No Home Field Advantage in Breeders' Cup 2019

Eclipse Sportswire

One thing I stress strongly in my book “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies” is you never stop learning. With that thought in mind I like to analyze what I just saw such at an event as high profile as the Breeders’ Cup.

I wanted to know where the Breeders’ Cup winners prepped at. It went like this: Belmont Park, four; Keeneland, three; one each at Arlington Park, Churchill Downs, Laurel Park, Newmarket, Parx, Saratoga and Santa Anita Park.

That’s right. Only one of the 14 winners prepped at the host track Santa Anita. That was longshot Storm the Court who won the TVG Juvenile at 45-1 odds for trainer Peter Eurton.

Now, a prep race does not always signify where the horse is based. For example, trainer Peter Miller shipped Belvoir Bay (Turf Sprint) to prep at Belmont but his stable is based in Southern California. So in reality two local horses won Breeders’ Cup races.

But to me it still raises concerns. The local horses have a home field advantage in any Breeders’ Cup. Locally based horses don’t have to travel. They get to sleep in their own stall. The races are over their home track where they train daily. Everything is familiar to them.

Thus the needle points to the power clearly coming from back East. New York horses, in particular, fared very well.

It starts with trainer Todd Pletcher who won the Longines Classic with Vino Rosso for owners Mike Repole and  Vincent Viola. A big tipoff that Vino Rosso would run well was Pletcher shipped him to Santa Anita back on May 27 to win the Gold Cup. The horse handled everything as well in November as he did in May.

Next, trainer Chad Brown had a nice harvest of trophies with Structor (Juvenile Turf), Uni (TVG Mile) and Bricks and Mortar (Longines Turf). This obviously was no fluke. The Brown stable will only get stronger. Right now his best runners are turf horses but it won’t be long before the quality of his dirt runners catches up.

By the way, the win by Bricks and Mortar probably clinched the Horse of the Year crown. His Turf win capped off a special season going undefeated in six stakes. Five of them came in Grade 1 events.

Trainer Wesley Ward prepped Four Wheel Drive (Juvenile Turf Sprint) at Belmont Park.  

Mitole (Sprint) ran three times in New York for trainer Steve Asmussen. Asmussen has horses all over the country. So to pin him down to one locale is like putting your finger on a dot of mercury.

So what have we learned? With the 2020 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland it would lend itself to a lot more horses prepping in New York and Kentucky.

It is a huge help too that the purses in New York and Kentucky are enhanced by historical racing machines. That revenue stream is not available in California. So never forget that horse trainers can be like pro golfers. They follow the money. 

Richard Eng is the author of “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies,” an introductory book for newcomers to the sport of horse racing.  For two decades, he was the turf editor and handicapper for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He still handicaps the Southern California tracks and his picks are for sale at You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick and on

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