Some Post-Breeders' Cup 2011 Ramblings

Some post-Breeders' Cup ramblings: 

There were more than several tweets noting handicapping exhaustion and inability to keep track of horses given 15 Breeders’ Cup races this year. … So have we finally maxed out on the number of races? Hint: Yes.

My reaction when the new Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint was announced earlier this year wasn’t positive, but after looking at the situation I figured a 2-year-old race worth a half-million dollars at six furlongs would at least get 16 pre-entries since it was designed to appease  nominators and owners. … Nine-horse field equals major disappointment; not a great betting race.

Kentucky racing remains at a competitive disadvantage purse-wise but not breeding-wise; 11 of the 15 Cup winners this year were bred in the Bluegrass. … And it’s quite funny Turfway Park, often called one of the Kentucky circuit’s “weak links,” has now produced a Breeders’ Cup winner in each of the last three years, as well as a Kentucky Derby winner this year. … For the record, Ireland had two, and California and Florida each had one Cup winner this year.

Debate is good, and this year’s Cup results already have triggered plenty of that. You know it’s wide-open when people mention a starter allowance horse that has won 19 straight races as a candidate for Horse of the Year—even if it is tongue-in-check. … Or is it?

What’s the over/under on undefeated 2-year-old filly My Miss Aurelia getting votes for Horse of the Year?

Dr. Kendall Hansen, owner of Juvenile winner Hansen, has been called a character. So after winning the Juvenile, he got down on his hands and knees and kissed the ground in the winner’s circle. Crazy, yes, but we need more of this kind of thing to liven things up. … This is supposed to be fun, right?

I’ve never covered a major non-racing sporting event so I can’t make comparisons, but I would guess the media has access to food for more than two hours. Not sure what happened this year but it seems Breeders’ Cup dropped the ball, especially considering many media members work from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Cup days. … If anyone needs tips on how to do it right, contact the Preakness organizers.

Handicapping races and betting horses is without a doubt the best gambling game around. There are so many angles to consider. … How many of you noticed that in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, trainer Todd Pletcher ran two horses—but John Velazquez rode Stephanie’s Kitten for Wayne Catalano. … He must have a good agent.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear touted Churchill Downs as the best venue for the Breeders’ Cup. … The mayor of Los Angeles said he would like the event in Southern California every year. … The New York Racing Association believes Belmont Park shouldn’t be left out of the mix. … It’s looking more and more like a three-track rotation to me.

Churchill takes a lot of heat for different things, but taking weather out of the equation, if I had a vote on best Cup venue facilties-wise. …

After the Saturday races Shandler and I stopped at a Cracker Barrel outside of town. The waitress asked us if we were at the Breeders’ Cup and why, and when paying the bill, two employees starting talking about Court Vision and other horses they liked. … It’s a small-market city, but I’ve got to say there may be no other place that embraces horse racing—and the gambling aspect of it—like Louisville.

I made it through yet another major racing event at Churchill without getting hit in the chest with a loaded beer bottle thrown by a drunk in the Papa John’s Stadium parking lot after the races. … I’m not making that up.

38 Comments

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Terry M.

I still don't understand why Woodbine is not part of the rotation. The one time Woodbine hosted, the track got rave reviews for EVERYTHING.

It has the best turf course in North America and one of the best in the world. Weather is not an issue. The track stays good. (Actually, this year in particular, the weather was tons better in Toronto than in the entire eastern USA!) And it's easier for a lot of people to get to than Santa Anita, which is a very long trip for all the European and East Coast-based horses.

08 Nov 2011 1:11 PM
Sam Santschi

"Cracker Barrel?" Sounds like you did as well as me over the weekend.

I agree about the fatigue aspect of it or perhaps I should just place all bets ahead of time so I don't continue to beat myself up over betting the Mott-Mott Classic double then having a brain cramp and not betting Dross WPS in Classic.

Instead, bet SYT even after watching the Euros spin their wheels on that bizarre surface. Got fatigued in '08 at SA and neglected to get Raven's Pass bet.

Well that's enough shoulda woulda coulda. But how about the TRI's in the Turf and Classic? I need to lie down again. ... So playable and big payoffs. I need professional help, LOL.

08 Nov 2011 1:51 PM
Arts and Letters

Yes, way too many Breeders' Cup races now.  They should go back to the original 7 plus the Marathon.  I tried to remember the winners of last year's races, and except for Blame, Goldikova, and Uncle Mo, couldn't remember any of them.   But I do remember many (most?) of the winners from the first 10 years, because they were more memorable.  I'd rather have 8 really special, deserving winners who beat the best than 15 forgettable ones.  That way, they could also go back to a single day, which makes television viewing much less problematic.

08 Nov 2011 11:24 PM
footy231

They should move it around not just to Santa Anita and Churchill and Belmont. That wasn't the idea when it started.

09 Nov 2011 2:45 AM
GunBow

I have attended the races at many different tracks, and you are correct that, in North America at least, no place embraces Thoroughbred racing like Kentucky.  When the Breeders' Cup is in Louisville, it is front page news, as are the results, and one of the nightly news leads on TV.  

When I went to the 2000 BC at Churchill, I woke that morning to local news coverage that not only mentioned the BC, but informed out-of-town viewers like myself where one could park relatively cheaply and then catch buses that were ferrying folks from the parking areas to the track and back.  

And Churchill knows how to handle big crowds.  Hosting the BC is fairly easy for them after the Derby.  Belmont handles crowds well too, as does Santa Anita, but not like Churchill.

The biggest problem for Churchill seemed to be the condition of the main track, which is ironic given how many had protested the BC being held on a synthetic main track for 2 years and had demanded the Championships to return to dirt.

09 Nov 2011 5:47 AM
JerseyTom

Sam: Didn't have a great BC financially, but hit race at CD Sunday that put me up for the weekend. I'll take it.

Footy231: We don't know the BC strategy for host sites, so who knows?

That said, legislation has been introduced in Florida to bring the BC back, most likely at Hialeah Park, the only Florida track that has the room to accommodate it. Seems like a longshot though.

Terry M: I would say Woodbine, though a lot of room is now devoted to slots, should be in the mix. If any organization can host a first-class BC, it's WEG.

09 Nov 2011 8:12 AM
AJRNova

Hey Tom. I don't know if Jason told you but I had a major beef with the fact that Await the Dawn and St Nicholas Abbey were not coupled. Prior to the race, the TV cameras caught trainer O'Brien, jockey O'Brien, and Leparoux in conversation about strategy (I am only assuming). Not only did trainer O'Brien have both these horses in his barn, the ownership group was exactly the same (aside from the different silks worn by each jockey).

When the race was over it was clear to me that ATD was a rabbit for SNA. As we all know, these tactics are widely used in European racing. In a nutshell, I am calling BS here because the bettors we defrauded by having seperate entries. I plan on writing a letter to the Breeders' Cup executives to let them know they messed up a second year in a row.

09 Nov 2011 8:51 AM
JerseyTom

AJRNova: I see your point. But BC rules allow for uncoupled common entries in all races, therefore eliminating coupled horses for betting purposes. The idea is to drive handle by having more betting interests. That said, I can't take issue with your beef and would recommend you send a letter to BC. ... I'm sure they'll get other letters on other issues, including the non-DQ of Goldikova in the Mile.

09 Nov 2011 8:59 AM
Walt Gekko

Terry:

It was mentioned to me that Woodbine's capacity is only 42,000, which likely would preclude Woodbine from hosting the BC again.

Belmont is supposed to get the 2013 Breeders' Cup, but I can definitely see lights becoming mandatory at Belmont Park and the laws in New York State that forbid night Thoroughbred racing changed if the BC were to be held there because many people can't take Friday off from work, which means at least Friday's BC races would have to be at night.

That said, I see Churchill starting in 2013 or '14 becoming a near-permanent host of the BC because of its capability to race at night unless another track capable of night racing were to make a serious bid. That's mainly because beginning with 2014, I also see the BC returning to NBC with all of Saturday in prime time and an hour of Friday also in prime time on NBC along with the rest of Friday night on NBC Sports Network.  

If this sport is going to be taken seriously by those under 45, the BC will have to be at night as there are now two generations that have seen the championships in the "big four" pro sports being contested exclusively at night (East Coast time) since the late 1980s (for instance, the last East Coast time day game in the World Series was Game 6 in 1987, and the last outdoors East Coast daytime game was Game 5 in 1984).

Many of them look down on other sports that don't have their championships at night, which is why the BC has to follow suit.

09 Nov 2011 9:51 AM
JerseyTom

Walt Gekko: Nice. I'm not sure all the races will ever be run in prime time, but clearly there is an opportunity to run more of them at night at a place like Churchill.

09 Nov 2011 9:54 AM
Pedigree Ann

If you had watched GB/Ire racing, you would know that Ballydoyle does this all the time; the only problem is figuring who will be sacrificed for whom.

Treasure Beach, a Derby winner in Ireland, was used as a pacemaker in the Arc, not run to get a win or placing. This is actually in contravention of the rules of racing over there but they get away with it anyway, as do other big stables.

I bet on St. Nicholas Abbey, so I wasn't noticing what ATD was doing. I suppose they wanted a high-profile win for SNA more, since he was a champion 2YO who missed his 3YO season and they can charge more for him at stud. And up on SNA was Aidan's kid, who will not be riding on the flat for long (he's a scrawny 5'11"! I had a brother who was 6' 2" when wrestling at 145 lbs. in high school. They inevitably put on more weight).

09 Nov 2011 10:05 AM
Pedigree Ann

While nice betting puzzles, the Juvenile turf races are not at the level of the other races. Turf racing for 2YOs is just not a major division for U.S. racing. And they don't point out horses who will dominate as turf horses at 3, 4, and older so what's the point?

The Juvenile Sprint was an experiment that failed. It was an N2X race. In other countries, the 2YO sprinters run with the elders in the big sprints--2YOs have won the Abbaye, the Nunthorpe, the Haydock, the Chiasura in Italy. They get a weight break to die for in those races.

And speaking of sprints, the ladies weren't doing all that badly running with the guys in the past. Ditto in the Turf. They still do OK in the Mile.

The Dirt Mile drains horses from the Sprint and vice versa. Maybe they should split the difference and run it at 7 furlongs?

Once again the 9 furlong-oriented Eastern older horse preparation failed to prepare the older horses for a stern 10 furlong test. Gulfstream should pull money and emphasis from the Donn and put it on a restored 10-furlong Gulfstream Park Handicap.

The Maryland Jockey Club should put the Campbell back to 10 furlongs and revive the Pimlico Special. Churchill, why isn't the Foster at 10 furlongs, a 'Derby for older horses?' The Monmouth Handicap (Iselin) was a G1 race at 10 furlongs and is a G3 at its current distance. Want to restore respect?

And NYRA, the biggest offender, should upgrade the money and distance of the Suburban to its old glory. There is no point of having two 9-furlong races at Saratoga, so put the Woodward back to its traditional distance of 10 furlongs. A horse who prepares for the BC Classic from this sort of program might actually be ready to win it.

09 Nov 2011 10:27 AM
Sam Santschi

JerseyTom: That's a valuable lesson. You can win just as much money on lower-class races as on the big ones. Thanks.

09 Nov 2011 10:52 AM
josh

My biggest problems with what happened over Breeders' Cup weekend:

The track.

No pace in the Distaff for Ultra Blend to run at.

Castellano's bad ride on Union Rags.

Court Vision running the race of his life.

Oh, Did I mention Castellano's bad ride? Yeah, that too. Hahaha.

The 3-track rotation is nice, but I think they should throw in a small track every now and then.

09 Nov 2011 11:33 AM
barryaksarben

Here we go again: If you want to re-energize the sport it must move the Breeders' Cup EVERY year, I want it in Texas, Florida, and Canada, This, with local advertising, could open up the sport to people who aren't exposed to it.

On a personal level I was thrilled that Stephanie's Kitten won as I made money on her and felt so good about it I bet my hunch in the next race which I hadn't planned on doing and made a ton on Musical Romance then had a very nice dinner on my winnings.

09 Nov 2011 11:38 AM
Carlos in Cali

2 days worth of 15 BC races is OK with me, it gives the bettor more chances to make money. At my household my buddies and I have had BC Bar-b-ques that spill over into Saturdays's races the last 3 years. Makes for good times and interesting side bets.

BTW: I raked in the dough when Pletcher laid an egg in the BC races. $$ :)

I don't have a problem with a rotating BC site, but I do have a problem with the off-tracks you get. Lone Star Park is also capable of staging it AND they have night racing to boot.

09 Nov 2011 12:20 PM
saharagold

No, it's NOT tongue-in-cheek.  

09 Nov 2011 12:36 PM
Jason Shandler

Couldn't disagree more on the best BC venue. It's Santa Anita by far. The weather is beautiful and the track is much more fan friendly. At CD, unless you have seats you cant see the races. At Santa Anita everyone gets a chance to walk the apron and the layout is much better. Clocker's Corner in the morning. Pasadena at night. Can't beat it. I'd love to see it there every year now that they have dirt again. No brainer. New York doesn't deserve it.

I do agree that the press box situation was a disaster this year. Writers are a complaining bunch to begin with, but you give us this fuel and we'll never hear the end of it again. Rightfully so.

09 Nov 2011 4:45 PM
sidekickflats

I have to agree with Jason on this one.  Santa Anita is much better than Churchill Downs for Breeders' Cup.  I've been to 3 BCups at Churchill and 3 at Santa Anita and 1 at Hollywood Park.  It is easier to actually see the races at Santa Anita. At Churchill, between tote boards and cameras, etc., I might has well be watching from home and I had seats! About froze to death as well.  

Santa Anita has easier parking, shorter lines, and did I mention better weather. And a whole lot less cigar smoke being blown in your face the entire day.

09 Nov 2011 5:22 PM
Carlos in Cali

How's the parking situation @ CD? I've heard horror stories about having to park miles and miles away then having to catch a shuttle bus. ... Yikes!

Jason, you forgot to mention LA Live & the broads, erra ... women.

09 Nov 2011 5:32 PM
Izzybeth

Pedigree Ann - Wouldn't a 'Derby' for older horses be a Maturity?

I made money on Hansen.  Can't believe he didn't receive more press, but I'm very pleased he didn't.

09 Nov 2011 7:21 PM
Pedigree Ann

Izzybeth - Not really since 4 AND UP could run; we used to have the Santa Anita Maturity (aka Strub Stakes) at the Derby distance for the 4YOs, but it's gone now, like most of the other 10-furlong races.

The association with Churchill Downs would make it useful to include 'Derby' in the publicity, that's why I put it that way.

10 Nov 2011 12:01 PM
Stevebiscuit

Santa Anita really is the best BC venue. Churchill was miserable. Could barely see the races, plus there were obnoxious vendors shouting "cold beer!" every 5 seconds in freezing cold weather. Churchill may be historic, but that's about it. I'd take Santa Anita any day.

10 Nov 2011 1:18 PM
steve from st louis

The Cup should move every year and the committee should include all the mega-tracks: Santa Anita, Churchill, Belmont, Saratoga, Del Mar, Woodbine, Arlington and Lone Star. Also, I'd love to see Dubai and Melbourne get a chance to host.

10 Nov 2011 4:34 PM
Slew

I think all the major tracks should rotate the BC. The weather might not always be great, but all the tracks really need help right now to boost their patronage.

And what is it having a Friday card? Why can't they run the BC on Saturday and Sunday? Is the NFL afraid of the competition?

Sorry, no joke. ... The only consistent horse all year has been Rapid Redux. Think of the PR for the smaller tracks and the small-time training operations. What a boost it would be!

Tom: Hit in the chest with a full bottle of beer? What a waste of booze! My kids went to the Renaissance Fair in York, Pa., and in the parking lot they were caught in the crossfire of 2 gun-toting patrons arguing over a bumper sticker (which one of the gun -oters read wrong.)

10 Nov 2011 7:37 PM
Bill Two

If they would build a dirt or synthetic track at Newmarket or The Curragh or Chantilly it would be neat to stage the BC in Europe for a change. Of course we would get our posteriors handed to us in the turf races, but who knows what would happen on the dirt or synthetic? At least it would be sporting for us to go over there and take our chances for a change. Why should they be the ones always taking the chances?

10 Nov 2011 9:09 PM
Terry M.

Woodbine has parking for 14,700 vehicles. There is public transit available to the track as well. The largest crowd to date is more than 42,000 people. Actual capacity is not mentioned on its website.

Yes, Churchill is bigger, I will grant you that. Yes, there are slots. That is one reason why the purses at Woodbine are so good! I really think this event needs to go to more than just two tracks.

I think the BC races should all be grade I and some of the races should be dropped. Forget the Juvenile Sprint, the Juvenile Filly Turf and the Dirt Mile. That brings it down to 12 races. The Marathon should be at least 1 3/4 miles if no 2 miles. And the Ladies' Classic needs to be called the Distaff again.

The Marathon is one of my favorite races to watch and I wish it was given more value as a marquee race. We aren't seeing the great handicap horses anymore and maybe it's because so few races are held for them.

Do you know that Kelso still holds the dirt record for 2 miles? He set in in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1964! Part of the reason is that hardly any races are held at distances past 1 1/4 miles, never mind 2 miles, these days.

10 Nov 2011 9:57 PM
JerseyTom

I'm with Terry M. on marathon/distance races. I've always liked watching and betting them. The problem with such races at the higher class is there aren't that many to serve as preps. Until this changes, we may have to get our fix in the various $5,000 starter races at 2 miles or more several tracks still card each year.

11 Nov 2011 11:00 AM
JerseyTom

When you are considering a venue for BC, you have to remember it's not just about the fans. (I hate to say that but it's true.) It's also about BC catering to owners, breeders, high-rollers, etc., and no facility I know of has the dining space/suite areas like Churchill. It's a big factor.

11 Nov 2011 11:01 AM
Jennifer in Columbia

I love Churchill Downs as a venue. Where else can you enjoy morning workouts, visit all the horse farms, and attend the sales? It should also be noted that Churchill Downs has consistently high attendance and handle compared to other tracks.

As you said Tom, when you go out to dinner in the area, you end up talking horses with the locals. I live in a state with no horse racing, so it is astounding to me to be able to go out to dinner and talk horses with my waitress or fellow diners.

Additionally, for selfish reasons, I could not afford to travel to California for the BC, so having the BC in KY allows me to drive for 8.5 hours and attend this wonderful event. I know I am in the minority, but I love the weather at Churchill. Beautiful fall leaves, crisp air: Delightful!

11 Nov 2011 12:02 PM
TXLonghorn

"New York doesn't deserve it."

That's an interesting comment with no rationale or explanation. I'm sure the East Coast stables that have been and continue to be the backbone of the industry appreciate the notion that their home circuit doesn't deserve racing's richest weekend and that they should be expected to go on the road every year.

What a stupid, throwaway comment.

11 Nov 2011 12:10 PM
rednedtugent

"New York doesn't deserve it."

You are right. It should have read Monmouth doesn't deserve it. Never going back there. I had a great time at CD this year. (third time was the charm) For me, the best place to see the BC has always been Rue Nugent.

11 Nov 2011 5:05 PM
Blind Luck

I can't afford to go to Kentucky, no matter how much I would love to.  SA is where I can attend.  So, you are going to get "us" people no matter where it is held.  To go to Dubai, Europe or Canada?  What is that about?  This is about the US and our championships.  Really?!!

I love two days of racing.  I may not remember certain horses but I love every race.  There did seem to be a lot of shorter races this year?  I got lost there.

I would love to see more longer races as well.  To have the speed and be able to maintain it for 1 1/2-plus miles is absolutely awesome.

My long time dream is to make it to Kentucky, take in some great races and visit farms.  OR I could handle doing that in Saratoga some day also.  A girl can dream, right?

I'll see you next year with my friends at SA.  Yes, I got to see Zenyatta win her Classic and I'll always remember the great "lady" of horse racing. The roar of the crowd when she won was absolutely awesome.

The Breeders' Cup races absolutely ROCK!

12 Nov 2011 11:19 AM
TorontoPunter

I am extremely upset with the BC for the lack of information on "adjunct Lasix". Most of the winners were given this medication, and the DRF had nothing in the past performances.

The "Little-Guy" like me, get's burned again. Knowledge is POWER, and the fans were denied access. JUST PLAIN AWFUL.

13 Nov 2011 10:14 AM
Bill Two

Blind Luck, I think you better check out the BC logo - it's billed as a world championship.  That's why it's not presumptious to suggest that the event be held at venues outside the USA.

13 Nov 2011 7:33 PM
The Rock

What's sad is Friday's races are almost an afterthought. And there's no reason why the performances of My Miss Aurelia & Royal Delta should be treated as such. I was disappointed in the BC Juvenile Sprint as well. I'd thought the field would be loaded. Instead it looked like a glorified N2L allowance sans the favorite. Get rid of that race, F&M Turf, F&M Sprint and Dirt Mile. I initially was a big fan of these races when they first came out, but let's face it. These races are taking away from the BC Turf, & BC Sprint. Females have proven they're very capable of holding their own against the males. Let's put some meat on these fields. I'm not a big fan of the juvenile turf races, but they fill up. So I'm OK with that.

Santa Anita rules as a BC venue, although I wouldn't mind one more shot at Hollywood before the inevitable.

14 Nov 2011 11:46 PM
Victoria

I really think the Breeders' Cup should be rotated among the major tracks, including Woodbine, Lone Star, the Florida tracks, and any other track that is able to handle the crowds.

I have been a horse racing fan for decades, and must say that the proprietary attitude of entitlement on the part of Churchill Downs regarding their regular role in hosting the Cup leaves me feeling a bit hostile.  I really dislike it when Churchill Downs hosts the Cup.  The track surface is so fluky and weird; you never know which horses will take to it and even those that have run over it well once may not like the way it's dried out or been prepared on the "big day."   I also feel sorry for the connections of horses who work all year to prepare these horses for their races, and then it's thrown away at the start as the horse doesn't like the track.  This happens once in a while at most tracks, but not with the astonishing regularity as it does at Churchill.

I also agree with those that say there are way too many races now. I would go back to the original races, plus change the dirt female championship race back to the Distaff...it's patronizing and silly to call it the Ladies' Classic.  These are horses we're talking about.  

I also agree with those who lament the shortening up of the prep races.  I really miss the Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/2 miles.

15 Nov 2011 12:36 AM
WinnahPickah

"Monmouth doesn't deserve it."

Geez Louise, talk about beating a dead horse. It rained, get over it!

I would argue that Monmouth '07 slop surface was fairer than Churchill Downs surface in '06, '10, or '11.

I heard CD sealed the track after BC Friday. Is that true?

16 Nov 2011 4:57 PM

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