Breeders' Cup Tips And Angles

HANDICAPPING TIPS AND ANGLES FOR BREEDERS' CUP WEEKEND

By Noel Michaels - OTBLearningLabs.com

For horseplayers, the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships means world-class horses, big wide-open fields, and loads of wagering value throughout the two most anticipated race cards of the year.

The big story for the 2012 Breeders' Cup will be the event's return to Santa Anita, where the main track races will again be run on dirt as opposed to 2009-09 when the races were on Santa Anita's old synthetic surface. The other big news is that the Breeders' Cup has instituted a Lasix ban on all juvenile races for 2-year-olds, meaning that North American-based juvenile who've run on Lasix in their previous races will have to go without it this weekend. Will this have a serious impact on the results, and/or will it favor European horses who never run on Lasix? Only time will tell.

Serious weather has impacted the East Coast in the last week, but Southern California seems like a world away from all the trouble. The weather is expected to be perfect for the running of the Breeders' Cup, which now offers a total of 15 races over two days worth a combined $25.5 million, including $17.5 million on Saturday alone.

The fact that this Breeders' Cup will be contested over a totally different track (at least for the main track races) from when the Cup was last held in SoCal in 2008 and 2009 means that even the most astute handicappers will be unable to benefit from recent history. However, Santa Anita is still Santa Anita, particularly when it comes to the turf racing, so there are many clues and angles horseplayers can grab onto to help their chances of cashing big and profiting from in Thoroughbred racing's Super Bowl -the Breeders' Cup.

Here is a look at the 2012 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships schedule:

2012 BREEDERS' CUP SCHEDULE, SANTA ANITA, NOV. 2-3, 2012

Friday

Nov. 2
Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic
I
$2,000,000
1 1/8 Miles
Nov. 2
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf
I
$2,000,000
1 1/4 Miles (T)
Nov. 2
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint
I
$500,000
6 Furlongs
Nov. 2
Breeders' Cup Marathon
II
$500,000
1 3/4 Miles
Nov. 2
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
I
$2,000,000
1 1/16 Miles
Nov. 2
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
I
$1,000,000
1 mile (T)

Saturday

Nov. 3
Breeders' Cup Classic
I
$5,000,000
1 1/4 Miles
Nov. 3
Breeders' Cup Turf
I
$3,000,000
1 1/2 Miles (T)
Nov. 3
Breeders' Cup Mile
I
$2,000,000
1 Mile (T)
Nov. 3
Breeders' Cup Sprint
I
$1,500,000
6 Furlongs
Nov. 3
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
I
$1,000,000
1 Mile
Nov. 3
Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint
I
$1,000,000
6 1/2 Furlongs
Nov. 3
Breeders' Cup Juvenile
I
$2,000,000
1 1/16 Miles
Nov. 3
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
I
$1,000,000
1 Mile (T)
Nov. 3
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
I
$1,000,000
7 Furlongs

GETTING TO KNOW SANTA ANITA -THE GREAT RACE PLACE

Holding the Breeders' Cup on a synthetic track had a seismic impact on the Santa Anita Breeders' Cup results in both 2008 and 2009, and that impact will now be gone. First and foremost, handicappers must understand that both Europeans and Southern California-based horses unquestionably benefited from the main track Breeders' Cup races being run on artificial surfaces in 2008 and 2009. Back then, horses that made their previous start on dirt went 0-for-83 in Breeders' Cup races. Now, that the Breeders' Cup has returned to a dirt track venue, however, North American-trained horses, including domestic shippers to Southern California, again will have a fair chance.

First, let's look at the Santa Anita dirt surface. According to the track superintendant, the Santa Anita dirt track consists of nine inches of sand and clay on top of an eight-inch base. This track composition makes the surface very similar to the dirt tracks at places like Churchill Downs, Gulfstream, and the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga. The main difference between all of these tracks and Santa Anita, however, is that Santa Anita receives much less rain than those other tracks, particularly during its fall race meets. This phenomenon tends to "bake" the track and often make it conducive to early speed and vulnerable to inside/outside track biases.

In other words, you've gotta pay attention to track biases, taking note of how the track is playing on the day before the Breeders' Cup (Thursday, Nov. 1), as well as early on the card on both Breeders' Cup Friday, Nov. 2 and Saturday, Nov. 3.

One big example of how track bias information could come in handy at the current Santa Anita meet was on Saturday, Sept. 29, which was the day of Santa Anita's "Super Saturday" major Breeders' Cup preps. That day featured a speed bias in the dirt races. In my opinion, this is a good reason to slightly downgrade the front-running winners of that day including Power Broker (won the Frontrunner for 2-year-olds), and even Executiveprivilege (won the Chandelier for 2-year-old fillies), who will be the prohibitive favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Meanwhile, I will upgrade late-running horses that fell short against the speed bias that day, hoping to get a price on horses including Capo Bastone (3rd in the Frontrunner) in the Juvenile, and Include Me Out (3rd in the Zenyatta for fillies and mares) in the Ladies Classic.

Of course, this could all change on Breeders' Cup weekend if you notice a speed bias once again in place on the Santa Anita main track on Thursday, Nov. 1 and especially in the early races on Friday and Saturday Nov. 2-3 . . .

WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE POLYTRACK HORSES?

The number of horses shipping to the Breeders' Cup off of artificial track prep races will be cut in half now that Santa Anita no longer runs on an artificial surface. That leaves Keeneland as the primary place artificial surface runners will be coming from when they arrive at Santa Anita -where their connections will need to decide if they would be better suited to pointing for dirt races or turf races on Breeders' Cup weekend. One big-name horse in particular that this affects this year is Dullahan, an artificial track specialist who is essentially without a race for the Breeders' Cup. He opted to run in the Turf instead of the Classic, but really, for all intents and purposes, he is a toss-out in the Turf with little or no chance just as he would have had if he'd chosen the Classic.

A few Breeders' Cup dirt starters may have had their recent preps at other tracks such as Arlington, Woodbine, Del Mar, Turfway, or even Presque Isle (Tapita), but the main synthetic track Breeders' Cup horses will be arriving from is Keeneland. In the last couple years, the Polytrack surfaces can accurately be characterized as playing fair to most paths, posts, and running styles. However, no matter how fair the track at Keeneland becomes, the one thing it hasn't done and still doesn't do, is play similarly to a dirt track.

Keeneland's track plays much closer to turf racing, and still does not in any way resemble the traditional dirt track racing conducted at Santa Anita. Even without its old off-the-pace bias, the truth of the matter is that Keeneland still favors closers over speed horses much more than does Santa Anita. Therefore, it is still advisable to downgrade any runner coming into the Breeders' Cup off an artificial track prep race, particularly any late runner exiting a race at Keeneland (or Arlington, Woodbine, Del Mar, and Turfway, too, for that matter).

SANTA ANITA TURF RACES

With all of this talk of synthetic racing and dirt races, at least one element of Breeders' Cup racing at Santa Anita that will not be impacted (thank goodness) will be turf racing, and that is certainly good news.

Post positions are very important on the Santa Anita turf course, because the course is smaller and the turns are tighter than at any other Breeders' Cup venue. The other important aspect about Santa Anita's grass course is its unique downhill turf course, which will play a major role in not only the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, but also in the long distance turf races -the Breeders' Cup Turf and Filly & Mare Turf -because both of those races will begin up the hill before the field races downhill, crosses the dirt track, and then makes one full circuit around the oval to the finish.

Because of the unique aspect of the Santa Anita grass course, the handicapping preference should be given to local "horses for the course" as well as European horses that will largely be unfazed by any kind of quirky North American turf course. Horses for the course will be particularly enticing to bet in the Turf Sprint, so watch the entries on Breeders' Cup Day for horses that have already won down the hill on turf at Santa Anita.

Getting back to post positions, they are of utmost importance at Santa Anita in both routes and sprints. Santa Anita turf sprints feature the only right turn in North American racing, and as a matter of fact, the first turn in the race is not a left turn, but a right turn. This essentially flip flops the gate, making the outside posts basically the inside posts, and vice versa. Outside posts have long been considered an advantage in Santa Anita turf sprints, while conversely, the inside posts -particularly posts 1, 2, 3 -are considered a bad disadvantage. A horse will need to be much, much the best in order to win the Breeders' Cup turf sprint from an inside post.

In Santa Anita turf routes, inside posts are good, but middle posts are just fine as well, all the way on out to posts 8 or 9. However, the far outside posts, particularly posts outside post 9, and major disadvantages at most distances on the Santa Anita grass. This impacts a lot of races, including the Turf, the Mile, the Filly & Mare Turf, the Juvenile Turf, and the Juvenile Filly Turf. The worst races for outside posts will definitely be the Mile and the two Breeders' Cup turf races for Juveniles.

Again, just like the inside-drawn horses in the Turf Sprint, a horse will need to be much the best in the race in order to win the Mile, the Juvenile Turf, or the Juvenile Filly Turf from a post position 9 or wider. In those races, give favoritism to the horses from inside and middle post positions.

LOOKING FOR WINNERS AND LONGSHOTS

Good win prices and boxcar exotics payoffs have always been -and will always be -a big part of the Breeders' Cup program. However, that doesn't mean that swinging for the fences and going bombs away is always the best Breeders' Cup betting strategy in each and every race. Instead, it is the handicappers who know how to differentiate between when to bet favorites and when to bet longshots who are the ones that have the most success on racing's biggest days.

Which Breeders' Cup races are the most likely to be won by favorites and which are the most likely to be won by a longshot?

Over the course of the 12 years between 2000-2012 the most likely Breeders' Cup race to feature an upset winner, according to the raw statistics, has been the Ladies' Classic, which had an average winning payoff of $36.16 thanks to horses like Pleasant Home ($63.50 in 2005), Unbridled Elaine ($26.60 in 2001), and especially Spain ($113.80 in 2000).

The Ladies' Classic (then called the Distaff) used to be a favorite-laden race back in the 80's and 90's, but that trend changed during the years 2000-2007 when six of the eight winners paid at least $26.60 with only two winning favorites in that eight-year span. The years 2008 and 2009 at Santa Anita, by the way, featured one longshot (Life Is Sweet, $18.20 in 2009), and one favorite (Zenyatta, $3.00 in 2008).

Besides the recent history of the Ladies' Classic, it has been the female races that have been the chalkiest over the course of the history of the Breeders' Cup. This is because longshots have been few and far between in the Juvenile Fillies and the Filly & Mare Turf, and the fact that a pair of second-favorites won the Filly & Mare Sprint in 2008 and 2009.

The Juvenile Fillies has been the most formful Breeders' Cup race, with an average winning payoff of just $6.01 from 2002 to 2007 thanks to six winning favorites in a row. The overall average win price in this race between 2000 and 2007 was $19.73, due entirely to Caressing's $96 win in 2000 skewing the sample. The amazingly low average odds of 2-1 for the last seven Juvenile Fillies winners on dirt is indicative of just how chalky the Juvenile Fillies has been. There are many spots to look for longshots in the Breeders' Cup, but the Juvenile Fillies definitely isn't one of them. This was again true in 2010 when the favorite, Awesome Feather at a very non-favorite-like 4-1, won the Juvenile Fillies, returning $10.40.

Of the remaining Breeders' Cup races restricted to females, the Filly & Mare Turf had been another race where form held up fairly well down through the years with an average win payoff of just $14.35 over the first 11-years of the race's history from 1999-2009. The average winning payoff of that race now is a bit skewed, however, thanks to 2010 winner Shared Account, who paid $94 to win and altered the average winning payoff in the 13-year history of the Filly & Mare Turf all the way upward to $21.00.

Aside from Shared Account, the F&M Turf has been a pretty chalky race overall. Four favorites won the F&M Turf in its first eleven runnings, and even when longshots win this race, such as Lahudood in 2007 ($25.40), Intercontinental in 2006 ($32.20) and Starine in 2002 ($28.40), they were longshots in the 10-1 to 15-1 range and not the 46-1 type of horses like the 2010 winner.

Just like the Juvenile Fillies and Filly & Mare Turf, the Sprint, Mile and Turf also have had relatively low average win payoffs between 2000 and 2011. This leaves the Juvenile as perhaps the best Breeders' Cup race to fish for a longshot, with an average win payoff of $21.80 with just two recent winning favorites.

And so now that we know we can expect about 11 favorites to lose in the 15-race Breeders' Cup two-day program, let's delve into each race individually to sort out exactly what angles bettors should be looking for in each of the races.

Read onward for my tips and/or angles for each 2012 Breeders' Cup race.

Friday, Race 4 -Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint

Bob Baffert won the first running of this race with a heavy favorite. The 2012 Juvenile Sprint features only a seven-horse field and one strong favorite -Merit Man -trained by Bob Hess Jr. Incidentally, Baffert does have a horse in the race -likely second-favorite Super Ninety Nine. This race looks like a very chalky exacta box featuring those two horses.

Friday, Race 5 -Breeders' Cup Marathon

This race is a handicapping quandary because the American horses generally would never have run 1 ¾ miles, and the European horses that are shipping into this race from overseas generally are all turf horses and have no dirt experience (and perhaps no dirt ability). The two best examples in this field of both dirt success and long distance success both happen to be Southern California-based horses -Juniper Pass and Worth Repeating. Juniper Pass in particular won at 1 ½ miles at Santa Anita, and won at 1 ¾ miles (on turf) at Santa Anita in the San Juan Capistrano. Both are deserving of a play in the Breeders' Cup Marathon, and both should be used in exotics like the pick 3, daily double, the pick 5, and the pick 6.

Friday, Race 6 -Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

This race features a big field filled with both European horses and North American hopefuls. Horses in past runnings of this race that have done well have basically all exited the same few prep races, including the Moyglare Stud Stakes at Curragh, the Ms. Grillo Stakes at Belmont, and the Natalma Stakes at Woodbine. This year, horses encompassed by this angle include Sky Lantern (Moyglare Stud Stakes), Spring Venture (Natalma), and Watsdachances (Ms. Grillo).

Also, this is a 14-horse field running one mile on the SA turf, which is a big post position disadvantage for any horse breaking outside post 9. Try to limit your selections to horses breaking from posts 1-9.

Friday, Race 7 -Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies

As mentioned above, this has historically been the chalkiest of all Breeders' Cup races, and it may again be futile this year to try to look beyond likely favorites Executiveprivilege and Beholder. For the record, however, the former will end up being the favorite, and it is the second choice (Beholder), who very well might have the advantage since she had the tougher trip when the two last met in the Del Mar Debutante when Executiveprivilege won by a nose.

Friday, Race 8 -Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf

The advantage in many recent runnings of this race has definitely gone to the European horses as opposed to the Americans. However, if you can find a Euro horse who has already benefitted from an American prep race, you might have the best of both worlds. In this year's field, this would mean that a horse like I'm A Dreamer, or Nahrain, might be worth a play.

Friday, Race 9 -Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic

This is the premier Breeders' Cup race of the entire weekend in terms of star power and the quality of the field. Defending Ladies' Classic winner Royal Delta will face a talented field including a pair of undefeated horses -My Miss Aurelia (6-for-6) and Awesome Feather (10-for-10). Add in the Alabama winner (Questing), the local prep winner Love and Pride, and the multiple stakes-winning Grace Hall, and you have a race suitable for top-billing not only on Friday, but also on Saturday. It's almost as easy to see Royal Delta finishing off the board as it is to see her winning as the favorite.

Saturday, Race 4 -Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf

This race is another race being run at 1 mile on the turf with a short run to the first turn and a big disadvantage for outside posts. That's important because this race draw a field of 14 horses, and let's face it, the horses outside post 9 will have little chance. Most of the principals drew decent posts, including the East's biggest and best hope, Noble Tune. Horses than take a hit due to the post draw include a pair of SoCal-based horses that otherwise would have had much better chances in this race -Dry Summer (post 11) and first-time turf starter Know More (post 13).

Saturday, Race 5 -Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint

This race features a strong favorite this year in Groupie Doll, who is even money on the morning line odds. Groupie Doll's two most recent wins have been on artificial tracks, which is suspect, but the fact that Groupie Doll is probably even better on dirt than she is on synthetics bodes very poorly for the chances of the rest of the field. She is undoubtedly one of Breeders' Cup weekend's best favorites. For an alternative, one interesting horse will be Musical Romance, who is the defending champ in this race when she won last year at 20-1. Her most recent races have been meant as preps. Saturday is showtime.

Saturday, Race 6 -Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile

Most of the division's best horses did not end up in the Dirt Mile, and we are left with an un-interesting nine-horse field with no star power. Shackleford is the big name, but he may have tailed-off in recent races. If he doesn't show up with a better effort, this is truly anyone's race. Did Jersey Town blow his best shot in his last race? Historically, two trends have ruled the handicapping of this race; 1) cutting back routers are better than stretching out sprinters, and 2) the pace is always much too fast and the race sets up for closers or at least stalkers -not speed horses. This favors Jersey Town and a horse like Rail Trip.

Saturday, Race 7 -Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint

The best angle in the wide-open turf sprint involves the post positions as they pertain to Santa Anita's unique downhill turf course, which features the only right-hand turn in North American racing. This essentially makes the inside posts outside and the outside posts inside. Both the short-term and long-term winning trends in Santa Anita's signature downhill turf sprint races agree -the inside posts are a major disadvantage, and the outside posts rule. Local veteran pro California Flag drew the worst (post 1), and outside contenders including Unbridled's Note (post 13) and Chosen Miracle (post 12) drew the best, along with Euro shipper Starspangledbanner from Europe's best outfit -the barn of Aiden O'Brien. Remember, the Americans won't get Lasix and the Europeans won't miss it, which is another great angle for a Euro shipper like Starspangledbanner, who enjoys a firm turf course.

Saturday, Race 8 -Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Shanghai Bobby has run his record to a perfect 4-for-4 for dominant juvenile trainer Todd Pletcher, and appears to have few, if any, weaknesses in this race -except the fact that he'll be favored. If you've watched the replays of some of the key prep races for this race, you might have noticed that Capo Bastone had a terrible trip and a big excuse two races ago in the Del Mar Futurity, and then got off to a slow start and tried to rally against a speed bias last time in the Frontrunner Stakes (formerly the Norfolk). He just needs a good trip and a good break to be a factor at a price, at least for the exotics.

Saturday, Race 9 -Breeders' Cup Turf

As mentioned before, toss out Dullahan, who is a horse without a proper Breeders' Cup spot. He's a synthetic track horse plan and simple. There's no dominant Euro invader in this race this year, with the exception of defending Breeders' Cup Turf champion St Nicholas Abbey. Ole' St. Nick, however, will be shipping over the ocean and running his fifth taxing race since late July. Can he hold up? If not, world traveler Trailblazer, who needed his last race off a layoff and wanted more distance, could be a good alternative, as could the East Coast's Point of Entry, who rides in on a hot streak with five straight wins.

Saturday, Race 10 -Breeders' Cup Sprint

Amazombie is the defending champion in this race, but comes in off a fourth-place clunker in the local prep race, making this race wide-open for handicappers. Coil won the aforementioned local prep, so he's an option. Trinniberg has perhaps been the best sprinter overall this season, but he's never beaten older horses. The Lumber Guy is also interesting. He returned to sprinting last time after a few distance experiments, and the result was he blew the doors off the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont. He's now 3-for-3 in sprints.

Saturday, Race 11 -Breeders' Cup Mile

Animal Kingdom is a big name and a wild card in this race, but the Breeders' Cup's biggest star chooses this race instead of the Classic with Wise Dan running in this spot instead of the feature. If his intention was to find an easier spot -he failed. This race has perhaps the best field of any of the nine Saturday Breeders' Cup races. Local mile specialist, Obviously, means business, the aforementioned Animal Kingdom could uncork a big one, and there's two European shippers who absolutely cannot be overlooked with serious win contenders Excelebration and the longshot Moonlight Cloud. You have to go all the way back to June of 2011 (nine races) to find a horse other than super horse Frankel who has beaten Excelebration. Wise Dan will have his hands full.

Saturday, Race 12 -Breeders' Cup Classic

The Classic ends a long day of racing at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time and 5:30 p.m. local time. Game On Dude is the local hero who finished second in this race last year and is ready to assume the throne. Is Game on Dude unbeatable? No. Is there any other horse in this race you can hang your hat on? No.

Best of luck, and enjoy two great days of racing from the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita!

21
Nov

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