As wonderful a handicapping extravaganza as the Breeders’ Cup is, it was is and probably always will be a strange, dichotomous event. With multi-race wagers and tourneys now representing such an important piece of the average player’s puzzle, one often finds himself bouncing back and forth between races in which he is familiar with the entire field, and others in which several runners exist solely as past performance lines on the printed page. For every California Chrome or Beholder or Syndergaard — horses for which we can almost close our eyes and picture with great accuracy the events before, during and subsequent to each of their races — there are horses like Home of the Brave, Intricately and Queen’s Trust for whom a closing of the eyes will show us little more than the inside of our eyelids.
And yet it is how we perform on these races with Europeans that will, in many cases, determine how we do in our tournament play and cash wagers this Friday and Saturday. The problem for me isn’t that I can’t handicap a European past performance line, it’s that those PP lines have no context to me. I don’t know instinctively who the conditions favored on a certain day, who was using the race as a prep for something else, etc.
The good news is that many Americans betting the Breeders’ Cup are in the same position. And that can lead to opportunity if you can smoke out a nugget here or there that can help you zero in on an overlaid horse that others will only use defensively (perhaps a spread of all the Europeans in a given race, for example) if at all.
There are two sources I have found particularly helpful thus far in trying to size up this year’s European contingent.
One is the commentary of British racing expert Nick Luck, who will again be part of the NBC telecast. But time is precious on TV, and it’s hard for anyone to go to far in depth on that medium. Here, though, is an hour-long interview that Steve Byk did with Luck last week:
I listened to it a couple of times just to sort of let everything sink in. I want it as “internal background” in my head as I go about tackling the actual PPs once post positions are drawn. And I believe Byk will be having another sit-down with Luck this week. I’ll certainly be tuned in to that as well.
Another person whose work I have found interesting (and I confess to not having heard of her before) is Kellie Reilly, whose horse-by-horse profiles of the international runners are now starting to appear on the Twin Spires blog page. She does a very nice job of taking you step-by-step through a horse’s 2016 campaign to date, plus there is plenty of high-quality embedded video of key races along with an occasional workout. I’m planning to read all of her available features before I handicap, and then re-read those of horses I am at least somewhat interested in after my first pass-through of the PPs. Her profiles are available through the Twin Spires twitter feed (@TwinSpires) and also on this page:
As tough as the Breeders’ Cup is to handicap with so many horses in each race “having a shot”, one race really can make your weekend. I hope you find some of the above helpful in your BC preparations. Happy Handicapping.