Monday, July 28, 2014

The man behind the best

October 19. 2013 2:39AM

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PLAINS TWP. — If you’re in line to place a bet at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Saturday, you’re likely going to put money on this man’s horse.

If you aren’t, the person in front of you is. Probably the person behind you, too.

You see, Captaintreacherous is the reigning Pacer of the Year and the favorite in the $500,000 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old pacers — Saturday’s 12th race at Pocono Downs.

But if you get to sit down for a moment with Myron Bell of Brittany Farms, the great horse’s racing manager, you can just as easily enjoy a conversation on the Indiana Pacers instead of horses.

For Captaintreacherous, he already has a wildly popular driver in Tim Tetrick, a 10-time winner at the Breeders Crown. And trainer Tony Alagna has helped the horse reach the potential that was in his blood.

“They’ve done a phenomenal job,” Bell said of his team. “We picked Captain together as a yearling. They work well together. They deserve all the credit. It’s not easy … animals can’t talk.”

On Wednesday, at Breeders Crown media day, Bell brought more than just stories about the mighty Captain. His first sentence upon granting an interview recounted seeing a basketball legend in action.

“I was there when Oscar Robertson scored 56 points playing for Cincinnati against Seton Hall,” Bell recalled. “It was at the old Madison Square Garden — at 50th (Street) and Eighth Avenue. They didn’t fill the Garden back then for NBA doubleheaders, but they’d have sellouts for college basketball.”

So where does the Big O rank among basketball greats to Bell?

“He could have been one of the top three,” said Bell, who displayed encyclopedic knowledge of basketball. “But you can’t compare across eras. People ask me to compare Captaintreacherous to other horses. You can’t. You can’t compare people, either. How do you compare Hank Aaron or Ted Williams to a modern ballplayer? Sandy Koufax … he was the greatest pitcher I ever saw. But you know, they never clocked him.”

Bell has a video link to Captaintreacherous on his phone, but there’s more to the man behind the best pacer out there. He’s the guy you’d want to go to a game with; a man with a passion for the challenge of the competition.

His favorite sports team? The Brooklyn Dodgers — not the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“When they moved to Los Angeles, I gave up on teams,” Bell said “I root for the individuals now.”

It’s a unique perspective in today’s world of wearing team colors to dinner with the family. And you can tell it’s part of what has led Bell to success. One of those individuals is the horse Tetrick will drive, which Bell and his team purchased as a yearling for $250,000.

“I’m like the GM of a team,” Bell said. “You’ve got to get the best player with your draft pick.If you’ve got a pro team, you’re drafting college kids. You don’t know what they do and where they go. With horses, they are in the stable 23 hours a day. You know where they are and that they are cared for.

“It’s all about pedigree. With horses, they don’t go out, they don’t have the hangers on around them. They usually live up to their pedigree. And I’ve seen all the horses in his last five generations run.”

As for Captaintreacherous — Saturday’s favorite of favorites — he’s unique. He’s never finished out of the money in 22 starts. Of those, 19 were victories.

Yeah, you read that correctly. It’s a rare day that this 3-year-old loses.

“You’ve got to cherish the animal,” Bell said. “It’s a great animal. It’s got a will to win. Like a fighter in the 12th round of a championship bout.”

Captaintreachous’ only loss this year came Aug. 17 at Pocono Downs, when he placed behind Sunshine Beach (“… by a lip, and it took a world record to beat him”), the John Campbell-driven horse that will start at the eighth post in the featured 12th race Saturday. The Captain has won all 11 of his other starts this year.

And for Bell, who knew of Captaintreacherous’ greatness even before he was born, it’s been a great ride.

“Getting a good horse is skill,” Bell said. “Getting a great horse, that’s a little luck.”

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