Wednesday, October 31, 2018
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to today’s call. Our Breeders’ Cup coverage begins tomorrow night on NBCSN at 7:00 p.m. eastern with a Betting the Breeders’ Cup special. Live racing begins Friday at 3:00 p.m. eastern on NBCSN, and NBC’s coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Classic is Saturday at 3:30 p.m. eastern.
Joining us on today’s call, Mike Tirico, who hosts the Breeders’ Cup telecast; Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, with 15 Breeders’ Cup wins and five in the Classic to his credit. And this Saturday marks the 25th anniversary of Jerry’s win on a 133-1 longshot, Arcangues. Analyst Randy Moss, who’s covered nearly 30 Breeders’ Cups as a writer and more recently on TV; our handicapper, Eddie Olczyk, who is back at the track after the opening of the NHL season earlier this month and has a big prize in his sights in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge; and our race caller, Larry Collmus, again, called another Triple Crown, two in four years for Larry with Justify last June.
So we’ll begin with a few opening remarks and then take your questions.
MIKE TIRICO: Thanks, Dan. Hi, everyone. I’ll get out of your way quick so you can speak with Randy, Jerry and Edzo and Larry, as well. But for me, it’s a great thrill to be with Randy and Jerry on the set like we are at the Triple Crown races. First time for me to do this at the Breeders’ Cup. Last year the Notre Dame schedule got in the way.
The first time I got to work with our phenomenal Eclipse Award winning horse racing team was two years ago at the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, so I look forward to being with them for the four races that will wrap up the Saturday card on NBC.
Needless to say, I think everyone on this call knows the significance and importance of this event. What a great way to put a bow on what has been a memorable thoroughbred season, and for us at NBC after the Belmont, it kept going, and I’ve enjoyed watching the win-and-you’re-in races all the way through the summer, and it’s great to be back with our horse racing team at a place that we all dearly love, Churchill Downs in Louisville for this great spectacle and great weekend of horse racing. So look forward to being a part of the Breeders’ Cup and will turn it back to Dan. Thanks so much.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Mike. Let’s go to Jerry Bailey.
JERRY BAILEY: So as the horses have been preparing for this weekend all year long, so have all of us on the crew. But especially the last month or so in earnest, just compiling what we can on the numerous horses that are running here, just volumes of information we try and collect so that we can sound halfway intelligent on the air.
So it’s a lot of work, but it’s so much fun because we get to see the very, very best of all the horses, trainers and jockeys, not only the horses we’ve been covering in America but also the ones we’ve watched from afar from Europe.
On a personal note, it’s great for me to be back here at Churchill Downs because this is where my first Breeders’ Cup win came on Black Tie Affair in 1991. I was cold that day. I’ll probably be cold again this weekend. It’s supposed to get chilly, especially for a Florida boy, but it’s always fun, and I enjoy working with the crew that we have.
RANDY MOSS: Jerry is cold if it’s anything below 85 on the mercury, by the way.
You know, people ask periodically, I know these guys probably get the same questions, what do you like better, the Kentucky Derby or the Breeders’ Cup, and it’s really kind of impossible to choose because they’re two completely different types of experiences. I mean, the Derby obviously is the iconic race in the U.S., but with the Breeders’ Cup, it’s just like an embarrassment of riches. You get so many great horses now, 14 different races, and they just keep coming at you over a two-day period.
And one of the things that really differentiates the Breeders’ Cup is the level of European participation, and this year we have arguably the best horse in the world coming in in Enable, who will be the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The best-known horse in the world, I would say maybe her and Winx. But the Classic gets a lot of publicity, as it should, because it’s the richest race in America. But this year, the most well-known horse in the Breeders’ Cup will be Enable running 45 minutes earlier in the Turf.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s go to Eddie Olczyk.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Well, it is great to be back at the Breeders’ Cup to be with, as Mike said earlier, our incredible team here, both in front of the camera and most importantly the people behind the scenes because they really make our shows go. So it is great to be back.
I watched from afar last year, and it is just really nice to be back, and it feels really good and comfortable to be here at Churchill, where we saw history with Justify, and not all of us knew what was going to happen with the races right after that in the second and third jewel of the Triple Crown. It’s nice to come back, and it’s nice to see that the rain has not left, considering we got hit with a deluge here in the last little while.
As a handicapper, how will that affect what’s going to take place on Friday and Saturday? The weather is supposed to clear up, but with the amount of rain that we’re going to get today and tomorrow, you’d have to think, at least from a handicapper’s point of view, it’s going to affect the turf course quite a bit, and there’s going to be some moisture in there I would say, at least Friday anyway.
For me as a handicapper, this really gets the blood flowing. Lots of opportunity. You don’t have to invest a lot of money to make a lot of money when it comes to the Breeders’ Cup races, and as a handicapper, that’s what you want. You want full fields. We’ve got them. You want deep fields. We’ve got them. It checks all the boxes.
You know, haven’t had a lot of favorites come in over the course of the last couple of years, I guess, in the Breeders’ Cup races, but just a quick little look, to me it looks like that maybe we’ll equal a couple of those, the total over the course of the last couple years in the first maybe handful of races come Breeders’ Cup. But it’s what you handicap for all year. You follow these horses, as we do, and to see them on the center stage, and there’s going to be plenty of value, it’s just whether or not you can find it.
So looking forward to a huge day. And on a personal note, as Dan mentioned, last year in February I won the Pegasus Betting Challenge down at Gulfstream, and that got me into the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, and the caveat that came with winning that tournament was if I could go ahead and win their tournament and the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge that I would be on the hook for a million dollars.
Little bit of pressure, and not only individually, but the Breeders’ Cup decided that they wanted to make a contest for one lucky fan that if I can win the tournament — they’d sign up, and if I win, they win a million dollars, as well. We’re all going to win, and regardless of what happens. But for me, it’s going to be an interesting weekend just with everything on the line when it comes to the handicapping part of it.
LARRY COLLMUS: Hey, everybody. This will be Breeders’ Cup No. 7 for me. I started in 2012, and it’ll be the first time I’ve had a chance to call the Breeders’ Cup here at Churchill Downs, and I’m really excited about that. I’ll be calling from the same location that I get to call the Kentucky Derby every year, and I was just telling the guys, it’ll be interesting when they line up at the top of the stretch for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, if you see the starting gate up there and there will only be one starting gate instead of two starting gates like the Kentucky Derby. It’ll be kind of a unique feeling there.
The Breeders’ Cup is quite a challenge for race callers, as well, with all these horses coming from everywhere, full fields, 14 races, and I’ve been getting my flashcards and going over and over and trying to get all these names in my head, and looking forward on Friday and Saturday to calling some fantastic races from horses all over the world. I think Churchill Downs is one of the best venues for it, and I think we’re all excited to be here again.
Q. I just wanted to ask with the race returning to Churchill Downs, it’s such a historic place. Does that factor in it, make it any more special compared to prior years?
MIKE TIRICO: Everyone else is — to be candid, everyone else on the call, has more experience with the Breeders’ Cup than I do, so I don’t want to say I’ve got great perspective on it, but when you say Churchill Downs, immediately you associate it with great racing and right in the middle of where the sport is so much a part of the DNA of the entire state. There’s always a little bit of adrenaline rush that everyone gets, whether you’re in the horse game or outside of the horse game, when you see the twin spires.
For that, I would say yes. When any big sporting event comes to an iconic location, then the intersection really elevates the platform, and that’s certainly what you have here, and that is in no way disrespectful to any of the other tracks. Just, I know my experience a couple of years ago at Santa Anita was great. It’s true for so many of the tracks, but certainly any time you have a great racing card at Churchill Downs, it gets everyone’s attention, not just nationally but globally.
RANDY MOSS: Wow, that’s almost word for word what Jerry was going to say.
LARRY COLLMUS: Well, I think calling the race at Churchill Downs, that feeling that you get when you go up into that announcer’s booth and you’re calling the same place that you called the Kentucky Derby and you kind of get that Derby feel, but this time you have to do it 14 times with the best horses from all over the world and all these terrific races. But yeah, it definitely makes a difference, and one of the things that is good for me, too, is I get to be inside, unlike some of these other guys who have to stand outside. So, I guess I’m a little lucky on that end.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Well, I mean, I think with the enormity of the Kentucky Derby and considering what took place, as I said a little bit earlier, seeing Justify’s performance and then going on to win the Triple Crown, and then to come back here, because usually, at least for me anyway, just with my hockey travels and everything else, don’t get to Churchill as often as I would like to as far as for live racing. You know, it’s a unique place. I think people get — when you say it, I think Mike touched on it, when you say Churchill Downs, everybody that understands or knows anything about horse racing, regardless if it’s once a year or 363 days a year like myself, you know Churchill Downs, and you think about the Derby and you think about horse racing.
So to have our two biggest days of the year, or I should say two of the biggest days of the year here for the Breeders’ Cup kind of brings it all together. It’s a lot of fun. Obviously there’s history and there’s nostalgia and everything else, but it’s a fun place to be with all the — especially with all the renovations that have happened around here in the last little while.
RANDY MOSS: And speaking as the, quote, old guy here at least in terms of Breeders’ Cups covered and things like that. It’s not just Churchill Downs, historic home of the Kentucky Derby and things like that, there have been a lot of memorable Breeders’ Cup moments that have taken place here over the years. You had Personal Ensign wining the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff to remain undefeated. Many people think that’s like the No. 1 Breeders’ Cup moment of all time. One of the biggest memories that I have of Churchill Downs was the juvenile in 1990 that Arazi won. I mean, he was the wonder horse from England, and he’s dead last by many going into the backstretch, and we were all kind of laughing at him, here we go again, this is another overrated European horse on the dirt, and then all of a sudden this blur comes running through and around the field, and it was one of the most electrifying performances to this date. I don’t think I have yet to see a dirt horse show that kind of acceleration in all the years since.
And then in ’98, maybe perhaps the deepest field ever in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the year that Awesome Again won it and beat Swain, and Silver Charm was in there. It was just a really, really good group of Classic horses. So Churchill can hold its own in terms of history for the Breeders’ Cup, as well.
Q. Randy touched on this a bit, but for everyone else, what makes the Breeders’ Cup experience different from all the other horse racing events that take place over the course of the year?
EDDIE OLCZYK: Just from the handicapping point of view, just with the European influence I think Randy touched on a little bit earlier, that to me is being a die-hard horse racing handicapper and somebody who looks at the form pretty much every day, it’s tough to get a feel — at least for me anyway. That’s the toughest, and that’s what makes it so great, if you can get a line on a horse, regardless of where they are, you’re going to get paid because every race, every race is — for the most part, every race is 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 deep. May be hard for the great Larry Collmus to find all those 14 horses in a five-and-a-half-furlong sprint, but from a handicapper’s point of view, there is really nothing like it all year really, and that’s why it’s two of the best days.
MIKE TIRICO: I’ll just hop in real quick and just lean on my experience of covering a variety of sports. What I have from afar always appreciated and looked forward to about the Breeders’ Cup weekend is we don’t have this in most any other sport. Can you imagine if we had the high school — two best high school football teams in the country, the best college football teams in the country and the best pro football teams in the country all coming to one location and playing on the same weekend? Well, that’s what you have in the Breeders’ Cup, and then expand that or multiply it, if you will, by the global nature that the guys have been talking about, with horses from all over the world coming to this event. So it really becomes a festival for the sport with the best horses, jockeys, trainers and owners in the game all in one place. I’m trying to wrap my brain — I can’t think of any other sport — you can maybe lean on tennis when you have the Grand Slam events in tennis perhaps, but no other sport comes close to this volume, quality and depth across every discipline within the sport essentially with thoroughbred racing coming here. To me as a sports fan, that is the uniqueness of the Breeders’ Cup compared to any other sporting event in the world.
Q. My question is more general for the group. Can you speak a little bit about the jockey cam, how you guys have used it in the past and how you’re utilizing it this year in your coverage?
JERRY BAILEY: Well I know Julien Leparoux has used it in prior Breeders’ Cups. He used it in a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, and from somebody that’s been on their back, it’s very realistic. I wish there was — it’s typically used on the turf racing because the lens tends not to get as dirty as you go through the race. It would be great if we could use it in dirt racing, but the volume of dirt that comes back that would blur the lens would probably be useless after the first half of the race. But it’s a very realistic view of what we go through and the horses diving in and out of holes. So I think it’s pretty cool from a jockey’s perspective, it’s pretty realistic.
RANDY MOSS: It makes me dizzy, so obviously I could have never been a jockey.
Q. First of all, we’ll be doing our share of coverage on the radio side, and I guess this could be for Jerry or Randy. Word is that speed doesn’t always hold up on the dirt at Churchill Downs. A, is that true, and would that be true with the Breeders’ Cup, or is there any difference in that from just regular racing or the Kentucky Derby?
JERRY BAILEY: I don’t think it’s necessarily true. The first Breeders’ Cup I won with Black Tie Affair was gate to wire, so I have personal experience. To have now won it gate to wire, I think it’s a pretty fair track. I did the stats on the juvenile, and of the eight times it’s been run at Churchill, I think two on the lead, three stalking and three closers, so in that particular race, it was pretty uniform without a bias. You know, it’s got a pretty long stretch. It’s not typically as fast as the California pace word type tracks. The touch is going to be a little demanding, so I think both surfaces are pretty fair.
RANDY MOSS: Yeah, I think Churchill might get the reputation partially because of the long stretch that Jerry just referenced, especially in comparison to the California tracks, to Santa Anita and to Delmar. Just generally in handicapping, the faster a race dirt surface is, the more speed conducive it is. So the race tracks in California, for example, like Santa Anita let’s use, that have that reputation, I mean, yeah, speed will tend to carry better out there, but when you get into races like the Breeders’ Cup and you run them in California, everybody knows that it’s a speed-favoring surface. So everybody wants to hustle out of the gate, wants to go for the lead, and therefore you get a lot of paces that are exceptionally fast, a lot more contested paces than you might get in other places. So it sort of evens out in the long run.
I don’t think you should handicap Churchill — I’ll let Edzo answer this, but I wouldn’t handicap it any differently than other dirt tracks from the perspective that it wouldn’t be as kind to speed necessarily.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Yeah, I think Randy hit on it perfectly there. I think also to add, there are some days — this is my experience, so not just one man’s opinion. There are days on this track here at Churchill where closers are not going to win. I mean, closers — when I say closers, horses coming from five, six, seven, 15 lengths out, it and then there are days where speed horses aren’t going to win. It just depends really, how the track may be playing on that particular time. Can great horses overcome the way the track is playing? Yeah, I think for the most part. But how will this track change over the course of the next couple of days with all the moisture that we’ve seen here today and expected to be tomorrow? As far as the handicapping point of view, to see how the track is playing over the course of a day or two, just come off a meet at Keeneland where like 85 percent of the days there you had to be either on the lead or just off the lead in order to win. You weren’t going to close. You weren’t going to make a big run and close at Keeneland on the majority of the meet. You see how it’s playing, and that’s how you make money is to see how the track may be playing, and sometimes you can get your price regardless of the speed or — but your initial question, I think Churchill has been a — I think it’s been a pretty fair track when it comes to horses that are closers that can win and horses that get out in front by themselves so they’ll be able to go wire to wire.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone, for joining us today.