Breeders' Cup Friday Previews
BREEDERS' CUP LADIES' CLASSIC (G1), 9TH-SA, $2,000,000, 3YO/UP, F/M, 1 1/8M, 7:30PM, 11-2
Friday's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic could help continue a trend that began three years ago. For the past few years, the male division has fallen apart later in the season while the distaffers continued going strong. The result? Racemares Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta and Havre de Grace taking racing's top honor -- Horse of the Year -- when it came time to hand out Eclipse Awards. Those three put together brilliant campaigns that shone all the brighter when compared to their male contemporaries.
This year could finally see the boys end the stranglehold the mares have placed on the Horse of the Year title. It could also see the fillies continue unabated if the Breeders' Cup Classic is won by a longshot and Royal Delta successfully defends her title in the Ladies' Classic.
1ST -- ROYAL DELTA was far and away the best in last year's Ladies' Classic, but the Empire Maker filly has some stiff competition this time around. Her main rival from 2011, It's Tricky, was forced to retire after injuring herself while readying for the Breeders' Cup, but Royal Delta will still be facing a pair of unbeaten runners in fellow Breeders' Cup winners My Miss Aurelia and Awesome Feather.
Royal Delta should be up to the challenge based on her last run. The Bill Mott miss romped by 9 1/2 lengths in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational, proving that her half-length loss to the re-opposing Love and Pride in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Invitational wasn't a sign of winding down for the year. Royal Delta has captured three of her six races this season, also taking the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap going 10 furlongs and the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at the Ladies' Classic distance of 1 1/8 miles.
The dark bay had a bit of a hiccup while traveling to California for the race, suffering a cut on her right rear hip, but Mott reported it's not been a problem and is already healing.
2ND -- While My Miss Aurelia and Awesome Feather both deserve consideration for the win, LOVE AND PRIDE could be the biggest threat to Royal Delta's repeat bid. The A.P. Indy four-year-old was a well-beaten fourth to her rival in the Del 'Cap, but has returned in good form since to take not only the Personal Ensign but the Grade 1 Zenyatta (formerly Lady's Secret), Santa Anita's local prep for the Ladies' Classic.
The Todd Pletcher trainee has captured half of her races this year, opening her 2012 campaign with a seven-length win in the Affectionately before going on later in the season to take the Grade 3 Obeah. That win, as well as the Personal Ensign and Zenyatta, saw the dark bay miss garner triple-digit BRIS Speed ratings, almost a requirement to fit into this field.
The front-running Love and Pride is listed at 8-1 on the morning line and will be tough to run down in the stretch.
3RD -- While unusual, MY MISS AURELIA and AWESOME FEATHER are both going in the third spot. The duo are unbeaten, racking up 16 wins and five Grade 1 victories between the two of them. My Miss Aurelia captured last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies en route to being named champion two-year-old filly, the same as 2010 Juvenile Fillies winner Awesome Feather, and both own just two starts this year due to injuries.
Tendon issues have plagued Awesome Feather, while My Miss Aurelia was sidelined with a shin injury not long after her Breeders' Cup run. Awesome Feather has yet to face graded company this year, just returning from an eight-month break to post an 11 1/4-length decision in the Nasty Storm on September 20, while My Miss Aurelia got her head in front of Questing to take the Grade 1 Cotillion last out to ready for this start.
Either one of these two talented fillies could find themselves with a second Breeders' Cup win on Friday.
OTHERS -- Nearly everyone in the Ladies' Classic field has a shot at the win. GRACE HALL boasts three graded scores this year, most recently taking the Grade 2 Indiana Oaks by 5 3/4 lengths, while fellow sophomore QUESTING is seeking a return to the winner's circle following her tough loss to My Miss Aurelia. Prior to that one, the Hard Spun miss romped in the Alabama and Coaching Club American Oaks, a pair of Grade 1s at Saratoga.
INCLUDE ME OUT captured the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational and Grade 2 La Canada at Santa Anita earlier in the year, and enters here off a third to Love and Pride in the Zenyatta. She also posted a neck victory in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar.
Grade 3 Ballerina winner CLASS INCLUDED may look out of her class against these following a career based at Hastings Park and Emerald Downs, but the veteran filly is 10-6-0 from 16 career starts and has been flying over Santa Anita's track in preparation for Friday. The powerful Include four-year-old has just as much chance as anyone else in this group.
BREEDERS' CUP FILLY & MARE TURF (G1), 8TH-SA, $2,000,000, 3YO/UP, F/M, 1 1/4MT, 6:48PM, 11-2
Although North American-based runners have won eight of 13 editions of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, European shippers have taken two out of three runnings here at Santa Anita, and the edge could lie with the internationals again.
1ST -- English shipper THE FUGUE has been aiming for this race for some time. As a 1 1/4-mile specialist who needs firmer ground to do her best, the John Gosden trainee will find Santa Anita's conditions ideal.
The Fugue has scored a pair of impressive victories this season. She smashed fellow three-year-old fillies in the Group 3 Musidora at York in May, and in August, she mowed down top older fillies and mares in the Group 1 Nassau at Glorious Goodwood.
Even her losses have been full of merit, along with legitimate excuses. Twice she has been beaten on account of rain-softened ground, when fourth in the Group 1 One Thousand Guineas and runner-up in the Group 2 Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot.
The Fugue was badly hampered in the Group 1 Oaks at Epsom, where she was lucky to stay on her feet and rallied for third. Last time out in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks on August 23, she was just worn down by Shareta (who takes on males in Saturday's Turf). The 1 1/2-mile trip at York played to Shareta's strengths, but the 1 1/4 miles of the Filly & Mare Turf will bring out the best in The Fugue.
Interestingly, The Fugue was sired by Dansili, who is himself a full brother to two past Filly & Mare Turf winners -- Banks Hill (2001) and Intercontinental (2005).
2ND -- MARKETING MIX comes off an utterly commanding victory in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive (formerly known as the Yellow Ribbon) over this course and distance on September 29.
It should be admitted that, historically, the Yellow Ribbon has been a negative key prep for the Filly & Mare Turf. Not a single Yellow Ribbon winner has gone on to win or even place in this race.
But Marketing Mix has the profile to buck that trend. One of the nation's better turf sophomores last year, the Tom Proctor filly has had a stellar 2012 campaign. She scored a pair of Grade 2 wins at Woodbine this summer, the Nassau and the Dance Smartly, before a near-miss second in the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington Park.
The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro was arguably unlucky in the Beverly D., since she had to wait for running room, and spotted I'm a Dreamer a tactical advantage that she could not overcome. Marketing Mix got a rider switch to Garrett Gomez for the Rodeo Drive, and he executed a well-timed move to engineer a convincing win. Gomez stays aboard for the Breeders' Cup and figures to carve out another perfect trip.
3RD -- ZAGORA has ranked as one of America's top performers in this division for the past two years. After beginning her career in her native France, she emigrated to join a rising star in the sport, Chad Brown, who learned his craft by working for the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel.
Zagora has displayed a tremendous closing kick in her stateside appearances. Two of her memorable victories have come at Saratoga -- her signature win in the Grade 1 Diana in 2011 and her course record-setting victory in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa two starts back.
Her usual razzle-dazzle was dampened somewhat by the yielding turf at Belmont in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational last time out on September 29, but she still ran arguably the best race. Moving perhaps too soon, especially at the 1 1/4-mile trip, Zagora opened up a daylight advantage, only to get caught in the final strides by Nahrain.
That prompts the question of whether Zagora is as effective at this longer distance. She has run very well in all four starts at 1 1/4 miles, but has won just once at the trip. Was Zagora run down late by Nahrain because she was reaching the upper end of her stamina, or did the rain-softened ground at Belmont sap her? Even if 10 furlongs stretches her a bit, the firm turf could help her to see it out.
Remember that the Flower Bowl has historically been the key prep, producing four winners of the Filly & Mare Turf. And two of those four had lost the Flower Bowl prior to winning the Filly & Mare Turf.
OTHERS -- That statistic also boosts the confidence of I'M A DREAMER, who was a sneakily-good fourth in the Flower Bowl. Off a step slow, the English invader later had to steady when the serious running started at the top of the stretch, yet she stayed on and was beaten a grand total of a length. A game competitor in strong company in Europe, she's eligible to revert to her Beverly D.-winning form.
The English filly NAHRAIN warrants plenty of respect, not only as the Flower Bowl winner, but also as a close runner-up in last year's Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs. She might have been a bit flattered by the rain-softened course at Belmont, however, and the addition of blinkers here just adds another variable.
The French-based RIDASIYNA, although a major talent, faces a similar examination. She comes off the biggest win of her fledgling career in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera on heavy ground at Longchamp, and it remains to be seen whether she can duplicate a similar performance on the much quicker turf in Southern California. Trainer Mikel Delzangles has also wondered how the Aga Khan homebred will handle international travel. Four-for-five so far, Ridasiyna became nervous prior to her only loss.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained UP has been on the upgrade since her sixth in the Beverly D. While she needs to take another sizeable step forward to pull the upset, she could add value to the exotics.
No American-based three-year-old filly has managed to win this race, a strike against IN LINGERIE and LADY OF SHAMROCK.
In Lingerie has never raced on turf before, and this is a tough spot for such a debut. The Todd Pletcher trainee does have a few things in her favor, though. As a daughter of Empire Maker, she figures to handle turf, and she is a perfect three-for-three on Polytrack, a synthetic surface that often plays kindly to turf horses. In Lingerie just defeated a solid group of older rivals in the Grade 1 Spinster, proving herself outside of her own age group. Moreover, she has the tactical speed to go to the front early in a race that lacks a dedicated front runner. Drawing post 12 could prompt her to take up that pacesetting role.
Lady of Shamrock, the Grade 1 American Oaks and Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks winner, reigns as the best three-year-old turf filly in California. She has yet to face the older generation, however, and she missed her intended prep in the Rodeo Drive because of a minor respiratory issue. As a result, Lady of Shamrock enters the biggest test of her career off a 2 1/2-month layoff, and not the way that trainer John Sadler envisioned it. But Lady of Shamrock boasts a three-for-three mark over this course, and can be competitive if she's sharp enough off works alone.
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE FILLIES (G1), 7TH-SA, $2,000,000, 2YO, F, 1 1/16M, 6:08PM, 11-2
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies has produced the champion juvenile filly in all 28 of its prior runnings. In 25 of those, the winner of the race was honored with an Eclipse Award while the other three saw the eventual champion finish in the top three.
This year's edition should prove no different except for two major differences: the ban of race-day Lasix in all Breeders' Cup juvenile races and the smallest field since 1995. But don't let the size of the field fool you, for what the race lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality.
1ST -- EXECUTIVEPRIVILEGE is one of three entrants in Friday's Juvenile Fillies who will be bringing an unbeaten record into the race. The past two years have seen just such a runner prevail, as both My Miss Aurelia and Awesome Feather kept their perfect records going with easy scores in the 1 1/16-mile contest. Executiveprivilege holds an advantage on those two in that she already boasts a win over track and distance.
The First Samurai filly has raced exclusively in California thus far for trainer Bob Baffert, racking up wins in the Landaluce at Hollywood Park, and Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante and Grade 3 Sorrento at Del Mar. Those all came on synthetic tracks, but Executiveprivilege proved just as adept on a conventional dirt surface last out in the Grade 1 Chandelier (formerly Oak Leaf) going 1 1/16 miles. The bay miss took command from the start and never faltered, pulling away for a 6 1/4-length triumph while stretching out past seven furlongs for the first.
The only knock against Executiveprivilege is that she wasn't facing anywhere near the caliber of runners she'll be competing against on Friday. However, despite her trainer's protestations to the contrary, the talented filly has the home field advantage at Santa Anita and could continue in the vein of My Miss Aurelia and Awesome Feather.
2ND -- BEHOLDER could be peaking at just the right time, as evidenced by her 11-length romp and field-best 110 BRIS Speed rating last out against allowance rivals at Santa Anita. Like Executiveprivilege, the daughter of Henny Hughes is based in California and scored that last win at Santa Anita.
The major concern with Beholder is that she's never gone beyond seven furlongs. Trainer Richard Mandella had her under consideration for the six-furlong Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint as well as this one before entering her here. The bay filly's one run at seven furlongs came in the Del Mar Debutante, where she set the pace before just being nipped by a nose on the wire by Executiveprivilege.
Beholder's last performance indicates she's improved, either by virtue of maturing or taking to the dirt surface at Santa Anita, and she could be ready for the challenge on Friday.
3RD -- KAUAI KATIE is another of the unbeaten runners competing in the Juvenile Fillies on Friday. The bay miss has won by easy margins in all three of her starts, suggesting that the stretch out here won't be an issue.
The Todd Pletcher-trained lass broke her maiden at Saratoga by 12 lengths in late July before returning during the Spa meeting to add a 2 3/4-length score in the Grade 2 Adirondack to her resume. That came under a hand ride from jockey Rosie Napravnik, who retains the mount for the Juvenile Fillies, and the pair teamed up last out to take the Grade 2 Matron at Belmont Park by 7 1/2 lengths, once again under a hand ride.
Kauai Katie may have distance and track questions, but the Malibu Moon filly's talent is undeniable and, perhaps, unbeatable.
OTHERS -- DREAMING OF JULIA will also be bringing a perfect record into Friday's race and, like Kauai Katie, has been based in New York thus far. The A.P. Indy miss captured her initial two outings, including the one-mile Meadow Star, by a combined 26 3/4 lengths, but just barely managed to eke out a head score over a lesser rival in the Grade 1 Frizette on October 6. She absolutely deserves to be on any ticket out there, but she could also be in need of a break and a good play against at 5-2.
SPRING IN THE AIR will be tough if she handles the dirt. The Mark Casse pupil raced exclusively at Woodbine before being shipped to Kentucky for the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland. A win in that 1 1/16-mile contest saw her earn an automatic berth into this race, and thus the Spring at Last bay traveled across country for a shot at the upset.
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE FILLIES TURF (G1), 6TH-SA, $1,000,000, 2YO, F, 1MT, 5:28PM, 11-2
With just four years in the books, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf doesn't have the historical panache of the more heralded World Championship events. That hasn't stopped the one-mile event from producing some notable winners and runners, though.
In the second edition, Tapitsfly rose up from just a stakes win to take the one-mile grass contest at 9-1. The gray miss has since gone on to score in the First Lady and Just a Game, both Grade 1 turf stakes at eight furlongs. One year later in the third running of the Juvenile Fillies Turf, More Than Real defeated heavily favored Winter Memories. While the winner would never be able to duplicate that effort, Winter Memories ended up adding six graded contests, including the Diana and Garden City, both Grade 1s, to her resume.
1ST -- This year's renewal of the Juvenile Fillies Turf has a number of runners who could go on to bigger and better things, but WATSDACHANCES has the talent to take this one while offering up some value.
The Irish-bred daughter of Diamond Green traveled from her native country to capture the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga for trainer Chad Brown while going 8 1/2 furlongs, and returned at that distance last out in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo to score by 2 1/4 lengths. She's proven herself quite capable of shipping and winning, as well as being proven at longer than the one-mile distance of the race.
Watsdachances has beaten others in this field before and has the ability to give Brown a second win in this race after he saddled inaugural conqueror Maram.
2ND -- FLASHY WAYS is moving up in class here, but the Catienus filly has been a nice winner in her past two to remain unbeaten. Trained by Richard Baltas, the chestnut filly broke her maiden against claiming rivals at Del Mar by 5 1/4 lengths, earning her a shot against better company last out.
That race turned out to be the Surfer Girl trying turf for the first time in Santa Anita's local prep for this contest. Flashy Ways easily passed that test with a 2 1/2-length victory and, with enough improvement, could factor at the finish here as well.
3RD -- SPRING VENTURE also brings a perfect mark into the Juvenile Fillies Turf off three nice wins at Woodbine. The Mark Casse trainee posted a 1 3/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Natalma going a mile on the Toronto track's turf and will enter here off a Polytrack win in the Grade 3 Mazarine.
The Spring at Last filly's numbers aren't exactly world beaters, but they're on par with others in this field. She seemed to really relish the firm going when breaking her maiden by 4 1/4 lengths, and should get those same conditions on Friday.
OTHERS -- SKY LANTERN is hard to ignore off her easy score in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud at the Curragh in early September. Only one European runner has managed to break into the top three of this race, but the Red Clubs filly could actually pull out the win for her overseas connections. She'll have to stretch out an extra furlong and deal with firm turf for the first time, but Sky Lantern could finally take the trophy to Europe.
MOONWALK, KITTEN'S POINT, SUMMER OF FUN and OSCAR PARTY were only separated by, in total, a neck on the wire of the Grade 3 Jessamine in their last race. Moonwalk upset the field at 36-1 and, while we don't expect her to mirror that result here, any one of these four could wind up in the top three.
Another with a shot to hit the board is NANCY O, who will be returning to the turf in this spot following an eased run in the Grade 1 Frizette over Belmont's dirt last out. The Pivotal miss was third to Spring Venture in the Natalma and could go off at a nice price on Friday.
BREEDERS' CUP MARATHON (G2), 5TH-SA, $500,000, 3YO/UP, 1 3/4M, 4:46PM, 11-2
The 14-horse Marathon is not an easy race to handicap. The broad spectrum of horses includes a classic-placed three-year-old; classy participants from Europe and Argentina; and long-distance specialists from all over the country. There appears to a legitimate amount of speed present in the 1 3/4-mile event, with Commander, Worth Repeating and perhaps another runner or two looking to establish forward-positioning during the early stages, and we will take a stab with Jaycito from just off the pace.
1ST -- JAYCITO raced sparingly after his Grade 1 victory in the 2010 Norfolk Stakes, making only two starts in 2011, and received time off after his first three races this year. But the four-year-old finally appears healthy for trainer Bob Baffert, making two starts at Del Mar, including a nice allowance tally, before an encouraging third in the one-mile Big Bear at Santa Anita 12 days ago. The one-mile distance was too short for the son of Victory Gallop and Jaycito wound up racing close to a solid pace before missing by less than a length.
That effort sharpens him up for the Marathon and we love that he's placed in all three attempts on Santa Anita's main track, including a pair of Grade 2 races. Jaycito should find this level of competition to his liking and possesses the endurance-based pedigree to handle the extended trip. His recent BRIS numbers are commendable (100 Speed last time) and the bay colt is well-drawn in post 5 with a returning Joe Talamo.
2ND -- NOT ABROAD enters off a sharp performance for trainer Michael Petro, registering a 107 BRIS Speed rating for his four-length score in the Maryland Millions Classic last out, and the Delaware Park-based runner finished a good second, beaten only a half-length by Redeemed (the big Marathon favorite before being retired with an injury), in the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup at 1 1/2 miles this summer. He owns the tactical speed for a perfect stalk-and-pounce trip and we like post 7 for the in-form horse.
3RD -- Argentine shipper CALIDOSCOPIO is intriguing. The nine-year-old veteran has captured two of his last three starts at an extended distance, including a Group 2 tally at 1 9/16 miles last out, and he is training steadily in California for his U.S. bow. The distance looks like a perfect fit for the dirt specialist and Calidoscopio can sit close to a slow pace if needed. He's a legitimate threat if able to transfer his South America form.
OTHERS -- WORTH REPEATING exits a big win at Fairplex Park going nine furlongs and won the Grade 3, 1 1/2-mile Tokyo Cup at Santa Anita last year, but he figures to be a little overbet from post 12. The six-year-old does his best running on or close to the pace and will likely be asked for run from a difficult outside post. We can't dismiss his top three chances given his recent form, but Worth Repeating figures to be overbet in this wide-open spot.
ELDAAFER, the 2010 Marathon winner at Churchill Downs, is also going well presently, posting a nice stakes win at Delaware Park prior to a respectable third in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup. We would like him better if drawn farther to the inside, but Eldaafer must break from post 10 and is unplaced in two previous starts at Santa Anita.
ATIGUN will look to rally into contention in the latter stages, and the classic-placed colt exits a fourth against much better company in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. The sophomore colt does not win much and offers little appeal as the morning-line favorite, but he could get a little pace to run at and prefers longer distance. We won't be surprised to see Atigun come charging late for a small share.
SENSE OF PURPOSE faces a tough task from post 13, but the Irish-based filly is bred for dirt and showed good form last year on firm ground. She's caught soggy conditions in three starts this year and the Dermot Weld trainee is a threat to show up with a strong performance that nets her part at long odds.
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE SPRINT, 4TH-SA, $500,000, 2YO, 6F, 4:06PM, 11-2
The second running of the Juvenile Sprint is the first Breeders' Cup race on Friday's program. There will be seven entries in this race and two of those are fillies. All eyes will be on this early race as the six American horses all made their last start on Lasix and will be running medication-free on Saturday.
1ST -- Bob Baffert, who won the first running of the Juvenile Sprint with Secret Circle, can win it again with SUPER NINETY NINE. The good-looking Pulpit colt exits an impressive debut maiden special weight win at seven furlongs over this track on October 7, and has recently posted a five furlong workout in :59 2/5. He should continue to improve off his maiden win and rates top billing from just off the pace.
2ND -- MERIT MAN leads the field on paper. Unbeaten in two starts for Bob Hess Jr., including a 5 1/2-length score in the local prep, the Tim Conway Stakes (formerly the Jack Goodman), the probable favorite will enter the race in strong form and must be considered very dangerous. However, we think he could get caught chasing speedball South Floyd, setting it up for our top choice.
3RD -- An interesting play in the race has to be SOUTH FLOYD, who is owned by the University of Louisville's basketball coach, Rick Pitino. The ultra-quick colt has shown high speed in both starts, winning his first race by four lengths before finishing second in the Tim Conway, and is trained by Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Doug O'Neill. Speed is dangerous at Santa Anita and South Floyd will attempt to clear early and steal the race.
OTHERS -- SWEET SHIRLEY MAE is one of the two fillies that will test the boys. She ran well when second in the Grade 1 Spinaway last time out, but missed a scheduled prep for the Breeders' Cup when she acted up terribly in the starting gate. CEILING THE KITTY is the lone European-filly entrant and a longshot to consider here if you think Lasix will play a factor.
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