Friday, October 26, 2007

Breeders Cup Preview: Dirt Mile

We now move on to the last of the Friday races, the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. Also a new addition for this year, it gives a spot to run for those that aren't swift enough to make the Sprint and aren't stout enough to make the Classic. A more cynical view is that it's for horses that aren't top-tier and need an excuse to run on Breeders Cup weekend. Whatever. It's an interesting field, so let's take a peek at it.

Conditions: 1 mile and 70 yards on the dirt, 3yos and up, $1 million purse. This race is supposed to be a flat mile, but Monmouth's track configuration makes that impossible given the location of the finish line, so they added 70 yards for this year. A more sensible approach would've been to move the finish line back 70 yards as well (something that Keeneland does), but nooooooo.

What works here: Previous success at a mile is probably key. A dirt mile race is a hybrid of a sprint and a route, and it usually takes a stout sprinter to win the race, rather than a turning back router.

What doesn't work here: My inclination is that cutting back in distance to severely will be fatal, as will having little or no success at 2 turns.

On to the analysis...

No thanks

9. Forefathers. This horse, through a goofy loophole, is cross-entered in both the Dirt Mile and Sprint. If you can't figure out where the hell you're going to run him on Breeders Cup weekend, you can't like his odds in either race.

8. Wanderin Boy. Cutting back from routes, routes and more routes, you have to think this is being treated by his trainer (also the trainer of Forefathers) as a silver place medal for the weekend. Problem is he's not that fast, and while he's 3-for-3 at a mile, those are starts from over a year ago. Not interested.

7. High Finance. His figures are brilliant, but they're all at 1-turn races, usually at 7 furlongs. The Cigar Mile, where they run only around 1-turn, is a more interesting spot for him. The other problem is that he seems to run well in easy spots and fizzle against top company, the Tom Fool excepted. Can't endorse.

6. Park Avenue Ball. Some folks like him because he's a Monmouth specialist. Whoopee. So's Cable Boy, and he'd finish 20 lengths behind the winner here.

Exotics Possibilities

5. Lewis Michael. This is his first true dirt start since running badly in last year's Sprint, as he's had nothing but Polytrack and turf since then. He's improved a bit in his 4-year old season, but there's nothing on paper that indicates that he's sitting on a nice race or has moved forward enough to challenge the big boys here. Coupled with the fact he's between a pair of speedballs, he may get trapped into running too fast too early here.

4. Gottcha Gold. Speed factor that could hold on for a price. Hey, he did beat Lawyer Ron in an eerily similar spot this summer, and followed that up with another front-running win. On the downside, I don't like that he's been on the shelf since, and his workout pattern makes me think he's really going to be winging it early, and backing up late.

3. Xchanger. Now here's someone that's made tremendous strides this season. Recall his Preakness debacle, where he set an insane pace with Flying First Class, and basically set the table for the real horses doing the running. He looked like a foolishly overmatched colt at that point, and his Haskell was no better. Since then, though, he's put together a pair of big efforts, including a sneaky-good 3rd to Diamond Stripes last out. I don't think that's enough to beat the main contenders here, but at 15-1 or so, he's a definite use in the exacta.

The X-Factor

2. Discreet Cat. I've watched a lot of horse racing and I have never, EVER, seen a horse as brilliant as this guy was in his first 4 North American starts. They were all things of beauty. Which is why his last effort was so disappointing, it's not that he lost, it's that he showed next to nothing off a layoff, a stark contrast to last year's comeback where he ran a 112 Beyer, er, Gowanus speed figure. His connections say he's working out great, but big deal, they always say that. He's the 2nd-most likely winner, and a total toss for me. Too bad.

The Pick

1. Corinthian. Here's a horse with the talent, style, and perfect opportunity to win this race. He's a Miler by nature, given his gorgeous Met Mile win back in the spring. I'm willing to toss his next race, where he stupidly chased a somewhat-quick pace in a route, and his last race was actually much better than it appears on paper; he made a nice middle move on the turn and just flattened out. It's exactly the kind of race you can build off of. To top it off, he's going to be an acceptable 4-1 or so on the board. Love him.

Selections

1st--Corinthian
2nd--Xchanger
3rd--Lewis Michael
4th--Gottcha Gold

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