Spur of the moments: Stories from Breeders' Cup racing history [Breeders' Cup]


'Jerry, good luck'

Breeders’ Cup bettors are well aware of the longest longshot ever to win a Breeders’ Cup race. That’s the French horse Arcangues, who wasn’t just a no-name steed to American handicappers but an obscure horse even in France. So it was quite a surprise when Arcangues won the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. And no one was more surprised than Arcangues’ jockey, Jerry Bailey.

Privman talked to Bailey later and recounts the rider’s tale in his book, The Breeders’ Cup, published in 2000 by Louisville’s Moonlight Press.

Bailey, who seven years after his retirement still leads all jockeys in money won, was without a mount for the $3 million Classic until just a few days before the race, when he was booked to ride Arcangues. By race day the rider still had never seen the horse, nor talked with its trainer, Andre Fabre. Before the race, Bailey went to the spot in the walking ring where he expected the No. 11 horse would be stopped to receive its rider.

“Some kid with the horse threw me up on him and started talking in French,” Bailey recalled. “I just nodded my head. I had no idea what he was saying. Now I know what the Spanish guys do when they come to this country and they don’t know any English.”

As Bailey steered Arcangues through the tunnel under the grandstand, he spotted trainer Fabre in the crowd. Fabre waved and cheerily called, “Jerry — good luck!”

That was the sum total of Bailey’s race instructions.

“I just figured, he’s a European horse; he’ll probably drop out of it and finish,” Bailey said. “Then I looked at the board and he was 99-1. I thought, I hope he doesn’t come jogging in an eighth of a mile behind.”

Privman notes that Arcangues had never raced on dirt, but had been bothered by a bad back and bad luck throughout his career. Fabre believed the level racing surfaces of American dirt courses would help the horse. Bailey knew none of that.

But the horse was talking to the rider.

“I warmed him up and he felt great, and from the time he broke out of the gate he was on the bridle (eager to run),” said Bailey. “As we turned up the backside, there was a horse in front of me, Ezzoud, who was going well, so I thought I would stay on the rail and follow him. When you’re on a longshot, nobody’s looking for you, so you can take more risks.”

Bailey and Arcangues began passing rivals on the turn for home, then accelerated between Ezzoud and favorite Bertrando — pulling away to win with authority. The horse had gone off at 133-1 and paid $269.20 to win.

“As the years have gone by, so many people have told me they bet on Arcangues,” Bailey says with a laugh. “If all those people bet him, he wouldn’t have paid $269."

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