For most of us, the days of cramming for final exams are long gone. But for racing fans, it's time to polish off that dormant skill of wading through tons of information. This is Breeders’ Cup week, after all, and you’ve got three additional races to tackle.
For me, Breeders’ Cup week is like college – a lot of fun, but exhausting. With the constant stream of information and updates coming in through the Web, it is an almost overwhelming task to handicap all 140-plus horses.
As a handicapper, the biggest challenge is not knowing who to bet, but how to bet. This year, the Breeders’ Cup has added a handful of new betting options, giving exotic players more choices than ever before. Among the new bets available is the ever-popular 10-cent superfecta, a 50-cent Pick 5 from Wednesday through Saturday, two new Daily Doubles that link a pair of Friday Breeders’ Cup races with a pair of Saturday Breeders’ Cup races, two Saturday Pick 4 wagers, and finally, the biggie, the $3-million guaranteed Ultra Pick 6 on Saturday.
For most of us, playing all of these gimmicks in addition to the 11 individual races is not an option. There just isn’t enough money for them all.
As a bettor, your challenge is to first figure out how you are going to play these races – before you even get into handicapping each horse.
If you are an exotic player, my advice is to figure out what your budget is and stick to it. If you don’t have at least $100 to blow on the Pick 6, skip it. Stick with the Daily Doubles and the low-priced exotics. Another attractive option for the smaller players is the early and late Saturday Pick 4s. The pools will be enormous for each, and your chances of hitting one are much greater.
So let’s take a stab at the late Saturday Pick 4 (races 8-11), knowing that the rain will probably render much of the handicapping useless anyway.
Race 8, NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile: This is where I’m going to spend most of my money, as I believe this is one of the most wide-open races on the card. Any of six to eight milers have a legitimate shot here, and with favorite Excellent Art drawing post 13, it makes handicapping even more challenging.
My top choice in the Mile is the horse who is probably running best on turf right now: Nobiz Like Shobiz (9). The son of Albert the Great has made just three starts on grass since trainer Barclay Tagg made the switch from dirt, but all have been graded stakes wins. The last was an impressive four-length rout in the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IIT), where the 3-year-old colt drew away with ease. He can stalk the pace and seems to have the most upside. And he’ll go off at a nice price.
I’ll also back myself up with a few horses I think will be right in the mix: longshot Rebellion (1), After Market (3), Jeremy (5), and Kip Deville (8). I’ll leave the favorite out.
Race 9, Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff: I think the strategy here is to go with Todd Pletcher. He has three entries, Octave (8), Indian Vale (10), and Unbridled Belle (11), all of them in tip-top form. Of the three, I’ll take Unbridled Belle as my top choice. The 4-year-old filly has done nothing wrong in four starts this year, and I like that she is fresh. Her courageous win in the Beldame (gr. I) showed me a lot, and I think the speed in this race will set up perfectly for her.
I’m also going to take Octave in the Pick 4 and leave out Indian Vale, who has not been as consistent. My third choice is Bentley Smith’s Lady Joanne (5), who has been as consistent as a horse can get over 10 starts – never missing the board. You can’t leave her out.
Race 10, John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf: This one is simpler for me to handicap. It’s either Dylan Thomas (7) or English Channel (6). Both turfers are having remarkable campaigns. All the accolades Dylan Thomas has drawn are quite deserving, as the 4-year-old colt has been near-perfect in eight starts this year. Leave him out at your own risk.
Although I’ll have both horses on my Pick 4 ticket, in a mild upset, I’m going to take English Channel to win. He has been in this race twice before and is two-for-two over the Monmouth turf. His rail move in the Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) was breathtaking, and I can’t get it out of my mind, even though some are questioning whether he'll take to the soft turf.
Race 11, Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge: Obviously, this is one of the best Classic fields in recent memory. Of the nine entered, I give five a legitimate chance to win. Since I can’t pick all of them, I have narrowed it down to two: Any Given Saturday (3) and Lawyer Ron (1).
My top choice is Any Given Saturday, a horse who not only has a terrific win over the racetrack but is absolutely peaking at the right time. Street Sense and Curlin may have been better in the spring, but maturity has done wonders for the son of Distorted Humor . He is running best right now, and that gives him the edge.
To recap, my late Pick 4 ticket, which will cost $60 for a $1 play, will read like this:
Race 8: 1, 3 5, 8, 9
Race 9: 5, 8, 11
Race 10: 6, 7
Race 11: 1, 3
Study hard and good luck. With all the rain, you'll need it!