The Breeders’ Cup, which features several races at Keeneland in Lexington, KY, on Friday and Saturday, is known to provide some of the largest and most dramatic life-changing payouts in the sport.
Here, we’ll break down some of the best bets of the weekend and preview the many exciting undercard races scheduled for Nov. 6 and 7.
Best bets for Breeders’ Cup Classic: the Pick 6
While recent years have not seen as many double-digit odds horses winning races as in the past, the event’s Pick 6 wagering options — where bettors must choose the winner in races 7 through 12 — paid $55,668 on a $1 ticket in 2019. Successful horse players have raked in as much as $1.8 million on a $2 Pick 6 ticket in 2003 and $2.6 million on a $2 ticket in 2009.
On the other hand, in 2018, the favorites ruled the day and the Pick 6 paid just $3,000 — by far the lowest in Breeders’ Cup history (318 Pick 6 tickets were cashed).
There have been several years when no one held a winning Pick 6 ticket. In that case, the Pick 6 pool is divided among those who chose five winners.
Saturday’s Pick 6 begins with race 7, scheduled for 1:57 p.m.; the Race 12 Classic is set for 5:13 p.m. The minimum bet for the Pick 6 is $1.
Breeders’ Cup Pick 6 Payouts 2003-19
|Year||Payout||Number of winning tickets|
*Prize money reflects “consolation payout” for getting five of six races correct (no Pick 6 winner)
Superfecta and trifecta offer big returns for Breeders’ Cup too
Superfecta wagering provides bettors with more reasonable odds of winning, and those who hit the supers can find them to be immensely profitable. Historically speaking, the average $2 superfecta payout in each of Friday’s races is no less than $13,100.
And for Saturday, that payout averages no less than $5,561. In that case, the Distaff historically is the chalkiest BC race — where favorites typically come out in front.
Average trifecta payoffs in each of the BC races has been no less than $1,100 on a $2 bet. And in many cases, it’s been significantly more.
Breeders’ Cup betting tips: handicapping before race day
Some pre-race day handicapping advice:
- Start your handicapping early. Nearly every horse in every race must be considered. These are the best horses in the world, or they would not have been entered.
- Check how the horse has performed at Keeneland in the past, if at all.
- Check for jockey mounts to see how the horse raced with that particular jockey on board in the past.
- Know that European horses often run well in turf races, and that the turf conditions play a factor in those outcomes abroad. But just because they have a strong turf record doesn’t mean it will translate to Keeneland. Some turf-race entrants might be making their US debut and racing on surface conditions they might not prefer.
- Past performances suggest that you should pay attention to any horses trained by Chad Brown in turf races and Bob Baffert for the dirt races. Each has 15 lifetime BC wins to their credit. Aiden O’Brien is the most accomplished European trainer.
- Don’t look to bet on the active, all-time winningest BC jockey Mike Smith (26 wins). He does not have a mount this year, choosing instead to ride this weekend at Del Mar. John Velazquez (16 wins) ranks second and will ride in BC. You can do worse than betting on brothers Irad and Jose Ortiz.
Pay attention to post position
Generally, the worst post positions for the turf course at 1 mile or 1 1/16 miles are the outside posts, because it is almost impossible to win sitting four or five horses wide on the first turn. During Keeneland’s fall meet, there were 16 two-turn races on the turf course: 10 of those were won from horses in posts 1-4.
For the dirt course, generally, posts are not as important. However, during Keeneland’s fall meet, there were 33 races run at 6 furlongs. Not a single race was won from post 1, and there was only one winner from post 2.
This bias against inside posts did not extend to longer sprints, and inside posts are generally pretty good for route races (those run at 7 furlongs or greater).
Breeders’ Cup: The Friday race card
The Breeders’ Cup draw and morning line was set on Monday. Here is a quick look at highlights for Friday’s races before we dive into the Saturday card.
Race 6 (in your program): Juvenile Turf Sprint
This division is ideal for trainer Wesley Ward, who has four horses entered in this 14-horse field. His Golden Pal is morning line (ML) favorite and stands all the way outside in Gate 14. The past two winners won wire-to-wire.
Race 7 Juvenile Turf
European horses have won nine out of 13 editions of this race, and nine of the 13 overall paid between $11 and $20 to win. Favorites have won only 12% of the time. Mutasaabeq is the lukewarmest ML favorite in the entire event at 5/1.
Race 8 Juvenile Fillies
Fillies from blue-collar tracks Thistledown (Dayoutoftheoffice) and Parx (Vequist) could earn first-class payouts here. Baffert’s undefeated Princess Noor is the ML favorite at 9/5. She doesn’t have the top speed figures but is dangerous.
Race 9 Juvenile Fillies Turf
Aunt Pearl (3/1 ML favorite) has won over this course and distance and has never trailed in either of her two starts. Editor at Large is trained by Brown, who has won four of the last six editions of this race.
Race 10 Juvenile
Before last year, this race was dominated by its favorites, who regularly finished either first or second. No horse has yet to come close to beating Jackie’s Warrior (7/5 ML favorite) in her four career starts. This is her first time going two turns. Essential Quality has romped in both of his two career starts, winning over the track and this distance.
Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard races
Saturday brings not only the much-anticipated Breeders’ Cup Classic (Race 12), but also several exciting undercard races. Here’s a snapshot of each.
Race 4 (in your program): Filly and Mare Sprint
The potential speed duel between Gamine (7/5 ML favorite) and Serengeti Empress is perhaps the most anticipated race-within-the-race at this year’s BC. Serengeti’s effort in the Ballerina at Saratoga may be the best performance in any race this year. Gamine is 3-for-3 around one turn. Speech has a home-course advantage.
Race 5: Turf Sprint
The race is loaded with “horse for the course” entrants. Leinster specializes in Keeneland turf sprints and is the course record holder. Got Stormy (7/2 ML favorite) won on this track this fall. Imprimis and Into Mystic have, too. Trainer Peter Miller has won this race the past three years and enters Texas Wedge.
Race 6: Dirt Mile
Art Collector won the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes here but is coming off a disappointing fourth in the Preakness. Complexity (2/1 ML favorite) is coming off a career-best in the Kelso at Belmont. Mister-Mister entries Mr Freeze (won a Grade 2 race here a month ago) and Mr. Money (is a volatile but often successful performer) are capable of surprising the field.
Race 7: Filly & Mare Turf
European horses have dominated trifecta placings in this one the past nine years. Audarya is the top shipper in this race. Brown’s Rushing Fall (5/2 ML favorite) has five local stakes wins, second-most in Keeneland history. Her stablemate Sistercharlie was a beaten favorite in this race a year ago. Brown has four entered in this race. Civil Union, coming off her best speed figure, has won four in a row, racing in New York. Canadian star 7-year-old mare Starship Jubilee is nearly perfect this year after winning the off-key Woodbine Mile.
Race 8: Sprint
The field is in good form: Trainer Steve Asmussen brings undefeated 3-year-olds Yaupon (4-for-4 this year, all at this distance) and Nashville. C Z Rocket has won five races in a row. Frank’s Rockette is 5-for-5 on fast tracks in 2020, with speed figures a tick below C Z’s. Vekoma (3/1 ML favorite) scratched due to a fever.
Race 9: Mile
Drawing a wide post is highly unfavorable for this course set up with its short run to the first turn. Defending Mile champion Uni looks to best the boys again. She’s a two-time Grade 1 winner over this course and distance at Keeneland for Brown. Brown also has formidable Raging Bull and Digital Age. European threats include Kameko and last year’s fourth-place BC Mile finisher Circus Maximus. Coming off a win at Keeneland, Ivar (4/1 ML favorite) and Factor This are in career-best form.
Race 10: Distaff
This should be a thriller. The 2018 Distaff queen Monomoy Girl (8/5 ML favorite) is unbeaten in three starts this year after sitting out 2019. Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver (2/1) appears in strong shape despite a brutal travel schedule. Valiance won the oft-important prep race the Spinster over the host site’s track. Horologist exits a career-best in the Beldame. Ollie’s Candy could help your tri or super bet here.
Race 11: Turf
Breeders’ Cup Turf dominance most often hails from Europe, which has produced 16 of the past 21 winners (American Bricks and Mortar won a year ago). Magical (5/2 ML favorite) is the best coming from across the pond, along with his 3-year-old stablemate Mogul. Tarnawa is another highly regarded European. American horse United nearly stunned the 2019 Turf at 51/1 and has never looked better during training. He’s a head shy of being 5-for-5 this year.
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey