Tom Jicha

Tom Jicha grew up in New York City and worked with John Pricci at the short-lived revival of the New York Daily Mirror. Tom moved to Miami in 1972 for a position in the sports department at the now defunct Miami News.

Tom became the TV critic in 1980 and moved to the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 1988. All the while he has kept his hand in sports, including horse racing. He has covered two Super Bowls, a World Series and the Breeders’ Cup at Gulfstream Park.

He's been the Sun Sentinel’s horse racing writer since 2007 as a staff member, and continues to this day as a free-lancer.

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Friday, November 01, 2013


Verrazano with my head but not my heart


Verrazano looms like one of the most certain winners of the two-day Breeders' Cup carnival. Unfortunately, it will be the last time he'll be seen on the racetrack. His owners have opted to send the potential star of the 2014 season to the breeding shed prematurely. Shame on them.

MIAMI, Nov. 1, 2013--A quick way to go broke is to allow emotions to influence gambling decisions. I keep reminding myself of this as the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile approaches. I plan to make Verrazano one of my key plays; straight, in exactas and in multiple race wagers.

The only hesitance came when it was announced the also brilliant Graydar was pointing for the Mile. When he was pulled out, my confidence in Verrazano soared.

Then I read that Verrazano’s owners plan to retire him after the race. As a fan as much as a bettor, this made me furious. Verrazano is only 3 years-old, in perfect health (he wouldn’t be running otherwise) and his career will have been exactly 10 months (Jan. 1-Nov. 1). He has been so dazzling in many of his victories, he could have been a major attraction next year, especially if he puts up a big win in the Mile.

There is absolutely no reason to ship him off to the breeding shed so soon, other than greed, and Verrazano’s owners, Michael Tabor and company, are already filthy rich. This is another reason to renew a call for my admittedly quixotic mission to have the Jockey Club and its overseas counterparts refuse to register any foal by a stallion younger than 5 at the time of conception.

All of this had part of me rooting for him to run up the track to diminish, even if only slightly, his appeal at stud. Fortunately, my better judgment rationalized that he is still one of the most likely winners of the two-day Breeders’ Cup carnival. Whether or not I root for him isn’t going to have any impact and I would be even angrier if my emotions induced me to let a horse I have a big opinion on get away.

The most inane analysis I have heard in the run-up to the Breeders’ Cup is that Verrazano doesn’t show up on the big days. This is based on miserable performances in the Kentucky Derby and Travers. Those two races have something in common far more germane than being contested on the biggest day at their respective tracks? Both were a mile and a quarter.

Verrazano’s ability to handle 10 furlongs has been in question since he won his first two starts by 24 lengths. Sometimes horses more suited for a mile can get a mile and a quarter under the right circumstances. Verrazano apparently isn’t one of those. However he’s demonstratively unbeatable up to nine furlongs.

Verrazano will be facing older opponents for the first time but no real stars. The biggest threat is another 3-year-old, Goldencents. But Goldencents drew the 12 hole, even worse than Verrazano in No. 10 given the exceedingly short run to the first turn. However, I'm counting on Verrazano to have sufficient speed to avoid being pushed into the parking lot.

Moreover, I need a single somewhere on Friday. My betting preference is Pick Threes and the races sandwiching the Mile, the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Juvenile Turf, are impossible to narrow down.
I’m going to take the lazy way out and use the three Euros—Al Thakhira, Chriselliam and Vorda—with former Euros, who are perfect in the U.S.—Testa Rossi and Clenor—in the Fillies Turf.

Clenor exemplifies the superiority of Euros on grass. Clenor was an 0-for-3 maiden overseas. In the U.S., she is 3-for-3, two of them stakes.

I’m using similar strategy in the Juvenile Turf but including Bobby’s Kitten from the home team along with Euros Giovanni Boldini, Outstrip, Shamshon and Wilshire Boulevard.

I’d like to sharpshoot the Euros down to one or two per race but painful history has taught that when one of the invaders wins a Breeders’ Cup race, it’s often not the most heavily bet.

Emotion is going to be a factor in the Distaff but along with tested handicapping principles. Princess of Sylmar has been the best female in America since May. She proved that with the ease with which she ran past perfect-tripping, two-time Eclipse winner Royal Delta in the Beldame. If I save in horizontal bets, it will be with the home town favorite Beholder.

As if the Breeders’ Cup isn’t tough enough to figure, post positions have complicated several races. Artemis Agrotera got a big boost drawing the rail in the Juvenile Fillies while She’s a Tiger had a stake driven through her chances when she pulled No. 10.

I don’t want to be provincial but Calder standout Scandalous Act could be a big-ticket maker. She’s been devastating in South Florida. The ease with which she swept through the Stallion Stakes is reminiscent of Awesome Feather, who came out of that series to win this race.

Dank doesn't need any help off her crushing Beverly D triumph but she got it when she drew the rail in the Filly & Mare Turf. Kitten’s Dumpling, a winner of four of her last five, will be up against it breaking from No. 10 in a race that starts on a turn.

Why isn’t anyone talking about Laughing? She’s 4-for-4 this year. The horse she beat last time, Tannery, came back to win the E.P. Taylor. Her immediate victim two back, Pianist, rebounded to win the Athenia. Laughing’s beaten foes also include Stephanie’s Kitten and Dayathespa, both multiple stakes winners.

No race is as strongly influenced by the draw as the Juvenile. Havana and Strong Mandate, who might have been the first two choices in the wagering are buried outside in the 13 and 14, respectively.
I think I’m going to look elsewhere, maybe touted-over-the-moon Tap It Rich and “the other Baffert,” New Year’s Day.

Post isn’t as much a factor in the other races, although Justin Phillip didn’t get any favors drawing the rail in the Sprint and Mizdirection could hardly have drawn better, getting No. 12, in the Turf Sprint.

I’m against the defending Sprint champions, Groupie Doll and Trinniberg. Also, Little Mike in the Turf. Any of them win, I lose.

Euro filly The Fugue looks like the one to beat in the Turf but Big Blue Kitten also will be all over my tickets. Point of Entry will be one of the stories of the weekend if he can come back from a career-threatening injury and six-month layoff to win. He’ll have at least a small presence on my Pick 3 tickets.

I’m with Wise Dan, who has won his last nine on grass. If I save, it will be with Euros. Wise Dan’s last and only loss on the inner course? The 2011 Shadwell Turf Mile. Maybe it’s something about the race’s name.

Finally, I expect Game on Dude to win the Classic and Horse of the Year on his home track.



Written by Tom Jicha

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