Breeders’ Cup Winners Profiles – Part II

By Craig Spencer

I have gone back and looked at the winner of each Breeders’ Cup race since 1999.  In Part II we  look at each of the remaining races and discuss historically successful prep races and other interesting things to keep in mind:

Juvenile Turf

The European contingent have been deadly in this race with 5 winners in the 6 runnings of this race (Foreign Tacks are shaded).  4 of the 5 European winners last raced at Newmarket.  The lone US winner, Pluck, didn’t make his last start in the US either, although I wouldn’t call a race at Woodbine a real foreign test.

BC Juv Turf

Figure 1: Juvenile Turf

The abbreviations for the “Angles” are LOW=Last Out Winner, LO2=Last Out Second Place, GLW=Good Last Work (top 1/3rd at the distance, within 14 days of the race), TA=Track Affinity, TA (s)=Surface Affinity, KR=Key Race Exiter (at least one of the top 3 finishers came back to win)

Most of the best US talent at this stage of their 2 year-old year are still trying to make a name for themselves on the dirt so they can make a run at the Triple Crown.  The European shippers are definitely at an advantage in this race.  Not only have they been racing on turf against the best 2 year olds that Europe has to offer, they are trained over turf in the mornings and are well prepared to handle the lower rate North American talent that they will undoubtedly face.

Hootenanny (3-1) provides an interesting twist in this race.  He made his winning debut sprinting in April at Keeneland and went to Royal Ascot to win handily in the Windsor Castle.  He was narrowly beaten at Deauville in a Group 1 in August and has yet to make a start since then for Wesley Ward.  Ward is a master with 2 year olds and this colt has been working steadily since September 23rd for his return.  But he has never tried anything over 6 furlongs.  A mile should be well within his capabilities being by Quality Road (Florida Derby, Donn, Metropolitan, Woodward) and out of the Hennessy mare More Hennessy; his bottom side doesn’t scream out stamina, but a mile isn’t exactly a distance race.  The biggest concern with Hootenanny is the 68 days since his last race.

The foreign shippers include Group 3 winners Commemorative (8-1) and Aktabantay (12-1) and Group 2 placed War Envoy (9-2) from the Aidan O’Brien barn.  Juddmonte Farms’ Commemorative comes out of a winning effort in the Group 3 Autumn Stakes at Newmarket, the only foreign shipper to have made his last start at that venue, that race was just 20 days before the Juvenile Turf.  George Vancouver and Donativum only had one more days rest between their last race and the Breeders’ Cup, both last racing at Newmarket as well.

Dirt Mile:

The first five winners of this race all were 6-1 or better.  This is definitely a race that will require a strong opinion or deep pockets to be comfortable with coverage in multi-race tickets.

No horse has won this race off more than a 6 week break from his prior race and 4 of the 6 winners had a good last work (top 1/3rd at the distance, within 14 days of the race), so watching the workout tabs heading into the Breeders’ Cup seems like a good idea.  To date there has not been one instance of a horse, jockey or trainer to win this race more than once.

BC Mile

Figure 2: Dirt Mile

Goldencents (6-5) is back to defend his title and he finished second again this year in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship in his final prep.  He may be coming into this year’s race better than last year, he was able to post an impressive victory in the Pat O’Brien at Del Mar in August, last year he finished second in that same event.

Bronzo (12-1) will try and become the first Chilean invader to win this race.  The 5 year old Fusaichi Pegasus colt comes off two consecutive wins in a Group 2 and Group 1 race in his homeland but has not made a start since June.  He has been training decently at Santa Anita, registering works there since early September.  No horse has won this race off more than a 6 week break from his prior race.

The 3 year old Tapiture (6-1) has put in 3 good efforts since his 15th place finish in the Kentucky Derby and will definitely be running on the end of this one, however he is the only starter in the race that did not turn in a “Good Last Work” when working 50 of 63 going four furlongs.

Fed Biz (7-2) gave likely Classic favorite Shared Belief all he could handle in the Awesome Again and should be forwardly placed in this event.

Pants On Fire (6-1) has been competitive in all his races this year, but his campaign has been much softer than his 2013 campaign, he would have to revert back to his 2013 form to be competitive with this field and nothing is indicating that that is a strong likelihood.  He is a crowd favorite and will likely be overbet.

Most of the rest seem to be a notch, or many notches in some cases, below Goldencents, Tapiture and Fed Biz.

Turf Sprint

The American’s have dominated this race!!  If you have read much about what it takes to win this race, especially on the specialized Santa Anita Downhill Course, you surely have heard that a horse needs to have demonstrated an affinity for the course.  That is absolutely what history would suggest, not just at Santa Anita though, no matter the venue in which the Breeders Cup is held, EVERY WINNER has shown an affinity (60% in the money) on the grass course at the host track (TA in the Angle(s) list below).

BC Turf sprint

Figure 8: Turf Sprint

If you haven’t raced on the course or have raced and haven’t done pretty well, you may as well stay home.  The horses that were pre-entered that meet this criteria are:

  • Ambitious Brew (12-1)
  • Bobby’s Kitten (10-1)
  • Home Run Kitten (12-)
  • Reneesgotzip (5-1)
  • Silentio (8-1, but all SA turf starts have been routing)
  • Sweet Swap (12-1)
  • Tightend Touchdown (8-1)

The Santa Anita hillside course is very unique in US Racing as it first has a right hand turn before the traditional left hand turn.  As the field is coming out of the left hand turn they have to pass over a short section of dirt.  Most of the time the horses on the lead see the dirt and shift outward, ducking and hesitating a bit from the dirt, and allowing horses to rally up the rail.  Horses that have experience over the course have an advantage as they are less likely to hesitate when they come to the small dirt section.

Sentient Jet Juvenile

Grade or Group 1 top 2 finish in last race, Good Last Work a plus, Top Early or Late

BC Juvenile stats

Figure 9: Sentient Jet Juvenile

If you didn’t light the board in your final prep race, you have not won this race over the past 15 years.  Foreign horses have performed admirably here, but since the advent of the Juvenile Turf in 2008, only Vale of York has successfully tried this event.  Most of the highly regarded Euro shippers now have the option to stay on their preferred surface.

In 10 of the 15 events shown, the winner last raced within 4 weeks of the Breeders’ Cup.  You would think that this is a firm requirement, but 5 winners made their last start beyond 28 days out with 47 horses attempting this feat (one out of every 9.4).  There have been 135 starters come back on 4 weeks or less rest (one out of every 13.5).  Every entrant, except for Texas Red, finished first or second in their last start.

From a pace perspective, a horse that has shown the ability to run fast early or late is definitely preferred.  This is not a race for a one paced horse.  Carpe Diem (4-1), Daredevil (7-2), and Upstart (8-1) have demonstrated early or late pace presence.

Longines Turf

Can you say “European Domination”?  12 of the past 15 years this race has been won by a European shipper.  There have been 16 winners (in 2003 there was a dead heat) over the past 15 runnings of this race.  75% of those have come from horses who last raced in Europe. 4 from the O’Brien barn, 3 from the Stoute barn, 2 from Suroor (Godolphin).  Six made their prior start at Longchamp in France in the Prix de L’Arc de Triumph, six from other foreign locales (Ascot, Newbury, Newmarket, Leopardstown, Doncaster, and York).

BC Turf stats

Figure 10: Longines Turf

Ten of the sixteen winners last ran within 5 weeks of the Breeders’ Cup with only one winner not making their last start in a Grade/Group 1 event.  Every winner has been in the money 60% of the time, either on the lawn at the host track if they have any starts over it or over turf in general if they have no starts at the host track.

This year’s contenders who last ran in a Grade/Group 1 event within 5 weeks of the Cup and have shown track/surface affinity are:

  • Imagining (12-1)
  • Flintshire, (7-2) who finished second behind the super mare Treve in the Arc in his latest
  • Main Sequence (6-1)
  • Hangover Kid (30-1)
  • Chicquita (8-1)

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Xpressbet Sprint

No worries about a foreign invader picking up the winners share in this event.  It is incumbent on the contenders to have ran well (60%+ in the money) at the track or on the surface if no starts at the track. Nine out of fifteen winners won their last out, four out of fifteen finished second in the most recent race, leaving just two that did not at least place in their final prep race.

BC Sprint stats

Figure 11: Xpressbet Sprint

You might expect early speed to be at an advantage over the six furlong distance, but only six winners appeared to be early pace types, six winners also did their best running late.  One of these (Orientate) actually had both good early and good late pace presence prior to the BC.  The remaining 4 winners were more one paced.

Horses that finished in the top 2 in their final prep race and have demonstrated track or surface affinity are:

  • Bourbon Courage (30-1)
  • Fast Anna (12-1)
  • Indianapolis (12-1)
  • Mico Margarita (15-1)
  • Private Zone (6-1)
  • Rich Tapestry (5-1)
  • Seeking the Sherif (20-1)
  • Work All Week (10-1)

Twelve of the last fifteen editions, and all of the previous nine, have had a Good Last Work.  Of those listed above only Fast Anna, Indianapolis, Seeking the Sherif and Work All Week turned in good last breezes.


Because of the domination of Wise Dan and Goldikova in this race over the past 6 years it is a bit difficult to really pinpoint winners profiles to look at.  But in the 10 renditions that were not won by either of those two greats, only two were won by foreign horses. All of the US horses have shown track or surface affinity.  Since most of the morning workouts in the US occur over the dirt surfaces, a good last work does not appear to be a requirement.  Woodbine has produced a couple of winners, and from 1999-2004, the Oak Tree Mile (now the City of Hope) produced all of the non-European winners.

BC Mile grass stats

Figure 12: BC Mile

The defection of Wise Dan due to injury has opened the flood gates for horses that see this now as a winnable affair.

Group 1 exiters entering this race are Anodin (6-1, 5th in Prix de la Foret), multiple Group 1 winner Karakonite (10-1, 11th in Prix de la Foret), and multiple Group 1 winner Toronado (5-2, 2nd beaten a head in Prix du Molin).

The Woodbine Mile sends us winner Trade Storm (12-1, Group 3 placed prior to the Woodbine Mile).

The City of Hope winner, Big Bane Theory, inexplicably did not get invited to participate in this event and will be trying the dirt for the first time in the Dirt Mile.


The best foreign horses usually stick to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf or the Mile depending on their distance limitations.  There have been a couple notable exceptions but only Raven’s Pass has been able to successfully invade and win this event (and cost me the consolation in the pick 6 that year after hitting the first 4 legs).  There have been 4 horses with decent early pace presence win, 3 horses with decent late presence, 5 horses that had decent early and late pace numbers, 2 that were more one pace plodders (Drosselmeyer and Tiznow in his first victory as a 3 year old), and Raven’s Pass (no data to support pace presence).  13 of the 15 horses had track affinity or surface affinity (if no starts at the host track), if you last finished worse than 3rd you probably aren’t picking up the big check.  Of late, the Jockey Club Gold Cup has been the key prep with the Awesome Again (formerly the Goodwood) recovering last year from its recent losing streak but it produced the winner 3 of 4 years from 2000-2003.  If you haven’t won the Awesome Again or Woodward or if you haven’t finished in the top 3 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, you probably won’t be on my ticket.

BC Classic stats

Figure 13: Breeders’ Cup Classic

In this year’s race, we have the Awesome Again winner in undefeated Shared Belief (9-5), the Woodward winner Itsmyluckyday ran poorly in the Kelso and was not entered in any Breeders’ Cup event.  Moreno (20-1) finished second in the Woodward before running a well beaten fourth in the eventful Jockey Club Gold Cup and is getting a new pilot in Johnny Velazquez.  In the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist (5-1) redeemed his Jim Dandy and Travers losses to win impressively over a troubled Zivo (15-1) and non-BC entered Long River.  Based on the last 4 Classic’s, Shared Belief, Tonalist and Zivo are the main contenders.

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome (4-1) finished a well beaten 6th in the Pennsylvania Derby which was 6 weeks prior to the Breeders’ Cup.  No horse since Invasor in 2006 has had more than 5 weeks off, both of these factors tell me Chrome is up against it and is not a true win contender.

Horses that have shown, according to my handicapping spreadsheets calculations, early and/or late pace presence include Cigar Street (12-1), Bayern (6-1), Shared Belief (9-5), California Chrome (4-1), Moreno (20-1), and Majestic Harbor (20-1). 



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Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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