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Breeders' Cup Friday and Saturday analysis
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 6
1. Mastery 2. Father Time 3. Muhannak
Mastery comes out of a win in the St. Leger - a test of stamina won by BC Turf winner Conduit last year - and has run well in England, Ireland, and France; vastly improved since running fourth in Ky. Derby Challenge in lone try on Polytrack. Father Time was in traffic most of stretch run in St. Leger, and was much closer to Mastery in the Great Voltigeur Stakes two back; beat 14 rivals winning debut on left-handed Polytrack course. Muhannak, the inaugural Marathon winner (going a shorter distance), finished well in an improved effort at Ascot last out; fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice . . . Man of Iron is a half-brother to Belmont Stakes winners Rags to Riches and Jazil, and also to Casino Drive; lone synthetic defeat came vs. four-time Group 1 winner Mastercraftsman.
JUVENILE FILLIES TURF
1. House of Grace 2. Junia Tepzia 3. Lillie Langtry
House of Grace showed tractable speed from an outside post and sustained long rally from outside to win debut with a very impressive finish; displayed another good closing kick to nail seemingly home-free Smart Seattle in off-the-turf Jessamine. Junia Tepzia was purchased after debut victory, and supplemented to this race for $90k after two-move effort to win listed stakes with Racing Post Rating of 104; by a hot young sire. Lillie Langtry has edge in experience on many of these, but otherwise has no demonstrable advantage on better-priced Euro invader Junia Tepzia based on their respective RPRs, after beating suspect opposition in restricted Tattersalls Fillies; ace in the hole is her experience in big fields.
1. Blind Luck 2. Always a Princess 3. Connie and Michael
Blind Luck is among several high-profile juveniles to have originated from Calder, and now has the home-course advantage after surging forward to beat Always a Princess and Bickersons in the Oak Leaf; should get plenty of pace to come after. Always a Princess erased a 10-length deficit to win debut, and then set the pace in Oak Leaf when stretched out as the favorite; must-use in first leg of pick four. Connie and Michael cleared nicely from post 12 and widened to impressive score first out at Keeneland; dangerous sprint-to-route trainer. Negligee is improving with every start, and tough to leave out of any serious multi-race exotic plays.
FILLY & MARE TURF
1. Midday 2. Forever Together 3. Magical Fantasy
Midday winds up as the only European invader, and certainly classes up based on Nassau Stakes victory over Rainbow View; nosed for second in Prix de l'Opera in return from a freshening, primed for top-shelf outfit. Forever Together is the defending champ, but five races this season, including three defeats as the favorite, haven't matched her three fastest races at age 4; even so, she never runs an off race and must be respected. Magical Fantasy is about as fast as the other U.S.-based fillies and owns the home-course advantage with a 2-for-2 local record.
FILLY & MARE SPRINT
1. Ventura 2. Informed Decision 3. Sara Louise
Ventura blew the doors off Indian Blessing in the inaugural running of this race, and has followed a similar schedule coming off the Woodbine Mile for a second time; if anything, she appears more formidable after a best-ever Beyer to beat the boys. Informed Decision has never lost from six starts on synthetic tracks, including narrow victory over Ventura in the Madison; staged incredible late rally to snatch victory in the TCA at Keeneland, and was equally impressive winning Humana Distaff in slop. Sara Louise's two defeats in last five starts have come vs. champs Indian Blessing and Rachel Alexandra; big threat if able to transfer excellent dirt form to Pro-Ride in third start of the year.
1. Music Note 2. Rainbow View 3. Careless Jewel
Music Note narrowly lost 3YO title, and comes into second attempt in this race a stronger and fresher filly after racing only three times this season; "double fig" play based on paired top Beyers in Ballerina and Beldame. Rainbow View, a half to Augustin's Winter View and Just as Well, was outfinished in E.P. Taylor as the choice, but may offer improved stretch kick as lone entrant turning back from a longer race; second-time Lasix user is by one of the most versatile sires in the game. Careless Jewel is immensely talented and might be a shoo-in 3YO filly titlist most other years; main concern is the probable pacesetter's tendency to be a bit headstrong, a trait that can be an Achillies' heel on energy-sapping synthetic surfaces.
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 7
1. Viscount Nelson 2. Buzzword 3. Interactif
After winning on soft and yielding turf, Viscount Nelson caught "good-firm" ground at Doncaster and ran a big race vs. Poet's Voice, a 2-5 winner from Godolphin; has the tactical speed you like to see in a Euro invader. Buzzword has also shown speed overseas, but must avoid losing too much ground into first turn; fifth start in 11 weeks also a concern. Interactif impressed winning both grass routes, though he only beat 57-1 outsider Codoy a length when re-routed to Bourbon Stakes after Belmont's Pilgrim was rained off; explosive move lone firm-turf start. Pounced is improving rapidly, returned from short layoff with placing to Aga Khan's Siyouni (4-2-0 from six starts); must-use to start early P4. Bridgetowm has run well on three turf courses; may have more early speed than Kera's Kitten, who won slow-paced El Joven on soft turf.
1. Diamondrella 2. Noble Court 3. California Flag
Diamondrella has won her last seven turf races, including two decisions over reigning champ Forever Together, with the kind of late foot that often prevails down the hill; main concern is her two best figures came on yielding/soft turf, but she's also won on rock-hard ground at Belmont. Noble Court has targeted this race ever since restricted stakes win on the hillside course to begin '09 - his third start back from a 13-month layoff; deep closer couldn't get to loose-on-lead BC Sprint fave Zensational last pair, but finished well. California Flag was pushed through enervating fractions and was clear midst retch of '08 Turf Sprint; fresher this year (surgery after winning Hollywood Express in 10th '08 start), and there is much less early speed in this version: Canadian Ballet is the only other "early" horse if Tenga Cat fails to draw in.
1. Gayego 2. Zensational 3. Fatal Bullet
With the three main speed horses drawn inside, a tactical edge on paper belongs to Gayego, a "power sprinter" who has won graded stakes routes and rallied from next-to-last in Ancient Title prep with mind-boggling kick erasing 4 3/4-length deficit through last eighth in 12 seconds; ML second choice is a key to lead off the pick six. Zensational is a three-time Grade 1 winner training "zensationally" for BC Sprint zen master, but drawn on rail for third straight time and not a particularly sharp breaker; has tendency to "pull" early, which could lead to pace meltdown if hounded from opening bell by Cost of Freedom and last year's runner-up, Fatal Bullet. The latter got a nice draw right outside the other two speeds - perfect for stalk-and-pounce trip. Fleeting Spirit bypassed Turf Sprint to try Pro-Ride; very used to meeting and beating males, factor at a price if able to break alertly - a big "if."
1. Lookin at Lucky 2. Pulsion 3. Eskendereya
Outside posts in two-turn routes aren't a death sentence for closers like they are for pace-pressing types, but the 13-hole transforms Lookin at Lucky from a potential single to a far riskier proposition in anchor leg of the early pick four; following same path as last year's Baffert-trained winner, though, and past success in sticky situations like this have made Gomez the top big-money rider in the game. Pulsion has progressed steadily as the distances have lengthened, narrowing gap on Lookin at Lucky from 10 lengths in debut (before blinkers) to less than two in Norfolk; better post this time! Eskendereya split horses quarter pole, dueled on rail and drew away, then galloped out strongly in off-the-turf Pilgrim as one of Pletcher's 15 juvenile winners at Belmont fall meet; colt by Giant's Causeway (good synthetic sire) followed with two vastly improved workouts. Aikenite (also Pletcher) has progressed with more distance, while moving directly from debut win to Grade 1 stakes.
1. Zacinto 2. Goldikova 3. Court Vision
Zacinto is lightly raced and improving, has never been worse than second, and anything close to QE II placing vs. Rip Van Winkle, in which he turned the tables on Delegator, is sufficient to give Goldikova all she can handle; may be a square price. Goldikova won '08 Mile with electrifying burst to the lead vs. defending titlist Kip Deville after lacking room into the lane; must be respected off 9-2-0 record at the distance, but faces stronger group of Euros than last year and fell off appreciably at 2-5 last out when strangely on lead through a strong pace. Court Vision returned from a layoff and recaptured form first-time Dutrow, wearing down Karelian (first out in nearly 11 months) with determined run; shipped to SoCal to win Hollywood Derby last fall. Ferneley had only 22 days between starts first time he ran a 106 Beyer, has had 48 days this time; strong workout line.
1. Midshipman 2. Mastercraftsman 3. Neko Bay
Midshipman sewed up 2YO title as the only on-the-pace BC winner on Pro-Ride last year, and shapes up as the main speed of match-up after stalking fast splits and winning under stranglehold off 11-month absence; drifted out in Sunday's work in much the same way he did at Belmont in comeback race, but Godolphin has been simply sensational with second-back types this season, with virtually all of them improving big-time. Mastercraftsman has won Group 1 races from 6fs to a mile, ran Sea The Stars to a length decision at level weights at 1 5/16 miles, and transferred fine form to polytrack winning Diamond Stakes in hand; rail can be a tricky post draw for Euros, who generally don't break as quickly as U.S.-based horses. Neko Bay is a consistent horse for course who returned from layoff beating Grade1 winners in allowance four weeks ago; exotics inclusion at a price.
1. Conduit 2. Dar Re Mi 3. Spanish Moon
Conduit peaked last fall winning St. Leger and BC Turf and is just as good this year - a bit fresher - after missing second in Arc photo off a 10-week break; classy stayer primed for encore performance at Santa Anita. Dar Re Mi has finished first in Group 1 races in Ireland, England and France (including controversial DQ in Prix Vermeille, and was only a length behind Conduit in Arc; bypassed F&M Turf to stay at 1 1/2 miles. Spanish Moon is fresh with only three starts this year, has fired regularly at 12 furlongs since "sweating, rank" comment in '08 Hardwicke Stakes and most recent comment lines indicate he may be closest to pacesetter Presious Passion through formative fractions; been slapped with penalties for being a bad actor at the gate. Presious Passion gets over this course very well, and is hard to leave out of multi-race exotics if you envision him with a lengthy lead and something left in the tank at the quarter pole.
1. Twice Over 2. Rip Van Winkle 3. Einstein
Twice Over has won three in a row at 1 1/4 miles over straight, left-handed, and right-handed courses capped by first Grade 1 title, and was good enough last year to lead Classic one-two finishers Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator a furlong from home in St. James's Palace Stakes; 20-1 ML sleeper has as good a chance of handling Pro-Ride as far more highly-touted Rip Van Winkle. The latter may go favored after winning QE II uphill mile (same race Raven's Pass came out of to win Classic), but has been battling physical issues all season and reportedly developed another foot issue Tuesday; must-use as an "A" in multi-race plays if he starts. Einstein has run two of his best races this year on synthetics in SoCal; too classy and consistent not to include in at least back-up mode. Zenyatta is extremely hard to gauge figure-wise after series of progressively slower-paced races this year; 1 1/4 miles a complete unknown at shorter-than-fair odds.