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Breeders' Cup Postscript

Good morning everyone. Here are a few of my thoughts on this year's Breeders' Cup.

I thought Del Mar was a great venue from a betting perspective. Both courses seemed fair, and the surfaces played perfectly. This is in sharp contrast to some BC's where souped up dirt tracks make the racing less interesting for both spectators and bettors alike. Kudos to Del Mar.

Handle was again good, buttressing the argument made here and elsewhere that the big days and big meets (outside Keeneland this year, I suppose) keep getting bigger in this sport. The everyday bettor is screaming for fields that offer potential value, and the BC delivers that in spades. Its field size, as well as the quirky nature of the fields makes for some excellent wagering. You rarely have to make excuses, like checking the New York weather report, when the handle is going where it should be.

To the Classic, I enjoyed the Steve Asmussen video watching Gun Runner down the stretch. I submit that wasn't about money and it wasn't about winning a trophy. I think a part of it was about being told all week from some that his horse could not win at ten furlongs. It was being told his horse could not beat Arrogate, who owned him in previous attempts. It was being told his fine horse was beating "tomato cans" all summer and would wilt on this big stage.

I think I know that look and that emotion. It was, "That's my horse. His name is Gun Runner. Take that".

Checking the wagering, how is it when every eye is on these horses we get so many overlays? I'm not speaking about horses we think are overlays (we all do when a horse we like pays $14) but real overlays that help beat the takeout? Lady Aurelia, Lady Eli and Arrogate are obviously fantastic horses who had a shot to win their races, but they don't win those races what they were priced at.

Taking Arrogate as an example, let's say you were right and pitched him out. Sensing he's either great and beats you from the win spot, or nowhere, you can get paid in verticals. Pitching out a horse with over 30% of the pools from a trifecta negates the 22% juice. You can get paid. Time and time again the BC presents many such opportunities.

On the big score angle, these deep fields reminded me a little of the old Keeneland poly. If you were right about a simple pace scenario, you could make them. My nearest hit was the superfecta in the Ami's Mesa race. On pure pace, I bet a closer super that had the 14 with the 1, 5 and 10, with 1, 5 and 10 with all. I also played alls in the other slots. The 5 nipped me, and the 5-14-1-12 super paid $35,000 for 20 cents. You can argue with me that I should've reversed the wager in the top slot, and from a ticket construction angle on a closer ticket that's sound - but the fact remains you don't get that chance near anywhere else in this game.

Gun Runner in one corner, and Arrogate in the other provides us a train of thought. If Nyquist and Exaggerator get stuck in traffic and Gun Runner wins the Derby, there's a chance he's long at stud. We never get to see him develop into the amazing athlete he now is. He's lights out better than a year ago, where the connections were avoiding the Classic because he 'might be a good miler'.

Arrogate, on the other hand, was given a chance to develop by not going into the Triple Crown series, and it paid off with jaw dropping performances the like we've probably never seen. Then, for whatever reason (I think soundness, but that's just a guess) he goes off form.

Horses are horses, not machines. They get good, they get bad. It depends on a lot of things. It's also why I hold horses like California Chrome and Zenyatta in such high esteem. They danced virtually every dance for years, and they showed up each and every time. I couldn't care less what Beyer they ran, what surface they won on, or if a field they beat had a few "tomato cans".

I pitched Arrogate, but I don't say that to crow (you know I don't do that on the blog, or at least try not to), but to share one reason why. Arrogate is a really long strider, and likes sweeping turns - (even his trainer has long said so). From the wood, at tighter turn Del Mar, he was probably going to have a tough time. Adding that the inside wasn't great, and two very good horses could get around Del Mar like a hoop around a barrel - Collected and Gun Runner - it was a no brainer for me, even if he showed up.

I know several people who handicapped the Cup beautifully this year, but could not put it all together to make a big score. It was tough. If you loved a bomb like Ami's Mesa like Brian DiDonato at the TDN did, you'd be four and five wide near the pace, and yet get nipped on your massive win price. If you played her underneath in exotics, you'd need another bomb to cash. If you loved the Juvy Filly winner, but played pick 3's, you had to go "all" in legs, because the winner of the Turf Sprint was mind numbing. Tough game.

The TV coverage - for me as a bettor - was impossible to watch. A race would end, I'd wait for the prices and often they'd come ten minutes later. And if I see another human interest story on last year's Classic (one of the reasons Arrogate took such a beating at the windows, no doubt) my head's gonna explode.

It's okay, I'm not their audience, but if they're (because of TV contracts) going to stop XBTV and others from showing the races live, they can receive our criticism.

Speaking of XBTV - great coverage guys and gals.

Snips - Lady Eli almost died. Her not firing for whatever reason in her last start is nothing to me as a fan of her. I hope she lives a long and happy life. She's fantastic.

Peter Miller's celebration reminded me of the sack races TD celebration by the Chiefs yesterday. Unbridled joy.

Chuck Fipke is an old time prospector and I know quite a few of those. It's a tough life where you scoured the streets looking for flow through financings, and trudged the bush for decades seeking a big win. You have to be tough as nails to survive it. When I saw Sid Fernando's video of him watching Forever Unbridled down the stretch, he looked like a 12 year old on Christmas morning getting a Red Rider BB Gun. Glorious.

Speaking of Sid, his mug was on NBC for like ten minutes and his eyes never left his phone. The man has two phones in case one dies; I don't know what he'd do without his phone. Seriously, congrats to Sid, he's a really good egg and an honest guy in this sometimes bad business.


To y'all who I chat with on twitter from time to time who had their mugs on TV doing analysis, or coverage. Kudos. You represented the sport beautifully. 


Comments

Tinky said…
I don't see how soundness could be a likely explanation for Arrogate's remarkable decline. Why? Because there was no practical reason for the connections to have hidden any meaningful issues.

After all, as he was going to be retired after having raced only 10 times, it would be ludicrous for him to be advertised at stud as having been particularly sound.

In fact, I found the inability of Baffert to explain what happened to be quite striking. He refused to use either Del Mar or the DWC experience as excuses, yet floundered badly whenever the questions arose.

His final excuse, that the horse had essentially soured on racing, was notably heard only after the BC. It also makes no sense, partly given his class, how lightly raced he was, and his performance in the PC.

To my mind, the coincidental OOCT announced by the BC in July is the most likely explanation.