The Europeans will be a huge factor in this race as they are with all turf races in the Breeders Cup. Rio De La Plata has alrady been mentioned as a candidate for this race and he may be very tough to beat but I am very interested in one American. Prussian looked like a G-1 winner in waiting in his first start at Saratoga. There is no telling where he might turn up next but perhaps the biggest turf prep race on this continent will be the Summer Stakes at Woodbine. It's run on the Atto Mile undercard and whether or not Prussian turns up it will likely be the best guide for Turf 2yo's in this country.
I think this is shaping up to be the worst race of the weekend. Lawyer Ron is skipping out, Utopia hasnt been heard from in months and Discreet Cat may not be ready in time. Midnight Lute looked like he was tailor made for this race but his connections did not even mention it as a possibility. They seemed to prefer the Cigar Mile which is run a month later. That's bad news for this contest which may end up as a match race between Park Avenue Ball and Teuflesberg.
Filly & Mare Sprint
This race will not necessarily be full of quality but it will be full of interest. La Traviata is headed straight here after 3 fantastic races this year. Unbeaten and unchallenged she will represent a dilemma for most bettors. We simply don't know how good she really is. I would stick with the more proven class of Dream Rush. She is a win machine and is capable of beating any filly sprinter out there. Respect still has to be given to Shaggy Mane who is a 6f specialist running for an underrated trainer who really knows how to point for a spot. Horses like Maryfield, Oprah Winney and Pussycat Doll are poor selections in my opinion. They are either not consistent enough or not good enough. River's Prayer is the only other horse that interests me. She is unbeaten in 5 starts on all three surfaces this year but I can't help but shake the feeling that she isn't really as good as her record. She beat Shaggy Mane but I think on another day that margin could easily be reversed.
A weak division so far, no one has really come out and made this division thiers. Most of the good looking fillies look like 6f is thier maximum distance. The best prospect looks like Irish Smoke. She can sit off the pace and doesn't mind getting a little dirt in her face, but realistically she is not a solid bet at this stage. I believe that we'll see several more quality fillies emerge. If we don't she'll be the easiest bet of the day.
Unlike the fillies this is a race I love some contenders in this race. The top 3 finishers in the Hopeful for me are superb prospects. Majestic Warrior was bred to be royalty and he looks like he's everything his owners hoped for. I'd like to see a little more early speed out of him but things will all change when he goes a route in a big field. Hopefull we'll see a more conventional type of performance from him. Ready's Image was not disgraced in defeat. I know his numbers regressed in the Hopeful and its not a good sign to see numbers getting smaller as distance increases but I think this was a special case. He was not well served by the way the race setup. Despite his breeding being somewhat on the edge I think he will go two turns and he may prove to be the class benchmark of this crop. Perhaps not the best but the one they'll all have to beat. Maimonides may turn out to be great value since some of the hype will have disapated. It is not an easy task to go straight from 5 1/2f to 7f against better horses, especially when you're blazing on the front. Teach this horse to rate a little and he should be fine. We already know he has some talent. Kodiak Kowboy is a logical contender but he's too workmanlike for me. He'll likely win the Futurity with the same kind of effort and go into the Juvenile without too many holes on paper but I just don't like him, he reminds me of Private Vow. I personally think that we can't really tell what kind of horse are in California at the moment. Del Mar has been a disaster and I think horses like Salute The Sarge are terrible. I want these juvies to get on a different surface, even if its Cushion track before I can identify some really good prospects but it may just be as simple as focusing on the Hopeful runners.
This is always my favorite race. I love the conditions, the speed and usually the drama. It is a race dominated by specialists so don't fall for horses like Nobiz Like Shobiz or After Market if they're entered. Concentrate on the horses who have excelled at a flat mile and are resonably fresh. Not necessarily coming off a layoff but we don't want horses who have been going non-stop since May. Injuries have blighted the build up to the race, the best natural miler in the nation, Chinese Dragon, was injured and retired and the under the radar Karen's Caper has had a problem and has not worked for two months. It's hard to come up with a worthy American. Remarkable News is very good but I don't trust him at a flat mile if there is any other speed. Marcavelly is interesting if he manages to win a race like the Kelso I wouldnt take him unless he steps up. Shakespeare is a real unknown for me at a mile. I wrote about Europeans Turtle Bowl, Tariq and Finsceal Beo in an earlier post. You can read my thoughts if you like. The long and short of it is this race still has me confused. We're two months from the day and nothing is really clear.
The sprint division is weak this year. The horse with the fastest sprint figures, Midnight Lute, is not even a major candidate for this race. And of course the Lute hasn't even won anything other than a maiden at 6f anyway. Diabolical and Smokey Stover are the horses to beat but they really aren't that fast. I really do like Diabolical I think he is the most complete sprinter out there but he isn't unbeatable. Outsiders like Benny The Bull have a good chance. Attila's Storm is also interesting to me. His speed figures are low but I think you'll get a good price on him on BC day. He's cutting back from a distance that is past his best he should be quite fresh and he's the truest speed. The speed of the speed is often a major player in the BC Sprint.
Filly & Mare Turf
The question this race is, who is coming? This race might have Honey Ryder, Royal Highness, Peeping Fawn, Alexandrova and Irridescence. Or it may have none of them. None of these horses are commited to the race and all of them are potential winners of this race. I truly think that Peeping Fawn is the best Turf filly in the world right now and if she comes she should be odds on. But don't let that scare you off the quality alternatives that may be found. Rock Of Gibraltar, Lailani, Mark Of Esteem and Dancing Brave all went down in defeat when they appeared to have the race at thier mercy. I would stick with classy horses though. Horses like the other 4 mentioned above. I really don't think Citronnade, Precious Kitten and Lady Of Venice are good enough at 11f to beat the best there is. Perhaps if there is no pace like in Intercontinental's win but all things being equal the winner should be one of the top 5 I mentioned. Nashoba's Key is a wild card to me. I would not use her unless she beats some good horses in the Yellow Ribbon. Travelling out of state against top class Turf mares is no easy task.
I don't mean to get too cheeky but I think Rags To Riches is by no means a certain starter. We have not really seen a horse good enough to beat her but if she doesn't run the race is wide open. An alternative I really like is Indian Vale. What I like most about her is her specific preference for 9f. No one has ever beaten her going that distance and she's put up some nice figures in those races. She is maybe on the slow side this year but most of her races have come at longer or shorter distances. Lady Joanne is also a horse that needs to be strongly considered. She is only getting better and with Nafzger preparing her for the big dance she might be in irresistable form. I'm not a huge fan of horses like Miss Shop, Ginger Punch, Unbridled Belle or Take D'Tour I think they're either too slow or won't be suited to the conditions. Balance may be an interesting sleeper. She has not lately but she's been facing the tough Nashoba's Key on all weather surfaces. Given the way Hystericalady came east and dominated Balance has be very respected.
This race has me confused again. I don't see too many Americans that can win it if a legitimate European shows up. There just aren't any top class 12f horses in North America right now. I like The Tin Man as an outsider but only if he's going to be the lone speed. This race is there to be plucked by the European who best adapts to the conditions.
The Classic is looking like a huge clash between Curlin, Lawyer Ron, Street Sense, Hard Spun and Any Given Saturday. I don't want to be a pessimist but the Classic always looks like a great race in September and often by the time they load in the gate we've lost one or two. Hopefully that does not happen here but it would be no shock, it would be par for the course actually. Of these 5 titans I have to give the biggest vote of confidence to Street Sense and Any Given Saturday. The 3yo's in this crop have excelled in sprints and turf races already I see no reason why they wouldn't be able to handle older horses. Street Sense is being prepared by a master and I actually prefer classic contenders to have their last prep at 9f instead of 10f. It's not a huge knock I just think it sets them up better. Any Given Saturday will also have a 9f prep but he'll have the disadvantage of never having been successful at 10f. The only older horse of note is Lawyer Ron and perhaps I'm unduly skeptical but I have all sorts of questions about him. Is he that good away from Saratoga? Can he stay this good for 2 more months? Is he going to be as effective at 10f? Remember this horse was once being pointed for the BC Dirt Mile so his connections obviously thought the Classic distance was not his cup of tea. I'd prefer to keep my hands off. Curlin might go into the race as the forgotten horse and certainly rates a chance, his Haskell might have been bad but I expect him to improve off the race. I don't really see any outsiders being capable in here unless the field is ravaged by injury. Grasshopper and Daaher are good longshot candidates but I think both will find the race a bit too tough at this juncture.