Mike Battaglia Handicapper
Thursday November 2, 2006
Talkin' Breeders' Cup 2006
Breeders' Cup 23 represents the "local boy makes good and comes home" theme for America's Odds-maker Mike Battaglia as the Edgewood, Ky. resident sets the morning line for this year's eight-race extravaganza to be run at Churchill Downs next Saturday.
Battaglia - who's been a fixture on the Kentucky racing circuit for over 25 years and is nationally-known from his years as on-air talent for the Breeders' Cup telecasts on NBC - was formerly track announcer at Churchill Downs and called 19 consecutive runnings of the Kentucky Derby, starting with the Affirmed-Alydar rivalry in 1978.
Currently, Mike serves as handicapper and race caller at Turfway Park, as well as the host of the "Churchill Downs Racing Review" and has graciously volunteered to take your questions about this year's Breeders' Cup the day after the post position draw and setting of the morning line for this year's edition of racing big day.
Again, we apologize for the delay. I'm sure we all appreciate Mike dropping by to answer your questions at such a busy time of the Thoroughbred year, so let's get right into it.
What is your take on the Polytrack and preps over it vs. Churchill Downs?
Battaglia: My take is that the horse running at Keeneland and Turfway will probably run better at Churchill. Over last five years, Keeneland has had such a speed bias, you think you will see much truer form. I think the Keeneland horses will run much better than ever before at Churchill.
Mike, I enjoy your race calls. I would like your opinion on two races and if you like any prices in them -- the Mile and the Distaff.
Battaglia: You have to like a price horse in the Mile. The Mile is so wide open it looks like you have to take at least five horses in the Mile. I like Gorella, and Echo of Light is an interesting and very live horse. I think Badge of Silver is very live. The more I look at the race, Badge of Silver might be the lone speed. You’ve got to use Aragorn and Aarafa. Two price horses could be Badge of Silver and Echo of Light.
The Distaff looks like a more formful race. Fleet Indian is coming off eight straight wins, so it’s hard to knock her. All the horse I like are short prices, except Asi Siempre, not that I think she can win, but I will put her underneath in my exotics because she is doing so good right now.
With an increasing number of venues turning to the synthetic surfaces, do you envisage the Breeders’ Cup being staged outside North America?
Battaglia: I can’t see the Breeders’ Cup going to Europe unless there is a change in surfaces at the tracks in Europe. I can’t see it going to all turf races.
Closers have dominated the Sprint during the first first runnings at Churchill. What two runners do you like best if that should happen Saturday?
Battaglia: I think Pomeroy has the ability to come from off the pace. Kelly’s Landing loves Churchill. If Bejarano can get a good trip down along the inside, he will be tough. If I were looking for deep closers, it would be Kelly’s Landing or Siren Lure.
Good try on Student Council pick last weekend -- almost. Anyway, what are angles or facts CD track will help any of these horses running dirt/turf? Is it a horse for course track? Thank you.
Battaglia: I think it is very beneficial to have a race over the track. Horses that like Churchill usually run well again. But don’t think it is a necessity.
I think, if there is any chink in Bernardini’s armor, it may be that he has never raced here and, as far as I know, has never trained here. That might be a reason to throw Giacomo underneath. He is one-for-one at Churchill. He has been trying to close over the speed favoring tracks in southern California and will like the return to Churchill, and he is going to a huge price.
Can Bernardini be beaten and who would be the upsetter in your eyes? He is only a 3-year-old and never gotten the acid test. Great for you to stop by Mike.
Battaglia: This will be an acid test, but Bernardini just looks like a super horse. He blew me away with his Preakness. Of course, it is terrible what happened to Barbaro in that race, and it would have been great to see a rivalry between those two. I thought he would bounce off the Withers, but he just keeps moving forward. He has won over five different race courses.
If he does get beat, it will be because has never raced at Churchill. I would love to have a horse like Lava Man, but I don’t think he will run well outside California. I don’t know who I would pick to Bernardini. Perfect Drift, I think, will run a good race, but I don’t think he will win.
I will be keying Bernardini in my Pick 6 and Pick 3s.
New York, NY:
Hello, Do you have any mortal locks or singles in the Pick 6 and Pick 4? Any pointers on making the right wager on this types would be appreciated by all. Thanks again.
Battaglia: I will probably single Bernardini and Ouija Board on one ticket. Those are my top 2. I might take a small ticket and single Gorella in a Pick 3. I couldn’t knock anyone who would single Feet Indian.
Great for you to stop by Mike, I find from a lot of people and year after year the Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile are the hardest to pick winners b/c we know so little, what angles can we use to pick the best for those races. Thanks.
Battaglia: They are especially tough since you have 2-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles and going around two turns for the first time. I like to look for horses with races around two turns.
I was impressed with Bel Air Beauty in the Alcibiades. She’s had two races, both around two turns…Her race in the Alcibiades was a great race. The races around two turns is an angle that helps. I see plenty of speed in the Juvenile Fillies.
I think Dreaming of Anna’s only chance is to get the lead on the front end. After get past those two, I like Cash Included and Her Majesty, who is a horse that has a lot of upside. It is just so tough. Octave could also run well. In the Juvenile, Circular Quay is a horse who loves Churchill Downs. People are going to be jumping off him after his first loss at Keeneland. I think the race was a good learning experience for him. I think he is going to a handful at Churchill but other horses can beat him. If you look at the speed angle you have to like Pegasus Wind. He is bred for two turns. If he makes t he lead and nobody runs with him, he could be dangerous.
Is this really a David vs. Goliath with Lava Man and Bernardini? Is it possible that Lava Man gives only what is needed and that, when he looks Bernardini in the eye, his heart could will him past for the win?
Battaglia: Anything is possible, but I don’t see this as a showdown between Lava Man and Bernardini. This is a “Can anybody beat Bernardini” scenario, with Lava Man being one of those. I don’t put these other horses in the same category with Bernardini. He looks like he could be a special horse. Lava Man is a heck of a horse but he has never run well outside California and he has a lot of questions to answer. I see this as a Goliath versus the rest of the field.
Spring Lake, NJ:
In the Classic, can you throw six horses out of the exotics?
Battaglia: I start by throwing both Europeans out because they are too much of a question mark and they will not be as high of prices as other horses in there who have proven themselves on dirt. It would probably be Flower Alley for my third toss, followed by Brother Derek for four and Lawyer Ron would be five.
As you have been a fixture of Kentucky racing for 25 years, I was wondering if you had any insight into why such a world renowned racetrack like Keeneland has never hosted the Breeders' Cup.
Battaglia: Number one is that you couldn’t get enough people in Keeneland and it is hard to get in and out. When you have 25,000 at Keeneland, you cant move when you have a track like Churchill that can handle 60,000 to 70,000 with no problem, when you consider Kentucky you have to choose Churchill.
Logistically, it would be a very hard thing to do. I am sure it would be a great day, and no matter how seats you had put it at Keeneland, it would fill the place up.
I think Bernardini is vulnerable in the Classic. Everyone will be gunning for him. What do you think of Sun King's chances, even from the outside post?
Battaglia: Nick Zito knows how to get a horse ready for a big race. He looks to be a cut below these, but he is going to be a price. I sure would not throw him out of the gimmicks.
Zito had a bad meet at Keeneland, he did not have a win. I would expect his horses to turn it around at Churchill. I would be surprised to see him win but not surprised to see him run well.
Daytona Beach, FL:
What's your take on the male Turf race?? Are Cacique and English Channel good enough to beat the Euros?
Battaglia: My take on the Turf is I made Hurricane Run the favorite, but I think he is beatable. At this time last year, I think he was best horse in the world. On class, he is definitely the best horse in the race. I think the Turf is wide open. He is making his third start in a month and he’s been losing. This is not like Andre Fabre. I think they are pressing.
Thanks, Mike. And good luck to all!
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