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Betting the 2023 Breeders’ Cup

With $31 million in prize money awarded over two days, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is the richest weekend in American horse racing, and one of the richest events in all of sports. It is the culmination of the year’s international racing season, and a fitting send off to the many horses who conclude their careers at the event.

It is also horseplayer heaven – pretty much every race over the two days is a large, competitive field filled with some of the best horses in the world. These handicapping puzzles are often tricky, but the payoffs when nailing a wager at the Breeders’ Cup can often make a bettor’s year.

NBC Sports is home to the 40th Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Coverage begins on Friday, Nov. 3 from 4 to 8 p.m. ET on USA Network and resumes on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 1:30 pm ET on USA Network before jumping to NBC until 7 p.m. ET (when the Breeders’ Cup Classic finishes) and Peacock until 8:15 p.m. ET (when the Turf Sprint and Sprint conclude).

My wagering recommendations are dependent on the tote board. If a horse dips below what I perceive to be fair value, I will pass on making the bet. I have also listed some horses as “upgrades”. Those are backup selections that I will include if their odds drift above my threshold.

The event kicks off Friday with races for the juveniles (2-year-olds), but my strongest wagering opinions are in the races for older horses on Saturday. I will go in chronological order, starting with Race 4.



The Filly & Mare Turf often draws a very strong contingent of foreign-based horses, and this year is no different, with #6 Inspiral the top hope for the Europeans. She is coming off a dominant win in a G1 Stakes in Britain last time out, for the legendary trainer/jockey team of John Gosden and Frankie Dettori. She has never raced at longer than a mile, but if she handles the added distance, she will be tough to beat. Still, I do not want to default to the favorite in a race that has so much high-level talent, so let’s look elsewhere for a little more bang for my buck.

Second choice on the morning line is #2 Warm Heart, another European who also has a legendary trainer/jockey team in Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore. She is a solid horse, but the speed figures she has earned in her last few starts are a cut below the other top contenders here. Yes, she is a 3-year-old who can take a big step forward, but just like before, I do not want to default to a short price in a race with this much high-level talent.

My pick to win is #1 In Italian. This is my strongest wagering opinion of the entire Breeders’ Cup:

She should be able to get an uncontested early lead in the race, giving her a tactical advantage over the Europeans who prefer to come from the back of the pack.
The distance of 1¼ miles is a little bit longer than what she prefers, but the Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita plays shorter than the listed distance thanks to the first portion of the race being on a downhill.
Some bettors might avoid her since she has been the runner-up in each of her last two starts, but I think she ran the best race in each of those losses.
She also has America’s top turf trainer, Chad Brown.

Of course, there is always the fear that she could break poorly from the gate and fail to make the early lead, which would all but eliminate her from contention. But I think she is on the same talent level as the top Europeans here, and with the tactical advantage at higher odds, it is a great win bet.

Some horses to watch in the underneath slots in the trifecta and superfecta are #7 Lindy, who showcased a fantastic closing kick in her last start and could conceivably improve even further at a big price, and #8 Fev Rover, who was near a hot pace in the G1 EP Taylor last time out but still kicked away from the field late to win by 2¼ lengths.

WIN: #1 In Italian, at 7/2 or higher
EXACTA: 1 over 6, 7, 8
TRIFECTA: 1/ 6,7,8 / 6,7,8

Bet the Edge is your source for the day in sports betting. Get all of Jay Croucher and Drew Dinsick’s insight Tuesday through Saturday at 6AM ET right here or wherever you get your podcasts.



This year’s running of the Mile is headlined by #10 Songline, who is arguably the most talented horse that Japan has ever brought to the Breeders’ Cup. Her last 2 wins came against fields that are superior to what she is facing here, and she won both races with a devastating late kick, a running style that has proven successful in the Breeders’ Cup Mile over the years. My one concern is that the stretch at Santa Anita is far shorter than those in Japan, so she will need to start making her big move around the far turn, rather than at the top of the home stretch.

Another very strong win candidate is #6 Mawj, who is a contender to set the early pace. She won the G1 Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland last time out in what was her first start since May. Running her there was a shrewd move by trainer Saeed bin Suroor, as not only does she now have familiarity with American-style turf courses, but she is likely to take another step forward in her second start off the layoff. I do not think her morning-line odds of 4-1 are good value, though, so I would need that to drift up in order to consider betting her to win.

I am not really interested in #14 Master of the Seas, whose form is flattered by his win against weak competition in the Woodbine Mile, or #3 Casa Creed, the top American contender in this race who usually tails off at the end of the year.

If you are looking for a couple of longshot plays, consider #8 Du Jour, who is in red-hot form right now, and #13 More Than Looks, who showed a fantastic turn of foot when he crushed the competition in a minor stakes race at Churchill Downs last time out. Plus, he gets a jockey upgrade to Joel Rosario, who has won the BC Mile each of the last two times it has been held at Santa Anita.

The Mile kicks off a Pick-4 sequence that links the four most prestigious Breeders’ Cup races – Mile, Distaff, Turf, and Classic. I will list each horse I am using in the Pick-4 for each leg and then share my full ticket at the end of my Classic preview.

WIN: #10 Songline, at 5/2 or higher
WIN: #6 Mawj, at 6-1 or higher
UPGRADE: #8 Du Jour at 20-1 or higher
UPGRADE: #13 More Than Looks at 25-1 or higher
TRIFECTA: 6, 10 / 6, 8, 10, 13 / 6, 8, 10, 13
HORSES TO USE IN THE PICK 4: 6, 10 (A tier) / 8, 13 (B tier)



This race seems almost too simple to handicap. #4 Idiomatic, #5 Adare Manor, #6 Search Results, and #8 Randomized all like to be on or near the early lead, which should lead to a speed duel and set the race up for those coming from the back of the pack. And among those closers, the most talented by far is #9 Clairiere. She has come agonizingly close to winning this race each of the last two years, losing by a head in 2022 and by ¾ of a length in 2021. Her connections brought her back as a 5-year-old for the specific purpose of winning this race, and it is why I am not concerned that her last two starts have been poor – those races were not the focus, this one is. Plus, those last two races might inflate her price as some bettors will surely hop off the bandwagon. It seems simple, right? Picking the most talented closer in a race filled with early speed? Almost too simple…

I will also include Idiomatic in my Pick-4, as if a pace duel does not develop like I had hoped, she’s the best of the 4 previously aforementioned horses with early speed.

Others to consider are the 2023 Kentucky Oaks winner #3 Pretty Mischievous, and the #7 Wet Paint, both of whom – you guessed it – are closers. But neither are anywhere near the level of Clairiere at this stage in their careers.

WIN: #9 Clairiere, at 7/2 or higher
HORSES TO USE IN THE P4: 4,9 (A tier) / 3,7 (B tier)



The Europeans, who have won 14 of the last 18 runnings of this race, have one of their strongest-ever contingents this year, but there are a couple of standout Americans as well.

Let’s start with the top Euros - #9 Mostahdaf is the morning line favorite for trainer John Gosden, but I could see him vying for favoritism with #5 Auguste Rodin, who won this year’s Epsom Derby for the legendary Aidan O’Brien. These are two very, very classy horses and I would not be surprised if they ran 1-2 in here. But this is a 13-horse field and defaulting to the two favorites does not provide much value. I will include both of them in the “one-hole” in my exotics, as well as in my Pick-4, but let’s get a little more creative with my win bet.

I am against the other top European in this race, #11 King of Steel. He won the Champion Stakes at Ascot just two weeks ago in a race run over a soaking wet and physically demanding turf course. Trainer Roger Varian says he thinks the horse has recovered, but I just do not know if 14 days is enough rest after such a grueling victory.

The top American in the field is #8 Up to the Mark, but he has never run at this 1½ mile distance, and I cannot comprehend why his connections did not opt to run him in the BC Mile instead. He is drawing comparisons to Bricks and Mortar, who had never raced at 1½ miles prior to winning the BC Turf in 2019. But I thought the best distance for “Bricks” was 1¼ miles, meaning 1½ miles was at the upper edge of his wheelhouse. Watching Up to the Mark, I feel his best distance is 1 1/8 miles, theoretically putting 1½ miles out of his reach. Plus, the 2023 running of the BC Turf is a much stronger field than in 2019.

I am stunned that #13 War Like Goddess is not getting more attention this week. Last year, she entered the BC Turf off a win in the Turf Classic at Aqueduct, before finishing a respectable 3rd in the BC Turf at 3-1 odds. This year, she won the Turf Classic again, with an identical Beyer Speed Figure to her win in 2022, so she is in pretty much the exact same form. But she is listed at 12-1 on the morning line, which is a ridiculous overlay. Yes, she faces stronger competition this year, but her odds should not be *that* much higher. Maybe it’s because she now has a lower-profile jockey, Junior Alvarado? Some would argue the jockey switch is an upgrade, though, based on some of the rides that former jockey Joel Rosario gave her.

Another longshot I want to mention is #1 Shahryar. He has been terrible in two starts this year but has reportedly had surgery to fix a breathing problem, so we could see an improved effort here. He was 2nd as the favorite in last year’s Japan Cup, which always draws one of the strongest fields anywhere in the world. If he runs close to that performance, he is a major player here.

WIN: #13 War Like Goddess, at 8-1 or higher
UPGRADE: #1 Shahryar, at 15-1 or higher
EXACTA: 5,9 OVER 13, 1
TRIFECTA: 5,9 / 1,5,9,13 / 1,5,9,13
HORSES TO USE IN THE P4: 5, 9 (A tier) / 1, 13 (B tier)

Bet the Edge is your source for the day in sports betting. Get all of Jay Croucher and Drew Dinsick’s insight Tuesday through Saturday at 6AM ET right here or wherever you get your podcasts.



Let’s wrap things up with America’s richest race, the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. I will be honest, this is not the best quality field in race history, especially compared to last year, which was headlined by a generational talent in Flightline. But there are far more opportunities to make a wagering profit this year, so let’s get into it –
After the Tuesday scratch of #1 Arcangelo, #12 Arabian Knight will be the clear favorite in this race. And he deserves to be – after all, his trainer Bob Baffert has won this race four times before, and the inexperienced colt has looked extra sharp in his workouts leading up to this race. He has the highest ceiling of any horse in here…but I do not see him winning this race.

It’s not a coincidence that Arabian Knight’s only career loss was also the one time he did not take the early lead. And in this race, #6 Saudi Crown wants the lead, and I could also see #5 Derma Sotogake going for it too – not many people realize that was the plan for that horse in the Kentucky Derby before jockey Christophe Lemaire called an audible after breaking poorly from the gate. Each of these three runners need to set the pace to have their best chance of winning, and therefore this has all the makings of a speed duel that tires all three of them out and opens up the race to the closers.

My top pick is #8 Ushba Tesoro. This horse started his career on turf (Japan’s primary surface) but has become a monster since switching to dirt, winning seven of his last eight starts, including the $12 million Dubai World Cup in March. As mentioned above, I expect there to be a speed duel up front, so his off-the-pace running style should fit well here, but I do not want him to get *too* far back in the pack as the Santa Anita dirt track is not kind to deep closers. His price will probably drop after the scratch of Arcangelo, which is disappointing, but as long as it does not go much lower than his 4-1 morning line, I am good with it.

As for horses I like in the underneath slots, #3 White Abarrio has been red hot since switching to the barn of trainer Rick Dutrow, but I think 1¼ miles is a little too far for him and he will run out of steam in the final furlong. Another horse I like underneath is #10 Zandon, who is ultra-consistent but struggles to win races – he only has one win since last April. His running style should fit him well, but I do not trust him to win a top-caliber Grade 1 race like this after falling just short so many times.

WIN: #8 Ushba Tesoro, at 7/2 or higher
EXACTA: 8 OVER 3, 10
TRIFECTA: 8 / 3, 10 / 3, 10
HORSES TO USE IN THE P4: 8 (A tier) / 3, 10 (B tier)
Full Pick-4 ticket: 6,8,10,13 / 3,4,7,9 / 1,5,9,13 / 3,8,10

Enjoy the richest day in American racing on the NBC Family of Networks...and enjoy the sweat.