Cup history promises a big day for bettors High risk, high payoffs

California horses have decided edge on home soil

November 07, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Although favorites have won 35 of 91 Breeders' Cup races (a better-than-average 38.5 percent), no day in American racing offers handicappers a greater challenge with potentially greater rewards.

Consider the average win payoffs after 13 runnings of the seven Breeders' Cup races: Juvenile Fillies $14.40, Sprint $24.38, Distaff $11.87, Mile $18.29, Juvenile $8.78, Turf $29.83 and Classic $36.63.

And of the four Breeders' Cups held in California (Hollywood Park, 1984 and 1987; Santa Anita Park, 1986 and 1993), only five winners of the 28 races last competed in New York. Conversely, 12 winners last raced in California.

No winner of a Sprint, Juvenile or Classic in California entered the Breeders' Cup off a race in New York. Conversely, all four winners of the Juvenile ran their last race in California.

Trainers agree they have less success shipping horses from the East Coast to the West Coast than from West to East. But they're not sure why.

The weather may be a factor, they say. It's usually a lot hotter in California in the fall than in New York.

This year, temperatures soared above 100 degrees here last weekend. It has since cooled off. Temperatures early this week reached the 80s, yesterday the mid-70s, and today and tomorrow they're supposed to continue in the mid-70s. No rain is forecast.

It could also be the three-hour time change. It surely zaps humans.

"It'd be hard to believe that time zones and jet lag would be a factor, but it might be," said D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer with the most Breeders' Cup starts.

"After all, horses have physiology going for them just like we do."

One California trainer looking to knock off some of the hotshot easterners is Bob Baffert, trainer of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm.

Baffert is having an incredible year, especially with his 2-year-olds.

"I've never had 2-year-olds like this," Baffert said.

He's especially high on his pair in the Juvenile: Souvenir Copy and Johnbill. He said he believes that Johnbill may be his top Kentucky Derby prospect, but that Souvenir Copy may be his best Breeders' Cup runner.

They face Grand Slam, a three-time winner trained by Lukas, and Favorite Trick, the undefeated colt trained by Patrick Byrne. Favorite Trick has not lost in seven starts.

"He's a nice-looking colt, and his trainer has handled him just right," Baffert said of Favorite Trick. "But unless Favorite Trick is some horse from outer space, we could run one-two."

In the Juvenile Fillies, a trainer from Kentucky who believed he had a chance, but now believes he has none, is John Ward.

Ward's Beautiful Pleasure, a winner of two of three, drew the 14 hole in a 1 1/16-mile race with a short run to the first turn.

"If she can win from out there," Ward said, "she not only ought to be 2-year-old filly of the year, but she also ought to be Horse of the Year."

Pub Date: 11/07/97

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