Answering the question, should Del Mar host another Breeders' Cup

Answering the question, should Del Mar host another Breeders' Cup

November 14, 2017 3:00 AM


In response to the high volume of upsets at the recent Breeders’ Cup, several readers of my Nov. 7 column asked me if Del Mar should host another BCup? Others asked if I believe there is anything wrong with the modern game?

Here are my answers to both questions:

Del Mar certainly is one of America’s most beautiful racetracks, located so elegantly close to the Pacific Ocean in a charming town down the coast from Los Angeles. But, the changes Del Mar made to its main dirt track and turf course a couple years ago, suggest if the BCup is to return to this track, management must review how both courses are currently set up and being groomed.

Among possible changes, there may be a need to adjust the banking on both turns on both tracks. This constructive thought is linked to the way so many good horses in good physical condition under-performed on both BCup days. Of equal import, there were hints of such performance declines during Del Mar’s 2017 summer race meet.

Interestingly, immediately after Breeders’ Cup weekend, Del Mar’s maintenance crew quickly made some adjustments with encouraging results, as several betting favorites did win. Yet, a pair of track biases also seemed to come into play.

On the main track, horses racing on or near the lead, proved to be much better bets than horses forced to come from deeper running positions. On the turf, stretch runners seemed to have a built-in edge. Should any reader want me to cite specific racing examples, please contact me directly through email (

As for the issues readers raised about the direction the modern game is heading – I have two inter-related responses.

One is aimed at horseplayers, who face way too many wagering choices on virtually every racing card in America. The other is linked to the way far too many tracks have opted for longer and longer racing seasons, which is having a detrimental impact on the ability of horses to complete full seasons.

As I see it, the extraordinary length of so many seasons at so many tracks, could turn out to be the single most important factor in the sudden loss of form by many horses at every class level. Early retirement also seems on the increase from samples I’ve examined.

While good trainers are more willing today to send whole stables from North to South and back again, others have been planning for the first time transcontinental trips to continue their lengthy seasons. Meanwhile, many of the same trainers have quietly reported negative incidents concerning the way some of their horses breathe differently, or fail to adapt smoothly to shifting weather issues and radically different track surfaces.

Of course, the increase in stakes opportunities and higher purses continue to compel so many owners and trainers to participate in longer seasons just to stay competitive. Yet, horseplayers have been feeling the impact of these longer seasons as “reliable form” continues to take some hits.

For just one example: today’s winning percentage for betting favorites has slipped a bit in recent years with no sign this slippage is going to be reversed anytime soon!

Going further, all of the above situations stemming from too much racing continue to make the art-science of handicapping more difficult. Equally troubling is so many racing officials seem blind to the negative impact their policies and overly complex wagering menus are having on potential new players.

This specifically relates to the emergence of a 10-cent Superfecta, plus three different 50-cent options offered several times each day – the Trifecta, Pick Three and Pick Four. Then of course we still have $1 Exactas on every race; plus several $2 Daily Doubles; the $2 Pick Six and traditional $2 Win, Place and Show betting.

Frankly, I must confess to sometimes having to go through a Pandora’s Box of decisions regarding which of so many wagering options will offer the most intelligent, balanced play. This even though I’ve enjoyed more than 40 successful years playing the game and wrote several books on how to deliver a profit through good handicapping and smart betting.

That said, the added complexities cited above unfortunately are leading newcomers to quickly abandon efforts to learn how to play this fascinating game. As such, racetrack execs are sure to face smaller crowds and eventual closings of some tracks currently running the year round.

On the positive side, so many betting choices can give a highly skilled player, a boatload of useful options to set up terrific wagering approaches. But again, racetrack executives do not seem to realize how the long seasons are hurting horses while so many complex wagering options are blocking new players from getting more involved. This is a great game, but racing executives from coast to coast need to wake up to realize what they are doing!