Last week, in my series on handicapping the ponies, I explained how to play the Pick 4 and looked at when and when not to go after what is essentially a four-race parlay.
Now let’s put that knowledge to use and form a wager for this year’s Breeder’s Cup. The Pick 4 leading into Saturday’s Classic has a guaranteed pot of at least $3 million. The first event in the sequence, Race 9, begins at 6:22 p.m. Eastern Time. Here’s how I’m going to attack the quartet.
This mile-and-a-half turf test has been dominated by European horses over the years. Owner Michael Tabor and trainer Aidan O’Brien ship two horses to California for the race, defending champ and Arc de Triomphe winner Found (#10) and Arc runner-up Highland Reel (#12). Both are 3/1 on the morning line after running first and second in the biggest turf race in the world.
After winning at the Arc (October 2), Found raced again at Royal Ascot (October 15), the classiest track on the globe, finishing second. But don’t worry too much about fatigue; she won this race last year after a ninth-place finish at the Arc and a runner up at Ascot. Though her win at the Arc was just her second in eight races this year.
Highland Reel won his only race to date in the U.S., Arlington Park’s Secretariat Stakes in 2015. His runner-up finish at the Arc was a bit of a surprise; he was 24/1 going in, having won just one heat this year.
British import Flintshire (#4; morning line: 5/2) is the morning-line favorite after putting together three tremendous showings in the U.S. at the start of the year. However, he finished a well-beaten second in a four-horse field in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic a month ago. Reasons for optimism at the Breeder’s Cup? The conditions were yielding at Hirsch and the turf should be firm on Saturday. He has eight career turf wins on his resume and two runner-up finishes at the Arc; plus he finished second in this race in 2014.
Ectot (#3; morning line: 8/1) beat Flintshire last time out and has had success running in second-tier events in Europe. He finished 17th in the 2014 Arc.
Lightly raced three year old Ulysses (#7; morning line: 8/1) is a complete wild card for veteran conditioner Sir Michael Stoute. This is his U.S. debut after winning twice in six races in Great Britain. His competition was solid but not spectacular.
Mondialiste (#6; morning line: 15/1) is won two of his four races in North America, but only three of 18 in Europe. He finished second in last years Breeders’ Cup Mile when he was 17/1, won the Arlington Million in August, and then got time off to rest before a fourth-place finish (in a glorified workout) early last month at Keeneland.
Money Multiplier (#9; morning line: 20/1) got off to an awkward start, finishing third behind Ectot and Flintshire last time out. He was a strong second to Flintshire two races back and encountered trouble in the stretch during that race.
A: Flintshire (#4), Found (#10), Highland Reel (#12)
C: Ectot (#3), Mondialiste (#6), Ulysses (#7), Money Multiplier (#9)
This is a key race in the sequence and how you play it depends to a great degree on budget and betting strategy. There is no question that the seven-furlong sprint for girls is wide open. Covering a bunch of horses to make sure we move on in the Pick 4 is essential. How to go about doing that is the major decision.
In a dream world, we’d have several A choices, along with secondary and tertiary backups. However, taking our best shot at who the best horse is and making that one the lone A is a realistic strategy. We’ll also elevate some horses that ordinarily profile as Cs to our B tier, essentially saying that our conviction in this leg is weak, and we want to have the best chance possible of getting at least a B so that we aren’t dependent on three As to cash a ticket.
The major prep race for this one was the Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga (August 7 ). The winner was Haveyougoneaway (#2; morning line: 3/1). She finished half-a-length ahead of By the Moon (#6; morning line: 8/1), and 1.5 lengths clear of Carina Mia (#8; morning line: 7/2). Paulassilverlining (#9; morning line: 10/1) was fifth and Wavell Avenue (#10; morning line: 6/1) finished sixth. Longshot Spelling Again (#13; morning line: 20/1) was seventh, but subsequently has lost twice badly and should not factor in this event.
Haveyougoneaway has won three straight, and five of seven this year. Her last three races have each been steps up in class and she’s improved in each win.
By the Moon was 13/1 in the Ballerina. Her only other races this year were a fourth-place finish behind Paulassilverlining in April and a win against Wavell Avenue in June.
Carina Mia‘s third-place finish is sandwiched in her past performances by runner-up performances against Songbird, the favorite in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Songbird may be the best female horse in the country. If she runs well on Friday, that will be a good indication for Carina Mia.
Paulassilverlining was beaten twice by Haveyougoneaway before beating Wavell Avenue in the mud last month.
Wavell Avenue won this race at 10/1 last year but is just one for six since.
Finest City (#12; morning line: 12/1) ran behind giants Beholder and Stellar Wind prior to two mediocre turf starts that can be thrown out. She doesn’t have marquee wins, but possesses some talent.
In addition to Wavell Avenue, top turf trainer Chad Brown has Irish Jasper (#11; morning line: 10-1). She has rarely raced against, and never beaten, this class of horse.
Tara’s Tango (#3; morning line: 8/1) for veteran trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is probably better equipped for longer races, but is not impossible.
A: Carina Mia (#8)
B: Haveyougoneaway (#2), Tara’s Tango (#3), By the Moon (#6), Paulassilverlining (#9), Wavell Avenue (#10), Finest City (#12)
C: Irish Jasper (#11)
This race profiles well for European invaders, but they haven’t done well in recent history, unlike on the turf. American-based horses have won five straight years, and defending champ Tepin (#8; morning line: 3/1) is the early favorite. She beat the boys last year by more than two lengths. That was a part of eight straight wins including a victory at Ascot in June. Since returning from Europe, she won in Canada, and lost by nearly three lengths when she couldn’t run down loose on the lead winner Photo Call (#6; morning line: 15/1) in the First Lady Stakes at Keeneland.
It is unlikely Photo Call will be ten lengths ahead of everybody in this one, and the Keeneland victory (when she was 30/1) was her first in more than a year.
It is fairly likely that Limato (#10; morning line: 7/1) is the best horse in this bunch, but the gelded four-year-old has never run in America, and more concerning, prefers shorter races. With eight wins in 13 starts, Limato has been the favorite against some of England and France’s best in six straight and nine of the last ten. The only time he finished outside the top-two was in a longer (over seven furlong) race.
Alice Springs (#2; morning line: 4/1) finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last year, her only career race outside of Europe. She has run eight times this year and has three victories. This is her first race against boys.
Three year old filly Spectre (#3; morning line: 20/1) has been running against the boys in ultra classy races in France. However, she’s gone off at least 16/1 in the last three, finishing second, third, and fourth.
In June, Ironicus (#9; morning line: 8/1) was second to Flintshire despite steadying in the stretch at Belmont Park. He returned to get nipped at the wire last month in Kentucky.
Miss Temple City (#4; morning line: 12/1) held off Ironicus at Keeneland, but she seems to always do her best racing in Lexington.
A: Limato (#10)
B: Alice Springs (#2), Spectre (#3), Tepin (#8), Ironicus (#9)
The day (and our Pick 4 ticket) wraps up with the main event, the $6 million mile-and-a-quarter Classic. This is not one of the greatest fields the event has ever drawn. California Chrome (#4; morning line: 1/1) is the favorite. Even on their best day, few of the other horses can compete with the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner. Chrome has won six straight races including the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March.
The second choice on the morning line is Arrogate (#10; morning line: 10/1). The lightly raced three-year-old has won four of five career races. The competition in his second, third, and fourth starts leaves a lot to be desired. However, he won those with ease and then he also took the Travers Stakes (August 27) at Saratoga by 13.5 lengths and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 122, five points better than any race Chrome has ever run. Arrogate has an undesirable outside post position, but could be special. We just don’t know.
The third choice by linemakers, and only other legitimate option, is Frosted (#2; morning line: 5/1). He’s spent significant time running behind Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in his career. While Chrome beat him by more than five lengths in Dubai, Frosted returned to the U.S. and ran a 123 figure at the Met Mile in New York. He followed that up with a win in the Whitney Stakes and a third in the Woodward Stakes, a race where he may not have been fully cranked, saving his energy for this the Classic.
A: California Chrome (#4)
B: Frosted (#2)
C: Arrogate (#10)
Now, thanks to the Daily Racing Form’s Ticketmaker, we can plug the horses in as tiered, indicate how much we want to play them for, and we’ll have our ticket.
Remember: you always want to play your best picks (all As) for more money than your second-best choices (three As and one B), which, in turn, should be bet stronger than your least likely options (two As and two Bs, or three As and one C).
My ticket for the Pick 4 (laid out below) winds up costing $95. That’s slightly higher than most of my Pick 4 wagers, but there are many horses in each of these races and there’s a ton of money in the pot, so I’m willing to put more into my bet.
Feldman’s Pick 4 Ticket:
Bet #1 (all As at $2 per combination): 4, 10, 12 with 8 with 10 with 4 ($6 total bet)
Bet #2 (three A’s and one B at $1 per combination): 4, 10, 12 with 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 12 with 10 with 4 ($18 total bet)
Bet #3 (three As and one B at $1 per combination): 4, 10, 12 with 8 with 2, 3, 8, 9 with 4 ($12 total bet)
Bet #4 (three As and one B at $1 per combination): 4, 10, 12 with 8 with 10 with 2 ($3 total bet)
Bet #5 (two As and two Bs at $0.50 per combination): 4, 10, 12 with 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 12 with 2, 3, 8, 9 with 4 ($36 total bet)
Bet #6 (two As and two Bs at $0.50 per combination): 4,10,12 with 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 12 with 10 with 2 ($9 total bet)
Bet #7 (two As and two Bs at $0.50 per combination): 4, 10, 12 with 8 with 2, 3, 8, 9 with 2 ($6 total bet)
Bet #8 (three As and one C at $0.50 per combination): 3, 6, 7, 9 with 8 with 10 with 4 ($2 total bet)
Bet #9 (three As and one C at $0.50 per combination): 4, 10, 12 with 11 with 10 with 4 ($1.50 total bet)
Bet #10 (three As and one C at $0.50 per combination): 4, 10, 12 with 8 with 10 with 10 ($1.50 total bet)
Photo credit: Lisa Andres [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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