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Submitted by Noel Michaels on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM


By Noel Michaels - OTBLearningLabs

The Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships are just weeks away with the event fast-approaching on Friday and Saturday, November 1-2 at Santa Anita.  This will be the fourth Breeders’ Cup to be held at Santa Anita in the past six years, and the second in a row.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be the 30th and will be run at Santa Anita for the seventh time. Santa Anita played host to the event last year and already has been tabbed to host next year, marking the first time the Breeders’ Cup will be held at the same location three straight years.


All 6 Super Saturday Races handicapped from angles you never knew existed by Race Master, Noel Michaels, the man who knows the winning trends. The OTB official handicapper and president of OTB Learning Labs, Michaels has all the Saturday races nailed...And then comes back Sunday with the

  • Grade I Futurity for 2-year-olds.... Who’s going to emerge as the Cup Juvenile Colt favorite? Is this one the real deal that can sweep the Cup and the Derby next spring? Youngsters are developing fast in early fall. They grow big and strong and the early leaders of the division can be leapfrogged by later maturing colts.
  • Grade 2 Matron Stakes for fillies has a solid list of probable. And if the colts are hard to get a handle on physically at this time of the year, fillies are even tougher to rate on maturity. Noel has been keeping an eye on these fast developing 2-year-olds and has a HIDDEN RUNNER ready to SURPRISE THE FIELD.

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The Breeders’ Cup had expanded to 15 races in recent years, but has eliminated the Juvenile Sprint from this year’s menu, so there will be 14 races on the 2013 program, six on Friday, Nov. 1 and eight - including the $5 million Classic - on Nov. 2.  Purses will total $27 million.

This year’s (and last year’s) Santa Anita Breeders’ Cup’s main track races will be contested over a dirt surface. This fact should result in a fair and formful Breeders’ Cup where the best horses from all parts of the country and the world will all have a fair chance to shine. This includes the Eastern-based horses, which were largely shut out of the top finishes when the Breeders’ Cup visited Santa Anita’s artificial main track in ’08-’09.

The immediate relevance of all this, for this upcoming weekend’s sake, is because both Belmont Park and Santa Anita will be hosting their respective "Super Saturday" Breeders’ Cup preview cards filled with stakes races that are all key Breeders’ Cup prep races on Saturday, September 28.

Midwest horses soon will also have their key prep races upcoming as well, however those races will be run a week later during Keeneland’s "Fall Stars Weekend" from October 4-6.  Churchill’s new September meet, too, will be hosting a key Breeders’ Cup prep race for the Classic. The Homecoming Classic will be run on Saturday, Sept. 28 and will attract the defending Breeders’ Cup Classic champ Fort Larned, who has had a very up-and-down campaign in 2013.

The importance of the prep races is obvious, especially at Santa Anita.  The multiple stakes races run this weekend are Breeders’ Cup preps run over the same track and surface that the Breeders’ Cup will be run over.  That means that even more than usual, Santa Anita’s preps this weekend will be of paramount importance for Breeders’ Cup handicappers.  If you still don’t recognize the names of these stakes, it is because they all have been renamed from the past versions of these same races, which were run by Oak Tree (for example, the Awesome Again Stakes was formerly the Goodwood, the Chandelier and Frontrunner were formerly the Oak Leaf and Norfolk, etc.

"Super Saturday" at Santa Anita - Saturday, Sept. 28
Race:                                      Prep for:                  Purse:
Awesome Again Stakes-G1     Classic or Dirt Mile     $250,000
Zenyatta Stakes-G1                 Ladies Classic             $250,000
Rodeo Drive Stakes-G1          Turf or Mile                 $250,000
Chandelier Stakes-G1              Juvenile Fillies              $250,000
Frontrunner Stakes-G1            Juvenile                        $250,000

The Santa Anita Breeders’ Cup prep race schedule is of obvious importance, but with the SA main track BC races on a dirt surface, and Keeneland’s preps all occurring on a synthetic track, those Keeneland main track preps can mostly be downgraded and the New York prep races to be run at Belmont Park, along with the Santa Anita races, will all take-on added importance again this year.

With all respects to the SoCal Breeders’ Cup prep races, which are all star-studded and important races, nobody does the "Breeders’ Cup preview" concept better than Belmont Park, which has overloaded its Super Saturday race card on Saturday, September 28 with six Breeders’ Cup prep races including 5 Grade 1 races and a Grade 2.  The purses for these 6 stakes races will total a combined $3.4 million.

Here is the Super Saturday stakes line-up from Belmont Park:

Belmont Park Super Saturday - Saturday, Sept. 28
Race:                                      Prep for:                  Purse:
Jockey Club Gold Cup            Classic or Dirt Mile      $1,000,000
Flower Bowl                           Filly & Mare Turf            $600,000
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Turf                                           $600,000
Beldame Invitational                Ladies Classic                 $400,000
Vosburgh Invitational              Sprint                              $400,000
Kelso Handicap - G2             Dirt Mile                         $400,000

These stakes will be followed, in the upcoming days and weeks, by even more New York top Breeders’ Cup preps, including the Futurity and Matron on Sunday, Sept. 29, the Champagne (Juvenile), the Frizette (Juvenile Fillies), and the Jamaica (Mile) on Saturday, Oct. 5, and the Pilgrim (Juvenile Turf) and Miss Grillo (Juvenile Fillies Turf) on Sunday, Oct. 6.

The big standout of all of these Breeders’ Cup preps, of course, will be the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup. The Jockey Club Gold Cup is expected to feature of field that will include Belmont horse-for-the-course Flat Out, who will be seeking his third straight Jockey Club Gold Cup win.  As impressive as that is, however, and as good as Flat Out is at Belmont, the Jockey Club Gold Cup will be much more relevant in terms of the Breeders’ Cup Classic when it comes to other horses who will have a better chance at retaining their Belmont form at Santa Anita.  Some of these other Jockey Club Gold Cup contenders include 3-year-olds like Kentucky Derby and Belmont winners Orb and Palace Malace, and older horses like Ron the Greek, who is already a Grade 1 winner at Santa Anita, and the up-and-coming Cross Traffic, who has had a great year and is still getting better.

More equine stars who will be running at Belmont this Saturday include Breeders’ Cup champion Royal Delta, who will be looking to defend her title in the Beldame against a field that will include Princess of Sylmar, who already has the 3-year-old filly title wrapped up and now will be facing older horses for the first time in the Beldame.

The Super Saturday Turf races have drawn budding stars into their fields, too, with Laughing favored in the Flower Bowl after winning the Grade 1 Diana and the Grade 2 Ballston Spa back-to-back at Saratoga, and Big Blue Kitten pointing for the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic where he will seek his third straight Grade 1 win after taking the United Nations and Monmouth and the Sword Dancer at Saratoga in his last two outings.

The Grade 2 Kelso, normally a springboard these days to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, will feature the return from the sidelines of Graydar, who ruled the older horses division earlier this year with wins in races like the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream and the New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds.  Hopefully the Kelso will give Graydar an opportunity to make it into the Breeders’ Cup in the Dirt Mile, where he would figure to be tough to beat.  Ron the Greek is also possible for the Kelso if he does not run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

In my opinion, Ron the Greek would be well-served to point to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, where he would have a god chance, as opposed to the Classic, where he likely would be overmatched.

Moving over to Santa Anita’s big Saturday Breeders’ Cup Preview card of prep races, there will be yet another major Breeders’ Cup Classic contender in action as Mucho Macho Man runs in the Awesome Again Stakes as Game On Dude bypasses the final prep race in favor of training all the way up to the Breeders’ Cup off his big win last time out in Del Mar’s Pacific Classic.  Many people will overlook Mucho Macho Man, but he should not be overlooked again this year after nearly upsetting last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita before settling for second behind Fort Larned.

Another horse like Game On Dude who will train up to the Breeders’ Cup is the Bob Baffert-trained Paynter, who nearly died from an infection after winning the 2012 Haskell Invitational and has made an amazing comeback in 2013. Paynter, however, was dreadfully disappointing in the Woodward at Saratoga and will be heavily bet and probably one of the favorites if he runs. He will have a much better chance on Breeders’ Cup Day if he opts for the Dirt Mile over the Classic, and remember, Bob Baffert will be trying to make up for a forgettable 2012 Breeders’ Cup where he went winless at his home track, including with a lot of horses that were favored.

One of the key preps Saturday at Santa Anita will be the Rodeo Drive, which will point horses for the Filly & Mare Turf. It will be a great showdown between two legit BC contenders - Marketing Mix and Tiz Flirtatious.  Santa Anita’s The Zenyatta, a prep for the Ladies Classic (Distaff), will bring together a deep field including Joyful Victory, Beholder, Include Me Out and More Chocolate.  The Chandelier at Santa Anita will be a prep race for the Juvenile Fillies worth watching featuring the likely Breeders’ Cup favorite She’s a Tiger in action as she looks to repeat her Del Mar Debutante score.

Enjoy this weekend’s key Breeders’ Cup prep races from Santa Anita and Belmont (and Churchill). Remember, whether or not you are betting, it is highly important to watch all of these races if you are looking forward to a successful and profitable Breeders’ Cup Day next month at Santa Anita.  The Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Awesome Again - preps for the Breeders’ Cup Classic - are just a couple this weekend’s key prep races. Watch their outcomes carefully. Best of luck, and to join me for the winners this weekend click here.

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