Nice little field of ten in the Breeders' Cup Fillies & Mare Sprint, and as far as I'm concerned, we can take this and the Dirt Mile and throw the rest of the races that have been added to the BC over the last few years away.
Leigh Court (4-1) has returned to the races at age four with a bang, after a layoff of 316 days; winning at this distance on the Poly at Woodbine, and then scoring in the six furlong Grade 2 TCA at Keeneland; earning sparkling TimeformUS speed figures in both cases. (And a career best 6 on the Sheets, part of a nice looking pattern of slow and steady improvement.) Daughter of Grand Slam has settled on sprinting as a career choice after actually enjoying some success going longer, on turf and synth, last year. Truth be told, she benefited from a perfect trip and a smooth journey behind a fast pace in the Keeneland race (which included even money favorite Stonetastic, 8-1 ML here). But she was very impressive visually, seeming well within herself. Two very sharp works at Woodbine since then, and she seems ready to roll for trainer Josie Carroll, who has a TFUS Trainer Rating of 93 (out of 100) with horses going third off the layoff....
......Though, to be honest, would like, and expect, to see odds higher than the morning line at post time on Leigh Court considering the presence of accomplished sprinters like Artemis Agrotera (3-1) and Judy the Beauty (5-2) in the field. Don't have anything negative to say about either of those, except that they are unlikely to present any value. They're both fast, versatile, and accomplished at this distance.
Throw out the three two-turn efforts by Sweet Reason (9-2), and this 3YO daughter of Street Sense has a record of 6-5-1-0. She's three-for-three in one turn races this year, most recently her win at this seven furlong distance in the Test at Saratoga, in which she stumbled pretty significantly at the start. As consistent as she is though, she hasn't really progressed speed figure-wise from her two-year old season, and I don't know that the level that she's attained is fast enough in this very contentious spot; her first try against older horses. (She paired up a career best 7 on the Sheets in her last two....that's good, yes?) She'll also need some pace in a race that Pace Projector has favoring horses - particularly the aforementioned and very speedy Stonetastic - up front (though it's hard for me to imagine that there's not going to be a fair pace in a $1 million sprint race). Love this filly, and can't count her out, but I think she'd be an underlay at her morning line.
Thank You Marylou (20-1) ran an improved figure when adding blinkers at Churchill two tries back. Never got going from the rail in a big field at Keeneland in her last, but could liven up exotics if she can run back to the Churchill effort. Little Alexis (15-1) is making just her fifth career start, and cuts back to a sprint after running evenly behind Untapable and Sweet Reason in the Cotillion. Like Sweet Reason, had some trouble at the start of the Test, and only finished a length behind that one. With expected improvement...
- As far as the Classic, doesn't seem to be any point trying to top the hilarious "scientific" horse-by-horse analysis by Pullthepocket.
But, in any event, let's give the race a shot: I'm gonna let my East Coast bias guide me here. Shared Belief (9-5) is undefeated and survived the horse racing equivalent of negative campaign advertising - and the depths to which candidates of both parties will stoop just continue to astound - when he survived being floated out to a five-wide-both-turns trip, and won the Awesome Again in an awesome performance (and an awesome call by Trevor Denman, who will be sorely missed again this weekend). He earned a solid TimeformUS speed figure of 114 (which doesn't take the ground loss into account), and a Sheets number of 3 (which does). He certainly looks formidable here and would be no surprise. But he's never raced outside of California, which brings me back to my natural skepticism of west coast runners which has become innate over decades of Lasix (when it was permitted there but not in NY), rock-hard speed tracks, and synthetic tracks (not an issue of quality per se, but of surface preferences); and even if none of those factors are in play these days....I just can't help it! Besides, he'll be a short price, and has to bounce back from what was truly a grueling effort.
I don't need an east coast bias to discard California Chrome (4-1) here. I think he's toast (sorry to use that metaphor in two consecutive posts). Any horse whose connections are euphoric over drawing the 13 post obviously has some serious tractability issues. And his owner is a schmuck.
Bayern (6-1) scored wire-to-wire wins in the Haskell and the Pennsylvania Derby on tracks that TFUS has rated as favoring speed (race rating shaded in light pink.....red would have meant a particularly hideous speed bias like the one on BC Friday last year). Not only that, he got away with a slow pace (pace figures shaded in blue) at Parx. He'll have Moreno in his face on Saturday and needs to last another furlong. I think he's likely to finish closer to last than to first.
Tonalist (5-1) and Zivo (15-1) ran 1-2 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, both coming from the back of the pack. Each had their progress interrupted when Wicked Strong threw his rider. I think that Zivo took the worst of it in that regard, though he saved 10 feet relative to the winner according to Trakus. They are both as consistent as can be, and both come into this race with nice patterns of improvement. Tonalist, in fact, has improved his TFUS figure in every race in his career (save for one instance in which he duplicated the prior one). Zivo's improvement has been a more general one during this, his 5yo racing season....and he comes in with a nice recent pattern on the Sheets. (Here you get a little preview of the Ragozin PPs product that TFUS will be releasing within the next few weeks.)
(Note that he was compromised in his Woodward effort two races back, his only out-of-the-money performance this year, by a track that was rated as strongly favoring speed by TFUS.) Both would seem to need to step forward one more time in order to get the top spot here, but each seems eligible to do exactly that.
There are questions about both: Tonalist seems to particularly love Belmont, while Zivo's trainer Chad Brown hasn't enjoyed much success west of the Mississippi; 1-for-27 on the SoCal circuit over the last five years. Find them hard to separate on form, but easy on price. One could do much worse than 15-1 on a horse who has won seven of his last ten while moving forward for a master trainer for whom the 35-day layoff between races is right in his wheel house. I'll take a shot with him on value, but Tonalist needs to be on the tickets as well, for sure.
Toast of New York (12-1) is racing on dirt for the first time, and he's....well, you know. Hope we get a lot of Euro money in the pools here.
V.E. Day (20-1) is an interesting longshot here in my view. The Travers winner is making only his 8th start and surely would seem to have more to give. Willing to give him a pass for his dull Jockey Club Gold Cup effort after he took a solid bump at the start, and given the weird configuration of the mile and a quarter distance which starts on the turn. Think he'll prefer the standard two-turns and could make some noise in the final furlong. Cigar Street (12-1) has some nice numbers (in fact, the best last-out TFUS figure - 115 - in the field), and excellent tactical speed. I think he's had it pretty easy though in his two races back from a 510 day layoff, and I'd use him only deep on my exotic tickets here. Candy Boy (20-1) is in recent sharp form, and comes off a competitive career high TFUS figure of 110.
So, it's a win bet on Zivo, and I'll play him in exotics with Shared Belief, Tonalist, V.E. Day, and throw in some Cigar Street and Candy Boy.
- In the Grade 3 Discovery at the Big A, Bay of Plenty (8-5) would seem to have this field at his mercy. He's the lone speed in a race favoring such runners according to Pace Projector. He returned from a 154 day layoff to win his last, at Belmont, in easy fashion, earning a career best TFUS figure of 103 in his third wire-to-wire win in a row. So maybe it's nitpicking when I point out that he was allowed to set a very moderate pace in that last race...and that he benefited from tracks that TFUS has rated as speed favoring in his prior two.
But let's instead go with the fastest horse in the race; which is, according to the TFUS numbers, Noble Moon (5-1). He has two 4ths to show from his last two, which came off a layoff of 140 days; but earned field-high TFUS figures in efforts in which he really had no shot in races in which he was quite ambitiously placed. There was the G1Kings Bishop at Saratoga, in which he actually acquitted himself well rallying for 4th, earning a figure of 104.....and the PA Derby behind Bayern on the speed-favoring track; an even effort in which he was given a figure of 108. In his prior two turn efforts - in the Jerome and Wood earlier this year - he actually showed some pretty decent early speed (in fact, he wired the Jerome). So hoping he can find nice position breaking from the rail in a short field, and run the favorite down late. Three Alarm Fire (2-1) handled his first assignment against winners with aplomb, but tries two turns for the first time. We'll try leaving him out. Best of luck and have a great Breeders' Cup!