10/30/2013 9:11AM

Steven Crist: Friday's Breeders' Cup card for players and purists alike

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Barbara D. Livingston
Hymn Book (left) has the potential to blow up the tote board in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

The Friday portion of this year’s Breeders’ Cup lacks any unifying theme and consists of five disparate races, four of which have no championship implications, much less the “world championship” label the event hangs on them. Those four races, however, are a horseplayer’s delight of wide-open betting propositions, and the fifth and final Friday Cup race, the Distaff, is a true clash of champions that should satisfy the purest of purists.

The day starts with the much-maligned but utterly harmless Marathon. The race was a noble idea that has failed to spark a renaissance of interest or participation in long-distance American racing, and which this year also has failed to attract any proven long-winded European types. I picked the race Cease, Pool Play, Blueskiesnrainbows, and London Bridge, and have roughly the same confidence as if I had picked any four names out of a hat.

The Juvenile Turf has been won by a European making his American debut in four of its six runnings, and I see no reason that trend should not continue. European grass horses are a notch above ours, just as our horses always have the edge on dirt. Outstrip and Giovanni Boldini look like the best of the Euros, so I picked them one-two in that order, followed by another Euro, Wilshire Boulevard, and the top American, Bobby’s Kitten. Other possibilities are the least-accomplished Euro, Shamshon, and the possibly underrated American colt Poker Player.

The Dirt Mile, an iffy proposition with a small field in some years, came up a strong race this year with seven Grade 1 winners including Verrazano and Goldencents, this year’s Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby winners. They both failed going the classic distances but are perfectly suited to a one-mile race around two turns, the configuration for the Dirt Mile when it is run at Santa Anita. It’s useful to think of the race as a shortened route rather than an extended sprint.

If Verrazano repeats his Haskell performance, he’ll win by daylight. The pricey horse I’ll try to get into the mix with those 3-year-olds is the 7-year-old Hymn Book at 15-1 on the morning line. He makes his second start off a layoff and finished well to be third in the slow-paced Kelso last time out.

The Juvenile Fillies Turf is another invitation to European dominance, and I’m going with the Group 1 winners Chriselliam (Fillies’ Mile) and Vorda (Cheveley Park). Unbeaten Al Thakhira has yet to face top company but might be just as good. Among the Americans, Testa Rossi turned in the best performance winning the Miss Grillo. My Conquestadory will be an underlay off her synthetic-track Alcibiades, but deserves respect off a victory over males in the Grade 2 Summer in her racing debut.

And then it’s time to sit back and enjoy the race that has appropriately had its name restored to the original Distaff after an unfortunate spell of being called the Ladies’ Classic. It’s only a six-horse field, but what a trio of favorites: Royal Delta, already a dual Eclipse winner, trying for her third straight victory in the race; Princess of Sylmar, who upset Royal Delta in the Beldame after sweeping the Kentucky Oaks, CCA Oaks, and Alabama; and Beholder, last year’s champion 2-year-old filly, who will enjoy a home-court advantage.

Princess of Sylmar’s mere presence in the race may be the most sporting gesture of the racing season – she could have called it a year after the Beldame and been assured of a divisional title instead of crossing the country. It’s hard not to root for her off that alone and she’s my pick in the Distaff. The race is filled with strategic intrigue that may well determine the winner. Beholder and Royal Delta have repeatedly run brilliantly when loose on the lead, but they can’t both be there, while Princess of Sylmar may need them to hook up early to run them both down late.

The Breeders’ Cup could do a better job with defining the Friday card, perhaps by age or distance. (The “filly Friday” idea was wisely abandoned because you can’t have a filly Friday when the best fillies in the world sometimes run against males on Saturday, a la Zenyatta and Goldikova.) That said, it’s a grand betting card, and horse racing just doesn’t get much better than the showdown that awaits in the Distaff.

Joe Taylor More than 1 year ago
I like Little mike, an why isn't Will Take Charge being taken seriously, can anyone explain?
Joe Taylor More than 1 year ago
Same thing, favorites bite the dust except Goldencents. Horses just not living up to expectations. Hook you on the favorites then slam you with long shots.
Edward More than 1 year ago
There are always big price winners in the BC. First and foremost, because the horses that dominated all summer are going out of form. Having the BC at a track as poor as SA with its bias and overall rock hardness has ruined the BC for me. It sounds so insane to me when I hear they want it to be here permanently.
Joe Taylor More than 1 year ago
Edward you make an interesting point, horses are just maybe tired with nothing left. Run these races sooner.
zerosumzen More than 1 year ago
The last thing SA needs is a faster surface. Same speed bias story as last year. This has very little to do with horse racing. Before the official BC, the day started off with a 37-1 and 47-1 winner. lol
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Agree. And on top of that, notice the leg and foot problems.
Michael Shea More than 1 year ago
For the Classic: I noticed that in 29 runnings of the BC Classic, it has never been won by anything other than a 3, 4, or 5 year old.....so I'm tossing Planteur, Dude, and Flat Out. I think this year's three year olds are not the most impressive bunch either so I'm tossing them as well. I'm going to toss Payter, just because I don't think he's got a shot. That leaves me playing Last Gunfighter, Declaration of War, Mucho Macho, and Fort Larned. Probably going to do a exacta and tri box with those names, and I will be betting Declaration of War to win.
edb More than 1 year ago
Let's make some sunshine on this eastern cloudy day. Starting with Indian Jones in a very dull race. Going with my best of the day in Bobby's Kitten next. The mile is so wide open and just seems to be set up for Brujo or Pants on Fire.Next is Clenor or Vorda with a ton of closers next. Good race to make your stand and hit the all button for the exacta and get a price. Last race is a classic. This is the special race this weekend and I don't see it as a very profitable opportunity. Looks like the end of my pick 3s and 4s. Love the big 3 and CH and Authenticity have shots too. Going with a word you almost never hear, THREEPEAT. Let's all have a very good day and safe racing.
Thomas Nicholson More than 1 year ago
Rain and damp in the Northeast today! In the month of NOvember and late October the weather is very questionable so I guess California is a good race venue. I just wish it was DIRT! Tell them no dirt no Cup races. They would switch to dirt. What are the number anyway for safety, not today. Good luck at the races!! There is some very big pay-offs coming this afternoon and Saturday!!!!!!!!!!!!
Rich Kalberer More than 1 year ago
It is dirt.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
it's paved dirt.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Watch out for Street Sailing. Had last time at KNL and was a monster at big odds! This horse is read deal.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
real*
Albert More than 1 year ago
Sorry Steve, Verrazano has no shot in his race. There are 4 horses that are faster than he is. Golden Ticket, Hymn Book, Alpha and Goldencents. Remember that most of his big numbers were achieved on the rail except for the Wood, which was slow. He may not see the rail in this race and will, therefore, be run off his feet.
Matthew More than 1 year ago
I don't know what you are talking about. Verrazano likes to be outside horses. All of his races in which he has won he's been at leastin the 3 path through the first turn. When he goes to the front by 5 lengths or so then Johnny V will bring him over to the rail through the stretch. I wonder if you are talking about the right horse. Watch the replays. Also Verrazano's speed figures EASILY better the horses you mentioned. I use thorograph and Verrazano has run a -4. The horses you mention have never run better than a zero. The only horse mentioned who has a chance is Goldencents.
Peter R More than 1 year ago
Good luck Matthew, you are 100% correct, I just hope that's how it plays out.
Peter R More than 1 year ago
No shot? Care to make a Paypal wager on that, this is it for Verrazano, he is off to stud. Best bet of the weekend, favorable post. Only horse that he needs to worry about is Goldencents but that horse doesn't like to win. I'll take Johhn V and Verrazano at anything over 2-1 and run to the pay window, thanks!
russell More than 1 year ago
Every year for the last dozen years the BC web site has provided free PPs for all races. This year its not available. Good job Steve Christ. I'm not even that interested in the cup this year. The race to bet looks like the BC Mile with Verrazano and Goldencents way outside on the first turn. Verrazano gets the big X. Anytime a 3 year-old announces before the BC that this will be their last race they run like crap.