The Breeders’ Cup might not be as hyped as the Triple Crown races of the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and Preakness Stakes, but the two days are commonly referred to as “the world championship of racing.” In 2018, the races will be held at Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby, on November 2–3, with more than $30 million in purses.
“It does take a bit of a back seat to football,” said Ken Miller, CG Technology Sportsbooks horse racing expert. “But it’s the single biggest weekend in horse racing. It’s a massive, massive weekend.”
Held since 1984, the annual event welcomes the best racehorses from around the world, with 14 races throughout the two days, culminating with the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. In 2015, American Pharaoh capped his career with a win at the race, making him the first horse to complete the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing by winning all four races—since all other Triple Crown winners were prior to the Breeders’ Cup inception. Sadly, the 2018 Triple Crown winner Justified retired and won’t be taking part in the races.
“The best jockeys, the best trainers, the best horses—this is where they’ve generally capped their careers now,” Miller said of the Breeders’ Cup.
There’s no surefire way to pick winners at the Breeders’ Cup, especially since there are horses coming into the fold from Europe and Canada.
Miller does have one tip to keep in mind, at least for the six turf races.
“I fall into this trap, and some years it works and other years it doesn’t so well,” Miller said. “European horses, their main race surface is turf, and here they race on dirt mostly, so the horses from Europe typically take the turf races. That’s always been a useful tool for me.”
For the rest of the races, Miller said a positive is that the prices for the horses, especially favorites, aren’t as high, since the betting pools are as big as they will be at any other time of the year. Another way to get a leg up on the crowd is to watch the 18 races from Oct. 5–27 in October at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky.
“It’s an absolutely huge month in racing,” Miller said. “That’s some of the best racing in North America, and it’s a potential some of the Breeders’ Cup horses will make their prep races there and you can get a feel for them there.”
The Breeders’ Cup races will also give bettors an inside look at some of the favorites for next spring. The best year for racehorses is when they are three; that’s the age they run the Triple Crown races. But the Breeders’ Cup hosts a series of races for the juvenile two-year-old horses.
“Those are some of my favorite races. It’s right when they first begin to race,” Miller said. “You only get one chance at the Triple Crown, and this is where you can start to get a gauge on these horses.”