Breeders’ Cup Best Score: Out ‘Capping the Experts
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

We’re up to our fourth week! We’re sharing our Breeders’ Cup Best Score stories in the spirit of the Breeders’ Cup video series, 30 Scores in 30 Years, and to help you get in the spirit for your own Breeders’ Cup Best Score.

This week’s story is by Jessica Chapel, a Hello Race Fans contributing editor and pioneering racing blogger. Her story is the embodiment of why it’s important to listen to your own opinion, even when all the experts that you admire and work with disagree!

In fall 2006, I was still settling into a job at the Daily Racing Form. I’d been in the office for about four months, and it was, in some ways, a horseplayer’s dream. There were TVs mounted above the cubicles, set to TVG or HRTV. Races would play all day and evening, the calls a soundtrack to our work. Most of my colleagues were handicappers, and conversations usually began or ended with discussions of horses.

I’d been a racing fan for a little more than three years at that point, learning how to handicap by reading the masters (Ainslie, Beyer, Davidowitz, Quinn) and earnestly studying past performances, and even if I mostly felt that I was getting the hang of the game, I also felt a little diffident talking racing with others in the office. They made their own figures, kept detailed trip notes, could recall the details of races won years ago by the sires and dams (and grandsires and granddams) of horses who were running that day. Some of them wrote the very books and analysis I pored over, always trying to learn more. They were experts. I was a newbie. If I offered an opinion, it was shyly.

But going into the 2006 Breeders’ Cup, I was certain about one thing: Invasor would win the Classic. He would be my biggest win bet, my exotic key, my Pick 3 single, and I couldn’t stop talking about him.

The Classic that year was being pitched as an East Coast vs. West Coast battle, a showdown between Bernardini and Lava Man. In the office, Bernardini was as heavily favored as he would be on race day. Undefeated in 2006, the winner of the Preakness, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, the 3-year-old colt was brilliant, with the triple-digit speed figures to prove it.

Invasor, having missed the Jockey Club Gold Cup because of a virus, hadn’t raced since winning the Whitney by a nose over Sun King. And before that, it wasn’t as if he’d beaten the best in winning the Suburban Handicap or Pimlico Special, some of my coworkers pointed out.

I dismissed those comments. I’d been at the Whitney and seen Invasor overcome trouble and dig in for that win, and then watched as he walked past the apron after unsaddling, still on his toes and barely blowing. If he was fit — and his worktab said he was — then Bernardini’s speed was going to be no match for Invasor’s heart. That was my argument, and while it felt good to be rewarded for it with odds at 7-1 on Invasor in the Classic, it felt even better when I came into the office on Monday morning, and one of the handicappers I especially admired said, “You had Invasor, right?”

Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup

What was your Breeders’ Cup Best Score? Share your bragging rights in the comments!

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

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