Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Breeders Cup Preview: Filly and Mare Sprint

We now jump to one of the new-fangled races on Friday's card: the Filly & Mare Sprint. We've been saved the embarrassment of having the top contender La Traviata give this race the middle finger and embark on beating the boys, as the connections wisely decided that a horse who's never won a graded stakes might be a bit over her head in her 4th start to try the fastest males alive. Instead she comes here, where she'll take a ton of money, and be a great bet-against.

Conditions: $1 million purse, 6 furlongs on the dirt, for female horses 3 years of age and up. Stupidly, they designed this race to be at 7 furlongs every year, which makes no sense to begin with. Why go for a weird distance? To top it off, they can't run 7 furlongs at Monmouth anyway, so we're at the distance it should be. Maybe they'll fix this in the offseason.

What works in this race: Damned if we know, they've never run this race before. I dunno, being fast and good at 6 furlongs? That seems like a sound strategy.

What doesn't work in this race: Outside posts and lack of any early foot are deadly at Monmouth Park in general, so let's apply that to this as well. And let's make sure you're a specialist at the distance, as we'll discuss in the Real Sprint, it's rather key. And without further ado, let's break this down in reverse order, once again.

Thanks, but No Thanks

10. Shaggy Mane. She's a speedball that's never won a stakes race open to horses not bred in very hot places (Florida & California). On top of that, she's got the outside post and has to clear the field early to make any sort of headway. Unless there's a persistent track bias that's insanely speed-favoring, she'll finish closer to last than first.

9. Miraculous Miss. Has repeatedly been trounced by other members of this field. See, this is the other problem with this race: there are so few filly sprints out there, that the same group of horses are competing against each other all the time. I'm all for rivalry building, but it's impossible to do that when the horses are boring.

Worth Trying to Beat

8. La Traviata. Ever the contrarian, I'm putting the second-choice in the race as an also-ran. And with good reason. This is her fourth (4th!) start ever, and if we learned nothing from my handicapping of the Derby, I'll be damned before I take a horse that's proven absolutely nothing against real horses. To make matters worse, her trainer, who's already been barred from two continents, just got a 1-year suspension for having cobra venom in his barn. I'm betting against all his horses this weekend. So while we're at it...

7. Baroness Thatcher. Much better. Outside shot to run 3rd, but forget about anything else.

6. Wild Gams. She's getting some interest from the racing world because she ran a nice 2nd last out and may sit comfortably off a scorching pace. Here's the thing--while she had a nice 3yo season, her two "dirt" starts this year were utterly blah, and she moved up significantly on synthetic track. Seems to me like she's become something of a polytrack specialist. Seems to me like she's a waste of money.

5. Dream Rush. Remember how Better Talk Now was dismissed rather quickly here because he hadn't run since July? She's not quite as bad, as it's only 11 weeks since her last race. However, she's had a panoply of annoying odd injuries to the point where you have wto wonder about her fitness, though she's sporting a series of nice workouts. Still, I can't help but feel that she's still a bad favorite, as she's never competed against elders, and has had somewhat elevated figures from pedestrian opening quarters in he last couple of races. Also worth trying to beat.

Exotic Fodder

4. Miss Macy Sue. Tricky horse to figure out, because she's having a great year, but only ran fast in her last race...which was a polytrack effort. Hmmph. We're also not seeing a win at anything higher than a Grade 3, and while I mock the quality of these horses left and right, at some level, you have to beat the best of the bunch. She hasn't done so, outside of the last race, and I don't like Wild Game either. Away with ye.

3. Maryfield. This gal looks tremendous until you realize that she's not really a 6-furlong specialist, she's a seven furlong horse who runs passably well at 6 panels. That makes her useful for exactas and triples, but a terrible win bet. Poor Doug O'Neill, he has to wish this was actually at 7 furlongs this year.

2. Jazzy. Now here's a fun sleeper. After 9 turf starts, they swapped the South American queen onto the dirt, and she took the Gallant Bloom with some resiliancy in her last start. She's working out smartly, and not only has an underrated trainer in her corner (Mark Hennig, who's long overdue to win a BC race), but also gets the highly underrated David Flores in the irons. Yes, I realize she's got some of the negatives that the other horses above do (lack of a 6f win, one dirt start in her career), but she's going to be 20-1, and has a lot in her corner. Her price versus her chances clearly indicate she's a play.

The Pick

1. Oprah Winney. The fact that a New York bred is the selection in this race in and of itself makes me question its necessity. At any rate, throwing her last start out (which was a pure prep for this, something Rick Dutrow's pretty good at, a la Silver Train in 2005), she's coming off some verrrry nice efforts, and will flash enough speed to sit off the pacemakers, who as indicated, should burn each other out by the far turn. Her turn of foot and closing speed are good, and she's burning up the track in the morning. The thought is Garrett Gomez pounces on the turn and holds off the closers, and we've got our first Breeders Cup winner of '07.


1st--Oprah Winney
4th--Miss Macy Sue

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