2017 Breeders Cup Classic: Early Odds and Predictions
Published on September 11, 2017
Though the Kentucky Derby may be more popular among casual horse racing enthusiasts, those who know Thoroughbreds best consider the Breeders’ Cup Classic to be the crown jewel of their sport.
Past champions of the annual 1 ¼ mile race for thoroughbreds age 3 and up include such legends as Cigar and Zenyatta. More recently, American Pharaoh became the first-ever horse to claim the grand slam (all 3 Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic when he won at Keeneland in 2015.
Not that the best horse always wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In fact, the race is known for its unpredictable nature, thanks to the stellar pedigree of horses it always attracts. Over the past 6 years, champions have paid final-odds prices as high as 6.10 (Bayern, 2014), 9.40 (Fort Larned, 2012) and 14.80 (Drosselmeyer, 2011). In 2013, 1.70-favorite Game On Dude finished ninth. And in 1993, Arcangues stunned the horse-racing world by winning as a 99:1 longshot, a victory that remains the biggest upset in Breeders’ Cup Classic history.
Other than American Pharaoh two years ago, no favorite has won the Breeders’ Cup Classic since Zenyatta in 2010. Last year, Arrogate pulled off a mild upset of California Chrome, passing the even-money favorite down the stretch to cash 1.70 tickets for his backers.
So there’s some opportunity to make some money here if we can identify a dark horse that has the potential to be this year’s big surprise. With the 2017 race at Del Mar less than 2 months away, let’s survey the current odds, assess the favorites as well as a few sleepers, and come up with a betting prediction.
Oddsmakers consider the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic to essentially be a 4-horse race.
Gun Runner is the favorite at a bit less than 3 times your money, with Arrogate the only other horse paying less than +400 return. Collected and West Coast round out the top 4 contenders as the only other 2 horses paying less than +1600.
Here’s a look at the latest odds, courtesy of Bovada(as of 9/21/17):
The 4-year-old chestnut colt will go into the Breeders’ Cup Classic with plenty of momentum, claiming the Woodward Stakes on September 2 in his final race before the Classic.
It was Gun Runner’s third straight Grade 1 victory and fifth in six starts, helping him surpass Arrogate as the Breeders’ Cup Classic favorite. And Gun Runner doesn’t usually fall short of expectations, having won all 6 races that he’s gone to post as the favorite.
“(The Classic) is why he is in training this year, and that has been the goal and continues to be the goal,” said Gun Runner’s trainer, Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen.
The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion looks to become just the second repeat winner in Classic history, and first since Tiznow accomplished the feat in 2000-01.
Though Arrogate was named the World’s Best Racehorse last season and is the all-time leading money earner among North American thoroughbreds, his recent performances have left a bit to be desired. After winning the first four Grade 1 races of his career, Arrogate stumbled to a fourth-place finish at the San Diego Handicap in July, then was second at last month’s Pacific Classic.
For what it’s worth, both of those races took place at California’s Del Mar, the host of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. Arrogate is obviously familiar with the track (he also won an Allowance grade race there last August), but he doesn’t seem to enjoy it.
Collected tuned up for the Breeders’ Cup Classic by beating out stablemate Arrogate to win the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in the first 1 ¼ mile race of his career.
His emergence as a Breeders’ Cup Classic contender shouldn’t be a surprise. Collected is trained by legendary Bob Baffert, who also developed Arrogate and has produced 12 Triple Crown event champions in his career. And Collected has shown himself to be very consistent, winning his last 4 races and 6 of 7 while placing in the top 4 in 9 of his last 10 outings.
The only concern I have about this 3-year-old’s potential at the Breeders’ Cup Classic is how he’ll react to a trip across the pond.
If it doesn’t bother him too much, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the Irish thoroughbred, who was rated the best 2-year-old colt in Europe last year. He won 5 of his 6 races in 2016 and has also enjoyed a successful 2017 campaign, delivering as favorite at a pair of 2000 Guineas races before finishing second against older competition in his most recent outing, the International Stakes at York Racehouse.
There’s a lot of concern about Always Dreaming’s recent form, which has opened up a ton of value on the 2017 Kentucky Derby champion.
Following his Derby victory, Always Dreaming finished eighth at the Preakness Stakes, causing his management to skip the Belmont and prepare for the rest of the racing season. He returned in late July to finish third at the Jim Dandy Stakes, then finished ninth at the Travers. At that point, trainer Todd Pletcher sent him to a Kentucky farm to get a physical examination, followed by another break.
However, if Always Dreaming lines up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, we have to believe his owners feel he’s healthy and ready to go. And if that’s the case, he’s already shown the horse racing world what he’s capable of.
As I mentioned in the introduction, it doesn’t usually pay off to take the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. There’s simply too much depth in the field to rely on the top-rated horse getting you a victorious trip to the betting window.
Things can change over the next two months as we get a better sense of the form these horses are in going into the Classic.
To me, he’s got as good a chance as any to be first across the finish line, and his history of consistency also makes him look like a solid choice to place or show.