2018 Breeders' Cup Mile Expert Predictions and Betting Odds
I love the Breeders' Cup Mile. It's like a glimpse into European racing - this is a distance and surface that is much more popular and significant there than here. We get top American turf milers facing often less than the best of European milers, yet the Euros often have an edge. And we have seen some truly inspiring champions in this race - legendary three-time winner Goldikova, two-time champs Wise Dan, Miesque and Lure, and the great Tepin among them. It's like an injection of something different in the middle of the Breeders' Cup card, and I always look forward to it.
This is the sixth time the Breeders' Cup has been run at Churchill Downs, so the sample size is starting to get big enough that we can look at what can be learned. There have been two favorites who have won in the five races, but also two long shots - including Court Vision at a ridiculous 65/1. Not much of use there. This is more interesting - Goldikova is the only winner of the race at Churchill that did make his or her final prep start in the United States. And, no winner has been better than sixth after a half mile of the race, so this is not a venue that has favored front runners at this distance.
We'll look at this race a little differently than we do for most, separating the American runners from the Euro invaders.
The Americans (man, do I ever miss that show)
It doesn't feel like the strongest group of domestic milers, yet the odds suggest that they are in very good shape. There are three Americans at 6/1, trailing only lukewarm Euro favorite Polydream at 5/1. Oscar Performance is a Breeders' Cup veteran - he won the Juvenile Turf in 2016 and led for much of the Turf last year before fading to ninth. This year has been a little odd. After only making his debut with a win in June, he was injured in the Arlington Million and left the course in a van. That is rarely a good thing, but just over a month later he came back and won the Woodbine Mile in fairly impressive fashion. I really like this horse, but he runs on the lead, and at this price that is a disqualifying trait for me.
Catapult is something you don't see often - a turf horse that gets better after leaving Chad Brown's stable. He was there until last September and didn't do much, but since transferring to John Sadler and moving to California he's like a new horse. He was second in his tuneup after a nine-month layoff but then won two Grade 2 stakes at Del Mar. He hasn't run since August, but he is training really well, and his mid-pack running style is sound here. I like the horse, but trusting Sadler is terrifying - he has had 41 Breeders' Cup starters without a win. Analyze It is probably the better of Chad Brown's two entrants, but I am not convinced by him. He was second in three longer races this summer, but when he was shortened up to a mile at Keeneland in October he was a pretty ugly fourth in the Shadwell Mile. Not a lot of value here. If I wanted to stay domestic, I would pick Catapult, and he will factor into my exotics along with Oscar Performance, but this feels like a European race this year.
Polydream is a nice filly, having won a Group 1 in France in August. What helped her cause as the favorite, though, is that trainer Freddie Head trained Goldikova to her three wins in the Mile. I'm not convinced at the price. Aidan O'Brien, the one guy who can best stand up to Bob Baffert in the argument for world's top trainer, seemingly brought his whole stable over to Louisville this year, and three of his runners are in this race. Two are at 10/1. Gustav Klimt hasn't won at this distance in five tries, hasn't won anything since early this year, and just doesn't excite me. I Can Fly is a filly I do like, though. She has had a couple of nice wins at a mile this summer and was just second to the impressive Roaring Lion, who we will oddly see in the Classic this year, last time out. At the price she offers value. The other O'Brien horse is Happily at 15/1. She's anther filly, but she just hasn't appeared good enough this year and was a total disaster in her first trip across the pond for last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Sir Michael Stoute has brought two over, and the one I like more is Expert Eye, at 8/1 with Frankie Dettori aboard. He has had a solid summer, and he likes firm turf. Stoute has won seven Breeders' Cup races, too. I like him and will use him - though I'd like him better at 12/1. And the final Euro horse that strikes me as really interesting is Lightning Spear. Liking him means tossing out his last two results. But the softer turf didn't suit him, so I don't mind ignoring them. He has had an excellent summer, and he is a veteran miler with almost endless experience. At 20/1 he presents nice value.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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