Many years ago, three of the more popular sports in the United States were baseball, boxing, and horseracing. You could ask a cross-section of the American public who won the most recent World Series, who was the Heavyweight Champion of the World, and what horse won the Kentucky Derby and they would be able to tell you. While baseball remains reasonably popular, coming in at third place behind football and basketball, boxing and horse racing have fallen by the wayside.
Many people could tell you that the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series and that the Giants just won this year. Fewer people could name this year’s Kentucky Derby champion, California Chrome, and fewer still 2013’s winner, Orb. I’m not even sure who would be considered the current Heavyweight Champion of the world and I doubt you know either. Maybe one of those huge Russian (Klitchko? Klitcsho? Klisctko?) brothers? According to the Google Machine it’s actually spelled Klitschko and all of the Heaveyweight belts (more than one?) were held by one them until December 15, 2013 when Vitali stepped down. In case you were interested, World Boxing Council (WBC) lists Canadian BermaneStiverne as the champion while the World Boxing Association (WBA) has Uzbekistani RusianChagaev with the belt. Ever heard of either of them? Didn’t think so. Back to the horses.
Even though the Kentucky Derby is probably the best-known race, at least in the United States, it may not be the most important. There are many races through the world with larger purses. The purse for the Kentucky Derby is currently a paltry two and a half million dollars while the Dubai World Cup is ten million. Other races with purses larger than the Race for the Roses include the Melbourne Cup, Japan Cup, and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Some people in the horse-racing world count the Breeder’s Cup Classic as the most important race in the United States; it’s certainly the richest, with a five million dollar purse.
The Breeder’s Cup Classic is the culminating race of The Breeder’s Cup, a two day spectacle with a total combined purse of $25.5 million. The series of races is usually held at different track each year; this year it will be held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia California for the second year in a row. The Classic is a race for horses that are at least three years old and run on a left-handed dirt track at a distance of one and a quarter miles, the same distance as the Kentucky Derby. Since the Classic is one of the last major Grade 1 Stakes races of the year and has the largest purse for an American race it makes sense that it attracts some of the best horses. The winner of each leg of this year’s Triple Crown — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont, and unofficial fourth leg, the Travers — will be racing this Saturday along with the winners of other major (if less well-known) races. Since so many of the horses that run in Classic are of such high quality, it is incredibly hard to predict who will win. Which is why I’m going to do just that.
What makes me, Sports Alcohol’s (self-appointed) gambling correspondent an expert handicapper able to predict this year’s Breeder’s Cup Classic? Quite simply, the following two qualifications:
1. I was born and raised in Saratoga Springs, New York. I’ve been around, talked to, and learned from owners, trainers, and jockeys for years. I’ve been reading the racing form since I was about six years old. Basically, horse racing is in my blood.
2. I’m pretty much a degenerate gambler.
In addition to providing a short explanation of how I think each horse will perform, I’ve arranged to provide the picks of other handicappers that I will be going head to head with to predict the results of this race. I will be using my vast knowledge of horse racing along with hours (maybe one hour) of research. These other handicappers will be using the tried and true method of picking horses by name alone. Since this race is being contested by three and four year old horses, I have enlisted the help of three and four year old human beings, children of my friends, to compete with. I will win.
Continue reading The Sport of Kings (Not Poker) (Or Darts): Handicapping the Breeder’s Cup