Updated on 09/18/2011 2:22AM

Big prices on the big day


Recall Lashkari winning the inaugural BC Turf at 53-1 in 1984. Or, think Arcangues winning the 1993 BC Classic at 133-1, or even Pleasant Home winning last year's BC Distaff at 30-1. Fact is there has not been a BC Day without at least one bombshell result or a few oversized payoffs in various exotic betting pools.

Not all of these big-price winners were inscrutable. The majority of huge BC payoffs were linked to horses with credentials that slipped past the radar of too many horseplayers.

Pleasant Home, for one example, tipped her hand to those who saw her overcome a tough trip for a good second in the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland. Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey - whose greatest career work has been with fillies - Pleasant Home had ample license to improve on BC Day.

This kind of intuitive handicapping is what must be stressed to find improving or undervalued horses in contentious Breeders' Cup races loaded with talent from America and abroad.

Sometimes the projected pace will be the crucial factor that suddenly promotes a seemingly overmatched rival, such as when it led to the BC Juvenile victories of Anees at 30-1 in 1999 and Action This Day at 26-1 in 2003.

It is equally important to pay attention to hints that circulate during BC week through the daily workout reports filed by Mike Welsch in DRF or via professional clocking services. You also may watch many of these workouts yourself via the daily telecasts of TVG beginning Saturday, Oct. 28. An otherwise solid betting favorite may tip his hand to a subpar performance through listless workouts or a bare minimum of training activity.

In 1986, for example, the European wonder horse Dancing Brave certainly seemed past his best form when his handlers barely asked him to gallop halfway around the track that week. On his reputation, Dancing Brave was overbet at 50 cents on the dollar yet could only manage a fourth-place finish to Manila, Theatrical, and Estrapade, three of the best American turf runners in racing history. Dancing Brave clearly was "over the top," as the Brits are fond of saying.

There may be other reliable clues to alert players toward an impending upset bid.

When trainer Dick Mandella won a record four BC races on the 2003 BC card, one of his upset victories was scored by Johar, a 14-1 shot who dead-heated with High Chaparral, winner of the same BC race in 2002.

Among several positive handicapping tidbits, Johar entered that BC Turf after he had raced near the lead in his final prep race over the same course four weeks earlier. While no handicapping principle is infallible, it usually is wise to project a top effort whenever a habitual deep closer shows a surprisingly fast workout at a short distance or more overall speed in a most recent outing. Johar did both.

This year, there surely will be several legit contenders who go to the post at vastly inflated odds. While the horses named below in six of the eight BC races are not really selections, they will deserve close scrutiny for the handicapping reasons cited.

Juvenile Fillies: Probable betting favorites Cash Included and possibly Point Ashley seem a cut above the fillies who have competed in major juvenile stakes this year. But the lightly raced Featherbed and Baroness Thatcher certainly have room for improvement, and the undefeated Dreaming of Anna finished her one-mile turf stakes win in Canada with a last quarter mile in 23 flat. That is the kind of late speed that suggests Dreaming of Anna just might be the one to take advantage of the expected hot pace.

Juvenile: Scat Daddy, Great Hunter, Circular Quay, Principle Secret, King of the Roxy, and Stormello seem to have the most ability in this contentious race, but if the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Pegasus Wind improves another notch off his front-running third in the Champagne, he is going to put severe pressure on any horse on or near the lead. That suggests the need to focus on this race's strongest finishers.

Sprint: Bordonaro and Henny Hughes have worlds of speed and have been impressive winners of recent sprint stakes at Santa Anita and Belmont Park, respectively. But one of the most intriguing horses in this year's Sprint is the stretch-running Silent Lure, who packs a solid late wallop. Silent Lure probably would be best suited to a slightly longer sprint, but the expected hot pace may bring the primary contenders back to the pack inside the final sixteenth. Should Attila's Storm and Commentator both go in the Sprint as expected, that will add more early pressure on Bordonaro and Henny Hughes, which could open the door to a superfecta dominated by stretch-runners. A few to keep in mind are the stalk-and-go type Too Much Bling and the closer Kelly's Landing.

Turf: This 1 1/2-mile turf race usually is won by a European, and while last year's winner Shirocco isn't returning, his stablemate Hurricane Run may go.

While Hurricane Run is formidable on his best day, and the same can be said for the American-based duo of English Channel and Cacique, the value in the exotic wagering pools will likely be an overlooked European, a horse who ranks below the leading Euro candidates. That is what happened last year as the one-two finishers Shirocco and Ace were ranked below the Europeans Azamour and Bago, who finished third and fourth to complete an all Euro superfecta.

Mile: American based Gorella and Aragorn notwithstanding, the European contingent always bears close inspection in this race. This year, there are a few with intriguing credentials, including Librettist and Echo of Light. But there is another horse in the prospective field who might be overlooked despite strong credentials. The horse is Aussie Rules, a Euro import who turned in a powerful late run to win the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland Oct. 8, while completing his last 1/4 mile in less than 23 seconds!

The last time a Keeneland turf winner did something close to that was in 1991 when Opening Verse finished a strong second in the Shadwell before going on to win the BC Mile at Churchill Downs at 26-1 in his next start.

As for one other BC race - the $5 million BC Classic - Premium Tap is an interesting horse to keep an eye on after his horrible trip when fifth to Ball Four in the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park Sept. 30. The Woodward winner, Premium Tap can do much better than that and has been training strongly for a possible rebound at huge odds. While Bernardini certainly looks formidable and the highly ranked European David Junior is an intriguing threat, astute Breeders' Cup horseplayers know that even when a heavy favorite or second choice wins a BC race, the exotic payoffs can be astounding.