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October-27-2007,
Monmouth's Breeders' Cup -- Bring Your Raingear...By Nelson Lardner

Monmouth's Breeders' Cup - Bring Your Raingear, and Your Wallet

by Nelson Lardner Having witnessed the opening day's appetizers (the trio of BC races run at New Jersey's Monmouth Park on Friday), have a far better idea of what may transpire during Saturday's Big Show.

Early week forecasts called for modest chances for limited rain. Those reports went by the boards midweek, and we're now looking at heavy rains overnight, Friday, and an 80% chance of some serious thunderstorms on Cup Day.

For all that, the main track played fairly on Friday. Deep fields produced fast paces, and unlike most off-track days at Monmouth in recent years, you saw come-from-behind horses make good with above average frequency. The grass slowed perceptively as the rains came, and kept coming, and I'd look for bog-like conditions on Saturday. The good news is that the inner rail area will be comparatively unworn (if moist), as they protected it during the latter portions of the regular Monmouth summer meeting.

Not going to go into a big song-and-dance act, here. Just know that everything in racing speculation - as is the case with other sports - is best evaluated relative to true value. I've found that a consensus of British bookmaking prices (available through the first part of this week) provide you with a strong idea of just what kind of odds to expect on your selections (with certain glaring exceptions, as I'll also address as we move along). All comments are made vis-a-vis whether I believe individual horses will be available at good value or bad, in relation to the aforementioned British numbers.

We begin:

RACE 4 - BC Juvenile Fillies 20

Traditionally the most bizarre and unpredictable of all Breeders' Cup events, with young fillies, going a mile and a sixteenth in October of their 2-year-old years . . . chaos city! Add the mud, and get the dartboard out . . .

LIKELY GOOD VALUE:

Izarra: Virtually certain to love the distance, and is bred to adore the mud, being by Distorted Humor out of a Broad Brush mare. 6-1 on the morning line; anything over that is strong.

Proud Spell: Undefeated in three starts and off smashing win in Belmont's Matron six weeks ago. Anything above her 5-1 morning line is fair.

Smarty Deb: Invader from Washington State's Emerald Downs was morning-lined at 30-1 . . . a ridiculous price, even before another Emerald Downs refugee, Margo's Gift, won one of Friday's Monmouth stakes at better than 25-1. You get 15-1, you're doing well.

LIKELY BAD VALUE:

Indian Blessing: Likely favorite is undefeated in a two starts for Bob Baffert, having run off and hidden in Belmont's Frizette in her last - a huge wire-to-wire win. She may win, but doubt you'll see anything close to fair value in the marketplace.

RACE 5 - BC Juvenile

The scratch of Dixie Chatter leaves a field of twelve - including what we believe to be a vulnerable favorite. We'll get to him:

LIKELY GOOD VALUE:

Not feeling too frisky, here, due to post positions and weather, but here goes nothing:

Tale of Ekati: Closed smartly to win Belmont's Futurity in mid-September, and looks to be coming to this race the right way for Barclay Tagg. His #10 post and the fact he's yet to compete going around two turns in the afternoon dictate caution . . . and don't expect to see the 10-1s that were broadly available in Britian, but believe something in the 6-1 range would still be reasonable.

Shore Do: West-Coast invader with obscure connections looked like he was coming up to this right way, running a nice third in Oak Tree's Norfolk late last month. He was a 20-1 chance in Britian. You might do better, here, but weather is cause for concern, since all of his half-brother and sisters were disappointments in the mud.

LIKELY BAD VALUE:

War Pass: Nick Zito's favorite has accomplished much, quickly, culminating in his wire-to-wire win in Belmont's Champagne Stakes three weeks ago. The timing's a concern, and we frankly expect a "bounce" (a subpar effort, on the heels of extreme exertion).

RACE 6 - BC Filly and Mare Turf

Much of our analysis of this event hangs on the prevailing track conditions. There are a number of listed entrants who have very bad histories over soft turf courses.

LIKELY GOOD VALUE:

Argentina: Bobby Frankel trainee has repeatedly demonstrated she likes it soft. Finished a narrowly-beaten fifth in Belmont's Flower Bowl a month ago . . . an excellent prep for this.

Danzon: Previously trained by Pat Biancone, ruled off for the time being for the notorious recent "snake-venom" incident. Still, Biancone was seen on Monmouth's backstretch Thursday, against all regulations . . . couldn't have hurt! Looks to be primed and ready, and ran super (against males!) over a yielding course at Churchill Downs, Derby week. You should get an odds quote in the mid-teens, minimum.

LIKELY BAD VALUE:

Among the likely favorites, Wait a While and Honey Rider have historically been less-than-impressive over soft going. Probable public choice Nashoba's Key may be seven-for-seven, lifetime, but all of those wins came in California, over firm turf surfaces. Be our guest - but be aware that we won't be joining you.

WHADDYA DO?: Impossible to throw out Henry Cecil's European invader, Passage of Time, but was in 9-2 range overseas. Has big shot, but don't get swindled on the number.

RACE 7 - BC Sprint

POTENTIAL GOOD VALUES:

Friday's filly/mare sprint featured a collapse by the early-speed horses, as Maryfield and Miraculous Miss both closed with belated rushes to finish one-two at big numbers. If that follows, closer Benny the Bull and stalkers Kelly's Landing, Commentator (at least at this six-furlong distance), Smokey Stover and Idiot Proof may show to best advantage. I'd need double figures on Benny the Bull . . . and fat double figures on Kelly's Landing and Commentator to get serious. High single digits would be required for Idiot Proof. 5-1 would do, on Smokey Stover, from the rail.

CLEARCUT BAD VALUE:

Midnight Lute, the likely favorite . . . his history suggests he's likely to want more ground than Saturday's six furlongs, and his huge Forego Stakes run September 1 at Saratoga is unlikely in our mind to be repeated in this spot

RACE 8 - BC Mile

Gooey turf . . . godspeed, riders:

LIKELY GOOD VALUE:

Race frequently yields bizarre results under normal circumstances. Very tough to project any of the extreme longshots to win, with any degree of certainty. Have long liked the possibility of Tagg's Nobiz Like Showbiz in this spot. But since I've far from the only one with this idea, he figures to be bet within an inch of his life. Early double-digit projections were ridiculous, based on Tagg's popularity in the American market. Even the Brits had him solidly "tagged" in the 9-2 range. Morning line of 8-1 is absurd. If you see 5-1, consider yourself fortunate.

Sir Michael Stoute's European import, Jeremy, is a tricky read. Didn't go particularly well in a Gr. I at Longchamp three weeks ago, but since Frankie Dettori (an amazing European talent) sees fit to ride him, must give him a shot. Double-digits were freely available in Britian a week ago, but given the public's affection for European-raced horses in this race, doubt you'll see it.

LIKELY BAD VALUE:

Circumstances dictate that popular American miler After Market (HATES soft going) and Excellent Art (an excellent horse, breaking from the forbidding 13 post) are going to have serious problems with today's circumstances.

RACE 9 - BC Distaff

LIKELY GOOD VALUE: Carl Nafzger's Derby-winning Street Sense is getting all the press in the Classic, but his Lady Joanne could get the ball rolling early, here, in the 8-1 range.

Reade Baker's Bear Now boasts dangerous speed, and if she's given an early breather, could finish tenaciously at a price in the high teens.

. . . and I'm just about all alone on this one, but can envision a return to top form with David Hofmans' rail-riding Balance (who flat-rolled in a Gr. II stakes over a wet-fast Santa Anita strip in February). High-teens, or better.

LIKELY BAD VALUE:

Too many ways this can go for morning-line favorite Indian Vale to offer any value in this contentious field . . . bad post doesn't help either.

RACE 10 - BC Turf

LIKELY GOOD VALUE:

Reluctant to go back to the well at age 8, but Better Talk Now will love the going . . . and Bob Ribaudo's Grand Couturier could well be overlooked. You get high single digits on either of these, and you're doing well.

LIKELY BAD VALUE:

English Channel loves a firm Monmouth turf course. Saturday's rice paddy may be a different story. And have the highest respect for invading Arc winner Dylan Thomas . . . but the next Arc winner to win the BC Turf will be the first, and you're talking even-money, at best. There are better uses for money.

RACE 11 - BC Classic

Story of the betting markets is George Washington, who couldn't handle Invasor and Bernadini last year at Churchill Downs, but who is reportedly a far more developed physical specimen this fall. "Gorgeous George" was a consensus 10-1 at the British books . . . but was available at 40-1 in Vegas, earlier this week, and is a tight 7-1 at www.thegreek.com, as I type this. Difference of opinion makes horse races . . .

LIKELY GOOD VALUE:

Hard to find. Of the favorites, prefer Any Given Saturday and Street Sense, but you're unlikely to find a fair 4-1 on either.

LIKELY BAD VALUE:

Curlin. The co-morning line favorite didn't like this track in the Haskell, and is unlikely to like it any better today.

Have fun, and be grateful if you're watching indoors away from the nasty elements . . .

10-27-07
Nelson Lardner
MajorWager.com
Lardner@majorwager.com

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