Thursday, October 25, 2007

Breeders Cup Preview: Juvenile Turf

We're churning these babies out like there's no tomorrow, which is probably good, since we've got three races tomorrow. Up next is the much-maligned Juvenile Turf, which has been described by racing folks as stupid, irrelevant, premature and impossible to handicap. Personally, I think it's a fun race. I also don't think it's quite the clusterf*ck that everyone else does; there's a clear line between the haves and have-nots.

Conditions: 1 mile, turf, for 2 year olds (male and female), with a purse of $1 million. Oddly, this race caps out at a max of 12 entrants, which is a bit silly. Is it that hard to expand the gate by 2?

What works in this race: We're going off no history here, so let's apply logic and say good breeding, good training, and a good post draw. Wow, that's insightful Angelo.

What doesn't work in this race: If a horse wires the field here I'd be shocked. That's usually the case with older horses, and I can't see why it's going to be any different here with the youngsters, especially with a bunch stretching out for the first time.

On to the good, the bad and the fugly:

No Way in Hell

12. Preachin Man. Man, this is a great time to make your turf debut AND to stretch out from 6 to 8 furlongs, especially while being a speedball in all your earlier races. First early, last late.

11. Texas Fever. The only question here is why the hell Garrett Gomez is on this horse. Did he lose a hand of Seven Card Stud to Mike Stidham?

10. Nownownow. This guy's got a double-negative: my aforestated anti-Biancone play, on top of the fact I steadfastly refuse to endorse horses that have names mushed together into one word. The fact he stinks isn't hurting.

9. Your Round. This guy hasn't been close to a real contender in his previous races, the inside post isn't where you want to be, and his turf breeding is suspect. Outside of that, he's great.

8. Cannonball. Wesley Ward wasn't sure this horse was going to make it into the race with about 8 horses ahead of him in priority, so he ran him last Saturday in the King Cugat stakes, where he won a hard-fought victory. So he's wheelling him back 5 days later. While I think trainers do adopt a bit of a kid gloves approach on horses, this is ridiculous.

7. The Leopard. Huh? Yes, I'm tossing him altogether. The Pilgrim has become something of a negative key race, as every horse he beat in his last has come back to royally suck in their next start. To top that off, he's either going to get caught in a pace duel that he won't win, or worse, he'll get taken out of his game by rallying, something he's been reluctant to do. No thanks.

Exotic Ideas

6. Domestic Fund. From here on out, any of these horses could win, but I'm drawing lines where I think is appropriate. And I'm starting here. This horse hasn't done much wrong, and he's bred nicely. So why the downgrade to here? First, the 12 post is an absolute killer, as it robs him of any use of tactics to his advantage, especially since all indications are this horse likes to run closer to the pace than most. Second, I'm sure Dermot Weld is a prince of a guy, and I know he's a good trainer, but he's an absolute money bit on Breeders Cup day. With 11 starters, he's got 1 show finish, and that's with the immortal Brief Truce in the 1992 Mile. Can't see this guy being the guy to break the streak.

5. Gio Ponti. I thought I was going to like this guy more, but I can't place him ahead of the rest in this race. I'm also fairly dubious of his turf stakes victory---the pace was so eyepoppingly slow, it had to have inflated his speed figure to a level that's deceptive. When he's 9 lengths back tomorrow, how's that going to work?

4. Strike the Deal. This guy was my pick yesterday. Today, he's down to my triple fodder. What's the matter? I don't distrust the breeding (I think Van Nistelrooy is going to be a nifty little sire) or Noseda, who unlike Dermot Weld, has a Breeders Cup winner. No, I'm more skeptical of the stretch out factor, and that he'll be going from full sprint mode to 2 turns, which may not be his game just yet. It's more likely that he'll be hanging and fading late than striding to victory, methinks.


3. Prussian. See, this guy's a worthy favorite, but I'm somehow not totally sold on the hype. His maiden win was tremendous, but much like The Leopard's Pilgrim, it hasn't exactly produced a number of studs afterwards. And his Canadien score was pretty good, but I'm wary of the fact he beat Your Round by under 2 lengths, and I'm pretty sure that horse sucks, as evidence by his trouncing to Gio Ponti next out. You cannot tell me this guy's worth 2-1 odds. However, I can't tell you to throw him away either; if you're playing Pick-Whatevers, he has to be used defensively.

2. Cherokee Triangle. Quick, Sheets gurus---who's got the best turf numbers? No, it's not the Euros, it's not Prussian, and it sure as shit ain't The Leopard. It's this guy, who's put together a pair of big numbers in a row. I'm not a Sheets guy, so I don't know if that means he's going to bounce to the moon and he's a play-against. My hunch is the opposite--he's purely faster than most of the field, and is worth a win bet and a prominent place in all your exotics. Still, can't take him on top.

The Pick

1. Achill Island. Let's note his comment for his last race: "wide in 10th, progress in traffic 2f out, gamely". Let's interpret that: he had a shitty trip last out, and still managed to run a huge figure and finish a close second to a horse that'd be favored in this race (City Leader). He's impeccably bred, and he's from the O'Brien stable. If he's not the favorite, he should be. On paper, there isn't a flaw with this horse.


1st--Achill Island
2nd--Cherokee Triangle
3rd--Strike the Deal
4th--Gio Ponti

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