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2010 Breeders' Cup Preps: A final chance to sharpen form (Weekend Preview)

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Every spring the build-up to the Kentucky Derby culminates with "Big Prep" weekends where the Santa Anita Derby, the Wood, the Arkansas Derby... all the big preps, they all take place over a two week span and the Derby picture become much, much clear.  This weekend is like that, only bigger.   

The big Group 1 races at Longchamp aren't until Sunday so I'll post something separate on those later on Saturday.

Date

Race

Gr.

Track

Division

Dist.

Surf.

10/1/2010

The Diamond Stakes

3

Dundalk

Marathon

11.0

Dirt

10/2/2010

Goodwood Stakes

1

Oak Tree

Classic

9.0

Synt.

10/2/2010

Jockey Club Gold Cup

1

Belmont

Classic

10.0

Dirt

10/2/2010

Joe Hirsch Turf Classic

1

Belmont

Turf

12.0

Turf

10/2/2010

Lady's Secret

1

Oak Tree

Ladies' Classic

8.5

Synt.

10/2/2010

Vosburgh

1

Belmont

Sprint

6.0

Dirt

10/2/2010

Yellow Ribbo

1

Oak Tree

F&M Turf

10.0

Turf

10/2/2010

Flower Bowl

1

Belmont

F&M Turf

10.0

Turf

10/2/2010

Norfolk Stakes

1

Oak Tree

Juvenile

8.5

Synt.

10/2/2010

Indiana Derby

2

Hoosier

Classic

8.5

Dirt

10/2/2010

Indiana Oaks

2

Hoosier

Ladies' Classic

8.5

Dirt

10/3/2010

Prix de L'Abbaye

1

Longchamp

Turf Sprint

5.0

Turf

10/3/2010

Oak Leaf Stakes

1

Oak Tree

Juvenile Fillies

8.5

Synt.

10/3/2010

Durham Cup

3

Woodbine

Mile

9.0

Turf

10/3/2010

Pilgrim Stakes

3

Belmont

Juvenile Turf

8.5

Turf

10/3/2010

Miss Grillo Stakes

3

Belmont

Juv. Fillies Turf

8.5

Turf

Some thoughts on many of these races below the jump.

-I don't know that I'd call Saturday's Vosbugh one of the strong editions in its history.  Morning line favorite Girolamo (2/1) is tough to classify as a "true sprinter" in my book but he's probably the most accomplished of a very light field.  I'm going to stay away from the chalk in this situation and go in the direction of horses that have shown an ability to run well at six furlongs.  There are a couple of horses that fit that profile that could be enticing plays.  The first is 1-Driven by Success (4/1), a NY-bred that has done most of his recent damage against similar competition in his last three races.  The other is 9-Wildcat Brief (12/1), who might be a big short on class but he's the most experience six furlong horse in the field (13-5-3-1).  I'm not sure the big, sweeping turns a Belmont really play to his style but I like the fact that Gomez sees fit to take the mount. 

-Due to the weather that has impacted the New York area the last couple of days, it is highly likely that the Flower Bowl will be run over a yielding or soft turf course.  That immediately makes the morning line favorite, Japanese invader Red Desire (JPN), a complete toss for me.  He's never touched a soft course in Japan and there's no way I take 5/2 with that type of inexperience on soft ground.

While the soft ground makes Red Desire a toss, it also makes 3-Changing Skies (IRE) (6/1) my top pick.  This mare was won the Grade 3 Very One over good ground and an allowance event on yielding ground since coming to North America from Europe.  In Europe, she finished 3rd in the listed Prix Charles Laffitte over oft ground at Chantilly in October of 2008 and was 2nd in the Group 3 Prix de Psyche, also on oft ground, at Deauville. 

7-Shared Account is another filly that has run well over soft going in the past, which when combined with her tactical speed could be a huge advantage in this race.  At 6/1 on the morning line, she could be a great value play.

-I'm following the same line of thinking as I did in the Flower Bowl for the Hirsch Turf Classic - gravitating towards a European that has shown an affinity for it.  9-Paddy O'Prado is certainly the talent and class play in this race based on his form over the turf in 2010, but I doubt we'll see much in the way of value on him come post time.

2-Never on Sunday (FR) (12/1) has run fairly well in his two starts since coming over from Europe but he's been on an extended layoff since his last race in late March.  I don't care for the layoff and he never showed much interest in going a mile and a half in Europe, but I love the fact that he's a prior Group 1 winner at Longchamp on soft ground (2009 G1 Prix d'Ispahan).  Throw in the potential for big odds and the risk is a bit mitigated.

 I like an exacta of Paddy and Never on Sunday, with a moderate win bet on Never on Sunday.

-I got to admit, I don't have much of a clue in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.  Blame won't have a dime of value (although he's a must play in the Pick 4), Fly Down is in excellent form, Dry Martini is eligible for big improvement going back to dirt from turf, Haynefield could have a tactical speed advantage, and Rail Trip is making a surface switch and coming off a minor injury...lot's to chose from in this race.

-Hoosier Park drew a nice field for the Indiana Derby but I can't see anyone other than Lookin At Lucky winning.  If he's a true Classic contender, which he surely appears to be, he should steamroll the field.

-Here's a bit of a fun fact for the weekend: should Rail Trip and Twirling Candy win their respective races tomorrow they will become the sixteenth and seventeenth horses to win a Grade 1 on two different surfaces; Rail Trip will have accomplished the feat on Dirt and Synthetic, while Twirling Candy will have done it on Synthetic and Turf.

-He'll try two turns for the first time but JP's Gusto is the clear standout in the Norfolk at Oak Tree Hollywood.  Perhaps the only thing that could derail a victory in this fifth consecutive race is if he were to get into a duel on the front end with the horse to his immediate outside, 2-Clearance Clarence, setting things up for a colt like 5-Acaffella to make a late charge. 

-How low will the odds be on Zenyatta in the Lady's Secret?  1/5?  1/10?  Get your place and show bets in!

-The 2010 version of the Yellow Ribbon turns up with a tough and evenly matched field, but a field that has very little early speed to speak of.  Who gets the lead in this race?  Go Forth NorthPrincess Taylor (GB)? Turning Top (IRE)?  We could see a very slow affair on the front end.

Hibaayeb (GB) won a Group 2 at Royal Ascot and then completely flopped in three straight Group 1s in Ireland, Germany and York...she's obviously got a bit of talent but the current form is pretty thin right now.  Still, if we've seen on thing in grass races this year it's the ability of Group 2 and Group 3 Europeans to come over and win at the Grade 1 level.  The harder surface at Hollywood and the addition of Lasix for the first time could be a boost to this three year old filly.

-Like the Yellow Ribbon, the Goodwood field isn't jammed with speed horses, which could make things very comfortable for Twirling Candy in the early going, depending on how hard Bejarano wants to send Crown of Thorns on the stretch out.  Twirling Candy is facing some very experienced horses in this race, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him come up with a bit of an off effort.  Informed, Dakota Phone, Crowded House (GB), Awesome Gem, Richard's Kid...would it be a surprise if any of those won this race?