Breeders’ Cup Picks for Saturday: Handicapping the Classic, Turf, and More

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Here is a budgetary survival kit and outline of the nine-race, $21 million race package for the second day of the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday from Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.

No matter how much bettors read, analyze, handicap, or watch videos, a profitable day hinges not only on finding a couple openings and making the correct picks, but also putting the right amount of money into it.

That means most people can’t slam all nine races on Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup card, just as they would be restrained if there were nine Super Bowls in one day. But even the races one does not bet can provide tips for the ones that they do.
Here is an overview of some big races, followed by Breeders’ Cup picks to consider.

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Main Event: Breeders’ Cup Classic, $6 Million, 1 1-4 Miles, Dirt

Flightline is a special horse whose odds below even-money will scare some gamblers off the win line.

But not all. The horse has been dominant enough that a big bankroll player may consider betting $1,000 to win $600, if the morning-line odds of 3-to-5 hold up.

Flightline, Breeders Cup Classic picks
Flightline, here winning the Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan with jockey Flavien Prat, is the odds-on favorite to win Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Why Flightline Should Win Breeders’ Cup Classic

He’s authored a 126 Beyer Speed figure, one of the fastest of all time, in September. He is 5-for-5 and never been threatened. In the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic in September, he defeated runner-up Country Grammer by more than 19 lengths. Country Grammer had just beaten Life Is Good and Hot Rod Charlie, both of whom are in this race, in the $12 million Dubai World Cup.

That comparison elevates his mystique.

He’s hailed as a once-a-generation horse.

Why Flightline Could Lose Breeders’ Cup Classic

He’s never been in a protracted speed duel. Life Is Good figures to be forwardly placed and could wind up launching a wicked duel with Flightline. Although Flightline figures to put Life Is Good Away, he could be weakened for the stretch run.

It’s happened before. Knicks Go won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2020 and the Classic last year. But in an earlier race, he was peppered heavily in an all-out speed duel and lost.

If that happens here, Epicenter and Taiba would have a chance. Otherwise, they are going to battle for second and third place.

Other considerations:

Taiba is on an improvement arc that saw him win the Pennsylvania Derby in September. He is lightly-raced and authored a career-high Beyer of 108. He is a stalker who will come running late and his chances ride on whether Flightline has been affected.

With Flightline being four years old, Epicenter is the likely three-year-old horse of the year. He was second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and got over the big-race hump by winning the Travers at Saratoga in August.

Probably the most consistent three-year-old on the entire circuit. Look for him to be forwardly placed and stalking.

Hot Rod Charlie, who finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic behind Knicks Go last year, gives it another go. His form hasn’t been as good this year compared to 2021. Capable of pushing a fast early pace, which could hinder Flightline.
Olympiad authored a victory in the $1 million Jockey Gold Club at Saratoga, indicating he’s hit top form. Could surprise in the second and third slot.

Rich Strike shocked the racing world at an 80-to-1 price in stealing the Kentucky Derby in a last-to-first move in May. Hasn’t run as well since. Rarely will one see a reigning Kentucky Derby winner at 20-to-1, but that’s the case this year.
Could benefit if the race falls apart. However it works out, this is his best distance.

How the smaller bettors may play this:

Take a pop on an exacta combination. It’s only an eight-horse field, and if Flightline runs well, there won’t be much money.

There should be money to be made, however, one race earlier.

View from VegasCirca oddsmakers handicaps Breeders’ Cup Classic

Breeders’ Cup Turf: $4 million, 1 1-2 miles

Dig in. There are chances in this co-feature.

European horses perform well here and are rightly played. That puts a big mark on Rebel’s Romance, Nations Pride, and Mishriff.

Here’s where gamblers may start to separate them:

Irish-bred Nations Pride came to New York for the Caesars Turf Racing Triple Crown this summer, contested at Belmont and Saratoga at the same distances as the thoroughbred Triple Crown races.

Nations Pride was shocked (as was the racing world) when Classic Causeway won the opener at 26-to-1 odds in his turf debut. Nations Pride waited too long to get going and finished second.

The same mistake was not made over the next two legs, which he won handily.

Nations Pride looks better every time out. As an Irish bred, he’s high quality and has a wealth of experience at American tracks. That’s a strong angle.

Rebel’s Romance and Mishriff will get play, and any time a bettor sees a Charles Appleby horse on the turf, (Rebel’s Romance here), it warrants a second look. Appleby is a major player on the turf-racing training circuit.

Spot play:

Highland Chief may not get much play but comes off his best career race, a 1 1-2-mile victory in the Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland last month. A triumph at the track and over the distance — even if the purse money is lower — merits putting a horse into consideration.

He’s a good one to toss on the bottom of trifecta and superfecta tickets, especially at odds of 15-to-1.

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile: Confusing Spectacle

The presence of Flightline knocked Cyberknife out of the Classic and into the $1 million Dirt Mile. Cyberknife has the class with wins in the Arkansas Derby and Haskell Stakes, but he could be a tepid favorite.

Others like Cody’s Wish, Laurel River, and Gunite appear ready to make a successful jump in class. All four horses may be short-priced. Bettors may want to take one pop with a winner, but avoid too many trifecta and superfecta spread tickets that may not pay well.

Betting Overview for the Rest of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Card

Pick the races in which you have an angle, watch the others for handicapping purses.

Keeneland is usually speed-favoring. Is that the pattern you see when looking at early races Friday and Saturday?

Future Stars: Friday’s Breeders’ Cup picks

Take the extra value on win and place lines.

This area is often forgotten because of possible “telephone number” payoffs in trifectas and superfectas. But most Breeders’ Cup horses give their backers a strong attempt and pay well because of the large betting pools.

See something in the 2-to-1, 5-to-2, 3-to-1, or 7-to-2 range? Bang that win bet first and then try to collect in the exotics.

The weather is supposed to be sunny. Double check that on race day, but as of midweek, the angles that embrace a heavy, tiring turf or a sloppy track don’t appear likely to emerge.

Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Schedule

RacePurseDistancePost Time (ET)
Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint $1 million 7 furlongs11:50 a.m.
Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint $1 million 5 1-2 furlongs12:29 p.m.
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile $1 million 1 mile 1:10 p.m.
Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf $2 million 1 3-16 mile 1:50 p.m.
Breeders' Cup Sprint $2 million 6 furlongs 2:30 p.m.
Breeders' Cup Mile $2 million1 mile, turf3:10 p.m.
Breeders' Cup Distaff $2 million 1 1-8 mile 3:55 p.m.
Breeders' Cup Turf $4 million 1 1-2 miles 4:40 p.m.
Breeders' Cup Classic $6 million 1 1-4 miles 5:40 p.m.

Saturday’s television coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on USA Network, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app and shifts to NBC and Peacock from 3:30-6 p.m. ET.

About the Author
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is a multiple award-winning writer and broadcaster, who has covered the sports industry since the 1970’s. He won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1997, and is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. He has broadcast major fights all over the world. The advent of legalized sports wagering shifted his focus to this exciting new industry in 2018.

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