Tensions rise as the Breeder’s Cup nears
Although the Kentucky Derby might be the most recognizable event in the thoroughbred horse racing world, the Breeder’s Cup is the undisputed highlight of the season for true fans of the sport. Whereas the Kentucky Derby shows off the up-and-coming three-year-old horses at two turns on dirt, the Breeder’s Cup highlights the best-of-the-best in every division of racing. Both the boys and the girls, on dirt or turf, and at multiple distances, the Breeder’s Cup has something for everyone and every race promises to be exciting.
This year the Breeder’s Cup will be taking place on November 3-4 “where the turf meets the surf,” at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, CA. This iconic venue, which is marked by towering palm trees and a picturesque view of the Pacific Ocean, will be adding another gold star to its already stunning 80 year resume as it hosts, for the first time ever, the Breeder’s Cup.
For the horses, jockeys, trainers, and owners that are fortunate enough to be competing in this two-day championship of horse racing, there is a lot on the line. For many, winning means more than just a lucrative purse ($28 million in total purses over the 2-day meet). Winning the Breeder’s Cup, in almost every division, could be that important final win needed to decide the fate of this year’s Eclipse Award winners.
Despite the traditions of this 33-year-old event, a new trend has emerged that is causing bettors and fans alike to question the chances of their favorite horse. Instead of getting last minute experience in a race, some of best horses around the world are opting out of the traditional Breeder’s Cup prep races and instead opting to train up – sticking to carefully structured morning workouts. Although many trainers seem to be taking the train up approach, it is unclear if the advantage will go to the horses with more recent race experience or to those opting to train up to the big weekend.
And more than just new tactics are at play in the minds of trainers and fans alike. Del Mar’s track, which was the subject of criticism at the summer meet that ended in September, has many asking whether the best horses can be expected to win. The questionable Del Mar surface seemed to trouble horses such as Arrogate – a horse previously known as the best in the world – who faltered twice to win against horses that many considered easy opponents. Yet despite the struggles of Arrogate and others, it seems that many horses actually favor the deep dirt of Del Mar. One such horse is the young Bolt D’Oro, a horse that used the Del Mar surface to win his first 2 career races, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity Stakes, as he prepared to enter the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile as the likely favorite. Regardless of which horses the track seems to be favoring, bettors should keep in mind the horses that showed success on the surface this summer before they take that final step up to the betting window.
Although many horses have already assured themselves a start at this year’s Breeder’s Cup, the fields for the races are not yet set and many horses are still scrambling to stamp their ticket to Del Mar. This weekend will be the final weekend of “Win and You’re In” races for Breeder’s cup hopefuls, and it promises to be full of exciting races. Keeneland, Belmont Park, and Santa Anita will together host 14 total “Win and You’re In” races, each of which will guarantee the winner a place at the Breeder’s Cup.
In addition to all that is at stake for the horses, jockeys, and trainers, bettors also have a lot to gain if last year’s Breeder’s Cup event was any indication. Pari-mutuel betting pools at the 2016 event exceeded $150 million, and this year promises to be even bigger than the last. In addition to the massive expected payouts, new IRS tax laws passed just a few weeks ago will allow bettors to keep more of their winnings than ever before. However, with new trends, questionable surfaces, and the unpredictability of the sport, bettors must be careful before placing that final bet to ensure they leave the track with more in their pockets than they started with.
Coverage of the Breeder’s Cup will take place November 3-4 on NBC and NBCSN and select races will be broadcast on Facebook LIVE. More info on the Breeders Cup can be found at www.breederscup.com. Stay tuned to Underdog sports as we begin to preview some of the biggest races of the Breeder’s Cup weekend and highlight our favorite horses in each division.