10/18/2012 5:17PM

Byron King: You can bet the Dude - and other Breeders' Cup thoughts

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Game On Dude's only two losses this year came on synthetic surfaces.

Next week handicappers everywhere will be poring over the Breeders’ Cup pre-entries and early past performances, forming opinions and starting to build cases for horses they like.

I don’t feel like waiting. Having already perused past performances and race videos of many leading contenders, here are some of my thoughts on some of the Breeders’ Cup races with just two weeks to go before the two big days on Nov. 2-3.

◗ If Game On Dude is only a tepid favorite in the Classic, as some expect, bet him with confidence. He lays over the prospective lineup, having compiled a 4 for 6 record this year, with his only defeats coming on synthetic surfaces.

He’s also consistently the fastest horse, averaging a 109 Beyer Speed Figure over his last three starts. Plus, he adores the Santa Anita main track, and has trainer Bob Baffert and now jockey Rafael Bejarano in his corner.

In contrast, Flat Out, the Jockey Club Gold Cup winner and a horse many believe will be the second choice, is a bet against. A late runner, his best races have come at Belmont Park, and shifting to a new surface and shipping west, regression seems likely.

◗ The ban on Lasix for this year’s five Breeders’ Cup races for 2-year-olds adds an unknown variable for those contests, and could add a element of surprise to the results.

This is not to suggest that the horses who have shown good form with the medication are dependent on it to run well. Rather, if the medication is indeed successful at limiting respiratory bleeding – and widespread veterinary studies suggest it does – there seems a greater likelihood that a few horses could bleed without it and not run to form.

My plan will therefore to be to balk at accepting short prices in these races and go deeper than usual in gimmick wagers involving such contests.

Suffice to say I’ll be wagering on these races with less confidence.

◗ Although rarely does one Breeders’ Cup race shine above all others, the Ladies’ Classic clearly does this year.

Last year’s winner, Royal Delta, leads a prospective lineup that includes Awesome Feather, herself a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner in 2010 who is unbeaten in 10 starts. And then you have strength in the 3-year-division, with Questing, Grace Hall, and My Miss Aurelia adding yet more talent to the field.

Though not the most likely winner, I’m intrigued by the potential value of supporting front-running Questing, who might slip through the wagering cracks, despite having won the Alabama and CCA Oaks in the second half of the year.

◗ As riveting as the Ladies’ Classic figures to be, the Marathon, as usual, looks like a good time to catch a Breeders’ Cup meal or beverage break. Along with the Juvenile Sprint, it’s a race short on quality for a Breeders’ Cup race.

When a horse like Worth Repeating, a former claimer with earnings of less than $100,000 this year, is the probable favorite, it’s clear the race is not up to Breeders’ Cup snuff.

When it comes to the Marathon, the races are usually forgettable. If I had to guess, I’d say more people remember the post-Marathon brawl between jockey Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano a couple years ago than they recall any individual race winner.

The Juvenile Sprint isn’t much different, being a consolation prize to the Juvenile. And with both races carrying a $500,000 purse, the Breeders’ Cup could better allocate those funds elsewhere, rather than toss money into substandard Breeders’ Cup events.

◗ Europeans, as usual, will be formidable in the grass races on the two Breeders’ Cup days, but I won’t be backing those at short prices. Instead, it will be the price ones on which I’ll take some stabs.

Determining which Europeans are going to adapt successfully to American racing is like predicting which racehorses are going to excel at stud. There is an element of randomness.

Turf racing in the U.S. is so different than overseas: from the need for a sharper start, to the tighter turns, to the pace, and lastly to the firmer going. And predicting which horses will adapt best is guesswork.

That is not to criticize the Europeans. Their talent level exceeds those of our top turf horses. It’s simply a risk vs. reward issue.

Given the obstacles facing them, particularly for one just shipping over to race, I’d just rather take a pricier Euro than a short-priced one, even if its form isn’t as flashy.