My concern for the rider’s well-being was accompanied by the question of who would replace him on the now twice-jockey-jilted Palace Malice; the co-carrier of my schemes to conclude the day successfully with a late running three-year-old in the Classic.
The call eventually went to Rafael Bejarano, the goat of last year’s Classic for failing to get the favored Game On Dude off to a good start. Bejarano, however, proved the difference in Friday’s Dirt Mile when he gunned Goldencents from the extreme outside slip to win the race wire-to-wire.
It was no surprise, then that trainer Todd Pletcher plucked Bejarano from the sidelines to ride Palace Malice as the two had experienced success together with Overanalyze in the Arkansas Derby. But wouldn’t you love to know which other riders were under serious consideration? I would.
My only plays on Friday were in the races comprising the Pick Three starting with the Dirt Mile. My insufficient confidence in the winner’s ability to overcome his dreadful post position against Pletcher’s vaunted Verazzano led me to play trainer Bob Baffert’s win-and-you’re-in entrant, Fed Biz.
The foreshadowing may have already begun with this speed-favoring exhibition, not to mention Golden Ticket’s second place finish which undoubtedly alerted some to the strength of the Awesome Again as a Classic prep. Perhaps Verrazano’s loss foreshadowed the fates of Pletcher’s stablemates.
Saturday arrived and my wagering diet didn’t include the two downhill turf sprints preceding the Cup events. Nor did an undernourished Damascus field whet my betting appetite. Bypassing another non-Lasix event helped avoid the tragedy of a breakdown and a subsequent disqualification, but the stage had been set for my bankroll’s demise in the Filly and Mare Turf as three consecutive favorites produced an anemic $49.60 Pick Three. This failed to cover my losses in the accompanying vertical pools.
The Juvenile was not only another non-Lasix event but the race continued to bury New York shippers--as was the case for the Dirt Mile and Distaff--and which would continue to be the case for the remainder of Saturday’s card. The only exception was Juvenile Fillies, and that came via disqualification. Unfortunately, my success was reliant on New York shippers in the Sprint, Turf and Classic.
I can forgive myself for ignoring Magician in the Turf even though I know European trainers frequently win at much longer distances off mile preps, especially with good Racing Post figures. But I could kick myself for discounting Za Approval who turned back from a 9-furlong victory at 9 to repeat his second-place finish to Wise Dan at Woodbine. Ouch!
Still alive in the Pick Three, I lost the Sprint verticals beneath the winner when I zigged with Vosburgh participants over Phoenix prepsters instead of zagging in reverse. Ugh!
Now came the moment of truth. Alive in the Distaff-Classic Double and Pick Three with both primary selections, the scratch of Ron The Greek already altered my strategy for the upcoming Classic. Since I no longer had to use him to key a superfecta play, I could expand my coverage beneath my prime contenders. By embracing my mounting skepticism of Game On Dude, I could look for chaos in both the third and fourth slots, but doing so with both primaries might not be profitable.
With Bejarano’s unfamiliarity with Palace Malice gnawing away at me --as well as my fear of early speedsters-- I made my final adjustment. Unbeknownst to my friends who were watching all this on SKYPE, I decided to cancel previous superfectas and go with only Will Take Charge on top, using Palace Malice, Game On Dude, Mucho Macho Man, Fort Larned, and Flat out in the second slot, and ALL for third and fourth.
Live by the nose; die by the nose!
I thought all was lost when Will Take Charge went extremely wide on the last turn, but then his incredible surge at the end left my body and soul totally numb. Only the camera knew for sure. For a moment I thought I was a winner until someone said otherwise. Unlike the Travers, I wouldn’t win either way the photo went. This time, the nose of Will Take Charge wasn’t long enough and Mucho Macho Man made Gary Stevens’ comeback the equivalent of Babe Ruth’s home run call.
Here’s my story
It’s sad but true
About a horse that I thrice bet
He stole my heart and ran around
Every other horse but one in town
Last Gunfighter finished fifth as the longest shot at 46-1, beating Palace Malice, sixth at 8-1, who finished of the 13-1 Flat Out. So much for the Jockey Club Gold Cup’s recent hold on the Classic!
It was like the bad old days for New York prepsters. Next year, trainers are likely be take a cue from “Macho’s” trainer Kathy Ritvo and prep in California instead.
If you thought Super Saturday fields at Belmont were small this year …
Consider that Mucho Macho Man prepped in the $250,000 Awesome Again instead of the million dollar Gold Cup. Should California be granted a Breeders’ Cup monopoly, here’s something to consider:
Rather than reward “win and you’re in” one-shot wonders, perhaps it’s worth creating several divisional series with bonuses for multiple top four finishes that reward consistently high performances over the duration of a racing schedule, one that’s kind to both man and beast.
Why shouldn’t Super Saturday, say, close out the Belmont Fall meet with the final legs of several such series with opportunities to determine divisional championships as well? If Churchill Downs objects, perhaps they could offer divisional races that compliment, rather than compete with, those at Belmont. By creating a multi-venue exotic, both tracks can offer their on-track patrons and off-track players something special. That sounds like good business.
I seem to have survived the anxiety and excitement of Breeders’ Cup weekend. Passionate participation is what our sport is all about. After watching the replay a few more times, I think I finally understand the devotion of Classic fans enamored of another closer so magnificent in defeat.