If Zenyatta’s connections opt to run her in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), she will be the favorite on the official Breeders’ Cup morning line.
“Zenyatta not only is 13 for 13, she has been the favorite in her last nine races,” said Jon White, Oak Tree’s new morning line oddsmaker. “Granted, this would be the first time Zenyatta has run against males, plus she’s never gone farther than a mile and an eighth. But Zenyatta likes Santa Anita’s main track and it looks like she actually might thrive going a mile and a quarter. I also think she will get a lot of play because of her big-time reputation.
“I would have made European superstar Sea the Stars the favorite had he been in the Classic. And some may feel that Europe’s Rip Van Winkle will be the Classic favorite. But I expect Zenyatta to be a lower price than Rip Van Winkle. Rip Van Winkle has been the favorite only twice in eight career starts. He also will be running on a synthetic surface for the first time, so there will be bettors who have reservations about him on the surface.”
While Europeans Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator ran one-two in the Classic last year on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface, White said it is important to note that they were not respected in the betting.
“Raven’s Pass was 13-1 and Henrythenavigator was 19-1, while the top American horse, Curlin, was pounded down to 4-5 favoritism, even though there were those who thought Curlin might not be on his game at the time,” White said. “As for Zenyatta, anyone who saw the Lady’s Secret and/or her recent six-furlong workout should have no reservations that she certainly is on her game going into the Breeders’ Cup.
“After the success of the Europeans last year, they probably will get more respect from the bettors this year. In trying to determine who will get bet more, Zenyatta or Rip Van Winkle, I took a look back at a couple of other Europeans with outstanding records, Giant's Causeway and Sakhee. Giant’s Causeway was 7-1 when he ran second in the Classic to Tiznow, and Sakhee was 9-2 when he finished second in the Classic to Tiznow. Even though I don’t think Rip Van Winkle will be the Classic favorite, I think there’s a pretty good chance he will be a shorter price than Sakhee.
“With the Classic eight days away, such factors as defections, developments, workouts, and post positions could lead to some tweaking. But as it stands right now, I’m planning to make Zenyatta the 5-2 favorite for the Classic, with Rip Van Winkle next at 7-2. For those who believe 5-2 might too low on Zenyatta in such a big field, keep in mind the last time that Zenyatta was higher than 3-5 was about a year and a half ago. That was in the 2008 Apple Blossom Handicap when Zenyatta was 9-5 and beat Ginger Punch.”
Summer Bird will be the third choice on White’s Classic line.
“With each grade I win, Summer Bird is getting more and more respect,” White said. “But when Summer Bird won the Jockey Club Gold Cup as the 6-5 favorite, it was the first time he’s ever been the favorite. Right now, I’m planning to put Summer Bird at 9-2 for the Classic.
“The way I see it, Zenyatta, Rip Van Winkle, and Summer Bird are the ‘big three’ in terms of Breeders’ Cup Classic wagering. I think there will be a pretty good gap to the rest. I doubt that I will have anyone else lower than 10-1.”