• Is handicapping Breeders' Cup more like Christmas or Hanukkah?

    POSTED Oct 23, 2012
    By this time tomorrow (i.e., Wednesday afternoon), we'll know which owners pre-entered their horses in what races, and preparation can begin in earnest for the Breeders' Cup World Championships November 2-3 at Santa Anita Park, and the $120-million up for grabs to bettors (assuming $150-million in handle with a blended take out of 20%).

    For many fans, preparation began long ago, of course with the watching, talking about, and re-watching of countless "prep" races during the summer and fall leading up to the 15 World Championships races, but regardless, there is something definitive about the release of pre-entries. It's a line in the sand, or as one colleague put it earlier this year regarding Arlington International Festival of Racing pre-entries, "From here on out, there are only subtractions."

    One of the key pieces of information revealed along with the pre entries is the order of races. As a bettor who highly favors multi-race wagers, race order is important to me and definitely impacts my two-day strategy.

    Some have called the night before pre-entries Christmas Eve, but I see it more like Hanukkah because each of the next eight days will bring new handicapping insights: PPs, analysis of international runners, final workouts, full-card PPs, Spotlight Selections, workout reports, etc.

    As with any big event--and particularly the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup--information overload is a legitimate concern. I'm mostly (along with Jim Steinman) in the "too much is never enough" camp, but I also subscribe to the "think long, think wrong" theory, meaning balancing all the information with what to use and how to use it is delicate.

    My experience watching the prep races as well as reading the past performances (and associated data that comes out with it like pace and speed figures) is enough to answer an important question: Who can't win?

    From there, it's a matter classifying a horse's chances and what role I expect that horse to play in my wagering based on his/her chances of winning & odds relative to that chance. 

    On one hand, I try to avoid going into handicapping these races with preconceived notions of the best horses or who might offer value, but on the other hand, I watch a lot of races, and it'd be foolish not to rely on that experience.
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