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Friday, March 30, 2007

Can Top Two Get Licked?

- Before the Breeders Cup, I posted an excerpt from UK handicapper Nick Mordin's analysis of the Classic, in which he correctly selected Invasor. And though he wasn't quite spot on when he wrote: "Actually I think Invasor will annihilate the Classic field and that Bernardini won't even run second," it was an impressive display of prognostication to be sure.

Mordin has written an analysis of a World Cup card that I personally find virtually insurmountable. It's up on Cary Fotias' subscription-only Equiform site. As was the case last fall, it was sent to me by a reader, and since it's a paid site, I can't reprint it extensively here, and will keep my excerpting limited to the big race and hope they don't get mad at me for posting it at all. In return, I'll hype Equiform here, and specifically point you to their highly regarded The Xtras sheets, as well as to their order form from which you also get their Tele-clinics.

Now that I feel a tad less guilty, back to Mordin, who, not surprisingly, has some thoughts that may surprise you. I'll preface it by saying that he feels that Kandidate will be on the lead, and that he may be able to slow the pace down significantly if Frankie Dettori tries to keep Discreet Cat in reserve.

I can't have Discreet Cat because smart as he is you don't win the world's most valuable race with a doubtful stayer that's had an interrupted preparation. The last seven winners of this race had a prep but he missed his.
If any horse is going to benefit from the slow early pace besides Kandidate it will surely be Argentine horse of the year Forty Licks. Three of his four biggest wins have been off a very slow early pace. When he won a 10f Group 2 on the dirt at La Plata, Forty Licks 'walked' the first mile in 1:39.71 before blasting through the last two furlongs in 24.53. When he won the Argentine Derby the early pace was so sluggish the final time was about six seconds slower than it would have been in a truly run race.

I think Forty Licks' trainer is right to excuse his first dirt loss in eight tries to Premium Tap in Riyadh on stamina grounds.
There's no question that Invasor is a brilliant champion....But he faces a serious rival in Forty Licks. And there still remains the concern that his only lifetime loss in eleven starts was that moderate fourth in the UAE Derby on this course last year. Maybe he was unfit that day, however it's also possible that he doesn't like the lightning fast surface at Nad Al Sheba.

There are many possible outcomes to this race. Maybe Discreet Cat will stay and be fit. Perhaps Premium Tap will handle the likely slow early pace. Or it could be that Kandidate will steal it from the front. But in my mind's eye, I see Forty Licks taking over from Kandidate with a quarter mile to run and sprinting to the line with Invasor in hot pursuit. So I say bet Forty Licks to win and take out a couple of insurance bets in case he runs second to Invasor or Kandidate does go all the way.