Earlier in the week I was leaning towards Delightful Kiss, who enters in good form and has consecutive grade III wins over synthetic surfaces. His bullet work at Golden Gate Oct. 12 confirms the 4-year-old gelding is as good as he has ever been for Pete Anderson.
As the week has gone on, however, I am feeling the Euros more, especially Muhannak and Sixtees Icon. Muhannak has not only won four in a row, but has earned consecutive wins on the Polytrack in Europe. The Chester House gelding has been a consistent stakes winner, has won at a 1 1/2 miles and is 4-1-2 on synthetics in his career. Somehow, the Irish-bred is a nice 20-1 overlay. Sixtees Icon, the 2-1 morning-line favorite, has won three consecutive group stakes and four of six this season. The group I winner and former Arc entrant is the class of the field and deserves a lot of attention despite having never started on synthetic.
The Pick: Mile and a half dirt races are rare in the United States. Since this is the inaugural running of this event, I'm going to put most of my money on the aforementioned Euros, who have much more experience winning at this distance. I'll box Muhannak, Sixtees Icon and Delightful Kiss in an exacta, and on top, I'll take Sixtees Icon, who is much more accomplished than any of these. I should be able to get 2-1 or more on the 5-year-old.
This is as wide-open an event as there is all weekend. Get Funky being the 9-2 morning-line favorite is conformation of that. Mr. Nightlinger, the 6-1 second choice, could go off as the favorite when all is said and done. The Indian Charlie colt has won five in a row with consistent speed figures to go along with each victory. The 14 post should actually be a benefit since they will be coming out of the downhill shoot. He must be respected.
Idiot Proof is also worthy of consideration. Second to Midnight Lute in last year's dirt sprint, he will be making just the second turf start of his career. But he was beaten only a length by Get Funky and could improve off that. Gomez helps too.
True to Tradition, One Union and Fleeting Spirit, the only filly in the race, are also interesting. Fleeting Spirit, a 3-year-old, is a multiple group winner who might appreciate 6 1/2 furlongs for the first time in her career.
The Pick: Again, this is a tough race to handicap; a lot of variables and things to consider. Look for overlays. Earlier in the week I had Mr. Nightlinger in my top spot. Now, I'm leaning towards Idiot Proof and True to Tradition. I'll box those two in an exacta and use True to Tradition as my win bet. The Scott Lake trainee will be a big price despite being very consistent this season. He should be on or near the lead.
Well Armed is going to be a handful. His form, win over the Pro-Ride, and early speed all make him tough to beat. I'm not sure I'm going to try to do it. Right now, 3-1 is looking very appetizing for a horse who some felt would have had a good chance in the Classic. He's looked great all week.
The Pick: Albertus Maximus, Surf Cat and Lewis Michael are the most logical to take down the favorite. Albertus Maximus might have more upside than anyone here and could improve off the Goodwood, where he was less than two back of Well Armed. He's had nice works too. Let's go with a Well Armed/Albertus Maximus exacta box, with Well Armed getting the slight edge for the win bet if he holds at 3-1.
Some Breeders' Cup races it makes sense to look for prices and overlays. In this one, however, look no further than the three morning-line choices - Goldikova, Whatsthescript and Kip Deville. Between them you have an exceptionally talented filly who has won three consecutive group stakes, a California-based colt entering in great form, and the defending champ. I cannot see anyone else contending.
The Pick: Trying to separate the top three is challenging. Goldikova has run two good races against Arc winner Zarkava and has won five of seven at this distance. On paper, she is the one to beat. But Whatsthescript also has a lot in his favor - huge speed figure last out, 4-for-5 at the distance and 2-for-3 on Santa Anita grass. The John Sadler and Garrett Gomez connection doesn't hurt either, which is why I'm going to take Whatsthescript in a slight upset over Goldikova and Kip Deville.
With some of the better 2-year-olds not making it to the race, mostly everyone has a decent chance here. Todd Pletcher sends out the favorite, Munnings, but also has a second colt to consider - Silent Valor. Despite being 15-1 on the morning-line, Silent Valor has put up very comparable speed figures and his second test at routing could see an improvement. Edgar Prado getting the mount doesn't hurt either.
Others I took a long look at were Azul Leon, Square Eddie and Midshipman, but it is Bushranger who I have really started to like as the week has worn on. The son of Danetime was installed as the fourth choice despite winning consecutive group I's in Europe. He has the perfect stalking style and gets one of the world's premier riders. He reminds some of 2001 juvenile champion Johannesburg, who came into this race in similar fashion. The question marks? Routing for the first time and moving off the turf.
The Pick: Silent Valor and Bushranger are my top two. After leaning towards Silent Valor earlier in the week, I'll likely use Bushranger as my win bet, but will play both in an exacta. Azul Leon will be in my trifecta plays as a big longshot.
** My selections for the final four Saturday races, including the Classic, will follow tomorrow.