11/04/2009 6:02PM

A Classic Longshot?

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Do I think that Twice Over is a better horse than Einstein, Gio Ponti, Quality Road, Rip Vin Winkle, Summer Bird, and undefeated Zenyatta?

Of course not.

Do I think that he's the longshot play in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita?

I do.

Ever since Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator completed an all-European exacta in last year's Pro-Ride Classic, horseplayers have been searching for the next invader from across the pond that could conceivably make mincemeat of our best handicap stars. 

First, it was Sea the Stars, the wunderhorse from Ireland that cut a swath from London to Longchamp, leaving all challengers reeling in the wake of his brilliance.  His win in the Arc de Triomphe was his crowning achievement, however, and it was off to stud before he could tackle American's best. 

Then, it was Mastercraftsman, thrice a bridesmaid to Sea the Stars overseas, and a convincing winner of his final prep race, a synthetic route at Dundalk used last year by Breeders' Cup Marathon winner Muhannak.  Instead, Mastercraftsman was re-routed to the Synthetic Mile by his crafty trainer Aidan O'Brien in a move that originally seemed to instill confidence in O'Brien's other Classic hopeful, Rip Van Winkle.

Rip Van Winkle looked like a major danger in the Classic, but lingering foot issues have hampered his recent progress.  While he can certainly win this race, and is my top selection in the paper, he doesn't seem as formidable with the recent injury a major chink in his armor.  

That leaves Europhile handicappers with Twice Over.

Q - Who is he?

A - A son of Queen Elizabeth II winner Observatory, Twice Over began his career with three straight victories, including a nose win over Raven's Pass in the Group 3 Craven Stakes at a mile.  He finished third as the favorite in the Dante Stakes, but it was found afterwards that his blood work was off, and that may have contributed to his loss. 

After a no-excuse third behind Henrythenavigator and Raven's Pass in the Group 1 St. James's Palace Stakes,  Twice Over shipped to France, where he won the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam before a terrible trip contributed to his defeat as the co-favorite in the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano. 

Returning to England, he ran second to the classy New Approach in the Group 1 Champion Stakes, but started his four-year-old campaign on the wrong hoof with a very disappointing performance in the Group 3 Earl of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket.  

Twice Over returned to his best form with a third-place finish in the Group 1 Juddmonte Lockinge Stakes after setting the pace into a strong headwind.  After a fourth-place finish to 2008 French Derby winner Vision d'Etat in the Prince of Wales's Stakes, he was beaten badly by Sea the Stars in the Coral-Eclipse. 
Trainer Henry Cecil had to be frustrated.  His colt had shown flashes, but the consistency just wasn't there.  So Cecil did what many, many trainers have done over the years with this kind of horse.  He started over with a drop in class. 

The results were immediate and resounding. 

Twice Over bullied his opponents in the Debenhams Frenchgate Conditions Stakes, and then followed that up with another facile score in the listed First Drinks Brands Foundation Stakes.  Forget that he was beating up on tomato cans. his confidence was now sky-high, and Cecil tried the highest grade again in the Champion Stakes at Newmaket on October 17.  The field was solid enough with Irish and English Oaks heroine Sariska, Irish Derby winner Fame and Glory, Prix d'Ispahan hero Never on Sunday, Prix Jean Romanet winner Alpine Rose, and Juddmonte Lockinge Stakes winner Virtual among the contenders.  But it was Twice Over rallying to win it at 14-1 odds.

"He's improved with age, and has confidence now," Cecil told The Racing Post after the Champion. 

Q - Can he handle the distance?

A - He's 4-9 at ten furlongs in Europe, and his last three races (all wins) came at the Classic distance.

Q - Will he handle the surface?

A -  Nobody knows.  At 20-1, I'll find out.

Q - Any negatives?

A - He has a bad tendency to drift right during the late stages of his races.  If he pulls that stunt on Saturday, it will cost him.

All in all, we have a European runner in good form that has faced and beaten good horses, loves the distance, and will be a huge price. 

Stranger things have happened, right?

***

This week's special BC HandiGambling is the Classic.  All of the wagers offered on the Classic including Ladies Classic - Classic Double bets are allowed.  Here are the past performances:

Download HandiGambling the Classic

Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan."   Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference.  Past performances are available on the previous blog entry.

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place.  The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are.  I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

Talk to you soon,

Dan