On Track with Johnny D: What Happened?

As painful as it sometimes is, after a day at the races it’s important for a horseplayer to compare predictions and wagers to results and payoffs. It’s an instructive exercise that identifies a player’s strengths and weaknesses—ultimately permitting the player to rely on the former and to improve on the latter. Below is a recap of what this writer predicted would happen in all 13 Breeders’ Cup races and a brief analysis of what actually happened.

Friday

6th Race – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

Prediction

  1. Significant Form 8-1
  2. Rushing Fall 7/2
  3. September 6-1

Longshot: 4. Madeline

Result

  1. Rushing Fall 3-1
  2. Best Performance 15-1
  3. September 5-1
  4. Significant Form 6-1

Analysis: My Breeders’ Cup weekend kicked off with a sobering reminder of how difficult these races are to handicap and to wager on. Top picks finished first and third. No good in the exacta. A horseplayer can be razor close without earning a cigar. In BC Juvenile Fillies comments in this space, yours truly noted several key points: Trainer Chad Brown owns this race and US-based runners (excluding ones from California) are live. Euro favorites historically don’t do well (Happily finished last!) in this race. Four runners were listed in the prediction and three of them finished in the top four—at solid prices, too. However, Best Performance, the stranger, upset my apple cart and wiped out most of my plays except for the first leg of my pick 4. Sheesh! Wonder if it’s going to be one of those days.

7th Race – Las Vegas Dirt Mile

Prediction

On your own in this one. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Seriously, lots can happen in here—historically, 8 of the last 10 winners of this race have come off losses! #3 Sharp Azteca, #2 Giant Expectations and #6 Mor Spirit should set things up for #8 Accelerate, but it’s a grab bag. Accelerate’s accomplished trainer John Sadler is an inexplicable 0-39 in Breeders’ Cup races and you have to wonder if Sharp Azteca trainer Navarro’s 40% magic can ship and win? Spread for safety.

Result

  1. Battle of Midway 14-1
  2. Sharp Azteca 3-1
  3. Awesome Slew 14-1

Analysis: As you can tell from the above prediction blurb I didn’t have a handle on this race. Earlier this year, Battle of Midway cost me winning the Kentucky Derby superfecta and now he blows up my Breeders’ Cup pick 4 wager! In hindsight, since I didn’t have a firm opinion I should have hit the ‘All’ button to stay alive. It was a costly mistake, as you will see later. Sometimes, when wagering on the races, it’s as important to know what you don’t know as it is what you think you do know! Got it?

8th Race – Juvenile Turf

Prediction

  1. Masar 9-2
  2. Mendelssohn 8-1
  3. James Garfield 6-1

Longshot: 4. Catholic Boy 12-1

Result

  1. Mendelssohn 5-1
  2. Untamed Domain 13-1
  3. Voting Control 9-1

Analysis: If only I had followed my own advice offered in the first sentence of my pre-race commentary and made a win wager in this race, “Race profile suggests going with a non-favored runner trained by Aiden O’Brien. That could be #1 Mendelssohn at 8-1.” The bay colt started as the 4.80-1 favorite (Masar was second choice at 5.10). Untamed Domain launched a powerful late, wide kick to finish second and Voting Control closed for third to edge Catholic Boy—both experienced traffic trouble in the race.

9th Race – Longines Distaff

Prediction

  1. Elate 3-1
  2. Forever Unbridled 4-1
  3. Abel Tasman 4-1

Longshot: 1. Champagne Room 15-1

Result

  1. Forever Unbridled 4-1
  2. Abel Tasman 5-1
  3. Paradise Woods 5-1

Analysis: The Distaff was the third race out of four where my second selection won at 3-1 or better. I know, ‘close’ only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades and, fortunately, in this case we’re not messing with the latter. Still, failing to go ‘ALL’ in the Dirt Mile–a race where I admittedly had little clue–cost me dearly. The .50 pick 4 paid a whopping $2,375.90!

Handicapping well and wagering poorly is a weakness I’ve tried to work on. The latter just doesn’t come naturally to me like it does to some players who aren’t quite as adept as picking winners, but know how to structure wagers to maximize profits. As the lament goes, ‘I can do everything…except make money!’

Friday’s mutuel results could have depressed me, but they didn’t. I’ve been around too long to hang my head after a bad day at the windows. Plus, this is Breeders’ Cup. And with nine more races of full, competitive fields…well, as they say, ‘It only takes one!’

Saturday

4th Race — 14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies

Prediction

  1. Heavenly Love 9-2
  2. Moonshine Memories 7-2
  3. Alluring Star 6-1

Longshot: Caledonia Road 15-1

Result

  1. Caledonia Road 17-1
  2. Alluring Star 8-1
  3. Blonde Bomber 30-1

Analysis: “…in 3 of the last 4 years this race has delivered titanic blasts in the form of double-digit odds winners. If that’s the case, look for possible bombs in the form of #12 Caldedonia Road at 15-1 or #10 Maya Malibu 20-1.” You can’t play ‘em all. I used Caledonia Road in my pick 5 play…but, by the time they ran the Juvenile Fillies that wager was as dead as Julius Caesar! The winner and runner-up Alluring Star combined for a $1 exacta payoff of nearly $200. Did I have it? Nope.

5th Race – Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Prediction

  1. Lady Aurelia 5-2
  2. Pure Sensation 10-1
  3. Richard’s Boy 10-1

Result

  1. Stormy Liberal 30-1
  2. Richard’s Boy 14-1
  3. Disco Partner 5-1

Analysis: Didn’t really have a ‘feel’ for this race. Still, my third choice Richard’s Boy just missed winning this heat at a big price. Lady Aurelia’s no-show was disappointing. Here’s where it sometimes helps to pay attention to what others think. If memory serves, XBTV.com stalwarts Richard Migliore and Zoey Cadman were not impressed by Lady Aurelia’s recent workout. Also, at Xpressbet.com Eddie O. mentioned Stormy Liberal as a potential play. When sharp folks like that talk, I usually listen. I acted on the advice by spreading instead of singling and added Stormy Liberal to the first leg of the pick 4—a juicy start!

6th Race – Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

Prediction

  1. Unique Bella 9-5
  2. Finley’sluckycharm 6-1
  3. Skye Diamonds 5-1

Longshot: 4. Finest City 12-1

Result

  1. Bar of Gold 67-1
  2. Ami’s Mesa 18-1
  3. Carina Mia 20-1

Analysis: Wow! Didn’t see that train coming. Missed this race completely and kissed my pick four ticket adios! What’s worse is that I watched the race alongside Hall of Fame jockey Sandy Hawley, a Canadian, as he rooted for fellow Woodbine resident Ami’s Mesa. Yours truly worked as Hawley’s agent for six years and we remain friends. Before the race he attempted to convince me that ‘Mesa had a shot but I dismissed it as hometown bias. Anyway, long story short, everything died in the sixth race—pick 4, ‘Mesa’s lead in the stretch and all that bread behind Unique Bella, who failed as the heavy favorite. Time to update the stats: Pacemakers (Unique Bella) now are 11: 0-1-1 and defending champs (Finest City)are 7: 1-2-0.

 

7th Race – Filly & Mare Turf

Prediction

BEST 9. Lady Eli 9-5

  1. Cambodia 8-1
  2. Avenge 8-1

Longshot: 2. Senga

Result

  1. Wuheida 11-1
  2. Rhododendron 6-1
  3. Cambodia 11-1

Analysis: I was totally perplexed by Lady Eli’s performance. She had never run so poorly. I considered her as one of the surest winners on Saturday’s card and had singled her in a decent-sized (for me) pick six wager. A while after the race, Daily Racing Form’s Dave Grening (@DRFGrening) tweeted a photo from the Chad Brown Racing Stable that showed a serious gash on Lady Eli’s leg. It probably occurred in the early going when she was bounced around between horses. Whenever it happened, it’s a clear, legitimate excuse for one of the game’s most consistent and wonderful fillies. She’s been remarkable and a pleasure to watch.

8th Race –TwinSpires.com Sprint

Prediction

  1. Drefong 5-2
  2. Imperial Hint 9-2
  3. Roy H 7-2

Price Play: 3. American Pastime 12-1

Result

  1. Roy H 5-1
  2. Imperial Hint 4-1
  3. Mind Your Biscuits 9-1

Analysis: Drefong continued the parade of disappointing BC-race favorites when he failed to show up for the BC Sprint. Imperial Hint did what he could to get there, but Roy H ran him down. While this wasn’t a huge upset, when BC favorites bite the dust exotics get juiced! The $1 pick three that concluded in this race paid $9,903.40 and the 50-cent pick four paid $289,005.40!

9th Race – Breeders’ Cup Mile

Prediction

BEST 5. World Approval 9-2

  1. Heart to Heart 6-1
  2. Zelzal 20-1

Price Play: 9. Home of the Brave 20-1

Result

  1. World Approval 3-1
  2. Lancaster Bomber 13-1
  3. Blackjackcat 19-1

Analysis: Nailed it! At least the winner of this race as a Best Bet. Made the co-largest win bet of my wagering career on World Approval. Previous high personal wager was on Orb to win the Kentucky Derby. This payoff put me up for the day and acted as a single on several late pick-four tickets. Loved the way World Approval came into this race off the Woodbine Mile score. He was much the best in the BC Mile. Besides the cash, it sure feels good to be right once in a while. Below is my Thursday Xpressbet On Track blog preview of the race (I was so correct you must read it again…please):

#1 Midnight Storm and #2 Heart to Heart figure to engage in an early pace battle that ought to set things up for a closer. From where we sit, #5 World Approval ought to get a perfect trip behind the pacesetters. He’s in a zone right now after winning the Fourstardave at Saratoga and the Woodbine Mile (a key BC Mile prep). A nice best of 32 five-furlong breeze at Churchill in a minute Oct. 13 helps. American-based runners have won 5 of last 6 and have accounted for 13 of the last 18 trifecta spots. Five of the last seven winners were age 5 or older. No winner in the last 20 editions has gone wire-to-wire and in that time winners have averaged 5 ½ lengths behind the leader at the halfway point. Mile races in California have gone to favorites in 5 of the last 8.”

10th Race –Sentient Jet Juvenile

Prediction

  1. Solomini 6-1
  2. Bolt d’Oro 9-5
  3. Good Magic 8-1

Results

  1. Good Magic 11-1
  2. Solomini 10-1
  3. Bolt d’Oro .70-1

Analysis: Ok. So I didn’t have them in the exact order. There they are in black and white…the first three across the line in the BC Juvenile. And the defeat of odds-on favorite Bolt d’Oro really wasn’t a surprise. Here’s what I wrote in the race preview: “#11 Bolt d’Oro ran too fast in winning the FrontRunner at Santa Anita by over seven lengths. Yes, a horse can run too fast. Will he run too fast again to win the Juvenile? He might, but at a short price from post 11 he’ll have to beat me. And he might. It won’t be the first time I’ve lost and probably won’t be the last. #2 Solomini is a decent choice to pull the upset…”

The $1 exacta paid $67.80 and the .50 trifecta paid $114.70. I was alive in the pick 4 so I didn’t play any verticals in the race. I wish I had. Perhaps that’s a weakness in my game: If I’m alive in horizontal wagers I don’t make many vertical plays. Wish I had in this race.

11th Race –Longines Turf

Prediction

  1. Ulysses 7-2 (SCRATCHED)
  2. Beach Patrol 4-1
  3. Talismanic 15-1

Price Play: 4. Decorated Knight

Result

1.Talismanic 14-1

  1. Beach Patrol 3-1
  2. Highland Reel 1.40-1

Analysis: With the scratch of Ulysses, this race turned into a bit of a grab bag. Thoro-Graph’s Jerry Brown offered solid handicapping advice in his annual Breeders’ Cup online seminar when he pointed out how Talismanic had improved since last year and that he was fast enough to win. That and comments from others put him on my radar. Beach Patrol was considered the best in the US. The Godolphin score juiced the pick four a bit, but greedily I again wish I had played vertically instead of sitting on my hands with a live pick 4 ticket.

12th Race – Breeders’ Cup Classic

Prediction

  1. West Coast
  2. Arrogate
  3. Gun Runner

Price Play: 9. Gunnevera 30-1

Result

  1. Gun Runner 5-2
  2. Collected 6-1
  3. West Coast 4-1

Analysis: Alive to four horses in the final leg I felt pretty confident of hitting the pick four multiple times. The Will Pays read: Arrogate ($1,063); Gun Runner ($1,257) West Coast ($1,734) and Collected ($2,480). When Collected moved to challenge Gun Runner I came out of my seat and began to cheer for my potential windfall. Of course, Gun Runner was too much to handle and repelled Collected’s charge to win. Before the race, I told a fellow Thoro-Graph subscriber to examine Gun Runner’s sheet. It was a thing of beauty! The improvement and development he’s displayed since age two is remarkable and a tribute to the horsemanship of trainer Steve Asmussen. Gun Runner is a worthy BC Classic and Horse of the Year winner.

As for Arrogate, it appears as if he never was able to recover from his victory in the Dubai World Cup—one of the greatest Thoroughbred performances this writer’s ever seen! He has been a pleasure to watch, particularly when jockey Mike Smith opened the engine. That massive grey stride gobbled ground like pellets in a game of Pac-Man. Don’t believe me? Just ask two of the fantastic runners he left in his wake in the stretch of mile and one-quarter races–California Chrome and Gun Runner. Unfortunately, Arrogate likely will go down in history as the best horse never to win Horse of the Year.

Overall, Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar was enjoyable. The racing was competitive and included upsets galore. The San Diego sun warmly embraced visitors—equine and human–and a gentle, cool Pacific breeze stroked hair. I’d eagerly return to this Bing Crosby conception for another Breeders’ Cup.

Race On!

On Track with Johnny D: What Happened?

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