BREEDERS' CUP FEATURE

OCTOBER 27, 2012

Potential Price Plays

by John Mucciolo

With the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships nearly upon us, we will focus on some potential price horses that could run big at Santa Anita this year. As we have seen on numerous occasions in the past, winning the last prep race is not a prerequisite for success, which played out as recently last year with nine of the 15 winners having failed to score their final start before the Breeders' Cup. Here are some that we feel could help spike the mutuels.

Classic:

Ron the Greek won his only prior race on this oval, the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap in the spring, and while his latest run didn't do much to instill confidence when sixth, he was racing against a speed bias at Belmont in the deep Jockey Club Gold Cup. Expect him to be primed for this engagement by Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott, who is as good as any in getting a horse ready for Breeders' Cup Day, and the late-running son of Full Mandate will attempt to make up a ton of ground as he rarely shows much early speed. In a race lacking a superstar, we will include Ron the Greek on every ticket at a number. His last-out BRIS Speed figure of 104 last time wasn't bad, either. A win here could clinch Horse of the Year honors for the Florida-bred.

Turf:

Trailblazer, a multiple Grade 2 winner in Japan, rallied well to be just a half-length shy at a one-mile trip that is clearly short of his best last time, finishing behind a splendid winner in his U. S. debut, and the son of Zenno Rob Roy will go 12 panels on the same turf course off that fine mile performance. Classy sort won graded race in Tokyo at 1 1/2 miles and was given plenty of time to acclimate to his new conditions, shipping stateside in September. If the five-year-old avoids the "Euro Bounce," so to speak, he figures to be a prominent figure in the stretch with Yutaka Take, a jockey with plenty of experience at this venue.

Mile:

Little Mike proved his class with a pair of Grade 1 wins this year, at nine and 10 panels, but we've always thought the Dale Romans trainee seemed perfectly suited for a mile. The Arlington Million hero will likely have to press the pace today as we don't see him getting the lead in here on Obviously, but that could be a blessing for a horse who should be fit cutting back in distance. We'll toss his last over a yielding bog at Belmont most recently, and his bullet drill on this turf course gives us the impression he's ready for a big run. We're not convinced that he must have the early lead to win.

Sprint:

Poseidon's Warrior shocked most everyone when taking the Alfred G. Vanderbilt two races back at Saratoga at 36-1, but proved to us that his conquer was no fluke when a solid third in the Vosburgh after dueling on the lead until late for conditioner Robert Reid. The son of Speightstown is fast and sports a nice closing rush, and we think he had a dream prep race for this; the four-year-old should have plenty left in the tank for this run. Expect the Maryland-bred to be forgotten in the wagering and something close to 20-1 in a very solid and well-matched field. While the California contingent is often difficult to upend in the sprint, especially on their home soil, Poseidon's Warrior has top three written all over him. He'll be one of our big plays over the weekend.

We're not sure what kind of price defending champ Amazombie will be in here, but the son of Northern Afleet ran a race that should have him fully fit in hopes of defending his title. The underrated champion made a nice move into the lane before flattening out late in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship most recently, a race that tells us he was not fully cranked for the encounter. The Bill Spawr trainee is a model of consistency and excellence, and he could be an overlay here. The six-year-old had won his previous four tries on the Santa Anita dirt oval prior to his latest venture.

Juvenile:

Capo Bastone was only third in the FrontRunner on this oval in preparing for this, registering an average 90 BRIS Speed figure, but the John Sadler trainee made up a lot of ground and passed numerous horses on an oval that was surely favoring speed on that day. The talented youngster proved that he can handle two turns and owns plenty of room for improvement from just three starts to date. We're not sure if he's good enough to win this, but if the speed backs up late, Capo Bastone should be rolling home. And it's worth noting that the pair that finished in front of him in the FrontRunner will be among the top betting choices in the Juvenile, too.

Title Contender is not as ballyhooed as other contenders that trainer Bob Baffert will send out over this two-day stretch, but the powerful maiden winner could just be scratching the surface of his ability. The well-bred sort handled the move to the dirt in his second lifetime outing with ease, beating a nice rival in the process, and we love that Bob Baffert has the confidence to test him in this spot off a maiden win, bolstering our opinion of the colt. The $310,000 purchase will be taking a big step up in class, but if Baffert likes him, so do we.

Juvenile Fillies:

Alcibiades heroine Spring in the Air has done little wrong from four lifetime races, and could be a flier worth playing in here for conditioner Mark Casse. The talented daughter of young sire Spring at Last made a huge move at Keeneland last time in a visually impressive performance, and while she has yet to run on dirt and is facing some superb animals, the bay miss posted a solid dirt move at Churchill recently and would benefit greatly if a pace duel occurs in this affair. This race often produces chalky results, but the improving Ontario-bred is top-three material.

Turf Sprint:

Mizdirection was the top female turf sprinter on the grounds in the winter and into early spring and though unraced since May, the classy daughter of Mizzen Mast could run big while fresh if conservative conditioner Mike Puype takes a stab in this affair. The gray four-year-old has run well fresh in the past, and was a dominant winner in both tries on this unique course over top fields. We like the homecourt advantage for this lass, who hasn't missed a beat in the mornings since late August, and the price should be very good.

Filly and Mare Sprint:

Turbulent Descent finished only fourth in her final prep event at Belmont Park last out, but the multiple Grade 1 heroine has a ton of ability and was favored in this race just a year ago, against an arguably tougher field. Now back on her "home" surface in Southern California, the daughter of Congrats has been working superbly leading up to this and should make a lot of noise for Todd Pletcher. She's a Grade 1 winner at Santa Anita at this distance.

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