I’ve looked over the 15 races of the Breeders’ Cup from every angle since the entries have been in. I have stared at them until I’ve almost gone blind and until I see the horses in my sleep. Now I’m just ready for this amazing two-day festival of racing to get underway. Until it does begin, though, all I can do to satisfy myself is make predictions of how things will turn out — and hope that those predictions turn into profits. Here are seven 2012 Breeders’ Cup predictions that I feel pretty good about:
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Baffert will have a huge day
Bob Baffert is at the peak of his game right now, and the trainer is going to add to his legend this year. That’s not really a prediction that goes out on a limb given the loaded slate of horses he has this year, though. He has 10 horses entered over the two days. These aren’t just horses that are happy to be there, either. Executiveprivilege in the Juvenile Fillies and Game On Dude in the Classic are favorites, and three other horses are the second choice in the morning line. He doesn’t have a single horse that doesn’t have a shot to win. Not only is he going to win a race, but, frankly, fewer than three wins would be a disappointment on the day. In particular, the Classic is his to lose, and in the Juvenile he’s got the two best horses in the field in my eyes. Baffert, with eight career wins, is third all time but sits far behind D. Wayne Lukas and his 18 victories. He might never catch the legend, but after this year he’ll be much closer.
Home track will be a big advantage
There are always three sides at war in the Breeders’ Cup: the Europeans against the east coast and the west coast. Different regions have reigned in different years. This year it’s California that is going to shine. Part of that is the strength of Baffert, but it goes beyond that. Mandella, Mitchell, Puype, and O’Neill also have some nice horses here, and Mandella in particular has more than one strong bullet to fire. Given the challenges of getting here for a lot of East Coast horses because of the weather and the quirks of the Santa Anita like the downhill turf course that favors home horses, there is going to be a distinct west coast bias.
Groupie Doll will be upset in the Filly & Mare Spint
Every year there is a horse or two that stands out as a clear, overwhelming favorite. This year that is Groupie Doll. She has won four in a row in dominating fashion, and she is at even money against a 10-horse field. Though she’s obviously talented, three of her four wins have been on synthetic surfaces. That makes me uneasy. She’s also facing some very nice horses here, and the pace scenario could be a real challenge. The biggest favorite of the day is going to be upset.
We’re going to see a horse pay more than $35 to win
Breeders’ Cup longshots are a fact of life during the two-day event, and this year is going to be no exception. As I have gone over this card from every angle one thing that has struck me is how deep it is, and how good so many of the longshots are. Because it takes so much money and effort to get a horse to the Breeders’ Cup, there are few totally outclassed horses. Therefore, it’s a good spot to find longshots. There will be plenty of favorites that come through, but it will be far from an entirely chalky weekend.
A Canadian flag will fly
There is a small but surprisingly intriguing group of Canadian-based horses here — both from Woodbine in Toronto and Hastings Park in Vancouver. Maybe it’s just my national pride speaking, but I can’t shake the feeling that one of these horses is going to pull a shocker and win — or at least play a big part in a nice exotic payoff. Which horses will shine? Well, it would be no fun if I gave you all the answers.
Europe will rule the grass again
It’s an interesting and rare situation in the two major turf races — the Turf and the Mile. Both of the favorites are domestic runners. While I have lots of respect for Point of Entry in the Turf and especially for Wise Dan in the Mile, I can’t help but feel as if they are both going to get beaten here. The Euro invaders are just so tough in these races — even though it’s not usually the best horses on the continent that come over.
Triple Crown alumni won’t shine
I love the Triple Crown races, and any horse that runs in any of those races has a fan for the rest of their careers. Sadly, though, there isn’t going to be much to celebrate among that group this year. There aren’t as many representatives as there should be, and each has issues. Animal Kingdom is coming off a major layoff and serious struggles with injuries. Mucho Macho Man has fallen from the heights of his career. Optimizer, Trinniberg and Dullahan are in the wrong spots. Alpha is outclassed in the Classic, and Brilliant Speed is almost as out of place in the race. The best chance lies with Shackleford, the 2011 Preakness winner who is the 2/1 favorite in the Dirt Mile. I don’t like him around two turns, and he was beaten in this race last year when he should have won it. Therefore, I’m looking elsewhere here.
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