Like most handicappers with a pulse, I look forward to the two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships for one reason — the opportunity to bet on horses whose odds in no way reflect their actual chances of winning. In other words, bombs away!
With that in mind, here are a few that strike my fancy on the Future Stars Friday card, caveat being they must start the morning line at double-digit odds.
Juvenile Turf Sprint
#5 Bulletin (10-1): He's only had one start but it was a sizzler at Gulfstream Park Sept. 29 in a stakes race as a maiden. Ran off by seven lengths and stopped the clock in 56.95 for five furlongs. The speed figures jump off the page from that effort. Of course, it was only one race but he picks up Javier Castellano for Todd Pletcher, and in the inaugural running of this speed-ball race, I'm siding with American-based horses instead of the Euros. I prefer inside posts in Churchill Downs turf sprints, and hole #5 is a plus combined with his speed to make him a bet at anything close to his 10-1 morning line odds.
#4 Stillwater Cove (20-1): In the first running of the Juvenile Turf Sprint, I cannot in good conscience leave out a bomb from trainer Wesley Ward. Beaten four lengths in the Natalma (see below), Stillwater Cove cuts back 2 1/2 furlongs after leading in the stretch of that race. Irad Ortiz Jr. returns to the irons after a convincing victory two-back. She's had a pair of starts since the failure at Royal Ascot; has shown she can sit and pounce; definitely a solid wager with a good post against the boys.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
#13 My Gal Betty (20-1): This is a turf race dominated by American trainers and in recent years by Chad Brown specifically. He has deserving and difficult-to-beat favorite #6 Newspaperofrecord (2-1). But we're hunting for longshots, at the very least who can blow up the exotics. I distinctly recall at the last Churchill Downs Breeders' Cup in 2011 picking a Roger Attfield-trained horse on this very website to win at 27-1 (Perfect Shirl in the Filly & Mare Turf), and she did. That remains Attfield's only BC winner, but I maintain he can still sneak up on you, and this 'Gal' is pretty good.
In the Natalma, she ran a strong second to La Pelosa, also in here, but My Gal Betty drifted out in the stretch and had to be losing lengths. She's drawn wide again, which could be her undoing, but getting a switch to Castellano may help boost the chances of a filly with only one loss in four starts.
#9 Varenka (20-1): She finished second to Newspaperofrecord last out in the Miss Grillo, well beaten. She had to steady on the backstretch a bit, although she maintained an inside trip throughout, so not much excuse for losing by 6 1/2 lengths. But she's been climbing up the speed figure scale and she gets a jockey switch — from John Velazquez to Jose Ortiz — not saying it's an upgrade but something different. With her closing style, she's hit the board in all three starts. At least a trifecta play at her odds, and trainer Graham Motion has been known to pay handsomely with turf fillies and mares from time to time.
#3 Vibrance (10-1): Although well-beaten by race favorite Bellafina in the Chandelier, this filly by Violence has paired up speed figures for successful trainer Mike McCarthy. Jockey switch to John Velazquez, second in Breeders' Cup earnings all time, doesn't hurt. She can rate, based on past performances; significant improvement isn't out of the question. Appears dangerous.
#8 Sippican Harbor (12-1): Two races back, she scorched the earth to break her maiden, winning by 17 lengths on the front end, then vaulted from way back to score in the Grade 1 Spinaway. Those conflicting efforts resulted in paired-up speed figures, usually a positive sign of a move forward. Irad Ortiz gets the mount for another plus. In a 10-horse field without longshots galore, she seems a slam dunk to consider.
#5 Line of Duty (IRE) (10-1): In contrast to other turf races we've mentioned, this one's been crushed by the Europeans. The difficulty this year is the lack of a dominant European contingent. Still, I offer up one to win this at double-digit odds and that's Line of Duty, trained by Charlie Appleby, who won this race in 2013 with Outstrip at 6-1 odds. Ridden by William Buick, a Breeders' Cup winner last year, Line of Duty hasn't finished farther back than a length behind in his 2-for-4 campaign, with a pair of victories in a row, the last one at Chantilly in France. As a son of Galileo, in a field devoid of Euro standouts, he seems a pretty good wager at 10-1.
#5 Well Defined (20-1): Based on the speed figures from various sources, you can't ignore this horse trained by Kathleen O'Connell, ridden by the Breeders' Cup winning machine that is Mike Smith. Yes, Well Defined has been competing in restricted races in Florida, but the Smith factor plus his talent and his price equals bomb potential, even if the logical contenders fire. Underneath at worst.
#4 Tight Ten (30-1): This guy has a victory and a second at Churchill Downs in a three-race career. That alone, plus his price, makes him a candidate for consideration, in the exotics at least. Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., he's a Tapit colt with potential. If he can take back a little, I'd watch out for him at these odds.
The Story of 'Paranoid Schizophrenic' Gate Dancer
By Natalie Voss
The stretch of the 1984 Breeders' Cup Classic is worth watching for the much-debated interference that went on between the top three finishers – but it's easy to get distracted by a late-driving bay colt who looks a lot like a rabbit.
I don't mean he was intended to run as a rabbit – that was left to Mugatea, who was supposed to control the pace for Slew o' Gold but lost an early speed battle to Wild Again. I mean he looks like he's wearing a rabbit costume.
Jack Van Berg's Gate Dancer was, by most accounts, a nutcase. He wore a bright white hood which combined blinkers with ear covers holding foam against his ears, seemingly shutting out as much of the outside world as possible. The son of Sovereign Dancer couldn't run in a straight line if his life depended on it, and it caused headaches for his connections.
He was disqualified in the Kentucky Derby from fourth to fifth for lugging in on a rival in the stretch. He ran with his neck and head nearly straight in the air at all times, giving himself a somewhat maniacal, anxious look. He was rumored to attack pigeons in the shedrow, trying to stomp them to death.
“Gate Dancer is a certified nut,” read a 1986 article by Jim Lassiter in The Oklahomian. “He bolts and jumps. Crowds scare him. Jockeys seem to annoy him. If he had two legs instead of four, he would have been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic long ago.”
A diagnosis of multiple personality disorder may have been more apt, since the colt's sideways wandering only seemed to be a problem in the afternoon and not the morning.
Van Berg tried to refocus the horse by adding the customized hood and making a rider switch from Eddie Delahoussaye to Angel Cordero, telling The Baltimore Sun in 1984 that, “They're both a little crazy.”
Cordero copped to being 'crazy' himself and said he wasn't rattled by Gate Dancer, telling the press that “A crazy horse is one that bolts outside, flips in the gate, or flips while he's running.”
When the colt started to draft in the stretch of the Preakness, Cordero was ready for him, swapping his stick into his left hand to push the horse back off the rail.
In the 1984 Classic, though, Gate Dancer's wandering became a challenge again. After hanging back for much of the first six furlongs, he rallied around the final turn with rider Laffit Pincay Jr., working up to early leader Wild Again. Slew O' Gold was already there, battling away. Gate Dancer engaged the other two on the outside, with Wild Again on the inside and Slew O' Gold in the middle. The distance between the three of them shrank, the closer they come to the wire, and at the finish, Cordero (then on Slew O' Gold) stands up and takes a tough hold, appearing to be squeezed hard.
Stewards took a look at all three horses in the stretch run, leaving anxious moments for Corder, Pincay, and Wild Again rider Pat Day. After a lengthy deliberation, the stewards disqualified Gate Dancer from second to third.
It was after the announcement Pat Day struck his legendary pose, arms outstretched and face turned upwards.
Tom Durkin joked at a recent Equestricon event that “To this day, no one knows whether he was saluting the stewards or the deity.”
Age took some of the mania off Gate Dancer, but not all of it. Halfway through his 5-year-old season, Van Berg told newspaper reporters the horse had calmed down some, but “still preferred his earmuffs and hood” for workouts.
By the end of his career, in spite of himself, Gate Dancer had won four Grade 1s and hit the board in nine more. He amassed over $2.5 million in earnings.
Gate Dancer retired to stud in Florida, standing his first season in 1987. He was euthanized due to complications of laminitis at the age of 17. His top successes at stud were graded stakes winner Smart Coupons and multiple graded stakes-placed Electrojet.
Bucchero Trainer Glyshaw: 'They Rely On You To Be Here Every Day'
By Chelsea Hackbarth
In my mind, one photograph in particular perfectly encapsulates the persona of trainer Tim Glyshaw. In it he's lying in the straw with one of his horses, each clearly content in the other's company, and Glyshaw's arm is casually tossed over the horse's back. The big bay appears totally at peace, but Glyshaw seems to have just caught sight of the camera lens and he looks almost shy, perhaps even embarrassed to have been glimpsed in such a private moment.
As open as Glyshaw has been to the media and racing fans during fan-favorite Bucchero's run up to the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, the former high school teacher is typically a very private person. Yes, he's well known for his jokes and sarcasm, but that's not who he really is.
Just watch him with his horses, and you'll start to understand.
Jeff Gomez, Glyshaw's barn foreman for the past 10 years, explained.
“He is a genuinely good guy to work for,” Gomez said. “I wouldn't want to work for anyone else back here… Tim really cares about the horses; he loves them. That's why I work here.”
Standing next to Bucchero's stall draped in the pomp and circumstance of the occasion, Glyshaw tries to reflect on the ups and downs of the past 12 months. He uses a cough to try to rid his voice of the poignant emotion, starts to say something, then changes his mind and starts again; it's been a rough year.
Riding high after saddling his first Grade 1 winner and subsequently his first two Breeders' Cup starters last fall, Glyshaw was completely gutted when his other stable star, Bullards Alley, fractured a hind leg at Keeneland in April.
Racing over the turf course, the gelding was bumped in the first turn and took a bad step. His jockey tried to pull him up as quickly as possible, but the damage was done. One misplaced foot, and it seemed like Glyshaw's whole world came crashing down.
The trainer distinctly remembers running toward Bullard, then the dry mouth and sinking stomach that came as he saw the extent of the gelding's injuries. Cradling his head in his arms, Glyshaw made the humane decision to euthanize Bullard. He stayed with his horse until the end.
“Losing Bullard was just devastating,” he said, then looked away. The weight of his emotion is barely contained inside those five words. It must be hard for Glyshaw to let go of the pain he felt that day; it's still so raw six months down the road.
Glyshaw doesn't want to focus on the negatives. His may be a small operation fighting what sometimes feels like a losing battle against the era of super-trainers and million-dollar yearlings, but there is always a reason to show up at the barn the next morning.
“It got tough,” he said, brushing an imaginary speck of lint off his coat and shifting his weight uncomfortably. Then Glyshaw looks up sharply, gaze sober and voice steady: “But these horses, they rely on you to be here every day.”
It dawns on me, suddenly obvious: through it all, Glyshaw's horses have also been there for him. That mutual dependence is what keeps him showing up at the barn each morning.
Now, facing down the Breeders' Cup with Bucchero, Glyshaw is both grateful and humbled by the opportunity to train the future stallion. Together, they rose from obscurity; they are no longer the underdogs.
A $43,000 2-year-old purchase, Bucchero's resume now includes a big fourth-place effort at Royal Ascot and back-to-back wins in the G2 Woodford Stakes. Glyshaw believes Bucchero has a legitimate chance in the Breeders' Cup: the blocky red horse puts his whole heart into every start, just like his trainer.
The Breeders' Cup is about the making of champions. Win or lose, the Glyshaw team is already there.
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