Beginners’ Guide to Betting the 2020 Breeders’ Cup

Horses race during the 2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland Race Course. (Eclipse Sportswire)

If you’re like me and love a good ol’ gamble-fest, the only thing better than a sunrise-to-sunset betting bonanza is two straight days of nonstop wagering action. That’s exactly what you get with the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6-7.

The Breeders’ Cup is essentially the NCAA Tournament condensed into two days. It’s where the best horses (based on their accomplishments throughout the year) travel to a neutral site – it’s Kentucky this year but the host venue rotates annually – and square off in bracketed or divisional matchups. For instance, the best horses in sprint races (run at distances under a mile) on the dirt (there’s also a turf division) face-off in what’s known as the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. There’s a male division of the race and also a female division known as the Filly and Mare Sprint.

In total, there are 14 divisional races (five on Friday and nine on Saturday) that attract not only the best horses from coast-to-coast but also from international racing hotspots like England, France, Australia, South America, and even Japan and Hong Kong. There are so many variables to consider, including how international runners will perform against U.S. competition, in assessing – or handicapping – each race. That detailed level of analysis in 14 stacked Breeders’ Cup races gives horseplayers unique opportunities to make a huge betting score.

Anyone new to the event might be a bit overwhelmed and wonder where to start, how to bet, and on which horse(s) to bet. America’s Best Racing always has the tools to get you started but we’re especially equipped to answer those questions this time of year. So, let’s dig into a few things to know if you’re new to betting on the Breeders’ Cup.

Since there are so many betting options at the Breeders’ Cup, you may want to map out a wagering strategy. The first thing I do is try to narrow down a list of races to bet and use that to guide my budget in a way that allows me to make my largest wagers in the races (and on the horses) that I feel the strongest about. If you’re still getting comfortable with the variety of wagers (different types of bets you can make), take a look at this handy guide: Betting Horse Racing, Explained. As a reminder, you can always budget out your bets using our Gambling Calculator, which is presented by 1/ST Bet (who also offers a new signup bonus if you’re looking for a site on which to wager).

My own personal approach, especially in races that traditionally have been characterized by volatility (like the turf sprints and some of the juvenile races with younger 2-year-old horses that’ll be run on the Nov. 6 “Future Stars Friday” card), is to find a key horse around which to make my bets. The great thing about the Breeders’ Cup is that nearly every race is loaded with a full field of capable runners. For that reason, you can expect with some degree of confidence that there will be a longshot who runs first or second in a majority of the races. In other words, rarely do the two favorites in a Breeders’ Cup race (based on the amount of money bet on them) actually finish first and second.

If you can identify one of those longshots and make a strong win and place bet (for a horse at odds of over 8-1) or even a show bet (for runners over 12-1) you can score a decent return without having to rely on anything other than your horse running his or her race. What I also like doing with longshots is using them in exactas in a way that has proven pretty rewarding for me over the years. I’ll get to that in a moment.

For bettors who are open to taking on a bit more risk, the Breeders’ Cup offers a range of “exotic bets” including exactas (selecting the top two finishers in a race), trifectas (top three finishers) and superfectas (top four). If you’re a sports bettor, think about those bet types in the way you’d think about a “same game parlay” on any given event. The only difference is that instead of wagering $10 to win a few hundred dollars if your four-way parlay connects, you could make thousands of dollars for the same level of investment if only your top two or three horses cross the line first.

Storm the Court (right) wins the 2019 Juvenile. (BENOIT photo)

Just how much money can you make betting the Breeders’ Cup? Look no further than the results from the 2019 Breeders’ Cup. For starters, the post-time favorite (the horse who took the most wagering money) won just three of the 14 races. On Breeders’ Cup Friday, Storm the Court (odds of 45.90-to-1) was at the top of an exacta that paid $976.40 for a $2 wager! A winning $2 trifecta ticket on the race returned $7,861. Earlier in the day, the $2 trifecta in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf paid $11,967.

I remember Storm the Court and his win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile more gleefully because I hit that exacta and I didn’t even think Storm the Court would win the race. I did, however, like the runner-up Anneau d’Or. So, in addition to betting win, place and show money on Anneau d’Or (since his odds were 28-to-1) I also keyed him in an exacta box with every horse in the field. A “exacta key box with all” meant that if he finished first or second I’d win my bet – no matter which other horse occupied the other spot in the top two.

We’ve written on a number of occasions about how easy it is – and LEGAL – to wager on horse racing online in a majority of states. You can check out our quick tips for setting up a horse betting account. We initially put it together for the Triple Crown races this year which were onsite-fanless events (just like the Breeders’ Cup) but the same basic rules apply when it comes to the ease and convenience of setting up a bet-from-home account.

The next step is taking a look at our dos and don’ts when it comes to betting on racing. When it comes to Breeders’ Cup, one of the first things I’d recommend any new horse better do is to watch and listen. There are so many great podcasts and streaming live shows that you’ll be able to catch every morning (7 -10 a.m. ET) on Breeders’ Cup social media channels beginning the Friday before Breeders’ Cup, Oct. 30. ABR will also host a daily lunchtime Breeders’ Cup show (noon ET) starting on Tuesday, Nov. 3. These shows will feature insights from horse bettors, analysts, jockeys, trainers and even some insights on those tough-to-figure horses that are shipping in from overseas.

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