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John McCririck, bless him, brings a touch of the exotic to the Breeders' Cup

November 5, 2009 |  6:23 pm

One of the most eye-catching and, indeed, entertaining fellows hanging around Santa Anita for the last few days has been John McCririck, who has absolutely nothing to do with making the Breeders' Cup work but everything to do with making it a spectacle.

McCririck, 69, is what's politely known as an English eccentric, or as we English call it, a nutter.

That's not a bad thing. The ex-Harrow man (that's private school, jolly posh, eccentricity encouraged) is a well-known figure at English racetracks, where his televised, um, rants about the horses and how to bet them have long been a popular staple. He is also an accomplished tic-tac man, one who semaphores the odds with a series of hand signals.

McCririck also favors the oddball when it comes to dress -- deerstalker hats, berets, little round caps with tassels, cloaks, flowing robes, loud checks, multiple rings, plastic flowers in buttonholes, you name it. It's all part of the shtick.

For the record, he is also an accredited journalist, covering the Breeders' Cup for the "At The Races" program on England's Channel Four.

Today, near Clockers' Corner, he was explaining to a couple of American TV broadcasters, and anyone else who would listen, how to wager wisely on Friday's and Saturday's 14 Breeders' Cup races so as not to have any regrets come Sunday. Here's just some of what he said:

"Remember, it's now Sunday, and you're looking back and saying, 'Why on earth did we do this? Why on earth didn't we do that?' Never have the 'I should have dones' or the 'If only I'd done this. Why am I so foolish? Why was I so stupid?'

"Don't do that. Think hard. Don't worry about patriotism. You want the Yanks to win, or hate the Europeans? Don't worry about any of that. It just doesn't matter. All that matters is your back pocket. So go in for the money, and these two will give you great runs, Mastery and Goldikova."

Trainer Saeed bin Suroor's Mastery is the 9-to-5 favorite in Friday's Marathon and trainer Fred Head's Goldikova is the defending champion and 8-to-5 favorite in Saturday's Mile.

Thanks, said the television men, that should do it.

"No, it won't," said McCririck. "You'll go with somebody else, and then when you get the winner you'll say, 'Thank God we never listened to that fat fool. What did he know? He got it wrong as usual.' "

Maybe so, but he made it fun, and that's all that counts in the long run.

-- Grahame L. Jones

For more entertainment value, and to get a somewhat decent look at McCririck, check out the video: