Breeders' Cup - At The Races

Peter Fornatale at Churchill Downs

    In his final update, Peter gives his verdict on some of the week’s “buzz” horses and reveals his wagering strategy and betting ideas for the big meeting.
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We’re getting to that point in the week where circuits can start to overload. In my experience, if you’ve been studying form and on the hunt for information all week, the day before the Breeders’ Cup is a good time to take a step back and review what we’ve learned so far. It’s easy to get swept up in the idea of trying to bet the same amount on every Breeders’ Cup race and I implore you to resist that temptation – ruin that way lies.

Instead, in today’s diary on a rainy Thursday at Churchill Downs, I want to make sure I pass on a few more pieces of information that haven’t yet made it into my pieces this week and then provide an overview of what I see as the best opportunities this weekend in Louisville for the Breeders’ Cup.

BUZZ HORSES

I’ll start with a note about a few of the “buzz” horses of the week. I’ve had several horsemen mention to me how well TOPPER T looks in the flesh. This son of Bellamy Road had to be supplemented for the Juvenile and goes out in the care of Bill Mott for the first time. His previous form, all sprinting, offers no clue that he’d be able to compete at this level but Mott is one of my favorite trainers and the price is expected to be wildly high – he’s 30-1 on the Morning Line.

FORTY UNDER faces a tough field in the Juvenile Turf but it must be noted that he has also made a positive impression, looking ready to run for trainer Jeremiah Englehart. This is another I’ve heard multiple horsemen praise and, like Topper T, I can confirm he catches the eye in the morning. Wagering wise, he offers an interesting chance for international arbitrage, a concept I’ll write more about when I get to betting strategy.

In the Fiily and Mare Sprint, I’m on record advising MARLEY’S FREEDOM at odds of 2-1 ante-post and I stand by that idea and think she’s the most likely winner. But if the odds get too short, I’ve warmed to GOLDEN MISCHIEF as an alternative. I didn’t write very nice things in the “preps” piece about the race she came out of but she was best in there and subsequently has caught the eye in the mornings for trainer Brad Cox. She’s very much on my radar now.

How could ENABLE, the star of the meeting, NOT be a “buzz” horse? It’s a fair question, but she earns the moniker not just by dint of reputation but also because of the impression she’s made. She appears to have handled the ship to the states well and I really liked how she looked moving on the turf course when briefly allowed to show some speed. The race may be one to watch, as opposed to bet, for sure. But if the USA odds prediction of even money gets even close to true, and she continues to look collected, I’ll be backing her. Note that there is a USA tote “head to head” wagering pitting Enable versus the field that may be another market in which to back her (with a low for the USA 10 percent pari-mutuel takeout).

WAGERING STRATEGY

In the USA, exotics betting is all the rage. I, like most UK and Irish punters, prefer to keep things simple with win and each-way bets. However, there are some concepts form exotic betting that can be useful to employ alongside traditional bets, especially at a meeting like the Breeders’ Cup.

On the Final Furlong podcast – on which I had the pleasure of appearing this week – I discussed the concept of “saving.” There are many ways to accomplish this. A “saver” bet can be something as simple as an additional small win bet to cover your initial stake. For example, I initially backed Newspaperofrecord for the Juvenile Fillies Turf and “saved” by taking a small amount on Lily’s Candle to cover that stake because the 14-1 price just looked too big.

But using exactas, aka forecasts, as savers also can make a lot of sense. What I’ll often do is take the horse I’ve bet to win, especially if it’s not an each-way price, and play exactas with that horse in second behind the others I fear in the race. It’s a way to maximize my good opinion if it’s nearly right, while not spreading around too much. Best of all, it doesn’t cost a significant amount to do so.

Before we proceed, a word about “action bets.” I’m all for the idea of having a small bet in every race at a meeting like the Breeders’ Cup. Perhaps you can use USA exotics to tie several races together. The key thing with action bets, whether they be exotics or traditional, is to make sure the amount you risk is a tiny percentage of your bankroll relative to the spots where you have an actual opinion. You can’t be betting 100 pounds on a prime play and 50 on an action bet. The correct ratio should be 10:1 or more. And if you have the forbearance to pass betting except where your strong opinions are, good on you: you’re a better person than I.

BETTING IDEAS

FRIDAY

Race 6, JUVENILE FILLIES TURF. I’m sticking with NEWSPAPEROFRECORD as my best bet of the meeting. Many people whom I respect – with ATR’s own Kevin Blake at the top of the list – have suggested EAST as an alternative. I’ll definitely have an exacta with the two as well.

Race 8, JUVENILE TURF. I mentioned international arbitrage earlier. All I mean by that is you should be shopping around for the best prices between bookmakers, online, and international tote options. LINE OF DUTY remains my selection and is listed at 10-1 on the predicted USA line (he’s half that in the UK). Horses like FORTY UNDER and CURRENT are available at present around 10-1 internationally (both will likely be mid-single digits on the tote). This is an instance where I will look to back Line of Duty on the tote and save with the other two if I can lock in those “overlaid” odds via bookmakers.

Race 9, JUVENILE. I’m a CODE OF HONOR fan and will be backing him as well as saving in a one-way exacta behind GAME WINNER. I’ll risk half as much here as in the two Juvenile Turf races.


SATURDAY

Race 3, FILLY AND MARE SPRINT. If you’ve gotten or can still get 7-4 or better on MARLEY’S FREEDOM, that’s a good bet. At double digit odds, golden mischief is a reasonable alternative. I’ll probably bet both. This isn’t an exacta situation as if Marley’s Freedom doesn’t win, I can see a scenario where she misses the frame.

Race 5, DIRT MILE. I’m interested in AWESOME SLEW and SEVEN TRUMPETS. I will also play small exactas covering CITY OF LIGHT and CATALINA CRUISER over each of them.

Race 6, FILLY AND MARE TURF. I’m playing WILD ILLUSION. Again, at the suggestion of Kevin Blake I’ll save with an exacta covering EZIYRA over her. I may include SISTERCHARLIE on top in an exacta as well.

Race 7, SPRINT. I’ll be backing LIMOUSINE LIBERAL each-way.

Race 8, MILE. It’s likely a pass but I’ll keep an eye on POLYDREAM’s tote price for a potential overlay.

Race 10, TURF. Another where watching and rooting may get the nod over punting. It’s ENABLE or pass, prices (and how she looks going to the start) pending. If she continues to look good, 4-5 as low as I’d go.

Race 11: CLASSIC. The win bets are YOSHIDA and CATHOLIC BOY. I may save in exactas with MCKINZIE, MIND YOUR BISCUITS, MENDELSSOHN, and GUNNEVERA over those two. If the latter is a big enough price, I might just bet to win on him as well.