10/29/2014 12:41PM

Crist: Playable pick four spices up Friday BC card

Barbara D. Livingston
A sub-par effort in the Spinster has darkened Close Hatches's form, inflating her price in the Distaff.

With the elimination of the Juvenile Sprint last year and the Marathon this year, Breeders’ Cup Friday is down to four races, and they are largely devoid of championship implications. They do, however, comprise a very playable pick four that concludes with a showdown between two fillies who probably have already clinched Eclipse Awards.

The Breeders’ Cup races start at 5:25 p.m. Eastern, with the Juvenile Turf, at a mile for 2-year-olds on the grass, carded as the sixth of 10 races. As is usually the case, the European invaders appear on paper to tower over the American runners, since their best 2-year-olds race exclusively on grass and ours run on dirt. The stateside contingent looks especially weak this year, as all five Europeans in the body of the race have more highly rated performances than any of the locals.

I’ll take Aktabantay on top largely because he’s 12-1 on the morning line, but War Envoy (9-2) and Hootenanny (3-1) look just as formidable. I’ll also be using the two other Europeans, Commemorative and Wet Sail. If obligated to use any of the Americans, I’d take Startup Nation, but only if obligated.

Next comes the $1 million Dirt Mile, which features a heavy favorite in Goldencents, last year’s winner against a field as good or better than this one. He’s the fastest and the most accomplished horse in the field of 10 and might also get a nice trip breaking from the rail in a race without much other early speed.

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The best chance for an upset may lie not with proven commodities such as Pants On Fire or Fed Biz but with the two 3-year-olds in the race, who may have the most upside. Vicar’s in Trouble, the Louisiana Derby and Super Derby winner, and Tapiture, the West Virginia Derby winner, are both turning back from longer races and may have yet to reach their full potential.

If Goldencents wins the Dirt Mile and 3-year-olds dominate the Classic on Saturday, Goldencents might emerge as a candidate for the older-male Eclipse, but many voters would be hard pressed to give it to him over the sidelined Palace Malice, who beat him in the Met Mile in their lone meeting this year.

The third Breeders’ Cup race is the Juvenile Fillies Turf, where the European contingent has the edge, though probably not as much as in the Juvenile. The Irish-bred Osaila, a winner of 3 of 6 abroad, has probably been keeping the best company. The versatile American filly Sunset Glow, a Grade 1 inner on synthetics and second on turf in a Grade 3 stakes at Ascot, classes up and is a strong win candidate. Qualify looks next best among the Europeans, and at 12-1, I’ll throw in Tammy the Torpedo, an impressive Saratoga debut winner compromised by trip and pace last time out.

That brings us to the Distaff, where the two favorites have probably already clinched their divisional titles, Untapable as 3-year-old filly and Close Hatches as older filly or mare. Close Hatches might have been odds-on in this spot had she won the Spinster, but she’s now the second choice at 3-1, a very square price worth taking if you can draw a line through her Spinster.

Untapable should get a good off-the-pace trip in a field with plenty of speed. Tiz Midnight, almost certain to be less than her 10-1 morning line, is in peak form and comes off a fine second to the since-retired Beholder but will have to avoid early duels. If you’re playing the race for closers, Stanwyck always fires late and is worth including at least on the bottom of vertical exotics.

The four Friday Cup races, the sixth through ninth on the 10-race Santa Anita card, comprise a pick four with a pool guaranteed at $1.5 million. If you feel like getting exotic two races earlier, there’s a $750,000-guaranteed pick six that starts with the Grade 2 Twilight Derby in race 4 and the $100,000 Damascus Stakes in race 5. The Twilight Derby and the Damascus are also the last two legs of a pick five guaranteed at $500,000.

All in all, not a bad appetizer for Saturday.

RandomNameMeToo More than 1 year ago
What makes a horse European? Hootenanny is Kentucky-bred, he sold at auction here, I believe he made his first two starts (of just four) in this country, his trainer is American.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
You are right HOOTENANNY is an American bred horse trained in the states by a trainer based here although I think he is European. the whole nationality thing for horses from a patriotic point of view is just silly. horses are not citizens the last time I checked they don't vote.besides most of them are from sires who stand in various parts of the world.and they all descend from Arabian stallions and English broodmares..they "Europeans" are better on turf because they race almost exclusively on turf we are better on dirt because we race mostly on dirt although that is changing.as showed by HOTENNANY who was able to go over to Europe and do well on turf.
Beth Berkowitz-Bowman More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of Aidan Obrien's in fact the 2004 Mile runnerup Antonius Pius was the key horse in my biggest score ever on a single race but I tend to believe his 2 juvenile turf and filly turf horses may be his weakest in a while. First off 2 races back Qulaify and Osaila ran in the same race....Osaila went off at odds of 11/1 and Qualify went off at 50/1.....read that again....50/1....... I think the euros betting on those races probably had a better handle on their talent levels than we do. I won't be betting Osaila due to the absence of Lasix which when available to 2 year olds has been a historically bad move for Euros.not to administer it to their horses. As for the War Envoy he ran in the same race as Aktabantay last out ....War Envoy was clear the entire race while Aktabantay was buried on the rail and had to wait...wait...wait and when finally got clear he got clear he closed to only be a length back of War Envoy at the finish. With equal trips Aktabantay should just be a better horse PLUS he goes from William Buick aboard who blew 2 str8 BC wins for The Fugue and now gets Oliver Peslier, Goldikovas jock. GLTA
Thomas McDonald More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the tips. Well thought out comments about the Euros that I've had a hard time finding anywhere else. I appreciate it.
scott More than 1 year ago
I agree Beth, great comments. It looks like a year where the u s horses have a shot. None of the Euros are well thought of, tho Commemorative is a bit of unknown. Won a group 3 the right way last out and his connections are here for the mile and firm turf. I too like Aktah better than O'Briens. But they were both closing into a hot pace on fast ground at Longchamp and didnt show much. I'll give Kiaran's Imperia a shot. He's done nothing wrong and love Mclaughlin. Almost won this at CH w/ Soldat
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
good observations .also 2yo fillies are more likely to feel the effects of the trip over. unfortunately AKTABANTAY as been scratched and is out.
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
Aw cmon Steve, you're not just tossing that burner Ria Antonia are you? wink.