September 27, 2013
By Anthony Stabile
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Breeders’ Cup Countdown
Welcome to Stabile’s Breeders’ Cup Countdown. In the weeks leading up to the 30th annual Breeders’ Cup, to be held this year Friday, November 1st and Saturday, November 2nd at Santa Anita in Arcadia, CA. VegasInsider.com handicapper Anthony “the Big A” Stabile will cover the major prep races in almost every Breeders’ Cup division, culminating with his annual Breeders’ Cup Breakdowns, an extensive look at the contenders in each event, talk about how the race should set-up and provide some strategies on how to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to betting on the race in the week leading up to the event.. If you want to know what “the Big A” will be betting on both Breeders’ Cup days, make sure to check back on Friday and Saturday to purchase Stabile’s Breeders’ Cup Picks and Plays of the Day, a look at how he’ll wager on each and every race, available EXCLUSIVELY at VegasInsider.com.
The biggest prep day for the 30th annual Breeders’ Cup is upon us!! It’s Super Saturday at Belmont and there is a fantastic card at Santa Anita. Let’s jump right into the fray and start with three races that figure to seriously impact this years’ running of the B.C. Classic.
The highlight of Super Saturday at Belmont is the 95th running of the $1 million G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup going 1 ¼ miles on the dirt. In the previous 94 years, the only horse to win more than two runnings of the historic event is the great Kelso, who won FIVE in a row from 1960-1964. Flat Out will look to join him with a victory on Saturday having won the last two renewals.
Overall at Belmont, Flat Out has been nothing short of remarkable. From six starts, he’s won five times and his lone defeat came in the G1 Met Mile earlier this year, a race in which he was almost knocked down on the far turn while attempting to run into the same spot as his rival Handsome Mike. He still managed to finish third that day, a testament to his durability at the ripe old age of 7 and his love for the course.
Earlier this year, Flat Out gutted out a head win in the Westchester over Cross Traffic going a mile, where Cross Traffic was the beneficiary of a speed biased race track and small field. Last out, Flat Out couldn’t overcome the sloppy sealed course at Saratoga when he fell a head short of gunning down Alpha in the G1 Woodward. Junior Alvarado rides for Bill Mott.
Speaking of Cross Traffic and Alpha, both figure to be forwardly paced again, ensuring a quick pace in the JCGC. After a pair of heartbreaking defeats in the Westchester and Met Mile where he was run down in the very last strides, Cross Traffic finally finished the job in the G1 Whitney at Saratoga last out, going gate-to-wire in his first start past one mile and around two turns.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Cross Traffic was originally scheduled to run back in the Woodward but it was decided that awaiting this spot was the more prudent move with an eye towards the first weekend in November. John Velazquez has the mount.
Alpha comes into this having to prove he’s not a Saratoga “horse-for-the-course” as his two biggest wins, the Woodward and his dead heat score in the G1 Travers last season have come up at the Old Spa. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin added blinkers last out and Alpha responded with a gutsy gate-to-wire score. With Velazquez on Cross Traffic, McLaughlin has named Joe Bravo to ride Alpha.
G1 Kentucky Derby winner Orb and G1 Belmont winner Palace Malice will renew their rivalry in the JCGC and will both be taking on older horses for the first time. Winless in three starts since the Derby, Orb made a huge middle move in the G1 Travers last out and actually turned for home with his head in front but couldn’t sustain his drive off of the 11 week layoff and settled for third, beaten less than a length.
Like he did between his third place finishes in the Belmont and Travers, Orb has done the bulk of his training at the bucolic Fair Hill training facility in the mid-Atlantic region and has relished the lifestyle there. Trainer Shug McGaughey has reached out for Belmont’s leading rider Javier Castellano to ride.
Palace Malice returns to the scene of his biggest score and has actually run a pair of faster races since his upset in the “Test of the Champion.” He won the Jim Dandy from just off the pace two starts back before stumbling at the start and racing widest of all in the Travers where he settles for a tough trip fourth under regular rider Mike Smith for Pletcher. Perhaps Palace Malice will benefit the most from a sharp early pace as he figures to have first crack at the leaders from his usual stalking position, for Pletcher, who’ll also send out minor Spa stakes winner Vitoria Olimpica in here with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the saddle.
They don’t get more consistent than Last Gunfighter, as evident by the fact that he hasn’t missed the board in his 12 career starts. In fact, in his eight starts for trainer Chad Brown, Last Gunfighter has won seven times from eight starts, including victories in the G3 Excelsior, Pimlico Special and Iselin, with his lone blemish coming in the G2 Suburban which was won by Flat Out. Rajiv Maragh rides.
In wrapping up the JCGC, you know a race is contentious when multiple G1 stakes winner Ron the Greek figures to be one of the longest shots in the field. After starting the year with a win in the slop in the Sunshine Millions Classic, Ron the Greek is winless in five starts. It sure seems like he’s lost a step but on his best day could light up the tote board in here. Jose Lezcano rides for Mott.
The feel-good story of the year will look to get back on track as Paynter returns from a disastrous trip to Saratoga to lead a field of ten in the G1 Awesome Again going 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita.
For those of you not familiar with the story, Paynter almost died after a rousing score in the G1 Haskell at Monmouth last year, returning in June from an over 10 month layoff to easily take a money allowance contest at Hollywood. After missing by just a half-length in the G2 San Diego at Del Mar, Paynter caught a sloppy track and broke awkwardly before finishing last of five in the Woodward just four weeks ago. Trainer Bob Baffert will reunite Martin Garcia with Paynter for this spot. Baffert will also send out multiple stakes winner Liaison and the lightly raced but talented Take Control.
Mucho Macho Man ran arguably the best race of his life when second in the B.C. Classic last year and one would have to think trainer Kathy Ritvo hopes a return to the surface will get him back on track. Winless since the G2 Suburban in July 2012, Mucho Macho Man has raced just three times this season. It started abysmally when he was eased in the slop at Gulfstream in the Sunshine Millions Classic, a race he won easily in 2012. He returned in a minor stakes some five months later at Belmont and was never much more than an early pace factor before settling for third as the 3-5 favorite.
In the Whitney last out, Mucho Macho Man showed signs of life. In contention until mid-stretch, Mucho Macho Man angled out for the drive but had little left in the lane, eventually finishing third. Gary Stevens will ride for the first time.
Golden Ticket, the other half of the 2012 Travers dead heat and Jeranimo, a G1 winner who’ll be racing over conventional dirt for the first time as a seven-year-old with 36 races under his belt, rate upset chances in the field.
It’s rare that the defending B.C. Classic winner is in the third most important prep of the weekend for this years’ renewal but that the case here as Fort Larned will take on just five others in the aforementioned Homecoming Classic on Saturday night.
To say it’s been a rollercoaster season for Fort Larned would be an understatement. First he stumbled at the start of the G2 Gulfstream Park Handicap and unseated regular rider B.J. Hernandez, Jr. then ran a lackluster fifth in the G2 Oaklawn Park Handicap five week later as the 1-2 favorite.
Then, on a night favoring speed in a big way, Fort Larned got loose on the lead in the G1 Stephen Foster at Churchill, making every pole a winning one, romping home by over six lengths. While visually impressive it obviously was not a sign that Fort Larned was back to last years’ form as he threw in another bad one when fifth in the G1 Whitney at Saratoga last out. In my opinion, trainer Ian Wilkes is just trying to get him back to the Cup in one piece, as evident by ducking the big boys and running in a race where not one of his five rivals is even worth mentioning by name.
Unlike the Homecoming Classic, a case could be made for almost every horse running in the G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont at 1 ½ miles on the turf, a race that should have serious B.C. Turf implications.
I’d be stunned if the Mike Maker trained Joe’s Blazing Aaron win’s this but so would his connections as it would appear that he’s in to serve as nothing more than a pace maker for his two more accomplished entrymates, Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution. All three are owned by Ken Ramsey.
Big Blue Kitten will be looking for his third straight G1 having captured the United Nations at Monmouth and Sword Dancer at Saratoga in his last pair with similar last-to-first stretch rallies under Joe Bravo. Real Solution has shown improvement in all three starts this year, his first season in the U.S. and rallied from far back to win the G1 Arlington Million via disqualification last out under Alan Garcia. Both of these are trained by Chad Brown.
Trainer Shug McGaughey has entered both Imagining and Boisterous but only one will run as John Velazquez has been named to ride both. The more accomplished of the two, Boisterous nailed down an elusive G1 win in the Manhattan earlier this year over a course labeled good. In fact, Boisterous has done a bulk of his best work over courses with some give to them, which leads be to believe he’ll scratch and make way for his up and coming stablemate Imagining.
Imagining’s career could best be described as ho-hum up until his last start. He did finish second in the 2011 G1 Hollywood Derby but has had little other stakes success. Then, Shug added blinkers last out and Imagining was sharper than he’s ever been taking a minor stakes at Saratoga by 5 ¼ lengths.
Defending B.C. Turf champ Little Mike hasn’t come close in four starts since his upset Cup score last season. A failed trip to Dubai, a no-excuse fourth in the United Nations and a bad fade in the Arlington Million last out has to have trainer Dale Romans scratching his head. Mike Smith will ride Little Mike for the first time.
Twilight Eclipse always seems to grab a big piece of the pie but can’t seem to win the big one for trainer Tom Albertrani and his rider Javier Castellano. He had the lead in deep stretch of the Sword Dancer last out after getting gunned down by Boisterous two starts back. Earlier this year he did take the G2 Pan American at Gulfstream.
Slumber tries the big boys for trainer Bill Mott coming off a pair of awesome allowance scores at the Spa that came over a year apart. Two for two on Lasix, Slumber should relish the added distance of the Joe Hirsch under regular rider Junior Alvarado.
King Kreesa will try to stretch his abundant speed having never raced past 1 1/8 miles in his career for trainer Jeremiah Englehart. King Kreesa won the G3 Poker two back before running a game second to reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the G2 Fourstardave last out at Saratoga. Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the mount.
Nutello didn’t have the greatest of trips last out in his U.S. debut when third in the Sword Dancer and adds Lasix for trainer Graham Motion. Jose Lezcano has the call and a victory is well within reach should he improve off of his last effort.
In what should be billed as a regal showdown, two-time Eclipse winner Royal Delta will take on this years’ probable Three-Year-Old Filly champ Princess of Sylmar in the G1 Beldame going 1 1/8 miles at Belmont.
This will be the third consecutive Beldame for Royal Delta. She finished second to eventual Horse of the Year in the 2011 running before taking the B.C. Ladies Classic as a three-year-old then won it in brilliant fashion last season on her way to another Cup score.
In fact, her entire five-year-old season this year is scheduled to consist of the same seven races that made up last years. Included in both years were terrible efforts in Dubai when she tried the boys in the G1 World Cup but that hasn’t stopped her connections from leaving the Classic door ajar, though it’s far more likely she’ll defend her title against the gals in the B.C. Distaff.
One thing that is different this year is that Royal Delta has raced without Lasix in her last two starts and the results have been simply magnificent. Both the G1 Delaware Handicap and G1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga last out have been little more than paid workouts as she was victorious by a combined 15 lengths in her last pair Regular rider Mike Smith has the call.
In contrast to Royal Delta, who has pretty much dominated her division for the better part of the past two seasons, Princess of Sylmar is essentially a new kid on the block. An unraced maiden less than a year ago, she is now a multiple graded stakes winning millionaire.
After winning a pair of minor stakes at Aqueduct to start the year, Princess of Sylmar couldn’t catch Close Hatches when that one got loose on the lead in the G2 Gazelle but managed to run them all down at 38-1 in the G1 Kentucky Oaks where she benefitted from a solid early pace. After a brief layoff, she returned to capture to the two big races of the summer for her division, the G1 CCA Oaks and G1 Alabama, in her last two starts for Pletcher with Javier Castellano in the saddle.
Originally, the plan was to put Princess of Sylmar away after her Alabama score as she had already run six times this year and isn’t Breeders’ Cup nominated but her connections have decided to try and topple the queen in here.
Centring has hit the board in all five of her starts over the course. She’s finished behind Royal Delta in her last pair and figures to be here for trainer Tom Albertrani to pick up a small piece of the pie and some more black type again. Rajiv Maragh rides.
Lady Cohiba, winner of the off-the-turf Glen Falls at Saratoga last out and longshots And Why Not and Roman Invader complete the field.
Top three-year-old filly Beholder will tackle her elders for the first time when seven fillies and mares go post ward in the G1 Zenyatta going 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita. In nine starts since she finished fourth in her debut, Beholder has never finished out of the exacta, winning six of her starts, usually in impressive fashion.
After concluding her juvenile season with a front running score in the B.C Juv. Fillies, Beholder narrowly missed in her seasonal debut sprinting before winning both the G1 Las Virgenes and G1 Santa Anita Oaks over the course. She contested the pace each and every step of the way in the G1 Kentucky Oaks and was the last gal standing before getting run down by Princess of Sylmar in deep, deep stretch.
Trainer Dick Mandella gave Beholder a good portion of the summer off before bringing her back in a minor stakes at Del Mar which she won easily while being ridden by Gary Stevens for the first time.
Pletcher, perhaps still humbled by how easily Royal Delta handled her last out, has decided to send Authenticity out to Santa Anita for this, possibly with the thought of getting her a race over the track as well.
Authenticity is having a solid, if not spectacular season, especially considering she hadn’t run in a year and a half coming into 2013. She’s won the G2 La Troienne and G3 Shuvee and has finished second in both the Ogden Phipps and Personal Ensign. Martin Garcia rides for the first time.
Joyful Victory, second in this event last season, could put a crimp in Beholder’s front running plans as she does her best running on the lead. Three for four this year, Joyful Victory wired the G1 Santa Margarita over this course back in March and won the G2 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth in similar fashion last out. Rosie Napravnik rides for trainer Larry Jones.
2012 G1 Hirsch winner Include Me Out will be making just her third start of this season while Flashy American also ships west looking for her third straight, albeit against softer. Graded stakes winners Great Hot, Via Villaggio and More Chocolate round out the field.
Laughing will look to keep her perfect season intact and punch her ticket to the B.C. F&M Turf when she faces seven others, including entrymate Tannery, in the G1 Flower Bowl going 1 ¼ miles on the turf at Belmont.
Widely considered a second tier filly the past couple of seasons, Laughing has turned up her game in her three starts this season. She won the G3 Eatontown at Monmouth from just off the pace before stealing away to an easy lead in the G1 Diana at Saratoga and holding on by a desperate head. She showed her gameness once again in the Ballston Spa when she dueled through moderate fractions throughout before scoring by a neck.
Jose Lezcano, aboard for her last two victories, returns and could prove pivotal in trying to get Laughing to stretch her speed an extra furlong. Should Laughing prove incapable of getting the classic distance, Tannery and her new rider Javier Castellano should be running late to pick up the pieces for their trainer Alan Goldberg. Earlier this season, Tannery won the G2 Sheepshead Bay over the course.
Mystical Star, winner of the G2 New York Handicap in 2012, snapped an eight race losing streak when she shipped to Kentucky Downs last out for trainer Christophe Clement to win a minor stakes. She finished well behind Tannery earlier this year in the Sheepshead Bay. Junior Alvarado has the call.
A filly to keep an eye on in the Flower Bowl is the Bill Mott trained White Rose. Though still eligible for a second level allowance contest, Mott has decided to try her against some stiffer competition off a handy allowance score on the lawn at Saratoga and a second place finish in the mud in a minor stakes at the Old Spa in where she was arguably best. John Velazquez will ride.
Graded stakes winner Somali Lemonade along with minor stakes winners Valiant Girl, Kissable, and Qushchi round out the field.
In the G1 Rodeo Drive for fillies and mares going 1 ¼ miles on the turf at Santa Anita, Marketing Mix will look to rebound from an uncharacteristically poor effort in the G1 Beverly D last out in a race she won handily last season before her second place finish in the B.C. F&M Turf. Marketing Mix raced just twice prior to the Beverly D. She won the G1 Gamely back in late May before beating the boys going 1 ½ miles in the G3 Sunset, both at Hollywood Park and both with new rider Gary Stevens for trainer Tom Proctor.
Tiz Flirtatious missed by just a head in the Gamely and has won her three other starts this year including both the G2 Santa Ana and G2 Mabee last out. Lady of Shamrock was a two time G1 winner last season and has finished behind the top two fillies this season. Starstruck ships in off a score in the G3 Matchmaker at Monmouth.
2012 B.C. Sprint runner-up The Lumber Guy is looking to defend his G1 Vosburgh title, while seeking his first win since this event last season when he faces six others going six furlongs at Belmont. After racing poorly in a pair of starts for trainer Neil Drysdale out in California this past winter, The Lumber Guy returned to trainer Mike Hushion and finished second behind fellow Vosburgh entrant Palace in a minor N.Y. bred stakes last out, his first start in six months. Mike Luzzi, who won the G2 Jerome aboard this colt in just his fourth career start last year, has the call.
Justin Phillip finally nailed down a G1 score when rallying to take the Vanderbilt at Saratoga over Bahamian Squall two back before finishing third in the Forego to Strapping Groom. Forty Tales will be making his first start against older horses having won three graded stakes against straight three-year-olds earlier this season. Longshot Candyman E, second to Strapping Groom in a minor stakes at Saratoga last out, and speedy California invader Private Zone complete the field.
Finally, in the G2 Kelso going a mile at Belmont, Graydar, last seen winning the G2 New Orleans Handicap after a gate-to-wire score in the G1 Donn, returns from a six month layoff and faces six rivals, with his connections presumably eyeing the B.C. Dirt Mile or B.C. Classic. Fellow G1 winners Hymn Book, winner of the 2012 Donn and the hard-knocking Jackson Bend, who counts the 2011 Forego among his nine career victories, figure to be his stiffest competition.
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