Pairing Opinions With Live Odds Board to ‘Make Your Day’ This Breeders’ Cup

Horses break from the starting gate at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland. (Eclipse Sportswire)

How different is wagering on a Breeders’ Cup World Championships card from a normal race day card, or even a normal “big race day” card? In my view, not vastly different at all. Thoroughbred racing is always about opinion and the odds.

Wagering on Thoroughbreds is a game of opinion … individual opinion and crowd opinion. Opinion is informed by experience. Folks of little experience are less armed. The equalizer, in my opinion, is the odds board, the only constant from track to track and race to race. 

Before every race day, the track’s morning-line maker, in this case Mike Battaglia, establishes what he believes will be the crowd’s betting opinion. Once “live” betting begins on each race, the odds board represents the collective wisdom of every participant who places a wager. And the crowd is a formidable rival.

For all races, nearly 90% of winners emerge from the crowd’s first three betting choices. This era of short fields has made that statistic even more compelling. For Breeders Cup races, with up to 14 entrants, the winner is highly likely to emerge from among the crowd’s first six or seven betting choices.

Will runners that are listed above that benchmark at longer odds win? Of course, but far less often, and, lacking a strong opinion, they are tough to find.

In its coverage of Thoroughbred racing, NBC Sports displays “live” odds, not by post position, but in ascending order from race favorite to the longest odds. In my opinion, doing so makes evaluating the competition clearer for on-air talent discussing the race and the viewing public following the coverage.

Below is Race 11, the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, ranked from morning-line favorite Magical (5-2) to the longest odds horses, Mehdaayih (30-1) and Donjah (30-1).

2020 Breeders' Cup Turf

The premise here is to focus on the horses among the first five or six lines until “live” odds alter position. Which horses take betting action? Which ones appear out of favor with the crowd? Do you have any firm opinions which reflect for or against crowd action? Is there a win bet, or even two, at odds generous enough to make the play worth the risk? Which horses could provide value to use in exotic plays with favorites?

Understanding the odds board is, in my opinion, what makes wagering on Breeders’ Cup day no different from any other race day. Apply opinion and the wisdom of the odds board to “make your day” this Breeders Cup.

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