Breeders Cup Mile Handicapping Tips

Handicapping the Breeders' Cup Mile Races

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The 2020 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships is taking place on November 6, at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, featuring eight championship horse races. Strong race contenders for the Breeders' Cup Mile include Byword, Canford Cliffs, Courageous Cat, Court Vision, Get Serious, Get Stormy, Gio Ponti, Goldikova (Ireland), Makfi, Paco Boy, Proviso (Great Britain), Rip Van Winkle, Sidney's Candy, The Usual Q.T., Tizdejavu, and Victor's Cry. The best of luck on handicapping the 2020 Breeders' Cup Mile!

The Breeders' Cup Mile (Grade 1) is widely regarded as one of the most challenging races on the Breeders' Cup championships day card. The Breeders' Cup Mile winners are traditionally seen as distance specialists with the ability to sustain speed past sprint distances and possess a push-button blazing turn of foot that can propel them to make their move when the jockey determines that the time is right. If a runner takes one bad step or a hole closes in front of him, any hope of crossing the wire in front is severely compromised.

The Breeders' Cup Mile, as with the two other turf races on the day, indeed puts "world" in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. Of the 18 different horses that triumphed over the course of 25 runnings of this $1.5 million series, nine were bred in Europe, including 2008 & 2009 victor Goldikova (Ireland), 2002 victor Domedriver (Ireland) and stablemate Six Perfections (France) who won in 2004.

Nine runners actually based in Europe, having run their previous race across the pond, have invaded North America to claim victory - including 2003 hero Six Perfections, the three-year-old French filly who beat the boys. 5-1 shot Six Perfections stayed in between horses back in eighth early, then came on strong down the stretch splitting rivals to win by 3/4 length over 12-1 shot Touch of the Blues at Santa Anita Park.

The Breeders' Cup Mile sends more horses to the post than any of the other Breeders' Cup championship events. An average of 13.2 starters per year leaves the gate in search of glory. This in itself should pose trouble for the post time favorites as crowded fields lead to bad trips, but the "chalks" have more than held their own, finishing in front a respectable 31.5% of the time. Though Domedriver's $54 payoff lit up the boards in 2002, the only other two true "bombs" to ever find themselves in the winner's circle was 1986 winner Last Tycoon (Ireland) at $73.80 and 1991 winner Opening Verse at $55.40.

The most stand-out handicapping trend at the Breeders' Cup Mile is the need to stay off of the lead. Only one winner in the previous 25 runnings of the event was in front at the first call of the race and hung around to the end. This was the immortal Lure, who took the lead out of the gate in 1992 and improved his position to cross the wire 3 lengths in front. In 1993, he stalked behind the pace setting Ski Paradise before taking over before the half to once more finish in front, becoming one of only three runners, along with Miesque and Da Hoss, to enjoy a successful repeat in the event.

Outside of this notable exception, horses coming from off the pace tend to rule the Breeders' Cup Mile. The average beaten lengths of the winner at the first call of the race is 4.63 lengths. Four previous Breeders' Cup Mile champions - Miesque, Royal Academy, War Chant, and Val Royal (France) - closed from over 7 lengths back to claim victory.

A second considerable trend in the Breeders' Cup Mile is that all winners share a penchant for the distance and surface. Horses trying to run a distance at which they have never been successful previously, or dropping back to a mile after making their last prep at distances greater than 9 furlongs, generally met with failure at the race.

This was hugely evident in the 1991 running in which In Excess (Ireland) and Tight Spot were sent off as first and second choices, respectively. In Excess entered the fray off of four consecutive dirt preps, including the Suburban H. (Grade 1) at Belmont Park, while Tight Spot came off of a win in the 10-furlong Arlington Million (Grade 1) and had yet to try 8 furlongs on the grass. After engaging in a pace duel early, the duo faded to finish in a dead heat for ninth.

Every previous winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile has held at least one victory at the distance and on the surface prior to winning the race. Only Steinlen (Great Britain) and Lure ever won at distances greater than 9 furlongs in their career.

In addition, lightly raced horses seem to fare well in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Of the 17 winners, four only had one race under their belt between July and the Breeders' Cup championship day. War Chant claimed his prerequisite distance/surface victory in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (Grade 2) three weeks prior, in his first start since a disappointing ninth place finish at the Kentucky Derby (Grade 1). Da Hoss won his second Breeders' Cup Mile race only after starting once in two years, an allowance affair at Colonial Downs.

One myth to keep in mind is the importance of not having an outside post when running in the Breeders' Cup Mile. It has been dispelled over the last five years as both War Chant and Val Royal (France) started out of the 11-hole while 1999 victor Silic (France) started out of post position 12. From the winning posts of the Breeders' Cup Mile, in general, seven winners have started in the 1-3 holes, six in the 4-7 holes, and posts 8 and above have accounted for a total of six winners as well. As it stands, there appears to be no ideal post position for the race.

Another myth to disspell is the North American advantage when the Breeders' Cup Mile is run under warmer climate and on a firmer turf course. In the six previous Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships done in the West Coast - three each at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita Park, the Europeans have held a 4:3 advantage with Last Tycoon in 1986, Miesque in 1987, Spinning World in 1997, and Six Perfections in 2003 all picking up the victory for our neighbors across the pond.

At the 2004 Breeders' Cup Mile, Singletary emerged as the champion at 16.50 odds with jockey David Romero Flores. Antonius Pius with jockey Jamie Spencer won second at 31.40 odds while France's Six Perfections with jockey Jerry Bailey placed third at 5.90 odds.


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