Handicapping Insights


OCTOBER 12, 2012

by Dick Powell

Lots of prep races for the upcoming Breeders' Cup were run over the weekend so let's try to take a look at as many as we can.

In Paris, the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe was run at Longchamp on a turf course that was inundated with rain. Not only was the turf course extremely soft but it looked like the better horses all drew outside. These are conditions for an upset, but it was still hard to come up with the right longshot.

The betting favorite was Orfevre and the Japanese Triple Crown winner looked like he was finally going to deliver an Arc win for his country. Despite breaking from post 18, Christophe Soumillon produced him on the far outside with 300 meters to go. He swept to the lead and it looked like the race was over, but he drifted toward the rail and suddenly slowed down.

Olivier Peslier had Solemia up near the pace for the entire trip and they inherited the lead at the top of the stretch when the pacemakers backed out of it. When Orfevre flew by, it looked like the battle would be for second but suddenly Solemia was challenging him for the lead with less than 50 meters to go.

Orfevre's stride got extremely choppy racing up against the rail and even hit it at the finish. Solemia never accelerated but slowed down less than her rival as she hit the wire a neck in front, cruelly dashing Japan's hopes once again.

Owned by the Wertheimer brothers, just like Goldikova, she will now be pointed for the Breeders' Cup Turf where she will get a turf course that will be completely opposite of what she ran over last Sunday. Defending champion St. Nicholas Abbey should be back at Santa Anita after finishing up the track.

Camelot hated the going and wound up losing a shoe and was stepped on. After the race, trainer Aidan O'Brien said that he would be kept in training next year but there would be no Breeders' Cup.

For any of the horses that ran last Sunday in Paris that will go on to the Breeders' Cup, remember how soft the turf was that they raced over. For some, it might move them forward as they should have gotten a lot of conditioning out of it. Poor efforts can be excused but it's certainly not the way you want to get ready for your next race.

Belmont had a pair of juvenile stakes races last Saturday. The Grade 1 Frizette wound up with a field of four due to early and late scratches and the public sent off Dreaming of Julia as the 15 to 100 favorite after winning her first two races by 27 lengths. Another blowout win would have been nice, but we still would have the question of how she will respond if challenged.

My Happy Face broke her maiden by 21 lengths last out at Saratoga and she gunned to the front in the one-mile event. Ramon Dominguez sent her through a first half-mile in :46.19 and Johnny Velazquez was glued to her on the outside aboard Dreaming of Julia. They raced as a team around the far turn and there was no quit in either filly.

At one point turning for home, it looked like My Happy Face might actually pull away, but Dreaming of Julia relentlessly pursued her and finally put a head in front at the wire. Her final time of 1:37.10 for the mile was not that strong considering how fast the track was playing early in the day but it did answer any questions about how she would respond if she found herself in a dog fight.

The next race was the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes and it attracted a huge field of six starters with three of them trained by Todd Pletcher. The most accomplished was Shanghai Bobby who won the Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes going seven furlongs in his previous start.

Sent off as the 8/5 favorite, Shanghai Bobby chased the slow pace of :47.45 for the first half set by California shipper Goldencents. He applied constant pressure on the outside around the far turn and emerged with the lead turning for home. Despite drifting out in the lane, he widened his margin to five lengths at the finish and covered the last half-mile in 48 seconds flat.

Goldencents held on for second and Fortify, running without Lasix, was a non-threatening third. The big disappointment was Archwarrior  who was highly touted at Saratoga but could only finish fourth here.

After a day or two of uncertainty, Shanghai Bobby's connections announced that they would, in fact, go on to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile next out. Undefeated in four starts and a proven ability to relax early in his races, he now tries two turns for the first time while racing without Lasix.

Rosie Napravnik won the Champagne on Shanghai Bobby and 35 minutes later she won the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap aboard King David at 28-1. On a turf course that was probably softer than the official listing of "good," he tracked the early pace and made first run in the deep stretch to win by a half-length. The big shock was how bad Dullahan ran. Coming off his big win in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, he raced near the back of the field throughout and never made any impression. He'll go on to the Breeders' Cup but who knows what race it will be.

Santa Anita had the Grade 2 Arroyo Seco Stakes at a mile on the turf and the favorite, Obviously, dominated on the front end with Joe Talamo to go gate to wire in 1:31.95. You better have your running shoes on if you plan on challenging this guy on the front end.

The Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes was held later on the card and Bob Baffert ran one-two with neither horse taking much money. Coil took over in the deep stretch at 7.60-to-1 and held off Capital Acoount by a head to complete the Baffert sweep. Baffert could be sitting on a Mandella-like Breeders' Cup considering how strong he is in the dirt races. Defending Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Amazombie finished fourth and seems to be heading in the wrong direction.

Keeneland opened up last Friday with the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes for juvenile fillies going two turns on the Polytrack. Springintheair raced extremely wide around both turns and got up in time to win by a length as the lukewarm 4.30-to-1 favorite.

On Saturday, the juvenile boys were in action in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity and Joha went to the front and never looked back in the field of 13 and pulled off a mile upset at 8.70-to-1. He showed brilliant early speed on the turf at Saratoga and now all he has to do is show it on Santa Anita's speed-favoring dirt track. There were lots of bad trips behind him with Java's War, Hightail  and Charming Kitten taking the worst of it.

Bridgetown ran down a very game Great Mills to win the Grade 3 Woodford Stakes going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. Chamberlain Bridge, who won this race four years ago and the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint two years ago, checked in third while racing wide.

Groupie Doll got a perfect prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint when she dominated the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes by six lengths in fast time while relaxing off the early pace. Considering how well she ran on the rock-hard track on Derby Day, she should have no trouble adapting to Santa Anita's main track.

Tapitsfly was a sharp winner of the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes going a mile on the turf when she rallied past the early pacesetter to win by a half-length. It was another Grade 1 stakes win for Dale Romans who will have to decide which race to enter her in at Santa Anita.

On Sunday, Pletcher's In Lingerie was an emphatic winner of the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes going nine furlongs on the Polytrack as the 5-2 favorite. Coupled with Pletcher's Love and Pride, who not only upset the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga but the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita last out, Pletcher looks loaded in a division that is not one of his strong points.