Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Deciphering the Breeders’ Cup

breeders-cup-2011-logo-300x300In the last decade, the Breeders’ Cup has been held at Churchill Downs three times, 2000, 2006 and 2010. The contests bring together the best horses in the United States and top European counterparts. Below we’ll examine which running styles, prep races and track surfaces yield the most Breeders’ Cup winners at Churchill Downs. The Dirt Mile and Filly & Mare Sprint are excluded because they have only been held once at Churchill.



Prep Race:

The historic Champagne has proved to be theUncleMo-BCJuvenile most formful prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile held at Churchill. In 2000 Point Given was second in both races, while last year, Uncle Mo dominated the Champagne and Juvenile. This year, Union Rags is poised to complete the Champagne/Juvenile double.

In 2006, Street Sense, Circular Quay and Great Hunter ran three, two, one in the Keeneland Futurity and reversed that order in the Juvenile. Last year, no runner coming out of a race on a synthetic track hit the board, although Rogue Romance used the Bourbon over the Keeneland turf.

Colts that finished first or second in their prep races all hit the board in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The only anomaly was the 2006 Champ Street Sense, who was third over the Keeneland Poly in his prep.

Twenty to twenty seven days between the last prep race and the Juvenile seems to be the magic numbers, all winners and runners up, except for last year’s place horse (Boys At Tosconova) fall into this category.


Running Style:

One run stalkers fared the best in all three Juvenile editions. While pace pressers won in 2000 (Macho Uno) and 2010 (Uncle Mo), stalkers took second and third place in both races and in 2006, stalkers took the top three spots. Those in posts 9 fared the best, hitting the board in all three editions. None farther out than post 7 have won.



Last year, Uncle Mo was the overwhelming favorite. In 2006, Circular Quay finished a distant second to Street Sense and in 2000, A.P. Valentine, the Champagne winner, failed to fire and wound up in seventh place. Pedigree matters, too. Sprint-oriented precocious youngsters don’t fare well in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile or Juvenile Fillies.

Does the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile really offer a glimpse into how the top three finishers will do in the Classics? Nine horses have hit the board in the three Juveniles held at Churchill. Only one, Street Sense, has finished in the top three in the Kentucky Derby, and in fact, is the only Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner to win the Kentucky Derby. Just to show how hard the transition from the two year old to three year old season is, only four of the nine colts raced in the Kentucky Derby, three contested the Preakness, and one, Point Given, entered and won the Belmont Stakes. Last year’s top three finishers never made it to the Triple Crown races.



Prep Race:

Two year old fillies who tuned up in the Alcibiades hit the board three times. In 2000, Platinum Tiara, runner up in the BC Juvenile Fillies, and third place horse She’s A Devil Due were fifth and first respectively in the Alcibiades when it was run over dirt. In 2006, Cotton Blossom placed third in the Juvenile Fillies after a disappointing ninth place finish in the Alcibiades over Polytrack.

DreamingOfAnnaIn 2006 and 2010, Fillies who had their last prep over Woodbine Poly finished first (Dreaming of Anna, 2006) and third (Delightful Mary, 2010).

Unlike the colts, four fillies who were second in their preps hit the board most often in the BC Fillies. The last two runnings of the race were won by fillies who were also victorious in their last race. Two fillies that were off of the board in their preps finished second and third (2000, Platinum Tiara,, 5th in Alcibiades) (2006, Cotton Blossom 9th in Alcibiades).

The time between the last prep race and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies varied from 19 to 53 days, with half of the fillies getting 20 – 26 days between the races.


Running Style:

While a mid-pack runner took the 2000 edition of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies, a pace setter and pace presser took the next two editions. Runners-up favored mid-pack or stalking styles. Inside posts work best. Caressing won from post 6, but posts 1 – 4 have rounded out the other top spots in all three years.



Favorites won the last two versions of the Juvenile Fillies at Churchill and the prices were fairly chalky. In 2000, Caressing surprised as a $96.00 winner when the favorite Raging Fever failed to hit the board.

The Juvenile Fillies offers barely a glimpse at a future Kentucky Oaks winner. Out of nine fillies that have hit the board in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, one, Octave finished in the money the following spring. She placed second in that year’s Oaks.



Prep Race:

A win or placing in the Ancient Title Stakes almost guarantees a win at Churchill in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The 2000 and 2006 Sprint Champs, Kona Gold and Thor’s Echo, both exited the Ancient Title as a winner and runner-up respectively, while the 2010 Ancient Title winner was third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Two runners who used the Forego as a prep haveBigDramaBCSprint2010 also done well in the Sprint. In 2006, Nightmare Affair was unplaced in the Forego and placed third in the Sprint, while last year’s Sprint Champ Big Drama was second in the Forego.

All of the winners and runners-up in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint had their final prep over dirt. The only horse to race over a synthetic surface (Cushion Track) was Smiling Tiger, who placed third last year.

In 2000, the top Sprint finishers had their last prep between 20 – 24 days apart and the 2006 winner’s last prep was 28 days before the Sprint. However, in 2006 and 2010, the runners-up had anywhere from 28 – 63 days between races and last year’s winner Big Drama had 63 days between his latest race and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.


Running Style:

Pace setters won the last two Breeders’ Cup Sprints held at Churchill while Kona Gold in 2000 was a pace presser. He also went on to establish a new track record of 1:07.77. A third of the runners-up have been stalkers. Although Kona Gold and Honest Lady finished one-two in 2000 from far outside posts, the last two editions of the Sprint have been won from the one hole. Horses in posts 1 – 7 do the best in the Sprint at Churchill.



The Breeders’ Cup Sprint has yielded double digit payouts in the last two years when the favorites failed to hit the board. The last three Sprint winners at Churchill either won or were second in their final prep.


Prep Race:

Runners-up in the Spinster and Beldame have done incredibly well in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. In 2000, Spain used a second place finish in the Spinster to spring to a huge upset win in the Distaff, paying $113.80. Heritage of Gold, the show horse in the Distaff that year had previously finished fourth in the Spinster. In 2006, the first time the Spinster was held on Polytrack, Happy Ticket was unplaced in the race, but rebounded to finish second in the Distaff. The winner of the Spinster Asi Siempre, had finished second in the 2006 Distaff, but was disqualified to fourth.

UnrivaledBelleThe last two Churchill Distaff heroines exited the Beldame. In 2006, Round Pond was third in the Beldame before winning the Distaff, and last year Unrivaled Belle parlayed a second place finish in the Beldame into a Distaff win.

Overall, mares who didn’t win their last prep races did best in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Those that did win their last prep finished third or worse in all three editions of the Distaff at Churchill.


Running Style:

Spain was the only Distaff heroine to lay close to the pace, and she took over from pace setter Surfside, who finished second in 2000. The rest of the winners sat mid-pack or stalked early on. Post doesn’t seem as important in the Distaff. Although the winners came from posts 1, 4 and 6, runners-up in the last two Distaff editions held at Churchill used posts 10 – 14.



The last three Churchill Distaff winners have paid double and triple digits. In 2000 and 2006, the favorites failed to hit the board. Last year, Blind Luck was second.


Prep Races:

In 2006 and 2010, the Jockey Club Gold Cup offered the best clues to the top finishers in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Bernardini, Blame and Fly Down won, placed and showed in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Bernardini won the Gold Cup but finished behindbreederscupclassic Invasor in the Classic, while Blame was second in the Gold Cup and narrowly won the Classic. Fly Down finished third in both races.

All three years, the Breeders’ Cup Classic champs exited a prep race held over the dirt. All runners except 20006’s Premium Tap (5th) won or hit the board in their last preps before the Classic.

In 2000 and 2006, 28 days between the last prep race and the Classic seemed to be the norm for horses finishing in the money. However, in 2010, the top three entered the Classic off of a 35 day rest. In 2000, Giant’s Causeway narrow defeat by Tiznow came after a 42 day break. Invasor broke all the rules in 2006 and won the Classic off a 91 day layoff.


Running Style:

In 2000, Tiznow pressed Albert The Great to the mile pole and took over, but otherwise, mid-pack runners and late running stalkers have fared best in the Classics held at Churchill. Like the Distaff, post position isn’t as important. In 2000, Tiznow and Giant’s Causeway held an exciting battle from the 13 and 12 spots and Invasor dominated from post 11.



In all three editions of the Classic held at Churchill, the winners have paid double digits. None of the favorites have won, but in 2006 and 2010 they finished second. The largest payout was in 2000, when Tiznow returned a remarkable $20.40.



Prep Races:

Two races, the Oak Tree Mile and Shadwell Turf have proved beneficial preps for the Turf Mile at Churchill. In 2000 the Oak Tree Mile Champ War Chant pulled off the Oak Tree/Turf Mile double. In 2006, the Oak Tree winner Aragorn was second in the Turf Mile.

In 2006 and 2010, contenders who raced in the Shadwell Mile, hit the board. Miesque’s Approval placed fourth in the Shadwell before blowing away the field in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile. Last Year’s Shadwell winner Gio Ponti was second to the legendary Goldikova.

Goldikova2010BCSix of the last ten editions of the Breeders’ Cup Mile have been won by Europeans, with Goldikova taking an unprecedented last three runnings. Although Goldikova won at Churchill last year, in 2000 and 2006 American horses triumphed.

Time between the final prep and the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile range between 20 – 48 days, with most contenders ready to race within 28 days.


Running Style:

Stalkers won in 2000 and 2006, while Golidikova raced mid-pack in 2010. Overall stalkers and mid-pack runners fared best. All three winners at Churchill were victorious from posts 10 and 11. Gio Ponti hit the board from post 3 last year, but otherwise the top three have come from posts 7 – 11.



In 2000 and 2010 the favorites won, while in 2006, Miesque’s Approval lite the tote at $50.60.


Prep Races:

Four Mares who used the Flower Bowl as a springboard to the Filly & Mare Turf have hit the board in the last two years. In 2006, Honey Ryder and Film Maker, first and second in the Flower Bowl, reversed the decision in the F&M Turf, with Film Maker coming in second and Honey Ryder taking the show spot behind the international sensation Ouija Board.

OuijaBoardFMTurfLast year’s F&M Turf heroine Shared Account failed to hit the board in the Flower Bowl, but found the firm Churchill turf to her liking. Keertana, third in the F&M Turf, was fourth in the Flower Bowel.

Europeans have done well in the F&M Turf event. Mares who hit the board in their three last races in Europe also hit the board in the F&M Turf.

The time between their last prep race and the F&M Turf varied for the American mare from 22 to 34 days, while the Europeans took a bit more time between races, from 41 to 55 days between races. Petrushka, the European favorite in the 2000 F&M Turf failed to hit the board. She had won her last preps, but had only 33 days between her last race and the Breeders’ Cup.


Running Style:

As one would expect in a turf route race, stalkers hit the board in all three editions of the F&M Turf held at Churchill. Winning and showing in 2000, but in the last two editions, in 2006 and 2010, pace pressers and mid pack runners took the top spots with one run stalkers finishing third. Inside posts (2-8) have fared best.



In 2006 and 2010, the favorites won or placed. In 2000, the favorite failed to hit the board and Perfect Sting returned $12.00 and second place Tout Charmant offered $14.00. Last year, longshot Shared Account held off the favorite Midday and returned $94.00 to her backers.



Prep races:

Beware the Europeans. They won the last three editions of the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill. Every American horse that hit the board in the Turf used a different prep race to get to Churchill. All except 2000 place horse Quiet Resolve won last time out.

Time between the final prep and the Breeders’ Cup Turf varied from 21-56 days. In 2000, there was a relatively quick turn around with all contenders having raced between 21 – 28 days previously. In 2006, the winner and runner-up took 56 and 41 days between races respectively. Last year the second and third place Turf finishers waited 34 days while the winner came in off of a 50 day layoff.


Running Style:

In 2000 and 2006, one run stalkers won, but surprisingly only three horses the two winners and a runner up, have hit the board. Pace pressers and mid-pack runners hit the board the most, while last year’s pace setter finished second. A winner and third place finisher have exited the one hole, but overall, posts 6 – 11 are best.



Europeans may dominate at Churchill, but not the horses you would expect. All three years, the favorites lost, and in two of those years, 2000 and 2006, they failed to hit the board. In 2010, the favorite Behkabad was third. This opened the tote for double digit payouts.

In 2000 Kalanisi paid $11.20 to win, second place Quiet Resolve offered $28.00 to place.

2006 saw Red Rocks returning $23.60 and the gallant old Better Talk Now rewarding backers at $17.40 to place.

BC turf 20102010 was a bit more chalky, with Dangerous Midge returning $19.00 and place horse Champ Pegasus at $9.00.



bctrophLast year, the inside posts ruled Churchill’s dirt races. The Sprint, Filly & Mare Sprint and Dirt Mile were all won by horses exiting the one hole. No horse won farther out than post 7. Three dirt winners, F & M Sprint, Distaff and Classic, had won a race previously over the Churchill surface.

The race offering the greatest ROI at Churchill for the last three runnings has been the Distaff. All three years the winners have supplied double-digit payouts, the lowest being Unrivaled Belle at $17.00. In the last three Breeders’ Cup contests held at Churchill, six out of eight of the winners in 2000 and 2006 paid more than $10 to win, while last year an incredible 12 of 14 winners offered a $10 or more payout.


Tirnbackthealarm said...

Thank you for this excellent analysis. Also, I enjoyed reliving BC 2000. My mom and I always threw in $3 each for a $2 ATB bet on a longshot, so we had both Caressing and Spain. Late in the day we had Tiz Now because he was "prettiest". That may have been my biggest day ever....call it "Anti-Handicapping".