Two Turns to One Turn, Your Turn to Cash a Bet

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 5th, 2018

It’s a subtle but significant fact that some Thoroughbred prefer to race around one turn and others prefer to race around two, even if all other race conditions are equal.

There are a few reasons for this; for example, it’s harder to run around a turn than it is to run straight, and horses whose stamina reserves are running out at the end of a mile are more likely to get the distance racing around one turn rather than two. In addition, races held around one turn tend to unfold at a faster pace, favoring horses that like to rally from behind.

Recognizing these facts that can lead to significant wagering scores, and I can’t think of a better example than the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I). One of the contenders was Caleb’s Posse, who entered the Dirt Mile off a distant third-place finish in the Indiana Derby (gr. II) going a mile and a sixteenth around two turns. On that day, Caleb’s Posse settled several lengths off the pace, unleashed a rally around the second turn to reach contention, and then weakened in the homestretch to be beaten to the wire by Wilburn and Shackleford, who would likewise be running in the Dirt Mile.

At first glance, this performance suggested that Caleb’s Posse would have a tough time contending for victory in the Breeders’ Cup. But a closer examination of his record revealed that Caleb’s Posse was a completely different horse when racing around one turn—he had won his last four starts under those conditions, including the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) and the King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. In the latter race, Caleb’s Posse uncoiled a tremendous late run to defeat the champion Uncle Mo by a nose.

In the Dirt Mile, Wilburn was made the 2.60-1 favorite on the basis of his victory in the two-turn Indiana Derby. Surprisingly, the second choice at 2.80-1 was Trappe Shot, who hadn’t won since June and was seeking to rebound while stretching out in distance after competing in sprints all season.

Bettors that tossed out the two favorites were left with two logical choices for victory: Caleb’s Posse at 6.80-1 and Shackleford and 5.70-1, the latter having won the prestigious Preakness Stakes (gr. I) earlier in the year. Boxing those two in the exacta would have been a logical play, and suffice to say, any bettor that took that approach was handsomely rewarded when Caleb’s Posse—taking advantage of a fast pace—exploded from off the pace to beat Shackleford by four lengths, with the $2.00 exacta returning a hefty $112.80.