The excitement of crowning eight new champions takes place in New York this weekend.
Here’s one man’s view of the 22nd Breeders’ Cup that finds center stage on Saturday at Belmont Park:
JUVENILE FILLIES (10:20 a.m. post time): Californians dominated the last two years with Halfbridled and Sweet Catomine winning and going on to earn Eclipse Awards, but Wild Fit and Diamond Omi don’t appear to be in the same league this year. Jerry Bailey rides a Chicago invader named Original Spin who is unbeaten in two starts with a running style that favors Belmont’s one-turn mile and a sixteenth, plus there’s value. Likely favorite Adieu has won four of five starts but may be a pace victim. Folklore was a smashing winner of the Grade I Matron, drawing off to win by 14, but has never raced beyond seven furlongs. Keeneland Cat won her first two starts before finishing third in the Frizette behind Adieu on a sloppy track she did not handle.
SELECTIONS: Original Spin, Adieu, Folklore, Keeneland Cat.
JUVENILE (10:55): Private Vow: wow! He should be unbeaten but for an eight-wide trip in his debut in which he ran second, but he aired in three starts since and should cherish the one-turn mile of the Juvenile. Sorcerer’s Stone handed Private Vow his only setback and is perfect in three starts, but his breeding could limit his chances. Stevie Wonderboy passed the Norfolk on Oct. 2 to prepare for this race. His victories at Del Mar were impressive and he should like the distance. The question: is he good enough? First Samurai is four-for-four and will be favored, especially with Bailey choosing him over Private Vow, but his win the Champagne on a sloppy track did not impress me, plus there’s no value.
SELECTIONS: Private Vow, Sorcerer’s Stone, Stevie Wonderboy, First Samurai.
FILLY & MARE TURF (11:35): Could be a Bobby Frankel exacta in a challenging race. Mighty Megahertz, The Little Equine That Could, will be closing from far back as usual but she will need luck to negotiate her way through a field of world-class challengers. Frankel has the horse to beat in Intercontinental. Between the two, they have won 26 of 54 starts. Ouija Board is a European monster with every right to win. Trainer Ben Cecil criticized Gary Stevens for a premature move in Flip Flop’s Yellow Ribbon loss to Megahertz, distance suits, price is right, even though Cecil was overruled by owner Gary Tanaka to run here.
SELECTIONS: Megahertz, Intercontinental, Ouija Board, Flip Flop.
SPRINT (12:10 p.m.): This is the race Mike Watchmaker has been waiting for. If Lost In The Fog loses, he’ll say "I told you so." If he wins, he’ll have to put him on top of his Daily Racing Form sprint ratings. As usual, there is speed in the race, but not the kind of rocketry Lost In The Fog possesses. Trainer Greg Gilchrist and feisty octogenarian owner Harry Aleo have managed the 3-year-old’s career to the minute as he faces older horses for the first time. Taste of Paradise was an authoritative winner at 26-1 in the Grade I Vosburgh, but was it a fluke? Imperialism was a distant fifth in the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, now shortens up to six furlongs. Kristin Mulhall, at 23, would be the youngest trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race should the gray colt get up. If Lost In The Fog wins, Watchmaker no doubt will be lower than the national TV ratings for the White Sox-Astros.
SELECTIONS: Lost In The Fog, Taste of Paradise, Imperialism, Wildcat Heir.
MILE (12:45): Despite his front-running romp in the Atto Mile on a yielding course, Leroidesanimaux does not have to be in front to win. The Brazilian-bred handles any footing and could successfully stalk Sand Springs should that one set the pace. Defending Mile winner Singletary’s Oak Tree Mile victory was his most impressive yet, but he was well beaten by "Leroy" in the Kilroe mile last March. Starcraft is a Euro machine and it would be no shock to see him win. Valixir, an Irish-bred colt who was the 9-10 favorite to beat Starcraft in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, has won eight of 15 starts but rarely runs on firm footing.
SELECTIONS: Leroidesanimaux, Singletary, Starcraft, Valixir.
DISTAFF (1:20 p.m.): Win machine Happy Ticket was second to Ashado in the Beldame while closing on her gradually, might find a more favorable pace scenario here and turn the tide. Ashado has been known to throw in a clinker, offers little value. Healthy Addiction has rounded into form for John Sadler and her odds could be worthy of an across-the-board wager. Pleasant Home usually runs her race, can handle off track.
SELECTIONS: Happy Ticket, Ashado, Healthy Addiction, Pleasant Home.
TURF (1:55): Undefeated Shakespeare faces his stiffest challenge from the likes of English Channel, who was a head behind Shakespeare in the Turf Classic, and European monsters Bago and Azamour. A race worth watching, if not betting.
SELECTIONS: Shakespeare, English Channel, Bago, Azamour
CLASSIC (2:35): There is no trainer better than Richard Mandella when it comes to aiming for a specific race, and Mandella has been pointing to this race with Rock Hard Ten since last March. The imposing-looking son of Kris S. was right on course until a minor bruise to his left front foot delayed shipping to New York for three days. That should only increase his value even though Mandella said the incident "has not interfered with our progress." That will diminish the price on favored Saint Liam. Borrego’s sweeping win in the Gold Cup validated his 11-1 upset in the Pacific Classic. He has back-to-back wins at the Classic distance of a mile and a quarter and a victory over the Belmont track. Choctaw Nation closed into a dead pace in the Goodwood and has a considerably more favorable scenario here. The extra distance won’t hurt, either. Saint Liam beat little in the compact Woodward, meets the real deal here. Rock Hard Ten beat Saint Liam by four lengths in the Santa Anita Handicap last March and is unbeaten since Mandella took over as his trainer.
SELECTIONS: Rock Hard Ten, Borrego, Choctaw Nation, Saint Liam.
THE HOMESTRETCH: Trainer Jeff Mullins, who runs Choctaw Nation and Wild Fit in the Breeders’ Cup, races at Belmont for the first time, and after the detention barn ordeal he will have to endure there, he says it will be his last. "I’ve never run a horse there and if it wasn’t the Breeders’ Cup, I wouldn’t be running there at all," he said . . . Bob Baffert, asked what it would take to beat Lost In The Fog, said simply, "A faster horse."