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30,000 Foot Look at the Breeders’ Cup

Literally. On my way to California – gotta love in-flight Wifi.

I’ve written extensively about the Breeders’ Cup as it pertains to Horse of the Year, Breeders’ Cup Beyer Speed Figures and  Fixing the Breeders’ Cup, but I’ve purposely been rather silent about this year’s Breeders’ Cup from a handicapping point of view because my only real opinion is that most of these races are incredibly wide-open and most favorites and short-priced horses are quite vulnerable. The synthetic aspect really complicates things from a handicapping perspective, but it makes them awfully appealing from a betting perspective.

How will the dirt horses do 1st time on synthetic? How will the turf horses do making their debuts on pro-ride…will their form carry over? Are speed figures really less relevant on synthetics to the extent that a slower horse with a strong finishing kick can beat a faster horse? Interesting questions and they all present opportunities for value. Should these races be chalky I don’t envision myself having a very good weekend.

Here are some very quick thoughts:

Marathon: What a ridiculous race.  Calling this a Breeders’ Cup race dilutes the name.  With that said, I’d probably key around Father Time, Mastery, Man of Iron & Gangbuster while covering Muhnnak, Nite Light, Cloudy’s Knight, & Eldaffer to a smaller degree.

Juvenile Turf Fillies – I’ll be hoping for a bomb here as I could make a case for 12 of the 14, however House of Grace is the one I probably prefer most.

Juvenile Fillies – Looks wide open to me and again I’m spreading and hoping to catch a big price.  Blind Luck, Beautician, Connie & Mike, She Be Wild, Negligee, Always a Princess, and maybe Biofuel.  I’ll use Connie and Michael the heaviest from a defensive perspective as she seems the most talented.

F&M Turf – Forever Together still intrigues me and 10 furlongs and a firm turf could offer her the right conditions to fire again.  Otherwise most of the rest look pretty close aside from Midday who might be better than these.  Not a lot of pace so I’m curious to see if someone tries to steal it.  Maram is another who intrigues me.  She’s slower than several strong closers like Pure Clan & Magical Fantasy but she’s a rare one who seems like she’ll be more effective with added distance and would have a more potent kick going longer.  Not a throwout at all.

F&M Sprint – Ventura is probably better than these.  Curious to see how Sara Louise handles pro-ride bc she’s as good as any if she does and obviously Informed Decision is at her best going 7F on synthetics.

Ladies Classic – D-I-S-T-A-F-F!  I actually think this race is pretty wide open.  I’m not in love with Careless Jewel who has been meeting very soft fields and doesn’t have pro-ride/Keeneland type of experience.  Music Note ran a 98 Beyer on pro-ride last year and is clearly faster this year, however I don’t love the fact that her closing kick seemed less potent on pro-ride for some reason.  Torn on her.  Mushka, Proviso, Life Is Sweet & Rainbow View are also usable.  Yes that’s almost everyone but that’s what A-B-C tickets are for.

Juvenile Turf – Viscount Nelson, Codoy, Pounced, Gallant Gent, King Ledley, Becky’s Kitten, Interactif, Buzzword, Bridgetown, Awesome Act.  Bomb please!

Turf Sprint – I loved this race last year by settling on Storm Treasure to close into what I knew would be an insane pace and used him in the money in triples and caught a bomb winning with Desert Code.  There doesn’t appear to be quite as much speed this year but with so much potential for chaos in a race like this I can’t play California Flag.  If he doesn;t run his best and Diamondrella doesnt get an insane pace to run into, hopefully something wacky can happen again.

Sprint – I kinda like Fatal Bullet.  Obviously he’s a different horse on synthetics and I think he can sit just off Zensational and run at him in the stretch.  I’d love to play heavily against Zensational who has benefited from soft trips/pace scenarios without running especially fast, but it’s a pretty weak field and other than Fatal Bullet there’s not a ton of speed to run with him and he’s clearly better capable of firing a big fig at 6F than 7F.

Juvenile – If Looking At Lucky wins, I lose.  He’s a nice horse and it wouldn’t stun me if he wins but from a value perspective he’s a horrible play.  There are a number of others who are as fast, faster, or moving forward and intriguing.  Noble’s Promise (might not love this distance – by Cuvee – even though he ran a figure good enough to win at same distance last out), D’Funnybone (if he handles pro-ride), Pulsion (moving forward and by Include which indicates he should continue to develop with time and distance), Eskendereya (don’t love Pletcher on pro-ride but this one is fast and ran well on turf already), Aikenite (big fig at Keeneland on synths and moving forward), + you have Euros with turf form.

Mile – I’ll use but try to beat Goldiskova who has been in and out this year and was more visually impressive than fast in winning last year (albeit with a pretty powerful closing kick).  I could name a ton of horses I’ll be using here but suffice to say I’ll be going pretty deep and spreading and hoping for a price.

Dirt Mile – Pretty funny that in 3 years the “Dirt Mile” has never actually been run at a mile on the dirt.  Speaks volumes about the current absurdity that is the Breeders’ Cup.  You have to like Mastercraftsman.  Beyond that it looks pretty wide open to me.

Turf – No genius ideas here…I think Conduit is a pretty strong candidate to repeat.   Beyond that I can really only make a case for Dar Re Mi, Spanish Moon & Precious Passion.

Classic – Pretend you had been out of racing for 2 years and you called me up and said “I see it’s Breeders’ Cup day…tell me about the favorite for the Classic?”  And I replied “Well…it’s a mare who is coming off Beyers of 97 and 99 in her last 2 races, beat the longest priced horse in the morning line for the Distaff by a length in her last race and beat an allowance type horse by a head in her race before that – AND has never been 1 1/4 miles before and has only run 1 1/8 once this year in June.  Does that sound like enough of  a story to bring you back into action?

Look, Zenyatta is wonderfully talented horse and the source of one of the most complex evaluations of a “great” in history – but she is HORRIBLE value in this race.  This race should serve as a fascinating test for the question of how relevant are speed figures/performance figures on pro-ride and is this a rare example of a horse who literally does just what it takes to win?  If you take 2-1 or less to find out then you’re betting with your heart and not your head.  From a value perspective, there’s tons here.  I think Richard’s Kid looks like a great play to at least hit the board (which in and of itself speaks to the absurdity of this Breeders’ Cup) and perhaps create some big triples if Zenyatta’s out of the money.  I also like Colonel John, Einstein, & the Euros (who will probably win but won’t offer nearly as much value this time around).  Not sure what to do with Gio Ponti who wasn’t very fast on pro-ride in the winter but seems to have improved since then.  Also fascinating to see what happens with Quality Road & Summer Bird who are both immensely talented and pretty consistent dirt horses.  On dirt they would clearly be the 2 favorites.  Should neither run well it will make for a pretty glaring example of the differences between dirt form and pro-ride form – particularly in the case of horses without previous experience on the surface or on grass.

I wrote more than I though there but there’s plenty of time to kill on this 5 1/2 hour flight – and anything to distract me from these wildly uncomfortable seats on American Airlines.

My plan is to focus on Pick 4’s and spread pretty deeply using the standard A-B-C-X ticket style and swing for the fences.  I love these types of days because with the big fields and public money, a bomb or two and favorites losing can produce 50k-100k pick-4 payoffs.  Obviously you need to make fairly large investments, but the potential rewards are enormous on Breeders’ Cup day for those with a big enough bankroll – and this year even more than normal because of all the uncertainties associated with running on pro-ride.  As a fan, I detest it.  As a bettor, I like it!

Good luck to all and may the horse be with you!

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  1. Steve M. says

    Darrell,
    Good stuff as always.  Wholeheartedly agree w/ your thoughts on Zenyatta.  I respect what she’s accomplished, but as a handicapper have to think she’s a strong play against at those odds.  I’m hoping she gets bet hard cause she won’t be on any of my tickets.  If she wins, it’s a great story though.

    Also like Maram in the F&MT and hoping she goes off at a big price.  Midday is the one to beat but so I’ll probably use Maram underneath and maybe even on top for a bomb.  Think she can win if Midday doesn’t fire her best or gets a tough trip.

    Also, if you’re so inclined, pls check out my blog and submit any BC lead pipe “locks” and/or “bombs.”  You’re a great handicapper so I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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