- Bill Finley
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Breeders' Cup Marathon, Race 5 -- Friday
Always the worst race on the Breeders' Cup card and an event that does not belong on a championship day or days of racing, the Marathon again came up very weak. It has been won by Europeans in its first two runnings and, though that may have something to do with the fact that it was run on a synthetic surface at Santa Anita, it makes sense to stay with a hot hand. The European horses are clearly better suited to these long distance races than the American horses are. BRIGHT HORIZON is coming off a win in a two-mile handicap race in Ireland, so we know he can run all day. He's also won on synthetic surfaces, which means he's more than just a grass horse. A.U. MINER looks like the best of the American horses and gets Calvin Borel, who makes magical things happen at Churchill Downs. PRECISON BREAK has had his moments and is also from Europe.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Race 6 -- Friday
The racecourse announcer had this to say about TOGETHER in his commentary in her last race, "She threw it away." The favorite in a $489,000 race in England, she had the race won before running sideways in the stretch, drifting out about 10 paths. If she can run straight here, she should prove best. Prior to that, she missed by just a neck in a prestigious Group 1 event. She will need good ride to overcome tricky post. WINTER MEMORIES annihilated the competition in the Ms. Grillo at Belmont and looks like a really nice filly with a bright future. NEW NORMAL looked good winning in Canada over the Pletcher-trained More Than Real. She is a solid horse with a big chance.
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Race 7 -- Friday
Surprisingly, there isn't much speed in here, which means RIGHTLY SO can control the race. The New York bred stepped up to win the Ballerina at Saratoga despite ripping off fast fractions and might get an easier trip here. She's a perfect three-for-three at the distance. At first glance, EVENING JEWEL, a distance grass horse doesn't belong here. But the best race of her career came over this track when she was second on the Churchill dirt in the Kentucky Oaks. She has the class to pull off an upset. SARA LOUISE didn't run all that well in the Gallant Bloom, but the Godolphin group might have been using that merely as a tightener for this. On her best, she can win this.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Race 8 -- Friday
THEYSKENS' THEORY has never run on the dirt, but should flourish on this surface. She's by a dirt sire (Bernardini) and is a half-sister to Stevie Wonderboy, a Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner on the dirt. She did OK on the grass in Europe and may do better here. R HEAT LIGHTNING should have won the Frizette as she had a horrendous trip. The best 2-year-old filly in the East, she's good, but the Beyer numbers are on the slow side. AWESOME FEATHER has been murdering easier in Florida. How good is she?
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Race 9 -- Friday
MIDDAY won this race last year as a 3-year-old and should be even better this year at 4. Trainer Henry Cecil has been griping about the hardness of the Churchill turf course, but Midday certainly doesn't look like a soft course specialist. How much better is she than the U.S. turf fillies? Consider that she beat Hibaayeb by 47 ¾ lengths in August and that filly came back to win the Grade I Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita in her next start. PLUMANIA only lost to Midday by three-quarters of a length in the Prix Vermeille, so she's obviously a contender. She was in over her head when thrashed by males in the Arc. HARMONIOUS tries older stakes horses for the first time, but is in great form for trainer John Shirreffs and looks like a filly with a great future.
The Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, Race 10 -- Friday
Throw out her run in the Personal Ensign, where she got into a speed duel with Rachel Alexandra (remember her?), and LIFE AT TEN is perfect on the year. She drew well and, from the rail, might just control what could be a mild pace. I love Blind Luck and will be thrilled if she wins. She's as tough as they get these days in horse racing and never runs a bad race. The only reason I prefer Life At Ten over her is because Life At Ten is an older horse. UNRIVALED BELLE probably can't win this, but she usually manages to finish in the money.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Race 4 -- Saturday
MASTER OF HOUNDS took a while to get going, but he is now among the better 2-year-olds in Europe, which he confirmed with a third-place showing in the Group I Racing Post Trophy. Facing a moderate group of American horses and getting Lasix for the first time, he appears best here. AIR SUPPORT overcame a slow pace to win the Pilgrim on a yielding course at Belmont. Most Shug McGaughey-trained horses get better with time, so we may not have seen his best yet. The Phillies may have flopped in the postseason, but UTLEY may still come through for the Keystone state. He ran against a tough bunch last out in Paris and should find this spot more to his liking.
Breeders' Cup Sprint, Race 5 -- Saturday
In what may be the hardest race on the card, BIG DRAMA is the pick. He's going to have to work out a trip from the rail, but he's as good as anyone in here. The key is that he's going back to six furlongs, which is his best distance. KINSALE KING is a bit of a mystery. He's never run on the dirt and hasn't been seen since a grass campaign overseas. But he proved his quality with a win in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen and can win this if he takes to the dirt. SMILING TIGER has merged as the best sprinter on the West Coast. Perfect at 6 furlongs.
Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, Race 6 -- Saturday
With a ton of speed in here, a closer will likely rule the day. GRAND ADVENTURE is the fastest horse in the race on Beyer numbers and will likely come on late after running in longer turf events. Big question is whether this race is too short for him. SILVER TIMBER should also get an ideal trip from mid-pack and has already won at this distance on this course. TROPIC STORM, also coming off routes, is likely to stay away from the hot pace, especially with the addition of blinkers. Coming off a good effort in the Oak Tree Mile.
Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Race 7 -- Saturday
JAYCITO has done something the big two (Uncle Mo and Boys At Tosconova) have not done, which is to win around two turns. He looked good winning the Norfolk and will be a decent price. There are two many unknowns with the other two to take them at short prices. Having said that, UNCLE MO and BOYS AT TOSCONOVA both looked fabulous while dominating the competition in New York. Both are very exciting horses and great prospects. Of the two, Uncle Mo looks better because he is at least proven at a mile and is not coming off too long of a layoff.
Breeders' Cup Mile, Race 8 -- Saturday
GOLDIKOVA is a wonderful mare. No reason to think she will stub her toe in her quest to become the first horse ever to win a Breeders' Cup race three years in a row. Might the girls finish one-two? PROVISO is undefeated this year on the grass and already beat the boys in the Kilroe. She did lose to Goldikova last year in France, but she's done little wrong since being brought here to continue her terrific career. It's hard to get a handle on SIDNEY'S CANDY, but you have to like how he won the La Jolla. If he can get loose on the lead he might just win this.
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, Race 9 -- Saturday
HERE COMES BEN got good this year and kept getting better. He pulled off an upset win in the Grade I Forego, proving he has the quality to handle this level. The one-turn mile should suit him perfectly. CROWN OF THORNS keeps coming up just short, but he's been right there in every start over the last two years against quality horses. TIZWAY has run some of his best races at this distance and looked strong winning the Kelso in his return off a four-month layoff.
Breeders' Cup Turf, Race 10 -- Saturday
John Gosden has made eight starts in the U.S. since 2008 and has come away with three Breeders' Cup wins and an Arlington Million win. Clearly, the guy doesn't mess around when he ships over here. In DEBUSSY, he may not have the best European in this field, but the horse has already won over here, in the Million, and has the Gosden mojo going for him. WORKFORCE may be a better horse, but no Arc winner has ever won the Turf. The reason is probably that they leave their best performance behind in Paris. WINCHESTER is a solid but unspectacular sort and is usually right there. Heads a very weak group of American horses.
Breeders' Cup Classic, Race 11 -- Saturday
Just about everyone will be rooting for Zenyatta to pull this off. Will she? There are a lot of reasons to believe she can't after she faced nothing but soft fields of fillies and mares all year. Then again, she just finds a way. Believe. LOOKIN AT LUCKY returns to the scene of his worst nightmare, the horror trip that might have cost him the Kentucky Derby. He's gotten even better since and may be the single biggest threat in here to dethrone Zenyatta. QUALITY ROAD is a really good horse and would be the pick if this race were run at nine furlongs. But the mile and a quarter has tripped him twice before. You definitely have to question him at this distance.
Bill Finley is an award-winning racing writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Contact him at email@example.com.