Breeders' Cup picks and analysis

Bill Finley runs down his picks for horse racing's biggest day, the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.

Updated: October 28, 2005, 5:45 PM ET
By Bill Finley | Special to ESPN.com

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
The likely favoritesAdieu and Folklorelook vulnerable here. Adieu has posted moderate speed figures throughout her career and Folklore may be a one-race wonder after her inexplicable explosion in the Matron. The prudent thing to do is here is to take a stab at a longshot and hope to get lucky in what is a very difficult race. I've never been a big fan of Canadian horses, but Knights Templar could be for real. In her first route try on the dirt, she destroyed her competition in a Grade III stakes at Woodbine, earning a 93 Beyer figure. She seems as good as anyone in here and is likely to be overlooked. Original Spin beat up on her rivals in the Grade III Arlington Lassie last out. She probably didn't beat much and she is very much unproven. Nonetheless, she might just have some talent and is another who could surprise. Diamond Omi is not a fast horse, at least so far. She has improved significantly with each start and may do so again Saturday. I'll throw her into the mix in a race where I'm doing nothing more than taking stabs in the dark.

1. Knights Templar 2. Original Spin 3. Diamond Omi

Breeders' Cup Juvenile
There's no reason First Samurai should lose, that is if he runs his race. Already a winner of two Grade I races, he's one of the most accomplished horses to compete in this race in some time. He's the fastest horses in the race, the most talented horse in the race and is in solid hands in trainer Frank Brothers. This is a very talented horse who might just become the first Juvenile winner to win the Kentucky Derby. Superfly is the longshot pick to hit the board. Nick Zito usually takes his time with his 2-year-olds and they don't peak until this time of year. He showed some talent early on, but floundered in the Champagne when a distant third. Considering the track was a messy sea of slop that day, that race can be thrown out. Private Vow looked terrific when winning the Futurity in a fast time. From the barn of a trainer who specializes in early-developing, quick colts, he might not be the type who wants a mile and a sixteenth.

1. First Samurai 2. Superfly 3. Private Vow

Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Trainer Graham Motion had Film Maker ready for a peak effort last year at this time when she ran second behind Ouija Board in the 2004 Filly & Mare Turf at odds of 16-1. He might have her headed in the same direction. Her effort in the Flower Bowl, when third, beaten a length, is better than it looks on paper. She was blocked behind a wall of horses and didn't get free until mid-stretch. After that, she had to alter course, and then came charging to get up for third. She'll be another big price Saturday and is capable of spring an upset. Clearly, Ouija Board is the most likely winner. She had a troubled summer, but seems to be back on track. With a perfect prep in a Group III race at Newmarket, she should be ready for a peak effort. This is a very talented filly and there's no reason to believe she won't give a good account of herself. Wonder Again has not won in a long time, but she is consistent, usually runs well at Belmont and likes soft turf. She's one of many in this very tough race with a good chance.

1. Film Maker 2. Ouija Board 3. Wonder Again

Breeders' Cup Sprint
Lost in the Fog is being billed as the biggest star of the day, and with good reason. He's undefeated and wins in sensational style. He's just a very fast horse and he's going to go out there and make them catch him. It could happen. Lost in the Fog has been beating up on a bunch of second and third-string horses all year. But the group of competitors he will line up against Saturday isn't exactly jammed with superstars. Until proven otherwise, he's the fastest gun in the East, South, North and West. You gotta love him. Wildcat Heir is an interesting horse who obviously has a ton of problems. He has run just once since November. But when he's right, he's very good. He won the Grade I DeFrancis back in November and earned a 117 Beyer in his only start this year. That, by the way, is faster than any race Lost in the Fog has ever run. Battle Won returns to his best distance and surface after finishing off the board in a turf sprint. With a little luck he might finish among the top three.

1. Lost in the Fog 2. Wildcat Heir 3. Battle Won

Breeders' Cup Mile
Leroidesanimaux, who has been pointed for this race all year long, has won eight straight, is coming off an awesome performance in the Atto Mile at Woodbine and is not meeting a particularly imposing group of European opponents. Even the soft turf shouldn't be a problemhe handled a yielding course just fine in the Atto. Singletary, last year's winner, usually needs a race to get ready off a layoff. Yet, he managed to win the Oak Tree Mile last out after a 2 1/2-month rest. It looks like he's coming into this race even better than he did last year. Artie Schiller was giving away 8 pounds to Funfair when upset in the Kelso. This is his favorite distance and his favorite track. Is an unknown on a soft surface. Though not stars in Europe, Valixir and Whipper have reasonably good credentials.

1. Leroidesanimaux 2. Singletary 3. Artie Schiller

Breeders' Cup Distaff
Happy Ticket lost by just a half-length to Ashado last out in the Beldame and Ashado had the better trip of the two as she was closer to a slow early pace. Happy Ticket, who is 10 for 12 lifetme, will be a much better price than Ashado, so I will go for the value play. Ashado has thrown in two clunkers this year (Personal Ensign and Pimlico Distaff), so she is certainly capable of doing so again. Still, she's very good and loves this distance and track. The reigning Distaff queen, they have her to beat. Stellar Jayne prepped for this with a win in the Ruffian and is a classy filly. She might be a step or two slower than the top two picks.

1. Happy Ticket 2. Ashado 3. Stellar Jayne

Breeders' Cup Turf
It seems that Azamour had a legitimate excuse when fifth as the beaten favorite in the Irish Champion Stakes as he pulled a muscle. Prior to that, he won consecutive Group I races. He then missed the Arc de Triomphe, which makes him a fresh horses for the Turf. Though there are some good American horses in here, a top European horse usually has an edge in here and this is a very good European horse. Shakespeare is probably the best American horse in here, and there are no knocks on him. An undefeated horse, he proved his class and his ability to handle a distance last time out when he won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. Better Talk Now snuck up on them when winning the Turf last year at 27-1. Since, he's had a solid campaign in which he's proven he's a top class horse. As always, he will need a decent pace up front.

1. Azamaour 2. Shakespeare 3. Better Talk Now

The Breeders' Cup Classic
Rock Hard Ten looked very much like the best older horse in the country when he won the Santa Anita Handicap, beating, among others, Saint Liam. He has had problems since, but came back with a very good performance in the Goodwood Handicap. It looks like trainer Dick Mandella has him once again at his very best, though his foot problems are a bit of a concern. Saint Liam is a very, very, very good horse and he has been perfectly prepared for the Classic and I would have picked him had he not drawn terribly with the 13 post. His main prep was an easy victory in the Woodward, which shouldn't have taken anything out of him. His 123 Beyer figure when beaten in the Whitney is off-the-charts good. Also, there could be a slow pace here. He has tactical speed, which will be an advantage over several major rivals like Borrego. Flower Alley's wretched performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup was too bad to be true. If you can throw that race out, and if he runs back to his Travers performance, he very well could hit the board.

1. Rock Hard Ten 2. Saint Liam 3. Flower Alley

• Bill Finley is an award-winning horse racing writer whose work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated.
• To contact Bill, email him at wnfinley@aol.com

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