It’s Breeder’ Cup eve and all through the land handicappers are burning the midnight oil, with Bris and DRF past performances scattered about, and a pot of coffee (or perhaps something more substantial) on hand. I don’t know about you, but I always tend to overanalyze these races when good old-fashioned basics usually work best. Thus, I'm going with my first gut picks, and making an early night of it. Good luck, everyone!
Race 5: BC Marathon
In a race contested at 1-3/4 miles or nearly 14-furlongs, I just can’t get past Aidan O’Brien-trained Bright Horizon, even though he’s never raced on dirt. Yes, he’s by Galileo out of a Caerleon mare. Yet, his second dam Alligram is by Alydar’s son Alysheba—classic American dirt champion. Last out, Bright Horizon won the 16-furlong (2-mile) Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh by 5-1/2 lengths, over 22 other competitors. He’s proven he can get the distance, which is more than some of the more promising hopes (like Prince Will I Am) can say. Don’t get me wrong: I would love to see Michelle Nihei’s horse win, as I’ve liked him ever since he finished a strong second behind Drosselmeyer in an allowance race back in January. He also appears to be a much stronger, smarter race horse than he was earlier this year, so I’m pegging him for a piece of the exotics. Also in the mix for me is a horse likely to be a huge longshot: Graham Motion-trained filly Million Seller. Yes, she trailed Life at Ten by nearly 12-length in the G2 Delaware Handicap, but she enters this race off a win and, most interestingly, ran second to Lord Kipling in a 16-furlong DIRT allowance optional claiming race at Saratoga last August. Look at that pedigree: by A.P. Indy out of a Sunday Silence mare who is a daughter of Maplejinsky, matriarch of the family that produced Sky Beauty, Pleasant Home, Pine Island and so on.
Trifecta box: 2-3-9
Race 6: BC Juvenile Fillies Turf
Once again, I’m going with a Euro trained by Aidan O’Brien, Together who finished just a neck behind undefeated White Moonstone (and ahead of Theyskens’ Theory) in the ENG-G1 Fillies’ Mile at Ascot. Also, love Jimmy Toner-trained Winter Memories, and settling on G3 Natalma winner New Normal for a trifecta spot.
Trifecta box: 7-10-13
Race 7: BC FM Sprint
This field just doesn’t thrill me, I’m sorry to say. I really liked Sara Louise last year, and though she disappointed on Pro-Ride, she came back to win the G2 Top Flight at Aqueduct in late November—only to disappear for nearly 10 months. I’ve lost interest in her. Ditto for Gabby’s Golden Gal who also has been off the scene since January. Informed Decision just doesn’t seem like the same winning closer this year. My pick here is Rightly So, who’s never finished out of the top three, and whose trainer Tony Dutrow has apparently spaced her races carefully this year. She looks ripe to peak for this. I’m a big fan of Champagne D’oro, and second-up should be ready to fire. Back on dirt where she was just nipped by Blind Luck in the G1 Kentucky Oaks, Evening Jewel should have plenty of speed to mow these down.
Trifecta box: 5-13-14
Race 8: BC Juvenile Fillies
I posted an in-depth analysis for this race over at ThoroFan’s website (click on embedded link), where I argue for European invader Theyskens’ Theory to win and why. Actually, I like both Bernardini fillies, the other being A Z Warrior, and am particularly keen on Believe in A.P. who I hope will still get a powerful ride by Garrett Gomez.
Trifecta box: 2-8-10
Race 9: BC FM Turf
There’s just no way to leave Midday out of the exotics, and probable repeat win. Yet I’m tipping Plumania who finished second to her in the FR-G1 Prix Vermeille. Last up, Plumania ran into all kinds of problems in the FR-G1 Arc de Triomphe, but I’m willing to forgive that. Éclair De Lune has stepped up and improved in every race she’s run this year, including a win in the G1 Beverly D. What a good story a top three finish would be out of her! And, may I say, although I think Forever Together is not the horse she once was, I love seeing Rosie Napravnik given a BC ride on this girl!
Trifecta box: 1-2-7
Race 10: BC Distaff (“Ladies’ Classic”)
The only time in her career that Unrivaled Belle didn’t finish first or second when in the G2 La Canada over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride, so how can she be 8-1 on the morning line? She beat Rachel Alexandra in the G2 Latroienne here in April, but then finished second three consecutive times—behind Life at Ten twice and Malibu Prayer once. She may not win, but there’s no way I leave her out of the top three. I love the rivalry that has developed between Blind Luck and Havre de Grace, but I’m not sure the latter can get the distance, while the former will be lucky to have enough left in the tank after her 2010 campaign. I hope she does. Except for the G1 Personal Ensign, Life At Ten has been impressive this year, and has not lost at this distance in three tries.
Trifecta box: 1-8-10