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Hold off a bit longer before diving deep into Breeders’ Cup races

Updated October 26, 2019 - 1:39 pm

With Breeders’ Cup pre-entries announced Wednesday, handicappers are itching to get down to some serious number crunching for the 14 races that make up the world championships of thoroughbred racing Nov. 1-2 at Santa Anita Park.

While the urge to scratch that itch by getting into detailed analysis is almost irresistible, I’d advise waiting until entries are finalized before taking a deep dive. Any late defections can seriously change the complexion of a race, forcing you to go back to square one in your analysis. And given the massive amount of data, video and news reports to sift through in the next week, extra work is the last thing anyone needs.

If you simply can’t wait, start with the races that aren’t “oversubscribed” — meaning they have more horses entered than the starting gate can accommodate. The races that don’t have also-eligible lists are the Juvenile Fillies, the Juvenile, the Filly &Mare Sprint, the Filly &Mare Turf, the Sprint, the Distaff, the Turf and the Classic.

Even then, you’ll need to keep in mind that 24 of the 188 pre-entered horses were “cross-entered” into two different races, giving the trainers options if their charge doesn’t draw into a race that’s oversubscribed or they decide at the last minute to dodge a feared competitor. That, too, can require a complete reassessment.

It’s also worth noting the horses that were cross-entered in case they don’t make it into their desired race. That doesn’t mean they can’t win, but I generally give a demerit to any horse that doesn’t get to run in the race that was intended. You can find the complete list of pre-entries at breederscup.com.

Apart from that, this week is a great time to watch as many race replays as you can, take detailed trip notes, watch workouts, plot pace figures and generally familiarize yourself with the competitors in each race. Then you’ll be well-positioned to sprint for the wire after post positions are drawn beginning at 3 p.m. Monday and all remaining suspense, except for possible late scratches, is lifted.

We’ll have much more on the races, including selections for all races by the #RJhorseracing handicappers and yours truly, in next week’s column. I’ll be reporting on both days of racing.

Hollendorfer farce continues

The charade surrounding Santa Anita’s ban of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer spiraled even deeper into the absurd this week when Breeders’ Cup officials decided to honor the penalty imposed without any apparent evidence by the track’s owner, The Stronach Group. The net effect is that Hollendorfer had to transfer two Breeders’ Cup eligible horses — Vasilika, pre-entered in the Filly & Mare Turf, and Danuska’s My Girl, bound for the Filly & Mare Sprint — under his care to his former assistant trainer, Dan Ward, and transfer his ownership share in Vasilika to his wife, Janet.

If anyone thinks Stronach Group management is making either of these races remotely safer by forcing such bureaucratic maneuvers, I have a horse I’d like to sell them.

New handicapping contest begins

The #RJhorseracing handicapping crew is back in action this weekend, sharpening their knives for the Breeders’ Cup on the $100,000 Awad Stakes, a 1-mile turf race for 2-year-olds at Belmont Park, and the $200,000 Hagyard Fayette Stakes, a Grade 2 test for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Keeneland.

In the former, the crew is narrowly siding with favored Tiesto (7-2) over Buy Land and See (9-2), with Irish Mias (6-1) and Talking (8-1) deadlocked for the show.

I’m going to my Corona beach and backing No Lime (15-1), a Bill Mott-trained stablemate of the favorite, who ran a better-than-it-looks race in the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes behind three horses headed for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. I’ll use Get Smokin (9-2) and Talking in the minor placings.

In the Hagyard Fayette, the crowd ’cappers are edging out on a limb and backing the sharp class-rising Mocito Rojo (6-1), who’s riding a five-race winning streak, to edge favored Tom’s d’Etat (2-1). They have Bal Harbour (7-2) in the show slot.

I’ll go with Bal Harbour on top off his bang-up second to Preservationist in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes in August, with Mr Freeze (7-2) and Tom’s d’Etat filling out my ticket.

We’re also starting a new handicapping contest, which will run through Dec. 28 and will bestow a semi-fabulous prize on the handicapper who amasses the biggest mythical bankroll. It’s free and fun, and there’s still time to get in. Simply email me or follow me on Twitter and let me know you’d like to play along before noon Saturday.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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