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2008 Breeders' Cup: Filly Friday

I'm not a big fan of the whole Filly Friday concept that the Breeders' Cup is throwing at us this year, especially the elimination of the Distaff, F&M Turf and Juvenile Fillies from the big card on Saturday. I'm guessing that this move won't last very long and that the Grade 1 races will all get moved back to their rightful place on Saturday in the near future. Until then, here's an overview of Filly Friday.

Filly and Mare Sprint
7 furlongs
3 and up

Speed, speed and more speed in this seven furlong affair. Indian Blessing is the obvious top choice in this spot due to her sparkling overall record (10-8-2-0), and her dominance in sprints (5-5-0-0). The only chink in the armour, she had to work awfully hard to win a Grade 2 at OSA last fall over a synthetic surface. The current OSA surface is different from the one last fall, so we can't make a direct comparison. But if you're looking for a reason to bet against her you pretty much have two angles: Insane pace, or won't take to the surface.

Among the fillies and mares that will want to be up front early on we have Dearest Trickski, Dream Rush, Indian Blessing, Indyanne, LaTee, and Lady Sprinter. If only Dream Rush and Indian Blessing go the pace will be hot but manageable. The fly in the ointment is the long shot speedballs that have only one option: full speed ahead.

If we get a hotly contested pace that falters in the late stages there are several entries that could take advantage and spring an upset.

-Intangaroo has run some very nice races coming from off the pace, and has done so on both conventional dirt and synthetic surfaces.

-Miraculous Miss nearly pulled off a huge upset in last year's edition of this race in the slop at Monmouth. She's a closer but a question mark on the synthetics.

-The Aiden O'Brien trained Psalm (IRE) is a late running Euro that should get a favorable pace scenario. However, Psalm has run exclusively over the turf and has performed best on soft ground. Even though turf horses transfer their form well to synthetics, I have to wonder about a filly that has won her last three races over ground rated "Heavy", "Soft", and "Yielding".

-The Ron McAnally trained Tizzy's Tune is an interesting contender for a couple of reasons. First, offspring of Tiznow have done well on synthetics in Southern California. Second, Tizzy's Tune has already run well on this track, bringing the always attractive "Horse for Course" angle into play.

-Zatfig is not a closer, but a true blue presser who might get the trip of the century sitting right behind a potentially torrid pace. She's coming in off of a big lay-off (June 7th @ Belmont) and will be making her first start on a synthetic surface.

-I'll keep an eye on Ventura, a miler on the grass that ran well in her only attempt on synthetics at Keeneland last April.

Top 5

1. Zatfig
2. Indian Blessing
3. Intangaroo
4. Tizzy's Tune
5. Psalm (Ire)

Juvenile Filly Turf
1 mile
2 years old

Like many races for two year olds at this time of year, it's difficult to rate the contenders solely on their race record. Picking a winner in a Juvenile race requires an ability to determine which horses are eligible to improve under the current conditions, such as going two turns for the first time in their career, or trying an unknown distance.

Many of the horses in the juvenile races haven't won a Grade 1 or even been a stakes winner, but that can't be a final factor in the analysis. Instead stamina breeding and improvement in prior races, as well as probable running style, are factors that become extrememly importatn.

-Dream Empress is coming off consecutive victories, a Maiden Special Weight score over the Saratoga turf, and a Grade 1 victory in the Alcibiades on the Polytrack at Keeneland. She's in form and possess enough early foot to get her involved in the race, avoiding traffic problems in the stretch. She's also proven around two turns. Dream Express is cross-entered in the Juvenile Fillies.

-The Aiden O'Brien trained Heart Shaped doesn't show much in the way for wins on her PP's, but you've got to respect a Euro that has run well in a Group 1 and a Group 2 stake at Newmarket in the last three months. She's had trouble getting out of the gate in good fashion and she's never run around a turn, but this daughter of Storm Cat is obviously talented and deserves a look. She received a solid Racing Post Rating ("RPR") of 97+ last out, indicating she is likely to improve on that rating in her next race.

-If you are looking for a filly that is proven at the distance, look no further than Maram, a daughter of Sahin that had notched a pair of wins at a mile and a sixteenth at Belmont and Saratoga.

-Bob Baffert has a nice looking daughter of Giant's Causeway that he'll be entering in the Juvenile Filly Turf in Internallyflawless. She only has a maiden score to her credit but it was over the Oak Tree surface on September 28th.

-This race is shaping up to be a little light on the pace side which means that fillies like Dancing Daisy and Laragh could have a big chance to take this gate to wire. Dancing Daisy only has a state-bred maiden score to her credit at Belmont, but Laragh picked up a win over the Keeneland turf in the Jessamine last week and has displayed excellent early speed in all of her starts.

Top 5

1. Dream Empress
2. C Karma
3. April Pride (GB)
4. Laragh
5. Maram

Juvenile Fillies
1 1/16 miles
2 years old

-Dream Empress will probably go in this spot since the race in on the synthetic.

-Doremifasollatido has run well, and improved, in each of her four lifetime starts. She captured the Grade 2-Matron at Belmont in mid-September and has displayed a nice stalking style in all of her races.

-C.C. Silk took the Grade 2-Arlington Washington Lassie over the Arlington Park polytrack in early September, going wire to wire for the victory. This filly has been working extremely well at Churchill Downs the past month and appears to be coming into this race in excellent form.

-The big closer in this race is the Santa Anita-based Stardom Bound, winner of two grade 1s in her last two starts, the Oak Leaf and the Del Mar Debutant. Proven over synthetic surfaces, Stardom Bound has displayed a huge late kick in all of her starts.

-Van Lear Rose, a Canadian horse trained by Catherine Day-Phillips, rolls into Santa Anita after taking the 1 1/16 miles Mazarine at Woodbine on October 5th. She has run every race of her career on synthetic surfaces.

Top 5

1. Stardom Bound
2. Van Lear Rose
3. Dream Empress
4. Sky Diva
5. C.C. Silk

Filly & Mare Turf
1 1/4 miles
3 and up

This race is one that the Euros should do quite well in. While there are some solid American contenders, Europe has several standouts.

-Goldikova (Ire) is the top horse in this race, but since she is pointing to the Mile, we're going to assume that she will not run in this spot.

-Folk Opera (Ire) shipped to Woodbine from Longchamp and won the Grade 1-EP Taylor on October 4th. Prior to that race she performed poorly at the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp against Zarkava, but won the Group 2-Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville with a 111 RPR. A top class Euro filly with good early speed.

-Aiden O'Brien's Halfway to Heaven (Ire) has won three Group 1 races in her last four starts (Sun Chariot Stakes, Nassau Stakes, Irish 1000 Guineas). She missed making it four-for-four by three quarters of length to Lush Lashes in the Matron as Leopardstown. Lush Lashes went on to be the favorite in the Prix de l'Opera on Arc weekend.

-Sir Michael Stout's Visit (GB) is the least accomplished of the European contingent in this race, and she only missed by a length and a half to Halfway to Heaven in the Sun Chariot. A double Group 3 winner, she's a notch below the other Euros but fits in nicely against the American contingent. Her last effort was the first since August 1st and earned her the top RPR of her career (114). She might be ready to pop a big one in this race.

-Wait a While leads the American contingent once again, and this time she will finally get the going that she so desperately desires. A little bit like Megahertz (GB), Wait a While loves the hard, California turf courses, and sports a 3-3-0-0 record over the Santa Anita grass. This may finally be her time to shine.

-The rest of the American contingent is very difficult to separate. If I don't go with a Euro in this spot I'll probably end up going very deep in my Pick 3s and Pick 4s. This race looks like it might have a fairly strong pace, so closers might be the key.

Top 5

1. Goldikova (if entered)
2. Halfway to Heaven
3. Forever Together
4. Folk Opera
5. Wait a While

Ladies' Classic
1 1/8 miles
3 and up

-The analysis for the Ladies' Classic begins and ends with Zenyatta. Undefeated in eight lifetime starts, Zenyatta has been flat-out dominate all year long. Her last two efforts were the best of her career in terms of Beyers (bot 108s) and she seems to love the Santa Anita main track. The only thing that could prevent her from victory is either a horrible trip, or an extremely slow pace with a front runner clear and loose on the lead. Otherwise, she is awfully hard to bet against.

-Hystericalady and Ginger Punch put on an awesome display at Monmouth last year in this race, with Ginger Punch getting the best of her rival that day, eeking out a victory by a neck. Hysterical Lady has not done her best running on synthetics, which has to be a concern. Ginger Punch has only tried synthetics twice, both at Keeneland in 2006. You could make the argument that both of these fillies have the cards stacked against them and more likely than not, will only be a pace factor. It's a tough call, but I just can't get by their form on synthetics.

-One of the wild cards in this race is the east coast filly, Cocoa Beach (Chi), a Goldolphin-owned, Saeed bin Suroor trained horse that won the Grade 1-Beldame at Belmont in late September. A filly with a nice stalking style, she might get the perfect trip behind Ginger Punch and Hystericalady

-Carriage Trial, a respectable runner on the turf that dominated the Grade 1-Spinster over Keeneland's polytrack, is also a sleeper candidate should the race fall apart.

Top 5

1. Zenyatta
2. Cocoa Beach (Chi)
3. Carriage Trail
4. Ginger Punch
5. Bear Now