Breeders’ Cup 2011 Picks

I’m heading to San Francisco on Saturday morning and then heading into wine country for a week of tasting in Napa and Sonoma. I didn’t time this ideally considering that this weekend is the Breeders’ Cup, and I certainly wasn’t anticipating a #1 vs #2 showdown on the gridiron, but when you are an enthusiast of so many different things, it can be difficult to find the perfect balance. This was the only weekend I could make it out west before the end of the year, and I couldn’t risk missing my annual trip to Northern California. I’ll still find time to wager on the races and will hopefully still catch a few of them live, but I won’t be going as in depth as I usually do. Who knows, maybe this new strategy will result in a profit. Here are my brief picks for the main races:

FRIDAY

Filly and Mare Sprint, 4:30 CST:

1) Turbulent Descent (6-5)- Heavy chalk may be most certain winner of the weekend, boasts highest Beyer (103) last out here and is on top of her game right now.
2) Pomeroy’s Pistol (6-1)- Has closing speed and has been consistent in her last three starts, can upset.
3) Switch (3-1)- Last year’s runner up is always a competitor, but may have lost a step in 2011.

Juvenile Fillies, 5:10 CST:

1) Grace Hall (4-1)- I like that she’s won over two turns and appears to be on the upswing.
2) My Miss Aurelia (5-2)- Can’t deny her last two races, and increasing speed figures that tower over this field (96, 91).
3) Candrea (6-1)- Pace-setter comes out near the rail and has a chance to dictate the race, should give her a chance here.

Filly and Mare Turf, 5:50 CST:

1) Stacelita (2-1)- Has been in a league of her own this season and has won her last two over strong fields, stands out here on class alone.
2) Announce (9-2)- Tough second last out, extra distance here will only help this seasoned European shipper, and she does have a win over the top one from earlier this year.
3) Nahrain (7-2) Leader of the Euro invaders has won four in a row in France, hung on and edged Announce last out at a slightly shorter distance, lightly raced and has room to improve.

Ladies’ Classic, 6:30 CST:

1) Plum Pretty (2-1)- Has traded wins all season with the other three-year-old competitors, but form coming off last race (108 Beyer) makes her the choice, pace scenario in her favor again here.
2) It’s Tricky (5-1)- Has a win over top one at 9f and never runs a bad one, might have been favored against this field two months ago.
3) Royal Delta (5-2)- May do her best running at a bit longer distance, but has every right to challenge for the win.

Sprint: 1:37 CST

1) Amazombie (5-1)- The speed falls inside him towards the rail and the pace figures to be hot early, this guy has been improving with every race (three straight ascending speed numbers) and winning from off the pace.
2) Apriority (30-1)- Strong early season form, excuses in his last two poor showings, success over this track and the likely pace setup could make him a steal at these odds in such a wide open race.
3) Big Drama (2-1)- Defending champ still the one to beat, but has been very lightly raced in 2011 and doesn’t figure to get away on the lead as easily as he did last year.

Dirt Mile: 3:01 CST

1) Caleb’s Posse (5-1)- Hard closer should benefit from a quick pace up front, ran two improving races before regressing a bit last out, but that was around two turns.
2) Trappe Shot (3-1)- Distance should be perfect, and he’ll get a good stalking trip behind the speed to make his move, easily the classiest colt here (field high 112 Beyer).
3) The Factor (7-2)- Could get caught up in a fiercely contested pace early and the rail spot exacerbates this, but this guy has real speed.

Turf, 3:45 CST:

1) St. Nicholas Abbey (9-2)- Ran well near the pace to finish fifth in the prestigious Arc de Triomphe, any duplication of that effort will be a factor for the win here, and he does have a win over Midday from off the pace last year, so he seems versatile and capable among these.

2) Midday (4-1)- Moves to challenge the boys in a weak rendition of this race, and in the process finds a race at her ideal distance.
3) Sarafina (5-2)- Didn’t fire as favorite in the Arc, but has won against males and is as classy as any horse in the race.

Juvenile, 4:25 CST

1) Creative Cause (7-2)- Only runner here with a win around two turns, and it was an impressive win.
2) Union Rags (2-1)- Deserving favorite has dominated competition and his figures tower above the field (92, 95), but will he route?
3) Alpha (15-1)- Has talent, taking a shot that he’ll like the distance and improve upon his last effort.

Mile, 5:07 CST:

1) Turallure (8-1)- Plenty of pace up front makes this race ripe for a closer to steal, and he’s been as sharp as any of late coming from off the pace.
2) Gio Ponti (4-1)- Always fires, he’s clearly suited for this distance, and comes off a late-running victory over 8f in his last race, could this be his year in his final career start?
3) Goldikova (7-5)- Goes for unprecedented fourth straight BC win, hard to root against her, but fear she may have lost a half step this year.
4) Courageous Cat (8-1)- Pacesetter nearly took them all the way around two years ago in a runner-up finish, form has been consistent and strong this year as well, certainly in the mix in the day’s most competitive race.

Classic, 6:00 CST:

1) Flat Out (6-1)- The only horse in the field to have shown a liking for the extra furlong, comes off a 10f win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and a charging runner-up effort in the shorter Woodward, and should get a lot of pace to run at.
2) So You Think (5-1)- European invader tries dirt for the first time, but has serious class and stamina on his side, will certainly be in the mix if he relishes the surface.
3) Havre De Grace (3-1)- Likely secures HOY honors by hitting the board here, but the probable pace scenario and her affinity for shorter distances makes me question her ability to hang on in deep stretch.

4) Uncle Mo (5-2)- In career form, will challenge for the lead in a race with a lot of speed, but has serious distance questions, worth trying to beat at these odds, but wouldn’t be a surprise at all and is hard to root against.

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