Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Breeders' Cup Focus - Follow The Money

Each weekend from now until the Breeders' Cup we are going to see horses who are prepping for the big event. For some, even though we're 9 weeks away, these will be their last prep races. Knowing what to look for in the preps can go a long way towards finding good BC prospects well before they actually line up.

Many gamblers love the Breeders' Cup because there are so many good horses even the 20/1 shots can be G-1 winners. But outside the big event did you know that odds are actually very good indicators of quality? Handicappers spend so much time trying to find value, which is essentially an anomaly where a horses chances are not accurately reflected by its odds. For the most part the public gets it right.

Did you know that over a sample of 10,000 races horses who are 7/1, which is a 12% chance of winning, win about 12%. Same with horses who are 2/1, 5/1, 20/1 or any other price. If you convert the odds to percentage you'll find that horses at those odds preform in line with what their prices predict. It's pretty amazing actually but the public generally gets it right.

How does this help us in the Breeders' Cup prep races? Well if the tote board generally reflects the quality on hand then we can use it to make some observations and assumptions about the horses.

Some of the biggest trap horses horses in the Breeders Cup are those who were 10/1 or more in their last prep race. Prep races generally have 2 or 3 really quality individuals so if your horse was not less than 10/1 you can assume that the public does not believe it to be a horse of quality. Often in order to get to the Breeders' Cup these 10/1+ shots outperform in their prep by winning or running in the frame. Their record in the Breeders' Cup is not very good. From 1996 to the present horses who were 10/1 or more in their last race went 151-4-6-9 in the BC. Adoration, Thor's Echo, Street Sense and Lahudood were the only exceptions. I know most of them were recent winners but in general this angle will keep you away from scores of wiseguy horses. The most negative subset of these horses are those who won their last prep race at 10/1 or more. They went 42-1-2-3, Lahudood was the only exception. Came Home, River Keen, Kelly's Landing, Riskaverse, Wicked Style and Stormello were among the horses you could have avoided.

Excluded in these numbers are horses who came directly from the Arc. That is a championship event in its own right so the odds are skewed upwards.

So if there isn't great value in playing last out longshots where do we find it? Well if the tote board can identify horses who may not belong it can also identify horses of real quality.

Keep an eye on the favorites of each of the major prep races and especially watch the ones who lose. Favorites who win prep races are often favorites again on Breeders' Cup day. Favorites who lose prep races can sometimes be written off but they are still horses of quality.

Using data from 1996 to the present if you had bet on any failed favorite returning to the BC you would have made an astonishing 110.39% ROI. There are three small refining factors with this play and they are that the favorite must be returning at similar surface and distance in the BC. If a classic contender was the favorite in a 8f Turf race last time the form does not necessarily translate. So they must be returning on the same surface and the same distance category (ie sprint or route) Also since this is aimed at finding value the horse cannot be favored in the Breeders' Cup race. And finally I'd require the the favorite still finished second or third in their last prep. You don't want a horse that is woefully out of form.

Horses that fit this criteria are 103-15-12-11 in the BC since 1996 and as I mentioned, betting on them would have netted a tidy 110.39 ROI. Winners like Artie Schiller, Singletary, Volponi, Tempera, Tiznow, Cat Theif and Alphabet Soup all fit the mold. In the 2007 Breeders' Cup there were three horses you would have used: Ginger Punch, Octave and Lawyer Ron. Obviously Lawyer Ron failed to bounce back to form but Ginger Punch paid $11.00 to win and Octave ran a hard closing third behind her.

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