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Oct 21, 2005

Jumping on the Breeders' Cup Boxcars

By: By Sean Caffey

On Breeders" Cup Day in 2003, Islington won the Filly & Mare Turf as the favorite at approximately 3–1 — the $1 trifecta paid $1,589.50 and the $1 superfecta was $18,834.10.  The following year when Ouija Board won the same division at even-money, you had to settle for a mere $364.00 in the $2 trifecta and $3,257.40 in the $2 super. Doesn’t a Pick Four with the Horse of the Year, Ghostzapper, completing the final leg and paying $46,791.20 for each $2 sound nice?  Or how about the parade of double-digit winners each year throughout the Breeders’ Cup card?

Naturally, there were upsets and longshots involved in all of these results, but that’s the beauty of the Breeders’ Cup — lots of big payouts and good horses at great prices.  Simply put: racing’s marquee day for owners and trainers is also one of the biggest potential goldmines for horseplayers as well.

That being said, American Turf Monthly decided to interview a handful of expert’s this year and get their take on racing’s greatest day and some strategic advice on attacking those overflowing pools.  Their insights and advice are no doubt of significant value to anyone aspiring to join in on this year’s extravaganza of payouts on Breeders’ Cup Day at Belmont Park. 

ATM:  Do you approach Breeders’ Cup Day differently than the average weekday or weekend card?

Gibson Carothers, avid handicapper, innovator and expert Pick Six player: There is a certain sense that the world stops to play the Breeders’ Cup.  It attracts a lot of fans to the track that don’t normally play — it gives us ‘brilliant’ players a shot at all that money.  I probably bet more on that day, and there are always a couple of horses I really like.  You start to get an idea months and months in advance, when you think a horse might surprise in the Breeders’ Cup — you start thinking in advance about where the value might be.  You can also start thinking about the horses you think are beatable — (horses) you think will be overbet.  That’s what it’s all about.

James Quinn, renowned author of numerous handicapping books, including The Handicapper’s Condition Book and The Best of Thoroughbred Handicapping: It’s entirely different.  I set aside $200.00 a month during the year for investing in the Breeders’ Cup card and I recommend the same savings plan to all recreational players.  The card is unique and offers as many as a half-dozen opportunities to make a large score, or two.  The pools are huge, the competition keen, with several possible outcomes in most Breeders’ Cup races, and the exotic payoffs, even with favorites and low-priced contenders winning, can represent outrageous overlays. Basically, bettors should be prepared to wager five to 10 times as much money as they do on the routine cards.

Brad Free, Daily Racing Form handicapper and author of Handicapping 101: First of all — I fire.  I probably bet five times as much on Breeders’ Cup Day than a typical day.  I’ve read a lot about how you shouldn’t go crazy just because it’s a big day — I disagree — you should go crazy.  I have no problem exponentially increasing the size of my handle on BC Day — there are just so many good horses at insane prices.

ATM: Is there a certain wager you prefer or exotics strategy that you apply to BC Day?

Quinn: I roll the Pick Threes throughout the program, and that has been the strategy so far that has returned the most profit for me.  In each leg, I key a horse to the contenders in the other two legs and try to give myself a 50 percent or greater chance to hit each leg.  By this approach, in any three-race sequence, one of my key horses must win, but if two keys win, I can cash that Pick Three twice.  In the rare instance where three consecutive keys win, of course, you will cash the Pick Three three times and that profit on Breeders’ Cup Day will be enormous.

Free: I don’t typically go for horizontal wagers (on Breeders’ Cup Day), it’s just too difficult.  Typically — in general — I go one race at a time.  If you have a handle on a race, you have a good shot at a big score in the trifecta.

Carothers:  The Breeders’ Cup is certainly challenging, and that’s why you get those ridiculous payouts in the superfecta.  I’m not (normally) a superfecta player — I’ve been taught to pick winners, and that’s why I like the multiple-race bets.  But on Breeders’ Cup Day, when I like a horse — a price horse, I don’t bet horses under 4–1 — I put it over four horses (in the superfecta).  It costs $24, with five horses it’s $60 and with six it costs $120.

ATM:  Is there any general advice in terms of money management or an overall strategy to Breeders’ Cup Day you’d like to offer?

Quinn: The savings plan is crucial, especially among the casual players, who should be betting far more than they normally invest on that day.  It makes little sense to play out of pocket or to rush down to the ATM and grab another $200.00.  In addition, it’s important to treat Breeders’ Cup Day as a business affair.  Avoid the parties and socializing that are so common to the day and get down to the business of handicapping and betting smartly.  Remember, the less lonely it gets, the less successful it gets, notably on this amazingly competitive card.

Finally, get the advance edition of Daily Racing Form.  Pore over the entries a number of times.  The more often you process the wide array of information, the more likely you will find the relationships that matter.  And if you lose the (entire stake), do the same thing the next year.  The profits can run so high, you can lose the stake for four years, have a great day the fifth year, and still end far ahead.  It really is a very special day for handicappers and savvy bettors.

Pete Fornatale, avid horseplayer and co-author of Six Secrets of Successful Bettors: The problem with Breeders’ Cup Day is that it’s so easy to get overzealous and that, of course, is the path to the ATM machine. While I approach the day differently from a wagering point of view, you still need the discipline to only bet into value and to vary your bet size in accordance with your opinion like on any other day. The other thing that can be tough about Breeders’ Cup Day is that when things don’t go your way, it can feel like you flunked the final exam after a hard year of studying. But that’s illusory really. Greater rewards mean greater risks, in both a monetary and psychological sense. The single most important thing I believe you can do any time you’re at the track is to remember that it’s all one long game and to focus on good decision-making rather than happy outcomes.

Following is a specific question for pedigree expert Lauren Stich, who is the author of Pedigree Handicapping.

ATM: Is there any particular pedigree angle you like to apply on Breeders’ Cup Day or any horses you are keeping your eye on in particular this year?

Stich: Yes, pedigree handicapping plays a significant role in two-year-old racing in general, and in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies, in particular. The most important thing to keep in mind with two-year-olds is that the juveniles who were precocious and winning early from five furlongs to seven furlongs, may not be the winners of the Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles or longer. For example, Chapel Royal and Cuvee were all the rage during the summer, but their contemporaries caught up to them beyond one mile in the fall. Late-blooming two-year-olds who are progressing with each start are dangerous in the Juvenile.

Expect a large contingent of Europeans for all the Breeders’ Cup grass races this year due to the fact they’re running at Belmont. I’m particularly looking forward to Cacique (a full brother to Banks Hill, Dansili, Intercontinental and half to Heat Haze) in the Mile, and expect last year’s Arc winner, Bago, to be a serious threat in the Turf. If Divine Proportions ships over, she has the talent to win the Mile, Filly & Mare Turf or even the Turf.

Hopefully these tips and insights into Breeders’ Cup Championship Day will help steer you towards a few nice payouts or maybe even a life-changing score this year.  Either way, good luck and remember to have fun on one of racing’s most spectacular and potentially profitable days. ?

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