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Quality fields set to prep for Breeders’ Cup

With the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs just weeks away, on Nov. 4 and 5, scores of key horses will be prepping in 15 Grade 1 and 2 stakes this weekend. If you can’t get pumped up for this, then horse racing isn’t your bag.

Belmont Park and Santa Anita Park will host six graded stakes apiece. Two more are at Hoosier Park and one at Parx Racing.

From a betting standpoint, the fields are small. For example, on Saturday the 10 stakes at Belmont and Santa Anita average 7.1 starters per race before scratches. However, you cannot question the fields’ high quality.

Winning a prep race this weekend would seem secondary to winning on Breeders’ Cup weekend. It is, but it isn’t.

Winning a graded stakes always is difficult. A big win is important on the resume of a horse and its connections, as well as for making money.

When a horse is in peak form, nothing guarantees it’ll stay that way five weeks from now. You need to cash in today and worry about tomorrow later.

Here’s another word to the wise: If you like a horse this weekend and it loses, that doesn’t mean it can’t win its Breeders’ Cup race. There might be mitigating circumstances. Thus, you need to be a forgiving handicapper moving forward.

Five of the Belmont stakes on Saturday are in the pick 6. That includes some short-priced favorites in Cape Blanco (4-5, Turf Classic), Uncle Mo (4-5, Kelso), Havre de Grace (3-5, Beldame) and Flat Out (7-5, Jockey Club Gold Cup).

This adds to the intrigue of the Belmont pick 6. A small player might single those four chalks and try to turn the pick 6 into a daily double between the two remaining races. A big player knows if he can beat a couple of those favorites, then his pick 6 payout will grow exponentially.

Regardless, a pick 6 with that much quality to it is worth a play.

Santa Anita will offer a pick 3 bet on the Norfolk, Lady’s Secret and Goodwood. Drill (Norfolk) and Blind Luck (Lady’s Secret) will be short-priced favorites in their races.

The Goodwood will be an interesting puzzle, with top 3-year-old Coil taking on his elders for the first time. Coil ran so poorly last out in the Travers that you have to draw a line through that race.

Trainer Bob Baffert toyed with running Coil in the Indiana Derby at Hoosier but has decided to keep him at home. I consider that a vote of confidence.

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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