10/04/2012 11:55AM

Weekend Warrior for Oct. 6, 2012: Tizracer should handle switch to Polytrack in Breeders' Futurity


It seems that no matter which way you go Saturday, you can’t help but bump into a rich stakes event loaded with Breeders’ Cup implications. From the trio of Grade 1 events at Keeneland (plus two other graded stakes), to the trio of Grade 1 races at Belmont Park, to the Grade 1, $250,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship backed by the Grade 2, $150,000 Arroyo Seco Mile, to the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park, and to the Grade 2, $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup, Saturday is just wall-to-wall serious stakes madness.

But the main focus will be on Keeneland and Belmont. The three Grade 1’s at Keeneland are the $750,000 Shadwell Turf Mile, the $400,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity, and the $350,000 First Lady Stakes. The Grade 1 tripleheader at Belmont, with each race worth $400,000, consists of the Champagne Stakes, the Frizette Stakes, and the Jamaica Handicap.

Hey, I almost feel bad leaving out the $200,000 Indiana Oaks and $200,000 Mazarine at Woodbine, but that’s the kind of special day Saturday is.

Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity

As has become a tradition, this is just a wild betting race. This edition consists of promising turf horses who are taking a shot on Polytrack to win a Grade 1 race with a big purse (Balance the Books, Java’s War, Joha, Are You Kidding Me, and Charming Kitten), synthetic-track horses who either don’t look quite as good as some others or are a question mark stretching out (Pataky Kid, Dynamic Sky, He’s Had Enough, Tree of Life, and the dual surface pair of Joha and Are You Kidding Me), and an eclectic group of others.

I was very impressed with Balance the Books’s victory last time out in the With Anticipation Stakes. I thought he ran far better than an inexperienced maiden had a right to in that race, still being last turning for home, getting bumped almost sideways at that point, and yet unleashing a furious rally to get up. It also doesn’t hurt that the astute Chad Brown, trainer of Balance the Books, mentioned earlier this week that his colt worked well on Keeneland’s Polytrack surface before being purchased at auction there in April.

I liked Java’s War’s determined rally to get up in the Sunday Silence Stakes last time out quite a bit as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if either he or Balance the Books won this race. But I don’t want to take moderate odds on either when there are other alternatives here who also are making surface switches, but who might be more appealing prices.

Tizracer is my play. Tizracer didn’t show a lot when fourth in his debut at Saratoga, but he did improve dramatically when he won the first race of the Belmont fall meet in his last start. Tizracer set a solid early pace and ran away through the stretch to score by more than 10 lengths in a legitimately fast time, given the nature of the surface and the headwind he fought down the lane, to earn a field-best Beyer Speed Figure of 92. And while it is true that Tizracer will be racing on Polytrack for the first time, he is a son of Tiznow, who has proven to be a top synthetic-track sire. It’s just icing on the cake that Tizracer hails from the Todd Pletcher barn, which seems to win just about every 2-year-old race it enters.

Jamaica Handicap

Dullahan comes into this off a victory in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic over Game On Dude, who came back to romp in last week’s Awesome Again to establish himself as the clear-cut favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. No one else in this field has ever won a race of that magnitude or has ever come close to the 111 Beyer that Dullahan earned in that effort. But the Pacific Classic was on Polytrack, which Dullahan is a noted lover of. This race is on turf, and even if he has run well grass, it is a surface Dullahan has yet to actually win on. And that, combined with the fact that he is prepping for the Breeders’ Cup Classic or Turf, makes me willing to take a stand against him.

European shipper Cogito, second in a Group 2 in France in his last start, will be a popular pick against Dullahan, but I will try and beat him, too. Cogito was reportedly originally supposed to make his U.S. debut in the Travers because his connections think he might be a better horse on dirt, but a back issue stymied that. In any event, this race is intended to be Cogito’s prep for the Classic.

I like Summer Front, who isn’t necessarily prepping for anything, but who does have a devastating late kick when taken back off the pace as he showed when he won a pair of stakes two and three starts back. He was too close early last time out, when third in the Secretariat Stakes going a 10-furlong distance that was probably also beyond his scope. But this nine-furlong trip fits better, and I expect Summer Front to return to his very effective late-run approach here.

Shadwell Turf Mile

I have immense respect for Wise Dan. He is, without question, one of the best horses in the country, and what makes him so unusual is he excels on turf, dirt, and synthetic. It goes without saying that he is the best horse in this race, but he also will offer zero betting value. And maybe it’s grasping at straws, but the only time in four career starts on turf that Wise Dan did not win was his fourth in this race last year in his only start on Keeneland’s grass course. But in fairness, it should be noted that Wise Dan, who is prepping for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, is a much better horse now.

I’m going with Data Link. Data Link finished second as the favorite in the Bernard Baruch last time to Dominus, who also is in this race, but the late-running Data Link was severely compromised when Dominus set a walking pace. Data Link has a much more favorable pace setup this time, and he returns to the course and distance on which he notched his biggest win, the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile last April.