The Breeders' Cup Mile is my favorite race of the year. The field is usually full, the horses generally look even on paper and the public almost always highlights a horse that has little chance.
In general there is a lack of appreciation for how specialized a flat mile on grass really is. Is it really that much different from 1 1/16 miles? Or 7 furlongs?
The stats suggest that it is.
From 1996 to the present horses who have not only won at a mile but have also been at their best over a mile have had a distinct advantage in terms of results. During that stated period horses without a win at 8f on the grass went 37-0-2-0 in the Mile. It seems pretty obvious to key horses who have actually won at the conditions but surprisingly horses like Nobiz Like Showbiz, Middlesex Drive and Geri were all well backed and failed to win. Many of these horses even ran good races because they were in top form but they were done in by specialists. Those figures also include North Americans who failed to win a mile turf race around two turns during years when the BC Mile was contested at those conditions. Woodbine and Belmont's outer Turf course are both one turn miles.
If you use speed figures to determine a horses preference you'll find that those who did not achieve their highest career Beyer Figure or Racing Post Rating in an 8f turf race went 63-1-4-2 in the Breeders' Cup. The last horse to buck the trend was Da Hoss in 1996. His highest career figure was achieved in a 8.5f race.
If you isolated only the horses who had both won at 8f on the Turf and had run their highest career figure at the same distance you would have bet on 84 entrants that compiled a record of 84-11-7-10 and returned $252.80. That means you could have turned a profit of $84.80 or 50.48% just from focusing on the horses who specialized at the given surface and distance.
It's extremely simple but it works year after year. Horses like Peace Rules, Nobiz Like Showbiz, King Cugat, Special Ring, Beat Hollow and Nothing To Lose were all high quality animals and they attract the public money but they weren't mile specialists and they were always up against it when facing true milers.