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TrackNotes: Bacchanalia To Binge On

When the Internet tells me the four things I should never buy at Trader Joe's, I listen, even though I've never been in a Trader Joe's.

The 'net also tells me, as it is wont to do, that the only way I am ever going to meet my obligation to catch up on Game of Thrones, which I have never seen, is to binge watch. Don't hold me to it, but I promise I will.

This weekend, I will be binging on horse racing, coming to you live and in progress, as this is Breeders' Cup World Championships weekend. The Thoroughbred racing bacchanal that makes us zombie-like - but always in control - and flexes our wagering muscles, compels us to be the wisest of wiseguys.

I might be jaded, seeing as they do this every year, but there are a few nice angles to consider. Horseplayers always look for angles.

Once again, we're at Santa Anita Park, for the sixth time in 12 years and this time on real dirt, just like Soldier Field, even though the intent of the world championships, which this is not, was to bring the game hither and yon to all corners of the nation. The people's championships? No.

They say it never rains in California, but there's a 10 percent chance this weekend. This is just the kind of wager BC officials are willing to make to spend this weekend in shirtsleeves. As Albert Brooks asked in Real Life, where would you rather spend the winter, in Green Bay or Phoenix?

I hope my friend Cathy in Appleton, just a very long field goal this side of Lambeau Field, doesn't take offense at that. But she digs the game, and the Breeders' Cup, so I think I'm alright with that.

Alas, her favorite, Vyjack, won't be running this weekend. I might owe her some money, because out of respect, I had the big gelding in the Kelso Stakes and at 9-1 to boot. It was a sensational win. As Natalie Wood once said, "I believe, I believe."

I can't talk about them all, but I'll be happy to talk about the Breeders' Cup Classic.

We don't have a Zenyatta against the boys. We don't have the thrilling Goldikova in the mile. And, sadly, we don't have Wise Dan in the mile this year, although that's selfish. He's got an ankle that may have ended his remarkable career.

While these are no superstars, I think the Classic will be an intriguing, competitive race. Fun to watch. Lots o' handicapping fun.

NBC Sports Network (2:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. in a flirt with prime time) on Saturday will be talking a lot about California Chrome. Rightfully so.

He's drawn the 13 post, which means he will have no excuses. His game is to stay a bit outside, in the clear, change gears, and then make a big move at the quarter pole. He'll have the chance in this one, although a horse who depends on trips afforded by others doesn't excite me. He'll take money, despite a lackluster performance in the Pennsylvania Derby. That makes this kid happy. But trainer Art Sherman seems competent, 'Chrome's a battler . . . he might have one more big one in him.

The horse to beat is Shared Belief, one of seven three-year-old upstarts, which says a lot about the lack of staying power of older horses. The others are V.E. Day, Bayern, Toast of New York, Tonalist, Candy Boy and California Chrome.

They're saying Shared Belief is working lights out, even after he took a mugging in the Awesome Again by a pair of Bob Baffert trainees, Sky Kingdom ('Chrome rider Victor Espinoza up) and Fed Biz. They took 'Belief wide - so wide he had to go through Chavez Ravine to win the race. But he was so good and tough, I think I saw him down a Dodger Dog on the far turn. Espinoza was suspended. What about Baffert? Charisma equals immunity.

Shared Belief is a horse worth firing up the tee and vee to watch.

I won nice money on V.E. Day in the Travers, but that might be a high-water mark he won't hit again.

Bayern needs the lead to run away, fast early pace, controlled middle pace, and the dash home. Can he get this from the seven-hole? Against 13 other good horses?

What about Tonalist? Son of the Pulpit son Tapit, out of the Pleasant Colony mare Settling Mist. He's 5-1 on the morning line, and if people forget him enough to higher odds, I will take that all day long.

After spoiling 'Chrome's Triple Crown bid in the Belmont, Tonalist ran into Wicked Strong in the Jim Dandy and V.E. Day's career day in the Travers. He recovered with a 106 Beyer Speed Figure in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, beating Zivo, also in this race, by almost two lengths. He is as quality a horse as you could want and from the 11-hole; Joel Rosario should be able to do anything they both please. He's a closer, which might come in handy should Bayern, Moreno and Cigar Street implode the race up front.

Wiseguy plays? Horses and angles.

Cigar Street/12-1 morning line: Loves to win. Looks like he can rate, should be near the lead. Consistent triple-digit Beyers, except two back with a bumping excuse. His odds may be great.

Imperative/30-1 morning line: As OTB Greg says to watch for, on the up-and-down trend, he's due for an up. Probably impossible, but will two dollars hurt you?

Moreno/20-1 morning line: Hard to see this battler and Whitney winner so little thought of. He was hassled in his last two, and likes the lead. He's no stranger to triple-digit Beyers. The rap is he's an Eastern horse; he bombed in this race last year albeit on the fake stuff, but the son of Ghostzapper cannot be counted out. A couple pilasters at those odds.

V.E. Day/20-1 morning line: A stone closer, this race could very well set up for him. Know what that means? Steak sandwich instead of hamburger needing help.

Zivo/15-1 morning line: Third off the break, has beaten a few of these, three triple Beyers straight, Eastern horse problem, working well. Be a wiseguy.

Picks? I knew you'd ask.

Your Superfecta is Shared Belief, Cigar Street, Tonalist, V.E. Day, California Chrome.

I know that's five. Hey gang, let's box!

P.S.: The Polish Prince
Speaking of boxing, quick on the heels of the Breeders' Cup, Chicago's own Andrzej "The Polish Prince" Fonfara returns to the UIC Pavilion to battle Doudou Ngumbu in a light heavyweight tilt. Fonfara comes in off a hard-fought decision loss for the WBC title against Adonis Stevenson. If you go, you'll see firsthand how Chicago's Polish-American community comes out for this guy. He's great, a technician of the sweet science. If you can't make it, Showtime has all the action.

I told you it's a binge weekend.


Thomas Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

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