Let's just say the bomb-sniffing handicapper had a very good start to the Breeders' Cup. Recapping the BSH selections:
Juvenile Sprint: Shumoos (15-1) Finished second, a rallying length behind heavy favorite Secret Circle
Juv. Fillies Turf: Dayatthespa (12-1), Customer Base (12-1) Stephanie's Kitten steals the show.
Filly & Mare Sprint: Musical Romance (20-1) Detonation! Winner.
Juvenile Fillies: Questing (20-1), Rocket Twentyone (20-1) Duds.
F & M Turf: Perfect Shirl (27-1) Bombs away! Winner
Ladies Classic: Miss Match (10-1) Ultra Blend (8-1) No match for Royal Delta.
Upon reflection of such a successful day, I realized that it was the very exercise of looking at the races through the specific lens I chose that led me to find those longshots. If I had handicapped in a more conventional fashion, I might not have uncovered those bombs lying in wait.
With that in mind, let's take a look at Saturday's card.
Unless Rocky II breaks out between Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano (uh, they are drawn right next to each other!), it's hard to get too excited about this race.
However, there appears to be bomb potential with a couple of entries. Pleasant Prince, in particular, produced a sizzling workout at Keeneland in which he ran :33 and :45 splits for a six furlong work in 1:14, preparing for a 1 3/4 mile race. While the four-year-old had no business being in the BC Classic last year, he certainly fits in this race if he shows up with his best form and has a stalking style that may suit, not to mention a pedigree for longer distances. He's not a Kitten's Joy like yesterday's Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Stephanie's Kitten, but he is owned by the streaking Ken and Sarah Ramsey, so there is plenty to like.
Team Valor's Brigantin doesn't qualify as bomb material at 8-1 morning line, but I can't help but note this year's form, which includes beating the horse that just won Australia's biggest race of the year. Dunaden won the Melbourne Cup in a 23-horse field, and Brigantin beat him in France earlier this year. That's nothing to sneeze at.
Harrison's Cave, trained by Aidan O'Brien, comes into this race in very sharp form from Ireland. 30-1 seems high against this group. Not sure if the son of Galileo will take to the dirt, but it's worth a few bucks at those odds to find out.
Marathon bomb potential: MEDIUM
Bombs Away: Pleasant Prince (12-1), Harrison's Cave (30-1)
This race seems to be a mine field for bettors – in a good way. Lucky Chappy, at 10-1, appears explosive with a turf pedigree off the charts (by High Chaparral) and a top-notch trainer in Graham Motion. Lucky Chappy scorched the turf late in a third-place effort at Keeneland last month after racing in Italy for the start of his career. But at a mile, he will need pace to run into. Excaper has worked sharply at Woodbine for trainer Ian Black. In his only turf start, Excaper finished three-quarters of a length behind Finale, who is 5-1 in here and looking very dangerous. I love Woodbine form coming into the Breeders' Cup, and the son of Exchange Rate showed significantly better on the grass. Look out.
I do like Finale, though. Three-for-three on the turf, exiting the Summer Stakes at Woodbine, which produced the Juvenile Turf winner last year in Pluck. Training well. If this were a game of Stratego, Finale would be the Miner – the piece that can diffuse the bombs.
Juv. Turf bomb potential: HIGH
Bombs Away: Excaper (30-1), Lucky Chappy (10-1)
Miner: Finale (5-1)
This race reminds me of War Games, the movie from the 1980's in which the military's computer needs to learn tic-tac-toe in order to understand the futility of war. Jackson Bend could thump this bunch based on recent form, or it could be that if you ran this race nine times, you'd get nine different winners. All Giant Ryan does is win, having visited the winner's circle six straight times, the last two in graded stakes. He seems to have a nice stalking style that should suit. Hamazingly, I picked Hamazing Destiny to win the Sprint last year, and he finished second at 23-1 behind Big Drama. But I'm dropping him like a grenade this time around. Instead, watch out for Aikenite and Apriority. Horses for the course, they could be charging to the wire if this one falls apart. Apriority not only finished heads apart with Aikenite (8-1) at Churchill in May, Apriority did the same behind Amazombie (5-1) at Santa Anita in January.
Apriority is definitely the bomb at a ridiculous 30-1.
Sprint bomb potential: HIGH
Bombs away: Apriority (30-1), Giant Ryan (8-1)
What makes this five-furlong race so intriguing is that two of the favorites may as well have drawn posts in Keeneland's starting gate. Caracortado and Chamberlain Bridge are starting from posts 13 and 14, which – in a five-furlong sprint on the Churchill turf – is almost insurmountable. It's tough to win this from beyond the 10 post. And besides Regally Ready (3-1), the inside posts are filled with bombers. Hoofit is two-for-two in the States, both on synthetic, but the Graham Motion trainee returns to the turf today, which should remind him of home in New Zealand. If you toss Great Attack's last race, in which he drew the 12 post at 5 1/2 furlongs on the Keeneland turf, his form is sharp. You can say the same about Perfect Officer, who has been around the money in his last seven starts at five different tracks.
Turf Sprint bomb potential: HIGH
Bombs away: Great Attack (20-1), Hoofit (15-1), Perfect Officer (12-1)
The bomb potential seems fairly low in this race. The runners with the best chances seem suitably priced, but let's give a shot to Irrefutable at 12-1, who has shown a liking for the Churchill surface in the morning and won convincingly over the surface earlier this year.
Dirt Mile bomb potential: LOW
Bombs away: Irrefutable (12-1)
The Europeans didn't do so well on Friday, but they look pretty convincing in here. That said, the Americans have a couple of potential upsetters. Dean's Kitten narrowly lost to Cape Blanco in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and finished behind Blanco and Gio Ponti the race before that, so he's been dancing in some pretty good company. But he's kind of a one-pacer, and this race probably requires more kick. Brilliant Speed has shown that ability, he's looked good on the track and he's in good form. I'll make him the top bomb selection. Teaks North can also come out of nowhere when he decides he wants to run. Not sure he'll get the pace he needs.
Turf bomb potential: LOW
Bombs Away: Brilliant Speed (20-1) Teaks North (20-1)
After Union Rags, this race gets pretty wide open. Take Charge Indy gets on the dirt for the first time and should like it for trainer Patrick Byrne, who is shooting 25% with his last 12 synthetic to dirt runners. Will save ground with the rail draw, and if the pace is hot enough, look for him around the quarter pole. Prospective has won his last two, including the Grade 3 Grey Cup at Woodbine. He's taking to the dirt for the first time as well for Mark Casse. If he likes the dirt, he could show yet another speed figure improvement today with a stalk and pounce trip.
BC Juvenile potential: MEDIUM
Bombs Away: Take Charge Indy (30-1), Prospective (30-1)
The likes of Turallure, Gio Ponti and Courageous Cat seem poised to give Ms. Godikova their best shot, but if somebody's going to beat her, it may as well be a bomb, right? Mr. Commons brings his sharp California form to Churchill and has looked the part of an improving three-year-old since showing his affinity for the turf as a son of Artie Schiller. Compliance Officer has been crushing state-breds in New York race after race. He would appear badly outclassed here, but trainer Bruce Brown is no dummy and winning form can go along way, especially when coupled with very respectable speed figs.
BC Mile Bomb potential: LOW
Bombs Away: Mr. Commons (20-1), Compliance Officer (30-1)
In a race that should be decided by a handful of favorites, there are questions surrounding all of them. SO if YOU are to THINK outside of your UNCLE MO's FLAT OUT favorite picks like HAVRE DE GRACE, the Bomb-Sniffing Handicapper has a couple of ideas. How about Ruler On Ice? You could argue his win in the slop in the Belmont Stakes was a one-off, or you could postulate that his second to TO HONOR and SERVE in the Pennsylvania Derby was an awakening. Classic-winning jockey Garrett Gomez rides a colt that upended his running style in his last start to close from off the pace. He might just improve with another furlong, even if not as classy as some of these. Drosselmeyer could complete a Classic double for trainer Bill Mott, and I won't be the least bit suprised if he out-endures this bunch.
Classic bomb potential: MEDIUM
Bombs away: Ruler On Ice (30-1), Drosselmeyer (15-1)
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