RSS Feed for this Blog

Friday, October 30, 2009

Breeders' Cup Time(s)

How badly does the Breeders' Cup want to move past this year's disaster of tired synthetic track controversy, major defections, and too many races? Yesterday, they unveiled their logo for next year's event, on good old dirt, at Churchill.

(Of course, the last time they ran it on dirt didn't turn out so hot either with the track turned to slop by four days of relentless rain. And you know, if it's not synth or slop, it could be factors such as track configuration (say, the one turn at Belmont), or an unfortunate post position draw, or the use of a rabbit, or any number of things that can cast doubt on a single race as a true championship event. The fact is that horse racing is a tough sport to boil down to one day; and, on the other hand, horses no longer race enough times or against each other frequently enough to always draw any conclusions from an entire season either. Maybe they should just bag the whole Eclipse concept and instead devote all the energy involved to properly marketing the game as the gambling endeavor that it is.)

I hope and plan to get to some handicapping of next Saturday's races only here - I'll be at work for the ridiculous Filly Friday and I'm boycotting those races here and as far as my wallet goes. In any event, I obviously have not been devoting the same time and attention to the event as I have in past years; so I'd like to instead direct you to the best resource online. There are several of them; but I've found that they are of varying quality, at best.

The Breeders' Cup itself has this year offloaded most of its content to the Breeders' Cup 360 site, which, unfortunately, is dominated by Jeremy Plonk. Here we are, one week before the event, and the feature story concerns in part an account of who he bet in the 1997 Sprint. I mean, really. Below that are video analyses from Oct 11, and a contest in which readers submit their best Breeders Cup score.

What I want to see most in a Breeders' Cup site are sections for each of the 14 races which feature, with one click, relevant information neatly organized and, especially, handicapping tools. But when you click on Divisions on this site, all you get is a mish-mosh list of stories and posts, none of them more recent than October 17 as of this writing (on Oct 30). There's a dropdown list at the top to specify divisions, but still no content other than links to stories in a format unfriendly to the eye. This is all pretty weak I'm afraid, especially for a site which billed itself as a comprehensive handicapping tool. (Full disclosure: I wrote for the Breeders' Cup site two years ago and was not invited back. And I'm not ashamed to shake off my usual modesty here and tell you that I think that the stuff that both I and Paul Moran wrote that year as a whole blows this stuff away. Just my highly biased opinion of course.)

The Daily Racing Form has its usual excellent Breeders Cup Advance available for a price. But the free stuff seems lacking as well. I like Watchmaker's rankings (pdf), but otherwise it's basically just a depository of links to DRF stories, with no other tools readily available even if you click on the links for each division. The sidebar contains links to features such as DRF Plus (paid), Ticketmaster, and the Inside Track blog that are available throughout the year. The BC Challenge link is more helpful, featuring video replays of many (though not all) of those races which, as we know, hardly included all of the relevant preps this year. And they're not sorted by division. The Statistics link actually leads one to the BC site.'s Breeders' Cup Section does have divisional links on its front page, and there's a bit more info here than the two sites mentioned above with links to profiles of the contenders. But otherwise, just another list of links to stories.

To me, by far and away the most useful site I've seen is that of the Thoroughbred Times, and its 2009 Road to the Breeders' Cup section. Click on a divisional link, and you get the whole package in one easy on the eyes shot: besides the relevant stories, a list of pre-entries with sire and trainer (is that so hard?), and, best of all, a complete list of relevant preps for that particular division, Challenge races or not, with high quality pop-up videos of every single one run in North America. There's also a Statistics link which leads one to a page (its own) containing some interesting stats on past races, including past winners (sortable by owner/breeder/trainer/jockey) post positions, and winning margins. (Would love to see a list of the past winners' previous prep race or two as well.)

So a great job by TT here, congratulations to all involved, and I'll be listing their links to each division over on the right sidebar as soon as I have a moment.


Anonymous said...

While I like the Breeders' Cup and all, I think it is the main reason horses no longer run in races all year long; they instead use a couple races during the year as preps for the Breeders' Cup to win Eclipse Awards. I also believe that too much emphasis is places on the breeders' Cup when Eclipse Award voting takes place which doesn't help this.

ballyfager said...

I wouldn't be at all sorry to see the Breeders Cup disappear. Despite their claims to the contrary, the greatest day of racing in this country was, is and always will be the first Saturday in May. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who has never heard of the KY Derby. Most people, on the other hand, don't know the Breeders Cup from the Lady Byng Trophy.

Because of the synthetic fiasco, I intend to ignore it this year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up on the TT site,excellent work over there. About time someone combined common sense and effort to create a user friendly site with all the free content you need.

I to am wagering less this year because of the synth, will concentrate on the Turf races.

Steve Zorn said...

You omitted one BC-related site: the NTRA blogs, featuring a bunch of Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance colleagues:

Content here is definitely uneven, but there's some good stuff. (Disclosure: I write the section on the turf sprint).

steve in nc said...

Dirt or Poly, the BC is my favorite handicapping, wagering and watching day of the year. the Monmouth Park debacle was an exception and I wish I had had the sense to refrain from betting.

People who don't like poly can keep complaining, or try to adapt, and beat low-price horses that don't have poly form. Not that they all lose, but the prices on other contenders make up for it.

Presuming Zenyatta runs in the Classic, Careless Jewel may be a short-priced filly worth trying to beat on Friday. She won on poly, but her speed figures improved greatly when moved to dirt. So she's iffy and won't be worth the price.

Steve D said...

Steve D here. Long time reader, with no affiliation with the site that I'm about to tout.

Please check out

Breeders' Cup section? Check
Area for each race? Check
List of contenders? Check

Now here's where it gets really cool. Click on the name of the contender and you get a list of all past race results...with a link to news and information about the race, and video of said race.

All of this for free. It's an incredible site that truly consolidates all of the free information that's out there about these contenders and races.

It is where I'll be doing most of my Breeders' Cup research. Could somebody put the guys behind this site in charge, give them some resources, and dump the Breeders' Cup marketing idiots like Plonk and his ilk?

Anonymous said...

Alan, glad to see you are finally coming around on the futility of the Breeder's Cup as the be all, end all of champions. We need to get out of this Super Bowl mentality and go back to the old Eclipse Award system of points per Grade I, Grade II etc. 1st, 2nd 3rd's.

Under the present system, too many owners and trainers look for the easiest path to the Eclipse by running as light a schedule as possible, with the hope that their tiger will be in tip-top shape for the BC. That does nothing for the many fine tracks and stakes programs around the country.

Same for the Derby as the other "The Race" of the year. NY offers many fine stakes just as historic as the Derby (Belmont and Travers more historic, with venues every bit as attractive as CD) and often times better measures of a horse's true ability than the much over-rated, cavalry charge called the KY Derby.

Time to bring back the Grade I and Grade II handicap circuit with big purse $$$$ stakes races to keep the 3 year olds racing into their 4 and 5 year old seasons. The objective is to have horses, owners, trainers, and jockeys develop a fan base over several seasons, with quality, consistency, and longevity the means to the end. /S/greenmtnpunter

DiscreetPicks said...

I prefer the Breeders Cup over the Derby, and it's not even close. The Breeders Cup brings together the best horses in the world, or at least a good number of them. The Derby brings together a group of early-season 3yo's, the bulk of whom simply aren't that good, and have little business in a race of such maginitude. Combine that with the ridiculous 20-horse traffic jam, and the fact that none of them have ever been 1 1/4 miles before. Enjoyable race, sure. Profitable, sometimes. On that subject, the race's main attraction seems to be the fact that it draws so much novice money into the betting pools. And of course, there are always a lot of props being offered (futures, matchups, etc). But as far as the caliber of the two events are concerned, they don't begin to compare. Breeders Cup by a landslide. Just my opinion.

Erin said...

What the Derby has going for it is its tradition, pageantry, and notoriety, and little else.

The Breeders' Cup has the capacity to be the best day of racing for both casual fans as a must-see event and for serious punters. Real quality in runners is much more likely to be displayed here than in the Derby.

But unfortunately this isn't happening, and in its current incarnation it never will.

Geno said...

I've been doing much of my research at TT and Horse Racing Nation. I have used BC360 to review Jeff Siegel's rankings which have been updated weekly.

The HR Nation divisional site is cool as they also link to videos of the latest races also.