Breeders' Cup is Here

Oct. 31, 2013

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I’ve discovered this week how tough it is to handicap Breeders’ Cup races.  In the past I have had the slightest of successes with the rules I’ve used (heavy emphasis on Oaklawn-raced horses and the Europeans in grass races) and this week I’ve tried to put some of those biases aside and do a better job.

The results are as confounding to me as they must be to all others. There are lots of horses from different parts of the country and elsewhere, which doesn’t help the confidence factor.  I also use Daily Racing Form early pps, which don’t include any pace or Tomlinson numbers.  You have to figure that out for yourself.  As a result there are few races with standouts and one, Wise Dan, who I’ve actually picked to run second—to a European, at that.

I still think there will be good things about the Europeans. The bad news is that it is late in their season (yes there is actually a season with a beginning and end in Europe.  That’s an old idea in the U.S.  We like to have our seasons go on 12 months of the year.  They say it’s economically better.)  But, since it’s late in the European season, it might be time for them to tail off.  At least the weather in California will be decent, not allowing Mother Nature to trick those horses into growing winter coats and feeling like the season has changed and they don’t have to give us their best.  The presence of Aiden O’Brien and Richard Hannon with horses at Breeders’ Cup is a good sign.   O’Brien always has great horses.  I love it when he puts his son, Joe, on a horse.  For some reason those are the hot horses which tend to run better.

Hannon was a personal favorite of the late Lee Tomlinson, but had always avoided the Breeders’ Cup like the plague.  It will behoove all of us to pay attention to anything he saddles.  I went on a racing trip with Tomlinson one year when he played on Hannon and Mick Chanon, another Brit who doesn’t have as many or as good stock at Hannon.  Tomlinson was the only one cashing tickets, since players going to the races in Britain or Europe have a lot less information than their American counterparts.  Hannon may not have the same magic here that he has in the U.K., but he is a great trainer and ranks with the best Americans.

I’m really excited about matching Olympic Glory, from Hannon’s barn, and Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.  Olympic Glory has been on turf against the best in Europe and now tries to hook the defending Mile champion and Horse-of-the-Year in Wise Dan.  There are other fine horses in the field for Saturday’s 11th race, including Silver Max, who recently outsped Wise Dan in the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland.  But my excitement will come from the confrontation between one of the best of Europe against our best in the U.S.

Of course there is Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which has returned to its old name after seeming to lose some luster as the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic.  The rematch of the great Beldame race between Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar looks like the highlight of Friday action. 

That is the 10th race on Friday and assumes that you still have some funds to back your favorite after a series of some of the most confounding races one could imagine in the first nine events.   My suggestion is that those of you on hand Friday, take the opportunity to advance wager the late races on Saturday, so that you haven’t run out of money before the best horses take the track and leave you without any action.

The good news is that these races are as fun to watch as they are to wager.  In the Breeders’ Cup events you get lots of good horses and the tradition of the day is surprise.  We’ve seen lots of nice prices on good horses, just not necessarily on those getting the most backing.  I personally think days like this are the toughest to handicap and to declare a profit.

However, champions are made as a result of these competitions.  Especially that is true of two-year-olds.  Clearly Havana is a standout heading into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he has done his spectacular racing in New York and that is a long way from California.  Many good horses do not make that transition.  The time (eastern zone versus western) may be the explanation.  But, if they can win in both locations, horses have earned the title which follows.

I hope you have as much fun as I will, following the events of the next couple of days.  It will give us plenty to talk about in coming months.  My favorite horse, Paynter, will try to win and has to beat a stablemate, Game On Dude, to accomplish that.  Whatever the result Paynter has been through so much that he will continue to be my favorite win, place or show in Saturday’s Classic.  It’s just a miracle that he’s going to be in the starting gate for that thriller.  I’ll be rooting for him and am not ashamed to admit that.          

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