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Saturday, November 3, 2012
Home cooking at the Cup

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

Forget the Ryder Cup when our guys got tight collars in golf shirts and frittered away the trophy to the Europeans.

Grass horses running in the U.S. restored some national honor to the worldwide sporting arena, blowing the Euros off the grass at the 2012 Breeders' Cup. Talk about cocky: One of Europe's finest, Excelebration, raced two weeks ago at Ascot and then hopped a jet and graced SoCal with an also-ran performance that reeked of jet lag, temperature lag, accent lag and overconfidence lag.

Maybe the European grass-horse group should have stopped at Penn National to pick up a few wins.

The Breeders' Cup weekend worked this year the way it works every other year. The great ones like Wise Dan, Groupie Doll and Royal Delta win and pay a pittance. After the special horses win, that leaves a wide-open track for runners to finish first and pay $30. Thirty-dollar win payoffs are everywhere at the Breeders' Cup. Next time, a person couldn't go too wrong betting a buck on all the horses beyond the great ones going off at 14- or 15-1.

All the unexpected winners at big prices cause a Breeders' Cup stupor, where handicappers begin asking one another: Did that just happen? Difficulty in understanding why some horses win and pay $30-something evokes minor madness.

Horses like Little Mike, which have seldom if ever run anywhere but on the lead, mysteriously come off the pace to score huge wins. Some of the fat payoffs and wild happenings are so unexpected that even the race caller gets caught up in the unbelievable sights, in one instance announcing for the world to hear that Shanghai Bobby appeared to be on the verge of exhaustion bordering on collapse in the Juvenile when, in fact, Bobby was only fiddling around and checking out the size of the house once he had the lead. After being corrected, he dug in hard and won the race.

Horses that have never broken poorly in their lives, favorites usually, break like donkeys on Breeders' Cup weekend and finish in the middles of the pack.

Once past the great ones, they're all good, except for the Euros trying dirt for the first time.

A Breeders' Cup race without a great one and replete with good ones, the handicapper is up against it; play the 15-1 horses or you'll lose.

And, this year as in all years, the trendy pick gets touted all over the place and runs third. This time, the trendy pick was Flat Out in the Classic. All you have to do is bet the trendy pick to show and you'll be fine.