10/29/2014 5:38PM

Crist: Take pair of 3-year-olds with best odds in Classic

Barbara D. Livingston
If Santa Anita's main track favors speed, Bayern is a big threat to last 1 1/4 miles in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

This looks like one of the best Breeders’ Cup Saturdays in recent years, with nine thick and competitive fields and a Classic that figures to live up to the name. But enough small talk:

Juvenile Fillies : I have no argument with 3-1 morning-line favorite Angela Renee. She flew in from New York five weeks ago and won the Grade 1 Chandelier (formerly the Oak Leaf) over Saturday’s track. Wonder Gal has lots of talent and should only improve while stretching out in the division’s top performance. Puca beat nothing in winning a maiden race by 16 lengths but looked good doing it.

Filly and Mare Turf : I rarely pick American runners against the European shippers in Breeders’ Cup turf races, but Stephanie’s Kitten is in career form and looks just as good as the imports this year. Just The Judge has done well in both her North American starts. Dank wins this for a second time if she’s the same filly she was last year, but she has been off since a clunker in June.

Filly and Mare Sprint : Judy the Beauty, the runner-up to Groupie Doll a year ago, has been first or second in 15 of 17 career starts and meets no tigresses here. Leigh Court showed improved patience when returned to dirt for her last start and is peaking at the right time. Artemis Agrotera and Sweet Reason look like the best of the six 3-year-old fillies in this race.

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Turf Sprint : No opinion. My 1-2-3-4 picks are Silentio, Ambitious Brew, No Nay Never, and Undrafted, but I could just as easily have picked four others. This race unfortunately starts the pick six, and I will use as many of them as my budget permits.

Juvenile : With American Pharoah out, Daredevil is a standout. If his two exceptionally fast victories had come on fast rather than wet tracks, he would be odds-on in here. Carpe Diem and Upstart look next-best.

Turf : Unlike the version for fillies and mares, this looks to be an all-European affair even after the withdrawal of last year’s winner, Magician. Flintshire, Telescope, and even the marathoner Brown Panther appear a few lengths better than anyone who has run in the United States. The admirable Main Sequence is the best of the stateside contingent, but that may not be enough.

Sprint : I’m playing this speed-heavy race for a late meltdown, which leaves me with Palace, Rich Tapestry, Salutos Amigos, and Mico Margarita.

Mile : It has been seven years since we had a Breeders’ Cup Mile without Goldikova or Wise Dan, but Toronado might have given either a legitimate challenge. He has faced Europe’s top milers over the last two years, winning a Sussex and a Queen Anne, and is facing an easier field than he usually does. If he doesn’t fire, three other Europeans are poised to pick up the pieces – Anodin, Mustajeeb, and Karakontie.

All of which brings us to the Classic , the race that should determine our champion 3-year-old, older male, and Horse of the Year. A quartet of 3-year-olds are the only entrants under 10-1 on the morning line – Shared Belief at 9-5, California Chrome at 4-1, Tonalist at 5-1, and Bayern at 6-1.

I prefer the latter pair to the two favorites.

There is no question that Tonalist will get the 10 furlongs, having already won the Belmont Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the latter a career-best effort suggesting that he has improved since the spring.

Bayern is a force of nature, a brilliant if undependable talent. His blowout victories in the Woody Stephens, Haskell Invitational, and Pennsylvania Derby were among the best performances of the year in any division. The problem is that he has failed badly in his two attempts past nine furlongs, but if he gets clear early over a usually speed-friendly Santa Anita track, he could be tough to corral.

There’s nothing wrong with Shared Belief, and I will use him in equal strength with the other two in my pick-whatevers, but I think he is an underlay as the heavy favorite. He may well turn out to be as good as his fan club thinks he is, as he has done little wrong in an undefeated career and has room to improve in his eighth career start. On the other hand, his two dirt races were mediocre time-wise, and he has never run against horses of this caliber. I hope he is this good because the gelding could be around for a long time, but I don’t want to find out at 9-5 or less.

Then there’s California Chrome. He always will be a dual classic winner, but he hasn’t won since May, his comeback race at Parx behind Bayern was a poor effort, and he’s facing much better horses than he beat in the Derby and Preakness. It would be a lovely story for the horse and his trainer if he won, but I wouldn’t bet on it.