The greatest thoroughbreds in the world are set to descend on Southern California's Santa Anita Park for the 2012 Breeders' Cup.  We've got previews and betting tips for both Friday and Saturday, and be sure to check the link at the bottom to follow me on Twitter for live-tweets and advice throughout the weekend.

Joe Bianchino,
Joe Bianchino,

The Breeders' Cup. It's a quality gambler's dream - and the potential catalyst for a bad gambler's forthcoming intervention.  Fifteen quality-packed, championship-deciding races played out over two magnificent days.  Today we'll take you through a few of Friday's better races, culminating with what could be the race of the weekend, the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.

Juvenile Sprint: This six furlong contest opens the festivities, with seven horses taking to the starting gate.  They're lead on the morning line by the 8/5 Merit Man, one of only two I see as a likely win option.  In fact, in deep stretch expect Merit Man and Super Ninety Nine - two who will have spent much of the race joined together a length or so behind likely leader, South Floyd - to break away from the field and duel their way to the finish.  It's hard to know what to expect from Super Ninety Nine who makes only his second start on Friday - jumping up in class from a 47K Maiden score in October.  As such, I'll take Merit Man - winner of the Tim Conay on this exact route - to score the win, but I wouldn't leave Super Ninety Nine out of my bets.

Juvenile Fillies: If not for the Ladies' Classic, this mile and a sixteenth race would, without a doubt, be the race of the day. Three undefeated fillies will combine with five others - at least two of whom are live shots - to round out an eight horse, quality-packed field.  For my money, Executiveprivilege is a just favorite with five career wins in five starts, with only one having been decided by less than a length.  The California girl will have some eastern competition in the one of two Todd Pletcher entries, Kauai Katie, who burst onto the scene with two romping wins this summer at Saratoga and another more convincing score this fall at Belmont.  She's never raced over six furlongs, so questions remain as to whether she'll handle the extra distance  The second Pletcher entry is the three-for-three Dreaming of Julia.  Twice a loser to Executiveprivilege, Beholder is a solid choice here as well; as is long shot Spring in the Air who will race on natural dirt for the first time in her short career.

It will likely be Beholder to break to the lead on Friday with Kauai Katie, Dreaming of Julia and Executiveprivilege following in that order.  Spring in the Air will likely sit near the back, waiting to close on what figures to be an honest pace.  As they turn for home, look for Kuaui Katie to strike the lead with Executiveprivilege and Beholder right there, and Spring in the Air coming hard from the back of the field.  On the wire, having already scored a Grade One victory on the route, expect Executiveprivilege to be a nose in front of Kuaui Katie who - based on what I saw at Saratoga - should have no trouble handling the distance, could very well be there first, and absolutely should be bet.  Spring in the Air will be there, too; and if the leaders aren't careful with their pace in the opening half and three quarter - under :47 and 1:11 respectively - expect her to take the race.  Either way, she's a live long shot; don't leave her out of your exotics.

Filly and Mare Turf: A wide open turf race plays a solid overture to the Beethoven's 9th that we expect to be the Ladies' Classic.  On the morning line, it's the European, The Fugue with the advantage - slim as it may be at 7/2.  She's one of five coming into Santa Anita from across the pond and will join headliners like Chad Brown's Zagora in Friday's starting gate.  As for the race, I confess myself uncertain.  It won't have much pace so I can't endorse Zagora, but beyond that, I fear little can be gleaned with an eye toward a prediction.  The Fugue has as good a chance as any, but I'll likely look toward Marketing Mix - winner of 7 of her last 10 - as a win bet, and In Lingerie, as a possible long-shot making her first career turf start for trainer Todd Pletcher. Ridasiyna also a must play.

Ladies' Classic: It's an all-star field for the Ladies' Classic with eight horses taking to the track for Friday's feature, seven of whom have won over 50% of their starts and two of whom come in undefeated.  Bill Mott's Royal Delta has been pegged the 9/5 favorite - a just honor for a filly who has been on a tear since romping home in the the 2011 Alabama with five wins in her last nine races.  Chad Brown's 10-0 Awesome Feather represents the 3-1 second choice, and is followed by a pair of 4-1 fillies who most recently followed each other across the finish line in the Cotillion: My Miss Aurelia and Questing.  My Miss Aurelia won that contest, and is the other undefeated entry at a, by comparison, decent 6 for 6.  Questing, though she was beaten that day, has on her resume one of the most dazzling performances in years in this summer's Alabama.  Quality names like Grace Hall - once a favorite in the Alabama - and Love and Pride - who beat Royal Delta in August; and long shots Class Included and Include Me Out round out the remarkable field.

Out of the gate, expect Love and Pride and Questing to break on top, with Royal Delta, Awesome Feather, Grace Hall, and My Miss Aurelia following close.  Down the backstretch, Awesome Feather will likely make a play toward the front, but expect little else to change until the field hits the top of the second turn; at which point I see Questing claiming a slight lead with Awesome Feather on her heels.  Grace Hall and Royal Delta will move together through the turn and at the top of the stretch those four will be on the lead together.

With the memory of Questing's awe-inspiring Alabama still very much in the forefront of my memory, I struggle to see Questing beaten here, on a quality surface unlike in the Cotillion.  Had I not been there to witness the romp, however, I'd be unable to discount Royal Delta's phenomenal form, and the generous 10-1 you can get for Grace Hall. Awesome Feather is a must play at 10-0, but I'm weary of her sizable step up in class.  Either way, throwing darts may be the best choice here, in what I expect to be a spectacle of the very best horse racing can offer.

Follow me on twitter as I live-tweet betting advice and reaction throughout Breeders' Cup weekend, and check back tomorrow for a preview of Saturday's full card.  Good luck! Cash early and often!

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