10/25/2008 8:46AM

BC Friday recap, Saturday analysis


Once again, we'll see if a quality European runner can handle this surface.  Sixties Icon has class (he won the 2006 St. Leger over subsequent BC Turf hero Red Rocks, and was 8-1 against Classic-bound Duke of Marmalade in the Prince of Wales's in June), is sharp (he's won his last three races), and we know he'll get this distance (four wins at 12 furlongs).  The surface, as it is with all of the Euros stepping hoof on the main track, is the main obstacle.  Zappa showed that 1 1/2 miles isn't out of his reach with his speedy win in the Cougar II.  He was pressed for a half-mile that day before bottoming out the field entering the backstretch for the final time.  He's held his own against some very good Southern California handicap horses in his last two races, and looms the main threat.  Euro Muhannak has won over polytrack overseas, but that wasn't pro-ride, and the company he faced doesn't seem top-class.  Still, it's a plus that he can handle the distance over a varienty of surfaces.  Big Booster was the beaten favorite in the Cougar II, but needs pace to attack. 

Here's the handicapper from The Racing Post with his take on the Euros (www.racingpost.co.uk)

Sixties Icon:
Excels off the slow pace which normally prevails in US races over this far because he can produce a tremendous burst of finishing speed. In fact, only one horse has finished in front of him in nine races that my speed ratings indicate were slowly run. This was the very smart Getaway. Proven around tight turns too. Deserving favourite.

Won six of the eight times he´s run beyond a mile on a tight course on firm turf or the AW. Would have won his other two but for running green in one and getting boxed in the other time. Won a Dundalk Listed race on Polytrack in fast time on his latest start and looks a big player here.

Selections:  Sixties Icon, Zappa, Muhannak


Turf Sprint:
There should be a barbecue up front with HandiGambling alum California Flag, Idiot Proof, and  Mr. Nightlinger vying for early supremacy.  That should set things up for a closer, and I'm giving Diabolical a chance to remember what he once was.  Last year, Diabolical was a multiple graded winner on the main track before being purchased privately by Godolphin.  Things haven't exactly worked out overseas for Diabolical, however, with only one win in eight tries.  He did have some traffic troubles in the Group 2 Diadem Stakes at Ascot last time out, and may be able to run these down under Dettori.  Fleeting Spirit certainly didn't have an easy time of it in the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp.  Her gate didn't open during the "original" running of the race, and she banged her head on the stall.  After that debacle was deemed a no-contest, she lost a shoe galloping back to the paddock.  The "real" race was run several hours later, and Fleeting Spirit only was beaten three lengths for all the marbles.  She's only a three-year-old filly, but it looks like she's run some quick races overseas.  Mr. Nightlinger has been a revelation since returning to turf sprints, but he went gate-to-wire in his last five wins, and he may not make the lead with lots of speed to his inside.  Get Funky has valuable experience over this course, and his stalking style plays well here.

Has run well in a strong of top European sprints, running almost as fast as he did in America. This race is nothing like as strong as those he´s been contesting. And it could well be he´s better around a turn than on the straight courses he´s tried in Europe. Big chance.

Fleeting Spirit:
Smashed Haydock´s 5f record on seasonal debut, earning huge speed rating. Ran well in two big
G1 sprints afterwards. But she´s never won beyond 5f or run around a turn. And she´s best off a break which she hasn´t had here. The fastest horse, but will sherun her race?

Only Answer:
Sole runner for most successful foreign trainer at this meeting. Won the first three times she ran less than 7f and bounced back to her best to win a 5f G3 last time where she finished strongly. Her dam won a G1 on turf over this odd distance, and Only Answer has won around a turn too. Very interesting runner.

Selections:  Diabolical, Fleeting Spirit, Mr. Nightlinger


"Dirt" Mile:
I'm going for the long bomb with Two Step Salsa.  Although he didn't win the Swaps two back, I loved the way he dug in while between rivals to beat back next-out Travers winner Colonel John for the runner-up position.  He has good early speed, has been working in steady seven-day intervals for Julio Canani, and should be prominent when the field turns for home.  He'll have to shrug off Mast Track (foot problems) before holding off the quality stalkers and closers, but he deserves a look at a big price.  My Pal Charlie enjoyed a perfect trip winning the Super Derby, but the argument could be made that this three-year-old is a late-developing sort.  He draws a poor post, and may be forced wide around both bends, but at 20-1 on the morning line, he gets a chance to overcome the adversity.  Well Armed is certainly the one to beat, but I wonder if he's a "tweener."  Perhaps a mile is too short for him and the 1 1/4 miles of the Classic is too long.  We'll find out in a few hours, and he should work out a good trip stalking Mast Track and Two Step Salsa.  Albertus Maximus is in career form, and should get enough pace to setup his late rally.  Lewis Michael projects for a good, ground-saving trip in behind the leaders from his rail post position.  He humbled Midnight Lute in the Pat O'Brien, and a mile is certainly within his scope.

Lord Admiral:
A solid Group 3 horse that did manage to win a Dubai G2 from a dozen starts in G1 and G2 races. But he´s now seven and surely not good enough to win at this level while trying the AW for the first time.

Selections:  Two Step Salsa,  My Pal Charlie,  Well Armed


I don't know what happened to Kip Deville at Woodbine, and neither does Richard Dutrow Jr.  He seemed rather keen coming out of the gate, was taken under a hard hold by Cornelio Velasquez, and just didn't fire turning for home.  Perhaps he didn't like the wet conditions in Toronto that day.  The defending Mile champion should work out a similar pace-tracking, ground-saving trip as last year with Ventura and Thorn Song setting the table up front.  Kip Deville is a multiple graded stakes winner over this course at this distance, and gets a chance to atone for the recent misfire.  Goldikova beat the boys in the Prix du Moulin last time out, and the third-finisher that day, Paco Boy, came back to drill U S Ranger in the Prix de la Foret.  Goldikova seems tactical enough, and is the sharp horse to beat.  U S Ranger won his first three races at a mile for Jean-Claude Rouget, but this will be his first start at this distance since he went to Aidan O'Brien's yard late last year.  Perhaps the additional distance, and first-time Lasix will help him get over the hump.  Whatsthescript unleashed a powerful kick to win the Del Mar Mile, and he won the Pasadena Stakes here last March.  He's the intriguing local.

U S Ranger:
Carries his head very high and seems best against lesser opponents. He´s won all five times he´s raced below Group class but lost all ten times in Group company. Might thrive off the likely slow gallop over a mile as he did when winning three slow run races out of three in France over the trip. Very classy and might spring upset.

Ran a good third in the French Oaks in fast time over 10.5f. But has managed to win three big 1m races thanks to yielding ground and the use of pacemakers that ensured a searching gallop. Firm ground, a 7f oval and likely slow pace make this a very different proposition.

Selections:  Kip Deville, Goldikova, U S Ranger


A rather weak renewal of the Juvenile as top two-year-olds Vineyard Haven and Charitable Man pass the race due to indifference or injury.  There also doesn't appear to be much early speed in this race, and that may benefit Munnings, a gate-to-wire winner in his career debut at Saratoga.  The $1.7M purchase often breaks a half-step slowly so John Velazquez may have to hustle Munnings to the front, but he could certainly control things with a clean break.  Munnings chased Vineyard Haven in his last two in New York, and that one would probably be favored in here.  Here's a chance for Todd Pletcher to get back on the beam.  Square Eddie's win in the Breeders' Futurity flattered all of the European two-year-olds.  Going into the  Breeders' Futurity, Square Eddie's most notable win was in a maiden at Salisbury, and his best Racing Post Rating was 103.  Compare that to Bushranger, a multiple Group 1 winner in Europe with a RPR top of 121.  I'm not sure if Bushranger is really bred to go this far, and his outside post over an unfamiliar surface are concerns as well, but he certainly fits from a class perspective.  Square Eddie sure looked good in the Breeders' Futurity, but that race came up weak on paper, and he'll probably face better opposition here.  Midshipman acts like a good horse, and the rider switch to Garrett Gomez looks like a sharp one.  Midshipman may need to be a bit closer to the expected moderate pace, but he leads the California contingent, and homecourt advantage is a wonderful thing to have this year.  Street Hero is a likeable sort, and wouldn't be a surprise from stalking range.

Won the same two G1 races that Johannesburg did before winning this. But doesn´t have such good form and is more speedily bred. Could be the tight turns will help him stay. But it´s hard to enthuse about a horse that´s trying a new distance, a new surface and a turn for the first time in a Championship race.

Selections:  Munnings, Bushranger, Square Eddie


Juvenile Turf:
I'm going with the Canadians.  Grand Adventure bested Skipadate despite the worse trip in the Grade 3 Summer Stakes at Woodbine, but I'm going with the gray son of Skip Away to turn the tables.  Skipadate's trainer, Mark Casse, has wonderful stats when adding blinkers, and it's possible that the diminutive Skipadate got intimidated when tackled from the outside by Grand Adventure and Bittel Road in his last two starts.  I'm hoping he'll focus better with the blinkers, and he should get some pace to attack in the late going.  Westphalia looks like the top European hope after winning the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, but he pulls hard coming out of the gate, and I wonder if that will adversely affect his ability to stay this distance.  Bittel Road has looked good in his three wins, but he'll get bet, and his Beyers are a bit light compared to the Canadians.  Coronet of a Baron looms the main speed, and is certainly bred to stay this trip.  He was only beaten a nose by Midshipman in the Del Mar Futurity so it's a bit puzzling why he's here instead of the Juvenile.

Quickened impressively to scoot clear in a 7.5f Listed race at Tipperary. Beat the smart Zacinto in the G2 Champagne Stakes last time off a slow early pace. In between ran a clunker on bottomless ground. Proven on a fast surface, around a tight turn and within half a furlong of this trip. Probably a cut above these.

Showed good early speed to win his maiden over 6f. Held up to get the 7f when winning the Timeform Million. A mile is somewhat doubtful on pedigree and looks. And I don´t like betting a horse at this level which is trying a turn for the first time.

Paddy the Pro:
Came off a slow early pace to pick off the leaders and win going away in a race where I timed the last two furlongs as being run in 22.45 seconds. Next time out off a much stronger early pace, he again picked up strongly to go right away at the finish ina good six furlong nursery. Bang there with the best of these on the clock and looks sure to improve for the longer trip.


Tough, tough race.  Which Midnight Lute shows up?  The good one probably dusts this field the same way he won last year's Sprint.  The problem is that we haven't seen the good one since last year's Sprint.  Considering all of his problems, I'll let him beat me at a short price.  There should be a lot of speed in here, and I'll take Fatal Bullet, a three-year-old that's shown the ability to stalk and pounce.  He should be clear of traffic woes from his outside post, and can get first run on the closers on the turn.  His recent synthetic numbers look good although I must admit I wasn't as visually impressed by those races as other folks.  I think that when Fabulous Strike is healthy, he is one of the best sprinters in the world.  He won the Vosburgh last year with a breakthrough performance, but missed the Sprint due to a lung infection.  After winning a three-horse public workout at Delaware in his 2008 debut, he missed the summer sprints with foot issues.  His recent runner-up effort in the Vosburgh was a grueling effort, and he probably faces pace pressure again.  Still, this is a very, very good horse.  Black Seventeen ran a corker in beating Fabulous Strike in the  Vosburgh.  While he's comfortable with synthetic surfaces, I wonder if he's at his best over wet dirt.  First Defence is at his best when on the lead ala his Forego win two back.  I'm not as confident in him when he gets looked in the eye.  Both Street Boss and Cost of Freedom could certainly win this race.  The former may have been using the Ancient Title as a true prep, and should get an ideal pace setup.  Cost of Freedom has been awesome for Sadler, and galloped out about eight in front of Street Boss after fending that one off in the Ancient Title.  The inside post for Cost of Freedom worries me just a bit.
Selections:  Fatal Bullet, Fabulous Strike, Black Seventeen


I really liked Out of Control's effort in the Clement L. Hirsch over this course.  He chased a loose, longshot pacesetter through crazy fractions, had to expend an awful lot of energy in reeling that one in, then was immediately confronted by Red Giant in upper stretch.  Despite all that, he fought Red Giant all the way to the wire, and galloped out pretty well.  This will be his first try at 12 furlongs, but I'm hoping that he inherits the lead from rabbit Red Rock Canyon, and has enough left to stave off the closers.  He should be a square price, and he seems over the foot issues that bothered him after the Manhattan.  Conduit may be the "now" European after winning the Group 1 St. Leger, the same prep Red Rocks used before winning the 2006 Turf.  He's lightly-raced so it's possible we haven't seen his best just yet.  Soldier of Fortune defeated Red Rocks in the Coronation Cup earlier in the year, but he was then beaten by the exposed Youmzain in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.  He ran well in the Arc, and is a threat on his best day, but he figures to take a lot of money...perhaps too much?  Grand Couturier has been a terror on grass in his last two starts in New York, but I wonder if he prefers a little give in the ground.  Red Rocks, the 2006 winner, defeated Curlin in the Man O'War, but he enjoyed a perfect trip that day, and hasn't started since.  Eagle Mountain  received a nice prep in the Group 3 Joel Stakes, and shouldn't be taken too lightly.

Showed a terrific turn of foot to run away with the G1 Secretariat Stakes. But that´s a bogus G1 that can easily be won by a G3 horse, which is what speed ratings and all know form say Winchester is.

Red Rock Canyon:
Acts as pacemaker for Soldier Of Fortune. Useful but still a maiden after 17 starts.

If he´d been fitter on his seasonal debut and not been caught napping by Campanologist at Royal Ascot the Leger winner would be unbeaten in six starts beyond a mile. Made up an extraordinary amount of ground to scoot home by six lengths in a hot 10f handicap at Epsom on Derby day, proving he likes a downhill course like this one. He´s shown he can win in a sprint finish too. I love his chances here.

Eagle Mountain:
Won a G3 over a mile following a year off with an injured pelvis. Has the ability to go close but has now lost all six G1´s he´s contested and is running in a very strong renewal of this race.

Soldier of Fortune:
Solid dual G1 winner. But his best win by far came on heavy ground and he clearly lacks a serious turn of foot. A one paced third in the Arc, he‘ll be racing on even faster ground here. Chance depends on how hard others chase his pacemaker (not very hardis my guess).

Selections:  Out of Control, Conduit, Soldier of Fortune


All eyes will be on Curlin as he goes for the repeat Classic win, but he'll tackle several good European runners including Ravens Pass, a three-year-old that has finally put things together in his last couple of starts.  While it could be argued that fellow Europeans Henrythenavigator and Duke of Marmalade are both over the top, Ravens Pass seems to be coming into his own at the right time.  There are obvious surface and distance questions, but the price just might be right.  Henrythenavigator reeled off four straight Group 1 wins earlier in the year including both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas.  Perhaps the Lasix perks him back up to his best form.  Curlin is the most likely winner, and I have to admit I'm rooting for the fan favorite to finish a wonderful campaign up in style.  There just won't be much value in playing him to win.  Go Between likes synthetics, and has a puncher's chance late.

The way he finished strongly after being outpaced in the Moulin convinces me that this one time Derby prospect will have no trouble stepping up to ten furlongs. His preference for a firm surface makes him a good candidate for this AW course as well. Four-time G1 winner is still improving according to my speed ratings and looks to have a major chance.

Casino Drive:
Promising Japanese horse that kept his unbeaten record when winning a minor prep here on this surface. But he failed to produce the acceleration which wins big races on AW tracks. Seriously good looking horse with a huge stride. But he lengthens rather than quickens and it looks like he wants longer. I can´t see him having the pace needed here.

Duke of Marmalade:
Won five G1´s in a row. But ran well below his best when seventh in the Arc. The excuse there was a slow pace, but it´s near certain to be even slower here. His form looks to be on the slide, just like that of his stablemate Dylan Thomas was before he ran a clunker at this meeting last year.

Ravens Pass:
Clocked a tremendous time when beating Henrythenavigator in the QEII. Certainly fast enough to win this and should adapt to the surface. But he´s never run beyond a mile and looks a doubtful stayer. It could be the likely slow early pace will enable Raven´s Pass to stay the trip. But that´s not how I see it.

Selections:  Ravens Pass, Henrythenavigator, Curlin

More importantly, who do you like today?  I want to know.

Best of luck to all!