What was the Best Breeders' Cup Classic Bet of All Time?

October 25th, 2017

Being asked “what was the best Breeders’ Cup Classic bet” is a bit like being asked what was the best baseball home run ever – something that will be different depending on what team you like, what era you hold most dear, etc.

For most players, the answer is very personal to them – most likely their best winning bet. If your only good memory of playing the Classic was a winning ticket on American Pharoah at 7-10 odds, it’s totally fair for that to be your answer.

It’s not easy, therefore, to be objective. But there’s a few ways to try.

You could argue that the best bet in Classic history was a win bet on Arcangues in 1993. No horse has won a Breeders’ Cup race at longer odds than his 133-1 price. Punters who got that right did better than anyone who placed a win bet in the race.

However, this was a horse that had never run on dirt, with a pedigree that screamed “turf”, and with form below the best in Europe. Detecting his previously dormant dirt talent was hardly easy. My favorite way to judge “best bet” is to look at one that logically had a good chance of success, and that you knew had a reasonable prospect of returning a better dividend than it should have been worth.

One bet that would have been extremely good value was in 1995. Cigar had been a dominant horse that year and was understandably at 7-10 odds to win. However, it was a bit more difficult to predict the likely second-place finisher, as there was no obvious second-best horse among Cigar’s 10 opponents.
Given there was a good chance of a horse at decent odds filling that place, a field exacta anchoring Cigar to win, which cost $20 at the minimum $2 wager, was a wise bet. The 51-1 outsider L’Carriere finished second, and the exacta paid $85.50.

However, my winner for “best Breeders’ Cup Classic bet” was in 2006. Bernardini started at 11-10 after winning six consecutive races. But also starting was a horse who’d won eight of his nine races, and had started three times on dirt in the United States for three grade one victories. Despite this record, Invasor started at odds of 6.7-1. Even the place and show dividends – $5.80 and $4.60 for a $2 bet – were fantastic for a horse with his record.

Perhaps the best advice when handicapping the Classic therefore is to look for such a bet, one with a good chance of succeeding at good odds – although it’s far easier said than done.