As a topnotch jockey agent and former racing secretary at some of the biggest tracks in the country, Doug Bredar is adept at handicapping horse races. After all, it's his job to put Florent Geroux on as many winners possible this winter at the Fair Grounds and elsewhere for stakes races.
But the Louisville-based Bredar says that extensive experience analyzing horses and races doesn't necessarily bring an advantage at the NHC, which runs Friday through Sunday.
“There are times where I see something that maybe the general public or a horseplayer doesn't see, but it can be very subtle, and it might help you and might not,” Bredar said. “Just kind of streaks in the game. Sometimes when a certain rider isn't riding as well as in the past. Or you know a trainer that never wins turf races, and there's a race coming up where they have the favorite. But just as often as you see something, it might disappear just as quickly.
“I know that a guy who plays the races on a daily basis, obviously positively, has an advantage over me. Because I'm really trying to focus on the Fair Grounds. I certainly watch Gulfstream and Oaklawn, and if my rider rides somewhere else. But the horseplayer who is playing multiple racetracks on a daily basis has a huge advantage over me.”
Bredar finished third at Keeneland's $400 Spring Challenge to qualify for the NHC, in which he's played on three prior occasions. He acknowledges live-money tournaments play to his strengths more than the NHC's mythical $2 win and place wagers. His best NHC finish was last year, when he came in 191st.
“This is really out of my element,” he said. “If you look at my record in the past, it's atrocious. I've made attempts at trying to do things I know I'm not capable of doing, which is picking 20-1 'cappers.' No, I'll go into this NHC with a completely different mindset. I am going to try to pick winners— if I get laughed at by picking prices that are a little lower than the professional horseplayers who qualify for this thing do. I don't want to finish in the back of the pack again, (instead) where I can kind of be in the hunt to where if I do have to start picking long shots at least I've got a shot to make some ground up, instead of being bottom 10 percent. After Day One, if you're not in the hunt, you must pick long shots. So it's very challenging.
“You can't look at the leader board, because they'll be hitting bombers left and right. You just have to accept that's how they play. I don't play that way…. I have a better skill set and mentality to be able to crush a race (in a live-money competition) than to be able to find some obscure price horse that in a million years I might have included it in some sort of vertical or horizontal (multiple-horse) wager. But it wouldn't be the focus of my bet. I can survive in these contests, I just haven't really thrived.”
One thing that has taken a potential advantage away from Bredar in past NHC competitions is that, under contest rules, he cannot play any race in which Geroux rides. If Geroux, one of the country's top riders, is in one of the contest's mandatory races, NHC officials assign Bredar a different race (the same is true with owners and trainers). He also cannot use such a race as an optional, negating much of his insight into Fair Grounds racing.
But Bredar notes that Geroux rides only two races at the Fair Grounds on Friday, neither being a contest mandatory, and rides Saturday at Delta Downs, which is not one of the contest's tracks.
Of course, he still has his day job of trying to put Geroux on the best horses he can.
“My phone will start pinging at 3 in the morning, because that's when it starts going off in the East Coast or Central,” he said. “There are many days when entries haven't been drawn yet, and I'm looking at my condition book more than the third at Aqueduct or the second at Laurel.”
All the same, Bredar loves the NHC.
“It's a tremendous skill set,” Bredar said. “You have to be right on the mandatories, and you have to pick the right optional races. It's a lot of fun. It's very intense from the time the first race is run until the last race. You've got to be on your toes and must be able to spot any opportunity possible. Then the first day is over — and you've got to do it all together again. I go right back to the hotel and start studying again.
“But winning a tournament or being in the hunt is an incredible rush. It's more fun than you could ever imagine.”
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