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TrackNotes: Streaks

Nobody knows streaks, mostly the bad ones, like Chicago. And, don't we know in these parts, as you get older, you learn how to deal with them, manage expectations, if you have any, and appreciate any success that comes along. That's the value of the streaks.

It comes to us that within the last year, two of the most monumental streaks in American sports history were broken, in smashing fashion.

Just hours ago, the Chicago Cubs did what they did. A seemingly nice bunch of people - and that's important - who did it with such style, it seemed they turned the corner from BC to AD.

And 370 days ago, American Pharoah stylishly outran the rest in the Breeders' Cup Classic to top his Triple Crown year in a kind of grand slam of racing that didn't even exist for 1979's Affirmed.

But time, and the furlongs, march on, so now we embark on the second odyssey in four days, the 32nd Breeders' Cup World Championships from Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

There will be plenty of compelling story lines and the two feature races, the Distaff Friday and the Classic Saturday, both bring together enough stars to force you to pull out the GPS to find a value wager.

On the significant flip side, none of the three Triple Crown race winners will be at this Breeders' Cup with the retirement of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, who didn't win after that race.

Starting with Friday's races, will Dortmund dominate the Dirt Mile (Grade I, one mile dirt, $1,000,000), as suggested by his 6-5 morning line? At 13-8-2-2, he's won every one of his races, except those including American Pharoah or California Chrome.

Will Gun Runner continue to take the perplexing money, even though his last hurrah was a win in the Grade III Matt Winn at Churchill Downs in June? He's been running in top company and he's a nice horse. But 9-2?

Runhappy owner, Houston furniture magnate James McIngvale, who appears to have more than he can handle, has been accused of mismanaging this horse and inexplicably enters the winner of last year's Sprint here in the Dirt Mile. He's a pure sprinter who finished a bad fourth in the one-mile Ack Ack on October 1st in the only race he's run since last December. Throw in an obviously troubled workout and you really have to wonder.

The tasty climax Friday will be the Distaff (Grade I, 1-1/8 miles, fillies and mares three-and-up, $2,000,000), where the precocious three-year-old Songbird takes on a few older veterans.

Six-year-old Grande Dame Beholder, who missed this race last year, will try hold off Stellar Wind, the four-year-old who has prevailed in their last two, the Clement L. Hirsch and the Zenyatta, both Grade Is. Beholder beat 'Wind in the Vanity, at a mile, so you wonder what Beholder might have left at this distance.

Most of the pundits I've heard give Songbird no chance against the older ladies, like Selena Gomez taking on Madonna, including I'm a Chatterbox and Forever Unbridled.

Jockey and choreographer Mike Smith has it staged already.

"I think it's pretty simple. She's fast and I'm gonna roll. I may even send her a little (out of the gate)," Smith said. "If someone wants to go in front of her, they're going to have to go awfully fast. It's going to be a fast pace and we're going to find out if she's good enough to beat those old mares."

My only problem is that starting with a favorite 6-5 morning line, she may not be of value either way. So be it.

If you're still alive on Saturday, and I know you will be, you'll get a kick out of watching them in the chute in the turf sprints. Better known as The Downhill Course, the horses start up on a hill, run downhill, cross the dirt on the turn and finish in the turf stretch.

In the Turf (Grade I turf, 1.5 miles, three-year-olds and up, $4,000,000), the showdown is between Britisher Flintshire and the Irish horse Found.

Flintshire is looking to rebound from a loss on a yielding course in the Turf Classic Invitational on October 1st at Belmont. He's in America because of its firmer turf courses, so he should love Santa Anita's green.

Found? All you need to know is Irish supertrainer Aidan O'Brien. They're trying to find chinks in four-year-old Found's armor after a loss in the QIPCO Champion Stakes October 15, but he won Europe's most important race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe two weeks before that. If you get the morning line 3-1 or better, take it.

There are also doubts about Tepin, a mare taking on the boys in the Mile (Grade I, one mile turf, three-years-old and up, $2,000,000). He comes in off a tough win in the Woodbine Mile and a dull loss in the First Lady at Keeneland. Morning line 3-1 or better? Take it.

She'll face Ironicus and the veteran five-year-old Tourist. Why not, at 20-1?

Approaching the California gloaming, we'll have the aptly named Classic (Grade I, 1-1/4 miles, three-year-olds and up, $6,000,000) crowning the festival.

The wiseguys are calling this a veritable match race between the already-legendary California Chrome and the upstart speedball Arrogate. Hard to argue.

A destination-watching horse, 'Chrome is the North American leading money winner of all time, at more than $13.4 million. He's undefeated this year, including the Dubai World Cup, and he's done it in a most powerful, commanding way. He had a nice, easy tuneup in the Awesome Again Stakes on October 1st, beating Dortmund, who peeled off to a different race.

Whatever happens in this race, California Chrome will have everything to say about it.

So Bob Baffert is looking to win this race for the third-straight time! Bayern and American Pharoah ahead of him, now it's Arrogate's turn.

He comes in off an astonishing romp in the Grade I Travers Stakes on August 27th, in which he set new Saratoga track and race records with a blistering 1:59-1/10 for the same 10 furlongs. He recorded a lofty 122 Beyer Speed Figure.

The son of Unbridled's Song, many touts are saying that he's just simply too fast for these, or anybody. Baffert knows speed, California speed, Santa Anita speed. Morning line 5-2, you probably won't do as well, but try.

Frosted? He won the Whitney over not much and suffered the tough beat in the Woodward Anything left?

The Cubs were pretty much chalk this year. So as soon as this rally's over, we'll flip the switch and look for longshots in those other championships.

* * *

For your television enjoyment, we'll have Laffit Pincay III, Randy Moss and Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Baily expertly handling the analysis for NBC, with Tom Hammond on the Saturday nighter. Eddie O. also makes his picks throughout. NBC Sports Channel has the festivities Friday from 4-7 p.m. and Saturday from 1:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. The main peacock NBC handles the Classic Saturday night from 7 p.m. - 8 p.m.


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

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