The first of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races is still more than 24 hours away and the event already has worn me out. A month-long search for betting value in the richest race of them all, the $5 million Classic, has led to nothing but frustration and confusion.
Each time I settled on a horse to wager on, doubts crept in. I started out backing Mucho Macho Man before ditching him for Ron the Greek, who then got abandoned for Paynter, who in turn was dumped for Declaration of War, who himself got tossed out this week.
All this flip-flopping is exhausting.
And I’m running out of ideas. The other eight horses assembled for the finale of the two-day Breeders’ Cup leave me cold. Three of them, including the talented favorite Game on Dude, are speedballs that could get caught up in an early battle for the lead that will sap their energy.
The two young stars in the race, Palace Malice and Will Take Charge, are unlikely to produce peak performances after grueling Triple Crown campaigns that began in the dead of winter. The venerable 7-year-old Flat Out does his best racing in New York, far away from the site of this year’s Breeders’ Cup, Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.
Last Gunfighter and Planteur seem improbable.
That, of course, brings me right back to the four horses I’ve been kicking around for the past month.
This is becoming circular.
Here’s a snapshot of each:
-- Mucho Macho Man. This horse is rounding into top form and loves Santa Anita’s dirt track, but it’s hard to take odds of about 5-1 in the country’s most competitive race after he offered a price of 8-1 against an inferior group just three months ago.
-- Ron the Greek. He figures to get a perfect set-up, watching the frontrunners knock each other out as he jogs along toward the back of the pack before making his move late. The Greek won in smashing fashion in his last outing at odds of 21-1. Yet he’s shown little ability during his career to post back-to-back dominant races. How do I now take 8-1 on him?
-- Paynter. He earned the nickname Zombie horse in my household by miraculously staving off death last year after colitis ravaged his body. Since returning to the races in June, the colt has flashed signs of his old self and appears to be training well for the 1 1/4-mile (2-kilometer) Classic. While all this makes for a great storyline, he just may not be ready to take on this caliber of animal. Where’s the value in a price of 12-1?
-- Declaration of War. The U.K.-based colt was actually bred in the U.S. before being shipped across the Atlantic, which gives him more of a pedigree for American dirt racing than other Euros. Still, he’s never actually competed on dirt, having run almost exclusively on the turf over the past two years. Estimated odds of 10-1 seem paltry on a horse that’s wading into the unknown.
Dizzy from my own hemming and hawing at this point, I’ll let the tote board guide my wagering.
In a field this big and competitive, at least one of those four horses will probably get overlooked by bettors and drift higher in odds as race time approaches. I’ll bet that horse to win and play him in exotic wagers -- exactas, trifectas, superfectas -- with the other three in a bid to line my wallet with hundred-dollar bills.
Done. Decided. No more flip-flopping.
(David Papadopoulos, the team leader for Latin America markets coverage at Bloomberg News, has been following thoroughbred racing for more than two decades and was runner-up in 2008 Eclipse Award voting for feature writing on the sport.)