With less than two weeks to go until the World Championships, now is a good time to look at some of the top contenders in each division. Obviously, there will be plenty of surprises when the pre-entries come out Thursday, so this is just a rough draft, if you will.
Right now, the biggest question marks are which Europeans will come over, and what races will they enter. Because of the synthetic surface, some which may have pointed to the Mile or Turf in years past may try the Classic. We’ll have to wait and see.
Be sure to check in all next week when I’ll analyze each division in-depth and later in the week, give out selections.Friday, Oct. 24 races
Filly and Mare Sprint: Shaping up to be a deep and talented group.
1. Indian Blessing – Champion gets slight edge based on class edge, but she is by no means a shoe in. Is there any possibility she tries the boys?
2. Indyanne – TCA was very impressive considering splits she ran and what she had left in final sixteenth.
3. Intangaroo – Won three G1’s this year and nobody seems to know.Watch out for: Lady Sprinter – A perfect 8-for-8 on dirt in Argentina; Will make U.S. debut in BC.
Juvenile Filly Turf: Doesn’t look all that intriguing now that European star Rainbow View is being pointed towards the Juvenile Fillies. We’ll see how it shakes out.
1. Maram – Miss Grillo winner looks as good as any right now.
2. C Karma – Never been off the board in five starts. Natalma winner makes first start outside of Woodbine.
3. Freedom Rings – Runner-up in a pair of stakes events.
Juvenile Fillies: Addition of European star would add a lot of intrigue.
1. Stardom Bound – Debutante and Oak Leaf wins were awesome.
1A. Rainbow View – Perfect 4-for-4 in England. If she runs, it could turn into a great stretch duel.
3. Sky Diva – Looks like the best on East Coast.
Watch out for Be Smart: Smarty Jones filly was second to Dream Empress in Alcibiades but has a lot of talent.
Filly and Mare Turf: No overwhelming favorite at this point. Betting should be wide-open.
1. Mauralakana – Beaten last out but tough to argue with the year she’s had. Tries every time.
2. Wait a While – Form as a good as anyone right now.
3. Black Mamba – New Zealand-bred has never been off the board.
Watch out for: Ventura – Has kind of fallen off the radar since Woodbine Mile. I wouldn’t forget about her.
Ladies Classic: Might be the most anticipated race all weekend, even without Proud Spell. Should be special.
1. Zenyatta – Still perfect and gets the stay home. Could be Horse of the Year if everything falls right.
2. Music Note – Will have to beat older horses, but she has talent to do it.
3. Hystericalady – Was soundly beaten by Zenyata and synthetic is not her best surface, but I still like her here.
3A. Ginger Punch – Still the champ.
Watch out for: Carriage Trail – Stakes record in Spinster while drifting badly. Is she set up to bounce? Time will tell.
Saturday, Oct. 25 races
Marathon: A shame Evening Attire was retired. He would have added a lot to this event. With only a few preps for this division, we know little at this point. My guess is we’ll see a few Europeans enter, which should spice things up.
1. Delightful Kiss – I guess you have to give him the early edge based on Fall Championship and All American Stakes, both on artificial surfaces.
2. Big Booster – One of two probables for Mike Mitchell. Has won two in a row and is plenty fresh.
3. Dominican – Darrin Miller has not yet committed to sending last year’s Blue Grass winner.
Watch out for: Frost Giant – IEAH is now saying Suburban winner might be entered. One European name to keep in mind is Sixtees Icon.
Turf Sprint: Really won’t know too much until Thursday.
1. Mr. Nightlinger – One thing we do know is he’ll be the favorite. Enters on five-race win streak.
2. True to Tradition – Nearctic and Turf Monster winner in good form for Scott Lake.
3. Diabolical – Last year’s Vanderbilt winner ran a good one two weeks ago at Ascot.
Watch Out for: Salute the Count – Won at Saratoga last month and 8-year-old Dutrow trainee is always in the mix.
Dirt Mile: Looks like California horses have the edge here.
1. Well Armed – Seems that Eoin Harty is leaning towards Mile instead of Classic. Will be tough if that is the case.
2. Surf Cat – The old man always gives his best. Cutback could be to his liking.
3. Tale of Ekati – Ran a career-best 104 Beyer in Jerome. Could be the best spot for the 3-year-old.
Watch out for: Albertus Maximus – Improving colt set one-mile Del Mar track record this year.
Mile: Looks like some of the top Europeans are leaning towards the Classic. We’ll have to wait and see.
1. Kip Deville – Willing to excuse his Woodbine Mile. Last year’s winner has to get benefit of the doubt.
2. Goldikova – According to DRF, talented filly will try Mile instead of Filly and Mare Turf. She’s won consecutive group I mile events in France.
3. Thorn Song – Probably won’t have it as easy as he did at Keeneland.
Watch out for: Spirit One – If speedy Arlington Million winner enters, could ruin things for Thorn Song.
Juvenile: You have to assume that Vineyard Haven is not going. With Charitable Man out and Run Away and Hide a likely defection, things seem wide-open.
1. Square Eddie – Impressive Futurity winner on top right now by default.
2. Munnings – Second in Champagne, but likely to improve.
3. Street Hero – Norfolk winner never off the board in five starts.
Watch Out for: Midshipman – Second in Norfolk. Can’t discount a Baffert 2-year-old. Also, Pioneerof the Nile, who will likely move off the turf, could be an upset possibility for Bill Mott if he draws in.
Juvenile Turf: Another one where we won’t know too much until entry time.
1. Grand Adventure – I was impressed with gutsy Summer victory.
2. Bittel Road – Undefeated and looking good for Pletcher.
3. Jukebox Jury – Irish colt rallied from last in Royal Lodge.
Watch out for: Skipadate – Tough luck so far, but he has talent. Also, Duke of Homberg, a winner in France, could improve off fourth-place Pilgrim, which was his U.S. debut.
Sprint: Injuries to Benny the Bull, Abraaj and Bustin Stones have opened the division up.
1. Fabulous Strike – Is fast as lighting and has a ton of heart. Will he like the Pro-Ride?
2. Street Boss – Likely favorite has been tremendous this year.
3. Cost of Freedom – Ancient Title winner has won three straight.
Watch out for: Midnight Lute – Baffert says last year’s Sprint winner is ready to roll.
Turf: As always, Europeans will play a big part here although we still don’t know who is coming, let alone who will opt for the Mile. In the U.S., there isn’t a lot separating top few.
1. Grand Couturier – Couldn’t be coming into the race any better.
2. Red Rocks – The 2006 winner will come in with 3 ½ months rest.
3. Red Giant – Set North American turf record for 10 furlongs in Clement Hirsch. Can’t disregard.
Watch out for: All of the Europeans. Henrythenavigator and Raven’s Pass seem to be pointing towards Classic, but there is still Soldier of Fortune and Eagle Mountain. Also, I haven’t heard about Archipenko yet. Duke of Marmalade is definitely coming, but will it be for the Classic or Turf?
Classic: Full picture won’t be complete until we know for sure about Curlin, and which Europeans will enter.
1. Curlin – Will have another work on Pro-Ride Monday. You would think connections should be able to tell us by then.
2. Big Brown – Continues to work on grass. Looking forward to seeing him at Santa Anita.
3. Go Between – Might be the best of the West.
Watch out for: Colonel John, Casino Drive, Student Council and at the risk of being repetitive, any European.