10/29/2014 11:41AM

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.