Three probable favorites I'm avoiding at the Breeders' Cup

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

October 23rd, 2015

The two days of the Breeders’ Cup afford horseplayers numerous high-profile opportunities to take a stand – with horses they like and against horses they don’t.

Having seen most of the Breeders’ Cup participants run multiple times throughout year, handicappers should have already formed strong opinions on the merits of the major players by the time pre-entries are announced.

For years one of the first things I’ve done with my advance Breeders’ Cup past performances is to find horses who I believe to be vulnerable favorites and start mentally formulating a wagering strategy around those opinions.

All handicappers are different, but with so many good horses competing in every race I often find it easier to key on horses I dislike than ones I like. This approach is usually most valuable when thinking about multi-race exotics.

It’s hard to say how short a price some of these horses will be, but these are ones I’ll be looking to beat next weekend at Keeneland.

Wedding Toast (Distaff) – She developed into one of the nation’s leading older fillies with consecutive wins in the Ruffian (G2), Ogden Phipps (G1), and Beldame (G1). Obviously loves Belmont Park, but has proven to be more mortal elsewhere. A lot of her wins have come when she’s made an easy lead, and on paper that seems an unlikely proposition next Friday.

Nyquist (Juvenile) – West Coast-based colts and geldings have generally dominated the division, and this first stringer from the barn of Doug O’Neill enters the Juvenile undefeated from four starts. A son of 2010 two-year-old champ Uncle Mo, he looked like a superstar taking the Best Pal (G2) and Del Mar Futurity (G1), but struggled to fend off returning rival Swipe for a third consecutive time in the FrontRunner (G1). Visually, the effort didn’t suggest 1 1/16 miles is necessarily his forte now or going forward.

American Pharoah (Classic) – It’s easy to knock those at the top, and there is no bigger target on Breeders’ Cup weekend. By most accounts, the time off between the Travers (G1) and Classic has done the Triple Crown winner a world of good. He’s gained back much of the weight he lost over the summer, and his recent works at Santa Anita have been visually spectacular in the opinion of observers that have watched him all year. Nonetheless, this is the toughest field he’s ever had to face and the Travers showed that not only can he be beat but also a way to do so. He’ll be a bigger price than he usually is (a bargain in the opinion of his supporters), but still a likely underlay.

There are other horses, not necessarily eventual post-time favorites, who have lost a lot of their shine this season and look vulnerable at underlaid odds. Specifically, 2014 Breeders’ Cup winners Untapable (Distaff) and Judy the Beauty (Filly & Mare Sprint) have not raced up to their previous championship form this term despite being well-backed at the windows.

In the case of Untapable, she’s lost (sometimes narrowly) to several rivals she’ll meet again on Friday. Judy the Beauty had some excuses in her first two setbacks this year, but didn’t have a strong one in losing a slow renewal of the Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) over a track she had previously been unbeaten over.

(Nyquist photo: Benoit Photos)