Boy, am I glad this is play money.
DISTAFF -- The more one looks at this race, the harder it gets to decipher. There is plenty of pace in the form of heavy favorite Azeri and Imperial Gesture; plenty of class in Summer Colony and Take Charge Lady; and plenty of late-running talent in Farda Amiga. It's a race to tread lightly unless one has a strong opinion. I do not. One horse that intrigues me is ultra-longshot Two Item Limit, who is light in the Beyer Speed Figure department, but does have a race over the track, is headstrong, and could pick up a piece of the action should the pace up front be too stiff.
The play: $20 across the board on Two Item Limit. Separate $10 exacta boxes of Two Item Limit with Azeri and Summer Colony.
JUVENILE FILLIES – Is Storm Flag Flying the best filly in the field? More than likely. She ran right on by Santa Catarina in the Frizette Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 5. So, where do we look for value? Second choice Composure has been touted by trainer Bob Baffert for a long time, and it looks like she's finally put it all together in her last two, her last a runaway win at Oak Tree in the Oak Leaf.
The play: $30 win and place on Composure. $20 exacta box, Composure and Storm Flag Flying.
MILE -- There is no doubt Rock of Gibraltar is the best miler in Europe, I'm not willing to play him in a 14-horse field in North America at even-money. The best play of the day is in the form of Aldebaran from trainer Bobby Frankel. His best distance is perhaps a mile -- a distance he hasn't seen since the Met Mile back in May. He'll likely show more speed against a group of milers and won't be as far back has he has been at shorter distances.
The play: $50 win and place on Aldebaran.
SPRINT -- There is always plenty of speed in the Sprint, but this year, they'll have to reckon with Xtra Heat, who can turn in a blazing half-mile and still have something left for the stretch run. Conventional wisdom here points for a horse than can lay just off the pace, then wear down Xtra Heat in the final yards just like Squirtle Squirt did last year. Two likely candidates are Disturbingthepeace and longshot Wake at Noon.
The play: $10 win and place on Disturbingthepeace. $25 win and place on Wake at Noon. $5 exacta box of Xtra Heat, Disturbingthepeace, and Wake at Noon.
FILLY & MARE TURF – Another tough task in handicapping, pitting a strong European cast, the top older North American-based filly in Golden Apples, 3-year-old upstarts Dublino and Riskaverse, and last year's winner Banks Hill. Kazzia and Turtle Bow were impressive in New York in the Flower Bowl, but Euros often don't fire after running a big first race in the States. On the other hand, some Euros run big after a less-than-stellar N.A. debut, a la Banks Hill in the Yellow Ribbon. This race is a real toss up.
The play: $20 win and place on Islington. $10 exacta box, Islington with Riskaverse. $10 exacta part-wheel, Islington over Golden Apples, Owsley, Banks Hill, Dublino.
JUVENILE – There are two stand outs here as I can see: undefeated Sky Mesa, winner of the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. II) and Vindication, ultra-impressive winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III). Trainer Bob Baffert's other runners aren't too shabby either, nor are the Aidan O'Brien 2-year-olds. Whywhywhy hasn't done anything wrong, either. Overall, one of the better Juveniles put together. What to do, what to do?
The play: $50 win on Vindication. $10 exacta box, Vindication and Sky Mesa. $10 exacta part-wheel of Vindication over Sky Mesa, Listen Indy, Tomahawk.
TURF – Clearly not the strongest Turf cast assembled in the history of the Breeders' Cup. I'm not overly impressed with any of the American runners. From the European contingent, it boils down to High Chaparral and Golan. I'll side with Aidan O'Brien.
The play: $40 win on High Chaparral. $15 exacta part-wheel: High Chapparal over Golan and Falcon Flight. $5 trifecta part-wheel: High Chapparal over Golan, Falcon Flight, and The Tin Man.
CLASSIC – What the Breeders' Cup is all about...top-level older horses, the cream of the 3-year-old crop, and spicy European intrigue. At this moment, I feel Evening Attire is the best older horse in training, so he's a must use. I also think Milwaukee Brew and Macho Uno can grab a piece at a price. War Emblem, if he gets his way, could be unable to be caught. Came Home is game as game can be, and Medaglia d'Oro leads in the Beyer Speed Figure department. I can't box them all?
The play: $5 trifecta part-wheel: War Emblem and Evening Attire over War Emblem and Evening Attire, over Medaglia d'Oro, Milwaukee Brew, Came Home, and Macho Uno ($40). $30 win and place on Evening Attire.
BONUS PLAYS -- With a generous $200 in bonus play money, let's have some fun.
In the Juvenile Fillies: $10 pick three part-wheel: Storm Flag Flying and Composure with Aldebaran with Wake at Noon.
In the Mile: $10 exacta box, Aldebaran and Good Journey. $10 exacta part-wheel, Aldebaran over Del Mar Show, Forbidden Apple, Touch of the Blues, and Rock of Gibraltar. $1 trifecta part-wheel Aldebaran over Forbidden Apple, Dressed to Thrill, and Beat Hollow.
$10 pick three part-wheel: Aldebaran with Wake at Noon in the Sprint with Riskaverse/Islington/Golden Apples/Owsley in the Filly and Mare Turf.
In the Juvenile: $2 pick three part-wheel: Vindication and Sky Mesa, with High Chaparral, with all.
In the Turf: $20 late double part-wheel of High Chaparral with War Emblem and Evening Attire.