I attended the 16th Breeders Cup back in 1999 and didn’t do too badly handicapping the eight races on the Nov. 6 card while wagering on several contests.
I had a couple of winners and three runners-up in races that appeared in my self-syndicated racing column published by several small daily newspapers in South Florida.
My best payoff came in the inaugural BC Filly & Mare Turf at 1 3/8 miles on a good grass course, when I paired the lukewarm 7-2 favorite Soaring Softly with 16-1 longshot Coretta, which broke from the outside 14th post.
Coretta pressed the pace and grabbed the lead in the stretch. The Irish-bred looked like the winner until Soaring Softly rocketed down the middle of the track and won by a length. Coretta finished second by a head. The exacta rewarded me with $84.40 while my win and place bet for $2 each returned $12.
However, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the BC Classic. My pick General Challenge, that I combined with the favored Behrens and River Keen in an exacta box, couldn’t have been more off base. The closest any finished was seventh.
All three horses that hit the board were longshots with the winning Cat Thief returning $41.20 on the front end. The exacta with 26 ½-1 Budroyale paid a whopping $1,209.60.
More amazing was Cat Thief hadn’t won in seven outings all year. I saw the 3-year-old run second and third in Gulfstream’s major Kentucky Derby preps, finishing second in the Fountain of Youth and third in the Florida Derby, both times behind Vicar.
I was also in Lexington when the son of Storm Cat was the runner-up to Menifee in the Blue Grass at Keeneland. Cat Thief was third at Louisville and second in the Haskell at Monmouth.
Cat Thief is the only Classic champion that failed to hit the board in the final prep for the BC main event – running seventh in the Travers. Of the past 26 Classics, 17 captured their final prep. Four each ran second and third.
The biggest upset in Classic history came in ’93 when French invader Arcangues, that never raced in the United States or on dirt, scored at Santa Anita and returned $269.20 after finishing third in his last prep. He was the only one of 91 horses that afternoon not racing on medication such as Butazolidin or Lasix.
Two winners ran third in the Goodwood at the California track before capturing the Classic next time out at different tracks.
Volponi scored at Arlington Park in ’02 by 6 ½ lengths, the largest margin of victory in 26 renewals, returning the second biggest payoff — $89.
Tiznow returned $21.40 in ’00 when he triumphed at Churchill Downs. By the way, Cat Thief was going for his second straight Classic victory, but finished seventh.
Meanwhile, Tiznow became the only repeat winner the following year, when he nosed out Sakhee at Belmont Park. That tied the smallest winning margin set by Ferdinand, when he edged Alysheba at Hollywood Park in ’87.
Zenyatta will attempt to post back-to-back Classic victories after becoming the first female to triumph last year at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old is aiming to retire a perfect 20 for 20.
She will train at Hollywood Park and ship the week of the race to Churchill Downs, which is hosting BC races for a record seventh year.