The wait is finally over, and the 29th edition of the Breeders' Cup started Friday with six of its 15 races to be run and the remaining nine Saturday.
Santa Anita Park, "The Great Race Place," serves as the host for the American horse racing premier event for the third time in five years, and the beautiful backdrop of the San Gabriel mountains provide a majestic setting.
The Breeders' Cup promises great races this year with many races bringing their best in their divisions. There will also be East vs. West and America vs. Europe showdowns in some races.
Whichever is your geographical location, you will surely be rooting for your favorite. In the case of the Americans, when Wise Dan and Point of Entry take on Excelebration and Shareta respectively, they will unite as one versus the Euro invaders.
This high level promises and will deliver fireworks both days. Let's take a look at the handicapping of each of these interesting races this weekend.
Nov. 2, 4th Race
Post Time: 1:06 p.m. PT
Distance: Six Furlongs
Merit Man is unbeaten in two starts, but on his last one, he made the switch from synthetic to dirt and romped to an easy win at the Tom Conway stakes here in Santa Anita.
He looked very strong at the end and could have done more if asked for it. He will have veteran Pat Valenzuela aboard him.
Hazardous is making the huge jump from claimer, but his win and time—the best of anyone on the race for 6F—on his last race deserves attention. He had better fractions at the end than Merit Man and did it easier even after a slow start.
Super Ninety Nine comes from winning her debut in eye-catching fashion. She dueled for the lead all the way through the backstretch, and then finally surrendered her opponent at the top of the home stretch.
She drew clear and held on the bid of Shakin It Up to win by 1.5 lengths. She outworked likely Juvenile Fillies favorite Executiveprivilege on their last workout together.
Sweet Shirley Mae put forth a fine performance in her last against highly-regarded So Many Ways. It's been two months since that last race, but she has been working very well for the race.
Ceiling Kitty (GB) and Hightail complete the field.
Win - Merit Man
Place - Hazardous
Show - Super Ninety Nine
Nov. 2, 5th Race
Post Time: 1:46 p.m. PT
Distance: 14 Furlongs
Atigun is hands down the class of the field here. He has been contending with an opposition that makes this race a step down in class for him. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith gets the call again.
Fame and Glory (GB) is a Group 1 winner in Europe that has been running staying distances in Europe and is making the switch to dirt for the first time. He will be very dangerous if he can transfer his turf form to dirt.
Worth Repeating is a perfect 2-for-2 on fast dirt tracks, including a win at 12 furlongs here in Santa Anita a year ago. The former claimer is in top form coming off an easy win at Fairplex and will be a top contender here.
Commander is a very intriguing prospect here. He is the lone speed of the race and won his last at 11 furlongs battling all the way. This race is three furlongs longer, but if he relaxes those first three furlongs here with Mario Gutierrez, he could...go...all...the...way!
Grassy has run all his 19 races on turf. He can handle this distance with no problems. The question regarding him would be if, just like his name implies, he is a turf horse or if he can run well on dirt. Garrett Gomez will be aboard—making him an immediate threat.
Eldaafer won this race in 2010. After about a year of sub-par performances, he seems to be gaining back his top form after winning the Carl Hanford Memorial two races ago and finishing third to Pool Play at the Hawthorne Gold Cup in his last.
Not Abroad lost three lengths clear to Eldaafer two races ago, but then bounced back to run the best race of his career on his last start when he romped, winning the Maryland Million Classic. He is improving and peaking at the right time.
Juniper Pass ran his first 16 races on turf. He was gelded this past summer, and his two races since have been on dirt, which he has run very well, showing great form on them. He still needs to move forward to win here.
Jaycito seems like every time he is expected to have a big race he disappoints. A lot is expected of him in this race.
Balladry, Calidoscopio (ARG), Romp (ARG), Almudena (PRE) and Sense of Purpose complete the field.
Win - Atigun
Place - Fame and Glory (GB)
Show - Worth Repeating
Nov. 2, 6th Race
Post Time: 2:28 p.m. PT
Purse: $1 Million
Distance: One Mile on Turf
Sky Lantern (IRE) won the Group 1, win-and-in race in Ireland on her last race. She has been running with top competition back in Ireland, and her credentials are worthy of being the favorite here and the horse to beat.
Watsdachances is running a three-race winning streak, where she has been clearly above her opposition. Trainer Chad Brown and jockey Javier Castellano just add value to the play here.
Spring Venture is unbeaten in three starts at Woodbine and has thoroughly dominated each race. The combination of Canada's top connections of trainer Mark Casse and jockey Patrick Husbands is a must-play anywhere.
Flashy Ways is unbeaten in two starts winning with sizzling times, including one minute, 34.45 seconds for the mile on her last over the Santa Anita course.
Flotilla (FR) was full of run in her last start, a Group 1 race in Longchamp, but was stuck in traffic on the rail, never got a chance to make her run and still lost by only 1.5 lengths.
Waterway Run has won three-of-four races in the UK. She has been impressive chasing the leaders in each win and being able to catch them in eye-catching fashion.
Sustained is improving in every start. She showed great resiliency while arriving second to Watsdachances in her last at the Miss Grillo stakes after being bumped in traffic.
Moonwalk won the Jessamine in her last race but will need to step up here to win.
Kitten's Point, Summer of Fun, Oscar Party, Tara from the Cape, Nancy O and The Gold Cheongsam complete the field.
Win - Sky Lantern (IRE)
Place - Watsdachances (IRE)
Show - Flashy Ways
Nov. 2, 7th Race
Post Time: 3:08 p.m. PT
Purse: $2 Million
Distance: 8.5 Furlongs
Dreaming of Julia is unbeaten in three starts, but had to grind out a win in her last race after blasting the opposition by 26 combined lengths in her first two wins. If you think you couldn't top the previous trainer-jockey combo, you will when you have Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez here.
Executiveprivilege has won all five of her starts in terrific fashion. You cannot ask for a hotter trainer-jockey combo in the West Coast than Bob Baffert and Rafael Bejarano, and you get it with her connections here.
Beholder switched to dirt on her last here in Santa Anita and crushed the opposition over six furlongs earning an eye-popping 108 Beyer figure—the best by leaps and bounds here. She has the rail to use her outstanding speed when she tries to stretch it out two turns for the first time.
Kauai Katie has been impressive winning her three starts, but she has not faced top competition like she will do here. She will have the outside post and Beholder to her inside and must show she can rate off a top pacesetter.
Spring in the Air, Renee's Queen, Almost an Angel and Broken Spell complete the field.
Win - Dreaming of Julia
Place - Executiveprivilege
Show - Beholder
Nov. 2, 8th Race
Post Time: 3:48 p.m. PT
Purse: $2 Million
Distance: 10 furlongs on Turf
The Fugue (GB) is another Group 1 winner, this one back in the UK. She comes from finishing second by a neck in a Group 1 race to Shareta, who will be duking it out with the big boys on the turf on Saturday.
Ridasiyna (FR) is a Group 1 winner back in France where she has won four of five starts. She has been impressive winning over top competition and has earned the top billing here.
Marketing Mix is the top American hope in the race. Her last race was a very impressive win here in Santa Anita at the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes, where she covered the 10 furlongs in 1:59.20. Big-time jockey Gomez will repeat the mount.
Nahrain (GB) finished a close second in this race last year. She then went into a funk before her gritty win at the Flower Bowl in her last start. Frankie Dettori knows her very well and is back aboard, she seems to be peaking at the right time.
Zagora (FR) is very consistent and is always in the mix. She has won at this distance but seems much better suited for some shorter routes.
I'm a Dreamer (IRE) is a consistent warrior that beat Marketing Mix two races ago at the Beverly D and was a close fourth to Nahrain (GB) and Zagora (FR) in her last. With an honest pace upfront, she could be very dangerous.
In Lingerie will try the turf for the first time. She comes from an impressive win in the Spinster on a Polytrack course, staying a perfect 3-for-3 over the artificial track. It remains to be seen if she can transfer that success to the turf.
Nereid, Lady of Shamrock, Star Billing, Stormy Lucy and Up (IRE) complete the field.
Win - The Fugue (GB)
Place - Ridasiyna (FR)
Show - In Lingerie
Nov. 2, 9th Race
Post Time: 4:30 p.m. PT
Purse: $2 Million
Distance: Nine furlongs
This is the race everyone will be waiting for on Friday. Royal Delta, the reigning champ, will be defending her title against the unbeaten winners of the last two Juvenile Fillies: Awesome Feather (2010) and My Miss Aurelia (2011).
Awesome Feather remains as impressive as she can be; she comes into the race after winning the Nasty Storm Stakes after an eight-month layoff. She won it over dubious competition, but she won on a hand ride by 11 lengths, stopping the clock at 1:33.47 for the mile at Belmont.
Royal Delta comes into the race in the best shape of her life after crushing the field in the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont. She will have to avoid the occasional bounce race she has had; if she does, she will be right in it at the end.
My Miss Aurelia comes off having to dig deep and catch a stubborn Questing (GB) at the Grade 1 cotillion Stakes, prevailing after a thrilling stretch duel at Parx Racing. She has stepped up to every challenge and conquered them so far; she will need to step up one more notch here.
Questing (GB) had won two straight Grade 1 races before her heartbreaking loss to My Miss Aurelia in her last. She figures to set the pace here, but will need to revert back to her form prior to her last race; she will be very hard to beat if she does.
Love and Pride has been improving, and in her last two races she has shown she can beat the top contenders here. She beat Royal Delta two starts back, and if she improves again she could steal this one.
Grace Hall has been just a tad below the top competition she has faced, but she has shown flashes of greatness a few times. She has been zipping through her workouts and can benefit from her recent form here.
Class Included, all she knows is how to win. But this race will test if the class she needs to beat this elite field, is included as her name implies.
Include Me Out completes the field.
Win - Awesome Feather
Place - Royal Delta
Show - My Miss Aurelia
Nov. 3, 4th Race
Post Time: 11:50 a.m. PT
Purse: $1 Million
Distance: One Mile on Turf
Dundonnell, a Group 3 winner two races ago back in the UK, defeated Steeler, the tenacious winner of the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge in that race. His last race was a half-length, second-place finish to the highly regarded unbeaten Toronado (IRE) in a Group 2 race.
Know More has been contending with the best Juveniles in the West Coast on synthetic and dirt, now he will try turf for the first time. If he can do the same on turf, he will be contending for the win here.
Gervinho is unbeaten in two starts. He steps up in class here but has been very impressive in both wins; with Bejarano aboard, this horse is one to watch.
Noble Tune is unbeaten in two starts, winning in both firm and yielding courses. His last win was very impressive on the yield at the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes, and having Ramon Dominguez, the nation's leading jockey, certainly helps.
Artigiano finished a game second to Steeler in the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge and has been very consistent with top company in the UK.
Fantastic Moon (GB) had won his first two races, including a Group 3, before his non-threatening fifth at the Group 2 Royal Lodge in his last start. He was bumped out of the lane as he was making his move which hurt him; he could be a surprise package here.
Dry Summer ran awful on his last start when trying dirt. He is back to turf where he beat possible Juvenile-favorite Power Broker. If he could get on time to the wire first here, it'll be a good play.
Balance the Books has come from well off the pace to win his last two almost to the wire. Looks like he could be better suited to longer distances, but with a slight improvement here, he could figure in the result.
Joha is the speed of the race and will try to play catch-me-if-you-can here. The 10 post doesn't favor him here, and neither does the top flight competition he is facing.
Brown Almighty has hit the board on all of his races, but this will be a much stiffer competition than the ones he has faced so far.
I'm Boundtoscore, George Vancouver, Lines of Battle and Summit County complete the field.
Win - Dundonnell
Place - Know More
Show - Gervinho
Nov. 3, 5th Race
Post Time: 12:35 p.m. PT
Purse: $1 Million
Distance: Seven Furlongs
Groupie Doll will be the big favorite and has been head and shoulders above the rest of the division in her last four races, which include two Grade 1 races. Her form is impeccable and looks the part of a champion all the time.
Dust and Diamonds blew away the defending champion of this race—Musical Romance—and Turbulent Descent in her win at the Gallant Bloom, which was her last race and when she almost matched the track record. If she doesn't bounce, she will give Groupie Doll a run for the title.
Turbulent Descent was a major disappointment in the Gallant Bloom in her last race but returns with very good workouts to the West Coast, where she has been very successful before. She needs to be on top of her game to win.
Musical Romance won this race last year. She hasn't shown the same form that took her to win this race last year, and she has been soundly beaten by Groupie Doll twice this year. She needs to improve to contend.
Switch has been the runner-up in this race for the last two years. Although her races this year have been uninspiring, her two blistering workouts for this race with Gomez indicate otherwise and makes her a dangerous contender once again.
Belle of the Hall, Great Hot (BRZ), Rumor, Teddy's Promise and Strike the Moon complete the field.
Win - Groupie Doll
Place - Dust and Diamonds
Show - Turbulent Descent
Nov. 3, 6th Race
Post Time: 1:14 p.m. PT
Purse: $1 Million
Distance: One Mile
Emcee won the Grade 1 Forego impressively and has been zipping through his workouts for this race, which shows he is primed to move forward from his impressive win. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and jockey Alan Garcia are a winning combination.
Shackleford has not been on top of his game lately, but his second-place finish at the Kelso in his last race—coming from a layoff—shows he might be peaking at the right time for this race. Dominguez retains the mount, and that is a plus.
Jersey Town showed some of his old form when he defeated Shackleford in decisive form in the Kelso on his last race. He hasn't strung two big races together since his first two races and is a much better one-turn runner.
Fed Biz disappointed in his last race in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby, but returns to Santa Anita where he is unbeaten. This is another horse with the hottest trainer-jockey combo in the West Coast, Baffert and Bejarano.
Delegation has won two in a row, and his last one earned him a 104 Beyer figure. He won't be able to get an uncontested lead here this time.
John Scott, Rail Trip, Second City and Tapizar complete the field.
Win - Emcee
Place - Jersey Town
Show - Shackleford
Nov. 3, 7th Race
Post Time: 1:57 p.m. PT
Purse: $1 Million
Distance: About 6.5 Furlongs on Turf
Corporate Jungle cuts down on distance here, and his last was uninspiring. But he is actually stepping down in class here after running against Wise Dan and company. Prior to that, his races make him the horse to beat here.
California Flag won this race on this very same course in 2009, is 6-for-9 over this course and 5-for-6 at the very same distance here. He will have to do it from the rail, though.
Mizdirection is unbeaten over this course at this distance in two tries. He hasn't run in six months, but has come very well prepared. Hall of Famer Mike Smith will be the jockey, and he is the BC all-time co-leader in BC wins all-time.
Great Attack won his last one over Bridgetown after coming from way off the pace at five furlongs. The added distance and the repeat mount of Joel Rosario makes him a horse to contend for the win.
Unbridled's Note won decisively the Grade 3 Eddie D over this course at the same distance on his last race.
Next Question has won his last two wire-to-wire over firm and good turfs. They were two very good races, but he still needs to prove he can win ratings off the leaders.
Bridgetown is very talented and is game for the top combo of Pletcher and Velazquez, but he will need to go beyond his comfort zone of 5.5 furlongs to win.
Camp Victory finished seventh last year in this race, but that was at only five furlongs. His last was a very disappointing effort, but all prior races show he is close to the top contenders here.
Reneesgotzip got crushed by the male sprinters in her last, but that was on dirt. She has run very well on synthetic, but she needs to prove she can run on turf.
Chosen Miracle, Great Mills, Starspangledbanner (AUS), Upgrade and Tale of a Champion.
Win - Corporate Jungle
Place - California Flag
Show - Mizdirection
Nov. 3, 8th Race
Post Time: 2:36 p.m. PT
Purse: $2 Million
Distance: 8.5 Furlongs
Power Broker, the best colt on the West Coast, just destroyed a talented opposition on his switch to conventional dirt, winning the Grade 1 Front Runner Stakes over this course. He showed outstanding form on that very impressive last win.
Shanghai Bobby is the best colt in the East Coast. He is perfect in four starts and has yet to be challenged. He has been working great for the race and has shown he can make the distance. He should give Power Broker a tough challenge down the stretch.
Monument has experience over this distance and on this track. He is a winner in three of his four races and is the best challenger to the top two.
Fortify has been beaten clearly by Shanghai Bobby twice and would need to take a leap forward to contend.
Title Contender comes from very good wire-to-wire wins and has shown ability on his races so far. He has the successful Baffert-Martin Garcia trainer-jockey combo connection.
Speak Logistics is another speed horse that has won wire-to-wire but gets hurt by the presence of Title Contender here.
Capo Bastone has been running well, just not good enough to contend with the top horses. One thing that he will find beneficial is the added distance, maybe that could get him closer to the favorites.
Dynamic Sky and He's Had Enough complete the field.
These two are also trained by the top-two trainers in each coast: Pletcher (Shanghai Bobby) and Baffert (Power Broker). You have to say that both are pretty evenly matched.
In the jockeys' matchup, both are excellent, but Bejarano (Power Broker) takes the slight edge over Rosie Napravnik (Shanghai Bobby).
Win - Power Broker
Place - Shanghai Bobby
Show - Monument
Nov. 3, 9th Race
Post Time: 3:18 p.m. PT
Purse: $3 Million
Distance: 12 Furlongs on Turf
This race has been dominated by the Europeans, but this year there is a horse that stands out as the best hope in recent years to stand his ground and end the Euro domination.
Point of Entry is coming off five-straight stakes wins, including three-straight Grade 1 races. He has been clearly above his opposition and has been impressing with his workouts for the race.
Shareta (IRE) is one of the Euro invaders that had shown she was in top form prior to also disappointing in the Arc race. She clearly beat Solemia—the Arc winner—in her previous race, the Group 1 Prix Vermeille. In 2010, she finished second in the Arc to the winning filly Danedream (GER).
Trailblazer (JPN) ran a big race on his American debut finishing second to Obviously (IRE) at the Grade 2 Arroyo Seco over a mile. He is a much better horse at longer distances and will relish the added half-mile here. He is a very dangerous opponent here.
St Nicholas Abbey is the defending champion who has run with the best in the world. His last effort in the Arc was extremely disappointing and could be a sign his recent tough campaign is catching up with him.
Dullahan has been a monster on synthetics, winning all three of his races and beating top elite horses, like Game On Dude and Hansen along the way. He just hasn't been able to get that same kick on turf nor at the distance.
Optimizer has won two-consecutive races and seems to have found a niche running on turf. He will take a big test in class here and needs to improve in order to contend.
Little Mike won the Arlington Million, but that was on an uncontested lead. That will not happen here.
Treasure Beach (GB) gave Point of Entry all he could handle before relinquishing the lead with a furlong to go in his last race in the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational. He seems to be hitting his best form just in time for this race.
Slim Shadey (GB), Cogito, Kindergarden Kid and Turbo Compressor complete the field.
Win - Point of Entry
Place - Shareta (IRE)
Show - Trailblazer (JPN)
Nov. 3, 10th Race
Post Time: 3:58 p.m. PT
Purse: $1.5 Million
Distance: Six Furlongs
The Lumber Guy won a win-and-in race impressively on his last race coming from a layoff and is in better form now for his second race. He has never lost a one-turn race and has kept bee working really well for this race.
Coil won the prep race here and has been running huge at the shorter distances. He is a symbol of consistency and has the best workout times of anyone for this race. He's another likely favorite with Baffert-Garcia combo connections.
Fast Bullet has not run in a year and will have to step up in class here. His only two races have been outstanding sprints with blazing times, and he is working out like he never left. If he runs like he is working out, he will be tough to catch.
Amazombie is the defending champion. While he has not run a bad race, he was clearly beaten by three of his opponents in the prep race. His workouts have been identical to ones he had before winning last year.
Poseidon's Warrior upset the field while winning the Grade 1 Alfred G Vanderbilt two starts ago. On his last, he went for the lead and weakened finishing third at the Grade 1 Vosburgh. If he goes back and runs off-the-pace like in the Vanderbilt, he could spell another major upset here.
Capital Account had to go five wide at the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint in his last and still rallied to finished a fast closing second-place, a head short of Coil. A better trip could get him to the wire first this time.
Jimmy Creed was also closing fast at the Santa Anita Sprint but finished third as Capital Account passed him. If he stays closer this time, he could get to the wire on time.
Boxeur des Rues, Gantry, Hamazing Destiny, Justin Phillip, Smiling Tiger, Sum of the Parts and Trinniberg complete the field.
Win - The Lumber Guy
Place - Coil
Show - Fast Bullet
Nov. 3, 11th Race
Post Time: 4:40 p.m. PT
Purse: $2 Million
Distance: One Mile on Turf
This is a highly anticipated race. It will square off the horses that are currently ranked third (Excelebration) and fifth (Wise Dan) in the Global Timeform rankings.
This is another USA versus Europe showdown and one that everyone is looking forward to watching as an American horse may finally end the Euro domination on the great mile turf race.
Wise Dan has been just crushing his opposition on the turf this side of the Atlantic, registering electrifying victories on his last three starts. He will have to run another big race, but he is in the best shape of his life and should make his best run this Saturday.
Excelebration (IRE) could easily be topping those Timeform rankings with his domination over everyone else not named Frankel. He has an 8-4-3-1 record over a mile, and you already know who provided the four losses.
Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, comes from an eight-month layoff but very well prepared. His turn of foot is as good as any horse here, and if he can manage to be close, he could factor in the final result.
Moonlight Cloud (GB) is a Group 1 winner who is no stranger to beating the males in Europe. She finished 1.5 lengths behind Excelebration two races ago, meaning she is not that far away from upsetting the top two.
Obviously (IRE) is the speed of the race and will dictate how the race will be run. If he goes on to an uncontested lead for half a mile, they will never catch him. The tactics of the race depend on how they attack this horse, and, more specifically, when.
Jeranimo, Mr Commons, Suggestive Boy and Wilcox Inn complete the field.
Win - Wise Dan
Place - Excelebration (IRE)
Show - Animal Kingdom
Nov. 3, 12th Race
Post Time: 5:30 p.m. PT
Purse: $5 Million
Distance: 10 Furlongs
Ron The Greek had been one of the top horses in the division prior to his dull effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. His workouts show he is ready to bounce back up, move forward and take this race in the final strides.
Game On Dude is a horse for the course. He is unbeaten in five starts over the course and has been one of the best horses in the division all-year long. A win could earn him Horse of the Year honors, and the Baffert-Bejarano combo connection certainly helps here.
Flat Out was the favorite on this race last year but couldn't deliver on the sloppy track. He is once again coming off a win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and, if he doesn't have any footing problems, he will be a tough challenger.
Fort Larned looked like a giant killer winning the Grade 1 Whitney over Ron The Greek and Flat Out. But he never showed at the Jockey Club Gold Cup on his last. He should bounce back moving forward, discounting the Stephen Foster three races ago, his last was the only time he didn't hit 108 or more in the Beyer figures.
Richard's Kid has been close to Game on Dude but just hasn't been able to topple him. He is a closer that would need an honest pace upfront to get his best chance here—that was what hurt him on his last race at the Awesome Again.
Mucho Macho Man and To Honor and Serve, although very talented and capable of beating anyone here, seem better suited to distances up to nine furlongs. This one is one furlong longer.
Pool Play's prefect dirt record, 2-for-2, cannot be discounted even though it has been against lesser quality opponents. He is a deep closer and the only thing going against him is the same thing that hurts Richard's Kid here—there won't be a sizzling pace up front.
Nonios has been a game contender to the top horses with a great upside. His workouts show he is ready to fire a big race, and he just needs to improve slightly to be able to contend for the win here.
Handsome Mike needs to improve immensely from his Pennsylvania Derby win to score another major upset like he did there.
Alpha and Brilliant Speed are outmatched here.
Win - Ron The Greek
Place - Game On Dude
Show - Flat Out