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Monday, October 13, 2008
Who, what, when, where and why

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

Here is most everything you need to know about the Breeders' Cup.

What remains to be determined is on whom to bet, how much to bet, when to bet, and why.

The following are excerpts and highlights from a speech I gave the day before yesterday. The title of this presentation, for track regulars and beginners alike, was, "Any questions?"

Question: What exactly is the Breeders' Cup?

Answer: A bunch of races.

Q: What kind of races?

A: Hard to pick races.

Q: Where?

A: Santa Anita, which is scenic and overlooks some mountains out by Pasadena.

Q: How important is scenery when you're down five hundred?

A: Very important. The spectacle of nature can remind you that could be more important things than money, long shot though that may be.

Q: When is the Breeders' Cup?

A: Friday and Saturday, the 24th and 25th of October, the female horses run the first day.

Q: Why two days?

A: To educate, entertain, and introduce the sport to newcomers.

Q: For real?

A: That, or to rake in more cash.

Q: Why are the Breeders' Cup races so difficult to predict?

A: In the first place, the horses are all too good for angles that work on lesser racers and jockeys. One important key in handicapping most races is in eliminating the horses that cannot win. In the Breeders' Cup races, about the best you can do in terms of throwing stuff out is to move a horse a couple of lengths behind another.

These races will be particularly difficult to handicap by conventional means because of the racing surfaces, grass and fake dirt. On the average grass race, a photo is only about 6:5 against.

Fake dirt tends to react like a Ouija Board and produce difference results upon each asking.

Q: What is fake dirt?

A: Synthetics comprised of rubberized stuff.

Q: Thank you for being so technical.

A: Welcome.

Q: What's the point of fake dirt?

A: Chiefly, the safety of horses. The premise is that fewer horses break down on fake dirt, that it handles water better, on one of the every 195 days in LA when it pours.

Q: Is it safer?

A: What am I, CSI Los Angeles?

Q: Could we please get our money back?

A: And miss the handicapping tips?

Q: What handicapping tips? How do you pick a winner on grass and fake dirt?

A: You select a winning running style that fits. Good night everybody, thanks for coming.

Q: Nobody is going anywhere.

A: Untested quality speed wins anywhere. Contested speed loses on anything. The key to fake dirt is going with horses that have had success on this surface before. Generally speaking, fake dirt tends to stop speed, giving late horses a chance they wouldn't have had elsewhere.

With grass, I like to box great speed, a great stalker, and a great closer.

Q: Are you being serious?

A: As serious as an ATM that charges $3 per shot.

Q: How much do you bet?

A: Two dollars.

Q: What is "value?"

A: Sucker talk.

Q: What is a "betting race" at the Breeders' Cup.

A: Each race.

Q: Do you bet favorites? A: That depends on the wine. The best bet is any of the exotic, or multiple-choice win bets. That way, you can play a favorite or two without breaking out in hives.

Q: How have you done at previous Breeders' Cups?

A: Last year during the Monsoon at Monmouth, I did fabulously with pre-race and blog picks during the action. I'll do picks early next week, and blogs during both Breeders' Cup race days.

There is this disclaimer. Fake dirt racing in this country originated at Remington Park in Oklahoma City in the nineties. It was like running on old tire remnants. As that material didn't seem to blend in too nicely with the living lung, it was eventually scraped up, with actual dirt put back. I couldn't pick a fake dirt winner then. And the more I study, the worse I pick them where the rubber meets the hoof, now. I am more comfortable looking for dogs than champs. Still and all, I love you guys, peace and happiness and luck to all.

Q: That it?

A: Yup.

Q: Yeah. Well. We'll see won't we.

(The session ends and the grumblers disperse.)

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.