The two-day spectacle of the Breeders' Cup World Championships is essentially a combination of Christmas and Super Bowl for the horse racing fan. With 14 championship deciding races and $26 million in purses on the line, there is something for everyone.
Wagering successfully on the Breeders' Cup can be a daunting task. The marquee event draws the very best of thoroughbred horse racing from across the world, and separating the legitimate favorites from the over-hyped buzz horses can be difficult. Every year, several dark horses emerge that make you inevitably go back through your notes and ask yourself "How did I miss that?".
My handicapping preference tends to be turf races, particularly with juveniles. I chose to focus on some of the deepest grass races, along with high profile events like the Distaff and Classic. I went off of the master of the morning line, Mike Watchmaker's pre-entry odds from Daily Racing Forum.
Here are some likely favorites with solid chances to deliver on their short odds along with some live long shots to help improve your chances of cashing a ticket on the big day.
Early odds: 3-1
With the defection of the likely morning line favorite Graydar, the default favorite becomes the Triple Crown also-ran Goldencents. Though his bid against the top sophomores on the Triple Crown trail was mostly mediocre, he has found a new lease on life with the cutback in distance.
He was a very good second to the ill-fated Pointsoffhthebench who would have been a top threat in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and this colt does have a distinct home track advantage at Santa Anita.
His connections opted for the Dirt Mile over the sprint likely because he does not have the raw speed necessary to compete against the best going six furlongs but is well proven at the mile distance.
Early odds: 12-1
In a race like the Dirt Mile, the early pace can make or break a horse's chances. Often times, the horses that wind up here lack the stamina for the classic mile and a quarter distance and while they are fast, they are not necessarily quick enough to win the Sprint.
Hymn Book may actually be his best going slightly beyond a mile, but it is his strong closing kick that will work to his greatest advantage here. Though this veteran seven-year-old gelding has gone winless from four outings this year, he has been holding his own against top company and has the class to fit here.
This race has the potential to have a hotly contested early pace with Graydar facing pressure out front from the Kentucky Derby also-rans Goldencents and Verrazano. A horse like Hymn Book will need to run the race of his life to win, but he could pick up the pieces if the pace collapses.
Bobby Frankel, one of the greatest trainers of all time.
Early odds: 5-2
If you are looking for a logical single to use in a multi-race wager or to key on top in your exotics, Bobby's Kitten may be the most solid looking favorite in the Breeders' Cup.
Named after one of the sport's great legends, Bobby Frankel, and trained by his protege Chad Brown, this colt was meant to be special from the start. While he has some big horse shoes to fill if he wants to be thought of along the same lines as European superstar Frankel, who was also named in honor of the late, great trainer, he is showing some real talent.
This colt has done everything right up until this point and has won two of his three career starts and will try to stamp himself as a star on the rise on Friday.
Outstrip carrying the familiar colors of Godolphin.
Early odds: 10-1
The Breeders' Cup is an international affair and will frequently draw some of the best horses Europe has to offer. The European invaders are often overlooked at the betting windows because they are such unknowns, but they always warrant consideration in the turf races.
When handicapping a juvenile race, pedigree matters as much as actual form. Many of these horses have only a handful of starts and their pedigree can be a good indication of what kind of horse they could shape up to be.
Outstrip (GB) is by a highly regarded Australian stud named Exceed and Excel who most notably produced the brilliant Excelebration. It is this colt's dam, however, that is most interesting. Asi Siempre was a multiple graded stakes winner in the United States and was fourth in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Distaff. Her best races came on synthetics, and it seems likely she could produce some very nice turf horses.
Early odds: 2-1
Though horse racing's reigning queen, Royal Delta, was dethroned by Princess of Sylmar in the Beldame Stakes on September 28, she is still one of the top horses in the country and has been training exceptionally well heading into this race.
She will try to avenge her defeat to the rising star, and after several disappointing races this year you can bet that trainer Bill Mott does not want to end this remarkable mare's career on a low note. She has been lighting up the track in the morning training for this race and will be ready to defend her title.
She will try to carve her own place in the record books and capture her third straight Breeders' Cup Distaff and join Goldikova as the only horse to ever win three Breeders' Cup events.
Early odds: 6-1
Though she hails from the same barn as the formidable Royal Delta, Close Hatches may be one of the biggest threats in this race. She is the lone horse in the field to have defeated the brilliant Princess of Sylmar and could surprise that rival again.
She is a three-year-old filly facing older horses for the first time but, as a January foal, she is physically mature enough that it should not be an issue, and she has developed into a serious racehorse in her recent efforts. She has one major blemish on her seven race record—a poor seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks—and will have to prove that was a fluke performance.
She is fast enough to ensure that defending Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies champion Beholder does not coast out front on her home track and could stick around and get a piece of the action.
Early odds: 4-1
The Fugue (GB) took on the girls last year in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf and wound up third after a nightmare trip and traffic cost her the race. She has been routinely holding her own against, and beating, top male competition in Europe and should find this group of boys within her scope.
Though her effort in the Breeders' Cup last year wound up being disappointing, it did answer one major question. She was able to prove that she can ship overseas successfully and handle the Santa Anita turf course, which is a much harder, faster course than what she generally had run over in Europe.
As a four-year-old now, she is likely even more physically mature and developed than she was last year, making her a force to be reckoned with here.
Early odds: 6-1
Point of Entry began the year in style with back-to-back wins against Grade 1 competition. He looked poised to have a banner year and avenge his narrow defeat as the favorite in the 2012 installment of the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Unfortunately, he was sidelined with an injury and forced to miss the second half of the season. His connections remained steadfast that he would be back in time for the Breeders' Cup Turf and his recovery seemed to go very smoothly. Regardless of how talented this horse may be, it is asking a lot for any athlete to be sharp enough off a five-month layoff to compete against world-class competition.
However, Shug McGaughey is known for being a conservative trainer, and if he did not think this horse was up to the task, he would not be in the race. Sometimes a handicapping angle simply has to be "in Shug I trust."
Early odds: 8-5
Wise Dan will try to defend his title and earn his back-to-back victories in the Breeders' Cup Mile. He will also be trying to silence the critics who have felt the reigning Horse of the Year had a decidedly laid-back campaign this year.
Though his nine-race undefeated streak was snapped when torrential rain caused the Shadwell Turf Mile to be taken off the turf and run on Keeneland's synthetic surface, that race can likely be excused due to the weather. He had been a winning machine all year and followed a very similar path to the one that landed him in the winner's circle following a stunning victory over a star-studded Mile field last year.
Though his loss was disappointing last time out, it is not time to jump off of the Wise Dan bandwagon just yet.
Early odds: 20-1
Za Approval has spent much of his season in the shadow of the two top turf milers in the United States, Wise Dan and Obviously. While he has not proven he can beat the big boys, he has proven he can hold his own against them, and his consistency makes him an interesting long shot.
He delivered as the favorite in his Breeders' Cup prep race last time out, and while he did defeat a softer field than what he faces here, he did so easily and looked to have plenty left in the tank. He does seem to be improving as he has gotten older and more experienced and may be coming into his own at just the right time.
Early odds: 5-2
Game on Dude is a perfect 5-for-5 so far this year and it is difficult to argue with that sort of dominance. In addition to his undefeated record, he also boasts home track advantage and is a true horse for the course at Santa Anita.
He does, however, have to prove that the Game on Dude that flopped in the Classic last year and wound up seventh as the favorite is long in the past. This gelding does his best running on the front end and will face significantly more pressure for the lead than he has caught in his recent winning efforts.
He does seem like a different horse than he was last year. He has been an overpowering, dominant force in the older male division and will try to put an exclamation point on a flawless season.
Early odds: 12-1
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is having a pretty spectacular year. After saddling Oxbow to win the Preakness Stakes, the 78-year-old trainer guided Will Take Charge to a stellar second half of the season.
With the title of champion three-year-old still on the line, Will Take Charge will try to make a case for the honors after winning the Travers Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby this summer. This impeccably bred colt is a physically massive individual, and considering the fact that he was somewhat of a late foal born in April, he very likely is just now starting to fully come into his towering frame.
He is facing a stiff task in the Breeders' Cup Classic and will face older rivals for the first time, but with several speed horses in the race he could be a big factor from off the pace.
If there is any lesson learned through the Triple Crown it is to never, ever write off a Lukas horse completely.