UPDATED with MORE SCRATCHES: Please note in addition to the scratched horses in the BC Marathon and BC Juvenile Fillies Turf, in the BC Juvenile Sprint #5 – Super Ninety Nine has now been scratched (see below).
When the Breeders’ Cup (BC) expanded the number of races from the original eight (8) in order to make it a two day event, Day 1 (Friday) was unofficially “Ladies Day”. That is, all of the races on Friday featured fillies and mares. Over the past couple past years, that is no longer the case. Now it seems the BC brass review the pre-entries for the fillies and mare races, and if there are any that have a superstar or multiple stars, they’ll move that race to Saturday (Day 2).
There are a total of 15 races for the 29th Breeders’ Cup Championships, six (6) Friday and nine (9) on Saturday. 4 of the 6 races on Friday are restricted to fillies and mares. The two exceptions are the 6 furlong Juvenile Sprint and Grade 2 (G2) Marathon. They are the first two Breeders’ Cup races (4th and 5th on the card) this year held at Santa Anita Park, Post Time is 1:06pm PDT (4:06pm EDT) and broadcast live on NBC Sports Network.
Bob Baffert hopes to “bolt” to the Winners’ Circle often as he has (10) runners in eight (8) races over the 2 day event, while Mike Smith needs just one win to become the all-time winningest Breeders’ Cup jockey. He has eight mounts and is currently tied with Jerry Bailey, each having 15 wins.
These 6 races will be enough to wet the appetite of hard-core horse players. It’s like being able to open a present or two on Christmas Eve, to help quell your excitement in order to settle down enough to get a goodnights’ sleep before the big day. Saturday features nine (9) BC races, concluding with the $5 million Classic.
Below are my opinions on each of Friday’s six (6) Breeders’ Cup races. The horses are those who I feel have the best chance at winning versus being able to complete an Exacta, Trifecta or Superfecta. Hence, Double, Pick-3 and Pick-4 players take note. All Post Times are listed as Eastern Daylight Time (EDT):
BC Juvenile Sprint – 6 furlongs (Dirt) – $500,000 (SA – Race 4; 4:06pm EDT)
#1 – Hightail (8-1)
#2 – Ceiling Kitty (12-1)
#3 – Merit Man (8-5)
#4 – South Floyd (6-1)
#5 – Super Ninety Nine *** SCRATCHED ***
#6 – Harardous (8-1)
#7 – Sweet Shirley Mae (4-1)
The inaugural running of the Juvenile Sprint was just a year ago when Secret Circle easily disposed of 8 rivals as the prohibitive 2-5 betting choice.
I’ll go out on a limb and say the winner of the 2nd running will provide a higher WIN price. Don’t be fooled by slow 5 furlong work by #8 – Merit Man. Trainer Bob Hess has used this pattern in the past with this guy. #4 – South Floyd should be setting the early pace with the rest of the pack not far behind.
Horse to Watch: English invader #2 – Ceiling Kitty is 1 of 2 fillies in here, but has faced her male counterparts in all 7 career outings, being victorious in 3. She might be worth a look as she gets HOF rider John Velazquez in the irons for her natural dirt debut.
Fact: #1 – Hightail is the only maiden in the field, trying to win for the 1st time in his 9th lifetime start.
GQ’s pick: #3 – Merit Man, #1 – Hightail, #4 – South Floyd
G1 BC Marathon – 1 3/4 mile (Dirt) – $500,000 (SA – Race 5; 4:48pm EDT)
#1 – Atigun (9-2)
#2 – Fame and Glory (GB) (5-1)
#3 – Balladry (30-1)
#4 – Grassy (30-1)
#5 – Jaycito (6-1)
#6 – Calidoscopio (ARG) (8-1)
#7 – Not Abroad (5-1)
#8 – Romp (30-1)
#9 – Almudena (PER) (30-1)
#10 – Eldaafer (8-1)
#11 – Commander (15-1)
#12 – Worth Repeating *** SCRATCHED ***
#13 – Sense of Purpose (IRE) (15-1)
#14 – Juniper Pass (30-1)
The Marathon was added to the BC program in 2008. The winners in the first 2 runnings of this event were European shippers, while the next 2 by runners bred and raced in the USA.
The first two years were run on the synthetic surface at Santa Anita Park (SA) but switch to natural dirt in 2010 and 2011 at Churchill Downs (CD). The 2012 Marathon will be run on natural dirt as the SA main track is back to Mother’s Nature dirt. Based on the short history of race the track surface seems to dictate from what continent the winner hails. This years field of 14 compromises of just two (2) Europeans, #2 – Fame and Gloryand #13 – Sense of Purpose. In 43 races between to two, none have been on natural dirt. There are two (2) South American breds who race in Argentina (#6 – Calidoscopio and #9 – Almudena) but have nice dirt track resume’s.
Horse to Watch: #6 – Calidoscopio has hit the board in 15 of 24 main track races, winning 7 of them. He’s made a career from running distances of 1¼ to 2 miles and appears to be able to “run all day”. No one really knows how stiff the competition is in Argentina, but that 2.01 3/5 on May 1 going 10 furlongs isn’t chopped liver, unless it was run on asphalt. This 9 year old can make BC history by becoming the oldest winner of a BC race (a few have won at age 7).
Fact: #10 – Eldaafer won this event in 2010 at Churchill Downs.
GQ’s pick: #2 – Fame and Glory, #14 – Juniper Pass, #6 – Calidoscopio