My first plan was to head down to Canterbury Park to watch the races there with the outstanding staff and fans, but I am exhausted from driving 22-hours over the past 2-days and will instead be fixated to the television coverage of the event. The thought of driving another 40 minutes today is simply too daunting!
Best of luck everyone!
The day kicks off with the Marathon. With a purse of only $500,000 is it any wonder that we breed for speed and not stamina? No one particularly stands out to me in this one so it may be worth taking a stab at a longer shot here. Could be a nice paying trifecta to start the day.
1. Cease – In a field where there is no standout, I like this one. He may have made a premature move in last but dig in and was game throughout. This is a big step, but none of the others are come in on fire. I’ll take a stab here.
2. Birdrun – After a 2 ½ month break perhaps a flat last race was to be expected. Brooklyn winner may have needed his last and could step up here.
3. Brigantin – Euro will get the distance; in fact, he’s been running much longer, but questions abound on handling the dirt.
These lightly raced two year olds always can bring a surprising jump up or regression next out which makes them so much fun to handicap. Trying to predict who may do what as they grow and stretch out is art as much as science.
1. Finale – Undefeated since moving to the turf his last is a bit deceptive. While he was all out to win it at the end, he had recovered from a bad start and was hustled to contention. Still won pulling away.
2. Shkspeare Shaliyah – Hasn’t had a bad effort yet and stepped up to graded stakes company from his maiden win without batting an eye.
3. Coalport – mile and a sixteenth may have been a bit much, but seems to love the distance.
After going a bit deeper to find some value in the first two races, I’m seduced by the chalk in the Sprint.
1. Big Drama – Defending champ has been used judiciously this season and to good effect going to 2 for 2 with a “dramatic” 120 Beyer 2 back. Was merely out for exercise in his last while cruising to a win.
2. Jackson Bend – I’m not thrilled with the cutback to 6 furlongs, but he has been way too good to ignore and does have speed.
3. Amazombie – Californian is venturing out for the first time in his career but has been very sharp at home and especially over the Santa Anita dirt.
Would have loved to have seen the King Leatherbury trained Ben's Cat in here, but that was not to be. A full field of 14 should make for an interesting 5 furlongs over the Churchill lawn and I’m sure that California Flag will figure out a way to make this race a nightmare for me just like the last three years!
1. Regally Ready – love the way he has been improving since the layoff. Gelding seems to be peaking at just the right time.
2. California Flag – I thought he might have been done after that poor effort in July, but had an excuse in his comeback race and scored nicely in the Grade 3 Morvich. I’m sure he’ll find a way to punish me again in the BC!
3. Hoofit – I like the way that this horse has behaved since arriving in the US and I always pay attention when a horse in good form is supplemented to a big race. That’s a lot of dough to hand over if you don’t think your horse can win.
I like to call this race the “Classic Was Too Tough So We Went to the Mile” race. It is quite the field and should be a fun one to watch unfold.
1. Wilburn – won 3 in a row starting with a $35K Optional Claiming, then a small stakes and then beating several in here in the Gr 2 Indiana Derby while earning a career best Beyer. There is enough speed in the race for him to chase and will be a bear in the lane.
2. Shakleford – I think this may be his best distance and could certainly win it all.
3. Trappe Shot – Will love the added distance. If the stamina is there could close last to win it all.
Will the Euros keep dominating this race? Yeah…probably… I have a soft spot for Brilliant Speed, the 3-year old I saw during some time off at gorgeous Live Oak Plantation but I don’t think he has enough to take this group here. Interestingly we’ve got fillies in here, a bunch of Euros who all rate highly and some Americans hoping for the best. I willingly admit this is a race that I’ll watch and not wager since I’ve had little luck betting the invaders in these type of races over the years.
1. Await the Dawn – I’ll throw out the Arc and go with prior form which has been excellent.
2. Sarafina – Filly has been very impressive
3. Sea Moon – May wager on this one to win for some value. Rough trip in last and will need to fire his best against older for the first time, but certainly possible.
The home race of the winter book favorite for the Derby, though most probably NOT the next Derby winner.
1. Union Rags – Given his performances and Beyer it’s hard to bet against him. I think if you get 2-1 that it shows on the ML it’ll be a gift.
2. Hansen – Sure he hasn’t run against great, but he’s absolutely destroyed those he has faced. Also could get loose on the lead and that could be trouble for the favorite.
3. Creative Cause – Has done little wrong and already chalked up two graded stakes wins including the Grade 1 Norfolk last out.
GOLDIKOVA! She’s looking for a four-peat in here and, if she does it, will set a mark that is unlikely to be broken for a long time for consecutive BC victories. Additionally my soft spot for claimers is being poked in here by Compliance Officer, claimed for $25,000 earlier in the year and now shows up in the BC. I think both can be beaten, however, though I’ll be rooting for Goldi no matter who the choice is.
1. Gio Ponti – This is the year he finally gets his BC victory after losses to both super mares, Zenyatta and Goldikova. Comes into the race well and ready to roll. He shouldn’t be as far back this year and Goldi may be a bit vulnerable as opposed to past years. And in the end everyone can say, "Well, if Goldi couldn't do it, I'm glad Gio Ponti won!"
2. Goldikova – She may be vulnerable but she is very impressive and if she doesn’t win will surely get a piece.
3. Strong Suit – Has been excellent in Europe and maybe just a step below these right now as a 3-year old, but we could be watching next year’s winner.
We can talk all we want about the last few years not producing any male superhorses and the domination of the two super-mares, but this race is a roll call of any horse that has done anything in the last couple of years. Suburban and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, Flat Out; 2010 Belmont winner Drosselmeyer; 2011 Belmont winner Ruler on Ice; 2010 Kentucky Derby runner up, Ice Box; Santa Anita Handicap winner, Game on Dude; Jim Dandy and Travers winner Stay Thirsty; phenomenal filly Havre de Grace; Hollywood Gold Cup winner, Headache; 2-year old champion Uncle Mo; and European invader, the well-traveled and winner of over $2 million this year So You Think, are all involved in this event.
I can’t remember when the event boasted so many champions though this may have more to do with the fact that there has not been a single real standout this past season and everyone feels they have a shot.
1. Havre de Grace – Hard to ignore that she spanked the trendy choice, Flat Out, two back and came within a nose of being undefeated this year. The fact that she has finished second twice at a mile and a quarter is my only concern here.
2. Flat Out – Been working up a storm and the distance is certain to not be an issue. The one post might be, but barring issues at the start, he should be there at the end.
3. To Honor and Serve – Of the three year olds in this race, he’s the one I like the most. Uncle Mo may have distance limitations while Stay Thirsty may have peaked while To Honor and Serve seems to keep getting better.