We're coming into the home stretch...just three weeks until the Breeders' Cup. I don't know about any of you, but it looks to me like we're going to have some of the most competitive fields in recent memory. All of the races will be anticipated with great excitement, but I am especially looking forward to the Juvenile Fillies, Filly & Mare Turf, Ladies Classic, Sprint, Mile, Turf and of course, the Classic. We will breaking down all of the races in the coming weeks, so I'll look forward to your input.
In the meantime, there is still some pre-Breeders' Cup work to be done. Today is opening day at Keeneland and the atmosphere, as always, will be electric. The Saturday card, which boasts four graded races with purses of $500,000 or more is tremendous. Three of those races are "Win and You're In" events, so let's take a look at those.
By the way, this is the last full weekend of the Breeders' Cup Fantasy Challenge. We haven't talked a lot about the contest, but are any of you doing well? I was near the middle of the pack for most of the summer but I've been on fire the last two weeks and am actually sitting in 24th place and only about $50 behind the leader. My handle is "Offhegoes." It would take a lot of luck this weekend, but I have an outside chance at this thing. If any of you have a "lock" in any of the 12 challenge races, let me know!!
Shadwell Turf Mile
This is a very competitive full field and a great betting race. Rahy's Attorney and Shakis will take a lot of money based on their last efforts, but I don't like either. Rahy's Attorney is making his first career start away from Woodbine and Shakis has done his best running in New York. War Monger could be a factor, and my co-worker Evan Hammonds likes Society's Chairman, who also ships from Canada and could be near the pace.
The early word from Keeneland is that the turf course is very dry and could play towards speed. That is one of the reasons I like Thorn Song, who should be on the front end under Robby Albarado. This late-blooming 5-year-old has been in good form all year. He ran well in the Maker's Mark Mile during the Keeneland Spring meet and lost to Kip Deville by only a length. He is 2-0-1 at a mile on the turf and was beaten only a length by Red Giant two starts back. Of course, Red Giant set a nine-furlong world record last weekend.
The other horse I like is European shipper Lord Admiral, who makes his first start in the U.S. since 2006. He won two group stakes in Dubai this year and has faced the world's best. He was third to Archipenko, and last out was competitive against New Approach in the Irish Champion. He has been on the board in 30 of 45 starts.
The Pick: I'm going to play an exacta with Thorn Song and Lord Admiral on top of each other and use them over longshots French Beret, Lovelace and Karelian.
Lane's End Breeders' Futurity
Another big field and wide-open race. I give Majestic Blue a decent chance here based on his impressive maiden win at Saratoga. Flashmans Papers has also been very competitive in group company in England, as has Square Eddie, who just missed by a head last out. They are two of three juveniles shipping in for trainer John Best. Notonthesamepage has the highest speed figure of anyone here and faced a tough field in the Hopeful.
Pioneerof the Nile broke his maiden going 1 1/16 miles on the Saratoga turf and now tries Poly for the first time. A son of Empire Maker, he could be closing hard. Advice draws the outside post, but might be able to overcome it. He broke his maiden by 8 lengths and then was caught in deep stretch in the Arlington-Washington Futurity, both on Poly.
The Pick: Tough race to bet. I'll play an exacta box with Advice, Pioneer of the Nile and Notonthesamepage. My win bet will be on Advice.
Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes
Indyanne will take most of the money here and rightfully so. She has been awesome in five starts and her only loss last out can be excused due to a poor break. She already has win over a synthetic surface too.
My buddies at Equiform like Wild Gams here. She is a classy 5-year-old mare who enters in good form. She won this event last year after a bold stretch run and a hot early pace could set her up for another win. She is 8-2-1 from 16 starts at six furlongs.
Don't forget about Sugar Swirl. She was third in the grade I Ballerina was impressive and she has won four of six this year, all graded stakes. The 5-year-old daughter of Touch Gold gets Bejarano, who was aboard last year in the TCA when she finished second to Wild Gams after falling far back.
Any Limit should provide an early speed challenge with Indyanne. She won by almost six lengths in the grade II Honorable Miss last out.
The Pick: Indyanne will be tough here, but she faces experienced older horses. I'll hope she gets caught up in a speed duel with Any Limit, which sets up Sugar Swirl for a big finish. You can't complain about anything Sugar Swirl has done this year. She fires every time. I'll take her to win and use her in exacta boxes with Wild Gams and Golden Doc A, who will be a price.
Also, in the Champagne, I like Cribnote. This colt is going to be something special.
Let me know who you like and good luck to everyone!