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In quest of value and home run
Timing is everything. With slightly less than two months remaining before the Breeders' Cup races are to be run at Santa Anita, there is sill time for enough chaos to ensue to make playing the favorites a bad idea, but not enough time to make things wild and unpredictable enough to make betting the field an attractive option.
That leaves plenty of middle ground for futures enthusiasts to exploit. There are two categories of wagers that bettors should be able to locate at this stage of the game: cashable overlays, and potential home runs.
The cashable overlays are probably as good, or better, than the favorites in their races. They are definitely on the radar screen for most fans, but aren't yet quite as well established in the minds of bettors as the favorite is. I believe this year's Classic and Distaff races offer such plays.
The potential home runs are horses who have displayed signs of improvement in recent races, while not yet winning over a significant amount of betting support. You can expect at least 15-1 or higher while hoping they continue to move forward enough to pull off an upset. I like one potential home run horse in each of the four races offered in this round of futures betting. Here are the details:
Many of the horses who were expected to be major players in this race have shown recent signs of weakness. Empire Maker and Funny Cide both have questions to answer after passing the Travers Stakes. Sky Mesa finished last in the Travers, and reportedly bruised a hoof in the race. Medaglia d'Oro settled for second while finishing 3 1/4 lengths behind Candy Ride as the favorite in the Pacific Classic, and Peace Rules was beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Ten Most Wanted as the favorite in the Travers. And Volponi has become an expert at finishing second, which he has done in all five of his starts this year.
Where does that leave us? There are many viable contenders for the Classic. Among them are Mineshaft, who has been a steady runner with a record of 7-5-2-0 this year, and made amends for his narrow loss to Perfect Drift when he won the Suburban comfortably. Ten Most Wanted is in top form again after adding blinkers. Congaree must also be regarded as a serious threat.
But the emergence of the brilliant Candy Ride, who beat Medaglia d'Oro decisively in the Pacific Classic in a track record 1:59.11, while remaining undefeated in his sixth career start, makes him the "now" horse. His 6-1 morning line odds make him a very cashable overlay.
The catch is that he will have to be supplemented to the Classic for $800,000. But the guess is that he will be.
The potential home run horse is the lightly raced Soto, who won a swift West Virginia Derby with a 114 Beyer, and who should continue to improve with patient handling from Michael Dickinson. His 20-1 morning line price is a bargain.
There is a lot to be said for consistency, especially since it has been in short supply in this sport in recent years. Azeri's 15-14-1-0 career record is absolutely incredible. But despite my admiration for her achievements, I am not the least bit tempted to bet her at 2-1, as she is listed on Daily Racing Form national handicapper Mike Watchmaker's morning line.
Azeri is overdue to regress, and figures to be vulnerable to Sightseek, a filly who demolished her opponents in an 11 1/2-length triumph in the Go for Wand. Sightseek is peaking at the right time for Frankel, and is the most cashable overlay in this field at 5-1 on the morning line.
Lady Tak was a dynamic winner of the seven-furlong Test in a 1:20.83 clocking, which earned her a 110 Beyer. She was drawing away late in the 1 1/16-mile Fair Grounds Oaks in March, so 1 1/8 miles should not be a problem when she is on her game. Her 20-1 morning line odds are appealing. The catch is that she is also being considered for the Sprint.
Bare Necessities looked good in a convincing victory in the Gardenia at Ellis, and deserves play at her 30-1 morning line odds.
If Shake You Down runs his best race, he will be formidable. But he only beat one opponent while fourth in the Vanderbilt on a sloppy track he should have loved. Zavata was a disappointing eighth as the 6-5 choice in the seven-furlong King's Bishop.
Valid Video won that race, but was assisted by a red-hot pace while rating in sixth. Beau's Town won the Bing Crosby is 1:07.96, but was helped by the bias while battling for the lead on a day when five of the six races on the dirt were won by horses who were either first or second at the first call.
Captain Squire, who was hindered by the bias when he bid from fourth to finish second behind Beau's Town, offers some value at 12-1. But the potential home run is Great Notion, who set the scalding 21.72, and 43.79-second (an impressive 22.03 second quarter) splits in the King's Bishop, and missed by only a neck. He won't mind cutting back to six furlongs, and offers much to like at 30-1 morning line odds.
It isn't easy to figure out which horses currently based in Europe will venture to Santa Anita to participate in the Turf. And there is some doubt as to how well they will perform at that warm weather venue. I will pass on them for now, and will re-evaluate the situation a few days prior to the race.
There isn't much betting value in 10-1 morning line odds on Storming Home, who does not stand out over this field. The potential home run I'm looking at is Paolini, who finished only a half-length behind Storming Home and a head behind Sulamani while dead-heating for third with Kaieteur in the Arlington Million. Paolini and Kaieteur were moved up to second following the disqualification of Storming Home.
Paolini took longer to get rolling than Storming Home did, but once he got untracked, he uncorked a powerful late kick. The extra quarter-mile will suit him, and his 20-1 odds provide betting value in a competitive race.
Breeders' Cup Future Bet
Breeders' Cup Future Bet, Period 2
Races: Classic, Turf, Sprint, Distaff
Wagering Period: 1 p.m. Eastern, Friday, Aug. 29, to 9 p.m. Eastern, Monday, Sept. 1
Fields: 23 individual horses and one field entry per race
Minimum bet: $2 (no refunds)
Takeout: 15.43 percent
Web sites: ntra.com, drf.com
Next wagering period: Sept. 19-21; Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies, Filly and Mare Turf, and Mile