Thursday, September 10, 2009

Breeders' Cup Top 5

Vacations are a wonderful thing but for me they represent a complete lack of structure or routine in my days and consequently I don't get any of my usual stuff done like writing on this blog. My most recent vacation has caused me to seriously drop the ball as far as my Breeders' Cup top 10 lists go so I'm not even going to try and pick up where I left off. From now until two weeks before the Breeders' Cup I'm going to try and update top 5 lists for all the major Breeders' Cup races. I'll rotate between the races for males one week and females the next. I'm going with a top 5 because in some cases there will hardly be more than 10 horses in the race. A top 10 is of little value.

So without further ado here is my top 5 for the major male races on BC day. One caveat is that I rank these horses not on past accomplishments but on my feeling of their chances on BC day. That includes my interpretation of the likelihood of them showing up as well.

September 10th

1. Rail Trip
2. Rip Van Winkle
3. Mastercraftsman
4. Einstein
5. Parading

Three of my top 5 are coming out of the Pacific Classic and none of them were the winners. Richard's Kid could easily be Baffert's latest version of River Keen who came on strong with a late flourish towards the Breeders' Cup but I'm sticking with the class of the race. Rail Trip is still the best synthetic horse in the nation in my mind. I thought he had a bit of a rough trip in the Pacific Classic and he would have been much better suited to a nice stalking trip just outside the leaders like he got at Hollywood. I don't mind the slight regression here he still has all the tools to capture the big one.

Europeans will tough in the Classic and I think Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman will be the best of the Europeans that tackle the Classic. Sea the Stars is unlikely to come in my opinion. Rip Van Winkle has good cruising speed and a monster turn of foot. His class is unquestioned and he's got a nice layoff in the middle of his campaign even if it is injury enforced. I'd rather have him take time to recover from a minor foot issue and be fresh for the Classic than run 3 races over the summer and be past his best for the Classic.

Mastercraftsman is a bit more of a grinder like his sire Giant's Causeway but he's got class and I consider him slightly more likely to handle the surface than Rip Van Winkle. He's a more speedy type than his stablemate, he would likely be looking for the same type of trip as Rail Trip. He's a very dangerous horse.

Einstein is as classy as they come. I'm not sure what his preparation will look like but likely he'll go in the Goodwood. He doesn't need to win that one to be a main contenders for the Classic. He has run twice on synthetics and he's been 1st and 2nd earning Beyer's of 107 and 103. That's solid no matter how old he is. I like him far better on the main track than on the grass. He doesn't seem to be as quick as he once was so the main track is a better fit. You'll be hard pressed to find horses with consistently better figures on synthetic than him.

Parading is a bit of an odd ball choice ahead of Summer Bird or Mine that Bird or Macho Again or even Quality Road. But Parading has some good form and deserves a bit of a break. He has run 3 times on synthetics and if you just look at the results he was 1st in a G-3 then 4 and 5th in G-1's. Hardly championship form but I'm looking a bit deeper. He was unbelievable at Keeneland in the Ben Ali. That was an awesome performance. Next time he ran on synthetics he came undone because of the filly Life Is Sweet. Connections said he was all studdish and didn't have his mind on the task at hand. He still ran an okay 5th. In the Pacific Classic he ran a good race relative to Rail Trip and Einstein while giving away ground to both of them because of his wider trip. I rate both of those highly and Parading unlike Richards Kid has some other good races in his locker to suggest that he could duplicate this form.

1. Fame And Glory
2. Conduit
3. Tartan Bearer
4. Gio Ponti
5. Kite Wood

I really hope Fame And Glory comes over for this race because I think it would give us some perspective on just how good Sea The Stars is. Fame And Glory is a special horse in his own right and I don't think it's stretching to say that he is as good as High Chaparral. Without Sea The Stars he'd have a most impressive record. Conduit is classy and of course we already know he handles the course but he's not in the same class as Fame And Glory who would be the banker of the day if he shows.

Conduit and Tartan Bearer could both be in this race while I believe that Ask, the third of the Stoute trio, is more likely for a race like the Canadian International. Conduit obviously has the credentials to win and his most recent start in the King George suggests that he is indeed better than Tartan Bearer but both horses have bags of class and will be a major danger.

Connections are playing the wait and see game but I think that Gio Ponti will ultimately end up in this race. The Joe Hirsch at Belmont is his next outing and that it more or less a test for the Turf. I expect him to win that one and so his connections will likely take the next logical step and go for the Turf. His synthetic form is just too shaky. I don't think they'll want to risk taking him off the grass when they might win a championship race with him. I still think he could beat all comers in the Mile but that seems like a most unlikely race for him now. In the Turf he'll be the top American but his hands will be full because of the class of the likely imports.

I've added Godolphin's Kite Wood perhaps a bit prematurely but I really expect him to give a good account of himself in the St. Leger this weekend that that will thrust him into the thinking of many people. Red Rocks and Conduit both took similar paths to BC glory and Kite Wood looks at least as good as those two were at the same point in their careers. I prefer Kite Wood to the french pair of Vision d'Etat and Cavalryman because I think he's more likely to ship and more likely to handle the ground.

1. Goldikova
2. Bribon
3. Delegator
4. Ghanaati
5. Rahy's Attorney

Goldikova has gotten better and that's a pretty scary thing. We are looking at a repeat of the mighty Miesque here. When Six Perfections came back for a second round she did look like she had lost half a step. Goldikova seems to have found a step or two. It'll take a special performance to deny her.

Bribon may just be that wild card capable of a special performance. We know he can sure throw it down on the main track. He has run some brilliant races and a mile is his best distance. Bribon recently turned to the Turf at Saratoga and he was quite impressive. It was a near graded stakes quality field and he crushed them. The Woodbine Mile will be next and he will either not be able to stay with the best milers out there or the cat will get out of the bag and he could go into the Mile as the clear second choice.

Godolphin recently purchased Delegator and he provided a good return on investment when taking the Celebration Mile at Goodwood. Godolphin clearly wanted this horse for the Mile because he's pretty darn good and he loves firm ground. I'm not sure if he's up to beating Goldikova but he's still a 3yo and improvement is surely possible.

Ghanaati is the latest in a long line of very good 3yo fillies that could have a big say in the Mile. She was a bit outclassed by Rip Van Winkle but I think she'll come on for the effort and be at her best this fall. Her form looks pretty good and the ground should not be a problem either.

Rahy's Attorney had a bit of a setback in the 11f Sky Classic Stakes but I think it's a blessing in disguise. It'll get connections to forget the ridiculous notion they had or making him into something other than a miler. He and Bribon should put on a good show in the Woodbine Mile later this month. Both horses have the quality to win a race like the BC Mile. Rahy may be a bit better at one turn than he is at two but he'll still have a massive shot in the Mile.

1. Fatal Bullet
2. Zensational
3. Munnings
4. Ready's Echo
5. Jungle Wave

It seems crazy to have any horse but Zensational atop the list especially since I have a question about Fatal Bullet's fitness but I do actually believe that Fatal Bullet is the better horse. So if he gets to the Sprint healthy I'll be looking to play him against the Baffert superstar. The trouble with Fatal Bullet is that he hasn't worked in a while. I'll want to see him back on the tab soon.

It's much harder to build a case against Zensational than it is to build a case for him. No other horse in California made my list because it's hard to imagine any of them ever beating him. He's just better than all those horses he's facing. If he's going to lose I imagine it will be to horses he hasn't yet faced.

The Munnings stock has taken a bit of a hit from the days when it seemed like he could not lose. Back to back third place finishes in the slop will do that but he's still got that flashy quality and I think he'll like synthetics just fine in a race where the distance is a better fit.

Ready's Echo and Jungle Wave are oddball horses but when you have such dominating forces like Fatal Bullet, Zensational and Munnings why not take a shot with some lesser knowns. Ready's Echo has always been a solid horse but connections have given him a varied campaign. He seems to be a fine horse on all three surfaces from sprints to a mile and a half but when I look at him I see a late running sprinter who also happens to like synthetic race tracks. He is an explosive late runner and if things fall apart he could be the one picking up the pieces.

Jungle Wave is a Canadian based sprinter who also happens to be very good on turf as well as synthetics. Fatal Bullet was too much for him when they met earlier this year but Jungle Wave has gone from strength to strength since then and I think he could give just about anyone a real run for their money. If this horse makes it to the Sprint he'd likely be a massive price but remember the name and don't discount him.

1. Sidney's Candy
2. Lookin At Lucky
3. Dublin
4. Aspire
5. Pulsion

It's safe to say that this list will likely change the most over the next two months. It really is hard to even tell where to go but I ended up on Sidney's Candy. He's only race twice and he's never been in stakes company but he does have a few things going for him. He owns the best synthetic speed figure for a 2yo this year and it may actually be the best synthetic figure ever given to a 2yo. I'd have to check up on that but the 99 he got is an excellent figure. He lost his debut to the Baffert horse Tiny Woods by just a neck then he came back to romp in fine style. John Sadler should bring up this son of Candy Ride in the right way.

Lookin At Lucky is the early division leader courtesy of a pair of synthetic stakes wins as well as the ringing endorsement of Bob Baffert who happens to know a thing or two about the subject. He isn't my #1 for one reason only. He has not yet shown that he's terribly fast, he seems to go just as fast as he needs to which means he could be some kind of horse but it's possible that others in this crop will be more brilliant.

I haven't liked a Lukas juvenile in a pretty long time but the one thing about Lukas is that once he gets a horse to this level it often means that they're legitimately good. He has a reputation of pushing his young horses so that only the strong survive. Most of his horses in recent years haven't been good enough to flourish in the Lukas program but Dublin is. There is a long way to go with this horse but I like the fact that Lukas is seriously thinking about a synthetic prep for him. He's also a good looking G-1 winner who ought to stretch out well.

I thought Aspire was kind of unlucky behind Dublin in the Hopeful and that the two horses have similar ability. Aspire is a Kenneally horse owned by the Wests so it's almost a sure thing that he'll go to Keeneland for the Breeders' Futurity. That race ought to set him up perfectly for a tilt at the juvenile.

Pulsion is kind of a stab in the dark. He's a Biancone trained son of Include who really came alive in his first two turn effort at Del Mar on Sept 5th. Include is not known as a sire of precocious horses but Biancone is very good with 2yo's. His pedigree suggests distance and so far I'd have to say that I have not seen a more impressive two turn race by a juvenile this year.

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