12 October 2006

Breeders' Cup reading

It’s official; we’re in Breeders’ Cup season now. According to the Average Horseplayer’s Breeders’ Cup snazzy new countdown widget, there are only 23 days left until the big event. Still plenty of time to get in the proper mood with some BC reading.

So I've been paging through the Thoroughbred Racing's Greatest Day by Perry Lefko. Last year, I was cheap, and borrowed the 1996 edition from the library, but this year, I'm reading the 2002 edition published to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Breeders' Cup.

Of all of the racing titles I've read in the 14 months since I started this little project, this book remains the most irritating. As expected, it does indeed cover the history of the Breeders' Cup races, but in such a maddening, disorganized fashion that it grows even more annoying with each perusal. I wrote about this last year, but it still vexes me that this book:

* does not have an index.
* does not list the fields for each race, or even the winners of each race, in a way that would allow readers to find a specific race.
* does not provide chapter subheadings.
* does not provide information in a chronological fashion.
* does not flow smoothly, due to awkward constructions and confusing repetitions.

Basically, this book needs an editor.

To his credit, Lefko does include a number of great stories – the ever-entertaining Frankie Dettori gets an entire chapter – and Canadian horses like Dance Smartly and Awesome Again receive extensive coverage in a chapter entitled “The Maple Leaf Forever.”

Also, for someone who knows nothing about the championships, the book provides an introduction to the trainers, jockeys, and owners who perennially appear at the Breeders' Cup. And I suppose I should acknowledge that the chapter on Andre Fabre influenced my lucrative wager on Shirocco in last year's Turf race. (Biggest exacta payoff of the day, no less!)

Since Lefko’s book left me wanting something more, I’ve ordered a copy of Jay Privman's 2001 book, Breeders' Cup: Thoroughbred Racing's Championship Day. My copy hasn't arrived yet, but it appears to be one of those lovely coffee table books, capturing the feel of BC Day with lush, full-color photos.

I’m also thinking about picking up a copy of Progressive Handicapping’s Crushing the Cup 2006 by Jim Mazur and Peter Mallett. Its various angles on each of the eight BC races get a rave review from Cindy Pierson Dulay, the gal behind the About.com site on horse racing. In her review, Dulay notes: “The Crushers also help the bettor determine how to incorporate the European imports in their wagering strategy; with increasing foreign participation in the Breeders' Cup including in the dirt races, these angles should not be ignored.”

I really enjoy the Europeans, on turf or dirt, and something like this might enhance my appreciation. Also, each chapter includes the DRF past performances for the last few Cup winners in each race, which appeals to that odd part of me that loves to look up things.

Still, it’s kind of sad, I think, that there’s not a definitive reference book of the Breeders’ Cup, a veritable tome where the first decades of BC race results are summarized so that an interested reader could easily discover whether a particular horse ever took the field in a BC race, or who won the 1991 Sprint, or which jockey has the most BC wins.

Maybe after a few years on ESPN, the Breeders’ Cup will get the book it deserves.