10/19/2008 11:00PM

Friday's Breeders' Cup could be a chalkfest

Email

NEW YORK - Some almost final thoughts on Friday and Saturday's Breeders' Cup races:

Filly and Mare Sprint: Those looking for an Achilles' heel in Indian Blessing might point to her uninspiring win in the Santa Ynez Stakes last January at Santa Anita in her only attempt on a synthetic surface. Be careful with that. Today's Indian Blessing bears no resemblance to that one. She is dramatically better now.

Juvenile Fillies Turf: I tip my hat to you if you have a handle on this race. The Europeans in here are not an accomplished group. Laragh's win in the Jessamine might be a fluke, or she might wire them again. It says a lot that an appealing horse here, at least to me, is Sugar Mom, a former claimer who has never run on turf. But Sugar Mom, who is undefeated since changing barns and switching to synthetic, is out of a multiple turf stakes winner.

Juvenile Fillies: If Stardom Bound doesn't win, then Sky Diva should. And if Stardom Bound wins, which seems likely, she could combine with Indian Blessing in the Filly and Mare Sprint and Zenyatta in the Ladies Classic for a very chalky day Friday.

Filly and Mare Turf: I might wind up being totally wrong, but I'm playing against Wait a While here. I know she's 3 for 3 on Santa Anita turf and will get the pool table-like firm footing she relishes. And I do respect her. She's a champ, and has put three good years together. But I didn't like how she had to work so hard in the Yellow Ribbon to turn back Vacare, who is not a 1 1/4-mile horse.

Ladies Classic: Zenyatta will be the shortest priced favorite in all of these Breeders' Cup races, and deservedly so. Since even slow paces don't seem to compromise her late kick, it's hard envisioning a scenario where she gets beat, barring the bizarre, of course.

Marathon: Initial fears that this race would turn into a haven for starter handicap types proved unfounded, as this came up a fairly intriguing contest. It will be interesting to see how a long-winded Euro-type like Sixties Icon matches up against Grade 1 class dropper Zappa.

Turf Sprint: I have a sneaking suspicion that Diabolical's improved second last time out at Ascot signals that he is approaching a peak performance. We already know Diabolical loves U.S. racing.

Dirt Mile: There were 30 horses cross-entered in two Breeders' Cup races, and with the possible exception of Fairbanks, no one represents a bigger dichotomy in terms of relative chances of victory in their two races than Well Armed. Well Armed will be 2-1 in this race, or maybe a tick less, and an absolute handful. He would be somewhere between 12-1 and 15-1, and up against it, in the Classic.

Mile: Females could be big-time players in this race. Goldikova is obvious, with Group 1 wins in her last two starts and an excellent second to Zarkava in the French 1000 Guineas that jumps off the page. But Precious Kitten is intriguing. She is second start off a layoff, will return to her preferred stalking style, and is on her best race competitive with our male turf milers this year.

Juvenile: With the exception of Square Eddie, who was at least visually impressive when he won the Lane's End Breeder's Futurity in his U.S. bow and has a license to improve, this is an unusually uninspiring group.

Juvenile Turf: This race seems like it is everything the Juvenile Fillies is not. It has strong European representation, a very good North American team, and a horse I have actually taken a shine to, Grand Adventure.

Sprint: This promises to be a great betting race. Street Boss might be the favorite. But with Fabulous Strike, Cost of Freedom, Midnight Lute, and Fatal Bullet all figuring to attract plenty of action, it's easy to see that betting value will be easily found here.

Turf: The combination of a Group 1 win this year and a good third to Zarkava last time out in the Arc de Triomphe, and a relatively soft American male turf division, has put Soldier of Fortune on center stage here. But if a truly top European horse like Dylan Thomas can finish off the board in the Turf, which he did last year at odds-on, it can happen to any horse.

Classic: Once Big Brown exited the picture, I think Curlin's participation in this race became a no-brainer, as he really has nothing to lose now by running in the Classic. If Curlin wins, his people can proclaim him a horse for the ages. If he loses, his people can pin it on the synthetic surface. If he loses Saturday, Curlin won't have a head-to-head loss to Big Brown, and he will still be the better candidate for Horse of the Year. No offense to Big Brown, but Curlin had the stronger campaign, with one of his four Grade 1 or Group 1 wins coming on the other side of the globe. Beyond that, not one of the horses in against Curlin on Saturday can make a serious case for Horse of the Year, even with a win over him Saturday. And even if Zenyatta completes a perfect season in the Ladies Classic, and Curlin loses in the Classic, Zenyatta's campaign, as impressive as it would be, would still be no match for what Curlin has accomplished.