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2016 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Picks

Breeders' Cup 2016 is November 4th & 5th!

Breeders' Cup 2016
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  Breeders' Cup 2016

Run around one turn at seven furlongs for the fastest 3-year old and up females, the 2016 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, in which there is no clear cut standout, has shaped up to be a wide open, highly competitive race. Probably the toughest to handicap at this year's championship. The winner must combine speed and stamina at this demanding distance.

A ton of talented horses are lined-up in here, making this contest one of the best betting races of the 2-day Breeders’ Cup weekend. The kind of race where if you land on the winner, even one of the early line choices, value seems assured.

Throughout 2016, the best female sprinters in the land have taken turns defeating each other, making it extremely difficult to not only predict who the post-time favorite will be, but also challenging in forecasting the possible winner. Hopefully, we’ll be rewarded by a runner that makes the effort worthwhile.

Let's take a look at the field from the rail out, with jockeys and trainers listed.

1 - Paola Queen/Javier Castellano/Gustavo Delgado--After starting just twice last season as a juvenile, this filly broke her maiden in her second start this year when racing 7-furlongs at Gulfstream Park. Her connections then skipped allowance conditions and thrust her straight into graded competition. She was second best in the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks after leading for a half-mile. Her next two outings were consecutive G1 events (Ky. Oaks and Acorn) where she finished 9th and 5th respectively, but had not run all that badly in either one. Bettors at Saratoga didn't view it that way and she was allowed to go postward at odds of 55-1 in the G1 Test Stakes and after tracking in mid-pack behind a scalding pace, she rallied the down the stretch and eventually caught the leaders late to win by 3/4 length. Although she set a very slow pace (:49 half-mile -- 1:14 three-quarters) over the muddy Belmont surface in the G1 Beldame, her largest margin on the lead was only a half-length. However, when the upper stretch arrived, she began to retreat and finished last. She has trained well in the interim for this.

2 - Haveyougoneaway/John Velazquez/Tom Morley--NY-bred filly has won half of her 16 starts over the last two years, and in that time frame, she has only been out-of-the-money once. 5-year old mare has really stepped up her game this season and enters this contest on a three-race winning streak. She bested state-breds back in July at Belmont Park, then won two-consecutive graded stakes a month apart at Saratoga. Her latest effort, the G1 Ballerina, which included last years B.C. Filly and Mare Sprint Champion, Wavell Avenue, saw Haveyougoneaway roar down the stretch to win by a 1/2-length, earning her an automatic berth here. Following those three big efforts in a relatively quick period of time, her trainer carefully decided it was best to train this gal up to the Breeders Cup. She's in great form, comes in fresh off strong works, only question is, can she take her game to California?

3 - Tara's Tango/Rafael Bejarano/Jerry Hollendorfer--After having not competed in four months since finishing third in the G1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in April, this filly turned in a nice come-from-behind triumph by a half-length in the G3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap in August. Her final prep saw her dueling early in the G1 Zenyatta Stakes, then stalking the pace before being edged for the show spot late. Can't hold it against her, it wasn't an easy place trying to lock horns with Beholder and Stellar Wind. As a juvenile, she won at first asking but did not see the races again for more than eight months. Upon returning, this gal registered runner-up finishes in three straight stakes races, including the G2 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita. Tara's Tango, a winner of 5 of 13 lifetime races, with only three out of the money finishes, is a G1/G2 winner having scored back-to-back wins over this surface early in the year. Toss in three second place finishes and one third from previous S.A starts, it's clearly evident she's quite adept over this surface. She's the best locally-based female sprinter, who has won going long, but won't be out of her element at this distance on her home track, where familiarity on the course is very important.

4 - Gomo/Mario Gutierrez/Doug O'Neill--Lightly-raced filly with seven races, but only two this year, which resulted in a pair of fourth place finishes. As a 2-year old last season, she placed in all five starts on both dirt and turf with two wins, a second and two third place finishes. Included in that record, was a G1 score last October when kicking clear in the stretch of the Alcibiades Stakes in the slop at Keeneland. The victory earned her a trip to the B.C. Juvenile Fillies race, but she had to miss the Championship event due to an ankle chip. Connections were optimistic about making the 2016 G1 Kentucky Oaks with this gal even as late as the start of April, and although she ran a very inspiring race to finish fourth as the second betting choice in the Gulfstream Park Oaks following the 6-month layoff, she didn't make the springtime classic. In fact, she didn't resurface until last month when she was spotted finishing fourth in an ungraded affair on the Santa Anita grass. She may improve off her recent return, but she hasn't proven to be fast enough to contend here.

5 - Wonder Gal/Kendrick Carmouche/Leah Gyamati--Filly has won three races in her career, once as a juvenile in 2014, once as three-year old last season and once this year as a 4-year old. All of them against NY-breds. Other than an eighth-place finish in the 2015 G1 Test Stakes, where she lost her footing at the start, she was ultra consistent in her first two years of competition, placing in the top four spots in 9 out of her 10 races. Seven of those races were G1-G2 Stakes. Time on the sidelines in from February until September, has limited her to just four races in 2016, and with mixed results. She's been a bit of an "in-and-outer" this year with her form, meaning she has run a good race every other start. With that said, she'll be looking to bounce back from a fifth-place effort in the Belmont mud last out in the G2 Gallant Bloom Stakes. Faces some serious girls in this contest, and her best effort still won't be good enough to win it.

6 - By The Moon/Jose Ortiz/Michelle Nevin--Lightly-raced filly this season with just three starts. In the Ballerina, she was in the thick of the fight in deep stretch and actually had a brief lead nearing the wire, but was overtaken by the charging Haveyougoneaway. From her juvenile campaign in 2014 until present day, she's always been highly competitive in G1 events. She sports a win (Frizette), three runner-up placings (Spinaway, Acorn and Ballerina) and a third (Test) from those five contests. She contested the BC Juvenile Fillies race here at Santa Anita two years back, and in that event, she was very much in contention before weakening. Her other two out of the money finishes came when making her seasonal debuts in '15 and '16 following layoffs. The 7-furlong distance poses no concern. Very consistent and a logical contender that merits respect.

7 - Gloryzapper/Stewart Elliott/Phil D'Amato--After breaking her maiden first out at Del Mar last summer, this filly was never worse than second until attempting graded company for her first time while stretching out and switching to turf in the G2 John Mabee Stakes back in September. Switched back to the dirt and sent back to sprinting, she proved she belonged next time out in graded competition with a driving all-out and hard fought half-length win in a four horse finish in the G3 L.A. Woman Stakes across 6 1/2-furlongs over the Santa Anita track. I believe she's better sprinting than routing. Taking a monumental class rise here, but this is her home track where she's had great success with four in-the-money finishes from four starts.

8 - Carina Mia/Julien Leparoux/Bill Mott--The fourth-place effort in the G1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, to launch her 3-year old campaign, is the only time this filly has been out of the money. Achieved G1 winner status when she rallied from last place with a 5-wide move to win the Acorn Stakes on the Belmont undercard. Next up in the G1 Coaching Club American Oaks, she was given a stern assignment in facing Songbird, last years juvenile filly champ. Carina Mia was certainly ready for the race, giving everything she had. She battled nose-to-nose with Songbird from the mid-way point of the far turn until the eighth pole, but it wasn't good enough, as the champ shook free leaving Carina Mia to settle for second-best. After a third-place outing in the G1 Ballerina, her first try against older mares, she returned to her own age group and once again faced the 3-yo queen Songbird in the G1 Cotillion, After setting the pace, Carina Mia couldn't turn back the winning bid of the undefeated filly as they turned into the stretch, but was clearly second best again. She's been given a six week freshening and everything about this girl affords her an excellent chance at this distance.

9 - Paulassilverlining/Joe Talamo/Michelle Nevin--Supplemented to the race, this speedy filly is having a terrific season with four wins from seven starts. Tough New York sprinter began the year with a romping victory against optional claiming company over the Aqueduct inner track in February, before a runner-up finish in the 7-furlong Correction Stakes at the same venue a little over a month later. She aired with authority in a pair of Grade 3's: Distaff Handicap going 7-furlongs over the Aqueduct main track, then the Vagrancy Handicap at 6 1/2-furlongs at Belmont. Shipped north to Saratoga in July, she was beaten a neck when second to Haveyougoneaway in the G2 Honorable Miss. One month later at the Spa, she made the front and opened up at the head of the lane in the G1 Ballerina, but faded to fifth behind that same runner. Last out in the G2 Gallant Bloom, this gal chased in behind the leader, then turning into the stretch six-wide, she was given her cue and took command about a furlong out. Was kept busy as she dug in to the wire to score by three-quarters over the muddy Belmont surface. Paulassilverlining was a graded winner at age two when taking the G2 Matron Stakes. She's a game and genuine runner who has shown up all year. Always tries and has been right there in every start this year, but now she leaves the cozy and familiar surroundings of her New York home base. Although she has won once at the distance, she may have trouble getting beyond six furlongs against top competition.

10 - Wavell Avenue/Joel Rosario/Chad Brown--Defending Filly and Mare Sprint champ went winless in her first three starts of 2016, but the losing skid got halted in early August at the Spa when she was dropped significantly in class to the ungraded Shine Again Stakes to get the job done. Before the much needed and anticipated win, this 5-year old mare finished third in the G1 Madison at Keeneland in  April, and fourth in the G1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on the Derby undercard, before a runner-up finish in the G3 Bed o’ Roses at Belmont, following a wide trip throughout. Her effort in the G1 Ballerina was certainly disappointing as she was unable to capitalize on a ground saving trip and a fast pace, finishing sixth. In her last start, the G2 Gallant Bloom in the mud at Belmont, she got bumped at the start, traveled three-wide before cutting over to the rail where she rallied up for show honors. She signaled her readiness for the last years Championship event with a second-place finish in the same race. Could it be "deva vu" all over again?

11 - Irish Jasper/Irad Ortiz Jr/Chad Brown--Arrives at the Breeders Cup with an automatic berth by virtue of her score in the G2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes. She was off a step slower than her seven rivals and found herself trailing the field early, but this 4-year old filly rallied along an advantageous rail path late to wear down the leader to win by 1 3/4-lengths. Last summer, she was fourth behind Cavorting in the G1 Test Stakes and was subsequently transferred to the barn of Chad Brown. Finished out 2015 with a pair of sixth-place finishes in the G2 Prioress and G2 Raven Run respectively, before being put away. She returned in early July at Belmont and checked in fourth in a turf optional claimer and finally got back to winning ways when put back on the dirt six weeks later at the Spa. The win in the TCA was her first stakes win since rattling off three stakes victories as a 3-year old early last year.

12 - Finest City/Mike Smith/Ian Kruljac--California-based runner is cutting back in distance after three consecutive routes, the last two coming over the Del Mar turf course. She was sixth in the La Brea the day after Christmas last year and third in the Vanity Mile back in June, her only two G1 appearances. She was a G2 winner at Los Alamitos, setting a track record for the 6 1/2-furlong distance, and a G2 runner-up in the Santa Monica Stakes over this very same racecourse. Connections of this PA-bred filly have given her the necessary time between starts and she's responded nicely, but she'll need a career best to even crack the top three.

13 - Spelling Again/Luis Saez/Brad Cox--The blinkers come off this 5-yr old gal who is well traveled this year. Santa Anita becomes her sixth different track she'll race at, in this, her eighth start of the year. Achieved an automatic spot here by virtue of her hard fought victory in the 7-furlong G2 Princess Rooney Stakes at Gulfstream back in July. Her lone win this year, were preceded by two third-place finishes. The seventh-place finish in her seasonal debut in the G1 Madison at Keeneland came after being off for four and a-half months and she was unable to get involved after being bumped hard at the start of the G1 Ballerina. Incidentally, both of those races were contested at the 7-furlong distance. The ungraded Open Mind Stakes race can be tossed, as she has never liked an off-track, but no excuses abound as to why she never got untracked in the T.C.A.  Form wise, she's tailed off.

AnalysisI think the early pace of the Filly and Mare Sprint is going to go so fast, that it's going to set up for a closer.

The form Carina Mia displayed against Songbird was very good. One of only a few who have tried to go toe-to-toe with Songbird. Connections know they aren't going to get the best of the unbeaten filly going two-turns, so they've decided to shorten up here. Shortening up to what most likely is her best trip. Is 1 for 2 at the seven furlong distance, but this is her first attempt at Santa Anita, that's really the only question mark regarding this filly. But reports indicate she's trained splendidly over the Santa Anita surface. Is not short of speed and will be laying close to stay within striking distance, unless she settles mid-pack and makes one big run, which is her better game, then she may prove best of all.

Haveyougoneaway beat By The Moon and Carina Mia last out in the Ballerina, which to me is, the  key form guide race. That was her first start at seven furlongs. She has run remarkably well, taking her form to another level. Do those last two big wins compromise her chances in here? Or as the form would suggest, does she have another good one in her, because she's never been better. Her closing style will have her coming from off-the-pace.

Last year's winner, Wavell Avenue, may not have liked the muddy going in the Beldame, but she's rounding into form and will be tough. Tara's Tango obviously dodged the Distaff to run here. Has competed and performed well against some of the better horses in the division. This is her home track where familiarity is very important, but she'll still to improve on what she's shown so far.

The closer in the race for me is, By The Moon. She had been away for two months, then closed in behind Haveyougoneaway at Saratoga, legitimizing her excellent form. For me, that form in the Ballerina is outstanding. She's had one spin here at Santa Anita where she wasn't at her absolute best. That was two years ago in the BC Juvenile Fillies. She quite clearly doesn't stay two-turns. I think she's found her right division, the Sprint division. Going one-turn is ideal. She should enjoy the trip.

Good luck and as always, enjoy the Breeders' Cup Championship.


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                                                                              MEET THE TRACKMAN




Hi, my name is Nick Costa a.k.a. Trackman. As for my "nickname" of Trackman, it came about the following way: When people, either friends or family would inquire as to where I was going, my reply was always the same, "I'm going to the track man." I was born and raised in Niagara Falls, New York, about a 30 minute drive from the racetrack, in Fort Erie, Canada.  I was five years old the first time I attended the races. My father, who was a regular at the track, took me to Fort Erie. My first recollections were of just running up and down the stairs to and from our grandstand seats and the walking ring. Of course, after viewing the horses, I would run back up the stairs, and tell my father who to bet. He would look at me quizzically, and then proceed to place a $2 dollar wager on my selection for me. Through the years, with continuous trips to Fort Erie, and also to Woodbine and the now defunct Greenwood, my father would take the time to explain all the information in the Daily Racing Form. After I learned the basics of handicapping, I never met a racing Form I didn't like. If I had spent as much time on my studies as I did reading the Form, I probably could be sitting on the Supreme Court. Those early horse playing days have  lasted into my adulthood, as I still play the races today on a regular basis. But now I have added a couple of new dimensions. First, I officially became a licensed thoroughbred race horse owner back in 2000, fulfilling a dream come true. Fort Erie, where I mostly play the races and race my horses, is still my favorite track. It's my home track, where I fell in love with everything about the sport. In addition to the tracks mentioned that I visited with my father, I have graced the grounds of Churchill
Downs (Derby 134 and several Breeders' Cups), Saratoga, Mountaineer, Gulfstream Park, Sam Houston Race Track, Presque Isle, Monmouth Park and Belmont Park. Second, I started to write a few years ago when I started my own blog, called Triple Crown Chase.

The blog was established to provide some personal insight about the horses and trainers who compete against one another in the 3 yr old prep races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. I preview and review the preps races and extend coverage to include the Preakness and Belmont. Last year, my blog previewed the Canadian Triple Crown races for the first time. The second leg, The Prince Of Wales Stakes, is run at my home track of Fort Erie. I am honored and thrilled to be on board with Horse Racing Nation and I want to thank everyone for their support.

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