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Monday, October 30, 2006

The Mile

- Here's what could be the most contentious betting race of the day, and one which demands value on the tote board. Horses who made their last start in Europe have won nine of the 22 runnings. (You can find this, and an amazingly comprehensive list of Breeders Cup trends in the well-worth-it subscriber section of the Downey Report...and a more-than-generous helping of free content as well.

Araafa (Mull of Kintyre) is the Euro horse getting the most press here off his second to George Washington in the QEII Stakes, a race in which the winner reportedly just toyed with the field. The effort followed a 5th in the Sussex Stakes in which, as trainer Jeremy Nosada told the Form, he missed the break, chased a suicidal pace, and came out of the race with a wrenched ankle. Nosada has said that the horse is training well. Price may be the main reason to play against him, though I'm not sure if the expected firm footing will be to his liking. I'll be looking for Noseda's comments about that; some of the European trainers seem to speak more frankly about things like that than their American counterparts.

Godolphin has a pair of runners in Librettist (Danzig) and Echo of Light (Dubai Millenium). Librettist had won five in a row, the last three at a mile, before running 6th in, and reported to have come out lame from, the aforementioned QEII. Thus it would be of some concern that Frankie Dettori is apparently leaning towards riding the less accomplished Echo of Light 'I have not made a final decision but I'm leaning towards Echo Of Light. 'He is still a bit babyish, but he is maturing all the time. I think going left-handed will suit him.' [Ireland Online]

Perhaps he also looked at the past performances and saw that there is really no other committed speed horse in the race with the possible exception of Badge of Silver (Silver Deputy), whose ability on the grass is uncertain off just one try. Echo of Light's last win was said here to be against a field that wasn't...particularly deep; but he's developed well and his Timeforms are competitive with those of Araafa, at least other than the latter's last race.

As for Librettist, he's certainly a contender on his best form, and is reported to be training well, and to have quickly recovered from whatever was ailing him after his last race. Perhaps there was some exaggeration involved in that report in order to enhance Godolphin's "team riding" complaint against Coolmore's rider Seamus Heffernan.

Sleeping Indian (Indian Ridge) comes in off a Grade 2 win in the UK for trainer John Gosden. But the trainer was recently quoted, in talking about the decision to send him, that "the ground is unlikely to be fast," and in fact, a firm turf does seem likely.

Amongst the entries who last ran in the U.S., I love Gorella (Grape Tree Road). I don't at all agree with those who feel that the First Lady took a lot out of her. A look at the race shows that Leparoux was just cruising even as Gorella got into position for her lethal stretch run, and he didn't start driving until engaging Karen's Caper (who traveled 14 feet further) in the final stages. I think she won with plenty left in the tank, and that this was every bit the prep it was intended to be; that's my opinion. On Sunday, she worked five furlongs in 58 flat over the Polytrack, a surface over which she's worked exclusively since August. She's run into traffic problems in her two U.S. tries against males (and the question was raised whether it's just a coincidence that she wasn't able to overcome it each time, or if she's somehow intimidated or outmuscled by the boys), but Leparoux really seems to be able to push the buttons on her, and she's never been better than she is now.

The declining Beyer figs for Aragorn (Giant's Causeway) are as good reason to throw him out as rising casualty figs are to throw the Republicans out of both houses of Congress a week from tomorrow. Other than the figs, and the fact that it seems that all of the best grass horses are the ones I've seen race out here in the East all year, I'm not doing any real analysis here. I'm just not using him anywhere, especially since he may be one of the favorites.

I also don't like Aussie Rules (Danehill). I think that's he clearly a cut below the top European contenders, and that he benefited from a ground-saving trip in the Shadwell. The Form comment says "split, 4w." But this horse was not wide. He was on the rail both turns until swinging into the two-path just approaching the bend for home. After finding no room towards the inside in the stretch, Gomez swung wide to find a path to victory, but he looked no more than three wide. In fact, in the expanded chart comment, it talks about him settling three wide, and swinging five wide in the stretch. If someone can go to Cal Racing and watch the race, please tell me if I'm crazy and deluded, or if the chart is just plain wrong.

Check out Trakus; he clearly wasn't wide (ninth race); only two horses in the field traveled shorter distances. Miesque's Approval (Miesque's Son), who has taken his game to a new level of speed and consistency this year, traveled 18.9 feet more in finishing 4th.

Free Thinking (Unbridled) is an improving five year old who gave Godolphin's Ashkal Way all he could handle in the Grade 2 Kelso. Could be the wacky longshot that completes the superfecta?

Interested In: Gorella. At the right price of course, but I think she's gonna be dynamite. Araafa is imposing with Johnny V. and if I leave him out it will be because of price and/or trainer's comments on the turf condition. And there's a price out there somewhere at which you might want to take a shot on Librettist, Dettori or not Dettori. Not quite sure what to do with Sleeping Indian.

Against: No get out the vote effort will help Aragorn. Aussie Rules doesn't.

Exotics: Echo of Light gets Dettori (it seems), and he has all those little plus signs next to his Timeform ratings. That means he's deemed to be capable of getting better, yes? No one wires the Mile, but he may not have much company up front and could hang on for a share. Miesque's Approval is very consistent, and could sneak into the triple with a little luck. Sleeping Indian and Free Thinking too.


Anonymous said...

Librettist had a 7 furlong work last week.
Friday morning,Librettist (Frankie Dettori) stepped up his preparations for the Breeders' Cup Mile.
In a routine 7f exercise, the dual Group 1 winner moved upsides his lead horse to finish narrowly in front but was not overly impressive.

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Anonymous said...

Great race by race breakdown...I've enjoyed it. I've decided to comment on the mile, where I've come up with my play of the day.

First off, the Euros...I guess I'm not real impressed (kind of how I feel about Dem candidates in open seats). When I think back on heavy Euro favorites, I think of horses with impeccable credentials such as Miesque, Ridgewood Pearl, Spinning World, Rock of Gibralter (who didn't get it done), and often times those horses were facing a so-so group of Americans.

This year, we're celebrating the likes of Araafa, who has yet to beat an older horse. Or Librettist, whose victories over Stormy River, Manduro, Peeres and Helios Quercus simply don't inspire me. When he did go to Ascot to take on GW and Araafa, he got his head jerked off, and you know how I feel about Araafa.

Secondly, the pace. There is simply nobody, other than Badge of Silver, that wants the front in this race! Nobody! And when you consider how fast Badge of Silver is off a layoff (I know, I know, on dirt), I can't help but get excited about the idea of seeing this guy, with P Val up, three lenghts ahead of the field after a half in :47, cruising over a firm turf along the hedge! He's proven he can win on good turf, and I've got to assume he'll like a firm Churchill course even more.

Additionally, he should be about 25-1. Frankel has been very low key and coy about his chances...which I find adds a bit of irresistible intrigue. i'll play him on top of Gorella, Aragorn & Sunday Break.

A little more history: It was at Churchill in 2000 when a little known Jersey based horse, North East Bound, nearly led the entire way in the mile at something like 70-1.

One last note about Aragorn...I understand that the Beyers have been declining, but he ran his last two races in 1:32 4/5 & 1:32 3/5! What's a horse got to do to earn a decent fig?

Anonymous said...

Aragorn, my only lock for the day, I love Gorella but see her finding too much traffic to get to the top one in time. C-Nok times it just right, first move and leaves too much daylight for the late running filly to make up. Of all the Cal horses, he has impressed me the most. Lava Man is very good, and his quick turn of foot is very impressive, but Aragorn makes his races look like workouts. 1:32 is 1:32, pool table grass course or not. Nick

Anonymous said...

I finally got up the courage to post my mile analysis. First the historical;

Prior CD winners, Miesque,Open Verse, BArathea, Da Hoss, War Chant.

From the above you can easily see there is no real geographical bias, and the same surprisingly holds true overall in the Cup for this race. My theory is that the tight right turns are tougher to overcome for the Euros in this sprint than in the marathons.

For the hell of it I started to check PP results, but when I noticed that War Chant won from the 14 hole I figured PP's will mean little.

My illogical factor is that I just think Europe is due to win this after two straight American victories.

I have decided to cover 4 Euro entries in the P6;

Araafa (throw out the one bad run and he looks real tough here, I am willing to toss that race since he returned to beat the winner next out),

Ad Valorem (G1 winner at Distance, good run in Woodbine),

Aussie Rules(always competive at this level) and

Librettist (reluctantly, I think something is wrong,especially since Dettori is considering inferior Echo Of Light, but afraid to toss).

I am considering only Rob Roy and Ivan D underneath from the other Euros.

As for the ex Euros posing as Americans, I am against both Aragorn (ran away from Europe to get firm turf, Lasix and easier competition, he will only have the Lasix on Saturday (CD had 3 inches of rain last week, will not be firm no matter what the tote says)), and Gorella who could not win last years renewal despite running over a course that better fits her style and facing an inferior Euro contingent.

Gorella will however be underneath in the exotics.

Tossing the remaining Americans.

Mr. Ed