It's a huge weekend for the Breeders' Cup Challenge, as seven "Win and You're In" races are on the slate this weekend. Unfortunately, Travers week has kept me from looking at all of them in depth, so I have picked out three to analyze. Feel free to send your picks on all races, even the ones not mentioned.
Del Mar Handicap, Aug. 23
I did my best here to beat Spring House, but I can't seem to do it. He has faced so much more than all of these and this distance should be fit him perfectly. He missed by three parts of a length in this race last year and was just hitting his best stride in the Eddie Read last month before running out of room. His trip to Dubai was unsuccessful, but that may have been the toughest turf race in the world this year. He's a tough customer in this spot.
The Pick: Although I can't pick against Spring House to win, my exacta will include Transduction Gold, a horse that seems to be on the improve. Not sure he'll enjoy the cutback in distance, but should be a nice price. He's faced some good horses recently and has won at Del Mar before. He should save all the ground and might make a late run.
Arlington Spring Handicap, Aug. 23
One of my favorite things to do is to try to beat big favorites who enter off winning streaks. Tizdejavu was a prime example a couple weeks ago. In this case it's going to be a little more difficult, as Mr. Nightlinger is a powerful animal. He should be odds-on here, but let's give it a shot.
One interesting horse is Starticus, who looks like he should at least challenge Mr. Nightlinger for the lead. His half-mile splits are consistently near :44 3/5, which should be enough to make the favorite work. If a duel develops, it could set things up perfectly for a stalker or someone off the pace. To me, Prince Woodman and Dhanyata fit that profile.
The Pick: Off for almost a year and half entering the season, Dhanyata seems to be rounding into form nicely for Eddie Kenneally. He was nearly a group I winner as a 2-year-old before getting injured and has been close to breaking through this year. His most recent effort was a nice one in the Chicago Handicap on the Polytrack, where he closed well for third and finished behind two good horses. He turned in a nice turf work at Saratoga this month and should get a nice stalking trip here. I'm hoping his first turf race in nearly two years will be a successful one. If I'm right, I'll be rewarded at 10-1 or more.
Rancho Bernardo, Del Mar, Aug. 24
Good Betting race here. Magnificience broke badly and could never recover in the A Gleam when she was beaten by Dearest Trickski. The lightly-raced filly should be able to turn the tables here, but will have to deal with other talent. Lethal Heat comes back on just eight days rest after finishing third in the Del Mar Oaks. She is in good form right now and should like the return to Polytrack. Tiz Elemental was fifth in the A Gleam but could improve off that. She'll be a nice price. Silky Smooth should be considered. She likes this surface.
The Pick: Wouldn't surprise me if Magnificience ran away with this one, but I'm going to take a shot with Lethal Heat. If Barry Abrams is bringing her back in a week, she should be ready to fire. She is 2-for-2 on the Del Mar Poly and she beat some good ones when routing in the Hollywood Oaks earlier this year. After being unraced as a 2-year-old, she is 6-0-2 from eight starts this season. She is 4-for-5 on synthetics. She should be able to stalk and make a run at the quick pace.
** Unfortunately, there was not yet time to take an in-depth look at the Pacific Classic. Without going into detail, my early selection is Well Armed.
Good luck to everyone!