving in the U.S. where she promptly finished a game 3rd back in August. That was the same path that Dank’s connections took last year en route to the F+M crown, and as such, despite not having anywhere near as glamorous a profile as her fellow invader, may make her the “now” horse of the Euro contingent.
Then of course we have the formidable duo of Group 1 tested invaders in #5 Secret Gesture (6/1) and #8 Fiesolana (8/1). It’s very hard to separate these two without being intimately familiar with them. My gut says that Secret Gesture is probably the better of the two, despite Fiesolana owning a Group 1 victory. That said, Fiesolana doesn’t have a multiple month layover to contend with the way Secret Gesture does. Regardless, both fillies are to be respected and presumed as having reasonable chances here.
If an “American” horse is going to beat the Euros here and take back the crown, we really only have a couple of options on paper. The most obvious contender would be the morning line 2nd choice in #10 Stephanie’s Kitten (3/1). She’s got a fabulous late kick that always gives her a shot for running down the field to wire and there’s no reason she can’t be part of the discussion again. I just feel like if you are going to beat the Euros on the grass that it’s often better to beat them to the punch and try to beat them more on the front end of things rather than run them down late. That really leaves us with two possibilities; #4 Dayatthespa (8/1) and #7 Emolient (12/1). Dayatthespa seems to be a logical pace setting proposition here. The real question for the daughter of City Zip is whether she can get the distance. If she does, she’ll likely be gasping for the wire. Emollient is more of a wild card. She used to be a front running type and had reasonable early success, but lately she’s been taken back off the pace more. Nobody conditions Turf runners in the U.S. like Bill Mott, so it will be interesting to see what tactics he attempts to employ here.
- #3 Dank (5/2)*
- #2 Just The Judge (5/1)
- #5 Secret Gesture (6/1)
- Longshot bomber: #7 Emollient (12/1)
BC Filly and Mare Sprint – Saturday – Race 6
The Filly and Mare Sprint features 10 lovely female horses going 7 furlongs on the Santa Anita main track. Usually you think “sprint” and you think “speed”, and given the speed-favoring nature of the Santa Anita dirt that might just be what is in store.
#7 Judy the Beauty (5/2) has the distinction of being the morning line favorite for this event. The daughter of Ghostzapper looks to top off a successful 2014 racing campaign that has seen her win 3 times in 4 races, with her only defeat coming to Midnight Lucky in the Humana Distaff. While troubling, considering the Humana was also run at the 7 furlong distance, that particular race looks more like an aberration than a form indicator. ‘Judy of course bounced back to win a Grade 3 race at Del Mar in late summer and has since been on the shelf. You start looking through her past performances and beyond the aforementioned loss to Midnight Lucky the only other defeats in recent history you see came at the hands of Groupie Doll. It should be noted that Groupie Doll won this very race in both 2012 and 2013. While Judy doesn’t seem to be a gate-to-wire threat, she should be close enough to maintain contact with the pace setters and if she is going to win needs to be very close to the lead at the top of the stretch.
Trainer Michael Hushion sends out #5 Artemis Argrotera (3/1), a daughter of Roman Ruler who is seeking her 4th consecutive victory. This is another game filly that seems to always run her race, with one notable exception being last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in which she was among my top choices and ran a disappointing 5th. Times have changed though, and ‘Artemis has developed into the filly everyone thought she might become following her 11-length maiden victory last August at the Spa.
Another contender to keep an eye on that might get dismissed somewhat is #1 Sweet Reason (9/2). The daughter of Street Sense seems to be a much better horse sprinting and though she’s coming off a defeat in the Grade 1 Cotillion, look who it was that beat her; Untappable. ‘Sweet and ‘Artemis have taken turns beating each other in the past and as such I think if you like one you kind of have to give the other an almost equal shot here.
Pace wise I think #3 Stonetastic (8/1) will get the early lead from #4 Leigh Court (4/1) and look to take them gate-to-wire. In the end though I think it all comes down to whomever has the better trip from Artemis Argotera, Judy the Beauty, and Sweet Reason as they turn for home. And I’m going to take a small swing with ‘Sweet on top since the odds are a bit more attractive at first glance.
- #1 Sweet Reason (9/2)
- #7 Judy The Beauty (5/2)*
- #5 Artemis Argotera (3/1)
- Longshot bomber: #8 Better Lucky (15/1)
BC Turf Sprint – Saturday – Race 7
Turf sprints are always tricky enough races to handicap, but the ones at Santa Anita are compounded further by nature of the unique, downhill course the horses must navigate that is really like no other on the continent. As such, “horse for the course” angles are much more valuable here than they may be elsewhere, and horses that seem to be superior on paper may find themselves vulnerable to other contenders. Basically it’s a spot I like to take some shots when possible. Favorites are winning these races at about a 27% clip at Santa Anita, which is only slightly below what you would normally expect (generally it’s around 30%), but note that winners at odds of >10/1 have prevailed in 23% of such races this meet. That means that pretty significant prices have been available when the favorites don’t win.
The horse to beat on paper here is #14 No Nay Never (9/2) for the always dangerous Wesley Ward barn. The son of Scat Daddy has won 4 of 5 lifetime races on multiple continents. His only defeat came on dirt, which was clearly not his preferred surface. So it will be a tough task to take him down. I mean we are talking about a French Group 1 winner here. But he’s going to have get his hooves on the dirt briefly as the field crosses over the main track from the downhill chute, and who knows – maybe that knocks him off his game a stride or two? It’ll probably take as much to beat him. The outside post draw isn’t really a hindrance at all as it puts him on the inside for the first slight turn to the right before sweeping around on the outside during the longer left-handed turn that crosses over the main track en route to the stretch. But let’s not get too crazy here since the “favorite” is a tepid 9/2, and that’s a very good prospective price on a horse that outclasses the rest of the field.
So who could possibly pull the upset? Well, when you are handicapping “normal” downhill turf races at Santa Anita you look for two things; horses who have run well over the surface before and, barring that, horses who have run well at the one mile distance, since for whatever reason that seems to translate into success on the downhill turf course.
A good example of this second scenario can be found in the past performance running lines of longshot #10 Home Run Kitten (12/1). Note that prior to his nose victory last out over the downhill track, he had found his greatest success going the mile distance over the Santa Anita grass. You’ll see a lot of that over a given meet. He’s still got a lot to tackle in this type of race but it makes him an interesting possibility should the favorite fail to produce.
On the inside we have #1 Reneesgotzip who would probably be chalk favorite if this race were being run at Del Mar, where she absolutely dominates. She came out of similar races last year and almost took this race gate-to-wire before dead-heating for 2nd.
Other runners like #3 Sweet Swap (12/1), #5 Ambitious Brew (12/1), #4 Tightend Touchdown (8/1) and #2 Silentio (8/1) have all shown prior affinity for either the downhill course itself or the mile distance at Santa Anita. Just something to chew on if you are searching for price plays.
Lastly, since most of us are fairly diehard football fans, know that #11 Undrafted (8/1) is owned by Wes Welker. Like the favorite he is also trained under the steady guidance of Wesley Ward, and while he doesn’t have prior experience over this course, he has been effective at the mile distance – albeit at Churchill Downs. Reportedly he’s training very well and could be something of a live longshot.
- #14 No Nay Never (9/2)
- #10 Home Run Kitten (12/1)
- #1 Reneesgotzip (5/1)
BC Juvenile – Saturday – Race 8
This year’s edition of the Juvenile took a bit of a hit before we even got to post when presumptive favorite American Pharoah was scratched earlier in the week. We are left now with a field of a dozen two-year-olds competing for top honors of the division.
Races like this are usually won on the front end here at Santa Anita and no shortage of early-speed running types have signed on for this one. The quickest of them might belong to the ubiquitous hometown trainer Bob Baffert in #11 One Lucky Dane (10/1). The son of Lookin At Lucky, whom Baffert campaigned to a Preakness victory, took a few tries to break his maiden and now finds himself getting the proverbial acid test jumping straight up into the top flight of his division. Baffert doesn’t usually make moves like that unless he thinks the horse belongs, and it’s doubtful this guy’s entry had anything to do with the now scratched American Pharoah, so something in that last victory and the mornings between then and now has the white-haired Baffert thinking he may have something in this horse.
As always, some of Baffert’s stiffest competition figures to come from the Todd Pletcher barn in the form of a seemingly formidable duo of #9 Carpe Diem (4/1) and #12 Daredevil (7/2). Daredevil exits a pair of dominating victories over sloppy tracks at Belmont whereas Carpe Diem has faced a larger field at Keeneland where he absolutely crushed. Personally I prefer Carpe Diem based on that performance.
But this is the Juvenile where literally anything can happen. I mean you’re getting 12/1 on the morning line on a horse in #8 Souper Colossal, who has blown away every field he’s ever seen. Or you can get 8/1 on a horse like #13 Upstart who looks like he could be any type. That’s the nature of the beast in these races.
- #9 Carpe Diem (4/1)
- #11 One Lucky Dane (10/1)
- #12 Daredevil (7/2)
BC Turf – Saturday – Race 9
We move into the final Pick 4 sequence of the Breeders’ Cup with the running of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, the first of several extremely difficult races to handicap. A field of 12 will go to post now for the 1 ½ mile contest with the late deflection of Magician, who has scratched on Wednesday morning.
As we’ve seen in the previous turf races, the European contingent is well represented in this year’s edition of the Turf. The invaders are led by the 2nd place finisher of the “world’s richest turf race”, the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France. #7 Flintshire (7/2) wound up two full lengths behind the repeating champion Treve that day, but was himself over a length clear in front of the 3rd place finisher and ultimately defeated 18 other horses to the wire. While that type of class alone is to be respected and feared, it is interesting to note that you have to go back to July of 2013 to find his last victory. Since then the competition has gotten a bit tougher. He’s run into Treve now in back to back runnings of the Arc, but he did improve his 8th place finish in 2013 with that runner up finish this year.
Of course that’s not the only intriguing Euro of the field. #1 Telescope (4/1) enters the race for trainer Michael Stoute off two defeats against Group 1 company this summer at York and Ascot. You look over this son of Galileo’s running lines and he’s an impressive 10-for-10 in the money with 4 wins, 5 seconds, and 1 third place finish. He also owns 2 victories at today’s distance. Clearly this is another horse with a right to run a big race.
Then we come to #4 Brown Panther (8/1). The son of Shirocco should have no problem with the distance being well tested at much longer distances in England and France. He also crushed a Group 1 field of 11 horses by more than 6 lengths in his last start. In fact, it looks like his best efforts seem to come around this very distance, as suggested by his 3-for-4 record.
You’ve also got the 15th place finisher of the Arc in #11 Chicquita for trainer Aiden O’Brien, who once again is everywhere in these Breeders’ Cup races.
Don’t overlook #12 Main Sequence (6/1) though. The Graham Motion trainee has rattled off a trio of close victories over Twilight Eclipse and Imagining, both of whom are also entered in this race. It’s hard to definitively determine how the “Euros” will stack up against each other (technically Main Sequence is a Kentucky-bred gelding, but he has raced extensively overseas), but it’s interesting that Brown Panther did beat this one rather soundly last June. That said, Main Sequence may be a bit more accustomed to the American style of racing by virtue of his experience here, and as always I never let Graham Motion send a contender to post without having something on them, as his stable is located in my home town.
I’m going to wind up Captain Obvious here with the top pick as it’s just hard not to get a bit enamored with a horse than ran gamely in the Arc, and to be honest I’m pretty Euro-centric here. I’ll probably cover ALL of the horses featured above in my Pick 4 play, but for what it’s worth let’s roll the selections.
- #7 Flintshire (7/2)
- #4 Brown Panther (8/1)
- # Telescope (4/1)
BC Turf – Sprint – Race 10
A field of 14 runners will contend this year’s running of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint going 6 furlongs over the Santa Anita main track. Of all the races on the Breeders’ Cup card, this one probably gave me the most difficulty in settling on selections.
Part of that has to do with the prevalence of horses with forwardly placed running styles. According to my Brisnet profiles, 12 of the 16 horses entered (only 14 will go to post) display either “E” or “E/P” running styles, which means in simple terms that they are either on or near the lead types. Usually with so much potential speed in a race you just shift gears and look for a closer. But this approach is made more difficult by the nature of the typically speed-favoring Santa Anita track. For example, 39% of the 6 furlong races run here this meet have been won in gate-to-wire fashion, meaning the horse that prevailed led the entire field from the first step out of the gate and never looked back. Moreover, 80% of the winners were classified as these forwardly placed (E or E/P) types on the Brisnet past performances. That’s a pretty suggestive bias in favor of speed.
But you know what? Those other 20 percent have to come from somewhere right? This was enough of a tricky race that I actually went about handicapping it somewhat backwards from what I usually do.
Horses like #1 Seeking the Sherif (20/1), #5 Private Zone (6/1), #11 Bakken (10/1), #12 Fast Anna (12/1), and #13 Work All Week (10/1) all seem to be types that need to at least try for the lead. You might be able to add #14 Bourbon Courage (30/1) to that list based off of his sprint effort in his last race. Even though none of these horses are among the favorites, I started by tossing all of them and reducing the field for consideration. Although it must be said that Fast Anna was generating some buzz this week by virtue of an extremely fast looking bullet workout of 5 furlongs in 57 seconds flat on Sunday.
Next I tossed the horses who I think might be too far back to effectively rally down the track against the (seemingly) speed biased nature of the surface. In doing so I tossed #3 Wind Fire (30/1), and since I wasn’t sure what to do with them anyway I also yanked the also eligible list runners #15 Bahamian Squall (20/1) and #16 Indexical (30/1). Again, we don’t have any favorite or obvious runners here but we have cut the list down from 16 horses to 7.
The next group of horses that I think make the least amount of sense were #10 Big Macher (12/1), who has defeated Goldencents before but has also been on the shelf since August, #7 Mico Margarita (15/1), who I’m sure my wife will wind up wanting to make a side bet on since he’s sure to be a good looking chestnut ridden by Rosie Npravnik.
Now I’m down to 5 contenders and can start to make some choices.
The horses I’m gravitating towards here are the Bob Baffert duo of #2 Indianapolis (12/1) and #4 Secret Circle (9/2) along with the upset winner of the Santa Anita Sprint #6 Rich Tapestry (5/1). Secret Circle is an obvious pick that will be on everyone’s ticket, so I’ll get a little fancy here and suggest that I think Indianapolis might actually be the one primed for the biggest race between the two stablemates. He’s undefeated, he’s lightly raced – and while Baffert wasn’t originally planning on running him here, the horse has convinced the trainer he’s ready to go by virtue of his morning works. For him to win he’d seeming need to be in contact with the pace setters and then get a solid jump on them turning them for home and accelerate down the stretch. As for Rich Tapestry, I know it seems somewhat silly to think the “Hong Kong horse” is going to show up and win a Breeders’ Cup race, but I really liked his last win and as long as he doesn’t “bounce” (regress off a big effort) from that I think he has a real chance here. Of course it’s really only a slightly better chance in my estimation as other horses liable to be closing into the early pace fractions like #8 Palace (6/1) and #9 Salutos Amigos (8/1) who I also feel are capable.
#2 Indianapolis (12/1)
#6 Rich Tapestry (5/1)
#4 Secret Circle (9/2)
BC Mile – Saturday – Race 11
The next-to-last race of the Breeders’ Cup weekend is the “the Mile”, not to be confused with the “Dirt Mile”, as this one is on the grass. At the risk of sounding like a broken record with respect to these grass races, it bears repeating that you must once again be respectful of the European shippers in this field
No European horseman in the world knows more about preparing a horse for the Breeders’ Cup Mile than trainer Freddie Head, whose barn will be represented by #9 Anodin (6/1). As a jockey, Head rode the great filly Miesque to multiple victories in this very race. As a trainer, he conditioned the amazing Goldikova to three consecutive BC Mile triumphs. Basically Head owns this race, and his colt here is among the contenders, although it will probably take his best effort as some even more daunting contenders appear on the list.
#5 Toronado (5/2) has been assigned morning line favoritism for this race and exits a Group 1 defeat in France where he missed by a head. This horse has kept fairly decent company facing runners such as Declaration of War and Dawn Approach. Probably the most familiar name in his running lines to most U.S. players though is Verrazano, the horse once thought by some to be a contender for a U.S. Triple Crown. Obviously that didn’t happen, but none of that really reflects on Toronado. This is a legitimate Group 1 miler from Europe and to win this race, you’re going to have to beat him or hope that he hasn’t shipped well.
Speaking of obvious things, the aptly named #2 Obviously (8/1) will likely look to wire this field right out of the gate and win one for the USA! Once again though things are complicated, as technically this is an Irish bred gelding. Who cares though? At this point in your handicapping you are probably happy just to see running lines containing familiar tracks, races, and horses. He’s probably up against it here thanks to the Euro entries, but if anyone that’s been racing extensively in the U.S. is going to take this race, Obviously is obviously the obvious pick.
The rest of the Euros are all runners I’d include in the exotic plays. #4 Mustajeeb (6/1), #3 Verda (12/1), #8 Trade Storm (12/1), and #14 Karakontie (10/1) are all runners I’d worry about if I didn’t cover them.
If you want to swing for the fences and take a flyer on a horse that defies some conventional wisdom, why not #10 Summer Front (30/1)? You can probably count on one hand how many times in your life you’ll get a Grade 1 placed runner from the Christophe Clement barn with jockey Javier Castellano in the saddle at odds of 30/1. That’s what makes the Breeders’ Cup such an intriguing betting event.
- #5 Toronado (5/2)
- #9 Anodin (5/1)
- #2 Obviously (8/1)
BC – Classic – Saturday – Race 12
Now it’s time for the grand finale. The $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. Over the years this race has given us countless unforgettable moments. I was lucky enough to be in the grandstand at Santa Anita in 2009 when the great mare Zenyatta rallied in deep stretch and left thousands cheering for joy. I remember vividly watching Tiznow rally in the 2001 Classic, remembering his past greatness, and refusing to let a European superstar named Sakhee beat him to the wire, granting a much needed U.S. victory to a New York crowd less than two months removed from the worst day in any of our lives. And of course I remember losing my mind when my favorite chestnut ever, Curlin, nosed his way into the screen ever-so-slightly before leaving Street Sense, Hard Spun, and Lawyer Ron toiling in his wake. The general public knows passingly of the Kentucky Derby, or of the notion of a “Triple Crown”, but in horse racing – the Classic is what it’s all about. No single race in the nation is a greater stepping stone to fame and immortality.
The billing for this year’s race is that it’s a two horse showdown between top 3-year-olds #6 Shared Belief (9/5) and #13 California Chrome (4/1). It’s very hard to argue with that notion, but I do want to mention that the last time I recall racing fans promoting a Classic as a “2 horse race” was back in 2006 when Bernardini was squaring off against fan favorite and legendary claiming purchase Lava Man. And what happened then? The “Uruguayan” horse Invasor beat them both to the wire as a 6/1 “upset.”
Like everyone else in the world I’m very anxious to see how Shared Belief and California Chrome match up here. ‘Chrome has had a rough summer and autumn since his triumphant spring in which he came one race short of the coveted Triple Crown. Shared Belief of course missed all of that fun but has since returned to convince many that he is in fact the king of the 3-year-old crop. And that’s really all that matters now since the older division has been so thoroughly depleted with injuries and retirements.
Looking to pull the upset on them will be Belmont and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner #11 Tonalist (5/1) and the speedy #7 Bayern (6/1), winner of the Haskell and Pennsylvania Derby. Each is worthy of strong consideration and should not be totally dismissed. Tonalist will be trying to make the difficult ship west where “NY horses” have run into difficulty before, but he’s a big, physical specimen that looks like he couldn’t be in better shape. Bayern brings his well-fitting front running style to Santa Anita but must answer the question of whether he can go the added distance of the Classic against upper tier competition.
I do see this one coming down to the top 2 contenders in deep stretch, but I will not be surprised if Bayern or Tonalist are in the thick of things until the very end. Originally I was a bit skeptical of Bayern getting this distance, but this race track will help him get there and should set him up for a big run. I’m probably more worried about Tonalist, who I think is probably a better overall horse but may be up against it here at Santa Anita as opposed to his more familiar confines. A part of me is hoping that either #12 Candy Boy (20/1) or #5 V.E. Day (20/1) are rolling well late, but both could be forced to overcome quite a bit in doing so. I am going to use Candy Boy on the bottom of my basic Trifecta and Superfecta plays, and I’ll probably add in V.E. Day to a deeper play only because he’s the closest thing to a Curlin I have in this race (Smart Strike and Deputy Minister being his grandsire and damsire).
If I was going to pick a bomber for the win, I might look at #2 Cigar Street (12/1), who should be forwardly placed and has defeated the likes of Take Charge Indy and Pants on Fire in the past.
- #5 Shared Belief (9/5)*
- #13 California Chrome ( 4/1)
- #12 Candy Boy (20/1)
- Longshot bomber: #2 Cigar Street (12/1)