11/06/2009 2:36PM

BC Friday '09 Live


1:35 pm(ET): Happy Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Mostly Filly Championship Friday, or whatever we're calling it this year. Forty minutes until first post at Oak Tree, two hours until the first BC race.

Fast and firm and only five scratches so far on the card: Exuma and Singer Island in the 1st, Toro Bonito in the 2nd, and the two also-eligibles -- Dad's Crazy and In the Slips --in the 4th, the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf.

There are three pick-4's on today's card, on races 1-4, 5-8 and 6-9, and the all-BC pick-6 is on races 3-8. I'm planning to get involved in the pick-6, spreading early and narrowing late. If I can get a price or two home in the two 2-year-old filly races, I'll try to crawl home with a chalky 2x2x3 conclusion (Forever Together and Midday/Ventura and Informed Decision/Music Note, Careless Jewel, Rainbow View.)

I'm not thrilled with the pick-4 menu, since the early and late ones run through non-BC races; I would have preferred one pick-4 on the first four BC races (3-6) as well as the last four (5-8), but the BC didn't want to jeopardize the $500,000 guaranteed pick-6 handle by starting a pick-4 on the same race. The guarantee ought to be safe, since last year's BC Friday pick-6 handled $1,008,267 and concluded with a non-BC race.

We'll be looking at handle trends today and tomorrow but comparisons will be tricky because of the ever-shifting lineups. Last year, Friday's card had 10 races including five BC events; this year it's nine races, six of them BC's. Last year's 11-race Saturday card had nine BC races; this year's it's 10 races Saturday, eight of them BC's.

It looks like the public has figured out the proper favorite in the new Jockey Bet . With $27,945 in the pool as of 1:20 pm ET, the mutuel field has been bet from 8-1 ML to 9-5. Garrett Gomez is the current second choice at 9-2. If you're playing the bet, don't forget that it closes at post time for the Marathon.

2:30 pm: Is it an omen that the first race of BC Friday just went to a British horse switching from grass to synth? Deal Breaker ($13.40), a turf-sprinter overseas who was making his third U.S. start, slipped through at the inside in upper stretch and drew off for Mitchell/Bejarano in 1:42.47 off fractions of 23.72, 46.81, 1:11.25 and 1:36.05.

3:10 pm: The track is definitely quick. Miss McCall ($11.80) just wired the 2nd in 1:15.28 after setting fractions of 22.06, 44.76 and 1:08.75. A second-place finish by 87-1 Merrily, with the two favorites out of the frame, set up a $131,654 for $2 superfecta payoff.

They're already six minutres behind schedule. Post time for the Marathon is now 3:41 pm ET, back from 3:35. Time to make the pick-6 tickets. Mastery is currently the 7-5 favorite.

3:45 pm: Argggh. Picked and needed Cloudy's Knight at 7-1,but got nailed on the wire by Man of Iron, the half-brother to Rags to Riches and Jazil I tossed from my pick-6 play:


Back to the drawing-up-tickets board for the next pick-4.

The early pick-4 probables are paying well considering the first three winners were 5-1, 9-2 and 6-1. The $2 payoffs range from $3397 on favored Lillie Langtry to $24,675 on Elusive City.

4:05 pm: Here are the final odds for the Jockey Bet, which attracted a pool of $117,559:

4:25 pm: The grass is very quick too: Tapitsfly and Rose Catherine ran 2-1 all the way around in the Juvenile Fillies Turf with a mile in 1:34.25. (last year Maram won the race in 1:35.15.) It was an all-American finish with the two favored Europeans,3-2 Lillie Langtry and 6-1 Junia Pepzia, spinning their wheels and ending up 8th and 12th. The early pick-4 came back $6901 for $2.

5:05 pm: She Be Wild ($16.80) won the day's first "championship" race with any actual championship implications, winning the Juvenile Fillies to nailing down the 2-year-old filly Eclipse with a record of 4 for 5 and just a half-length defeat in the Alcibiades. I used the winner as a "B", leaving me alive 2x2x6 in the 5-8 pick-4:


5:30 pm: After Midday's victory in the F&M Turf, who's our champion turf female of 2009? Midday off a single American appearance? Magical Fantasy off her three Grade 1 victories before tanking here? Diamondrella or Dar Re Mi if they win against males tomorrow?

Midday ($6.60) and Forever Together were both 2-1 on the board but Forever Together was the actual favorite by about a $12k margin.

Midday's winning time of 1:59.14 was more than two full seconds faster than Forever Together's 2:01.58 a year ago.

5:45 pm: I couldn't agree more with the commenters complaining about the unconventional camera angles being used by ESPN. It's an insult to the core audience, the equivalent of showing a World Series game from a Gyro-Cam in left field, and the idea that it's going to create new fans is preposterous. Why not show the race live with the pan shot every regular fan wants, and save the artsy angles for replays?

6:15 pm: No question about the Eclipse for champion female sprinter: Informed Decision's second victory of the year over Ventura made her 2009 record 6-for-7 including three Grade 1's, her lone loss coming on a sloppy track she didn't handle in the Ballerina.

Safe to say that the turf is quicker but the Pro-Ride slower than a year ago. Last year Ventura won the F&M Sprint in 1:19.90, this year she fell just short in 1:21.66.

With 5 of today's 6 Cup races in the books, favorites are 0 for 5 and returning Cup-race winners (Muhannak, Maram, Ventura) are 0 for 3.

6:25 pm: The $2 pick-4 payoffs are healthy, ranging from $1167 on Music Note and $1222 on Music Note up to $5311 on Mushka and $10,734 on Lethal Heat.

No pick-6 carryover: Everyone's covered. It looks like there will be somewhere between one (Lethal Heat) and eight (Music Note) winning tickets, paying from $97k to $779k. If those will-pays are correct, there was a healthy jump in this year's BC Friday pick-6 handle, perhaps attributable to its being an all-BC sequence this year instead of ending with the Las Palmas as it did a year ago.

7:00 pm: Life Is Sweet's dominant Ladies' Classic victory both got her out of barnmate Zenyatta's shadow and locked up another older-filly Eclipse for Zenyatta: Even if she runs poorly in the Classic tomorrow, she beat Life Is Sweet three times this year.

The camera choices on the LC were particularly annoying. Going into the first turn, someone thought it would be fun to show the field as it appeared over the heads of spectators who took up the majority of the screen, reducing the horses to dots, then we went in for a long closeup of Robert Landry on Careless Jewel. When they finally pulled back from that shot, Careless Jewel was half a dozen lengths in front, apparently having spurted clear of the field. Yes, some of the new shots are interesting and the HD picture is gorgeous, but it's just impossible to sense the flow of these races when they're presented in a radically different way from every other day of the year.

The third-place finish of favored Music Note and last-place finish by second choice Careless Jewel completed a day of dismal performances by dirt horses. Earlier, horses who made their final pre-Cup start on dirt ran 7th and 8th in the Marathon, 9th and 11th in the Juvenile Fillies and 4th and 8th in the F&M Sprint.

The $4267 for $2 pick-four (BAAB) got me out for the day despite going 0-for-6 on top picks and 3-for-6 in the Pick-6 that returned $155k to five winners. I feel fortunate to have survived Day 1 with no bankroll damage and will be sending it back in and then some tomorrow, including a $6,000 pick-6 play that will get put in twice: I'll buy one on behalf of myself, and New York's six OTB companies will buy a duplicate of my tickets on behalf of 30 customers chosen at random who will share in any proceeds. 

11:30 pm: With one more Cup race but one fewer race overall, handle for the Friday BC card was up 1.2 % over last year, from $47.8 million to $48.4 million. The rearrangement of races, and especially ending multirace sequences with the Ladies' Classic instead of a non-Cup race, led to dramatic gains in the combined pick-4 and pick-6 handle, which was $1.4 million higher than a year ago. Here are the year-over-year comparisons:

The slight gain is somewhat heartening news in a year when almost every major race meeting has suffered sharp declines, but it doesn't really address the question of whether the Cup works better as a two-day, 14-race event than it did at one day and eight races.

Saturday handle has declined dramatically since the event was spread out over two days, from $136 million at Churchill Downs in 2006 to $102 million at Oak Tree last year. Looking only at intrarace handle, betting on 4 of the 5 Cup races for fillies declined from last year, and betting on the three filly races that were moved to Friday a year ago remain down drastically from when those events were run on Saturdays: In 2006 at Churchill Downs, Saturday intrarace betting on the Juvenile Fillies, F&M Turf and Ladies' Classic totalled $30.9 million. Today those same bets totalled only $16.9 million.