Lukewarm Breeders' Cup favorites typically ones to avoid

October 12th, 2022

When the betting public has a hard time making up its mind who it favors to win a race, chances are they'll ultimately be wide of the mark. That's been the case, at least, in the Breeders' Cup over the past decade.

"Lukewarm" favorites, defined here as post-time favorites that start at odds of 3-1 or higher, have accounted for roughly 20 percent of all Breeders' Cup race favorites over the past 10 years. From a sample of 28 races during the period, only four of those favorites won (14 percent), while 11 in total finished in the top three (39 percent). By comparison, the overall record of favorites is 38-for-137 (27.7 percent), with 82 in the money (59.9 percent).

The record of lukewarm favorites in the past two Breeders' Cups held at Keeneland (2015 and 2020) is worse. They are 0-for-7, with only two having hit the board.

Year Race Horse Odds Finish
2012 Marathon Atigun 3.10 3
  Juvenile Turf Unbridled's Note 4.70 2
  Turf Sprint Noble Tune 3.90 2
  Sprint Amazombie 3.10 3
2013 Marathon Ever Rider 4.80 DNF
  Filly and Mare Sprint Groupie Doll 3.00 1
2014 Juvenile Turf War Envoy 3.50 12
  Juvenile Fillies Angela Renee 3.30 10
  Filly and Mare Sprint Judy the Beauty 3.10 1
  Turf Sprint No Nay Never 3.60 2
2015 Turf Sprint Undrafted 3.70 5
  Filly and Mare Sprint Cavorting 3.40 4
  Juvenile Greenpointcrusader 3.50 7
2016 Juvenile Fillies Turf La Coronel 4.00 6
  Juvenile Fillies American Gal 4.40 3
  Turf Sprint Obviously 3.80 1
  Filly and Mare Sprint Carina Mia 3.10 9
  Mile Limato 3.40 6
2017 Juvenile Turf Mendelssohn 4.80 1
2018 Juvenile Turf Anthony Van Dyck 3.10 9
2019 Juvenile Fillies Turf Daahyeh 3.80 2
  Turf Sprint Pure Sensation 3.70 5
  Mile Got Stormy 3.10 2
2020 Juvenile Turf Battleground 3.80 2
  Turf Sprint Leinster 4.40 3
  Mile Kameko 5.30 7
  Classic Tiz the Law 3.20 6
2021 Juvenile Fillies Turf Koala Princess 4.80 7

Turf races, traditionally the most competitive type and with the biggest fields, account for 17 of the 28 races in the sample, with the Turf Sprint (G1) and Juvenile Turf (G1) leading the pack with six races and five races, respectively. The Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and Mile (G1) come in with three apiece.

Of the dirt races, the Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) has produced the most lukewarm favorites. However, of the four lukewarm favorites to have won a Breeders' Cup race in the last 10 years, two of them were Filly and Mare Sprint winners: Groupie Doll in 2013 (3.00-1) and Judy the Beauty in 2014 (3.10-1). The others were Obviously in the 2016 Turf Sprint (3.80-1) and Mendelssohn in the 2017 Juvenile Turf (4.80-1).

With such a modest record of achievement in the past decade, bettors might want to think twice about backing lukewarm favorites at the upcoming Breeders' Cup, not only in the straight win pool but also in multi-race wagers. The latter makes the most sense: if a race is determined to be a "spread" race for a multi-race wager, why include a favorite the crowd considers vulnerable and thus is not too keen on to begin with? Better to try and beat it and save on the cost of your ticket.

While it's still a bit early to guess which Breeders' Cup races will have longer-priced favorites, potential candidates include some old standbys, like the Filly and Mare Sprint, Juvenile Fillies, and Juvenile Fillies Turf. Races for certain not to qualify include the Classic (G1) with Flightline, Distaff (G1) with Nest and Malathaat, Juvenile (G1) with Cave Rock, Sprint (G1) with Jackie's Warrior, and Turf Sprint (G1) with Golden Pal.

Knowing what kind of horses are best avoided is often just as important as who to latch onto. Recent history suggests Breeders' Cup favorites the betting public is very cool towards is one such group.