10/18/2012 5:17PM

Byron King: You can bet the Dude - and other Breeders' Cup thoughts

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Game On Dude's only two losses this year came on synthetic surfaces.

Next week handicappers everywhere will be poring over the Breeders’ Cup pre-entries and early past performances, forming opinions and starting to build cases for horses they like.

I don’t feel like waiting. Having already perused past performances and race videos of many leading contenders, here are some of my thoughts on some of the Breeders’ Cup races with just two weeks to go before the two big days on Nov. 2-3.

◗ If Game On Dude is only a tepid favorite in the Classic, as some expect, bet him with confidence. He lays over the prospective lineup, having compiled a 4 for 6 record this year, with his only defeats coming on synthetic surfaces.

He’s also consistently the fastest horse, averaging a 109 Beyer Speed Figure over his last three starts. Plus, he adores the Santa Anita main track, and has trainer Bob Baffert and now jockey Rafael Bejarano in his corner.

In contrast, Flat Out, the Jockey Club Gold Cup winner and a horse many believe will be the second choice, is a bet against. A late runner, his best races have come at Belmont Park, and shifting to a new surface and shipping west, regression seems likely.

◗ The ban on Lasix for this year’s five Breeders’ Cup races for 2-year-olds adds an unknown variable for those contests, and could add a element of surprise to the results.

This is not to suggest that the horses who have shown good form with the medication are dependent on it to run well. Rather, if the medication is indeed successful at limiting respiratory bleeding – and widespread veterinary studies suggest it does – there seems a greater likelihood that a few horses could bleed without it and not run to form.

My plan will therefore to be to balk at accepting short prices in these races and go deeper than usual in gimmick wagers involving such contests.

Suffice to say I’ll be wagering on these races with less confidence.

◗ Although rarely does one Breeders’ Cup race shine above all others, the Ladies’ Classic clearly does this year.

Last year’s winner, Royal Delta, leads a prospective lineup that includes Awesome Feather, herself a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner in 2010 who is unbeaten in 10 starts. And then you have strength in the 3-year-division, with Questing, Grace Hall, and My Miss Aurelia adding yet more talent to the field.

Though not the most likely winner, I’m intrigued by the potential value of supporting front-running Questing, who might slip through the wagering cracks, despite having won the Alabama and CCA Oaks in the second half of the year.

◗ As riveting as the Ladies’ Classic figures to be, the Marathon, as usual, looks like a good time to catch a Breeders’ Cup meal or beverage break. Along with the Juvenile Sprint, it’s a race short on quality for a Breeders’ Cup race.

When a horse like Worth Repeating, a former claimer with earnings of less than $100,000 this year, is the probable favorite, it’s clear the race is not up to Breeders’ Cup snuff.

When it comes to the Marathon, the races are usually forgettable. If I had to guess, I’d say more people remember the post-Marathon brawl between jockey Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano a couple years ago than they recall any individual race winner.

The Juvenile Sprint isn’t much different, being a consolation prize to the Juvenile. And with both races carrying a $500,000 purse, the Breeders’ Cup could better allocate those funds elsewhere, rather than toss money into substandard Breeders’ Cup events.

◗ Europeans, as usual, will be formidable in the grass races on the two Breeders’ Cup days, but I won’t be backing those at short prices. Instead, it will be the price ones on which I’ll take some stabs.

Determining which Europeans are going to adapt successfully to American racing is like predicting which racehorses are going to excel at stud. There is an element of randomness.

Turf racing in the U.S. is so different than overseas: from the need for a sharper start, to the tighter turns, to the pace, and lastly to the firmer going. And predicting which horses will adapt best is guesswork.

That is not to criticize the Europeans. Their talent level exceeds those of our top turf horses. It’s simply a risk vs. reward issue.

Given the obstacles facing them, particularly for one just shipping over to race, I’d just rather take a pricier Euro than a short-priced one, even if its form isn’t as flashy.

chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Hello Byron... YOU can bet the Dude.
denali1 More than 1 year ago
I really haven't handicapped any of the races but Game On Dude is one tough s.o.b and running him down at Santa Anita is one tough task.
jon g More than 1 year ago
There's nothing worse than handicapping a week out. The reason being is the inevitable change of mind on raceday,and watching your pick come in or vice versa
D More than 1 year ago
The Breeders Cup which to be honest I am not a big fan of, has gotten worse each year. When they made it a 2 day event just to make more money I finally said no way not me. Just think how good the racing would be in Graded events all year around if you didnt have a win the BC Race and become Champion in that division! RACING started on the decline when the BC started to really pick up and become ultra popular about 1988 or so... if you look at that time period that is when slow drop on racing started and in the last 8 or so years the slope has gotten sharper. Keeneland means nothing now outside of the first two weekends... all because of the BC. $250 a seat or more to watch those races they are putting on in a couple weeks, not me no way. My view at home will be more then alright with me. By the way my beer doesn't cost me $7 either!!
jon g More than 1 year ago
Woodward,Marlboro Cup,JGC. Met Mile,Brooklyn and Suburban. Two triple crown series for the Handicap horses. Now,other than the Met Mile,they are either preps,also ran or extinct
Shibbley More than 1 year ago
Keeneland was ruined when it went poly, just like Del Mar.
John Innocenzi More than 1 year ago
c'mon man....this is like the world series or racing, big fields with great payoffs. Stay home??? Only takes 1 pick 3 to have a good day. Sorry, totally disagree
Perl More than 1 year ago
You aren't alone. Look at the attendance at any non Triple Crown or BC raceday in this country. Virtually everyone stays at home.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
What you describe was called the Fall Highweight Series and worked fine for many years. Gaines and that gang tinkered with near perfection. Look what they did to The Kentucky Derby.
Paul Gibb More than 1 year ago
i agree!!!!!!
Rene More than 1 year ago
i was reinforced more by this article today. Since Mr. Byron King predicted CURLIN's loss in the CLASSIC before and correctly picked the EURO WINNER in that race, I have been his no. 1 FAN. I am not saying GAME ON DUDE is a LOCK/SINGLE...but homecourt advantage to the CALI HORSES AND JOCKEYS.....the tri and super will be theirs for the taking....how about JOEL ROSARIO then >>>
Pat More than 1 year ago
Good move..hype up the dude..this way e cn get better odds on the real winner...you heard it here first..dude ill not even make the superfecta ticket...box cars coming for this edition
Matt Bernier More than 1 year ago
I'm don't particularly love Game On Dude, but there is no question that he'll be the favorite. I'll be shocked if he goes off above 5/2 come post time. My biggest issue with him is the 10 furlongs. I'm not saying he can't get it, because he is 2/7, but he has either been less than spectacular in those races or he's controlled the pace on the front end. If you love him, roll with him. I can't possibly play a horse at 5/2 that I'm not sold on. Give me Mucho Macho Man at 6/1 every time.
Shibbley More than 1 year ago
Well, then you are going to absolutely hate the 6/5 that is far more likely.
John More than 1 year ago
Yes, you have it right".If "Mucho loses it would probably be Fort Larned not Game on Dude.
Carson Horton More than 1 year ago
Short prices or not there are some stats worth considering regarding European starters in the BC turf races. Since 1999 European horses have won- 25 of the 53 BC races run on the turf. 10 of the last 13 BC Turf races. 7 of the last 13 BC Mile races. 4 of the last 13 BC F&M Turf races run since. 4 of the last 5 BC Juvenile Turf races. 0 of the last 5 BC Juvenile Filly Turf races. 0 of the last 5 BC Turf Sprint races. In the last three Breeders Cups that have been held at Santa Anita Europeans have won- 3 of 3 BC Turf races. 3 of 3 BC Mile races. 2 of 3 BC F&M Turf races. 2 of 2 BC Juvenile Turf races. Bet against them at your own peril!
MichaelC More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the intriqing stats. Food for thought indeed.
Shibbley More than 1 year ago
I agree, with you and Byron. Bet Euros but get value up front.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
the stats dont lie.pitty this knowledge is being made public in such a clear and compeling way.i made a lot of money on peoples bias and misguided patriotism (some people actually think american horses are american people who speak english and have a us gov issued passport).
Gerardo Helguera More than 1 year ago
Game On Dude should win the Classic
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
If he manages to stagger home first, make sure you run to the windows with that 7-5 winning ticket, and while standing in that long line to cash, make sure you tell every one, I told you so.
BrandonLayer More than 1 year ago
Beats throwing your tickets in the garbage.
BrandonLayer More than 1 year ago
There are other bets besides the win bet too.
Tom Temple More than 1 year ago
Yes, extreme super fectas......
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Every guy I know who says that always goes home with empty pockets.
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
Distance limitaions. Grade 1 race finishes. Do you want a breakdown Byron?? Underlay.
BrandonLayer More than 1 year ago
He was second last year at Churchill. He's better this year on his home track. Need a breakdown?
Tom Temple More than 1 year ago
Yes, I want a breakdown, Brandon......