Thursday, July 02, 2009

Breeders' Cup Top 10 - FM Sprint

Filly and Mare Sprint Top 10 - July 2nd

1. Informed Decision
2. Ventura
3. Carlsbad
4. Diamondrella
5. Indian Blessing
6. Light Green
7. Sweet August Moon
8. Coco Belle
9. Heart Ashley
10. Elusive Heat

Each Breeders' Cup top 10 list is challenging in it's own way. For other races I had to leave out horses that could surely be considered contenders but for the FM Sprint I really struggled to find 10 horses that I thought could win. It's not that the division is particularly weak it's that there is a small basket of horses that happen to be very strong and it's hard to see anyone but them winning.

The first 5 horses on my list seem to be far better than anyone else and really I could probably restrict it further to just the top 4 because Indian Blessing, bless her soul, does not look like she can beat the elite fillies on a synthetic surface. She handles it well enough, but she definitely loses that bit of brilliance that makes her a tiger on the dirt. Her latest loss at Hollywood was I think more due to fatigue than a complete failure to handle synthetics. Indian Blessing still holds the #5 slot because she's a very talented horse and she is still better than almost everyone in the division. A few injuries might put her right back near the top.

Keeneland's Madison Stakes in April gave us a bit of a Breeders' Cup preview as Informed Decision and Ventura squared off. I don't think anyone can draw too many conclusions about who is better based on that race because they finished heads apart and it was a rare occasion where Velasquez on Informed Decision really out rode Gomez on Ventura. But what I can tell based on that race is that both fillies have immense quality and they're likely going to take a lot of beating in the Breeders' Cup. An exacta involving these two fillies on BC day is a high probability. I like that Informed Decision has a bit more tactical speed than Ventura. In that way she's more of a classic main track horse while Ventura is a turf horse. Synthetics are the neutral ground where these two talents can duke it out. Informed Decision still often leaves her run very late but she is closer to the action early and might be better able to adjust to different pace scenario's. That gives her the slightest edge and the #1 spot for me over Ventura.

The most dangerous synthetic speed filly in North America is Carlsbad. I know that 7f is a difficult distance to wire, especially on BC day when other speed should show up but Carlsbad is one tough cookie. She has already earned speed figures high enough to be competitive with older females and she's just now completed the first half of her 3yo season. If she gets better in the fall like Indian Blessing did last year I may not be able to oppose her. She has already shown enough stamina to carry her speed two turns. She does need to learn to settle a bit as she has proven unwilling to sit behind anyone thus far but pure speed is so deadly when a horse learns how to harness it effectively. She would also have to be nominated to the Breeders' Cup but she might earn her way.

Last year this race saw a mild upset by a Turf horse over a brilliant main track sprinter. Diamondrella might play the role of favorite spoiler this year. Since switching to Angel Penna's barn she is 7-6-1-0. Her only loss came right off a 7 month layoff and she only went down by a head. Since then she's been flawless in Turf sprints and most recently claimed the scalp of Forever Together in a one turn mile. I don't need to convince anyone that it takes a serious horse to beat the Turf champ. Diamondrella has never been on synthetics but many turf horses love it. She is a sprint specialist who closes with an almighty rush. Despite the surface question I consider her a huge threat to win because of her level of talent. Most of the horses pointing for this race simply aren't as good.

The highest female earned sprinting Beyer Speed Figure of the season belongs to the undeveloped Light Green. She ran a massive 109 while winning a minor stakes at Belmont. She has to be considered a wild card because we haven't seen enough of her to know if that figure was legitimate. She gets a test in the Prioress this weekend against another horse in my top 10, Heart Ashley. Heart Ashley is another horse who ran a huge figure (104) but then she backed way off that number next time out. She still won a stakes race but she took it with an 87. All this means to me is that we can't make a conclusive judgement about their ability yet but we have seen flashes of brilliance. I personally think that Light Green will prove to be a better horse than Heart Ashley but since the Prioress form is generally pretty weak they might have to fill out the exacta this weekend to retain my respect. Although Selva is also a decent horse that I have my eye on. She may be good enough to split the pair.

Sweet August Moon and Coco Belle are the best of an ordinary group of locals. I know Venture and Indian Blessing are technically California based but they aren't regulars in the Californian female sprinter program. They ship all over the country and pick their spots. Coco Belle and Sweet August Moon will probably spend the whole season in California and will compile decent records in the stakes. They've already combined for a few wins between them including Coco Belle's upset of Indian Blessing.

I prefer Sweet August Moon because of her steady closing style. Coco Belle is a choppy short striding speed horse who may struggle at 7f. Whenever I look at her I wonder how she even manages to beat stakes horses at all but those little legs just keep on pumping and it works for her. Sweet August Moon just seems smooth and classy, she wins while still well within herself. She has been out of action for a bit and I want to see her returning to the work tab fairly soon but a light campaign for sprinters doesn't worry me much.

For the lack of a better option I'll give the last slot to Elusive Heat. She's a brilliant filly whose mother set the standard for modern sprinting fillies. She has already shown that she can run a big race. The time off to get her just right could pay some real dividends in the second half of the year. Look for her to re-emerge in the last few weeks of Saratoga and from there the sky may be the limit.

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