The Breeders’ Cup races will be run over the next two days, and they offer a rare opportunity to make significant money. Betting pools are huge, the fields are full and long shots abound. While the main event — the final race of American Pharoah’s brilliant career — takes place on Saturday, there is money to be made on Friday as well.
Unlike most average race days, we take a different approach to the Breeders’ Cup. In truth, anyone selling you on the fact they know who is going to win is lying. It often comes down to which horse has the best trip and runs his or her race that day. It is purely guesswork. What we try to do is provided educated guesswork. We will looks for long shots in every race. Some favorites will win, of course, but our goal is to find value when they lose. Some of the horses discussed will be nowhere at the end of the race. But we only need one or two to make money. And three or four — which we have done on several occasions in the past — can make your betting year. Last year we gave you Juvenile winner Texas Red at 13-1 and Toast of New York, who was second in the Classic at 19-1 and was just inches (and a bad non-disqualification call) away from winning it all. We aren’t going to provide specific bets, as we did with the Triple Crown. We will simply provide picks and horses we think you should use. If you are longterm reader, you know we will be primarily playing exactas, trifectas and pick threes with the horses we provide. How many you use is up to you and the bankroll you are working with.
With that in mind, some general trends we look for in trying to find value:
1) Look for horses that are undervalued because of a bad last race. Often quality horses dominate all year, then throw in a clunker in their Breeders’ Cup prep. The public will jump off these horses thinking they are off form, so the odds are better.
2) Stay away from high profile, overrated trainers like Todd Pletcher. His horses are often overbet and usually by this time of year they have been run into the ground.
With 2-year-olds, look for the improving horse that has not run its best race yet.
3) In the turf races, use all the Europeans. Euro turf racing is far superior to what we have in the U.S. and these horses will always be a factor. Often it’s not the obvious European, which results in boxcar payoffs.
A new twist this year is the races are at Keeneland, where outside posts really struggle, and many quality horses are stuck outside over the next two days. The other twist is rain could be a factor, especially Saturday, and a sloppy main track leads to a lot of front-running winners. The other other twist is very few of these horses have actually run on the track’s quirky surface. So all of that could impact the races.
So with those basic strategic tenets, here is a look at Friday’s races:
Juvenile Turf: Almost all of the strategies above come into play here, with 2-year-olds on the turf. The Europeans will be a huge factor, and we also have a couple horses that should improve and run their best today at long odds. This might be the most wide-open race of the entire weekend, but we landed on No. 11 Hollywood Don at the generous price of 10-1. He won two turf races at Del Mar, including a significant stake. He then was moved to the main track, where he ran a solid third behind one of the top contenders in tomorrow’s Juvenile. He moves back to the grass and should be a factor at a nice price. He also gets a massive positive jockey switch to Joel Rosario. We also like another big long shot, No. 5 Highland Sky, who won his first race at Saratoga, then ran a troubled fourth in the major New York prep for this race. Had he run a clean race, he likely would have won and been 8-1 instead of the 30-1 you are getting today. Favored Airoforce, sneaky long shot Camelot Kitten and serious Europeans Shogun, Birchwood, Cymric, Ray’s The Bar and Hit a Bomb should be used as well, but we will key our wagers around the 11 and 5.
The picks: 11-5-12-13. Others to use: 2-7-8-9-10-14.
Dirt Mile: This one has a heavy favorite in Liam’s Map, who has done little wrong in his career. He is a must use, but is also trained by the aforementioned Pletcher so there are other options in the race with more value. He will also likely get caught up in a significant speed duel early, and will be asked to survive that. He should do so, but a case can be made for Red Vine, who will benefit if there is a pace battle up front. Lea and Wicked Strong have run races in the past good enough to win this as well. A sneaky massive bomber in here might be the 6 Street Strategy.
The picks: 1-3-8-5. Others to use: 6-9-10.
Juvenile fillies turf: Absolutely love a long shot in this one in No. 9 Nemoralia, who won two races in Europe, then shipped over to run second on the main track in the Grade I Frizette, the biggest prep for tomorrow’s Juvenile Fillies. That was simply a monster effort on an unfamiliar surface. Now she is back on her best surface and offers 15-1 odds with our man Rosario on board again. Illuminate, Harmonize and Alice Springs will take money and could be factors as well.
The picks: 9-10-8-4. Others to use: 3-7-12-13-14.
Distaff: Historically, this race is won by favorites at an amazing rate. But this year lacks the dominant star (actually, it was Beholder, but her connections opted for the Classic, then she had to scratch due to injury). So what you have is a compilation of many of our basic strategies outlined above; a lot of horses with similar skills, and the biggest favorites stuck far outside. So with that in mind, we landed on a solid 8-1 shot, No. 1 I’m a Chatterbox. She is remarkably consistent, finishing worse than third just once in her 10 starts. She also comes off a nice Grade I victory. But since it was on a lesser circuit, we get 8-1 odds instead of the 4-1 she should be. After her, it’s a mishmash of solid fillies and mares who have taken turns beating each other. One intriguing long shot is Stellar Wind, who is 12-1 and has won four of her last five tries against top stakes company, the only loss being a better-than-it-looks-on-paper fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. The speedy Wedding Toast is the likely favorite here but she is probably going to see more front-end pressure here than she ever has in her racing career. The other logical contenders — Sheer Drama, defending champ Untappable and Got Lucky were all saddled with outside posts. Don’t be shocked if 30-1 Warren’s Venada hits the board.
The picks: 1-9-7-13. Others to use: 4-7-8-11-12-14.
Good luck with your wagers. If you like what you see here and are also interested in sports betting, check out our new audio book here.