11/01/2012 9:06PM

Some Quick Breeders' Cup Thoughts

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It's been a harrowing week for most of us in the New York area, but it appears that our site has finally recovered from the devastating power of Hurricane Sandy. 

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Our annual Breeders' Cup HandiGambling exercise will go on hiatus until next year.  I will select a race for next week's contest in the next blog entry.

I realize that it's a bit late to talk about the Breeders' Cup as most of your decisions have already been made for the big two-day extravaganza, but I'll throw in some quick thoughts of my own if you don't mind.

As usual, these races are very contentious and I'll concentrate on getting alive in multiple-race wagers like Pick 3's, Pick 4's and the occasional Daily Double.  After perusing my selections once more, I realize that I'll have to spread in several races.

My top-four selections in the paper edition are as follows:

***

Juvenile Sprint
South Floyd
Merit Man
Super Ninety Nine
Hazardous

With the defections of Beholder and Kauai Katie, the Juvenile Sprint looks like it's ripe for MERIT MAN's picking.  Still, I'm hesitant to play short-priced horses in the 2-year-old races considering that most of the babies will run without Lasix for the first time.  SOUTH FLOYD was no match for Merit Man in the recent Tim Conway Stakes at Santa Anita, but he was wheeling back on only two weeks rest following his maiden win at Fairplex.  Perhaps he'll move forward under Ramon Dominguez and he should show good speed. SUPER NINETY NINE chased moderate fractions in his only start and will likely have to go faster in the early portion of the Juvenile Sprint.  That doesn't mean he can't win as he certainly seems competitive with this group, but it may make his task a bit tougher

Marathon
Atigun
Eldaafer
Jaycito
Not Abroad

The Marathon is also a guessing game. Most of the American horses haven't dreamed about running 14 furlongs, let alone competed at the distance. ATIGUN seems like a one-paced type that should handle the trip.  He was third in the Belmont and has faced tough competition.  ELDAAFER looks to be rounding back into his best form at the right time while NOT ABROAD is a solid stayer.  Although a Grade 1 winner, JAYCITO's career has been derailed by injuries and some disappointing efforts.  Perhaps this is what he's been looking for all along. 

Juvenile Fillies Turf
Flotilla
Sky Lantern
Waterway Run
The Gold Cheongsam

I'm guessing there will be a European theme.  Flotilla had traffic trouble in her most recent race in France and may appreciate a firm turf course.  SKY LANTERN took a Group 1 in her most recent start, and looks the filly to beat, but it will be interesting to see if she truly wants a mile (her sire, Red Clubs, was a crack sprinter overseas). WATERWAY RUN, on the other hoof, should enjoy the distance as she's by Arch. She's won three of four and picks up the great Dettori. THE GOLD CHEONGSAM (also by Red Clubs) adds blinkers.  She steps up in class and distance, but has run some decent races overseas for Jeremy Noseda.

Juvenile Fillies
Beholder
Kauai Katie
Executiveprivilege
Spring in the Air

Many folks are expecting a speed duel between BEHOLDER and KAUAI KATIE, but I think that Beholder is faster from the gate.  Breaking from the inside post should make Garrett Gomez's decision rather easy.  It's catch me if you can.  Whether Beholder can stay this trip is very questionable, but she should be in front when the real running begins.  Kauai Katie is certainly talented while EXECUTIVEPRIVILEGE is definitely the horse to beat for Bob Baffert.  A true early battle would really enhance the chances of SPRING IN THE AIR. 

Filly and Mare Turf
Nahrain
Ridasiyna
The Fugue
Up

RIDASIYNA and THE FUGUE are must-plays in multiple-race wagers as they loom the class of the field.  NAHRAIN looked good winning the Flower Bowl and may be reaching her peak following a few subpar efforts to begin the year.  She ran very well in defeat in this race last year when finding 11 furlongs a bit too much for her.  UP may be a cut below these, but she did defeat Nahrain two back in Ireland. 

Ladies Classic
Awesome Feather
Questing
Royal Delta
Grace Hall

I'm looking forward to this race more than any other.  The very good defending champion, ROYAL DELTA, tackles a pair of undefeated champions in AWESOME FEATHER and MY MISS AURELIA.  Toss in Grade 1 winners INCLUDE ME OUT, LOVE AND PRIDE and QUESTING along with the talented GRACE HALL and it's a Ladies' Classic of epic proportions.  I'm leaning to Awesome Feather, who has been managed with care by Chad Brown.  Awesome Feather has had a series of physical problems since being purchased for $2.3M following her 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies victory.  She still has managed to keep her perfect record intact and is entering the Ladies' Classic following a facile win, with a big number, at Belmont.  Questing is a worthy 3-year-old filly, but one wonders if she will duel with Love and Pride early.  Royal Delta is strictly the one to beat and a horse that deserves "A" consideration in the multiples. 

Juvenile Turf
Artigiano
Dundonnell
George Vancouver
Lines of Battle

I'll stick with the Europeans and hope that one of them will get me alive to the next leg.  ARTIGIANO looks like a tough little fellow.  He battled it out the whole way in the Royal Lodge only to be beaten a length by the good Steeler.  Artigiano draws sweetly for Dettori and may work out a comfortable ground-saving, pace-tracking trip.  Dundonnell looks like a quality colt that may handle firm ground.  George Vancouver's lone win came on the all-weather and there is a good amount of dirt on the bottom half of his pedigree, but he has been consistent on grass overseas.  I'm confounded by this race as I can make a case for most of the entrants.

Filly and Mare Sprint
Dust and Diamonds
Groupie Doll
Musical Romance
Belle of the Hall

While I do recognize that GROUPIE DOLL is the most likely winner of the Filly and Mare Sprint, I will stick with Dust and Diamonds, who overwhelmed her competition (while getting weight at a shorter distance, I must confess) in the Gallant Bloom at Belmont.  She'll have to do it at equal weights going seven furlongs, but a repeat of the Gallant Bloom would make her a strong contender. MUSICAL ROMANCE, the defending champ, can never be counted out while BELLE OF THE HALL and RUMOR are intriguing price plays for your exotics.

Dirt Mile
Jersey Town
Shackleford
Emcee
Delegation

Good old JERSEY TOWN looks to be finally healthy for trainer Barclay Tagg.  He enjoyed a good trip in the Kelso at Belmont, but had no trouble with SHACKLEFORD when the real racing began.  Whether he can put two good ones in a row is a question, but perhaps his ouchy feet aren't bothering him right now.  Shackleford is an iron horse that must be used.  I wonder if EMCEE will be the main speed.  Two turns could be an issue for him, but he has ability.  DELEGATION got loose on the lead last time out and may not receive the same trip here.

Turf Sprint
Great Mills
Starspangledbanner
Camp Victory
Reneesgotzip

Great Mills has been the source of much personal heartache.  I needed him at 6-1 in the 2011 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland and he blew a clear late lead to drop a nose photo to Air Support.  I needed him at 10-1 in this year's Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland and he blew a clear late lead to drop a nose photo to Perfect Officer.  I've grown a bit tired of his act, but he did run well in his most recent start, the Woodford on October 6.  He was involved in a heavy speed duel with a longshot and put that one away before succumbing to good-trip winner BRIDGETOWN late.  STARSPANGLEDBANNER hasn't looked the same since returning from a failed stint at stud, but his back class and the addition of Lasix makes him interesting.  CAMP VICTORY tangled with tough ones on the main track this year and is proven on grass.  RENEESGOTZIP is very fast from the gate.  NEXT QUESTION and BRIDGETOWN also can contend. In my heart, I'll root for CALIFORNIA FLAG, a warrior that loves the course.

Juvenile
Shanghai Bobby
Title Contender
Speak Logistics
Power Broker

SHANGHAI BOBBY isn't flashy, but he finds a way to get the job done in professional fashion.  He gets a two-turn test in a tough Juvenile that features a pair of talented Baffert-trained runners (TITLE CONTENDER, POWER BROKER) that may have been aided by a speed-favoring Santa Anita strip on September 29.  SPEAK LOGISTICS may have to rate, but has really improved since being allowed to stretch his legs around a route of ground.

Turf
St Nicholas Abbey
Dullahan
Treasure Beach
Point of Entry

POINT OF ENTRY leads the American charge and he won last time out despite not seeming to appreciate the wet course.  DULLAHAN didn't like the off-going when disappointing in the Jamaica and it's very likely that polytrack is his game, but I was impressed with his Pacific Classic and think he'll give a good account on firm going.  ST NICHOLAS ABBEY, the defending champion, ran into Frankel three back, may have found 10 furlongs a bit short in the Irish Champion on September 8 and didn't seem to like the ground on Arc afternoon.  He likes firm turf and 12 furlongs and will get both on Saturday.

Sprint
The Lumber Guy
Trinniberg
Smiling Tiger
Jimmy Creed

I guess you can't love them all and I don't have a strong opinion in the Sprint.  I'll hope to survive with my top four while realizing that all of them have holes.  THE LUMBER GUY may bounce off his career-best performance following a layoff.  TRINNIBERG could get cooked early.  SMILING TIGER hasn't run a big race in a long time and JIMMY CREED could be a cut below.  Jimmy Creed didn't have the easiest trip in his final prep, but may be outsprinted in the early portion of the race.  For me, it's a toss-up.

Mile
Wise Dan
Excelebration
Moonlight Cloud
Obviously

I really couldn't separate my top two picks.  WISE DAN and EXCELEBRATION have both been very good this year.  The former was really impressive at Keeneland last time out and that race just sticks out in my mind. MOONLIGHT CLOUD is a quality European import while OBVIOUSLY looms the main speed. 

Classic
Mucho Macho Man
Game On Dude
Nonios
Flat Out

Just fishing for a price with MUCHO MACHO MAN.  In his last start, he was stuck on a dead rail for the first seven furlongs before being altered out in the stretch.  Then, he was carried out a half-dozen paths by TO HONOR AND SERVE.  He's a nice horse that may need a candy setup, but will be a really nice price.  GAME ON DUDE's merits are obvious.  NONIOS is a horse that I'll fool around with in multiple-race wagers while FLAT OUT would benefit from a big pace.

More importantly, who do you like for the Breeders' Cup races?  I want to know.