Finding vulnerable favorites key in Breeders' Cup handicapping

October 30th, 2021

With the help of some early past performances, many bettors over the last few days have hopefully scouted out some probable favorites at next week's Breeders' Cup that they intend to stand against for the win. It's an annual exercise that should be on everyone's to-do list, because if you're right, the account balance has a much better opportunity to grow (or shrink less if you have the right idea but the wrong alternative pick).

Here are a few short-priced horses we'll be looking to beat on the first weekend of November at Del Mar.

Golden Pal (Turf Sprint)

Golden Pal (Coady Photo/Keeneland)

He's undefeated against stakes company in the U.S., including last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2), but Golden Pal has vulnerabilities as a potential lukewarm favorite.

Besides not liking the way he caved late in the Nunthorpe (G1) two back in conditions that should have suited him, his rebound victory in the Woodford (G2) at Keeneland wasn't overly quick. The performance was good enough for an 89 Brisnet Speed rating, which isn't going to scare many in this field.

With few exceptions, this race has often been the domain of horses with winning course-and-distance experience. Golden Pal will face a few of those, as well as more serious domestic foes that prepped more strongly elsewhere.

Letruska (Distaff)

Letruska continues her dominance with a win in the Fleur De Lis Stakes (Photo by Coady Photography)

Letruska has just about done all that she can to have virtually sewn up an Eclipse Award as the top older mare of 2021 prior to this race. However, just ask Midnight Bisou how that worked out in the 2019 Distaff as an even-money choice.

Would another victory surprise us? Not in the least. But the one filly to have beaten her this year, Shedaresthedevil, perhaps will not be inclined to gift wrap the lead to her. She might also have to contend with a progressive three-year-old from the Bob Baffert stable, Private Mission, who has plenty of early lick herself.

Letruska on paper is better than those rivals, but the potential dynamics of the race could make her beatable and thus far from single material in multi-race wagers.

Knicks Go (Classic)

Knicks Go winning the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) - Keeneland Photo

In three of his four victories this season, it's doubtful any horse in America could have beaten Knicks Go. Those three races were the Pegasus World Cup (G1), the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. (G3), and the Whitney (G1). He didn't have to be at his best to win the Lukas Classic (G3) last time, but it was a more workmanlike performance by his standards.

Besides the fact his final prep was not super dazzling, the elephant in the room is that Knicks Go has yet to try 1 1/4 miles. He for sure wasn't going to get beat if any of the aforementioned wins had been a furlong longer, but the fact is he'll be facing a number of rivals here who are confirmed distance specialists.

Also, like Letruska, it's possible Knicks Go could see more early pressure than he's used to, perhaps from Medina Spirit. If Knicks Go has to work a bit, seeing out the 10th furlong against this quality of competition could prove a challenge.

In addition to these three, we'll take a hard look at possibly knocking off a few other favorites. At the next level of vulnerability, in our estimation, are Averly Jane (Juvenile Turf Sprint), Echo Zulu (Juvenile Fillies), and War Like Goddess (Filly and Mare Turf).