2014 Breeders' Cup Classic Futures Odds and Betting Picks
by Trevor Whenham - 7/31/2014
We're only in the middle of the summer, but it is never too soon to start looking forward to the Breeders' Cup Classic. It's the best race in the world for older horses, and it very often lives up to its name and delivers a classic. It is far too early to know what the field will look like or what horses will be at the peak of their game on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita when the race is run. We have seen enough, though, to get a good sense of what futures odds might offer a bit of value (odds to win the Breeders' Cup Classic come from Sportsbook.ag):
Palace Malice (+250): Last year's Belmont winner has had an outstanding start to the season with four wins in four tries. His win in the Metropolitan last time out was the best effort I have seen all year, and now he is heavily favored to win the Whitney on Saturday at Saratoga. Win or lose, though, that effort is irrelevant in my eyes. In baseball you can't be blinded by strong play in June when handicapping the World Series, and the same goes here. He has been dominant so far, but is that because he is truly dominant, or because he found his form sooner than other top horses this year? He is coming off a short layoff for the Whitney, so we'll get a better sense of his overall form in that race. I won't truly believe in the horse as a Classic winner, though, until I see his final prep race and how he works up to the Classic. Given the real risk that he peaked too early, there is no attraction at all in betting on him at this price.
California Chrome (+400): I wouldn't bet on this horse at three times this price. Not right now, anyway. It takes a very special three year old to win this race, and we have no idea of whether he has matured and developed enough to fit that bill. He hasn't raced since the Belmont, and that race was a total disaster for him. He has skipped the major summer races like the Haskell and Travers, and he is now reportedly aiming for the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 20 - much more of a cash grab than a real path to greatness. My issues with this horse are colored by my distaste for his connections at this point, but I don't have the blind faith that some clearly do that he is truly great.
Will Take Charge (+400): Last year's three year old champion lost the Classic by a narrow margin to Mucho Macho Man, and he is looking to move up a spot on the podium this time around. He is facing Palace Malice in the Whitney this weekend. While a win would obviously build confidence, what I am looking for more is that he can show he can handle adversity. He has an impressive win this year and a slew of good excuses for his losses. He needs to take charge of a race and win it despite his excuses. He is good enough to do so, but talent alone isn't enough. Like Palace Malice, I would like to see more of his preparation - and a statement race - before I would accept this price.
Shared Belief (+400): This horse initially got press last year because Jim Rome is his owner. He quickly stood on his own with dominant performances, though, and was named champion two year old. Derby fever was in full swing, but an injury knocked him off the path. He has been nothing short of dominant since returning, though, and has the potential to be a freak of a horse. We will have a much better sense of what he is capable of when he faces older horses in the Pacific Classic, the crown jewel of the Del Mar meet, later this summer. If he wins there against what should be a solid field then this price will seem like a bargain. That race is on a synthetic surface instead of the dirt of the Classic, so it will still raise questions, but there is a very real possibility that California Chrome isn't even the best three year old in California this year.
Bayern (+1400): As I said, I am skeptical of three year olds as a rule in this race, but you can't help but like this price for this horse after his absolutely dominating win in the Haskell. He had never completely put the pieces together and run his best through the spring, but he was in a totally different class last time out. Bob Baffert knows how to get horses to peak for the Breeders' Cup, so Bayern will be ready if that is what is best for him. At this point in the year it is preposterous to think that California Chrome is three and a half times more likely to win this race than Bayern is, yet that's what the odds suggest. On that basis alone, then, there is at least relative value here.
Social Inclusion (+3000): This three year old flashed massive amounts of talent in the spring but failed to deliver on the potential during the Triple Crown season and in the Haskell. His connections finally came to their senses, though, and made a move that was long overdue. His 85-year-old trainer was a good story, but it was doing the horse no favors. He was moved this week to Chad Brown, and he should benefit from that immensely. Brown is very talented and will develop depth in this horse and help him do what he is capable of. We'll have to see what he looks like next time out under Brown because at this point he wouldn't even be in the Classic field, but there are worse ideas than throwing a couple of bucks onto this horse at this price.
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