The BC Classic

The $6 million dollar Breeders’ Cup Classic is the marquee race for this weekends World Championships at Del Mar. Since its inception in 1984, the 1 ¼-mile race has ascended to one of the most important races on the global racing calendar.

Horse racing Superstars from ALYSHEBA to ZENYATTA have helped cement their legacies with a Victory in the Classic while countless other standouts tried and came up short on Breeders’ Cup day.

The Classic is the anchor race of the two-day (Friday-Saturday) World Championships. It regularly draws the best dirt horses from across the world.

Over the last 20 years (2001 through 2020), the Classic has delivered several dominant performances by powerful Favorites as well as five Winners that paid at least $20 for a $2 Win bet, including 2002 Champion VOLPONI who paid $89 on a $2 wager.

Let’s take a look at the last 20 years of the Classic to find some trends and tips that could be helpful when handicapping the 2021 edition this Saturday night.

CONSISTENT EXCELLENCE If you are looking through the list of contenders for the 2021 Classic in search of a Winner, the one thing you don’t want to see is a string of up-and-down performances. If there is one lesson to be learned from the last 20 years of this race, it is that the Winner typically is a proven elite racehorse, one that’s very fast and consistent.

SEEMS LOGICAL While only five of the last 20 editions of the Classic have been Won by favorites, this race is not typically Won by an outsider. Much respect should be paid to the credentials in the past performances leading into the Classic. Recent history has been even less promising for longshot seekers as the last eight Winners went off at 6-1 odds or less and seven of the eight were Won by one of the top three betting choices.

BUT THERE HAVE BEEN UPSET WINNERS Five of the last 20 Classic Winners paid $20 or more for a $2 Win bet: VOLPONI ($89, 2002), PLEASANTLY PERFECT ($30.40, 2003), RAVEN’S PASS ($29, 2008), DROSSELMEYER ($31.60, 2011), and FORT LARNED ($20.80, 2012). Looking closer at the $20 Winners over the past 20 years, three of the five profiled as closer or closer/stalker types. The profile of a capable longshot seems to be an off-the-pace type who might not have many recent Wins on the resume but almost always finishes in the top three.

INTERESTING TIDBITS Seven horses who preferred to race on or near the lead have Won in the last 20 editions of the Classic with four dedicated closers Winning during that span. Three stalker/press-the-pace types, four you could classify as stalkers, and the other two pegged as closers/stalkers. It’s a diverse group of past Breeders’ Cup Classic Winners.

Six of the last 20 Classic Winners were 3-year-olds taking on older horses, including four of the last seven editions. None of the last 20 Classic Winners was older than 5. In fact, the Classic has never been Won by a horse older than 5 years old. 

Sixteen of the 20 made their final prep race in either New York or Southern California, with 11 Classic Winners coming out of a New York prep.

The average Winning Speed Figure for the Breeders’ Cup Classic from 2001 through 2020 was 121. The Winning figure ranged from a 113 for BAYERN in 2014 to a 130 (!!) for GUN RUNNER in 2017.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic is a difficult race to analyze. On Friday the Daily Racing Blog will try to do just that, so stop back.

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