Breeders' Cup Betting
by Trevor Whenham - 10/25/2006
When it comes to playing the horses, there's betting and then there's Breeders' Cup betting. We almost need a different word for what we will get to experience on Nov. 4, because it is an entirely different experience than we get on a normal day at the races. Everything is so much bigger on Breeders' Cup day - the fields, the purses, the pools, the payoffs. For horseplayers, the Breeders' Cup is like the Super Bowl, the BCS and the Final Four all played in the same afternoon.
If you don't know why the Breeders' Cup is such a great opportunity for betting you only need to look at last year's Distaff. The race had a very good payout, but it certainly wasn't unique on racing's biggest day.
The race set up with a clear favorite, the incredible mare Ashado. Some would argue that she was the best horse in training, never mind in the race. She was so good that she was sold as a broodmare soon after the race for $9 million. In the 13-horse field she went off as 2/1 favorite. She was so well regarded that no other horse was even close to her on the tote board - Happy Ticket and Stellar Jayne were next at 9/2. Only five horses in the race had odds in the single digits. It was clearly her race to lose. Ashado finished third, but the race was a disaster. She got caught in traffic in the backstretch, was bumped hard at the top of the stretch, and then couldn't hold on for second. Stellar Jayne finished fourth and Happy Ticket was 11th.
The winner of the race was Pleasant Home, a 31/1 shot. She didn't just win the race, she crushed it. After spending the first three quarters of a mile at the back of the pack she exploded at the top of the stretch and she won by 9 1/4 lengths under a hand ride, posting an eye popping 120 Beyer rating. The second place finisher, Society Selection, went off at 12/1. Pleasant Home topped a $692 exacta and a $3,453 triacta, and was the third leg of a $8,668 Pick 3. In that Pick 3, buying every possible combination would have cost $5,488 for a $2 ticket, so you could have made a $3,180 profit with absolutely no risk, though I obviously don't suggest that approach. Those aren't the kind of numbers you see very often on a Wednesday afternoon at your local track. Even the heavy favorite in the field paid a decent $3.30 to show.
The point isn't that Pleasant Home was an obvious and overlooked winner (she definitely wasn't). The point is that the challenges of the field size and quality make favorites vulnerable, and most of the horses in the field have been training for months for this specific race, so huge prices happen all the time. When prices are higher than normal, and there are more legitimate live longshots than on any other day of the year, you can afford to spend more on a race -- as long as you are doing it intelligently -- and still have a good chance at a very acceptable return.
Because every thing is different on Breeders' Cup day, you can't afford to approach the day in the same way that you approach every other day at the races. You probably play the Super Bowl differently than you do a game in week two (more research, more money bet, different wagers), and you need to do the same thing with Breeders' Cup betting. Here are four tips that give you a better chance at winning big on the big day:
Have a deep wallet - There is a full menu of exotics on every race, huge pools in the Pick 4 and Pick 6, and all the straight bets in every race, too. There are tons of opportunities, in other words. Because the fields are so huge and solid, however, you aren't going to win every race you need to have the bankroll in place to weather the lows so that you can cash in on the highs. You almost certainly will want to have a much larger bankroll than you normally would at the races.
Pick your spots - As much as you may want to, you can't effectively bet every opportunity in every race, and you probably can't afford to. Instead, concentrate on a few situations that seem like particularly good spots to you and focus more of your bankroll on making them pay off.
Plan ahead - With 14 horses in six of the eight races, and very few obviously bad horses that you can immediately toss out, you simply won't have the time you will need to do a good job handicapping the races in the time between races. Depending on where you are watching, you will also find longer lines and more inexperienced bettors, so betting will take much longer than normal. By doing most of your homework in advance you can make sure that you get to make the bets you want to make. This is especially important in the multi-race exotics like the Pick 3 and Pick 4. If you don't handicap these in advance you won't have time to handicap them properly at the track, and you will miss out on your shot at a very lucrative payday.
Be careful with the favorites - You need to pay attention to the favorites, but you can't fall in love with them. It would be very easy to fall for all the hype on the day and pick the horses that have won the big prep races and have the best connections. Those horses will win some races, but they will also be beat in several of the races, like Ashado was in the Distaff last year. You need to involve the favorites in your choices when they are clearly warranted (like Bernardini in the Classic, no matter what price he is at), but you also need to look beyond the top two or three horses in every race to see who looks good deeper in the field.