10/23/2013 11:42AM

Dick Jerardi: Breeders' Cup pick six wisdom in past failures


I don’t know if George Santayana ever went to a racetrack, but he would have understood the Breeders’ Cup that began 32 years after his death.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” the Spanish-American philosopher reminded us.

He also understood what the two-day betting extravaganza feels like when the last race ends and all resolve drains from betting bodies everywhere.

“Only the dead have seen the end of war,” he said.

Who could argue with that?

Before hunkering down in my soundproof video room over the next few days, I decided to revisit the past so I am not condemned to repeat the mistakes I have made so many times that I know I am making them when I make them.

This game, at its absolute essence, is taking betting lessons learned over time and determining which specific lesson applies to the race or races in question.

Doing the work to determine where horses fit in relation to the horses in the starting gate with them is tedious, but essential.

Far more important than that is determining how you are going bet your money. And, once I have gone through all the videos and read as much as possible about all the horses, I will spend almost all of my time in the final days formulating betting strategies.

There is no reward for picking winners. The only reward is winning money.

What I love about the track is that it is never ambiguous. You either have more money than you started with or you don’t. Everything else is just noise.

So, as I am watching all those videos and making notes on every horse I think is any kind of contender, I will be at least thinking about what kinds of bets might suit my opinions.

The Breeders’ Cup thankfully offers every chance for the imaginative gambler to turn a few dollars into many dollars or many dollars into all the money. It also offers every chance for perfectly good opinions to be ruined by perfectly awful betting strategy.

I do not have any idea where my money will be placed at this stage. I just know that it will be placed where my opinions best reflect an opportunity at an outsized score.

Let me rephrase. I do know where some of my money will go. I simply can’t resist the Breeders’ Cup pick six. It is my holy grail.

So, as I waited to test my eyesight over several days of staring at a computer screen filled with horses that offer clues, meaningful and irrelevant, I decided to look back at the pick six over the last 15 years.

I was especially interested in those years when there was just one winning ticket. Or none.

I am particularly interested in having the pick six in one of those years when there is one winning ticket – mine.

In 1999 at Gulfstream Park, there was one winning ticket. It was worth $3 million.

There were two winning favorites, along with a 7-2, a 7-1, a 30-1, and 19-1 Classic winner Cat Thief. There were no overwhelming favorites that lost.

Cat Thief was difficult. Anees in the Juvenile was more difficult. Putting them together on one ticket along with the other four winners was so difficult that there was just the one winning ticket.

In 2003 at Santa Anita, the one winning ticket was worth $2.6 million.

There was just one winning favorite. Cuvee, the biggest favorite on the card at 8-5 in the Juvenile, finished 12th. That exacta is a prescription for pick six mayhem.

The non-favored winners were 5-1, 22-1, 26-1, dead heat of 9-2 and 14-1, and Pleasantly Perfect at 14-1 in the Classic. Frankly, I am surprised there was even one winning ticket. That is one seriously hard pick six. Perhaps the live ticketholder liked the thoroughly likable Dick Mandella, who trained half the winners of the pick six and half the winners on the Breeders’ Cup card.

In 2005 at Belmont Park there were no tickets with all six. The key to that was how many heavily bet favorites did not win. There were three losing favorites at 6-5 or less, including Lost in the Fog, who was 3-5 in the Sprint. No way to survive that, especially with 15-1, 11-1, and 30-1 winners thrown into the mix.

I don’t remember much about my ticket other than I singled Saint Liam in the Classic. I told stable manager Mark Reid early that week that the horse was a cinch. But singles don’t help much if you have been dead for hours. Thankfully, they did offer a pick four ending with the Classic. I singled that, too, with far better results.

There were no winners in 2006 at Churchill Downs, either. The sequence started with a winning favorite, Ouija Board. That was it for the favorites as the next four races went to 15-1, 24-1, 13-1, and 10-1 shots. Hard to survive that.

There was a single winner ($1.8 million) in 2009 at Santa Anita.

Three favorites got beat: 2-1 Lookin At Lucky in the Juvenile, 7-5 Zensational in the Sprint, and 7-5 Mastercraftsman in the Dirt Mile. But three logical favorites – 7-5 Goldikova in the Mile, 4-5 Conduit in the Turf, and 5-2 Zenyatta in the Classic – won.

The other winners, on a weekend where artificial-surface form was king, were 25-1, 30-1, and 21-1, quite difficult, but obviously not impossible to the only person smart enough to solve it.

That was not me, but I know who it was.