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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, October 28, 2015 at 12:00 AM

VOLUME 14 - Number 4
Tuesday, October 27

Taking A Look At This Year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile - Thinking Outside The Box

The prep races have been run. The fields are set. It is time for Breeders Cup XXXII this Friday and Saturday at Keeneland.

This will be the first time in the history of the Breeders Cup that the races will be run at the Lexington track and that in itself ls one of the first challenges. There is nothing to go back to. There is no way a handicapper can plot a history of running styles that either aid or hurt a runner as one has been able to do at places such as Santa Anita and Churchill Downs where there have been multiple Breeders Cups and certain discernable patterns in recent years.

That being said, even with discernable patterns there is a rich history of huge payouts because regardless of how pronounced many of the favorites have been over the years, they still run the races. And as you know, there are no deeper lineups in any individual races at any time during the year. Even the Triple Crown races have big gaps between the true and questionable contenders.

So with that in mind let’s begin our Breeders’ Cup Countdown by thinking outside the box and providing an example of how much might be considered as to the how and why of the hundreds of seemingly inexplicable Breeders’ Cup Upsets that have blown up the totes over the last 31 years and what might be an example in 2015

It is not a stretch to predict that at post time of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Friday the Unbridled’s Song colt Liam’s Map will go off as the shortest priced favorite of any of the thirteen Cup Races over the course of Friday and Saturday.

Liam’s Map has been installed as the Even-Money favorite of the 11 runners set to meet the starter and well he should be. The Todd Pletcher trainee blitzed many of the best the older division has to offer in his last race when he went wire-to-wire in the 9 furlong Grade I Woodward at Saratoga while in hand in a tour de force 1:47 2/5 performance. The 4-year old always lays down the gauntlet, has won 5 of 7 lifetime with a pair of close up seconds and is 3-for-3 at the mile distance.

Obviously if any of the other 10 runners can upset Liam’s Map the bettor who finds that runner will be well compensated. But keep in mind that there are any number of ways to also hedge any of your Breeders Cup bets. Even if you can’t get past Liam’s Map and feel he is a must use, you can include him along with one or two potential longshots in the exotics or the combo bets such as the Daily Doubles, Pick 3’s or Pick 4. So are there any potential upset possibilities in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile?

One consideration might be the honest veteran race gelding Valid (10-1 ML) who is a multiple graded stakes winner, has 10 wins from 31 career starts with 7 seconds and 6 thirds. He is a consistent tactical speed runner at middle distances but his most recent, a tune up win in a 7 furlong non-graded stakes race at Gulfstream Park is worth considering for no other reason than it was a one turn race.

Take this history of recent BC Dirt Miles into consideration. During the last three years at Santa Anita the race was won by Goldencents twice and Tapizar. Each of the final prep races run by these two BC Dirt Mile winners was run at one turn and they extended their built in tactical speed through the stretch.
In the previous two years (2011 and 2010) the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was run at Churchill Downs and the race was won by runners cutting back from longer two turn races...Caleb’s Posse from a Stakes at Hoosier and Dakota Phone from the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita. 

Given the running styles of all these last 4 horses who won the last 5 BC Dirt Mile races winners it is not completely outside the box to think that the longer stretch run at Churchill served those exiting two turn races quite well while the slightly shorter stretch at Santa Anita served one turn runners and the even shorter stretch run at Keeneland could also serve an inform horse out of a one turn race. And why not an experienced runner such as the 10-1 ML Valid?

Sure, a conventional handicapper might look to more standard reasons in handicapping the race. That handicapper might say that Bradester and Mr. Z. who surround Liam’s Map, the former leaving from post two and the latter from post four, a pair of horses who have solid early speed and might soften up Liam’s Map in the early going. Those handicappers who like to "match up" runners based on their previous races could look to the mention of Valid and see that Bradester has gotten the better of that one in recent encounters.

Still others will look to Wicked Strong who was a decent enough third behind Liam’s Map while 6 wide in the Grade I Woodward and has since showed increased tactical speed with a good second over a sloppy oval in the 10 furlong Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont in his most recent.

Will Liam’s Map be odds-on? Yes he will. Is he the more likely winner than any of his competitors in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile? Yes he is. But there have been hundreds like Liam’s Map who have been beaten over the course of the last 31 years and those who have followed the Breeders’ Cup are still scratching their heads at the outcomes.

Maybe the few people that have caught some of those momentous upsets did a little "thinking outside the box."

Check back tomorrow as I continue to Count Down to the Cup.

2 Days - 13 Breeders Cup Races Plus 9 Undercard Races



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