11/05/2009 1:35PM

The BC Jockey Bet


The Breeders' Cup is dipping a toe into proposition wagering this year by offering a new bet on which jockey will win the most Cup races Friday and Saturday. My initial inclination was to dismiss it is a silly distraction, but the wager might be more interesting than it first appears.

One word of warning: The bet won't be available everywhere -- New York, Arizona and a few individual tracks including Canterbury and Emerald Downs won't offer it. Also, especially with the bet having received little publicity and its closing at post time for the Marathon, the pool could be very small and prices skewed.

Here's how it works. You bet on which of 13 pre-selected jockeys, or an "all others" mutuel field that's the 14th and final betting interest, will win the most out of the 14 races over two days. If there's a tie -- let's say three of the 13 selected riders each win two races -- there are no tiebreakers and it pays off as a dead heat.

Here are the "entries" for each of the 14 betting interests this year including the Breeders' Cup's morning- line odds on the proposition. Garrett Gomez, who has a Cup-high 11 mounts (plus one also-eligible) is the 3-1 ML favorite:

(Program betting numbers were assigned at random; it might be better to list the riders alphabetically in the future, the way horses are in prop bets such as the Derby Futures.)

If I could bet into the morning line, I would leave the Empire State and make my biggest bet of the weekend on the mutuel field at 8-1, which I think should be the clear favorite over any of the 13 individual riders. And I'm not just saying that because a surprising 6 of my 14 "picks" are in it. It's a 54-horse entry (50 if you don't count the also-eligibles) with representation in all 14 races, 13 horses at 4-1 or less and four morning-line favorites (Blind Luck, California Flag, Zensational, Goldikova.)

As a group the 13 individual riders rate to win a majority of the races, but the field seems to me to have a better chance of winning more than any one of those 13. You obviously have to win more than one race to be the winner -- the chances of a 14-way tie and a $2.10 minus-pool payoff are astronomical -- and that could be tough for some of the individuals.

Mike Smith, for example, is listed at 12-1 on the strength of riding Zenyatta in the Classic, but even if you love her to win the race, what are the chances of Smith's scoring with any of the six other longshots he's riding? If I were looking for an individual to back, I'd say Ryan Moore at 20-1 is a better bet to win two races than Smith at 12-1, because Conduit will be heavily favored in the Turf and Zacinto is the legitimate second or third choice to Goldikova in the Mile.

"The bet is a way for the Breeders' Cup and racing to extend our efforts into prop bets," said Ken Kirchner, who oversees Cup wagering. " We've done horses with Head2Head, Future Bets, and this is an extension of that.  Why cede this territory to the bookmakers and off-shores?  We don't expect a lot of handle but we want to establish that we can do it."

The bet may at first seem silly if you think of it as wagering on the "best" jockey; this is horse racing. If you think of it as a derivative of the results of those races, it could be a wager that offers some value. To me, 8-1 on the field would be the best bet of the weekend.

[Update 6 pm: For the six commenters who wrote to say that I misunderstood the bet and that ONE rider from the field would have to win the most races: No, it's cumulative for the entire field, which I just verified with Ken Kirchner. If five different jockeys in the field ride one winner each, that's five winners for #14.]