by Scott Shapiro
I will always prefer the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile to be run over a one-turn configuration like the course we will get next year at Churchill Downs. However, the 10-horse field entered for the 7TH race on Del Mar’s Friday afternoon card features a solid group led by Met Mile (G1) winner Mor Spirit (#6) for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert.
Mor Spirit has not been seen since running off the screen on Belmont Stakes Day, so evaluating his chances to win his fourth consecutive stakes race is challenging. I will use him defensively, but will instead key my wagering in the Dirt Mile around Accelerate (#8).
Accelerate has just one win in six starts in 2017, but that victory was an impressive 8 1/2-length romp in the San Diego Handicap (G2) over this surface on opening weekend of the summer meeting. The son of Lookin at Lucky has done his best running over this surface and distance, and appears to be a better horse since the addition of blinkers by trainer John Sadler.
The fact Accelerate finished a tiring third in the Pacific Classic (G1) in his last start is not a concern for me because he wants no part of the 1 1/4-mile distance. He has trained forwardly for his second start in the Dirt Mile after a third-place effort at 42-1 in 2016, and should sit a perfect stalking trip under jockey Victor Espinoza.
I love Accelerate’s chances to run first or second, and will build my exacta and trifecta tickets on Saturday around him doing just that.
Sharp Azteca (#3) looks great in terms of analytics and certainly enters Friday’s race in great form for trainer Jorge Navarro, but I have my concerns on how he will perform at Del Mar, as well as under the scrutiny this barn is receiving of late. I will let him beat me.
There are a few larger prices on oddsmaker Russ Hudak’s morning line that I give outside chances to, including Iron Fist (#1). The five-year-old ridgling makes his second start of the form cycle after a win versus lesser in a non-graded stakes race at Remington Park. The son of Tapit draws the rail, which should allow jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. to save ground in a nice tracking spot and make a run when they turn for home. His affinity for the racetrack and distance make him an attractive option at 12-1 on the line.
Awesome Slew (#5) may be better served at one turn, but he is in solid form for trainer Mark Casse. The Live Oak Plantation colt comes in off a length victory in the Ack Ack Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs and should be rallying in the lane under John Velazquez. The big question is whether he will have the same late kick in a two-turn race.
Practical Joke (#10) is another horse that I have a lot of respect for, but has done his best running in one-turn races. If he can avoid significant ground loss from the 10-hole he may be able to grind away a minor share, but I do not foresee him being good enough to get to the wire first.
Here is how I will attack the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile:
$50 Win 8 (if 7-2 or higher) = $50
$2 Trifecta Key
8 with 1+5+6+10 with 1+5+6+10 = $24
$2 Trifecta Wheel
1+6 with 8 with 1+5+6+10 = $12
$3 Exacta Wheel
8 with 1+5+10 = $9
$3 Exacta Wheel
1+5+10 with 8 = $9
Total Budget = $104