BREEDERS CUP 2006 Preview

The first Saturday in November has arrived, and with it comes the Breeders’ Cup, the World Championship of horse racing. Some of this year’s races offer historically impressive depth as well as intriguing first-time matchups and intense rematches.

Without further adieu, here is a brief summary of my picks for the 6 major races, excluding the juvenile races. I’m planning to keep it to a pretty simple budget this year and limit my wagering to $100 on these 6 races. I’ll be betting a $1 exacta box with three horses in each race and will make additional bets in the win, place and show pools, using a small place or show bet on my longshot pick to hedge losing my exacta. Here are my picks:

Race 5: Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, 11 furlongs, 1:55 CST

A lot of handicappers see it as a forgone conclusion that Ouija Board and Wait A While will battle for the win here with little competition. I don’t disagree entirely. Ouija Board is a world class mare who won this race in 2004 and would have won last year had it not been for the flukey Intercontinental wire to wire win. She appears to be a bit off of her three year old form and has raced a tough 2006 campaign but still is the classiest horse in the race, having faced and beaten top competition world-wide. She’s won twice in four attempts at 10f and will only benefit from the extra furlong here, as her late kick is second to none. Wait A While has dominated the Americans on the turf as a three-year-old but has had little competition, running on the lead unchallenged in most races. She ran an impressive 109 Beyer, sub 2:00 in the 10f Yellow Ribbon, comparable if not better than most of the American male turf horses at the distance. I expect her to get loose on the lead much like Intercontinental did last year, and your guess on how she will handle the extra furlong is as good as mine. I’m guessing she’ll be winded. Classy mare and personal favorite Film Maker will be flying on the close along with rival Honey Ryder. The latter was victorious in the most recent meeting between the two by less than a nose at 10f, but I think that Film Maker will benefit most from the extra distance and will be a better price. After all, she got up for 2nd when Ouija Board closed to win this race two years ago. I like her chances here to be flying at the finish and to get into the exacta. Looking deeper, Satwa Queen is one import that can’t be overlooked. She’s run well against top competition in Europe at the 10f distance and may have what it takes to surprise some people here. I like her better than Germance, who isn’t as experienced or as well-classed, although not a throwout to hit the board. Dancing Edie has been beaten handily by the Americans running here so I am going to pass. My Typhoon and Quiet Royal haven’t run past 9f and aren’t likely to be competitive, and I’m throwing out Mauralakana as well, who hasn’t won a race longer than 7f.

PICKS SUMMARY:

  1. Ouija Board   8-5
  2. Film Maker   6-1
  3. Wait A While  3-1

LONGSHOT PICK: Satwa Queen 12-1

Race 6: Breeders’ Cup Sprint, 6 furlongs, 2:35 CST

I’ve been more successful picking this race over the years than any other, and my methodology is always the same. I look intensely at Beyer Speed figures and straight up track times at the 6f distance. I also consider whether a strong closer figures to wipe out the field after a hot pace, but usually in this race there are enough horses with blazing speed that horses that like to close end up having too much ground to make up. This year, I don’t see a scary closer, which is a big factor for me, and the figures, experience and track times point straight toBordanaro. His 119 Beyer posted in his Ancient Title victory, his most recent start, was the fastest of any horse this year at any distance. All four starts this year have come on fast tracks at 6f, and his blazing sub 1:08 speed capabilities are the best in this field. He’ll go towards the lead immediately, and I don’t see any horse catching him. Henny Hughes is getting all the buzz and will be favored heavily here. He looked impressive in winning the 7f King’s Bishop and 6f Vosburgh Stakes, but his top speed figure at the distance (113 Beyer) is well behind Bordanaro. I expect Henny Hughes to run near the lead but is probably a few steps slower than my win pick. He appears to be the next fastest here, however. I like Thor’s Echo here as well. He ran a close 2nd to Bordanaro in the Ancient Title, posting an eye-raising 116 Beyer. He’ll be coming out of the #1 post which should allow him to stalk the early pace and make his move on the leaders. As for longshots, Too Much Bling can’t be overlooked. He hasn’t been tested against much competition but has shown ability to sit off the pace and win at 6f with decent figures (113 Beyer). Malibu Mint isn’t getting much buzz, but she ran a lightning fast 115 Beyer in July and has won two straight 6f races in sub 1:09 times. The only knock on her is a poor performace in the 7f Ballerina and a general lack of class, but for the price, I could see her hitting the board. I’m not crazy about likely front-runners War Front, Pomeroy and Attila’s Storm as they look slower than the best here and will probably get burned trying to keep up with Bordonaro. Siren Lure, Kelly’s Landing and Nightmare Affair look intriguing to those who expect the race to fall apart behind the pace, but I don’t think these closers will have enough time to make up ground and are probably better suited for 7f races. Friendly Island, Areyoutalkintome and Lewis Michael are in over their heads.

PICKS SUMMARY:

  1. Bordonaro    3-1
  2. Henny Hughes   2-1
  3. Thor’s Echo   10-1

LONGSHOT PICK: Too Much Bling  10-1,  Malibu Mint  30-1

Race 7: Breeders’ Cup Mile, 8 furlongs, 3:15 CST

No question about it, this is the toughest race to pick on the entire card. The Distaff is deep, the Turf is flakey, but the Mile is nearly impossible. You have a slough of European horses, some talented American sprinters, and deep closers. This race depends a great deal upon the turf condition, which the weather report would have me believe will be firm to good at the softest. This favors the Americans. The last time the Breeders’ Cup was held here, I picked the winner correctly as War Chant closed hard in the final furlong on slightly softer turf. This time around, I am going to stick with a hard closer, only because I think Gorella is an absolute beast. She may be bet heavy, but her amazing turn of foot is the best of any horse in the race. Coming out of post #12, she’ll be able to save a lot of ground behind the pace, and if she gets a good trip should have a lot left for the homestretch. I’m rooting for her, so I might as well bet on her, because this race is a crapshoot. Aragorn has been virtually unstoppable on the US turf. Many have concerns about him, but he has been training well and his times and speed figures are simply superior to every other horse here. Of the Euros, I guess I like Librettist best, despite his poor showing in his last effort, a 6th place finish in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Before that, he had won five straight at this distance, and assuming that race was a fluke, he has the most experience and success at this distance. Rob Roy looks tempting, but he may need a bit more distance. Likely favorite Araafa is talented and classed but inconsistent, losing his last two at this distance after two impressive wins. He has a strong chance but I am going try to beat him. As for longshots, I really like Echo of Light, who has been steadily improving at this distance after a rough trip in August. Aussie Rules and Mieqsue’s Approval deserve a look as well, although I think they are a notch below the best here, beaten head to head by a few of them. Badge of Silver figures to be alone on the lead but I don’t think he will keep it for long with the amount of strong late kicks present here. Some like Sleeping Indian, but I can’t feel good betting a horse that has never won past 7f. Free Thinking has a shot at a price, although he was no match for Miesque’s Approval back in July. Ad Valorem has run well in Europe but I still like the above mentioned better, while Silent Name and Super Frolic look to me to be the only throwouts. This is going to be a rough one.

PICKS SUMMARY:

  1. Gorella   4-1
  2. Aragorn  5-1
  3. Librettist  6-1

LONGSHOT PICK: Echo of Light   12-1

Race 8: Breeders’ Cup Distaff, 9 furlongs, 3:55 CST

The Distaff looks to be the deepest race on the card, as at least ten horses have a legitimate chance to win the race. I have spent hours pounding my head into the ground over this race and still can’t convince myself that my picks are right, but my time us up and I’m going to do the best I can. I’ll start with favorite Fleet Indian, who is undefeated in 2006, winning all six of her races at 9f or beyond. She boasts the top Beyer at the distance of 113, and also the top time at the distance, 1:48.70 in her narrow Beldame victory. All in all, there isn’t much to dislike. She’ll likely sit just off the pace from the #7 post and make her move coming into the turn. But she’ll be a very short price in a very deep field. I’ll use her in my exotics, but I’m going to try to beat her with Balletto, who finished 2nd two years ago in the BC Juvenile Fillies. She closed hard to lose to Fleet Indian by a head in the Beldame and seems to be primed for a big run. Coming out of the #14 post shouldn’t hurt her as she likes to stalk, and will be able to save some ground behind what figures to be a hot pace. Spun Sugar and Happy Ticket have been rivals all year and I like both to put up huge efforts here after being beaten badly in a confusing Spinster on the synthetic PolyTrack dirt surface at Keeneland. Throwing that race out, Spun Sugar has been great at the distance, beating Balletto narrowly and Pool Land handily in the Go For Wand, and I think she’ll be able to stalk and run her race coming out of the #6 post. Happy Ticket has finished worse than 2nd only twice in nineteen starts, so common sense indicates she’ll have a good shot here, and coming out of the #13 post she will be able to stalk and save for a strong closing kick. At 12-1, she’s worth a shot, because two months ago she would have been the second choice. I think the pacesetters will be hurting around the final turn, although I should mention that this race is often won wire to wire. Pool Land, Round Pond, Bushfire and Healthy Addiction figure to get to the lead early in front of favored Fleet Indian. Of the three, I like Healthy Addiction’s chances best, but won’t be playing her. There is a lot of disagreement about Pine Island, the second choice and star three-year-old in this one. Personally, I think her inexperience and deep closing style will play against her here. She comes out of post #2, and will be forced to lose a lot of ground behind the pace. There will be several horses in front of her with more experience, equal speed and a lot of gas left, so she’ll need a monster kick to get the job done. I agree that she is a talented filly, but might need an extra furlong to beat these. I can’t see playing her at 5-1 odds. Lemons Forever has a similar running style but less talent, so I will pass. Asi Siempre trounced some of my picks in the PolyTrack race at Keeneland, and I’m throwing that race out, so that means I am throwing her out, aside from my gut feeling that she will bounce off that effort anyway. Hollywood Story looked good earlier this year but has lost to some these at this distance and probably won’t figure. Sharp Lisa and Baghdaria are seriously up against it, but this race is so deep that I can’t rule anyone out completely. If I miss this race, it will be because I didn’t take Pine Island seriously enough, but since I don’t think her deep closing style will work well in this race and because I question the quality of her competition this year, I’m willing to take that risk.

PICKS SUMMARY:

  1. Balletto   6-1
  2. Fleet Indian   8-5
  3. Spun Sugar   10-1

LONGSHOT PICK: Happy Ticket  12-1

Race 9: Breeders’ Cup Turf, 12 furlongs. 4:35 CST

This year’s turf seems to lack the starpower of recent runnings, as there isn’t one clear American standout and the normally powerful European contingent looks a bit below its usual form. I’m going out on somewhat of a limb and picking Go Deputy, who is the most tested American horse at this distance and has put up improving speed figures at 12f. I have thought him superior to both English Channel and Cacique ever since his win in the Sword Dancer, and he closed hard on the latter in a narrow 2nd place Man O’War finish (11f). His figures (109 Beyer) and time over the 12f distance on firm ground (2:26.4) lead me to believe he is the top American turf horse here. My only concern is that he ran this grueling distance just two weeks ago, finishing second. The second place finish doesn’t concern me as the short recovery time, but for the money he looks to me to be the best pick here. Hurricane Run should be the favorite, coming over the pond as one of Europe’s finest. However, he has demonstated somewhat weakening form over his past three races, even missing the board in the 10f L’Arc de Triomphe. On his best day, he appears to outclass the entire field, but his recent form as well as the likelihood of a firm turf course doesn’t make we want to jump all over him at 3-1. That said, I can’t risk leaving him out of my exacta. The aforementioned American duo of English Channel and Cacique have battled all year for the division lead. I give the slight edge to English Channel here, as Cacique has been more successful in shorter turf races and struggled mightily to hold on to his 11 furlong victory over Go Deputy in the Man O’War. English Channel is more experienced at the distance and won the head to head battle with Cacique in the 11f United Nations, the longest race between the two. Red Rocks and Scorpion also are worth a look as they come over from Europe with experience and class, but due to the likely firm course I am going to look towards T.H. Approval as a live longshot. He has been successful this year at longer distances and should benefit from a firmer course and hot early pace. Old-timer Better Talk Now won this race two years ago as on of the best overlays in history, but appears to be past his prime. I’m throwing out Silverfoot and Rush Bay who look in over their heads here, as well as rabbit Icy Atlantic.

PICKS SUMMARY:

  1. Go Deputy    6-1
  2. Hurricane Run   3-1
  3. English Channel    7-2

LONGSHOT PICK: TH Approval  15-1

Race 10: Breeders’ Cup Classic, 10 furlongs, 5:20 CST

Bernardini is getting all the buzz and will probably be the shortest price of the day for good reason. The three-year old has been a monster and proven himself in a class of his own at the 10f distance. In fact, his two top speed figures (116,117) came this fall at the 10f distance and are the fastest figures posted by any horse this year at over a mile on the dirt. He looks to be several lengths faster than every other horse here if he gets to run his race and it will be tough to bet against him. I’m going to take a stand against the undefeated Lava Man, who despite a enthralling rags to riches story has made a name for himself against inferior competition. He’s experienced at the distance and could very well be in the mix, but I’m guessing there are faster horses here that will close harder, as his most recent speed figure at the 10f distance (109) leaves something to be desired. One of those is Sun King, who returns after no-showing as a trendy pick in last year’s Classic. Sun King posted a respectable 113 speed figure in the 9f Whitney, closing hard to nearly catch the highly touted Invasor at the wire. He had a rough go of it last time out in the 9f Woodward after a slow start, but made up a lot of ground and it looks like he may benefit most from the extra furlong. There isn’t much to knock about the aforementioned Invasor, who has been undefeated since losing early in the year to Discreet Cat in Dubai and appears to be Bernardini’s only real competition. He’s won at 10f, posting a 111 speed figure, and should certainly be in contention, although Bernardini still looks to be much faster. As far as sleepers go, I’ll stay away from European turf star George Washington, who would probably have been the favorite in the mile but instead will try his chances on dirt at a distance probably beyond his liking. David Junior’s pedigree seems to be the better bet to like the distance, although he will also be making the jump from turf to dirt. Of the American’s, I suppose Premium Tap could provide some value if he can recapture his Woodward effort and produce another strong furlong. I’m also going to pass on three-year-olds Lawyer Ron and Brother Derek, who were Kentucky Derby favorites in the spring but haven’t really done much to inspire much enthusiasm at this distance. Giacomo and Perfect Drift both enter what will likely be their last career race with little hope for a victory. Suave and Flower Alley pose mysterious options, as both fared well in this race last year but haven’t done much since.

PICKS SUMMARY:

  1. Bernardini  1-1
  2. Invasor     5-1
  3. Sun King  15-1

LONGSHOT PICK: Premium Tap 30-1

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