11/03/2010 1:08PM

Few superstars, but Friday Breeders' Cup card has plenty of appeal

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
Life At Ten is one of three standouts in the Ladies' Classic.

NEW YORK – Nobody is calling the first day of Breeders’ Cup races “Filly Friday” this year, for obvious reasons: The sport’s three most accomplished females are all running against males Saturday – Zenyatta in the Classic, and Goldikova and Proviso in the Mile. As a result, Cup officials have concerns that the Friday card is a little light on marquee names this year.

They may need to rethink the way their 14 races are carved up between Friday and Saturday, but the good news is that Friday’s six Cup races still have plenty of sporting and wagering appeal.

Four of the sport’s 10 divisional equine Eclipse Awards – champion 2-year-old filly, 3-year-old filly, turf female, and sprint female – could be decided by the end of the day; three mares – Midday and the gray stablemates Forever Together and Informed Decision, will try to conclude their careers by winning their Cup races for a second time; and the admirable 3-year-old filly Blind Luck returns to the scene of her dramatic Kentucky Oaks triumph in the $2 million Ladies’ Classic.

The Cup races begin with the Marathon, which is not for fillies but for an eclectic group including grass horses with no dirt form and second-tier American dirt horses who take turns beating one another. I have no convictions but will give a long look to the Europeans Precision Break at 10-1 and Bright Horizon at 15-1 in a chaotic race that begins a pick six where I will use as many of them as I can afford.

Next comes the Juvenile Fillies Turf, where the conventionally correct wisdom that Europe’s grass juveniles tower over the locals may be challenged by Winter Memories, who has posted two explosive victories in New York in as many starts. She looks like a special filly and is the pick here, but the Irish filly Together has probably been facing much better abroad. Tale Untold, who finished a neck in front of Together last time out, looks like a big price with a reasonable shot at 15-1.

The Filly and Mare Sprint is a fittingly chaotic race for a division where every Grade 1 sprint for females has had a different winner this year. Informed Decision, who won the race and the female-sprinter Eclipse last year, returns but is defending a title earned on synthetic tracks, where she is 10 for 12, and switching to dirt, where she’s only 4 for 9. It’s hard not to root for her, or for the gritty New York-bred Rightly So, but I’ll try some prices in what could be a scramble, including Sara Louise (15-1), Evening Jewel (15-1), and Switch (20-1.)

The Juvenile Fillies usually crowns the 2-year-old filly champion and probably will again if R Heat Lightning (Spinaway), Tell a Kelly (Del Mar Futurity), or A Z Warrior (Frizette) becomes the crop’s first two-time Grade 1 winner. I’ll take them in that order and try to get 15-1 Joyful Victory into the mix.

The Filly and Mare Turf has the day’s heaviest favorite in Midday, and I can’t beat her. She’s been even better this year than when she beat a more imposing field to win this race last year. The 2008 winner, Forever Together, was a strong third last year but is riding a nine-race losing streak and appears off form. The main threat to the favorite might be the Japanese filly Red Desire, who is expected to improve in her second start off a long layoff.

The Ladies’ Classic has three standouts in the 3-year-olds Blind Luck and Havre de Grace and the 4-year-old Life At Ten. The 3-year-olds have raced each other to a photo-finish three straight times, with Blind Luck twice winning what has been the sport’s best head-to-head rivalry of 2010. I’ll try to beat them both with Life At Ten, the nation’s best older filly this side of Zenyatta and a winner in 7 of her last 8 starts.

It’s an outstanding collection of fillies – 22 Grade 1 or Group 1 winners in the day’s last four Cup races – but the absence of Zenyatta, Goldikova, and Proviso suggests that trying to create a day for each sex was not the best way to structure the event. There are two more appealing alternatives.

First, they could simply run the six newest Cup races, all added since 2006, on Friday while reserving Saturday for the more established other eight. In a slight variation, Saturday could be for the eight races that correspond directly to Eclipse Award divisions (the two Juveniles, the two Sprints, the two Turfs, and the two Classics), leaving Friday for the Juvenile Turfs, the Miles, the Marathon, and the Turf Sprint.