BREEDERS’ CUP PICKS AND ANALYSIS

BREEDERS CUP 2014 PICKS AND ANALYSIS

THEME: The Breeders’ Cup will be run over the course of Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita for the second consecutive year. While we oppose having a host track repeat in back to back years, it does give handicappers an opportunity to apply a bit of retrospective thinking in terms of trends from last year’s races. Specifically, what did you get wrong (Vorda, Untapable, playing against Groupie Doll and the TCA race in general, Private Zone’s peak race, giving Americans any shot in the Turf race) and what did you get right (singling Beholder, the Dank-Romantica exacta, singling Mucho Macho Man), and why? We’ll try to draw on lessons learned to ensure we don’t make the same mistakes twice, and that we don’t stray from correct strategies either. To the races!

Note: I am not betting the Juvenile Turf or Turf Sprint Races. All times EST.

FRIDAY:

7- DIRT MILE, 8f, 6:05 EST

No need to overthink this one. Last year’s defending champion GOLDENCENTS returns and faces a less talented field than he did on that day. His top Beyer this year of 110 towers over this field at the distance, and considering he won with a 105 last year he figures to have plenty of room for error. While there are some front-running types here, he is the only pure speed in the race and shouldn’t face much of a challenge on the front end on a racetrack that tends to play toward speed to begin with, and couldn’t have drawn any better as he’ll be able to save ground from the #1 hole. He’ll be the lowest priced favorite of the entire event for good reason. Underneath him, our opinion is less confident, but cutting back in distance from two turns and figuring to be placed forwardly is TAPITURE, who makes his first start against older horses. He’s run a consistent enough campaign and has duplicated Beyers in the 99-101 range, which could be enough to hang around for a piece. FED BIZ seems a logical candidate based on his recent performance when narrowly 2nd in the 9f Awesome Again over this dirt track. He cuts back in distance here and should be one that is up near the pace, but it’s hard to overlook how easily the top choice defeated him in the 7f Pat O’Brien at Del Mar, and it is worth noting that he has run quite poorly in both of the last two editions of this race.  Last year’s runner-up GOLDEN TICKET does show a win two back at this distance, but he needs a pace meltdown to succeed and we’re not seeing that here. The horse he beat in that race, PANTS ON FIRE, came back to post a 106 Beyer in his subsequent stakes win, and has two more triple digit numbers to his credit in 2014, but was a well beaten 7th here last year. VICAR’S IN TROUBLE appears to be the only other true pace presence, but given that he’s never seen likes of the type of speed the favorite is likely to demonstrate, we’re not sure that’s a good thing.

Picks:

1) Goldencents 6-5

2) Tapiture 6-1

3) Fed Biz 7-2

4) Pants on Fire 6-1

8- JUVENILE FILLIES TURF, 8f, 6:50

This race stacks up with a decent amount of pace signed on, and with the three favorites all wanting the lead and having never run beyond 7f, let’s focus on horses that may be running late. We land on a couple Americans, and endorse LADY ELI as the top choice. She stalked and closed into a slow pace while winning the Grade 3 Miss Grillo at 8.5f in just her second career start last out, now cuts back a half furlong and should have more pace to run into, and seems to have as much upside as any to improve upon the 78 Beyer she posted there. PARTISAN POLITICS deserves another shot after getting boxed in behind a slow pace in the same race last out, where she could muster only a 4th place finish behind the top pick. She has a stakes turf win at 8.5f previously where she also posted a 78 Beyer and likes to come from off the pace; the combination of those two facts merit a look at long odds. So, the top two picks exit the same race, but it’s a race that showed well last year, with winner Testa Rossi grabbing 2nd at attractive odds, and that race has actually provided an exacta finisher in five of the six runnings of this event. Favored SUNSET GLOW shows a field high 90 Beyer but stretches beyond 7f for the first time after winning two races over the Del Mar poly and posting a good 2nd over the same surface in a Group 3 at Ascot, and figures to be forwardly placed. Questions abound as to how she will handle the added distance and surface switch, although she did break her maiden on turf. She defeated Conquest Eclipse in her last, who flattered her form when running back to be a game 2nd from off the pace in her next effort, the Grade I Chandelier over the Santa Anita track, but enters off an eight week layoff. She shows a large BRIS Prime Power advantage in this race and must be used in multi-race wagers. Of the Euros, Aidan O’Brien import QUALIFY has the most experience on left-handed racetracks and comes off a Group 3 win at Curragh in last after being easily beaten in Group 1 company. He doesn’t have a great record in this particular race (0 for 5 with only one on the board) but perhaps he’s due? Drawing post #14 won’t aid in that cause as she stretches past 7f for the first time. Also likely to draw attention at the windows, pace factor OSAILA has never run on anything but straight courses, nor beyond 7f. The same was true of our choice in last year’s race, Vorda, who went off as the favorite and could only muster 7th. She was a well-beaten 5th behind Sunset Glow at Ascot but did finish ahead of Qualify in a recent meeting. Her connections have said that she will be sent early from the #2 post so we’ll give Qualify the slight edge to turn the tables from off the pace with the added distance and having more experience on this type of turf course. CONQUEST HARLANATE deserves a look as well, having closed to win the 8f Natalma over the turf at Woodbine besting today’s foe and pace factor ISABELLA SINGS, although the 75 Beyer she posted there will need to be improved upon to factor, and a wide post doesn’t help. SIVOLIERE ships in from France and stretches out beyond 7f for the first time and appears a bit of an outsider here, but should be expected to add to the pace up front. RAINHA DA BATERIA merits a look at a price if the race really breaks down up front, but shows just a 68 Beyer for winning her last and was beaten by the second choice two back at this distance.

Picks:

1) Lady Eli 6-1

2) Partisan Politics 15-1

3) Sunset Glow 7-2

4) Qualify 5-1

9- DISTAFF 9f, 7:35

The defection of defending champion and expected heavy favorite Beholder from this race has changed its complexion a great deal. Many now view it as a two horse race between the morning line favorites, but we see potential for an upset that will keep them both out of the exacta, drawing from a basic recollection as to why Beholder would have been such a heavy favorite to begin with, why she was our single last year in the Pick 3, and putting emphasis on the wide draws of the favorites as it relates to their running style. With the track showing such a heavy speed bias over the course of this meet, we’ll look to two pace horses that figure to be very tough to catch from inside posts. IOTAPA fits the horse for the course angle, having never missed the board in seven starts at Santa Anita, and showing a field high 109 Beyer at the distance when she crushed the Grade I Vanity by 10 lengths on the lead. Toss her last, when she missed the break, was forced to run from behind and bled; this is a filly that requires the lead, and she should have no trouble getting it from the #3 Post. Former claimer BELLE GALLANTEY has really turned it around this year, and shows the highest last out Beyer of 103 when she won the 9f Beldame on the lead impressively. Three back, she wired the Grade I Delaware Hcp at 10f on the lead, while her off the board finish in between can be forgiven as she didn’t enjoy the muddy track that day. Interestingly, she’s also never missed the board at Santa Anita in four career starts, having broken her maiden here and having won a claiming race previously. CLOSE HATCHES is all class and must be respected, but the worry here is that her last race was indicative of a declining form. She had no excuses when off the board in the 9f Spinster at KEE, and now shows three consecutive declining Beyers. It bears mention that she’s defeated Belle Gallantey quite easily in both of their two meetings this year, but to us, they look like horses heading in two different directions. She seems to have been most successful when left alone and allowed to set an easy lead, which she won’t be here as she’ll have to exert extra energy to get there from the widest post of all, and it’s interesting to note that her career high Beyer of 103 doesn’t really tower over these foes to begin with. She did finish second here last year and is a must use in exotics, but may be worth trying to beat for the win at short odds. Favored UNTAPABLE has towered over the three year old filly division all year and has been working well over the track this week, but she takes on older for the first time here coming off three consecutive declining Beyers since her Kentucky Oaks romp. A repeat of that performance puts her in the winners circle but she seems pretty far removed from it at this point in time, and we can’t help but recall how poorly she ran in the Juvenile Filles race over this track as our choice last year. Upset Spinster winner DON’T TELL SOPHIA likes to come from off the pace and could benefit from a pace meltdown, which we do not expect. In any case, her 94 Beyer won’t get it done here and we will play against her on a track that isn’t kind to her running style. TIZ MIDNIGHT will be another pace factor from the #2 hole but seems an atypical Baffert runner, having taken four tries to break her maiden. She looms a contender here based on her last, a close 2nd to Beholder over this track in the 8.5f Zenyatta, but she’ll need to improve on the 98 Beyer she earned there and this feels like too much, too soon as she stretches to 9f. RIA ANTONIA won the Juvenile Fillies race via disqualification last year and has been on the improve recently, but has yet to post a 90 Beyer in 13 career starts, and cannot be supported on the top line.

Picks:

1) Iotapa 6-1

2) Belle Gallantey 6-1

3) Close Hatches 3-1

4) Untapable 5-2

SATURDAY

4- JUVENILE FILLIES, 8.5f, 3:05

In a race loaded with stalking types, we’ll look towards a true speed horse that has proven to win at this distance and with upside to boot. CRISTINA’S JOURNEY wired the 8.5f Pocahontas in her last in only her second career start, posting a 76 Beyer. She’ll get a good trip from the #5 Post and should be expected to improve on a track that could favor her style more than her last did. She showed toughness in that race as she was collared at the 1/2 mile mark and repulsed her challengers, and that could be valuable experience here if any of the typical stalkers try to go with her early. It’s awfully tough to get past the favored duo of ANGELA RENEE and CONQUEST ECLIPSE here after they ran 1-2 in the local prep at the distance, the Grade I Chandelier. The former posted a field high 87 Beyer in that effort, and will be a handful from the #2 Post, while the latter has shown some versatility and will look to close and hope for a pace meltdown as she draws inside the primary speed in the #4 Post. Between the two, we give the slight edge to Angela Renee, and will toss her distant 3rd place finish in the 7f Spinaway two back over a sloppy track, where she was bumped at the start and taken completely out of her element. Another lightly raced filly with potential upside is TOP DECILE, who closed for 2nd in just her second career start last out at this distance in the Grade I Alcibiades at KEE, posting a competitive 80 Beyer. She’s shown versatility in her young career, winning her maiden on the lead and closing from 12 lengths back to get to place spot last time, and she’ll need to use that to work out a trip from the #12 Post. An elevated morning line, if it holds, makes her worth a stab on the top line of multi-race wagers and deeper exotics. BY THE MOON won the 8f Frizette near the lead over a sloppy track in her last, but was really laboring to hang on over the last quarter. The combination of added distance and wide post here doesn’t help her chances, and we’ll play against the other two in that race that couldn’t catch her, WONDER GIRL and FEATHERED, while conceding that the track condition in that race does confuse the issue a bit.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sometimes when writing 8000 words about horses, you miss one. In this case, it was PUCA, who actually holds the Top Beyer at this distance off her maiden win. Daughter of Big Brown gets first time Lasix here (the only one in the field who does) and was flattered today by Lady Eli’s emphatic win, as she was beaten just over a length by her in her second maiden attempt. That was over turf, but we now feel she has to be used on some level.

Picks:

1) Cristina’s Journey 6-1

2) Angela Renee 3-1

3) Top Decile 10-1

4) Conquest Eclipse 4-1

5- FILLY AND MARE TURF, 10f, 3:43

Any analysis of this race must begin with the 9.5f Beverly D, which saw 5 of its runners come back to win stakes races in their subsequent start after losing to Euro Charline. Most impressive on that day and after was undeniably STEPHANIE’S KITTEN, who has shown steady improvement this year as the distances have gotten longer, and proved in winning the Flower Bowl (98 Beyer) that 10f might just be her ideal route. What was most impressive in that race was how she managed to stay no less than 3 lengths behind a slow pace, and this re-appearance of tactical speed didn’t seem to hinder her patented closing kick. The pace isn’t likely to be blazing here either, so a return to those tactics will make her very tough to beat. Defending champion DANK returns as a bit of a question mark off a four month layoff as she faces a tougher field than she did last year. She was well-beaten in both of her two starts in 2014 against Group 1 company, but a return to prior form puts her squarely in the mix again, and she’s didn’t ship all the way back over here for no reason; must be respected. Remember, she did post a 107 Beyer in winning the Beverly D a year ago, and that towers over anything that any foe has ever run in here. JUST THE JUDGE ran quite well when 3rd in the Beverly D, missing the place spot by just a neck to the top choice, and then returned to win the Grade I EP Taylor at this distance, duplicating the 94 Beyer she ran at Arlington. However, the quick two-week turnaround since that effort could mean we won’t see quite her best. ABACO proved she can close at this distance when 2nd to the top choice in the Flower Bowl, but wasn’t really threatening in that spot and won’t get much pace to run into here. DAYATTHESPA could wind up alone up front with an easy lead from the #4 Post, but we question her ability to carry her speed this far as she’s had success running 8-9f events but has never gone this far, and many times has faltered on the lead even at those shorter distances. A more intriguing candidate to benefit from a slow pace here is EMMOLIENT, who was 4th in last year’s event just a length removed from the winner, and just won the Grade I Rodeo Drive at this distance employing stalking tactics. Still, it’s hard to overlook how easily the top choice disposed of her in the Beverly D. We’ll avoid the horses Emollient beat there- PARRANDA, IRISH MISSION and RUSTY SLIPPER as well. FIESOLANA enters of a classy Euro campaign that never saw her try past 8f, but she goes have a Group 1 win at 7f just like Euro Charline did before her Beverly D score; not impossible but questions abound. A firm surface is of some concern for her, as well as the other import, SECRET GESTURE. Of the two, we prefer the latter, who is Group 1 placed at the distance in France.

Picks:

1) Stephanie’s Kitten 3-1

2) Dank 5-2

3) Just The Judge 5-1

4) Secret Gesture 6-1

6- FILLY AND MARE SPRINT, 7f, 4:21

It’s strange to run this race without Groupie Doll in it, but perhaps we can find an angle based on her back to back wins in this race that can lead to crowning a new division champ. For starters, the race she won coming into this race the past two years, the Thoroughbred Club of America at KEE, has actually produced the last five straight winners of this event and filled out the exacta last year. It seems logical then, to focus on this year’s winner, and that is LEIGH COURT. This four-year old filly enters third off the layoff and boasts the field’s highest last race Beyer of 99. She figures to get a good stalking trip outside the speed in a race that has been death for pacesetters, and gets the nod here coming off two straight wins. The only concern with her is travel related, as she had to endure a 36 hour van ride when she could not be loaded successfully onto the plane, but her connections insist she is doing fine and is none the worse for wear. Sticking with the idea that this is a race that has been friendly to stalkers and closers, SWEET REASON deserves a hard look out of the #1 hole. This three-year old filly has really found her niche as a one-turn specialist, as she took the Grade I Acorn at 8f and Grade I Test at 7f before nearly catching Untapable at 8.5f in her last. One has to think that the cutback here is by design and she is going to dangerous given the opportunity to drop back from the rail, save ground and set up her late run. Her speed figures aren’t quite on the level here (92 Beyer) but she could get the perfect scenario. ARTEMIS AGROTERA was impressive when romping in the 7f Ballerina at SAR two back, setting the fractions and posting a 103 Beyer. However, her last race was a bit concerning, even in victory, as she broke slowly and raced from behind to post a regressive 94 figure. It’s worth wondering if she peaked too soon, and even if she reverts to front-running tactics she could be susceptible to a speed duel with the one-gear STONETASTIC to her inside. That one holds the field high Beyer of 108 from two back but was beaten easily by the top selection on a more even track in her last, and may find the extra furlong here a bit too taxing. Artemis Agrotera also showed no affection for the Santa Anita track in last year’s Juvenile Fillies race, her lone start over the surface, but has made quite an impression on the track this week and appears to be flourishing, so play against her altogether at your own peril. Last year’s runner-up JUDY THE BEAUTY returns off a solid campaign that has seen her win 3 of 4 starts, although she’s raced only once since Derby Day. A Grade I winner over synthetic, she proved doubters of her dirt ability wrong a year ago and followed that up by winning over the Santa Anita surface this March at 6f. She’ll demand respect from a comfortable stalking post, and she always seems to run her consistent race in the 95-96 Beyer range, which should get her onto the board here but may be worth trying to beat for top honors at short odds. BETTER LUCKY appears to have seen better days and was probably always more of a turf and synthetic specialist, but is another that likes to pick up the pieces late. Synthetic specialist LIVING THE LIFE is getting some love as a potential spolier but has never raced on dirt and shows a career high Beyer of 90.

Picks:

1) Leigh Court 4-1

2) Sweet Reason 9-2

3) Artemis Agrotera 3-1

4) Judy The Beauty 5-2

8- JUVENILE, 8.5f, 5:43

Here’s another race that had its entire complexion changed when heavy favorite American Pharoe was scratched earlier this week. That one was a near lock in the race in our opinion, and his defection opens the race up completely. Again, we’ll draw on some reflection regarding how last year’s race unfolded, as this one sets up similarly, with lots of speed lined up in the middle and the favorite, who is also speed, drawn far outside. Last year, favored Havana gave a game effort but the wide trip was just too taxing, and a horse drawn inside the speed, New Year’s Day, was able to stalk the pace and get up late. We see the same potential scenario unfolding this time with CALCULATOR the horse likely to get it done. While still just a maiden winner, he ran behind American Pharoe in his last two, so if that one truly was to be a dominant winner here then he has form on his side. He did well to be a decisive 2nd in the Grade I Front Runner (95 Beyer) in his first dirt start as he tracked moderately slow fractions three wide, and figures to sit a ground-saving stalking trip right on the rail. CARPE DIEM appears to have limitless talent and comes off a romping win in the 8.5f Breeders’ Futurity in just his 2nd career start. He’s been so unchallenged thus far that It is difficult to gauge where exactly he fits here, but his pedigree screams for more ground, being by Giant’s Causeway out of an Unbridled’s Song mare. It’s that component that makes us a bit less fearful about his potential to be fried in a speed duel, which will certainly be less contested than it would have been before the defection, and as fast as he went early last time he still shows the fastest BRIS Late Pace number in the field. Still, he’ll vie for favoritism and has only a 91 Beyer to his credit, and while a must use in multi-race wagers there are enough questions to make him a bit of an underlay in outright wagering. DAREDEVIL inherits the role of favorite following a crushing win in the Grade I Champagne, a race that is always an important prep for this, and posted a towering 107 Beyer there over a sloppy track. His maiden win also came over a sloppy track, so it’s fair to wonder if his brilliant races have been aided by an affinity for off tracks. He also breaks widest of all the speed, and while the favorite of this race has finished in the exacta eight straight times, he may have enough going against him to take a stab at bucking that trend as a bettor. To his outside, runner-up Champagne foe UPSTART draws widest of all, but that post won’t be quite as detrimental as he figures to drop back and move late anyway, and the pace could be quick enough to flatter his style if he can save ground. His 102 Beyer also came over the slop in that race. ONE LUCKY DANE is the only colt with a win over the Santa Anita track, breaking his maiden in his third start and posting a 95 Beyer, but he draws a tough spot while stepping up in class, wide and in between the two favorites. Another interesting pace factor with upside is SOUPER COLOSSAL, who is 3/3 after winning the 8f Sampling Stakes at Monmouth, where he posted an 86 Beyer, but he’ll be treading deeper waters here, and his absolute blowout work on Monday running a :45.5 half mile may have been a bit on the aggressive side.

Picks:

1) Calculator 10-1

2) Carpe Diem 7-2

3) Daredevil 5-2

4) Upstart 8-1

9- TURF, 12f, 6:22

Although it’s always fun to root for the home team, sometimes one must give in to reality, and the fact is that Euro contingent has dominated this race over the years, with foreigners taking 10 of the last 15. With the defection of defending champion Magician, this really shapes up as a two horse race between the two most accomplished Euros, the form of which simply towers above the rest of these. Of the two, we lean towards TELESCOPE, who has been pointed towards this race all year while keeping the top possible company across the pond, finishing on the board in all five starts. In fact, the only runners to finish ahead of him this year are Noble Mission, Taghrooda, Australia and The Grey Gatsby, all world-class turfers with ten Group I wins between them this year and any one of whom would be favored prohibitively here. He’s actually won both of his two races at this exact distance that were over turf on the firmer side of good, finishing 2nd in the QE II to the highly regarded Taghrooda and ahead of Mukhradam over softer turf in another while the former was in receipt of considerable weight. He gets the slight nod over FLINTSHIRE, who outran expectations when runner-up in the prestigious Arc de Triomphe. A repeat of that performance probably gets the job done here, but that race hasn’t translated well to this one over time, mostly because it’s usually horses like this who overperform expectations that end up coming over for this race after it, and therefore are either past their peak, lacking freshness, or both. On the whole, his form hasn’t been quite as impressive as Telescope’s, and in a race where it seems you may only be able to choose one of them, it seems to be an obvious call. MAIN SEQUENCE has established himself as a dominant force in the American turf division this year, closing to win three Grade Is, all in photo finishes. He gets a tough wide post here, and it’s worth noting how second tier he was in Europe before coming across the pond, struggling to hit the board in Group 3 races, which seems a further indictment of the American form relative to the top two. An interesting late addition to this race who beat him rather handily at this distance last year is BROWN PANTHER, who ran off before the start of his last at Woodbine, and since he was already over on this side of the planet, his connections decided to run him here, what the heck. Again, it’s never good to see a horse entered here as a fallback plan, and this one has been more of a marathon runner and we have questions on the cutback. $8 million mare CHIQUITA rounds out the Euro contingent wheeling back quickly on two weeks rest and looks in over her head, easily beaten by Flintshire two back and showing signs of mental weakness in both of her last two (read: she ran into a hedge bush during the race in one of them). Of the Americans, IMAGINING figures to be the only real speed in here and will take them a long way, but he’s consistently faltered at this distance, giving up the lead late, and appears better at 10f than 12f. TWILIGHT ECLIPSE has finished within a length of Main Sequence in three straight races and figures to be closer to the pace and has won at this distance, but call us crazy, HARDEST CORE may just look the best of all the Americans. Overlooked in the Arlington Million, he powered home at 10f to beat the Euro Magician, who may not have been at his best that day but didn’t run a bad race by any measure, and posted a Beyer competitive with the other Americans in here. That victory, as flukey as it seemed, combined with the fact that he has won at this distance before and stands to race near a slow pace, makes him live once again as an overlooked longshot.

Picks:

1) Telescope 3-1

2) Flintshire 5-2

3) Hardest Core 8-1

4) Main Sequence 5-1

10- SPRINT, 6f, 7:01

This year’s edition of the Sprint is shaping up to be a fantastic betting race, with the highest morning line favorite on the entire card. It also will arguably have the most contested early pace, with half of the field confirmed front-runners. Drawing back to last year’s race, which saw blistering opening fractions of :21.1 and :43.3, it could be wise to focus in on a runner who will be able to work out a good trip behind all the chaos up front. The most appealing option appears to be the international import RICH TAPESTRY, who comes off a win from just off the pace in the Grade I Sprint Championship over this track in his first US start and first career dirt try, posting a 105 Beyer in the process, and beating two of last year’s Breeders’ Cup winners. While the fractions he faced there were admittedly rapid, he’s almost certain to see faster here, and he gets a great spot in the #6 Post right in the middle of the field. He’s also a Group 3 winner and Group 1 placed over the synthetic surface at Meydan, and has spent his career racing at this distance. Defending champion SECRET CIRCLE will attempt to become only the second horse to win three Breeders’ Cup races as he enters off a credible 3rd beaten 1.75 lengths by the top choice in his last following an eight month layoff. He’ll be fresher now after that tune up and merely needs to duplicate what he did last year as a similar scenario seems likely in terms of race shape; very dangerous and a mandatory use in all bets as he’s 6-3-2-1 lifetime on this track. The leader of the sprint division for most of the year, PALACE stands a chance to cement the title here with a strong showing. He didn’t have as great a setup as he’ll have here when 3rd last out in the Vosburgh, and he does show the field high Beyer of 107 when winning the Grade I Vanderbilt at this distance at Saratoga, and has kept his figures in the double digit range since. We like his chances a touch more than SALUTOS AMIGOS, who he has beaten head to head three times now this year. That one will be the buzz horse in this race as he wheels back quickly following an impressive score just one week ago in the 7f Bold Ruler at BEL, posting a 106 Beyer and the highest BRIS Late Pace number in the field. The race certainly should set up for him but the feeling here is that he might just need that extra furlong and a bit more than a week of rest following a career effort. An intriguing longshot that seems to be flying under the radar could be MICO MARGARITA, who appears to be the only true closer in the field and comes in off a win in the 6f Remington Park Sprint Cup, posting a competitive 102 Beyer. He takes a class leap here but is positioned well in Post #7. As far as the pace is concerned, PRIVATE ZONE is as game as they come, but we made the mistake of supporting him off a big Vosburgh win last year in this race, and he got caught up in a pace duel and folded. Seeing a pattern here off his recent repeat in that race, we’ll stay away this time. More interesting is the consistent WORK ALL WEEK, who wasn’t given any favors when drawn into Post #13, especially for a need the lead type, but he’s never lost on dirt in thirteen starts. He’s professional enough to not carried away if the leaders are going nuts up front, and while he does step up in class his Beyers are right there; he comes off a 103 at KEE, his third consecutive triple digit figure. He’s also beaten Mico Margarita three times in the last year at this distance so he isn’t completely out of place here by any means. INDIANAPOLIS has talent but this looks like too much, too soon for the Baffert 3 year old in his second off the lay, entering off a 95 Beyer in Optional Claiming company. BIG MACHER has a couple of wins over this track in graded company but comes off a two month layoff with his most recent races over polytrack, and speedster gets a wide post, while BAKKEN and FAST ANNA are drawn even wider and appear pace casualties as the speed of the speed.

Picks:

1) Rich Tapestry 5-1

2) Secret Circle 9-2

3) Palace 6-1

4) Work All Week 10-1

11- MILE, 8f, 7:40

In contrast to the history of the Turf race, Americans have actually had a great deal of success in the Mile. In fact, you have to go back to 2004 to find the last time that two Europeans were in the trifecta, and if you take out Goldikiva’s three straight wins over that timespan, American horses have won every other race. That’s not to say that the trend can’t be bucked as a strong Euro contingent ships in for this event after the injury to Wise Dan makes the home team far less frightening, but it is an interesting observation for sure. If the Americans are given a chance to win this, the race opens into a complete mess where practically any of them has a case to be made, so we’ll try to buck the trend on the basis that this Euro contingent is the strongest that this race has seen in years. TORONADO seems quite a credible favorite in this field, having a Group 1 win and two seconds in his three starts this year all this distance over turf labeled “good.” He comes in fresh of a seven week layoff and should be able to sort out a nice stalking trip from the #5 Post. We don’t want to go all Euros in the trifecta, since getting even two has been so difficult historically, so trying to find an angle for an American, OBVIOUSLY looks worth giving a shot for the third straight year. Lining up near the rail from the #2 Post, the speedster figures to draw well clear of the only other pace factors in the race in TOURIST and SAYAAD, both of whom line up far wide, and the rest will have to catch him. He’s two for two over the Santa Anita course this year, posting a field high 107 Beyer two back before they finally caught him on the lead at Del Mar in his last. He’s fresh from that effort following a two month layoff, which could be beneficial, as he set the pace and faded to fifth last year running back on four weeks rest. So, at least the connections are trying a different strategy this time, and he couldn’t have drawn any more perfectly for his running style. Speaking of Goldikova, we get a visit from her full brother ANODIN in this event, and that alone means he deserves a close look. While beaten two lengths by the top choice three back, he’s kept classy company since, showing a Group 1 placing behind the highly regarded Kingman and ahead of Olympic Glory over soft turf. The firmer turf here is a bit more of a concern for him than it is with the top choice, but if the pace ends up hotter than expected, his late run could be enhanced. SEEK AGAIN drew attention back in May when he ran within a neck of Wise Dan, and he came back to win the 8f Fourstardave two back, but gets a wide post in a race where he may struggle to run effectively outside of horses. More appealing could be TOM’S TRIBUTE, who finally got past Obviously when stalking the pace to win his second straight at Del Mar, and he does show the second highest Beyer of the Americans at this distance (103). He has also been laid off since that race, a puzzling move considering he was finding his form. This worries us more than Obviously, who may actually have needed the break and has a tactical advantage on top of it. If the pace really melts down, KAIGUN, SUMMER FRONT, GRAND ARCH and TRADE STORM will all be far off the early pace and picking up ground late, but are all difficult to separate, so we’ll stick with the Euros and the one American that could wire it. Rounding out the rest of the imports: KARAKONTIE, who has pointed to this for awhile but drew horribly in the #14 Post, was well off the board in his last two, but did win the Group 1 French 2000 Guineas over soft turf three back. Lots of questions with him, but if he can drop back and try to save some ground he could get a piece. MUSTAJEEB is lightly raced and expected to stalk from a far more favorable post, but is just a Group 3 winner overseas and hard to support on the top line. The three year old filly VEDA takes on the boys and isn’t an impossible winner as she figures to run closer to the pace from an inside post, but has no Graded wins overseas. All in all a very tough race once you get past the obvious players, so we will keep it fairly simple.

Picks:

1) Toronado 5-2

2) Obviously 8-1

3) Anodin 6-1

4) Karakontie 10-1

12- CLASSIC, 10f, 8:35

This is the big one, so there’s no need to avoid immediate discussion of the day’s biggest star, the undefeated three year-old SHARED BELIEF. After being crowned the Champion Two Year Old of 2013, he missed the entire Triple Crown season with an injury, but rebounded to conquer all comers in the fall, and looks to wrap up the Horse of the Year title with a win here. Make no mistake, on paper, he is far an away the horse to beat. He demolished the opposition two back in the Pacific Classic run at this distance at Del Mar, posting a field high 115 Beyer over the polytrack there. Any questions about his ability to handle the dirt were dismissed in his prior race, but his most recent race is what really demonstrated his true prowess as a competitor. He had everything against him in the 9f Awesome Again over this track, running wide the entire way, but battled gamely to nose the pacesetter at the wire. Our initial reaction was to think that the race took a lot out of him, but upon further digestion, it showed a new dimension to a racehorse that had already proven to be versatile. He can overcome adversity, set the fractions, stalk the pace or whatever the race dictates, and is most certainly the one to beat here. Value abounds beneath him for those willing to try to beat him, as he’ll be a heavy favorite in a deep and talented field. Our selection in the Jockey Club Gold Cup was ZIVO, a true 10f horse who had dominated the Belmont course, and he was probably best when 2nd in that race after enduring severe traffic trouble trying to avoid Wicked Strong’s dismounted jockey Rajiv Maragh. The main knock against him is that he’s never run here before and is primarily a Belmont specialist, but there’s no denying that he loves this distance, should sit a good trip behind the speed and is in career form. Reports from the track cite him as one of the standouts, and he does have a Grade 2 win at this distance. If we like him, the horse that beat him in that race is TONALIST, the Belmont winner, and he receives a similar critique in terms of track preference. However, the feeling is that this is a different horse now with the removal of blinkers. He was rank and way too close to a hot pace in the 10f Travers at Saratoga, but sat back and devoured the leaders last time out from off the pace (106 Beyer), and that’s a style that should suit him here. We’ve been against him stretching beyond 9f based on his pedigree, but won’t be fooled a third time; he seems to be improving with every start and is a must use on the win line. CIGAR STREET seems to have been anointed the “wise guy” horse of this race. He enters third off the layoff and has looked exceptional during workouts this week, not to mention the fact that he has Bill Mott in his corner, a trainer who has worked wonders in this race. There is some concern as he steps up in class being just a Grade 3 winner and has never won at this distance, but he appears in career form coming off an impressive win in the 9f Homecoming Classic at Churchill (101 Beyer). He draws the #2 Post, which may or may not compromise his chances as he has had a tendency to show early speed; he’ll need to sit back a bit off the pace here a bit more than usual and use that post to save ground behind the likely pacesetters who both draw outside of him. Those are likely to be MORENO, winner of the 9f Whitney at Saratoga (109 Beyer) and BAYERN, winner of the 9f Haskell (111 Beyer) and 9f Penn Derby. The latter appears to have the pure speed advantage and is probably a bit more talented, but as both have attempted this distance twice this year without a victory, we are inclined to play against them altogether. Especially with Bayern, you almost have to play him to win or toss him completely; he isn’t the type to lead and fade, as he tends to take advantage of speed favoring tracks and blow away the competition in those instances, and alternatively fades quickly and isn’t a factor (he finished last in the Travers, and hasn’t looked sharp in gallops this week). CALIFORNIA CHROME adds to the strongest three-year old contingent this race has seen in years, having won the Kentucky Derby at this distance before taking the Preakness and falling short in the Belmont. He is 3 for 4 over this track and should actually benefit from a wide draw as he doesn’t like to run inside of horses. Still, seeing as how the higher quality three year olds turned out emerging after the Derby, there are serious questions about the quality he beat in that race and the same questions about his ability beyond 9f against a field this strong. He should be in the mix but his popularity will drive his odds down and we will stand against him on the win line, while playing him underneath in exotics. We aren’t sure what to do with V.E. DAY, who closed into a rapid Travers pace as the leaders came to a complete halt, and then followed that effort with a back down to earth 6th place finish in the Jockey Club against a few of today’s foes after being bumped a bit at the start. He can’t be overlooked completely as he is another that will be coming late, but there are others we like better in this spot. TOAST OF NEW YORK has never run on dirt but does show an impressive 111 Beyer at this distance when three lengths behind the top pick over the poly. He also won the UAE Derby at 9.5f over synthetic, so you know the distance won’t be an issue, but he comes off over a two month layoff and there are too many question marks to expect him to turn the tables on an unfamiliar surface. CANDY BOY actually shows the top BRIS Late Pace figure in the field for his most recent start, but he has been crushed by the top choice in both of their meetings and has really never stood up to this type of competition. A very intriguing, if confusing, older horse is MAJESTIC HARBOR, who amazingly shows the fastest career dirt Beyer at this distance when he won the Gold Cup over this very track and posted a 111 back in June. In his next two, he was a well beaten 6th at the same distance in his first start over synthetic, but looked better when switching back to dirt, closing for 4th last out at 9f, which is short of his ideal distance anyway, and actually made up a half length on the top choice in that race. While we don’t think he can make up the additional 3.75 lengths on that one with extra furlong here, he is certainly a logical one to keep on your tickets to spice up exotics. He’s certainly a better play than IMPERATIVE, who appears better suited to polytrack. On the rail, PRAYER FOR RELIEF stands a chance to save ground but he’s not for us, having not won a race in eight starts this year and having lost to several of the contenders. This looks like a race to play Shared Belief on top of some longshots in trifectas and superfectas, and to go pretty deep in multi-race wagers since many tickets will have him singled.

Picks:

1) Shared Belief 9-5

2) Zivo 12-1

3) Tonalist 5-1

4) Cigar Street 12-1

5) Majestic Harbor 20-1

6) California Chrome 4-1

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