Blaze a Trail at Santa Anita
Ben Linfoot seeks out the value from Saturday's Breeders' Cup card at Santa Anita.
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The Breeders' Cup is back at Santa Anita for a sixth time and it's been a happy hunting ground for European raiders in the past, notably when Raven's Pass was one of five winners for Europe in 2008.
The Pro-Ride surface John Gosden's colt won the Classic on that night has long since been ripped up and replaced with the Dirt, but still, Team Europe take over another strong squad to sunny California.
It's headed by Aidan O'Brien's Excelebration, who goes for the Breeders' Cup Mile after an extremely impressive victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot.
His facile win against a good-quality field shows he's in great heart but at 11/8 I'm keen to take him on mainly because that race was just a fortnight ago.
He's never been asked to race so quickly again before in his career and when you consider all the travelling and acclimatising he's had to deal with as well there doesn't look to be a lot of juice in his price.
Fellow European raider Moonlight Cloud could well reverse Prix Jacques Le Marois form with him as she was very unlucky that day and I've no doubt she'll stay the mile well as she seems to be a very relaxed mare these days.
Freddy Head knows a thing or two about winning this race and stall nine should not be a hindrance as she will be dropped in anyway, with her potent turn of foot set to be unleashed late on by Thierry Jarnet.
However, the one reservation I have about her is the very fast ground. The only time she's encountered anything like it was in the 2000 Guineas where she was well beaten and it is a concern if you're tempted by the 5/1.
Given the doubts over the European stars I am keen to chance a home hope and while Wise Dan's defeat of Cityscape in Canada among other good efforts means he hasn't been missed by the bookies, perhaps OBVIOUSLY has.
Connections stumped up the $100,000 supplementary fee to get him in the race and it's easy to see why as leading Santa Anita jockey Joe Talamo has unlocked the key to him.
Front-running tactics over a mile on fast ground have seen him win three races on the spin, twice at Del Mar and most recently here at Santa Anita where he was 0.06 seconds off breaking the track record (something he did on the second of his victories at Del Mar).
This is by far his toughest test and it's fair to say he just hung on on both his most recent starts but at 12/1 he makes plenty of appeal.
He's drawn well for a front-runner in three and I can't see him being taken on for the lead with all of his main rivals closers. There are few men better around Santa Anita than Talamo and if he gets the fractions right we could be in for an upset.
Joseph O'Brien has seen the backside of Obviously before when he was trained in Ireland by Peter Fahey (O'Brien also won on him at Dundalk) but the son of Choisir's career has really taken off since he went Stateside.
At 12/1 I'll take him to cap a remarkable season by beating the European big guns in the Mile.
Japanese hope can blaze a trail in Turf
I can't fancy Obviously without giving a big shout to Japanese raider TRAILBLAZER in the Breeders' Cup Turf as he chased him home at Santa Anita last time.
The mile was inadequate for Yasutoshi Ikee's horse that day but he stayed on very well down the middle of the track to take a narrow second, suggesting he's primed to run a big race when returned to 12 furlongs.
The five-year-old has some excellent form on firm ground in Japan, notably when finishing a close up fourth behind Buena Vista in the Japan Cup last November where he finished ahead of Arc heroine Danedream and Saturday's rival Shareta.
He looks to have made the transition to California racing well judging by his effort last time and at double the price of St Nicholas Abbey, I want him onside.
St Nic comes alive over 12 furlongs on fast ground as he did at Churchill Downs last November and Epsom this June, but he had a hard race in a gruelling Arc and on a line through Danedream and Shareta, Trailblazer has at least an equal chance.