TimeformUS Weekend Plays: Breeders' Cup Edition

Santa Anita Friday, Race 10, Local Post Time 4:35 pm PT
The G1 Breeders' Cup Distaff, 1 and 1/8 Miles, Dirt, F&M, 3+

By Robert Finnegan

1) #4 Royal Delta
2) #5 Beholder
3) #6 Princess of Sylmar

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The Breeders' Cup Distaff features the smallest field on the card, as only six fillies and mares are lined up to contest this prestigious $2m Grade One race.  What the field lacks in size it more than makes up for in terms of quality and accomplishment, however, as this is a tremendous group that seems certain to put on quite a late afternoon show for fans of the Sport of Kings and, in this case, queens.
We start with two-time defending champion #4 Royal Delta.  Last year, Royal Delta wired the field, posting a solid 123 TimeformUS speed figure. A duplication of that effort should get the job done on Friday.  Royal Delta comes into this race having lost her previous start--to the talented three-year-old Princess of Sylmar, who opposes her again on Friday.  While we have a great deal of respect for Princess of Sylmar, we have reason to believe Royal Delta can turn the tables in this spot.  Note that she is 6-for-8 lifetime when entering races off of losses, and that her trainer, Bill Mott, gets strong TimeformUS ratings when switching circuits (86), when employing today's spacing (88), and when using Mike Smith (100).

TimeformUS PPs for Royal Delta
The TimeformUS Pace Projector indicates that Royal Delta should get a stalking trip behind the outstanding three-year-old local horse, #5 Beholder. Given that Royal Delta will break inside of Beholder, one could argue that Royal Delta's connections will opt for frontrunning tactics, but our expectation is that this will not happen. We don't anticipate that Bill Mott will draw up a plan that requires his mare to outrun Beholder early and Princess of Sylmar late.
TimeformUS Pace Projector for the Distaff

Beholder is five-for-six at Santa Anita overall, and four-for-four in routes.  She was a brilliant two-year-old, and she's clearly top class.  However, she did lose her only start at nine furlongs, succumbing to Princess of Sylmar in the final strides of the G1 Kentucky Oaks.  It is also telling that the finest performance of Beholder's career came at the sprint distance of six furlongs, where she posted a spectacular 123 speed figure, and did so as a two-year-old, no less.
Which brings us to Princess of Sylmar, who soundly defeated Royal Delta at Belmont Park 34 days ago while earning a speed figure of 117.  Princess of Sylmar is trained by Todd Pletcher, who sports an overall Trainer Rating of 100, which is our maximum rating.  She also has the services of jockey Javier Castellano. Pletcher sports a terrific 98 rating when he uses Castellano. Moreover, he gets a 95 rating when employing race-spacing that is similar to today's. Plainly, there is much to like here. But there is also something here that gives us pause. Princess of Sylmar has had a very busy campaign, and this race was not originally supposed to be part of it. Does she have another peak effort in her off the cross-country ship only 34 days after that glistening effort she put in last time?  Note that the last time she posted a 117 speed figure, she reacted to it, and fillies are generally more reliable bounce candidates than their male counterparts. So, yes, there are big positives here, but there are also concerns--concerns that we find hard to dismiss given that her odds will be relatively short.
For our thoughts on the rest of the Distaff field, and for analysis and selections for all 14 Breeders’ Cup races, get the Breeders’ Cup Package

Santa Anita Saturday, Race 12, Local Post Time 5:35 pm PT
The G1 Breeders' Cup Classic, 1 and 1/4 Miles, Dirt, 3+

By Douglas Salvatore

1) #9 Game On Dude
2) #5 Declaration of War
3) #6 Mucho Macho Man

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Game On Dude capped an extremely disappointing day for trainer Bob Baffert's stable when he finished seventh beaten 15 lengths as the 6/5 favorite in last year's Classic.

It was certainly an uncharacteristically dull performance. Game On Dude broke tardily and was pinched back at the start. That poor start left him positioned in mid-pack, where he did not appear to be traveling all that comfortably. It quickly seemed evident that Game On Dude wasn't relaxing, and jockey Rafael Bejarano steered him from an inside position to a spot several paths outwards, causing him to race wide on both turns but leaving him free of any more dirt kickback to the face.

Game On Dude briefly showed signs of a pulse when Bejarano asked him to pick things up going into the far turn, but he was soon making hard work of it and faded steadily through the stretch.

That lackluster performance, as a strong favorite on a huge stage, did a lot to damage the reputation of Game On Dude. However, he's been sensational since that defeat, winning six straight races, five of them with TimeformUS speed figures in the 127 to 132 range.

Game On Dude is clearly the best horse in this field on form. He has his doubters, to be sure, but the same was true going into the Pacific Classic last time out. They said, "Excuses or not, he's failed in his two prior Pacific Classic tries," and that type of skepticism led to Game On Dude going off at fairly generous odds of 8/5 against a wildly inferior field of horses. He answered his critics that day, winning the Pacific Classic by eight and a half lengths and doing so with devastating ease.

TimeformUS PPs for Game on Dude

In plain English, if Game On Dude shows up and runs his typical race, only unlucky tactical dynamics or a poor trip can beat him.

Our second selection is the European raider Declaration of War. He is a multiple Group 1 winner in Europe this year and has been assigned excellent figures, in the 125 to 130 range, in each of his last five starts.

Make no mistake, one must always be skeptical of European imports who tackle top-class American horses over a dirt surface.

Indeed, the record of foreign shippers in Breeders' Cup Classic editions run over a dirt surface is 35 starts, 1 win, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds. Those are obviously weak stats, though the lone winner, Arcangues, did connect at 133/1 odds after receiving a dream trip under Jerry Bailey in a less-than-stellar edition of the Classic.

Still, Declaration of War owns a pedigree well suited to dirt racing. His sire, War Front, and dam, Tempo West (a half-sister to Fountain of Youth/Champagne/Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags), were both North American dirt horses. That fact alone gives him a wildcard look at generous 10/1 morning line odds.

Our third selection is Mucho Macho Man. He was a fantastic second over this trip in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, coming up only a half-length short to a loose-on-the-lead Fort Larned. Mucho Macho Man reaffirmed his love for this track with a dominant win in the local prep for the Classic. If you draw a line through all of his wet-track clunkers, Mucho Macho Man is an admirably consistent horse who is very competitive with these on his best form.

For our thoughts on other contenders in the Classic field, and for analysis and selections for all 14 Breeders’ Cup races, get the Breeders’ Cup Package

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