11/05/2011 11:03AM

Breeders' Cup Saturday!




12:03 pm: Two minutes to the first at Churchill Downs. Track is good to fast with no further rain in the forecast:


Putting in an unimaginative caveman pick-5 just to have a little rooting interest early in the day:

1,8/1,3,8/3,6,9,11/4,5,7,13/1,5,7,8 = 384 @ $0.50 = $192

Ladies' Classic winner Royal Delta (104) and runner-up It's Tricky (100) were the only horses to earn triple-digit Beyers on Friday's card. The other Cup race preliminary winning figs: Perfect Shirt (FMT) 99; Musical Romance (FMS) 98; Secret Circle (JS) 95; Stephaie's Kitten (JFT) 87; My Miss Aurelia (JF) -86.

These are preliminary figures, subject to adjustment, and will be debated in the days ahead. The Friday track changed as it dried out and it's very tough to put some of the early and late races together in a sensible way. The Juvenile Fillies seems counterintuitively low, but it's hard to rate a mile and a sixteenth in 1:46.00 much higher when the Ladies' Classic was run in 1:50.78 (despite a slower pace) just an hour later.


12:40 pm: Two runaway victories by short-priced homebred 3-year-old fillies to start the card.

Jump Up ($4.00), a Jump Start filly bred and owned by Edmond Hudon and trained by Eddie Kenneally, won her debut at Keeneland Oct. 7 going six furlongs, and improved today moving to dirt and stretching out to a mile. Today she turned back early challenges from stakes-placed Shared Heart, the 8-5 second choice, through 6f in 1:10.96 then drew off by herself finishing the mile in 1:37.21.

In the 2nd, Salty Strike ($6.60) rallied strongly from behind a quick pace, getting through on the rail and winning the $85k Dream Supreme Stakes going away in 1:10.10 for 6f. The daughter of Smart Strike, bred and owned by Craig Singer and trained by Ken McPeek, was taking a sharp class drop today after facing G1 company in the Mother Goose and Test over the summer.

Don't forget that the rest of today's multirace exotics start in different places than they did yesterday due to a 12-race vs. 10-race card. The first pick-4 is on races 4-7 and starts with the Juvenile Turf at 2:02 pm ET. The pick-6 on races 6-11 begins with the Turf Sprint at 3:21, and the late pick-4 of the Turf, Juvenile, Mile and Classic is scheduled to start at 4:45 pm.

On to the Marathon, scheduled to go at 1:20 pm. With $200k in the win pool, Brigantin, Cease, A. U. Miner and Birdrun are closely bunched at 9-2/5-1 with Giant Oak and Meeznah close behind at 6-1/7-1. 


1:35 pm: Personally I would have needed the all button to use 41-1 Afleet Again, but I don't think any result in the BC Marathon can be called "shocking," the word of choice among TV commentators moments after the race. This is a novelty race that just hasn't worked out very well in any of its runnings, a bafflement to horsemen and handicappers that proves nothing and has not led to a renaissance of long-distance racing.

The ingredients for the long-priced winner included a surprisingly fast early pace that cooked those close to it, failures by the European entrants to handle the dirt, and an apparent breakdown by favored A. U. Miner.

Someone had to win, and Afleet Again is a solid citizen who won the Withers and was 4th in the Travers last year as a 3-year-old. The Afleet Alex colt, owned by the Kasey K Stable and trained by Butch Reid, paid $85.20 and keyed a $668.40 exacta, $4,147.40 tri and $39, 533.20 superfecta. It will be interesting to see if he was more or less than 41-1 in the pick-5.


2:05 pm: The early pick-4 play, which leans heavily on my published top picks as A's in each leg:


2:20 pm: Wrote at 11-1 was a good pick-4 start but good thing I didn't invest in any intrarace bets because I could not have come up with 33-1 Excaper, a very good second. Wrote, a Coolmore runner by High Chapparal, was coming off a somewhat troubled third in a Group 2 in England, which is enough to have an edge on the Americans. For what it's worth, Wrote was soundly beaten last time out by Daddy Long Legs, another Coolmore runner, but I don't know that this result upgrades that one's chances in the Juvenile since he'll be trying dirt for the first time later today.


2:30 pm: Jackson Bend a surprisingly standout favorite in the Sprint, currently 2-1 with the next five public choices in the 5-1/6-1 neighborhood.


2:55 pm: Amazombie ($17.80) collared Force Freeze to win the Sprint with Jackson Bend a too-late third. It was the fifth victory this year for the 5-year-old Northern Afleet gelding, and his season-ending Grade 1 victories in the Ancient Title and now the BC Sprint appear to make him a clear choice for the champion sprinter Eclipse.

The pick-5 paid $284k for $2 ($71,051.80 for 50 cents.)

Halfway through a promising pick-4 and on to the pick-6, where I came in $40 under my $2k budget. I'm leaning on Union Rags and Goldikova and used all 14 of them in the Sprint -- 4 A's, 3 B's and 7 C's -- just so I don't get knocked out of everything in a chaotic race where I never have any confidence:


3:35 pm: Regally Ready at $6.60 wasn't the sexiest result but he was clearly best and deserving in victory. The 4-year-old More Than Ready gelding, owned by Vinery Stables and trained by Steve Asmussen, has won 6 of 9 starts this year all over the continent, taking the G3 San Simeon at Santa Anita, the G1 Nearctic at Woodbine and the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint. If there were an Eclipse for turf sprinters, he'd get it in a walkover.

The early pick-4 $2 willpays range from $3963 on Wilburn and $4362 on Trappe Shot to $50k on Tres Borrachos.


4:10 pm: Caleb's Posse confirmed what a superior one-turn racehorse he is with an electrifying victory from far back to run down Shackleford and win the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

Caleb's Posse returned $15.60 and completed an early pick-4 that paid $7141 for $2. Yes, I pressed the AAAA ticket a little.

Caleb's Posse, a 3-year-old Posse colt bred and owned by Don McNeill and trained by Donnie Von Hemel, has a career record of 8 for 16 but is 4 for 4 in one-turn dirt races and 3 for 3 with Rajov Maragh, who rode him with supreme confidence. His explosive late move today was similar to the ones that carried him to victory in the Amsterdam and the King's Bishop at Saratoga, where he ran down the comebacking Uncle Mo in the latter.


5:05 pm: St Nicholas Abbey won the $3 million Turf for the Coolmore/O'Brien gang but they're likelier to win the male-turf Eclipse Award with Cape Blanco.

St Nicholas Abbey ($15.60), a 4-year-old by Montjeu, won the G1 Coronation Cup earlier this year but lost his last three starts in major European races, running third to Nathaniel and Worforce in the King George VI &QEII, third in the Prix Foy to Sarafina (4th today) and most recently 5th (though beaten only a length for second) in the Arc.

Cape Blanco won the Man o'War, Arlington Million and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, coming out of the last of those races with a career-ending injury.  

I assumed St. Nicholas Abbey was named for some dank Britisah church and graveyard but apparently it's a plantation in Barbados and one of only three surviving Jacobean mansions in the Western Hemisphere. And they say betting horses isn't educational.


5:50 pm: Oh well.

Have a feeling we're going to see that Hansen/Union Rags stretch run a lot over the months ahead and arguing over whether Union Rags squandered what looked like a certain victory by wandering around the stretch or whether Hansen gamely dug in and turned him back.

And now Goldikova's bid for an incredible fourth Mile, and then the Classic. Going to sit back and watch and I'll be back when it's all over.


6:45 pm: What's more surprising -- Court Vision winning the Mile at 64-1 or that Goldikova wasn't disqualified from 3rd? Okay, Court Vision by a nose, on that prop and at the wire over Turallure.

Goldikova swung out of the rail in upper stretch, causing Valenzuela to snatch up and steady on Courageous Cat. On ESPN, Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss said it was only a matter of how far back the stewards would place her, and were flabbergasted when the lights stopped blinking and no change was made.

Honestly, if I hadn't done that chart of the leading earners in this BC (at $2.66 million, Court Vision ranked 6t among the 180 entrants a few days ago, I might not have remembered he was in the race. Has a horse ever won a Cup race after failing to finish in the top 3 in his six most recent starts? The first of those finishes was a 5th behind Goldikova in last year's Mile, and he subsequently had three 4ths, a 7th and a 9th. Last time out he was 7th behind Turallure and Courageous Cat in the Woodbine Mile.

This was Court Vision's third try at the Mile and at Goldikova. When trained by Rick Dutrow, he was 4th in 2009 and 5th last year. Dale ROmans took over his training two starts ago when the son of Gulch was purchased as a stallion prospect by B. Wayne Hughes.

You took a bad beat if you liked Turallure, but at least he wasn't the 39-1 Joe Tessitore kept saying he was -- that was the price on Compliance Officer. Turallure was 11-1.

Flat Out and Havre de Grace are the only pick-4 willpays at less than $100k for $2. Npo idea exactly what's going on in the pick-6, where 5/6 is probably going to be good enough for the front end of the pool. The willpays posted on TVG say "6/6" but make more sense if they're for 5/6 and range from $4,442 on Flat Out to $2.2 million for RUler on Ice or Rattlesnake Bridge. If you were only getting $4k for a 6/6 including Court Vision, it would mean the Drezel gang's out of the pokey and back in business.


7:30 pm: That's horse racing. Drosselmeyer($31.60) and Ruler on Ice, two Belmont Stakes winners who hadn't won a race of importance before or since, run 1-3 and Game On Dude might have been best holding second between them. Havre de Grace and Flat Out were a mild 4th and 5th after Uncle Mo took his shot and faded late. Under five lengths separated the first eight under the wire.

I can not recall a year in the Breeders' Cup era when in the wake of the Classic there is no clear choice for champion 3-year-old, champion older horse or Horse of the Year. At least we've got plenty to argue about from here to January.