Updated on 09/17/2011 10:35PM

The impact of running style on each BC race

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LEXINGTON - Some running styles have been much more effective than others during the first 21 runnings of the Breeders' Cup races. Knowing which styles are preferred in each race can pay big dividends.

Interestingly, the opinions of many handicappers I know have been distorted by a handful of races that were particularly significant to them for betting reasons, or because they were fans of certain horses. Other races that contradict the trends they remember are frequently overlooked. Here are the trends for each of the races:

Distaff

The fields in the Distaff tend to be small, and horses with early and tactical speed have enjoyed much success. Six of the 21 first-call leaders won. Five other winners were running second at the first call. That is a combined 51 percent wins, a powerful statistic that should be kept in mind when handicapping this race. Some of the early leaders paid big prices, such as One Dreamer scoring at $96.20 in 1994 and Adoration winning at $83.40 in 2003.

Juvenile Fillies

This race has been fair to all running styles. Five of the 21 winners were among the first three to the first call, while six of the winners were among the last three at the first call. Only a shade more than half of the winners were located in the front half of their field at the first call for 52 percent wins.

Mile

It doesn't pay to be first or second early in this race, with just one winner coming from each of those positions. Both of those races were won by the talented Lure. Subtract him from the sample and the results do not bode well for those trying to win the race from up close. It also isn't a good idea to be a deep closer, with just three winners located among the last three at the first call. The best place to be after a quarter-mile is either fourth or fifth. Those two first-call positions accounted for an impressive 38 percent wins. Opening Verse paid $55.40 when he tracked the leaders from fourth. Barathea returned $22.80 when he rallied from fourth. And Singletary paid $35 when he wore down the leaders from fifth.

Sprint

Early and tactical speed have been very important in this race. Five of the 21 races, which is nearly 24 percent, were won by the first-call leader. Horses who were among the first three to the first call won 52 percent of the races. The highest-paying winners from that position were Smile (second early, $24), Very Subtle (led, $34.80), Safely Kept (led, $26.40), Desert Stormer (led, $31), Squirtle Squirt (third early, $21.20), and Cajun Beat (third early, $47.60).

Filly and Mare Turf

There have only been six runnings of this race, and large fields have been the rule. Even with only six races to study, a trend is apparent. The first two runnings of the race in 1999 and 2000 were carded at 1 3/8 miles, and both had 14 runners. Those races were won by runners who were located in the rear half of their field at the first call. The distance was changed to 1 1/4 miles, and the field size was 12 in each of the last four runnings. The trend changed with all four of those races won from the front half of the pack. The winners tracked the leaders from third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. The highest payoff from this group was Starine at $28.40 in 2002.

Juvenile

Early and tactical speed have been best here. Four of the 21 winners led early, for 19 percent wins. Horses who were among the first three at the first call won 43 percent of the races. Runners who were in the front half of their field in the early going won 71 percent of the races. The largest payoff among them was Wilko, who tracked the leaders in third, at $58.60 last year.

Turf

Horses who were among the first three during the early going won just 3 of the 21 races. Horses who were among the last three at that point won 5.5 races (I gave half-credit to each horse in the dead-heat in 2003). The largest cluster of winners were located in fourth through eighth place. They accounted for nearly 55 percent of the winners. There were a number of high-priced winners from that group, including Lashkari (sixth early, $108.80), Miss Alleged (sixth early, $86.20), and Better Talk Now, (eighth early, $57.80).

Classic

Early and tactical speed are best in this race. Four of the 21 winners led early, for a 19 percent success rate. Horses who were among the first three at the first call won 47 percent of these races. Runners who were located in the front half of their field during the early going won just a shade less than 67 percent of the time. Some of the higher priced winners from that position were Wild Again (led early, $64.60), Skywalker (third early, $22.20), Alphabet Soup (third early, $41.70), Cat Thief (second early, $41.20), and Tiznow (led early, $20.40).