10/25/2008 11:33AM

BC Saturday Live


12:30 pm: Arise and wager! Just 40 minutes to post time for the first so-called Breeders' Cup race, though you wouldn't really know it if you're an in-home bettor. The ABC coverage doesn't start until 1 p.m. ET, 10 minutes to post time for the BC Marathon; my local ABC affiliate is running back-to-back episodes of "Power Rangers Jungle Fury" between noon and 1. The broadcast coverage runs from 1 to 3:30 ET on ABC before switching to ESPN from 3:30 to 7.

Your multirace deadlines:

1:50 pm ET: Early pick-4 on races 2-5

3:15 pm ET: Pick-6 on races 4-9

4:35 pm ET: Middle pick-4 on races 6-9

6:00 pm ET: Late pick-4 on races 8-11

The early scratches so far are Add Heat in the Marathon (race 1), Elusive Bluff in the Juvenile (5th), Mark S The Cooler in the Juvenile Turf(6th), Cost of Freedom in the Sprint (7th), and D. Double You,Victo's Cry and Young Joe from the Damascus (10th).

The only one of those I was using the pick-6 play was Cost of Freedom, so I need to go reconfigure those tickets and I'll post them shortly after phoning in the changes to the Albany Teletheatre where they're buying my $5k play for their customers today.

12:55 pm: Here's the matrix, which covers $4,992 of the allotted $5,000:

Here's how the tickets play out. Note that, to keep things relatively understandable for the telethteatre partners, on today's play the main ticket consists of ALL the A's and B's, accounting for $3k of the $5k play:

Ticket #1: 2,3,4/1,4,8,11,12/3,4,10,11,12/2,3,4,7/2,3,4,9,11/9

Ticket #2: 1,5,7,10,11/11,12/3,4,11/3,4/4,9,11/9

Ticket #3: 2,4/2,3,13/3,4,11/3,4/4,9,11/9

Ticket #4: 2,4/11,12/5,7,8/3,4/4,9,11/9

Ticket #5: 2,4/11,12/3,4,11/5,6,9/4,9,11/9

Ticket #6: 2,4/11,12/3,4,11/3,4/1,5,6,10/9

Ticket #7: 2,4/11,12/3,4,11/3,4/4,9,11/1,3,4,5,7,8

That adds up to $4992 ($3,000, $360, $216, $144, $216, $192, $864), so I spent the final $8 on a wacky five singles plus four more backups in the Classic:

Ticket #8: 4/11/3/3/4/2,10,11,12

I had to leave out exactly one horse in the Classic so as not to spend $5002. That would be some beat: Get home five singles and be alive to 11 of 12 in the Classic and get beat by Smooth Air.

I'm going to set up a Saturday-to-Saturday handle-comparison chart later on but I'll leave it at the bottom of this entire post so you don't have to keep scrolling past it to find updates as the day goes on.

1:05 pm: Not to start off on a grumpy note, but could we stop pretending the Breeders' Cup is a global championship "like the Olympics and the World Cup" that will settle "nine world titles" as the ABC telecast just claimed? The "world" that Curlin is facing stretches only as far as France in one direction and a single unaccomplished 3-year-old from Japan in the other. There are no other horses here from Asia, none from Australia, and the very best horse in Europe, Zarkava, was retired in perfect health rather than being sent here. It's a great event, a terrific day of racing and betting, but it ain't the Olympics.

1:30 pm: Muhannak, an Irish-bred Polytrack specialist who had never run in a graded stakes race, still hasn't run in a graded stakes race but was the winner of the inaugural $500k Breeders' Cup Marathon. Which world title did he just win?

Unlike us, the Europeans do not run important races on artifical tracks. They pioneered them not as a "safety" measure but to extend flat racing into the winter months, sort of like the inner-dirt track at Aqueduct. Muhannak is that kind of horse. He had won 6 of 14 career starts, including 4 of 7 starts over polytracks at Dundalk, Kempton, Lingfield and Wolverhampton.

Did the best horse win? That's debatable. Favored Sixties Icon, a St. Leger winner and legitimate graded stakes animal in Europe, really didn't get a fair chance, repeatedly blocked as a hole never opened for Dettori at the inside. And any race where the first six furlongs are run in 1:16.20 over a lightning-fast track may not have been "truly run." Despite the slow early fractions, this was a closer's delight, with the early 1-2-3 leaders coming home at the rear and the horses running 4-8-7-6 after a mile being 1-2-3-4 at the wire.

2:15 pm: This is one of the reasons I'm glad I'm a "public" handicapper for  only 17 races a year. How was I supposed to be rooting in the final yards of the inaugural BC Turf Sprint: for 6-1 Diabolical, who I "picked," or for 36-1 Desert Code, one of five others I "used" in the first leg of the early pick-4?

I expected chaos in this race, and that's what happened. My betting strategy was to throw out all the blazing early speed, given the 6 1/2-furlong distance of a race for mostly 5- and 5 1/2-furlong specialists over a quirky course, and I liked Diabolical because he's a seriously good horse in a field of otherwise uncertain quality. If I get blown out in this pick-4 (which goes 8,9,11/2,3,4/1,4,8,11,12 the rest of the way), I'll end up wishing Diabolical had held on, but for now I'll take a $75 mutuel in the first leg.

The Desert Code-Diabolical exacta came back $786.20 for $2, and the Muhannak-Desert Code daily double paid $1169.20 for $2. 

3:00 pm: Bet early and patiently if you're using the Internet: It just took me 23 minutes to put in the eight pick-6 tickets via NYRA Rewards, about 20 minutes longer than it would take on a Thursday afternoon.

So much for that early pick-4. I suppose one way to play the Dirt Mile was just to take all the horses coming out of the Goodwood, which would have included Albertus Maximus, but I saw no reason Well Armed shouldn't beat that group again so went with him and two longshot 3-year-olds. Got a brief flutter with My Pal Charlie, but only a brief one, and Albertus Maximus continued the pattern of success by closers with synthetic-track experience. Albertus Maximus completed an early pick-3 worth $10,522.20 for $2.

I'm switching from ABC to TVG for a while. I like the ABC/ESPN guys and am curious about how these races are being presented to a general audience, but between the lack of odds and payoffs, the constant trumpeting of the global importance of the event and the goofy camera angles during the race, I just can't use it as a horseplayer.

3:30 pm: How good is Goldikova? And how good is Zarkava, who beat her fair and square twice in Europe?

Goldikova looked like she was in trouble in upper stretch as she couldn't find a seam to run through but the moment a seam opened she shot through with a spectacular burst of speed. Kip DeVille ran his race and just as well as he did winning this race last year, and there's no disgrace in being second best to this filly.

The whole world's alive in the pick-6. Nice not to be deceased after one leg, as per Lahudood last year.

Not that I'm a place bettor, but $4.00 and $4.80 on Goldikova and Kip DeVille look pretty generous. Did someone plunge big elsewhere in the place pool?

4:15 pm: Bad result in the Juvenile for Champagne/Hopeful winner Vineyard Haven: Midshipman, Square Eddie and Street Hero were the only horses who could match his dual-G1 credentials for the 2-year-old title, which will now almost surely go to Juvenile winner Midshipman. Both colts will end the season 3-for-4 with two G1's, and the edge always goes to the BC winner.

Midshipman's winning time of 1:40.94 was just 0.05 faster than Stardom Bound's time in yesterday's BC Juvenile Fillies, but it's not yet clear whether today's main track is just as fast. Speaking of time, that 41.81 half-mile split posted above for the Turf Sprint is not a typo. That's what's in the official chart. Anyone ever seen a faster opening half-mile? And how about the six-furlong fraction of 1:05.32?

Both of this year's 2-year-old main-track races ended in 1-2-3 finishes by the only G1 winners in the field: Stardom Bound/Dream Empress/Sky Diva yesterday, Midshipman/Square Eddie/Street Hero today. And both times it was a California G1 winner beating a Keeneland G1 winner.

Two-for-two with an AA start in the pick-6 but there's a long way to go.

5:30 pm:  They almost retired Midnight Lute and what a pleasure that they didn't. Last year's BC Sprint winner, with just one dismal race under his belt since then, was as dominant on fast Pro-Ride as he was in the slop at Monmouth last year, circling the field again to become the first repeat winner of the race. As has been the case for almost every BC race -- and certainly so in all six of the "old" BC races so far -- the best horse won.

I've never started a BC Pick-6 AAAA. The live tickets boil down to a 9x1 and a 3x6:

1,2,3,4,5,6,9,10,11/9 or


6:30 pm: As if we needed any further prooof, have today's results driven home that the best grass horses race in Europe? They've swept the Mile, Juvenile Turf and now the Turf, running 1-2 in the JT and 1-2-4 in the Turf.

Win or lose, this is why I play main and backup tickets. The Albany crowd and I are alive to seven horses in the Classic, and I never could have spread that far with a one-ticket caveman play. I still am far from home, having left out the quintet of Casino Drive, Smooth Air, Fairbanks, Colonel John and Champs Elysees, and I'm sure I have plenty of company in the live-ticket department, but here are the willpays:

Ooops, can't find them anywhere. They're not on the NYRA site and I'm not going to hold my breath for ESPN to post them. So I have no idea whether or how to hedge.

The smallest pick-4's are $1196 to Curlin, $3821 to Go Between, $4233 to Duke of Marmalade and $5493 to Raven's Pass. 

7:30 pm: I know it would have paid a lot less than $55k, but I was rooting for Curlin around the turn. Alas, he clearly wasn't the same horse over a synthetic track. I'm taking nothing away from Raven's Pass and Henry the Navigator, but when Curlin gets nailed for third by Tiago, you know he didn't run his A race.

Horse of the Year? Let the debate begin. I outlined my case yesterday why I'd still prefer Curlin to Zenyatta even if he finished 9th today, and I haven't changed my mind in the last 24 hours. Will it be a grave injustice if it goes the other way? Not really, HOTY is a nebulous honor, and Zenyatta's a terrific racehorse in her own right. Still, I hope all the people who bullied Curlin's connections into running in a race his trainer never wanted to try will now refrain from punishing him for showing up.

I'm told there were 41 patrons at the Albany teletheatre who sliced up the (second) $55k ticket. To be in the pool, you had to wager over $2500 through Capitol OTB during September and October, and then show up today at the teletheatre and register.

It was an excellent two days of racing. And now it's time for a cocktail.

PS -- Don't forget: Mandatory pick-6 payout tomorrow on closing day at Belmont. And Shug McGaughey's got a first-timer in the 6th who's a half-sister to....Zenyatta!

PPS -- I'll do some more analysis in the days ahead, but here's that Saturday-to-Saturday comparison promised earlier. Bottom line: The commingled BC Saturday handle fell about 9 percent year over year, from $112 million at Monmouth last year to $102 million today. Both were 11-race cards, with 9 BC races this year and 8 (somewhat different) BC races last year. The $102 million total was down nearly 25 percent from the 10-race BC Saturday card at Churchill Downs in 2006.

PPPS: Was just doing the math on how many winning Pick-6 tickets there were and the numbers weren't coming out right and then I realized why: The Ultra Pick-6 attracted $2,882,343 -- $117,657 short of the $3 million guarantee. The makeup money enriched each of the 32 winning tickets by about $2200 after takeout and consos. The Ultra Pick Six drew $4.7 million at Churchill in 2006 and $3.2 million at Monmouth last year.