2012 Breeders' Cup Marathon: A Handicapper's Perspective

October 30, 2012 03:41am

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 “criteria.”


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:

Criteria 1

Calidoscopio, Commander, Not Abroad, and Worth Repeating


Criteria 2

Calidoscopio, Commander


Criteria 3

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 also won. 


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



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Older Comments about 2012 Breeders' Cup Marathon: A Handicapper's Perspective...

You are so right about The Fugue, icy.
Besides RD I thought The Fugue was much the best but one of the perils of drafting is you can get a bad trip.
To me that was an out standing performance by RD. Include Me Out ran a great race but just at the wrong time and place. RD wasn't going to be beat today. MMA was most impressive running a race like that against a good older horse and should be much improved next yr as a 4yo. Happy for Mary and you both. As I said I just couldn't get away today and tomorrow may be the same. I hope to at least be able to watch the BCC. Hope you both have nice day tomorrow.
icy- Royal Delta seems to have found another dimension. I thought Include Me Out had her but she just didn't quite have the class. I thought of Mary Z. the whole race. Can only imagine what she was feeling since she was right there.
Thanks guys. I had big win bets (for me) on Calidoscopico, who I settled on over the mare, and my best bet of the day, imo, Flotilla. Also had to put something on Zagora at those odds and I had a small win bet on Beholder. So, I did ok.
Nice footlick, had the winner and you were spot on with FaG. I give your picks a lot of weight but I had a day where I didn't finish up until I just able to watch Royal Delta run a huge race. She has a lot of heart to go with that speed cutting the whole race. Those were fast fractions too.
Leave it to you to pick the winner Footy. Congrats.
I meant Almudena and Calidoscopico
I like the two Argentinians. I actually think it might be to short for Fame and Glory anymore, and dirt, like it or not, has undone many a class horse.
With Montjeu as his sire out of that Sadler's Wells line, which screams turf, I'm certainly not naive enough to think that Fame and Glory is likely to travel as well on conventional dirt as he does on turf. That being said, he's the class horse in the BC Marathon field by a street. There's really such a big gap between Fame and Glory's career form lines and the form lines of the nearest highest rated competitor to him in this race that he honestly may not have to travel that well over conventional dirt? 14f has been a minimum trip for Fame and Glory over the past 2 seasons, so he'll get the distance standing on his head. And we know he actually stays much farther than that from his wins over 20f in the Ascot Gold Cup and 16f in the British Champions Long Distance Cup in 2011. This very well could up being a race where class simply wins out over the other contenders in the field that are bred for conventional dirt, IMO.
turf to dirt has not historically been a favorable shift.
Worth Repeating and Atigun in this marathon
I've landed on Not Abroad as my top pick, but this one is tough ... very tough!
I like The ONLY stayer of this group and that is Fame and Glory. His class will win the race, even if it is his first go over dirt. Atigun could benefit from the extra distance also.
i got it last year, based on how the track played on day 1. the one thing i see alot, is who ever you think is the front runner, has great chances of running way with it or finishing in the top 3. the further they go, the longer then can go.

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Meet Matt Scott 

My horseracing journey began when I was 16 years old and my mom took me to Hollywood Park. Although I did not fully appreciate it at the time, the experience stuck with me forever. 10 years later, during one of my many international business trips to Hong Kong, I visited Sha Tin racetrack to watch the races. This is where my true passion began. 


Holding a masters degree in mechanical engineering, the puzzle of handicapping intrigued me. I have made a career of making decisions based on trends, patterns, and formulas, which is why I think I was initially drawn to the sport. However, I have truly learned to appreciate the horses and how magnificent they are as athletes. 


I currently live in San Jose, CA, and when not following racing, I like to spend time with my wife, mountain bike, and design high-speed bicycles that I build and race For reference, 55,000 furlongs is the distance from Hong Kong to my home in San Jose. Also, I have 1-year-old dachshund (aka wiener dog) that I am training to race in the annual Wiener Nationals held at Golden Gate Fields.   


The purpose of this blog is to help give people the viewpoint of a fan that is newer to the sport and eager to learn. I like to respectfully speak my mind, and often the ideas come out of left field, which could give a fresh perspective on a sport rich with tradition and history. hope to represent the many future fans that I wish to follow my footsteps into the Sport of Kings. 

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