After a long week of handicapping, here are my Saturday thoughts...
When considering morning-line favorite Interactif, there are two ways to look at the full field that he is facing: If you like him, you should be thrilled that you are likely to get a more than fair price. Or if you think he is vulnerable, there are no shortage of upset options.
I happen to like him and if he stays at 4-1, I'm going all in. I think this is Pletcher's best chance at winning a BC race this year and I would not be surprised to see this horse prominently on next year's Triple Crown trail. His last two wins were superb, especially the Bourbon when he had to overcome a wide trip and come from way off the pace on the soft turf. His turn of foot is what separates him from the rest. I expect him to be closer to the pace this time around and explode down the stretch.
Interactif will be one of my strongest plays all weekend, although the Euro contingent is a bit of an unknown. I'm really not sure how good Pounced, Buzzword, or Viscount Nelson are, but all of them will be tackling one mile for the first time in their first race over here. Of the three, I like Pounced the most. He hasn't run a bad race yet and might enjoy the extra distance.
Two longshots I want to mention are Becky's Kitten and Awesome Act. Becky's Kitten ran well in his first stakes effort at Woodbine, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths by Bridgetown. He could improve off that. Leparoux rides for Ken Ramsey, who has two entered in here. Awesome Act, I was told, came back with poor blood work in his last race when he finished ninth in the Dewhurst. The connections think he could fire a big one. Just a hunch.
- Awesome Act
Tough, wide-open race. Desert Storm won this last year and some say he is coming into the race the same away. I just can't play him off his recent form.
Cannonball comes into the race very well and always seems to be right in the mix. Diamondrella beat Forever Together last out and that is no easy task. California Flag has won three straight out here and set the pace in this race last year before fading. Dancing in Silks has also won three straight in Cali. All of them are playable.
I do tend to give the edge to horses that have run well over the downhill turf course in this race, which includes California Flag. But I am leaning toward another horse that fits that profile--Noble Court. The 5-year-old won in his only start over this course in March and hasn't done much wrong since while racing on synthetics. He has been right there in a pair of grade I's, including a runner-up to Sprint favorite Zensational in the Pat O'Brien. John Sadler certainly didn't want the 1 post and is going to need a smart ride from Joel Rosario. If he gets it, he could pop at a price.
Sadler's other entry, Get Funky is also possible at a big price.
- Noble Court
- Diamondrella/Dancing in Silks
No other race has drawn so many varying opinions. I have talked to scores of people who are equally as high on Zensational, Fatal Bullet, Gayego, Crown of Thorns, and Capt. Candyman Can.
As many of you know, I have been touting Zensational for weeks. I haven't backed down, despite the 1 post, people insisting the race is set up well for a closer, and he hasn't faced top company. To me, he is the fastest horse in the race, period. And he hasn't even been asked for his best yet. He's a horse that can carry his speed.
If he gets beat, I think it will be by Fatal Bullet. He was second last year and comes into the race in great form.
Closing speed should come from Capt. Candyman Can.
- Fatal Bullet
- Capt. Candyman Can
D'Funnybone might be the best horse in the race but at his low odds and trying Pro-Ride for the first time, I have to try to beat him.
This is a race where I'll probably box four or five horses. It's so wide-open. I like Aikenite in his second try at two turns. He had a bad trip last time and was still a factor. He would be my win pick as of now. But I'll include Pulsion, Aspire, Radiohead and Lookin at Lucky in exotics.
Everyone knows about Goldikova's ability. She will be awfully tough to beat and I'll wheel her in everything. She is the most likely horse at the BC to repeat.
But there are several price horses you can use with Goldikova to fill out exacta and tris. Most notably, I like Ferneley, a horse who seems to be coming into the this race in great shape. His run against Ventura in the Woodbine Mile was very good and a mile is his perfect distance. Bejarano gets the mount again. He is a live horse.
I also like Zacinto and Delegator
Quite honestly, I don't have a strong opinion on this race other than to say I'll be surprised if Mastercraftsman gets beat. He ran well against Sea the Stars and had a nice prep on Poly. I'll single him in Pick 3's and 4's.
I like Chocolate Candy for a piece since he's cutting back to a mile, which is his best distance.
- Chocolate Candy
- Furthest Land
Will they catch Presious Passion? I think so. But he'll give you a rush and has a good chance to get a piece.
It's hard for me to separate the three Euros, but I landed on Spanish Moon on top. He is good right now at a distance he loves. Conduit ran big in the Arc and is the one to beat. He cant be ignored.
The one horse I think will be a huge overlay and has a chance to get money is Telling, who has seemed to figure things out. He's just one of those improving horses I think might fill out nice exotics at a price. I was told Gomez tried to get the mount without success.
- Spanish Moon
I've discussed at length my feelings on Zenyatta. I think she is up against too much here--new distance, facing males, etc. Her numbers just don't match up on paper with the best here, in my opinion. She simply has not been as good as she was last year any way you want to slice it. She didn't face much all season during a hand-picked campaign. She must take major strides forward to win this race and I don't see it happening. She's the perfect favorite to play against, in my opinion, especially with her running style. I'll use her on the bottom of exotics. If she wins, I have no problem coming back and saying I was wrong.
All week I have gone back and forth on four horses--Richard's Kid, Gio Ponti, Einstein, and Colonel John. I like them all for several reasons, but mainly because they have had success over this track against good horses.
Richard's Kid impressed me with his works this week. He is just an improving horse who loves synthetics and really has a nice stride. He will be coming hard at the end.
Colonel John is on his favorite track and coming off a big Goodwood effort. He is an honest horse who should be sitting mid-pack and advancing on the turn. I'm just not sure he is fast enough against these. He wouldn't surprise me if he won, but you have to take a stand on some.
I had the hardest time separating Gio Ponti and Einstein. Other than Rachel, they have been the best horses in America this year, in my opinion. Einstein is 7 but still a gamer. He is versatile and has the right running style to win this race. He comes in fresh and off a great effort in the Pacific Classic. He won the Santa Anita Handicap over this course at the same distance. He has looked good all week.
Gio is a four time grade I winner on turf this year, but also has a win over the course in the Sir Beaufort, albeit at a mile. One and half miles is not his best distance and Clement knows that. The Classic is the right spot. He is a superstar horse and his numbers match up well with these. He is awfully tough to dismiss.
As far as the Euros, Rip Van Winkle obviously has a huge shot. It's hard to argue what he has done against the best in Europe. His connections win these big races with regularity. The Pro-Ride is a question, but don't forget he trains over Poly in Europe. He is a must use. Twice Over is interesting too.
Summer Bird? Well, he looks great and is obviously hot. I don't know how you can ignore him, but his best races have come over and off track and there are questions about his works out here. I'll use underneath.
Mine That Bird will be making up ground at the end, but he's not a win candidate for me.
One other horse I'll mention is Awesome Gem. He would be a shock, but he's got synthetic experience and is getting pretty good right now. He's a huge price that could fill out exotics if he is on.
As of this writing 11 a.m. on Friday, I am going with Einstein for the win. My only question about Gio is his turn of foot on Pro-Ride. I know he won over this surface, but does he have the same kick he does on grass? I'm not 100% sure. That being said, I will wheel both Einstein and Gio.
With this race being as deep and wide-open as it is, I think you have to use "all" on the bottom. No other way for me.
Here is what my play will look like:
*Einstein large win ticket; Gio Ponti small win ticket
*Einstein, Gio Ponti wheeled with all in exactas and tris.
So that I'm on record:
2. Gio Ponti
3. Richard's Kid
4. Rip Van Winkle
I wish everyone the best of luck with their betting and in the contest. Enjoy the great weekend of racing. Let know your thoughts.