Friday’s opening act for Saturday’s races started off resembling a boxing undercard, as an incident that occurred during the Marathon (1st BC race) exploded into fist-a-cuffs in the Winners Circle between jockeys Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano. Never in my 40+ years of watching horse races had I ever witnessed anything like it. Even though horse racing could use a fresh marketing approach to attract new players, the billing “Smack Down at Churchill Downs” would be a bit too much.
It was a tough day for the “chalk” (aka betting favorite) players, as Post Time favorites went 0 for 6, but a great day for Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank as his runner Shared Account won the BC Filly & Mare Turf at odds of 46-1. $2 WIN Payoffs in the six (6) races were very attractive… $23.20, $29.20, $19.20, $10.40, $94.00 and $17.00. Saturday’s eight (8) races may yield lower payoffs as there are a number of superstars set to take the stage and live up to the hype. Post Time for the first BC race (is Race 4 on the CD card) is scheduled for 1:50pm. The first 3 BC races will be broadcast live on ABC. Then ESPN will pickup the remaining five (5) BC races.
Below I’ve provided some insight and facts on each of Saturday’s eight (8) Breeders’ Cup races as well as a Horse To Watch in each, which does not necessarily mean that’s who I pick to win that race. For that information and more exotic wager plays, go to GQ’s No Chalk Zone .
2010 G1 BC Juvenile Turf – 1 mile (Turf) – $1,000,000 (CD – Race 4)
This race has 13 2 year olds (12 colts and 1 gelding) going postward. Each of them having only a handful of career starts. It’s here where you could see a nice priced runner cross the wire first. Those to consider should be #13 – Pluck (6-1) whose won 2 of 3 grass races. #11 – Rough Sailing (15-1) whose GrandDaddy (Cozzene) is my favorite turf runner/sire of all-time. Then there’s a European trio… #3 – Mantoba (5-1), #5 – Master Of Hounds (9-2) and #6 – Utley (6-1).
The Horse to Watch may be #13 – Pluck (6-1). Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Garrett Gomez teamed up with his half-sister (More Than Real) to win the Juvenile Filly Turf on Friday.
2010 G1 BC Sprint – 6 furlongs (dirt) – $2,000,000 (CD – Race 5)
If the Kentucky Derby is “the most exciting 2 minutes in sport”, then the BC Sprint could be billed as “the most exciting race in a blink of an eye”. 12 of the fastest active thoroughbreds will break from the starting gate and the winner will have completed the ¾ mile contest in about 78 seconds.
The Horse to Watch is #12 – Warrior’s Reward (12-1) has no early speed. He’ll pretty much walk out of the gate while his competition will be hell-bent to get to the front early. A lightning fast pace plays right into his hands, giving him a great shot at running down the fading speed in deep stretch.
Fact: The #1 Post in Sprints require a horse with early speed to get out of the gate quickly. #1 – Big Drama (7-2) often does not break fast but gets into gear shortly after. He can’t do that in the #1 hole and win.
2010 G1 BC Turf Sprint – 5 furlongs (Turf) – $1,000,000 (CD – Race 6)
It’s the shortest race among all the Breeders’ Cup races. These runners will go gate to wire in less than a minute… even the last place horse will do that. The winner will stop the clock around just over 55 seconds.
The Horse to Watch is a filly #9 – Rose Catherine (6-1). She’s only 3 years old and has never faced the boys in her 11 race career. So why is she worth watching? How about 4 for 4 at this distance.
Fact: #8 – #8 - Quick Enough (8-1) was claimed (i.e. purchased) for a mere $40k three races back by an ownership group who did it with specific intentions to run him in this race.
2010 G1 BC Juvenile – 1 1/16 mile (Dirt) – $2,000,000 (CD – Race 7)
This is the race that could be the coming out party for a future star and probable early favorite to continue onto the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May. As with all young horses, brilliance early in their career does not guarantee long-term success. Those who are being highly touted here are #2 – Boys At Toscanova (5-2), #7 – Uncle Mo (7-5) and #10 – Jaycito (8-1).
The Horse to Watch may be #1 – Biondetti (12-1). He’s making his North American and natural dirt surface debut. He’s run twice in Great Britain and his 3rd start (most recent race) was run in Italy. This race schedule is identical to that of last years longshot winner (Vale Of York), whose jockey Ahmed Ajtebi will also have the mount here.
Fact: In the 26 runnings of this race, only one winner (Street Sense) went on to win the Kentucky Derby.
2010 G1 BC Mile – 1 mile (Turf) – $2,000,000 (CD – Race 8 )
The Turf typically is dominated by European runners, and this year in this race should be no exception. There are four (4) of them including the two-time returning champion #10 – Goldikova (6-5) who will try to become the first three-time Breeders’ Cup winner. Those with the best chance at dethroning her are #3 – Gio Ponti (3-1) who has won 11 of 22 starts with 7 second place finishes; #6 – Paco Boy (6-1) who has unsuccessfully challenged the champ four times, losing by a ½ length, a nose and twice by a neck.
The Horse to Watch is #9 – Sidney’s Candy (10-1). In the spring he swept 3 California stakes races in prepping for the Kentucky Derby, went into the Derby with high hopes but flopped. He resurfaced in August to make his turf debut and was a run-away winner. He’ll take the early lead by a very large margin, but by the time the field turns for home, he’ll be retreating to the back of the pack.
Fact: Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of #1 – Beethoven (20-1) is 1 for 36 in BC races since 2003.
2010 G1 BC Dirt Mile – 1 mile (Dirt) – $1,000,000 (CD – Race 9)
Here’s a race that features the most unassuming group of thoroughbreds assembled. Only 3 of the 12 starters have won a Grade 1 event. This isn’t to say they’re not top-notch runners, just have a hard time getting to the Winners Circle. One that has is #12 – Vineyard Haven (10-1) whose owners put up a $90k Supplemental Entry Fee to get him in this race.
The Horse to Watch is #7 Thiskyhasnolimit (10-1). He was last seen losing to Lookin At Lucky in the Indiana Derby on a sloppy track, but back at Churchill Downs today where he’s won 3 and ran 2nd once in 5 lilfetime efforts and is 1 for 1 at this distance.
2010 G1 BC Turf – 1½ miles (Turf) – $3,000,000 (CD – Race 10)
The Turf typically is dominated by European runners, and this year should be no exception. There are 4 making their North American debut…likely betting favorite #6 – Workforce (7-5) who is fresh off a victory in the prestigious L’Arc De Triomphe in France, #7 – Behkabad (9-5) is a winner of 6 of 9 races and a hard-luck 4th in ‘L’Arc’. #8 – Dangerous Midge (12-1) is 5 for 10 lifetime with an impressive 4 length victory in his latest race.
The Horse to Watch may be #5 Al Khali (10-1). He’s had troubled trips in his 2 most recent races. Two back encountering traffic but still managed to win. In his last race was behind a wall of horses entering the stretch, nearly came to a dead stop, shifted to the outside and finished strong to get 4th.
Fact: Breeders’ Cup races have not been kind to Japan shippers, as their best finish is 6th from 6 races.
2010 G1 BC Classic – 1¼ mile (dirt) – $5,000,000 (CD – Race 11)
A star-studded cast of equine characters will go postward in the early evening at Churchill Downs, under the lights for the first-time in Breeders’ Cup history. One could make a case for any one of the 14 entrants. Even the sports fan who may only watch horse racing when broadcast on TV (re: Kentucky Derby, Preakness and/or Belmont) may recall some the the runners in this contest… 2010 Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky and runner-up First Dude, 3rd place finishers in the Kentucky Derby Paddy O’Prado (2010) and Musket Man (2009), but there is one who will get all of the attention… Zenyatta.
She’s a perfect 19 for 19 lifetime and this race is her Swan Song, win or lose, her racing career will come to an end on Saturday at approximately 6:50pm EDT.
The Horse to Watch is Zenyatta, but not for the obvious reasons. For the person who has never seen Zenyatta run, you are in for a treat. She is the “Drama Queen” of the equine community and every race day she puts on a show… even before entering the starting gate. While walking in the paddock through the Post parade onto the track, she will prance and strut like no other thoroughbred, kicking out her front right leg and scraping the surface below her as if she’s a bull ready to charge.
When the starting gate opens and the field passes the Grandstand for the first time, she’ll undoubtedly being trailing the field, loping along as if she is giving all of her foes a 100 yard head start. Pay no attention to the horses in front as they travel along the backstretch and reach the far turn, as at this point in the race is when Zenyatta decides ‘It’s Show Time”!
From the far turn through the head of the stretch (i.e. straight away), focus on the jockey in turquoise silks and cap w/ pink band, this is Zenyatta. They’ll be swinging to the outside of horses, picking them off one by one. As the field enters the stretch, she’ll probably have just a few more runners to catch, and IF she is on her game, as she has been in all 19 previous races, she’ll win in dramatic fashion, getting the lead in the final strides.
Fact: 17 of Zenyatta’s 19 victories have come on a synthetic racing surface. The other 2 have come on natural dirt (Oaklawn Park), which also happens to be her two greatest margins of victory. The Classic will be run on the natural dirt surface of Churchill Downs main track.