Breeders Cup Classic Betting Tips - 2nd/3rd November 2019

Horses Racing on a Dirt Track

Late October/early November each year sees a real treat for racing fans as the annual Breeders’ Cup meeting takes place stateside. Held on a rotating roster of tracks, the Breeders’ Cup has no true home as such, but wherever it is staged, it is one meeting not to be missed.

The autumn months offer a pretty packed schedule for racing fans, with top class events held all around the world. Sandwiched in between Champions Day at Ascot and the Melbourne Cup down under, we have one of the biggest contests of the season when it comes to US racing.

Astronomical prize money, packed stands, the best of the best of the US performers locking horns with a squadron of talented overseas runners, all with a little added glitz, glamour and razzmatazz, make this one of the greatest racing shows of the season put on anywhere in the world.

The meeting gradually builds to the crescendo that is the very last race on the Saturday card: The Breeders’ Cup Classic itself.

Breeders’ Cup Classic Betting Tips For 2019

Santa Anita, California, 2nd/3rd November 2019

Note - The Breeders Cup Classic takes place shortly after midnight in the UK, making it's official UK date the 3rd November. However it's still Saturday over in California so the official local date is the 2nd November. British bookmakers will most likely list it by the UK time.

Offering a huge $6million in total prize money, this event has been the scene of some truly memorable contests over the years, including the unforgettable battle between Arrogate and California Chrome in 2016, and the agonising defeat of the brilliant Zenyatta back in 2010. One of the true giants on the global racing stage, the race rarely fails to live up its billing. Here we take a look at the main contenders for glory in 2019.

McKinzie – 3/1

This year’s edition of the race looks a wide-open affair, but something does have to start favourite, and at present it would seem the horse most likely to do so is the four year old son of Street Sense, McKinzie.

Hailing from the yard of the most successful trainer in the history of the race, Bob Baffert, this prominent racer couldn’t land a blow when only 12th in the race 12 months ago. He is however well fancied to do much better this time around, with an extra year of physical development now under his belt.

There are those who are of the opinion that this track doesn’t suit him all that well, and whilst he has been turned over at odds-on on three occasions at the course, overall Santa Anita form figures of 1121222 would suggest he is unlikely to be too far away at the business end here. This also indicates just how good he is, that such results can even be considered to be a disappointment.

Yoshida – 9/2

US jockey Mike E Smith may be well into the veteran stages of his career now, but as Frankie Dettori has so ably demonstrated on these shores, age need prove no barrier when it comes to success in the saddle. With four Classic wins already under his belt – including two at this track – Smith needs just one more to move into a tie for the all-time lead with Chris McCarron and Jerry Bailey.

The horse to benefit from the skills of Smith in the saddle this year is the William Mott-trained five year old, Yoshida. This late-running five year old will be having his first taste of Santa Anita here, but is thoroughly proven in the grade, with two top-level successes already on his CV.

This son of Heart’s Cry is generally seen to best effect when being held up for a late run – including when beaten just 1¾l into fourth in this race at Churchill Downs last season. This year’s renewal doesn’t look any stronger overall, and as illustrated by the brilliant Zenyatta, hold up runners can prevail around here, despite the perceived bias towards front runners.

Code Of Honour – 9/2

With 12 wins from the 35 editions of the race to date, the three year old performers have generally held their own in the Classic; and as ever, what this year’s three year old crop have in their favour, is a greater scope for improvement than their older rivals.

Bearing that in mind, it must be taken as a big positive that the Claude McGaughey III runner Code Of Honour already has two top level wins to his name – with those two victories coming in his two most recent starts.

Much like Yoshida, this one will be relying on a strong pace early before coming through with a late run in the straight, and with plenty of rivals who like to make the running, he would seem to have a reasonable chance of that scenario unfolding. If close enough turning in, he ought to be a major threat to all.

Vino Rosso – 9/2

As a seven-time winner of the top American trainer award, there aren’t too many races which have eluded the talented Todd Pletcher. This however is one of them, with Keen Ice’s third placed finish in 2016 being as close as Pletcher has come to victory in recent memory.

Bidding to take Pletcher into the Breeders’ Cup Classic winners enclosure for the first time ever in 2019 is his front-running four year old, Vino Rosso. This one boasts a perfect record at the track, with his only previous outing around Santa Anita resulting in a win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes in May of this year.

A little unlucky to lose the race in the steward’s room at Belmont Park last time out – when notably tough in the closing stages, he will likely face competition for the lead here, but if able to get to the front from stall 10, he may well prove tough to pass.

Higher Power – 14/1

Another heading into the race with sound credentials is the John W Sadler-trained, Higher Power. Sadler scored a famous fist ever Classic success when sending Accelerate out to victory 12 months ago, and would look to boast strong claims of defending his crown with this son of Medaglia d,Oro.

Relatively lightly raced for a four year old, Higher Power will be making just his eighth career start here and does boast an attractively progressive profile. That steady rate of improvement peaked with a big career best when storming clear in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar two starts back, and he can easily be forgiven his third-place finish here last time out having lost all chance when stumbling at the start. Granted a better rub of the green this time around, he is tough to rule out and very much worth each way consideration at nice odds.


About the Breeders' Cup Classic & Breeders' Cup Meeting

The fact that Cheltenham Racecourse hosts the November Meeting in the month it’s named after every year tells you that it’s the month that jump racing returns to the British horse racing scene with vigour. The same is not true on the other side of the Atlantic, with the Breeders' Cup seeing a host of Grade 1 thoroughbred flat horse races run over two days. Whilst all of the races that take place are fully deserving of respect, it is unquestionably the Breeders' Cup Classic itself that most racing fanatics turn up to watch. Indeed, a second day of racing wasn’t even added to the calendar until 2007.

The event is essentially split in two, with the first day being devoted to horses that are likely to be stars in the future; a fact that is evident in it even being named Future Stars Day. In terms of a pure racing spectacle, what is better than seeing juveniles still learning their stuff take to the field on Day One and then those that have developed to become amongst the best horses in the world take centre stage on Day Two? Aside from the prestige of winning a race during one of America’s most famous horse race meetings, there is also a good chuck of money available over the course of the event; every race has a prize pot of at least $1 million attached.

The Breeders' Cup Classic

It’s entirely fair to point to the quality of the other races taking place during the day and suggest that the Breeders' Cup meeting is one of the finest collection of horse races anywhere in the world, let alone in America. Yet it’s also entirely reasonable to assert that the Breeders' Cup Classic stands head and shoulders above the other races at the one that the racing industry takes the most notice of.

The Race’s Early Years

The Breeders' Cup Classic was run for the first time in 1984 and it has gone on to become one of the most important races in America for thoroughbreds. Indeed, only the Pegasus World Cup, the Dubai World Cup and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe give thoroughbred owners the chance to win a higher purse in all of horse racing. Yet the event itself started from somewhat more humble beginnings.

It was at a celebratory lunch for the Kentucky Derby Festival in 1982 that the heir to a pet food chain named John R. Gaines proposed a race that would help horse racing in the States clean up its image. He formed a company by the name of Breeders' Cup Limited in the wake of the luncheon but the race itself wouldn’t be run for the first time for another two years. Gaines was a thoroughbred owner and breeder and his idea was for the race to act as an end of year championship for American thoroughbred racing.

A Skeptical Racing Community Gets On Board

Despite being a firm part of the thoroughbred racing community, few gave the idea of the Breeders' Cup much respect during the early stages. Indeed, it wasn’t until the well-respected trainer John Nerud and others came on board that the race really began to gain popularity. The company organising the event decided early on that it shouldn’t have a ‘home’ but should instead move around the country in order to give as many racing fans as possible the chance to watch it taking place. That might also help to explain why the initial skepticism was broken down as soon as the race began to be run.

That’s not to say that the Breeders' Cup hasn’t returned to the same course more than once, however; Santa Anita hosted the meeting for the ninth time in 2016, for example. Yet it’s also true that the organisers have done their best to move the meeting to as many new locations as possible. 2017 saw Del Mar host it for the first time, whilst in 1996 it left American shores for the first time (and only one to date) when it took place at Canada’s Woodbine Racetrack. It’s safe to say that the combination of quality racing and the ability for people from all over the States to attend is what has seen skepticism melt away, with just shy of 120,000 racegoers turning up to watch in 2016.

Exciting Moments from the Past

The Breeders’ Cup Classic saw an exciting race at its very first running, with 30/1 long-shot Wild Again being declared the winner after a stewards’ inquiry. Three years later and is was no less thrilling as Alysheba and Ferdinand went head-to-head. The two Kentucky Derby winners crossed the line virtually neck-and-neck, with Ferdinand pipping his rival by a nose. Alysheba wasn’t overly upset by the loss, returning the following year to claim the Breeders’ Cup Classic title.

1989 saw the race host the end of an era when Sunday Silence and Easy Goer went up against each other for the final time. Sunday Silence had held off his rival’s claim to wins in both the Preakness Stakes and the Kentucky Derby, but Easy Goer had won the likes of Belmont and the Jockey Club Gold Cup in return. The two jockeys riding them in that season’s Breeders’ judged the race perfectly, heading into the final stretch together. In the end it was Sunday Silence that did enough to win the race by a neck, but it was certainly a close-run thing.

The 1990s certainly wasn’t shy of producing a few thrilling moments of its own, not least of which came in 1993 when Arcangues won the race at odds of 133/1. It is a shock that has yet to be repeated and was made all the more impressive by the fact that the jockey that took him across the finish line had never ridden him before. Two years later and Cigar made history by setting the then-track record with a time of just under two minutes. He’d won the preceding seven Grade 1 races that he entered, so his two and a half length victory wasn’t really a surprise to anyone.

The 2000s saw Tiznow become the only horse to date to win the Classic twice. Having won the race at the turn of the millennium, he returned in 2001 to take part in the first major sporting event in America since 9/11. A number of European horses were much more fancied, not least of all because Tiznow had been suffering physically since his win the year before and had won just two of five races he’d entered in the intervening months. When the European trained Sakhee took the lead midway through it looked as if the writing was on the wall, only for Tiznow to fight back and win the race by a nose.

It was 2009 that saw Zenyatta doing it for the girls when her owners decided to enter her into the Classic rather than the Ladies Classic, which she had won the previous year. The race took place on a synthetic dirt track at Santa Anita and consequently saw a really strong field of male horses entered into it. The likes of Gio Ponti, Rip Van Winkle and Einstein were all well fancied, but Zenyatta had won thirteen of the thirteen races that she’d been entered into when Mike Smith jumped into the saddle for the Classic. Despite a slow start, she soon gained on the leaders and eventually beat Gio Ponti by a length, become the first female horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The Race Details

The Breeders’ Cup Classic is run left-handed on a dirt track. Typically it is based over a distance of one and a quarter miles, with three-year-olds and over welcomed to take part. There’s some weight information that it’s handy to know, which is as follows:

  • 3-year-olds: Northern hemisphere 122 pounds / Southern hemisphere 117 pounds
  • 4-year-olds and up: 126 pounds
  • Mares & filles: 3 pound allowance

The Classic is the richest race of the two days with a purse in 2016 of $6 million. Only the Saudi Cup, the Pegasus World Cup, the Dubai World Cup and The Everest can boast higher purses in thoroughbred racing.

It’s important at this point to mention the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, which was developed in 2007 and gives horses the opportunity to give themselves an automatic berth in the race itself. The race usually has fourteen spaces for participants, with seven of them offered to winners of various races that take place throughout the season and around the world. In 2018 these races were, in no particular order:

  • The Pacific Classic at Del Mar Racetrack
  • The Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs
  • The Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park
  • The February Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse
  • The Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park
  • The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park
  • The Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course

Winners of each of these races are given an automatic berth, though of course their owners or trainers may decline the opportunity to take it up. It’s also fair to point out that some horses may win more than one of those races, meaning that not all seven automatic berths will be taken up.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic boasts a unique spot in the world of racing awards, being considered by many to be the fourth leg in addition to the Triple Crown. Horses that have won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes are already thought of as phenomenal talents, but if they can add the Breeders’ Cup Classic to their list in the same year then they’ll have pulled off the so-called ‘Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing’. To date, only American Pharoah has managed to pull this off, which he did in 2015.


As you can imagine for a race of the Breeders’ Cup Classic’s calibre, there are a number of records attached to it aside from just which was the first female horse to win the race or which one has won it more than once.

It’s difficult to look at track times as being an indicator of anything, given that the race takes place at a different venue each year. The one minute, fifty-nine point zero two time set by Ghostzapper at Lone Star Park was a course record, for example, but so was the two minutes and one second that Alphabet Soup achieved at Woodbine.

When it comes to the largest winning margin, both Volponi in 2002 and American Pharoah in 2015 won the race by six and a half lengths.

Tiznow may well hold the record for the most wins achieved by a horse with two, but Chris McCarron and Jerry Bailey share the honour of the most victories for jockeys with five apiece. Bob Baffert is the race’s most successful trainer thanks to his three wins.

The Breeders' Cup Meeting

It’s almost impossible to talk about the Breeders’ Cup Classic without mentioning the two days off racing that surround it. After all, the development of the meeting overall is as closely tied into the race’s history as anything else, with the races being operated by Breeders’ Cup Limited.

It was the arrival of Greg Avioli as CEO that saw the event expand to include a second day, with the first day being devoted to female horses in 2008. It was also under his leadership that the event abandoned its traditional purple towels in favour of joining the rest of America with its standard coloured towel system.

Perhaps the biggest change to the way that the festival of racing works took place in 2009 when it was confirmed that signed simulcasting and licensing agreements had been reached with Betfair to allow common-pool betting and live streaming of the race to the company’s two and a half million customers. From that moment on the meeting began to be broadcast to more than one hundred and forty countries.

Win and You’re In

Aside from the deal with Betfair, one of the most interesting and influential changes to the manner in which the Breeders’ Cup works came about with the introduction of the Win and You’re In system. This sees automatic berths given over to the winners of certain races from earlier in the season that have taken place in the likes of Japan, the United Kingdom, France, South Africa and Australia.

Each race has its own Win and You’re In policy, with the Breeders' Cup Turf having eleven different berths open, for example. Winners of races such as the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and the Juddmonte International at York are all invited to take part in the race, to name but a few. As with the actual races that take place over the two days and the order they take place in, the Win and You’re In qualification process is open to change for all races.

The Most Successful Trainers, Jockeys & Owners

The Breeders’ Cup has been taking place for many years at the time of writing and will continue for many years more in the future, so the following information is, of course, subject to change. Nevertheless, as things stand here’s a look at the most successful people associated with the meeting.

For starters, Mike Smith, who you’ll remember was the jockey riding Zenyatta when she won the Classic, has won more races than any other jockey with twenty-six victories to his name. D. Wayne Lucas is the most successful trainer, having seen twenty of his horses cross the finish line first.

With more than $16 million worth of winnings to their name at the time of writing, Juddmonte Farms are the most successful owners of horses involved in the Breeders’ Cup. In an entirely unsurprising turn of events, the United States is the county that has produced the most winners at the Breeders’ Cup with two hundred and sixty-two at the time of writing. That is light years ahead of the thirty-one achieved by Ireland.

As an interesting bit of trivia, the Grand National at Far Hills in New Jersey used to be known as the Breeders' Cup Grand National Steeplechase thanks to a licensing agreement between the race and the Breeders’ Cup. That in spite of the fact that it was never actually part of the series of races officially associated with the Breeders’ Cup. Nowadays the link is gone and the race is known simply as the Grand National Hurdle Stakes, one of the oldest steeplechases in racing.

Breeders' Cup Race Lists

As mentioned several times, the Breeders’ Cup Classic will always take the headlines from the two days of racing but is far from the only one that you should be watching with interest. Here’s a look at the races that occurred in 2018 in addition to the classic as well as the prize money on offer, to give you an idea of which ones are likely to be featured from one year to the next:

RacePrize MoneyAges
Day One – Future Stars Day
Juvenile Turf Sprint $1,000,000 2 Years Old
Juvenile Fillies Turf $1,000,000 2 Year Old Fillies
Juvenile Fillies (Dirt) $2,000,000 2 Year Old Fillies
Juvenile Turf $1,000,000 3 Years Old +
Juvenile (Dirt) $2,000,000 3 Years Old +
Day Two – Breeders' Cup Saturday
Filly & Mare Sprint (Dirt) $1,000,000 3 Year Old + Filles & Mares
Turf Sprint $1,000,000 3 Years Old +
Dirt Mile $1,000,000 3 Years Old +
Filly & Mare Turf $2,000,000 3 Year Old + Fillies & Mares
Sprint (Dirt) $2,000,000 3 Years Old +
Mile (Turf) $2,000,000 3 Years Old +
Distaff (Dirt) $2,000,000 3 Year Old Fillies & Mares
Turf $4,000,000 3 Years Old +
Classic (Dirt) $6,000,000 3 Years Old +

The Breeders' Cup Turf

As you can see from the associated prize money, the Breeders’ Cup Turf is the race that comes in second after the Classic in terms of respect and prestige. Whilst it was inaugurated in 1984 like the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Turf actually had a forerunner in the form of the Washington, D.C. International Stakes. That race actually still exists in the form of the Baltimore Washington International Turf Cup and was initially run over one and a half miles, as the Turf is nowadays.

It is run left-handed on, as its name suggests, a turf track. It is open to horses aged three and over and offers a weight-for-age formula, which is as follows:

  • 3-year-olds: Northern hemisphere 126 pounds / Southern hemisphere 117 pounds
  • 4-year-olds and over: 126 pounds

As mentioned earlier, the Turf has a Win & You’re In system that sees eleven of its fourteen berths offered to the winners of races from around the world earlier in the season. We’ve listed some of them above so won’t go over the same ground here.

Everywhere you turn over the two days of the Breeders’ Cup will see you confronted with a world class race. The meeting welcomes the very best trainers and owners in the sport, as well as the most exciting thoroughbred horses and jockeys. Frankie Dettori is the most successful jockey in the Turf, for example, winning the race five times between 1999 and 2018.