07/19/2009 11:00PM

An early look at Breeders' Cup Classic wagering


NEW YORK - The Breeders' Cup has been in the news lately, unfortunately for unhappy reasons such as operating deficits, which could result in race and purse cuts, and despair over the fact that the world will come to an end before the game's most exciting horse, Rachel Alexandra, competes on a synthetic track in this year's Breeders' Cup.

But while Breeders' Cup management would probably disagree, any publicity is actually good publicity. So while Del Mar is only just opening Wednesday, and Saratoga isn't even open yet, the Breeders' Cup being in the news - even in a somewhat negative way - has got folks thinking about this year's championship events.

To help scratch this itch, let's take a look at some of the future book Breeders' Cup Classic odds issued periodically by the highly respected race and sports book at Wynn Las Vegas.

It's no surprise that Einstein, who won the Santa Anita Handicap over the same track and at the same distance this year's Classic will be run, is one of the favorites. The same is true of Well Armed, who won the Dubai World Cup by 14 lengths and has been working regularly of late for his first start since, and Zenyatta, the undefeated champion mare. But it is a bit of a surprise, and perhaps a fitting illustration of just how wide open the entire racing picture is at the moment, that these three would be co-favored at 10-1.

Surely, Rail Trip is now a fraction of the 45-1 he was before he dominated the Hollywood Gold Cup. But the others in the group that fall in right behind the top trio are loaded with question marks, which only underscores the shaky nature of the Classic picture. Tiago, pegged at 12-1, has never been the winningest horse even when he was right. And illness has limited Tiago to only one February start this year, and he only returned to the work tab last Friday after being absent the entire month of June. Right behind him at 14-1 is Colonel John, who has been working regularly but has yet to start this year because of injury, and his form last year at 3 might not stand up to scrutiny in the harsh light of hindsight.

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird at 15-1 (down from 100-1 at his open) makes complete sense, but it is an indication of just how quickly the Classic well runs dry that Albertus Maximus and Casino Drive would be the same 15-1. Casino Drive finished a distant eighth in the Dubai World Cup, and he now looks much more like a profound disappointment than the potential superstar he threatened to be early in his career. As for Albertus Maximus, he followed up on his win last fall in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile with a win in the Donn in his first start this year. But he was injured in the course of finishing sixth in the Dubai World Cup, and his status is unclear.

Right here, you can stop the criticism for any race and sports book that offers 15-1 on a horse like Albertus Maximus, or 25-1 on a horse like Wood Memorial winner I Want Revenge, who is more like odds-on to never race again. If a person has such a strong desire to be separated from his money that he would walk into a race book and make a future book bet on a horse like I Want Revenge in the Breeders' Cup Classic, then you can't blame the race book for being there to accommodate him.

Europeans usually don't commit to the Breeders' Cup until after the weekend of the Arc de Triomphe in early October. But the combination of a relatively thin American Classic division and the one-two finish by Europe's Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator in last year's Classic on the synthetic track at Santa Anita results in two European colts being prominently placed on Wynn's Classic future book at 20-1. They are Sea the Stars, who has turned an awesome triple this year, winning the 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby, and the Eclipse over top-notch older opponents, and Fame and Glory, whose only loss was a second to Sea the Stars in the Epsom Derby and who came back to dominate in the Irish Derby.

Some other noteworthy Classic horses listed at Wynn are Quality Road, the impressive Florida Derby winner who seems to be over the quarter crack issues that kept him out of the Triple Crown and who is to return at Saratoga, at 25-1; Summer Bird, winner of the Belmont Stakes, at 30-1; and superstar 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra, at 35-1.

Don't be too surprised at Rachel Alexandra's odds. This is very likely a case of people believing owner Jess Jackson when he says his filly will absolutely not run in the Breeders' Cup because of the synthetic track.

That's the reason for the spread between Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra in Wynn's race and sports book's future book odds for the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. Rachel Alexandra is fourth choice at 10-1, surely for the reasons noted above, while Zenyatta is 4-5.

Life Is Sweet, who lost zero stature when third against males in the Hollywood Gold Cup, is next in the Ladies' Classic at 8-1. But it is a surprise that Stardom Bound, last year's champion 2-year-old filly who was taken out of training soon after failing in the Ashland last April in her first start outside of California, is pegged at the same price.

Cocoa Beach and Music Note, who finished second and third behind Zenyatta in last year's Ladies' Classic but were sharp disappointments in their first start this year, are both 12-1. Seattle Smooth, who has blossomed since getting on dirt tracks in the East, is next in the Ladies' Classic at 15-1.