Storm Flag Flying gets `banker' honor

Juvenile Fillies entry oddsmaker's top choice

Breeders' Cup notebook

Horse Racing

October 26, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Simon Clare, oddsmaker for Coral, one of England's top bookmakers, pronounced Storm Flag Flying his "banker bet" for the Breeders' Cup, meaning the 2-year-old in the Juvenile Fillies is the best bet of the day.

For the third year in a row, Clare agreed to share with Sun readers his take on the European horses in the Breeders' Cup. His "banker bet" last year was Banks Hill, who won the Filly and Mare Turf by 5 1/2 lengths and paid $14.

His predictions:

Mile: Rock of Gibraltar. "If he runs his race and gets the breaks, I think he'll win it." However, all 12 of his races (10 victories) have come on soft turf. "He's never run on quick, fast ground. Suddenly there's a factor that's an unknown with this horse."

Landseer's post position hurts his chances. Dress To Thrill isn't Grade I-caliber. Medecis has a shrewd trainer in Christiane Head-Maarek, and, "although he's not an obvious contender, he has a chance, a good chance."

The French colt Domedriver should benefit from his American surroundings. "This track is made for Domedriver. It's a tight, speed-favoring track, and Domedriver's got a great turn of foot." When the field turns for home, the 4-year-old colt will be charging down the stretch.

Filly and Mare Turf: If she repeats her race in the Arc, Islington will win. Banks Hill may not be the filly she was last year. Gossamer thrives on soft turf, disappoints on firm ground.

"A lot of shrewd money is coming in on Turtle Bow. She's the best outsider."

Juvenile: "I think the three Irish horses have a good chance." Hold That Tiger was found to be ill after his lone defeat. "If he improves on dirt, as his breeding suggests he will, he has a massive chance."

Tomahawk's flaw is that he raced seven days ago in England. Van Nistelrooy, the $6.4 million yearling by Storm Cat, is a galloper who should relish the distance.

Turf: "I would be astounded if High Chapparal or Golan don't win this. I think they'll pull clear of the field." High Chapparal should win.

Classic: The race is wide-open and each entrant has flaws, including Hawk Wing, who hasn't lived up to his superstar billing at the beginning of the year.

Clare likes these American horses, in addition to Storm Flag Flying: Take Charge Lady, Xtra Heat, Kona Gold, Golden Apples, Bull Market, Listen Indy and Evening Attire.

Despite Came Home's record of nine wins in 11 races, the gutsy 3-year-old gets little respect. Even after he defeated older horses Aug. 25 in the 1 1/4 -mile Pacific Classic, skeptics said, well, maybe he can win at 1 1/4 miles at speed-biased Del Mar, but he won't win at that distance anywhere else.

They are the same bunch that said he couldn't win around two turns or at 1 1/8 miles. Came Home winds up his stellar career - he is being retired to stud - in this race.

"In every race, somebody else has an excuse, or the time was too slow or something," said Paco Gonzalez, his affable trainer. "He always has to prove himself."

Et cetera

The forecast called for little chance of additional rain at Arlington Park. However, if that's wrong and the track comes up muddy for the Classic, the two horses likely to benefit most are Evening Attire and War Emblem. ...

Bob Baffert's record in the Breeders' Cup is two-for-29; Bobby Frankel's is one-for-42. Still, both trainers insist they're more confident than ever this year, having brought fresher, better-prepared horses. ...

If anyone runs down Xtra Heat in the Sprint, it's liable to be Kona Gold. The 8-year-old gelding, making his record fifth start in a Breeders' Cup race, has gotten rave reviews from everybody who's seen him train.

His groom, Juan Soto, concurred: "This is the best he has ever looked. He really feels good." ...

Because of Sky Mesa's withdrawal from the Juvenile, the head-to-head wager for that race was canceled. Breeders' Cup officials inaugurated the head-to-head bet in each of the Breeders' Cup races. Sky Mesa was to have battled Vindication in the Juvenile. ...

Because of the configuration of the Arlington track, the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies will be run at 1 1/8 miles instead of 1 1/16 miles. Nearly every trainer agrees that's too much to ask of 2-year-olds at this stage of their development.

"They're going to be staggering down the lane," Baffert said.

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