Sunday, October 21, 2007

As Breeders Cup Looms, Look for Value

Granted, I'm sure most people reading this blog are slightly more interested in college football than the sport of kings, but as horse racing's biggest day draws near, I can think of several reasons why you should be very interested in the Breeders Cup this Saturday.

1) For the first time in recent memory, essentially all of the major players in the Triple Crown races of the spring will be running in the Classic, the 5 million dollar crowning jewel of BC day. Although Belmont champ Rags to Riches is out with an injury, Street Sense, Curlin, Hard Spun, Any Given Saturday, and Tiago will face there elders in a battle that will almost certainly determine horse of the year honors.

2) Most of the marquee matchups this weekend in college football take place either before or after the BC races are run. Granted, Florida does play Georgia at 3:30 (apparently there is some history there) and USC and Oregon mix it up at 3 PM, but compared to recent weeks there isn't too much on tap between 1 and 6:30 on Saturday. For those used to watching 10 TV's at a time at a bar on a Saturday afternoon, I certainly think the Breeders Cup will offer more excitement than Akron at Buffalo.

3) 24.63

What is this number, you ask? Only the average payout for a two dollar win bet at last year's Breeders Cup. That's right, on average the winning horse paid odds of more than 11 to 1. Many exactas paid hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and the pick-6 paid a shade under 2 million dollars. Not bad for picking a few horses to come in first, huh? The great thing about the BC is you can make a few small bets, have some fun, and potentially win a nice chunk of change.

Throughout the week, I am going to post my thoughts on each of the BC races, but for now, here are some of my thoughts on how you should go about handicapping this weekend.

A- Don't be afraid to take chances, and don't be afraid to take a stand against a favorite.

This is a day to determine champions, so the only way I would endorse a favorite is if I really believe that horse is a champion. There will be a couple of favorites that will win this weekend, but there will be many more that lose, and hitting even one of those races will make the difference between a winning day and a losing one.

B) Forget the speed bias

You are going to here a lot of "experts" talk about the enormous speed bias at Monmouth, and that horses are going to have a very tough timing winning from off of the pace. While I think Monmouth probably has a minor bias towards horses with early speed (as most dirt race tracks do), this track isn't exactly the old Keeneland strip or even Arlington Park from over the summer. Horses can and will win from off the pace, potentially at big odds because of this supposed bias that will scare bettors away. Monmouth reminds me a lot of Pimlico in that people insist there is a speed bias every Preakness, but the truth is the "bias" is more a result of the types of animals that fill most of the races at these tracks.

C) Go west, young man!

I am intrigued by some of the West Coast invaders this year from a value standpoint. From a speed figure perspective, many of the horses look a cut below their East Coast and Midwest counterparts, but I am not so sure that is case. Del Mar installed a new synthetic track over the summer and the results were, well, interesting. The track was much safer for the horses than the old dirt track, and that of course is the most important thing, but the track played very odd. Final times were considerably slower than at almost any other track in the country, even though the horses at Del Mar are some of the best in the world. The Pacific Classic was run in a comical 2:07, which is about 5-7 seconds slower than what would be expected for this kind of horse. Thats about 25-35 lengths slower than expected, or around the distance Secretariat run the Belmont by! Student Council earned a 99 Beyer for his efforts, but like pretty much every other race at Del Mar this summer, that number is at best an educated guess. The truth is, that race very well might have been run in a very swift time, or very slow, but there is really no way of knowing. For some reason, the speed figures awarded to horses at Del Mar were generally lower than normal, which leads me to believe that a lot of horses shipping from California might be overlooked.

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