Recapping Friday at the Breeders’ Cup

It was a mostly chalky start to the 2014 Breeders’ Cup. In the Juvenile Turf, Hootenanny paid the biggest price of the short day at 6-1, showing his mid-summer form was no fluke. Perhaps his price was buoyed by Ward’s struggles in top-class affairs, but this horse looked all the part of a champion.

In the Dirt Mile, Goldencents — who was an automatic favorite play at 3-5 — set wicked fractions, but still had enough to hold off Tapiture at the end. In the Juvenile Turf Fillies, Lady Eli displayed a mesmerizing turn of foot in showing that she’s the best 2YO filly — bar none — in America.

Finally, in the Distaff, Untapable took the mantle as the best filly or mare in the United States. Close Hatches, as expected, put up another clunker. When these great fillies quit, they quit. Don’t Tell Sophia closed well to finish 2nd.

Writing up tomorrow’s selections soon.  Good luck with your handicapping!

Image: Zeetz Jones, Copyright 2006.

The Breeders’ Cup Saturday Turf Races

I’ll focus on the Saturday Breeders’ Cup turf races as a group. This comprises the Turf Sprint, the Filly and Mare Turf, the Turf, and the Mile. Except for the Turf Sprint, these races are complicated by the presence of many international runners, primarily those who have raced in Europe. While we can gather a good sense of horse’s talent, these “Euros” usually are facing far different conditions than before in their previous races. First, the Santa Anita turf is notoriously firm, especially when compared with the giving surfaces of Europe. Second, many of them are adding Lasix for the first time, which can dramatically improve performance. Both of these factors create tremendous uncertainty for these horses, and generally for these races.

Not all uncertainty is bad, of course, but many of these Euros are bet heavily on the assumption (usually correct) that they are better than their American turf counterparts. Uncertainty works better with higher prices, which can occasionally be found on the European Imports.

The one exception is the Turf Sprint, run on the 6 1/2 furlong Downhill Turf course. This course caters to specialists, so I’m also looking for horses that have run well on it.

Here are some thoughts about each race:

Filly and Mare Turf: American Filly and Mare turf races were especially weak all summer, so I have very little interest in them, outside of Dayatthespa (#2, 8-1), who is the best of the bunch. But, more than her, I like Dank (#3, 5-2), who is the likely favorite and the defending champion. We already know she likes the firm turf and Lasix, which reduces the uncertainty. However, it will probably be tough to get a fair price on her — and something makes me nervous — so I’m going to roll the dice here and go with Fiesolana (#6, 8-1), who has several nice wins on her resume. I’m willing to toss the classy 7f try last out, and I like the stretchout to the longer distance. But not the largest of bets, and perhaps only half of a normal unit (I’ll be writing up bets tomorrow and posting live during the Breeders’ Cup)

Turf: Flintshire (#7, 7-2) exits a second place finish in the Arc and has quite the resume for Andre Fabre. Telescope (#1, 4-1) is another tremendously classy runner for Sir Michael Stoute. Both are the horses to  beat here, but only Telescope runs with Lasix. With that and the rest, I’ll lean towards Telescope, who sat out the Arc to aim for this race. The other Euro, former Irish Oaks champion Chicquita (#11, 8-1) seems overmatched, but her best bet is improving with Lasix. That’s not enough on its own, so I’ll stick with Telescope alone, but again not the largest of bets.

Mile: I’m pretty sure there will be “wiseguy” buzz for both Seek Again (#12, 6-1) and Obviously (#2, 8-1), but don’t be lured. Toronado (#5, 5-2) is a world-class miler, and is better than every horse in this field. He’s a double-sized win bet for me.

Turf Sprint: Local runner Ambitious Brew (#5, 12-1) loves this course and is fast enough to win here. The last was a prep for today, so I expect an improved effort against Home Run Kitten. No Nay Never (#14, 9-2) is a classy horse and might just be better than these anywhere. I’ll play these two — likely in a split win bet, weighted more heavily towards Ambitious Brew.