Breeders’ Cup Countdown Presented By DRF Bets: Saturday Longshots, ‘Old Days In Del Mar’

Our Friday picks found some success with Mendelssohn taking home the Juvenile Turf and Forever Unbridled scoring in the Distaff. Frankly, they didn’t end up being such longshots, so let’s see if we can keep rolling in our hunt for Breeders’ Cup bombs. There are some pretty tasty prices looming for Saturday’s card, if you’re willing to dig deep.

JUV FILLIES

Piedi Bianchi (15-1): This race has produced some big prices in the past, including last year’s winner Champagne Room at 33-1. Piedi Bianchi comes into this race with an almost identical resume to the 2016 Juvenile Fillies champion — four starts, broke maiden in second start, followed it up with okay performances in Grade 1 company, the Del Mar Debutante, then the Chandelier. In both races, Piedi Bianchi finished within three lengths of this year’s favorite, Moonshine Memories, including a half-length defeat at Del Mar. Moonshine Memories is 7-2. Piedi Bianchi is 15-1. I know which one I’ll be betting.

TURF SPRINT

Richard’s Boy (10-1): Likes the specialist distance of five furlongs (5 for 7 in the money) and racing at Del Mar (4 for 4 ITM). Got a good enough post (7), trainer Peter Miller excels at Del Mar, jockey Flavien Prat won four races on Friday’s card, so it all makes sense, with the not-so-insignificant caveat being he has to beat Lady Aurelia.

Bucchero (12-1): If he can overcome the gnarly 11 post going five furlongs, you better watch out for this guy. The speed figures in his last three races are on par with tops in this field, including Lady Aurelia. He’s versatile and likes the distance. Fits the profile of the race history as well.

FILLY & MARE SPRINT

Curlin’s Approval (20-1): The trainer, I discovered, is named Happy Alter and after some research I discovered he’s quite the colorful character. Had a Derby runner back in the 80’s. Bred this horse, owns the horse, trains the horse (I think his only one in training). She ran a smashing figure in a Grade 2 this summer that would make her dangerous here. Wouldn’t mortgage the ranch or anything but I’m sure the post-race press conference would be a lot of fun. She is four for eight at this distance.

FILLY & MARE TURF

Zipessa (20-1): Daughter of City Zip came running late in last year’s race at Santa Anita to finish a respectable fifth, missing by 3 1/4 lengths at 53-1. But her preferred running style is closer to the pace, and from the 4 post, she ought to secure a good stalking position. Her Beyer Speed figures have improved in each of her six starts this year, she’s won at Del Mar before and at her likely price, she’s at least a good exotics play.

SPRINT

Calculator (20-1): In a field loaded with speed, he comes from off the pace for trainer Peter Miller, the Del Mar Killer. Picks up Hall of Famer Johnny V, who guided Forever Unbridled to victory from off the pace yesterday. Works look good, competitive speed figures, has competed well against top company before. Strangely, he’s never run the six-furlong distance before. With the speed set-up, it might hit him right between the eyes.

MILE

Ballagh Rocks (12-1): Trainer Bill Mott won his first Breeders’ Cup Mile last year with Tourist at Santa Anita. This Stormy Atlantic colt, at what should be good odds, has a legit chance to give Mott another one. The 4-year-old’s last three races, two of them Grade 1s, have been sharp. His most recent result was a third in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, exactly what Tourist did last year before winning the Mile. Ballagh Rocks was just a half-length behind the winner, Sueois, who is half his price in here. Don’t love the 11 post going a mile at Del Mar but this race has quite a bit of speed drawn inside, so he might just work out a trip. Jockey Jose Lezcano won the Mile on Wise Dan in 2013.

JUVENILE

U S NAVY FLAG (8-1): I know, I know. Trainer Aidan O’Brien’s stats in this kind of situation aren’t good, but he did win this race in 2001 with Johannesburg, and Euro shipper Vale of York stunned the Juvenile in 2009 at 30-1. U S Navy Flag, making his first start on dirt, has run an incredible 10 times as a 2-year-old in a field where no one else has more than four starts. That could mean he’ll be over the top or it could give him a seasoning edge. From the rail post, he’ll likely have to send, given his running style, but there isn’t a ton of speed in here, so perhaps nine-time Breeders’ Cup winning jockey Ryan Moore (all on turf) can slow the pace down enough to spring an upset. In that scenario, he wouldn’t have a bunch of dirt kicked in his face either. The War Front colt has won three straight and could get ignored at the windows while bettors slam down money on Bolt d’Oro.

TURF

Talismanic (15-1): Europeans have won 21 of the 33 runnings of this event, and trainer Aidan O’Brien has collected the trophy in four of the last six. He may well win again here with Highland Reel, but we’re looking for bombs, and his two longshots aren’t very inspiring. So, we have this Medaglia d’Oro colt, who breaks from the rail and has tactical speed he can carry a long ways. He hasn’t missed the trifecta in his last six starts, so he’s at least an exotics play. Trainer Andre Fabre has won the Turf twice and famously blew up the Classic in 1993 with Arcangues at 133-1. Three of the 4-year-old colt’s five wins have also come over firm turf in France.

Decorated Knight (15-1): Another Euro, sired by Galileo, who draws a favorable inside post and can stay close enough to the pace to strike. Finished second to Highland Reel at Ascot in June and behind the now-scratched favorite Ulysses twice this summer, so the obstacles seem fewer for him.

CLASSIC

Pavel (20-1): I believe a 3-year-old might win the Classic again this year, and if it’s not West Coast, why not this guy? He’s pretty good, tactical speed, competitive figs, lightly raced and improving. Probably set to run a pretty big one.

Gunnevera (30-1): How in the world can this colt be 30-1? Especially if there’s pace on and Friday’s dirt races displayed a pretty fair-playing track. He’s at least a longshot candidate to pick up some late pieces. Ran a bang-up race in the Travers against West Coast, a tough cookie in here whose morning line odds are 6-1. It’s fairly absurd that Churchill, the Aidan O’Brien shipper who’s never run on dirt is 15-1 and these guys are higher. Take advantage.

Del Mar History: ‘Old Days In Del Mar’Natalie Voss

On a recent weekend at Del Mar, Dog Beach was crowded with wagging tails and volleyball players, and the Pacific Coast Highway dotted with hikers, bikers, and surfers. Some longtime residents of the town probably remember when the area looked very different.

Dr. Jock Jocoy, longtime racetrack veterinarian, died in 2008, but the Del Mar Historical Society interviewed Jocoy in 1997 to capture his memories of the track and the town in its early days. Jocoy grew up in Mission Beach, Calif., some 20 miles south of Del Mar and served as a junior lifeguard in the area during the early days of World War II, when older men were away in service. He also spent summers at the track, hauling cases of beer and Coca-Cola bottles to the various bars and concession stands in the grandstand for $1/hour.

In Jocoy’s younger days, he remembers there were no freeways near Del Mar, and only four or five people visible on the beach at any given time. (He recalls it once took him the better part of a day with his thumb out along one of the main roads, waiting for a car to come by to take him back to Long Beach, before his family moved to the Del Mar area.) He rode the saddle horses his mother kept at their house up and down the beaches of Del Mar, galloping in the surf and camping on the beach, filling up on hamburgers and sodas for a nickel.

Jocoy was eventually called into military service and served in the Navy as a gunner’s mate and when he returned, he had to choose a profession. After his experiences at Del Mar, Jocoy thought he might like to train Thoroughbreds, so he went to the track one morning with the intention of asking someone to teach him. When he got to the backstretch, he encountered Dr. Roy Lovell in a white overcoat, treating horses and asked Lovell if he could shadow him.

“At the end of the day I decided I’d rather be a horse doctor, and be at the racetrack, because it looked very exciting,” Jocoy remembered. “The thing I didn’t realize at that time was that I would have to go through seven years of university training.”

Jocoy loaded up his belongings in the Ford he bought with his lifeguarding money and moved to Colorado for his undergraduate study before completing vet school at University of California-Davis. Jocoy spent a year as the resident veterinarian for owner/breeder Rex Ellsworth and would go on to spend 30 years on the California circuit, treating the likes of Swaps, Decidedly, Silky Sullivan, Ack Ack, and Buckpasser. His human clients included trainer Charlie Whittingham, owners Burt Bacharach and actress Betty Grable. On trips east, the Vanderbilt and Whitney Stables called him into service, having read he was the doctor entrusted with Swaps’ care at the Kentucky Derby.

“One thing I can say here is I’ve traveled around the United States, being with racehorses. The owners of racehorses are very successful people, not only in the entertainment world, but in the business world,” he said. “And I can tell you – everybody knows where Del Mar is. They used to call it the Saratoga of the West, but I think it’s even surpassed Saratoga.”

Part of living in Del Mar in those years, during and just after the war, was rubbing elbows with the Hollywood personalities who frequented the track. Jocoy played volleyball with musician Harry James and actor Desi Arnaz. He nursed Ack Ack back to health after the horse nearly died from illness for then-owner Buddy Fogelson and actress Greer Garson.

“When I saved his life, they brought me out a big television and they wanted me to go to dinner with them, which was a lot of fun,” Jocoy recalled.

Jocoy was also friends with actor Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto on the television series ‘The Lone Ranger.’ When Scout, the paint horse who played Tonto’s mount, needed to be retired, the horse found a forever home with Jocoy, whose daughter took him to local shows and amassed a pile of ribbons.

When Jocoy retired from his vagabond life treating horses around the country, he was hired as the in-house veterinarian for Del Mar, where he did pre-race exams on horses and monitored afternoon racing. As the years have marched by, Jocoy said he found himself looking back, grateful for the time he spent in the town during its golden age.

“I can look back over the years, and a lot of those great people have gone, they’ve died, whether it’s Desi Arnaz, Jimmy Durante, Liz Whitney, all these different people on the beaches and throughout Del Mar, they’re gone,” he said. “And as I walk the beach or walk the alleys, I constantly am thinking back on all the great people and great families … the Del Mar Hotel with dancing on the patio at night, and going over to Desi’s house, or going to Jimmy Durante and standing with him on the beach where he used to fish – I really miss those days. And I get lonely walking down the beach.

“I’m starting to fall in the category as the rest of all the old guys. I’ll stop and talk to somebody and I’ll say, ‘You know who used to live in that house? Jockey Ralph Neves built that house,’ … and they keep looking at me and they probably think, ‘Look at that old guy, I can’t get away from him. He just wants to tell me about old days in Del Mar.’ But I can tell you, they were really great.”   

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