It was The Breeders’ Cup Day two. The biggest day in sports that nobody has heard of. Well, besides us and every horse bettor, trainer, jockey, bug boy, owner, hardcore sports fan and gambler that is. I’d always been around the sport of Horse Racing. My Father a fanatic racing fan owned several horses in his prime earning years as a top actor. My brothers and I could name all the jockeys, we even had nicknames for most of the good ones.
I had come back to the sport on my own over the past two years with my wife. We enjoy working through the black ink old newspaper called “The Daily Racing Form” it gives you all the answers to every scenario besides the one the horse is currently in it seems. That’s why you get paid if you pick right, I suppose.
TSN was carrying the two-day world championship card via NBC hosted at my favorite racetrack Delmar “Where the Turf meets the Surf”. A small fast track, tucked in behind one of California’s top bathing spots on the whole coast. No rocks, a soft landing and perfect sized waves for bodysurfing and boogie boarding. The Track’s structure paddock included feels like a Hollywood western. An old American gun fighter after surviving near death arrives in this perfect little town full of gold and women. Spanish tile roofing and well Spanish style everything. It really takes away that typical racetrack feeling of losing tickets bad cafeteria food, linoleum flooring, etc. Delmar is different. Maybe be cause I’m from Canada I’m a sucker for a bit of sun and a Spanish tile roof. To the east of the track there is a vintage fair that runs when the track has a meet. Perfect trap for a family. Bing Crosby built the place.
The Broadcast was an awful mess. The only one stand able was the Englishman who had some charm and knew the sport. The rest were blurry eyed “Know it all’s” or people who seemed to think they were at a bad 1920’s themed costume party. They kept cutting away to some idiot, who was wearing only an undershirt behind a bar in a studio. He looked like a failed actor trying to look like one of those Jake Paul guys. The only thing good about him was he openly made it clear he knew nothing about racing. The one interviewing this male mess was the son of one the greatest riders ever. Laffit Pincay Jr. sadly he’s a moron too. He was advising the male bimbo bartender who to bet and he gives “Gamine” a monster horse trained by the repeat cheater Bob Baffert whose odds were chalk, 3/5. The Breeders’ Cup is a collection of the top horses from across the globe, if there’s a day you can get around that kind of favourite? it’s today. Moron. Not only that, but “Gamine” would be extra scrutinized, tested three times prior to the race and twice after, all of Baffert’s entries would face this and with good reason. We, being my wife and a couple friends, had gone around Gamine in this small tough field with “CeCe” and a cute small fast filly named “Bella Sofia”.
They loaded into the gate with no trouble, there’s almost always problems loading or in the post parade especially for the English/European entries they hated the escort horses who lead them out. The bell went the gates opened and Gamine goes flying to the lead with Bella Sofia one stride behind and CeCe at the back. I like closers but at Delmar and in sprint racing, not wise. Gamine got stronger and stronger it seemed in the backstretch, Bella Sofia wanted to go with her, the jockey didn’t want to use that fuel now, but that’s how Sofia got this elite level and so the jockey got out of the way and became a passenger. Into the turn Sofia had caught up to Gamine but her head was bobbing a lot, that’s a sign the horse is getting tired. Gamine turned it up and Sofia was back three lengths just like that. Out of the turn and CeCe who was at the back of the pack was now passing the tired Sofia and now at the heels of Gamine. Gamine had used up its last kick to shake off Sofia and now CeCe had the momentum and a perfectly timed kick by the jockey. CeCe won by three or four lengths at 4/1. We beat the chalk, the “know it alls” and that complete mess of a man laid several hundred on Gamine. Any more “expert” advise, jr? I said out loud.
I had studied for this day virtually all year, we caught every qualifying race in the United States and Canada. Other than the big names from England and Europe you just assume they’re good especially on the turf. My only two favorites I had circled as “No doubters” were the great Letruska and my personal favorite “Hot Rod Charlie”. Letruska a tough mare, she looks like she could have been descendants of horses used in world war 1. Powerful, big and mean. She wasn’t cute like Sofia, she was the mare who could beat the boys. She retired the Great Monomoy Girl earlier this year an almost undefeated multi-million dollar earning complete horse. Letruska put an end to that reign and, including this race, she’d already beaten the obvious threats with ease. Letruska was in our: Doubles, Pick 3’s, Pick 4’s and a pick 5 singled. The only “no doubter”.
If the English and Europeans were “unknowns” the Japanese were aliens. Reading the form it’s hard to gauge how competitive those huge races are over there, lots of entries but no idea how good or bad in relation to our stables. However, the Japanese are the biggest buyers of Kentucky blood after only the Sheiks of UAE and Saudi Arabia. Head Sheik of UAE is the owner of the mighty “Godolphin” stables. The film “The Black Stallion” is loosely based on the original horse Godolphin who came from the Arabian desert to England several lifetimes ago. Centuries later Arabian and Kentucky blood has spawned these new super speed beautiful creatures and the Japanese who were fantastic horsemen themselves have crop after crop. Yet to win a Breeders Cup race however.
We caught the winner of the next race at a juicy 7/1 my current pick 3,4 and 5 could pay hundreds for a mere $27. I needed Letruska she was my rock on a ticket of underdogs who came through and I felt like a goddammed genius.
The post parade came and went a sixteen-horse field with the usual suspects “She dares the devil” “Swiss Skydiver” and the unknown a Japanese horse at 66/1 “Loves only you” and the mighty, the mean the unbeatable “Letruska” at 6/5. The camera panned on Letruska and she gave a menacing warning out of the side of her eye and shook her head. The icy cold top jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. calmed her as she entered the gate like a champion boxer coming to the ring against a tomato can. The gates opened and were off, she broke bad, stuck in a pile of traffic. She moved by three or four horses without trying into a distant 5th place going into the first of a two-turn mile. Coming out of that turn she kept course but not in a competitive way, complacent. I knew there that she wasn’t going to win. The race developed but Letruska didn’t, something was wrong. Into the stretch I don’t remember what happened other than that unknown Japanese horse at 66/1 put a whopping on a deadly field. I watched the Japanese owners jump with absolute joy. The two-million-dollar purse was peanuts, the winning ticket at 66/1 were crumbs compared to what lays ahead for the lovely “Loves Only You”. She will be a broodmare breeding for the rest of her days fetching upwards of a million dollars per foul. Good for you baby I said in defeat, looking at my pick 3,4,5 tickets now garbage but only down $27.
My dad who never drinks had a few celebratory shots of vodka poured by more of our entourage, he hit it. $1800 on a $20 double and my wife who has become one keen bettor, outside the box, Asian style underdog chaser. I was proud.
The broadcast cut back to moron number one making another round of cocktails for extras in the studio with moron number two giving more betting “advice”. I was all set on the last few races and didn’t need any more time to handicap. I studied this creature making drinks who shouted when he spoke like American college guys do when they drink. Football fans, idiots. Quite irritating. I noticed Pincay was annoyed trying to explain this huge day to us racing folk while college boy poured drinks. Maybe Pincay wasn’t so bad. I wanted to know why this idiot got to be on TV breeder cup day and not us. What was his act? When he spoke, he said nothing at top volume with phony enthusiasm. What an absolute waste, was he scared to say anything because of the insatiable, psychotic cancel mob left? Those are the girls he probably chases and scores with. He probably starts sentences with “Being a white male I”… blah blah blah, sad. What a sad boring generation full of performative insincere gestures.
The last two races were huge. First the turf mile, English territory. The great Charles Appleby had three entries. Albahar being one I keyed with the other two connecting to the dirt mile next race with my beloved “Hot Rod Charlie” and favourite “Knicks Go”. The post parade is quite different with all the English horses in it. The only horses that an escort were the American trained ones. The escort horses for the English ones just walked out by themselves. They loaded the gate and “Albahar” got spooked like no other horse has been spooked. He stood on his hind legs bumped his head and tried to crawl out from under the gate, like any alley cat goes through a fence. The whole day was paused with panic, how were they going to get him out, was he ok? He’s a scratch now. It took ten minutes to get him out he was ok just pissed off and embarrassed. They scratched him and he was taken back to the stables. He just flew across the world for that. I was sick for him. Such a beautiful creature who was going to score for me. The race went on and the English horses won, easily.
The build up to the final and main event was over an hour. We were all half cut by then and wanted to see this race. They had little character pieces on various players in the field and all were well done. Particularly on George Arnold the half black cowboy from Louisiana who is extremely humble and a true southern gentleman. A small sign that there is hope for America. Then back to the night cap with the moron. Pincay Jr. gave him the favorite, again. The idiot cheered like he knew this horse, like it was his favorite college football team with fake performative behaviour (its his “culture” after all), again.
The field was stacked; however it was really a three-horse race. My favorite Hot Rod Charlie owned by five college kids who donate 45% of purse winnings to a charity for children with difficulties. The good guys, the good horse. He wasn’t the fastest, but he ran hard and he ran long with a late kick, my favourite kind. Then “Knicks Go” pretty much unbeaten with my favourite Jockey Joel Rosario aboard a must bet horse. Then “Medina Spirit”, owned by top sheik who’s rumoured to have had his own daughter killed when she fled the country and trained by Baffert to boot. Impossible horse to cheer for despite him being just that, a horse, and a beautiful one too.
The race was predictable and ended that way, Knicks Go/Medina Spirit/Charlie. I hit $300 on a $10 double from the English turf monsters to Knicks Go. Small profit however winning at The Breeders’ Cup is hard to do, period. The moron raised a glass to “Go Knicks” what an absolute clown.