In praise of the Breeders’ Cup

By David Williams on |

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Breeders Cup
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Racing fans of a certain vintage and a certain degree of cynicism choose to turn their noses up at the Breeders’ Cup.

I’m fortunate enough to knock about with members of the press who – like me – are blessed in securing a salary while watching the sport we love. Among them, there are broadly two camps: those who love the Breeders’ Cup and those who dismiss it. It’s fairly easy to work out which journos fall into each camp: those who love it get to go to it and those who hate it tend to be confined to autumn in the UK.

It’s a silly and slightly puerile distinction and, despite never having been, I rather look forward to the North American jamboree. My fondest memories come from 2001 when I booked the TV Room at the Oxford Union and enjoyed Johannesburg and Fantastic Light strutting their stuff before having my heart broken by Tiznow as he held off Sakhee.

It was a wonderful night and although I can’t get excited by the Friday night of the meeting, this Saturday I’ll be tuned in with my metaphoric burger and soda to enjoy Found, Ulysses and Hit It A Bomb attempt to rediscover some of those lost fortunes in the past 15 years since I first fell in love.

Sure, I’ll be a bit envious of my colleagues who will be basking in the Californian sun, but if you can’t join them, there’s no point raging – especially when this was the meeting which launched all the end of season carnivals that we now enjoy so much.

Moore to come from Jonathan

At what point can we say that the National Hunt season is in full swing? It’s an easy one for me to answer, and it revolves around the passing of the Charlie Hall.

Last weekend’s renewal went to the relatively unfancied Irish Cavalier for Rebecca Curtis and jockey Jonathan Moore. I confess I am unlikely to win prizes if Moore came up as my specialist Mastermind subject, but a bit of digging has unearthed a terrific young talent.

Moore commutes from his native Co. Wexford to ride the Curtis horses as retained stable jockey before returning to change the nappies of his five-month old daughter Croia. As Moore conceded when he celebrated the biggest win of his career on Saturday, “I’ve won myself plenty of nappy money today.”

I suspect it won’t be the last big pot this likeable jockey collects this season; let’s hope for Croia’s sake that he remembers what the winnings are to be spent on.

Reilly wild celebrations

Overnight, we enjoyed a thrilling finish to the Melbourne Cup, with Almandin holding on under Kerrin McEvoy to keep the Cup in Australia, to the heartbreak of those punters who were on Heartbreak City.

The Galway Festival winner went to York in August and landed the prestigious Ebor Handicap before being targeted audaciously at the Race That Stops A Nation.

Those of us who were at York (and enjoyed the wild celebrations of the Here For The Craic Partnership who own the Tony Martin-trained horse) might have wondered for a moment if we’d be deprived similar scenes of jubilation as their horse went down narrowly to the winner.

We needn’t have been concerned. Take a look at YouTube to learn how to celebrate being a runner-up. Part owner Niall Reilly man-hugged the nearest TV interviewer in sight and vowed to party on through the night. It was as far removed from the normally rarefied celebrations of so many of our domestic Flat racing connections, and put a hole in the myth that Flat racing lacks the passion of the Jumps brigade.

It may be less obvious, less regular and less visible, but Mr Reilly and co proved to us all that it still burns brighter than the sun in parts of Ireland!

Crackpot betting

Thistlecrack won on debut over fences last week. His odds were a scarcely relevant 1/8 and he won as a 1/8 poke ought to win.

He is now the Gold Cup favourite across the board with odds as short as 4/1.

Let’s put this into perspective. In the last 50 years, 64% of the Gold Cup winners have returned – on the day – bigger than 4/1. So now we’re looking at the opportunity of backing a horse in the month of October ahead of a fearsome Festival race the following March at odds far shorter than most of the winners in our lifetime?

If that’s your kind of punting, the very best of luck to you and feel free to come and chuckle at my expense when Thistlecrack eases to victory up the hill next Spring at odds-on.

For now, I’d rather see what the likes of Don Cossack, Coneygree, Vautour and co have to say about things as we hurtle towards winter, and keep my betting powder dry until the ground deteriorates, the thick coat is unleashed and the winnings are in my account courtesy of my three Santa Anita fancies outlined above.
Good luck!

Top image: a past edition of the Breeders’ Cup, by Jean via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

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