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Breeders’ Cup Classic Preview – Betting Tips

The Five Million Dollar Breeders’ Cup Classic is Saturday.  Joe Bianchino gives you a quick look at each horse in the field and offers his preview of the richest race in North America.

Andy Lyons, Getty Images

A 14-race crescendo of championships won and bank accounts drained climaxes with the  mile and a quarter Breeders’ Cup Classic.  Twelve will take to the starting gate on Saturday, headlined by Bob Baffert’s even money favorite Game on Dude.  He’s a just favorite, with four wins in 2012 and an undefeated record from the dirt at Santa Anita.  The 9/5 price seems a bit extreme for me, however, as the field is packed with class – so much so that the Jim Dandy-Travers double winner, Alpha, isn’t expected to sniff the win, listed at 20/1 on the morning line.

1 – Pool Play – 30/1: At seven years old he’s tied for the oldest of the twelve competitors, and I wouldn’t expect a recapturing of youth, here.  A win in his last outing gives hope, but he’s just not the quality of the others.

2 – Flat Out – 5/1: Thanks to an impressive Jockey Club Gold Cup, this Bill Mott entry comes in boasting the highest last race speed rating, and though he doesn’t have the win numbers his competitors do, his mid pack running style could help him close on a hot pace.

3 – Alpha – 20/1: After a brilliant summer at Saratoga, Kiaran McLaughlin’s colt finished a disappointing sixth his last time out in what many think is a sign of things to come.  Expect him near the lead at the start, but toward the back at the end.

4 – Fort Larned – 5/1: Ian Wilkes’ four year-old was a bit of a surprise winner of the Whitney, but should get more attention, here.  Though he comes in off a loss, he should sit just off pace and be live as the field turns for home.

5- Game on Dude – 9/5: As I mentioned above, he’s five-for-five from Santa Anita and has romped home to a win in three of his last four.  He’ll be on or close to lead, but pressed, so I wouldn’t expect the same type of runaway win.

6 – Brilliant Speed – 20/1: His last win came in 2011.  You’d be far from brilliant to play him here.  See what I did there?

7 – Handsome Mike – 30/1: He’s had more trainers than he’s had wins in the last twelve months, and while that’s not exactly a stunning piece of empirical piece of evidence…it can’t be good.

8 – Nonios – 20/1: After a second place finish in the Haskell, Nonios was pegged a “wise guy” pick for the Travers, but disappointment was the order of the day in August, and I expect it to be here.  He’s a live long-shot – I couldn’t fault you for taking a flyer on him – but I think the Jerry Hollendorfer colt is outclassed.

9 – Richard’s Kid – 12/1: The second old man of the race, this horse is another whose had more trainers than wins in 2012.  Again, not sure what that means, but I know it’s not a positive.

10 – Ron the Greek – 6/1: Bill Mott’s one0time Whitney favorite is a solid option here.  He’ll settle toward the back of the pack and use every inch of that mile and a quarter to claim the win, but relying on what I expect to be a solid pace, his chances could be worse.   In his last ten he’s collected four wins and four places, so he should certainly not be overlooked.

11 – Mucho Macho Man – 8/1: I don’t know how many times this colt’s size and strength can trick me into favoring him only to have me come up disappointed, but, apparently, it’s a lot.  It happened thrice in the 2011 Triple Crown and another time this summer when he was beaten by a neck in the Woodward.  Still, perhaps he deserves one more look. He’ll be forwardly placed, and the question will be whether or not he’ll be able to hang on.

12 – To Honor and Serve – 8/1: This final Bill Mott entry is the one who beat Mucho Macho Man in the Woodward. He’ll be a live shot on Saturday but one I’d look to play only if his odds drift above 8/1. I may be off base, but I just don’t think – with only one win in his last four – that he’s the class of the race’s other top contenders.

Race Preview: When the field is sent on their way, expect Alpha, Game on Dude and Mucho Macho Man to break together and head into the first turn separated by necks and noses for the early lead.  Down the backstretch they’ll be pressured considerably by a triumvirate including Fort Larned, Handsome Mike, and To Honor and Serve. Flat out will lead the next group, with Ron the Greek likely the last of them all.

As the field hits to the top of the second turn, expect Game on Dude to make his move for the lead and be followed by Mucho Macho Man – the pair leaving Alpha in their wake and taking the field toward the top of the stretch.  Before they get there however,  Fort Larned will kick into gear to join the leaders, with late chargers Nonios and Ron the Greek dialing up their runs to pull alongside To Honor and Serve.

When they finally do strike the top of the stretch, four will emerge atop a furious battle: Game on Dude, Mucho Macho Man, Fort Larned, and Ron the Greek. Having gone to that well and come up dry too often, I expect Mucho Macho Man to fall away leaving Game on Dude to try and hold off the chargers of Fort Larned and Ron the Greek.

The pace will prove crucial in determining which of the three hits the wire first.  A relaxed pace gift wraps the Classic for Game on Dude, a quick pace gives Fort Larned a great chance, and if the leaders – pressured by those behind them – engaged at the race’s start, Ron the Greek will bound home to the win.

As for a final prediction, it’s hard to go away from Game on Dude’s Santa Anita record, so I won’t – he is without a doubt the most likely here.  But given what I perceive as an over-zealous price, however, the Baffert trainee won’t be the one on my betting stubs.  Instead, I’ll chose Fort Larned to sit just off the pace and run home to another upset.

What to Bet: In addition, I’ll likely play a combination of trifectas and exactas with the three mentioned above. Flat Out could pull off a similar run to that which I attributed to Fort Larned, so his name shouldn’t be left out.  Neither should that of Mucho Macho Man, who may, finally, get the win he’s denied me before.  To Honor and Serve could prove a worthwhile long-shot if his odds creep, but I’d point to either Alpha or Nonios as the best long-odd plays here.  All told, I’ll heavily play a 3-4-10 Exacta with smaller plays making use of the 2 and 11.

Follow me on twitter as I live-tweet betting advice and reaction throughout Breeders’ Cup weekend. Good luck! Cash early and often!

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