The Breeders’ Cup is a mentally exhausting 13-race, two-day betting marathon with exactas, trifectas and superfectas in every race, along with rolling daily doubles and Pick-threes, Pick-fours, plus a massive guaranteed Pick-6 pool each day. So while the rewards are incredibly rich if you hit, handicappers must have bankroll discipline or else face the consequences of losing too many wagers.
With so many different wagering opportunities, focusing on ‘best bets’ and executing a game plan are necessary for managing the complex BC wagering menu.
In fact, with so much data, so many news updates, so many wagering options, and above all, so many fit and ready entrants, it is impossible to prepare the morning of each day’s events. An advance game plan is essential. Here’s what mine will look like:
- Take the time to write down a general game plan a day or two in advance. Have an idea of how you want to bet each day. Pay close attention to what wagering options are available - doubles, Pick-3s, Pick-4s, etc. Study each day’s card in two stages: First, pick your contenders (and bet againsts), then take a second look to develop a betting strategy.
- Devote more of your bankroll to exotics than usual. With very few odds-on favorites and many races filled top-to-bottom with horses set to run a peak effort, exotic payouts are much bigger in the Breeders’ Cup than any other race day of the year. Because it is so difficult to accurately eliminate horses, logical contenders are going to offer generous odds.
- Distinguish your ‘best bets’ from race contenders. Take your one, two or three true best bets and bet them to win with conviction. Exotic wagers can also be bet to increase your winnings when you are really right about a race, but always make sure to play those serious win bets. A best bet that wins should put cash in your pocket even if the exotics don’t pan out.
- Do not wager the same amount of money on each race! Your best plays should get the majority of your investment. It is any easy trap to fall into - a $20 win bet, a $2 exacta box, a $1 trifecta box, a handful of doubles and Pick-3s, and before you know it, you are spending $60+ on a race where you lack a strong opinion.
- In races where you lack a best bet, use small token bets to try to make a big score. If you like the 2/1 favorite in a race where you lack any real opinions, don’t spend $12 on tickets with low priced contenders, or bet $10 to win and pick up $30. Instead, play a small amount on keying your pick in some bigger exotics that can pay boxcars.
- A review of the Breeders’ Cup Stats site is crucial: http://stats.breederscup.com. There are a select few riders and trainers that maintain a high win percentage in the Breeders’ Cup. Find out who those connections are and give them extra consideration with any starter they bring to Del Mar.
With those criteria in mind, here’s my list of the runners that I plan to give extra consideration to:
BC Juvenile Fillies Turf: Significant Form appears to be the next turf filly star out of the Chad Brown barn and I doubt she will be anywhere close to her 8/1 morning line by the time the runners enter the starting gate. Incidentally, this is the first horse owned by supermodel Stephanie Seymour (Brant) and is sure to attract additional public attention for the personal story. Ordinarily this a race where I look to Europeans, but Significant Form looks to be very precocious and well ahead of her peers.
BC Dirt Mile: Mor Spirit, Cupid, and Sharp Azteca are all top contenders that look tough to separate but much better than the other entrants.
BC Juvenile Turf: No strong opinion. Europeans often prove better than the Americans. This year should be no exception with no imposing looking locals.
BC Distaff: Elate seems to have developed into a fearsome competitor just in time for the Breeders’ Cup. Bill Mott has won the Distaff five times, and is one of the few east coast trainers that has good success shipping out to win west coast stakes.
BC Juvenile Fillies: Token bet race. Moonshine Memories is the likely favorite but the entire field has posted sub-par times in prep races for this. Second choice Separationofpowers drew far outside in post 13 and has never tried two turns, making her a vulnerable contender.
BC Turf Sprint: Will be run at just 5/8 of a mile this year, making it the shortest Breeders’ Cup race in history. Lady Aurelia has been a dominant turf sprinter abroad and is undefeated in America. She should handle the boys once again here.
BC Filly & Mare Sprint: Token bet race. Aside from three-year-old filly Unique Bella, the race seems wide open this year. Bella is facing the country’s top female sprinters in her second start off a long layoff, so I will look for overlays but don’t anticipate wagering much money.
BC Filly & Mare Turf: Shortened from 1 3/8th to 1 1/8th miles this year, making it a two-turn middle distance race instead of a three-turn marathon. Lady Eli will be the public choice but the race looks wide open with many contenders more or less evenly matched. I plan to play War Flag and Cambodia. They are horses I have followed all year, are entering the race in peak form, and will be 15/1 odds or more.
BC Sprint: Drefong is one of my best bets of the weekend. He should win his second straight BC Sprint, but won’t be anywhere near the 4/1 he paid in 2016.
BC Mile: Top-tier European turf milers Ribchester, Roly Poly and Churchill all ship in. Tough to see any American winning this race this year.
BC Juvenile: Bolt d’Oro will be the deserving favorite and probably the shortest price on the 2017 Breeders’ Cup card. Based on his wins so far, he’s the strongest standout in recent memory in the BC Juvenile, and the value may be looking for longshots to run second and third.
BC Turf: Highland Reel and Ulysses are top Europeans at the 1 1/2 mile distance. Hard to see any Americans upsetting the like of these runners, similar to last year when Highland Reel completely dominated this race.
BC Classic: Arrogate has run several races that are simply light years ahead of anything else in this field. But he has also run two very dull races at Del Mar. If he’s an amazing horse that simply happens to not like Del Mar, it opens the door for Gun Runner to win Horse of the Year honors. And while Gun Runner has blossomed this year, he is 0-3 at at the 1 1/4 mile distance and has been well-beaten twice by Arrogate. Plus trainer Bob Baffert may enter as many as five horses, so it is hard to imagine Gun Runner having things his own way, leading me to believe Baffert is certain to have Arrogate primed to finish out his career with a win, just like when he trained American Pharoah to rebound from a Travers upset to win the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Be sure to check out Dean Arnold's first handicapping book, A Bettor Way, on sale now through your local and online bookstores and Xlibris Publishing.
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