The Sam’s Town Horse Handicap Team is playing close to the vest in this Breeders’ Cup.
Gordon Jones, Patrick McQuiggan and Tony Vega believe they can bring home a winning Pick 6 or a classic super hit for the people who participate in their betting pools.
Therefore, they unusually keep many selections hidden and save them for customers who attend the biggest day of horse racing next Saturday.
The eight-race card will be held at Kentucky’s Churchill Downs.
The trio will not radio the eight-race BC undercard as they usually do and will not feature plays in the daily newspaper.
“We’re not giving away much of the store,” said Jones, a former lawn columnist for the late Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.
“We are being careful this year.”
Yet just like in poker, Jones is willing to show some of his hand, as in the $ 5 million Classic, America’s richest annual race.
Most people believe that Preakness and Travers Stakes winner Bernardini is the cream of the crop when he takes on older horses for the first time.
Bernardini, who is owned by the ruling Dubai family, is expected to go into the position as a big favorite.
It’s backed by Discreet Cat, also owned by Dubai royalty, who will go if, for one reason or another, Bernardini doesn’t.
Jones agrees with the public on this, but warns that a pair of European invaders “who might be up to the task” are flying.
“Bernardini is very strong,” observed Jones, citing the 2000 Classic, when Tiznow stepped on the Giant’s Causeway, as an excellent example of what Europeans can do.
“He’s a push horse and he’s on par (Beyer’s 117/118 rating) with previous El Clásico winners.
“He has already shown that he is the best of the American horses.
“Lava Man, the pride of the West, is less than five to six lengths.
“The other American horses don’t stand a chance, rain or shine … Brother Dereks and Attorney Rons.
“It’s a laugh that some of them, like (2005 Kentucky Derby champion) Giacomo, are even there.”
Jones believes that the 1 3 / 8ths mile Filly & Mare Turf, which is normally dismissed by the public as a bunch of fastidious who can’t qualify for the Distaff, could offer the best cast from top to bottom.
“I’ve gone through the list and it’s a decent group,” he said, clicking on the names of the Ouija Board, Wait A While and Gorella.
“They look way above the rest.”
Henny Hughes (2/1) has been heavily hyped in the Sprint and Jones has no problem with that.
However, he cautions that others are capable of winning.
“Henny Hughes was good as a 3-year-old,” Jones said.
“Dubai Escapade has a higher rating, however, and Bordanaro is another to look out for.”
Four Irish servants must fill the spot for the Turf and Jones mentions only the 5/2 favorite of Hurricane Run while conceding the race to “the Europeans.”
Fleet Indian in 2/1 was his only mention at Distaff; idem 4/1 Aragorn in the Mile.
The Juvenile, seen as a preview of future Run for the Roses hopefuls, and the Junior Fillies top the BC undercard, but are not in the Pick 6.
Jones is still studying the boys – “I don’t know if this year’s class is as good as the one we had last year” – but she likes to choose a 3/1 Dreaming of Anna among the 2-year-old girls.
Overall, Jones rates this year’s Breeders’ Cup as one of the best in the event’s history, dating back to 1984.
“There are some good handicap races and it should be a good weekend, if the weather cooperates,” he said.
“Churchill’s main course recovers quickly after a storm, but the grass field becomes soft and flexible.”
Jones is pleased that the event is returning to bluegrass country and says racing should follow the lead of professional soccer and schedule the Breeders’ Cup, where favorable fall conditions can be expected and hotels can accommodate a large influx of guests.
“Five breeders’ cups have been held at Churchill Downs and four of the biggest crowds have been at Churchill,” he said.
“The other biggest crowds have been in Santa Anita, Hollywood and Belmont.
“The television world thinks it’s smart to go to different tracks, but Lone Star (Texas) was the limit.
“They even took him to Toronto (Woodbine).
“The only thing I remember from the year I spent in Arlington is seeing people huddled in the stands, trying to protect themselves from the rain.
“The fans are lucky they didn’t play the Breeders’ Cup in Nome, Alaska.
“Championships must be held in championship conditions.
“Horse racing has done a dumb job of putting on a glamorous event.”