One record that will be set on Breeders’ Cup day a week from next Saturday at Churchill Downs is the number of odds-on betting choices that will go to the post in the 7 races worth $10 million.
This is not a happy prospect for small bettors, who usually shun heavy favorites in order to get some value for their money, and then hope that the public choices don’t run to form and are upset by horses with lesser credentials.
This is the fifth Breeders’ Cup, and the first that will be top-heavy with odds-on favorites, horses who will be bet down to less than even money (payoffs of $3.80 or less for a $2 win bet).
At least on the tote board, 5 Breeders’ Cup races will be dominated by these horses:
--Easy Goer in the Juvenile.
--A 5-horse Wayne Lukas-trained entry--Some Romance, One of a Klein, Wonders Delight, Open Mind and Lea Lucinda--in the Juvenile Fillies.
--Personal Ensign in the Distaff.
--Sunshine Forever in the Turf.
--Alysheba in the Classic.
This leaves just two Breeders’ Cup races with better betting opportunities. The Mile on the turf, despite the appearance of last year’s winner, Miesque, is usually a crowded, unpredictable affair with as many as 14 starters, and this year’s running will be no exception. And the Sprint, despite the presence of the undefeated Mining, is considered a tossup because of the presence of Olympic Prospect, the California standout, and Gulch, a superior runner at a mile or less. An unknown factor is Very Subtle, winner of the Sprint a year ago but a filly who has won only 1 race since then.
Of the first 28 Breeders’ Cup races, there have been 10 with odds-on favorites, but never more than 3 in a single year. Five of the odds-on picks have won.
The biggest disappointments have been Dancing Brave, the Arc de Triomphe winner who went off at 1-2 and ran fourth in the 1986 Turf at Santa Anita; and Groovy, who twice failed to win the Sprint under heavy backing, finishing fourth in 1986 and running second last year at Hollywood Park.
Sunshine Forever’s dramatic win Sunday at Laurel in the Budweiser International--the 3rd victory in a month and the 8th in 10 starts this year for the 3-year-old colt--established him as the latest odds-on Breeders’ Cup favorite.
Sunshine Forever has repeatedly beaten the best American and European horses to run in the United States, and he will not have to face horses that might have been trouble at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Mill Native, who won the Arlington Million as Sunshine Forever ran third, will run in the Mile instead of the Turf, and Equalize, who finished second in the race, is injured. Tony Bin and Mtoto, the 1-2 finishers in the Arc de Triomphe, aren’t running in the Breeders’ Cup.
The deadline is today for owners of Breeders’ Cup candidates to make a preliminary payment that will keep their horses eligible. The fee is $10,000 a horse for the 5 races worth $1 million, with the payment $20,000 for the $2-million Turf and $30,000 for the $3-million Classic. A like amount must be paid a week from Wednesday, when entries are taken for the Breeders’ Cup.
In the case of Cutlass Reality, however, it will cost his owners--Howard Crash and Jim Hankoff--$360,000 to run in the Classic, $120,000 of which is due today. When Crash and Hankoff bought Cutlass Reality late last year, he had not been nominated to the Breeders’ Cup as a yearling, a process that costs $500.
Cutlass Reality and Ferdinand, the respective winner and fifth-place finisher in the Goodwood Handicap Saturday at Santa Anita, are scheduled to be on a crowded plane taking 10 other horses East today, although it’s still not clear whether Ferdinand will try to win the Classic for the second straight year. Ferdinand was the even-money favorite last year, but he has been winless since then--the Goodwood being his sixth start--and would be a longshot this time.
If Ferdinand doesn’t run, he will be retired to stud at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky.
Other horses on the plane will be Music Merci and Maharesred, who are scheduled to run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile; Approved To Fly, a starter in the Juvenile Fillies; Lively One, a contender in the Classic; Goodbye Halo, who’ll run in the Distaff; Mill Native; and 4 horses who will go on from Kentucky to run in stakes in New York and New Jersey.
Precisionist is a horse headed to Kentucky after his third-place finish Saturday in the New York Racing Assn. Mile at Aqueduct.
Precisionist will be the first horse to run in 4 Breeders’ Cups. His owner, Fred Hooper, will decide today whether to name him for the Sprint or the Classic. Hooper might make Precisionist eligible for both races and make his decision at entry time next week.
Precisionist, who won the Sprint in 1986, was ridden by Tony Vega instead of Chris McCarron at Aqueduct because McCarron, though based in California, was honoring a jockeys’ strike in New York.
John Russell, Precisionist’s trainer, said he had no complaints about Saturday’s ride. Despite wearing rundown bandages on his rear legs, Precisionist didn’t appear to like the Aqueduct track and came out of the race with slightly burned heels.
Russell said that if Precisionist runs in the Classic, he might get Laffit Pincay or Gary Stevens to ride him. Stevens, though, is expected to keep the mount on Cutlass Reality. Pincay has apparently lost the mount on Forty Niner because that colt’s owner, Seth Hancock, is upset that Pincay, in sympathy with the New York strike, didn’t ride him Saturday at Aqueduct, where he won by a neck for substitute Billy Fox.
Russell said that McCarron would be welcome to ride Precisionist in the Sprint, which would be an unusual situation, because Russell obtained a court order against McCarron last week in New York, charging breach of contract with a threat of $500,000 in damages--the same amount as the purse for the NYRA Mile.
“The action was mine, not Mr. Hooper’s,” Russell said. “The main reason I took it was to try to get the Jockeys’ Guild to let McCarron ride, and to make sure he didn’t go to Maryland to ride Saturday, like some of the top New York jockeys did. The issue is over with and I won’t be pressing the action.”