Submitted by John Piesen on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 12:00 AM
A CLASSIC WEEKEND
By John Piesen
There are 14 Breeders’ Cup scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita, which means 14 opportunities to cash big-time. And you don’t need to crush them all; a couple of handsome exotic payoffs would do just fine.
That is why I give out three selections (four in the Classic) online at www.nationalracemasters.com, and on the John Piesen Hot Line 1-888-777-4155.
Truth be told, I spent the last two days -- taking time out for trick-and-treating -- handicapping the 14 BC races, confident that I have more treats than tricks, filed the picks, and enjoyed a good night’s sleep preparing for the most exciting two days in sports.
I’m not even letting the fact that my buddy Mike Smith, who will ride 13 of the 14 races, is online touting Game On Dude, Royal Delta, Mizdirection and Little Mike as his best shots doesn’t send me off the cliff.
After all, Mike always has a good opinion -- and alas I don’t have any of those four on top.
The fact that Smith, in his mid-40s, is fit enough and popular enough to ride 13 Cup races is itself is a story. Only one other rider, fellow Hall of Famer John Velazquez, has 13 calls, and that would not be a surprise. After all, Johnny V is in the prime of his career. and he rides for the Toddster.
Next in line are Joel Rosario (12); Javier Castellano (11), and, would you believe, Gary Stevens with nine, the most calls of any West Coast-based rider.
For what it’s worth, Smith and Johnny V each will ride three morning-line favorites, Rosario and Stevens none.
If you plan to watch the races in the comfort of your living room, you better have access to NBC Sports Network. Forget the good old days of Kenny Payne, and Hank Goldberg’s locks on ESPN.
A few years back, the Cup contract went to NBC, despite the fact that NBC is contracted to Notre Dame football on Saturdays. So we wind up this weekend with NBCSN airing the first 13 races, and NBC doing the Classic from 8-9 p.m. on Saturday.
At first glance, the 2013 Classic looks very much like the 2012 Classic. The first three finishers last year -- Fort Larned, Mucho Macho Man and Flat Out -- are back, and it would have been the first four if Ron the Greek hadn’t got hurt.
Game On Dude was the favorite last year (at 6-5 with Rafael Bejarano), but missed the break, thus blowing Horse of the Year, not to mention the millions bet on him.
This year, the Dude again will be favored, and, again, if he wins, he’s a lock for Horse of the Year. Of course, it bears noting that Bob Baffert, the trainer of Game On Dude and Paynter, has yet to win the Classic. Nor for that matter has Todd Pletcher, who is down to one horse -- Palace Malice -- for the Classic.
The big difference in the ’12 Classic and the ’13 Classic is that the speed bias is gone.
Last year, speed dominated the Cup, no more so than in the Classic when Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man raced one-two for the entire mile and a quarter, leaving Flat Out, the third finisher, 6 1/2 lengths behind.
This year the Santa Anita main track seems fair, the speed bias gone. And with a world of speed -- at least on paper -- in the field, I doubt we’ll see a repeat of ’12.
Got to feel sorry for the connections of the late-running Ron the Greek. The Greek, 3-for-7 at 10 furlongs, and fresh from a blowout victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, would have had a huge shot under the conditions.
But the key to the race is Game On Dude. He won’t get left this time. With Smith riding, he breaks on top every time, and that ’12 loss is his only blemish at Santa Anita. Otherwise, he is 7-for-7 over the track.
You’ve got to be a little crazy to pick against the Dude.
Call me crazy...
Clearly most of the buzz about this Breeders’ Cup, as usual, is on the Classic. But the Mile is getting a lot of attention because of the presence of Wise Dan.
Last year, Wise Dan ducked the Classic to run in the Mile, and won at 1-2, winning only because Animal Kingdom ran into a blind switch in mid-stretch.
So when Game On Dude got beat an hour later in the Classic, Wise Dan got Horse of the Year by default.
Can history repeat?
The answer is a resounding, "yes".
JOHN PIESEN SAYS...
Or My Best Bets Selections
I’M THE MAN YOU NEED FOR THE 2013 BREEDERS’ CUP RACES
In the tight little world of thoroughbred racing... the world that the outsiders call "the inside" those insiders know for sure, that I can pick winners.
Play the TWO DAYS of Breeders’ Cup Full Card...INCLUDING ALL WIN BETS, EXACTAS, TRIFECTAS, SUPERS, DAILY DOUBLES, PICK 3’s, PICK 4’s, AND PICK 6 COMBOS...WELL OVER 100 WAYS TO WIN for JUST $60, and as I said...your PROFITS ARE GUARANTEED! You must win 9 out of 14 or you play the rest of November ABSOLUTELY FREE!
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!
That said, the most compelling race in the Cup will be the Distaff, the fifth and final Cup race on Friday.
Life would be a lot easier if we knew Smith’s tactics. Does he send Royal Delta after Beholder, thus in essence setting the race up for the stretch-running Princess of Sylmar, or does he yield the front to Beholder, thereby giving the West Coast filly the edge?
Or is the Princess so good that it doesn’t matter what Smith does?
It’s a mystery.
Another mystery is Havana... the horse, not the city.
Two-for-two for the Toddster, Havana can clinch the 2-year-old championship with a win in the BC Juvenile on Saturday. but he’ll have to be freaky to do so from the 13-hole. Unlike the Classic, the Juvenile has been fertile territory for Pletcher. In fact, he’s won two of the last three runnings with Uncle Mo and Shanghai Bobby.
Needless to say, I will try to beat Havana with a price. And if Havana does get beat (as the favorite), the winner will be in the discussion for the 2-year-old title.
But, whatever happens Saturday, Honor Code, who is pointing for the Remsen at Aqueduct, is looking like the shortest-priced Derby winter book favorite in 30 years.
This would be a much more appealing Cup if Honor Code was there, but he’s not, and life goes on.
I just don’t want to see Wise Dan get HOY by default for a second straight year.
But it still should be a great Cup. The weather will be perfect, most of the races wide-open, affording super wagering opportunities, and we’ll just have to make it without Hank Goldberg’s selections.
But my picks will be up and running at bargain prices, and I’m confident my four-month hot streak will continue on racing’s biggest stage.
Have an enjoyable and profitable Breeders’ Cup, and we’ll see you back here next Friday to discuss what went right and what went wrong.