by Danny Brewer, Sports Editor
Some of my loyal and not so loyal followers recognize one of the familiar utterances associated with me and Horseracingscoop.com . Both of them have heard me say “back a horse and get paid” on social media and in our produced videos. A trip to the 2020 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland shined a spotlight on that very slogan time and again.
Thoroughbred horse racing is one of the greatest things on earth. The “sport of kings” has so many positive attributes and the Breeders’ Cup is an event that magnifies such. The 2020 edition run at Keeneland on November 6 and 7 was all encompassing when it came to getting paid.
First and foremost we must clarify our payment process. Better than Venmo or PayPal, Thoroughbred racing provides a feeling of euphoric satisfaction. Always a happy place, Keeneland was full of smiles as 22 stakes races were run with 14 being Breeders’ Cup championship events. The competition was immense, so as a participant, being in was a big win in its own right. For those that had no real connection to an entrant, simply seeing this type of competitive display in an athletic arena was most certainly a mark in the left hand column.
Granted, a trip to the winner’s circle with a photo op is the ultimate goal, but as is the case always, time will lend perspective to the importance of just being in the starting gates at an event like this. Case in point for me was Serengeti Empress. Having displayed more heart than a Valentine’s Candy Store since first toeing the track, this fabulously fast female was making her final start of a glorious career. Trainer Tom Amoss wanted to send his Kentucky Oaks champion out a winner as re-payment for the many thrills she had provided his Louisiana-based stable. Fortunate enough to be a part of his posse (or Tomtourage), the pins and needles we were all on leading up to the event was warm and fuzzy…or maybe that was the champagne… Regardless, this was not just me being a casual press observer, it was more than that. A part of an inner circle, this Cup provided a new perspective.
As we expressed earlier, being able to compete at this level is a huge feather in any participant’s cap. Having played, coached, and covered many different sports since the 1970’s (whoa…that makes me sound like an old timer) I have run across those that could handle the pressure and respond with poise and class, and those who couldn’t. A few hours enjoying the company of team Amoss told me exactly why Serengeti Empress was running in the Breeders’ Cup. The Empress and her court represented the passion and dedication that defines success. After she ran a determined second to a track record setting Gamine in the Filly and Mare Sprint, the disappointment was understandable. As the final race of her career, there would be no “we’ll get’em next time”. Like a real winner, Amoss took it all in stride as he is bright enough to know he backed his horse and got paid with lasting memories, but nevertheless he is a competitor, and like lots of others he came to the Cup to win. In the future he and his team will understand they did.
Another that backed his horses and got paid was Brad Cox. In an ever-challenging world, this Louisville native has ducked into a phone booth on Central Avenue and has emerged as one of the super trainers in the game. Those closer to the sport have recognized his rise through the training ranks, but the 2020 Breeders’ Cup told the world he is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. After pulling the late double on Friday (Aunt Pearl in Fillies Juvenile Turf, Essential Quality in Juvenile), the man of steel flexed a different kind of training muscle on Saturday. In winning the Dirt Mile and the Distaff, Cox used a pair of resuscitated runners. Knicks Go was almost on the scrap heap before coming into the Brad Cox barn After 10 consecutive races without a win, the man who has won two of the past three Kentucky Oaks found the light switch. Beginning with two wins in two starts for Cox, this son of Paynter lead every step of the way in establishing a new track record (1:33.85) in the Dirt Mile. Kentucky Oaks heroine Monomoy Girl then rewarded her caring conditioner with a winning performance in the Distaff. Having missed all of 2019, this five-year old daughter of Tapizar completed a perfect four for four campaign with her second win in the Distaff. Others may have given up on these two, but Cox backed a pair and got paid.
The proverbial payouts were huge at the 2020 Breeders’ Cup, but so were the monetary ones. In the 22 races run on November 6 and 7 at Keeneland, over $160 million was wagered. The average payout on the 10 cent superfecta (a $2.40 wager picking the top 4 finishers) was a whopping $3107.87. Long shot winners like Fire at Will (30-1 Juvenile Turf), Order of Australia (73-1 Mile), Glass Slippers (10-1 Turf Sprint), and Whitmore (18-1 Sprint) were just some of the reasons for fat cash. Near misses by bombers like Hot Rod Charlie (94-1 Juvenile), Jesus’ Team (64-1 Dirt Mile) and Valiance (18-1 Distaff) were just some of the others that kicked the tickets up another notch. It is understood that any horse entering the starting gates can win on any day, but that is especially true at an event like this.
So to summarize, if you were lucky enough to be at the 2020 Breeders’ Cup, or any of the past Cups for that matter, you got paid in one form or another.