ELMONT, N.Y., Oct. 25 (UPI) -- A race-by-race analysis of Saturday's $14 million Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship races at Belmont Park:
$2 million Distaff
The favorites in this 1 1/8-mile event for fillies and mares are Kentucky Oaks winner Flute, recent New York sensation Exogenous and defending champ Spain. Flute, a daughter of Seattle Slew, won three in a row starting with the Oaks before losing to Exogenous in the Beldame at Belmont on Oct. 6. Exogenous, by Unbridled, has won two straight and run out of the money only
twice in 12 lifetime starts. Spain, a 4-year old by Thunder Gulch, has struggled since winning at 56-1 odds last year but appears to be rounding into top form. All of them may be chasing the oldest horse in the field -- Tranquility Lake, a 6-year-old Rahy mare who has been running well in California. If Saturday's track is kind to early speed, she will be hard to catch. Miss Linda, an Argentine-bred who won her last start at Keeneland on the lead, also may race near the front in the Distaff. The others in the 13-horse field look well-matched and there are few total toss-outs.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies
You, a daughter of You and I, is the morning-line favorite at 8-5 based on her undefeated record in four starts. She is the first of six runners on the Championship card entered by trainer Bobby Frankel. Frankel has sent out 36 horses in previous Breeders' Cup events and is looking for his first winner. You could be it. There are eight other starters, however, and a case could be made for most of them. Habibti, a daughter of Tabasco Cat, might be the favorite if she hadn't missed a race last month. Sophisticat, a Storm Cat filly, makes her first U.S. start -- and first on the main track -- after racing with mixed success in England and Ireland. The Europeans have some good chances on the card in later races.
$1 million Mile (Turf)
Here's where the Europeans could get rolling, with Noverre as the lukewarm, 3-1 morning-line favorite. The 3-year-old son of Rahy, racing in England and France, has been on the board in five of six starts this year. He races from behind the leaders and will need racing luck, so his No. 3 post position is a good one. Two other early favorites, Val Royal and Irish Prize, also race from off the pace and will have to work out trips from the outside spots in the starting gate. They're liable to be chasing Affirmed Success, the 7-year-old Affirmed gelding who is making his fourth Breeders' Cup appearance. He was unsuccessful in two tries in the Sprint, so trainer Richard Schosberg moved him to the grass specifically to compete in the Mile. Last year, he finished fourth, beaten only 1/2 length for the win. Forbidden Apple has won two of his last three over the Belmont turf and likely will be on the lead after starting from the No. 1 spot. Several other starters -- City Zip, Balto Star and Express Tour -- have little or no turf experience and are major question marks.
$1 million Sprint
This is a tough race to handicap since so many of the 14 expected starters will be gunning for the lead. That could be good news for 7-2 morning-line favorite and defending champion Kona Gold, who typically rallies from just off the lead. However, the 7-year-old son of Java Gold was upset in his last start by Swept Overboard, who simply ran by him in the final sixteenth. Another highly regarded California trainee, El Corredor, has a running style similar to that of Kona Gold. That could create an opening for a deep closer like Delaware Township, Left Bank or even the venerable, 9-year-old Bet On Sunshine, who has been third twice in previous runnings of the Sprint. Those likely to be slugging it out for the lead include second-favorite Caller One, Squirtle Squirt, the filly Xtra Heat, and the European trainee Mozart.
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
Lailani, England's Legend and Starine finsihed 1-2-3 in the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont on Sept. 29 and that's how they're ranked in the morning line odds for this race. The Flower Bowl was the first U.S. start for Lailani, a British-bred daughter of Unfuwain. Before that, she won six straight in the British Isles. England's Legend, a French-bred Lure filly,
won three straight this summer, including the prestigious Beverly D. at Arlington Park. Starine, another French-bred, won twice at Saratoga this summer. A sleeper is Banks Hill, a British-bred daughter of Danehill who ran very well in France this year, including solid efforts against males. The highly international,12-horse field also includes the South African-bred Spook Express and two of the top three finishers from the E P Taylor at Woodbine in Canada. There is not a lot of natural speed in the race and England's Legend may be the one to catch, starting from post No. 2.
$1 million Juvenile
Trainer Bob Baffert feigned surprise last week when 11 other youngsters were pre-entered to challenge his heavy favorite, Officer. "Don't they read the (Racing) Form?" Baffert asked. Indeed, if the race were run on the pages of the Racing Form, they could hand the trophy to Officer's owner, Saudi Arabian Prince Ahmed bin Salman, at the start of the day and save everyone the trouble. The Bertrando colt has been unbeatable in his five starts, winning pretty much as jockey Victor Espinoza pleased. He even came to Belmont to win his last start -- the Champagne -- to get used to the track. But they run these on the track, not on paper, and the other 11 are hoping Officer will find trouble or have an off day. If he does, those eligible to pick up the pieces include Jump Start, who was second in the Champagne; Siphonic, winner of the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland; Came Home, who is undefeated in three starts including the Hopeful at Saratoga; and French Assault, who was second at Keeneland after a poor start. Check out Johannesburg, who is undefeated after six starts in Ireland, France and England but making his first U.S. start in a tough spot.
$2 million Turf
When Godolphin Racing opted to start Fantastic Light in this race rather than the Classic, it changed the complexion of both races. Fantastic Light, a 5-year-old son of Rahy, stands out among the dozen entrants. Last year, he was checked sharply in the stretch run of the Turf and still recovered to finish fifth, beaten only 2 lengths. He went on to finish third in the Japan Cup, beaten only a neck, then won the Hong Kong Cup. This year, he was second by a nose in the Sheema Classic in Dubai, then won three of four starts in England, losing only to top 3-year-old Galileo. Jockey Frankie Dettori will have him behind the leaders, waiting to make his move on the turn for home. Still, no one has won until the race is run. With Anticipation, winner of five straight starts, will be out and winging as jockey Pat Day, a turf-riding master, tries to steal the race. Canadian International winner Mutamam and Turf Classic winner Timboroa might apply some pace pressure. Hap, who has run well at distances shorter than this 1 1/2-mile trip, will be moving about the same time as Fantastic Light, as will another European hopeful, Milan. Fantastic Light is an 8-5 favorite in the morning line.
$4 million Classic
With Fantastic Light detoured to the Turf, the Classic offers a handful of top-notch contenders -- most with question marks after their names. Aptitude is the 2-1 early favorite off consecutive wins in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap and the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont -- the latter by 10 widening lengths. Nay-sayers will point out that he didn't beat much in either race. Optimists will point to steady improvement and a tendency among offspring of A.P. Indy to improve with age. The second-favorite, Galileo, is a 3-year-old son of Sadler's Wells whose only loss in seven starts was a second-place finish to Fantastic Light in the Irish Champion Stakes last time out. He's clearly a rising star. But his record and his pedigree indicate the main track might be a challenge. Sakhee took over for Godolphin when Fantastic Light went to the Turf. Dettori and trainer Saeed bin Suroor both said Sakhee is the equal of Fantastic Light. But the 4-year-old son of Bahri also has yet to run on the dirt and will be running back three weeks after winning the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Tiznow will bid to become the first winner of back-to-back Classics. But the 4-year-old son of Cee's Tizzy has struggled with a variety of nagging ailments and was third in his last start in California. The pace-setter is likely to be Albert the Great, who has tailed off badly after racing well in mid-summer. If left to his own devices on the lead, the son of Go For Gin will have every chance to show he has one more race left under his girth before retiring to stud duty at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky.