Breeders’ Cup Best Score: Picking Your Spots
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

In honor of this year’s Breeders’ Cup video series, 30 Scores in 30 Years, we’re sharing our Breeders’ Cup Best Scores to help you get in the mood to score your own this November. Big race days can mean big payouts, and we hope that your biggest and best score is yet to come!

Contributing editor Kevin Martin, author of our regular features Ten Things You Should Know and The Month Ahead, offers this week’s story. Not only does he make a very nice score, he applies a valuable lesson of wagering strategy: Pick your spots based on your strongest opinions versus spreading yourself too thin. This is especially helpful advice for the Breeders’ Cup!

My biggest Breeders’ Cup score came in the 2008 edition at Santa Anita Park. In retrospect, it seemed all too easy. After failing miserably with far too many Pick 3 tickets in the 2007 BC at Monmouth, I decided to simplify my approach in 2008 and attack sequences in which I had the strongest opinions, instead of stretching myself thin by playing too many races.

In 2008, the Dirt Mile and Mile were run as the third and fourth races on Saturday’s BC card. In the Mile, there were two horses that stood out as the two most likely winners: Goldikova and Kip Deville. While Kip Deville had run poorly in his last start before that year’s BC, he had proven himself as the best North American-based horse at a mile over the turf. Goldikova had won back-to-back Group 1 races in France at one mile and looked like a superstar in the making. While they would likely be the top two betting choices, they seemed the most logical winners and a solid base on which to build a Pick 3 ticket.

In the Dirt Mile, Well Armed, coming off a Grade 1 win in the Goodwood at Santa Anita, was going to be the favorite. Albertus Maximus had run well in the Goodwood when he ran wide but finished a hard-charging third to Well Armed. With experience over the track and the possibility of improvement, I thought he seemed the lone alternative to beat the favorite. The remainder of the field, including the overrated Lewis Michael, all seemed a tier below my top two in my opinion.

With a strong opinion in both of the mile races, it was a matter of figuring out how to build a ticket around those selections. The 2008 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, the race before the two mile races, was the first ever edition of the race and the second race on the Saturday BC card. I hated the idea of a turf sprint in the Breeders’ Cup, but that didn’t stop me from getting a bit excited when I sensed the possibility of chaos in the result. With just two picks in each of the two races that followed the Turf Sprint, I knew I could go deep in the race and still keep the ticket affordable.

I started by including the three European-based runners — Diabolical, Fleeting Spirit, and Only Answer — a strategy that has worked well for me in all BC turf races. I also included every horse that had experience running over the unique turf sprint course at Santa Anita. The turf sprint races there are run on a course with a downhill grade, a right turn, and section of the track where the horses cross over the track’s dirt course. With my picks in the turf sprint, I had nine of the 14 race entries on my ticket. It included the post-time favorite, Fleeting Spirit, a Group 1 winner at the prestigious Newmarket meeting in England, and the longest shot on the board, Desert Code, a graded stakes winner over the downhill turf course at Santa Anita the previous year. The total cost of the Pick 3 ticket for one dollar was $36.

The result of the first leg couldn’t have gone any better:


Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup

Desert Code at 37-1 caught the 5-1 Diabolical to make my ticket a big-score possibility.

With the big number on the board, now I had to sweat out the final two legs and hope for logical results with just two selections in each of the next two races. Albertus Maximus, my only alternative to the even-money favorite Well Armed, won at odds of 6-1. My chance for a big score, even with two potentially heavy favorites in the final leg, got even better.


Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup

Goldikova and Kip Deville were the top two betting choices in the BC Turf Mile and it was hard not to feel confident as the gates opened:


Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup

With both of my picks near the front of the pack throughout, it was a thrilling 1:33. Goldikova crossed the line first and Kip Deville finished second.

The payout on my $36 investment: $1,181.90. A big score indeed!

What was your Breeders’ Cup Best Score? Share your bragging rights in the comments!

Watch this week’s E Train installment of 30 Scores in 30 Years

Want to get your game together to ensure you’re primed and ready to hit your own Breeders’ Cup Best Score?
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