1. Rail Trip (1)
2. Rip Van Winkle (2)
3. Mastercraftsman (3)
4. Einstein (4)
5. Summer Bird (new)
Dropped: Parading (5)
Summer Bird struck a blow for the east coast horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup but my bias is still with Europe and the west. A good performance by any number of horses in the Goodwood will see them usurp the son of Birdstone and oust him from my list once again.
Parading is chief among those I'm eager to see in action in the Goodwood but of course Richard's Kid, Tiago, Colonel John and Mine That Bird could all end up being major players. I don't have a fully formed opinion about the relative merits of all those horses yet. The Goodwood should iron them out.
The Ballydoyle pair of Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman still look very tough. Mastercraftsman had a prep over the synthetic track at Dundalk and he looked pretty impressive. I still think Rip Van Winkle is the stronger of the two though. Rail Trip is the only American that I can see giving those two a real run for their money. Rail Trip has that something extra special and if he ever runs again like he did in the Hollywood Gold Cup the rest will be in big trouble. Obviously since I have him ranked first I am expecting a repeat of that performance. I think he'll be nice and fresh and ready to roll.
For those wondering I am still operating under the assumption that Sea The Stars is not coming. It's a great shame but I just don't think his trainer will want to and his owner has said that it is 100% the trainers choice.
Gio Ponti is an interesting case for the Classic but I'm not going to be taking that bait. I still honestly believe that this horse is a world class miler but he's only the best of the rest at distances beyond. It's unfortunate that there isn't enough prestige at a mile in North America. To be champion turf horse you have to win the longer races. Gio Ponti is a stakes winner on Santa Anita's main track but that was in the one mile Sir Beaufort. He could only manage 5th in the 9f Strub. He was facing pretty ordinary horses that day. The winner of the Strub, Cowboy Cal, has already been pointed elsewhere after it was clear that he wasn't Classic material. I don't think this is the best race for Gio Ponti. He could beat Goldikova in the Mile but instead he'll finish mid-pack in the Classic.
1. Fame And Glory (1)
2. Spanish Moon (3)
3. Conduit (2)
4. Kite Wood (5)
5. Presious Passion (new)
Dropped: Gio Ponti (4)
This race is in real danger of falling apart. Some British bookmakers removed Fame and Glory from the betting for the BC Turf which is a good indication that he's not coming, but who is? Gio Ponti is now headed to the Classic and America hardly has any horses that could be viewed as realistic contenders. I've left Fame and Glory at the head of my list because I want to hear the final word from his connections.
Spanish Moon has been moved ahead of the defending champion because I was less than impressed with Conduit in the Arc. I know the Arc is a very tough race and finishing 4th is a good result but he is so reliant on the pace it makes him tough to back. Last year the field fell into his lap. This year the pace might be different and Spanish Moon is better equipped to handle a variety of pace scenario's. Spanish Moon has the tactical speed to sit anywhere including in front of the whole field. He is on a good run of form and he could be the fresher of the Stoute pair. Realistically I have struggled to support Conduit wholeheartedly all year long. Maybe I'm unduly biased against him and this is just the latest alternative I've found. For some reason I can't fully describe I just don't trust Conduit and see him as a horse that will hit the board but not win.
Godolphin have been silent on Kite Wood but that partially because no one has asked. I think he's got a good chance if he comes. The one worry with him might be the ground. They have hesitated to put him on real jarring ground
I've thrown Presious Passion back on the list because he offers something that others don't. His style is something the Europeans won't have dealt with. Generally when a horse distances themselves from the field they come crashing back to earth but this horse doesn't. He makes you come and get him and because of the size of the margin he opens up he makes a lot of riders jump the gun. I truly don't believe that any American I've seen thus far can win this race but now that the European challenge is falling apart a bit I simply have to give Presious Passion a look. I expect him to win the Clement Hirsch because the rest of the distance horses in California are terrible.
I don't expect anyone coming out of the horrendous Joe Hirsch Turf Classic to even compete let alone impact the BC Turf.
1. Goldikova (1)
2. Delegator (2)
3. Ferneley (5)
4. Zacinto (new)
5. Whatsthescript (new)
Dropped: Ghanaati (3), Aqlaam (4)
The loss by Goldikova hardly put me off at all. I actually like to see a bit of a reverse like that. She had to deal with adverse conditions and it probably means that her connections will be extra careful with their prep work now. Some times when a horse is on a real roll connections don't want to change anything but a loss can bring new focus.
Goldikova was rushed up to contest a fast pace in a 7f race. She ended up third by 3/4 of a length but it was the pace that did her in. It actually looked like an excellent blowout. She is a stronger candidate to win the Mile now than she was.
Delegator looks to be backing into this race a bit. I have him above Zacinto because he is a more accomplished horse overall but Zacinto looks like he's heating up towards the end of his campaign while Delegator is just trying to maintain form. This order could easily switch up as we hear more rumblings from the two camps. Another reason I have Godolphin's Delegator above is that Zacinto has not been officially confirmed for this race.
Ferneley looks like the best of an ordinary lot of Americans but I'm really banking on a "stranger" or new shooter to come to the fore in the Oak Tree Mile or Shadwell Mile this weekend. Horses like Justenuffhumor, Court Vision, Mr. Sidney and Battle of Hastings will compete at Keeneland and hopefully one of them marks themselves as a real miler. Cowboy Cal has chosen to go out west which I actually prefer because it gives him a run over the course. He is undefeated at the distance and definitely has a big chance to make the ranking. I chose Whatsthescript because he is, as of now, the most proven miler of the group. He ran third in the BC Mile race last year and although he's had a rough campaign of under performance he could get right back in the thick of things with a win at Oak Tree. I think he was likely not fully cranked for his seasonal debut then his next two races came at 9f so I'll excuse him for not excelling in those events.
One of the most important things I look for in a miler is that they're better at a mile on turf than they are at all other distances or conditions. If a horse has been really great at other things it makes him a less than likely miler but some of the really good ones, like War Chant, prove that they can be even better at a mile. That's what I'm hoping to see from someone in one of the two big mile preps.
Mr. Sidney is the one exception from the group above because he has already shown that he's a real miler. My problem with him is that he has never appeared to be brilliant. I wonder if he has only been beating poor horses in slow times.
Realistically I could have put any one of the main contenders for the Oak Tree Mile or Shadwell Mile in the last spot.
1. Fatal Bullet (1)
2. Zensational (2)
3. Kodiak Kowboy (new)
4. Hollywood Hit (new)
5. Gayego (new)
Dropped: Munnings (3), Ready's Echo (4), Noble Court (5)
I made some pretty big changes to my sprint ranking. I still have Fatal Bullet on top but his status as my #1 Sprint choice is contingent upon a good race in Keeneland's Phoenix Stakes. We'll find out on Friday if he still has the flash and dash. I expect that he does.
Munnings, Ready's Echo and Noble Court are all likely going to be non-runners in this race so I had to fix my sights elsewhere.
Fatal Bullet and Zensational have one thing in common. They're really fast early on and if you add the blazing new shooter Hollywood Hit to the mix as well as the normal chaff the BC Sprint may set up for a closer. The best closer I see out there is Kodiak Kowboy. I think Asmussen really gets the best out of this horse and in the Vosburgh he showed that he could come and get a world class sprinter at 6f. That had always been my main concern with him. He looked more like a 7f horse than a 6f one. But any horse that can gun down Fabulous Strike at 6f on the dirt has my respect.
Hollywood Hit is a horse that probably very few people have heard of. He's the newest sprint sensation to come out of Canada. He's not actually Canadian at all, he's an Oklahoma bred that started his career on the minor circuit's in the south. In his first 6 career races he went 6-2-2-0, he won an allowance earning a 100 Beyer and he also ran second to Kensei at Oaklawn. But everything changed for the better when he came to Woodbine. He has run three straight blistering races in a row earning figures of 108, 104 and 96. In his last effort, the King Corrie Stakes, he set fractions of :21.81 and :43.68 en route to a 5 1/2 length win in 1:07.38. He goes to the front and keeps getting stronger. He is still a 3yo that has not tried graded stakes company but he is undefeated on synthetics and the only horse to beat him since he broke his maiden is Kensei. Two races back he destroyed El Brujo who then came back to win the KY Cup Sprint. Although he hasn't run in any big races yet his form and the figures both suggest that this speedball is a major player. His record looks very similar to Fatal Bullet's last year. Mark down the name and keep your eye out. Only Zensational and Fatal Bullet have earned higher synthetic sprinting figures this year.
Gayego never struck me as a 6f purist kind of horse but he is actually 3 for 3 at the distance and I have always thought that he's better on synthetics than he is on the dirt. He is running in the Ancient Title this weekend and since the field is weak he'll likely win or be very close. I like that he can come from off the pace and even that he is good going longer. Some of the best sprinters are those than can handle 6f but they're also proficient at longer distances.
1. Lookin At Lucky (1)
2. Pulsion (4)
3. Dave in Dixie (5)
4. Dublin (2)
5. Aspire (3)
No changes to the juvenile rankings in terms of the horses included but the order did get shuffled around a bit. Lookin At Lucky is the #1 horse in this division and he could easily be one of the shortest prices on the day. None of the Californian's seem to be able to handle him and every horse that is coming in from out of town will have questions hanging over them regarding the surface. Baffert looks set to have a very strong Breeders' Cup.
I got on board with Pulsion after his massive maiden victory. He looked immense when stretching out, then he confirmed that form with a slightly troubled second place finish behind Lookin At Lucky in the Norfolk. Pulsion did not have the cleanest of trips in the Norfolk but he looked good when he got a clear run. He was giving away a good amount of experience to the Baffert horse and maybe he comes on a bit from this effort. He would seem like the most likely horse to run down Lookin At Lucky if indeed that is possible.
Dave in Dixie was even more inexperienced than Pulsion. All he had under his belt going into the Norfolk was one start in a sprint maiden. He ran like he didn't know that other horses could be that good. His maiden win was so easy but the horses in the Norfolk didn't really come back to him. He closed well to finish 6th, just two noses out of third. But the experience he gained is worth a ton. Dave in Dixie ought to be a very nice horse and we should see more from him in the Juvenile.
I'm not as thrilled about the chances of east coast horses. I think the Californians will set the standard in the Juvenile but I don't want to completely ignore the good horses in the east. Dublin and Aspire both look like good ones. I'm not trilled about neither of them showing up in the Breeders' Futurity. I don't think a synthetic prep is necessary for the horses benefit but for those of us making predictions it's a whole lot easier to get behind a horse once you have a bit of an indication of how they'll like the track. Aspire is a hard closing horse who should love synthetics. He's got a big chance. Dublin already has the big reputation and he'll have his hands full at Belmont but any Lukas horse that comes through his early program to win a G-1 at this stage has to be respected. Lukas may be hard on his juveniles but at least you know the good ones are for real.
Most likely after the dust settles this week I'll be giving preference to the good horses that are coming from the Breeders' Futurity rather than the Champagne but no horse in the Breeders' Futurity looks particularly impressive at this time. Perhaps Aikenite, Backtalk or Hockley will fit the mold but it's just as likely that an unknown will win this race, or make the most favorable impression. For now we wait.