• BC Contenders & Pretenders

    POSTED Nov 1, 2013

    FRIDAY (11/01/13)

    BC Marathon

    Top Contender(s)

    8-BLUESKIESNRAINBOWS went way too fast early — a -12 early speed ration (ESR) — in his last race and it came back to bite him, as he finished a distant fifth as the 3-5 favorite in a minor stakes affair at Fresno. However, Blueskiesnrainbows’ previous try in the RM Hinds was quite good, earning the colt a -5 ESR and a -3 LSR (late speed ration). What’s more, he’s bred for longer distances (son of English Channel) and he’s shown he can rate.

    Top Pretender(s)

    Much will be made of the fact that the morning-line favorite, 4-EVER RIDER, is following the same path that Caildscopo did when he won the Marathon last year: same final prep, same long layoff, etc.

    The comparison is faulty.

    Caildscopo had won more than a half a million dollars over the course of his distinguished career and, in fact, was well-regarded when he captured the Group 2 General Belgrano in his homeland of Argentina prior to mowing down 12 overmatched rivals in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Marathon. By contrast, Ever Rider has earned less than $76K in his career to date and was all-out — at 28-1, no less — to annex the 2013 edition of the General Belgrano by a diminishing neck.

    Juvenile Turf

    Top Contender(s)

    Although his front-running style gives me pause, it’s hard not to be impressed with 5-BOBBY’S KITTEN. Named after the late, great Bobby Frankel, Bobby’s Kitten recorded a 97 Brisnet speed figure and a 0 LSR in winning the Grade III Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park last time.

    I also like 9-WILSHIRE BOULEVARD quite a bit. Considered by many to be Aidan O’Brien’s “B” entry (O’Brien also trains Giovanni Boldini), Wilshire Boulevard has the benefit of experience and should appreciate the added distance.

    Top Pretender(s)

    7-AOTEAROA won a fairly mundane edition of the Zuma Beach at Santa Anita in his latest effort and doesn’t meet today’s LSR par (0) — the kiss of death in turf routes.

    Dirt Mile

    Top Contender(s)

    After dispatching four overwhelmed opponents in the Prairie Meadows Handicap (as the 1-9 favorite), 2-GOLDEN TICKET spent the next couple of months on the shelf before returning in the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes. In that race, the son of former BC Sprint champion Speightstown made a move entering the lane and flattened out late. I suspect he’ll be tighter today and a flat mile should hit him right between the eyes.

    Trainer Doug O’Neill’s preparation of Santa Anita Derby winner 12-GOLDENCENTS has been nothing short of brilliant. On the Derby trail, the Into Mischief colt was a handful, as he often appeared almost rank in the early going of his races. Since a brief freshening, however, Goldencents has been a different horse. Last time, in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, he finished in the money after trailing by more than 1 ¼ lengths at the first call for the first time in his career. I suspect he’ll be closer to the pace in the Dirt Mile and he’s already proven that he can get the distance.

    Lastly, I think the speedy 1-TAPTOWNE and the lightly-raced 8-HOLY LUTE will also run big.

    Top Pretender(s)

    10-VERRAZANO is unquestionably talented, but he needs things to go his own way; if they don’t — as was the case in the Kentucky Derby and Travers — he tends to fall apart. I could live with that if the Todd Pletcher trainee promised to be a price. But as the 3-1 morning-line choice, I’ll pass.

    Juvenile Fillies Turf

    Top Contender(s)

    I think the Euros are leaps and bounds better than the Americans in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. 6-VORDA, 2-AL THAKHIRA and 8-CHRISELLAM all have a great chance in my opinion. Among the American contingent, I think 7-STREET SAILING and 13-SKY PAINTER are best.

    Top Pretender(s)

    There’s a lot of buzz centering on 14-MY CONQUESTADORY and I suspect the bettors who play her will get stung. There’s no question she has a ton of ability, but I’m not fond of the surface switch — even though the Alcibiades featured turf-like fractions — and I’m even less thrilled with My Conquestadory’s post position.


    Top Contender(s)

    Those expecting a pace meltdown initiated by 4-ROYAL DELTA and 5-BEHOLDER should look at the riders of those two horses. The former will be piloted by the Mike Smith, while the latter gets the services of Gary Stevens — two veteran reinsmen who, I believe, are way too experienced to get sucked into a suicidal pace duel. That being the case, it comes down to price as to which horse will get my money. I think Royal Delta is fair at 2-1 or better, whereas Beholder looks fair at 5-2 or greater.

    Top Pretender(s)

    I hesitate to put 6-PRINCESS OF SYLMAR in this category because she’s certainly not a “pretender” from an ability standpoint. However, I do have concerns about: a) her late running style and b) the fact that’s she’s in this race at all, given that the original plan was to put her on the shelf for the rest of the year after the Beldame. I suspect that Todd Pletcher entered Princess of Sylmar in this spot to put her in the running for Horse of the Year… and that doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

    SATURDAY (11/02/13)

    Juvenile Fillies

    Top Contender(s)

    1-ARTEMIS AGROTERA recorded a 95 Brisnet speed figure and a -1 LSR in the Frizette and needs only to adapt to what promises to be a brisk pace to win.

    10-SHE’S A TIGER went insanely fast early (-14 ESR) in her two-turn debut, the 1 1/16-mile Chandelier Stakes, yet showed grit and determination in dropping a narrow decision to Secret Compass. Her workouts have been stellar and Jeff Bonde has an outstanding 2.36 Expected Performance Rating (EPR) in BC routes.

    Top Pretender(s)

    Despite beating She’s a Tiger in the Chandelier, I think 4-SECRET COMPASS is bound to be an underlay in this spot. Call me a cranky old fart, but I’m just not a fan of closers with poor LSRs. They make me madder than a kid playing loud music and walking on my lawn.

    Filly & Mare Turf

    Top Contender(s)

    I know I’m going to catch some grief for this, but I think 5-LADY OF SHAMROCK is sitting on a big effort. Last time, in the Grade I Rodeo Drive, trainer John Sadler removed the blinkers that “Lady” had donned in the John C. Mabee Stakes and the 4-year-old responded with the best race — from a speed figure perspective — of her career.

    After notching two Grade I wins as a three-year-old — not to mention a strong showing in last year’s Filly & Mare Turf — the daughter of Scat Daddy has been blanked (minus a win by DQ) so far at age four. Yet, if she makes one sustained bid, which seems to be Sadler’s game plan, I think Lady of Shamrock could light up the tote board.

    Top Pretender(s)

    Like Princess of Sylmar, 1-DANK is not a pretender in the classical sense, but, rather, a filly that I think will be overbet. Yeah, her score in the Beverly D. was impressive, but it was 77 days ago and it wasn’t that impressive (at least from a figures standpoint).

    Filly & Mare Sprint

    Top Contender(s)

    If my selection of Lady of Shamrock in the Filly & Mare Turf raised a few eyebrows, I’m guessing my top contender in this race will prompt family members — and maybe even a few readers — to begin the commitment process.

    I kind of like 10-GREAT HOT.

    I know, I know — the daughter of former BC Sprint champ Orientate wins about as often as the Washington Generals, but, frankly, this field is no great shakes and I was impressed by Great Hot’s last race. What’s more, her workouts at Santa Anita have been outstanding.

    2-BOOK REVIEW, 7-SUMMER APPLAUSE and 9-JUDY THE BEAUTY figure as well.

    Top Pretender(s)

    This race is generally not kind to frontrunners and that, coupled with a wide draw, makes 12-SWEET LULU a dubious proposition at what figures to be a fairly short price.

    Turf Sprint

    Top Contender(s)

    2-ROCK ME BABY was stopped dead in his tracks in the Grade III Eddie D. last time. With better racing luck — never a guarantee in a crowded field — he could have a big impact at an even bigger price in the Turf Sprint.

    Top Pretender(s)

    I’m not enamored with 4-RENEESGOTZIP, who finished third in this race last year. First, there’s the 76-day layoff; second, there’s the switch in surfaces (true, she pulled it off last year, but I’d have liked to have seen at least one turf try in 2013 before a race of this magnitude).


    Top Contender(s)

    This race left me with more questions than answers — the same way I feel every time I watch a movie on the Syfy channel. Is tossing bombs out of a helicopter really the best way to deal with airborne killer sharks? According to “Sharknado,” yes… but I remain skeptical.

    Anyway, I’m most impressed by the speed and pace figures of 3-MEXICOMA in this event, but can a maiden race really be considered a viable prep for a $1 million Grade I affair? It worked for Action This Day. He parlayed a maiden win into a huge payday in 2003 (for the sake of this discussion, we’ll ignore the fact that he failed to hit the board in six subsequent starts as a three- and four-year-old).

    6-TAP IT RICH also exits a maiden race and adds to the degree of difficulty by attempting to become the first horse ever to win the Juvenile off of a single prep — maiden or otherwise.

    Then there’s the 5-2 morning-line favorite, 13-HAVANA. He ran great in the Champagne at Belmont… maybe too great. Since 1997 only two (of 24) entrants that met the Juvenile speed par in their final prep won the big race — and they paid $6.40 (War Pass, 2007) and $4.60 (Shanghai Bobby, 2013).

    Hence, by default, I landed on 5-BOND HOLDER as my top contender. The son of Mineshaft appears to be improving and has the same connections as Derby and Preakness hero I’ll Have Another.

    Top Pretender(s)

    Me for thinking I could handicap this race without the benefit of alcohol.


    Top Contender(s)

    I put a fork in 4-LITTLE MIKE earlier in the year and he proved me wrong with a gutsy win in the Turf Classic, setting him up perfectly for a defense of his 2012 BC Turf title.

    I also like 7-THE FUGUE and even think some of the longshots — 2-TEAKS NORTH instantly comes to mind — have a shot.

    Top Pretender(s)

    Both 5-SKYRING and 6-TALE OF A CHAMPION would surprise me if they won.


    Top Contender(s)

    Turn times rule in the BC Sprint and that makes me think the rapidly-improving 3-GENTLEMEN’S BET could be sitting on a corker Saturday. The son of Half Ours has finished out of the money just once in his eight-race career and that was in the Phoenix at Keeneland on Oct. 4 — the first and only time Gentlemen’s Bet competed on a synthetic surface. To make matters worse, he broke poorly that day before rallying strongly to finish within 1 ¾ lengths of the eventual winner, Sum of the Parts, who is also in the Sprint field and who finished a close fourth in last year’s Sprint.

    Perhaps the horse with the strongest overall credentials is 1-JUSTIN PHILLIP. The Steve Asmussen trainee is fast, in good form and he’s consistent. 4-MAJESTIC STRIDE and the aforementioned 5-SUM OF PARTS round out my primary contenders.

    Top Pretender(s)

    7-PRIVATE ZONE is a frontrunner with abysmal ESRs.


    Top Contender(s)

    Try as I may, I simply can’t look past defending champ 8-WISE DAN in this spot. While it’s true that no horse has ever won the Mile off of a non-turf prep, the pace scenario appears ideal for the son of Wiseman’s Ferry on Saturday. And, frankly, this year’s Mile field simply isn’t very deep.

    Although he’s been away for a while (231 days to be exact), 6-BRIGHT THOUGHT is undefeated on the green and is 20-1 on the morning line.

    Top Pretender(s)

    Even though 3-SILVER MAX defeated Wise Dan in an off-the-grass renewal of the Shadwell Turf Mile last time, his LSRs do not meet the race (and historical) par.

    5-OLYMPIC GLORY is immensely talented… but his trainer is not, at least in the Breeders’ Cup (0.58 EPR).


    Top Contender(s)

    Historical trends and traditional handicapping all point to the same horse — and it’s not the 8-5 morning line favorite Game On Dude; it’s 6-MUCHO MACHO MAN, last year’s runner-up. Let’s start with the history: The Classic typically favors horses with good tactical speed that were well-bet in their final prep and who — surprise, surprise — are fast. Check, check and check for Mucho Macho Man. He generally stalks the pace; he was the 8-5 favorite in the Awesome Again; and his last-race Brisnet speed figure is tops in the field.

    Now, on to traditional handicapping: Is there any horse that ran better than the son of Mucho Uno did in the Awesome Again? I don’t think so. Not only did Mucho Macho Man record a 113 Brisnet speed figure, but he also earned a -3 LSR in that race.  What’s more, his two starts at Santa Anita are arguably the best of his career.

    Top Pretender(s)

    5-DECLARATION OF WAR is great — on turf. The colt’s trainer is also great — on turf. Yes, Arcangues captured the 1993 Classic following a run over the lawn in France, but Arcangues also paid $269.20  to win — the highest mutual in BC history. Declaration of War won’t be 133-1 on Saturday.

    We’ll already have some clues as to how trainer Bob Baffert’s Breeders’ Cup is going before the Classic and that might help in assessing 9-GAME ON DUDE’s chances.

    I’m not optimistic.

    For some reason, despite a 1-for-9 record and a 0.66 odds-based impact value (see below) with horses coming off a 60-day layoff or greater in the BC, Baffert has chosen the “rested” route with many of his charges this year. In addition to Game On Dude, Fed Biz, Book Review and New Year’s Day have all been on the sidelines for two months or more.

    But it gets worse for the “Dude:”

    1) No horse over the age of five has ever won the Classic. Baffert’s stable star is six.
    2) In the past 16 years, excluding 2008 and 2009 when the BC races were contested over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface, horses that last raced on turf or faux dirt are 0-for-27 in the Classic. The “Dude” last raced over Del Mar’s artificial surface in the Pacific Classic.

    Breeders' Cup Handicapping Guides

    To get more stats like the ones referenced above, be sure to check out my handicapping guides being sold through Brisnet and my own Web site, SimonSpeedRations.com:

    Derek Simon's 2013 Breeders' Cup Betting Guide

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