The Year of ‘The Hammer’

By Rich Nilsen

We first interviewed Tommy “The Hammer” Massis after he scored a major handicapping contest victory last spring in the Grade One Gamble tournament at Keeneland Racecourse.  Topping 123 players with a huge $28,074 bankroll, the Canadian horseplayer captured an NHC berth, a $10,000 grand prize, and an entry into the lucrative Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

But Massis was far from done in 2015.  He parlayed that win into victories in both the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and the fall Del Mar handicapping challenge.  The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) is the largest real-money tournament in the country and its popularity is reaching that of the National Handicapping Championship.

Massis put the hammer down by turning a $7,500 betting bankroll into a staggering $90,682.25 balance at the conclusion of the two days of Breeders’ Cup action.  In the process he crushed 321 other players and brought home total winnings of $320,682.  At Del Mar a couple of weeks later, Massis turned a $3,000 bankroll into $18,064.  He added another $32,000 to that in prize money.

AGameofSkill.com sat down again with this professional horseplayer from Toronto, Canada to discuss his big wins in the second half of the year.  2015 was truly the year of the Hammer.

 

photo by Louie DeMato

photo by Louie DeMato

AGOS: Going against an all-star field of handicappers in the BCBC, what was your strategy going into the event?

TM:  I handicapped the two cards and was looking for my spots to make my plays. My two plays that I found were both on Saturday in the Sprint and the Turf.  I didn’t really like anything on Friday to make a huge bet.  However, with the $600 minimum bet requirement, I figured I would just take the five races I had to play, bet the $600, and try to hit something really good.  I did not consider any type of huge bet on Friday.  My two plays were in those races on Saturday.

 

AGOS: With so many races to look at, how did you prepare for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC)?

TM:  I can’t do it the same way I normally do back home. Ten days at the latest, after a card has been run, I have looked at all the replays and have all my homework done. I try to do that work the next day, but at the latest, it is completed within a week to 10 days after the races have been run.

With 20 races in two days and all those horses, I can’t do all that legwork.  It’s insanity.

You can’t rely on just the DRF chart caller notes. I honestly went through those two days looking for pace scenarios, Europeans on the turf, etc.  It took me very little time to come up with no plays on Friday and two plays on Saturday.  On those two races [the Sprint and Turf] I did a lot of work.  I started watching the replays and so forth.

I then went back to Friday and looked at what races I could bet on.  There was one horse on Friday that was going off much lower than I expected at 5/2 and so I just bet to place instead [of a large win wager] and he ended up winning.

That’s why I don’t like the NHC.  It doesn’t fit my style with having to play 15 races a day. There is not enough time in the week [beforehand] to handicap the races and do it properly.

 

AGOS: Incidentally, did you feel that there were any track biases at play during the 2 days of the Breeders’ Cup, and did you use that information to your advantage?

TM: I knew that Keeneland took away one of my advantages which is the stone closers having a chance [by removing the all-weather track].  That was my bread and butter, but horses can’t win like that at Keeneland now.

On a big day with top jockeys and good horses, sometimes the biases can be corrected and evened out. I didn’t see any type of significant bias.

I came in with a plan and, with those kind of stakes, nothing was going to change.

 

AGOS: You basically risked everything on two horses in the Cup.  Tell us about your decision to play those runners.

TM:   The Sprint is what I look for in my daily handicapping – a ton of speed where closers can take advantage.  I really like Wild Dude’s ability to sit a good trip off the speed. I thought Kobe’s Back was better off at 6 furlongs than 7 furlongs and would come running late.   So if the speed gave way, I had two horses that were going to be finishing well.

I made a huge win bet on Wild Dude. I bet a bunch of trifectas with Kobe in the two and three hole.  The gate opened and basically I knew I was dead.  The jockey had it in his mind to take way too far back.  I was done.  I didn’t even watch after that.

I knew Run Happy was a young horse and he had to learn how to rate.  And he did just that on the biggest day of his life!

As for the turf, I watched Golden Horn beat Found with no excuses for Found.  Found’s only bad race was at 12 furlongs, so I watched the replay.  He had trouble, really had no chance to do his best running, but finished OK.  You could put a line through that race.  If I couldn’t put a line through that race, I would have put a line through Found.  So I determined that 1 1/2 miles (12 furlongs) was not a problem for the horse.

With good odds, Found was a play with Lasix and my favorite jockey.  That’s enough to move you up a little.

I had no opinion beyond those two.

I made a $3,000 exacta box on the two, and then went back up and added a $1,000 straight Found over Golden Horn.  I figured if I put more on that combination, I put the contest out of reach if it hit.

 

After the win at Del Mar

After the win at Del Mar

AGOS: Tell us about the winner that propelled you to victory in the Del Mar contest.

TM:   He had one lifetime races, broke in the air and rushed up.  The favorite won the race easily and this horse kept finishing behind him.  He kept finishing strong, distancing himself from the rest of the field and galloped out great past the wire.  He was claimed by Doug O’Neill and running back in the same class.  He was very obvious.

I went down to the paddock (and I’m not a paddock guy) and this horse looked like he was raring to go.  I waited and waited, watching the odds.  I planned to bet $5,000 at 5/2 but instead I ended up betting $9,000 at even money. I didn’t like the card.   I bet a horse that I would never bet as he was obvious to the public.  So, I ended up getting 9/2 on the winner [due to the prize money I won].

In the next race I liked two speed horses in a 5 furlong race and I was going to play a $600 straight exacta, but they killed each other off.  They ended up running third and fourth.

These were two bets I would never make in my real wagering. I would never bet an even money shot like that.

 

AGOS:  Since the NHC is so different and not really suited to your style, how are you going to approach that tournament in January?

TM: What I am going to do first is take care of the mandatory races.  I’ll be putting some replay work into those.   I look for speed horses, lone closers and so forth.

Tommy Massis relaxing back home at Woodbine

Tommy Massis relaxing back home at Woodbine

The more effort you put into [the 3-day contest], the more drained you get and the harder it is to make it the required three days.  I am not young, so I get drained pretty quickly.

I plan to walk in and put in all of my picks right away the first day; and then just monitor the odds throughout the day.  I’ll see if I have to change my strategy during the day.

I don’t care how good you are, you better just have the day of your life.  Being good gives you a chance.  I’m just not going to put a lot of work into it, because a lot of work isn’t going to do the job.  I don’t want to have a good day the first day and then I am so mentally drained the second day that I can’t make proper decisions.

 

AGOS: How have these recent experiences changed your life?

TM: You know I have so many health issues.  My meds are very expensive but I get them for $300 year through the disability program here in Canada.  It’s a great country to live in.

Looking long term, I plan to invest all my money in a condo and start from scratch again.

 

AGOS: Where are you going to buy a condo?

TM:   One bus stop from Woodbine.

 

For more on handicapping star Tommy Massis, read our first interview from April, 2015.

How to Bet the Breeders’ Cup

The 32nd running of the Breeders’ Cup is led by an international all-star cast of the world’s best horses featuring 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, super mare Beholder and Arc de Triomphe winner Golden Horn. With full fields and a long list of betting options, the 2015 Breeders’ Cup will surely keep you on the edge of your seat.

A historic two days of racing are in store at Keeneland in Lexington, KY. If you’re not attending, be sure to tune in on NBC & NBCSN on Friday and Saturday so you don’t miss out on what will be a homecoming weekend for the ages. Coverage begins on Friday at 3:00 p.m. on NBCSN, and on Saturday from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. on NBCSN and then on NBC from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m (see full schedule below).

Tune in during the week for a 30 minute special on “How to Bet the Breeders’ Cup.” From the new $1 Pick 6 to massive guaranteed pools and the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, there is a lot to know about this year’s Breeders’ Cup. The show will feature NBC talent Laffit Pincay, Randy Moss, Eddie Olczyk, Bob Neumeier, Matt Bernier and Nick Luck. The Betting the Breeders’ Cup Special will air on NBCSN on Wednesday, October 28 from 4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET; Thursday, October 29 from 7:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. ET; and Friday, October 30 from 2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET.

Check out the Keeneland Race Day App, which is your complete guide to Breeders’ Cup week. You can watch all of the races LIVE, view real-time entries, results and payouts, chat with handicappers, view a map of the grounds, check out the schedule of events throughout the Breeders’ Cup Festival, and much more! Download or update the app via iTunes or Google Play.

Breeders’ Cup TV schedule for the 2-day 2015 event:

NBCSN Friday: Oct. 30: 3:00 -6:00 pm

NBCSN Saturday: Oct. 31: 1:00-4:00 pm

NBC Saturday: Oct. 31: 4:00-6:00 pm

Below shows the TVG schedule of events for Breeders’ Cup 2015

tvg breeders cup 2015 schedule

Updated Breeders’ Cup Future Book Odds

We have received updated Future Book Odds on the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (partial list below) and the feature event, the Breeders’ Cup Classic featuring Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.  Click here for the complete list from Wynn Las Vegas.

CURALINA 75/1 12/1
STOPCHARGINGMARIA 15/1 12/1
SALAMA 15/1 15/1
FRIVOLOUS 25/1 15/1
STELLAR WIND 8/1 16/1
MY SWEET ADDICTION 40/1 20/1
CALAMITY KATE 22/1 22/1
LOVELY MARIA 12/1 25/1

Honor Code to Benefit from Public Workout

But will he get the Classic he wants?

By ART PARKER

Honor Code ran in last week’s Grade II Kelso Handicap at Belmont as trainer Shug McGaughey said it was a better prep than the Jockey Club Gold Cup. One couldn‘t help but wonder why Shug was making that move. Was Honor Code not at his best? Why take the best older male in the country and run for a paltry $400,000 instead of a $1,000,000?

It looks like Shug had a plan and stuck to it. The connections of Honor Code are far more concerned about winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic than the Jockey Club. It’s not just because the money in the Classic is enough to sink a ship. My speculation is that a win in the Classic, added to the exemplary record of Honor Code, escalates his value in the breeding shed even more. Honor Code is a great stallion prospect. He is a true blue blood. His future value increases greatly with a win in the Classic accompanied by the footnote of beating a Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah. All of this makes the $1,000,000 Jockey Club purse look like peanuts.

The Breeders' Cup at KeenelandIt was pretty clear to me when the field in the Kelso reached the half mile pole. Castellano had Honor Code on the rail, in the slop. At most tracks the rail is a terrible place to be on in the mud, but Castellano had the big guy down there for about half the race. Why didn’t he move Honor Code away from the rail when he was in his usual last position of running at the back of the field? About midway in the turn Castellano moved Honor Code out away from the rail and then before entering the stretch moved him very wide. When you are wide at Belmont in the turn you lose much more ground than you do elsewhere. Once he was straight Honor Code was way out in the center of the track and much farther back than normal.

If you play the game long enough you learn that all horses are not always intended for a big effort. Often horses are getting a little schooling. Often horses are in need of a race that will help assure an overall successful campaign. There is an old saying, something like, “A race is worth three or four workouts.” There could be any number of reasons why Shug put his star in the Kelso instead of the Jockey Club. As far as I’m concerned he was not out to win the Kelso. It was just a race that intended to help Honor Code in another way.

I try not to become a big fan of any horse, but Honor Code is an exception. I’m hoping Shug’s plan works. I hope that Honor Code is as fit as a fiddle on the day of the Classic. But as time marches on things begin to look more difficult for the son of A.P. Indy. In early August a good horse named Moreno was retired. Just before the end of September Bayern was retired. Then came the news that trainer Todd Pletcher was running Liam’s Map in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, not the Classic. All of this is not good for Honor Code. It appears that all speed that can compromise American Pharoah has disappeared. An unchallenged American Pharoah can make the Classic look like the Preakness or the Belmont.

There is no doubt that Honor Code is an exceptional horse and a closing machine, but the pace scenario of the Classic looks to be totally against him as of this point. Beholder looks to have the best shot at beating American Pharoah because there is no doubt she will probably get first run at the Triple Crown winner.

Have You Missed This?

Check out author Art Parker’s one-of-a-kind guide “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns”

2015 Breeders’ Cup Future Book Odds

Courtesy of the best racebook in Nevada, Wynn Las Vegas

As of September 15, 2015

HORSE OPEN CURRENT
AMERICAN PHAROAH 50/1 3/2
BAYERN 10/1 40/1
BEHOLDER* 12/1 5/1
CANDY BOY 45/1 75/1
CATCH A FLIGHT 75/1 15/1
CIGAR STREET 22/1 40/1
COACH INGE 60/1 40/1
COMMISSIONER 60/1 20/1
COMPETITIVE EDGE 75/1 100/1
CONSTITUTION 65/1 15/1
DORTMUND …

click here for the Classic and Distaff Odds

An Early Christmas for Horse Racing Fans

Handicapper Art ParkerBy Art Parker

If you play horses long enough you know it will happen. Unbeatable favorites adored by the public crashing to defeat on a major stage. Although the public was terribly disappointed in the defeat of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes the result of that race reminds us of something far more important that Saratoga being the graveyard of favorites. It reminds us that at anytime, anywhere, the very best can go down to defeat.
But racing can also do the opposite. A race may result in a possible champion emerging, or a result that propels a serious challenger forward.
This August has provided both scenarios. First was the defeat of the invincible American Pharoah, in a race restricted to his own generation. The others came earlier in the month.

 

A female watched and waited to pounce on a grouper of older males, representatives of the toughest division in the game. Beholder not only defeated a group of older men, but she embarrassed the hell out of them. And the field included the defending Breeders’ Cup Classic Champion. All Beholder did was crush her opponents in the Grade One Pacific Classic at Del Mar by eight lengths and did little more than let out a yawn. When this year is reviewed and one uses the words “dominate performance” they better have the reel running of Beholder at Del Mar.

The other race was actually the earliest in the month and it didn’t confirm a horse as a champion – even though it may play a major role in determining the champ of the male handicap division. Honor Code, who put on a clinic of how to run others down in the Met Mile, showed that he is a true closing machine in the Grade One Whitney. What else would one expect from a horse with blood bluer than B.B. King’s Greatest Hits Album?

 

Two years ago Honor Code showed us what he could do as a baby in New York. I prayed that he would stay healthy for the Derby – I was one that wanted him to win since the Derby was one of the few marquee races left unclaimed by the get of the great A.P. Indy. Honor Code missed most of his three year old year but has come back and demonstrated what a great horse he really is. Shug McGaughey has done a terrific job at getting this one back into racing and orchestrating what may be a championship year. If there has been a heart pounding, thrilling race this year it was the Whitney. Honor Code, who is a terrific stallion prospect, showed what a great sustained runner he is.

So the table is set. I hope these three go in the Breeder’s Classic. I feel safe in saying that American Pharoah and Honor Code will be there if they are both healthy. Beholder has a spot locked up because of her win at Del Mar, but The Breeders' Cup at Keenelandtrainer Dick Mandella hasn’t decided what he will do with his champion mare. Just imagine a Classic with American Pharoah showing the way with Beholder getting closer at the top of the stretch, and both of them hear the ground shake when Honor Code turns on the afterburners. Who will win? The fans of racing, that’s who. I just can’t imagine a better Classic.

 

It’s closer than you think. This year I hope it comes October 31st, just the way I envision it.

Reviewing BC Results with the previously published profiles

By Craig Spencer

Last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup should have been a profitable endeavor for me based on the success that my prior publication had, but my wagering strategy needs a little work.  Here’s a summary by race of the winners compared to my “qualifiers”; qualifiers and the bets that would have been cashed using just the qualifiers are in red.  [Read Craig’s BC Winning Profiles piece here]

Juvenile Turf  – Foreign Shippers

So in the Juvenile Turf I suggested Commemorative and War Envoy from the foreign contingent and discussed that Hootenanny shouldn’t have a problem getting the distance from a breeding perspective but the time since his last race did cause me some concern.

BC Results Juv Turf 2014

Dirt Mile – last raced within 6 weeks, good last work a plus

Goldencents, Tapiture, Fed Biz were the suggested horses to consider.  Pants On Fire also qualified winning prior race within 6 weeks and having a good last work, but I wasn’t in love with his recent form and didn’t suggest him to be one to consider.

BC Results Mile dirt 2014


Juvenile Fillies Turf  – Group 1 exiters from Foreign shippers, Top 2 in last out and 60%+ top 3 finishes in their turf outs and last raced within 5 weeks with the Miss Grillo Stakes has been a key race for North American entrants

Osaila, Sunset Glow, Lady Eli, Tammy the Torpedo, Conquest Harlanate, and Isabella Sings were the suggested horses to consider.  Prize Exhibit was a Euro shipper that was coming out of a Group 3 race and not a Group 1 as was prescribed for contenders:

BC Results Juv Filly Turf 2014

 

Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff  – Zenyatta and Beldame are key prep races, a race within 5 weeks is a plus, but either historical decent early or decent late pace presence required

Close Hatches, Untapable, Belle Gallantey, and Don’t Tell Shophia were the suggested horses.  Iotapa did exit the Zenyatta (a key race that was called out) but hadn’t really shown good early or late foot so was not a win contender:

BC Results Distaff 2014

14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies  – Last Race Graded Stakes Winner

By The Moon and Top Decile were the suggested horses.  Wonder Gal and Feathered both exited second and third place finishes in the Frizette (called out key race).  I still can’t make an argument for the winner even knowing she won.

BC Results Juv Filly 2014

Filly & Mare Turf  – 1st or 2nd in G1 prep race within 35 days – unless Euro, and demonstrated early or late pace presence for North Americans)

Abaco, Dayatthespa, Emollient, Just The Judge, Dank, and Stephanie’s Kitten   were the suggested horses:

 BC Results FM Turf 2014

DraftKings Filly & Mare Sprint  – Thoroughbred Club of America winner or TCA top 3 with a good last work

Leigh Court and Stonetastic were the suggested horse to consider coming out of the Thoroughbred Club of America.  Judy The Beauty definitely figured to be the one to upset the TCA exiters if that were to occur:

BC Results FM Spring 2014

Turf Sprint  – Track affinity – not surface affinity but track affinity

This one had a few qualifiers.  Those were Ambitious Brew, Bobby’s Kitten, Home Run Kitten, Reneesgotzip, Sweet Swap, and Tightend Touchdown.  Bobby’s Kitten continued the trend that requires track affinity at the host track for this race.  No Nay Never figured to not need a specific track to race on considering his success all over the world on different configured courses:

BC Results Tf sprint 2014

Sentient Jet Juvenile  – First or second place finish and shown strong early or late pace ability

Carpe Diem, Daredevil and Upstart were the qualifiers that were suggested to consider:

BC Results Juvenile 2014

Longines Turf – G1 exiter within 5 weeks

Imagining, Flintshire, Main Sequence, Hangover Kid, and Chiquita were the horses to consider. Twighlight Express had been in the money on the grass 50% of the time, so he was not a qualifier based on the 60% track affinity hurdle rate.  Telescope did not qualify because he ran third in a group 1 in his last start 73 days ago.  The requirements were 1st or 2nd in a Grade/Group 1 within 35 days and be in the money 60%+ for all turf starts:

 BC Results Turf 2014

Xpressbet Sprint – Top 2 finisher in prep, track affinity or surface affinity if no starts at the track with a good last work

Fast Anna, Indianapolis, Seeking the Sherif and Work All Week were the ones suggested to consider.  A reader of the article made me aware that Bourbon Courage also worked pretty fast leading into the race but was the only one working 3 furlongs that day at Keeneland so it didn’t show up in the top 3rd (1 ranked worker  / 1 worker = 100%, need to be below 33.4% to be GLW).  I won’t count it, but 34 and change is a pretty good work.  Private Zone did not have a good last work but qualified on the other requirements.  Secret Circle finished a close third in his prep, so just barely missed qualifying as a win contender:

BC Results Sprint 2014

Mile  – G1 exiters

Suggested to consider Anodin, Karakontie, Toronado, and Trade Storm:

BC Results Mile 2014

Classic  – Awesome Again, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup are the key races, top 3 finishers in prep that have track affinity or surface affinity if no starts at the track

Cigar Street, Bayern, Shared Belief,  California Chromem Moreno and Majestic Harbor were the ones suggested to consider:

BC Results Classic 2014

In Summary, the suggested horses finished first 10 times, second 8 times, third 5 times, fourth 3 times with 6 exactas, 3 trifectas,  1 superfecta, 6 doubles, 4 pick 3s, and 2 pick 4s.

Not too shabby, so how did I lose money?  By talking myself out of Karakontie in the last minute before placing my late pick 4 wager on Saturday.  I had noticed that Goldikova’s brother, Anodin, had soundly beaten Karokontie in their last race at Longchamp and I had originally casted my lot with Shared Belief and Zivo in the Classic.  After Lukas’ 2 year-old filly went wire to wire in the Juvenile Fillies I thought I had better get Bayern on my ticket and decided to cut the Mile down to just Anodin and Toronado so I could save $12. That was costly, the $0.50 pick 4 paid $18,335 and I had the other 3 legs.

If I had just played the trifectas with my win contenders it would have been pretty profitable weekend.  Had I boxed each race with just the contenders it would have cost $726 to play both days, and I would have cashed for $5,259. This is a great example of where the analysis and handicapping is solid but the plan of attack (wagering strategy) needs some work.

D.Wayne – Don’t Count the Old Coach Out

Breeders CupBy Art Parker

This year we begin the fourth decade of the Breeders’ Cup. The 31st Breeders’ Cup, which is the most prestigious day of the year in thoroughbred racing, will be held at Santa Anita this coming weekend. A total of 14 races with purses and awards totaling $27 million.

Many things have changed since the first Breeders’ Cup. Naturally, the horses have changed and the people have too. A few of the old guys are sticking around but none of those still hanging around has impacted the entire Breeders’ Cup story like trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

The former high school teacher, basketball coach and quarter horse trainer is the oldest to win a Breeders’ Cup race. In 2012 when he was 77 the coach won the Juvenile Sprint with Hightail. Many of us marveled at the accomplishment. A little more than six months later he won the Preakness (again) with a tough colt named Oxbow. For Lukas to relinquish the title of oldest trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race, he would need to be shut out this year at Santa Anita, and California Chrome will need to win the Classic for trainer Art Sherman.

Lukas, now 79, will not be showing up at the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita just to see old friends; he will be there with several entries. And while he may not have the best chances in the world, no one will keep the most successful trainer in the world at home.

His best chance will be with Mr. Z, and even if that one will leave the gate as a long shot, it should be noted that he finished second at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Futurity to the highly impressive Carpe Diem.

Lady Zu and Take Charge Brandi are two juvenile girls that Lukas has entered but should be long odds before the gates open at Santa Anita.

But don’t let odds scare you, and don’t forget two of Lukas’ major scores in the Breeders’ Cup. Remember 1991 when Cat Thief stole the Classic 19-1? Remember 2000 when the filly Spain shocked us in the Distaff at 55-1? Don’t think that Lukas can’t do it again.

In addition to Hightail, Cat Thief and Spain, here are but a few of Lukas’ Breeders’ Cup winners over the years. The list is impressive: Lady’s Secret, Steinlen, Gulch , Orientate, Capote,  Timber Country, Open Mind, Flanders.

Lukas has started 161 horses in the Breeders’ Cup. He has notched 19 winners, and finished in the money (top 3) another 38 times.

Click here for a custom rebate schedule and special BC signup offer

Click here for a custom rebate schedule and special BC signup offer

Breeders’ Cup Winners Profiles – Part I

By Craig Spencer

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

Juvenile Fillies Turf:

The last two winners came from European invaders and it appears that they are bringing over some talented fillies again this year.

The first two runnings, also at Santa Anita, were won by horses coming out of Belmont’s Miss Grillo stakes.  If a North American based horse is to win this race, it appears that they need to have ran first or second in their most recent race and to have finished in the top 3 in 60% of their grass races.  The only horse to win this race and not meet the 60% hurdle was the foreign based Flotilla in 2012.  A prep race within seven weeks has been necessary to get the money in this race, with 5 of the 6 winners coming back within 5 weeks.

BC Juv Filly Turf

Figure 3: Juvenile Fillies Turf

None of the foreign contingent come out of a Group 1 race within 5 weeks of the Cup, however Osaila (5-1) impressively won the ₤300,000 Tattersalls Millions race at Newmarket on October 4th and she had previously won a Group 3 event and finished a close fifth in a Group 1 event at The Curragh.

Wesley Ward brings in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante winner Sunset Glow (7-2).  She made a trip to Royal Ascot in June and did not embarrass herself.  She finished second in the Group 3 Albany Stakes defeating Osaila in that event.  The biggest negative with Sunset Glow is that she last raced on the 30th of August, which is a bit longer of a break than I would like leading into this event.  She has been working regularly since September 23rd on the Keeneland Turf Course and her breeding leaves little doubt that she can handle the mile.

Lady Eli (6-1) is undefeated in two starts in New York, and she was the victor in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes. Tammy The Torpedo (12-1) and Partisan Politics (15-1) finished 3rd and 4th, respectively in that event.

The winner and second place finisher of Woodbine’s Grade 3 Natalma are also planned to be a part of the field.  Conquest Harlanate (10-1) for Mark Casse and Isabella Sings (12-1) for Todd Pletcher finished a neck apart in that affair with Conquest Harlanate getting the upper hand.

Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff:

In the 15 runnings of this event since 1999, we have had zero winners that last raced over 5 weeks out.  With the Beldame and the Zenyatta (formerly the Lady’s Secret) providing the last 8 winners. A good last work (GLW) does not appear to be of much importance, 4 of the last 8 winners did not have a “good last work”.  Either a decent early pace presence or the best late pace ability seems to be a requirement with Pleasant Home and Unbridled Elaine being the only victors to not meet one of those requirements.  The last 4 had shown decent early pace presence, with Life is Sweet, Zenyatta and Ginger Punch all being monsters in the final stages of the event.

BC Distaff

Figure 4: Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff

The mares coming out of the Beldame are the winner Belle Gallantey (6-1) and the fourth place finisher Stanwyck (20-1).  The horses coming out of the Zenyatta are second place finisher Tiz Midnight (10-1) and third place finisher Iotapa (6-1).  Beholder won that event and has not been entered in this year’s race.

Untapable (5-2) will try and be the first filly to win this event after winning the Cotillion since Ashado in 2004. Her BRIS figures took a turn south in her last two events.  She took on the boys in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth and finished fifth behind Classic contender Bayern’s electrifying run that day.  She came back to win the Cotillion while drifting inward and outward at Parx but ran the same BRIS figure in both events.  She will need to run back to the numbers she was running earlier in the year to be competitive and will likely be way overbet.

The females who have shown decent early pace presence are Close Hatches (3-1) and Untapable (5-2) with Bella Gallantey (6-1) and Don’t Tell Sophia (5-1) being the clear late pace advantage runners.

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14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies

Last year’s rendition of the Juvenile Fillies proved to be the exception to the many rules.  The first rule that Ria Antonia broke was winning the race after finishing out of the money in her final prep.  In fact, going back to 2002, the only other last race loser that was able to win this race occurred when She Be Wild won off a second place finish at Keeneland in the Alcibiades 4 weeks prior to the Breeders’ Cup.  Ria Antonia won after finishing fifth in the Frizette at Belmont.

BC Juv Fillies

Figure 5: 14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies

Ria Antonia was adding blinkers last year; changing equipment coming into big races is not something that you typically see a lot of success with.  Blinker changes are usually made when horses aren’t performing up to expectations, not many BC entrants are performing below expectations or they wouldn’t be running in a race of this caliber.  However, Ria Antonia had woken up big time in the morning since the change, in young horses that can be a huge indicator that the change was beneficial.

Since 1999, the stats for all Breeders’ Cup races aren’t real great in regards to equipment changes:

  • Blinkers On had 4 winners out of 45 starters (Ria Antonia, Trinniberg, Dangerous Midge, Valponi)
  • Blinkers Off did a bit better, percentage wise, with 2 winners out of 12 starters (Midnight Lute and Adoration)
  • Second time blinkers has done horribly with 0 wins out of 18 starters and only 2 seconds and 1 third in this timeframe

Graded Stakes winners in the final prep has been nearly a requirement in this race, the last 7 winners have raced within 29 days.  The only horse that meets the criteria this year is By The Moon (12-1) off her Frizette win 28 days prior, but she drew the outside 12 post position and that’s a lot to overcome but not something that hasn’t been done before, Halbridled won in 2003 from the 14 post.  Top Decile (10-1) finished second in the Alcibiades 29 days out, similar to She Be Wild in 2009, and the winner of the Alcibiades, Peace and War, is not going to Arcadia.  Top Decile only faired marginally better at the post-position draw, getting the 11 post.

We have had, in the past 15 years, four winners breaking from the rail, three from the 4 post, one from the 5, one from the 7, one from the 8, two from the 9, two from the 10 and one from the 14.

Filly & Mare Turf

The Filly & Mare Turf seems to be the only race, aside from the Turf Sprint, on grass that the Europeans have not completely dominated with only 5 winners making their last start across the pond, Dank made all of her career starts in Europe before coming over to win the Beverly D at Arlington last year to follow it up with another successful trip stateside to take the money in this race.

BC F M Turf

Figure 6: Filly and Mare Turf

Every one of the winners had shown an affinity for turf.  In my calculations I use a 60% in the money hurdle for track/surface affinity.  If they have not finished in the money 3 out of every 5 races on the grass, they are not likely to begin showing that ability on the first Saturday in November.  Only two instances in the past 15 renditions have been won by a horse that did not finish in the top 3 in their penultimate race.  For US contenders, they have to either have a distinct early pace advantage or a distinct late pace advantage to be a win contender.  These advantages are an indicator of having a good acceleration, or turn of foot, and that is a huge asset in these international turf races with large fields.  Dank’s (5-2) BC performance from last year, Dayatthespa (8-1), and Just The Judge’s (5-1) North America performances qualify these three horses from a perceived early or late pace advantage.

In the past 15 runnings, five winners have made their last start more than 5 weeks prior, all of those were trained by European trainers.

I would look for a horse coming out of a winning or placing performance in a Grade or Group 1 race within 35 days (unless a Euro shipper) and only consider an American horse if a pace advantage (early or late) has been demonstrated.  In this year’s field, those that qualify are Abaco (15-1), Dayatthespa (8-1), Emollient (12-1), Just The Judge (5-1), and Stephanie’s Kitten (3-1).

Just The Judge won the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine 2 weeks prior to Breeders’ Cup Saturday.  Many people will say that is too close, we have had 34 horses try since 1999 with zero successes, the best finish was a second in the 2003 F&M Turf by L’Ancresse for Aidan O’Brien.  I believe that Just The Judge will be the most bet of the Euro contingent in this race but she is one to try and beat.

I do like Stephanie’s Kitten, Dayatthespa and Abaco from the US hopefuls.  I expect to get a pretty good price on Abaco, who I think will be a key horse for me in my exotic wagers. This will be Shug’s first starter in this race since 1999.  His two BC wins in that timeframe came with female runners (Storm Flag Flying in the 2002 Juvenile Fillies and Pleasant Home in the 2005 Distaff).

DraftKings Filly & Mare Sprint

This race shouldn’t take a lot of time to handicap if the last 5 editions are any indication of the win contenders.  The Thoroughbred Club of America (TCA) at Keeneland 4 weeks out has produced each of the winners in that span.  The two caveats to add here are that 1) Keeneland removed their Polytrack surface this year, which they initially installed in 2006, and replaced it with conventional dirt.  In 2008-2009, Santa Anita also had an All-Weather track.  2) Groupie Doll won the last two BC F&M Sprints and she was a beast on any surface so no matter the prep her connections chose for her, she probably was the winner.

BC F M sprint

Figure 7: DraftKings Filly & Mare Sprint

The 3 horses that were in the trifecta at Keeneland were, in order, Leigh Court (4-1)  – Southern Honey (20-1) – Stonetastic (8-1).  Southern Honey’s work at Keeneland last Saturday was not good enough to be considered a Good Last Work when she turned in a work that was ranked 20th of 47 working a half mile that day.  Stonetastic worked a fantastic half mile at Santa Anita the same day when she turned in the fastest work of 59.

I have been a fan of morning line favorite Judy the Beauty (5-2), but she will come in last racing 76 days prior to the event when she won the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo at Del Mar.  I think I’ll stick with Leigh Court and Stonetastic.

Look for Part II of Craig Spencer’s work this week

Breeders’ Cup could be turning point for California Chrome

Horse of the Year or retirement; those are the outcomes that ride on the upcoming Breeders’ Cup Classic for California Chrome. Coming off two disappointing defeats, the Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner will be among the headliners in the Nov. 1 Classic at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.. But with a poor performance, the $5 million race…