2014 Breeders Cup Contenders

Coming up with a comprehensive list of likely Breeders’ Cup contenders several months in advance is essentially an impossible task. It would be easier to accurately guess the participants in next year’s Super Bowl before the start of the season than try to determine which horses will be entered in which Breeders’ Cup races, let alone which ones will be among the top contenders. The sheer number of races involved–15 races spread over two days—makes it mathematically untenable. In addition to the large number of horses entered in the competition the task is made even more difficult by the competitive class of the Breeders’ Cup field. These horses are the ‘best of the best’ in their individual categories so there will be plenty of competition in every race.

THE FORMAT AND QUALIFICATION PROCESS

Breeders’ Cup races are limited to 14 with the exception of the Dirt Mile, Juvenile Fillies Turf and Juvenile Turf which will are limited to 12 starters. To prevent these races from being ‘oversubscribed’ the Breeders’ Cup has adopted a qualification system that is more complex than that for the Kentucky Derby (which is based on a pure points system). The Breeders’ Cup ranking format is based on performance in Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races, a point system, and the input of a panel of horse racing experts. The idea is to come up with the ‘best of the best’ in all of the racing categories and the Breeders’ Cup selection committee has done a decent job of that in past events. You seldom hear any complaints about specific horses being excluded from a race they’ve wanted to enter.

CURRENT BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC FUTURES BETTING

The best way to take stock of the Breeders’ Cup contenders at this stage of the game is to look at the futures betting options at the Wynn Las Vegas. Odds are currently being offered only on the Breeders’ Cup classic where the current favorite is four year old horse Will Take Charge. Will Take Charge was unimpressive in his 2013 Triple Crown races finishing 8th in the Kentucky Derby, 7th in the Preakness and 10th in the Belmont. After a month and a half off he returned to action and looked like a different horse. He’s finished first or second in six races since the Belmont including a win in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes and a 2nd place finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. At age 4 he’s just entering his competitive prime and is currently priced at 9/2.

OTHER TOP CONTENDERS

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man is next on the futures board at 5/1 followed by the BC Classic post time favorite Game on Dude at 7/1. Also at 7/1 is the 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice who finished 6th in last year’s BC Classic but has looked dominant in winning his first two starts this year (the G2 Gulfstream Park Handicap and the G2 New Orleans Handicap). The only horse posted at current odds of 10/1 or less is the presumptive Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome. Should California Chrome win the Kentucky Derby he’ll have recent history working against him—only 2 Kentucky Derby winners have gone on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year (Sunday Silence in 1989, Unbridled in 1990). The reason for this is fairly obvious—a Kentucky Derby winner is a 3 year old running against more mature horses. Additionally, he’s already been through a draining Triple Crown season and its very tough to bounce back and win against such an elite class.

PLAYING A WAITING GAME

The current futures betting odds underscore the difficulty of evaluating Breeders’ Cup contenders until the event draws closer—and those odds are only dealing with one of the 16 races. The best way to get a handle on the top challengers for the Breeders’ Cup is to pay attention to the sport and notice which horses are excelling in different types of races. Some contenders will start to become apparent as the year progresses. Also look for horses in the different race types that are just ‘under the radar’ and are performing well but not gaining a lot of media notoriety. These can often provide the best betting opportunities at the Breeders’ Cup.