Friday, November 02, 2012
Breeders’ Cup: Keeping It In Perspective
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, November 2, 2012—I wasn’t supposed to be at this dateline but you play the hand you’re dealt.
And, truthfully, I didn’t feel much like playing.
A quasi-political junkie in my spare time, the 2012 Presidential Election campaign has worn me out. That can happen if you’ve been immersed in it since 2010. Clearly, my bad.
My plan was to leave for SoCal from JFK. I live here, but Albany International doesn’t speak Jet Blue, hence the visit to Long Island.
But health issues intervened, and the new plan was to watch and wager on the Breeders’ Cup in South Florida; Calder on Friday, Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
That’s called being loyal and supporting the advertisers that support you and yours.
Enter Sandy, as cruel a storm as I’ve ever witnessed up close and personal, exacerbated by the fact that my oldest, Jennifer Lee, lives in Atlantic Highlands on the Jersey Shore.
It’s been nearly a half century—I must be having fun because it can’t be that long, can it?—since I listened to a transistor radio. But that’s what happens when the lights and the Internet go out. Power is still out for 9 of every 10 Islanders.
Who knows when it might return?
Thank God for keeping family, and extended family, safe. I arrived back here early Thursday morning, wiped out physically and mentally.
I managed to do one radio show out of two I was responsible for, got out the Equiform and Pick 4 products by phone, after my wife Toni read me the post positions, morning line odds, and jockey assignments over the phone.
The family that wagers together stays together.
Many thanks to the neighbors; George, Rosemary and Barbara Doran, siblings who had the prescience to install a gas generator many years ago for just such emergencies. It kept my cell phone and laptop alive and they showed an Italian what Gaelic spaghetti and meatballs taste like. The only thing better than the food was the company.
Obviously, even though they sit on the other side of the aisle from me, unlike their candidate, they believe in climate change. Not my words; Mayor Bloomberg’s.
I heard about the wind shear that ripped the façade clear off an apartment building somewhere below 39th Street; the devastation in Breezy Point; the carnage in Spring Lake, Barnegat, Seaside Heights, even inland, in Moonachie, New Jersey.
But after arriving in the Capital District, mercifully spared Sandy’s wrath, the video brought the thousands of radio words, well, home. “We’re safe, daddy, but Ocean Avenue is under three feet of sand. My town, it’s gone.”
I must have written this a million times on a blackboard: The Derby is my favorite race but the Breeders’ Cup is my favorite event. But yesterday, Breeders’ Cup Friday eve, I could not find motivation. The event seemed a lot farther than 3,000 miles away.
Anyway, the cupboard was bare, and I went shopping for necessities. I turned on Fox Sports 980--the button for which is on the HRI lead page if you care to stream in—and Jim Rome was talking Breeders’ Cup.
He was explaining to his “clones” why his attitude toward Thoroughbred racing changed, believing for so long that the game was a gambling vehicle, and gambling vehicle only.
But then he became friendly with Billy Koch, founder of the Little Redfeather Racing syndicate, and bought into shares of a few horses, enjoying few highs and many lows, but he stayed with it because of the aura of backstretch life.
Old schoolers may not care for Rome’s style, but he’s a brilliant communicator on radio. Despite those talents, he was having difficulty explaining why he now cares to much for the game.
So he played a tape of the interview he had earlier this week with celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who was introduced to Todd Pletcher and got into the game. Together, they won a Breeders’ Cup with a juvenile turf filly named More Than Real.
“Aside from the birth of my child,” Flay said in that interview, “it was the most exhilarating moment of my life.
“When [I think it was Pletcher—brackets mine] tapped me on the shoulder when the field reached the quarter pole and said ‘you’ve got horse,’ well…”
Rome and Flay are now kindred racing spirits, falling prey to what trainer Howie Tesher calls “the Manure Syndrome.” Once that smell reaches your brain…
The next thing Rome said was that he was humbled to have a horse good enough to race in the this year’s Breeders’ Cup.
The filly is called Mizdirection, a 20-1 chance that’s racing against males in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, down the hill at Santa Anita going 6-1/2 furlongs. Arguably, it’s the most interesting configuration for a horse race anywhere in this country.
Rome then explained to his mostly non-racing audience that his trainer, Mike Puype, is very good bringing horses back from a layoff. Mizdirection hasn’t raced since May 27.
Twice recently she has come off layups, winning off a February to April break and the time before, last fall, when she came off another layup to be beaten 3/4s of a length in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Raven Run.
“I can’t tell you to bet on her clones, she’s in very tough. But she’s training great and we wouldn’t run unless we thought we had a chance…It’s an honor to run in this race.
“I can’t wait for Saturday. I’m going to pound it. If we win, we’ll be celebrating for days.”
Well, Romey, here’s some A-B-C type information. The Equiform Energy Figures I’ve been using for close to a decade tell me she has more than a puncher’s chance.
Both of her lifetime best figures were earned on this course, at this unique, hybrid distance. She might not be as “fast” as some of her male rivals, but the course is a great equalizer. She’s getting a three-pound sex allowance.
My Equiform Breeders’ Cup partners, Cary Fotias, the author of these figures, and European maven Nick Mordin, well respected professional horseplayers, are taking a swing. So am I.
Thanks for getting a stormed-out, political and Thoroughbred racing junkie pumped up again for Breeders’ Cup. Tragedy makes for informed perspective but, like electricity, and life itself, we should never take our inner compass for granted.
* * *
We’ll be back throughout Breeders’ Cup Friday and Saturday programs with developing storylines and handicapping updates
Written by John Pricci