Breeders' Cup: Dirt race trends

November 3rd, 2022

The biggest weekend in racing is rapidly approaching as the Breeders’ Cup World Championships are set to be contested at Keeneland on Nov. 4-5. Two prior Cups were hosted by the historic Lexington, Kentucky venue, when the championships took place there in both 2015 and 2020. I will take a look back at those results to unveil some trends that might be worth exploring for this year’s edition.

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Early position is key in the route races

From a small sample size, it appears that having early foot is a key trait in hopes of securing Breeders’ Cup glory in the route races on the main surface. The pair of Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) tussles were captured by California imports (American Pharoah and Authentic), both of which were prominent from the opening bell.

In the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1), Liam’s Map was always in striking range en route to glory in 2015, while Knicks Go led at every call during his powerful score in 2020. And in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1), both 2015 heroine Stopchargingmaria and 2020 queen Monomoy Girl, were engaged and within striking distance from the first call.

I would have to really love a one-run closer to back him or her in the route events.

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Cream rises to the top

The two editions of the Breeders' Cup held at Keeneland have not produced any head-scratching upsets on the dirt. From the 14 Grade 1 tilts contested on the main strip, the 18-1 Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner Whitmore (2020) produced the biggest price, and any serious fan of racing knows how good that the son of Pleasantly Perfect was during his fantastic career. He wasn’t a major upset winner, in my opinion.

Superstars such as American Pharoah, Gamine, Knicks Go, Songbird, Nyquist, Monomoy Girl, et al all endured success at Keeneland. Which leads me to believe that we will not witness many, if any, boxcar results this time around, either. I’ll stick with the highest class runners.

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Pace is not a precursor to sprint success

Looking back at both the Sprint and the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), I witnessed some varying results. In 2015, Wavell Avenue came from well back to bag the Filly & Mare Sprint, while Whitmore did a similar thing in 2020 against the boys.

We did have the privilege of seeing two stars (Gamine and Runhappy) come home best while being forwardly placed from the start, but don’t feel compelled to fall in love with solely the speedsters in the one-turn tests. And it’s in the sprint races where the bigger mutuels have come from.

Good Luck!