If you think Friday's four-race mini Breeders' Cup card was confusing wait until you get a load of Saturday's races. Below you will find analyses of all the Breeders' Cup races, geared toward finding live longshots, that will either shed a little light on the proceedings or plunge you farther into darkness.
Either way, here goes.
CLASSIC - We'll start with the big one and the most complicated race of them all, with so many different potential scenarios, it seems futile to even predict how the race will play out.
First off, before we do anything, go on the Bloodhorse.com search engine and read my Sunday column on Imperative, because it would be too involved and space consuming to repeat it all. Let's just say I'm sticking with my original premise that he could be the next Volponi at approximately the same 43-1 odds. No one is even giving this horse a third or fourth mention, and off his past performances I can't really blame them. But I'm starting off by shooting for the moon, just for the fun of it. So, please, no reminders before or after the race what a dumb idea it was to give him a chance. I just like the way things are setting up for him and he could definitely pick up a piece of it or even better. And you gotta love Frankie Dettori picking up the mount. There, we got that out of the way.
Now for the others. Watching most of the Classic horses training and just seeing them in the flesh, and again thinking longshots (anyone can pick Shared Belief or California Chrome or Tonalist), I like what I've seen from Zivo, Cigar Street, and Prayer for Relief. Zivo moves beautifully over the track. Cigar Street is an Adonis on four legs, and the little mentioned Prayer for Relief has been at Santa Anita for a while and it shows, as he's been galloping with powerful, authoritative strides. Another who makes an impressive appearance is Footbridge.
As for the few works I've seen, Bayern had pretty much a maintenance drill in company, but I was quite impressed with V. E. Day, a long-striding colt who was gobbling up the ground in his :48 3/5 work. When Bayern worked, most people were fixed on him and were not watching Majestic Harbor working a half in :48 3/5 in front of him. But I did like the way he got over the ground. I keep missing Candy Boy, so I can't say much about him.
As for the favorites, Shared Belief hasn't done much since he arrived from Golden Gate, so he's hard to evaluate. California Chrome has been pulling his rider's arms out in his gallops and is on the muscle. Tonalist seems bigger and stronger than ever and is developing into quite a specimen. Yes. I know I'm confusing you, but I have to give my impressions first before sorting all this out.
I think any horse who is having a great day on Saturday and gets some racing luck has a chance to win this race, so nothing is said with great conviction.
Turning to Thoro-Graph, the one horse who looks to be on an excellent cycle is Cigar Street, and his numbers say he is sitting on a huge effort. When he returned from a 10-month layoff, he ran a good number, then improved nearly three points in his second start and then nearly four points in his third start. In that third start, the Skip Away, he earned a negative 3 1/2, which is the fastest number of any horse in the field. Now, after returning from a 17-month layoff, he ran a fast number, then improved on it second time out, and now once again is sitting on that third race back off a layoff. If he can make the same kind of improvement he did the last time, he should throw in a monster number.
A quick mention of Euro invader Toast of New York. Don't expect any big turns of foot. This is a grinder who normally is ridden hard a long way out, but he keeps coming and can sustain his move a long way.
But having to narrow it down, I'm going to stick with Imperative to run a big race at a monster price, whether he wins or is part of the exotics. And I would stick Prayer for Relief in as a shot to hit the board at possibly an even bigger price. From a physical standpoint, Zivo is well muscled out and is training beautifully over the track and he just looks like a happy horse. He looked sensational galloping Friday morning, as did Footbridge. Whether they, or the others, are good enough to win remains to be seen, but they could boost your exotics and run huge at a big price. And finally, there is Cigar Street with his great pattern.
You obviously won't bet on all these horses, so you can just go with Imperative in the exotics and pick a couple more you like, depending on their prices - horses like Prayer for Belief to hit the board at a monster price. The Thoro-Graph form says Cigar Street is sitting on a big race. He could get bet down, however. To summarize the Classic, I must plead ignorance on this one.
JUVENILE FILLIES - I like Feathered, despite her drawing the rail, but I don't believe she's going to be very long odds. Her Frizette was a throwout in the mud, and I just feel as if she disliked that track. However, her 9 3/4-length maiden win at Saratoga was a powerful effort and she did it like a good filly. She belongs in all exotics.
Another dangerous filly who won't be much of a price at all is the undefeated Cristina's Journey, and her barn thinks the world of her, especially after coming to Santa Anita early and working five furlongs in :58 3/5. And one filly who could be any kind is the Bill Mott-trained Puca, a daughter of Big Brown who had a spectacular work over the Belmont training track, breezing a half in an un-Bill Mott-like :47, the fastest of 92 works at the distance that day. A 16-length maiden winner in her last start, she gets Lasix for the first time. The Frizette winner By the Moon has been handled beautifully by former Rick Dutrow assistant Michele Nevin, but must overcome the 12-post, which is a bit far out there, but not far enough that she can't get a decent trip. Another contender, who breaks from the 11-post, in Top Decile who came from the clouds to finish second, beaten a half-length, in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland for the always dangerous Al Stall.
But for my longshot and good bet for the exotics, I have to give Wonder Girl a shot at 12-1. The daughter of Tiz Wonderful demolished a maiden field of New York-breds and then finished a troubled third behind Cavorting and Angela Renee, the 3-1 favorite for the Juvenile Fillies, in the Adirondack Stakes. She then came back and finished a strong second in the Frizette, after which she shipped directly to Santa Anita where turned in a strong half-mile work in :47 4/5. And she gets Mike Smith for the first time, all of which makes her a live longshot.
FILLY & MARE TURF - I'm going to make this short and sweet. Two of my favorite fillies in the country are in here and I love both of them. I'm talking about the ultra-consistent Abaco and the gorgeous, hard-knocking Irish Mission. The morning line favorite Dank, winner of this race last year, hasn't run since a well-beaten fifth in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. Second choice Stephanie's Kitten is always dangerous but we're looking for prices here, and Abaco is 15-1 and Irish Mission is 20-1.
Abaco is one of the most reliable grass fillies in the country. She is always flying at the end and fits the profile of a Filly & Mare Turf winner. She is a sweet, feminine filly to be around and I just feel she's going to run huge. Irish Mission is as tough as they come and excels at all distances. I loved her in the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup against the boys and she was just caught late by Charming Kitten after stalking the pace throughout. She's run big in her three races since, including a victory in the Glens Falls Stakes at Saratoga.
This is a very wide-open race, where anyone can win, but I'm sticking with the home team.
FILLY & MARE SPRINT - The favorites in this race looked very strong and good luck separating Sweet Reason, Judy the Beauty, Artemis Agrotera, and Leigh Court, all fast, classy fillies. And how fast is the runaway Prioress winner Stonetastic, who is coming off a :46 half-mile work? Even former European Living the Life has to be respected after winning both her starts in America on synthetic. She's been working super on the dirt, so who knows? If I simply were looking to pick a winner I would have to go with Judy the Beauty, who is all hickory and almost beat Groupie Doll in this race last year.
But for a price I'm going with 15-1 Little Alexis and 20-1 Thank You Marylou. Little Alexis went into the grade I Test Stakes undefeated in two starts and was closing like a rocket to finish third, beaten only one length by Sweet Reason. She then finished a fast-closing fourth in the Cotillion behind Untapable, but that was around two turns and she should appreciate dropping back into a sprint. And for a stone closer, how about shipping to Santa Anita early and blazing a half in :45 2/5, fastest of 63 works at the distance. How can you go wrong with Joel Rosario at those odds?
Thank You Marylou has been inconsistent, but did manage third-place finishes in the Adirondack and Ashland Stakes. After three disappointing efforts, trainer Mike Maker put blinkers on and she responded by romping in the seven-furlong Dogwood Stakes by 6 1/2 lengths. She was then a well-beaten third in the Raven Run at Keeneland, but the winner, Tris, was sensational that day, winning by nine lengths and Thank You Marylou had to rally from 11th to get third. She gets Johnny Velazquez for the first time, which is huge, and is dangerous to at least pick up a piece of it at a big price.
TURF SPRINT - Total crap shoot as always. I'm going with Tightend Touchdown, who nearly won this race last year at 18-1; and I have to throw in 10-1 Bobby's Kitten, dropping into a sprint for the first time, and the dangerous closer Marchman at 12-1.
JUVENILE - The Pletcher pair of Daredevil and Carpe Diem look very tough in here, and it's going to take a monster effort to beat both of them. But there are other talented runners such as the fast-closing New York-bred Upstart, who always runs big, and the undefeated Souper Colossal, who has won from 4 1/2 furlongs to one mile. Bob Baffert has an able substitute for American Pharoah in brilliant maiden winner One Lucky Dane, but Baffert feels he is more a horse for the future. And there is Frontrunner Stakes runner-up Calculator, who is still a maiden, but with a world of ability.
But at 20-1 I give a pretty decent shot to Texas Red, who was third to American Pharoah and has proven to be a consistent closer. However, my longshot special in here is Mr. Z, who gets blinkers on following a pair of unlucky seconds in stakes at Saratoga and a solid second to Carpe Diem the Breeders' Futurity. Owned by the Zayats, he's no American Pharoah, but the Wayne Lukas-trained colt has a lot of ability himself and certainly deserves a break after some hard-luck defeats. Watch for him to be coming on strong at the end at 20-1.
TURF - With a host of classy Europeans and Main Sequence and several others from America, I'm going to cut right to the chase. Twilight Agenda is due to win one of these big ones, but Main Squence always seems to jump up and beat him withy a late run. However, this time it could be different, especially if they change tactics and use his world-record speed by outrunning everyone and setting, not a slow, but fairly brisk and honest pace in order to take the late closers out of their game. The faster they have to run the less they'll have left for the stretch run.
You can only do this with a horse you know has the stamina to go with the speed and Twilight Eclipse fits that bill. You just don't want to put him in a position where he has to outclose Main Sequence and the Europeans. Now, Imagining likes to run on the front, but went in :50 4/5 and 1:15 2/5 in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. He may not be able to keep up with Twilight Eclipse if he sets testing fractions. Remember Presious Passion opening up by 10 and setting ridiculous fractions of :45 1/5 and 1:09 and change and still hanging on to be narrowly beaten by Conduit, who won the Turf the previous year.
Naturally, I don't know what their strategy is, but with 12-1 morning line odds, I would definitely play him in the exotics, and would be even more confident if I saw him in front.
The Euros look fairly strong, especially Telescope and Arc runner-up Flintshire, but don't discount the Ballydoyle's 4-year-old filly Chicquita, last year's Irish Oaks winner and French Oaks runner-up who threw away any chance of winning the recent group I British Champions Filly & Mare Stakes when she drifted out badly while rallying in the stretch, and still finished third. She drops eight pounds off that race and gets Lasix and Frankie Dettori. She's only 8-1 on the morning line, but if she can handle the two-week turnaround she could be worth the bet.
A note about the stretch-running Big John B, winner of the Del Mar Handicap. This horse has been claimed six times in his career, including a $40,000 claim this past May. Needless to say he has come a long way.
SPRINT - What do you know, another wide-open race with no standout. Good luck separating Rich Tapestry, Private Zone, Secret Circle, and Palace. I have no strong fields about this race, but I was impressed with Fast Anna's super five-furlong work in :57 flat under Gary Stevens, who thought he had gone in :59. He did it on his own and was eating up this track. He gets blinkers on and I don't know if there is anyone who can run with him, especially after setting fractions of :21 1/5 and :43 1/5 in the Gallant Bob Stakes, in which he finished second to Parx lover Favorite Tale.
I also give an outside shot to Bakken, who could match Fast Anna for speed, but you just have to hope these two don't burn each other out.
MILE - With no Wise Dan, this is anybody's race. Grand Arch is listed at 20-1 despite finishing second to Wise Dan in the Shadwell Turf Mile in his last start. This horse is always right there.
Toronado may be Europe's best chance in the entire Breeders' Cup, but don't throw out the 3-year-old French filly Veda, runner-up in the French 1,000 Guineas and a close second against colts in the group II Prix Daniel Wildentein. Veda gets Lasix for the first time and Aga Khan horses are always live. If you get decent odds on Mustajeeb, you will get a run for your money from this consistent colt, who has been first, second, or third in his last six starts. He also is a Royal Ascot winner, taking the group III Jersey Stakes.
For a bombs away pick, Summer Front is in good form, and for 30-1 he could be a factor in the final furlong.