The Breeders’ Cup also has a points system
The Breeders’ Cup has a points system as a tiebreaker for the Bill Shoemaker Jockey Award
Art pleads well for Willaim Buick
By Art Casciato
The recent ‘debacle at Del Mar’ involving the splendid Irish-bred colt Modern Games is sufficient proof of the powers-that-be’s blatant disregard for what handicapper and commentator Ed De Rosa has called ‘the integrity of the bets’.
Yet just after him comes another example, albeit less naked and embarrassing, of the little presence of the punter, whale and minnow, in the minds of those who run the horse racing industry: the selection of Irad Ortiz, Jr. for the Bill Shoemaker Award, given since 2008 to the jockey who wins the most races at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Recognizing Ortiz with this award seems to have become something of an annual event, having been so honored for four years in a row. Quite an accomplishment. But did he deserve it this year? Not quite, in my opinion.
There is of course no doubt that Irad has won the most races of the 14 races at this year’s championship, three to be exact. This is no small feat considering the size of most of the pitches and the quality of the competition. However, Ortiz was not the only rider to win three races last Friday and Saturday. William Buick, who rode on Modern Games, did too. So how exactly was the link broken in Irad’s favor? Well, that’s where the story lies.
In the event of a tie, Breeders’ Cup Limited has apparently implemented a nifty little point system: 10 for second, 3 for third and 1 for fourth. By this accounting, Ortiz is clearly the winner, with a second and three quarters, which gives him 13 points at Buick, um, zero. The closest poor William to finish in a non-winning race was fifth.
But what this particular fun with the numbers obscures is that Buick only had four mounts in the two days while Ortiz had – wait – NINE!
Now let me clarify that I am not offering the batting average as the most accurate or desirable measure to judge who was the best Breeders’ Cup jockey this year. As a tiebreaker, however, that would still be an improvement over the arbitrary point system the Shoemaker Award is now grappling with. If there has ever been a case of oranges used to sort apples, this is it.
To recognize how whimsical the Breeders’ Cup tie-breaking system is, one need only compare Irad’s performance with that of his brother Jose, who, in addition to having ridden two winners himself, won two seconds and a third. In doing so, Jose far surpassed not only his brother Irad, but the entire jockeys peloton with 23 imaginary points.
My modest proposal to break the ties uses a metric that is not only more consistent with winning, but much more basic for horse racing, dear to the hearts and bankrolls of every rider I know: return on investment.
If you had made a winning bet of two dollars on each of Ortiz’s nine mounts, the investment of $ 18 would have paid off $ 22.80, a positive result admittedly, but rather low given the generally inflated prize pools. ‘recreational money on the days of the Breeders’ Cup. By comparison, the $ 8 you were risking by supporting Buick and its four horses brought in $ 31.20 in good health (or if the scratched / unscratched parody of the Modern Games hadn’t happened), almost quadrupling your investment. Even though we support the unpaid payment on Modern Games – 2-1 were the last chances I remember seeing him right before his poor stable mate Albahr panicked and everyone started yelling what’s up. has passed ? – Buick has always won Ortiz 25.20 to 22.80, and this is based on two winning races rather than three.
As far as I’m concerned, case closed.
So why, you might ask, did the Breeders’ Cup folks resort to such a system in the first place? This is partly because we Americans hate to recognize that horse racing is both a sport and a game, and that the name of this game is the game. It is the same. logic that generated the rule that allowed Modern Games to run to Del Mar purely for stock market money. The sportsmen among us – the owners, the coaches and the jockeys – must have their wages at all costs, while the players living at the Modern Games, well, they have been told, in so many words and worthless tickets, d ‘go and pound sand.
Photo: Alex Evers / Eclipse Sportswire / Breeders Cup