Searching for those Longshot Winners at Breeders’ Cup? Don’t Overlook the Obvious

The Breeders' Cup at Santa AnitaBy Art Parker

Miss Alleged at 42-1. Wild Again at 31-1. Spain at 56-1. Volponi at 44-1. Shared Account at 46-1. Court Vision at 65-1. One Dreamer at 47-1. And, of course, Arcangues at 133-1.

I had actually had a couple of those. The horses mentioned are a few of the “bombs” that have fallen on Breeders’ Cup days. Longshots on racing’s biggest day. It does happen, but they are just hard to find.

It has been said with correctness that favorites do better than normal in stakes races. I suppose it is true also when it comes to the Breeders’ Cup.  But who wants to cash a ticket on a 6-5 horse?

There are many ways to look at Breeders’ Cup day. For the novice or the fan (it is important that they cash the 6-5 ticket) my advice is to do whatever you want. Enjoy the day and then go tell everyone you know what a great time you had. Tell everyone they ought to be going to the track as often as possible cause it is a ton of fun.

For the serious handicapper with plenty of experience, I cannot tell you a thing. You already know as much as I (probably more).

For the ones that fall in between the novice and the serious player, I can help you a little bit with Breeders’ Cup day. The first thing, in case you have yet to learn it, is that you will not make money betting on favorites with any reasonable frequency. One must seek value and it is rare if a favorite offers such. On Breeders’ Cup day you have to reach back for a little extra, be willing to study a little longer, be willing to ask questions to learn more.

And then, whatever you do, do not discount or overlook the obvious just because it is Breeders’ Cup day.

The only time the Breeders’ Cup was held at Arlington Park was a day I wish to forget, well almost. It came time for the Classic, the last race of the day, and I was about to leave. I had been beaten unmercifully all day. I watched the post parade and noticed that Volponi looked good. Suddenly I remembered something in his form. I took another look at the race and it was clear. Volponi possessed, by far, the highest speed figure on dirt. I believe Volponi was viewed as a grass only horse. It was obvious that a repeat of that race would make him hard to beat. I’ve got to tell you, it’s absolutely amazing how much a paltry $10 will do when a 44-1 crosses the line in front of all others. I remember leaving the OTB thinking that the day was, “not bad at all.”

I remember searching for a good live longshot in 1994 and, just a few minutes before the Distaff, I noticed a 6 year old gray mare named One Dreamer. All of my buddies said she “couldn’t run with these” and told me to forget her. But I noticed the one thing that all good handicappers pay close attention to, and that is lone speed. One Dreamer was definitely going to get the lead, at least in my opinion. And she had Gary Stevens aboard, who knew how to rate a speed horse. I knew she didn’t quite measure up in terms of class, but I felt that Stevens may just be able to nurse the 47-1 shot all the way to the wire. That is exactly what happened. When they crossed the wire I looked at my friends and asked, “Who said the old gray mare ain’t what she used to be?”

The lesson is not to disregard the obvious just because it is Breeders’ Cup day.

Now, I’m not going to review the multitude of lost longshots I’ve had in 29 years of playing on Breeders’ Cup days. There have been plenty, but overall I am better off than I would be playing a bunch of favorites. If you are trying to become a serious handicapper and elevate your game (let’s just say you are past the novice stage), then Breeders’ Cup day gives you the perfect opportunity to jump in and figure things out. On that day horses are shipping in from all over the world. The surface is changing for some, and the venue is changing for all except those based in Southern California since the Breeders’ Cup is at Santa Anita once again.

The pace scenario may be completely different than what the heavily bet horses have seen. Some runners have never been in a real big field. Others are losing their regular rider. The list of things to consider on Breeders’ Cup day is endless. It is a special day and even if you lose every race it will be fun by taking the approach that you intend to improve your game.

And who knows, maybe one of those bombs will fall your way. I hope I’m standing next to you when it does.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is an 18-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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