Breeders' Cup 2022 Betting Guide

Breeders' Cup 2022 Betting Guide
© USA Today

With 14 championship races over two days, the Breeders’ Cup is a wagering extravaganza for horse players.

Whatever your preferred method of betting — straight win wagering, horizontal multi-race bets or exotic verticals such as trifectas and superfectas — this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland offers endless options. There are plenty of races, huge betting pools and full fields.

All you have to do is select the right horses. That’s no easy task in the Breeders’ Cup, in which bettors must compare and analyze horses from not only across North America but the world.

Here is the 2022 Breeders’ Cup race schedule, with best bets, betting trends and observations to help guide your selections:

Breeders’ Cup race schedule 

Friday Schedule

No. Race Time (ET)
Race 6 Juvenile Turf Sprint 3 p.m.
Race 7 Juvenile Fillies 3:40 p.m.
Race 8 Juvenile Fillies Turf 4:20 p.m.
Race 9 Juvenile 5 p.m.
Race 10 Juvenile Turf 5:40 p.m.

Saturday Schedule

No. Race Time (ET)
Race 3 Filly & Mare Sprint 11:50 a.m.
Race 4 Turf Sprint 12:29 p.m.
Race 5 Dirt Mile 1:10 p.m.
Race 6 Filly & Mare Turf 1:50 p.m.
Race 7 Sprint 2:30 p.m.
Race 8 Mile 3:10 p.m.
Race 9 Distaff 3:55 p.m.
Race 10 Turf 4:40 p.m.
Race 11 Classic 5:40 p.m.

Best Bet Friday

Cave Rock (Juvenile)

Cave Rock will be a short price in the Juvenile but is perhaps the most likely winner of Breeders’ Cup weekend.

The Bob Baffert-trained colt has handily won all three of his starts in Southern California, and each of his winning speed figures is faster than any of his rivals. Cave Rock will likely be on or near the lead and has already won at the 1 1/16-mile distance. 

Baffert has won the Juvenile five times, and Cave Rock’s biggest threat might be from Baffert’s other entry in the race, National Treasure. Cave Rock won’t offer much value, but let’s accept the short price in the Juvenile and move on. 

Best Bet Saturday

Rebel’s Romance (Turf)

European horses are strongest in the Breeders’ Cup grass races, especially the 1 1/2-mile Turf, a race the Euros have won six of the past seven years. Europe-based horses make up nearly half of the 13-horse Turf field, with Rebel’s Romance the most formidable.

Rebel’s Romance was a solid dirt and synthetic horse in his first seven career races (he was briefly considered for the Kentucky Derby) before switching to turf in June 2022. The 4-year-old gelding is 4-for-4 in his grass efforts, winning two races in England and a pair of Grade 1s in Germany, all at Saturday’s 1 1/2-mile distance. 

His trainer Charles Appleby is one of the world’s best; his Breeders’ Cup record of six wins from 11 starters is unmatched. Appleby’s other entrant in the Turf, Nation’s Pride, is also a major player, but Rebel’s Romance is the more impressive of the two. With a decent trip, he’s a solid choice to keep his perfect turf record intact.

Who wins the Breeders' Cup Classic?

With an unblemished record and five career wins by more than 60 lengths, Flightline is 3-5 on the morning line and could go off as the biggest betting favorite in Breeders’ Cup Classic history. That honor belongs to Easy Goer, who went off at 1-2 in 1989 … and lost. In fact, of the seven horses sent off at less than even money in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, only two won.

That said, Flightline’s speed figures tower over the field, and it’s hard to make a logical case against him. The 4-year-old is the most likely winner and should be on multi-race tickets. 

But to extract some value, I will include two others, Taiba and Epicenter. They are the two best 3-year-olds taking on older horses and have the most room for improvement. They will need to improve to beat Flightline, but are not without a chance.

Predicted order of finish: Flightline, Taiba, Epicenter.
 

Breeders Cup Classic Field

PP Horse Jockey Odds
1 Taiba Mike Smith 8-1
2 Life Is Good Irad Ortiz 6-1
3 Happy Saver John Velazquez 30-1
4 Flightline Flavian Prat 3-5
5 Hot Rod Charlie Tyler Gaffalione 15-1
6 Epicenter Joel Rosario 5-1
7 Olympiad Junior Alvarado 10-1
6 Rich Strike Sonny Leon 20-1

 

Most vulnerable favorite

Nest (9-5, Distaff)

The Distaff on Saturday features a field of eight, tying the Classic for the smallest field of the weekend. Yet this race for fillies and mares is incredibly deep. A reasonable case can be made for six of the eight entrants, making Nest a questionable value play. 

Nest has an impressive resume with three dominant Grade I victories, seven wins in 10-lifetime starts and a runner-up finish in the Belmont Stakes. But older stablemate Malathaat, along with Search Results and Clairiere, has been facing tougher competition throughout the year. Front-running and rapidly improving Society is also a threat to take the field wire to wire.

This race is simply too competitive to take a short price, and Nest figures to be sent off at 2-1 or less.   

Long shots to consider

Friday

And Tell Me Nolies (8-1, Juvenile Fillies)

In only four career races, this 2-year-old filly has already displayed class and grit. And Tell Me Nolies has won Grade 1 and Grade 2 horse races in Southern California, and her three lifetime victories is tied for most in the field. In winning the Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita last time out, she slightly stumbled at the break, yet was able to regain position and then rally past the leaders in deep stretch. That race was the same distance as Friday’s Juvenile Fillies.

A few others in the Juvenile Fillies field have slightly higher speed figures, but And Tell Me Nolies has tactical speed to not fall too far back and has already proved she can overcome adversity. Trainer Peter Miller has won five Breeders’ Cup races. Odds of 8-1 or higher are more than fair.  

Be Your Best (8-1, Juvenile Fillies Turf)

Be Your Best Is likely to be overlooked after a disappointing third-place finish as the favorite in the Miss Grillo Stakes at Aqueduct on wet, yielding ground. Her previous two races on firmer turf were visually impressive 3 1/2-length victories at Saratoga, one in a stakes race.

All of her career races are over a mile, so distance won’t be a problem and Jose Ortiz returns to ride. She is good enough to work out a winning, stalking trip at double-digit odds. 

Saturday

Virginia Joy, (10-1, Filly & Mare Turf)

International-based horses have won the last three runnings of this race, but 5-year-old mare Virginia Joy (who began her career in Germany before coming to the U.S. in 2021) has a realistic shot to end that streak.

In Virginia Joy’s favor are 1.) an adaptable running style that allows to her rally from far back or race on the lead, and 2.) Chad Brown, who has won this race four times, the most of any trainer. Over the past two years, Virginia Joy has four wins in eight races and was a threat to win in all eight. Anything north of her 10-1 morning-line odds would be the most generous of her career.  

Señor Buscador (12-1, Dirt Mile)

It seems likely that Señor Buscador will be sent off at 20-1 or higher in the Dirt Mile. If so, the 4-year-old colt may be worth your attention.

After winning his first two career races in 2020, an injury sidelined the well-bred Señor Buscador for 17 months before he returned this year with two victories in four starts. His most recent outing was a convincing victory in the Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs a month ago. The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile is a far tougher field, but Señor Buscador has speed figures that could make him competitive here. His extremely wide third-place finish two races back behind likely Dirt Mile favorite Laurel River showed that he belongs in this field. Winning here is a tall task, but his backers will be well-rewarded if he hits the board.

Notable Breeders’ Cup Betting Trends

Friday

Juvenile Turf: Both previous runnings at Keeneland produced solid payoffs: Fire at Will at 30-1 in 2020, and Hit It a Bomb at 7-1 in 2015.

Juvenile Fillies: Betting favorites have won exactly half of the 38 runnings, the highest percentage of any of the original Breeders’ Cup divisions.

Juvenile: California-based horses have won three of the past four runnings and six of the past nine. The past 16 Juveniles were won by 16 different jockeys.

Saturday

Filly & Mare Sprint:  With an average payoff of nearly $25 on a $2 win bet, the Filly & Mare Sprint has the highest winning average payoff of any Breeders’ Cup race. It's a good race to look for a price.

Filly & Mare Turf: The last 10 runnings were won by either an international horse (six times) or U.S. trainer Chad Brown (four times). Betting favorites have failed to win the last eight years.

Turf: European horses have won 18 of the last 23, six of the last seven, and both times at Keeneland.

Classic: Flightline trainer John Sadler has started six horses in the Classic with one victory (Accelerate in 2018). Flightline’s sire Tapit has failed to produce a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner from six runners.

Pride of Iowa

Iowa-bred horses rarely make a national impact, much less compete in the Breeders’ Cup. Tyler’s Tribe (8-1, Juvenile Turf Sprint) is the exception, and only the second Iowa-bred horse to compete in a Breeders’ Cup race. Topper T finished eighth in the 2018 Juvenile.

Tyler’s Tribe is 5-for-5, all in sprint races at Iowa’s Prairie Meadows, with each victory by at least six lengths. Three of those races were against Iowa-bred fields, which would make him easy to dismiss, but the gelding’s lofty speed figures make him a contender.

All of Tyler Tribe’s victories were on dirt, but he’s entered in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, meaning he will be racing on grass for the first time. There is grass pedigree, but asking a horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race on a surface he has never attempted is a big ask. It’s also the first Breeders’ Cup mount for Prairie Meadows leading jockey Kylee Jordan. Morning-line odds are 15-1.

Elsewhere

  • The winner of the Juvenile earns 30 points for entry into the 2023 Kentucky Derby … unless that horse is trained by Bob Baffert. Churchill Downs suspended Baffert for two years after his Medina Spirit failed a drug test and was disqualified from winning the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Baffert has two horses in the Juvenile: heavily favored Cave Rock and National Treasure.
  • Seven returning or former Breeders’ Cup winners are entered over the two days: Aloha West (Sprint), Ce Ce (Filly & Mare Sprint), Echo Zulu (Filly & Mare Sprint), Golden Pal (Turf Sprint), Life Is Good (Classic), Modern Games (Mile) and Order of Australia (Mile). Of the seven, only Golden Pal and Modern Games are morning-line favorites.
  • Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has the most Breeders’ Cup wins with 20, but Bob Baffert is closing in with 17. Chad Brown is third with 15, followed by top European trainer Aidan O’Brien (13). Mike Smith is the leading all-time Breeders’ Cup jockey with 26 wins, followed by John Velazquez with 18.
  • Twenty-six countries will offer commingled Breeders’ Cup wagering. Seven other countries will offer wagering with their own separate pools. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar set a record for overall handle with $183,260,128 in wagers.
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