The Breeders’ Cup is usually a great weekend for longshot thoroughbred bettors. With so many races spread over two days, and with fields that are so deep and talented, you can be all but certain that at least a couple of horses are going to pay huge win prices. The challenge for horse bettors, of course, is to figure out which of the may longshots on the day are worthy of support, and which ones truly have as a little hope as their prices suggest they do. Here are six factors that can help thoroughbred handicappers find the gems at big prices:
Odds higher than you expected – Whenever I look at a card like the Breeders’ Cup I like to handicap the races for the first time without looking at the morning line odds. By taking a quick look at the field without letting the odds bias your perceptions you can get a quick sense of what you think the odds should be – which horses should be favored, and which should be longshots. Once I do that I compare my perceptions to the reality of the morning line to see where the differences are. If a horse gets far less respect than I think it deserves then I need to look closer because that’s an indicator that we could have an attractive longshot to bet.
Experience on the track – You wouldn’t think that the track would matter that much – they are all the same basic shape. There are surprising differences from track to track, though – the feel of the surface, the length of the stretch, the corners, the location of the fans, the bias of the track, the climate, and so on. Some horses perform better on some tracks than others. If the horse suits the track very well then he can perform far better than he might if the race was on a different track. If a horse has raced on the Breeders’ Cup track before and has run his best on that surface then that could give him a real boost.
Clear ability to handle distance – Experienced horse race bettors know that gistance is the biggest factor in races, and the hardest for horses can overcome. If a horse can’t handle the distance of the race then no amount of class r experience can overcome that. The longer a race is the fewer horses will be capable of running that distance. Horses in North America are typically bred more for speed than stamina, so it’s quite common to see issues. If a longshot has run well at the distance of the race, if he has the breeding to handle the distance, or if his training or performance late in shorter races has indicated distance suitability then the longshot could be a live one.
Running style that suits the day or the race – If the horse has a running style that is perfectly suited to the race he is in then he could benefit and perform better than he otherwise might. For example, if the horse is a closer, there are no other deep closers in the field, and there is a lot of early speed that will duel and tire each other out, the race could work very much in the favor of the closer. A track bias can also provide a huge boost to an underdog thoroughbred. More than once in Breeders’ Cup history we have seen a strong front runner bias. If a bas like that emerges and a longshot is a clear front runner then he would be far more attractive than he might be on any other day, and especially more than he would be if the bias was favoring closers and not speed horses.
Strong performances in underappreciated races – There is definitely a class structure in horse races, and in the ways that races are perceived. The public will give big races at big tracks a lot more credit in the past performances than races at lesser tracks. A horse that has run very well at lesser tracks could still be an extremely strong contender, though. One good example of this is Woodbine. A lot of bettors don’t really respect racing that happens in Canada, so a horse that has shone in Canada gets very little credit. Sometimes, though, those horses are very legitimate horses that are far stronger than their odds suggest. A perfect example of that is Mine That Bird’s Kentucky Derby win. The way the bettors perceived him in the race you would never have known that he was Canada’s champion two year old the year before.
Horses drawing too much action – When one or more horses are drawing very heavy betting action in a race then the rest of the horses in that race are likely to enjoy higher odds than they otherwise would. If you don’t like the horses that are drawing all that public attention then you could find attractive value on a longshot at inflated dds. You might not like a longshot at 15/1, but if the attention on the favorites means you can bet that same horse at 25/1 then you might feel a whole lot better about it when you place your bets.