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West Point Team Member Breeders' Cup Handicapping

November 03, 2011 · By Erin Birkenhauer · Share

The West Point team joined together and took a crack at handicapping each of the Breeders’ Cup 2011 races. Some races are handicapped in more detail than others, but we thought you’d enjoyed the insight from each member of our team. You can view our bios by clicking here. Will Tom Bellhouse (and no the four-legged Bellhouse was not entered in the Breeders’ Cup) hit the tri in the Filly & Mare Turf? Will the three-year-old To Honor and Serve take the Classic for Bill Mott as predicted by Terry Finley?

Friday Races:

Juvenile Sprint-Lindsey Heumann and Jeff Lifson

Lindsey’s Top 4 Picks
9 – Vexor
8 – Jake Mo
6 – Secret Circle
3 – Blacky the Bull



Jeff Lifson

As many of you know, I live in Louisville--sorta gives me an unfair advantage to most in the ability to watch these BC horses train for a week or two at Churchill downs.   Also, as many of you have come to know sadly, I'm a lousy handicapper when it comes to reading the form and picking the winners of any race(most of you who ask me for picks at any given race day have learned this the hard way).  My edge is in picking the horses who are doing the best physically at the time of the race.  You can't do that for the random Thursday card at Belmont.  But you sure as shootin' can do it for BC.  So all that preamble leads to this in the BC Juvenile Sprint:

1)Secret Circle--Came in to Churchill Downs and acted like he owned the place in his first spin around the oval this week...big, heavy muscled dude is super imposing.
2)Vexor--great coat means a healthy horse, good mover over this surface
3)Seeker--did enough in the dark in his breeze to impress me.   He's got a poor post, but seems like a pro out there.

Throwout horse--Shumoos--hasn't adapted well to Churchill.  He's a candidate to get hot and bothered before the race.


Juvenile Fillies Turf- Casey Irving


Picks- 10-3-14-4

1 My Gi Gi. I’ll be passing on this longshot. Post is tricky, and she couldn’t catch them in the Oak Leaf. She is probably outmatched by these other 2 year olds.

2 Dayatthespa. I have to show some love for fellow “NY bred” Chad Brown, who grew upin nearby Mechanicville, NY. Chad is having an amazing year, and I would be delighted for him to notch a BC victory to cap off 2011. This horse loved going 5 ½ at Saratoga this summer, winning first time out. She couldn’t hold the pace late going a mile in her next start, albeit against G3 competition and her first time facing winners. Her run in the Natalma was impressive, but fell short. I won’t be picking her, but I won’t be upset if she upsets.

3 Up (IRE) Something about a Euro shipper in for a BC turf race just seems right to me. I’d love this longshot take it all, but the beastly Elusive Kate will be a challenge. There is a lot of mystery here, the horse only has 2 starts and hasn’t faced anything more than Maidens until this point. I have faith that Aidan O’Brien knows he has a loaded gun here given her lack of PP’s. That’s why they call it gambling, right?

4 Stopshoppingmaria. Can’t argue with the facts here. We have seen time and time again that More Than Ready offspring love the grass. And team Pletcher-Repole is always a tough play against with young horses in the big time races. My Miss Aurelia made short work of her in the Frizette, and I think the Europeans will best her here.

5 Stephanie’s Kitten. Despite obvious and impressive talent, nothing about this horse really excites me. She is consistent, hitting the board 4 for 4 and winning twice. She has won at both a mile and a mile and sixteenth, so the distance should suit her perfectly. She ran great in the Alcibiadies, and I’ll probably kick myself for not including her, but other horses just tug at my heart strings a little more. (Josh Cooper tells me bad gamblers bet with their hearts, instead of their heads, oh well.)

6 Sweet Cat. The second Pletcher entry lost to Somali Lemonade in her last start. Johnny V clearly feels better about his chances on Stephanie’s Kitten and I think I’d have to agree with him.

7 Royal Bonnie. This longshot broke her maiden first time out going long at Saratoga. She’s only had two career starts and doesn’t come from a super impressive pedigree. Friend of WPT Dan Collins runs Bonaventure Stables, so we will all be rooting for Dan here, and I love George Weaver, but will be passing on my personal ticket.

8 Hard Not to Like. Funny, I say this to people about ME all the time! Another consistent campaigner, having won at 6f, a mile, and a mile and a sixteenth. Overall I think she is outmatched, as she is facing both Dayatthespa and Stephanie’s Kitten after having lost to them in the G3 Natalma.

9 Pure Gossip. Interesting horse who has won on both turf and dirt, she’s got bug boy Curatolo who has done some nice things with Serpe. But overall I don’t think we will see any great

shakes from her.

10 Elusive Kate (seen at right). One glance at her PP’s and its clear she is the real deal. Her combination of pedigree, coming off four wins in a row, and being a Euro shipper seal her as the pick for me, as well as many others. The 2-1 ML favorite.


11 Ann of the Dance. First start since her trainer change from James DiVito. She has shown some talent at this distance but I do not think she will wind up in the winner’s circle.

12 Dear Lavinia. A long shot I almost picked for an upset. I love the European angle, as I mentioned, and I would love for Bobby Flay to capture another BC victory (and then grill me up something delicious.) I don’t think she will take down Elusive Kate, but I wouldn’t call you crazy if you put her deep in the exotics.

13. Customer Base. Coming off 2 wins in as many starts, this filly looks to have a promising career ahead of her. She hasn’t raced on turf (synthetic only) which presents a slight wildcard. I’m passing on her but could see the argument for her to go 3 for 3.

14. Somali Lemonade. Another hard one to play against. Lemon Drop Kid line has shown a lot on the grass, and this filly is coming off 2 wins in 2 starts. I don’t love the post, which is why I put her third, if she continues to improve as she has done from race to race, she could be sitting on a big effort.

Filly & Mare Sprint- Dawn Lenert

1) Turbulent Descent (seen at left)- Will take the 3yo chalk here. 3 for 3 at 7 panels and multiple G1 wins.
2) Tar Heel Mom - Flatter mare is 24 for 30 lifetime hitting the board, including at CD, and likes the distance.
3) Pomeroy’s Pistol - Beat older in G2 Gallant Bloom last and posts consistently solid numbers.
Juvenile Fillies- Shannon Castagnola

My Miss Aurelia (seen at right) - a $550,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by SMART STRIKE out of a Storm Cat mare. You can't go wrong when you've named a horse after your mom. I'm a mom, I love moms! This undefeated filly has proven she can be a tough New York girl by winning the Grade II Adirondack at Saratoga and the Grade I Frizette at Belmont. She'll need to call on her Kentucky roots though if she's going to win at historic Churchill Downs.

Weemissfrankie - I'm a sucker for a story. The owners of this filly used to be a triumvirate who wouldn't spend more than $50,000 or $60,000 at the sale on an individual. One of the partners passed away and the remaining two continued to purchase horses. They named this filly in honor of their friend, but also because they spent $150,000 on her, something "Frankie" never would have let them do! It's proven to be a winning decision though as she's undefeated and twice a Grade 1 winner. She's also proven she can run on anything, she's won on the cushion track at Hollywood, the polytrack at Del Mar and the dirt track at Santa Anita. She won her first time out defeating our own Lady Fairbanks who we think quite a bit of.

Putthebabiesdown - there's a lot to like here. She's bred by Highclere and I have a sentimental connection to the farm as one of the sons, Stuart Morris, is a great guy, a good friend and a groomsmen in my wedding 9 years ago. She's trained by Kenny McPeek, so believe me, she knows Churchill Downs. This will be just another day at the office for her.

Filly & Mare Turf- Tom Bellhouse

Fascinating race... Take your pick of any of these three Euros
*Stacelita has been dominant  since arriving in the US and training great for Chad Brown.  She did lose to Announce at Longchamp, when both faced the colts, in the Group-3 La Coupe.  Versatility is a big edge, as there is not a ton of pace in the race outside of Dynaslew and rail horse, Dubawi Heights.  The filly seems capable of sitting just off the leaders if the pace dictates.  Leading US rider Ramon Dominguez has the return call.

*Nahrain is undefeated for Sheik Mo going 4 for 4 in a lightly raced career.  Defeating the previously mentioned Announce by a nose in their last meeting on Oct 2nd
International superstar, Frankie Dettori will pilot this English bred daughter of Selkirk.

*Announce is trained by the legendary Andre Fabre for the familar pink and green of Juddmonte Farm.  This filly is 8 for 10 lifetime in the exacta and has faced colts, as well as fillies in two of her last four starts.  Announce was beaten a nose, as the favorite, by Nahrain in the Group-1 Qatar Prix de L’Opera at Longchamp, in her last race.  Distance and turf condition don’t seem to be a concern for this amazing filly.

Tommy’s Pick
1.  Announce
2.  Stacelita (seen at left)
3.  Nahrain
4.  Dubawi Heights

I think Announce and Stacelita lead a calvary charge of late runners, with the Juddmonte homebred (Announce) getting the nod.  I don’t think turf condition or distance will be an issue for either of my top two selections.  Nahrain is obviously undefeated and is a budding superstar, but I believe she might be compromised by the distance.  Nahrain may be closer to the pace than in previous races, if the fractions are not solid.  Dubawi Heights potentially could share an easy lead with Dynaslew in the early going, and scoot away under Rosario to pick up part of the triple.  In an effort to support full disclosure- WPT trainer Graham Motion said his filly, defending champ Shared Account, “is coming this years BC in the best shape of her career.”

Ladies’ Classic-Debbie Finley

My Picks are:
#8 Plum Pretty 2-1
#6 Royal Delta 5-2
#3 It's Tricky 5-1

Going with the favorites.
Like Plum Pretty because she likes Churchill Downs and won the KY Oaks there. Good trainer/jock combo. Pictured below.
Royal Delta: Was impressive winning the Alabama at Saratoga.
It's Tricky: New rider, Ramon Dominguez who I think will give this filly a good ride. She shows she can hang with fillies like Plum Pretty and Royal Delta.

If anyone upsets the apple cart it could be Ask the Moon.

Saturday Races:

Marathon- Clif Hickok

# 8 Giant Oak (pictured)has made up tons on ground, in past races, on the Churchill dirt. He looks in better shape now than in last years Marathon. # 7 Eldaafer won this race last year and Marathon winners tend to repeat. # 6 Cease is lightly raced and stepping up. I like his last three races and War Chant as a distance sire, in with a shot. You have to love a horse that is CUTTING BACK to a 1.75 mile race! # 5 Brigantin's last race was at 2.5 miles, love that angle!!

$2 EX and TRI boxes on 5, 6, 7, 8 Total bet $72.

Juvenile Turf- Erin Finley
1. Finale- Pletcher trainee undefeated on the turf. Run two “9”s on the Sheets on the turf, which makes him very tough to beat. If he relaxes and harnesses his speed early, I think he’s the clear cut winner. Pictured right.

2. Animal Spirits- Has some improving to do based on the numbers, but was impressed with his win in the Bourbon. Lacks experience, but I think he’s right there with another step forward. A firm turf course likely plays to his advantage.

3. Lucky Chappy (IRE)- Broke slowly and trailed early in the Bourbon before really coming at the leaders late. With a better trip, I think he’ll have a better chance to show his talent. Dominguez sticks with State of Play though. Interesting, because State of Play’s numbers aren’t too strong despite being undefeated and he hasn’t run since Saratoga.

I think Majestic City is going to be overbet. First time turf and he was very, very rank last time out. I don’t think you win a race like this unless you can relax.

Sprint- Josh Cooper

Win- Aikenite (pictured left) - Stabled at Churchill for the fall, acclimated to the environment, and pattern suggests this could be a big effort (negative here is that John Velazquez went elsewhere)
Place - Amazombie - At his best distance, Mike Smith a big money rider, shows the ability to string together big efforts
Show - Force Freeze - Very solid since coming to the states, wish he would have brought him to Churchill a few weeks ago as opposed to trying win from Monmouth Park

Turf Sprint- Erin Finley

1. Perfect Officer (pictured at right)- I think this is a horse on the improve. Six for 18 at the distance. Run well on a good turf course before and there’s a good chance the course isn’t firm come Saturday due to rain. Think he’s going to be a price horse, but has run some numbers that put him right in the mix.

2. Regally Ready-Coming off gate to wire win in Nearctic at Woodbine gong six furlongs last time out. He’ll try to play catch me if you can. You would think there would be more speed in here. This horse is two for four at the distance.

3. Havelock- Four for six at the distance. He’s run well from off the pace and also from closer up, and I like that versatility in a race like this.

Dirt Mile- Erin Finley

I hit the super a few years back in the Mile at Santa Anita with Goldikova on top. Here’s my superfecta for the 2011 Dirt Mile:

7-9-5-8 That’s Jersey Town, Trappe Shot, Wilburn, Caleb’s Posse

1. The Factor
Thanks, but no thanks. Don’t like the inside post. Never been a huge fan of this horse. Inside speed and don’t think he wants any parts of a mile.

2. Shackleford
I’m a big Dale Romans fan, but I just don’t think this race sets up for him unless he shows an ability rate. There’s just too much speed.

3. Tapizar
Ambitious spot second time off the layoff. Ran a career best Rag number last time out. I think he is overmatched.

4. Tres Borrachos
Zero for six on conventional dirt. Pass.

5. Wilburn
Three-year-old is looking for fourth straight win. Worked well over this surface, and has run some good numbers lately without going over the top. Four for six on conventional dirt. He doesn’t win it, but he hits the board.

6. Irrefutable
Ran two huge Rag numbers earlier this year which makes him intriguing. However, his work coming into the race was apparently so-so. Coming off a big effort in California, but just don’t see him winning.

7. Jersey Town
Being a Jersey girl, this is not only my sentimental pick but I 
truly like this horse and think he’s got a big shot to 
win. Although he hasn’t won this year, he’s hit the board in three starts. There’s a good amount of speed in here, and think he’ll have a stalking trip. Know he doesn’t have a ton of number power and untried over the surface, but a gut feel here. And for the record, I did pick him prior to Len Friedman giving him out on our Partner Ragozin call! :)

8. Caleb’s Posse
Race could set up for this three-year-old closer since there’s quite a bit of speed. Fairly consistent pattern this year. One for four at the distance though. I expect him to be running late, but think he’ll have to settled for closing out the super.

9. Trappe Shot
Very talented horse that has run some tremendous numbers. He’s got the running style to be a force in here. I didn’t love his last race though. Although he ran a good number, he flattened out down the lane. Picked him to complete the exacta, but he’ll need to step up from the Vosburgh that’s for sure.

Turf- Nancy Ury

6. Await the Dawn - this son of Giant's Causeway is one of two Aiden O'Brien starters in the Turf.  Gets first Lasix on Breeders' Cup day.  Just fared ok when he faced G1 company (for the first time) last out in the Juddmonte International in August.  He has made five trips to the winners circle out of just 7 starts.  I love the fact that O'Brien has entrusted jockey Julien Leparoux with the mount. Trainer Aiden O'Brien also sports some impressive stats in terms of horses making their North American debut - 38%.  Is 30% with first Lasix, and a whopping 46% on the Turf.

2. Sarafina (FR) - is one of two girls in the bunch. Throw out her last race in the Prix de l'Arc dr Triomphe (G1), prior to that she was on a 3 race win streak. She has experience against the boys so she can handle the tough competition. She's 60% in the win column in her 10 lifetime starts. Coming in to Breeders' Cup she is 3rd start off a freshening which an angle I've always liked. Trainer Alain De Royer-Dupre is not only 33% with horses making their 1st start in North America, and also shares that number on the turf and graded stakes.

7. Sea Moon (GB) - is just one of two 3yos in the field and the most lightly raced in the bunch.  He had a tough trip last out in the Ladbrokes St. leger in September to finish 3rd - his worst performance to date. He will also get first Lasix on raceday.  I like the fact that jockey Ryan Moore is making the trip and back on for trainer Sir Michael Stoute.  He rode him in his first 3 lifetime starts to a second and 2 wins.  Sea Moon has never been off the board in his 5 starts.

Juvenile- Tom Bellhouse

First question you have ask yourself when handicapping this race is: Can you beat the undefeated, ultra impressive Union Rags?

This precocious son of Dixie Union splashed home in the Spa slop to win the G-2 Saratoga Special and followed that up with a troubled trip victory in the G-1 Champagne at Belmont.  He showed amazing versatility by winning off the pace in both his debut and Champagne victories, as well as wiring the field in The Special.  His trainer, Michael Matz, has been to a big dance before at Churchill with the mighty Barbaro and his rider, JJ Castellano is a big time money rider.

If your answer is “YES,” then let me add a few tidbits to this 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

-Six of the thirteen entries have never run on a dirt surface, with an

additional three colts making their second start on dirt.

-Union Rags, Alpha, Speightscity, Creative Cause, and the very sneaky Calder horse- Fort Loudon (from the same connections as Awesome Feather) are the only colts with a victory over the dirt,in their brief careers.

-Take Charge Indy’s pedigree (AP Indy-Take Charge Lady) gives him total license to love the dirt and run all day long.

-Darley Stables’ Alpha, the Kiaran McLaughlin trained, Bernadini homebred ran one of the most impressive maiden scores of the Saratoga meet, in his debut.   He was not disgraced running a green second to Union Rags in the Champagne, in only his second career start.

-Optimizer, the impressive son of freshmen sire English Channel, is trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas and would have been my dark horse pick if he had run in the Juvenile Turf, but picks a strange spot to test the dirt.

-Hansen, the Mike Maker trained, Tapit homebred who hasn’t finished in the same zip code as his competition in his two starts at Turfway.

-Aidan O’Brien brings two colts to the Juvenile.  Both own two victories in their young careers and both have never tried anything other than turf????

-WPT trainers, Dale Romans and Mark Casse, both bring exciting prospects in Dullahan & Prospective to the race in great form.....just to muddy the waters

-Strange but true.....Todd Pletcher does not have a two year old colt in the 2011 Breeders Cup Juvenile (How can that be??)

Tommy’s Pick

1.  Creative Cause- (pictured) son of Giant’s Causeway moves forward

2.  Union Rags- hoping I’m wrong

3.  Alpha- race they want to win is at CD in May (if they leave w/ K-Mc)

4.  Hansen- working like a fiend on CD training track dirt (may just be a freak???)

Mile- Jeff Lifson

As many of you know, I live in Louisville--sorta gives me an unfair advantage to most in the ability to watch these BC horses train for a week or two at Churchill downs.   Also, as many of you have come to know sadly, I'm a lousy handicapper when it comes to reading the form and picking the winners of any race(most of you who ask me for picks at any given race day have learned this the hard way).  My edge is in picking the horses who are doing the best physically at the time of the race.  You can't do that for the random Thursday card at Belmont.  But you sure as shootin' can do it for BC.  So all that preamble leads to this in the BC Mile:

1)Courageous Cat (left) -it takes a pretty brave dude to pick against the Queen, Goldikova.   I'm not that brave normally, but CC is looking that good.
2)Goldikova--same course, same horse?   She looks the same and lord knows she's done the same training regime this week--basically nothing tough.   So why am I picking her second--she actually looks like she's carrying a little more flesh than last year.  She won it several years in a row looking like a skinny mini...I'll play against with the added girth.
3)Jeranimo--can you say peaking?   I can and he is this week.



Classic- Terry Finley


Win- To Honor and Serve- Three-year-old is coming into his own. Loved his win at Parx.
Place- Flat Out- Amazing how much he’s done 
with an almost two-year gap in his race record. Had a good year and like his chances.
Show-  Havre de Grace- Filly has run some big numbers. Legitimate shot to beat the boys. Think you have some more value with others though.  
Good luck!

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