What If There Was No Curlin?

 By Patrick Patten, Handride

Look, I'm on the fence too.  I think Curlin is a horse for the decade:  An absolute monster who has proven his mettle on more than one continent.  He is a horse whose races will be watched years from now, both wins and losses. HOWEVER, I don't believe he's a lock in the Breeders' Cup Classic, so instead of trying to come up with an excuse I'll just pretend he's not in the race and let reality provide the need or non-need of an excuse.  He's not a speedster so he wouldn't affect the pace of the race anyways. 

What is the pace of this race?  I'm guessing Smooth Air and Fairbanks play a game of "You take it.  No you take it.  By all means you take it."  Colonel John, Raven's Pass, and maybe Go Between should occupy the second flight.  I'm imagining a pretty bunched up group with not a lot of pace.  Now, all the jockeys are probably thinking the same thing, so look for a surprise horse to try and steal away early or entering the final turn. 

We all know that the track has made it a little easier on the early speed types, but with none in here I'm looking for a horse who might make the middle move and keep that pace going.  (Remember we're pretending Curlin, who fits that bill perfectly, isn't in the race).  Raven's Pass interests me when I read his trip comments.  He's rated, led throughout, sustained his run over 1f, and gets the hands of Dettori - sounds pretty enticing.  In fact, both Duke of Marmalade and Henrythenavigator have some good things going for them, but I'm not betting an all Euro trifecta (famous last words?).  Duke might have peaked a while back and the Arc was a sign for a horse going downhill, and Henry might have the same case of being tired.  So, I'm left with the Americans who have nice middle moves.  I've seen Smooth Air do it, and while that's a bomb of a pick, I feel good that he'll outrun his odds.  Go Between is on the rail, which has been a death sentence recently at Oak Tree, but Gomez is the best jockey in the country and I'm sure he could get a donkey home in any race. 

If there was no Curlin:

Top Pick: Raven's Pass  

Minor Awards: Smooth Air, Go Between, Tiago    

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