Breeders Cup Picks
For some sports fans, the biggest day of the year is Super Bowl Sunday, opening day of baseball season or even the bowl games on New Year's Day. I look forward to the last Saturday in October. As the last leaves cling to the trees here in Wisconsin, the greatest horses in the world will gather at New York's Belmont Park to run in the Breeders Cup in one of eight races worth over a cumulative $14 million. While the Kentucky Derby is great, it's a lot of buildup for two minutes of excitement. On Breeders Cup day, there's barely time to digest an exciting race before another one begins. It's a whirlwind of beautiful horses, heartpounding finishes and, oh yeah, great betting opportunities. The beauty of the Breeders Cup is that because the fields are so good, high quality horses go off at relatively long odds. Even mild surprises can be hugely profitable for the savvy horseplayer.
I'm ready to make my picks this year. A caveat before you print this out and head to your local track or OTB: I'm usually wrong. However, every 4 or 5 years I'm dead on and almost can't lose. Hopefully this will be one of those years. Now let's commence with the picking!
The day kicks off with a 1 1/16 race for two-year old fillies. The big favorites are the Wayne Lukas (from Antigo, WI-woo Valley Conference!) trained Folklore and Adieu. Adieu has beaten Folklore in two out of three meetings. My thought is that there is just a ton of speed in this race. Knights Templar, Sensation and Diamond Omi should all also be near the front. Sometimes two-year olds, as the races get longer, just stagger to the finish and a stretch-runner can pick up the pieces and win. That's what I think is going to happen here. My pick is Wild Fit. This California filly won her first two starts but was defeated in her last race at 1-2 odds. She got tired that day, but I think that will help her be a little more fit on Saturday. I can see her swooping past the field on the turn and passing the tiring leaders. My top three:
- Wild Fit
The next race is for two-year old males and I see the same kind of pace scenario developing. The huge favorite in this race will be the undefeated First Samurai. People think he's racing's next superstar. I think these people are crazy and my strategy is to find the horse who's going to beat him. In this last race, First Samurai just plodded through a very slow final quarter. He might be a great miler, but I think he's just average beyond that distance. Like the fillies, the colts' race has a lot of early speed. In addition to First Samurai there's the ultra quick Henny Hughes and the good Chicago colt Sorcerer's Stone. I want a horse who can run from off the pace. I think that Stevie Wonderboy is that horse. He inhaled the field in his last start, the Del Mar Futurity in San Diego. My worries are that A) he might just be a stretch-running sprinter and that B) he's had a long time off since that last race. Concern B was somewhat alleviated by the fact that he put in a spectacular work earlier this week. Concern A I just have to live with. I'm picking Stevie Wonderboy, but I'm also very interested in Dr. Pleasure. He's a son of Breeders Cup Distaff winner Beautiful Pleasure and I think he's just figuring out what this whole racing thing is about. Dr. Pleasure (along with Flanders Fields who's not racing today) are just going to have to be my tomorrow horses. My top three:
- Stevie Wonderboy
- Dr. Pleasure
- Stream Cat
Filly & Mare Turf
Last year's winner, Ouija Board, is the probable favorite again this year. The big question is whether she's the same horse she used to be. I think she's not and that therefore the race is wide open. While some will jump all over the Europeans in the turf races, I think that actually the American turf runners in all divisions are strong. So, I'm looking to the home team for some winners. I'm torn in this race between Wonder Again and Wend. Wonder Again is an ultra consistent mare who has gone through a limited campaign specifically designed to get her to peak for the Breeders Cup. Wend, on the other hand, is an up and coming runner who has shown absolute flashes of brilliance. And, unlike some others in here, she's proven herself at the 1 1/4 distance. I really want to pick Wend, but I don't think she likes soft turf. And, with all the rain on the East Coast lately, the Belmont turf is likely to be at least somewhat soft. The question really is how much it will dry out. I don't want to be a slave to the weatherman, so I'm going to reluctantly choose Wonder Again. My top three:
- Wonder Again
- Film Maker
The sprint is always my favorite race on the Breeders Cup card. When handicapping the Sprint, I like horses who have demonstrated ability at 6 furlongs. I also like to go with the speed of the speed. This year, unbeaten Lost In The Fog will probably be the shortest price of the day. He's a three year old who has run all over the country and almost always runs from the lead. However, I think a couple of things are going to stand in his way here. First, he has never run against tough older horses. Second, I don't think he's going to get the lead. Looking at opening quarter times, I think that a couple of horses could get under him: Attila's Storm, Battle Won and Lifestyle. Of these, I think Lifestyle is the quickest. Normally, I'd take that opinion to the betting window. However, these horses are all so evenly matched that I think they'll destroy each other. Taste Of Paradise is the logical closer, but I've going with something completely different: Wildcat Heir. Wildcat Heir should be able to sit just off the leaders and drive by them in the stretch. He's had some injury problems, but his last race was absolutely spectacular, earning a huge 117 Beyer figure. My top three:
- Wildcat Heir
- Lost In The Fog
In the Mile, I've gotten to the point that all I pay attention to is how fast horses race their final quarters. Because the Mile turns into a mad dash at the finish, I think this is the determining factor in who wins. I also have a bias towards the French. Seriously. For whatever reason, French trainers seem to better understand how to get horses ready for the Breeders Cup than their English or Irish counterparts. Anyway, looking at the preps, it's clear to me that last year's winner, and my pick this year, Singletary, is still the best closer in the field. The other horses I can see there with him are Artie Schiller and the filly Sand Springs. The European runner Majors Cast has a past performance line that suggests he has a good closing kick, but it hasn't been enough for him to win in Europe, so why would it be enough here? The likely favorite, Leroidesanimaux (French for "The King of the Animals", although the horse is actually Brazilian) does not have a fast closing kick. Instead, he runs from the lead like past Mile winner Lure. Unless Leroidesanimaux is the second coming of Lure I don't think he's going to win. Plus, he's starting wearing bar shoes, which may be an indication of an injury and he's trained by Bobby Frankel, who almost never wins when it counts. My top three:
- Artie Schiller
- Sand Springs
Last year's winner, Ashado, will be the favorite again this year. If she wins, she'll become American racing's all time top female money earner. I can make a case for Happy Ticket, who lost to Ashado last out to win. I also think that Island Fashion may have returned to the form she showed last year. Stellar Jayne could even come through with a win. But, at the end of the day, Ashado just seems to come through when it counts the most. She finished second in the Juvenile Fillies in 2003, she won the Kentucky Oaks and the Breeders Cup Distaff last year. She's my pick to repeat. Wow, I'm a little concerned with picking two repeat winners in a row, but hey, if the horses fit, who am I to argue? My top three:
- Island Fashion
- Happy Ticket
This race feels unfathomable to me. I can't picture how it's going to be run. For simplicity's sake, I've narrowed the horses under consideration to Bago, Fourty Niners Son, Gun Salute and Shakespeare. Bago, from France, won last year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Europe's most important race. This year he was a good third. Fourty Niners Son was third to the injured Powerscourt and Kitten's Joy in the Arlington Million. He's also trained by Neil Drysdale, who is a genius and would be my trainer of choice if I ever won the lottery and bought some racehorses. Gun Salute is a three-year turf specialist that hasn't raced against older horses yet, but has run times comparable to his elders. Shakespeare is an unbeaten American son of Theatrical. Both Gun Salute and Shakespeare are trained by Bill Mott. I really can't choose between them. I think Fourty Niners Son is probably the best value, but is he the best horse? Shakespeare was incredibly game in his last win, but did that take too much out of him? With all these questions, the answer I keep turning to is to simply pick Bago. So I will. My top three:
- Fourty Niners Son
Finally, we come to the classic. I agree with most handicappers that the Classic is really a three horse race between Borrego, Saint Liam and Rock Hard Ten. Borrego's last race was a powerful tour de force. But, Borrego has been consistently handled by Rock Hard Ten. I think that big, black and beautiful horse had the perfect prep in the Goodwood earlier this month at Santa Anita. He has a slight injury right now, but if his trainer, the great Dick Mandella, is unconcerned, then so I am. I know I should also consider Saint Liam for the victory, but I'm really not. I just can't get past Rock Hard Ten, my definitive pick.
Update: Rock Hard Ten has scratched. In his absence, I'm moving my pick to Borrego. I'm not as confident, but I think he'll win easily now if he can repeat his Jockey Club Gold Cup performance. My top three:
- Saint Liam
Whew! So those are all my picks. Good luck and happy wagering to all.
Posted by at October 27, 2005 12:52 PM
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|# October 27th, 2005 4:12 PM kris|
|I'm not going to be able to bet on the Cup this year, so I'll make an imaginary $2 win bet on each of my picks and see if I can make an imaginary profit. |
|# October 30th, 2005 11:23 AM kris|
|with the fictional $2 win bets, I would have lost $5. My only winner of the day was Stevie Wonderboy. I did have the top two in the Juvenile Fillies, so hopefully if I had been at the track I would have been smart enough to box the exacta. Also, my 2nd pick in the Mile (and my pick last year), Artie Schiller, won. I always liked Artie Schiller so I'm pretty happy with that result.
I was disappointed that Rock Hard Ten scratched and that Wend & Wonder Again didn't do better. Wonder Again will be retired now, but Wend should be around to try again next year.