Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Breeders' Cup

And now time for one of my favorite sports, horse racing.

I'm usually not too excited about the Breeders' Cup because I'm more a fan of international horse racing and it seems to me that only in the Americas do they primarily race on dirt. That being said, the Classic looks to be an intriguing race this year with a bunch of smart 3 year olds from this year's Triple Crown season all contending. With regards to looking to make a bet however, I usually look to the Mile or the Turf.

The reason is simple. The turf horses in the US suck. It's not even close. I thought it was fascinating when I watched the US odds for US horses in the turf races on the Dubai World Cup card earlier in the year. Obviously most US punters don't know any better, but the result was pretty clear when all their favorite horses ended up at the rear of their respective fields. So while Ouija Board last year was a clear bet as the best horse in the filly and mare turf field by far, she ended up with good value on the US tote.

Whether that will be the case this year with Dylan Thomas in the BC Turf I'm not sure. I've heard starting quotes ranging from 7-5 to 4-5 at different books, and I can only imagine that the odds will get worse as we approach post time. Not only did Dylan Thomas win the L'Arc de Triomphe, but he has been a very consistent horse, going either first or second in his last 5 races. This is a true world class group 1 turf horse, while the US contenders (Red Rocks, Better Talk Now, English Channel, etc.) all seem to be within 2 lengths of each other and I'm not even sure any one of them could win a second tier group 1 race like the Baden Baden, let alone come close to an Arc winner.

The BC mile is more interesting because while the European horses still tend to be better than the US horses, they're not that much better. The best turf sprinter-milers in the world are in Australasia and I'm pretty sure the third or fourth best miler from either Hong Kong or Japan would be able to win this race. Japanese horses are probably some of the best in the world, but the prizemoney in Japan is so lucrative they rarely venture out to conquer the world. When they do, the results have tended to be good, but probably not as dominant as they should be. The reason is simple. Japanese jockeys absolutely suck. Not even close. Yutaka Take, who's been heralded as Japan's best jockey, is no better than perhaps the second or third best Hong Kong jockey (I think Eddie WM Lai is comparable). Japanese jockeys have no judge of pace, and just don't ride hard to the line down the stretch. For example, you can take a look at that abysmal ride he gave Deep Impact in last year's Arc, or any other clips of Japan's G1 races (I think there are links to video clips at which is a great source of up-to-date information about Japanese horseracing). My favorite Japanese jockey is actually Masayoshi Ebina, who rode El Condor Pasa some years back.

That being said, I'd still go with the two European horses, Excellent Art and Jeremy, and of the US bunch I like Trippi's Storm as a longshot pick. The horse has come a long way since losing a $32k maiden claimer race in January, but I love good horses who can race at middle distances coming back to a mile. In horse racing, if horses have similar accomplishments at different distances, the horses who are successful at the middle to classic distances tend to be better horses.

One last note since I rarely talk about horse racing. Back in April in the US telecast of the Dubai World Cup, there was one female reporter (I guess the horse racing version of the sideline reporter) who went up to Sheik Mohammed (ruler of Dubai) and asked him if he had any side bet with his brother on the outcome of the Dubai World Cup (they each owned the favorite and second favorite of the race). When the Sheik said no the reporter actually asked again, saying, "not even just a little?" You moron, muslims don't (or at least shouldn't) gamble. I know sideline reporters pretty much know nothing, but this was ridiculous.

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