<
>

Fill up on the Cup

Note: For free Breeders' Cup Handicapping Tools, including past performances, picks, analysis and more, click here.

Forget football bowls Super through Peach and Pistachio; the same for the World Series of baseball through poker.

Horse racing's Breeders' Cup day is the greatest wagering event of this and any other year.

Large sums of money are everywhere and are reasonably accessible. To get at it, you have to set aside a lot of what you know about horse race handicapping and come up with some lucky numbers. The Breeders' Cup day of racing is, in fact, something like a lottery with a manageable amount of numbers, some of which could be more alive than others. Playing a Breeders' Cup race in which you as the handicapper have a legitimate angle is like playing the number 3 in the next lottery with knowledge that somebody slipped three extra 3's in the ball-popping machine.

Some horse players look at Breeders' Cup day as a serious drunk might New Years Eve -- it's too hard, who needs it. But if you can find another wager where you can sort through but a dozen numbers and bet lunch money (at a nice place) and win thousands, drop me a note and let me know where that is.

Breeders' Cup payoffs can be so substantial, there's no way you figure a big winner to have a Racing Form; sometimes a program, sure, all the cute names.

Conventional horse race handicapping enables the skillful practitioner to simultaneously eliminate losers and project a winner or two. In a Breeders' Cup race, particularly one contested on the turf, it is not uncommon to complete hours of study on a single race and wind up with seven possible winners. The first time through a Breeders' Cup race, the practiced eye might eliminate but one horse, usually something lightly raced; then the second time through, the one you tried to throw out doesn't actually look that bad after all.

I am used to combing the small tracks figures until I find a single standout in a field of scarecrows.

Claiming-race angles, like easy leads, are hard to come by when everybody has a brain.

What do you do if you like six horses in a Breeders' Cup race?

Cross-bet with somebody -- maybe he or she will play the favorite. Cross-betting is where you find an individual with whom to bet one-against-one, each person picking a horse -- you gamble against somebody who hasn't seen as many Breeders' Cup races as you have.

Breeders' Cup Day, the impossible becomes routine. It's uncharted territory in terms of return on investment. It's like the Raiders scoring a touchdown. It's like an ex-wife calling to say she feels guilty about having hid some money right before the end, here's a check. It's a lawyer throwing in a morning's research on the house.

It's like what the preachers in the nice churches say: think abundance.

The psychology of gambling plays heavily into horse racing.

Conservative people are prone toward wagering in that manner. A nasty bookmaker might shave a point spread a particular way on a sports team bet, given a gambler's nature. Some horse players can't lay off favorites, which sounds like a depressing way to spend Breeders' Cup day; except for this story.

A man I know cannot get away from playing favorites. He has tried and says it makes him physically uncomfortable. He would rather play a doggy favorite and watch it run eighth than lay off the chalk and see it win by 11 and pay $6 even. So what he does Breeders' Cup day is plays every favorite with them all in Exactas. Horse players are a secretive odd lot. You think some guys sitting quietly by themselves day after day are playing by the book. What they're probably doing is wheeling favorites. I heard the story of this angle from the man's wife he hit a huge Breeders' Cup Exacta. If he's out a few hundred wheeling all the favorites, and hits two, chances are, given the competitive nature of the races, he takes home a profit.

Breeders' Cup, go figure; rather, go try to figure.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com