Sunday, November 7, 2021

Breeders' Cup Thoughts

The best weekend (don't flame me Claiming Crown fans!) in horse racing concluded, and it was never boring. Breeders' Cup weekend, for whatever reason, delivers. 

First - and I'll touch on the obvious below - the Breeders' Cup, Del Mar and the associated coverage in my view did their usual excellent job. TVG interviewers, which I watched, focused on asking the connections great questions on their horse's health, and how they were coming into the race. 

The jockey cams and other views were excellent and worthy of the sports' biggest weekend. During the week, the workouts, analysis and everything really - on social media, pods, and the electronic print coverage - I found completely great. 

The racing was sometimes meh (why do jockeys on speed horses snatch up now so often?), to excellent, where Japan's Loves Only You got race ridden into oblivion but found room and displayed class for an exciting finish; to the Distaff where what happened (speed) resulted in a bomb winner. 

The Classic is always the race I look least forward to, and ya, it was a little boring, but it did spawn some suspect quotes from jockey's who some think play the role of a heel all too well. 

Golden Pal made me, and others look dumb - I went five deep on a ticket, without him. The betting crew who believed Steve Asmussen's slump was going to end because he was getting his horses ready for the Cup looked like a genius after Echo Zulu cantered, a mope when many of the others didn't fire.

The performance of the weekend was a Pletcher former Baffert horse who looked like an absolute monster. Baffert horses, who we hear so often race ride as a team were both near the lead on the Distaff, adding to the carnage. Speaking of the Distaff, how did my 25 box lose?

Gamine finally lost, after many hammering against her degraded speed in her previous two. As Paul Matties said, she was a fade, but she was a fade last time and it was three months ago! Horse's do not race often enough to pitch in their next starts with any force anymore. 

There was no lasix, and whatever you feel about that, no, horses weren't walking off the track with blood flying out of them like a Monty Python skit, scarring children on the apron for life. Trainers are dealing with this. 

On the betting side there was value. For those who pitched Latruska it showed the lesson of going deep if you didn't have an opinion beyond that. Ditto on the Saturday late pick 5 ticket structure where we handicap the handicappers - everyone was going key-spread-key - and when Jackie's Warrior blew and a good key won leg two, you had a chance at a life changer. 

Off the course, the biggest news was the Modern Games scratch that wasn't - I'd label it Gate Scratchgate but it's really hard to say and clearly won't catch on.  

I found the episode very on-point for this sport, because contingencies are not much thought about when it comes to the betting public; that horse racing would not have a mapped out plan for such an occurrence goes together like Burger King and Baffert. But I can't get too worked up about it, quite frankly. One it was an honest mistake, two there was clearly no intent to give us a boot in the ass because the Breeders' Cup and Del Mar lose a ton of money when a horse is taken out of the pools. 

I find the whole thing pretty black swanish. Of late, the protocols to scratch horses early and often (primarily in California due to the rash of breakdowns not long ago) went a little over-the-top. Something like this was bound to happen. 

Regardless, I don't put this anywhere near to what Churchill Downs did when they cancelled the last race due to a weather cell without even a moment's thought to the bettor who was alive with a jackpot chance; not even close to when people present the benefits of lower takeout or mass-produced rebating to improve the sport and you're met with a "what's takeout" and then raise it again; nowhere near to a thousand things this sport has done to kill our handle and step on our necks over the years. 

That opinion might not be popular, but that's mine. They'll fix it for next time and it likely won't ever happen again. Until the next thing happens, because that's just what this sport does. 

I hope you cashed a few tickets and enjoyed the weekend. Have a great football Sunday, yes that means you Marcus Hersh! 

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