Breeders' Cup: Keeneland handicapping trends to consider

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

October 10th, 2020

The Keeneland fall meet is underway, with the Nov. 6-7 Breeders’ Cup World Championships looming as the culmination of the high-class racing action.

Already we’ve seen a few notable trends emerge—trends with potentially significant implications for handicapping the Breeders’ Cup. Here are three to watch out for as the meet continues.

New York shippers warrant respect

Although Kentucky-based runners have been winning the majority of races at Keeneland, this has more to do with strength in numbers than anything else. Horses who last raced at Kentucky Downs, Churchill Downs, or Ellis Park have accounted for 32 of the 49 races run at Keeneland during the first five days of the fall meet, but 252 such horses have started during the meet, so their 32-for-252 overall record equates to only a 13% win rate.

In contrast, runners shipping in from New York have compiled a much higher win rate. Horses who last raced at Saratoga or Belmont Park have gone 10-for-42 (24%) at Keeneland, suggesting they warrant extra respect whenever they turn up.

Outside posts are advantageous on turf

Although saving ground is usually considered a good thing in grass racing, statistics compiled by Equibase.com indicate outside posts have been faring very well over the turf course at Keeneland. During the first five days of the fall meet, 15 turf races were conducted, with horses drawn in post 7 or wider outperforming those drawn inside.

Digging deeper into the numbers, post 7 when 3-for-13 (23.1%), post 8 went 2-for-13 (15.4%), and post 9 with 3-for-10 (30.0%). The sample size is small, but if outside posts continue to perform well on turf, this will be a factor to remember when large fields assemble for the Breeders’ Cup.

Brad Cox and Luis Saez are winning left and right

High-percentage trainer Brad Cox has won three Breeders’ Cup events since 2018, and judging from the phenomenal record he’s compiled at Keeneland this fall, continued Breeders’ Cup success could be just around the corner. Through the first five days of racing, Cox has gone 5-for-16 (31%), with another seven runners finishing second or third for a 75% in-the-money rate.

Jockey Luis Saez has been even hotter. A 6-for-15 (40%) record on dirt and a 3-for-7 (43%) resume on grass have combined to give Saez a 9-for-22 (41%) record overall. Betting all of his mounts equally to win would have produced a 93% profit, suggesting Saez will be a jockey worth following at the Breeders’ Cup.