OCEANPORT, N.J. - Where and how you bet your money is as important as what you know about the races. The 11 Breeders' Cup races at Monmouth Park offer so many possibilities and so many potential pitfalls that creating scenarios becomes more important than picking winners.
With tomorrow's $3 million guaranteed Pick 6 and two $2 million guaranteed Pick 4s, along with rolling Pick 3s, exactas, trifectas and superfectas, planning becomes imperative.
The Pick 4s offer the best value. They have only a 15 percent takeout. Tris, supers and the Pick 6 have 25 percent takeouts.
Find a few key horses and create plays around them. Picking winners is nice. Winning money is nicer.
These races are almost all complex puzzles. Complicating it even more is the rain in the forecast for today and tomorrow. After all those perfect days, the possibility of a glorious weekend at the North Jersey shore is about over. At least it's not supposed to be cold. But mud, slop and potentially yielding turf increase the permutations significantly.
Here are my thoughts on each race:
Filly and Mare Sprint
1. Miss Macy Sue. 2. Dream Rush. 3. La Traviata.
This is all about the pace, which should be scorching. My scenario is for DREAM RUSH (less than 2 lengths from being 8-for-8), unbeaten LA TRAVIATA (three wins by 27 1/2 lengths) and the crazy-fast SHAGGY MANE to go so fast so early that none of them last. So, I went looking for a closer. MISS MACY SUE is one of the few proven fillies that can sit and go. She will need some luck breaking from the rail, but the price should be right.
1. Gio Ponti. 2. Achill Island. 3. Prussian.
Trainer Christophe Clement has had a great year. He is going to win a big one soon. I think he gets it with GIO PONTI, dazzling in his two wins. ACHILL ISLAND is by the great Sadler's Wells and from the top Irish barn of Aidan O'Brien. When PRUSSIAN broke his maiden at Saratoga, I was live for a nice Pick 3. I was sure I had it, unless Prussian was a star. He was a star. I didn't have it.
1. Cortinthian. 2. Xchanger. 3. Discreet Cat.
The pace also is going to be wild here. HIGH FINANCE and GOTCHA GOLD are going to go early and go really fast. This time last year, DISCREET CAT may have been the best horse in the world. Now, he is a huge question mark and is the likely favorite. CORINTHIAN is a true miler who seems likely to get the best trip. XCHANGER is a second-tier 3-year-old, but proved the depth of that group when he was a close third against older horses in the Meadowlands Cup. His trainer says he will love a wet track.
1. Indian Blessing. 2. Proud Spell. 3. Grace Anatomy.
INDIAN BLESSING has high, sustainable speed in a race without a lot of early pace. She will go favored, but should love this track. PROUD SPELL and Hard Spun worked 2 minutes apart Monday at Delaware Park. The Larry Jones-trained filly worked nearly 2 seconds faster than his very accomplished stablemate. GRACE ANATOMY is part owned by Mets catcher Paul LoDuca, who is in need of some good news.
1. War Pass. 2. Kodiak Kowboy. 3. Z Humor.
The post draw was key for WAR PASS. The colt with the most speed drew inside and may be able to control the pace from start to finish. KODIAK KOWBOY was an early developer who has held his form into the fall. Z HUMOR ran a career top when third to War Pass in the Champagne.
1. Precious Kitten. 2. Nashoba's Key. 3. Honey Ryder.
PRECIOUS KITTEN reminds me of Intercontinental, the wire-to-wire 15-1 winner of this race in 2005. With the same connections (trainer Bobby Frankel, jockey Rafael Bejarano) and same running style, she looks like lone speed against a field of late runners. The distance will be the question, but if she goes slow enough early, that may not be an issue. And she will be a very nice price. NASHOBA'S KEY is unbeaten in seven starts, but has been racing against very small fields in Southern California. HONEY RYDER was a good third in this race last year.
1. Greg's Gold. 2. Smokey Stover. 3. Midnight Lute.
The trainers of TALENT SEARCH, IDIOT PROOF and BORDONARO are all saying or suggesting their horse will be in front. Yesterday's scratch of ATTILA'S STORM lessened the possibility of a pace meltdown, but the race is still loaded with early heat. GREG'S GOLD had a nightmare trip when second in the Ancient Title. This is a sit-and-go horse. I was ready to pick SMOKEY STOVER, but he could get buried down on the rail. MIDNIGHT LUTE is absolutely the best horse, but this 6 furlongs may not be his best distance and he will have to get lucky to pass so many of these fast horses.
1. Kip Deville. 2. Excellent Art. 3. After Market.
I had been planning for months to pick the amazing Shakespeare in this race, but the horse got hurt after his unreal rally to win the Woodbine Mile. So I am going with KIP DEVILLE, the horse that Shakespeare ran down in the stretch. Lately, this has been an American race. EXCELLENT ART is the best horse, but he drew terribly (13 post), will be a strong favorite and will be coming from way back on a course with a short stretch. AFTER MARKET is brilliant, but will need a clear run.
1. Hystericalady. 2. Unbridled Belle. 3. Indian Vale.
HYSTERICALADY got an awful draw (12 post), but may have enough speed to overcome it. She looked great in her run at Monmouth this August. Delaware Handicap winner UNBRIDLED BELLE proved she can win away from DelPark in the Beldame. INDIAN VALE is a head away from being unbeaten in seven mile-and-an-eighth races.
1. Dylan Thomas. 2. Better Talk Now. 3. English Channel.
This is a European race. In 2007, DYLAN THOMAS has won four Group I races, including the Arc, and $4 million. There is no doubt he is the most accomplished horse in the race, by a lot. The issues are that the horse is back in 3 weeks and is used to running on those wide-open European courses. Now, he hits Monmouth with its much tighter turns. BETTER TALK NOW has won more money on the grass than any American horse other than John Henry. ENGLISH CHANNEL has won all the big grass races except this one.
1. Street Sense. 2. Curlin. 3. Hard Spun.
STREET SENSE is my best bet on the card. I love this horse. All summer and fall, his running style was altered by the nature of the races he was in. With a more lively, somewhat contested pace, Calvin Borel will be able to ride the rail and wait much longer to make his move. And when he makes it, watch him roll around the far turn. That will be the move that wins the race and clinches Horse of the Year. (I could do without an off track that brings in the unknown.) CURLIN is the most talented horse, but I don't think he will do well on the turns. If HARD SPUN gets loose on the lead, he is very dangerous. LAWYER RON has great ability, but often can't be controlled. If he battles with Hard Spun, the late runners look even better. ANY GIVEN SATURDAY was great at Monmouth when he dominated the Haskell, beating Hard Spun and Curlin. John Shirreffs, trainer of TIAGO, said there is "no comparison" between the colt that was seventh in the Derby and the colt that will run in the Classic. I agree, but don't think he shows it all in this race against this field. Watch for Tiago to become a star in 2008. *