10/27/2005 11:00PM

BC Turf analysis

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European import SHIROCCO can upset at a fat price. He loves soft going, and is coming up to a huge effort in the third start of his campaign. Fourth in the Arc, proven against Grade 1 foes, he is supplemented for $180,000. AZAMOUR would be the choice on firm, but reportedly will be compromised on soft. A devastating Grade 1 winner twice this year, he has recovered since pulling a muscle last out. He is the best horse, but possibly suspect on the going. BAGO, winner of last year's Arc and third in it this year, has fallen short of expectations at 4, but may still be better than the modest U.S.-based runners. BETTER TALK NOW will finish. LAURA'S LUCKY BOY benefits from this longer distance and is "coming out of his skin," according to his Hall of Fame trainer, Richard Mandella. He is the superfecta knockout.

- Brad Free

AZAMOUR is better than he showed while finishing a close fifth in the Irish Champion. Rate him on his victory in the King George and he can win this at a square price. BAGO finished a solid third in the Arc in his return from a layoff, and should improve second time back. SHIROCCO finished fourth in the Arc as a 25-1 longshot, and should continue to improve in his third start of the year. SHAKESPEARE is unbeaten in five starts, but it is a concern that he was all out to hold on to win by a head as the 9-10 favorite here in the Turf Classic in his first start at this distance. GUN SALUTE has won three straight, and can contend at a price in the exotics with his best performance.

- Steve Klein

The Joe Hirsch might well have been the watershed event in the already promising career of ENGLISH CHANNEL, a 3-year-old who gave SHAKESPEARE everything he wanted in a riveting prep over this course. English Channel has few flaws on his record, and his forward but relaxed running style should have him looming large the entire trip. This is a tough race, but he's a tough horse. BAGO fits an alluring profile of Europeans who ran okay in the Arc, then flew overseas to whip our best (see In the Wings, High Chapparal, et al). The same sort of scenario is entirely plausible for a colt who loves to win (8-for-14 lifetime). You can't knock a thing about SHAKESPEARE, except maybe the expected low price of 3-1 or so. Given this rugged lineup, that might prove unacceptable to some players.

- Marty McGee

SHAKESPEARE showed brilliance winning the Belmont Breeders' Cup, and guts winning the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic after a prolonged wide drive. This undefeated colt has real talent, and this race, with Better Talk Now's rabbit in the mix, sets up better for him than the Turf Classic did. AZAMOUR won a big Group 1 in England in July, and is an obvious contender. But his form tailed off late last year, and in view of his loss as the favorite last time out, it's fair to wonder if his form isn't going south again. BETTER TALK NOW, upset winner of this race last year, is 2 for 2 this year (U.N. and Man o' War) when Shake the Bank was his pacemaker. FOURTY NINERS SON is improving from race to race, and came home fast winning the Clement Hirsch most recently.

- Mike Watchmaker