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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Extra Extra

The Dirt Mile is my favorite of the extra races that were added to the Breeders' Cup event in 2007; and one of just two, along with the F&M Sprint, that I will consider for a serious wager. It always seems to attract a competitive field of horses not quite good enough to race for the big prize (though in some cases simply not suited for the distance), which may make for its inclusion as a "World Championship" ludicrous, but generally makes for an attractive betting contest featuring horses with North American form that one can make sense of. And isn't betting the whole idea?

On the other hand, I won't be wagering seriously on the two juvenile turf races, both of which feature a host of horses shipping in from Europe. Doesn't mean I won't throw a few bucks on a longshot based on breeding or a hunch. But you're just guessing when trying to judge the competitive merits of North American horses versus the European ones. Personally, I'd be just as happy if all of the BC races were limited to horses that have started at least once in North America.

Here Comes Ben comes into the Dirt Mile after a two month layoff following his win in the Forego, which came some ten weeks after he won the Kelly's Landing over the Churchill track. That relative lack of activity is my main concern regarding a horse that I otherwise really like in this spot. Always love to see a horse who improves at four in the way that he has, especially with the bulk of that improvement coming after he was switched exclusively to one-turn races such as this one (the first time that the Dirt Mile will actually be run at that distance, and around one turn). In fact, put a line through the races other than those, and Here Comes Ben has four wins and a second in five starts (four of them at Churchill, including his graduation at a mile). He'll be going a furlong longer than he did in his last three races, but I think that will only help given his late-running style, and the possibility of a contested pace up front.

Love the breeding too; he's by Street Cry out of a mare by Dayjur mare who's a half-sister to the dam of Albertus Maximus, who won this race in 2008, as well as to a couple of sprint winners overseas. And as far as that layoff goes, he demonstrated his sharpness last week in a bullet half mile work at Keeneland.

Here Comes Ben then galloped out five furlongs in a sensational 584/5 and six furlongs in 1:124/5. [Louisville Courir Journal]
“The track is admittedly very fast here right now,” [trainer Charles] Lopresti said at Keeneland. “But he did it very easily. I told my rider to just let him run from the eighth pole home, and he really exploded to the wire and galloped out strong. The best thing was that he wasn’t even blowing when he came back to the barn.” [DRF]
Thiskyhasnolimit is another one with improving form who has also shown that he likes one-turn races at Churchill. He ran his two best career Beyers in his last two, both of those around two turns, most recently his game second to Lookin At Lucky in the Indiana Derby. Here he cuts back to the distance at which he won the Iroqois on this track last year. Tough spot to face older horses for the first time, and I know I've been dissing the three-year old crop. But this son of Sky Mesa out of a Deputy Minister half-sister to Bernardini seems to be coming to hand at the right time for Asmussen, and looks dangerous to me at a price. Shows a couple of excellent works over the track too, and would love some rain.

Tizway also comes off a couple of career best Beyers, and in one-turn mile races too. Depending on the post draw and whether Morning Line and Tropic Storm opt for their first preference races instead, he could find himself with a perfect stalking trip behind just one (Mad Flatter) or maybe two (Vineyard Haven) others. Nothing sexy or creative about handicapping this one; he's simply an in-form runner who has the tactical speed and talent to make it to the winner's circle. Classy pedigree - he's by Tiznow, out of a Dayjur mare who's a half-sister to the Grade 1 winners Will's Way and Willa on the Move.

Mad Flatter could find himself alone on the lead, and is yet another coming off a string of career best efforts. Incestuously-bred son of Flatter is inbred 2x2 to the half-brothers AP Indy and Honor Grades.

Vineyard Haven has only raced twice this year, and doesn't show evidence of improvement at age four. He can beat me, pass. Crown of Thorns shows fine form on synthetic tracks, though he's lost his last five. Not like I automatically throw out horses making their first start on dirt, but the price has to be right. I'd be on him at 8-1, but he figures to vie for favoritism. Gayego had had a disappointing year until winning at Presque Isle; that's not enough to convince me that he's good enough here.

In the F&M Sprint, Switch is listed at 10-1 by the Form, which is the only site where I've been able to find a definitive list of the pre-entries for each race (and it includes the race charts and videos for most of the entries' last races. I read that there are official preliminary morning line odds, but don't try to find them anywhere on the official Breeders' Cup sites. Seriously, is that too much to ask? That the official Breeders' Cup site would have the official Breeders' Cup pre-entries and odds? Maybe they are there somewhere...please let me know if I missed them.

Anyway, I discussed Switch here in this post, and I like her here; this is the kind of synthetic track horse at the right kind of odds, that I'm willing to back. (Switch did run once on dirt, a 4th at Gulfstream earlier in the year.)

Rightly So appears to be the likely favorite, and she looks like possible, if not probable, lone speed. However, I for one wouldn't be surprised to see her get run down in the long stretch in the seventh furlong. The Ballerina, which she dominated while achieving a career best fig of 100, may be a Grade 1; but that doesn't mean that it was a great race. I just don't think much of the field she beat; nor of the one in the Bed O'Roses, despite the fact the latter produced three subsequent winners. There's more to determining how strong a race was than how many horses simply won their next time out. Get the Formulator pp's (a worthwhile investment for these races) and check it out in more detail. She just hasn't been running against great horses. So I'll look to beat her should she be favored as expected.

Besides Switch, Champagne d'Oro is another who has the tactical speed to track the speed, as she did before drawing off to win the Test with a career best fig of 97. This was the culmination of a string of improved efforts since cutting back to one turn after fading badly in the Ky Oaks. After two months off, she rallied moderately to finish 4th, behind a couple of others in here, at Keeneland. But I look at that race strictly as a prep, and a useful one at that. She prefers dirt anyway, and has been working in spectacular fashion at Churchill. “She'll be 10-1 and run like 3-5,” said trainer Eric Guillot. That's the kind of odds we like. She's by Medaglia D'Oro out of Champagne Flow, a Saratoga Six half-sister to the ill-fated Grand Canyon, runner-up in the 1989 Juvenile.

Informed Decision prefers synthetic, and seems to have slowed down this year. Dubai Majesty switches back to dirt after three sharp efforts on turf or synthetic. She has run well on dirt too. But she seems to prefer six furlongs and shorter.


Teresa said...

I came across the preliminary odds as I was watching some of the Eric Wing/Randy Moss handicapping videos at Breeders' Cup 360.

At the beginning of each video, a slide on the screen shows the odds.

El Angelo said...

Here's my problem with these two new races: they've killed the Sprint. In years past all of the good horses would run in the Sprint (or maybe the Classic in the case of someone like Crown of Thorns) which made it one of the best races. But now milers and even 7f horses go to the Dirt Mile instead. So I'm not sure it's actually helped betting because you've in a sense robbed Peter to pay Paul.

alan said...

Teresa - Thanks. But that's lame. Just basic common sense and an easy task to have the entrants listed in an orderly manner on the website. That 360 site is a mess.

Teresa said...

I've found some terrific info there about past events, past races, etc., that's been very useful. But usually, I have to get there by a direct link; I haven't been able to search the site very well, but I figure that that's just me.

And actually, I sort of thought that the odds hadn't been done at all, as I hadn't seen them anywhere. I came across them totally by accident when I looked at one of those videos.

Anonymous said...

I agree, El Angelo. The expansion of the BC has hurt the event. It should have been kept to only one day. The Sprint used to have much more sizzle than it does now.

BTW, regarding Gio Ponti's status, the Bloodhorse said his connections made the classic his first preference. -jp

DiscreetPicks said...

Nice point about the Sprint. I guess it has been watered down a bit. I'm still in favor of the Dirt Mile though. I always thought it was ridiculous that there was no dirt race for males (not counting the Juvenile) between the distances of 6 furlongs and 1 1/4 miles.

Also, assuming it doesn't rain, this is the first year the Dirt Mile will be run on fast dirt. The only prior runnings were in the Monmouth quagmire and on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride.

El Angelo said...

There's a pretty easy solution to restoring the Sprint: cut the purse for the Dirt Mile (frankly, all the "new" races) so that the best go to the Sprint. If the spread was $500k versus $2 million, still think that Here Comes Ben and Vineyard Haven would pick the Dirt Mile.

Anonymous said...

Comments from Taylor Made about Esky at stud:

“He was precocious at 2 and special at 3, with a brilliant mix of speed and stamina. I don't recall a more exciting 3-year-old that was built better for the classics than he was"

Don't get me wrong, it really is a nice pedigree, but a fucking horse should at least make it to the classics to get praise like that.

Anonymous said...

Clever idea about only allowing horses who have started in North America before to run in the Breeders' Cup! No more of those pesky Arc winners, or Miesque or Goldikova. A definite improvement!

steve in nc said...

Alan, your xenophoic idea isn't a good one, at least for those of us who have been cashing the Euros for years.

I do share your take on Here Comes Ben, but I have to warn you to watch out for Gayego here. His Presque # was his best in a long time and his back #s are best in the field.

Anonymous said...

Sidney's Candy, a horse i've followed, and been very impressed by, has been under unknown ownership for some time. I watched his most recent work and he was getting shown the persuader in the lane. Not what you wanna see before the BC.

alan said...

Xenophobic?? For one thing, it wouldn't exclude Goldikova because she's raced here, duh. And you know what? Nobody other than the hardcore fans gives a fuck about the Arc winner. How many of you reading this can name offhand who won it this year? Races limited to horses with North American form provide context, which provides confidence to bettors, which increases handle, and handle makes the game go 'round. The European horses are nice for the Europeans and for the moron with the mutton chops, but they don't do shit for business.

Anonymous said...

I like Muttonchops. -jp

alan said...

OK...just want to amend and somewhat walk back my last comment....steve in nc got me going early in the morning on a very grim Election Day by calling me xenophobic (even though he misspelled the word). I didn't actually suggest in the post in question that I think that the BC should restrict the races to horses that have started in North America, and I'm not taking the position that they really should be. In the context of writing about how difficult I find handicapping the races that include them, I said that "as far as I'm concerned," they could be. Because personally, I couldn't really care less about them (and nor do I see what they do for the sport in this country)...with a horse like Goldikova being a very rare exception. I don't need to see second rate Euros flooding the entries of, for example, the juvenile turf races. They just make those races unbettable to me. Nor do I need to see established Euro turf horses coming here to run in the Classic in order to improve their breeding prospects (which we fortunately don't have this year).

Figless said...

The non-Americans of course should be allowed, but to be eligible for an American Eclipse Award a horse should be required to run at least TWICE in the USA.

Sadly, the BC board is now more focused on expanding the event to World Championships as opposed to American Championships, which was its original intent, so will soon announce a permanent home with "dirt" races run on all weather track.

Once the BC announces their permanent West Coast home, NYRA should compete with an American Championship Day, grouping existing Grade One races in each original BC category for one day of true American Championship Racing with purses similar to the original BC structure.

Figless said...

PS- The expansion has effected all of the races, not just the sprint.

And yes, it was impossible to find the pre-entries on line the day after they were announced, just another indication of the incompetance of the BC Board.

Figless said...

Alan, yes election day will be grim for you, perhaps worse than you even now surmise since I think the Reps may even win the Senate,but at least you can find solace that the opposition can not find a single qualified candidate to run in your entire home state so your team will still control New York.

Since I live here also I am hoping Coumo at least attempts to implement his plan which is a reasonable start to fix the mess in Albany. In other words, I hope he is a statesman and not just another political hack seeking power and fortune.

El Angelo said...

Is foreign based horses winning Turf Eclipse Awards really something to actually spend 5 seconds caring about? For male turfers, it's happened once in the last 6 years (Conduit, '08). For females, 3 out of the last 6 (Goldikova, Ouija Board 2x). What horses were getting the shaft here?

alan said...

>>so your team will still control New York.

Maybe not the State Senate....though that would surely serve the Democrats right.

Dirty said...

We need to start a list of turf writers who should be forced to resign after zenyatta wins. Beyer an Christ first an foremost, with others in the minor placings.

I'm not ready to make an excuse for Zenyatta, she won't need one. I'm sure these fucking morons will find a way to discredit her, even with a win.

It's sad they couldn't just enjoy the best North American horse in 20 years, maybe ever.

I'm not sure AE wants to take 10-1 on Blame after all his talking. Alan, if you want it, you got it. I'll give $100 in action on Blame. Hell, if you just wanna bet $10 so we have some fun action here, I'll take it.

alan said...

Dirty - Zenyatta is going to bury these bums. But I'll take the ten bucks just for fun.

Anonymous said...

Yeah buddy she is. Youre gonna be hard pressed to find a more dappled out, muscular horse at the BC.

*hand shake*


El Angelo said...

If by "AE" you mean me, I'm in for $10.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Apparently a fit of dyslexia came over me. You're down for $10 too Angelo. And the sportsbook is now closed.

Good luck everyone. I'm sure we'll all post some winners this year.


Anonymous said...

Not bad for a horse that's 9/2 ML.

steve in nc said...

Alan - Sorry to ruin your morning, but I was just busy avoiding thoughts about the election and now you brought me back.

It would be hard for me to feel like celebrating much even if the Dems keep control - so many are corporate hacks. This one's about fear on all sides. My fear is that the GOP is crazy enough to start trying to impeach Obama if they get the majority even though the only laws he's breaking are the same international ones that Bush broke in far worse fashion.

And sorry about the mispelling.

But (back to horses) for me, without the Euros, the BC would be far less interesting and lucrative. Arcangues was the first major score of my life. That one was a trainer angle, but now that the Sheets have Euro #s, I've been able to handicap the imports same way I do the locals.

Call me a redboarder if you like, but Vale of York last year was cashable as an outside contender and Raven's whatever the year before was a big sheet play for me.

I will, however, join you in the hang Muttonchops movement. What an insult to the racing public. Cheerio!