2014 Breeders' Cup Saturday Preview

http://www.brisnet.com/pictures/BreedersCup2014_Logo.JPGThe Breeders' Cup is a two-day event that in many ways serves as horse racing's final exam. Given that many owner and trainers many times use the Breeders' Cup as a final race of a year or a career, we fans get one last chance to see our stars. Horse of the Year voting (on a state, and national level) weights performance here (for better or worse) heavily. For those handicapping the Breeders' Cup, it feels like a final exam as a year's worth of notes and materials is pored over.

This year, Picks and Ponderings will tackle the thirteen Breeders-Cup (that's BC for short, readers) branded races as well as an additional seven undercard stakes races on both days. Both halves of the dynamic duo have dissected the stakes, and a full grid from both authors is available at the bottom of the page. Authorship (split to maintain sanity and eliminate redundancy) of each race is denoted by initials, PM for Paul Mazur and NN for Nicolle Neulist.

On Twitter, the weekend is branded with the hashtag of #bc14. NBC and NBC Sports will televise nearly all the BC-branded Saturday races. NBC Sports will air their program live from 12:30 pm to 5:00 pm PT, with NBC taking the baton for the final hour, 5:00pm to 6:00pm PT. TSN2 in Canada will air the races from 12:30 pm to 6:00 pm PT. The races will also be available on radio through HRRN and streamed live on breederscup.com and drf.com as well.

We remind that in races carded for the turf, selections are made "turf only" with the turf rail in the zero position.  All races analyzed below are slated to take place at Santa Anita on Saturday November 1.  Races 1 and 3 have been announced off turf; Breeders' Cup races are staying on turf as off 11:00AM CDT, November 1.

Updated overnight of Oct 31/Nov 1 to account for the scratch of GENDER AGENDA in the G3 Maddy.  Updated morning of Nov 1 to account for the scratch of CALCULATOR in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and again to account for the scratch of PULMARACK from the Golden State Juvenile.

Race 1 -- Juvenile Turf Sprint -- Two-year-olds -- About 6 1/2 furlongs on the Downhill Turf -- post time 10:15 am PT

We start the #BC14 program with frosh turfers on the downhill.  A hundred grand is the purse.  WAR ALERT comes from super turf sire War Front, but there are more reasons to like it just because of the lineage.  WAR ALERT gets first-time lasix in his first state in America, and as a filly may be more precocious than her male counterparts - look at how Richies Party Girl beat the boys last year.  Jamie Spencer gets the call to ride this frosh filly that has wins at five and five and a half furlongs on firm European turf, which is a rarity for overseas and likely means this one was running on a course in the states closer to super-firm or hard, like the ones in Southern California or a parched summertime course in a drought area.  Seeing as we are in SoCal, these two runs make sense.  Fifth in a British G3 last time out, this one has been on the lower level tracks of the UK, but in a race with not a lot of proven form from the Americans or progressions in the future, this one is worth backing.  The at-first-glance thought on runners by Tiznow, a double BC Classic winner, is that they like dirt.  Yet Colonel John won a stakes over grass and his sire is Tiznow.  Thus TIZCANO trying grass for the first time is not that much in the way of mental gymnastics.   Dirt to turf is in play here as mentioned, a 15% strike rate for the trainer.  TIZCANO gets blinkers on, too.  The equipment and surface changes make this one to consider, but TIZCANO is also going second off the layoff, after breaking his maiden going four and a half at Gulfstream then tossing a clunker in the Speakeasy over the local dirt.  The figure was quite high in the graduation, but perhaps he needed one off the change of coasts.  Tyler Baze once again takes the mount.  COOL COMFORT draws the rail (ugh) but this one did graduate two back at Kentucky Downs over the up-and-down course there.  Last time out in the G3 Jessamine around two turns, this one set the pace and was still around to be fourth, behind fillies going in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf.  Chasing around Arlington-Washington Lassie winner Quality Rocks might be a sign this one fits at this level, but the turnback to a sprint might help this one as well as a rider switch back to Leparoux as well.  Leparoux was aboard two back when this won get the diploma at Kentucky Downs.  Note that this one, as a filly, gets a weight concession for her gender.

Selections:

#8 WAR ALERT (9/2)

#9 TIZCANO (8/1)

#1 COOL COMFORT (8/1)

Longshot: #11 STORMY LIBERAL (8/1) has what no one else in the field has: a win over the Downhill.  STORMY LIBERAL did it last out over this course to win a maiden special weight second time out at 18-1.  A (titular) Leandro Mora trainee, the fact it's not a nationally known rider should keep the price on this one fair.  But STORMY LIBERAL, along with the win over the course, might be the outside speed that gets clear and dictates the terms, and worth noting this one threw a bullet work in the days before the Breeders' Cup.  Third start of the career after a so-so debut over the Del Mar polytrack, and perhaps from start two to start three, this one can progress again, and such would make her a player. --PM

Race 2 -- Golden State Juvenile -- Two-year-olds, CA-bred or CA-sired -- Seven furlongs on the dirt -- post time 10:50 am PT

There is a lot of early speed in this field with no clearly controlling speed, and a field in which only one of the eight has even tried a distance of at least seven furlongs.  PERADVENTURE, SMACK TALK, COMANCHE RULER, and TRUELY QUICK all like being ahead early.  This $200K sets up for someone who does not need the lead, and has shown the ability to start from off the pace while the speedsters jockey for position early.  Enter MISCHIEF CLEM.  This Papa Clem baby has run twice, making a joke of a state-bred maiden special at Del Mar first out, and then winning a six-furlong state-bred N1X at Santa Anita last out.  His start was a little rough, setting him near the back of the pack early, but no matter: he made a wide move, and still won clearly.  This style should suit him well.  WAKE UP NICK has done nothing wrong this year in five starts.  He broke his maiden at first asking, and he has won four stakes races since: two open, and two Cal-bred.  Both his maiden win and his first stakes win were at Santa Anita.  This will be his longest race to date; his longest race so far was the Barretts Juvenile at six and a half furlongs.  He handled that well enough to suggest seven furlongs will be good, and also showed in that race that he can sit a bit farther off the pace than he did in his earlier starts.  Hopefully Mario Gutierrez can get him to do that: Elvis Trujillo (rider of ACCEPTANCE today) rode him in the Barrets, but Gutierrez rode WAKE UP NICK in all four of his other starts.  Finally, the lightly-raced ACCEPTANCE is a real contender here.  He has only run once, on October 6, coming from just off the pace early to defeat a field of state-bred maidens by 13 1/2 lengths.  That was at six and a half furlongs over the Santa Anita dirt; he clearly likes the track, and should handle the stretch here.  He drew relatively inside (the 2 hole) and broke near the back of the pack last out, but was able to bide his time a bit and make his move.  Showing that in his maiden effort, he should be well-equipped to run well against this tougher bunch.

Selections:

#6 MISCHIEF CLEM (3/1)

#2 WAKE UP NICK (5/2)

#1 ACCEPTANCE (2/1)

Longshot:  This space originally belonged to PULMARACK, as the only one in the field who had gone at least seven furlongs.  However, he scratched the morning of the race.  The longshot writer briefly threatened to go on strike, but there is just enough to make #3 PERADVENTURE (15/1) worth a look if he stays up in the neighbourhood of his morning line.  He has raced five times, but only had two particularly good outings.  Both of those, however, were his two career tries over the Santa Anita dirt, suggesting at least a modicum of horse-for-course.  The pace may be difficult for him, because he is not the only speedster in the bunch, but his breeding (by Papa Clem out of a Boundary mare) suggests he should be able to get seven panels just fine.  The pace makes him hard to take for much less of a price, but the good races over the track suggest he could at least hit the board today. - NN

Race 3 -- G3 Senator Ken Maddy Stakes -- Fillies and mares, three and up -- About 6 1/2 furlongs on the Downhill Turf -- post time 11:25 am PT

Sponsored by City of Hope Hospital (they sponsored a G2 mile turf event that feeds into the BC Mile), this event memorializes the late Ken Maddy, who as a politician represented the northern part of the state and as a horse-racing aficionado was involved in legislation to bring satellite (off-track) wagering to California.

The stakes prep to this $100K G3 race is the Unzip Me Stakes earlier in the meet.  GENDER AGENDA was second in that local prep, but was reported a scratch on Friday morning.  An allowance race with a comparable purse was run later in the early stages of the meet, and the runnerup, LLANDUDNO, moves ahead in this spot.  With 1-2 allowance runners coming back, BIORHYTHM and LLANDUDNO, we look to LLANDUDNO who in six downhill starts has five money finishes.  Corey Nakatani takes a return call, and this one gets targets to chase while making a wide rally.  Drawn in the nine gate, the post will suit her and she goes third off the layoff, a 20% win situation for the trainer.  Think this one gets a target to chase while trying to reel in VELVET MESQUITE, who is a nice five-for-six over this course, a winner last out of a statebred stakes on the Downhill. She's like the theme to the Jeffersons, movin' on up, hoping for a piece of the graded stakes pie.  She's won all her state-bred and open conditions on the course, but she's done her best work on the lead and not when pulling back to stalk.  Maybe there's no (or not much) passing gear here, but she makes sense on account of her proven Downhill form.  Second off the layoff after skipping the Del Mar and Los Alamitos (September) races, and projects to be one of the speeds.  RICHIES PARTY GIRL is another that projects as pace on the engine from the gate, but she led every step of the way to beat the boys in the Juvenile Turf Sprint on last year's BC program on today's course and distance.  Victor Espinoza was aboard then and has the return call.  A clunker in the G3 Royal North in Woodbine aside, this one has two wins in turf sprints and was fourth on the polytrack.  All of these was as a three year old, and she bested elders last time over the undulating weeds of Kentucky Downs.  Jockey and trainer have gotten together only once in the last two months, but it was a win when they did.

Selections:

#9 LLANDUDNO (12/1)

#4 VELVET MESQUITE (6/1)

#6 RICHIES PARTY GIRL (4/1)

Longshot: Follow the bouncing ball! Jockey Joe Talamo dumps was riding (now scratched) GENDER AGENDA, but he is assigned to ride #11 FANTICOLA (15/1) in this G3.  Three starts and all with podium finishes on the downhill, this one just missed in a high level allowance against fellow entrants BIORHYTHM and LLANDUDNO.  This one is a Phil D'Amato nee Mike Mitchell trainee, and D'Amato is a staggering 42% wins/58% in the money (though in twelve outs) with blinkers on.  It's also third off the layoff, and there are more staggeringly high percentages there as well.  Talamo is the regular rider of this runner, and to take this one over (the now scratched) GENDER AGENDA (be it his or the agent's decision) with those high percentages makes this worth looking at.  This one will get a target to chase after with VELVET MESQUITE and/or RICHIES PARTY GIRL cutting out the early splits. --PM

Race 4 -- G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies -- Two-year-old fillies -- 1 1/16 miles on the dirt -- post time 12:05 pm PT

All of PM's selections in BC-branded races are jointly submitted for Hello Race Fans! as he is contributing the top selections given below for BC Saturday.

This year's renewal of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies is sponsored by 14 Hands Winery, and offers a $2,000,000 purse.  ANGELA RENEE, the likely favourite, may have won over this track and distance last out, but her anomalously flat final work before this race inspires no confidence, especially when such a short price is likely.  The top selection in this race will be a price: TOP DECILE.  This filly broke her maiden going six and a half furlongs at Saratoga, contesting the pace early and pushing clear.  She treturned in the Alcibiades (GI) at Keeneland next out, and showed a completely different side: Rosie Napravnik kept this last-out frontrunner a dozen lengths out of a downright suicidal pace duel, and she closed huge to finish second behind Peace and War.  There is a decent possibility of speed, with TAKE CHARGE BRANDI, CRISTINA'S JOURNEY, and HENNYTHELOVEPENNY leading the speed brigade, and MAJESTIC PRESENCE, FEATHERED, and CONQUEST ECLIPSE also possible to show speed.  That off-pace ability may be useful, if another Alcibiades-style pace meltdown happens.  Even if most of these runners decide to try rating instead (a possibility, given most of the running lines), TOP DECILE seems an intelligent and adaptable juvenile, and could stay nearer.  She should be able to follow Napravnik's lead to get the best chance.  CRISTINA'S JOURNEY has raced twice, and it is hard to say she has been truly tested.  She was an easy wire-to-wire maiden winner at Ellis at first asking.  Last out, in the Pocahontas, she was dogged for much of the way by TAKE CHARGE BRANDI and True To You, but had more than enough to kick away late.  A contested lead hardly fazes her, she shipped to Santa Anita long enough ago to get acclimated, and she should be sharp and ready for her first real test.  CONQUEST ECLIPSE, second in the Chandelier (GI) last out, is a legitimate contender here.  She has only a maiden win to her name so far, but two strong placements in Grade I races: a third in the Del Mar Debutante after being caught wide, as well as a second behind Angela Renee in the Chandelier, behind fractions that were not particularly fast.  In terms of pace, she wired her maiden win after a speed duel, but came from farther off in the last two races.  This suggests versatility.  Her works leading into the race look strong, and she gets ten-time Breeders' Cup race winner Corey Nakatani back in the irons.  The big drawback to CONQUEST ECLIPSE is the price: she is second choice at 4/1 on the morning line, and not likely to drift too far from that.

Selections:

#11 TOP DECILE (10/1)

#5 CRISTINA'S JOURNEY (6/1)

#4 CONQUEST ECLIPSE (4/1)

Longshot:  #10 WONDER GAL (12/1) showed excellent maturity in her debut.  Over half a dozen lengths off the pace entering the turn in the six furlong Lynbrook Stakes, she moved up the rail, angled out to get around the leaders, and made the rest of the field look like they were standing still.  She has started twice since, for a second and a third in graded company.  In both of those starts, she was closer to the pace than she was in her debut, and has shown some ability to run from there.  Trainer Leah Gyarmati has set things up for her well: she shipped WONDER GAL out to Santa Anita in time to give her a sharp work over the track there, and clutch Breeders' Cup rider Mike Smith gets the leg up.  With as much speed as there stands to be in front of her, this New York-bred has a shot at a price. - NN

Race 5 -- G1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf -- Fillies and mares, three and up -- 1 1/4 miles on the turf -- post time 12:43 pm PT

This year's Filly and Mare Turf did not turn up the strongest race ever.  Defending champion DANK returns in this $2M race, and all reports from Santa Anita seem to suggest she looks good.  She has been less than dazzling in her two races so far this year, but DANK's version of "less than dazzling" may well be enough to get the job done against this field.  This is the weakest field DANK has faced in a long time.  Those lackluster starts were both against world-class males: the likes of Just A Way and Vercengetorix in the Dubai Duty Free (GI - UAE), and then the likes of The Fugue and Magician in the Prince of Wales's (GI - GB) at Ascot.  The biggest question about DANK's form is the layoff, which is why STEPHANIE'S KITTEN gets the slight nod.  STEPHANIE'S KITTEN has made her mark as the best of the (admittedly, a bit weak) American older filly and mare turf division this year.  Her run in the Diana (GI) suggested that she had found her form again for the first time from moving from the Wayne Catalano barn to the Chad Brown barn, and she has only gotten better from there.  She stretched out to 1 3/16 miles and made a last-to-first run in the Beverly D, falling just half a length short of Euro Charline, and outkicking JUST THE JUDGE.  She found her winning stride at this distance last out in the Flower Bowl (GI) at Belmont, with John Velazquez aboard.  She closed into a relatively slow pace there, something that may help since there is not a ton of early zip here.  The biggest question is how she will handle Santa Anita, since she has never raced there before and did not ship out until after her last big work.  Still, her current form makes her a serious threat.  Finally, SECRET GESTURE deserves a look.  She is normally an off-pace type, though her race two back in the 1 5/16 mile York Stakes (GII - GB) showed she could run a cracking good race from the lead.  There, she was forwardly placed, and just nailed late by Northern Dancer (GI - CAN) winner Sheikhzayedroad.  She has not won a Group I yet, but has been knocking on the door.  She has done well on both firmer and softer going, so has a chance to handle the surface.  SECRET GESTURE probably wants a bit more ground than ten furlongs, but was third in a French Group I last out over this very distance.  In this field, that may be enough -- and SECRET GESTURE will be a price, with all the money likely to go on DANK and even STEPHANIE'S KITTEN.

The biggest swing to take in this race is the choice of whether to be for or against DAYATTHESPA.  There is an argument to be made that she will be the controlling speed, and there is some chance she could set the early fractions and be in a position to scamper away.  If this race were shorter (say, eight and a half furlongs, nine at the very most...), that would be appealing.  However, DAYATTHESPA has never gone ten furlongs before, and her pedigree suggests she may need to call Triple A to get a tow for that last furlong.

Selections:

#10 STEPHANIE'S KITTEN (3/1)

#3 DANK (5/2)

#5 SECRET GESTURE (6/1)

Longshot:  Both ABACO and PARRANDA fit this bill admirably: they are both consistent and versatile types.  However, only one of them has run over the grass at Santa Anita, and that gives #9 PARRANDA (20/1) the slight nod.  It does not come much more honest than this runner.  In six starts since shipping west this spring, she has been on the board all six times, including two graded stakes wins over the grass at Santa Anita.  She has yet to break through in Grade I company this year, but she finished a hard-fighting second behind Emollient last out in the Rodeo Drive (GI) -- her first try at the ten-furlong distance of this race.  Being by English Channel, it makes perfect sense that she could get the distance.  Pacewise, she is quite versatile: she has won races from the front, the rear, and anywhere in between.  She also gets Elvis Trujillo back from her last four starts.  Her form this year has been good...not quite up to snuff compared to the best editions of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, but certainly good enough to give this consistent mare a shot at a bomb price here. - NN

Race 6 -- G1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint -- Fillies and mares, three and up -- Seven furlongs on the dirt -- post time 1:21 pm PT

Sponsored by DraftKings, this race offers a cool $1,000,000 for filly and mare sprinters.  JUDY THE BEAUTY is the morning-line favourite, and comes back after finishing second behind Groupie Doll in last year's edition of this race.  Still, her campaign this year could not have been more different than last year.  Last year, she raced a full campaign; this year, she has only raced once since the Kentucky Derby undercard.  That race was a win, but against weaker, and even that was back in mid-August.  She does not justify the likely short price.   Three-year-old ARTEMIS AGROTERA has made her mark on the filly and mare sprinting division through the summer, and looks brilliantly spotted here.  After floundering in the one-mile Acorn (GI) in her first race off a seven-month lay, trainer Michael Hushion cut her back -- and she hasn't looked back.  She destroyed a seven-furlong New York bred allowance in her first start facing older, won the Ballerina (GI) just about as easily next out, and then showed a grittier side to storm in from off the pace and win the Gallant Bloom (GII) last out, at a shorter-than-optimal six and a half furlongs.  She may not get the lead with STONETASTIC in the field, but she can stay close if necessary, or come from off if it comes to that.  Her speed, versatility, and form this year make ARTEMIS AGROTERA one of the more likely winners of the entire Breeders' Cup.  The aforementioned STONETASTIC likes being on the lead, and stands a good chance of getting it with no other dyed-in-the-wool front-end types in the field.  From the 3 hole, she has a shot of getting to the lead, and she will be tough to catch if the stalkers let her set reasonable fractions.  This will be her first shot at seven furlongs; all her sprint attempts this year have been at six.  She is twice graded stakes place in routes, though; between that and her breeding (by Mizzen Mast out of an Unbridled's Song mare), seven will not be an issue.  Finally, LIVING THE LIFE comes in out of the Presque Isle Masters, a race which has made its mark as a prep race for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.  The biggest question about this filly is how she will run on dirt: she has started 21 times, but never before on dirt.  However, she has won at seven furlongs on synthetic across the pond, showing she can get the distance.  She can come from off the pace, but does not have to be too far to leave her pace-compromised here.  Mike Smith, who has ridden her in her last two starts, does defect to ride JUDY THE BEAUTY, but he does get sharp Santa Anita rider Rafael Bejarano, a rider with four Breeders' Cup victories of his own.  She looks likely to be ignored on the tote, but the series of long and strong works over the Santa Anita dirt suggest it worth betting she can handle the surface.

ARTEMIS AGROTERA stood out as a top selection, but below there, the gradations were small.  As unfortunate as it may be, sometimes setbacks happen to horses that aren't bad enough to keep them out of the race, but seem serious enough to dull their form to an extent making them unattractive here.  LEIGH COURT was vanned from Toronto to Louisville, but acted up so badly when being boarded onto the plane that they instead vanned her -- an approximately 36 hour trip -- from there to Santa Anita.  She has done nothing wrong on the racetrack, but such a long and unplanned van ride seems likely to dull her just enough.  SWEET REASON has been battling the eye issue, and did not publish a work for almost a month after the Cotillion.  Had she not run into these setbacks, she would be a premier contender.  In light of this, she looks less attractive than other runners here.

Selections:

#5 ARTEMIS AGROTERA (3/1)

#3 STONETASTIC (8/1)

#9 LIVING THE LIFE (12/1)

Longshot:  #10 SOUTHERN HONEY (20/1) has run mainly against her age group this year, but has acquitted herself very well the two times she raced against older.  This three-year-old filly tried older company going six furlongs in the Winning Colors Stakes (GIII) back in May, and won by a length and a half.  After two runs against her age group at the Spa, she tried older again in the TCA (GII), and finished second to LEIGH COURT.  She has worked well at Keeneland leading into this, and an improvement from last out puts her right in contention.  There is not a ton of early speed in this race, and she showed in her Winning Colors win that she could break from the outside, stalk, and move in.  The pace should suit her, and the gate should not hinder her. - NN

Race 7 -- G1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint -- Three-year-olds and up -- About 6 1/2 furlongs on the Downhill Turf -- post time 2:05 pm PT

There's only one course like it, the Downhill course.  That uniqueness plays heavily to the locals or those with form over the course, and puts the inside posts at a disadvantage.  The trainer who won the first Turf Sprint over the Downhill, David Hofmans, returns with HOME RUN KITTEN, who this space endorses.  A perfect two-for-two over the downhill, he does have mile wins over this course and we can forgive the G2 Del Mar Derby two back as a race too far and with nothing in the way of pace.  Further, if you discard the G2 Lewis Stakes over dirt, you're left with seven starts, all on the grass, all in the money.  And four wins over the Santa Anita grass, two on the downhill.   Joe Talamo stays aboard this runner, a local rider too that's another plus point.  Poor RENEESGOTZIP.  After chasing Mizdirection the last two years she gets stuck in the death post this time around.  The Downhill's configuration makes post one a tough place to work from, and it forces rider Edwin Maldonado to ride RENEESGOTZIP like a quarter horse at Los Al to get position.  It will likely set up HOME RUN KITTEN, too.  But Maldonado was the pilot last year in the BC Turf Sprint when this one dead-heated for second.  Likely rounding back in to shape after a summertime off, and showed a strong second-off showing last out at Del Mar.  Still, she's hit the board twice against the open company of this race, and that seems very likely once again.  AMBITIOUS BREW is another local to take a hard look at, as this one was nosed out by HOME RUN KITTEN last time in this race's local prep, the G3 Eddie D. stakes over today's distance and surface.  Two back this one won a California-bred stakes on the Downhill.  Four starts over the downhill have all been top two finishes, but while he's a horse-for-the course, he is meeting some legit sprinters here and taking a step up in class.  Also recruits a local, Mike Smith to ride.  Like HOME RUN KITTEN he'll get the pace target from the rail-drawn RENEESGOTZIP.  It's worth noting this space is taking a firm stand against NO NAY NEVER, the highly-hyped Wesley Ward trainee that won last-out at Keeneland, as the downhill course may not suit his style, and won't get a free lunch on the front end.

Selections:

#10 HOME RUN KITTEN (10/1)

#1 RENEESGOTZIP (5/1)

#5 AMBITIOUS BREW (12/1)

Longshot: #3 SWEET SWAP (12/1)'s post of being in the three gate would, on any day, be cause for pause.  However, he's won thrice over the Downhill and last won the G3 San Simeon in April over these weeds.  He comes off a long layoff from April, and while that's not a great proposition (13% wins/36% in the money), the better signs are with the humans, with the Corey Nakatani/John Sadler team hitting at seven-for-fourteen in the money in the last two months.  SWEET SWAP could be the lead if no one wants it, but can likely pull back to stalk and get first run on the closers from the inside draw.  That stalking trip seems more likely with RENEESGOTZIP on the engine, and it's how he won a small stakes over this course two back. --PM

Race 8 -- G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile -- Two-year-olds, colts and geldings -- 1 1/16 miles on the dirt -- post time 2:43 pm PT

This race is sponsored by Sentient Jet, and there is a hefty $2,000,000 purse up for grabs as well as the requisite 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby points for the top four finishers.  The likely favourite and likely speed of the speed, American Pharoah, scratched out of the race on Tuesday with a foot issue.  Still, there is no shortage of zip on the front end: SOUPER COLOSSAL, ONE LUCKY DANE, and DAREDEVIL have shown a real penchant for early zip, and both BLUE DANCER and CARPE DIEM have shown some desire to be forwardly placed early as well.  However, the key word in the case of CARPE DIEM is some desire.  He wired his maiden win, but in the Breeders' Futurity, he was perfectly happy to let Conquest Tsunami zip out early, and bide his time before he absolutely destroyed that field.  That race was at the same distance as the Juvenile, so eight and a half panels is no question.  That versatility also shows maturity for a two-year-old.  UPSTART did not win the post draw lottery, though now he will break from the 12 gate instead of the 13 in light of the scratch.  He was second behind DAREDEVIL in the Champagne (GI) last out, but that was contested over the Belmont slop.  That wasn't a bad race, and he was chipping away at DAREDEVIL's lead a bit late as well.  He should get a better surface here.  He has been working long and well leading up to the race.  The pace should also help him here: with some speed in front of him, he will not have to hustle out of the outside gate and into the front.  Finally, if speed does hold, look for SOUPER COLOSSAL to be the one to do it.  He, ONE LUCKY DANE, and DAREDEVIL seem the truest Speed Or Bust types in the field, and SOUPER COLOSSAL has both a better post and a better likely price.  Though SOUPER COLOSSAL has not raced at Santa Anita, he burned the track up in a bullet work on October 27, and seems to have come out of it well.  He has raced three times at Monmouth so far, undefeated and untested.  His longest try has been a runaway victory at a mile, but being by War Front out of a Kingmambo mare, eight and a half panels should be easy.  That last race was about two months ago, but Eddie Plesa brings his horses ready to run off lays.  The price should be more than square to bet he will be fit, ready, and a sharp contender.

DAREDEVIL is one worth standing against here.  He is one of the speed brigate, and his races in NEw York have been quality.  However, he is marooned out in the 13 gate, and all we really know about him from his two off-track wins is that he is a slop monster.  In conditions like Monmouth in 2007, there would be four appropriate words: go to the windows.  However, if the track is in any way typical for Southern California, a short price on this one from an outside gate with other speed is less than attractive. - NN

Selections:

#9 CARPE DIEM (4/1)

#13 UPSTART (8/1)

#8 SOUPER COLOSSAL (12/1)

Longshot:  This space was originally occupied by CALCULATOR, but he scratched the morning of the race due to a sore foot.  Both he and TEXAS RED, 2nd and 3rd behind the also-scratched AMERICAN PHAROAH in the FrontRunner, seemed live longshots, and it appears a lot of the CALCULATOR train is jumping ship to TEXAS RED.  It is a legitimate move, to be sure, but likely to depress the prices on TEXAS RED.  So, we go in an entirely different direction: #2 PRIVATE PROSPECT (30/1).  This Discreet Cat colt has raced four times, with three wins and then a second by just a head behind Recount in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII).  That last race was on poly, but his two stakes wins were both on dirt at Prairie Meadows.  He should relish the return to dirt today.  1 1/16 miles is as long as he has ever gone, but he is a stakes winner at a mile, and has been putting up long works leading into the Juvenile.  He shipped to Santa Anita in time to put up a six-furlong drill on October 22, suggesting he is getting the hang of the track.  With the scratch of CALCULATOR, he can save all the ground along the rail.  He did win his maiden effort along the rail, showing he can handle it.  There should be pace in front of him, and he has done most of his running from just a little off: if he gets some racing room, he could be in late at an enormous price. - NN

Race 9 -- G1 Breeders' Cup Turf -- Three-year-olds and up -- 1 1/2 miles on the turf -- post time 3:22 pm PT

Try as I might, I can't see much beyond the lens of TELESCOPE in the BC Turf with three million dollars of purse funds on the line.  If TELESCOPE runs back to his G2 win at Royal Ascot where he beat Hillstar (who won the G1 Canadian International) in a zippy time, he will be hard to beat.  The idea of tight turns being a detriment to the Europeans is a foolish theory, thanks to the Johar, Conduit, and MAGICIAN performances.  It should be noted that MAGICIAN is a scratch, however.  TELESCOPE should do fine on the ship for the Moore/Stoute jockey/trainer team that brought over Dank last year in the Filly and Mare Turf and the aforementioned Hillstar.  Chasing around Noble Mission and Taghrooda is nothing to be ashamed over, and perhaps the last race in the G1-GB Juddmonte International came over ground less firm than desired.  The firm turf races have been all solid victories, suggesting he'll like the fast/firm style of Santa Anita.  More a stayer than a closer, but he's done fine at ten panels overseas (which with the downhill element, is close to this race).  Also gets first time lasix.  Tight turns is a foolish theory with TELESCOPE as it is with MAIN SEQUENCE, who won the G1 United Nations first start off the plane over a tight-turned Monmouth course.  Winner of three Grade Ones, the United Nations, Sword Dancer, and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, he gets a rider switch to Velazquez with regular pilot Maragh on the mend.  He faces quality Euros in here, but rates high as the best hope for the home team.  Trainer Motion has been having a bang-up year and is the conditioner of MAIN SEQUENCE.  Toss out a fifth on a soft course and it's hard not to like the 2014 campaign of FLINTSHIRE.  Last seen the runner-up in the Arc de Triomphe, this one has chased around the A-level Euros like Taghrooda and Cirrus des Aigles, but Treve's repeat win in the Arc off bad form in the Arc raises questions on this one.  A. Fabre doesn't bring over Euros that are poor fits, but this one may be due to not fire as opposed to TELESCOPE.  Seven of ten in the money, but a worrisome zero-for-five in the win column against elders.  Both him and TELESCOPE look to take money, but FLINTSHIRE is more of a defensive use and TELESCOPE is more of an offensive use.

Selections:

#1 TELESCOPE (4/1)

#12 MAIN SEQUENCE (6/1)

#7 FLINTSHIRE (7/2)

Longshot: #3 IMAGINING (12/1) has danced the American turf dances and emerged with wins in the Man O' War and two podium finishes behind MAIN SEQUENCE in New York.  While there's some buzz on Arlington Million winner HARDEST CORE, it's worth noting that IMAGINING answered the firm turf question over Saratoga's sod in the Sword Dancer, given his win was on "good" ground.  Brought to you by the McGaughey/Phipps owner/trainer team of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, IMAGINING also projects the most legitimate speed that likely sets fractions from a cozy inside but not rail post.  Yet IMAGINING slowed the pace down considerably last out in the Joe Hirsch, stacking the field up.  Don't think he pulls the theft of the Man O' War, but he could last longer than others think.  --PM

Race 10 -- G1 Breeders' Cup Sprint -- Three-year-olds and up -- Six furlongs on the dirt -- post time 4:01 pm PT

This race is sponsored by Xpressbet and carries a purse of one and a half million dollars.  Last year, SECRET CIRCLE came off a long layoff as a four-year-old to take down the BC Sprint in the second start off of it.  He's poised to do it this year, and started the Fall campaign with a third in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship behind RICH TAPESTRY.  But INDIANAPOLIS has the same campaign as SECRET CIRCLE, the same trainer, and will get weight for being a three-year-old taking on elders.  Aside from PALACE, the Sprinters out west have been a hard bunch to figure out and perhaps he catches the elders at the right time.  He also makes a tiny turnback from six and a half to six, and was up close two back before the layoff in the San Pedro for sophomore sprinters.  There should be a ton of pace on the outside from FAST ANNA and WORK ALL WEEK, and he'll be at higher odds than SECRET CIRCLE.  Baffert has done well with Sprinters (Midnight Lute, anyone?) and it's the classic uncoupled trainer entry at work.  Wheeling back in a week is SALUTOS AMIGOS, who came from off the pace to annex the G3 Bold Ruler at seven panels.  Trainer David Jacobson put this one in the gate at the last minute, and he did win off an eight-day break this Spring at Aqueduct.  And while he does do well in the claiming game and with sprinters (think NY-bred Saginaw), he's also a trainer who hasn't been a choir boy and the rules of the BC could be his undoing.  Lures Javier Castellano to climb aboard, and turnbacks do fairly well in the BC Sprint, especially when there could be a wicked duel up front.  Owner Frank Calabrese is another not known for good behavior, the founder of the claiming drop down school where horses are plunged below fair value for wins.  He owns FAST ANNA, who was second last out at Parx in a G3 and runnerup in the G1 King's Bishop at seven-eighths.  Trained by Kathy Ritvo (who did well with Mucho Macho Man over this strip last year), this one projects as the speed of the speed from post twelve.  Blinkers go back on and a rider upgrade to John Velazquez are in play.  Illinois-bred WORK ALL WEEK does make the field, but while he beat a good one on the square in Delaunay in Iowa and qualified through a win in an auto-qualifer, he was off the rail in the G3 Phoenix and during Keeneland's FallStars (Phoenix Stakes inclusive), you wanted to be off the rail.  While he was able to rate off a speed in the Phoenix, post thirteen isn't that favorable an assignment.  I'll cheer for him, but in wagering terms he's on the discard pile.

Selections:

#2 INDIANAPOLIS (12/1)

#9 SALUTOS AMIGOS (6/1)

#12 FAST ANNA (12/1)

Longshot: Lone speed is something most pace handicappers are taught to look for and to isolate on.  The inverse is true, too.  A lone closer could be dangerous, and #7 MICO MARGARITA (15/1) is that.  In the Iowa Sprint where WORK ALL WEEK was victorious, this one rallied off his pace and was third behind the Illinois-bred and Delaunay.  Rallying wide at Prairie Meadows in the mud is usually the way to go, but he did get the quick set-up.  More plus points come from beating Delaunay two back and beating the zippy Heitai last out at Remington.  There's a lot of one-way speed that if it all gets together, could set up a pace meltdown. And that plays into MICO MARGARITA's hands.  A Napravnik/Asmussen production, a team with twenty starts in the last two months and ten money finishes. --PM

Race 11 -- G1 Breeders' Cup Mile -- Three-year-olds and up -- One Mile on the turf -- post time 4:40 pm PT

Without Wise Dan, the $2M BC Mile attracted an overflow field of fifteen (heck, even professional bridesmaid and first also-eligible MR. COMMONS tried it!) to try their luck. On the day after the Breeders' Cup, they'll run the Goldikova Stakes (that lured this year's G3 Modesty winner I'm Already Sexy).  Goldikova is trained by Freddie Head, who rode Miesque to back-to-back BC Mile triumphs in the late 1980s and conditioned Goldikova to back-to-back-to-back BC Mile wins. Head is here again with ANODIN, who projects the "B" Euro and the "A" pick.  The more popular European is TORONADO, but this space endorses ANODIN.  A troubled fifth last time on Arc Day in a Group 1, this one has been in the same zip code as top shelf Euros like Gordon Lord Byron, Kingman and Cirrus des Aigles, and was third in a tough G1 at Royal Ascot behind TORONADO.  Despite the troubled trip, this one was still beaten only 2 1/4 lengths for the honors, and the absence of Wise Dan turns this Mile into a mess of a race ripe for an invader.  TORONADO will get the support on the tote.  Winning the G1 Queen Anne at Royal Ascot is no easy feat, and TORONADO won that affair. After that, this one was runner-up twice in G1s, the Sussex in England (behind Kingman) and in France (behind next-out winner Charm Spirit).  TORONADO gets first time lasix and makes sense, but he looked very one-paced last time out in a quick (for European race) G1 in France.  With TOURIST out on the lead as well as OBVIOUSLY the worry is this one will not be able to mount a rally when the closers come around.  Post fourteen going a mile on the Santa Anita is no picnic, but maybe KARAKONTIE can work some magic from there.  A three-year-old taking on elders (so he gets three pounds) and first-time-lasix, this one tossed in a clunker last time but was wide on the turns last out in Longchamp.  Two back was much further in distance and not relevant.  Earlier in the year this one did fine in restricted-to-sophomore events, and perhaps the Longchamp clunker was a case of "facing older" and not showing much.  Yet while he faces the elders here, he is facing weaker ones.  Second start of a summer rest.

Selections:

#9 ANODIN (6/1)

#5 TORONADO (5/2)

#14 KARAKONTIE (10/1)

Longshot: One for the home team as #6 TOM'S TRIBUTE (15/1) gets the call as the longshot to watch. Winner of both the Del Mar Mile and G1 Eddie Read downstate, this one has done a fine job when catching a swift pace, as OBVIOUSLY set the pace in the G2 Del Mar Mile.  He chased it in the G1 Shoemaker, and he was third though traveling four-wide.  I think there wasn't any pace earlier in the year in the G2 Arcadia or the G1 Kilroe, and now with OBVIOUSLY and TOURIST up front, he'll get his target.  As the East Coast milers have taken turns collecting "Second to Wise Dan" badges, here's one that gets a course he's won over (three times, to be precise) and odds that will be square thanks to the negative stat of a trainer that is 4% wins (100 starts) in layoff situations, as TOM'S TRIBUTE skipped the local prep and hasn't been since Del Mar.  --PM

Race 12 -- G1 Breeders' Cup Classic -- Three-year-olds and up -- 1 1/4 miles on the dirt -- post time 5:35 pm PT

Horse of the Year honors are likely on the line in this race for five million dollars.  It's a fascinating equine puzzle, with a lot of ways to go and a case to be made for quite a few.  Yet this race will also be run under the strictest of guidelines, with horses being on the grounds a minimum of seventy-two hours prior to the race.  This 72-hour security, which applies to all thirteen BC-branded races, makes the form of certain trainers look a little more suspect, while other trainers tend to blossom well in this environment.  Bill Mott is one trainer who handles it well, sending out Royal Delta in the BC Distaff two years ago and Close Hatches to a runner-up in last year's Distaff and a win in the Phipps.  He's back with CIGAR STREET, who goes third off the layoff and does show the ability to stalk, having had to do it at a mile and a sixteenth at Gulfstream from the six post, where outside posts are doom and inside speed rules the day.  Although he's never been ten panels, he won a G3 last year at a mile and three-sixteenths and as a son of Street Sense (twice a G1 winner at ten panels), he's got every license to like it.  With one-way speeds like MORENO and BAYERN in here, he could take back, press (he's able to do it, methinks, but the paces have been slower so he's been a default leader), and he's still able to rate on the lead going nine panels like he did in the Homecoming Classic, besting Departing, who was next out-bobbed in the G2 Fayette.   Don't be fooled by the trip to Parx last out for CALIFORNIA CHROME.  The connections got an appearance fee (per @dubairacenight/P. Cummings) that was tantamount to a third place finish if he raced.  I think the PA Derby, which was the first start back after a summer vacay, was a sandbag race.  His work as a three-year-old, to run the table out west through the Santa Anita Derby and then be a Derby-Preakness winner, shows there is ability, and having drawn the rail the connections used the "dead rail at Parx" excuse to cover a bad race. I think this the objective all along, a five-million-dollar race as the connections have often cited money (even though one of the owners has no filter and came across as cuddly as a cactus after the Belmont Stakes) as a force in their choices.  It's a big money race and I think he fires, and I think the PA Derby was sandbagged.  The margin was a nose last time in the local prep for this event, the G1 Awesome Again, but SHARED BELIEF was race ridden from the onset, flung wide on turns, and still had enough to win.  Trip reviewers would give the last race an A double plus, but that was at nine panels. Yet he is a winner over today's ten furlongs, doing so two back downstate in the G1 Pacific Classic.  He goes third off the layoff, the works are solid, and as a three-year-old getting weight (like the Chromies on the outside).  However, this is a much tougher field than what he faced in the Pacific Classic and the Awesome Again.  I'd use him defensively, but keeping in mind he likely be the strong favorite and I wouldn't be surprised to see odds of even money at some point (he was the 6-5 winner of the Pacific Classic and the 1-5 winner last out).

Selections:

#2 CIGAR STREET (12/1)

#13 CALIFORNIA CHROME (4/1)

#6 SHARED BELIEF (9/5)

Longshot: MORENO has proven himself to be a one-way nine-furlong or more speed, so there will at least be a target setting honest fractions on the front.  BAYERN does his best running near the front too.  This could set the stage for an off-the-pace clunk-up type in the vein of Drosselmeyer three years ago at Churchill.  Enter #3 IMPERATIVE (30/1). When the fast pace materialized through Game On Dude and Mystery Train in the Pacific Classic, Imperative got third in there behind SHARED BELIEF.  He won when Game On Dude was cooked on the engine in the three-turn Charles Town Classic in April.  And when the Santa Anita Gold Cup featured crazy-go-nuts splits (sub :46 half, sub 1:10 three-quarters), he got on the podium there.  The pace could be quick yet again, and if it melts down, look out for this one to get a quality finish.  Having Frankie Dettori aboard is another plus point.  --PM

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