Day One was a mitigated disaster: yeah there wasn’t a single win on the card for me but my top choices did finish 2nd three times and 3rd twice over the course of the six races. If I was a show better this would be outstanding; as a win/place better…not so great, but mitigated rather than unmitigated. The biggest disappointment on the day for me was the Ladies Classic where I had longshot Include Me Out in the exacta with winner Royal Delta. Joe Talamo had Include Me Out in good position but the one thing I was afraid of, that she just wasn’t as good as the top horses in there, panned out as she was outfinished for the second spot by the very classy My Miss Aurelia. It was a microcosm of a tough day.
BUT…there is Day 2. As a horseplayer we always live to fight another day and “another day” is today.
Several really nice graded stakes winners in this field including Noble Tune (Gr 3 Pilgrim), I’m Boundtoscore (Gr 2 Summer), Balance the Books (Gr 3 Bourbon) and Joha (Gr 1 Breeders’ Futurity). You can even through in European Group 3 Solario Stakes winner Fantastic Moon and Group 3 Acomb Stakes winner Dundonnell into that group. There are also a variety of running styles in here but only one of the really classy horses that I would consider good early speed and that’s Joha. He just missed wiring the field in the Grade 2 With Anticipation before his gate to wire score in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.
My Choice: Joha
Filly & Mare Sprint
Groupie Doll. Moving on…
This turned out to be quite the fun little race. Fan favorite Shackleford will lead the field to the post after a couple of disappointing efforts post Met Mile triumph. Emcee, just on his outside has only failed to record a triple digit Beyer number in only two of his career starts. Mystic Lake Derby runner up Delegation will try dirt for the first time off back-to-back wins over the artificial surface at Woodbine and Jersey Town comes in after surprising just about everyone (including Shakleford) in the Grade 1 Kelso with ease. Shackleford and Emcee both like being on or near the led early and, unfortunately for them, so do Fed Biz, Delegation and perhaps even Second City. All that speed could set things up for the improving Jersey Town to surprise them again. I don’t think that Jersey Town is the best horse in the race, but ask The Fugue if the best horse always wins…
My Choice: Jersey Town
Not a fan of this race, though it does appear to be a bit wide open and could present a decent wagering opportunity if you really have a strong feeling. This is one race I do not have an overly strong feeling about, but may jump on Unbridled’s Note if the price is right. Steve Asmussen has Great Mills in to oush along the pacesetters like California Flag (if I DON’T pick him, he wins – so be forewarned) and Renneesgotzip. Normally you could throw Bridgetown into that mix but in the Grade 3 Woodford he sat off the pace a bit and came charging late to blow past Great Mills to win that race. The hope here is that Bridgetown, second off a layoff, feels a bit more keen than last time and tries to take to the lead. Unbridled’s Note won’t be too far behind and will pick up the pieces.
My Choice: Unbridled’s Note
The Juvy looks like it comes down to undefeated Todd Pletcher trainee Shanghai Bobby and Bob Baffert trained Power Broker who appears to have figured out this racing thing in the Grade 1 Front Runner. Power Broker is going to want to sit off an early pace while Shanghai Bobby will want to stay close to, if not on, the early lead. Power Broker’s connections have Title Contender breaking from the one hole and, while certainly not out of his depth in here, will certainly ensure a solid early pace to run at. Will Bobby take the bait and go or be able to sit off of Title Contender’s flank until it’s time to run? While Shanghai Bobby is stretching out, the distance should not be an issue while Power Broker has a win at this distance AND over this course. This one is a toss up: do you prefer the local angle or the undefeated colt that has yet to throw in a clunker?
My Choice: Shanghai Bobby (but narrowly)
A nice mixed contingent in the turf with some very nice Euros squaring off against an American entry that is seemingly getting stronger with every start. A nice colt prior to trying the turf, Point of Entry has turned into a monster once he was introduced to the sod by trainer Shug McGaughey. Carrying the fabled colors of the Phipps stable, Point of Entry is on quite a roll, winning his last five races: four graded stakes, the last three of which were grade ones. His Beyer numbers have increased with every race during that streak and he’s come from far back and from just off the pace to tally the wins. Prior to shipping he threw two bullet works and is as sharp as can be heading into the biggest race of his career.
My Choice: Point of Entry
There is surely enough early speed in the race to ensure a fair trip around the oval which really leads you to two horses: Amazombie or The Lumber Guy. Do you believe in the local prep and Amazombie needing that last after a layoff to sharpen up for this one or do you buy into The Lumber Guy’s amazing 110 Beyer in the Grade 1 Vosburgh off the bench? The Lumber Guy had been training superbly before leaving New York and sprinting certainly seems to be his forte. Amazombie, who I’ve heard has been called the best dirt sprinter in North America, emerged from seclusion for 1:08.3 to take the Bing Crosby over the artificial surface at Del Mar before heading back to get ready for this race. He certainly loves being home in California and if he did indeed need one race before the Sprint, Amazombie will be tough to beat – especially with all time BC winningest rider Mike Smith aboard.
My Choice: The Lumber Guy (BUT…and this is a big but here…should the locally prepped horses earlier on the card keep outperforming their Eastern counterparts, I’ll be on Amazombie here)
US v. Europe. The best turf miler in America, Wise Dan, takes on the second best turf miler in Europe, Excelebration. In his last 10 starts, Excelebration has won 6, placing in three and third in the other. The winning horse each and every time? Some git named Frankel! But does losing to a super horse by combined 16 lengths automatically make you a world beater as well? I think if they were Affirmed/Alydar type duals then I think the case would be stronger.
Wise Dan has won four of five starts this year and narrowly missed an undefeated season when he just couldn’t get there in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster ...on dirt. Wise Dan has been remarkably consistent this year winning each mile race with ease and recording solid Beyer figures in each race.
Both horses need some speed to run at since neither is going to take this field wire to wire. A horse that will try is Obviously. Ridden by Joe Talamo, Obviously has won three straight in frontrunning fashion, including the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile and the Grade 2 Arroyo Secco Mile over this very course. There isn’t a whole lot of speed in this race to go with Obviously so Talamo will gun to the lead and try and hold on the charge. If he can succeed at slowing down the middle quarters, it will be tough for the top two to catch him since he is really no slouch himself.
My Choice: Obviously (he might not be the best, but he may get the best trip)
I know it’s been said a million times already, but this Classic is the deepest I’ve ever seen. Every entrant is a graded stakes winner: many multiple and most just this year. Of Flat Out, Alpha, Fort Larned, Game on Dude, Richard’s Kid, Ron the Greek, Mucho Macho Man and To Honor and Serve – one of them has to finish eighth!! We could all make a case for just about any horse in here winning and I could agree with the justification. I need to make a pick here because I have to, but there is a very, very good chance that I’ll be watching this one without a ticket in my hand.
My Choice: Game On Dude (going with who I think is the best horse – but this will be a test for sure)
In the Hello Race Fans/Breeders’ Cup Fantasy Capping Challenge I need a high priced exacta, so my contest pick will be the exacta box of Mucho Macho Man and Fort Larned (I TOLD you, I need a high payer).
Best of luck everyone!