For horseplayers, the Breeders’ Cup Classic is by far the biggest race of the Breeders’ Cup weekend. Aside from the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont if there is a Triple Crown on the line it is the most prestigious race in North America. It’s also a very tough race to handicap. The top older horses and the best three year olds in the country typically enter the race to finish their season. That means that the field is typically deep and full of potential winners. Since trainers aim for this race for months in advance the horses are also typically in strong form and ready to go. When you are handicapping the winner from the rest of the contenders here are seven factors to keep in mind:
Distance – The Breeders’ Cup Classic is run over a distance of a mile and a quarter. North American horses are typically bred more for speed than stamina, so that distance is a real test for horses. Some horses just aren’t capable of maintaining sufficient speed throughout that race. Before you consider betting on a horse in the Classic, then, the starting point is to consider whether they can get the distance. the easiest way to do so is is to see if they have run over the same distance before and had any success. If they haven’t done so then you need to figure out if they can handle it. The best way to do that is to look at the longest races they have run to see how they finished those races. If they were gaining ground at the end of those races then they could still have plenty in the tank for the extra distance. If they were losing ground and getting past at the end of a shorter race, though, then the longer distance could be a real issue. An inability to handle the distance is by far the single hardest factor for a horse to overcome – no matter how good it might be at shorter distances.
Composition of field – It’s important for bettors to get a sense of how the horse likes to run a race to see if he is likely to be able to run that style of race easily. For example, if a horse consistently wins by taking the lead early on and keeping it throughout then he could succeed at that if there aren’t any other horses that run a similar style. If there are too many horses with early speed, though, then they could push each other too hard early on and could burn their energy up too early.
Class of performances – A lot of bettors will get seduced by a horse that has won many races in a row. Those wins are only really relevant and impressive, though, if they come against comparable horses to what they are facing in the Classic. If they have beaten up on weaklings all along then we don’t know how they measure up to strong horses, and it is quite possible that they aren’t as good as they appear based on their record. On the other hand, a horse could not be winning any races at all but could still be a potentially strong bet if they have consistently been performing well against top level competition and they are showing improvement.
Jockey – As every savvy bettor knows, the jockey is important in any race, and that’s especially true in a deep and challenging race like this. When looking at the jockey there are three main factors to consider. First, how well does he know the track? Has he ridden on it a lot and performed well? Does he know the tricks and the best ways to handle the particular quirks of the track? Second, how does he perform in big races? If a jockey is new to big races or has not had a lot of success then he could be intimidated and ineffective. the best jockeys are in the biggest races, so if a jockey doesn’t have a history of success in big races then he may not be god enough to shine. third, how well does he know the horse? Has he ridden the horse several times before or is he new to it? If he is new to the horse is he an upgrade from the past jockey, or is he a default selection because the previous jockey chose to ride a different horse in the race?
Public sentiment – Handicappers must be wary that hype can be a major factor in a high profile race like the Breeders’ Cup. If a horse gets a lot of media attention then he or she will draw a lot of public betting action, and the odds will be lower than may be ideal. Media coverage will often focus on things that seem flashy and important – winning streaks, flashy wins in big races, successful trainers, captivating storylines, and so on – and often ignore more significant things like the running style of the race and the ability of the horse to handle the distance. It’s important to get a sense of where the public sentiment lies and whether the attention is justified. If you aren’t aware of that then you might fall into the trap of betting on horse because of the hype whether it is a good investment or not.