Tough Task to Pick the Favorites

Pre-Entries for the 2010 Breeders' Cup were released on Wednesday with a record 184 horses entered. Back on dirt for the first time in three years and with highly competitive fields from top to bottom, especially the Classic, this year's Breeders' Cup is loaded with intrigue. Of the 14 races, there are five horses--Zenyatta, Goldikova, Informed Decision, California Flag,and Midday--trying to repeat in their respective events, with Goldikova going for an unprecedented three-peat.

Final entries and morning lines won't be drawn until next Tuesday, but in my opinion, from a betting perspective half of the 14 races do not even have a clear cut favorite or a "horse to beat." The Breeders' Cup is always the best betting weekend of the year, but the wide-open feel of many of these races has me foaming at the mouth.

From what I can tell, the seven races with clear-cut betting favorites are the Filly & Mare Turf (Midday), Ladies Classic (Blind Luck), Turf Sprint (Silver Timber), Juvenile (Uncle Mo), Mile (Goldikova), Turf (Workforce), and Classic (Zenyatta). In the other seven I think you can make a case for a number of different horses to be the favorite by post time. Let's take a quick look at those:

Marathon: The lone race for males on the Friday card, the Marathon is as wide-open as any race in the Breeders' Cup, especially since it's at 1 3/4 miles--a distance most of these horses have never gone. Mike Watchmaker at DRF has Giant Oak as his top choice right now and the horse has not won since May, 2009. Jeff Siegel at Breeders' has European shipper Bright Horizon as his top choice and he has never run on dirt. That tells you all you need to know about how much of a toss up it is. Prince Will I Am, coming off a win in the grade I Jamaica Handicap, could also wind up as the favorite but I'm not sure he wants that much distance. They likely won't be the in the top three as far as betting, but I give Alcomo and Eldaafer a good chance. Both of them seem to be distance specialists and are in sharp form. Tough race to decipher.

Juvenile Turf: Winter Memories will likely be the morning-line favorite off of her outstanding Miss Grillo effort, but she's not a cinch. Aidan O'Brien's Irish shipper, Together, has been rock solid in all of her starts, the Wesley Ward-trained Nina Fever has won four straight and is in rapidly improving, the top two from the Natalma--New Normal and More Than Real--are also legitimate contenders, and Kathmanblu was awful impressive in her Jessamine win.

Filly & Mare Sprint: Informed Decision could be the morning-line favorite off her win last year, but she is better on synthetics and was just beaten soundly by Dubai Majesty in the TCA. While Informed Decision might get the morning-line honors, the real money will probably land on Dubai Majesty, who won the Winning Colors (gr. III) the last two years at Churchill. Champagne d'Oro will also be heavily backed even though she was a non-factor in a trouble-filled Kentucky Oaks. And Rightly So has never been off the board in 11 starts and comes of a convincing score in the grade I Ballerina. Lots of ways to go.

Juvenile Fillies: Todd Pletcher seemed loaded after running four in both the Spinaway and Frizette, but wound up entering just one--R Heat Lightning. She was terrific in the Spinaway and ran a solid second in the Frizette despite a less-than-ideal trip, but still might not be the favorite. Those honors could go to A Z Warrior, who was a convincing 1 3/4-length winner in the latter. It will be interesting to see who winds up as the choice. Don't forget about Tell a Kelly either, even though she is making her first start on dirt. She might be even better at Churchill.

Juvenile Turf: Air Support. Soldat. Pluck. Rogue Romance. Take your pick of any of these four. Air Support and Soldat have each won one against the other. Pluck was awesome in the Summer Stakes. Rogue Romance was much the best in the Bourbon. My guess is that Rogue Romance winds up as the morning-line choice. By post time, I have no idea.

Dirt Mile: Very few would have predicted it a few months ago, but it looks as though Here Comes Ben could be the favorite. He's won four straight including the Forego-all of them at seven furlongs. Crown of Thorns has not won this year and has never run on dirt, but could also take a lot of money. He was very solid in the Goodwood. Gayego was terrific in the Presque isle Mile but hasn't run on dirt very often. I was very impressed by Aikenite at Keeneland a couple on Oct. 15 when he nearly broke the course record at seven furlongs. A one-turn mile is perfect for him. All of this being said, if I get 6-1 on Vineyard Haven I will be dancing to the window.

Sprint: Maybe the most wide-open race of the weekend since the likely top two choices, Discreetly Mine and Majestic Perfection, were injured. Now it looks like Girolamo will be the morning-line favorite off his Vosburgh win, but you can make a very good case for many others. They include Forego runner-up Big Drama, who never runs a bad race, world traveler Kinsale King, Vosburgh runner-up Riley Tucker, Warrior's Reward, who has run two good races at Churchill, and Atta Boy Roy, a convincing winner of the Churchill Downs Stakes in the spring.

As a note, it was announced today that the Sprint and the Dirt Mile flip-flopped spots on Saturday. The Sprint will now be the second BC race and the Dirt Mile will be the sixth.

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