Archive for November 2010

WINE OF THE MONTH- NOVEMBER

November 19, 2010

The Wine Spectator announced today its 2010 Wine of the Year, and for the second year in the row, it comes from the United States. In a surprise, it didn’t come from the classic 2007 vintage of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, although two of those did find their way into the top five. Instead, it went to a wine from a much lesser known but surely up and coming appellation, Paso Robles. The honor went to Saxum’s James Berry Vineyard 2007, a $70 Rhone style blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre. Sadly, with a production of only 950 cases, it will be difficult if not impossible to find by tomorrow morning. However, there is no shame in exploring that promising region for less expensive, high quality productions with wider distribution. With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, Pinot Noirs and light-bodied Zinfandels are always the best pair for the lighter meat, cranberry dressings and spicy baked desserts that this season is famous for. I stumbled upon a great example of young, juicy but very refined Zinfandel from Paso Robles recently, and it seems an appropriate choice to feature this month.

Four Vines Zinfandel The Biker Paso Robles 2008, 92 Points, $25, 4800 Cases Produced- Elegant aromas of juicy raspberry and black cherry fruit combine above notes of coffee bean and vanilla. Delicate, polished mouthfeel is light on the palate and shows an explosion of violety fruit, blueberry, cherry, licorice and wild berry that evolves into a complex backbone of toasty oak and black pepper spice. Earthy undertones creep in late and carry impressively through the long, spicy finish.

THE TOP 20 RACEHORSES OF THE LAST 20 YEARS

November 9, 2010

Now that the Breeders’ Cup has ended, I thought it might be fun to look back over the last 20 or so years of Horse Racing and reflect on some of the sport’s true champions. Here are my picks for the 20 best racehorses since 1990, with footage provided to support my claim.

#20: MIDNIGHT LUTE- One of the most monstrous closers that the Sprint division has ever seen, Midnight Lute is the only horse ever to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint twice. He swallowed his opponents both times over the final furlong, winning once on a fast track and once over the slop. In both races, he was forced incredibly wide around the final turn, and it made no difference as he was much the best, with a massive stride while driving through the finish. He won 6 of his 12 lifetime starts, but was unbeatable when running his race, and earned $2.69 million in his career.

#19: OUIJA BOARD– A dominant turf mare running longer distances, Ouija Board won two European Horse of the Year titles while dominating the competition on this side of the Atlantic as well. She won two Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf races, and was genuinely feared whenever she took to the turf. Her career record of 10 wins in 22 starts doesn’t quite do justice to how easily she dominated the competition in her prime, but her career earnings of $5.79 million prove that she knew how to win the big ones.

#18: LURE- One of the most successful American turf milers in history, Lure became the first horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile twice. His 1993 campaign was quite impressive, as he tallied wins in the Kelso, Turf Classic and Fourstardave before winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile despite a very troubled trip. Lure won 14 of his 25 career starts, earning $2.51 million.

#17: GO FOR WAND- This incredibly game filly met a tragic end as she broke her right cannon bone during what would have been one of the greatest stretch duels of all time in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, a stretch duel she almost certainly would have won. Outside of that race that cost her life, Go For Wand accumulated ten wins and two seconds in twelve starts, earning $1.37 over her short career. She proved that she had the heart of a champion that day, as she hobbled on three legs to the finish line before she could be humanely euthanized.

#16: AFLEET ALEX- A true fighter if ever there was won, Afleet Alex may have been the horse to finally break the Triple Crown drought if not for the absurd pace meltdown in the 2005 Kentucky Derby.  He withstood that torrid pace admirably to finish third before winning a memorable Preakness after practically falling to his knees coming around the final turn, and went on to win the Belmont as well. Alex won 8 out his 12 lifetime races, earning $2.77 million in his career.

#15: A.P. INDY- Another horse that could easily have won the Triple Crown, A.P. Indy skipped the 1992 Kentucky Derby and Preakness before dominating the Belmont and winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and earning Horse of the Year Honors that year. His real legacy has been at stud, where his progeny have included multiple stakes winners. A.P. Indy won 8 of his 11 races, winning $2.97 million.

#14: AZERI- A three-time Eclipse Award winner as Older Female Horse, Azeri also earned Horse of the Year honors in 2002 (one of only four females to win the award) after winning the Breeder’s Cup Distaff and Apple Blossom (one of three wins in that race), and enjoyed an 11-race win streak between 2002 and 2003. She is the second highest earning North American Female with $4.09 million, and won 17 of her 24 starts.

#13: SMARTY JONES: An entire nation became infatuated with this colt as he battled for the Triple Crown in 2004, and while Afleet Alex may have been more deserving the following year, no one else came closer over the course of the decade than Smarty did. He became the first undefeated horse since Seattle Slew to win the Kentucky Derby, and after handily winning the Preakness by a record 11 1/2 lengths, his narrow loss when caught at the wire in the Belmont by the fast-closing Birdstone is still one of the most crushing losses in the history of the sport. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Smarty take on older horses as he was retired due to injury shortly after his second place finish in the Belmont, the only time in 9 starts he suffered a loss. Smarty Jones earned $7.6 million in his only season of racing.

#12: RACHEL ALEXANDRA- Her 2009 Horse of the Year campaign was one for the ages, as she finished the year undefeated after initially demolishing all comers in the three-year-old filly division (a 20 length victory in the Kentucky Oaks) and eventually taking on the boys with unprecedented success. Rachel became the first filly ever to win the Preakness, and continued to succeed against strong competition, winning the Haskell over Belmont winner Summer Bird before taking Woodward Stakes against older males as well. She won 13 of her 19 career races and has earned $3.51 million over two years.

#11: HOLY BULL- Aside from his as-yet unexplained flop as the heavy favorite in the 1994 Kentucky Derby, there isn’t much that this colt did wrong that season. Highly touted going into that race after dominating the Florida Derby with a 113 Beyer, he bounced back from his setback in the Derby with wins in the Travers and Woodward in route to Horse of the Year honors. He won 13 of his 16 races, earning $2.41 million in the process.

#10 GOLDIKOVA- The only horse in history to win the same Breeders’ Cup Race three times, the European filly/mare Goldikova tackled males and won the Mile in 2008, 2009 and 2010, coming from far off the pace and showing a devastating turn of foot. Her form in Europe was spectacular as well, and all told she has won 15 of her 21 races, missing the board only once, and earning over $6 million in the process. Impressively, she will remain in training and attempt to win a fourth consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile next year.

#9: SILVER CHARM- Yet another horse with a chance to win the Triple Crown over the past two decades, Silver Charm was caught at the wire in the Belmont by Touch Gold in 1997. It shouldn’t be left unsaid that he won one of the most memorable Kentucky Derby races ever run, racing near the lead and hanging on through a dramatic stretch drive over the hard closing Captain Bodgit and pace-setting Free House. Unlike some of the horses that would find themselves in similar situations in the next decade, Silver Charm’s connections chose to keep him in racing, and he came back strong in his four-year-old campaign, winning the prestigious Dubai World Cup, the Clark Handicap and the Kentucky Cup. He won 12 of his 24 races, earning $6.94 million over three years.

#8: POINT GIVEN- Another horse that lost his shot at the Triple Crown thanks to a suicidal pace in the Kentucky Derby, the monstrous physical specimen Point Given bounced back to win the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell and Travers (four consecutive million dollar races). Sadly, he wasn’t able to prove himself in the Breeders’ Cup after suffering an injury later in the fall, but that didn’t prevent him from receiving Horse of the Year honors in 2001 after what may have been the strongest three-year old campaign of any horse over the last decade. Aside from his 5th place finish in the Derby, his career record stands virtually flawless, with 9 wins and 2 seconds in 13 starts, good for $3.97 million in earnings.

#7: INVASOR- After winning the Uraguyan Triple Crown in 2005 and finishing a game fourth in the UAE Derby to begin the 2006 season, the little known Invasor shipped north and absolutely annihilated all comers, winning the Pimlico Special, Suburban Handicap and Whitney before beating heavily favored Bernardini in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He earned Horse of the Year honors that year, but he wasn’t finished. Invasor came back in 2007 to win the Donn Handicap despite a horrible trip, and turned the tables on rival Discreet Cat, the only horse to ever defeat him, when he won the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest race. All told, Invasor won 11 of his 12 starts, and earned $7.80 million.

#6: ZENYATTA- The first female to ever win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2009, Zenyatta took some criticism over her career for being purely a synthetic specialist. Undefeated in her first 19 races before finishing second in a photo finish in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic, her last, she was known for her late running, out of the clouds style. And who could ever forget her dominating size? At 17.2 hands, she stands larger than Secretariat did. Winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, she dwarfed the males. More importantly, she was the first horse in modern memory to truly unite a nation around her, and although her quest for 20 wins fell heart-breakingly short, her legacy lost no luster in her one gusty loss. She is the all-time leading money earner for females, accumulating $7.30 million in her illustrious career.

#5: SKIP AWAY- Heavily raced through four impressive seasons, “Skippy” was certainly a horse for the ages. He really began to hit his stride as a three year old after winning the Belmont and defeating the immortal Cigar in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (a race he would win again, but that one sealed his Three-Year-Old Eclipse Award), but his two best seasons came as an older horse, as he won two Eclipse Awards in that category in 1997 and 1998, winning the Horse of the Year title as well in the latter (and having quite a good case for it in 1997 as well). Ironically, his dominating win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1997 (1:59.1) wasn’t enough to take the Horse of the Year Title from the overrated (but undefeated) two-year old Favorite Trick in that year, but his win in the Woodward in 2008 was enough to seal the deal despite his loss in the Breeders’ Cup that year. Skippy won 18 of his 38 starts and earned $9.62 million, an amount that places him in the top three of all-time.

#4: TIZNOW- A personal favorite of mine, Tiznow is the only horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice, both in stunning fashion. I saw it live in 2000 as he out-battled the Irish champion Giant’s Causeway, and had money to win on this up-and-coming three year old, who would go on to win Horse of the Year as a result. In 2001, he would go on to win the Santa Anita Handicap, and his winning Breeders Cup Classic stretch duel with Sahkee, another European invader, was an immediate classic, although not enough to steal Horse of the Year honors from Point Given. Tiznow won 8 of his 15 starts and earned $6.42 million.

#3: GHOSTZAPPER- Perhaps the most versatile and talented horse over this entire timespan, Ghostzapper began his career as a dominant sprinter, winning 6f and 7f races before stretching out to longer distances with shocking success. In his first race around two turns, Ghostzapper won the 9f Philip Iselin with a 128 Beyer- the fastest ever around two turns.  And he wasn’t done yet; Ghostzapper captured the Woodward later that fall before winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic in a record time of 1:59.0. All in all, he won 9 out of his 11 starts from 6 to 10 furlongs, earned $3.45 million and a Horse of the Year title.

#2: CURLIN- The richest American racehorse of all time, Curlin is one of two horses during this time span to win two Horse of the Year titles, and the only one of the last decade. He will be remembered for the stunning third gear that he could switch into during his gritty stretch drives as well as for his incredibly imposing physique and competitive toughness. As a three-year old in 2007, Curlin hit the board in all three Triple Crown races, and won a thrilling, hard-fought Preakness, all against what was arguably the strongest class of his decade, including accomplished runners Street Sense, Hard Spun, Rags to Riches and Any Given Saturday. He came back to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic against older horses that year, and probably would have won a second Breeders’ Cup Classic the following year if it had been run on real dirt. Curlin would come back in 2008 to win the Dubai World Cup and repeat in the Jockey Gold Cup. His career record of 11 wins in 16 starts earned $10.5 million.

#1: CIGAR- “The incomparable, invincible, unbeatable Cigar!” Truer words have never been spoken. This legend strung together a record-tying 16 consecutive wins over two years of uncompromising travel against the country’s top competition, a feat equaled only by the great Citation. During this span, Cigar won two Horse of the Year titles, a Breeders’ Cup Classic, a Jockey Club Gold Cup, two Woodwards,  two Donn Handicaps and the Dubai World Cup- and won most of those in very convincing fashion, rarely winning by less than three or four lengths. In his 33 career races, Cigar won 19 times and earned $9.99 million.

BREEDERS’ CUP 2010 PREVIEW

November 5, 2010

$200 Bankroll. Here we go….

FRIDAY

FILLY AND MARE SPRINT, 4:30 CST, 7 furlongs

This certainly appears to be one of the more wide-open races on paper with a full field of 14, but the horse that has shown the best form for this race has been the improving four-year old Ballerina winner and morning line favorite Rightly So, who is 3 for 3 at the 7f distance and comes off of two straight victories and three increasing Beyer figures. She posted a field-best 100 Beyer in her easy four length win last time out in the aforementioned Ballerina and stands to improve upon that. She figures to be near or even controlling the pace and could surely wire this field; one concern is that she will lose some ground getting to the lead out of Post #13, but with the long run into the first turn, her post shouldn’t be too detrimental. However, there are many other intriguing runners here, including the six-year old veteran Jessica Is Back, who figures to be a live longshot coming off a respectable third to Rightly So in the Ballerina. After spending time racing at over a mile during the past two years, she shortened up and was much the best in the 6f Princess Rooney, easily besting the highly touted Dubai Majesty, who will vie for favoritism here, and should relish the extra furlong. The three-year old Champagne d’Oro has been working well and could be sitting on a big race as an overlay after struggling in her last outing at 6f on synthetic, and faces a bit of a challenge coming out of the far outside Post #14. Prior to that race, she was an impressive winner over the dirt track at Saratoga in the 7f Test Stakes, posting a career best 97 Beyer figure. It will break my heart to have to play against a personal favorite of mine in the exacta, the five year-old Monarchos mare and defending champion Informed Decision. She seems to have lost a step this year, and really has always been a synthetic specialist, struggling on dirt unless the track comes up sloppy. Her workouts at Churchill have been strong, but she is still a likely underlay, although I will keep her on some multi-race wagers. I will also try to beat Dubai Majesty, who has won two of her last three over synthetic surfaces at shorter distances, but seems to always tire badly after 6f– she has never won beyond that distance. Hard-trier Secret Gypsy has won her last three races at 6f over suspect company, and was easily beaten by Dubai Majesty four races back; she takes a big step up in class here and has distance questions as well. The rest of the three year old contingent could have something to say here, as Switch shortens up after giving Zenyatta a scare at 8.5f (but may be better suited to synthetic), Evening Jewel attempts to shorten up and take a slight leap up in class (still think she fits better in the Distaff), and My Jen looks to improve on an impressive off-the-pace victory in the 6.5f Gallant Bloom. Also worth a look are Sara Louise, who closed gamely to finish third in the above race after a long layoff, and Gabby’s Golden Gal, winner of the 2009 Acorn at 8f who is unraced since January.

PICKS SUMMARY:

1. Rightly So (3-1)

2. Jessica Is Back (12-1)

3. Champagne D’Oro (6-1)

4. Informed Decision (7-2)

BETS: ($17.40)

$1 Exacta Box: Rightly So, Jessica Is Back, Champagne D’Oro ($6)

$3 Win, $6 Place: Rightly So ($9)

$0.10 Superfecta Key: Rightly So, Jessica Is Back, Champagne D’Oro/ Rightly So, Jessica Is Back, Champagne D’Oro/ Rightly So, Jessica Is Back, Champagne D’Oro, Informed Decision/ Rightly So, Jessica Is Back, Champagne D’Oro, Informed Decision, Dubai Majesty ($2.40)

FILLY AND MARE TURF, 5:10 CST, 11f

Defending champion Midday could go off as the heaviest favorite on the entire card, as she has looked better this year than last year and appears to be in career form, and should be a strong single in multi-race wagering. The race gains an extra furlong due to the track configuration at Churchill, and this should make her an especially dangerous threat to repeat. Japanese import Red Desire ran a big one in her U.S. debut, finishing a close third over yielding turf in the 10f Flower Bowl. I expect her to move forward from that effort over more familiar turf and a bit more distance. Looking for value, I land again on a personal favorite in Eclair de Lune, who triumphed and held gamely in her Beverly D win at 9.5 f. The extra distance is somewhat of a concern for the four-year old, but she figures to enjoy a trip near the front of the pack in a race without much pace, and looks to be improving at fair odds. An interesting play here could be three-year old Harmonious, who boasts three consecutive improving Beyers including her 100 figure  in winning the 9f QE II Cup with an explosive late kick. She should really benefit from the added distance here, and has a win over 10f to her credit. The mystery horse is the European invader Plumania, winner of two straight at longer distances before running less than a length from Midday over soft turf in the 10f Prix Vermeille at Longchamp, but she threw in a real clunker without an excuse against the boys last time out in the Arc de Triomphe. My gut feeling is that the firm turf and long journey across the Atlantic will likely be too much for her and put her out of her element. The improving European Miss Keller could make some noise here as well, although I question whether she wants to go quite this far. The formerly great Forever Together has been digressing and is a play against in her final race coming out of the furthest post, while Yellow Ribbon winner Hibaayeb beat a suspect field and could be overbet. Hot Cha Cha and Shared Account are nice fillies but don’t appear to want any part of this distance.

PICKS SUMMARY:

1. Midday (6-5)

2. Red Desire (8-1)

3. Eclair de Lune (15-1)

4. Harmonious (6-1)

BETS: ($14.40)

$2 Exacta Key: Midday/ Eclair de Lune, Red Desire, Harmonious

$4 Place: Red Desire

$2 Place: Eclair de Lune

$0.10 Superfecta Key: Midday, Red Desire/ Midday, Eclair de Lune, Red Desire, Harmonious/ Midday, Eclair de Lune, Red Desire, Harmonious/ Midday, Eclair de Lune, Red Desire, Harmonious, Plumania ($2.40)

JUVENILE FILLIES, 5:50 CST 8.5f

The Juvenile races are always tough to call, so I will go easy on this one. The horse that sticks out to me is Awesome Feather, who is undefeated in five starts at Calder and won her last start at this distance with a Beyer fig of 87, which tops the field and was easily the most impressive performance around two turns this fall. She hasn’t been tested yet, but looks to have a strong shot at a decent price.  R Heat Lightning closed with authority after a dreadful trip to finish second in the 8f Frizette at Belmont, and should enjoy the added distance here if she can settle back off the pace, while the horse she lost to, morning line favorite AZ Warrior, will need an equally perfect trip to hang on here, so I will try to beat that one. Switching to the dirt for the first time is the talented Tell A Kelly, who didn’t run a bad one in her first try at two turns over the polytrack at Oak Tree, finishing a close second after a hard trip. She should handle the dirt just fine and be poised for a big run here if she can overcome a tough spot coming out of Post #13. Of the synthetic fillies, one that deserves special mention is Delightful Mary, who ran second to Wyomia over the Keeneland polytrack at this distance and posted a Beyer figure of 86. Indian Gracey has run behind Tell A Kelly on several occasions and I don’t see much reason to place her above that one at a longer distance here, while trendy European shipped Theysken’s Theory is well-bred but geared more towards turf.

PICKS SUMMARY:

1. Awesome Feather (6-1)

2. R Heat Lightning (4-1)

3. Tell A Kelly (9-2)

4. Delightful Mary (8-1)

BETS: ($5)

$5 Place: Awesome Feather

DISTAFF, 6:30 CST, 9f

This race lost a bit of luster as Rachel Alexandra’s early retirement prevented her from ever having run in a Breeders’ Cup Race. Possibly just as good is the superstar Blind Luck, who has been close to unstoppable after an extremely taxing campaign. Her trademark late kick has been key to her success at distances past 8.5 f, and it bears repeating that her narrow loss in her last outing at that distance came while conceding 10 pounds to steadily improving archrival Havre de Grace, who barely hung on at the wire- that one won’t have the weight advantage or the shorter distance this time around. Still, the latter is one tough customer, and has posted a stunning seven consecutive ascending Beyer figures going back to her career debut last August. The speedy five year-old mare Life at Ten will be a force to be reckoned with as the controlling speed here from Post #1, and is a threat to wire the field if she is allowed to set slow fractions. There shouldn’t be much speed here, but I expect the talented Malibu Prayer to go with her early just to her outside but fade before the finish. She defeated the classy four-year-old Unrivaled Belle at this distance two races back, but that one appears a cut below the rest despite her class, having been beaten handily by Life at Ten at this distance on two occasions. Persistently benefited from a hot pace in the much longer Personal Ensign, and she won’t get the speed up front or the extra distance here. Acoma is impressive as a polytrack and turf horse but will struggle here.

PICKS SUMMARY:

1. Blind Luck (9-5)

2. Life at Ten (7-2)

3. Havre de Grace (4-1)

4. Malibu Prayer (8-1)

BETS: ($11.40)

$5 Place: Life at Ten

$2 Exacta Box: Blind Luck, Life at Ten

$0.10 Superfecta Key: Blind Luck, Life at Ten/ Blind Luck, Life at Ten, Havre de Grace/ Blind Luck, Life at Ten, Havre de Grace, Malibu Prayer, Unrivaled Belle / Blind Luck, Life at Ten, Havre de Grace, Malibu Prayer, Unrivaled Belle ($2.40)

FRIDAY MULTI-RACE WAGERS:

$0.50 Pick 4: Rightly So, Jessica Is Back, Champagne de Oro, Informed Decision/ Midday/ Awesome Feather, Tell A Kelly, R Heat Lightning/ Blind Luck ($6)

$0.50 Pick 3: Midday, Eclair de Lune, Red Desire, Harmonious/ Awesome Feather, R Heat Lightning/ Blind Luck ($4)

$0.50 Pick 3: Midday/ Awesome Feather, Tell A Kelly, R Heat Lightning/ Blind Luck, Life at Ten ($3)

SATURDAY

SPRINT, 1:30 CST, 6f

This is an extremely wide-open race with several interesting runners, and I will be forced to go deeper here in my superfecta play than any race other than the Classic. The two division leaders Majesticperfection and Discreetly Mine are finished for the year with injury, but luckily, there is one horse here that my heart is set on, and that is Big Drama, a front-running type who has shown the ability to carry his speed from start to finish, succeeding especially at this shorter sprint distance. He faded over the final furlong of the 7f Forego, but was impressive in two previous starts at 6f, posting Beyer figures of 108 and 105, which certainly put him squarely in the mix here. He hasn’t been worse than second in four starts this year, and will be my main play, and should enjoy a ground-saving trip near the front of the pack coming out of Post #1. Also interesting is the highly touted Godolphin colt and morning line favorite Girolamo, who looked to be more of a miler last year, but bounced back impressively to win the 6f Vosburgh, posting a Beyer figure of 105. He looks to be hitting his stride, and any improvement upon his last race could win this, but it bears mention that he was soundly beaten by Big Drama two starts back. How about five-year-old veteran Riley Tucker? His 6f win over this very track back in May earned him a 110 Beyer figure, the highest in the field. He ran into a bit of a slump after that, bouncing badly in his next two races and has been a bit inconsistent over his career, but appears to be back on track now after two strong performances and increasing figures at this distance. He boasts two wins over the track here and should offer good value underneath in exotics. A classy horse that could take a lot of money is west-coast shipper Smiling Tiger, who is coming off an impressive 6f score in the Ancient Title. This will be his first start over traditional dirt, which gives me pause, but reports from the track indicate that he is having no trouble with the surface, and may even end up relishing it. It would be unwise to dismiss the chances of Churchill Downs specialist Atta Boy Roy, especially with Calvin Borel aboard. He won the 7f Churchill Downs Hcp. over the sloppy track with a front-running trip on Derby day, although he was beaten fairly easily by Riley Tucker in his next start, so I suppose I prefer that one. Warrior’s Reward will give this a try, and although he surely needs more running room to show his best stuff, he will be closing hard into the finish and is a must-use underneath in exotics; he has been most successful on dirt surfaces and has never finished worse than second at Churchill, and has been training marvelously over the track. Closer Supreme Summit seems to run in a similar style, but his lack of experience away from synthetic tracks leads me to look elsewhere. Wise Dan will take some action after his 6f Phoenix win over the polytrack at Keeneland, but this lightly raced colt appears to be up against it with this bunch, as his speed figures look to be a cut below. International runner Kinsale King is the mystery horse in this field and has experience at this distance, but I will try to beat him, as the feeling is that this is more of a turf horse who has been in a serious tailspin since his victory back in March in Dubai.

PICKS SUMMARY:

1. Big Drama (7-2)

2. Girolamo (3-1)

3. Riley Tucker (8-1)

4. Atta Boy Roy (12-1)

BETS: ($21.60)

$1 Exacta Key: Big Drama, Girolamo/ Big Drama, Girolamo, Riley Tucker, Atta Boy Roy

$4 Win, $8 Place: Big Drama

$0.10 Superfecta: Big Drama, Girolamo/ Big Drama, Girolamo, Riley Tucker, Atta Boy Roy/ Big Drama, Girolamo, Riley Tucker, Atta Boy Roy/ Big Drama, Girolamo, Riley Tucker, Smiling Tiger, Atta Boy Roy, Warrior’s Reward ($3.60)

JUVENILE, 2:55 CST, 8.5f

This highly anticipated edition of the Juvenile race features a fresh crop of talent poised to become the next class of superstars. From a handicapping standpoint, I see this as a race with a lot of speed up front, as many of the runners have yet to go past 7f or to run a two turn race. I’ll look towards a horse that will run from off the pace, and I land on Jaycito, who cruised down the stretch powerfully in the 8.5f Norfolk and was much the best in that race, posting a highly competitive 88 Beyer figure at that distance. He will run over the dirt for the first time, but this son of Victory Gallop should only benefit from the surface change. Uncle Mo has been dominant in his two starts without being asked for much, but will go longer for the first time. He figures to sit just off the pace and certainly has the speed and stamina from a pedigree standpoint (Indian Charlie out of an Arch mare, and boasting the highest Tomlinson distance number in the field) to get the job done here. An intriguing Euro shipper is Biondetti, who has been perfect over the grass in his three starts. I’ll take a chance on him in exotic bets based on his pedigree (Bernadini out of a Lyphard mare, good for the second highest Tomlinson distance number in here). The speedy Boys At Toscanova will vie for favoritism with Uncle Mo, and while he has been sharp in his two victories at shorter distances, he strikes me as more of a sprinting type that will struggle to stay the distance (think Da’Funnybone in last year’s running). Stay Thirsty stands to benefit from the added distance but hasn’t gone two turns yet either, and both of these horses will be running off a long layoff so early in their careers. J.B’s Thunder has won both of his two races on the lead against suspect company in his two wins over turf and synthetic surfaces, both at two turns. He remains a bit of a mystery horse here. The same can be said for Rogue Romance, who has experience at this distance, but only over the turf.

PICKS SUMMARY:

1. Jaycito (8-1)

2. Uncle Mo (7-5)

3. Biondetti (12-1)

4. Boys at Toscanova (5-2)

BETS: ($15)

$1 Exacta Box: Jaycito, Uncle Mo, Biondetti

$3 Win, $6 Place: Jaycito

MILE, 3:40 CST, 8f

All of the focus will be upon all-world miler Goldikova‘s attempt to become the first horse to ever win three Breeders’ Cup races. She appears to be the class of this extremely talented field and will again have to begin from an outside post like she did last year, but her current form makes her the one to beat yet again. She’s won four of five starts in Europe, all grade ones, and had excuses in her one second place finish over soft turf. Her odds won’t be too enticing, so looking for a bit of value, why not take a shot with Gio Ponti, the best turf horse in America over the past two years. His connections chose this race over the Classic and I have to agree with them, as the distance and pace scenario should be to his benefit. He looked like a monster devouring horses down the stretch in his impressive win in the Shadwell Turf Mile last time out, and with some speed up front should be flying down the stretch again here, and there is every reason to think he can win this one. Paco Boy has run within a neck of Goldikova three times this year across the pond, and with a better post in this race certainly has a shot to turn the tables at acceptable odds. One has to make room for Proviso as well, as this tough turf mare should also benefit from a pace meltdown. She has won her last four races, all Grade Is, with consecutive increases in Beyer figures. Her best effort puts her right in the mix here at juicy odds, but she will also have to overcome a wide post. I’ve never been a huge fan of Court Vision, but his fourth place finish in this race last year as well as his victory last time out at Woodbine at this distance forces me to include him underneath in exotics. His best races have come at this distance as he struggles to go much longer, so he appears to be in the right place, and his win over The Usual Q.T. gives him the nod over that one in my handicapping process. The race will likely be dictated completely by the speed of the dazzling Sidney’s Candy, who figures to go straight to the lead out of the #9 Post. He takes a big step up in class here and is coming off a long layoff, but should lead most of the way, and could wire the field if he is allowed to set slow fractions, with longshot Get Stormy the only other early pace factor. Delegator placed fifth here last year against some of these so I will look to others, especially as lightly raced as he has been since then.

PICKS SUMMARY:

1. Goldikova (6-5)

2. Gio Ponti (4-1)

3. Paco Boy (6-1)

4. Proviso (12-1)

BETS: ($13.60)

$5 Place: Gio Ponti

$5 Place: Paco Boy

$0.10 Superfecta: Goldikova, Gio Ponti, Paco Boy/ Goldikova, Gio Ponti, Paco Boy/ Goldikova, Gio Ponti, Paco Boy, Proviso/ Goldikova, Gio Ponti, Paco Boy, Proviso, Court Vision, Sidney’s Candy ($3.60)

DIRT MILE, 4:20 CST, 8f

This highly contentious race is another that could go a variety of ways and offers some great value plays, especially since I will be attempting to beat two of the favorites. The horse for the course in this race appears to be four-year-old Here Comes Ben, who has won four straight races at 7f (two of them at Churchill), winning all of them with a strong late kick that seems to indicate that a mile may be his ideal distance. He has posted increasing Beyer figures over those four races, and the 104 he earned in his last effort winning the Forego at Saratoga is competitive here, especially with an slight improvement. I suppose I like the five-year-old Tiznow horse Tizway just as much, as he seems to have really gotten hot this fall, winning the Kelso handily (105 Beyer) after running a strong third to Quality Road in the Met Mile back in May. This has always been his ideal distance throughout his career, and he looks to be sitting on a big effort. Godolphin colt Vineyard Haven looks to be a massive overlay on the morning line, and bettors may avoid him after a confusing third place finish behind Here Comes Ben and Big Drama in the 7f Forego last time out. In only his second start this year, the colt likely gained some fitness and should move up here as he attempts to return to his two year old form. The surprising morning line favorite is ironically Morning Line (7-2), the impressive winner of the Pennsylvania Derby and another horse sired by the great Tiznow. I prefer his half-brother in this race, as Morning Line doesn’t seem like a mile horse to me; his impressive victories have come with an explosion of speed at slightly longer distances. He certainly deserves a look, but is worth trying to beat at these odds. Another one that will take a lot of action is Crown of Thorns (4-1), last year’s runner up in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. I have too many question marks about this horse, who despite his considerable talent and competitive figures has never really found a niche. He is proven at shorter distances but has never run on dirt and hasn’t won a race in over two years. He seems to have a lot to overcome at such a short price. Another synthetic specialist from last year’s Sprint race is Gayego, who stands a fair chance here, but I will play the dirt vs. synthetic angle against him as well, while keeping him in mind for the bottoms of my exotic wagers. Live longshots include Aikenite, who seems to feel right at home at this distance but lacks the speed of the top choices here, as well as Mad Flatter, who posted an impressive score at 8.5 f at Calder last time out, earning a 105 Beyer figure in the process.

PICKS SUMMARY:

1. Here Comes Ben (6-1)

2. Tizway (6-1)

3. Vineyard Haven (10-1)

4. Crown of Thorns (7-2)

BETS: ($20.40)

$1 Exacta Box: Here Comes Ben, Tizway, Vineyard Haven

$5 Place: Here Comes Ben

$5 Place: Tizway

$2 Place: Vineyard Haven

$0.10 Superfecta: Here Comes Ben, Tizway, Vineyard Haven/ Here Comes Ben, Tizway, Vineyard Haven/ Here Comes Ben, Tizway, Vineyard Haven, Crown of Thorns/ Here Comes Ben, Tizway, Vineyard Haven, Crown of Thorns, Gayego ($2.40)

TURF, 5:00 CST, 12f

The Euros always seem to have a class advantage in this race, and this year is no exception, although it is worth taking note of all the concerns this week from the Euro connections regarding the extremely firm turf at Churchill. Morning line favorite Workforce was an impressive winner of the prestigious Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, but that was over the soft going. Still, he appears to be in top form coming out of that race and is two for three at the 12f distance against top company overseas, posting Racing Post ratings of 129 and 130 in his two victories. Possibly a bit more intriguing is Behkabad, who finished a troubled fourth in the Arc but was the winner of two straight at 12f before that race, again over soft ground. The 127 Racing Post Rating he earned in winning the Prix Niel two races back puts him in contention with his rival, and he stands to improve upon his Arc finish with a better trip, which shouldn’t be a problem in this smaller field. Those two truly look to in a different league than the rest of these, and are a must use in multi-race wagers, but since there isn’t any value in boxing that exacta, I’m inclined to play the firm turf angle against them and look for some value. Al Khali is an American four-year old who actually prefers firmer ground and has been on the improve after sitting away from the pace in his last two starts, and posting three straight increasing Beyers. He closed like a freight train to overtake Winchester in the 11f Bowling Green Hcp. two starts back; he’ll see that foe here and should like the added distance. He ran well to finish fourth less than a length from the winner over softer ground in his last start at Woodbine, and again was coming late. Euro invader Dangerous Midge takes a big step up in class here but has a shot at a price; he has won twice at this distance in dominating fashion running over firmer ground. The aforementioned Winchester proved he can get the distance in winning the Turf Classic last time out, and although he faced a suspect field that day, he never runs a bad race. Arlington Million winner Debussy is worth a look as well, although he figures to be placed forwardly here and may struggle with the distance. Easier to dismiss are Telling, who seems to only fire at Saratoga, and Champ Pegasus, who is a nice colt but doesn’t stack up here in terms of speed.

PICKS SUMMARY:

1. Behkabad (9-5)

2. Workforce (7-5)

3. Al Khali (10-1)

4. Dangerous Midge (12-1)

BETS: ($10.40)

$1 Exacta Box: Al Khali, Dangerous Midge

$6 Place: Al Khali

$0.10 Superfecta Key: Workforce, Behkabad, Al Khali/ Workforce, Behkabad, Al Khali/ Workforce, Behkabad, Al Khali, Dangerous Midge/ Workforce, Behkabad, Al Khali, Dangerous Midge, Winchester ($2.40)

CLASSIC, 5:45 CST, 10f

What a field we have here for the richest race in American racing. In all races, it is important to analyze the probable pace scenario, and that is an especially important part in handicapping this very deep race. I expect the early pace to be highly contested, with at least five horses that figure to vie for the early lead. The most talented of these speed horses is Quality Road, who will start from Post #1, and will have no choice but to go straight to the front of the back to avoid getting boxed in. He was won four of his five starts this year, his only loss coming after being nabbed at the wire in the Whitney while conceding five pounds. There are questions as to whether this is his ideal distance, and I agree that it probably isn’t, but he has enough talent to carry his speed for 10f and enjoy a ground-saving trip if he can avoid traffic trouble. His 121 Beyer figure in the 9f Donn Hcp. towers over this field and is hard to ignore. Just outside of him is the speedy Haynesfield, who comes fresh off of a front-running win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but he won’t get away with the fractions he was able to dictate in that race to separate himself from the field. First Dude should show early speed as well and has been a fighter all season, but is still winless in his career to this point, and this looks to be a pretty tough spot. Coming from the outside are Japanese import Espoir City, who has never raced beyond 9f and could struggle with switching from turf to dirt, and the improving Etched, who will also try this distance for the first time after running impressively to win the 9f Monmouth Cup. He narrowly defeated hard-trier Musket Man in that race, but he is another that may prefer a bit less distance. All of this pace figures to set up well for the closers, and there are many strong runners to choose from. I’ll use Blame as my main play, as his victory over Quality Road from off the pace in the Whitney was among the most impressive races run by any horse this season. His distant second in the Jockey Club can be forgiven, as he’ll have quicker fractions to sit back on this time, and it is likely he gained an element of fitness from that effort. He has had success over this track with two wins at 9f, both times begging for more distance. What can be said that hasn’t been said of the Queen Zenyatta, who attempts to end her career a perfect 20 for 20 and become the first horse since Tiznow to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic two straight years. I played against her hard last year and was sorry, and while her task will be admittedly more difficult this time around (facing a tougher field and on a less familiar track and surface), I can’t discount her will to win or her closing kick. It is pretty clear at this point that she will relish the distance, and there isn’t any reason to believe that she won’t like dirt just as much, if not more, than synthetic- after all, she has won twice over a traditional surface. Two talented three-year-olds should also be making late moves down the stretch. Lookin’ at Lucky will likely be in more of a stalking position, so he could get first jump on the closers. He has been most impressive in his last three races, winning the Preakness, Haskell and Indiana Derby from off the pace. His “luck” continues to be anything but, as he will have to overcome yet another horrible post draw. Moreover, I’m concerned that the competition in those races was a bit weak, and without a strong showing at 10f to his credit, I will look towards the rapidly improving Fly Down to fill out my exotics. This one likes to come from far off the pace, and has shown an unparalleled turn of foot that could benefit him down the long Churchill stretch. He came from the clouds to narrowly miss winning the 10f Travers in a photo finish, and didn’t really have any pace to make his move om when finishing third last time out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. After two consecutive 10f races, he could be hitting his peak and sitting on a big effort. I will play against Paddy O’Prado here, who despite his closing kick and success over this track, is better suited to turf or needs slop- he was beaten easily over a dry track in the Preakness, and his connections are getting greedy with this entry in my opinion, as he would be a real threat in the Turf.

PICKS SUMMARY:

1. Blame (9-2)

2. Zenyatta (8-5)

3. Quality Road (5-1)

4. Fly Down (15-1)

BETS: ($30.10)

$1 Exacta Box: Blame, Zenyatta, Quality Road

$1 Exacta Key: Blame/ Fly Down, Lookin’ at Lucky

$5 Win, $10 Place: Blame

$2 Place: Fly Down

$0.10 Superfecta Key: Blame/ Zenyatta, Quality Road, Fly Down/ Zenyatta, Quality Road, Fly Down, Lookin at Lucky/ Zenyatta, Quality Road, Fly Down, Lookin at Lucky, Haynesfield ($2.70)

$0.10 Superfecta Key: Zenyatta, Quality Road/ Blame, Zenyatta, Quality Road/ Blame, Zenyatta, Quality Road, Lookin’ at Lucky, Fly Down/ Blame, Zenyatta, Quality Road, Lookin’ at Lucky, Fly Down ($2.40)

MULTI-RACE WAGERS:

$0.50 Pick 4: Uncle Mo, Jaycito/ Goldikova, Gio Ponit, Paco Boy/ Here Comes Ben, Tizway/ Behkabad ($6)

$0.50 Pick 4: Uncle Mo, Jaycito/ Goldikova/ Here Comes Ben, Tizway, Vineyard Haven/ Behkabad, Workforce ($6)

$0.50 Pick 3: Tizway, Here Comes Ben, Vineyard Haven, Crown of Thorns/ Workforce, Behkabad, Al Khali/ Blame ($6)

$0.50 Pick 3: Tizway, Here Comes Ben/ Workforce, Behkabad/ Blame, Zenyatta, Quality Road, Fly Down, Lookin at Lucky (($10)