Once a year, the best horses in the world assemble to compete against each other in one of 13 races that comprises the $25 million World Thoroughbred Championship Breeders’ Cup (BC). This year’s two day event will be hosted by Keeneland Race Track in Lexington. Kentucky.
Friday’s schedule at Turf Paradise: Gates Open: 9:00 am, 1st Simulcast: 9:30 am. 1st BC Race: 12:30 pm, 1st Live Race: 12:55 pm.
Saturday’s schedule: Gates Open: 7:30 am, 1st simulcast: 8:00 am, 1st BC Race: 9:05 am. 1st Live Race: 11:30 am.
Friday’s BC Races: $1 million Juvenile Turf; $1 million Dirt Mile’ $1 million Juvenile Turf fillies; $2 million Distaff.
Saturday’s BC Races: $2 million Juvenile Fillies; $1 million Turf Sprint; $1 million Filly & mare Sprint; $2 million Filly & mare Turf; $1.5 million Sprint. $2 million Mile Turf; $2 million Juvenile; $3 million Turf and $5 million Classic. Admittedly, the BC is an annual treat, a cornucopia of Thoroughbred excellence.
After all, the best horses in America are squaring off against some of Europe’s Grade A talent. Therein, the handicapping challenge and the accompanying headache that goes with it.
The goal of handicapping a horse race is to analyze the competition and eventually (hopefully) narrow your selections to the Top 3. From there, money management comes into play as to how you’re going to allocate your bankroll:
Win wagering, exactas, trifectas, etc. With BC races, any BC race, it’s difficult if not impossible to narrow your selection to a Top 3, due to the fact the talent runs so deep.
Take the BC Classic, for example. A field of 10 horses is expected. A case can be made for 8 of the 10. Unless you feel Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is “The One”, you’re looking at a sizable investment.
So, let’s start there: Is there any BC race where a horse is such a standout because of his record that he/she can be singled and then build the rest of your bet from there?
There are two BC races where singling a horse might be in order: Private Zone in the Sprint and Golden Horn in the Turf.
Private Zone, who finished third in this race last year, has won three of his five races this year (all Graded stake and he’s coming off a win in the Forego (G1) where he beat 11 rivals while not being fully asked for his best.
Golden Horn has won seven of his eight efforts in Europe, including his last victory, the prestigious Prix del Arc de Triomphe, in which he bested 16 rivals.But that’s only two of 13 races where standout horses are being signaled. What to do with the rest of the BC races?A few helpful handicapping hints (hopefully): European horses do well on the turf (their normal and preferred running surface in England, Ireland and France). They struggle if racing on the dirt.
Give preference to horses which have won or finished in the money in Grade 1 races. Graded races, which are marked by a G1, G2 or G3 following the name of the stakes, indicate the level of competition. G1 races are the best and toughest.
Take note of horses’ workouts at Keeneland. If they’re good workouts, it’s an indication they’re taking to the surface and that’s a plus.Last race indicator. Did a horse’s last race indicate he may be falling off form, or, is he/she rounding into a best effort? If you spot the rounding into best effort horse, you assured a decent price.
Points for jockey and trainer. Normally in regular horse races, this evaluation can be a tie breaker when deciding between/among horses. But since all jockeys and trainers are the world’s best in BC races, this consideration loses its importance.
Handicapping the BC Classic: Let’s take a look at one race, the eagerly awaited BC Classic, and see if we can narrow the expected 10 horse field down to the Top 3. First, due to the quality of talent and running styles, the BC Classic becomes a tactical race: that is, a single mistake by any of the entrants will cost him/her the victory.To start, I’ve eliminated Effinex and Hard Aces from Top 3 consideration, feeling they’re over matched with the rest of the talent.
The key to the BC Classic, I feel, rests with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and the brilliant race mare Beholder. Both of these horses do their best running on or near the lead. If American Pharoah tracks close to a pace-setting Beholder, the danger would be to let the mare carve out too slow early fractions, thereby having wind in her sails in the stretch drive of the 1 ¼ mile Classic.
If American Pharoah presses Beholder too early, he may come up with less than what is needed for the stretch drive, giving a host of closers a chance at the prize. Another scenario would be If American Pharoah and Beholder go at it right from the get go. This could compromise both their chances of winning. I don’t think this tactic will unfold.
The question mark in the Classic is the European import Gleneagles. The 3-year-old’s European form is impressive with five G1 victories. In his last start, his first against older horses, he could only manage a 6th place of nine effort. That and making his first start on dirt, are question marks.
The Top 3 in the Classic: American Pharoah, Beholder and Honor Code, not necessarily in that order.
Enjoy the world’s best horses. Good luck.