Keeping Score: A Classic ending at Del Mar

Friday, November 03, 2017

Good morning!

The Breeders’ Cup got underway at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Southern California yesterday. Horse racing’s North American spectacle will continue with eight more races throughout today, capped by the $6 million Breeders Cup Classic (8:35 p.m. post time, NBC).

Del Mar’s summer meet has catered to the Hollywood crowd since 1937, when it became the West Coast’s version of Saratoga. Bing Crosby dug deep to build his dream track, financing the last $100,000 with money borrowed from his life insurance policy.

The 1938 hit “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” is the legendary crooner’s ode to his shangri la. The track plays it before the start each card, just as Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” is played after the last race of each card at Saratoga.

Four years ago, Del Mar began hosting an autumn meet called Bing Crosby Season. The season’s 16-day get-together began on Wednesday, and all eyes were on yesterday’s Breeders’ Cup debut, which had six races on the menu.

This evening’s 1¼-mile B.C. Classic features horses from the barn’s of three of the four winningest trainers in North America. Bob Baffert had never won a B.C. Classic until Bayern in 2014, followed by Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in 2015 and defending champion Arrogate last year.

Baffert will be seeking to hit the grand slam with four horses in today’s race. His best hope is Arrogate with Mike Smith in the irons. The 4-year-old front runner will break from the one post like he did winning the 2016 Travers Stakes by 13½ lengths, breaking the track record in the process, then edged California Chrome from the 10 post at Santa Anita Park for the Baffert hat trick.

The Baffert barn’s greatest threat is the 9-5 morning line favoriteGun Runner, saddled by Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old Kentucky bred’s only loss in six races was to Arrogate at the Dubai World Cup on March 25.

Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien will be saddling a 6-year-old gelding from across the pond named Churchill (12-1), together with a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred named War Decree (30-1).

California-based trainer Doug O’Neill has a lightly-raced East Coast shipper named Pavel(20-1), andBaffert’s other entries are West Coast (6-1), Collected (6-1), and Mubjtaahij (12-1).

Win the Space, War Story and the once promising 3-year-old Gunnerva are all 30-1 and will likely be racing for a minor share of the prize.

Hinsdale OTB will simulcast today’s Breeders’ Cup card, together with its usual greyhound and harness racing. The best play? Bob Baffert in every race all day.

Joe Girardi’s firing was quickly forgotten in the haze of the World Series. The former Yankees’ catcher was hired in the twilight of George Steinbrenner’s reign, and his dugout demeanor mirrored the Boss’s intensity. A former player told the NY Post’s Joel Sherman: “He wears his tension on his face and it is too long a season for that style all the time.”

Girardi made his managerial debut for the Florida Marlins in 2006 and was ejected from his first game, a spring training contest in Jupiter, Fla. Six months later, he was fired after he told owner Jeff Loria to quit heckling the home plate umpire.

Girardi’s a Peoria, Ill. native and could run the up-and-coming White Sox, but would he really want to jump from Yankee Stadium to a ballpark named Guaranteed Rate Field?

That’s doubtful. It’s more likely he’ll bide his time and wind up with either the Angels or Cardinals. The Braves are a long shot.

Amherst’s Larry Pruner notes that National League pitchers threw 27 complete games this season. “In 1966, the last year he pitched, Sandy Koufax won 27 games. All 27 were complete games, including five shutouts. He pitched 323 innings and struck out 319 batters. And then he retired.”

The Astros won despite using closer Ken Giles. The flame-throwing righthander had 38 saves in the regular season but imploded in the World Series. He gave up five runs in two innings and Pedro Martinez called it “poopy time.”

Boston College beat Florida State for the first time in seven tries last Friday, hammering the Seminoles 35-3 to atone for the 51-7 thrashing the Eagles took in 2012.

BC is the only team in the FBS to have freshmen leading the team in passing, receiving and rushing. Quarterback Anthony Brown has 1,338 passing yards, wide out Kobay White has 359 receiving yards, and 6-foot, 240-pound running back AJ Dillon has 843 rushing yards.

The Eagles are off today and host NC State next week. The one win they need to be bowl eligible will likely be against UConn on Nov. 18 at Fenway Park.

As unlikely as it seems, UMass’s overtime win against Appalachian State kept their bowl hopes alive. The Minutemen (2-6) are 28-point dogs at Mississippi State today, but could run the table against Maine, BYU and FIU and finish 5-7.

Last year, three sub-.500 teams went to bowl games — Hawaii (Hawaii Bowl), Miss. State (St. Pete Bowl) and North Texas State (Heart of Dallas Bowl). The latter two teams won.

Die by the sword, live by the sword and there’s some cupcakes on next year’s tentative UMass schedule: Duquesne, Georgia Southern, FIU, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Liberty and UConn. Two other games are toss-ups: at Ohio and home against the University of South Florida.

Two probable losses are at Boston College and Georgia, but the Minutemen could easily finish 8-4 next season and earn itself a bowl game and conference invite.

Being in the Halloween spirit, I donned a Donald Trump mask for trick-or-treating on Tuesday. When Batman and Princess Jasmine knocked, I flung open the door and gave two thumbs-up.

Batman took a step back and said, “You look creepy.” Princess Jasmine grabbed the candy and ran.

I ditched the mask, but still have a warehouse full of bite-sized Snickers and Almond Joy.

World Series Notes: Houston hit 15 home runs in seven games and 242 at-bats. The Red Sox hit 15 home runs in 26 games and 810 at-bats in all of April. . Somewhere up there, Stan Benjamin is smiling. The longtime Greenfield resident scouted for the Astros and taught and coached in the Greenfield school system. He passed away in 2009. … For what it’s worth, the best paid team in baseball lost to the 18th-best paid team. … The best dugout moment was seeing Lance McCullers pour two bags of sunflower seeds over Marwin Gonzalez’s head like it was champagne. … Alex Rodriguez calls his namesake Alex Correa “the best talent in baseball” and David Ortiz says Jose Altuve “makes this game look like a joke.” … Two players with 15 combined All Star appearances, Carlos Beltran and Chase Utley, were 0-for-9 in the World Series, but former Keene Swamp Bat Andre Ethier was 2-for-5.… It wasn’t the all-time best World Series. Where did that come from? The games of 1960, 1975, 1986, 1996, 2001 and 2016 were comparable. …. Jerk of the World Series was the Houston fan who grabbed the home run ball caught by his sister-in-law and threw it back onto the field. The guy needs to watch his boundaries.

SQUIBBERS: Florida State’s run of 35 straight bowl appearances is in jeopardy. The Noles are 2-5 with games remaining against Clemson, Syracuse and Florida. … Greenfield’s Ben Simanski completed the Prairie Spirit 100-mile Trail Run in Ottawa, Kansas, last week. Simanski ignored the lizard-sized blister on his foot to finish in 23 hours, 14 minutes. …. President Trump’s choice to run the Fed, Jerome Powell, keeps a Green Bay Packers cheese head in his office. … The leaves are down, the days are short and the waiting game’s begun.”People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball,” said Rogers Hornsby. “I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” … Indeed, winter is the only time when baseball is on the clock.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.