Still jet-lagged. Still wishing I could recover the euros stolen from me by a Paris pickpocket. Still thinking I can win them back with bets on baseball teams with worse closers than a sprinter’s progeny.
This column has all the earmarks of a notebook.
Baffert goes to the bullpen. Joel Rosario got the call to replace jockey Mike Smith on McKinzie in next month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. For all the wide-eyed reaction that this decision caused, it did not put much of a ripple in futures betting, where McKinzie has been best priced at 3-1 or 4-1 off shore and in Europe for weeks. By the way, for those short on memory, Rosario and Baffert teamed for a Breeders’ Cup win last year with Game Winner. Smith has ridden a record 26 winners and Baffert has trained 15 in the Breeders’ Cup. They have only two together – the 2002 Juvenile with Vindication and the 2016 Classic with Arrogate. Smith has won with 19 different trainers; Baffert with eight different jockeys. The moral to this story? Sometimes the horse still matters.
Question – the mostest. “If only we had the technology.” I often say that whenever one of those stereotypical bar questions comes up that demands an answer and used to cause arguments. So here goes. Who is the trainer with whom Smith has most of his Breeders’ Cup victories? And who is the jockey who has ridden most of Baffert’s? Like the old newspaper days, the answer is below.
Omaha, Omaha. That looks like it could be the start of a new Nationwide commercial with Peyton Manning and Brad Paisley. And how about trainer Richard Mandella? After he won last Saturday’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, Omaha Beach made a case to be put in any of three Breeders’ Cup races – the Sprint, the Dirt Mile or the Classic. Mandella said he has not decided which race it will be, and he does not have to for another 2½ weeks. With that in mind, Omaha Beach is best priced in off-shore and overseas futures markets at 14-1 to win the Classic, 4-1 in the Dirt Mile and 5-1 to win the Sprint. The red welts seen on those numbers are from misplaced 10-foot poles.
Is she or isn’t she finished yet? Enable’s three-peat valedictory was ruined by Waldgeist in the last 10 strides of last Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Before that I firmly believed trainer John Gosden when he told me that it was unlikely that Enable would defend her 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf victory. Then when Juddmonte racing manager Lord Teddy Grimthorpe said after the race that he would not rule out one more race for Enable, I believed that, too. That is what happens when a planned victory party has to be canceled. Minds and plans change. But where would she go next? Rain and a quick turnaround would seem to eliminate next Saturday’s British Champion Stakes. Facing Japan and Magical all over again at troubled Santa Anita might not be worth the trip to the Breeders’ Cup. Ambition might lead late next month to the Japan Cup or in December to the Hong Kong Vase, which Flintshire won for Juddmonte five years ago. Or maybe – just maybe – Paris really was the end of Enable’s trail. My bet is on the latter.
Not so fast on Hong Kong. The NBA’s experience this week in China demonstrates how treacherous it is to get even a whiff of the freedom fight in Hong Kong. So foreign owners and trainers should take heed before committing to the Dec. 8 Hong Kong International Races. The same goes for media types who have annually accepted all-expenses-paid trips to cover the event. I have long been critical of journalists taking freebies from organizers to cover their events, especially if they do not reveal those arrangements in their reports. This is not to say that racing reporters and photographers have to cover the turmoil while they are in Hong Kong. But if they do not mention it, what message does that send? And if they do, what would happen if they dared to write or speak one word about it while having their tabs paid by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the biggest taxpayer in the colony? There is that old saying about some of the best bets being those that are not made. The same may apply to overseas junkets.
Go north for Grade 1s. Too bad Enable did not sneak into the Grade 1 Canadian International this weekend at Woodbine. Ziyad (1-1 on the morning line) has been flown in by the Wertheimer brothers and will be favored in the $601,550 race over 1½ miles of what figures to be wet turf Saturday at 5:42 p.m. EDT. The 4-year-old gelding deserves the chalk after winning the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville in France seven weeks ago. If the course favors speed, then he is the pick. If not – or if the turf goes really soft – then the lean is to 7-year-old gelding Desert Encounter (2-1), winner of three straight English Group 3s. ... Right before that race, Red Tea (3-1) is a tentative favorite in the 1¼-mile $451,160 Grade 1 E.P. Taylor turf stakes for fillies and mares. The softer the ground, though, the less I like her. And the more I like Imperial Charm (4-1), a 3-year-old that has held her own in tough French competition. In fact, 4-1 looks like an underlay, so I would anticipate longer odds for a filly that has won just once in eight starts. Secret Message (10-1) and Starship Jubilee (7-2) will fill out my verticals.
Answer – the mostest. Of Smith’s 26 Breeders’ Cup wins, four each have come with Shug McGaughey and Bill Mott. Of Baffert’s 15, four each were ridden by Martín García and the late Garrett Gómez.
The handicappers reunite. Before you get to the italics, let’s make a date for Wednesday, Oct. 30. That is when we post the Breeders’ Cup handicappers’ episode of the Ron Flatter Racing Pod. Vinny Magliulo, Patrick McQuiggan, Dave Tuley and I will be reunited with DraftKings Sportsbook’s Johnny Avello and, for the first time in this group, South Point race and sports book director Chris Andrews. We cannot guarantee winners. But we can guarantee that something will be said and advice will be given about all 14 races.
Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com. It appears more frequently during coverage of big races. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. With the Breeders’ Cup headed back to Santa Anita, the track’s star-crossed year is discussed on the RFRP. Mike Rogers, president of The Stronach Group racing division, talks about the ups and downs of this year. Also, comedian Steve Hytner discusses his career from “Seinfeld” to hosting a podcast on sports gambling. There is also a preview of the features on the Canadian International card and a comment about the dilemma for horsemen taking part in this year’s Hong Kong International Races. The RFRP is also available via Apple, Google and Stitcher and at VSiN.com/podcasts.