SPONSORED: Picard’s Pro Tips For The Breeder’s Cup

There is a singular exhilaration in watching a horse soar across a finish line — something that's difficult to describe, a kind of majesty that’s even better up close.

Tyron Picard knows this feeling all too well. The founder and principal of The Picard Group will experience it again soon when he heads to another Breeder’s Cup in just a matter of days to witness what some call the “Super Bowl of horse racing.”

The Breeder’s Cup will be held at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (the track founded by Bing Crosby) in California this year. That's where the famed champion Sea Biscuit raced. It's also a locale that draws both Hollywood elites and ordinary racing lovers, like Picard.

The horses running in the 12 races, over two days, are the highest earners in the industry from across the globe. In fact, the 2017 showdown on Nov. 3 and 4 includes a horse (Arrogate) that — if it wins — will be the highest-earning horse of all-time.

Some of the races are on dirt and some are on turf. Some are short distances (five furlongs) and some are long distances (one and a half miles). The Classic, which is slated for Nov. 4, carries a $6 million purse for the winner of the one and a quarter mile race on dirt. “It’s heaven on earth,” Picard said of the club. “Bing Crosby nicknamed it 'Where The Turf Meets The Surf,' and actually wrote a song with the same title describing it, though he never released it for commercial airing. It is played at the start of the races each day.”

Picard’s Pro Tips for The Breeder’s Cup At Del Mar 

— The rail is historically horrible in sprint races, so avoid the #1 and #2 horse in five or six  furlong sprint races.

— Del Mar gets little to no rain annually, so the track is lightning fast! Often times, this results in “speed-favoring” horses engaging in a duel with each other in the first half of the race. And when they tire, there goes a “closer” flying by them in the final 100 yards.

— Del Mar’s turf track is known to deliver huge upsets in races with horses at odds of 20-, 30- or 40-to-1, edging out favorites by a nose. If you are going to play long shots, do it in the turf races.

— Del Mar is a unique track, given its deep sands, climate and proximity to the sea. (Just 100 yards!) Some horses love it and some horses hate it. Look to see how a horse has previously run at Del Mar. (Arrogate, who has won all over the world, lost twice at Del Mar this summer. They were his only two lifetime losses. So he will be a very vulnerable favorite in the Classic race on Saturday.)

Picard, who has owned an impressive stable of horses with various partners over the years, has a personal connection to one of the horses — Skye Diamonds, which is owned by some of his current horse partners from Dallas and Del Mar. The horse has also be trained by Picard's usual trainer, Bill Spawr. “We’ve owned three or four together, but not this one. I was not in on this one and it’s that magical horse, so I’ll be cheering for her with her owners in the filly and mare sprint race on that Saturday,” Picard said.

But buying and breeding horses is much more than the thrill of the race. There's meticulous research, data-driven decision making and unexpected surprises. “I love the complexity of it,” Picard said, adding that oft-quoted phrase in reference to horse ownership, “Prepare to have your heart broken. And not once, but multiple times.”

Sometimes horses can be bought at a low price, and they'll go on to produce $200,000 in two years. Other times they'll be purchased for upwards of $50,000, only to be injured before their first race. In other words, the world of horses is full of ups and downs — in vast proportions. “It’s like making wine,” Picard said. “You do everything right you can do and then you get a little luck.”

Picard gained his first exposure to racing from his father, who worked his way through college as a tote teller at Evangeline Downs. “I have a heart for horses,” Picard said. “I grew up with horses in Maurice which has a strong horse culture. Hall of Fame Jockey Keith Desormeaux and his brother, the renowned trainer, Kent, were on my little league baseball  team and lived down the road. Their dad owned a bush  track. In New Orleans at Tulane Law School, we would sneak off to the Fairgrounds Racetrack in the afternoons and watch the races. It’s a lifelong love affair with horses.”

He bought his first in 1990, a horse named Sycamore Springs, with political and horse guru Michael Beychok, Acadian Ambulance CEO Richard Zuschlag and lawyers  Bob Wright and Wells Watson. Sycamore Springs turned out to be a winner, and the hobby bloomed. “I don’t own a boat, a camp, an RV or a duck lease. This is my number one hobby,” Picard said. “I enjoy waking up early in California or Lafayette and seeing the horse’s workout and going to the stable.”

He said there were mistakes made in the 1990s and he’s certainly gotten better in the equine arena over the past 27 years.  “Understanding how you end up with champion super horses – the magic formula of how certain horses are bred for speed or distance and how some pedigree lines don’t cross well based on historical data — is fun,” he said. “I’m a data junkie. Analyzing racing and breeding data is a lot like reading a political poll. You have to know how to find the answers in the data you are looking at!”

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