By MARK HOFFMAN
For The Recorder
In 35 days, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be contested for the first time ever at Del Mar Racetrack in California. The Breeders’ Cup will have a total of 13 races spread over two days of racing with $24.5 million in purse money on the line. Friday, Nov. 3 will have four races, headlined by the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, worth $2 million. Saturday, Nov. 4 will have nine races headlined by the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. The next few weeks there will be key prep races and “Win and You’re In” events that will make up the fields for the 13 races.
This week, the prep races are from Southern California at Santa Anita racetrack and Belmont Park with their first of two Saturdays of prep stakes races. All five stakes at Santa Anita are part of the “Win and You’re In” series and two races at Belmont Park of the four total stakes are included. At Santa Anita, preps for both dirt Juvenile races, the Distaff, Filly & Mare Turf and Classic will be contested today. In New York at Belmont Park, prep races are slated for the Sprint, Juvenile Male Turf, Distaff and Turf.
We’ll first look at the California races with the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes (SA 5th) for runners prepping for the Distaff. Six are entered with only one Grade I winner in the field. Weaker than the New York prep, Faithfully (#1) gets the timid call here trained by Bob Baffert. Paradise Woods (#4) had a dull return since her Kentucky Oaks layoff and is the morning line favorite and the others just don’t match up. Two-year-old fillies are up next in the Chandelier Stakes (SA 7th) with an evenly matched field of eight. Top pick goes to the undefeated Moonshine Memories (#3), the lukewarm favorite. Next is the Front Runner Stakes (SA 8th) where the 2-year-old boys race with nine entered. I’m going with the Baffert runner here, Solomini (#8), a owinner in his only start from the sire Curlin, out of a Storm Cat mare. Bolt d’ Oro (#4) is undefeated in his two starts at Del Mar and is the horse to beat.
The Rodeo Drive (SA 9th) has older filly and mare turf runners entered going a marathon distance. Responsibleforlove (#3), trained by Neil Drysdale, has a win and two second-place finishes in marathon races, with the 6-1 morning line odds looks the value play here in this wide open event. The Awesome Again Stakes (SA 10th) is the final prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on the west coast. Cupid (#8), trained by Baffert, is a perfect 2-for-2 as a 4-year-old and is a strong threat along with his stablemates Connected and Arrogate to be the favorites for this year’s Classic race. He is definitely the horse to beat in the Awesome Again.
We also have Turf Classic Day, the first of two Super Saturdays at Belmont Park. It could be a coming out party for the two 3-year-old runners, Takaful (#4) and Mr. Crow (#5), in the Vosburgh Stakes (7th) at six furlongs. Both have improved and they belong in this Grade I sprint field. The Pilgrim Stakes (8th), not a “Win and You’re In” race, has 2-year-old colts on the weeds. Off his debut, Maraud (#6) looks like the probable favorite in this young field and the one to beat. The Beldame Stakes (9th) has runners pointed toward the Distaff and a slightly better field than the Zenyatta counterpart on the West Coast. Elate (#1) faces older foes for the first time, but towers over this field of seasoned runners. The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (10th) has assembled the best field of stakes runners today in my opinion. Don’t take a short price in this field of 11 runners though. I’ll box the three top contenders in my triple and use some longshots in the fourth spot. Oscar Performance (#3), Sadler’s Joy (#4) and Beach Patrol (#5) are my top three picks with Mekhtaal (#8), Fanciful Angel (#9) and The Grey Gatsby (#10) rounding out my superfectas.