Fifteen races, 180 horses, including 29 international entrants and eight defending or returning Eclipse and/or Breeders’ Cup titlists will vie for this year’s top honors. And, yes, $25 million in purses, too.
The Kentucky Derby is America’s greatest race but the Breeders’ Cup is its greatest event as the organization gets to play host to the world.
And let's not forget that it's also America’s greatest two days of horse race wagering.
Not surprisingly, exotic and super-exotic wagers have led the growth due to the advent of multi-race wagers, fractional wagering and the consolidation of a dozen common off-track/advance deposit wagering pools into one.
Further, these factors have resulted in a shift in wagering tacks. When the Breeders’ Cup had its inaugural running in 1984, seven of every 10 dollars wagered were in the straight and exacta pools.
The Pick 4, which debuted at the Breeders’ Cup, did not exist 28 years ago. The same is true of superfectas, rolling Pick 3s and fractional wagers.
Today, almost half the money wagered is in the super-exotics, some of which are seeded with the promise of “guaranteed” money. There will be two $1 million Guaranteed pools on Friday, the Pick 6 and Pick 4.
On Saturday, there will be a $1 million guaranteed early Pick 4 and $2 million guarantees each for the Pick 6 and late Pick 4.
Last year, several Breeders’ Cup super-exotics yielded boxcar payoffs, a 50-Cent Pick 5 worth over $71,000, a Pick 4 of nearly $47,000, and a Friday $2 Pick 6 payoff that returned almost $445,000. The average Dime Super paid over $1,100.
Is there any question that betting dollars will continue to shift into low-cost, high-risk/ high-reward super-exotic pools?
To Lasix, Or Not to Lasix, That Is the Million-Dollar Question
There will be many stories written in the run-up to Breeders’ Cup XXIX to the effect that the Lasix ban in five races for juveniles will result in a parimutuel hit to some extent, how much is anyone’s guess.
Further, no one knows how young horses racing on Lasix will react to the withdrawal of the medication. The subject came up on the NTRA National Breeders’ Cup Conference call featuring a Who’s Who of American horsemen.
“This is uncharted territory,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, whose success is very closely linked to his work with two-year-olds.
“If they haven’t bled before in any of their races, I don’t anticipate any problems. I’m hoping that because they’re younger, have had less stressful races [will mitigate some of that concern].
“One concern in general is for the betting public. As an industry we have to look very closely [at the Lasix issue]. I’ve been fairly vocal on this, I’m pro-Lasix.
“[The juvenile races] will be of some concern. Hopefully all the horses wil race up to their standards.”
Mike Repole, one of Pletcher’s significant clients, will not ship his two-year-olds citing the Lasix ban. So Many Ways, a leading juvenile filly, will also skip the event, preferring to “do the best thing for their horse.”
Indeed, the Juvenile Fillies only attracted a pre-entered field of nine, the lowest in history. Half of the 10-horse Juvenile Sprint field is fillies, preferring to tackle colts than race around two turns Lasix-free.
The notion that Lasix is a factor in the juvenile dirt races is borne out by the fact that the Juvenile Turf drew a pre-entered field of 19 and the Juvenile Fillies Turf had 18 pre-entered runners.
Many in those oversubscribed races are Europeans, where Lasix is not permitted on raceday. Another bearing is that turf racing is considered by horsemen to be less stressful that running on dirt.
Advantage Europeans? “I don’t know if they have an advantage,” said Pletcher. “You have to respect European turf runners wherever you meet them but I wouldn’t say [Europeans] have an advantage because of the Lasix issue.”
Graham Motion, who will saddle returning Kentucky Derby champion in Saturday’s Mike against some of the best turf milers in the world, will tack up Kitten’s Point in Friday’s Juvenile Fillies Turf.
After breaking maiden over Presque Isle’s Tapeta surface, she finished second by a nose in the Grade 3 Jessamine at Keeneland, eschewing Lasix for both starts.
“Mr. [George] Strawbridge is one of those owners who pledged not to run his juveniles on Lasix,” Motion said.
“Are we at a disadvantage? We’ll be on the same playing field Breeders’ Cup day.
“I’m a little disappointed that two more fillies came out of the Juvenile [due to the Lasix ban]. I think it’s short-sighted, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.”
Spoken like a man who’s confident in his horsemanship.