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Byron King: 2011 Breeders' Cup analysis
Breeders' Cup Friday
1. Secret Circle 2. Trinniberg 3. Sum of the Parts
The Breeders' Cup gets underway in the fifth race with the inaugural running of the Juvenile Sprint - a race in which SECRET CIRCLE is a standout. Perfect in two starts and already a stakes winner on dirt at this six-furlong distance, he is simply the fastest horse in the race. The one negative is the price. He's 6-5 on the line, and probably goes off at even money or less....just couldn't find anyone to beat him. TRINNIBERG rates as the second selection, having shown speed and class with runner-up finishes in the Nashua and Hopeful. His connections anted up 100K to supplement him - quite a gamble - but a move that reflects they are very much pleased with how he has trained in recent weeks. SUM OF THE PARTS was one of the flashier winners here during the spring meet, and although winless in three starts since, he ran quickly in finishing second recently in a stakes race at Remington; has a home-track advantage. VEXOR won the Nashua over TRINNIBERG, one of three good efforts from VEXOR from four starts. His only poor effort came when he was eighth in the Hopeful over a sloppy Saratoga surface many horses failed to handle.
1. Somali Lemonade 2. Stephanie's Kitten 3. Stopshoppingmaria
Hoping the 14 post gets some people jumping off the bandwagon of SOMALI LEMONADE, a filly who has dazzled on the grass in winning two races. She's the real deal, and being a late-runner, the outside post should not hamper her like it might a horse that would want to stalk or race midpack; expect Solis to just let her settle, tuck in, and come flying with her late. STEPHANIE'S KITTEN won the Grade 1 Alcibiades on the Poly at Keeneland after running a wide third in the Natalma on the grass at Woodbine; a top-class filly in her own right. STOPSHOPPINGMARIA impressed in an Oct. 29 workout on the grass here, is by a leading turf sire in More Than Ready; dirt form is already impressive, and if she moves up on grass, she could prove dangerous. HARD NOT TO LIKE and SWEET CAT, meanwhile, are intriguing longshots with good numbers whom could hit the board, as of course, could flashy Euro ELUSIVE KATE.
1. Pomeroys Pistol 2. Turbulent Descent 3. Tamarind Hall
A weak older female sprint division makes the Filly and Mare Sprint ripe to be won by a 3-year-old. POMEROYS PISTOL is the value-based selection over favored TURBULENT DESCENT. Although unable to keep pace with her in the Test this summer at Saratoga, POMEROYS PISTOL has fine overall form, and just whipped older mares in the Gallant Bloom at Belmont. She is perfectly drawn in post 12, a position from which jockey Javier Castellano should be able to track the speed and place her in a favorable stalking position. TURBULENT DESCENT is the most likely winner, but at 6-5 on the morning line, there is little value to playing her on top. Respect her quality and how honest she is, but aside from her swiftly-run Test, her numbers don't suggest she is grossly superior to her opponents. Former claimer TAMARIND HALL is a longshot to throw into the gimmicks, having blossomed this year. She also makes her third start off a layoff, often the peak race of a horse's form cycle. She won the Bed Of Roses in fast time at Belmont going this seven-furlong distance in July. As for SWITCH, the second favorite, she gives the impression of a filly that has lost a step. She's lost three straight as the favorite, with her third in the TCA at Keeneland last month being one of her slowest races.
1. Grace Hall 2. My Miss Aurelia 3. Northern Passion
GRACE HALL has an experience edge over chief rival MY MISS AURELIA, having already raced two turns. After GRACE HALL won the Grade 1 Spinaway in September at Saratoga, trainer Tony Dutrow started her going two turns at Delaware in a minor stakes race - ideal preparation for this race. As for MY MISS AURELIA, she has been impressive in winning all three of her starts, including the Grade 1 Frizette in a romp. But being speedy and not having gone two turns, there is the possibility for regression in this 1 1/16-mile contest. NORTHERN PASSION won two of three starts at Woodbine this year, with her only loss coming behind the classy Tu Endie Wei. She is clearly a gifted Poly and turf performance, but how she handles the dirt is anyone's guess. She's bred to like it, but her works at Churchill on dirt have been as swift as her Poly works that preceded her win in the Natalma on the Woodbine turf. Late-closing WEEMISSFRANKIE is perfect in three starts, a record that includes two Grade 1 triumphs. That noted, the 2-year-old fillies in California this year have been on a whole a rather slow group.
1. Harmonious 2. Stacelita 3. Dubawi Heights
Swinging for the fences with 30-1 longshot HARMONIOUS, a long-striding Dynaformer mare whose talent has been concealed this year by wide trips in paceless events....her win in the QEII last year at Keeneland as a beauty, and though she has not won since, she seems to be rounding back to her best. Pedigree suggests she can get the 1 3/8-mile distance. STACELITA is two-for-two in Grade 1 company against fillies in America, winning the Beverly D. and Flower Bowl, two of the most prestigious races run on grass for fillies and mares. She's the most likely winner, but chalky at 2-1 on the line. DUBAWI HEIGHTS was a maiden at this time last year, but has since won five of six races, with her only loss over that stretch being a second-place finish to STACELITA in the Beverly D. She has never raced in a three-turn race, however, and sometimes inexperienced horses can get overly keen in these contests passing the stands for the first time. The classy ARUNA won the Spinster in a flashy effort on the Poly after running well on the grass in races from a mile to a mile and an eighth. She, like DUBAWI HEIGHTS, might be racing a bit further than she would prefer, and if nothing else, simply doesn't have three-turn experience.
1. It's Tricky 2. Royal Delta 3. Plum Pretty
IT'S TRICKY won the CCA Oaks this year at this 1 1/8-mile distance, and also beat Turbulent Descent in a muddy renewal of the Acorn. Coming off losses to ROYAL DELTA and PLUM PRETTY in her last two, she might slip through the wagering cracks a little in the Ladies Classic, making her a potential overlay. She's an honest mare who has been first or second in 7 of 8 starts. ROYAL DELTA whipped the top one in the Alabama at 1 1/4 miles before coming back and finishing a distant second to Havre de Grace in the Beldame. She has trained well here in recent weeks and has the credentials to win. She's just half the price of IT'S TRICKY at 5-2 on the line. PLUM PRETTY won the Cotillion in fast time at Parx, running a 108 Beyer, after losing to both ROYAL DELTA and IT'S TRICKY at Saratoga. Coming off the big figure and having won the Kentucky Oaks here this spring, she will probably be overplayed off those two angles; formidable but not offering much in the odds department at 2-1. PACHATTACK is seemingly best of the older mares but gives the impression of a filly who is slightly faster on Poly than on dirt.
Breeders' Cup Saturday
1. Cease 2. A. U. Miner 3. Giant Oak
CEASE has shown dramatic improvement since being shifted to the main track this summer. After winning two 1 1/8-mile races at Saratoga, he ran a close third in the Hawthorne Gold Cup behind Classic entrant Headache. He acts like a horse that will appreciate this marathon 1 3/4-mile distance, and being lightly raced, he still seems to have plenty of potential for improvement. Likely favorite A. U. MINER is a proven marathoner who ran a fast-closing fifth in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in his prep. He fits, but can't take 3-1 in a race contested at such an infrequently run distance. Anything could happen. GIANT OAK could run first or fifth in here - you just never know with this erratic closer. He is a two-time Grade 1 winner, but prone to wide and troubled trips. BIRDRUN also fits with established marathon form, though Belmont is his house, not Churchill.
1. Farraaj 2. Majestic City 3. Finale
The 2-year-old boys on the grass in America are slower than the fillies - setting the stage for Euro longshot FARRAAJ to capitalize. First or second in all four of his starts, he owns good Racing Post ratings, but might be overlooked with most U.S. bettors due to them being unfamiliar with his trainer and jockey. Breeders' Futurity runner-up MAJESTIC CITY has trained well on grass, and has established Polytrack form - indications he should take to the turf in his first race on the surface. He is also by a nice grass sire in City Zip. FINALE is perfect in three starts on grass, and acts fastest of the U.S. grass horses, but is at risk of a wide trip from post 13. As for the others, LUCKY CHAPPY, who ran third in his U.S. bow in the Bourbon Stakes, could improve second time in this country.
1. Force Freeze 2. Big Drama 3. Jackson Bend
FORCE FREEZE, brought to America from Dubai, has elevated his game on traditional dirt. He whipped the classy Jersey Town in a race at Monmouth in July and then was second in the Vosburgh. He should get a good trip with his tracking style, and he could start in excess of his 10-1 morning-line price. Defending champion BIG DRAMA is a difficult horse to gauge. At his best he can outrun anyone, but having made just two starts this year, not expecting the same brilliance we saw from him last year. JACKSON BEND ran well to be second to Uncle Mo in the Kelso when that rival got away with a clear lead. He has been razor sharp in his last three races but three quarters seems a furlong shorter than his best distance. GIANT RYAN has won six straight, including the Smile and Vosburgh; confidently supplemented at a cost of $100,000.
1. Chamberlain Bridge 2. Regally Ready 3. Caracortado
CHAMBERLAIN BRIDGE, last year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner, has only a single win this year, but has trained like a horse that is seemingly ready to return to top form. Hopefully his draw in post 14 causes some to abandon him, creating a better price than his 5-1 morning line. REGALLY READY looked like the best turf sprinter in the country this spring, and perhaps a win at Woodbine last out indicates he is getting back to his best. However, his 3-1 odds are not enticing in a large, evenly matched field. CARACORTADO acts more like a grass miler than five-furlong turf sprinter. The class is there - just have to wonder if he has the quickness to rally in time. CALIFORNIA FLAG, in contrast, has the speed, and though he comes off a win, doesn't seem as good as when he won this race in 2009.
1. Trappe Shot 2. Wilburn 3. The Factor
TRAPPE SHOT didn't run to expectations when fourth in muddy Vosburgh, but should rebound on a fast track. Although campaigned in shorter races this year, he did show the ability to go a middle distance last year. A one-time mile looks to be something he can do. WILBURN has blossomed in recent months, winning the Smarty Jones and Indiana Derby for Asmussen. Most of his experience has come in two-turn races, but that's because that's where the money is in the 3-year-old division. THE FACTOR wants to clear early and not be hounded on the lead - which seems to have played in the decision to run him in Dirt Mile, as opposed to the Sprint. JERSEY TOWN is probably the most pure one-turn miler in the field, having won the Cigar Mile last year. The problem is that he is not as good as he was in 2010.
1. Sarafina 2. Midday 3. St Nicholas Abbey
Sorry Americans but the Euros hold a huge edge in the Turf. SARAFINA, seventh as the favorite in the Arc, has already beaten males twice this year against fields superior to what she faces in this below average Breeders' Cup Turf. MIDDAY, another female, has enjoyed a useful year and has already shown that she can adapt to American racing. She won the 2009 Breeders' cup Filly and Mare Turf and was second in the race last year. ST NICHOLAS ABBEY ran fifth in the Arc, finishing ahead of the top selection, but was beaten by SARAFINA when prepping for the race a start earlier. He makes his third start of his current form cycle after a short summer freshening and should be ready for a strong effort. Of the Americans, TEAKS NORTH is somewhat appealing as a 20-1 bomb to throw into the exotics.
1. Hansen 2. Union Rags 3. Creative Cause
Free running HANSEN looks in position to control the pace in the Juvenile, just as he did in winning both of his starts at Turfway by open lengths. Although untested on dirt, he doesn't give the impression of simply a Poly horse - just a fast horse, irrespective of surface. UNION RAGS, perfect in three starts, is the most likely winner but at 2-1 on the line offers little betting value. Winner of the Saratoga Special and Champagne, he is the most accomplished dirt horse in the field. CREATIVE CAUSE turned the tables on DRILL in winning the Norfolk, albeit with the better trip than the latter. DRILL was buried in traffic on the inside and seems most effective racing in the clear; blinkers off.
1. Courageous Cat 2. Strong Suit 3. Goldikova
COURAGEOUS CAT has two wins and a second in three starts this year, and enters the Breeders' Cup Mile fresh and at the top of his game. He ran a brave second in the Woodbine Mile most recently and is well drawn in post three. STRONG SUIT has blossomed as a late-season 3-year-old, winning three of his last four starts overseas. A 5-time winner from nine starts, he is a horse with upside. GOLDIKOVA has earned her place in Breeders' Cup lore, having won the Mile three times in a row. Age might be catching up to her a bit, as evidenced by her having more losses (3) than wins (2) in 2010. She could still win, but there is little value in betting her to four-peat. 6-million earner GIO PONTI, a fine second in this race last year, was a perfect-trip winner of the Shadwell Turf Mile last time out, his first win of 2011.
1. Stay Thirsty 2. Ruler On Ice 3. Havre de Grace
Travers winner STAY THIRSTY has been overshadowed this year by the publicity surrounding stablemate UNCLE MO. But unlike 'MO, he is a true mile and a quarter horse. He has trained exceptionally well the past couple weeks, and is the value play of the Classic. Belmont winner RULER ON ICE just ran second in a fast Pennsylvania Derby while spotting considerable weight; intriguing at 30-1 odds on the line. HAVRE DE GRACE has been sensational in 2011, but her works leading up to this have not been as flashy as those turned in by others, and she was outgamed by Blind Luck in two prior races at 1 1/4 miles. FLAT OUT has rattled off four straight top-notch efforts in a row, and the backstretch has been buzzing over his pre-race works.