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.