2020 Breeders’ Cup Trends – Euros vs. USA

I am a visual learner and recently I’ve been playing around with new ways to explore horse racing data.  As it relates to the Breeders’ Cup, I started tracking trends of where the winners were stabled.  Eventually, I layered in trainers, again to see if there was any signal in the outcomes.

My approach, and the tables below, should be pretty obvious. I used conditional formatting to help me visualize whether winners of a particular race were stabled in the East, West or Europe. Perhaps you think this is oversimplifying but I’d suggest this be used as a starting point for deeper analysis.  

Normally, I look at specific prep races but this year I think that could be a bit misleading.  The Preakness is not typically a prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, just as an example.

I’ll try to walk through how I use these tables to inform my analysis.  And it should go without saying but, nothing here represents absolutes.  Also, the focus here is on the winner, so even the strongest of trends may not be fully useful for the structuring of vertical wagers.

One of the reasons I started creating these tables was to get a better sense of where the European horses (and specific trainers) have excelled.  Like most, I just assumed turf dominance and hadn’t looked at the data in the context of specific turf races.  That is, clearly the European Juvenile Turf runners have a strong record but the Juvenile Fillies are currently riding a six year losing streak – partly because of the total domination of this division by Chad Brown.  More on that in a minute.

To me, there’s no strong signal in the Juvenile dirt races.  I’ve highlighted 2015 as it was held at Keeneland but I’d caution making definitive conclusions from a single year.  

I’ll start my analysis this year by focusing on American runners for the Juvenile Turf Sprint and Juvenile Fillies Turf. Obviously, I’ll consider all of the European runners for the Juvenile Turf.  As for the dirt races, I won’t look at those races with any preconceived notions.

Trainer trends can be helpful as well.  A couple of things jump off the page here.  

Aidan O’Brien horses can often be over bet but his charges have done quite well in the Juvenile Turf and Turf.  Anything he ships for the Juvenile Turf merits consideration, especially in multirace wagers.  You won’t find a better pedigree than Battleground (War Front x Found) but he’s coming into this race off an extended layoff due to ground concerns in some of the targeted preps.  I’d have a little more conviction here if there was more form to go on, but we are left projecting talent and embracing O’Brien’s record in the race.

While Charlie Appleby, who’s recently won a pair of Juvenile Turf races, doesn’t have a runner – that doesn’t mean O’Brien is the only trainer to consider here. Cadillac and New Mandate are two runners that I’ll be using prominently in multi-race wagers.

Chad Brown has won four of the past six Juvenile Fillies Turf races.  Originally, I thought he’d be sending a pair for this race but only Editor at Large was entered. Clement trained, Plum Ali, was impressive winning the Ms. Grillo but it would not shock me if Editor at Large – who’s reportedly working very well – can turn the tables.  Brown generally tips his hand since three of his four winners in this spot have prepped (admittedly, they all won) in the Ms. Grillo.

Another thing to consider when looking at the trainer table is the absence of Bob Baffert from the Juvenile Fillies.  While he’s won this race twice, his last win was in 2007 and he figures to have the post time favorite, Princess Noor, in this year’s running.  The short price will not be due to her dominance on speed figures, instead, it’s the hype and visual appeal of her wins.  This might be a place to take a stand.  The young filly may turn out to be a monster but she needs to ship and the record speaks for itself.  A few of the short priced horses that have failed to win for Baffert in this race: Bast (2019), American Gal (2016 Favorite), Executiveprivelege (2014 Favorite), A Z Warrior (2010).  To be fair, he’s not run many fillies in this race and several have hit the board – so while she doesn’t have to win, a complete toss may not prove wise.

Moving to Saturday’s races (note that not all of these have traditionally been Saturday races), there are a few valuable trends to highlight.

First, in the Filly and Mare Sprint, east coast horses have been formidable.  Their record looks to be in jeopardy this year as the contingent from out west look strong.  On paper the race looks to have a brutal pace and the best closer (Bell’s The One) is an Eastern based horse.  Still, this is a spot where I’m likely to ignore this trend, slightly.  I think trainer Michael McCarthy holds a strong hand in this race and look for Speech to explode down the stretch.

For a few races, it’s hard to make heads or tales of what the data suggests.  There isn’t anything suggestive about the Dirt Mile, Sprint or Classic. And digging deeper, I’m not going to read too much into the Distaff trend either as the West Coast horses in this race have successfully shipped east this year.

A simplistic view of the Filly and Mare Turf is that you might be able to cover the race with Chad Brown and the Euros. Unfortunately, that represents over half of the prospective field.  This race is in the Pick 6 and might be enough to keep me away.  That said, a ticket with Rushing Fall and two Euros might be worth considering – Audarya and Cayenne Pepper.

While West coast turf horses have generally underperformed, they hold a four-year winning streak in the Turf Sprint with the last loss in 2015, here at Keeneland. So while I’m generally comfortable tossing West coast horses in other turf events, I’ll give them strong consideration in the Turf Sprint while also highlighting that Keeneland turf sprints are somewhat unique and previous success at the trip should be noted.

One race where the European runners have underperformed is the Mile.  They’ve accounted for the winner in three of the last ten editions.  And they’ve burnt a ton of money along the way – Circus Maximus (2019), Ribchester (2017), Limato (2016), Make Believe (2015), etc.  There are some serious international milers signed on for this edition, but I’ll be giving plenty of chances to the American horses who look to have a big shot this year. Over the past ten runnings, the winner has last raced at Longchamp, Keeneland or Woodbine (hat tip Matt Bernier) – That seems notable given the prominence of Belmont as a prep track for many other Turf races.

The Turf has been another race where, expectedly, the Europeans have performed very well.  And moving on to the trainer table, this is the other event that Aidan O’Brien has relatively owned.  A key race in all multi-race sequences, I wouldn’t let O’Brien knock me out in a race that he’s won multiple times, including the only running at Keeneland.

With regard to trainers, a couple of notes.  Peter Miller knows how to prepare sprinters.  I will think long and hard about tossing either of his runners in the Sprint and Turf Sprint. CZ Rocket is riding a five-race win streak and owns a pair of wins at Keeneland – he should be tough.  In the Turf Sprint, Texas Wedge looks slightly overmatched as there are other runners who’ve had more success at Keeneland.  Still, I might consider using defensively.  Interestingly, I’d have been more interested in his filly, Bulletproof One but it doesn’t look as though she’ll draw in.

We’ve covered O’Brien already and I think most people know that Chad Brown should be considered in most Turf races.

One thing that I noticed was Todd Pletcher’s success in 2015.  By most standards, it’s been a “down” year for Pletcher but his barn has been heating up and he comes into this year’s Breeders’ Cup with a few chances – I’ll certainly take a long look at his horses.

Finally, Brad Cox shows up a couple of times on the table.  Since Monomoy Girl’s emergence in 2018, Cox has become one of the top trainers in the game.  He holds a very strong hand going into this weekend.  Several of his horses are proven at Keeneland and he’s coming off a training title from the Spring meet.  In terms of a prop bet, Cox would be my selection for most trainer wins at the year’s Breeders’ Cup – They ALL look live to me.

Leave a Reply

Further reading