My father and I got to the track (The Woodlands in Kansas City, KS) around 10 AM and sat at our customary table in the clubhouse. As with most people, I get a little discouraged when the track comes up wet for a race card I have handicapped, but not that day. I watched weather reports diligently in the days leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, so I had handicapped the day’s races for an off track. Nothing thrown at me that day could shake my confidence, so when the track was labeled muddy it was like water off a duck’s back.
The Juvenile Fillies kicked off the festivities, and I determined My Flag could turn the tables on Golden Attraction from their meeting in the Frizette Stakes a few weeks prior. Walking up to the betting window was a proud moment for me. Keep in mind I was a senior in high school, so I didn’t have a lot of betting capital, but the satisfaction of competing with all the other gamblers I had known for years was good enough for me. As the gates opened, My Flag took her spot near the back of the pack, she started making her customary late drive on the final turn, into the stretch My Flag moved up to 3rd and looked like she was not going to catch the leaders. It was about that time Jerry Bailey switched My Flag out into the middle of the track to pass Cara Rafaela and Golden Attraction in the final strides. My Flag only paid $9.00 to win, but anyone would’ve thought she paid $100 the way I strutted up to the window to cash my tickets.
The next race was the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and as usual was loaded with early speed, so I was looking for a closer. West Coasters are traditionally better sprinters than their East Coast counterparts. Lit de Justice was from the West Coast and a huge closer, so it was a perfect match for me. In addition, Lit de Justice was part of the mutual field with Desert Stormer and Owington, so I got 3 horses for the price of 1 Lit de Justice stormed down the middle of the track late, but fell a couple of lengths short finishing 3rd. During the excitement of cheering for Lit de Justice, I did not realize who won. Desert Stormer, one of my partners in the mutual pool, sped to the lead and did not look back. The $31.00 win payoff quickly eased my disappointment about Lit de Justice’s loss.
The Distaff was up next and the entry of Inside Information/Heavenly Prize proved too tough for the rest of the field. Inside Information splashed to a 13 ½ length victory and Heavenly Prize scooted up the rail late to finish second. The mid-point of the racing card was marked with the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Going into the race, Fastness was viewed as the best hope for the Americans, and was my top pick as well. Fastness ran a gallant race, losing a long, arduous stretch battle with the 3-year-old European filly, Ridgewood Pearl.
The Juvenile was next on the list and did not disappoint. Unbridled’s Song and Hennessy, both of whom have made a name for themselves as top-class sires, battled the length of the Belmont stretch with Unbridled’s Song prevailing by a neck. The victory installed Unbridled’s Song as the early favorite for the 1996 Kentucky Derby, while denying Donna Barton from becoming the first female jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race.
As a disciple of speed figures, I was thrilled to see Andy Beyer on the Belmont in-house television feed show a large win ticket ($5,000 I believe) on Northern Spur prior to the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The turf course was so soggy that the winner ran the final quarter mile in a pedestrian 28.10 seconds, but luckily that winner was Northern Spur. He held off a late surge from Freedom Cry, who was 2nd in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe just weeks earlier, and Mr. Beyer and I happily strolled to the cashiers’ window.
The day closed out with one of the most popular horses and performances in Breeders’ Cup history-Cigar. Looking to put an exclamation point on his already perfect (9 for 9) season, Cigar relished the off going and defeated his competition without a nervous moment. Though my bets on the Classic were losers (I didn’t have L’Carriere in my exacta), Cigar closed out a fantastic day. There have been days that I’ve had more financial successes than on October 28, 1995, but none will be more memorable. That day will never be forgotten, and in preparation for this year’s Breeders’ Cup I’ll watch replays of races from that memorable day to remind myself how great this game is.
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