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Submitted by Noel Michaels on Monday, October 26, 2015 at 12:00 AM


By Noel Michaels

For horseplayers, the Breeders’ Cup means world-class horses, big wide-open fields, and loads of wagering value throughout the two most anticipated race cards of the year.  The 2015 Breeders’ Cup will make its much-anticipated first-ever trip to Keeneland this year, featuring a total of 13 races over two days, worth a combined $24.5 million – including $19.5 million on Saturday alone. The weather forecast calls for a stormy start to Breeders’ Cup week, but sunshine and moderate temperatures will take hold by Thursday and remain nice through Breeders’ Cup Saturday, so we can be relatively sure the races will be contested over ideal fast and firm track conditions.

The year 2015 will be much different than 2012-14 of course, when Santa Anita hosted three straight Breeders’ Cup championships. The change of scenery will be a welcome one, but it presents handicappers with many challenges as we try to handicap for a venue never before used in the long history of the Breeders’ Cup. That being said, that will not mean there aren’t many track-related clues and angles horseplayers can pay attention to in order to help their chances of cashing-in and enjoying in Thoroughbred racing’s World Series and Super Bowl – the Breeders’ Cup.

Here are five tips to help your chances of winning big at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky.


1) Liam’s Map in the Dirt Mile is Breeders’ Cup Weekend’s Best Bet

The Dirt Mile is annually one of the more wide-open races of the Breeders’ Cup, but the 2015 running appears to be a glaring exception.  The Dirt Mile is usually an afterthought race, filled with second-tier horses too slow to shorten up into the Sprint, and not good enough to stretch out into the $5 million Classic.

However, because of the dynamic of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic, with extremely strong contenders at the top including Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, sensational female Beholder, and top older horse Honor Code, an extremely fast top-rung horse like Liam’s Map is going to the Dirt Mile where he looms a standout and looking exceptionally tough to beat.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, a horse the quality of Liam’s Map would never be expected to show up in a race like the Dirt Mile – a Friday undercard race. Pletcher high-profile horses like Liam’s Map are expected to compete at the highest levels, and the Dirt Mile is simply not a prime-time race. This year, however, he really didn’t want to stretch Liam’s Map to 1 ¼ miles anyway, and he really had nowhere else to go with Liam’s Map except for the Dirt Mile.

Looking down the list of Dirt Mile pre-entries, Liam’s Map and Pletcher should be rewarded with a walk-over win against an overmatched field. Even if he’s a low price, Liam’s Map looks like a single in the all-important Friday Breeders’ Cup pick 4 and pick 6. This will give you an opportunity to save your money in order to spread further in the other races in the Friday pick 4, which will include very difficult handicapping puzzles in the Distaff, Juvenile Turf, and Juvenile Fillies Turf.


2) Horses Exiting Keeneland Prep Races are Extremely Dangerous

When looking ahead to the Breeders’ Cup, remember that in the history of the event, the winners of 40 Breeders’ Cup races have made their final prep at Keeneland’s Fall Meet, and never have the races been as prominent as this year with Keeneland hosting the Breeders’ Cup for the first time.  Keeneland’s most notable preps, historically, have been in the Thoroughbred Cub of America, Spinster, Shadwell Turf Mile, Alcibiades, and Breeders’ Futurity. So pay closest attention to the horses exiting those races.

Last year in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup, horses that prepped at Keeneland in October won three Breeders’ Cup races: the BC Filly and Mare Turf (Dayatthespa, the winner of Keeneland’s First Lady), the BC Juvenile Fillies (Take Charge Brandi, the winner of Keeneland’s Alcibiades), and the BC Sprint (Work All Week, the winner of the Keeneland’s Phoenix Stakes).

The top horses exiting Keeneland’s key Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep races will again be forces to reckon with in the championship dirt races. Those horses who did stick around to run in the Keeneland Polytrack preps, like the Spinster, the Phoenix, the TCA, the Alcibiades, and the aforementioned Breeders’ Futurity, will be amongst the best contenders in the corresponding Breeders’ Cup race divisions on dirt this year.

This means that you must heavily consider the first four finishers from the Spinster – Got Lucky, Untapable, Yahilwa, and Frivolous – to be amongst the top contenders in the Distaff, the first- and third-place finishers from the Phoenix – Runhappy and Work All Week – to be the top contenders in the Sprint, and the first- and third-place finishers in the TCA – Fioretti and Judy the Beauty – to be top contenders in the Filly & Mare Sprint.


3) Know Where to Look for Breeders’ Cup Longshots

Good win prices and boxcar exotics payoffs have always been a big part of the Breeders’ Cup program.  However, that doesn’t mean that swinging for the fences and going bombs away is always the best Breeders’ Cup betting strategy in every race.  Instead, it is the handicappers who know how to differentiate between when to bet longshots that are the ones that have the most success.

Which Breeders’ Cup races are the most likely to be won by favorites and which are the most likely to be won by a longshot?

Over the course of the 14 years between 2000-2014 the most likely Breeders’ Cup race to feature an upset winner, according to the raw statistics, has been the Distaff, which had an average winning payoff of roughly $32.00.  Untapable was a strong winning favorite last year, so perhaps the race is due for a longshot winner again this season.

Besides the Distaff, it has been the female races that have been the chalkiest over the course of the history of the Breeders’ Cup.  This is because longshots have been few and far between in the Filly & Mare Turf and the Juvenile Fillies.

Things have changed dramatically the last couple years in the Juvenile Fillies, however, with the race yielding 2013’s largest upset winner, Ria Antonia, who paid $66.60, and the 2014 Breeders’ Cup’s biggest longshot, Take Charge Brandi, who paid $125.40 to win.

The Sprint, Mile and Turf also have had relatively low average win payoffs between 2000 and 2014.  This leaves the Juvenile as perhaps the best Breeders’ Cup race to fish for a longshot, with a high average win payoff and just two recent winning favorites. This was true in 2013 when New Year’s Day tilted the tote board at 10-1 and paid $23.00, and again in 2014 when Texas Red upset the race, paying $29.80 to win.

Based on historical trends and with a 13-race Breeders’ Cup two-day program in 2015, we should expect only 3-4 winning favorites in the Breeders’ Cup races. That leaves 9-10 races that can be expected to yield good prices.  I suggest fishing for those longshots in races like the Juvenile and other traditionally wide-open spots like the Turf Sprint, and the Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf.


4) Use Keeneland Turf Trends to Your Advantage

Post positions and horses for the course are very important handicapping factors on the Keeneland grass course, and this factor will play-out all throughout the Breeders’ Cup, particularly in the route races.

In Keeneland turf routes, inside posts are good, but middle posts are just fine as well, all the way on out to post 6.  The far outside posts, however, are not great at most distances on the Keeneland grass. This impacts a lot of races, including the Turf, the Mile, the Filly & Mare Turf, the Juvenile Turf, and the Juvenile Filly Turf.

The worst races for outside posts will definitely be the Mile and the two Breeders’ Cup turf races for Juveniles, which this year will both be run at the one mile distance.

Post position has never been the handicapping angle you would expect it to be in the Mile, but that could change this year in its first-ever running at Keeneland.  Generally speaking, you would expect some bias against outside posts at the turf distance of one mile, which features a short run to the first turn at most tracks and can really hang horses out-to-dry from posts 10-14.  Through the years, however, many horses have overcome outside posts in the Mile, including Karakontie who drew post 14 in 2014.

The issue this year is Keeneland.  During the most recent Keeneland race meet (Spring 2015), the far outside was absolutely dismal in grass routes. Posts 1-9 were all okay, but there was a sharp drop off after that, with horses breaking from posts 10 and outward going a combined 0-for-47. This Keeneland Fall meet has been a little better for the far outside, with horses from wide gates outside post 8 winning a total of 5 races.

As far as running style goes, this will be the first running at Keeneland obviously, but it has always been extremely difficult to go wire-to-wire in Breeders’ Cup turf races run at one mile. Downgrade need-to-lead horses in those races, and favor horses that can rally.

The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint will be a scramble run at 5 ½ furlongs, and unlike many other tracks these days, Keeneland really doesn’t card very many turf sprints. However, with stats in these races going back to 2006, including a few races run at the current meet, Keeneland’s turf sprints definitely favor two things; 1) middle-to-outside posts, and 2) off-the-pace runners that rally from between 2 lengths and 6 lengths behind with a half-mile to run.

Remember, inside posts are bad in the Turf Sprint, while the far outside is bad in grass route races. A horse will need to be much the best in order to win the Mile, the Juvenile Turf, or the Juvenile Filly Turf from a post position 9 or wider.  In those races, give preference to horses from inside and middle posts.


5) European Horses Are Likely to Dominate on the Grass

With the exception of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, and perhaps Harmonize in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, European grass invaders seem poised for a clean sweep of the Breeders’ Cup grass races at Keeneland, with talented major contenders pointing to the Turf, Mile, Juvenile Turf, and Filly & Mare Turf races against seemingly overmatched local competition in all of those spots, with no North American standouts on the grass this year, such as Main Sequence last year, or Wise Dan the past several years.

Making things even better for the Euro invaders is the fact that Keeneland is one of the best, easiest, and most convenient places for European horses to reach in North American racing, with a climate that is also suitable for their horses, who prefer cooler temperatures and less-than rock-hard course conditions. The Lexington airport is literally right across the Pike from Keeneland, and the horse charters will be arriving filled with horses ready to take down all of the top turf prizes at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup.


This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be the 32nd renewal of the Thoroughbred championships. Keeneland will be a first-time host after Santa Anita played host to the event from 2012-2014. The change of scenery will be a good one, especially for eastern-based horses running in New York and Kentucky, or for horses that spent their summers up at Saratoga.

The eastern horses should have the advantage this season with the BC moved out of California, so it will be behoove handicappers to watch all of the Keeneland prep horses closely for the contenders to beat in the Breeders’ Cup dirt races.  In the grass races, focus on the Euro invaders in just about every race, and you should be well on your way to Breeders’ Cup profits on racing’s two biggest days in 2015.  Best of luck, and enjoy the races.

Join me Friday & Saturday Oct 30-31 at Keeneland For the 32nd Running of the Breeders Cup And the Biggest Racing Payoff of Your Life! Click here.

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