Breeders' Cup Favorites To Watch
by Trevor Whenham - 11/01/2006
When it comes to betting on the Breeders' Cup, everyone dreams of the big score - hitting longshots in every race and retiring to a beach somewhere with your riches. While it is true that some longshots do come in and pay ridiculously and beautifully huge prices, the favorites also do their job at a decent rate. Over the last six years, 15 post time favorites have won their races. That's 2.5 winning favorites per year. That means that we can expect to see two or three favorites cross the finish line first on Saturday. The trick, then, is to figure out which of the favorites are legitimately worth our attention, and which ones we can afford to ignore in search of better value somewhere else. The morning line odds were set this morning, so here is a look at the eight horses with the distinction of being the early favorites:
Breeders' Cup Classic - We'll start at the end, because this is by far the simplest decision to make. The favorite has done well in recent years in the Classic - it won the last two years, and it finished second twice before that. This year's favorite will certainly be the most overwhelming choice on the card. Bernardini was installed at even money, and that should fall by post time. That's a ridiculous price in a field full of 13 top horses, but Bernardini is such a completely ridiculous horse that he warrants any price he gets. He drew the number three post, which should set up just fine for him. I'm not guaranteeing he is going to win, but I don't see any other horse that I would pick at the exclusion of Bernardini, and no price will change my mind. Of course, you will get very little value betting on him to win. You have a decision to make, then - do you want to key him on top of exotics to try to find a better price, or do you want to ignore him and take a shot at other horses to try to find value? Lava Man is obviously a very good horse, and the 6/1 morning line is considerably higher than he has run for over his six-race winning streak. Even still, I'm taking Bernardini.
Juvenile Fillies - This race has been won by the favorite four years in a row. This year's favorite is Cash Included at 3/1. In a field that is remarkably short of stars it's not hard to like this horse. She has won her last two races after an ugly fourth her first time out. She got a significant jump in trainer quality when she was moved to Craig Dollase before her last outing. Her Beyer ratings have improved dramatically each time out, and she has looked good in training since her last start. I'm not going to bet the house on her, but I can't come up with a good reason to ignore her, either.
Juvenile - This is the only race that has not been won by the favorite since 2000, and this year's class is so open that that trend seems likely to continue. Circular Quay, the Todd Pletcher horse coming off a surprising loss on the Polytrack at Keeneland, is the favorite at 5/2. It's a lukewarm endorsement, however, since four other horses are at 6/1 or lower. It's quite possible that Circular Quay is the best in the field, but the same argument could be made for the other four well-regarded horses, and strong cases can be made for longer shots like King of the Roxy and Pegasus Wind. Unless you have a reason to love Circular Quay, this is a good race to go shopping for value.
Filly and Mare Turf - Ouija Board is the 8/5 favorite in the 10 horse field. She has been first and second in the last two runnings of this race, both times as favorite. She's been running in Europe against the best horses, regardless of gender, this past year and doing very well. With the exception of 3/1 second choice Wait a While, Ouija Board has a clear class advantage over the rest of the field and is worth treating as such.
Sprint - The closer I get to this race, the more confused I get. Henny Hughes is the deserving 2/1 favorite, with Bordonaro behind at 3/1. The problem is that the pace in this race is so uncertain. There are a lot of horses, including the two favorites, who will be looking to be at or near the front. Henny Hughes has held off his opposition in those scenarios so far this year, but it will be harder to do against the class of this field, especially with several live stalkers like Too Much Bling, Siren Lure or Kelly's Landing. I still think that Henny Hughes is a serious contender, but he won't be left alone at the top of my exotics.
Mile - Gorella, a filly, is the 4/1 favorite in this wide open 14-horse field. Her running style means that she won't be limited by her number 12 post. The problem isn't with this exceptional filly, it's that a number of other horses are about as good. Araafa has been solid in Europe, Aragorn is riding a winning streak, Librettist looked unbeatable before a bad outing last time out, Aussie Rules and Miesque's Approval stand up under scrutiny. In other words, this race could go in a wide variety of ways. If you are determined to throw out a favorite, the sheer volume of quality in this race may make this the perfect spot.
Distaff - Coming off a seven-race winning streak, Fleet Indian has been installed as the heavy 8/5 favorite. Pine Island is second at 5/1. Fleet Indian is one of those horses you either like or you don't. She has been dominant at times, overcame adversity in her last win, and has beaten most of the class of the division. Despite that, she has a fair share of non-believers. I'll be using her, and without much company, at the top of my exotics, but I respect those who aren't. I figure that she owes me because I lost money backing her sire, Indian Charlie, in the Derby.
Turf - Hurricane Run is technically the favorite at 3/1, but this race is very tight at the top. English Channel is at 7/2, and Cacique is at 4/1. There is very little to choose from between those three, making this the murkiest race on the card. It's hard to know what will happen, but I do know that you are making a mistake if you treat Hurricane Run alone as favorite here.