Breeders' Cup: Three Del Mar trends identified from Challenge races

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

October 21st, 2021

A total of five Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” challenge series races took place at Del Mar in advance of the World Thoroughbred Championships on November 4 and 5. Four of those contests were run on the main surface with an additional one taking place on the green, and when taking a look at the recent meeting on a whole, I discovered a few nuggets of information that could yield dividends during Breeders’ Cup weekend.

Speed is king in the turf dashes

As has been the case for some time, one-turn sprints on the grass have yielded a high percentage of wire-to-wire winners. In the most recent meeting at the picturesque California venue, 50% of all turf sprint races showed the winner leading at every call. While that number is far smaller in route races on the sod, it seems logical to tab early types for the dashes on the green during Cup weekend.

Inside posts have an edge in dirt races

Some of it may be due to smaller field sizes in many races held at the meeting, but it’s hard to dispute that a substantial number of winners broke from inner post slots on the main strip throughout the stanza. Early speed was winning at above a 30% clip during the meeting on the dirt, which is noteworthy, but horses breaking from the first three post slots enjoyed a lot of success at Del Mar, as well. Pacific Classic (G1) winner Tripoli, as well as impressive Pat O’Brien S. (G1) hero Ginobili, both broke from the rail en route to earning an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup.

Deep closing types endured success going long on the turf

While turf sprints often played to speed, the opposite can be said for the turf routes during the meet. Just 16% of the races were taken in wire-to-wire fashion, and many of the first-place finishers came from well back at the first and second calls of their respective races. In the Del Mar H. (G2), the local prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), the top-two finishers, Astronaut and Masterpiece, were well off the early tempo around the backside before rallying to complete the exacta.