BREEDERS' CUP FEATURE
OCTOBER 25, 2012
Observations after Pre-Entries
by James Scully
Classic option for Royal Delta: The Risk/Reward barometer favors the Classic for Royal Delta, who is listed with the Ladies' Classic as her first preference.
The Classic makes sense for several reasons. First and foremost, Royal Delta is good enough to win the Classic at a distance that benefits her (two for two at 1 1/4 miles on dirt). She will invade Santa Anita in career-best form, recording a smashing 9 1/2-length victory in the Grade 1 Beldame Stakes last out, and can stamp herself as a top Horse of the Year contender with a Classic victory.
A Ladies' Classic bid essentially takes her out of the Horse of the Year discussion. Even worse, a loss to Love and Pride, Awesome Feather or Include Me Out could cost her champion older female honors.
Royal Delta locks up the divisional Eclipse Award with a good showing in the Classic (top-three finish). And that's very possible considering the quality of this year's field; Game on Dude is the main rival for her connections to worry about. Royal Delta will be the second choice in the Classic wagering if she runs.
There is not much to prove in a Ladies' Classic title defense.
The Ladies' Classic features a deeper field, at a 1 1/8-mile distance that helps Royal Delta's challengers, and is the more risky option. The main Classic drawback is entry fees; those are covered for the Ladies' Classic by virtue of her Beldame win.
Euro factor: European-based horses won 11 of 28 races at Santa Anita during the Pro-Ride era in '08 and '09, and must be considered dangerous in any turf race, accounting for six of the last seven editions of the 1 1/2-mile Turf. They will be well-represented once again this year.
Twenty-nine internationals raiders were pre-entered in a total of eight Breeders' Cup races, including seven in the Juvenile Turf.
It will be exciting to see if American turf stars Wise Dan and Point of Entry can hold their own against strong Euro-based rivals in the Mile and Turf, respectively.
Watch for hot trainer: California-based trainers dominated the '93 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, capturing five of seven races, including a pair by Richard Mandella, and the Hall of Fame trainer turned in a magical performance during the next visit to Santa Anita, saddling an amazing four winners in '03.
Bob Baffert possesses the deep roster necessary for a Mandella-type run this year. The Hall of Famer is loaded, with likely heavy favorites in Game on Dude (Classic) and Executiveprivilege (Juvenile Fillies) as well as top contenders Power Broker (Juvenile), Coil (Sprint) and Contested (Filly & Mare Sprint). And Baffert can't be counted out of consideration with Fed Biz (Dirt Mile), Capital Account (Sprint), Title Contender (Juvenile) and Super Ninety Nine (Juvenile Sprint).
Baffert doesn't need the motivation to excel, but he will be seeking at least a measure of redemption after a winless performance during the last Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita ('09).
Speed factor: Speed proved golden during Santa Anita's opening weekend, with all seven dirt races on the first Saturday (September 29) being won by horses on or close to the front end, and it's continued to play well through October.
Expect a speed-friendly dirt track on both Breeders' Cup days.
New York traveling woes: California-based horses win Breeders' Cup races at every venue, regardless of state or country (Canada), but New York horses perform dismally when shipping to Santa Anita.
In five previous Breeders' Cups at Santa Anita ('86, '93, '03, '08 and'09), only four of 51 race winners were based in New York. Five Midwestern-based horses won races in the last two editions at Santa Anita, so there is no valid reason for such disastrous results from New York shippers.
New York horses were shut out in '03 and '09 at Santa Anita. The Chad Brown-trained Maram, an 11-1 longshot in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, was the only New York-based winner in '08. Grass star Lure carried the mantle for the Empire State in '93, and one has to go back 16 years to find Manila and Smile in '86.
The possibility remains for a turnaround, but I wouldn't recommend betting a lot of New York-based horses in this year's Breeders' Cup.