Betting on the Breeders’ Cup: a three-step program

Curlin runs for victory at the 2008 Dubai World Cup
Dubai Racing Club

I can remember the first time I stepped up to a racetrack betting window – 11 years old, freckled, barely tall enough to see over the counter and certainly not of legal gambling age. I imagine that I was probably wearing Adidas Samba sneakers, and I picked the horses by their names, which one had the nicest coat or who looked the most spirited in the paddock. I clenched a wrinkled $2 in my fist, stood tall and said it: “$2 on 5 to show.”

Of course, I never succeeded in making that first bet; the woman behind the counter informed me that I was too young to bet on horses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (apparently my mother had momentarily forgotten basic gambling law). I spent the rest of the day phoning it in via mom, and if I remember correctly, we left down about $50 down and with a pre-teen threatening trifecta boxes to anyone who came near. But this weekend, I have reason to palm a few bills and place another bet on the ponies for the 24th annual Breeders’ Cup.


Just four hours from the race and sports books that crowd the Strip, for 48 hours the epicenter of gaming is at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Over the course of Friday and Saturday, more than 100 Grade I thoroughbred horses will compete for purses ranging form $500,000 to $5 million for a total of $25.5 million awarded throughout the event. The weekend culminates with the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Race 9), the 1 ¼ mile main event for three-year-olds and up, starring last year’s defending champion Curlin at odds of 7-5.

My money continues to flow for the best looking steeds and those with the best names, so I’ll be taking the four horse, Duke of Marmalade. If you’d rather gamble with some professional advice, try out these sample bets from the Las Vegas Hilton’s Race Coordinator, Chris Graham.

For the “I’ve never bet before in my life” crowd: Santa Anita, Race 9, $2 win on the 9 ($2 total) (Horses: 9 – Curlin)

This is the ultimate play it safe bet - low money on the favorite. Curlin has already won the 2008 Dubai World Cup and last year racked up wins at the Preakness Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Sure, the payout won’t cover this month’s rent (let alone those ass-less chaps you’ve been eyeing for Halloween), but hey, you got to start somewhere.

For the “I have bet for fun before” crowd: Santa Anita, Race 9 $2 trifecta - 9 with 1,2,4 with 1,2,4 ($12 total) (Horses: 9 – Curlin, 1 – Go Between, 2 – Casino Drive, 4 – Duke of Marmalade)

The trifecta says, “I know my way around the race track. I use terms like stud, furlong and dapple gray. I know what a gelding is, but I’m not getting carried away here. I’ll take the trifecta. I play it cool.”

For the “I love this game” crowd: Santa Anita, Races 6-7-8-9, $1 Pick 4: 3,4,6,7 with 1,4 with 1,2,3 with 1,9 ($48 total) (Horses: In the 6th Race: 3 – Westphalia, 4 – Donativum, 6 – Vaquero, 7 – Coronet of a Baron; in the 7th Race: 1 – Cost of Freedom, 4 – Midnight Lute; in the 8th Race: 1 – Better Talk Now, 2 – Red Rocks, 3 – Grand Courturier; in the 9th Race: 1 – Go Between, 9 - Curlin

The Pick 4 is a fortuneteller’s bet. Think you can pick the winner of four races in a row? Of course you can. But don’t feel the need to commit to just one horse per race; keep your options open. Just in case something totally inconceivable happens, like the economy completely tanking or Curlin losing.

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