Countdown to the Cup: Looking for Longshots

Countdown to the Cup: Looking for Longshots
Photo: Alexander Barkoff
The day before Breeders' Cup Championship Day dawned cool and foggy.
You won't find any comments on Fusaichi Pegasus and Riboletta in this space, except that both horses have been training exceptionally well. We still feel that Fusaichi Pegasus is on a different plane than other horses, but we're here to look for value. Like all Breeders' Cups, there should be some live longshots and overlays that slip through the cracks. We'll attempt to ferret out those horses based on what we've seen in the mornings and a few angles in their past performances.

CLASSIC -- First off, we'll say that no horse we've seen here has been more aggressive in his training than Lemon Drop Kid. His gallops have been spectacular, and in his blowout on Wednesday, he closed his last eighth in :11 1/5 after having to dodge several gallopers in front of him at the quarter pole. If Lemon Drop Kid is over the top, as many have suggested, he sure hasn't shown any signs of it in his training and overall appearance. And if he is allowed to go off at higher than 4-1, he certainly would qualify as a big overlay, considering where he's been ranked all year.

There are so many Classic horses who have looked impressive, it's difficult to dismiss any of them. But we're not here to discuss favorites. One horse we really were looking at as a monster longshot special was Euchre, but as of this writing, the son of Personal Flag is battling a cough and some mucus in his lungs, as well as a quarter crack, and may be scratched tomorrow morning if the cough persists. The quarter crack has been patched, and if he runs, that shouldn't be a problem. We had liked him because of the way he leveled off in the last sixteenth of the Goodwood, and as a big, powerful 4-year-old gelding, he looked as if he were about to turn the corner and become a major force.

If Lemon Drop Kid turns out to be an overlay at 5-1 morning line, then Golden Missile may be a real steal at 15-1. This is another horse who was ranked atop his division earlier in the year, and he's been doing super at Churchill Downs. He's been crawling out of his skin every day, was a wild horse when he last grazed nine days ago, and has been pulling his exercise rider out of the saddle. One morning, trainer Joe Orseno clocked him galloping a mile in 1:59. Unlike other gallopers who carry their head high, Golden Missile had his head down and was reaching out with every stride. He loves Churchill Downs; he loves an off track if we should have one; and he gets Jerry Bailey. He's avoided the tough battles in New York, and he'll be ridden with a lot more patience this time. All that adds up to horse who should be sitting on a big race.

Just a quick note on a few other longshots: Gander's last work was a thing of beauty, and he's been thriving here; and Cat Thief has been training like a frisky 2-year-old who's full of himself. D. Wayne Lukas has changed equipment and worked on his mental outlook to keep him more relaxed and prevent him from displacing his palate. And the final longshot, Vision and Verse, received a wake-up call in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and now could be ready to return to the form that saw him battle Lemon Drop Kid to the wire in the Belmont and Travers.

But, obviously, you can't play everyone, so we'll give our big overlay push to Lemon Drop Kid and Golden Missile, with Golden Missile the more appealing price. You can play them with Fusaichi Pegasus or anyone else you like in here. And don't dismiss megabombs Gander and Vision and Verse, and yes, good old Cat Thief, to back up your exotics if you're looking for a real killing. We're not mentioning Euchre on the assumption he'll be scratched.

Now we'll start from the beginning.

DISTAFF: So, Riboletta and Beautiful Pleasure are a lock one-two, right? Not so fast. We're not going to attempt to get inside a horse's head, and we have no idea why a marvelously consistent horse should suddenly go off form, but we will say that no horse has impressed us more from a physical standpoint than Heritage of Gold. Her coat is glowing, her muscle lines are well-defined, and she's been prancing along like a coiled spring. Trainer Tom Amoss has been playing mind games with her, taking things nice and easy, training her on the grass, then giving her a little sharpener on the dirt on Friday. Her form on paper indicates that maybe she's had enough, but everything we've seen contradicts that. And if she does bounce back and runs to her looks, then you've got a huge, huge overlay in the making.

On the work front, we must add that Surfside has looked spectacular. In her last 5-furlong work, she looked like she was loping along in about 1:01 or 1:02, but was clocked in :59 2/5. Whether she can beat all these great fillies off one sprint is another matter, but off her works, we can say she is ready for a big effort.

JUVENILE FILLIES: We have to admit we haven't seen a great deal of many of these fillies, but we do like the way Platinum Tiara (15-1) has looked on the track. And we also feel Cash Deal, allowed to settle a bit more this time, will also be tough.

MILE: Of course, there's so much to choose from here, but we're going to concentrate on two horses – Altibr and Affirmed Success. Altibr's copper chestnut coat has been radiant, he looks super physically, and he may be the most versatile horse in the race. At 20-1, you should get a real run for your money. Affirmed Success (12-1) has had tough luck in his last two races, and with his sprint background and liking for the turf, we see him in a stalking position throughout, with enough left to put in a strong run at the end.

Also, the 30-1 morning line price on Walkslikeaduck seems very high. The Europeans look pretty evenly matched, and we won't even try to separate them. Distant Music is being touted by the Brits, and expect him to be get a lot of play, lowering his 10-1 morning line odds.

Altibr and Affirmed Success look like solid wins bets, with both being used in an exacta box, and with the horses of your choice.

Continued . . . .

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