Sunday, November 3, 2013

Breeders' Cup Cheers and Jeers

The Breeders' Cup is in the books. Here are a few things I liked, and (a very few things) I did not like.

Cheers: The Flagship.

How can a die-hard handicapper tell a good race from a bad one? Answer: When you watch the replay six times and don't care about making trip notes. This years Classic was just that, a Classic. When the Breeders Cup spends all that money to get on prime time TV it needs to show a good race, and that's what we got. Magical, interesting; 100% pure equine entertainment.

Cheers: "Lasix Ban, What Lasix Ban?".

When policies change in this sport there is a lot of grumbling and consternation. Over time, good policy lessens the grumbles. I heard nary a mention of the lasix ban for the two year old races. In fact, as I type this, I don't even know if all of them had lasix bans. No one talked about it, no one mentioned it. It was like it didn't even happen.

Cheers: The Setting.

I am no fan of California horse racing, mainly due to the takeout hike and lack of choice for my fellow bettors in the Golden State. It's no secret I land on the side of the customer and have for a gazillion years. But that does not stop me from praising a wonderful event in a perfect part of the world in November. There is a lot of anger out there about the lack of movement regarding Breeders Cup venues and those folks have a point, but if you look at it from a setting perspective, Santa Anita - the sunshine, the 80 degree temps, fans dressed in collared shirts, shorts and skirts, is awesome.

Cheers: Detention.

Like the lasix ban, surveillance is a hot topic in racing. Many horsemen don't like to change their pre-race routine, and that's as old is the day is long. But it's an event with $160 million in betting handle - we aren't pinching pennies - and helps brand our sport. The public, bettors and fellow horse owners need to know there is not something happening untoward at 4AM to change the results. It's a good thing, it works, and it should be done for all events like this. From the lack of complaining this year, it seems the Breeders Cup and Santa Anita have this process properly administered.

Cheers: The Betting.

Once again this year you could take a pick 3 and score some serious money. If you had an opinion on a horse that was salty, you could take a stand and make a lot of money in any pool. This sport runs on wagering, not jersey or sneaker sales. The Breeders Cup delivers.

Cheers: The Get Ups

I am a die hard bettor. When the Classic ended I played Mountaineer and Charles Town. Despite that, I love seeing people get dressed up to go to the track. I think it shows our big days, and the sport, some respect.  Sure the simo-center or grandstand had our usual characters and we are what we are, but there's more to the sport than that. I'm glad I get to see it a few times a year.

Cheers: The Stews.

It takes cajones the size of cantaloupes to chuck out a horse for a bump like that at the wire in a big event. I play tens of thousands of races and see this occur, from Will Rogers Downs to Aqueduct and I never know which was it is going to be called. Rule of thumb: When a horse looks like he or she is going by easily and loses, 99.99% of the time he or she is bumped and that bump cost the horse the race. Many times this is a jockey trick on the inside horse, and it should never be allowed to stand. On the biggest stage they didn't. Now, let's get other tracks doing it so when our everyday punters have this happen to them, they know if they're cashing or not. This is an easy rule to call uniformly.

And just in case you think I benefited from it, I didn't. I had enough 10-25 tickets to wallpaper by betting office. 

Cheers: Hello Larry

I admit, for me on big days it's Durkin or bust. I'm biased and it is what it is. Of the thirty or forty tracks I watch each month at some point, Larry has never been a favorite of mine, but at this Breeders Cup I thought he kicked ass. Those were some of the best race calls I have heard in awhile. I know this is a personal preference point and it won't and shouldn't matter to anyone, but well done LC, from a guy who respects you a lot, but has never had you on my top five list. 

Jeers: The Track Superintendent Should Never be a Breeders' Cup Star

You bring your horse 4,000 miles and pay $10k to get in the race. He's a closer. On Friday at least, you might as well have lit your plane tickets, and the $10k on fire. You spent hours upon hours handicapping a pick 5 pool which will approach $6 million for a track that closers have no shot on. Then you get that. It's not easy to have a fair track for a big day, but it should be paramount. It's fair for our equine participants, the trainers and owners (like the Princess of Sylmar crew who sportingly entered the Distaff) and the customers.

Jeers: Show Tunes

I know I am not the target demographic, and my iPod is filled with bands that might not fit at the Breeders Cup, but that seemed a little awkward.

Jeers: HRTV

I, like a lot of you who are betting serious moola at these events, don't watch the network coverage but concentrate on the track feed. Each year I enjoy the TVG coverage and tend to learn something. Although the guests were good this year - Bob Ike, Andy Serling and several others - I thought there was too much speaking for the sake of saying something. The anchor particularly, who seemed more interested in trying to be clever, did not add any value for me and I tuned him out.

Jeers: The Reminder

The reminder how dangerous our sport is, is never something we look forward to. The next time we yell at a jock for a bad move, or a horse for not winning, we need to remember they're out there competing, have families and are surrounded by people who care for them every day.

The last and not least Cheer goes to the Breeders Cup. Some insiders and fans love to lament its presence: It does not go to New York often enough, it has made the Fall Stakes less watched, it has competed on polytrack, the Marathon is no damn good and on and on. Folks, that's nitpicking. This event is probably the most well-run event in horse racing. The marketing is top notch, they service the bettors as well as participants with skill and verve. They are responsive to change, they invest back into the sport to help it grow. The management team is as good as assembled, in my opinion, in horse racing.

We can argue about the details, but this is a great event that I believe we are very lucky to have.

I hope you all had a successful Breeders Cup and enjoyed it as much as I did.

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