Over the next 2 weeks, handicappers will pour over the past performances of Breeders’ Cup entrants before making their selections. When handicapping any race (especially Breeders’ Cup races) players should always ask 1 simple question. Is this race the goal for this horse? Of course it’s the goal of any owner or trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race, but the most serious contenders have a course mapped out at the beginning of the year. When horses are forced to deviate from the plan due to injury or illness, it tends to dampen their chances, regardless of talent. Also, from time to time, horses under the radar will deliver a superior effort that tends to fast track their road to the Breeders’ Cup, though that may not have been the plan at the beginning of the year. It is unusual for these competitors to find the winner’s circle as well. Here are some horses that have had their plans rerouted on their way to the Breeders’ Cup. I don’t think all of these horses are 100% exempt from winning, but I will not make them the focal point of any of my bets on Breeders’ Cup Day.
Amazombie is a model of consistency not having missed the board in 2011, but he is not Breeders’ Cup nominated and will have to be supplemented to the race. Earlier in the year trainer Bill Spawr stated Amazombie’s year-end goal was the Cal Cup Sprint at Santa Anita, even though he recently defeated probable Breeders’ Cup Sprint favorite, The Factor, in Santa Anita’s Ancient Title Stakes.
David Fawkes duo of Apriority and 2010 Sprint Champion Big Drama missed significant time this year due to nagging injuries. In fact, Big Drama has only had 1 start since January when he captured the Whippleton Handicap at Calder Race Course running a Beyer Speed Figure of 88. Big Drama was scratched out of the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes coming down with a slight illness. At that time, Fawkes decided to train Big Drama up to the race rather than search for another prep. Apriority only has 2 starts since falling a nose short in the Churchill Downs Handicap on May 7th, but seems to be regrouping with a 4th place finish in the Vanderbilt Handicap and a troubled 7th in the Vosburgh.
Recent winner of the Hawthorne Gold Cup, Headache started out 2011 running in 5 allowance races (2 on turf) before making his graded stakes debut on June 25th. The Classic had to be the farthest thing from trainer Mike Maker’s mind at the beginning of the year for Headache.
Tizway was on track for the BC Classic before running a fever and was forced to miss the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 1st. Trainer H. James Bond began working Tizway out vigorously in order to make up for lost time, but missing the 1 ¼ miles prep race really put Tizway behind the “8 ball”. He will be hard pressed to win at a distance he’s never been successful at, against the world’s best.
No one can doubt Uncle Mo’s enormous talent, but he contracted an intestinal virus prior to the Kentucky Derby and only returned to the races in August. Uncle Mo has been playing catch up the last 2 months in order to make it to the Classic, but has never raced at 1 ¼ miles, nor has he won past 1 1/16 miles. We will have to wait until Breeders’ Cup day to see if Uncle Mo’s monumental talent will outweigh his misfortune.
Twirling Candy raced 3 times this year at 1 ¼ miles without reaching the winner’s circle. It was obvious his connections were aiming for the Breeders’ Cup Classic all year, and the Dirt Mile is just a consolation prize. In addition, Twirling Candy missed the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita earlier this month, further rerouting his Breeders’ Cup road map.
This year Sidney’s Candy has sprinted, routed, run on turf and dirt. Since moving to Todd Pletcher’s barn last summer, he has tried everything, but nothing has seemed to work. It appears Pletcher is grasping for straws with Sidney’s Candy. Last year, Sidney’s Candy seemed destined for turf success, but he seems to be sputtering towards the finish line.