Breeders’ Cup Betting Tips -Churchill Downs
By Kenneth Strong
The Breeders’ Cup returns to Churchill Downs for the sixth time on November 4, 2006 and if you’re looking for the best horse racing party on the planet this is it. Why?
Because the Breeders’ Cup is not just another sporting event when it rolls into Louisville, a town of only 250,000 where women outnumber men 53 to 47 percent. Thousands of people are crammed into this cool small city for a week of betting, boozing and all.
Well, let’s just say the Breeders’ Cup gets noticed here more than it does in large cities.
And even though Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs always brings back one bad memory for me, the opportunity to make a huge score at the betting windows and the great parties are always more than enough to compensate.
In the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Classic I bet heavily against Black Tie Affair and watched in disbelief as all the other riders decided to take the race off and let him sneak to a sleepy lone-speed lead with all my profits. Not that he wasn’t a good horse, but without a clear lead he was average at best, and would never have won the race.
Riding around Louisville in a horse-drawn carriage until 3 a.m. after the races drinking triple rum and cokes and squawking pick-up lines at fair maidens made up for the losses. But back to the important stuff – track idiosyncrasies as they pertain to the Breeders’ Cup.
Churchill Downs has the longest stretch in the country (1,234 feet) when compared to other major tracks including Belmont Park And Santa Anita, so timing is very important. Even name jockeys misjudge the pace and move too early (or let a horse get away with an easy lone-speed lead). And those jocks with a dull sense of pace to start with – have even less of a chance. Well, sometimes they do get lucky when all the horses that move early cave late in the drive.
The turns at Churchill Downs are much sharper and shorter than most due to the layout of the track, which is more of a long skinny rectangle than an oval, and the surface can be a gooey mess underneath even if the tote board says it’s fast.
Jockeys who don’t do well on turns at other tracks do even worse on the Churchill dirt course and you likely know a few of these riders who will be shipping in from your home track. In contrast, riders who aren’t afraid to hug the rail and patiently save ground on the turns can do very well over the main track at Churchill Downs.
The turf course at Churchill Downs also has sharp turns, but for some reason it requires a completely different riding style to win. The riding seems to be a lot tighter on the turf course and riders stuck on the inside often get caught in traffic both on the backstretch and on the turn for home. It takes an extremely good ride along the inside to win on the turf course, whereas a number of winners get the job done by simply making sure they have clear running room outside (not too wide) or by getting away with a pedestrian pace as the lone speed.
It pays to watch the early races on the card looking for horses that are handling the unique texture of the Churchill Downs dirt (some do not handle it at all) and then checking the past performance lines to see where those horses had previously raced. Speed/closer and inside/outside bias notes should also be taken on the early races, even though the bias can change towards the end of the card.
One other important bias that should be noted at Churchill Downs is the fact that in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint the horses have to move to the left immediately after they exit the gate to get on to the main track. This will cause some inside horses who do not have tactical speed to get into trouble early.
Horses can and do come from anywhere to win at Churchill Downs, but because of a surface that some horses just don’t seem to handle, you might want to look for horses that seem to handle the track surface no matter where they race that is – they have won at a variety of race tracks. If Churchill Downs happens to be among those tracks that’s even better.
And for the first time this year, there may be horses shipping in off runs over the polytrack at Turfway and Keeneland. Which way their form will go on real dirt is tough to tell, but again, multiple wins over different surfaces at different tracks is a positive sign.
The medication rules appear to be a little different in Kentucky (I’ll let you read between the lines here) than they are in most jurisdictions, and don’t think the local trainers who likes to bet won’t be salivating over the swollen betting pools that develop in the race days leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, and on the Breeders’ Cup under card.
Pay special attention to trainer patterns and angles, back class, previous winning patterns, jockey changes etc. on horses conditioned by local trainers. If these guys and gals are going to try to cash a big bet at Churchill Downs, this will be the week to pull it off and some of them will.
We’ll be there to collect the cash.