2019 Breeders' Cup Mile Predictions and Expert Betting Picks
I will be frank - I don't think that there is a tougher race to handicap consistently on the Breeders' Cup card than the Mile. We get a higher level of Euro invader than we typically do for the Turf . American horses are better bred to run the mile distance in most cases than the mile and a half of the Turf. And the race doesn't behave like you might expect it to. Case in point, when we think of a mile on dirt, we often think of it as a longer sprint, so we might naturally give horses on or near the pace the edge. But in the last 20 years of this race, the winner of this race has not been in the lead at either the quarter mile or half mile call. And only one press-pacing type of horse, World Approval in 2017, has even won the race in the last 20 years, and he ran more off the pace than usual on that day.
It's also a very tough race to deal with because you can never really figure out whether to stick to the low odds horses or to go for a long shot. In the last 20 years, the race has been won by the favorite seven times, which is well ahead of expectations. And 12 winners have gone off at 6/1 or less. But six winners have won at double-digits, too, and four have gone off at 24/1 or higher, which is also well above expectations. So, picking the winner is easy - just pick the favorites and the long shots and you'll be fine. That makes my head hurt.
As if the race isn't confusing enough already, here's another bizarre quirk that would only be relevant in this race. Seven of the last 20 winners have run their last prep race in France - a country that is only relevant internationally at this distance and surface. That's an extra leg up here for three horses - favored Circus Maximus, mid-range contender Hey Gaman, and longshot Trais Fluors all were last seen in the land of bread and cheese. Only Circus Maximus won in his French outing, though, and 10 of the last 20 Mile winners have won their final prep race.
We have seen that anything can happen in this race. In the full field of 14 runners, though, the oddsmakers suggest that it comes down to three top contenders. Let's look at those three, along with a couple more that are at least a little interesting (Odds are the track morning line):
Circus Maximus (3/1): This three-year-old colt is trained by Europe's top trainer, Aidan O'Brien. That's not a boost in this race, though. O'Brien has won the Turf six times and has a good shot at a seventh this year, but he has never won this race. His win in France in September was his third win in six starts this year, and all have come in Group 1 races. They have tried to stretch him out, but he is clearly better at a mile, where he has two wins and a second this year. He has form, his connections are strong, his breeding is very nice - he's a deserving favorite. I'm more likely than not to be betting on him as the centerpiece of my bets in this race.
Uni (7/2): This five-year-old mare started her career in France but has been here for more than two years now. She shifted to the mile distance in April of 2018, and it has fit her like a glove. She has run seven times since and has six wins and a third in that time, including two Grade 1 wins. Last time out she not only won the First Lady Stakes at Keeneland, but she set a course record in the process. She's legitimate and in form. My biggest concern is that she is a deep closer, and Santa Anita's course isn't the best place to run like that. But she deserves respect.
Got Stormy (7/2): The only horse to beat Uni in the last two years, this four-year-old filly has won three times at a mile this year, and she was a narrowly beaten second in the Woodbine Mile last time out. Trainer Mark Casse has won this race twice in the last four years, so he obviously knows what needs to be done. She doesn't run as far off the pace as Uni does, which is ideal here. She feels like a threat and has to be part of exotics tickets - an aggressive part.
El Tormenta (12/1): This four-year-old gelding beat Got Stormy last time out, chasing her down in the end. It was by far the best race of his career. He's obviously capable, but when a horse takes a big step forward, it is tough to trust that he can sustain it. He's interesting, but not interesting enough at this price.
Hey Gaman (12/1): This four-year-old colt has the whole French connection going for him. He generally hasn't been good enough in his European races, and he hasn't run in top races, either. But what does stand out is that he has run by far his best races on firm turf. The turf in Europe is generally softer than it is here, and California hasn't been overwhelmed with rain of late, so the going will be rock hard. That could boost this horse into contention, and he has to be a factor in the bottom parts of your exotics tickets.
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