Hello, Champ

And so it ends: as the World Series ends baseball season, and as the Stanley Cup playoffs end hockey season, so does the Breeders’ Cup Championship end the Thoroughbred racing season. Fortunately for us, unlike those other sports, we get to keep watching horse-racing, even during the “off-season.”

The champ is crowned, and a worthy champ he is. Though I didn’t bet him to win, I did think he would (and therein lies all you need to know about why I don’t win money at the track), and I did think he deserved to. Congrats, Curlin—we hardly knew ye. Maybe over the winter someone will wave a magic wand and his connections will change their plan, and we’ll get to see him race next year. Can you imagine what a monster he’d be at four?

A quick recap of my wagering, with a little commentary thrown in. I watched the races from Aqueduct, which was surprisingly pleasant. My usual hangout, the Manhattan Terrace, was closed for a private party for the NYRA rewards big spenders, and Equestris, the restaurant, had a $40 buffet of which I wouldn’t partake, so my friend Pete and I retired to the Man O’War Room on the second floor of the clubhouse. Got there right about noon and had no trouble finding a table with easy access to betting machines, lots of screens, and the bar. What more could one want? OK, maybe fewer garbage cans to dodge; they were set up to catch the rain dripping through the ceiling. So much for the Big A makeover.

Juvenile Fillies: After watching yesterday’s track favor closers, I adjusted my handicapping accordingly, deciding that front-running speedster Indian Blessing would not fare well. Umm, wrong. She blew the field away, along with my bets on this race.

Juvenile: Adjusting my handicapping strategy for the second time, I stuck with my sentimental and handicapped pick, pace-setting War Pass. Nice to see Zito get a BC win; nice to see me cash a ticket. I also hit the exacta with Pyro; chalky, but as Pete said, “It counts.”

Filly and Mare Turf: I boxed Lahudood, Passage of Time, and Precious Kitten, also betting Lahudood to win. That was a nice ticket to cash, but my exacta ran first-third, and Precious Kitten ended up practically on the beach when Simply Perfect ran off around the turn, taking Precious Kitten with her. I don’t know whether Precious Kitten was good enough to win or get second here, but I’d certainly have liked to see her get a chance to try.

Sprint: I had no idea what to do here; found the race awfully difficult to handicap. Ended up going with Midnight Lute, Commentator, and Forefather. I looked at Idiot Proof and foolishly went off him (no jokes, please, about the Idiot Proof theme); what a race by Midnight Lute. He shot by everyone in the stretch to win impressively.

Breeders’ Cup Mile: Another race that perplexed me. I didn’t love anyone except Excellent Art, but as the favorite, there wasn’t any value there. I ended up in a crazy partial wheel bet with Cosmonaut, Nobiz Like Shobiz, and My Typhoon. Probably my most foolish wager of the day, as I had little confidence in three of the four horses. My brother really liked Kip Deville, but he didn’t share that with me until about 6 pm.

The Distaff: This race made me salivate. The opposite of the Sprint, I found so many horses I liked that I had a really hard time throwing any of them out. So I didn’t try: in my biggest bet of the day, I boxed an obscene number of horses. Unfortunately, one of them was not Hystericalady, so I swallowed hard, ripped up the ticket (metaphorically—I use a betting card and don’t get a ticket), and forged on. If only, if only Octave had gotten her gorgeous grey head up just a little further, I would have had an exacta that finished first-second, instead of first-third, again.

Turf: Another hard one. Didn’t want to bet Dylan Thomas at even money but didn’t want to bet against him, either. I completely overlooked Shamdinan, so this race was a wash for me. Bet Better Talk Now to win, but his late kick wasn’t enough today.

Classic: Bet Any Given Saturday to win instead of Curlin, and an exacta box with those two and Lawyer Ron. Threw out Hard Spun at my peril, and thus ended another day of many deposits and few withdrawals at a NYRA window.

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