How on earth am I going to try to handicap the 2012 Breeders' Cup Marathon? I'll give it my best shot, and would love for additional comments that could add some other insight. There is not much of a statistical foundation,
but in its previous 4 runnings, the average payoff has been $37.50, including
Afleet Again’s monstrous $85.20 long shot win.
Of the 4 winners, the lowest odds fell upon the 2009 winner, Man of Iron
who was the betting 4th choice at about 6-1. Apparently the betting public has had trouble
handicapping this race as well…
Maybe “conventional” handicapping is not completely
applicable when we venture into the realm of 14 furlongs on dirt with very
little staying distance races to base the majority of the field off of. I’m going to take a screening approach and
follow up with a conventional approach.
Then, we’ll take a look at who makes the cut.
Let’s leave out Afleet Again for a moment, as he certainly
doesn’t fit the mold that the other 3 winners did prior to their wins. For the other 3 winners (Muhannak, Man of
Iron, and Eldaafer), each of them had won their most recent prep race
regardless of distance or surface. In
fact, these horses all won 2 of their previous 3 races. Afleet Again didn’t quite fit this
In his last prep race, Afleet Again finished a fast closing
2nd. But, looking farther
back in his past performances he had to strong showings at 1 ½ miles earlier in
the summer, which were won by the Marathon 1st and 2nd
betting choices. He may have not won any
of his preps, but the late kicks in his 1 ½ miles should have been a clue to
suggesting he might be worth a hail mary at 41-1. But, hindsight is 20/20, right?
My analysis shows pace did not have much of a factor in any
of the results, however, the pace setter has never won this race. Running position and post position also do not
show direct correlation to winning, but all the winners did get clean trips and
never really had to overcome any type of adversity.
Ok, enough of the past, lets try to unlock the riddle of
this year’s Marathon. Based on the
trends of the winners above, I am going to look for winners of most recent prep
races (criteria 1), check if any of these horses have won 2 of their previous 3
races (criteria 2), and focus specifically on horses that have competed at 12+
furlongs in the past 5 months (criteria 3).
Just as a reference, of the 4 previous winners, Eldaafer (2010) is the
only horse to have met all 3.
For this years field, the 3 criteria I explained above break down as follows:
Calidoscopio, Commander, Not Abroad, and Worth Repeating
Atigun, Balladry, Calidoscopio, Eldaafer, Fame and Glory,
Juniper Pass, Not Abroad, Romp, Sense of Purpose, Worth Repeating
This means the instant tosses are Almudena, Grassy, and Jaycito.
Looking at a more conventional handicapping strategy, there
are a few standouts I would like to address.
The first is Commander. Although
never racing a distance of 12 furlongs or longer, he has won 6 straight
races, with his most recent coming at 1 3/8 miles. As the saying goes, “never leave the table
while its hot.” Winning 6 in a row doesn’t happen by accident, especially when
each race was as long or longer than its predecessor.
Next is the 2011 European Champion Stayer, Fame and Glory. Let me repeat that. The 2011 European Champion Stayer. And in case you forgot, 14 furlongs is a staying
race. Granted, all of Fame and Glory’s
experience is on turf, and his 2012 form has been a little weaker than the
powerhouse he was in 2011. However, he
has won on good/firm, good, good/soft, yielding, and heavy surfaces showing
he’s adaptable to quite a range of racing surfaces. He also showed a strong move after 14
furlongs in the Qipco Long Distance Cup 10 days ago.
Other interesting entries include Juniper Pass and Sense of
Purpose, who have both won at the distance on 14 furlongs, but did so back in
2011 on turf. They also have not posted
a win in over a year, but Juniper Pass did finish a very game 2nd in
the Bulldog Handicap at Fresno a couple of weeks ago. Could he be coming into good form at the
right time…aka Afleet Again style?
Atigun looks to have a stayer’s form during his races, with
his best performances in stakes company coming at the classic distances of 10
and 12 furlongs, both of which he was raced wide. He didn’t lose significant ground on the
leaders in the Belmont Stakes or the recent Jockey Club Gold Cup, and if he can
be forwardly placed with his #1 post position, he may make some noise at the
finish. I am not sure if he can win this
race, but he certainly looks like he should be included in exotics.
Calidoscopio is very interesting being the only “Win and
you’re in” entry in the 14 horse field.
He has raced primarily middle to staying distance races over dirt in his
career in Argentina, and is coming into this race off a victory in the afore mentioned
General Belgrano Stakes. The 4-month
layoff may be a bit of a turnoff, but he has been acclimating to the Southern
California climate nicely, training in Hollywood Park and Santa Anita since mid
August where he recently posted a nice 1 mile breeze. One other note is that in the Marathon, he
will be carrying 126 lbs which is a nice change of pace considering the average
of 132 lbs per start back in South America.
Not Abroad is coming into this race with a very powerful 4
length score in the Maryland Million Classic Stakes, and finished 2nd
to Redeemed at 1 ½ miles in the Greenwood Cup this summer. His worst performance this year was a 4th
place finish in the Brooklyn Handicap, where Redeemed won by 10 lengths.
Worth Repeating will possibly be one of the post favorites
for this race coming off of a 5-length romp in the Ralph M. Hinds
handicap. Aside from being his most
impressive win this year, it was also his only routing race run over
conventional dirt in 2012. His last routing
race over dirt was the 12 furlong 2011 Tokyo City Cup at Santa Anita, which he
Last, but not least, is the seasoned veteran Eldaafer. He has shown solid form lately with a 3rd
place finish to Pool Play in the Hawthorne Gold Cup and a win in the Carl
Handford Memorial Stakes. He has beaten
many of the horses in this field, but the question is if he can find the
stamina he had in 2010 when he captured the victory.
I see Commander setting the pace of this race with Juniper
Pass, Worth Repeating, Fame and Glory, and Eldaafer pressing him the majority
of the way. This adds and interesting twist
to the pace setup as all 5 of these horses are ones I could consider
possibilities to win. That being said,
they are all experienced, and a speed dual of any kind virtually eliminates any
chance of victory, so I still expect a soft pace.
I will predict the first ¾ going in 1:15, with the 1 ¼ being
breezed through in about 2:07. This pace
could set up beautifully for the off–the-pace types like Calidoscopio, Not
Abroad, and Atigun. I expect
them to start to pick up momentum at ½ mile pole, but the question is if they can
get past the stalking group. Coming
into the stretch, there will be about 4 or 5 horses all battling for the win,
in which I will say Calidoscopio comes out on top, edging out Not Abroad and
Fame and Glory.
My wagers are likely to go as follows:
I intend to start a pick 3, likely singling
Executiveprivilege in the Juvenile Fillies, so that leaves me a few extra options
for the Marathon. I will be picking
Calidoscopio, Worth Repeating, Not Abroad, Fame and Glory, and Commander.
My pick 5 ticket will include Calidoscopio, Not Abroad, and
Fame and Glory.
$5 win bet on Juniper Pass
$2 Exacta: Calidoscopio/Fame and Glory/Not Abroad with
Calidoscopio/Not Abroad/Worth Repeating/Commander/Atigun