Breeders' Cup Entries 2015: Betting Guide to Favorites and Dark Horses

Jessica Paquette@jmpaquetteFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2015

Breeders' Cup Entries 2015: Betting Guide to Favorites and Dark Horses

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Breeders’ Cup is the horse player’s equivalent of Christmas and the Super Bowl all wrapped into one exciting package. This year, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic has shaped up to be a spectacular event and has the potential to be the single best race of the year.

    Handicapping a race as complex and deep as the Breeders’ Cup Classic can seem nearly impossible. There is a lot riding on Breeders’ Cup wagers—while making a profit is always the goal, gaining bragging rights among your friends that will last through the next year are even better. This slideshow is designed to give you an edge as you attempt to (responsibly, of course) wager on horse racing’s greatest day.

    The field has not been officially set for the Classic yet, but there are likely to be about nine horses or so who will compete in the championship event. Read on for a few tips and a look into what promises to be a memorable race.

Dark-Horse Contender: Honor Code

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    Don’t let that average effort in the Kelso Handicap fool you. Trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey knows exactly what he is doing, and if he felt a one-mile prep was better than the more conventional mile-and-a-quarter effort he would have gotten in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), then so be it.

    As McGaughey told Karen M. Johnson in an interview that appeared on, he learned from his mistake when he saddled Easy Goer to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup only to see him come up short to Sunday Silence in the Classic.

    “When Easy Goer ran in the Jockey Club Gold Cup it was a mile and a half. I remember that it got back to me Charlie Whittingham [Sunday Silence’s trainer] saying, ‘Well, if he is running in the Gold Cup, I’ve got him [beat] at the Breeders’ Cup.”

    Honor Code is capable of displaying an almost freakish brilliance, and his stirring victory in the Met Mile (G1) was one of the most stunning performances of the year. He may have lost the battle in the Kelso Handicap, but he stands a big chance of winning the one that matters most.

Dark-Horse Contender: Tonalist

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    There is an awful lot to like about Tonalist. The massive colt, winner of the Belmont Stakes (G1) last year, has matured into one of the most consistent and competitive horses in his division. He has had the misfortune of catching a freight train named Honor Code in several of his starts but has enjoyed a very solid season despite that budding rivalry.

    While Tonalist is a closer and has often kept Honor Code company at the back of the pack in several of their races, he has also proved to be very tactical and versatile. He is coming into this race in strong form after winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) for the second consecutive year and has proved to be the type of horse that simply shows up and runs his race every time.

    Leave him off your ticket at your own peril.

The Favorite: American Pharoah

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    What is left to be said about the Triple Crown champion? He became the first horse since 1978 to win horse racing’s elusive Triple Crown and will try to cap off his remarkable career and exit racing as one of the all-time greats.

    However, the rigors of the Triple Crown appeared to finally take their toll on him in the Travers Stakes (G1). Like so many others at Saratoga, known as the “Graveyard of Champions,” he fell short and suffered his first defeat of the year. He will try to avenge that loss and has been training very well back at his home base in California.

Best Simple Bets

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    Hans Pennink/Associated Press

    The most simple way to bet is to win. While winning is easier said than done, there are some legitimate contenders with a big chance in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

    The race could essentially boil down to pace. In the Travers Stakes (G1), American Pharoah was aggressive early and was softened up on the front end by a game performance from rival Frosted. That combined with an arduous Triple Crown campaign may have been major factors that set him up for defeat by Keen Ice.

    Beholder has proved herself to be very tactical and versatile. While she is fast enough to be forwardly placed early, she is far from one-dimensional. In many of her races, her style has been very similar to that of the Triple Crown champion. Expect those two to be in close quarters for much of the race.

    With some potential pace, the race could set up for a closer such as Tonalist or Honor Code. Of those two, Honor Code may offer the best value simply because he may have lost some luster in the eyes of the betting public after his defeat last time out. Expect him to be flying late, and he may be a strong, simple win bet. 

    His trainer, Claude McGaughey III, has been uncharacteristically confident, which also makes him an appealing choice:

    Gotta take true heed of Shug's words re Honor Code since so many of his BC winners have lost their prep.

    — Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) October 25, 2015

Best Exotic Bets

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    Hans Pennink/Associated Press

    Exotic wagers are where things get complicated. While they are much harder to hit, they also often come with a much greater reward than a simple win bet. There are exactas (you pick the first- and second-place horse), trifectas (first, second and third) and superfectas (first, second, third and fourth).

    At least two of the big three—American Pharoah, Beholder and Honor Code—will likely finish in the top two. All three horses have been very consistent all season, so there is no real reason to think one will throw in a clunker at the Breeders' Cup.

    Who goes in fourth place? Sometimes consistency is the best thing to look for when you are looking for a horse to round out your superfecta. If that is the case, Tonalist is impossible to leave off of any superfecta wager. 

    However, you could also really try to light up your superfecta with a big long shot. Keen Ice, despite giving American Pharoah the cold shoulder in the Travers Stakes (G1), will still likely offer double-digit odds. He seems to be a horse who is rapidly improving at the right time and could again play the spoiler.

Best Multi-Race Wagers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The best part of the Breeders' Cup is that the entire day is full of world-class horse racing. The quality of the racing combined with the depth of the fields makes a multi-race wager an exciting and potentially profitable way to enjoy the day.

    There are the options of daily doubles, pick-threes, pick-fours or even a pick-six if you are up to the challenge of picking six consecutive winners.

    If you have a horse in the Classic you love and think cannot be beat, perhaps Beholder, single her and work the rest of your ticket around that.


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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    This is a race where my handicapping brain and racing fan heart are at odds.

    I have been a shameless Honor Code fan from the beginning, and having seen his Met Mile (G1) in person, I can say that he is one of the most visually impressive horses I have ever seen. When he takes off and moves like he was fired out of a cannon, there is not a horse in training that can match him stride for stride.

    And then there is Beholder. She is on the cusp of being considered in the same league as the truly great mares and has proved she can run with the boys at the highest level. She will have to run the race of her life to win, but she is coming into this race ready to do just that. 

    Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, and Honor Code is poised to end his brilliant career on a high note. 

    In a true testament to how spectacular this field is, I have the Triple Crown winner in fourth. The Triple Crown winner! The horse we waited 37 years for. 

    Here are my selections:

    1. Honor Code

    2. Beholder

    3. Tonalist

    4. American Pharoah

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