2014 Breeders' Cup Sprint Predictions and Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 10/28/2014
Sprinters are wired differently than most horses. Big and powerful, they run fast and typically with little patience. This race is often much different than most, too. We see more horses come into this race off of odd prep paths than any other race, and as a result odd winners are just the norm. It's a race that makes the head of handicappers hurt year after year.
As the fourth last race of the card, though, it is very important from a betting perspective because it factors into both the Pick 6 and the lucrative late Pick 4. We can't ignore, so we just have to work harder to handicap it - and go really deep in this race in our exotic bets just to be safe. Here are six of the entrants that stand out of a crowded, competitive field:
Secret Circle (9/2): Trainer Bob Baffert has so often succeeded in this race in bizarre circumstances that whatever approach he takes leading into the race is basically the new normal. In 2008 he won with Midnight Lute when that horse had raced just once since winning the same race the year before - and that prep was 63 days before the Breeders' Cup. Last year this horse won the Sprint with just one prep race. Now he is back to defend his title, and, you guessed it - he has only had one prep race in eight months. He was third in that race - the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championships in early October. Since then, though, he has worked very well - like he did last year. We know he can win this race. We know his trainer can, too. We know he likes the track and that he is sharp. He might not make a lot of sense on paper here, but he is clearly not a horse that can be ignored.
Palace (6/1): This five year old has two Grade 1 wins in the last three months, and his 107 Beyer speed rating in the first of those wins is the highest in this field this year. He should absolutely be able to win this race. There are a couple of concerns, though. Most significantly, he was bred in New York. There have been 51 previous New York-bred entrants who have run in a Breeders' Cup race, and none have won. Ouch. Second, after those two wins this summer he made his final prep start in the Vosburgh at Belmont and finished a disappointing third. Also, even though the Vosburgh is one of the biggest sprints of the fall, no horse has ever come from that race to win the Sprint at Santa Anita. Finally, the horse seems to like a more casual first quarter, but he is all but certain to see a very swift one in this race - there almost always is one in the Breeders' Cup sprint. It's a lot to overcome, but on talent he is capable.
Rich Tapestry (5/1): The Sprint is never an easy race to handicap, and this horse is yet another complicated one. He had a strong second in Dubai in March. Then he was a lousy eighth in Hong Kong in April. Then he disappeared, unseen until he turned up at Santa Anita to win the Sprint Championship on Oct. 4 - over Secret Circle and others in a strong field. It was his first race in North America and only his third on dirt. The effort was very impressive, though. Can he replicate it? Or will he regress?
Private Zone (6/1): Last year this horse won the Vosburgh, but then had an absolutely disastrous outing in the Breeders' Cup Sprint as the second choice. He ran once more last November and then again in early September - neither a win - before returning to the Vosburgh and again winning it. Can he have a better effort this time around? One thing to not get fooled about by this horse is the change of trainer. Doug O'Neill has long been his trainer and functionally still is. He's an accomplished drug cheat, though, and is suspended yet again for his actions, so the horse is racing under the name of an assistant.
Big Macher (12/1): This horse was the top West Coast sprinter this spring until an injury sidelined him in April. He came back at the end of July and beat a strong field. A month later he was unimpressive. Instead of racing him again in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship - obviously a significant race this year - they instead decided to train him up to this race. He has trained incredibly well, with bullets in four of his last five outings. Can he translate very strong training efforts into a big race here? If he goes off at anything close to this price, he'd be hard to ignore.
Salutos Amigos (6/1): Like I said, the Sprint is always a weird race. After an uninteresting fourth in the Vosburgh, the connections of this race debated between pointing this horse here or leaving him in New York to run in the Bold Ruler at Belmont the weekend before. He won that race impressively on Saturday, so the connections booked a flight and are going to run him against the best sprinters in the country off of six-days rest - with a cross-country trip thrown in. To further complicate things, the Bold Ruler was his 10th attempt at a graded stakes and the first time he had finished better than third.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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