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Nov 02, 2012

Breaking down the Breeders' Cup

By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Santa Anita is the setting for the 2012 Breeders' Cup - a collection of 15 races spread over two days with six coming on Friday and nine on Saturday.

The Juvenile Sprint, which gets the event started on Friday, appears to be a two-horse race with morning line favorite Beholder the probable winner. The filly was dominant in her 11-length allowance win over the track on Oct. 4, stopping the clock in 1:09 flat for the six furlongs. Prior to that race, she lost by the smallest of noses to the undefeated Executiveprivilege.

Merit Man, a 2-year-old With Distinction colt, is unbeaten in two starts, including a 5 1/2-length score in the Tim Conway Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 6. If any horse is able to run down the speedy Beholder, it will be Merit Man.

The Marathon is extremely wide open with about 10 horses having a chance to win. Worth Repeating is the probable favorite, but the 6-year-old has won just four of 26 career races

The choice here is the foreign invader Fame and Glory. Aidan O'Brien's horse has never raced on dirt, but he is 14-for-25 lifetime and has consistently raced 14 furlongs and beyond. Juniper Pass, a turf runner who has won on dirt at Santa Anita, could surprise at a big price.

The Juvenile Fillies Turf is another tough race to handicap. There are a pair of unbeaten fillies in Spring Venture and Flashy Ways going up against two others (Waterway Run and Watsdachances) who have sustained just one loss in four career attempts. Another filly, Sky Lantern, sports three wins and two seconds in five turf sprints overseas.

The pick is Sustained, who broke her maiden impressively on the Saratoga turf course and then finished second to Watsdachances in the Miss Grillo despite being slightly impeded by the winner through the stretch.

The $2 million Juvenile Fillies is perhaps the best race of the entire two-day event. Bob Baffert's Executiveprivilege, a winner of all five of her starts, including four stakes events, has the home track advantage over a pair of Todd Pletcher fillies - Dreaming of Julia and Kauai Katie.

Dreaming of Julia, who won her first two races by a combined 26 3/4 lengths, added the Frizette to her undefeated mantle with a head win over a game My Happy Face. However, this race will be her first around two turns.

Pletcher also could send Kauai Katie into the mix as the Juvenile Fillies is her first preference. She might be the fastest of the trio, but she's never raced farther than 6 1/2 furlongs.

Look for Executiveprivilege to reign supreme, edging Dreaming of Julia by less than a length.

The Filly & Mare Turf at 10 furlongs is loaded with European imports such as Ridasiyana and The Fugue as well as Nahrain, who ran second in this race last year, and I'm A Dreamer, who won the Beverly D in her first American start. The United States has its own contenders in Marketing Mix, Zagora and Lady of Shamrock, so look for a very tight finish.

The choice is I'm A Dreamer over Lady of Shamrock.

The Ladies Classic pits former Breeders' Cup winners Royal Delta, Awesome Feather and My Miss Aurelia against each other. Questing and Love and Pride also could be a factor.

The pick is the unbeaten and oft-injured Awesome Feather. She's had just one race since January, but it was a smashing 11 1/4-length victory in an ungraded stakes race at Belmont Park on Sept. 20.

BREEDERS' CUP SATURDAY

Saturday begins with the Juvenile Turf. Dundonnell, the beaten favorite in the Champagne Stakes in England (his lone defeat), appears to be the class of the field, but if he falters, look for any number of young turf runners to gain the victory.

The choice is the front-running Joha, who should appreciate the turn back from 1 1/16 miles to one mile after winning the Breeders' Futurity on Polytrack.

The Filly & Mare Sprint could have the lowest-priced horse on the card. Groupie Doll has won four straight by a combined 20 1/2 lengths. However, there is no guarantee she will like the Santa Anita surface.

The play is Contested, who is 2-for-2 at Santa Anita. She also is coming off a come-from-behind win in the Test at Saratoga, so she doesn't have to be on the lead to win.

The Dirt Mile might be the weakest Breeders' Cup race. Last year's Preakness winner Shackleford has lost his last two while Jersey Town, the horse who defeated him in the Kelso, has not won back-to-back starts in over two years.

The pick is Rail Trip. The old gelding has won just one race this year (the San Diego Handicap), but he's been facing better of late and now cuts back to a distance that suits him. He's also been working with a purpose in the mornings.

The Turf Sprint will be run at 6 1/2 furlongs on the tricky downhill turf course. The local horses should fare much better than those coming from other parts of the country. Given that, it's best to take a shot with the 4-year-old filly, Mizdirection. She's unbeaten over the course and the price should be right considering she hasn't raced since late May.

The Juvenile is weak this year outside of Todd Pletcher's Shanghai Bobby and Bob Baffert's Power Broker. The former, a son of Harlan's Holiday, keeps getting better as the distances increase. The only knock is the lack of experience at Santa Anita. The latter has what Shanghai Bobby is lacking - a win over the track. Still, the slight edge goes to the unbeaten Pletcher colt.

The BC Turf appears to be a three-horse race with the United States represented by Point of Entry, while the filly Shareta and St. Nicholas Abbey (last year's winner) lead the European contingent.

Point of Entry has an outside shot at Horse of the Year honors with an impressive victory, but this is a big jump facing the top runners in the world after defeating the likes of Treasure Beach and Al Khali. The choice to win the Turf is Shareta.

The Sprint looks to be a battle between the California horses - Amazombie, Capital Account and Coil. The pick is Coil, who is 2-for-3 this year, including a win last time out over Capital Account.

The Mile features last year's Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and Wise Dan, another contender for the Horse of the Year award. But the winner should be the top miler in the world, Excelebration. He is unbeaten in his last six when Frankel was not in the race and should win this one going away.

Last but not least is the Classic. If Game On Dude was more impressive at 10 furlongs, he would be a cinch to win. However, he's lost more races than he's won at 1 1/4 miles, so it's best to try to beat him.

The choice is Mucho Macho Man. The Suburban Handicap winner had a tough trip in his last - a second-place finish to To Honor and Serve in the Woodward, a race in which he was bumped both at the start and through the stretch.

The only question is his ability to get the 10 furlongs, but that could be said for most of the horses in the race. The bet is to take Mucho Macho Man to win and box him with Game on Dude in the exacta.



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