The Horses I Like in the Eight BC Races
by Greg Melikov - 11/02/2006
The most wide open of Saturday's eight Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship races is the $2 Million Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the Churchill Downs main track.
A dozen favorites have won in 22 outings so that bodes well for my selection, Cash Included, the morning line 3-1 favorite.
The daughter of Include, with Corey Nakatani (6-7-7 of 58 BC rides) aboard, posted one of two triple-digit Brisnet.com speed figures in the 14-filly field winning her final prep by nearly five lengths at 1:42 4/5 for the distance. The best time at the Louisville track was in '00 by Caressing, only two ticks faster.
Seven winners paid double-digits so don't count out Adhrhythm, 12-1, which owns the other 100-speed figure. Also with a shot are Bel Air Beauty, 8-1, winner of the Alcibiades Stakes; Her Majesty, third in that race; and Quick Little Miss, 30-1, that ran a second faster finishing third in her last prep.
Here's how the remainder of the BC card shapes up:
Any of four I like can score in the $2 Million Juvenile for colts and geldings at 1 1/16 miles. Two share the fastest times at the distance: Stormello, 6-1, and Principle Secret, 5-1, one-two a neck apart in the Norfolk Breeders' Cup Stakes in 1:43 for the distance.
Circular Quay, one of 14 horses sent out by Todd Pletcher (2-2-3 of 24 BC races), is the early choice at 5-2 despite finishing nearly two lengths behind Great Hunter, 9-2, in their final prep.
Most winners owned at least a victory going into the race so all four qualify. Six years ago, Macho Uno nosed out Point Given covering the distance in 1:42 at the Louisville track.
Two horses have the best chance to capture the $2 Million Filly & Mare Turf for 3-year-olds and up at 1 3/8 miles in the youngest BC contest.
Ouija Board, the 8-5 morning line favorite, won two years ago. Wait A While, 3-1, unbeaten on the grass goes for her fifth consecutive victory. Box the pair and key them on top of any exotic wagers.
The $2 Million Sprint for 3-years-old and up also could end up a two-horse race. Bordonaro, 3-1, guided by Pat Valenzuela (7-0-4 of 50 BC mounts), is my choice to nip early 2-1 favorite Henny Hughes, ridden by John Velazquez (6-6-6 of 55 BC rides).
Both horses are the only ones in the 14-horse field with two Brisnet.com speed figures of 110 or higher in two of their last three outings. Seven of eight winners posted 110 or higher in one of their final two preps.
Five-year-old Bordonaro, which boasts the fastest time of 1:07 4/5 at six furlongs in '06, is three for four in stakes at the distance and 7 for 10 during her career. Three-year-old Henny Hughes is undefeated in three sprints this year.
The $2 Million Mile for 3-year-olds and up is Gorella's to lose. The daughter of Grape Tree Road, 4-1, ran third last year in a troubled trip that saw her steadied repeatedly as second choice Artie Schiller edged favored Leroidesanimaux in 1:36. The fastest BC Mile at the track came in '94 when Barathea zipped 1:34 2/5.
Gorella, one of three rides by Julien Leparoux for trainer Patrick Biancone on Saturday, goes for her fourth in a row, winning on firm and yielding turf courses at three different tracks. Nineteen different horses have triumphed while chalk finished on top about one-third of the time.
In with a chance are Aragorn, 5-1, seeking his fifth straight in graded stakes, running no slower than 1:32 4/5 on three different West Coast grass courses, and Miesque's Approval, 10-1, sporting a 4-0-1 of 6 record this year, including a stakes win at the distance in 1:34 2/5.
Fleet Indian, 8-5, is the mare to beat in the $2 Million Distaff for 3-year-olds and up. Favorites have dominated: 17 winners were less than 3-1.
The 5-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie hasn't tasted defeat in more than a year, and that was at seven furlongs in the slop. Five of eight consecutives victories were at 1 1/8 miles at five different tracks. Jose Santos (7-2-4 in 62 BC races) was aboard the Pletcher trainee the last six winning trips.
In with an excellent chance to upset is Pine Island, 5-1, with Javier Castellano aboard for Shug McGaughey (9-9-1 of 48 BC races), with three victories and never worse than second in a half-dozen outings.
Two others that could surprise are Pool Land, 10-1, one of six rides on Pletcher horses for John Velazquez, three for her last four with triple-digit Brisnet.com speed ratings, and Balletto, 6-1, who lost her last by a head to Fleet Indian, but has a bad case of seconditis going back to her last triumph 13 months ago.
Of five Distaff contests at Churchill Downs, Spain in '00 went the distance the fastest, 1:47 3/5, and returned the most, $113.80.
A dozen European-bred horses have won the $3 Million Turf for 3-year-olds and up. Those making their last start overseas captured the last six in a row.
But this year's crop of invaders is thin. Hurricane Run, although the early 3-1 favorite, hasn't won since four back, covering the good Ascot turf course in 2:30 1/5 for 1 ½ miles on July 29. But the 4-year-old colt is 4-2-0 of 7 at the distance.
Tikkanen set the Churchill Downs track record of 2:26 2/5 for 1 ½ miles on the grass in '94.
I like English Channel, 7-2, a disappointing fifth in '05, but 4 of 6 this year with a victory at the Kentucky track. The Velazquez-Pletcher combo can do it.
Others with a chance are the fast closing Go Deputy, 6-1, boasting a 3-5-1 record in 9 grass routes this year, and Cacique, 4-1, with 2-3-0 of 6 turf routes in '06 for Robert Frankel (4-9-7 of 66 BC races).
The $5 Million Classic at 1 ¼ miles 3-year-olds and up has been captured by sophomores six times since '89. Post-time favorites won seven times, including last year when Saint Liam surged past Flower Alley leaving the furlong marker to score a length victory in 2:01 2/5.
Tiznow, who as a 3-year-old captured the first of two Classics in '00, covered the 10 furlongs at Churchill Downs in 2:00 3/5.
It appears the 23rd edition is Bernardini's to lose, judging from his last two victories at the distance. The son of A. P. Indy, who won as a 3-year-old in '92, goes for his seventh in a row.
Two significant facts: Black Tie Affair in '91 scored off the longest layoff, 49 days, at Churchill Downs. It was the first of only two wire-to-wire winners; the other Ghostzapper in '04.
Bernardini, the early even-money favorite, and Lava Man, 6-1, going for his eighth consecutive win, both have tactical speed. However, the son of Slew City Slew lost twice the last time he departed West Coast tracks.
The 5-1 second choice, Invasor, is unbeaten in his last three, including an impressive victory in the Suburban at the distance last summer, but has been off for three months.
Premium Tap, 30-1, might be worth a bet since the 4-year-old has won every other route since March. The off again-on-again off-again pattern could be on again at a price.