Call me sentimental, but I have always rooted for the underdog. In the abstract, that trait is admirable, but as a horseplayer it sucks. I can’t tell you how many times I played a horse for completely foolish reasons, letting the heart overrule the mind. Thus, allow me to release these emotional yearnings here as a catharsis in advance of the Breeders’ Cup—hopefully, it will help save me from myself at the betting window.
In no particular order, my top five “feel-good” desired outcomes for this year’s races:
1. The Myung Kwon Cho Double
With all the high-priced horses and blue-blooded owners coveting BC titles, wouldn’t it be fantastic to see a guy who trains his own horses win not one but two races? With promising multiple G1-placed Dixieland Band filly Palacio de Amor in the G1 Juvenile Fillies and his G1 Norfolk-winning Street Cry colt Street Hero in the G1 Juvenile, Myung Kwon Cho could do just that—and I really hope he does.
2. The Foolish Pleasure Trifecta
Obviously my blog’s name is a dead giveaway for my childhood racehorse hero, so forgive me if I would be thrilled beyond belief if Palacio de Amor, Stardom Bound and Be Smart fleshed out the G1 Juvenile Fillies’ trifecta. All three share a rather unusual connection—they are descendents of my beloved Foolish Pleasure. His stud career tainted by his eternal association with the tragic breakdown of Ruffian, his bloodline appears less and less frequently, so it is fascinating to me that three top 2-year-old fillies this year are testaments to his achievements as a broodmare sire. Be Smart is out of the first-crop of Smarty Jones whose second dam is the Foolish Pleasure mare Don’t Worry Bout Me. On their damsides, Palacio de Amor’s third dam is Foolish Beauty, while Stardom Bound’s second dam Wind Chime was the produce of Foolish Pleasure’s grey son Marfa. (Okay, I know this is supposed to be a catharsis, but I must play this trifecta regardless).
3. BTN for the Turf WIN
Thought I was going to advocate the fourth Foolish Pleasure descendent running this year—Grand Couturier (through his second dam Radiant)—in the G1 Turf? Well, that may actually happen, but, no, in order to maximize the number of race fans sobbing their eyes out all across America, I want to see 9-year-old Better Talk Now win. Come on, even the most jaded of horseplayers can’t deny they would like to see the old warrior repeat his 2004 BC Turf victory with Ramon Dominguez up.
4. Chicks Exacta
Despite being banished to Friday, the filly and mare races look to be more competitive and potentially thrilling than Saturday’s card. But the “girls’ day out” should continue on into Saturday, so forgive me if I raucously celebrate when 3-year-old filly Fleeting Spirit and 4-year-old filly Only Answer take down the boys in the Turf Sprint, and when the extraordinary 3-year-old filly Goldikova and 5-year-old mare Precious Kitten crush the Turf Mile. Too bad Indian Blessing and Zaftig aren't entered in the G1 Sprint—those boys wouldn’t stand a chance.
5. Better Than Honour Strikes Again
Slowly, reluctantly, I have come to accept Curlin for what he is—a very accomplished dirt horse who happens to have a less-than-admirable trainer. Hence, forgive me Curlin fans, but my final “boohoo” (or more accurately, “yahoo!”) moment will be when that chestnut monster loses to yet another progeny of broodmare extraordinaire Better Than Honour, namely 2007 G1 Belmont victress Rags to Riches’ three-quarter brother Casino Drive, in the G1 Classic. The undefeated mystery horse, trained in the enigmatic (to Americans) Japanese method, with potential super-horse greatness ready to burst forth—sounds like every Walter Farley “Black Stallion” book I ever loved. Yes, Rags’ little brother battling Curlin, head-to-head, down the stretch and pulling away from him before the line…that’s definitely a double-ply Kleenex moment! Let the waterworks begins.