Breeders’ Cup Winners Profiles – Day One, Friday, Nov. 3, 2017

 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 as you begin to look at past performances and formulate your wagering strategies

As you read through this you will see in the tables for each race an “Angles” field.  The legend for that field is:

In 2016, the qualifiers performed quite well with 9 of the 13 winners being “qualifiers”, the exceptions being:

  • Oscar Performance who became just the second winner in the Juvenile Turf not to make their final prep start in Europe
  • Champagne Room who surprised everyone when winning the Juvenile fillies and returning $69.20 after finishing 4th in the G1 Chandelier
  • Finest City who did not run in the Thoroughbred Club of America but did come into the race off a second place finish in the G2 Finest City and a good final workout
  • Queen’s Trust did come out of a decent Group 1 performance to win the Filly and Mare Turf but the qualifying requirement is a 1st or 2nd in a Group 1 and she had finished fourth

One final preface, you may hear that foreign shippers run better when the BC is held on the East Coast due to the heat and/or the closer proximity/less travel time.  That is just not true.  7 times since 1999 the BC was held at SA, 157 horses who made their last start outside of North America raced, taking home 25 winner’s trophies (15.9%).  In the 11 years when other venues hosted the Cup there were 18 foreign winners from 173 starters (10.4%).



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

The US representatives have been successful the last three years after being beaten by foreign invaders in ’12-‘13.  I still wouldn’t ignore the Group 1 exiting foreign horses.

The two traditional key East Coast prep races are the Grade 3 Miss Grillo where Significant Form brought in only a win in her career debut but promptly extended her unbeaten string to two and the Grade 2 Natalma where Capla Temptress rallied to get a victory in her first North American try after winning two out of three across the pond. She was transferred to Bill Mott’s barn for the Natalma.  While in the UK she finished 3rd in her only defeat in the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket finishing a length behind Juliet Capulet who is pre-entered in this race for John Gosden and followed up her second place finish in the Sweet Solera by winning the Group 2 Shadwell Rockfell Stakes at Newmarket.  Juliet Capulet, will retain the services of Frankie Dettori and that is never a bad thing.

Of the rest of the foreign contingency, September is coming off a nose defeat in the Group 1 Bet365 Fillies Mile Stakes, but she finished nearly 4 lengths behind Happily when third in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.  Happily followed up that victory with another victory on the Arc undercard at Chantilly when winning the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere Stakes.  The European trainers do not typically send their best over for this race.  Once again, all Group 1 exiting filly should be looked at closely even no matter where they finished.  The other foreign pre-entrants coming out of Group 1 races are Madeline and Now You’re Talking.

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Best Performance finished reasonably close to Significant Form in the Miss Grillo. Orbulation was not too far back behind Best Performance while not having the best trip in the world.

Rushing Fall is a non-qualifier that you might still consider, she rallied very impressively in both of her starts to date.  In her most recent start she was a convincing winner of the Grade 3 Jessamine at Keeneland where she ran a BRIS figure of 91, which is the tops of the pre-entered US based fillies.  In the Jessamine she rallied from 9 lengths back to win by a widening 3 lengths.

My top selection in this event is Happily who is a half to four time Group 1 winner Gleneagles  (Irish 2000 Guineas, British 2000 Guineas, St. James Place, Vincent O’Brien).


Las Vegas Dirt Mile Trends:  last raced within 6 weeks in a Grade 1 or Grade 2; a good last work is a plus.

The first five winners of this race all were 6-1 or better, the next three were a bit easier to figure.  Last year we returned to a more chaotic result.  If you are a horizontal player, I would truly suspect this race to be one in which you should consider going a bit deeper in than the others.   Only once had a horse won this race off more than a 6 week break and 6 of the 9 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.

Dirt Mile

Pre-entrants exiting a Grade 1 or Grade 2 race within 6 weeks of BC Weekend include Cupid (4th in G1 Awesome Again), Giant Expectations (5th in the G1 SA Sprint Championship), Midnight Storm (2nd in G1 Awesome Again), Sharp Azteca (1st in G2 Kelso).

Mor Spirit last raced in June when winning the G1 Metropolitan.  His trainer, Bob Baffert, is exceptional with horses coming back off layoffs of any duration.  Practical Joke, last raced in the G1 Jerkins at Saratoga at the end of August.  His trainer, Chad Brown, has a very similar success rate as Baffert.

If one wins this race after being defeated in the Awesome Again, that horse would join the company of Albertus Maximus won the inaugural Dirt Mile after finishing third in the Goodwood, which is now known as the Awesome Again and Dakota Phone who also raced in the Goodwood prior to his success in the Dirt Mile.

I would like Mor Spirit more than I do had he had a race since early June.  If he wins I will probably not cash a ticket in this race or in any multi-race wagers involving this race.  The main horses I was interested in are racing in different spots over the big weekend.



Juvenile Turf: Foreign Shippers Reign.

The European contingent have been deadly in this race with 7 winners in the 9 Running’s (Foreign Tacks are shaded).  Four of the 7 European winners last raced at Newmarket (Hootenanny was US based, trained by Wesley Ward, but last start was across the pond).  One of the two US based winners, Pluck, didn’t make his last start in the US either, although I wouldn’t call a race at Woodbine a real foreign test.

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 typically face.

If O’Brien brings U S Navy Flag to Del Mar, he will be the first winner of the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst, a race that has sent us two victors from horses who were not good enough to win at Newmarket but were easily good enough to win stateside.  He would be heavily favored and would be the most likely winner on Friday’s card if he makes the trip.

Top 3 finishers (either European or from at least a US based G3) include Catholic Boy (1st in G3 With Anticipation at Saratoga, which is probably a little bit too long between races to strongly consider), Flameaway (Winner of the off-the turf G3 Bourbon), Hemp Hemp Hurray (2nd in the G2 Summer Stakes), James Garfield (1st in G2 Mill Reef at Newbury), Masar (3rd in G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lugardere at Chantilly), Mendelssohn (2nd for O’Brien in the historically significant G1 Darley Dewhust at Newmarket), Nelson (2nd for O’Brien in the G2 Royal Lodge at Newmarket),  Untamed Domain (1st in the G2 Summer Stakes), Voting Control (2nd in the G3 Pilgrim), Tap Daddy (3rd in the G3 Bourbon), Tip Two Win (2nd in the G3 Tattersalls Stakes  at Newmarket), Tangled (who finished a nose behind Tip Two Win in the Tattersalls)

Pedigree information to consider:

Mendelssohn is a half to Beholder and Into Mischief, both of which did their running on the dirt.  Into Mischief’s offspring have been solid on both dirt and turf but based on that pedigree I would think they might try the Juvenile on Saturday and not the Juvenile Turf on Friday.

US Navy Flag is a full to double pre-entrant Roly Poly both being by War Front and out of the Galileo mare ($1.1M earner) Misty For Me.

Aiden O’Brien has had at least one starter in this race in each of it’s 9 running’s, after going 0 for 3 in the first 3, he has won 3 of the last 6 renditions.  Based on the strength of his stable my selection will be whichever horse he enters in this race between U S Navy Flag and Mendelssohn.  If he leaves U S Navy Flag home and runs Mendelssohn on the dirt, his third possible starter Nelson will have to be used on the ticket but likely with some others as backup.  Those would include Untamed Domain and Voting Control.



Longines Distaff: Zenyatta and Beldame are key prep races, a race within 5 weeks is a plus, but historically either decent early or decent late pace presence is required.

In the 18 running’s of this event since 1999, we have had only two winners that last raced over 5 weeks out, however they were in two of the last three years.  I wouldn’t bet on that trend continuing but might extend the requirement a week so the Cotillion can be included as a major prep race.  With the Beldame and the Zenyatta (formerly the Lady’s Secret) providing 8 of the last 10 winners. A good last work (GLW) does not appear to be of much importance, as five of the last 10 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 5 had shown decent early pace presence, with Life is Sweet, Zenyatta and Ginger Punch all being monsters in the final stages of the event.

Distaff profile

Elate’s last two victories were extremely impressive to see.  Her win in the G1 Beldame paired the same figure with her Alabama and is the best BRIS figure given to any horse in this race this year. She should be a pretty low priced favorite and not one that I would leave off any horizontal wagers I made.

Forever Unbridled is a sneaky horse in this race, as she is the late pace presence.  It’s been a while since she last raced at Saratoga when winning the G1 Personal Ensign but if the pace is hot up front and Elate is unable to get clear to get first run on the leaders or gets embroiled in the pace duel, don’t be shocked if she is able to rally at a good price.  If the layoff doesn’t get the better of her, she will be picking up some of the pieces late.  Don’t leave her out of your exacta’s and trifecta’s.

Paradise Woods returned to form when romping in the G1 Zenyatta at Santa Anita.  This was after two very poor performances in the Kentucky Oaks and the Torrey Pines, which was held at Del Mar.  The real question mark with this filly is whether or not she can win anywhere but in Arcadia since she has yet to succeed in doing so.  No other participants in the Zenyatta will be running in the Distaff.

As for the other 3 year old fillies in this race, Kentucky Oaks heroin Abel Tasman got a very strange ride by Mike Smith being allowed to rally to the lead approaching the final turn before tiring from that early move.  The most interesting longshot possibility in this field is Champagne Room who has only raced twice since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies last year at 33 to 1.  She ran a tiring 3rd to Unique Bella in February and then returned in September to win the Remington Park Oaks convincingly and she continues to impress in the mornings.  This year’s “Champagne Room” might indeed be Champagne Room again.

If Stellar Wind races, I think she is a play against.  She hasn’t raced since the end of July and her worktab has not been very flattering.  Sadler doesn’t usually work his horses fast, so maybe that shouldn’t be concerning, but for this type of a test I believe she needs to be working significantly quicker to be ready.

My main selection in this race is Elate with the value plays being Champagne Room and Forever Unbridled.

Craig Spencer former jockey

  • Craig Spencer is a former jockey who has ridden at numerous tracks around the country including Saratoga, Finger Lakes and Turf Paradise. The second part of Craig’s BC preview will be available later this week at


A First Timer’s Look at the NHC

Craig Spencer former jockey

By Craig Spencer

On January 27-29th I was lucky enough to be a guest at the Treasure Island Casino to participate in the 18th National Handicapping Championship.  I have not played a lot of tournaments and was lucky to win a seat on New Years’ Eve off of a qualifier on  So my buddy and I headed to Vegas in hopes of coming home $800,000 richer.

It’s quite an event with so many like-minded handicappers enjoying spending time in an environment that caters to the horseplayer like none other.  We are the target audience that week and no stone is left unturned.  The NTRA does a top class job in organizing this event.  The accommodations, buffets, and dinners are top notch.  I will be back and I will be better prepared.  Now onto the events in the contest.

I had spent the couple of weeks prior to the NHC going over every first time starter to have made their debut since early December at all of the available tracks (eight in total).  I would make “trip notes” on ones that I thought ran better or worse than their running line might indicate.  If their race seemed like the running line would represent their abilities well, then I didn’t bother.

I had made around 90 notes on these horses and had gone back to see how any that might have made their next start had performed to see if my eye was good at identifying value.  I was quite pleased with the results.  Twenty-two had made their second start, four of them with “negative” trip notes, meaning that the performance wasn’t as good as the running line might suggest.  Examples included  “appeared to close well but the pace was extreme upfront and they finished the last quarter in near 27 seconds and this horse had everything go his way getting up the rail and still wasn’t good enough to finish better than a well-beaten third.”  All four of those horses had been reasonably well backed and all finished fourth or worse.

I had five runners that I thought ran deceptively well that didn’t perform that good in their next start.  I had three that ran well but ran into trouble in their second start to finish worse than second but none of them were beaten over three lengths in their second start.  It provided me some confidence that my notes were of some value.  I had four that finished second at good to great odds and six that came back to win paying $90, $66, $38, $24, $14, and $12, so I could see that I had a potential advantage.

I will say two things about these trip notes. First, I see very little value in watching a very experienced horse’s last race looking for trip problems.  I don’t weigh my decision on one race and will toss a race with any indication that it was abnormally poor.  I don’t need to watch the race to see it and one race will not have an effect to my opinion of an animal significantly.

Also I think people who do a lot of replay watching might get to be very good at it, but mostly they are looking for excuses and forget about other items in a race.  An example would be watching a replay and noticing a horse has nowhere to run down the lane so the jockey takes hold and gallops them to the finish line.  They forget that the horse had a perfect ground saving trip up until they ran into a wall of horses.  It is much more likely that the trainer will give instructions to go wide to avoid trouble next start and most of the time that ground loss will make it so they have too much to do and cost them even more energy to be lost than the lack of room did in their prior race.  However, for second time starters a lot can be learned from how they perform in their first start.

Second, after watching a ton of races over a few weeks I worried that I might be getting too forgiving, looking for reasons to like a horse.  I would suggest you spend less than 30 minutes before taking a break, clearing your head, doing something different so you can start again fresh watching the rest.

After entries came out for the weekend and they trickled in, which was painful, I pulled a list of all second time starters and looked at when they made their debut.  If it was outside of the window of time I had watched the replays or at a different track, I went back and watched those horses and made another 25 notes on these horses.  I also had run my data through my tools for the entire first day and had handicapped every race with a main and alternate selection before I left home.  We didn’t know until Thursday morning what the mandatory races would be on Friday and I would be traveling on Thursday so I wanted to be prepared.  Mission accomplished.

Day One of the NHC

Well, my buddy and I stayed out a little later than we should have on Thursday night.  I knew better and will not make the same mistake again.  But I took my list of horses and sorted them by main contenders’ morning line odds (after putting the mandatory races on top).  I had made some notes on ones I had to use and ones I wanted to watch the line on.  As the day progressed and morning line odds got obliterated, I realized as I marched down my list that many of the races had gone off that were a bit lower priority on my list and that I had passed on 3-4 winners already.

I cashed two place tickets for $9 bankroll going into my last alternate race.  In that race I had a Louisiana Bred maiden who had run a very game second in debut at Golden Gate in an open Maiden Special field.  I thought I’d get 4/1 or better on the horse but he was going off at around even money.  I told my buddy, I think I am going to change my ticket to this Yes It’s True first timer who had some decent works and whose trainer didn’t suck too badly with Firsters.  Being the devil’s advocate he is and to make sure I thought about things, he said, “Are you sure you don’t just want to cash, get a little momentum, and start tomorrow with $15 or so and change your tactics a bit?”  I thought about it and decided he may be right.  Well the Golden Gate shipper may have beaten the ambulance to the finish line, but it was a close photo with the ambulance.  The Yes It’s True first timer opened up a clear lead and held on to win and pay $131.  It would have given me the $64 maximum score (they limit the scores to 20/1 to win and 10/1 to place, or $64 as the most you can get off one selection).

Day Two of the NHC

I was dejected but vowed to at least not repeat Day One on Saturday.  I re-organized, spent a little less time at the [casino] tables and more time reviewing my selections with a lot fewer races on my list to play.  I sorted it by post times and categorized the races as “Mandatory,” “Use,” and “Watch the board.”  I played my “mandatory” and “use” races immediately (but still watched for odds and made some adjustments/cancellations on them if the odds didn’t make sense) and then knew which races were going off next.

I did quite a bit better with $129 in contest points on Day Two to get to $138, just $42.60 shy of making the cut to play on Day Three.  That one decision not to change my ticket on Friday cost me a chance to make some noise on Sunday.  I was able to use a trip note second timer that I scored a max payout in the contest on Saturday along with the correct second place horse who a Facebook buddy also had a trip note on, to cash an $880 exacta payout.  I also hit the pick 5 at Laurel for just under a grand, so it turned into a profitable weekend nonetheless.

Final Day of the NHC

I have no clue what would have happened on Sunday.  I played in the consolation contest, which the NTRA sponsors for the non-cut making players, such as myself, to play on Sunday morning.  You must play 10 races out of 36 races available before 12:30 pacific time, the same format the players making the cut play to determine who makes the final table.  I spent very little time preparing for that as there were quite a few social opportunities Saturday night and the chance of beating a field of 400+ non-advancers seemed pretty small, so my buddy and I enjoyed more of the Treasure Island that night.  Had I been in the main contest on Sunday, I would have likely spent a lot more time studying and came up with many different selections than the ones I used in the consolation contest where a couple of max horses are almost a necessity to beat that many players for one prize.  If you’re not first you’re last in that contest.  I did hit a $20 horse at Laurel making his second career start and a half sibling to $1.2M earner International Star.  I probably would have had that one in the big contest had I qualified, as there were many other positives on that horse.

Live and learn.  If you have never been to the NHC, it’s well worth the time to try and get qualified.  The experience is one that I will never forget.  I will be back and, as a second time starter, I will fare significantly better next time I am there.


  • Craig Spencer is a former jockey who competed for 12 years.

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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.

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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