When the idea of a Breeders’ Cup was first proposed by Kentucky horseman John Gaines
in the early ‘80s, it was met with an ice-cold reception by the national media.
Hard to believe that the media could be so wrong, but here we are in 2003, and the Breeders’
Cup, at age 20, is bigger and better than ever. It has, in my mind, supplanted the Kentucky
Derby as the biggest event in horse racing, and rates right up there with the Super Bowl
and the World Series (well, maybe not this year) as the marquee sports events in North America.
And even with the defections of Azeri, Candy Ride, Beau’s Town. Empire Maker and
Mineshaft, et al, this year’s Breeders’ Cup ranks right up there with the best.
The reason, of course, is GAMBLING.
Horseplayers (myself included) could care less about record purses, stud fees and year-end
awards. We want the action. And the eight Breeders’ Cup races, boasting -- as usual -- full, competitive
fields, provide the opportunity to make a score. For every Lady’s Secret, there is a Spain, an
Unbridled Elaine or a Concern. Overlays abound. What more can you ask?
This year is unique because the first two races – the Distaff and the Juvenile Fillies – boast
an overwhelming favorite, Sightseek and Halfbridled. But neither has to win. Sightseek is
0-for-3 at Santa Anita, and was beaten over the track by Get Koko, while getting three
pounds. And Halfbridled worked three-quarters in an ugly 1:16 3/5 the other day, while rival
Class Above was sizzling a half in :45.
Then there’s the Allen Jerkens factor. When the Chief ships Society Selection 3,000 miles
to face Halfbridled on her home field. it has to tell you something.
And consider this other tidbit of information. At Belmont the other morning, Society Selection
spotted a male Jerkens stakes horse a dozen lengths, and beat him a dozen lengths. That’s
when Jerkens booked the filly on a flight to southern California.
And what about the European horses?
As usual, the Euros appear strong in the Turf and the Mile, but how are they handling the current
heat wave in southern California? Temps have been in the hot and humid ‘90s all week, although
it will drop to the high ‘70s by race day Saturday.
We’re hearing complaints already from the Euro horsemen about the weather. Shame, they
say, that the Breeders’ Cup is not at Belmont Park or Churchill Downs, where they’d get a
break in the weather.
And how ‘bout the Sprint?
In one corner, you have Shake You Down, the fastest horse in the world. Neither his rider, Mike
Luzzi, nor his trainer, Scott Lake has won a Breeders’ Cup race. Luzzi, in fact, has never ridden
in a Breeders’ Cup race. But will that matter when Shake You Down breaks like a bullet over
the speed-favoring Anita track?
Then you have Aldebaran. He’s by far the most accomplished sprinter on the continent, but
will six furlongs be too short, and will the full field be difficult to navigate for this stone closer.
Maybe trainer Frankel and jockey Bailey have the answers. Maybe not.
I do know that Aldebaran owes me one. Last year, I loved him at 15-1 in the Mile, and he
merely had the worst trip in the history of the Breeders’ Cup. The horse has done nothing
wrong since, and certainly he’s the logical horse in the Sprint. But obviously he won’t be 15-1 this
As for the Classic, win or lose, Funny Cide is the story. It’s a win-win situation for the Derby/Preakness
If Funny Cide wins the Classic, he’s Horse of the Year by acclimation. If he gets beat, so what?
He’s expected to get beat. He hasn’t raced since July. No horse has won the Classic off such a layoff.
That said, with the Breeders’ Cup a couple days off, I’ll list whom I consider the Top Five in
each race, in alphabetical order:
These are not my FINAL selections...I"ll have them for you Friday afternoon here on this web
site. Just follow this link to the Breeders Cup to sign up for the most lucrative day in racing.
Take Charge Lady
Refuse to Bend
Shake You Down
FILLY & MARE
Hold That Tiger
Ten Most Wanted
P.S. For those whose interest will extend beyond the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday, there is a
first-time starter at Philadelphia Park…