That's Morning Line galloping at Churchill on Tuesday. He's the 7-2 favorite in the Dirt Mile. (And yes, you can actually find the complete fields and morning line odds on the Breeders' Cup site without having to get directions from Art Fern.)
Morning Line is one of the favorites, should he in fact be one, that I will definitely be betting against. Nice colt, this son of Tiznow, and he's shown the kind of improvement which suggests he could be peaking at the right time. But this will be a different game for Zito's colt, who has excelled in two-turn races, the last three at a mile and an eighth. This is a one-turn mile, the pace will be quicker, and the competition, which includes several who specialize at this route, will be far better than what he's faced before. I think he's a horse to leave off the tickets entirely should he be bet as oddsmaker Mike Battaglia expects. Here Comes Ben (6-1), Tizway (6-1), and Thiskyhasnolimit (10-1) (all of whom I discussed here), all seem like far better value to me.
Girolamo (3-1 in the Sprint) is another favorite I don't care for. This must be a really weak year for this division if this horse is favored. He excelled last year going a mile around one turn, though he surely didn't beat too much amongst the four he faced in the Jerome. He has just two races this year - 5th in his return in the Forego, and his win in the Vosburgh. That was his first six furlong race ever, and he was fairly impressive....but against what? As I've said before, you need to take the 1 and Grade 1 with a grain of salt these days. That Vosburgh field barely qualified as a Grade 3. The eight opponents accounted for a grand total of three graded stakes wins, a G2 and two G3's. I can't believe they, off that race, would make this horse the favorite over a horse like Big Drama (7-2), an established and consistent graded stakes horse over the last two years who has settled into a sharp groove since concentrating on sprints in 2010...and I discussed him in more detail here.
Harder for me than throwing Girolamo out is coming up with the right value horse to use on top. Atta Boy Roy (12-1) has impressive running lines, good speed and the ability to stalk, but has only a wasted turf effort to show over the last 2 1/2 months. Smiling Tiger (6-1) and Supreme Summit (15-1) ship in from California, and I'm interested in the latter at those odds. Unlike Smiling Tiger, Supreme Summit does have a couple of races over dirt, including a not-at-all bad 4th in a mile race at Gulfstream last March. Switched to the barn of Mike Puype, he's cut back to six furlongs for his two starts after a layoff, and comes off a career best effort, falling just short to Smiling Tiger in the Ancient Title. His late-running style may serve him quite well here, and owner Joseph Lacombe is putting up the big bucks to supplement him to the race. Warrior's Reward (12-1) likes the track and could also benefit from a contested pace.
Here's Goldikova (7-5), and whoever picked out this outfit must be colorblind. According to the morning line, this is strictly a three-way race between she, Paco's Boy (6-1), and Gio Ponti (4-1). Yes, the latter is in the Mile, and aren't I a jerk to think that the fact that her connections publicly indicated that she would run in the Classic and made it her first preference in the pre-entries meant anything.
The funny thing about Gio Ponti's past performance lines is that her Beyers are down a solid 6-10 points from last year. I don't really know if the Beyer figs mean any more on the turf than the seem to do on synthetic tracks. But if you think they are meaningful, the fact that Gio Ponti was nevertheless first or a close second in each of his four Grade 1 races this year can't bode very well for the North American turf division overall.
In any event, I'm not inclined to try and beat Goldikova, but I am surely willing to try and beat the second and third choices - Paco's Boy has to be considered a question mark in his North American debut despite his fine form overseas - to create some value in the exotics - and I've mentioned The Usual QT and Proviso as possibilities there.
And Zenyatta is ranked at 8-5, lower than I'd been seeing quoted overseas, but more sensible in my opinion. Lookin At Lucky (6-1) drew the far outside, and I'd have to consider that to be good news for the favorite's camp. Yeah, I know, I've been disparaging the three-year old crop, and him by extension. But his improvement and recent dominance is no doubt impressive, as his ability to handle different kinds of surfaces. His last eight races - five wins, and a tough luck second and third - have come over eight different tracks, with wins on synthetic, fast dirt, and slop. So he's growing on me; I'll definitely be working him into my tickets, and would take a flyer on top if Dirty wants to give me 15-1.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Posted by Alan Mann at 4:55 AM