10/25/2007 8:52PM

BC Day 1: Graded Handicap


Below, or at this link if you don't like using slider bars, is my graded handicap for Friday's three BC races. You can also still get the ungraded spreadsheet here.

I find it both fun and useful to impersonate Hermis and Sweep sometimes, if only because the exercise forces you to consider each horse long enough to compose a cogent summary, and to clarify your own thinking about your primary and backup selections.

Most people use the term "graded handicap" just to refer to a listing of horses in order of preference, usually with comments, so I guess this is actually a graded-graded handicap, or a graded handicap with grades. In addition to rankings and comments, I've put a letter grade next to each horses, denoting whether I consider him an A (primary use), B (secondary use), C (very slight use), PX (I'm playing against a horse who's perfectly capable of winning) or X (a horse I don't like and am leaving out.)

I haven't factored the likelihood of a sloppy or muddy track into these rankings, and I'm leery of doing so. I have no idea what condition the Monmouth track will be in by late Friday afternoon. If it's a chaotic mess, I'll probably just scale back my betting rather than trying to guess who might or might not like it.

Here's a summary of my approach to these three new races:

4:25 pm EST, Monmouth race 8, $1 million BC Filly & Mare Sprint, 3+ fillies, 6f
Dream Rush and La Traviata are very nice 3-year-old fillies, but have never faced their elders or the kind of early pressure they could put on each other, with Shaggy Mane also likely to turn up the heat. So I'm playing against the two favorites. My three A's are Miss Macy Sue, who should get a dream trip on the inside just off the early duel; Baroness Thatcher, who moves outside after a tough rail trip in her last and an excellent pace-pressing second in the Ballerina before that; and Maryfield, who has run well in two prior ship-ins to the east and will be flying late. My secondary horses are the closers Wild Gams and Oprah Winney. In addition to playing against the two favorites, I'm also eliminating Shaggy Mane, as well as the closers Miraculous Miss and Jazzy, who have the right style but just seem a notch below the others. I'll use those two only on the bottom of trifectas and supers.

5:00 pm EST, Monmouth race 9, $1 million BC Juvenile Turf, 2yos, 1m-T
If you're feeling a little lost handicapping a million-dollar showdown between European and American grass 2-year-olds, that's because there's never been one before. Given that Europe's grass milers and routers and generally just plain better than ours, why shouldn't their grass 2-year-olds be as well? My three A's are the two top Euros, Strike the Deal and Achill Island, and the top American, Prussian. I'm a little torn about the latter, tempted to oppose him because he's had pretty soft trips, but he also just might be a really good grass horse. My second tier consists of one from each side of the pond, the unbeaten Gio Ponti from here and stakes-place Domestic Fund from over there. My C savers are Nownownow, off his win at Saratoga, and Texas Fever, because he's too big a price first-time turf at 30-1.

5:35 pm EST, Monmouth race 10, $1 million BC Dirt Mile, 3+, 1m
The Discreet Cat of 2006 would be legitimately 1-to-5 in this race but who knows if that's who we're going to see? His two races this year have been dismal. Even if you toss his World Cup debacle, he should have run better in his comeback race in the Vosburgh; last year he ran much better returning from a similar layoff. I'm not going to be shocked if he returns to form but I'm betting against it. I'm also pitching the three speed horses who could cause one another (and Discreet Cat) problems early, and rooting for a cavalry charge involving Xchanger, Lewis Michael, Corinthian and Park Avenue Ball.

*The three BC races will televised on ESPN2 on a two-hour broadcast beginning at 4 p.m., and there's live streaming available at the Breeders' Cup site.

The Friday betting menu at Monmouth includes just about any dish you could want, with tris and supers on every race, a pick-five on the first five races, rolling pick threes an all-stakes pick-six (no mandatory payout) on the last six, a pick four on the last four and an all-BC pick-three. There are also two-day daily doubles linking the F&M Sprint to Saturday's Sprint and the Dirt Mile to Saturday's (grass) Mile.

*I've decided to forego attending the BC festivities for only the third time in 24 years. (I also passed on Hollywood in 1997 due to unemployment and Lone Star in 2004 due to kidney stones.) I'm sure I'll have an I-wish-I-were-there clutch sometime Saturday morning, but then I'll remind myself how nice it will be 1) to miss what could be epic traffic jams along Route 36 and b)to be able to post something here for you, my fellow cyber-shut-ins, after each BC race both Friday and Saturday, while wagering from home through the NYRA Rewards Internet platform. (Dime super functionality finally arrived last Sunday.)

I think I'll soak up a little racetrack atmosphere with an early stop at Aqueduct Friday. It's a good way to get in the mood -- plus, I've got to put a litle extra ammo into my account to make my duplicate version of that Capital play.