The Top Contenders and Challengers in 25th Breeders' Cup
by Greg Melikov - 10/23/2008
The Breeders' Cup is greater than the sum of its races. The number of contests is so overwhelming I had to pass on several of the 14 races.
I'm putting up a dartboard for three 25th BC contests because I couldn't form an opinion about: Friday's $1 Million Juvenile Fillies Turf mile, Saturday's $500,000 Marathon at 1 ½ miles and the $1 Million Juvenile Turf mile.
The remaining Friday card looks like this:
$1 Million Filly and Mare Sprint: Top contenders are both 3-year-old fillies that have 11 victories between them. Indian Blessing, the early 2-1 choice is 2-for-2 at seven furlongs, with a win over the old Santa Anita Cushion Track. Zaftig won twice at the distance on dirt, beating Indian Blessing at a mile. Top challengers: Indyanne or Intangaroo off their synthetic surface form.
$2 Million Juvenile Fillies: The is an All-American race since foreign invaders have never visited the winner's circle. Top contenders: Stardom Bound, 2-1, is 2-2-0 of 4 on synthetic surfaces, scoring at 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 2/5 at Santa Anita. Sky Diva, 7-2, daughter of this year's leading 2-year-old sire Sky Mesa, is 2-for-2 at a mile on dirt. Top challenger: C. S. Silk, 15-1, boasts the highest speed figure.
$2 Million Filly and Mare Turf: Top contenders at the 1 ¼ miles: Dynaforce, 2-2-1 at the distance; Mauralakana, 5-of-7 in 2008 on the turf; and Wait A While, unbeaten in three starts on Santa Anita's grass.
$2 Million Ladies' Classic, 1 1/8 miles: Favorites dominate as 17 of 24 winners were less than 3-1. That probably accounts for the small fields with only eight going the 1 1/8 miles. Top contender: Zenyatta, the 3-5-morning line favorite, is undefeated in eight races, including seven on synthetic surfaces. Top challengers: Ginger Punch, 9-2, last year's winner when the race was called the Distaff, and Carriage, 8-1, who won twice on Polytrack.
$1 Million Turf Sprint: Top contenders going 6 ½ furlongs: California Flag, four victories on grass with Joe Talamo aboard; Mr. Nightlinger, seeking sixth in a row in turf sprints; and Get Funky, the best closer.
$1 Million Dirt Mile: Top contenders include three that opted for this contest instead of the Classic: Well Armed, boasting two route victories this year at Santa Anita; Pyro, with three wins going long in '08; and Mast Track, the likely pacesetter despite a minor quarter crack. Top challenger: Lewis Michael, 2-2-0 of 4 at the distance.
$2 Million Mile: Despite averaging about 13 entries for this grass contest, chalk finished on top nearly one-third of the time. Only Lure in '92 was in front at every call; he repeated in '03, but stalked the pace. Top contenders: Defending champ Kip Deville, 9 of 13 at the distance and 2-for-2 at Santa Anita; Irish-bred Goldikova, 5-2-0 of 7 at a mile; and Whatsthescript, 4-of-8 at the distance.
$2 Million Juvenile: Eighteen winners were among the top three choices. Horses to watch are sired by this year's No. 2 earnings champ Lion Heart (3 for 3 as a 2-year-old): Azul Leon and Silent Valor. Top contenders: Munnings, 7-2, who drew the rail, and Street Hero, 6-1, breaking from post 8 with the best time of 1:42 at the 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita.
$2 Million Sprint, six furlongs: No running style has dominated. There have been five wire-to-wire victories, seven closing from back of the pack and nine turning for home in front. Top contenders: Fatal Bullet, four triumphs at six furlongs on synthetic surfaces, In Summation, 4-2-1 of 8 at the distance; and Street Boss, 6-2-0 of 8 this year in synthetic sprints.
$3 Million Turf: Thirteen European-bred horses have triumphed. Class and form often point to the 1 ½-mile winner. Top contenders: Irish-breds Conduit, Red Rocks, Soldier of Fortune and Bristish-bred Grand Courturier.
$5 Million Classic: Only four horses have won from posts 1-3, including Ghostzapper on the rail in '04 that was only the second wire-to-wire winner since '91 when Black Tie Affair scored off the longest layoff - 49 days. Outside is the place to be as nine won from posts 10 through 14. Top contender: Curlin, who won in '08 from post 11 and this year breaks from No. 9. Curlin, 5 of 6 at 1 ¼ miles, is a deservedly 7-5. Top challengers: Casino Drive, lightly raced with a victory at Santa Anita; Fairbanks, the likely pacesetter going for three straight; and Go Between, 2-3-0 of 5 in '08.