Sunday, November 6, 2011

Taking Stock of the Breeders' Cup - Wagering

Breeders’ Cup weekend is always interesting.  You can count on upsets and a stirring performance or two.  It also kicks off the beginning of racing’s ‘hot stove’ season when we start talking about the next year’s Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown series, but more about that later in the week.  This is all about assessing the selections for BC11.  Below are my notes from the two days.  I thought about distilling it down and/or polishing it a bit, but there is some charm to the unvarnished notes.

It’s always interesting how the mood can swing through the ups and downs of handicapping.  You can’t win ‘em all and you can’t bet them all and you can’t let your emotions get the best of you.  You pick your spots and try to score, however when you write a blog, or publicly handicap, you have to have an opinion on everything so you pick them all and hope you do well.  For the two day card, I was abysmal.  For the races I actually wagered, I was excellent. Ultimately when you wager it’s about making money and I was fortunate that my poor overall percentage didn’t translate into a money losing weekend, mostly due to the trifecta and exacta in the Juvenile on Saturday.

Here is the recap.


Juvenile Sprint – Not a tough pick and not a particularly profitable one, but a win is a win and Secret Circle felt like a gimme and ran like he was one.  Batting 1.000 so far for the Breeders’ Cup!

Juvenile Fillies Turf – I like Stephanie’s Kitten a lot and when my mom mentioned that we should bet on her because my beloved little sister’s name is Stephanie, the world of handicapping and hunching collided.  She ran like a champion, claimed the led in the lane and went on to victory at 6-1.  LOVE 6-1s.  Still batting 1.000.  This game is easy!

Filly & Mare Sprint – I was taking a stand against favored Turbulent Descent and was spot on.  The only problem was my choice, Switch, started the race a bit too far back and could only close as far as second.  Still, if you bet her across the board you still won money.  Interestingly, my throw in horse for third, Musical Romance, turned out to be the 20-1 winner!  2 for 3 with a second, making money in every race.  Does it get any better?

Juvenile Fillies – Again I tried to take a stand against the favorite and this time I wasn’t nearly as successful.  My Miss Aurelia ran like the favorite and did a nice job.  I said that “if she can rate, she could be deadly”.  She did and she was.  My second choice ran second but my top choice, Northern Passion, finished up the track.  2 for 4.  .500 still isn’t bad.

Filly & Mare Turf – 27-1 Perfect Shirl wins and there was no way on God’s green Earth I would have had her.  My choice, favored Stacelita, gets shellacked and finishes second to last.  2 for 5 and the percentages are not looking near as good.  One race left and I’m going heavy on Royal Delta.

Filly & Mare Classic – Co favorite and my top choice Royal Delta sat off the pace, ran when asked and drew off to an easy victory.  She was 2-1, but I’ll take 2-1 all day long.  

Finishing stats for Day 1: 6 races, 3 wins and 1 second with a positive ROI on the day.  Makes me feel pretty good going into Day 2.


Marathon – My choice, Cease, was in a great spot all the way around and charged to the lead heading through the final turn.  And then it was over…he faded and 41-1 Afleet Again took the kickoff race.  I look back over the PPs and I STILL can’t find a reason to bet Afleet Again.  Race one – off the board.

Juvenile TurfFinale was finished from jump.  He got off a bit slowly and rather than take back a bit and fall in behind the top 3 sprinters, it appeared as if Velasquez was indecisive on whether to tuck in or go.  By the time he decided to take back he was already five wide for nearly half the race and it was all over but the shouting as Finale predictably faded down the stretch.  Two races, two off the board finishes.

SprintBig Drama got away four wide and stayed there.  It looked as if jockey Ramon Dominguez thought better and tried to hold him a bit and track the top 3 but all it did was kill any chances he had of winning the race.  Three races in the books and top choice off the board in each.  Fortunately I do have Amazombie in the Pick 3.

Turf Sprint – I hate five furlong turf races but it turns out that it got me my first win of the day.  Regally Ransom was in good position throughout and when the time came he kicked on and was able to hold on for the win.  It wasn’t a big price win but a win nonetheless.

Dirt Mile – And we regress back again to a top choice fading out of contention when the real running started.  Prior to the race it was reported on ESPN that Steve Assmussen had real concerns about the stickiness of the track and Wilburn’s ability to handle it.  Turns out he was right.  In excellent position throughout, when it was time to run, Wilburn went the wrong way.  One for five today with only four left.

Turf – In the immortal words of Steven Tyler, “same old story, same old song and dance, my friend”.  Await the Dawn set the pace and showed that his Arc mess was exactly where he is right now.  Second choice Sea Moon, and my wager at post time, was able to stay up for second and made a bit of money, but the only choice that matters is the public one, and it was a dog.  Insult to injury: had all Euro tris and supers and Brilliant Speed blows up those wagers as well.  Stay tuned for Union Rags, Gio Ponti and Havre de Grace to spit the bit in the lane as well.  I hate days like this one.  Six in the books and only one winner.

Juvenile – Box it and we got the exacta and trifecta but the straight up win was disrupted by Javier Castallano being kept with Union Rags four to five wide throughout the entire race.  Otherwise, this race shaped up exactly like I had thought.  Creative Cause finishes third.  Cashed plenty in this race and that matters.  Batting average is not helped at all, though, and officially the count is 1 for 7 with a second and two races to go.  ROI, thanks to the $46 exacta and over $200 tri is excellent.

Mile – In a very messy stretch run, Goldikova failed in her attempt to win four in a row.  The winner was 64-1 Court Vision.  Unlike some other boxcar winners, I can see this one.  After some time off he closed like a freight train in his last and was eligible to improve.  He was beaten last out by the second place horse, Turallure, so if you liked one, you may have had them both with Turallure at 30-1.  THAT was a helluva exacta (over $2,000 for $2)!  Goldikova had some issues in the stretch and probably should have been disqualified but she got the superstar call (think smaller strike zone for superstar hitters or Peyton Manning getting more roughing the passer calls) and stayed up for third.  I don’t blame them for making the non-call.  It was close enough to let it go, though with my money across the board on Gio Ponti and the two big longshots finishing 1-2, I probably would have got my money back on the show price as he finished fourth and stood to get moved up.  After all the drama, another off the board finish and the tally is 1 for 8 with a second.  Ugh.  On to the Classic.

Classic  The buildup was all about Uncle Mo and Havre de Grace which I thought was silly since there was no way that Uncle Mo was going to get a mile and a quarter.  I did think that filly was something special, but when the lights were on and pressure cranked up she was as flat as a pancake.  She was in good position all the way around and was simply flat.  Mo was engaged early for about a mile, but when the real running began he went the wrong way.  The really impressive performance came from Game on Dude who shot to the front and only relinquished the lead in the final strides to Drosselmeyer.  Drosselmeyer and Court Vision are both Breeders’ Cup champions…go figure.  And the nightmare of a day concludes with only one winner in 9 races but thankfully the exotics in the Juvenile prevent the day from being an ROI disaster but I barely keep earnings positive – but at least it was positive.

DAY 1 – 6 races: 3 wins, 1 second
DAY 2 – 9 races: 1 win; 1 second

TOTAL: 15 races: 4 wins, 2 seconds.  26% win with 40 in the money.  Not great but the ROI with the exotic wagers was pretty good at a plus 27% of dollars wagered (every $100 wagered returned $127). Again, pick your spots and hammer it when you feel confident.  Don’t be afraid to pass – there is always another race!

I’m going to let the dust settle for a few days and then be back later in the week with some observations from the 2011 Breeders’ Cup.

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