By Noel Michaels
For horseplayers, the Breeders’ Cup is the most anticipated event of the year. You’ve got your world class horses, large, wide-open fields, multiple betting options, and great wagering value.
The 37th Breeders’ Cup opens at Keeneland on Friday, featuring five races for 2-year-olds, now called Future Stars Friday. On Saturday, the remaining nine Breeders’ Cup races will be run topped off by the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Two days, 14 championship races with $31 million in purses. Now that’s a racing weekend handicappers could love. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, strict health and safety regulations are in place, and no spectators will be in attendance.
The Friday BC races are the Juvenile Turf Sprint, Juvenile Turf, Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile Fillies Turf, and the featured $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. In all, Friday’s card has 10 races, with the Breeders’ Cup races going as races 6-10.
The BC races can be combined by bettors in the Pick 5, as well as a Pick 4 on races 7-10 and rolling Pick 3’s and daily doubles.
Here’s a look at some track trends for Keeneland relevant to Friday’s BC races:
Posts 3-7 trending in 2-turn races
At the recently concluded Keeneland fall meet, middle posts 3-7 dominated in two-turn dirt races. Most dirt routes were won from posts 3-7, which won 35 of the 43 races. Horses breaking from inside posts 1-2 won five races from 86 starters, and outside posts 8-12 won three races from 29 starters. This is relevant for the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies to be run at 1 1/16 miles.
Turf trends favor inside posts
In Keeneland turf routes at the recent fall meet, posts 1-4 accounted for most of the winners with horses breaking from those gates winning 22 of the 35 races. Horses won from all the way out to post 11, but as the group the inside posts were a definite advantage over middle and outside posts. This is relevant for the Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Look outside in turf sprints
Keeneland runs very few turf sprints, averaging only about eight a meet, but these 5 1/2-furlong dashes tend to yield consistent results based on the long-range stats, Keeneland’s turf sprints favor two things: middle-to-outside posts; and off-the-pace runners that rally from between two and six lengths behind with a half-mile to run. This was true again this fall when horses breaking from posts 7-11 won six of the eight turf sprints despite having far less starters than posts 1-6. Upgrade outside runners in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, especially since the betting public often mistakenly downgrades outside posts in turf sprints.
A speed-favoring dirt track
When looking at preferred running styles of winners of Keeneland dirt routes, Keeneland is still mostly a speed-favoring track – not as much as in the pre-Polytrack paved highway era, but nevertheless speed and tactical speed are still preferred. Horses have their best chances by staying within four lengths of the lead at the first call in routes. About 20 percent of all 1 1/16-mile races are won wire-to-wire.
With a look at the history of the 2-year-old BC races set for Friday, each has its own tips and trends, with the Juvenile Turf, on paper, the most formful with an average win payoff of $15.46 from 13 runnings of the race.
Checking on Juvenile Fillies history
Historically, the Breeders’ Cup race that is most likely to yield a winning favorite is the Juvenile Fillies, with 10 winning favorites. However, when you look at the list of average winning payoffs, the Juvenile Fillies actually ranks the highest now out of the five Friday BC races with an average winning payoff of $21.73.
How can the Juvenile Fillies have both the most winning favorites and the highest average win payoff? The reason has been a recent trend of high-priced winners in the race that have skewed the average, including Take Charge Brandi, who paid $125.40 in 2014, as well as other long shots like Champagne Room in 2016 and Caledonia Road in 2017. Is should be noted, however, that favorites were up to their old tricks again in the Juvenile Fillies last year, finishing 1-2 with second-favorite British Idiom beating favorite Donna Veloce.
And now, a race-by-race look at Breeders’ Cup trends for the Friday:
$1 million Juvenile Sprint Turf Sprint (race 6)
Distance: 5 1/2 furlongs, turf
Best Running Style: Wire-to-wire
Winning tip: Bet horses with big early speed and a chance to go wire-to-wire. Even in a race loaded with speed, picking the “speed of the speed” is preferable to a closer. Keeneland’s turf sprints favor posts in the outside half of the field.
The Juvenile Turf Sprint has only been run twice, with Four Wheel Drive coming out of a race in New York to go wire-to-wire for trainer Wesley Ward with Irad Ortiz, Jr., aboard paying $5. The inaugural Juvenile Turf Sprint in 2018 was also won wire-to-wire. The winning horse, Bulletin, came from a race in Florida trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano.
The 2020 Juvenile Turf Sprint favorite, #14 Golden Pal, fits the profile of a winner, loaded with early speed, drawn on the outside, and trained by Ward, whose other contenders in the field are #8 Amanzi Yimpilo, #9 After Five, and #11 Into the Sunshine.
$1 million Juvenile Turf (race 7)
Distance: 1 Mile, turf
Best Running Style: Closer
Winning tip: This race has been dominated by Europeans, and the average win payout has been only $15.46, which indicates this is not a long shot’s race in what is normally a 14-horse field. Inside posts are better in Keeneland turf miles.
Horses that have done well in this race include European shippers coming out of a first- or second-place finish in their last start. You also want to look for horses whose final Breeders’ Cup prep came at a distance of a mile or more (the longer the better). This is a 14-horse field, but at Keeneland the inside posts are preferred in turf routes. Horses that fit this description include #1 Sealiway and #2 New Mandate, who is a big overlay on the morning line at 12-1 with Frankie Dettori aboard. Dettori is one of the all-time winningest jockeys in the history of the Breeders’ Cup. The #6 Mustasaabeq won the local prep in the Bourbon (G2) for Todd Pletcher. Belmont’s Pilgrim (G2) has been an important prep, and this year’s winner, multiple stakes winner #7 Fire At Will, is also in with a chance at 12-1 on the morning line. If you followed the recent election and are a hunch player, you could also do a lot worse than #9 Battleground, who comes off back-to-back wins in England for trainer Aidan O’Brien.
$2 million JUVENILE FILLIES (Race 8)
Distance: 1 1/16 miles
Best Running Style: Close to the pace
Winning tip: This race is usually won by the favorite, or a big long shot. In a seven-horse race this year, the favorite(s) will be tough to knock off.
The Juvenile Fillies has been the Breeders’ Cup’s chalkiest race, with 10 winning favorites in its 36-year history. However, you would not know that this usually is a chalky race by looking at the average win price, which seems rather high in comparison to other races due to some winning long shots the last 10 years, including a $125.40 winner. So, in the Juvenile Fillies, what you are looking for is either the favorite(s), or a big long shot to upset the apple cart. At 1 1/16-miles on the main track, what you want at Keeneland is a horse with speed or tactical speed, preferably from a middle post 3-7. Speed or tactical speed has also historically been good in this particular race. This year we only have seven horses in the Juvenile Fillies, and the favorite, #7 Princess Noor, is well-drawn on the outside and loaded with speed for trainer Bob Baffert. She will be tough to beat based on her dominant back-to-back victories in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and Santa Anita’s Chandelier (G2). The best chance at an upset goes to #3 Dayoutoftheoffice, who won Belmont’s Frizette (G1) in her last race.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf (Race 9)
Distance: 1 Mile, turf
Best Running Style: Presser/Stalker
Winning tip: Bet a North American-based horse with a stalking or pace-pressing running style who is exiting a win or second-place finish in her last race.
Unlike the Juvenile Turf, the Juvenile Fillies Turf has not been dominated by Europeans. It has been ruled by North American-based horses. Trainer Chad Brown has won four of the last six runnings. No Euro shipper has won since Chriselliam in 2013. At Keeneland at this distance, the inside posts 1-4 are the best place to be. Pressers and stalkers have an advantage over speed horses and deeper closers. Key prep races have included the Moyglare Stud Stakes at The Curragh (Ire), Natalma Stakes at Woodbine, Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont, and the local Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland.
The horse that seems perfectly positioned to win, based on preps, running style, and post position, is the undefeated 3-for-3 #4 Plum Ali trained by Christophe Clement and ridden by Joel Rosario. Graham Motion, the defending champion trainer of this race who won last year with Sharing, also has a prime contender with #3 Alda, who was second last time out in Woodbine’s Natalma (G1). Of course Brown is represented, and you can’t ignore him with #14 Editor At Large, even though that horse’s post position hurts. The winner of the local prep, the Jessamine (G2) is #5 Aunt Pearl, but if she is to win she is going to have to go wire-to-wire, which has been a difficult feat to accomplish in the history of this race.
$2 million Juvenile (Race 10)
Distance: 1-1/16 miles
Best Running Style: Stalker
Winning Tip: Well-bet speed horses or value-priced closers have done well in the Juvenile, but what you want at Keeneland at this distance is speed or tactical speed, preferably from middle posts.
The Juvenile drew a full field of 14 horses, but will feature perhaps the day’s biggest favorite, #7 Jackie’s Warrior, trained by Steve Asmussen. Jackie’s Warrior is undefeated in four races, and has been brought up to this race expertly with the distances of each career race steadily escalating from 5 furlongs, to 6 furlongs, to 7 furlongs, to a mile last time when he crushed Belmont’s Champagne (G1) by five lengths with a 100 Beyer speed figure.
Beyond the favorite, this race appears to be wide open, and the value will be in betting the exacta boxes or trifectas. In sticking with the winning profile of this race, you should be looking for speed or tactical speed horses drawn in preferential middle post positions at this distance at Keeneland. The most meaningful preps usually include Santa Anita’s American Pharoah, Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity, and Belmont’s Champagne. The last six runnings have been won by six different trainers.
Therefore, along with Jackie’s Warrior, go ahead and use horses like #3 Reinvestment Risk trained by Brown, #5 Essential Quality trained by Brad Cox, and maybe even #13 Rombauer trained by Michael McCarthy, in your exotics.
|2||Tiz the Law||Manuel Franco||3-1|
|3||By My Standards||Gabriel Saez||10-1|
|4||Tom’s d’Etat||Joel Rosario||6-1|
|5||Title Ready||Corey Lanerie||30-1|
|6||Higher Power||Flavien Prat||20-1|
|7||Global Campaign||Javier Castellano||20-1|
|8||Improbable||Irad Ortiz Jr||5-2|
|10||Maximum Security||Luis Saez||7-2|