by Greg Melikov - 10/26/2005
Four horses that captured 2004 Breeders' Cup races at Lone Star Park will defend their titles Saturday at Belmont Park.
During the previous 21 years, only five Breeders' Cup champions managed back-to-back victories, including two in the $1.5 Million Mile on the grass for 3-year-olds and up: Lure, 1992-93, the only winner in front at every call 13 years ago, and Da Hoss, '97-98.
Singletary, with surprisingly high odds of 8-1 and breaking from post 9, is trying to join that elite company off an easy victory in the Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita. Eight horses based overseas have triumphed. The 12-horse field includes Leroidesanimaux, the morning line 7-5 favorite breaking from post 11, is seeking his ninth consecutive win; Artie Schiller, 6-1 in post 2, was involved in close finishes in his last four trips; and Host, 12-1 on the rail is seven for 12 in turf outings.
The Mile is one of five races staged last year at Lone Star Park that will be run in a different order at Belmont -- the third contest instead of fifth. Horses breaking from Belmont's posts 2 through 7 have enjoyed a slight edge since '97, according to Brisnet.com, while more than 90 percent of the winners were within three lengths of the lead after six furlongs.
Ashado, the early 2-1 choice in post 3, has a good chance to be the second repeat winner in the $2 million Distaff at 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up since Bayakoa in '89-90, with her second victory posted at Belmont.
Key contenders in last year's opener that's sixth on the program are Stellar Jayne, 5-1 in post 2, was third in '04; Society Selection, 8-1 on the rail, ran ninth last year; and Happy Ticket, 6-1 in post 7, has 10 victories and two seconds in a dozen starts.
Favorites have dominated -- 17 winners went off at less than 3-1. Distaffers loved inside posts since '97 at 1 1/8 miles, Brisnet.com reports, especially 2 and 3. And gate-to-wire winners were almost 32 percent.
In the '01 BC contests at Belmont, four double-digit payoffs included Unbridled Elaine's surprise score in the Distaff that returned $26.00. Other nice prices: $21.20, Squirtle Squirt, Sprint; $25.80, Tempera, Juvenile Fillies; and $16.40, Johannesburg, Juvenile.
Better Talk Now, 8-1 breaking from post 4, hopes to duplicate High Chaparral's '02-03 wins in the $2 million Turf, 1 ½ miles for 3-year-olds and up, which remains the seventh BC race. Inside posts for the distance have done extremely well at Belmont since '97.
Eleven European-bred horses won. This year's top invaders include Ace, 12-1 and post 6; Azamour, 7-2 and post 5; and Bago, 5-1 and post 3. But look out for outstanding American runners Shakespeare, 3-1 and post 7, undefeated in five outings, and English Channel, 10-1 and post 10, with four victories and two seconds in his last six races.
Ouija Board, the early 5-2 favorite that breaks from post 13, could be the first repeat winner in the $1 million Filly & Mare Turf at 1 ¼ miles for 3-year-olds and up. The race, moved from fifth to third on the card, features '04 runner-up Film Maker, 12-1 in post 2, a neck better than Wonder Again, 8-1 and post 7; Riskaverse, 15-1 and post 4, eighth last year; and Megahertz, 5-1 and post 8, 11th. Other contenders: Angara, 20-1 and post 14; Intercontinental, 8-1 and post 10; and Wend, 10-1 and post 5.
The $1.5 million Sprint at six furlongs for 3-year-olds and up remains fourth on BC Saturday. Every winner has scored at the distance and posted at least one stakes victory. No running style dominated, but closers performed fairly well while less than 27 percent led all the way.
All eyes will be on undefeated sophomore star Lost in the Fog, the early even money choice breaking from post 7, going for his 11th straight. The 3-year-old who won at eight different tracks, capturing four stakes this year at the distance.
Competitive challengers are Battle Won, 10-1 and post 4; Imperialism, 15-1 and post 10; and Lion Tamer, 12-1 and post 5. Only three in the 11-horse field captured a stakes at the distance in '05: Elusive Jazz, 12-1 and post 8; Taste of Paradise, 12-1 and post 1; and Wildcat Heir, 10-1 and post 6.
The opening contest is the $1 million Juvenile Fillies, the second race last year. Seven winners have returned double-digit payoffs since Outstandingly won in '84 on a DQ, returning $47.40, after 75-1 Fran's Valentine was bumped all the way down to 10th.
Outstanding Adieu, the morning line 3-1 second choice seeking her fifth win in six tries, holds a 2 to 1 edge over the 5-2 favorite Folklore, breaking from the rail. But neither has raced 1 1/16 miles while three challengers in the 10-horse field scored at the distance: Diamond Omni, 12-1 and post 4; Knights Templar, 12-1 and post 5; and She Says It Best, 15-1 and post 8.
Two undefeated colts go in the $1 million Juvenile, moved from sixth to second on the program: First Samurai, the early 8-5 favorite coming off four victories, breaks from post 9; and Sorcerer's Stone, 12-1, seeking his fourth straight, drew post 8.
But neither has gone 1 1/16 miles while three others have victories at the distance: Brother Derek, 20-1 and post 13; Dawn Of War, 20-1 and post 6; and Stream Cat, 30-1 and post 7. Chalk is the rule since 16 winners were among the top three choices.
The showcase race remains the finale: the $4 million Classic at 1 ¼ miles for 3-year-olds and up. The only back-to-back champion was Tiznow, '00-01, repeating at Belmont. Post 1 produced more than 23 percent winners in two-dozen contests at Belmont since '97 while 21 of 43 were within a length of the lead at first call. There is only one official wire-to-wire winner, Black Tie Affair ('91), who had the longest layoff - 49 days.
The race appears wide open because among the field of 14, top contenders that raced within the allotted time and won at the distance are the early 3-1 choice Saint Liam, post 13; Rock Hard Ten, 7-2, breaking on the rail; Borrego, 9-2, in post 11; and Flower Alley, 10-1, post 9.