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Thoughts, news and notes from the sports staff of The Saratogian newspaper, located in historic Saratoga Springs, New York. The gang in the corner office on Lake Avenue give you the post-game wrap-ups, news and notes from the games we cover and opinions about the sports we read about every day.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Horse by Horse: Breeders' Cup Classic and Week 9 picks

Disclaimer: I am not a horse racing insider. Do not get me wrong. I'm at the track here at Saratoga as much as my time and cash will allow, and I did read every article we put in the pink sheet this summer, but this is by no means an insider look. What I do have is a home-made, super villain-like, statistic-analyzing data-interpreting sooth-saying machine -- i.e. a mathematical formula -- that has been known to rack up winners and rough up the Justice League with respectable accuracy.

Seen above: a mathematical formula.

Is this roughly the equivalent of analyzing a Madden simulation to predict the Super Bowl? That's for you in the comments section to determine.

The field: The 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic has 12 thoroughbreds racing 1 1/4 miles as fast as they can for what I'm sure they know is glory, pride and fame, and not for a bucket of oats and to escape whatever keeps stinging them in the haunches whenever they try to slow down. 11 of these will mire indifferently in defeat, while one lucky horse will feel the honor of finding itself graced upon the cover of so many publications it cannot read.

"I can't believe you told them I cannot read."

The formula suggests we rid a few of these horses, as they have a slimmer shot at winning than this post has for a Pulitzer.

The "Aww. We still love you, honey" candidates: Pleasant Prince, First Dude, Fly Down, Etched, Musket Man

They are just out. You do not get to the Classic without being a winner -- unless you are Fly Down -- but these horses just haven't shown as much in the big stage to warrant consideration. They shall be the also-rans, the Pokey to the rest of the field's Gumby, if you will.

"Tell me again about the rabbits, Gumby."

That leaves us with seven delicious (presumably) horses to choose from.

Paddy O'Prado is the only horse left who hasn't hit 100 on his speed rating in his last four starts, and Haynesfield's competition is lacking compared to the other remaining horses, even with his win over Blame and Fly Down on Oct. 10, so I will let them slide.

Zenyatta is the next horse on the list that the evil formula suggests to bump off, even with her 19-0 record. (I did mention that the formula was evil, didn't I?) I cannot do it yet. Am I caught up in the legend? No. But with a track record like hers, literally, I feel if I put her out of the money then she and her Amazonian horse friends will track me down and give me a lifelong case of hoof-breath.

Still not worth it.

Instead, I am going to drop Blame. He lost to Haynesfield in his last race, and he has nobody to bla-- you know what. I'm going to stop right there. You know where that one was going, so I'll spare you.

Quality Road drops as well due to his recent loss to Blame. He is backed by Todd Pletcher and Johnny V., and that should stir some locals, but popularity does not equal success, even though you'd think the two go hand in hand, like a clown at a fun party, but neither are rules, and sometimes they are the exception.

I take it back. This clown would make any party more fun.

So, we have three horses left. Our money horses. In these three must be a long shot who comes in and tramples Godzilla-style all over your trifecta (and a little on your heart if you are like me and bet your Christmas savings). For the Classic, that horse is Espoir City. He certainly fits the part. No, not because he hails from Japan and I made a Godzilla comparison. That's just silly.

"Do I look silly to you?!"

It's because he is a 20-1 long shot with a speed rating average of 120.75 over his last four races and has averaged over $608,000 in winnings per race this year. Hmmm. 20-1? That looks more and more like an intriguing bet, no? The evil formula had him at #1, and the only reasons I knocked him down were because I'm not 100% certain how our SPDRTs and purses compare to those overseas, and to knock him down a bit before he becomes too powerful.

The formula had Zenyatta at #5, but I rose her to #2 out of fear and respect. We all want 20-0. It has never happened. She will go out on top even if she does not win. Also, she is very pretty and smells nice even right after a race ... so please don't hate me.

That leaves us with Looking at Lucky. The horse that my evil predicting machine says will take down the mighty Zenyatta. He is peaking at the perfect time, and at 6/1, he's just enough of a long shot that people can act shocked.

It's the perfect combo, 20-1, 8-5, 6-1, in the Breeders' Cup is an epic trifecta payoff. Zenyatta may not win, but at least you will.

--Matthew Donato

Week 9 picks

(5-2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at
(5-2) Atlanta Falcons -8.5

(4-3) Chicago Bears at
(0-7) Buffalo Bills +2.5

(6-1) New England Patriots at
(2-5) Cleveland Browns +4.5

(5-2) New York Jets at
(2-5) Detroit Lions +4.5

(3-4) Arizona Cardinals at
(2-5) Minnesota Vikings -8.5

(5-3) New Orleans Saints at
(1-6) Carolina Panthers +7.5

(4-3) Miami Dolphins at
(5-2) Baltimore Ravens -5.5

(3-5) San Diego Chargers at
(4-3) Houston Texans +1.5

(5-2) New York Giants at
(4-3) Seattle Seahawks +5.5

(5-2) Kansas City Chiefs at
(4-4) Oakland Raiders -2.5

(5-2) Indianapolis Colts at
(4-3) Philadelphia Eagles -2.5

(1-6) Dallas Cowboys at
(5-3) Green Bay Packers -7.5

(5-2) Pittsburgh Steelers at
(2-5) Cincinnati Bengals +4.5

Last week: 8 for 13
Overall: 59 for 117

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