Beat 'em or Play 'em?

Okay, only three weeks to go. It's time to start getting serious.

As most of you know, I live for beating chalk. Win or lose, I like to take my shots. On that note, I'm beginning to think about which potential favorites I will have to play and which ones I am going to try to beat.

This exercise lets us look at possible top contenders for many of the races (I couldn't do them all) and gives us an idea of who the favorites will be. It is simple: If the morning-line odds were posted today and you had to choose, would you try to beat or play the given horse?

For each race I used the odds set by Mike Watchmaker of DRF.

Let me know your thoughts.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Beat ‘em or Play ‘em: Ventura

It's going to be tough to pick against her based on her spectacular performance last year and what she just did in the Woodbine Mile. She'll likely go off somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-1, I'm guessing. Informed Decision seems the most likely candidate to knock her off, or perhaps Indian Blessing, who might to be getting back to her old form. Seventh Street could also be a factor.

I say she's a play ‘em.


Beat ‘em or Play ‘em: Zensational

He might be the easiest pick of all week. Of course, he'll also probably be even-money. Right now, I don't see any way to play against this monster, who not only is the fastest horse in the race but gets to stay home. I don't think we've seen his best yet. I really like Fatal Bullet and I was very impressed with what Capt. Candyman Can did on Poly, but Zensational is probably too good.

He's a play ‘em.


Beat ‘em or Play ‘em: Conduit

This division became wide open when Gio Ponti entered the Classic. Conduit is the early favorite based on his win a year ago, but he has won just once in four starts in 2009-which isn't the way he came into the BC last year. His effort against Sea the Stars in the Arc-losing by just 2 1/4 lengths-wasn't bad at all-indicating he will definitely be a factor again. But there are others that will be more enticing at bigger prices. The Euros may have the other top choices as well with Fame and Glory, Jukebox Jury, and Spanish Moon, among others. Our best chances here may lie with Presious Passion and Just as Well. Midships is out. Let's see what happens in the Canadian International. The Euros have a huge edge right now.

Conduit is a beat ‘em.

Filly & Mare Turf

Beat ‘em or Play ‘em: Dar Re Mi

It remains to be seen whether Dar Re Mi will go in this race or against the boys in the Turf (they make like her more at 12 furlongs), but for now let's assume she stays here where she would be the heavy favorite. There was no shame in finishing fifth in the Arc and it looks like she came out of the race fine, said John Gosden. She will certainly be tough, but don't discount our top two-Magical Fantasy and Forever Together. Magical Fantasy made it four in a row in the Yellow Ribbon and will have a big edge on a turf she adores. Forever Together had a bad trip in the First Lady and was flying at the end. Don't be discouraged by her last two efforts. She hasn't lost much. She'll be tough again-and at a good price. There will be many others with solid chances in here too.

Dar Re Mi is very good, but for now, she's a beat ‘em.


Beat ‘em or Play ‘em: Goldikova

Talk about a tough horse to play against. Goldikova might be even better now than she was a year ago when she made all of our jaws drop in the Mile. Yes, she finished third in the Prix de La Floret a couple weeks ago, but she lost by a half-length in a 14-horse field. Not exactly a major fall off. She's still a monster and will be extremely tough to handle. Mastercraftsman, the one horse that might be able to run with her, will likely go to the Classic. Our best hopes are Cowboy Cal and Court Vision, both winners last weekend, but they are probably more than a few steps behind.

Goldikova is a play ‘em.

Dirt Mile

Beat ‘em of Play ‘em: Regal Ransom

There are so many ways to go here and still a lot to be determined, especially since Godolphin owns four of the top contenders-Regal Ransom, Girolamo, Midshipman, and Pyro. Who will go and who won't? DRF has Regal Ransom listed as the 3-1 choice for now, but this is very tentative. His comeback effort in the Super Derby was very impressive indeed, especially on paper when earning a 104 Beyer. But let's be honest, he didn't beat much. The biggest question is with Girolamo, who ships out to Cali after his impressive Jerome score but will not be officially pointed toward the race until the connections see how he trains over Pro-Ride.  Crown of Thorns and Misremembered are also factors.

With so much uncertainty, Regal Ransom is a beat ‘em for now.

Juvenile Turf

Beat ‘em or Play ‘em: Interactif

It's going to be really, really tough for me to play against this colt. Did you see his effort in the Bourbon? It was huge. He lost a ton of ground on the turn and still was so much the best against a big field. He should be even better on a firm turf in Cali. Truth be told, I haven't looked very closely at all of the contenders, but I may have seen all I need to from Interactif.

He is a play ‘em.


Beat ‘em or Play ‘em: Lookin at Lucky

Well, you can't help but be impressed with Lookin at Lucky after his fourth in a row. He gets to stay home and will run for a trainer who knows how to win BC races. Playing against him with a horse like D' Funnybone, who has been extremely impressive but will make his first start over synthetics and will train in New York, will be gutsy. Im not sure about Dutrow's other contender, Homeboykris, yet. Noble's Promise and Aikenite both proved worthy of a long look after the Breeders' Futurity too.

There is a still a lot to consider here, and for that reason Lookin at Lucky is a beat ‘em right now.

Ladies Classic

Beat ‘em or play ‘em: Zenyatta

It is the burning question right now: Will she go to the Classic or Ladies Classic? I still say it will be the Ladies Classic, but time will tell. Even if she goes here, I will look to beat her. Her terrific performance in the Lady's Secret will undoubtedly make her even more of a heavy favorite, which is fine with me. Music Note is much better than she was last year when finishing third by three lengths. Her speed numbers prove it. Careless Jewel is also a freak and to think we might get 6 or 8-1 on her is appetizing.

If Zenyatta goes, this is going to be a fabulous race either way. I know I'll be in the minority, but she is a beat ‘em.


Beat ‘em or play ‘em: Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle may or may not be the morning-line favorite if Zenyatta goes, but along with Mastercraftsman, they form a pretty formidable one-two punch for the Euros. Rip Van Winkle has a pair of group I wins a row entering the Classic and it looks like distance will be no problem. Mastercraftsman did nothing to hurt his chances when he romped by five lengths in his first try over synthetics on Oct. 2 at 10 furlongs and his one-length defeat to Sea the Stars earlier in the year looks even better now. Summer Bird, Gio Ponti, Colonel John, Richard's Kid, and Quality Road seem to be our best hopes. Also, don't sleep on Einstein.

Obviously, there is a lot to be determined still. But if Rip Van Winkle is indeed the favorite, he is a beat ‘em in a wide-open field.

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