Fans, handicappers, make the trip from Kentucky and throughout the region for Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar

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By Mark Hansel
Special to KyForward

Del Mar, CA – Kentucky was well-represented with owners, jockeys and trainers at the Breeders’ Cup in Del Mar and some fans from the region also made their way out to California for horse racing’s big day.

A group made the trip to Del Mar California for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Pictured (l to r) Joyce Clark of Louisville, Blaine Morris of Indianapolis, Steve Cecil of Lexington, Sally Feeney of Louisville, Tom Clark of Louisville, Mike Feeney of Louisville and Phil and Becky LaGore of Centerville, Ohio (photos by Mark Hansel)

Mike Feeney of Louisville organized a trip that included 20 friends, mostly from Kentucky, but a few from Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana also joined the party.

“This is a bucket-list trip for my 60th birthday,” Feeney said. “I’m just a big horse racing fan. I’ve been to Saratoga, and I’ve been to Del Mar once before. I just love to play the horses.”

Feeney’s brother-in-law works in group sales and he was able to secure seats for the group in a space in the Red Star Cafe, overlooking the paddock. He said the seats were pricey, but well worth it.

“It’s been outstanding. We’re staying just north of here in Carlsbad,” Feeney said. “We had a ten-minute train ride down and a bus ride that the track provided as a courtesy. I heard there were concerns about the size of the crowd, but there seems to be plenty of room inside.”

Feeney has attended one other Breeders’ Cup, at Churchill Downs in 2000, but that was in his backyard, so this trip will hold more memories. He is an avid fan and plays the horses year round, but has his favorite tracks.

“I like Oaklawn, Keeneland and Churchill, of course, and sometimes a little bit of Turfway Park,” he said. “I like the West Coast tracks, Santa Anita and Del Mar, but I’m not too fond of the New York tracks, unless Saratoga is running.”

The group was able to watch horses being saddled and as they entered the racetrack from their seats in the Red Star Cafe, overlooking the paddock

While Feeney uses traditional handicapping methods and prefers multi-race wagers, such as Pick 3s and Pick 4s, his wife,” Sally Feeney, who is also celebrating a bucket-list birthday, relies on divine intervention.

“I bet numbers, jockey and trainer combinations – but then I have my other little system with names – what I call holy horses, with the names Spirit, Ghost or whatever,” she said. “The Holy Ghost is when a jockey wins twice, they are destined to win the third time because of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”

Some serious handicappers get frustrated when someone using unconventional methods does well, but Sally Feeney says that’s not a problem

“He doesn’t, get mad when I win because it doesn’t happen very often and he’s much better at it than I am,” she said,

David Jones now lives in Knoxville, but got to know the Feeneys when he lived in Louisville. He made the trip to Del Mar to celebrate with his friends.

“This is our first time, that’s why we are here and I love it,” Jones said. “I’ve been close all day, but I’m getting hotter. I usually like to find a track bias, but right now it’s just biased against me.”

The group also included couples from Lexington, Centerville, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, and Indianapolis.

Fat Bald Guy falls short in contest, still comes out ahead

Dan Cronin is known to many by his Twitter handle, Keeneland Dan. He runs the handicapping site, FatBaldGuyracing.com and was entered in the 2017 Breeders Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) at Del Mar.

“Keeneland Dan” Cronin (left) looks into the paddock, prior to a Breeders’ Cup race at Del Mar Friday. Cronin, who runs the website FatBaldGuyracing.com, participated in the Breeders’ Cup betting challenge over the weekend. At right is his friend David Cardell of Loveland, Ohio.

The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge is a “real money” handicapping challenge during which players deposit $10,000, of which $7,500 will be the players’ bankroll for wagering during the tournament.

Prizes ranged from $300,000 for first place down to $10,000 for 15th place. After Friday’s races Cronin, whose brother is University of Cincinnati men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin, was in a good position.

He had a bankroll of $11,000, which put him in the top tier of the 450-person tournament and was winning with his personal bets.

“I’m up a little short of $6,000,” Cronin said. I had a good couple of days here and our good friend (trainer) Dallas Keen just won a race, so obviously we’re very, very happy. Coach (Scott) Davenport from Bellarmine and Mick are calling me because their good buddy Dallas won.”

Cronin, whose father is legendary high school basketball coach Harold “Hep” Cronin, lives on Cincinnati’s west side.

“I went to LaSalle and I went to Bethel College in McKenzie Tennessee, where I played basketball and baseball and majored in accounting,” Cronin said. “I’ve been doing mortgages for the last 16 years and been running this site for the last four and it’s worked out well.”

The membership on his site has grown 300 percent in three years. He prides himself on his willingness to teach and talk with members.

“People like to bet horses, but they also have families and kids and sports and things like that, so they need help (handicapping),” Cronin said. “There’s not a lot of people out there like us that are helping people like that, so it’s going great.”

Fans look on as Gun Runner, “Keeneland Dan” Cronin’s pick, pulls away to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar Saturday.

Cronin’s says system has worked for several years, so he went public to teach others and not only provide picks but also teach the method.  He believes in the multi-race wager and targeted or “star” straight bets.

He does not bet 30 races a day every day, but believes in having a strong opinion and trying to crush that one or two races.

Going into Saturday’s races, he felt like he had a chance to move up the leaderboard, and if things fell into place could be in for a nice payday in the contest.

“I’m in position, I’m right where I wanted to be, I’ve just got to make a move,” Cronin said. “I like some horses (Saturday), I’m afraid a lot of favorites are going to win and it’s going to be hard to make any money. Gun Runner looks fantastic and I think all of the California people are going to bet on Arrogate, which I’m happy about, so I can get a better price.”

He was half right.

Longshots blew up the toteboard in the early races Saturday and the leaderboard changed dramatically. Cronin did not cash but ended with money in his account and finished higher than some high-profile players, including restaurateur Bobby Flay and Oaklawn track announcer Vic Stauffer, who was near the top of the leaderboard on Day 1.

Cronin managed to “get well’ when Gun Runner dominated the Breeders’ Cup classic, keying a late daily double for him.

Kentucky racing fans who want to experience the excitement of Breeders’ Cup next year won’t have nearly as far to travel. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships return to Churchill Downs in Louisville, November 2-3, 2018.

Keeneland played host to the Breeders’ Cup in 2015, but the event has not been held at the home of the Kentucky Derby since 2011.

Mark Hansel is managing editor of the Northern Kentucky Tribine. Contact him at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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