Tom Bellhouse: My Craziest Breeders' Cup Memories
If you’ve had the opportunity to see all the Breeders’ Cup races since its inception, you’ve seen it all (good, bad, crazy).
Most people remember their favorite horse, race, or moment (good and bad), but I want to take a trip down memory lane for the craziest...
1. Hands Down- no possible argument........“The WWE returns to Churchill Downs.”
Javier Castellano & Calvin Borel audition for small pants division of professional wrestling outside of the Churchill Downs winners circle following the 2010 Breeders Cup Marathon. Unfortunately, the chaos created such a firestorm, that most people don’t remember- Eldafaar won the race giving trainer Diane Alvarado her first Breeders’ Cup win. As an aside, Awesome Gem ran in that race and Calvin Borel landed on Josh Cooper’s feet (as Dawn Lenert was pulling him out of the way of flying fists) during the melee.
2. 1990 Breeders Cup Sprint (Belmont Park) Filly wins as, Dayjur jumps over the moon......
Euro import, Dayjur came into the Sprint having never run on dirt and never run around a turn. Under the experienced handling of legendary jock Willie Carson, Dayjur battled every step of the way with the ultra game filly champion, Safely Kept, and looked to have put his rival away with approximately 25 yards to go. As the pair approached the wire, Dayjur suddenly lunged, repeatedly jumping the shadows on the racetrack left by the massive Belmont Park grandstand. As Carson put it when interviewed by Bob Neumeier outside the Winner’s Circle, “We were best, but we’re not going to get the money.”
3. Volponi wins the 2002 Classic at Arlington Park.....and the bad guys go to jail
With a storyline straight from a Dick Francis or WPT’s own, Jack Dobbyn novel,
unheralded Volponi, trained by crusty Hall of Fame trainer P.G. Johnson and ridden by Jose Santos (later the rider of Derby champ Funny Cide) shocked the world paying a whopping $89 to win.
While Volponi’s Classic upset made for an amazing story, the real craziness emerged about a week later, as it was uncovered that computer programmer Chris Harn conspired with two friends, Derrick Davis and Glen DaSilva, and created a scheme to take down the Breeders Cup Pick 6 by manipulating the gambling and placing a wager after four of the six races were complete.
They probably would have gotten away with it had it not been for the longest shot on the board, Volponi, winning and causing the culprits to be the only winning ticket in an odd $12 denomination.
At first the group maintained they were expert handicappers and accidently punched a $12 ticket instead of a $2 ticket, but as the NYS Attorney General’s office dug deeper, the plot unfolded. Years later, PG Johnson still maintained the racing world should be forever indebted to the great Volponi.
Enjoy the weekend!