Analyzing favorites and races producing the best value in the Breeders’ Cup

Profile Picture: James Scully

October 24th, 2017

Favorites win approximately a third of the time nationally but that percentage has held only once in the last five years of the Breeders’ Cup. The public’s betting choice performed well in the 2013 edition, capturing five of 13 races (38%), but it was bloodbath for chalk players last year at Santa Anita as Obviously (Turf Sprint) proved to be the only winning favorite.

Over the past five years, favorites have won 18 of 65 Breeders’ Cup races, a 27.7% strike rate. Six were odds-on (even-money or less), including a trio at Keeneland in 2015 (American Pharoah, Songbird and Liam’s Map).

As someone who is often trying to beat the chalk, I take comfort in the fact that 47 of the last 65 Breeders’ Cup favorites proved beatable. The racing is simply more contentious than the day-to-day fare at tracks and horseplayers must adjust when betting the Breeders’ Cup.

Let’s take a look at the best races for value in recent editions of the Breeders’ Cup:

Juvenile Fillies: The 2017 edition will lack a standout like Songbird, who romped at 3-5 odds, and the Juvenile Fillies has been one of the best races for longshots of late with three of the last four scorers returning a $60+ win mutuel: Take Charge Brandi (61-1 in 2014), Champagne Room (33-1 in 2016) and Ria Antonia (32-1 in 2013).

Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf: Bettors have every right to demand value when it comes to the Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf because these races seldom play to chalk. Lady Eli (2-1 in 2014) is the lone exception over the past five years as the nine other winners all left the starting gate at 6-1 or higher.

Turf: Highland Reel prevailed as the 7-2 third choice last year, but the four previous winners of the Turf were all at least 6-1, including Little Mike at 17-1 in 2012 and Magician at 12-1 in 2013.

Mile: It’s been synonymous with high-class performers like Wise Dan, Goldikova, Miesque, Lure and Tepin since its inception, but the Mile isn’t adverse from upsets. Court Vision’s 64-1 shocker in 2011 was the biggest this century, and two of the last three winners have paid more than $25 with the 30-1 Karakontie in 2014 and 12-1 Tourist last year.

Turf Sprint: Even though Obviously salvaged the weekend for favorites last year, he was bet down as a lukewarm 3.80-1 choice and returned a $9.60 mutuel. Three of the last five winners of the Turf Sprint were at least 6-1 odds including Mongolian Saturday, the highest-priced winner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland (15-1). He is expected to seek another upset this year at Del Mar.

Classic: American Pharoah (2015) and Zenyatta (2009) are the only successful favorites since 2005 and the Classic featured a nice five-year stretch from 2010-2014 where every winner paid at least $10.