Lessons from the 2011 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs

By Lenny Moon (reprinted with permission)

The handicapping process does not end when the bets are made; it ends by reviewing the results of the races that were bet and analyzing the handicapping process to determine if anything was missed. After taking a day to recover, I looked back at the 2011 Breeders’ Cup results and came up with the top four things to take away from the last Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

#4 Some Breeders’ Cup Results are Impossible to Explain

Every horseplayer has watched or bet a race that was won by a horse that appeared to have no chance of winning. The horse may have appeared to be too slow, was running at the wrong distance or had not run well in months or years. The horse triggers large payouts and causes great frustration. After reviewing the past performances nothing points to the horse as a winner. The result is still implausible but that is perfectly acceptable. Horse races are run by living breathing animals and ridden and trained by humans. The horses are not machines and the jockeys and trainers are imperfect so it is inevitable that from time to time a race will produce an un-explainable result. This scenario occurred not once but twice on Breeders’ Cup Saturday.

The first impossible to come up with horse was Afleet Again in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. Afleet Again was the least likely winner of the Breeders’ Cup Marathon after a subpar 2011 that saw him go winless in eight starts including two losses in allowance races. Afleet Again was also unproven at the distance and based on speed figures was the slowest horse in the race. Despite all of these negative factors Afleet Again won the Breeders’ Cup Marathon by a comfortable 2 ¼ lengths at odds of 41 /1.

The second improbable winner was Court Vision in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Court Vision was the least likely winner in the Breeders’ Cup Mile after a lackluster 2011 season.  Similar to Afleet Again Court Vision was winless in 2011 and based on speed figures was the slowest horse in the race. Court Vision was coming off a mediocre seventh place finish in the Woodbine Mile yet he managed to blow past three-time defending champion Goldikova and hold off Turallure (winner of the aforementioned Woodbine Mile) to post the biggest upset in the twenty seven year history of the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Even after the race was run it was impossible to make a case for Court Vision.

After reviewing the past performance of each horse and knowing they had won their respective races I still could not find a reason to bet either one of them but guess what? That was perfectly fine.

 

#3 – Look for the “Horse for the Course Angle” in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Some horses prefer one track over all others or in extreme cases only run well at one particular track. These horses are often referred to as a “horse for the course.” This angle plays out everyday at tracks across the country.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint was won by Regally Ready, a Churchill Downs “horse for the course,” who was two for two in turf sprints at Churchill Downs prior to the race. The “Horse for Course Angle” has become a potent handicapping factor for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprints as it has produced all four winners of the race [through 2011]. Chamberlain Bridge won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint after compiling a record of three wins and a second from four turf sprints at Churchill Downs. California Flag won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course and had previously won two of four starts over the course. Desert Code, who I mentioned in my post about multi-ticket betting strategy, won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on the same downhill turf course and had won three of five turf sprints at Santa Anita.

The Breeders’ Cup returns to Santa Anita in 2012 and once again the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint will be run on the unique downhill turf course. The downhill turf course is notorious for producing “horse for the course” winners so it will pay to give special consideration to horses that have won or performed well over the course in the past.

 

#2 – Favor the “Turn-back Angle” in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

Betting a horse “turning-back” in distance is one of the oldest angles in the book. To fit the angle a horse simply needs to be running in a race at a shorter distance than its previous race. The most common example is a horse going from a route to a sprint, such as from 1 1/16 miles to seven furlongs, but the angle also works for horses “turning-back” in distance from a route to a shorter route .

breeders cup 2010

copyright AGameofSkill.com

Caleb’s Posse, Shackleford and Tres Borrachos completed the trifecta in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile this year. All three fit the “tum-back angle.” Caleb’s Posse and Shackleford were exiting the 1 1/16 miles Indiana Derby and Tres Borrachos prepped for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood.

The “Turn-back Angle” has become quite possibly the most important handicapping factor for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile as it has produced the winner of all five runnings of the race [through 2011]. Dakota Phone won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood. Furthest Land won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after prepping in the 1 1/8 miles Kentucky Cup Classic. Albertus Maximus won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in the 1 1/8 miles Goodwood. Corinthian won the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after competing in the 1 1/8 miles Woodward. One day a horse may win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after running in a sprint race but until the trend is reversed it pays to give preference to horses “turning-back” in distance.

 

#1 – Favorites Need Not Be Avoided

Favorites in horse racing are normally associated with unexciting payoffs, however when combined with a few upsets they can produce massive payouts. The six Breeders’ Cup races on Friday (2011) made up the Pick 6. Three of those races were won by the post time favorite (Secret Circle in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, My Miss Aurelia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff), the other three were won by 6/1 Stephanie’s Kitten (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf), 20/1 Musical Romance (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint) and 27/1 Perfect Shirl (Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf) resulting in a Pick 6 payout of $444, 571. The last four Breeders’ Cup races made up the Pick 4. Two favorites (My Miss Aurelia and Royal Delta) combined with the aforementioned 20/1 Musical Romance and 27/1 Perfect Shirl produced a Pick 4 payout of $23,428 . In both sequences favorites won half of the races which proved that it is not necessary to beat the favorite in every race to win a substantial amount of money.

 

Final Thoughts about Breeders’ Cup 2011

Although these points relate directly to the Breeders’ Cup each can be applied to everyday handicapping. The most important lesson however is that just like horses are not machines handicappers should not bet like machines. Automatic bets should not be placed on horses that meet the criteria outlined above; they should be one factor to consider in the handicapping process. Sound handicapping involves evaluating all of the available information and using that information to bet the horse that figures to win the race at hand.

You’ve made it to the betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what?

You’ve made it to the actual betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what? Here are some thoughts and things to keep in mind for novices and very beginning race fans.

Source: You’ve made it to the betting window at Churchill Downs. Now what?

Is Horse Racing Dead? Churchill Downs to Offer up nearly $9 Million in Purses

Churchill winner's circleThe 144th renewals of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) and the $1 million-guaranteed Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) headline a strong roster of 32 stakes races with total purses of $8.84 million scheduled for Churchill Downs Racetrack’s April 28-June 30 Spring Meet.

The schedule is headlined by a spectacular Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, May 5 that features seven graded stakes races – including three Grade I events – with total stakes purses of $4.2 million. The Kentucky Oaks Day program one day earlier features six graded stakes with total stakes purses of $2.35 million. Another highlight is the “Downs After Dark” nighttime program on Saturday, June 16, featuring five graded stakes, topped by the 37th running of the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), with total stakes purses of $1.1 million.

The Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are among six Grade I races on the Spring Meet schedule that also features seven Grade II events, 10 Grade III contests, one listed $100,000 event, two additional $100,000 stakes and six overnight stakes races that offer purses of $65,000-added. The Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Stephen Foster Handicap programs are among seven racing days that will feature two or more stakes contests. Alongside the Derby, Oaks and Stephen Foster Handicap, Grade I events set for the 2018 meet are the $500,000 Old Forester Turf Classic and $300,000 Humana Distaff on Derby Day and the Oaks Day renewal of the $350,000 La Troienne.

Four events on the Spring Meet schedule will benefit from individual purse increases of $50,000. Those races are the $300,000 Pat Day Mile Presented by LG&E and KU(GIII) on Derby Day and the Oaks Day renewals of the $350,000 La Troienne, the $200,000 Edgewood Presented by Forcht Bank (GIII) and the $200,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GIII).

Along with the running of the Kentucky Derby, America’s greatest race and the nation’s oldest continuously-held sports event, a trio of Grade I events on the Derby Day racing program includes the 32nd running of the Old Forester Turf Classic (formerly known as the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic from 2000-17) for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the grass; the 32nd renewal of the Humana Distaff, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares ages 4 and up. Completing the spectacular roster of seven Derby Day graded stakes events will be the $500,000 Churchill Downs (GII) for 4-year-olds and up at seven furlongs; the $300,000 Longines Distaff Turf Mile (GII) for fillies and mares 4-year-olds and up at one mile on turf; the Pat Day Mile for 3-year-olds at one mile on the main track; and the $300,000 American Turf Presented by Ram Trucks (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.

The 2017 Kentucky Derby was won by MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Theresa Viola, St Elias, Siena Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Always Dreaming, while Gunpowder Farms LLC’s Divisidero earned his second consecutive victory in the Turf Classic. Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Paulassilverlining won the Humana Distaff.

The six stakes races on the Friday, May 4 Kentucky Oaks Day program are headed by the Oaks, America’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies, which will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, and the La Troienne (GI), a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares ages 4 and up. The Oaks Day schedule also features the $400,000 Alysheba (GII) for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles; the $200,000 Eight Belles Presented by Kentucky Trailer (GII) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs; the Edgewood (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on turf; and the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at five furlongs on turf.

China Horse Club International Ltd. and Clearsky Farm’s Abel Tasman rallied from last in a field of 14 to win the 2017 Kentucky Oaks, while Maggi Moss’ Big World took the La Troienne.

The Stephen Foster Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-olds and up, is the main even on the June 16 night racing program the features five stakes contests. Joining the Grade I headliner will be the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) for fillies and mares ages 3 and up at 1 1/8 miles; the $200,000 Wise Dan (GII) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on turf; the $100,000 Matt Winn (GIII) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; and the $100,000 Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

The Stephen Foster was won last year by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Three Chimneys Farm LLC’s Gun Runner, who would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) and Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year and the Champion Older Male of 2017.

Other multiple stakes programs include the Kentucky Derby Week Thurby program on Thursday, May 3 that includes the $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile for 2-year-olds at five furlongs and the Opening Verse Overnight Stakes for 3-year-olds and one mile on turf; the Saturday, May 26 card topped by the $100,000 Winning Colors (GIII) for fillies and mares 3 and up at six furlongs and the Keertana Overnight Stakes for fillies and mares 3 and up at 1 ½ miles on turf; the Saturday, June 2 “Downs After Dark” program topped by the $100,000 Aristides (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs and the Mighty Beau Overnight Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at five furlongs on turf; and the Saturday, June 30 closing day program with a trio of stakes races led by the $100,000 Bashford Manor (GIII) for 2-year-olds at six furlongs, the $100,000 Debutante (Listed) for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs, and the Kelly’s Landing Overnight Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs.

The Spring Meet stales schedule kicks off under the lights during the Opening Night celebration on Saturday, April 28. The night’s racing program will be highlighted by the $100,000 William Walker, a race for 3-year-olds named for the pioneering African-American jockey and Kentucky Derby winner which will be run for the fourth time. The William Walker is the only race on the Spring Meet schedule that will undergo a change in racing surface or distance. The race will now be run on the turf at five furlongs after being run on the main track at six furlongs in its first three renewals.

Other graded stakes contests on the schedule include the $100,000 Louisville Handicap (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ½ miles on turf on May 19, and the Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap (GIII), a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares 3 and up on June 9. Two additional overnight stakes races complete the schedule: the May 12 Unbridled Sydney for fillies and mares 3 and up at five furlongs on turf, and the June 23 Roxelana, for fillies and mares 3 and up at six furlongs on the main track.

Churchill Downs and Keeneland Want to Build Two Horse Racing Tracks in Kentucky

Churchill winner's circleIs Horse Racing Dead?

You may have heard … Churchill Downs and Keeneland are teaming up to propose two new “state-of-the-art” horse racing venues in Kentucky. It’s a “historic partnership” that will bring one to Corbin, Kentucky, in Knox County and another in Oak …

Source: Churchill Downs and Keeneland want to build two horse racing tracks in Kentucky

Strong Kentucky Derby results helped boost Churchill Downs’ profits – 2Q 2017

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Despite rainy weather, a “strong” Kentucky Derby week helped Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc. report net income of $78 million in the second quarter of the year, a 12 percent increase from the same period in 2016.

Source: Strong Kentucky Derby results help boost Churchill Downs’ profits

Churchill Downs Expands After Record-Setting Attendance

Churchill winner's circle There are few American sporting events with as much tradition and fanfare like the Kentucky Derby. From the lavish hats to the mint juleps to the many parties, there’s plenty to experience at horse racing’s most prominent event. This year’s race will take place on Saturday, May 6, with “the most exciting two minutes in sports,”… [Read more…]

Horse Racing Club Investment Pays Off for Newbie

horse racing blinkers“The education, through seminars, speaking engagements and financials, has been more than expected and I can honestly say this is the beginning of a new journey for me in horse racing ownership and management,” said Stephens, who is also considering enrolling in the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program.

LITTLE ROCK — A passenger in a New Orleans-bound vehicle, the commercial airline pilot battled sporadic cell coverage in South Arkansas to sign up for the Churchill Downs Racing Club.

Source: King: Horse racing club investment pays dividends

Churchill Downs Aims to Cut Racing, Threatening Jobs in Illinois

Churchill winner's circle ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Horse racing in Illinois would plummet, threatening thousands of jobs at tracks and across Illinois agribusiness, under a plan by Churchill Downs, Inc., to upend its obligation to live racing and usurp the state’s authority to determine the racing schedule.
The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association strongly opposes CDI’s… [Read more…]

2013 Kentucky Derby Analysis with Expert Wagering Strategies

BONUS: Full-card Selections for all 13 races at Churchill Downs, Saturday May 4, 2013. Includes two Best Bets on the undercard and two longshots for the Derby!

Get the expert analysis of Kentucky Derby 139 from Agameofskill.com founder Rich Nilsen. The report includes analysis of all 20 starters in the Run for the Roses, along with wagering strategies for three different sized budgets. Each horse is rated as a contender, borderline exotic use, or a throwout.  Rich has not one but two longshots that he loves in the Derby.

Kentucky Derby 139 analysis

Click here for instant download

About the Author

Nilsen has worked the past 20 years in the equine industry, including managing a horse racing stable for 10 years.  During his long tenure at Brisnet.com and TwinSpires.com, Nilsen managed the successful Players’ Pool syndicate, which pooled funds from the account wagering members to go after large Pick-6 carryovers. The Players’ Pool produced a significant profit for the members over several years. One of the best hits was when the Players’ Pool took down half of the Pick-6 pool on Kentucky Derby Day 2007, with a gross return of over $500,000.

Nilsen is one of the top participants in the history of the $2 Million National Handicapping Championship (NHC), having qualified 10 times. He was the first player, and one of only two, to finish in the top 10 at the NHC twice.

Get his in-depth KY Derby day analysis for only $6.97 – covers all 13 races

Buy Now

BONUS: Full-card Selections for all 13 races at Churchill Downs, Saturday May 4, 2013. Includes two Best Bets on the undercard and two longshots for the Derby!

Kindle edition also available through Amazon.com!

Maker’s “Marvel” is AGameofSkill Claimer of the Week

Claimer of the Week at AGameofSkill.comThe versatile Major Marvel made it back-to-back wins with a runaway victory in the third race at Churchill Downs Friday afternoon. The 6 year old gelding is trained by Michael Maker. His victory at Churchill was by more than 6 lengths going a mile on the turf in the $10,000 starter event. Major Marvel was a couple of lengths back at the quarter pole but when asked by rider Miguel Mena, the son of Bernstein turned on the afterburners and embarrassed the competition. Major Marvel got the mile in 134.27 and paid $3.00 to his backers. Claimed for only $10,000 in April by owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Major Marvel has won in two different countries, on turf, on an all-weather surface and dirt. He has enjoyed victories around one and two turns. Major Marvel has 11 career victories and 18 in the money finishes from 37 career starts. His lifetime earnings now exceed $250,000.

— Art Parker