Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Breeders' Cup Top 10 - Turf

Turf Top 10 - June 23rd

1. Tartan Bearer
2. Fame And Glory
3. Conduit
4. Soldier of Fortune
5. Ask
6. Casual Conquest
7. Vision D'Etat
8. Bronze Cannon
9. Father Time
10. Dancing Forever

We continue in our series of Breeders' Cup top 10's. This week is turf week, the main events for males and females will be in view. The Breeders' Cup Turf is a race that has become increasingly dominated by Europeans. It's not just that Europeans have been winning the race they have been dominant in the last decade. From the year 2000 to the present 30 European trained horses have come for the BC Turf. Seven of them won and seven more hit the frame. A simple $2 win bet on every European in that time period would have made you 38.3% ROI.

If you don't happen to recognize many of the names on my list it's okay, with the exception of Dancing Forever at #10 every horse on the list is European. An American could win the race but I have yet to be really convinced by any stateside competitor this year, that includes Midships. It's always tricky to find the Europeans that will be suited to America and will be willing to come over for the race but I'd rather cast my lot with a horse that could win if they run rather than one that won't win even if they do. Dancing Forever makes the list as the lone American because of his decent 3rd place finish in last years turf and his preference for firm Turf. He was still outclassed last year though and has to improve greatly to win.

My #1 horse for the Turf is Tartan Bearer. He goes for the same connections as Turf winners Pilsudski and Conduit. Given that he's a stablemate of the defending champion there is the chance that connections may choose to keep them apart but I think Tartan Bearer has always been the stable #1. Conduit made a bigger name for himself with a strong second half of the year but Tartan Bearer had already been sidelined by injury. Tartan Bearer was sent out as the main classics hope and finished second in the Epsom Derby and third in the Irish Derby on unsuitable ground while also being bothered in the stretch. Conduit meanwhile was not good enough at that stage to tackle group company. He made his Graded Stakes debut just 9 days before Tartan Bearer's last run of the season. Starting off in 2009 it's once again Tartan Bearer that looks the stronger horse. He won his debut then went down by a half length in the Prince of Wales to Vision D'etat. 10f is a bit short for Tartan Bearer and he'll appreciate the step up in trip. Conduit was nipped in his 2009 debut by a much lower class horse. He is still going to be a force this year but I have him checked in third. Tartan Bearer is a bit of a steady galloper while Conduit seems to have that big move in him. Neither running style is likely to be disadvantaged.

Aiden O'Brien sends a major contender for this race just about every year and given the fact that he had so many Derby horses I'm betting his entry in the Turf will be as strong as ever. I have a pair of his main contenders at #2 and #4. Fame And Glory is the new stable hot pot for the classic distances. He has been beaten only once, a second in the Epsom Derby, and he was staying on very well that day. His jockey couldn't wait for a rematch with the Derby winner in a race that had more pace. Fame And Glory is brilliant, consistent and very likely to improve over the course of the year. He just may seem like a monster by the fall. Soldier of Fortune makes my list as well despite his blow up in last year's Turf. I really do blame the ride that day. Soldier of Fortune was being ridden right up with the pacemaker and then made his move too soon. He was only beaten a nose for third. He has yet to get a start in this year but it seems like he'll have a bit of a stayers campaign. He should be fresh for the second half and if connections choose to send him again he ought to do better. O'Brien also has horses like Frozen Fire, Golden Sword, Black Bear Island and Rip Van Winkle but I think only the two mentioned above are good enough right now.

I have Ask in the #5 slot which means that all my top 5 horses for the Turf are trained by Sir Micheal Stoute or Aiden O'Brien. Both trainers have won the race several times and have supported it with runners but they also just have very strong stables right now. Ask is a 6yo who has managed only 16 starts. Back in 2007 he looked like a real gem. He capped off that season with a nose defeat in the Canadian International. 2008 was not as kind to him, connections tried him first in very tough G-1 races and then races on soft ground. He was not up to either task but this year they seem to have him back on track. He has already won the Yorkshire Cup (G-2) and the Coronation Cup (G-1). He seems to like firm tracks and he already did well in Canada.

Casual Conquest's form matches up very well with Tartan Bearer's. He finished just behind him in the Epsom Derby and just in front of him in the Irish Derby but he's further down my list because he does seem to go better with some give in the ground. Not that he's bad on firm turf he just seems better on soft turf. Santa Anita is usually hard baked so he's unlikely to get his favored conditions. His trainer Dermot Weld often sends over horses so it'll no surprise to see him in the Turf or even in races like the Arlington Million or Canadian International.

Vision D'Etat is the king of the moment in Europe. He is fresh off a win over Tartan Bearer in the Prince of Wales and that ran his record to 8 wins from 10 starts. He is a three time G-1 winner and being French trained he is likely to have a nice easy summer in order to peak for the fall. I have only two concerns with him. The ground, which has often been on the soft side for his best races and the fact that he is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup. He is the only horse who isn't nominated in this list and Eric Libaud is not a consistent shipper for big American events like Stoute, O'Brien or Fabre. He's a serious horse with a very nice turn of foot but his participation is unfortunately questionable.

Bronze Cannon is an up and comer for John Gosden who won the Classic last year with Raven's Pass. He did not show immediate promise and was more of a handicapper type last season. That translates to allowance form in the US. But after a spring stint in some All-Weather races Bronze Cannon has looked very sharp indeed. He defeated Casual Conquest then came back to win Royal Ascot's main 12f race, the Hardwicke Stakes. He has actually only lost twice on turf in six tries. His ratings are a bit lower than most of the others but he's winning and improving.

The Turf is still a long time away so horses still have time to develop and improve to the point where they could be contenders. Father Time is definitely one of those horses that would have no chance if the race were run today but by November he could be quite a force. Father Time is a full brother to Passage of Time who finished third as the favorite in the 2007 BC Filly & Mare Turf. Henry Cecil trains and has always thought of him as a horse of promise. It took him a few races to figure things out but last week at Royal Ascot he had his breakout race. He destroyed his rivals in the King Edward VII which is unofficially known as Ascot's Derby. The form of this particular race often works out quite well. Conduit and Red Rocks both ran good seconds in this race before capturing the Turf later in the year. Look for Father Time to contest races like the Great Voltigeur and St. Leger Stakes before a possible tilt at the Turf.


Megan said...

As a fan I like Midships quite a bit but I agree that he will be knocked down a few pegs when the Europeans show up in the autumn.

Will you be handicapping any of the stakes to be run at Prairie Meadows this weekend?

Kennedy said...

There is a good possibility that I'll be handicapping some Prairie Meadows races. My handicapping has become pretty useful as a "who not to pick sheet" :)

As for Midships he really is not that good. He is being flattered by the lack of competition. And I'm also wary of any horse that goes on a run of form this early in the year. Horses rarely stay hot all summer and fall.