The Breeders' Cup has a history of producing life-changing scores triggered by surprising upsets. Fourteen Breeders' Cup races will be run this year and each will be part of several handicapping contests at Derby Wars.
As longtime handicapping contest players know if a cap horse (a horse that pays the maximum amount, which is $32 to win and $18 to place in Derby Wars contests) comes in you better have him or her or you probably won't finish in the money.
With that in mind here are two potential cap horses for each of the Breeders' Cup programs.
Breeders' Cup Friday
The Juvenile Turf drew a field of 13 including leading American juvenile turfers Bashart and Bobby's Kitten and four European shippers.
Bashart won the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes two back and finished a close second in the off the turf Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes last time.
Bobby's Kitten is a deserving morning line favorite after two dominating wins in New York capped by a six length blowout in the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes. He has the best Beyer Speed Figure among the domestic runners and the top turf TimeformUS Speed Figure. He can win on the lead or by pressing the pace.
The quintet of Europeans consists of Group 1 placed Giovanni Boldini, Group 2 winner and Group 1 placed Outstrip, Shamshon and Group 3 winner and Group 2 placed Wilshire Boulevard.
Those six horses will attract a lot of money in the win pools and rightfully so, which means the other half of the field will likely be sent off at overlaid odds. Of the other seven horses one stands out as a potential cap horse even though he looks slow on paper and has a undesirable deep closing running style.
Poker Player is two for three lifetime with a maiden win at Kentucky Downs and a win over the aforementioned Bashart in the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes on polytrack. In each of his wins he ran by the field without much urging, leaving one to believe there was plenty more in the tank.
Poker Player is trained by one of the best in the Midwest, Wayne Catalano and ridden by his go to jockey Channing Hill. He is listed at 12/1 on the morning line but will likely go off at higher odds. He will be running late and if the race falls apart watch out.
The key to the Dirt Mile in its short life has been horses turning back in distance from either 1 1/16 miles or 1 1/8 miles. Perhaps the added stamina built in those longer races has given the winners an edge or those stretching out were running beyond their best distance. In either case the results show the turn back angle is a perfect six for six.
The Dirt Mile this year contains several horses that fit the bill but one figures to benefit most because of his running style and the likely pace of the race. TimeformUS projects the pace to be very fast and logically that means the likely winner will be coming from the back of the pack.
Golden Ticket exits the 1 1/8 mile Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes and has a closing running style. He fits on class and speed figures and he is in good form with two wins and second before his fourth place finish in the Awesome Again. He sits at 12/1 on the morning line and his odds will likely drift higher with the three year old duo of Goldencents and Verrazano taking all the money.
Breeders' Cup Saturday
Like the Dirt Mile the Juvenile Fillies has a strong trend. When it's run in Southern California on a dirt track it is dominated by Southern California based fillies. This is an important stat because the top two betting choices are East Coast based fillies, Artemis Agrotera and Sweet Reason.
If those two falter the win mutuel will be double figures. Of the locally based fillies Secret Compass and She's a Tiger will be in the 7/2 to 8/1 range and either could win but I'm more interested in the other Southern California filly.
Concave won the Grade 2 Sorrento and finished third in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante. She has never run on dirt, which should be her preferred surface and she has a similar campaign to Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Stevie Wonderboy who was also trained by Doug O'Neill. Her fast works at Santa Anita are above average for the usually conservative O'Neill and signal a move forward.
At 15/1 on the morning line she will be lost in the crowd and will offer the best value among the locally based fillies.
Like its sister race the Juvenile, when contested in Southern California, provides a home court advantage to locally based horses. Prior to last year, when Shanghai Bobby broke the streak every Juvenile run on dirt in Southern California was won by a locally based horse.
That stat will be put to the test again this year as morning line favorite Havana and morning line second choice Strong Mandate lead a large group of domestic raiders.
Each of the aforementioned colts is a Grade 1 winner but neither has run around two turns. Havana will be among the heaviest bet favorites of two day program and that will almost guarantee the remainder of the field will go off at overlaid odds.
Bond Holder, Dance With Fate, New Year's Day and Tap It Rich all represent the home team and will receive support at the betting windows but another local horse intrigues me as a potential upsetter.
Diamond Bachelor would have been among the favorites in the Juvenile Turf but his connections opted for this race instead. It will be his first on dirt but his fourth around two turns. His running style suits the main track better than the turf as he is capable of setting and pressing a fast pace and finishing strong.
Diamond Bachelor is 12/1 on the morning line but might go off at twice that.
The Breeders' Cup will surely produce a couple of double digit winners this year and finding one or more of them will be the key to hitting a four or five figure exotic bet and will certainly be the key to winning one of the four or five figure cash prizes in the Derby Wars handicapping contests. I'll be betting the Pick 4's and Pick 5's and I'll be in many of those handicapping contests and I'll definitely be looking for horses like those mentioned above to separate myself from the competition.