Take your pick. Morning-line favorite Bittel Road and second choice Coronet of a Baron have a slight edge on paper, but this is a wide-open contest. Bittel Road, trained by Todd Pletcher, is undefeated in three starts but his speed figures are nothing staggering compared to these. He'll hope for a hot pace to close from. Coronet of a Baron missed by a nose to Midshipman at Del Mar and now tries turf for the first time.
Others to consider are European invaders Donativium and Westaphalia, Canadian shippers Grand Adventure and Skipadate, and longshot Vaquero.
The Pick: Demand value in this race because on paper there isn't much separating the major contenders. One value horse I like is Skipadate, who is 6-1 ML but might be even higher by post time. The Skip Away colt is two heads away from being undefeated and unlike many of his rivals here, all three of his efforts have been at a mile or over and on turf. He has made two big moves on the turn and his 94 Beyer is as high as anyone in here, including Grand Adventure, the colt that beat him by a head in the Summer Stakes. I've always been a fan of trainer Mark Casse, who should have this horse ready for a big effort. Skipadate on top and in exactas with Westaphalia and Donativium.
There are some races where you tread lightly and others where you attack. This is an attack for me. Why? I love a horse here - Fabulous Strike. Part of the reason is that I have followed him his whole career and know his situation. He's a gelding that has been consistent for three seasons, but has battled illness and injury. In talking with Todd Beattie earlier this week, he confirmed that this is the first time in more than a year that Fabulous Strike has been 100% healthy. And when healthy, he is as good a sprinter as there is in the country. His Vosburgh last out was tremendous considering he ran a :44 1/5 half while being pressed by two rivals. He then gave way to Black Seventeen in deep stretch, but showed enough grit to fight back on the rail before falling a head short. When I saw how good he looked in his stall this week and Beattie confirmed he has taken to the Pro-Ride, I was all in.
The Pick: There are others to be respected here, the Sprint is always one of the deepest BC fields. Street Boss, First Defence and In Summation are all capable contenders. But Fabulous Strike is my best bet of the entire weekend and will be my largest win bet. He will be wheeled in an exacta with the rest of the field. I'll be thrilled with 5-1.
Soldier of Fortune garners the most respect based on his solid campaign, which included a group I win and last out a terrific effort in the Arc when he was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths by Zarkava. Last year's Irish Derby winner has won three times at this distance, has world-class connections and has the tracking style to win this. I also give Eagle Mountain a nice chance, although he makes only his second start this season.
Of the American-based contenders, Grand Couturier certainly enters in great form. His win in the Turf Classic where he broke the North American 1 1/8 record and earned a 112 Beyer makes him a legitimate contender. He should put on a much better showing than in last year's Turf.
The Pick: Earlier this week I gave a slight edge to Grand Couturier, but Soldier of Fortune and Eagle Mountain are just a little classier. I will be putting my win money on Soldier of Fortune, who has been a consistent money earner against the world's best turfers over the last two years. Grand Couturier will be in all exotics.
First off, Curlin has looked great this week and is getting over the track just fine. He has been flawless this season and is absolutely the best horse on paper. If he wins, nobody should be surprised. That's what champions do.
But...there are reasons why I will not bet Curlin. A) He will be 8-5 or worse in a deep and solid field B) There is really going to be no significant pace in here which is something Curlin needs with his running style C) Despite garnering high speed figures in his last two, he was not overly-impressive visually and had trouble putting away less than stellar fields. D) Curlin really hasn't beaten all that much this season.
Who can beat Curlin? In my opinion, all 11 in this field are capable - even Smooth Air, who will be the longest shot on the board. It looks like he could inherit the lead by default and might even be in front at the quarter-pole. Go Between, who is 3-3-0 from six synthetic starts, is also scary. Colonel John seems to be peaking now and Eoin Harty has been quietly confident all week that the Travers winner is sitting on a big one. For all of Bobby Frankel's bellyaching about the Pro-Ride, Champs Elysees is also an intriguing horse. He showed he could get over the synthetics well when taking third in the Santa Anita Handicap in March and is usually near the money in grade I company.
All you Casino Drive fans (and there are a lot of you), there is no doubt he looks terrific and has taken to the track. But if he beats this field in his fourth career start, I will tip my hat and say I was dead wrong. He will not be in any of my wagers.
The Pick: I've had a feeling all week that this was going to be a European Breeders' Cup. I think they will win at least three or four races this weekend, and the Classic will be one of them. I've taken the hardest look at Raven's Pass and Duke of Marmalade. Both are having terrific campaigns against the world's best and are remarkably consistent. Raven's Pass enters off two big wins and seems to be in better form right now than Henrythenavigator, who has been his rival all year. The main reason I decided against him is because he will be trying 1 1/4 for the first time. My pick is Duke of Marmalade. All The Duke has done is win five of six this season - all in group I company - with two of the coming at 10 furlongs. Although seventh in the 1 1/2 Arc, he was right there after 10 furlongs and still finished less than four lengths back of the winner. He has great connections, has looked good all week, seems to be taking to the track and has accomplished more than any horse this season other than Curlin. And, he will be a nice price. I'll take my chances with Duke of Marmalade in a win bet and play him in exactas with Curlin, Raven's Pass and Go Between.
Let's see who everyone else likes. No matter who it is, have fun and best of luck to everyone. Enjoy Breeders' Cup 25!!