Archive for November, 2010

Getting in that inner track state of mind

November 30, 2010

Though the calendar officially says that winter begins on December 21 with the “shortest day of the year” it occurs 20 days before then with regards to racing in New York.  Wednesday is the first day of racing on Aqueduct’s inner track, the winterized oval that has been in use since 1976. 

The inner track is one mile in circumference and the stretch measures a bit more than the 1,155.5 feet of the main track.  The tighter turns have generally led to speed doing a bit better on the inner track than the main track at the Big A but in recent years we’ve seen track superintendent Glen Kozak do a tremendous job in guaranteeing largely bias-free racing on the winterized oval.

What’s different about the winter?  Well, there’s no reason to mince words, the racing is weaker.  The horses that stay in NY for the winter from outfits like that of Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, Shug McGaughey, Bill Mott and many others are the types that don’t really make the grade in Florida or any other winter destination.  Winter racing is heavy on claimers of all types, we’ll see more $7,500 tags in the next four months than we have in the prior eight.  There will be conditioned claimers galore and races will be conducted at basically three distances: 6 furlongs, one mile and 70 yards, and one and one-sixteenth miles, with the first two being more popular.

One thing to be acutely aware of is the age old “inner track horse for course.”  The quirkiness of the inner track, being heavier on sand and elements to fight the weather, really appeals to certain horses and you will get better performances out of them on the winterized surface.  Take a look at Understatement for example, with credit to DRF for his PPs:

In taking a closer look at Understatement you will see that his two best races of 2010, by far, came on the inner track.  He defeated a good group in the Evening Attire, which included Well Positioned, another runner owned by Paul Pompa who most recently scored in a stakes race at Monmouth.  On the inner track Understatement is 4-4, on every other surface in his career he is 1-13.  Take a look at Two Moons, who will go postward in tomorrow’s opener:

  Now, Two Moons is never going to be confused with Understatement.  However, it’s worth noting that she ran two solid races on the inner track last winter.  There are some concerns about whether she’s off form of late, but these are the types of horses you want to give extra consideration when handicapping the inner track, especially when the public considers them outsiders.

Here are some interesting statistics for you to consider going forward:

Linda Rice has a strike rate of 18% with a $2.01 ROI in claiming races on the inner track.  She is 17% with a $1.67 ROI in all races on the inner, so be leary of Rice trainees that are overbet in non-claimers.

Anyone who regularly bet Bruce Levine’s runners in claiming races at last year’s inner track stand was left with empty pockets as spring sprung.  Last year Levine was only 13% with a $0.73 ROI in claiming races on the inner track. 

Dominic Galluscio had a particularly rough 2009-2010 inner track stand with claimers as he went 3-33 with a $0.66 ROI.  He has had a good 2010 and should turn that negative statistic around with ease.

Watch out when Todd Pletcher is dropping maidens in for a tag on the inner track.  He is 6 of his last 12 with this move and went a perfect 3-3 with it during last year’s meet.

Serve notice when Gary Contessa is starting a horse fresh off the claim on the inner track.  Over the last five years he has hit at a 17% clip on the inner track with a $1.46 ROI.  With horses 1st off the claim he’s 37-137 (27%), good for a $2.57 ROI.  The best priced winners in that group were all moving up in class, so pay attention if he shows confidence in a recent claim.

Trainer James Ryerson has had a banner year with his NY starters and it would be wise to pay particular attention to his runners.  For the last calendar year he is hitting at a 15% clip with a $3.40 ROI.

Beware of the “Davids” going short.  When trainer David Jacobson legged up jockey David Cohen in sprints last year they were a potent duo (26%, $2.06) but going two turns they were a very ordinary (19%, $0.68).  Cohen being a good and aggressive jockey out of the gate helped these statistics without question.

Trainer Kelly Breen is supposed to have an increased presence in NY this winter as he split his stable between Gulfstream and Aqueduct.  Note that over the last five years Breen is only 2-61 on the inner track with a paltry $0.31 ROI.  Prior to Bold Union’s win in an overnight stake in December 2009 he was on a 1-58 streak.

If you’re looking for a combo that can put across a bomb or two how about Maylan Studart and Naipaul Chetterpaul, who are 6-24 over the last two inner track meets with a $5.48 ROI?

It’s a stat that’s made up of sheer volume but it seems amazing that trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ramon Dominguez hit at a 42% clip when partnered up, good for a $2.37 ROI.  They are an amazing 33-79 together on the inner track!

Some other items to note are that the jockey colony this year has expanded a bit for the winter months.  Junior Alvarado would seem to have a leg up on Eurico Rosa de Silva as he has been riding regularly in NY since the beginning of the fall meet.  Both are strong riders who have had success on major circuits in the past.  Cornelio Velasquez will be staying in NY for the winter for the first time in nearly a decade and you can be certain he’ll pick up a great deal of Linda Rice’s business that used to go to Rosie Napravnik, who is spending this winter at Fair Grounds.  Eddie Castro is also riding regularly here and he has had success on the inner track in the past.

One thing to note about handicapping/betting the inner track is that the word “bias” is going to be tossed around readily by many people following the circuit.  The essential elements of a bias, as stated by NYRA handicapper Andy Serling on this blog a little over a year ago are: “Biases are determined when horses overachieve while taking advantage of the bias and conversely horses underachieve when against the bias.”  Thus, when three solid favorites win in wire-to-wire fashion to begin a given card, don’t throw your hands up and say, “There’s a bias.”

I’ll be back each Monday to recap the prior week’s races, specifically with regard to how the inner track played, who may have made a splash that week, and who is currently struggling to make the grade.  Until Monday then, embrace the winter racing that we’ll be treated to for the next four months as the opportunities to cash big tickets abound.

Nick Tammaro can be reached at


Cigar Mile, Guaranteed Pick 4 highlight Saturday

November 27, 2010

The $250,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 at Aqueduct includes three graded stakes this afternoon as it kicks off in Race 7, the GII Remsen.  The rest of the sequence will be made up of the GI Gazelle, Race 8, the Cigar Mile, Race 9, and a N2L claimer where a baker’s dozen will scramble for the cash.  Click here for my full card analysis for the 10 race card at Aqueduct.

Here’s a closer look at each of the stakes races with my Pick 4 play.

Race 7 –                 1. MOUNTAIN TOWN                     2. TO HONOR AND SERVE           3. BUFFUM

#3 MOUNTAIN TOWN returns from a brief freshening for trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr. as this son of Cape Town ran into eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Uncle Mo in the Champagne last time out.  This colt made a bold move around the far turn to test the heavy favorite turning for home but obviously was no challenge for the heavy favorite. This will be his first start around two turns but two of his siblings have won routing and his 2nd dam dropped 12 winners headed by Belmont and Travers winner Birdstone.  If the pace gets a tad warm will all of the horses in here stretching out then this guy will certainly benefit.  #5 TO HONOR AND SERVE is a deserving favorite in here as he has scored twice in a row in a MSW event that had been taken off the turf and the Nashua last time out.  He capitalized on a great pace setup over a gold rail in the Nashua victory but his final quarter-mile was quite impressive.  It appears as if added ground is going to be no issue for him and it’d be foolish to call him a “need the lead” type, so expect him to give a good account of himself in this, the biggest test of his career.  #1 BUFFUM scored at first asking for trainer Tom Albertrani as he showed tremendous potential taking over and digging in gamely despite tracking strong early splits.  He should be on the engine in here breaking from the inside and the added ground doesn’t look like it will be a big issue.  His two workouts since the maiden win are strong and he’ll be treated with Lasix for the first time this afternoon, so don’t be surprised if he runs even better today.

Race 8 –                 1. DUBAI DANCER                           2. NO SUCH WORD                          3. AWESOME MARIA

#5 DUBAI DANCER looks to be the “now” horse as she makes her first foray into Grade I company for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.  He sent her down to Monmouth to try stakes company in the Witches Brew and she was victorious but it was a workmanlike victory.  This is obviously a tougher race than the one she exits but she should excel with more ground and figures to get a favorable trip pace-wise.  #8 NO SUCH WORD has faced the best competition of any horse in this group as she has a couple of graded stakes wins and on the board finishes behind Blind Luck and Acting Happy.  Her Remington Oaks win was greatly aided by a wickedly fast pace but this daughter of Canadian Frontier was bet down to 4/5 for a reason.  She’s deserving of favoritism in here and will make noise late.  #1 AWESOME MARIA has had a disappointing 2010 campaign after picking up a G2 win and narrow miss in a G1 as a juvenile.  She is switching surfaces once again after finishing 4th at 6/5 in an overnight stake on the weeds last month.  Trainer Todd Pletcher is just 1 for his last 14 with graded stakes horses going turf to dirt, with just a $0.22 ROI, so there are legitimate knocks on this filly, especially given that she’ll be well backed at the windows. 

Race 9 –                 1. BRIBON                                           2. FRIEND OR FOE          3. HALF METAL JACKET


The last three times #3 BRIBON has been stretched out to a mile from a sprint race he has been victorious twice and second once, but his Beyer figures in those efforts were 100, 118, and 106.  His win in the Bold Ruler last time out was devastatingly easy and he didn’t exactly get a white-hot pace to run at that afternoon.  The pace in here appears as if it’s going to be solid as a number of pressers will go postward.  Look for him to be in high gear in crunch time and his morning line odds of 3-1 look like value.  #6 FRIEND OR FOE extended his record in non-graded stakes to 4 for 4 when he won the Empire Classic last time out on NY Showcase Day.  He set an uncontested pace that afternoon and finished up in a very strong 1:46 and 4/5.  Jockey Alex Solis put him on the lead and said afterwards that he seems to run better when allowed to run a little bit early, and he won’t have to go considerably faster today than he did last time out.  Furthermore, a flat mile looks to be right up his alley as his two defeats upstate both came going two turns.  #8 HALF METAL JACKET is going to be a longshot in here but his best efforts have come at Aqueduct with his lone blemish in four starts coming in a N3X optional seller behind graded stakes winner Tizway.  This guy made a good late move to snag the show dough behind Bribon last time out and is another who has run well when stretching out to a flat mile from a sprint race.

Race 10 –               1. WINNING TOKEN                       2. KILL THE JOKER      3. ROTTEN TO THE CORE

A bit of crafty reading of the PPs of #5 WINNING TOKEN makes him a bit more appealing as his two most recent races on fast dirt make him very competitive in this event.  He faced deeper last time out on a wet track as the winner of that event was dropping from a much steeper claiming event.  The 3rd place finisher of his last start came back to finish 2nd in a 10k conditioned claimer on Friday, so that event had some quality.  There’s a surprisingly small amount of pace in this affair despite the big field but this son of Gold Token should get a decent enough setup to make noise late.  #13 KILL THE JOKER is the one to catch in here but will be faced with the daunting task of clearing from the far outside with a baker’s dozen in the gate.  He was away somewhat slowly then rushed up to reach contention in his last start and that was a race won by repeat winner Broken Home from off the pace.  Jockey Jose Bermudez is going to have to hustle him from the gate to get the lead but it really looks like you want to have him on a Pick 4 ticket that ends here.  #1 ROTTEN TO THE CORE sat a nice trip in his last start before angling out to rally and finish in a dead heat for 2nd.  He raced on the best part of the track that afternoon before he tipped out but off the pace rallies were few and far between on the 11/6 card.  It would seem as if he’s another logical candidate in an extremely contentious race. 

 In the $250,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4, let’s play: 1,3,4,5 with 5,8 with 3,6 with 1,4,5,6,10,13  TOTAL: 108

Join me for a live chat at 11:00 AM EST about today’s races at Aqueduct and anything else you see fit to discuss. Click here to join the chat!

Best of luck and I’ll be back tomorrow to recap the final Grade I races of the year in New York!

Stage set for stake-filled weekend

November 24, 2010

Most of us are less than 24 hours away from enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner and the major stakes races for the next three days have been drawn with only the morning lines to come.   Though the grinch is usually reserved for Christmas, it appears he may manifest himself in the person of a weatherman this weekend as foul conditions are forecast for Thursday at Aqueduct and Churchill Downs.  The weather is supposed to clear on Friday in Louisville but the main track was sloppy today and has taken quite a bit of rain.  The forecast for Aqueduct calls for rain on Thursday afternoon into Friday morning but clear skies on Saturday.  With us being so close to the end of turf season at both it will be interesting to see if races carded for the weeds stay on them.

As far as the racing itself goes, the feature on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill is the Falls City (G2).  One of the interesting participants in here is #6 RAVI’S SONG, who has two wins over this strip and comes off a third-place finish in a local prep where she was unprepared for the start.  Her dam, Lu Ravi, won her only start over a wet track and earned a 110 Beyer in doing so, which bodes well for this gal given the expected track condition.

At Aqueduct, the featured event is the Fall Highweight Handicap (G3) and three entrants will tote 129 lbs, far below what we’ve seen some of the topweights carry in the past.  #3 MESA SUNRISE looks like he’s prepared for another engagement in stakes company after failing in the Gallant Bob last year for Bill Mott.  This son of Sky Mesa picked up a win at Delaware last time out in game fashion and now gets another furlong to work with.  Jockey Ramon Dominguez has the call and this guy should offer some value in the wagering.

I’ll check in tomorrow to look at the assorted stakes races across the country on Friday, including the Clark (G1) at Churchill, the Top Flight (G2) at Aqueduct and the Matriarch (G1) at Hollywood Park.  Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you and best of luck to anyone playing the races!

‘Dinner guest upsets Jackpot; Holiday stakes loom

November 22, 2010

Aside from the Breeders’ Cup competitors who already had sufficient earnings to get into the 2011 Kentucky Derby, we now have a new shooter and it’s Gourmet Dinner.  He shipped in from Calder and took down the big payday at the little racetrack in Vinton, Louisiana with a strong off the pace move.  The addition of blinkers helped him relax in the early stages and went a long way towards him getting the 8.5 furlong distance of the Jackpot.  His preliminary Beyer figure was a 93 and puts him in line with many of the 2YOs not named Uncle Mo, Boys at Tosconova, or To Honor and Serve.  Click here to watch the Delta Jackpot.

One filly I’m very excited about going forward is Aruna, who won the Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs, her third consecutive victory since coming to America and joining the stable of Graham Motion.  She has a nice turn of foot and looks to be improving with each start and that makes her a very interesting prospect for 2011.

The local preps for the Hollywood Starlet and the CashCall Futurity took place at Hollywood Park with Premier Pegasus running his undefeated record to 3-3 in the Prevue and Turbulent Descent making it 2-2 in the Moccassin.  Both will likely be back for the aforementioned meet headliners for juveniles.  Premier Pegasus is unproven going a route of ground but is certainly an interesting horse based on his precocity and savvy trainer.

The opening day card at Fair Grounds is back in its customary place on the calendar, Thanksgiving Day.  Click here for the opening day entries, with the Thanksgiving Handicap going as the featured event on the afternoon, Race 8.

The stakes action for Aqueduct’s Holidayfest begins with Thursday’s Fall Highweight Handicap.  Click here to read a bit more about it as nine runners will go postward and there’s no true favorite among the evenly matched participants. 

The Top Flight Handicap has drawn a field of seven and includes the defending champion, Sara Louise, who’s back in 20 days after a disappointing effort in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.  Little went her way at Churchill Downs and it seems reasonable to expect her to turn things around.

On Wednesday the Saturday cards for Churchill and Aqueduct will be drawn as it’s closing day at the former and the penultimate card on main track at the latter.  The Cigar Mile will feature two 4YOs from the Godolphin Stable, Girolamo and Vineyard Haven, as well as 2009 runner-up Bribon.  Other stakes winners pointing to the Cigar Mile include Arson Squad, Tizway, and Noble’s Promise.  If all of the horses mentioned by Stakes Coordinator Andy Byrnes go postward then it’s going to be a very interesting affair.

I’ll be back on Wednesday to preview the Cigar Mile card and take a peek at the Clark Handicap at Churchill as well as the Stars of Tomorrow II card at the ‘Downs on Saturday.  Until then, best of luck!

5 reasons why HOTY vote is really simple

November 16, 2010

Well, I’ve waited over a week to articulate my thoughts on one of racing’s hottest topics, the debate surrounding the 2010 Horse of the Year.  There was a wave of emotions that continues to roll through the racing community regarding the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  Those emotions are driving some people, including those who actually have a vote, to abandon conventional thinking of how the Horse of the Year honor is awarded.  I’ll preface my upcoming remarks with pure honesty; some of you are going to disagree.

1.) It’s Horse of the YEAR.  What that means is that 2007, 2008, and 2009 campaigns don’t count.  Unfortunately, Zenyatta’s streak and her 14 wins prior to this calendar year are not in the conversation.  What voters are asked to judge is who had the best year in 2010.  Blame’s resume far exceeds Zenyatta’s for this calendar year.  I don’t care if she won more Grade I races.  Zenyatta didn’t face a Grade I caliber horse until she entered the gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  With all due respect to St. Trinian’s, she was beaten handily in her only foray into Grade I company and her Grade II win at Santa Anita featured two horses who were subsequently retired, one who went 2-8 the rest of the year with wins in a listed stake and allowance race, and another who went 1-4 with three losses by double digit lengths.  Blame defeated winners of the New Orleans Handicap, Woodford Reserve and Skip Away, just in the Foster.

2.) The racing industry owes a debt of gratitude to Ann and Jerry Moss and John Shirreffs for treating us to another year of watching this great mare run.  However, that doesn’t mean that repayment comes in the form of Horse of the Year.  It’s not a question of “she did more for the industry.”  So did Smarty Jones, but like in 2004, the accomplishments of another horse went beyond in 2010.

3.) They put their chips down on the BC Classic.  The team behind Zenyatta cultivated a campaign for 2010 that was completely reliant on a BC Classic win in order to get the Horse of the Year crown.  They tried open company 0 times.  They traveled from California once to meet overmatched fillies like Taptam and Be Fair.  The downside of putting so much emphasis on the BC Classic is that it was not going to be a walkover.  Clearly in the end it was not.

4.) The pre-conceived notions.  It was astonishing to me that some racing writers went out of their way to say that no matter what happened in the BC Classic that Zenyatta is the Horse of the Year for 2010.  Based on victories in five restricted races?  The list of horses who have won HOTY based on wins solely in restricted races is very short and they’ve generally occurred in years where there was a very weak handicap division.  There was a worthy Champion Older Male in 2010.  Blame defeated the two best fields assembled this year.

5.) With regards to the BC Classic itself, stop the stream of excuses.  Zenyatta was as far behind as she was in the BC Classic because of multiple reasons.  She was behind a pace that was significantly faster than any she had seen in better than two calendar years.  She also dealt with kickback for the first time in her career.  However, Mike Smith used those giant strides of hers to get her back into the race by the time the field reached the backstretch.  She was in position at the top of the stretch, her momentum was never stopped during her furious rally, and the race unfolded exactly like it needed to for a victory.  Blame was considerably closer to the wicked pace that collapsed and he shrugged off any other closer in the final quarter.  She ran a very brave race.  He did too.

I have all the respect in the world for Zenyatta.  I saw her live in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic and won’t forget the power of her thundering hooves.  She has been a great story, her personality and charisma are infectious and her sheer size and might are mind boggling.  Her trainer deserves accolades for keeping her healthy, happy, and sound for this long.  However, their only flaw was keeping her confined to restricted company in California and one weak race in Arkansas.  For these reasons, Blame is the deserving Horse of the Year.

Cup doesn’t end the racing season

November 11, 2010

The Breeders’ Cup has come and gone and the racing world was treated to 14 exciting races, numerous unforgettable performances, and unfortunately some forgettable ones too.  However, the Breeders’ Cup being in the rearview mirror does not mean that racing is over for 2010.  Not at any level in fact.

The Florida Million will take place at Calder on Saturday with 8 stakes races on tap.  For those of you questioning the quality of those races remember that recent Breeders’ Cup winners Awesome Feather and Big Drama are both Florida-breds.  Entries were drawn on Monday and 69 betting interests are available in the 8 stakes races.  A pick four will be offered on races 5-8 with a $0.50 minimum.  Included in the stakes races is the Joe O’Farrell Juvenile Fillies where a number of youngsters will be happy to have Awesome Feather out of the mix.  Bill Mott’s Come a Callin will be making her first start on dirt since her maiden win on the final program at Saratoga.  A couple of 3YOs take center stage in the Bonnie Heath Turf Classic as Bim Bam and Tannersville were separated by just a nose the last time they met up in the Calder Derby.  Scott Lake’s 10-time winner Ju Jitsu Jax headlines the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap and Gourmet Dinner will look to turn things around in the Jack Price Juvenile after a defeat in the In Reality last time out.  Tom Proctor’s Holidaysatthefarm looks to be a prohibitive favorite in the John Franks Juvenile Fillies Turf and Marty Wolfson is once again holding all the aces in the Elmer Heubeck Distaff with Amazing and Trip for A.J. The Carl G. Rose Classic is the centerpiece of the afternoon and a showdown between Duke of Mischief and Birdrun seems likely.  The former scored handily in the Iselin at Monmouth in August but enters this off a dull effort in the Monmouth Cup.  The latter scored at Belmont most recently and will make his first foray into stakes company since the Challenger at Tampa earlier this year.  All in all a fun afternoon is on tap at Calder and the forecast is perfect with no rain and a high temperature of 78 degrees.

A week from Saturday the Delta Jackpot will take place at Delta Downs and will be run in the afternoon for the first time.  There’s a special post time of 1:00 PM CST and included in the card is a $100,000 Guaranteed Pick 4.  The quality of the Delta Jackpot has increased dramatically in recent years as Rule won it last year and came back this year to take the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa before finishing a close third in the Florida Derby (G1).  The Delta Princess will be offered on the same card and its 2009 winner was Quiet Temper, who came back to win the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in 2010.  In all, eight stakes races will be offered and there were a record number of pre-entries for this year’s Jackpot.  Sharpen your bullring handicapping by taking a gander at Delta Downs races on a nightly basis from Wednesday through Saturday.

Thanksgiving weekend needs no introduction to avid racing fans as we have big races at Hollywood, Aqueduct, and Churchill with each having a clever nickname.  Holidayfest at the Big A includes the Fall Highweight Handicap, the Turf Festival at Hollywood includes the Citation, Matriarch, and Hollywood Derby, and FallStars weekend at Churchill features the Fall City, Clark, Golden Rod, and Kentucky Jockey Club.

So, if you were wondering how the next three weekends will go for racing fans, have no fear, there will still be plenty of interesting racing.  Check back here Saturday as I’ll offer some thoughts on Aqueduct’s $250,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 along with the Florida Million card at Calder.

27 things I took away from BC 27

November 7, 2010

1.) Calvin Borel was awfully mad after the Marathon.  It had a lot to do with Javier Castellano making a wreckless move that could have injured a horse or rider.  It had more to do with Borel being on a horse that was moving comfortably and seemed to be a few furlongs away from giving him his first Breeders’ Cup win since he piloted Street Sense to a Juvenile win in 2006.

2.) If I was an owner and wanted Calvin Borel on my horse before the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, then I really want him on my horse afterwards.  I loved seeing that type of fire and tenacity.

3.) Good for Bobby Flay.  He purchased More Than Real after her debut win at Saratoga and it paid off handsomely.  This was perfect Garrett Gomez ride, Part I.

4.) Was anyone else shocked to see that More Than Real’s win broke Todd Pletcher’s 20 race losing streak with 2YOs at the BC?  I knew his record was terrible going in but it just seemed surprising.

5.) Horses like Dubai Majesty are very easy to cheer for.  She won stakes races this year on dirt, turf, and synthetics and stayed in top form for nearly six months. 

6.) Kudos to Jamie Theriot and Bret Calhoun, who deserved to get a bit of attention on racing’s biggest stage.

7.) Stanley Gold is the best 2YO trainer in the country that no one knows about.  He has now conditioned two horses to win the Florida Stallion Series in the last two years and Awesome Feather delivered an even bigger win.  Thank goodness we had dirt for her to prove herself over while Jackson Bend stayed in the barn last year.

8.) If you thought Edgar Prado’s career was fading into the sunset then you have to recognize that his ride on Shared Account was what made him one of the best jockeys of this decade.  He was cool, calm, and collected the entire way, saving ground throughout and helping her deliver a finish that denied a heavy favorite.

9.) Ignore Graham Motion-trained turf horses in the Breeders’ Cup at your own risk.  Hopefully I remember this going forward.

10.) It was nice to see Unrivaled Belle return to the site of her biggest win and deliver again when everyone was watching.  She was given a perfect ride by Kent Desormeaux, a jockey who I’ve poked fun at more than any, and held off the two best 3YO fillies in the country. 

11.) Blind Luck is a deserving 3YO Eclipse Award winner.  She danced every dance, came up short in a couple of tough spots but stayed one of the best horses in training from February of this year.  Here’s to hoping she and Havre de Grace treat us to more great battles next year, with horses like Unrivaled Belle still around.

12.) How cool was the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic being run under the lights?  I guess traditionalists will have issues but it was a great addition and added to the experience.

13.) One horse went down in the Juvenile Turf and one horse was adversely affected by that unfortunate spill.  That horse was Pluck, who was held together nicely by Garrett Gomez then rolled past them all in the final furlong.  RIP Rough Sailing.  This was perfect Garrett Gomez ride, Part II.

14.) What do you do when you’re in a disadvantageous post in a race loaded with speed?  You go straight to the front and put them on the chase and that’s exactly what Eibar Coa did with Big Drama. 

15.) How much would Majesticperfection have won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint by?  Trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Satish Sanan have to be wondering “what if?”

16.) Chamberlain Bridge had a foot abscess a week before the Turf Sprint.  He drew the rail and hates being inside.  He was 0-3 against Silver Timber coming in.  However, none of that mattered as he was given another perfect ride by Jamie Theriot and rolled to victory late. 

17.) How good is Uncle Mo?  He has shown more potential than any other 2YO in this decade and now we can only hope he stays healthy and continues to develop as a 3YO.

18.) How unfortunate is Boys at Tosconova to have been foaled in 2008?  He would have been a handy Juvenile winner, more than likely an Eclipse Award winner, and the buzz horse going into 2011 if not for Uncle Mo.

19.)  Goldikova.  Wow.  Is there any more that needs to be said? 

20.) Jerry Hollendorfer might not have won with the horse he planned this weekend but Dakota Phone’s 37-1 upset capped off what was quietly a good year for the veteran campaigner. On the other hand, wasn’t this the only fitting way for the biggest races in 2010 to end for Nick Zito?  He has seemingly had no luck at any point this year and you’ll never convince me that Morning Line didn’t run the best of any horse in the Dirt Mile.

21.) This year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf might have been the worst of any in the 27 year history.  A horse that was considered laughable at Group I competition in Europe scored and trainer Jean-Claude Rouget is now 0-19 in America in the last five years.  Thumbs down to Workforce’s connections for scratching.  The turf didn’t bother Goldikova and last I checked, Workforce won the Epsom Derby over a very hard turf course.

22.) The Breeders’ Cup Classic was everything a racing fan could have asked for and more.  The two best horses in the race squared off in a showdown in deep stretch under the Twin Spires and Blame proved best.  Zenyatta lost nothing in defeat.

23.) Zenyatta did not have a bad trip, anyone telling you that has a very limited understanding of trip handicapping.  She was well off the pace, but it was a legitimate early clip and she has never exactly shown a great deal of early interest whether running on dirt or synthetics.

24.) Blame is the 2010 Horse of the Year.  It’s not a Lifetime Achievement Award.  If the NTRA wants to separately come out to the annual Zenyatta retirement party and give Jerry and Ann Moss an award showing their appreciation then that’s fine.  They should be applauded for keeping their prized possession in training for this long.

25.) How can you not get a little excited about the 2011 Derby with Uncle Mo and To Honor and Serve (who won the Nashua handily on Saturday)? 

26.) I don’t know about you but I was really happy to have the Breeders’ Cup back on dirt.  The races seemed more competitive and the wagering opportunites were tremendous.  I will say, nothing matches the Turf Sprint being down the hill though.

27.) A salute to the horses and people that made Breeders’ Cup 27 special, from a jubilant ownership group of Shared Account, to the deft maneuvering of Pluck by Garrett Gomez, to the long powerful strides of Uncle Mo, to the frighteningly rapid acceleration from the inimitable Goldikova, to the thunderous final furlong from Zenyatta in her quest to catch Blame, it was a special two-day event.  That, and so much more, is what makes the Breeders’ Cup special.

How five handicappers see the Breeders’ Cup

November 5, 2010

We’re hours away from the start of the 27th Breeders’ Cup and the 14 championship races are sure to offer tremendous value and incredible wagering opportunities.   Here’s how five handicappers, myself included, see the Friday action:

My thoughts on the entire card will be available, as always, on and by clicking here.  Best of luck and I’ll see you back tomorrow evening to recap the first day of Cup action!