Sunday, November 4, 2012

Breeders' Cup Wrap and A Victory for Retired Racehorses

The Breeders’ Cup is a wrap for this year and I had one horrid weekend of handicapping but a VERY silver lining at the end of it all.

First the ugly: The stat line for the weekend was 15 races, 2 wins, 6 seconds and 3 thirds.  I was a hanger.  I couldn’t quite get there and close the deal.  You move half of those seconds into the win column and it’s a helluva weekend.  Instead it was a crapload of frustration.  AND, my two winners were the most obvious of the weekend: Groupie Doll and Shanghai Bobby.

The Horse of the Year debate will now rage, which should be fun.  Little Mike, Wise Dan, Groupie Doll, Royal Delta all will be a part of the conversation.  It is hard to argue, though, with Wise Dan’s 2012, but that’s an argument for another post.

The silver lining?  Well, the REAL winner this weekend was the Minnesota Retired Racehorse Project.  Thanks to Hello Race Fans and the Breeders’ Cup $2500 is going to be donated to them from the HRF/BC Fantasy Capping for Charity Challenge.  

Many celebrities, turf writers and, of course, me, made fantasy wagers for 13 weeks leading up to the Breeders’ Cup.  The wagers were either: $20 to win, place or show, or a $10 exacta box.  Ernie Munick jumped out to an early lead hitting the exacta on the very first race of the contest, the Whitney.  I finally hit the board in Week 4 in the Travers when I picked Alpha to place (41 points).  You may recall that was the dead heat race in which Alpha paid more to place than to win! Two weeks later I hit the board again (Super Derby) with Bourbon Courage for 50 points.  And I sat at 91 for the remainder of the season.  I did change a pick – or I thought I did – in one of the final weekends from a loser to a winner, but did not confirm the change.  I can’t even recall which race it was (PTSD, I think) and I ended up going from thinking I was in the top 5 to being mired in 11th heading into Breeders’ Cup weekend when all wins would be doubled.

In the interim, Ernie had hit more and was heading into the weekend still atop the leaderboard with 426.50 points, Team Rotondo was right on his heels with 369 with a nice series of wins.  The top 5 were rounded out by Bobby Flay (251), Chris Rossi (223) and Pete Denk (201).  I had good company with me in the middle of the standings, surrounded as I was between Mike Penna (98) and Melissa Nolan (76).

I knew I had to go exactas for the two BC Classics.  I was too far behind to do anything else.  My strategy in the Ladies Classic was go with who I thought was best and combine her with a higher odds horse that may complete a nicely priced exacta.  Royal Delta was the choice but I needed a longer shot to combine her with and with everyone else BUT Include Me Out wanting to be close to the lead, I went with her.

As I noted in my recap, “Joe Talamo had Include Me Out in good position but the one thing I was afraid of, that she just wasn’t as good as the top horses in there, panned out as she was outfinished for the second spot by the very classy My Miss Aurelia.”  I couldn’t fault the ride, she was perfectly positioned.  She just was not good enough and I was WAY behind the eight ball heading into the final race of the contest.  Upside? No one cashed on the Ladies Classic so the margins remained the same.
It all came down to the Classic.  I needed a big score and it needed to be the exacta play.  I wasn’t getting there otherwise.   

The Classic featured the deepest pool of contenders that I can remember which was good and bad.  For the contest it was pretty damn good because with the money being spread out there was a chance I could nail a boxcars payoff and not just stab at a 25-1 shot.  The bad is that it was going to be really tough to narrow it down.  I had to just throw out Game On Dude – no combination with him was going to get me there.  I threw out horses that I didn’t think really had a chance: Pool Play, Handsome Mike, Brilliant Speed and Nonios and then sized up the remainder.  I narrowed it down to three: Fort Larned, Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek.  Fort Larned was in – I really liked his consistency and after racing every 5 weeks or so, he went nearly eight between the Whitney and the Gold Cup.  With solid works after the Gold Cup and his usual 5 week spread, I really liked him a lot.

The remaining two, Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek seemed relatively even to me.  Ron’s Gold Cup was awful, but he had a really solid campaign up until that point.  One bad race perhaps?  MMM had been off since September 1 and that would have worried me except that he is a horse that has been running relatively fresh all year and  doing it very, very well.  The Greek or 3M – both had some appeal to me from a hunch perspective (for the uninformed: I’m Greek and I live in Minnesota, home to 3M – the company, not the horse).  Ultimately MMM’s ability to run well fresh and Minnesota won the day.

Heading into the far turn I wanted the race to stop right there.  Fort Larned had spurted to a 4 length lead and MMM was starting to clear some daylight behind him in the chase.  The way speed had been holding on the dirt all day I knew if I could get into the stretch one, two, it could be all over but the shouting – my shouting.  LOUDLY.  Up in the Canterbury press box where I watched day 2 unfold.  By the team the field straightened out it was only a question of which horse would win.  There was only about a $6 difference in the exacta payouts so it didn’t really matter but Fort Larned on top paid a bit more.

All that was left was the payoffs and who else wagered.  The payout was a whopping 1254 points (remember, BC races counted double!).  The only other scorer in the race was Chris Rossi who earned 132 points with MMM to place.  That was it…I WON!  Or rather, the MNRRP won.
The MNRRP is, in their words, “a volunteer based, 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation, placement, and promotion of retired racehorses.”  In only 3-years of existence, the MNRRP has helped retire over 100 racehorses that have grace Minnesota racetracks.  More could have been helped but horses need to be fed, housed, and cared for and all of this takes money – and space.  I hope that this $2500 contribution, along with Tabby Lane’s annual contribution of 1% of her earnings (this year $222) will help the efforts to retire more of Minnesota’s race horses with pride and dignity and get them started on second careers.  I also hope that this awareness causes you to help out – with the MNRRP or you own local race horse retirement group.  The demand for their services outstrips the supply.  Maybe you don’t have the cash, but own a farm where you can foster a few off track racehorses until they can be adopted; or donate feed; hay; vet services.  Anything can help.  If you’re a part of this game, you need to give back and I hope this helps.

Many thanks to Hello Race Fans and the Breeders’ Cup for this opportunity and, of course, to the folks at the MNRRP - and all horse retirement groups and individuals - for all that you do for our equine partners.

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