Futures provide looking glass for Breeders' Cup

By Ron Flatter  (VSiN.com) 

As it was when American Pharoah galloped before his Classic victory in 2015, the Breeders’ Cup will be held next week at Keeneland. (Ron Flatter archive photo)

Las Vegas

The number of horses pre-entered was up 7 percent to 201. The number of foreign horses dropped 8 percent to 39, the fewest in four years.

Credit a move away from the 2019 eggshells at Santa Anita, blame the 2020 blight that is the coronavirus, and then forget all that. These numbers really do not matter in the greater scheme of betting on next week’s Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in Kentucky.

The ones that count are the post-time odds. Yes, post time. Futures odds have limited availability here in the primitive gambling enclave known as the U.S.A. Only the $6 million Classic is available. And only in Nevada. And for now only at Circa Sports, although William Hill may follow suit in the coming days.

Otherwise, clues to the real prices available next week are contained in the futures markets globally. Even then, there may be misleading information. According to Oddschecker.com, one British bookmaker is still offering 25-1 odds in the Classic for Nadal, a horse that has been retired for five months.

Most foreign bookmakers, though, were actually paying attention to the pre-entry announcement Wednesday, and they have adjusted their odds accordingly.

They have also revealed potential value in more than a few races – and not the carrot-on-a-stick value that comes with long shots that may have no shot at winning any of these 14 races that carry purses of at least $1 million each. Look at the ones that have favorites carrying attractively long odds.

Turf Sprint. Just based on the betting trends, this 5½-furlong dash appears to be the most difficult Breeders’ Cup race to gauge next Saturday. The 6-year-old gelding Imprimis snapped a five-race losing streak and won last month’s six-furlong Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs. The 5-year-old Leinster won a pair of Grade 2s in his most recent starts, both over the same course and distance that will host this particular championship. They were sixth and seventh, respectively, in this 2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita. Now they are tepid favorites at odds exceeding 5-1. There are two ways of looking at this. The race is wide open. Or the division is weak. Not that they have to be mutually exclusive.

Mile. Just as racing was finding its footing after a coronavirus suspension in England, a 10-1 long shot won the 2,000 Guineas in England. Now that Kitten’s Joy colt named Kameko is the lukewarm 9-2 favorite to win what appears to be a contentious edition of the Mile. It was at that distance that this 3-year-old won last month’s Group 2 Joel Stakes. But like the Guineas, that was also at Newmarket. Elsewhere he has three out-of-the-money finishes this year in as many other starts. It is also worth noting that last year’s Mile winner Uni is back carrying 6-1 odds and racing for reigning four-time champion trainer Chad Brown. That would be Chad Brown of America, the country that has won this race four of the last five years.

Juvenile Turf. There was not much chance that a story about the Breeders’ Cup was going to go without those Irish words Aidan and O’Brien. His 12 wins are the most for any foreign trainer in the championships, including a record four in the Juvenile Turf. He goes for No. 5 next Friday with Battleground, the 9-2 favorite to win his first time going a mile, which is a furlong more than he went in his last race three months ago. That was a victory over nine rivals in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood. Since Mendelssohn won this race for him in 2017, O’Brien is 0-for-35 in the Breeders’ Cup. Battleground is one of his 10 shippers trying to break that schneid.

Filly & Mare Turf. One of the 4-1 co-favorites – 5-year-old Rushing Fall – has already won a Breeders’ Cup. That was three years ago at Del Mar in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Although Brown has not had her in the championships since, she comes into next weekend on a three-race winning streak, including the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley during the makeshift summer meet at Keeneland. That was at 8½ furlongs on rock hard turf. Next Saturday will be 9½ furlongs on a course likely to be at least a little softer. The Irish filly Tarnawa is the other 4-1 co-favorite. She comes in having closed on bottomless ground this month to raise eyebrows and win the Group 1 Prix de l’Opéra in France. For The Aga Khan to ship her to Kentucky in spite of pandemic red tape says something. His Highness has had only one other Breeders’ Cup starter in the last 10 years.

What do you know? All those tepid favorites are in turf races. At first blush that might make sense, since we are more about finding detergent to get mud stains out of jockey silks, not grass stains. But remember, these global futures may not be influenced so much by American dollars. The value might still be there come post time next week.

Vekoma and Yaupon, each best-priced at 7-2 in the Sprint, are the longest priced dirt favorites in the Breeders’ Cup futures. Conversely, the shortest price among the favorites belongs to Monomoy Girl at 3-2 in the Distaff, although that may be compromised if connections finally decide to send Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver against the girls instead of into the Classic.

Oh, speaking of the Classic, God bless Circa Sports for continuing to pursue the futures market, but I have to admit that the prices are not roping me in. Seeing Tom’s d’Etat at odds of barely 5-1 screams underlay. Does anyone really think the fifth choice in a $6 million race that includes Improbable, Tiz The Law, Authentic and Maximum Security will be 5-1 in the post-time pari-mutuels?

For updates on the futures markets, please refer to my Twitter feed @ronflatter. Otherwise, it is a case of hurrying up and waiting for Monday’s draw at 5 p.m. EDT at BreedersCup.com. Then let the serious handicapping and value search begin.

Ron Flatter’s racing column is available every Friday morning at VSiN.com and more frequently during coverage of big races. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. On the current episode the Breeders’ Cup gets an early preview. 1/ST BET’s Jeremy Plonk offers his first impressions of the fields for the 14 races. Trainer Al Stall Jr. discusses his Classic contender Tom’s d’Etat. Plus highlights will be featured to commemorate the third anniversary of the podcast. On Wednesday the Breeders’ Cup handicappers episode of the RFRP will feature Las Vegas bookmakers and horseplayers Chris Andrews, Johnny Avello, Duane Colucci and Vinny Magliulo previewing all 14 championships. The RFRP is available at Apple, Google, iHeart, Spotify, Stitcher and VSiN.com/podcasts. It is sponsored by 1/ST BET.

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