By John Furgele
For all you long shot lovers, perhaps you’ll remember where you were at about 10:45 p.m. ET on Saturday night (Oct. 31): When the 3-year-old gelding Sandbetweenmytoes pulled off the biggest upset in Breeders’ Crown history.
In the 13th race at Harrah’s Hoosier Park in Anderson, Indiana, it was Sandbetweenmytoes nipping heavy favorite Tall Dark Stranger in a seven-horse blanket finish in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Pace for 3-year-old colts and geldings.
The payout was remarkable. Sent off at 203-1, although the toteboard was only able to register odds of 99-1, the winner returned $409.20 for a $2 win bet. The exacta, even with the 1-2 favorite finishing second, paid a hefty $1,556.60.
Take that Breeders’ Cup! Arcangues, at a mere 133-1 ($269.20), is the longest shot in Breeders’ Cup history to win – taking the 1993 BC Classic.
“I wasn’t confident until they flashed his number up,” winning trainer Jim Campbell said. “I watched a couple angles, in one it looked like he had a shot. Watching the race live, I couldn’t tell — it was tight. He just happened to go the right way at the wire to get his nose up.”
This is what makes horse racing – standardbred or thoroughbred – so intriguing. Any horse on any day can give bettors the thrill of a lifetime, not to mention the winning connections.
Here’s how it went:
Tall Dark Stranger came into the race as the overwhelming top choice, with 11 victories in 12 races. Plus, previously unbeaten Party Girl Hill lost in an earlier race, giving Tall Dark Stranger a serious shot at Horse of the Year with a win. He just missed.
Cattlewash went out fast, but Tall Dark Stranger took the lead after a 52.3 half-mile. As the 10-horse field rounded the turn into the stretch, Tall Dark Stranger had plenty of company – with nearly the entire field within striking distance. Seven horses – seven! – seemed to hit the wire together. Replay after replay made it tough to make the call, but the verdict gave the nod – by a neck — to Sandbetweenmytoes , expertly driven by Scott Zeron.
Zeron move from fourth over, and was able to steer his gelding into the five path for his stretch drive that wound up in the winner’s circle.
“He had a good week,” Campbell understated. “Before the race, Scotty and I talked it over. We needed a hot pace up front and that’s what we got. Sandbetweenmytoes took advantage of that.”
The gelding sat ninth at the quarter, the half and three-quarters, but a 26.2 final quarter did the trick. How close was it? The top four finishers were credited with the same 1:48.3 clocking while next three were credited with 1:48.4.
“Given the circumstances, getting away ninth with the speed that they had … even with all that, I had to fan him out really wide, so he was pretty game to do what he did,” Zeron said. “There’s no doubt it was a long enough stretch, that’s for sure, but it just seems that every horse that’s been sitting second or third, it’s really hard to make up that ground with these types of horses – they are not coming back to you, so it was pretty exciting from where I was to get up.”
It’s not like the son of Somebeachsomewhere was a throw out. He came into the race with six wins in 15 starts.
Since the toteboard read 99-1 odds for the horse, there was some surprise in track announcer Steve Cross’ voice when he said to the limited spectators at the track:
“Folks, history has just been made at the Breeders Crown; set off at 203-1, Sandbetweenmytoes is retuning a record $409.20 to win.”
The previous record payoff was set by Kadealia ($152) in the 2008 sophomore filly trot.
As a kid growing up in the Buffalo suburbs in the 1970s and 80s, the radio was one of John Furgele’s best friends. In the evenings, he used to listen to a show on WBEN radio called “Free Form Sports,” hosted by Buffalo broadcast legend Stan Barron. The show ran weeknights from 6 to 11 pm and featured every kind of sport you could imagine. One minute, Mr. Barron was interviewing a Buffalo Sabres player; the next, he was giving high school field hockey scores.
But there was always one thing that caught John’s ear. During those five hours, Barron would give the results from Western New York’s two harness racing tracks — Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs. This is where John learned what exactas, quinellas, trifectas and daily doubles were all about. From then on, he always paid attention to harness racing, and when Niatross (a legendary Western New York horse) hit the scene in 1979, his interest began to blossom.
John believes harness racing is a sport that has the potential to grow and he will explore ways to get that done via marketing, promotion and, above all, the races themselves.
When he’s not watching races, John is busy with his family and his job in sales. Like the pacers and trotters, he does a little running himself and you’ll occasionally find him “going to post” in a local 5K race.