Breeders’ Cup Best Score: Keeping it in the Family
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

Afleet Again winning the 2011 Breeders' Cup Marathon to the tune of $85.20. (Breeders' Cup Ltd)

Last week we started a new series of posts in honor of 30 Scores in 30 Years, the new Breeders’ Cup video series. Be sure to check out our first post if you missed it!

Cashing a nice ticket isn’t the only fun of playing ponies, the stories and bragging rights that go with it only enhance the experience. And those payouts can be even larger on big race days, such as the Breeders’ Cup. To help you get in the mood to score your own Breeders’ Cup bragging rights, each Friday we’ll share a Breeders’ Cup Best Score story from one of our contributors.

This week contributing editor Teresa Genaro shares her Breeders’ Cup Best Score, a story that started seven years before the payout.

Afleet Alex was the first horse I followed all year round. I was at Saratoga for his Sanford and Hopeful, and I watched every race on his road to the Kentucky Derby, the first time I had ever watched racing in the winter. I had my birthday party on the day of his remarkable, unfathomable Preakness and I was there for his Belmont, and somewhere in my mind, he won the Triple Crown, no matter what happened at Churchill Downs.

So when his progeny hit the racetrack in 2009, I paid attention, and when it was time to start thinking about 3-year-olds, Afleet Again showed up at Aqueduct, first in the Count Fleet in January, in which he finished second, and then in the Gotham, in which he finished last at odds of 25-1. “No menace,” read the chart.

He came back in a light edition of the Withers at the end of April, with just five horses showing up; he wasn’t the longest shot on the board, but he was close, nearly duplicating his 25-1 Gotham odds.

I hate getting beaten by horses I’ve liked, especially at long odds. It’s not the world’s most sophisticated betting angle, but as I stood in the winner’s circle at Aqueduct (I’m pretty sure it was freezing) and looked at Afleet Again’s odds, I thought, “If he wins—at this price—and I haven’t bet him”.

And this point, the details get fuzzy. I remember that I frantically pulled up the NYRA Rewards website, muttering about not getting the bet in. I remember that a friend nearby asked who I was trying to bet, and that when I told him, he said, a little smugly, a little condescendingly, “You’ll be happier if you get shut out.”

His memory? That it was he who reminded me to bet him.

Regardless of who gets the credit for the wager (and if it was he, clearly, I owe him a cut), I did not get shut out, and I watched silently as Afleet Again challenged for the lead, then took way back under jockey Abel Mariano behind a sizzling pace. He swung wide around the turn, and wider into the stretch, and as the leaders began to collapse, he strode forward at the eighth pole, winning by a length and a half and paying $51.

“Did you get the bet in?” asked my friend, and on my own sense of smugness at that moment, there is no dispute.

A year and a half later, on a gorgeous autumn afternoon in Louisville, I glanced away from my laptop screen, at the program and the tote board for the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. There he was, the big gray, Afleet Again, not having won a race in 18 months, not since that Withers. This time, he faced a field of 11. This time, he was the longest shot on the board, nearly 42-1.

I was busy, I was working, I had deadlines. But I thought, “If he wins—at this price—and I haven’t bet him”.

He had no pace in this one, not in a 1-3/4 miles race, and he lagged perhaps further behind this time, but wide he went again, wide, wide, wide, six-wide coming around the turn and into the stretch, and maybe even wider as he approached the wire, which he got to first, 2 1/4 lengths in front of his rivals. Payout for a $2 ticket? $85.20.

Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup

My phone buzzed immediately.

From back at Aqueduct, the text came, from someone else who remembered that cold April afternoon. (And on this we agree, with or without the written proof to back it up.) .

“Tell me,” it said, “you bet him.”

I smiled as my fingers flew.

“You bet I did.”

What was your Breeders’ Cup Best Score? Let us know in the comments!

Watch this week’s E Train installment of 30 Scores in 30 Years

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