2011 Breeders' Cup: Handicapping All Friday Cup Races
The Breeders' Cup World Championships will start on Friday with the first six of the 15 races that make the series.
Championship Friday's feature race is the Ladies' Classic. And even without the top fillies in the division, it will provide plenty of incentive to watch. The Eclipse Award for the top three-year-old filly is on the line here.
The first day of Cup racing could also be known as Ladies' Friday. Five of the six Cup races are restricted to fillies and mares. The other, will be the first installment of the newest addition to the Championships, the Juvenile Sprint for two-year-olds.
The hopes and dreams for the contenders' connections couldn't be any higher right now. All preparations are done, and for the trainers, all that is left to do is make sure nothing happens during the day and that horses are ready for post-time.
And for us, the fans and bettors, it's time to pick our winners. Friday seems to be a day for the favorites to win the Cup races, as they seem to be very solid bets.
Whether you like the big favorite, the mid-surprise, or the long shot, there are plenty of viable odds-on choices. Let's preview all the Cup races on Championship Friday.
$500,000 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint (ungraded)
POST TIME: 4:10 p.m.
DISTANCE: Six furlongs
Bob Baffert's Secret Circle, at 4-5, is the heavy favorite for this race. A winner by a combined 12-and-a-half lengths in his two races, he also has the best Beyer figures by far (97 twice) of any other contender here.
He certainly fits the bill as favorite. He showed he could go to the lead or run just off it and won easily both times. It's hard to look beyond him.
Looking at who could beat him, I like Trinniberg at 10-1. This is the fastest horse in the race and repeats the mount of Cornelio Velazquez, who excels with front-running horses. He has been caught in the final strides in his last two—including the Hopeful at seven furlongs.
G2 Nashua winner Vexor, at 5-1, out-dueled Trinniberg for that win. The Hopeful was a disaster, but he was bumped early and caught wide at the turn. He should have a clear path all the way with his outside post here. Looks good for all bets.
In a sprint, you look for great front-running jockeys, like Patrick Valenzuela, who is aboard Blacky The Bull at 20-1. Although this horse is a pace stalker, his last one was a win with P-Val. He improved much on that one, like him—especially his odds—a lot.
I always look for the big-time riders in big races, like Garrett Gomez with Shumoos at 20-1. But this time, I don't see how the Euro shipper has a shot here.
Holdin Bullets, at 15-1, is a wild card here. You have to take a look at him due to his trainer's (Wesley Ward) success with two-year-olds—a winner in his lone start back in April. I don't like the long layoff, or the fact, that in his only race, at just four-and-a-half furlongs, he was losing ground in the final strides.
As for the rest, I don't see anyone stepping up and challenging for the win.
$1 Million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2)
POST TIME: 4:50 p.m.
DISTANCE: One mile
The favorite is the top G1 European winner in this division, Elusive Kate at 2-1.
She has won her last four in a row and has finished strong and in command on all of them. Should be on the clear from post 10, and repeats jockey William Buick for this race.
Definitely the one to beat, just by repeating any of her last four races.
Somali Lemonade, at 5-1, is the second choice. She has come from the back-of-the-pack on her two races and won them. Alex Solis has rode her both times and repeats the mount. She has been training very well for Michael Matz and has a great shot at catching them in the final strides.
Beyond these two, things get complicated.
Todd Pletcher's Stopshoppingmaria, at 8-1, has the fastest Beyer (101), but that came at six furlongs. She'll try the turf for the first time. And while red-hot Javier Castellano will ride her, John Velazquez is Pletcher's call jockey and her previous rider. He went to Stephanie's Kitten, who is at 12-1.
Johnny V, along with Garrett Gomez are the two big-time riders I look for on the Breeders' Cup races.
He also stepped down from Sweet Cat, trained also by Pletcher, and who is at 10-1. He might have seen something on Stephanie's Kitten while riding her to victory at the G1 Alcibiades on synthetic. This one is worth taking a closer look.
Garrett Gomez picked up the mount on Sweet Cat. She had the lead entering the home stretch at the Jessamine and was caught by Somali Lemonade. She has improved steadily on all three of her races.
Ramon Dominguez, the nation's leading jockey, is aboard Dayatthespa at 12-1. She was caught in her last one (the G2 Natalma), where she beat Stephanie's Kitten. Very dangerous with Dominguez aboard, she could wire the field.
From the rest, I like Pure Gossip at 12-1. She impressed with her romp at the G3 Miss Grillo at Belmont her last time out. She improved a lot with the added distance on that race.
$1 Million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1)
POST TIME: 5:30 p.m.
DISTANCE: Seven furlongs
Turbulent Descent, at 6-5, looms large over this field. Not only she has the best Beyer figure (103) for the race, but she has been improving upon them on each of her last three races.
She has never finished worse than second, losing only to It's Tricky and Zazu. While she will be facing older for the first time, she beat Pomeroys Pistol, who defeated elder fillies in her last race. The only thing going against her may be that no three-year-old has ever won this race.
She has not run since August, but has been training very well—making it difficult to bet against her.
On paper, it looks like only two other fillies have a shot at beating her. The odds have second choice Switch at 3-1 and third choice Pomeroys Pistol at 6-1.
Switch finished second in this race last year. She cut back in distance in her last one as a prep for this race and finished third. Had to run wide and lost second place to Musical Romance, who is at 20-1 here. She is much fitter for this one.
Pomeroys Pistol beat her elders easily in the Gallant Bloom on her last race. She is improving steadily, and if she can repeat her last effort, could give Turbulent Descent a run for her money. Red-hot Javier Castellano repeats the mount.
From the rest, Musical Romance and Golden Mystery, at 20-1, seem to have an outside chance. Although Musical Romance bested Switch in her last race, this one, for her and for Golden Mystery, is a step up in class.
Garrett Gomez will ride Shotgun Gulch and John Velazquez will be on Todd Pletcher's Her Smile. Both are closers that need a fast pace to have a shot, and that it's not likely to happen here.
$2 Million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1)
POST TIME: 6:10 p.m.
DISTANCE: 8.5 furlongs
This race is the best one for betting on today and is full of choices.
Four unbeaten fillies put their records on the line here. The favorites, My Miss Aurelia (at 5-2) and Rocket Twentyone, are two-for-two and co-second choices at 4-1. Grace Hall and Weemissfrankie are three-for-three.
The best in the east, My Miss Aurelia, showed she could go this distance when she won the G1 Frizette easily on her last race. That effort gave her the only Beyer figure (96) over 90 for anyone on this field.
If she repeats that race, she will be tough to beat. Corey Nakatani, who rode her on the Frizette, repeats the mount.
The best in the west, Weemissfrankie, is a two-time G1 winner already. It's tough to get a grasp for the level of competition she has faced. But she keeps improving with each race and has worked great for this one.
She could benefit if there is a quick pace here. Rafael Bejarano, one of the top jockeys out west and in the U.S., has been aboard for all three wins and keeps the mount here.
Grace Hall will have Ramon Dominguez aboard. Her best race to date, the G1 Spinaway at the Spa, was with Dominguez on the controls. She won easily on her two-turn debut on her last race, but this is tougher competition. However, she has as much of a chance as any of the favorites here.
Rocket Twentyone took a huge step forward with her upset win at the G3 Arlington-Washington Lassie. She will try two turns for the first time here, and her workouts have been average at best. It will take another big improvement from her to win here.
Bob Baffert brings Candrea at 6-1. Candrea won her first two races and lost at the final strides of the G1 Oak Leaf to Weemissfrankie. She had fought gamely on the lead of that race and looked like a sure winner before being caught. Martin Garcia keeps the mount.
If you are looking for a good payoff, Northern Passion is your choice at 12-1. This will be her first try on dirt, but she has been running very well at Woodbine. She is two for three, and on her lone loss—by only half-a-length—she had to run three and four wide.
Another filly worth a closer look is Awesome Belle at 20-1. From the same connections that gave us last year's winner, Awesome Feather, she did a 180-degree turn with the blinkers on in her last race. There is a much tougher field here, but if she improves upon her last, she could upset this one.
The Euro shippers, Homecoming Queen at 15-1, and Questing at 30-1, have done very well on the other side of the pond with game performances. They are trying dirt and two-turns for the first time.
As I said, a good race to bet on with plenty of choices.
$2 Million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1)
POST TIME: 6:50 p.m.
DISTANCE: 11 furlongs
This race seems to be dominated by the top two choices on the betting odds, Stacelita (FR) at 2-1, and Nahrain (GB) at 7-2, but there are a few others with a great chance as well.
Stacelita (FR) has been the top turf filly in the U.S., winning her last two races (both G1 stakes) in great form. Ramon Dominguez was aboard for those wins and repeats the mount here.
Nahrain (GB) ships from France after winning her first four races. Her last one was the G1 Qatar Grand Prix de l'Opera, where she defeated Announce (GB) by a nose.
She is to become only the fourth three-year-old to win this race—Banks Hill (GB) (2001), Ouija Board (GB) (2006) and Midday (GB) (2009) were the others.
Announce (GB), at 9-2, beat Stacelita (FR) the last time they faced off at Longchamp in the G3 La Coupe in June. I like her odds and her chances here. Her trainer Andre Fabre, was the trainer of 2001 winner Banks Hill (GB).
Dubawi Heights (GB) has dominated everyone out west this year. His lone loss in five tries was a game second to Stacelita (FR) at the G1 Beverly D in Arlington. Joel Rosario, the top jockey out west and fourth in the U.S., keeps the mount.
She will most like rate off Dynaslew (30-1) and wait to make a move around the final turn, as she doesn't need to improve much to win here.
From the rest, last year's upset winner, Shared Account, has only ran twice this year—both average performances. She will need a monster effort like last year to defend her title.
Misty For Me (IRE), at 8-1, and Aruna, at 12-1, seem to be at the wrong distance for them.
The other notable, Harmonious, at 12-1, shows up on every race. However, on her last six races, she just has not found her way to the finish line up front.
$2 Million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1)
POST TIME: 7:30 p.m.
DISTANCE: Nine furlongs
The main dish of the day will serve up the Eclipse Award for the top three-year-old filly in the U.S.
Plum Pretty, at 2-1, Royal Delta, at 5-2, and It's Tricky, at 5-1, will duel it out again—this time with the biggest prize of their careers on the line.
All three ran in G1 Coaching Club American Oaks back in July at Saratoga. It turned out to be a race between the winner of that race, It's Tricky, and Plum Pretty, who finished second. Royal Delta was a distant third.
To the defense of Royal Delta, she was coming off a slight layoff, and seemed to be off her game that day. She came back to totally dominate It's Tricky in her next race, the G1 Alabama, by more than five lengths.
Royal Delta's last race was against Havre de Grace at the G1 Beldame. She was crushed in that race by Havre de Grace, who is one of the favorites in the Classic on Saturday.
Plum Pretty had her best outing of the year in her last race in the G2 Cotillion, easily defeating It's Tricky. She will have a longer distance and an outside post this time, with a fast filly inside her—Ask the Moon.
If she repeats her Kentucky Oaks race, she'll be tough to beat, but it looks like Royal Delta's race.
From the rest of the pack, Ultra Blend, at 8-1, has been showing up on every race. Ultra Blend has been very consistent, but has never gone this far, even though she looks like she can handle it very well. She beat Zazu two races ago, has good odds and has a very good chance.
And Patchattack, at 12-1, keeps improving, but this one needs to improve some more in order to win here.