This article appeared in the November 2010 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
The best trainers of Breeders' Cup contenters, Philadelphia Daily News columnist Dick Jerardi says, circle the Breeders’ Cup date on the calendar and then plan their top horses’ schedules backwards. Everything for the whole year planned to lead up to that day.
Racing writers enjoy far greater access to the prime players than reporters in other sports. The best scribes roam the stable area in the early a.m. and can judge what they see and hear. Occasionally, they are able to hand out a useful nugget to fans. And in 1990, Jerardi had a nugget made of gold.
“My biggest, most fun Breeders’ Cup pick? It’s not even close,” says Jerardi. “(Trainer) Michael Dickinson had told me Da Hoss could not lose the Breeders’ Cup Mile.”
And he didn’t. But it would take a leap of faith to believe. Da Hoss had won the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Woodbine, in Toronto, in 1996, but missed the entire year in 1997 with leg ailments and in 1998 had had just one minor prep race in Virginia to get ready for the Breeders’ Cup. One race in two years! But Dickinson was known to do wonders out at his Fair Hill Farm training track in the Maryland countryside, and Da Hoss’ groom spent countless hours rubbing and wrapping the horse’s sore legs to get him sound enough to run.
“The night before the race I was with Michael . . . out walking the turf course at Churchill Downs,” remembers Jerardi. “We walked it about five times around. In pitch-black darkness. Looking for the best spot on the course. And once he was convinced he had found it, he said, ‘All right, we’re ready to go.’ I bet a couple dollars. It turned out well.”
“I remember in the race the horse actually got passed in the lane, but came on again to win. Da Hoss never ran again.
“That,” says Jerardi, “was strictly belief in the trainer — because I’d seen it before.”
Which is why it pays to keep an eye on trainers like Andre Fabre, the fabled French master with four Breeders’ Cup triumphs. It was Fabre who brought over the thoroughly undistinguished Arcangues, put Jerry Bailey up and zipped home at 133-1.
Local racing fan Mac Unger cashed that one — and had tried to talk his friends into it, too. Before the Classic, Unger noted the the trainer’s named (pronounced “fob”) and warned, “You’ve gotta watch Fabre.”
Photo: Courtesy Breeders' Cup