October 26, 2001

Breeders' Cup XVIII
We all know what it's about, so hop to it:

Distaff: The top three finishers from the Oct. 6 Beldame would appear to have first claim to this race, particularly with the late scratch of Fleet Renee. While the Beldame was a fast race, and while its top three -- Exogenous, Flute and Spain -- dominated the finish, they'll have an entirely different dynamic to contend with in the Distaff.

And it all starts from the rail. Tranquility Lake will need to take it to the field right from the get-go, especially from the rail in the one-turn route configuration. But her dirt figures don't look like they'll crack the board in this one. Nonetheless, Tranquility Lake will provide added heat, something that was slightly lacking in the Beldame.

Flute is one of the ones, and her performance will be closely watched, and not just because she's going to be the favorite. In addition to Jerry Bailey on her back, she'll have the baggage of trainer Bobby Frankel's 17-year zip-for-36 record in the Breeders' Cup. That's tough.

Exogenous has improved dramatically since adding the blinkers, and her running style has gotten much more balanced as a result.

Miss Linda was the beneficiary of a solo flight last time, showing huge improvement, something that won't continue in this one, thanks to the presence of Tranquility Lake.

Two Item Limit has to overcome the layoff and the high standard set by the top contenders.

Unbridled Elaine is consistent, but she hasn't displayed the level of ability necessary to take this.

Queenie Belle has some right to improve. Though her final-time figures don't look imposing, she does make her third start off the layoff, does know how to pass horses in the lane and could fall into a nice opportunistic trip.

Pompeii resembles Queenie Belle. Pompeii will need to be a little more patient than she has been lately, but she does have a touch of ability.

Starrer isn't the bravest animal in the lane, but there's no doubting she possesses a high level of talent. The improvement off the layoff could continue into this race, and she has some versatility, too.

Atelier will want to close, and she might do better than she has in her last few, but she's yet to consistently show she's capable of putting in a race that would take this.

Critical Eye is always plugging away, but she just doesn't look fast enough in here.

Spain picked a great time to get good again, and we all know what she pulled off last year.

The contenders in this one run deep, and Flute, Exogenous and Spain are, indeed, obvious. But there are cases to be made for outsiders Queenie Belle, Pompeii and Starrer, if not to win, then to at least sneak into the exotics.

Juvenile Fillies: The media think it's all about You, but what to make of the decline in final-time figure in her first try past a mile?

She won the Frizette by default when Cashier's Dream got rank in the middle stages, and nothing was coming from behind. Moreover, You's pedigree is still eligible for a flop in her second route try. And then there's that icky maiden-claiming stuff in her background.

After You, there are a bunch in here trying the route distance for the first time: Habibti, Bella Bellucci, Sophisticat (a Euro), Shesastonecoldfox and Tempera.

After all that, there are Jealous Forum, Imperial Gesture and Take Charge Lady who have already gone farther than eight furlongs.

Sorting out the route debutantes, there is one horse that will relish the longer distances, and that is Tempera, a daughter of A.P. Indy, a classic-distance lover. And Mr. Prospector broodmares are OK first-routing. Trainer Eoin Harty also is great with developing horses.

Among the experienced routers, Take Charge Lady got better really quickly when stretched out to two turns, and she's unbeaten.

The simple strategy for this race is to pitch You from the exacta and go with a stone-cold box (sorry, Steve Austin; sorry Shesastonecoldfox) of Tempera and Take Charge Lady. That should pay quite well.

Mile: What do you look for in the Mile? The distance-lovers.

Silic won in 1999 and was a 55 percent hitter at a mile. War Chant, last year's winner, turned out to be a turf-mile freak, even if it was just for two starts. In those two starts, he won the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile and the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Rule of thumb: at least 40 percent wins (or thereabouts) at a mile, with at least 62.5 percent in-the-money finishes at the distance.

That knocks out a few, in particular the overhyped Euro Noverre, Affirmed Success and Irish Prize. Brahms is on the fence.

With what's left, you still have a chance for trainer Neil Drysdale to score a repeat in the Mile, albeit with a horse other than War Chant. Sarafan seems to be OK with the distance, and might actually be better suited for it than his more-touted stablemate Irish Prize. It wouldn't be a surprise if Sarafan hit the board.

Val Royal looks a lot like trainer Julio Canani's other Mile winner, Silic, in that he was a winner of the Breeders' Cup Oak Tree Mile. That very race will look to see if its winner can matriculate to Breeders' Cup Mile-winning status for the third straight year.

Brahms is the horse that looks scary, though his distance preferences isn't as clear-cut. Let's try Sarafan and Val Royal in the top two slots of the super, with Sarafan and the grass-improving City Zip to fill out the lower half.

Sprint: Swept Overboard is the "now" horse, and for good reason. When this guy finally got a Sprint-like pace last time, and a slightly bigger field, he couldn't help but run down his frontrunning targets, all the more so with the unrivaled king of the rally Eddie Delahoussaye doing the steering.

The dynamic obviously looks the same (or even better) in the world's fastest Thoroughbred race, and anything approaching the generous morning line would be outstanding. If there's any doubt, witness his last two, in which he's zoomed through sub-12-second final furlongs. Sizzling.

More on the dynamics of the Sprint: You win in the first quarter, or you win by drawing close only in the final furlong, not sooner. Swept Overboard fits the pattern, the latter.

Look also for longshots Delaware Township and Left Bank to be able to make up ground in the stretch, but only in the wake of Swept Overboard.

Filly & Mare Turf: Lailani gets all the advance billing, what with her perfect seven-for-seven mark in 2001. And her impressive score when running down American leader England's Legend didn't hurt.

Sure, Lailani deserves respect, but it's far from a one-horse race, as is often the case on Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Day.

Should Lailani succumb to the so-called Eurobounce in her second stateside start, the runners who have consistently put in rapid final-furlong times should be favored. Grass races notoriously reward ultra-late acceleration, and that's been the case in the short history of the Filly & Mare Turf, especially at its relatively long distance.

Late-running horses who could have a say at the end include Spook Express, a worst-to-first victress at Keeneland last time, and Volga, who nearly got up in time in the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine in her first North American try. No doubt Volga will enjoy the distance, either.

Banks Hill is the question mark, if only for this race's mile-and-a-quarter distance.

Juvenile: Now we arrive at the so-called Big 3, and leading the Big 3 is The Big One: Mr. Officer.

To his credit, Officer, unlike his Juvenile Fillies counterpart You, stepped up his figure in his first route try. However, the impressive final-furlong splits he recorded in his facile sprint wins did not translate well in the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance of the Champagne, the same distance as the Juvenile.

Uh-oh. Remember, Officer's dosage index is not Classic-friendly, and it might not even be middle-distance-ready. Honest. Don't blame sire Bertrando. It's dam St. Helens Shadow and her family's fault -- their route-worthiness is in serious question.

If Officer comes up short in his first stern test against horses who should relish going long, the likeliest candidates are not going to be Came Home (check out Paco Gonzalez's first-route numbers lately, except they're not in the Form, as well as his dam's reluctance going long) or even Johannesburg.

Actually, we qualify that. It might be Johannesburg, but the pedigree info is a little sketchy on the European import.

If you're going to try to beat Officer, you know it's got to be with a huge moonshot; it won't be sufficient to try to sneak through with a Jump Start or the already-maligned Came Home.

We're talking mega-longshots It'sallinthechase and Essence of Dubai, both of whom showed much improvement when stretched out. OK. You can still save with Siphonic, too.

Turf: Fantastic Light, Mutamam, Milan. The top Euros sure look attractive here, For crying out loud, Hap hasn't even been a mile and a half! Ow!

Timboroa might be the lone U.S. hope in here, and he'll have to be hyper-game to withstand the inevitable late-rush by the invaders. Tough race.

Classic: Ahem, classical speed-and-pace handicapping might work better in this one.

This race looks weird, like one of those Classics a la 1991 or 1998, when the unglamourous and relatively unknown Black Tie Affair and Awesome Again took the money.

In this case, in this race, that would mean tough mile-and-a-quarter handicap types Guided Tour and Include, both of whom have already demonstrated enough ability to win, and seem like they can run into this race in somewhat improving form. Albert the Great and Tiznow are in declining form, with no prospect for a dramatic turnaround in here.

The danger is Galileo, the super-Euro who tries dirt for the first time. And his pedigree doesn't appear to be an obstacle. That doesn't apply to fellow continental Sakhee, however, who doesn't have the bloodlines to make the successful turf-to-first-time-dirt transition.

No doubt Guided Tour and Include will be lost in the wagering shuffle, so have at 'em.

Summing up, here's our selected down-and-dirty wagering advice:

  • Juvenile Fililes: Box Tempera and Take Charge Lady in the exacta.
  • Sprint: Play Swept Overboard to win at the generous 8-1 morning line or higher. Dabble in vertical exotics using the versatile Delaware Township and Left Bank underneath.
  • Juvenile: Exclude Officer from all plans. (Oooh.) Try various combinations involving Siponic, Johannesburg, Essence of Dubai and It'sallinthechase
  • Classic: Play Include and Guided Tour straight-up, saving with the great Galileo

And there you have it. Whether you take this advice or take it with a grain of salt, there's only one more thing to say: Enjoy the sporting and athletic aspects of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships by getting to know the horses on a name basis, and not merely as a number in the program or flashing on the toteboard. OK? Thanks! And, oh yeah, best wishes for a monstrously profitable afternoon of the best racing on the planet!

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