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Graded stakes on agenda as Breeders’ Cup draws near

As if you hadn’t seen enough drama last weekend, this weekend offers up 20 more graded stakes. Included are eight Grade 1 races as racing’s super stars prepare for the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 1 and 2.

The Breeders’ Cup typically gives us shocking results as full fields of talented horses will do. Last weekend was a good example as upset winners like Ron the Greek ($44.00), Little Mike ($16.80), Bond Holder ($23.80) and Secret Compass ($23.40) lit up the tote boards at Belmont Park and Santa Anita.

If stone-cold locks such as Royal Delta and Departing can lose at 1-5 odds then anything can, and usually does, happen.

I’ll go over the Saturday Grade 1 races at Belmont (Jamaica, Frizette and Champagne) and Keeneland (First Lady, Breeders’ Futurity and Shadwell Turf Mile).

The Jamaica is an impossible puzzle with 13 3-year-old turf runners. In keeping with seeking value, I’ll go with Up With the Birds (8-1) shipping from Woodbine for trainer Malcolm Pierce. New York horseplayers tend to overlook Canadian form, but this colt just missed winning the Queen’s Plate on July 7.

The unbeaten filly Sweet Reason (8-5) is a strong choice in the Frizette. The only chink in her armor is both of her career wins came in slop. She’s trained, but never raced, over a fast surface. If speed rules at Belmont, give Artemis Agrotera (6-1) an upset chance.

The Champagne usually offers a look at potential Kentucky Derby horses for next spring. This group should be no different. Strong Mandate (5-2), Honor Code (3-1) and Havana (7-2) are already taking brisk action in the Wynn Las Vegas 2014 Kentucky Derby future book.

Honor Code broke his maiden in a race reminiscent of Silky Sullivan. In the Daily Racing Form chart, he was 22 lengths back halfway through, and then rallied to win by four lengths. Yet, a tiny edge goes to Strong Mandate who has speed and will get the first jump.

At Keeneland, the First Lady on grass has a New York-bred favorite in Dayatthespa (9-5). She has won both her starts over Keeneland turf so the race goes through her. An interesting Irish invader is Say (10-1), who races for the first time with Lasix.

The Breeders’ Futurity is a daunting test with 16 2-year-old colts entered. I’ll take a small lean to General Jack (5-1), who won the Shakopee Juvenile at Canterbury last out and is sure to be overlooked here. He’s a Giant’s Causeway colt so he’s bred to be a good one.

We save the best for last as 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan (2-5) heads the Shadwell Turf Mile. He’s won all five starts this year and shows no signs of slowing down for trainer Charlie Lopresti.

Wise Dan would need terrible racing luck, or the unforeseen, to lose. If you want to hook him up in a cold exacta, I suggest Summer Front (20-1) who has developed nicely for Christophe Clement.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick

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