Handicapper Blog

Posted by Brian Skirka on Thursday, November 03, 2011 5:02 PM

It’s time for the big show.  No more “it’s getting closer”.  No more “as it approaches”.  No more “leading up to”.  The 2011 Breeders’ Cup is here!  It seems like they keep adding races by the year, so the handicapping chore gets harder and harder, but this is what makes horse racing and handicapping fun.  These are the best of the best.  As handicappers, Friday and Saturday are our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Let’s have some fun.


I’m not 100% set with my selections for Saturday yet, but let’s through all 15 races for some quick thoughts:


The championship action begins Friday with the inaugural Juvenile Sprint.  Expected heavy favorite Secret Circle sure looks tough.  In trying to fill the underneath spots, I’m not thrilled with anything I’ve seen from the three horses coming out of Belmont’s Grade 2 Nashua.


In the Juvenile Fillies Turf, my play is very much AGAINST likely huge favorite Elusive Kate.  I might actually play this race just to try to beat her.  The replay of her last win in France was not inspiring at all and she reportedly has not looked good in training this week at Churchill.  Another play against for the win spot is second-choice on the morning line Somali Lemonade who will be coming from the clouds and might have some traffic issues in a field of 14.  I like Dayatthespa (worked in company with Filly & Mare Turf ML favorite Stacelita), My Gi Gi at a huge price, and Stopshoppingmaria.  It doesn’t look like there’s much pace in this race.


In the Filly & Mare Sprint, Switch is my best bet of the day.  The distance is right, the surface is right, she got a good prep last out, and she was second in this race last year.


In the Juvenile Fillies, I’m just going on a gut feeling with Northern Passion.  She’s never run on dirt, but I liked what I saw when watching the replays of her three career starts.  There actually DOES appear to be a lot of speed in this race and I want someone coming from out of it.  If Candrea can settle a little more off the pace here, I think she’ll be dangerous.


It’s just a matter of which of the Euros in the Filly & Mare Turf.  I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Stacelita, Nahrain, Announce and Misty For Me swept the superfecta, but I put Announce on top.  The thought process here was if Juddmonte Farms is running Midday in the BC Turf, they must have a good one for the F&M Turf.  Hopefully Announce is that filly.


To cap of the day in the Ladies Classic, I very much like Royal Delta.  There are two confirmed front-runners in here with Ask the Moon and Plum Pretty and that should set things up well for the Bill Mott trainee.  According to DRF’s Mike Welsch, there is no horse training better at Churchill Downs than Royal Delta.


In Saturday’s Marathon, I think defending champ Eldaafer has a solid shot at back-to-back, but will likely end up on the favorite A.U. Miner.  He’ll have to thread his way through traffic though.


In the Juvenile Turf, I really liked the effort from Animal Spirits (almost typed Kingdom) last time at Keeneland.  I think people are making too much of an excuse for the others in there because of the mid-stretch spill.  He put in a powerful stretch run either way.  Finale and State of Play are others I have my eyes on.


Perhaps my best opinion comes in the Sprint.  I really like Amazombie and Force Freeze.  The former is tough as nails and will at no point be afraid to bull his way through a tight spot.  The latter should get a really, really nice stalking trip.  I’m against Big Drama and I don’t like Jackson Bend at six furlongs.  I do think there’s a chance Euroears just guns and takes them all the way, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see Apriority finish ahead of his stablemate.


The Turf Sprint is just impossible.  Regally Ready seems logical on every level.  Two wins over the track and at the distance and a running style that will keep him close and hopefully out of traffic.  If it’s not him, however, it can be any of them.  I don’t like ML second-choice Caracortado AT ALL.


In preliminary handicapping, I find it odd that of the nine entrants in the Dirt Mile, only two of them have…um, actually won at a mile.  Five of the horses haven’t even run a race at a mile.  With that said, I think I’m going to take a shot with last year’s Cigar Mile winner Jersey Town.  There could be a decent amount of speed on paper, but I could also envision the scenario where The Factor goes wire to wire.


Back to the Euros for the Turf.  I haven’t watched the replays of all those big European races yet, but it has to come down to the five Euros for the exacta and maybe even the trifecta and super.  Dean’s Kitten is our best shot?  Come on now.


I wonder who will be out on the lead in the Juvenile?  I’m gonna go with Hansen.  At the wire, I’m going with Union Rags.  He’ll likely be my best bet for the Saturday card.


As far as I’m concerned it’s going to be four in a row for Goldikova in the Mile.  I don’t see anyone that can beat her.  Case closed.  I’ll use Gio Ponti, Courageous Cat and Get Stormy underneath.


I have no idea who will win the Classic.  I’m just trying to figure out how fancy I want to get and how much I really want to “gamble”.  No guts, no glory after all.  Depending on how the race turns out, this could one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said, but I actually am leaning towards picking the European So You Think, who at this time last year was running in the Melbourne Cup – yeah, that’s Australia.  I’m just not blown away by any of the Americans.


*          *            *            *


The absolute best of luck this weekend with the Breeders’ Cup.  Hopefully some of the things we’ve discussed throughout the year will lead to huge BC scores.  Brad and I will be back on Sunday for the final Monmouth Park Blog of 2011.


Good luck everyone!


Brad Thomas’ Thursday Theories 


Friday, October 28


Race 1 – Great job by both winning jockey Felix Ortiz on Hero’s Destiny and the Monmouth Park stewards.  Ortiz and the gelding were cruising along on the lead in mid-stretch when his mount, a known drifter, suddenly attempted to bolt to the outside fence.  The rider, who already had been applying a right-handed whip, quickly and coolly grabbed hold of his mount, straightened him, and hand rode his way to victory.  During the incident, Hero’s Destiny had crossed over in front of Peanutbutterbrown.  The stewards looked at what happened, as they should have, and correctly ruled that the outcome of the race, or anybody’s finish, was in no way affected.  There’s great pressure on stewards these days to take action just for the sake of doing something.  The true professionals resist it and alter the results on the playing field sparingly and only when evidence is overwhelming. 


Race 4 – Want some insight about what jockeys really are thinking?  Watch the replay of this race and check out late on the backstretch when Angel Serpa on Merlot Dreams looks back twice over his left shoulder to see exactly where Elvis Trujillo on 5/2 second choice Curious Luck is located.  I’m willing to bet that Serpa thought he could take 3/2 favorite Soulful and Shamir Maragh anytime he desired.  If that indeed was the case, Serpa was right.  He went to the front into the lane, but, as it turned out, Curious Luck waa a prime cause for concern.  That filly drew away in deep stretch and a relatively hard-used Merlot Dreams lost the place late to Shot Gun Donna.


Saturday, October 29


Race 1 – Low profile jockey Marland Suckie doesn’t get many opportunities, but always performs professionally when given a chance.  He did everything right here with 7-1 Summer In City patiently pressing odds-on Over the Bridge, waiting as long as possible before attacking and passing that rival, keeping his wandering mount as straight as possible in deep stretch, and even getting her finally to switch leads in the last sixteenth.  Still, it all was for naught as Mrs. Don made the final run and nailed Summer in the City in the last strides.


Race 4 – Odds-on Successful Score might be fast enough to battle for the lead sprinting, but his pedigree made him vulnerable here stretching out to two turns.  Credit jockey Elvis Trujillo for utilizing the gelding’s turn of foot in a creative way.  The rider allowed his mount to drop back early and keep dropping back on the backstretch.  The two then sprinted the last half-mile to run down the embattled leaders on a sloppy, sealed surface distinctly tilted towards an outside, closing flow.  There’s more than one way to ride a speedy horse and Trujillo knows them all.


Race 8 – No, this wasn’t the equine version of Gulliver’s Travels.  It really was the Jersey Juvenile Stakes.  But easy, romping winner Deliburnsky did look like a Clydesdale running against Shetland ponies.  The strapping, New Jersey-bred gelding is more than good enough – much less big enough – to hold his own against quality open competition.


Sunday, October 30


Race 2 – Zosogood, staying with his revamped, slightly off-the-pace style, scored here for the second time in a week.  Winning trainer Tony Wilson clearly is one to watch as the season winds down – he now has four victories and two second-place finishes in the last two weeks.  Other especially live conditioners are: Ben Perkins, Jr. (two wins and a runner-up finish this week), Scott Volk (two triumphs and two place finishes in the last two weeks), and Gregg Sacco (four scores and two seconds this week).


Race 4 – Two quality, first-time-starting juvenile fillies finished one-two in this late season maiden special weight contest.  Victor Personally Yours has easy, high-octane speed and the ability to sustain it in stakes company for at least six furlongs.  Runner-up Nuffsaid Nuffsaid ate a lot of dirt early racing behind horses, didn’t like it, dropped back, angled out, took dirt again, altered course back inside to avoid it, finished well on the duller part of the strip once she had no one directly to her front and no longer faced kickback, and then pulled up strongly past the wire.  A long one turn or a short two turns both could be her friends. 

Monmouth Blogs
Blogger Bio


Brian Skirka graduated from Rutgers University in 2007 with a degree in journalism. He currently works for Monmouth Park’s marketing and publicity departments and is in his fifth year working at the track. In the past, Brian’s work has also been published on www.thebigm.com and www.ntra.com.