The 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont Park featured European grass stars Galileo and Sakhee facing America’s best. Galileo had a fierce rivalry with fellow Irish great Fantastic Light who had just won the 11/2 mile Breeders Cup Turf. Galileo had only a head loss to Fantastic Light preventing him from a perfect seven-win career record—including victories in the Epsom and Irish Derbies. However, a serious knock on Galileo was that his sire, Sadler’s Wells, the great son of Northern Dancer, has sired about 150 graded stakes UFABET winners on the grass, but none on the dirt. Galileo was making his first start on the dirt. At 3:1, he seemed over bet because his morning workouts preceding the big race indicated he was not comfortable on the surface. We estimated his actual chances at 8/1. (He finished sixth to keep the Sadler’s Wells drought on dirt going.)
I was wagering on the Breeders Cup with Cary Fotias, founder of Equiform (www.equiform.com). Equiform produces The Xtras, an innovative handicapping tool that allows handicappers to more accurately estimate win probabilities. The Xtras provide superior pace and final numbers, that when properly analyzed, yield valuable hints as to what will happen in a particular race. These are described in Cary’s recent book, Blinkers Off, which is available from Equiform, the Gamblers’ Book Club and other outlets.
Three weeks earlier, Sakhee had won the famed Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe by six lengths. He had also run second to Sindar in the 2000 Epsom Derby. This was his first dirt race, and his odds of nearly 5:1 were a lot shorter than Equiform’s estimate of 15:1 fair odds. Winners of the 11/2 mile Arc have fared poorly in the Breeders Cup, as the horse that captures the Arc (held on the first Sunday in October), has usually been prepared to peak for that race and needs more than a few weeks to recover. Those finishing third or fourth have done much better. The final European contender was Black Minnaloushe at 51:1 versus Equiform’s 30:1 fair odds estimate.
The favorite among the U.S. horses was Aptitude at 2:1 versus Equiform’s 3:1 estimate. Aptitude had just won the Jockey Club Gold Cup by ten lengths and his Equiform final numbers of 82 1/4 and 81 in his last two races were the best among the U.S. horses in the race. However, he was coming into the Classic on short rest off two big efforts, which was of some concern to trainer Bobby Frankel. Albert the Great, at 13:1 versus Equiform’s 12:1, had a strong overall record, but had turned in a weak performance in his last race, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, finishing some nineteen lengths behind Aptitude. Include was 10:1 on the board coinciding with Equiform’s fair odds. Macho Uno, the 2000 two-year-old Breeders Cup Juvenile winner, was 50:1 on Equiform’s odds line and 20:1 at the track. Finally, Guided Tour, at 18:1 versus 10-1 on Equiform’s line, showed some value. But the best bet of the day, according to the Xtras, was Tiznow. A look at his recent past performances and press clippings suggested a horse in decline. However, a closer look at the Xtras showed that Tiznow was off a new pace top of 81 in his last race. This is a powerful pattern, and indicated Tiznow was ready for another peak effort.
Win, Place and Show Pools
Cary and I estimated Tiznow’s fair odds at 7:2, but the track odds were almost 7:1. Tiznow was excellent win, place and show value (see Table). Tisnow was not a Dr. Z place or show bet using the track odds but he was using the Xtras probabilities. We bet him heavily, and also placed small wagers on Guided Tour. In one of the most thrilling races of the year, Chris McCarron on Tiznow out-dueled Frankie Dettori on Shakee to win by a nose. Albert the Great was 13/4 lengths behind, followed by Macho Uno and Guided Tour. Galileo, Include and Aptitude were further back with the long shots. The Xtras, plus a masterful ride by Chris McCarron, led to an excellent across the board payoff of $15.80, $7.20 and $5.60. It took all of Tiznow’s energy and McCarron’s skill to beat Sakhee, who put on a terrific performance that demonstrated his championship qualities on both sides of the Atlantic. As anticipated, Tiznow did improve, running the race of his life, an 813/4 on the Xtras or 2:00 3/5.