FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
TRANSCRIPT: BREEDERS CUP CONFERENCE CALL
DAN MASONSON: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to our Breeders’ Cup conference call today. Breeders’ Cup coverage begins Friday, October 31, on NBCSN at 5 p.m. eastern and continues Saturday at 3:30 p.m. eastern on NBCSN and culminates with the Breeders’ Cup Classic Saturday night in Primetime at 8 p.m. eastern on NBC. With us today on our call, our host, Tom Hammond, the Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, horse racing analyst Randy Moss, and analyst, handicapper and NHL analyst Eddie Olczyk. We’ll open the call with some opening comments from each and then we’ll take your questions. So with that I’ll turn it over to Tom Hammond.
TOM HAMMOND: Hello, everybody. I’ve been around since the first Breeders’ Cup in 1984, where as, some of the season‑ending championship events, Super Bowl and the World Series, are sometimes duds, sometimes not as exciting as we hoped. I would say in all of the years of the Breeders’ Cup, 31 years now, it’s never failed to deliver a really great, action and generally very high drama as well. It really has taken its place alongside those other major events and is the world championship of thoroughbred racing. It’s lived up to that billing, especially, even though we’ve had some major defections this year, I think this will still be an exciting year. Especially looking forward to the Classic and the showdown between all those three‑year‑olds, with the title of three‑year‑old champion male and probably ‘Horse of the Year’ hanging in the balance. So happy to have that as the showcase of the two days of the Breeders’ Cup. But I can promise you that it will be some compelling action along with the two days of these races.
JERRY BAILEY: Hi. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been on both sides of the fence, if you will, of this, both in the saddle and in the broadcast booth. It seems like the Breeders’ Cup is never short of surprises.
I’ve won the Classic on the shortest prices and the longest price in our card, and I’ve seen similar results from the broadcast booth. And looking over this year’s card, I think we’re going to see a little of both of those.
In a way, I was disappointed the older horses didn’t make it, the marquis older horses. Last year we had the top 3 finishers coming back from the previous year. This year it looked like it was going to be an awesome matchup between the older horses and the three‑year‑olds, but to have not only the three Triple Crown race winners, but also the Haskell winner and the Travers winner here as three‑year‑olds, I think is pretty special.
So even though we’re missing a little bit of something, I think we’re getting extra on the three‑year‑olds, and I’m really excited about it.
RANDY MOSS: Yeah, I mean the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont have a century’s head start on the Breeders’ Cup, and the Breeders’ Cup has to go up obviously against football in November, you know, so for those reasons the Breeders’ Cup doesn’t have quite the same name recognition among your main‑stream sports fans as the Triple Crown does, but it’s growing in recognition every year; and within the sport, as soon as the Triple Crown is over, every owner, every trainer, every jockey, their primary focus then becomes how to get our horses to the Breeders’ Cup. That’s what everybody points for after that.
And for horse players, for the people that drive the sport, that have been on the sport, there is no better day than Breeders’ Cup, because so many good horses are in each race that the prices are fantastic. You get great odds on some of the best horses in the world, and that’s something that horse players really look forward to all year long.
From our perspective, our whole NBC crew tries to cover all the bases for every race that we do, but when you have 13, talk about a daunting task. We try to juggle all the paperwork and speak to all the connections. It’s really tough for us, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Nobody’s going to be playing any violins on our behalf.
EDDIE OLCZYK: It’s truly an honor to be a part of the horse‑racing team here at NBC. As Randy just touched on, as a die‑hard horse‑racing fan and owner, there are no better two days in racing than the Breeders’ Cup because of the value aspect of it.
Looking at the cards, you can go and in a good amount of the races you can make a case for four, five or six horses, and there’s some other ones where you can go ahead and say, yeah, this is where I’m going. So I think for a horse player, an analyst or handicapper there are great opportunities and great value there, and that’s something that I relish as a horse player. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the team here and looking forward to a great weekend.
I guess I’ll start with Eddie. Eddie, you’ve now done a few broadcasts with NBC Sports on the horse‑racing side. Where does the Breeders’ Cup compare to some of the other races you’ve covered and followed over the years? And on a side question, how do you like Santa Anita as a track?
EDDIE OLCZYK: Well, I’m a Southern California guy when it comes to the handicapping part of it, so for me I’m in my element. I feel very comfortable looking at the form and being able to try to figure out and hopefully get lucky the first couple of days.
You know, I think just the way everything kind of evolved and the role and what have you, and like I said a little bit earlier, I just want to try to be able to bring an add to the great broadcast that’s going on here, because the Breeders’ Cup has always been a highlight for me as a horse player over the years. As Randy touched on a little bit earlier, and even Jerry touched on it, the value aspect of it, not to mention the drama that as a player is that if you can figure it out, you’ve got an opportunity to go ahead and do extremely well.
But I think I’ve always been overly excited and always tried to rest up when looking at the Breeders’ Cup weekend, and to actually be here for the first time selfishly is very exciting for sure.
Real quick, you know, you talked about the value going into this classic. Can’t agree more. Where do you think, you know, with Chrome and Tonalist and Shared Belief, overall, where do you think this group of horses stacks up with the years past, and if you could kind of compare it to a group, you know, in recent history.
RANDY MOSS: Yeah, I think when you look at any of the metrics that horse players look at, I think these three‑year‑olds this year stack up pretty well. Some of the older horses have dropped out, yes, but when you have this many talented three‑year‑olds that are still in the mix, headed up by Shared Belief and California Chrome, then I think it’s definitely an above‑average year.
At the end of 2013 I thought Shared Belief had a very good chance to sweep the Triple Crown, but he came up with a foot injury, and he had to miss the Triple Crown; and then lo and behold, we get the emergence of California Chrome who came within a length‑and‑three‑quarters of sweeping the Triple Crown. So you get two horses now in Breeders’ Cup that were Triple Crown‑type candidates, and you don’t get that in too many years when you get down to November.
TOM HAMMOND: But the depth of talent among the three‑year‑olds is pretty extraordinary this year. Think about a horse like V.E. Day, who won the Travers, is almost forgotten in the mix. So I think the depth of the talent is what makes this an extraordinary year.
Jerry, and Eddie, your thoughts also as well.
JERRY BAILEY: I think even if some of these older horses had have made it, at least in the middle of the summer, I was convinced that the top three‑year‑olds that we had at that point, California Chrome, Bayern ‑‑ really Shared Belief hadn’t really emerged at that point. But I thought the three‑year‑olds would give the older horses a run for their money in this Classic. Now, we don’t have any older horses, but at that point I thought the three‑year‑olds were good enough to at least give them a run for their money, so yeah, I think they’re a pretty good group. We have to go back to 1989 and ’90 to have horses that won the Kentucky Derby and then came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Sunday’s Silence and Unbridled. So it’s been a long line that the Derby winner has been able to come back and win a Classic, so that’s the job that a horse like California Chrome will have.
RANDY MOSS: Yeah, we had four years in a row in which a Kentucky Derby winner won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. We had ’87 with Ferdinand, who had won the Derby the year before. ’88 with Alysheba who had won the Derby the year before, and then Sunday Silence in ’89 and Unbridled in 1990, who won the Derby earlier that year, and we haven’t had one since. So that’s what California Chrome has to do.
And to go back a little on Tom’s point about the depth, I’m talking about Shared Belief; I’m talking about California Chrome. Bayern might be better than either of those two. We don’t know that. That’s what we’ll find out on Saturday. But he’s had some brilliant performances this year when things went his way in Haskell and the Pennsylvania Derby. And it’s an outstanding bunch of three‑year‑olds.
If I could have a quick followup, you know, this event 30 years ago, and Tom, I know it holds great meaning for you and Jerry. Could you just talk about the growth of this and really how it’s become this big spectacle?
TOM HAMMOND: You know, from the start it was something special. John Gaines, who developed the concept, was hoping to be something that was evolving in his mind, and I was happy enough to give some input, which I’m sure it made no difference at all, but he was nice enough to include me.
And that day in 1984 in Hollywood Park, it seemed that just about everything that could happen in horse racing happened, qualifications, the notice qualification. You know, just everything that could happen happened, upsets, favorites.
And at the end of the day after that dramatic classic, John Gaines came up and gave me a big bear hug because he knew, and I think the racing world, which had been somewhat skeptical, knew that this was going to be a very special year‑end event and achieving all those things that John Gaines had envisioned, deciding the championships primarily on the racetrack one big day of thoroughbred racing.
So we’ve seen that evolve, and add days, add races. Still the core of those center races to decide the Championship is what makes the Breeders’ Cup so special.
Could you all kind of touch upon how this event is so exciting, especially with a dozen races occurring over two days to wrap up the season?
TOM HAMMOND: Well, I’ve often said that next to the Olympics, thoroughbred horse racing has the most opportunities for story telling, which is what we feast on in television and broadcasting business. And there are so many things that are of interest; the horses themselves, jockeys, the owners, the trainers. There’s just a gold mine full of information, and to be able to tell some of those stories ‑‑ and some of them are extraordinary stories ‑‑ is what makes it special to broadcast.
And when you have horses coming from all over the world East Coast, West Coast of the U.S., so many different factors involved, different surfaces that they might not have raced on, there are so many variables, so many interesting things to hang your hat on. It makes it a pretty extraordinary day from a sports casting point, to be able to tell all of those stories.
Anything from the rest of the guys on this weekend?
JERRY BAILEY: From a perspective of the participants, you know, if you take, for example, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or Belmont, you know, there’s 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby. Only one guy is going to win. The other 19, which usually happens to us, come away disappointed.
In the Breeders’ Cup there’s 13 opportunities to win. So you work all year toward this, and you don’t just have one race. You have multiple races in which to succeed.
So to me, the Breeders’ Cup presents an opportunity for the participants, both jockeys and trainers and owners, to win multiple occasions.
EDDIE OLCZYK: The story‑telling aspect of this, as Tom pointed out, is just off the charts in the Breeders’ Cup every year. This year you got Gary Stevens, who, once again, is coming off ‑‑ he’s making another comeback this time. He’ll be riding for the first time after knee‑replacement surgery on July 25th, a bionic man with a new knee. You can count on one hand, or maybe a couple of fingers, the number of jockeys that have tried to ride with an artificial knee. Jerry knows a little about that.
JERRY BAILEY: And you’ve got a guy, Gary Boulanger, coming in from Canada, in 2005 he had a head injury so severe they had to remove part of his skull to reduce the swelling. He was off eight years. Made a comeback last year in 2013, so he’s riding in the Breeders’ Cup now when many thought he would never put his legs around a horse again, so there’s some amazing comeback stories.
EDDIE OLCZYK: And you got your horses, your California Chrome versus Shared Belief, and as is the case always in horse racing, and the Breeders’ Cup you have it seemingly in almost every race, you’ve got the sort of contrast between ‑‑ for example, a race we did at Keeneland a few weeks ago, called the Spinster, the favorite was owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, part of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Spent hundreds of millions of dollars on horses. He was beaten by a horse that cost $1,000 at a sale. And they’re both here in the Breeders’ Cup, once again, running in that same race on Friday at the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
In the Breeders’ Cup mile you’ve got the ruling family from Qatar, the ruling family from Dubai, Prince from Saudi Arabia, family of Stavros Niarchos, late billionaire shipping magnate, the Aga Khan and the guy that owns Jiffy Lube franchises, that may actually win. So it’s those story lines that are so cool in horse racing in general and in the Breeders’ Cup in particular that they just seem to come race after race after race.
Yes. You’ve touched on it a little bit already, but quick followup for Jerry and Randy, if you don’t mind. Can you talk about the fact that this race is being held in Los Angeles? Do the lights of Hollywood and the fact that it’s in Southern California add anything to the excitement? Obviously the horses probably don’t know the difference, but everyone in attendance and all of the competitors know. Does that add anything to your broadcast and your covering of the event?
JERRY BAILEY: I think it’s always cool to have the beautiful people, you know, attend your event, and certainly Los Angeles is full of beautiful people, but it actually makes our job a little tougher because you want to get all the ancillary things in, all the people that come and watch and all the events going on around, which leaves less time to talk about the horses, so it makes our job a little more difficult, but it’s certainly, you know, a very, very cool venue for us.
I had to travel as far as you could possibly travel really, from Florida, but I enjoy it because this is a very, very cool place to host a Breeders’ Cup. And down‑the‑hill race, six‑and‑a‑half furlong for me as a broadcaster and as a writer is the coolest race for a viewer to view because it’s unlike any other race that we have in the United States. You go down the hills; you turn right, you turn left; you go from the turf to the dirt, back to the turf again, and it’s a very cool visual event.
So there’s a lot of neat things about Santa Anita.
RANDY MOSS: And Santa Anita is a bucket‑list destination for people in horse racing. It’s a beautiful racetrack facility, the San Gabriel mountains in the backgrounds. It’s always spectacular weather here for the Breeders’ Cup, except the one year when the hills were on fire.
You know, you can run the Breeders’ Cup Classic in Primetime on the East Coast, got a young, hip, beautiful crowd. There’s a lot of things to like about having the Breeders’ Cup out here, so many that there at least is an opinion that some people have that maybe the Breeders’ Cup should stay out here on a permanent basis. But I happen to believe that it’s better off when it rotates; and next year it’ll be in Lexington, Kentucky, at Keeneland. The year after that it’ll be Seaside in San Diego at Del Mar, California. So there are no shortage of good venues that the Breeders’ Cup has had in the past and will continue to have.