What Beholder's scratch means for odds, handle, and the Breeders' Cup Classic's legacy

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Ed DeRosa

October 29th, 2015

Beholder’s scratch has an obvious effect on how the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be run, but her absence will have reverberations long after some other horse is crowned in America’s richest race.

James Scully and I discussed what the scratch means for the Classic pace scenario and American Pharoah. Scully thinks it’s such a big deal that he amended his pick from Frosted to the Triple Crown champion.

I’ll have to amend my pick, too, since I had picked the two-time champion to win her three Breeders’ Cup, but I’m having a tougher time than James just defaulting to American Pharoah, especially at the price.

Speaking of the price, that’s one of the interesting wrinkles to Beholder scratching. She was the 3-to-1 second choice on the morning line with American Pharoah as the 6-to-5 favorite. At that price, Beholder has 21% of the win pool. If ALL that money goes to American Pharoah (and assuming that he’d have been 6-to-5 with Beholder in the race), then he would be 1-to-2 at post time.

However, I think most people who were going to bet Beholder were looking to beat American Pharoah in the first place, and will seek an alternative against the favorite, which means at least one of the 6-to-1 prices on either Tonalist or Honor Code could be as low as 4-to-1 in the gate, and a longshot like Gleneagles (20-to-1) will easily drop to 15-to-1.

And not all that money will be redistributed. One keen observer of Breeders’ Cup wagering opined that Beholder’s scratch could cost the World Championships as much as $5-million in handle. Her departure lowers the number of exacta combinations by 20% from 90 to 72, and given that she was expected to have 20% of the money that’s extremely significant.

From a historical perspective, the race loses only a little luster. Yeah, having a two-time champion filly going against males in an attempt to be the first winner of three different Breeders’ Cup races was certainly an intriguing storyline, but American Pharoah was and is undoubtedly the headliner as the only Triple Crown champion to contest a Breeders’ Cup race, and he’s facing the best older males in multiple Grade 1 winners Tonalist and Honor Code and familiar sophomore foils Keen Ice and Frosted.

Long story longer we’re all disappointed Beholder scratched but appreciate that connections not only put her first but also are considering running next year, and when the Sun sets Saturday we’ll have seen something special.