It was a very cool, very breezy Saturday at Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup in November 2006. When I arrived at my outdoor, clubhouse-bend temporary bleacher seat, for which I had forked over a thin brick of cold hard cash, I was not pleased. No way, no how was I going freeze my ass off for several hours of racing — from left, freakin’ field.
Conferring with a sympathetic usher, as instructed I took an elevator to the top floor of the clubhouse, where I approached the tuxedoed host with hope in my heart — and a $20 bill in my palm.
“I have a single in a six-person box on the finish line for a C-note,” he informed me.
“Sold,” I quickly responded, forking over the 100 plus 20.
Upon arriving at the box, I was met by five guys from Chicago attired in black suits and ties, right out of The Goldfather. “Welcome, friend. I hope you know something about picking winners because our boss sent us down here with a boatload of cash and instructions to double it, capiche?”
After Mr. Ed failed to produce a single winner for these gentlemen in the first eight races, they were running low on cash as well as patience. “You do understand what happens if we don’t hit the big race, don’t you?” I swallowed hard, replying, “I got the horse right here, guys, but I gotta run to catch up with a friend.”
Informed in no uncertain terms that no one was leaving their seat before the last race was run, I sat down and mumbled, “His name is Invasor at 7 to 1. He’ll bury chalk-eater Bernardini in the stretch.” Then, I prayed.
After my prayer was answered — singing my praises as the greatest handicapper who ever lived while they filled a black satchel with C-notes and high-fives were exchanged all around, my five now-lifelong friends bought a bottle of champagne and we celebrated like it was 1999 (but, that’s another story of another day at the track).
So how was I so certain Invasor would win the Breeders’ Cup? The usher tipped me.
Hopefully we have a winner or two in our breakdowns of Friday’s five Breeders’ Cup races at Keeneland. Regardless, we’ll be back with breakdowns of Saturday’s nine BC races.
Keeneland Race 6 (3 p.m. ET/noon PT)
BC Juvenile Turf Sprint
Top selection #2 Love Reigns (4-1 morning line). Fourth-place finish at Ascot vs. tough field better than it looks. Bounce-back win at Spa impressive. Ward-Irad Ortiz duo makes it pour … Don’t overlook undefeated #11 Speed Boat Beach (6-1) as Prat climbs aboard son of BC Classic winner Bayern for Baffert … Import #12 The Platinum Queen (7-2) completes trifecta … Longshot: #9 Sharp Aza Tack (15-1). Precocious breeding.
Keeneland Race 7 (3:40 p.m. ET/12:40 p.m. PT)
BC Juvenile Fillies
Welcome to Chalk City. Very hard to separate the top three. I’ll take #7 Chop Chop (4-1 morning line) to Win for top trainer Cox, turf specialist Rosario and namesake Angel Cordero. A recipe for tasty salad … Second choice is very quick #10 Chocolate Gelato (7-2). Pletcher trains, Irad rides … Mark Casse sends out improving Grade 1-tested #5 Wonder Wheel (5-1) … Longshot: #14 Raging Sea (8-1) impeded in tough post.
Keeneland Race 8 (4:20 p.m. ET/1:20 p.m. PT)
BC Juvenile Fillies Turf
Looking for a price play? Try lucky #13 Xigera (8-1 morning line). Trainer Bauer returns filly to turf after bumpy ride on dirt in Grade 1 Alcibiades last month. Gal’s my Win pick … Place choice is #10 Meditate (4-1) for Britishers Aidan O’Brian and Ryan Moore. She’s never been out of money. What’s to think about? … Show time for #4 Free Look (5-1). Brown and Prat dynamite duo … Longshot: #3 Last Call (20-1) is Canadian deep closer.
Keeneland Race 9 (5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT)
Backstretch Special. Anytime a groom, a hot walker and a men’s room attendant tout the same horse, Mr. Ed listens. My pricy play is #5 Verifying (10-1 morning line). Cox and Rosario poised for big two days. Trust but verify … Place pick is is odds-on choice #3 Cave Rock (4-5) for Baffert. Never been headed. Box in Exactas … Show horse is #4 Forte (4-1) for Pletcher and Irad … Longshot: Despite outside post, Baffert’s #10 National Treasure (8-1) worth Exotics investment.
Keeneland Race 10 (5:40 p.m. ET/2:40 p.m. PT).
BC Juvenile Turf
My Win selection #8 I’m Very Busy (9-2 morning line) is a hard-charging colt for Brown and Prat. I’m counting on firm going to set up his exceptional closing kick … “Catman” confident his seasoned youngster #6 Andthewinneris (5-1) has winning way. I have him second … For third, improving #2 Packs a Wahlop (6-1) ships in from West Coast, retains crafty Mike Smith … Longshot: Having visited Omaha Beach this past summer, a very moved Mr. Ed just had to include #5 Battle of Normandy (20-1) in superfectas.