Fast Track Simulcapping

Breeders Cup 2008 Commentary

Santa Anita

October 24th and 25th


Once again it is Breeders Cup time, and as every year I will put my thoughts down for your consideration ... or entertainment should you disagree. Since this year there will be more BC races than ever, with 5 going on Friday, October 24th and then 9 more on Saturday the 25th, our format will change a little. Rather than insert my comments directly in with our computer generated ratings and information they will be set forth in this separate document. Day #1 will be amended Thursday night to include the Saturday races as Day #2.

My general observations remain the same and may be familiar to those of you that have followed Fast Track Simulcapping over the past few years. Simply put, these are world championship races. That means that every horse in the race can be assumed to be fit and ready to give its best effort. The connections have all tried to peak their horses for this weekend. They are not aiming at another race down the road, and many of them will likely not race again this year or even be retired following these races. It also means that there is more talent throughout all these fields than we will usually see in other races, even top races at top tracks during the regular season meets. Favorites tend to win a little less and also to be overbet in comparison to others in the race. In handicapping paralance they are often underlays despite the fact that they may have an apparent superior record to the competition. Often a overlay in the form of an underbet contender will surprise us as it hits its peak at just the right time, or runs the race of its life. Question the odds on the favorites especially if they drop too far below the morning line. You can always pull for a top pick running at poor odds while placing a small wager on an outsider that seems to be underbet at good odds.

Another factor that makes these races hard to decipher is the liberal sprinkling of horses that are shipped over from Europe. The form is different and we lack the usual ratings to compare their speed against North American runners. This year because the races are on the more forgiving artificial turf at Santa Anita a number of horses that might have been considered to be turf specialists are entered in the “dirt” events. This includes several of the Europeans and some entered from North America as well.

DAY ONE (October 24th)

Race 3: Sentient Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

The favorite in this race is likely to be Indian Blessing (2/1) who comes into this race with 5 wins and 2 place finishes in 7 races for 2008. The place finishes were both at longer distances than she will have to cover to win this. She has good connections and race a solid 5 furlong workout 6 days before the race. Although she is a 3 year old and does not have all our top ratings she is tied for top on the B2. And most of her efforts have been in strong G1 events. The competition may come from any of several others. Zaftig (8/1) is another 3 year old filly with a chance. Although her record is not as impressive as the top choice she did manage a victory over her at a mile in June. Prior to that Zaftig won a 7 furlong G3 event impressively. She has been rested since June however, and so the question is whether her trainer has been able to train her into sufficient racing fitness ... or was there perhaps a problem that prevented her from racing. This will be her first race on aan rtificial surface. Intagaroo (9/2) is a 4 year old with a little more experience. She likes to come from the back with a strong closing kick, but she will need things to set up for her. Our highest FTS rating was earned by Dearest Trickski (15/1) a 4 year old filly that has won 3 of 4 races this year though none at the G1 level. She may be a little overmatched here. It is hard to know what to make of the shipper Lady Sprinter (15/1) who has never raced more than 5 furlongs, but comes of an amazing 45.1 workout. La Tee (30/1) is a longshot possibility, a bit of an unknown racing largely on grass before this race. Miraculous Miss (20/1) will be charging from the back. She generally performs well and has finished closed behind Intagaroo but rarely wins.

Top Contenders:

Race 4: Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

I find it difficult to recommend anything in races for 2 year olds and this race for fillies going a mile on the turf is no exception. Internallyflawless (8/1) however is our top rated horse on the turf although off a maiden race. Second rated on turf is Consequence (8/1). Either of those might go off at reasonable odds. Maram (10/1) has won going a little farther in a G3 race. C Karma (8/1) had a decent win at the distance at Woodbine and a strong 5 furlong workout. The likely favorite may be either Laragh (7/2) coming off a nice win October 9th or Saucey Evening (9/2) who won October 5th. This one is up in the air, so demand a fair return on any wager.

Top Contenders:

Race 5: Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies

The 5th race will be yet another race for inexperienced 2 year old fillies. The two likely favorites are Sky Diva (7/2) who had a strong win in a G1 her last outing, and Stardom Bound (2/1) who has won her last two G1 races, the last at the same distance as this race. I think that experience gives her the edge over her main rival, but she will be starting from outside. Others nearby in the races won by those top two may well turn the tables this time out as often happens with juveniles. These include Evita Argentina (15/1), Persistently (15/1) who altered her course twice in the last race and Palacio De Amor (12/1). Any of these might improve off that experience thanks to a little more maturity or a focused training regime. Also keep an eye on C. S. Silk (15/1) who won going away in her recent G3 race at a mile.

Top Contenders:

Race 6: Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf

Finally we get to handicap some older horses. But there are shippers with a chance in this which confuses the matter somewhat. Based on our ratings and good performances in recent G1 races there does not seem to be much to pick between Wait A While (3/1), Forever Together (6/1) and Mauralankana (5/1). There may be a slight edge to Wait A While in terms of speed, but Mauralankana gets the edge for consistency. With those three all likely to be close I think it will be worth watching a few of the other solid contenders that could pull an upset. Vacare (10/1) was a close second to Wait A While in her last race after being pulled early. Pure Clan (15/1) has won a G1 race at the distance back in July and has a prep race under her belt. Complicating matters will be the strong shipper Halfway To Heaven (4/1) who drops some weight to run carrying 118 as a 3 year old. While her connections have thought well enough of her to bring her to the race, it is also true that she is part of a group. Is she an afterthought or a legitimate contender? She has only raced this far once, and not in particularly quick time. I am inclined to take a chance and toss her out. If she does well that will be worth noting later when her compatriots race.

Top Contenders:

Race 7: Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic

This race will feature the undefeated Zenyatta (3/5) who looks to improve her impressive record to 9 straight wins. Many of those have been victories in G1 events and she won at this distance in July of this year. She likes to come from well back but can hang close to the pace as well. Traffic problems seem likely to be the only thing that can stop her with the possible exception of Carriage Trail (8/1) who has a solid record herself. After the gap in ratings between her and Zenyatta there is another gap between her and the field. She just won the Spinster-G1 on October 5th and has a solid rating from that race. Music Note (6/1) is 4 wins in 5 races this year including 3 of 4 G1 wins. Ginger Punch (9/2) is also a frequent winner this year including 3 of 4 G1 events. Cocoa Beach (8/1) managed to outrun Ginger Punch to the wire in their last race and is 2 for 2 since shipping to North America. Otherwise this could see a possible upset from Hystericalady (15/1) who was 3 lengths behind Zenyatta in their last encounter. Although Zenyatta is an impressive horse it seems hard to justify the odds as low as the morning line suggests. It seems likely that much of her backing will center on her local undefeated career. It would be nice, but this race is quite even.

Top Contenders:

DAY TWO (October 25th)

Race 1: Breeders' Cup Marathon ... 1 ½ Miles

This race is for those horses who like to run long. The artificial surface will make it easier this year for some grass specialists to make an attmept at transition. Looking first at horses that our computer was able to give ratings to our top horses would be Zappa (5/2) or Delightful Kiss (8/1). Of those two I would give the nod to Delightful Kiss who has recently won a G3 race at the distance. Both have a chance but the odds on Delightful Kiss will be a little better. Big Booster (9/2) has won a G2 at longer in July and must be given a chance as well if he has trained sufficiently for this race. Cedar Mountain (6/1) is another with a chance who has been off since July. The strongest shipper in this race looks to be Sixties Icon (2/1) who won several G3 races at the distance on turf and comes into this race with the top AER at 100. If he likes the new surface he will be difficult to beat. A tough race to call so watch the odds.

Race 2: Sentient Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint ... 6 ½ Furlongs

This looks to be a very tight race. There are stamina questions for a number of these horses who have not demonstrated they can go this distance. Some others are cutting back so should have the stamina if they can manage the speed. Three who ran together on September 24 at Santa Anita and at the distance in a G3 race are a good starting point for our analysis. California Flag (15/1) managed to beat One Union (15/1) and Get Funky (9/2) by 3 lengths. That was a step up for the winner so there may be a question whether he can duplicate the effort. Get Funky was the beaten favorite in that race, but benefited from an inside trip in just edging out One Union. He carried a little more weight than the other two and today they will be even on that score. It doesn't seem there should be too much to choose between them so it will be important to watch their odds. Mr. Nightlinger (6/1) has been impressive running significantly shorter distances to achieve higher ratings. He has shown he can haul the weight but not that he can carry it this far. Again the odds will determine whether or not to choose him. The morning line may be a bit low and it would need to go higher. A longshot possibility is Desert Code (30/1) who finished a fading 5 lengths behind California Flag in the race mentionned above. That race came after a layoff and may have been considered more of a prep race by his connections. He has worked out nicely since at 5 and 6 furlongs. He will have it in tough on the front end if he tries to go for the lead against Mr. Nightlinger, as will California Flag. With so many runners traffic will play a role too. So although there may be a slight edge to Get Funky over One Union among those sitting off the pace, the odds would seem likely to prefer backing the latter. Assuming Mr. Nightlinger is unlikely to be offered at reasonable odds I would primarily consider the following contenders.

Top Contenders:

Race 3: Breeders' Cup “Dirt” Mile ... on artificial surface

The mile distance seems to suit some horses and not others. It is in between sprints and more usual longer sprints. Early speed will often be important. The likely favorites will be Well Armed (3/1) and the horse he defeated last out, Albertus Maximus (4/1). Well Armed Has performed well winning twice and finishing second in its last three races two of which were G1 and the other a G2 race. He likes to run on or near the lead and so make take to shortening up the distance well. Albert Maximus won a mile stakes race at Del Mar in September from just off the pace, and that bodes well for him here. However, between the two of them I would expect Well Armed to get to the line first. Although Mast Track (6/1) finished behind both of the others in that same race he did run hard early fading late. He has a chance to turn the tables, as does Surf Cat (6/1) who was four wide into the stretch. Lewis Michael (5/1) is our top rated FTS horse but those results have come against easier company.

Top Contenders:

Race 4: Breeders' Cup Mile ... on turf

Last year's winner Kip Deville (5/1) is back again. Lightly raced he has one two of three this year. Although his most recent was not impressive if we assume that was intended to get him ready to defend his title he should be in the fight again in 2008. One question I can't quite answer to my own satisfaction is why Precious Kitten (8/1) has been entered in this race when there are quite a number of other options for her in the distaff races. Perhaps her trainer, Frankel, knows something we should be interested in. Her record at the distance in 6 tries is one win and five place finishes. Our computer selected her as third choice under the heading of speed and class. It looks like the favorite will be the shipper Goldikova (3/1) who specializes at this distance with several G1 victories. But she is a 3 year old she will be hard pressed. Daytona (6/1) failed to hold off Whatsthescript (4/1) in their encounter on August 24. Recently though he has put in two good workouts and was carrying a little more weight. I expect he may turn the tables this time out. Thorn Song (12/1) lead wire to wire and beat War Monger (12/1) earlier this month in a G1 race at Keeneland, benefiting from a better trip. This will be a tough race to call and no one particularly deserves to be a clear favorite.

Top Contenders:

Race 5: Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile ... Mile & 1/16

Another race for two year olds may be a good one to pass on. Judging by our computer's ratings there does not seem to be much to pick between Azul Leon (20/1), Street Hero (6/1) and Midshipman (5/1). The three did race against each other on September 28 at this track with Street Hero coming out on top. Although Azul Leon got the worst of that he may rebound at good odds. The favorite Munnings (7/2) has yet to prove himself at this farther distance and has only won a maiden race so far although he did well finishing in the money in two G1 races. Square Eddie (9/2) has already won one G1 race after shipping to North America.

Top Contenders:

Race 6: Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf ... Mile

Once again the difficulty handicapping this race for 2 year olds is the lack of consistency in their records. A number of trying the grass and the distance for the first time, and there are a number of European horses. If their compatriots have been doing well in earlier races they will have to be given more of a chance. I think the right approach is to consider two races. The G3 Bourbon at Keeneland was won by Bittel Road (7/2) by a narrow margin coming off the pace. Ninth Client (15/1) finished just 1½ lengths back and Vaquero (20/1) was fourth just 2 lengths from the winner. The second and fourth horse could easily turn the tables if that race is a key race for the purposes of this race. The Summer-G3 at Woodbine included that winner Grand Adventure (5/1), Skipadate (6/1) who finished a close second. It is wide open and unpredictable.

Top Contenders:

Race 7: Breeders' Cup Sprint ... 6 Furlongs

This race will be a toss up again. I see no clear favorite, although either Cost of Freedom (4/1) or Street Boss (3/1) could end up the crowd choice on the basis of their race at the end of last month. Also in that race and running into a little traffic problem before finishing just 2 lengths behind the other two was In Summation (10/1). He has worked well and could redeem himself at the right time. Another with a chance at reasonable odds is Black Seventeen (15/1) who won a G1 at Belmont at the end of last month. He has worked well since arriving on the west coast. Fabulous Strike (4/1) finished behind Black Seventeen but does not appear likely to be offered at comparable odds. Last year's winner Midnight Lute (7/2) does not seem to be as ready to go this year as in 2007. He has only raced once but has been working very well, so can't be ruled out.

Top Contenders:

Race 8: Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf ... Mile & 1/2

In the past this race has tended to go either to the European invaders or the North American runners. There is no easy way to compare them. This often tends to mean that the European horses as a group will be under bet. One horse that can be measured against both groups is Red Rocks (5/1) who is our top rated horse along with Spring House (5/1). Red Rocks beat Curlin in the Man of War at Belmont in July. He also finished third in this race last year. In June he lost to Soldier Of Fortune (7/2) by a margin of 7 lengths. Better Talk Now (10/1) has seen better days and has not had a good year, so should likely be dismissed. Grand Couturier (6/1) may be the strongest of the North American horses having won two G1 races in a row. Winchester (15/1) is over from Europe but with one solid G1 victory since his arrival and may be next best to Soldier Of Fortune. Eagle Mountain (6/1) may have a slight edge over Conduit (6/1) but their records are hard to figure. Except for Grand Couturier I would tend to go with the European horses in this one.

Top Contenders:

Race 9: Breeders' Cup Classic ... Mile & 1/4

Curlin (7/5), last year's winner, is the one to beat, and the likely winner. He has already had another impressive year, winning the Dubai World Cup in March, then returning to North America losing only once when he finished second in turf race. His preparation has been almost identical to that of last year. He is our top rated horse but still has to defeat a strong field here, including some European horses.

Two horses stand out among the rest as having a chance to upset my top choice. Depending upon how the race unfolds some other horse in the field could run the race of its life and take it. Duke of Marmalade (10/1) looks to be the strongest of those coming over from Europe. He has a strong winning record in G1 events and go this distance and farther carrying in excess of 130 pounds. He is shifting away from grass for the first time so that is an unknown, but the artificial surface will be kinder to his chances than dirt would be. If he takes to it he will likely make a race of it and push Curlin. One measure of how he could go may be to pay attention in the previous races to see how the European horses are doing. If they have done well he is likely to do better. Go Between (8/1) poses the most danger to Curlin among the North American horses. He has done well in G1 events and has strong FTS ratings. He may be ready to take his performance to the next level on Saturday. Of the rest, Champs Elysees (15/1) and Student Council (20/1) seem to have some ability and may hit the board at good odds. Henrythenavigator (10/1) should likewise be given a good look if the European contingent seems to be having a good day.

Top Contenders: