Analyzing Recent Trends in Breeders’ Cup Classic Winners

Baffert-trained 3-year-old American Pharoah is evidence of some recent trends in Breeders' Cup Classic winners. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic figures to be the most anticipated race of the year with Gun Runner and Arrogate squaring off and Horse of the Year honors hinging on the outcome.

Of course, they will not be alone in the Del Mar starting gate. The field figures to be filled with worthy challengers and should provide an interesting handicapping challenge.

In looking over trends in the Breeders’ Cup Classic from 2010-16, Gun Runner has the odds stacked against him, mostly because he may have to face not just one, but several horses from trainer Bob Baffert’s barn.

The most noteworthy trend about the Classic is that Baffert has won the race for the last three years, each time with a 3-year-old.

Mubtaahij after his Awesome Again win.
Mubtaahij after his Awesome Again win. (Eclipse Sportswire)

This year, Baffert could have a 3-year-old in the mix with Travers winner West Coast. Yet he also has a few Grade 1-winning older horses, including Arrogate, winner of last year’s Classic, Awesome Again winner Mubtaahij, and Pacific Classic winner Collected, which gives him a powerful hand regardless of his winning streak.

While Baffert has a three-race winning streak in the race, Arrogate will attempt to become just the second equine winner of consecutive editions of the race, joining Tiznow (2000-01).

As for other trends, in the last seven years, New York has produced the most Classic winners. Five of the last seven winners put in their last prep in the Empire State.

Two of them raced in the Travers (Arrogate 2016 and American Pharoah 2015), while three raced in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (Fort Larned 2012, Drosselmeyer 2011, and Blame 2010).

The other two winners used the Awesome Again at Santa Anita (Mucho Macho Man 2013) and the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx (Bayern 2014).

While 3-year-olds have dominated the race recently, that trio were the only sophomore winners in the last seven years. Overall, 12 of the 33 winners were 3-year-olds.

With so much at stake in a race as important as the Breeders’ Cup Classic, surprisingly favorites have not fared well. In the last seven years, the only horse to win as the betting favorite was Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015.

He paid just $3.40 to win, and Arrogate returned a mere $5.40 as the second choice. Yet with five other favorites going down to defeat and two winners paying $31.60 and $20.80, the average winning price for a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner was nearly $14.

On the jockeys’ side, it’s “Big Money” Mike Smith who leads with two wins.

He’s Arrogate’s regular rider, showing how the past might once again shine a light on the future.

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