Will can take charge of Classic
Man On The Spot previews all Saturday's Breeders' Cup races from Santa Anita.
Hold-up filly Sweet Reason recorded a high speed figure when winning a Grade 1 trial at Saratoga but wasn't fast enough to catch the unbeaten Artemis Agrotera in the Frizette Stakes at Belmont. A bold bid is expected from the latter while the progressive Secret Compass also landed a Grade 1 trial over track and trip in September, her first start on this surface. Bob Baffert's charge reversed earlier running with She's A Tiger, who had earlier beaten Concave at Del Mar, and she's a leading contender on that form. UNTAPABLE is unbeaten in a couple of starts at Churchill Downs and easily got the better of the re-opposing Rosalind when stepped up to today's trip. She saw out the distance well despite pulling hard in the early stages and jockey Rosie Napravnik rode a juvenile winner at this meeting last year. Scandalous Act steps up in class after rattling up a hat-trick of lesser events and has something to prove in this company.
Formerly trained in Ireland, Laughing has come into her own this year, winning all four starts on Turf including a couple of Grade 1 contests. She beat Qushchi two lengths at Belmont last time but Tiz Flirtatious will provide a stronger test as she landed a Grade 1 race over track and trip recently with Lady Of Shamrock well behind and Marketing Mix beaten a head. The latter had earlier finished behind Dank when she trounced her rivals in the Beverley D at Arlington on first-time lasix and Sir Michael Stoute's filly is likely to start favourite on that form. However, ROMANTICA could prove better value. She's won both starts over 1m2f this year, including a Group 1 at Deauville with subsequent Prix de l'Opera winner Dalkala back in third. Her dam, Banks Hill, won this race so Andre Fabre's filly gets the vote. Alterite beat subsequent winner Emollient before finding Kitten's Dumplings too good at Keeneland and that trio are no back numbers in what looks a terrific renewal.
GROUPIE DOLL holds the key to this. She may not arrive in the same form as when landing the odds in last year's renewal, but none of the opposition can match Buff Bradley's mare if back to her best. With connections untroubled by an outside draw, a chance is taken she'll come good once again. That said, she still needs to reverse latest running at Keeneland with Judy The Beauty while Teddy's Promise should finish a lot closer this time round having been well beaten last year along with Great Hot. Dance To Bristol's winning run came to an end last month, but she'd won her first Grade 1 over 7f at Saratoga before that when narrowly beating Book Review and both could figure in this. Sweet Lulu is the least exposed having tasted defeat for the first time in five starts when runner-up on her latest outing, though she looks compromised by her outside post.
This can go to one of the horses that fought out last year's finish. Reigning champion Mizdirection has followed a similar approach and, given she's unbeaten in five starts over track and trip, it would be no surprise if she came out on top again. Last year's runner-up, Unbridled's Note, can figure with a recent prep-race under his belt but third-placed RENEESGOTZIP may well take revenge on both. Peter Miller's filly has won both starts in lesser company this year but has looked a stronger and faster filly in doing so, recording her highest speed figures to date. It could be her turn today. Outside of that trio, Chips All In won a prep-race over course and distance last month with three of today's field behind, although Todd Pletcher's Capo Bastone may prove a bigger threat after picking up his first Grade 1 race with a much-improved effort at Saratoga in August.
A few of the fancied horses coming into the race have drawn high stall numbers and that leaves Bob Baffert's runners holding a strong hand. Tap It Rich made an impressive winning debut over a mile here and a high speed figure suggests he's superior to stablemate NEW YEAR'S DAY. But the latter has the proven form as he beat subsequent Grade 1 winner Bond Holder on a synthetic surface at Del Mar in August and has been working well on dirt. A short distance to the first turn over this trip makes Havana's task that much harder as the ante-post favourite is drawn out wide. The front-runner beat previous Grade 1 winner Strong Mandate, also competing from a high post, in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont last time but will have his work cut out trying to hold a good position. We Miss Artie may not be as inconvenienced by his draw given he was held up when winning the Futurity trial at Keeneland but Mexikoma recorded a much better speed figure when winning his maiden at Delaware and could go well at a price.
Little Mike and Point Of Entry finished first and second respectively in last year's renewal. The latter has won both starts this season, though he hasn't raced since June, and the former may have the edge on him once again. The reigning champion warmed up for this with a recent win at Belmont beating previous Grade 1 winner Big Blue Kitten a nose with Real Solution back in third and should make another bold bid. Argentinian import Indy Point has won two of his three starts for Richard Mandella, including a Grade 2 over 1m2f here with Vagabond Shoes second, and he stays this longer trip. But European raiders have an excellent record in this and The Fugue is likely to start favourite having added the Irish Champion Stakes to the list of her Group 1 wins. She's certainly the one to beat on that form though MAGICIAN is also tempting at bigger odds. His win in the Irish 2000 Guineas proved he can compete at this level, but his earlier victory in the Dee Stakes around the tight turns at Chester is perhaps more pertinent here. The 1m4f trip should be no problem on that evidence and Aidan O'Brien's Galileo colt can go close.
Trinniberg looks to defend his title but hasn't been the same horse in four subsequent starts since beating The Lumber Guy in last year's renewal. The latter warmed up for this behind leading contender Private Zone in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont in September where Doug O'Neill's charge also beat Justin Phillip and Bahamian Squall. Justin Phillip had earlier won at the highest level at Saratoga with Gentlemen's Bet back in third while Fast Bullet, though outclassed in this last year, has improved since. Looking away from the collateral form, SECRET CIRCLE makes some appeal. He's never finished outside the first two and has won all three starts over today's trip. Bob Baffert's charge recorded a decent speed figure when scoring here on his first start for over a year and looks to have been trained to peak in this.
Olympic Glory has yet to race on ground as fast he'll encounter here. First-time blinkers and testing going in the QE11 at Ascot a fortnight ago witnessed him turn around an earlier five-length deficit with Maxios and the form looks suspect. Saying that, Richard Hannon's charge is still preferred to Cristoforo Colombo, who appears outmatched in this company. Miesque, Lure and Goldikova have all recorded back-to-back wins in this over the years and WISE DAN can add his name to that illustrious list. He swept aside the front-running Obviously in last year's renewal and even though Silver Max brought his winning streak to an end on the Polytrack at Keeneland last time, Charlie LoPresti's charge had beaten the latter twice before on this surface. Bright Thought is having his first start since rattling up a hat-trick of lesser events here earlier in the year but David Lanigan's former inmate, No Jet Lag, has shown good progress winning both starts for Simon Callaghan including a Grade 2 over track and trip recently.
Fort Larned made practically every yard to land this prize last year when holding off the attentions of Mucho Macho Man with Flat Out well beaten in third. The former is likely to be taken on for the lead by Moreno this time and Mucho Macho Man may well take revenge on the back of a recent impressive victory at this track with Paynter four lengths back in second. Last year's disappointing favourite Game On Dude never recovered from a slow start but is unbeaten since and looked as good as ever when trouncing his rivals in a Grade 1 event at Del Mar. He's likely to start favourite once again and may well make amends. Planteur's six-length defeat by Kentucky Derby hero Animal Kingdom at Meydan in March puts his chance into perspective, but Declaration Of War has a dirt pedigree. Both horse and jockey make their debut on this surface though the Ballydoyle colt reportedly worked well in a gallop on the Fibresand at Southwell. WILL TAKE CHARGE has done nothing but improve this year and reversed earlier form with Palace Malice to land the Grade 1 Travers Stakes over track and trip in August. Wayne Lukas' three-year-old rates a sporting selection taking on older horses for the first time here.