It has been said the morning line is worth every cent put into it. A polite way of describing it is worthless. For serious handicappers who weigh equine past performances with human betting trends, it may mean less than that.
But for us mere mortals, it can be the prism through which bargains are separated from underlays. That may be especially true Friday at the 38th Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar.
That is in no small way because Jon White wrote the morning line. There are a few really good handicappers who have a good sense of how the public is going to bet. He is one of them. Ask anyone who has dared to question his estimates. Yes, my hand is raised. It is the hand that was smacked when it pushed in money on a horse that should have gone off at longer odds. Except White, who has been around the game for decades in Southern California, knew better.
One good place to apply his knowledge is in the futures market, which finally landed on U.S. soil Monday. That was when Paul Zilm, writing for Circa Sports, opened fixed odds for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Yes, we in America host all 14 of these races. But we in America have yet to catch up with offshore and overseas bookmakers who have been writing prices for all the Breeders’ Cup championships for weeks. This will change when U.S. sports gambling finds its way out of the steam-locomotive era.
Here is how the odds compare and contrast among the morning line, Circa Sports and a global site outside the U.S.:
ML Circa Global
15-1 20-1 20-1 1. Tripoli
20-1 23-1 40-1 2. Express Train
4-1 5-1 5-1 3. Hot Rod Charlie
3-1 3-1 3-1 4. Essential Quality
5-2 5-2 9-4 5. Knicks Go
8-1 10-1 9-1 6. Art Collector
30-1 35-1 66-1 7. Stilleto Boy
4-1 6-1 5-1 8. Medina Spirit
8-1 10-1 9-1 9. Max Player
For the most part, Circa odds are better than the morning line. Unlike White, who must bow to the requirements of pari-mutuel mathematics, Zilm could be more generous with his opening odds. At least he could for the long shots.
Brad Cox stablemates Knicks Go and Essential Quality will be the top choices at the track, and they carry short prices at Circa. There really is not much point in getting down on Knicks Go at + 260 or Essential Quality at + 300 when they will go off around those prices on race day.
But cases can be made for the rest of the field, provided horseplayers want to take their chances. The arguments against that include the fact that Knicks Go possesses early speed that is more often than not rewarded in California. He is also 7-for-7 going two turns. And except for the merry-go-round quirk of the Kentucky Derby, Essential Quality would be undefeated. As it is, he has impressed with victories in the Belmont and Travers stakes.
But back to the world outside the Cox stable. Hot Rod Charlie impressed in the Belmont, too, going eyeball to eyeball with Essential Quality in a race that went 1½ miles, or a quarter-mile more than Saturday’s $6 million Classic. He might have been the best horse in the Haskell even though he was disqualified. Then he got his overdue Grade 1 score Sept. 25 in the Pennsylvania Derby. If there is belief Hot Rod Charlie will win this race, 5-1 looks like a decent overlay.
Medina Spirit, who has become an unwitting poster child for all that ails the sport and trainer Bob Baffert, is still the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner. Men and women in robes may rule otherwise one day. They cannot, however, make anyone forget what he did May 1 at Churchill Downs. That was to get a loose lead under John Velazquez and never get caught. The chances of that happening against Knicks Go seem slim, but 6-1 does not feel like such a bargain for him.
That 10-1 price for Art Collector is another story. This is a horse that, at 4, looks the part of a colt who is a little older and a lot stronger. He may have exceeded expectations going 3-for-3 since he was transferred from Tommy Drury to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Most recently he won last month’s Woodward at Belmont Park. In an interview for Friday’s episode of the Ron Flatter Racing Pod, Mott was quick to point out that this is a horse used to being on a winning streak.
“Tommy did a great job with him,” Mott said. “He reeled off four wins in a row last year and proved to be a very nice horse. He was in good shape when we got him, and we just picked up where he left off.”
Anyone thinking the real Max Player is finally standing up would be eager to cash in on his 10-1 odds at Circa. After finishing out of the money in the 2020 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and flattening in this year’s Saudi Cup and Pimlico Special, the 4-year-old colt who went from Linda Rice to the barn of Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen won the Suburban and then the Jockey Club Gold Cup. The big problem he has Saturday is that he drew widest in the field of nine.
The option of fixed odds does not end with the win pool. As it has since it got into racing futures 1½ years ago, Circa has also posted prices to lay in betting against the Classic horses. These are the “no” prices:
–3500 1. Tripoli
–3900 2. Express Train
–690 3. Hot Rod Charlie
–380 4. Essential Quality
–330 5. Knicks Go
–1600 6. Art Collector
–6000 7. Stilleto Boy
–840 8. Medina Spirit
–1600 9. Max Player
Since Circa encourages multisport parlays, these may be just what football bettors are looking for to try to pad their winnings betting a side or a total.
The fixed odds offered by Circa — and, of course, in the risky climate of global books — are a preview of the brave new world into which horseplayers and sports bettors are venturing. When it comes to the new normal, it will be a welcome change.
In addition to this weekly report, Ron Flatter’s racing column is available every Friday at VSiN.com with more frequent articles this week during the Breeders’ Cup. The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is also available at VSiN.com/podcasts. This week features a pop-up episode being posted Wednesday afternoon with Las Vegas bookmakers Chris Andrews, Johnny Avello and Duane Colucci handicapping all 14 championship races. Friday’s regular episode features jockey Mike Smith, trainers Chad Brown, Brad Cox and Bill Mott, XBTV’s Zoe Cadman and Jeff Siegel and Racing with Bruno analyst Bruno De Julio. The RFRP is available for free subscription at iHeart, Apple, Google, Spotify and Stitcher. It is sponsored by 1/ST BET.