Jon White: My Early Breeders' Cup Classic Odds

How low will he go?

The question is not whether fabulous Flightline will be the betting favorite when he exits the starting gate in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5. That’s a sure thing. The question is how low will his odds go?

Will Flightline’s BC Classic odds be the lowest in the race’s history? That record belongs to Easy Goer, whose was bet down to 1-2 in the 1989 BC Classic.

With the Horse of the Year title on the line, Easy Goer lost by a neck when he finished second to Sunday Silence in a dramatic showdown at Gulfstream Park. That made the final score 3-1 in favor of Sunday Silence in his four encounters with Easy Goer.

Sunday Silence was voted 1989 Horse of the Year, then became a tremendous sire in Japan.

I’ve had the difficult task of making the official morning-line odds at seven Breeders’ Cups in California (2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2019 and 2021).

With this year’s BC Classic just around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to come up with my own odds for the race.

Daily Racing Form’s Brad Free lists Flightline as a 4-5 favorite. I consider Free to be a good linemaker. He does have Flightline being an odds-on favorite. I believe it’s a slam-dunk that Flightline will be odds-on. But I think Free has Flightline too high at 4-5.

If there was some way to bet on the betting, I’d be willing to make a gigantic wager that Flightline’s BC Classic odds will be lower than 4-5.

Do you really think you can get 4-5 or higher on Flightline when he is coming off a stupendous 19 1/4-length victory in Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic?

Will Flightline, who has won his five career starts by a combined 62 3/4 lengths, be 4-5 or higher this time after going off at odds on the board of 2-5, 2-5 and 1-5 in three consecutive Grade I victories (Malibu Stakes, Met Mile and Pacific Classic)?

Speed figures generally have a significant impact on betting.

Flightline’s 126 Beyer Speed Figure for the Pacific Classic is tied for the second-highest figure ever since the Beyers were first made public in 1991 (initially in the Racing Times, then in the Daily Racing Form). Only the 128 Beyer by Ghostzapper when he won the Grade III Philip H. Iselin Handicap on a sloppy track at Monmouth Park in 2004 is higher.

Flightline also received the best Thoro-Graph number in the 35 years that they have been computing those speed figures.

In terms of Beyer Speed Figures, the higher the number the better. The opposite is true for Thoro-Graph numbers.

According to Thoroughbred Daily News’ Bill Finley, Thoro-Graph gave Flightline a negative 8 1/2 for his Pacific Classic triumph. It’s the fastest number Thoro-Graph has ever assigned to a horse. The previous best was a negative 8 posted by Frosted when he won the Grade I Met Mile at Belmont in 2016.

Again, will a horse with such speed figures be 4-5 or higher in the BC Classic?

Flightline is lower than 4-5 in what Horse Racing Nation’s Ron Flatter calls “international betting.” In fact, Flightline is lower than 3-5.

Flightline is 1-2 in international betting.

I expect Flightline’s final BC Classic odds to be closer to 1-2 than 4-5.

Will Flightline’s price even be shorter than 1-2, which would break Easy Goer’s record for lowest BC Classic odds? I, for one, will not be surprised if that happens. Hence, I have put Flightline at 2-5 on my own BC Classic odds this week.

Consider that TV commentator Randy Moss said on NBC last Saturday that Flightline’s Pacific Classic was the best performance in American racing since Secretariat’s iconic 31-length Belmont Stakes victory in 1973. A statement like that suggests to me you will see Flightline’s BC Classic odds at lower than 4-5.

When attempting to forecast odds for a horse like a Secretariat back in the day or Flightline these days, it’s generally a good idea to go lower than your first instinct.

For instance, Secretariat was listed as a 2-5 morning-line favorite in the Belmont Stakes. Yes, 2-5 is a very short price. But it turned out that 2-5 wasn’t nearly short enough. Secretariat’s final odds in the Belmont were much lower. His price ended up being even lower than 1-5. He was bet down to 1-10 favoritism.

In early odds prior to the Pacific Classic, Free listed Flightline at 3-5. I thought that was too high. I decided to make Flightline a 1-5 favorite on the official Pacific Classic morning line. When he exited the starting gate, Flightline was 1-5 on the board.

Perhaps I will be wrong and Flightline will go off at a higher price than 2-5 in the BC Classic. But if 2-5 does turn out to be too low, I would expect him to be 1-2 or 3-5, not 4-5 or higher.

The Top 10 in this week’s Longines BC Classic Rankings is below, followed by my early BC Classic odds for those 10 horses:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

 1. 350 Flightline (35)
 2. 217 Epicenter
 2. 217 Life Is Good
 4. 188 Taiba
 5. 181 Olympiad
 6. 164 Hot Rod Charlie
 7.   97 Country Grammer
 8.   61 Rich Strike
 9.   46 Cyberknife
10.   30 Defunded

My Early BC Odds (DRF Early Odds)

 2-5 Flightline (4-5)
 8-1 Epicenter (8-1)
 8-1 Life Is Good (6-1)
10-1 Taiba (8-1)
15-1 Olympiad (15-1)
20-1 Hot Rod Charlie (15-1)
20-1 Country Grammer (no odds listed)
20-1 Rich Strike (20-1)
20-1 Cyberknife (20-1)
30-1 Defunded (no odds listed)


While there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever as to who will be the BC Classic favorite, the second choice in the wagering seems unclear.

The co-second choices on my line are Epicenter and Life Is Good at 8-1. Epicenter is the second choice in international betting at 5-1. Life Is Good is Free’s second choice at 6-1.

I sense that impressive Grade I Travers Stakes winner Epicenter will get more respect from bettors than Life Is Good, especially after the latter’s fairly lackluster win in last Saturday’s Grade I Woodward Stakes on a sloppy track.

It seems fair to say that Life Is Good, off at odds of 1-20, did not live up to expectations in the Woodward. Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Life Is Good won in front-running fashion by just 1 1/4 lengths over seemingly outclassed 26-1 longshot Law Professor.

To be fair, this was Life Is Good’s first start on a wet track. Perhaps that had something to do with it. And maybe Life Is Good did not run better because the screws weren’t totally tightened. But any way you slice it, this performance certainly didn’t inspire confidence that he is going to beat Flightline in the BC Classic at 1 1/4 miles, a trip that seems longer than Life Is Good prefers.

Still, Life Is Good’s record is such that he does warrant some respect in the BC Classic. After all, the 4-year-old Into Mischief colt has won nine of 11 career starts, with four of his victories coming at the Grade I level.

Taiba seems to be the “now” horse off his three-length win in the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Tabai won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby back on April 9 in only his second career start. Perhaps he will give Epicenter and Life Is Good a run for their money in terms of being the second favorite in the BC Classic.


The record by BC Classic favorites is not stellar. The chalk has won 10 of 38, a strike rate of only 26.3%.

Horseplayers thinking of betting a bundle on Flightline or singling him in multi-race wagers should keep in mind that the three heaviest BC Classic favorites all got beat.

As mentioned earlier, Easy Goer was unable to get the job done at 1-2.

Five years before Easy Goer, Slew o’ Gold and Mugatea were coupled in the wagering in the inaugural BC Classic in 1984 at Hollywood Park, going off favored at 3-5.

Slew o’ Gold finished third, then was moved up to second by the stewards. Gate Dancer finished second, but was disqualified to third for causing interference during the stretch run. Mugatea ended up last in the field of eight. Wild Again won in a shocker, paying $64.60 for each $2 win ticket.

The great Cigar did not win when he was the favorite in the 1996 BC Classic at Woodbine. Off at 3-5 on the board, Cigar actually was slightly higher than that at 65 cents to the dollar. He finished a close third, beaten by a nose and a head. Alphabet Soup won, returning $41.70 for each $2 win wager. Louis Quatorze finished second.

Despite not winning the BC Classic in 1996, Cigar was voted Horse of the Year for a second straight year.

Cigar did win the 1995 BC Classic at Belmont Park. He was 7-10. That stood alone as the lowest odds by a BC Classic winner until Triple Crown winner American Pharoah came along and likewise captured the 2015 renewal at 7-10.

Below is how the favorite has fared in each BC Classic from 1984 through 2021:

Odds Year Finish Favorite (Winner If Not Favorite, Odds)

 .50    1989      2nd   Easy Goer, GP (Sunday Silence, 2-1)
 .60e  1984      2nd   Slew o’ Gold, Hol (Wild Again, 31-1)*
 .60e  1984       8th   Mugatea, Hol (Wild Again, 31-1)
 .65    1996      3rd   Cigar, WO (Alphabet Soup, 19-1)
 .70    1995    WON  CIGAR, Bel
 .70    2015    WON  AMERICAN PHAROAH, Bel
 .90    2008      4th   Curlin, 4h, SA (Raven’s Pass, 13-1)
 .90    2016     2nd   California Chrome, SA (Arrogate, 8-5)
1.00    1987   WON   FERDINAND, Hol
1.00    2010     2nd   Zenyatta, CD (Blame, 5-1)
1.10    2006     2nd   Bernardini, CD (Invasor, 6-1)
1.20e  1993     2nd   Bertrando, SA (Arcangues, 133-1)
1.20e  1993      4th   Marquetry, SA (Arcangues, 133-1)
1.20e  1993    11th   Missionary Ridge, SA (Arcangues, 133-1)
1.20    2000      6th  Fusaichi Pegasus, CD (Tiznow, 9-1)
1.30    2012      7th  Game On Dude, SA (Fort Larned, 9-1)
1.50    1988   WON  ALYSHEBA, CD
1.60    1986     2nd  Turkoman, 2nd, SA (Skywalker, 10-1)
1.70    2013      9th  Game On Dude, 9th, SA (Mucho Macho Man, 4-1)
1.80    1985      4th  Chief’s Crown, Aqu (Proud Truth, 7-10
1.80    1997  WON   SKIP AWAY, Hol
1.90    1998      6th  Skip Away, CD (Awesome Again, 9-2e)
1.90    2021      3rd  Elusive Quality, Dmr (Knicks Go, 3-1)
2.10    1992   WON  A.P. INDY, GP
2.10    2017      5th  Arrogate, Dmr (Gun Runner, 2-1)
2.30    1999      7th  Behrens, GP (Cat Thief, 19-1)
2.35    2001      8th  Aptitude, Bel (Tiznow, 6-1)
2.40    2005   WON  SAINT LIAM, Bel
2.50    2004   WON  GHOSTZAPPER, LS
2.50    2007     4th  Street Sense, Mth (Curlin, 4-1)
2.50    2014     4th  Shared Belief, SA (Bayern, 6-1)
2.60    1990     8th  Rhythm, Bel (Unbridled, 6-1e)
2.60    2003    2nd   Medaglia d’Oro, SA (Pleasantly Perfect, 14-1)
2.70    2002    2nd   Medaglia d’Oro, AP (Volponi, 43-1)
2.70    2009   WON  ZENYATTA, SA
2.80    2018   WON  ACCLERATE, Dmr
2.90    2019     2nd  McKinzie, SA (Vino Rosso, 9-2)
3.20    2020     6th   Tiz the Law, Kee (Authentic, 4-1)
3.50    1994     2nd  Tabasco Cat, CD (Concern, 7-1)
3.60    2011    5  th  Flat Out, CD (Drosselmeyer, 14-1)

“e” denotes coupled in wagering
*Finished 3rd, placed 2nd via DQ


At Santa Anita on Sept. 24, three weeks after his goosebumps-producing Pacific Classic performance, Flightline worked four furlongs in :48.00 for trainer John Sadler.

You can view Flightline’s Sept. 24 workout on XBTV here.

Last Saturday (Oct. 1), Flightline worked five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 by the dawn’s early light at the Great Race Place.

You can view Flightline’s Oct. 1 workout on XBTV:

Assistant trainer and regular exercise rider Juan Leyva was aboard Flightline in his Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 workouts. Leyva has played a significant role in Flightline now being amenable to rating and able to relax early in a workout or race after being headstrong.

Both the Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 works by Flightline were what are known as maintenance drills.

“We’re trying not to do too much right now,” Sadler was quoted as saying to the DRF’s Free after the Oct. 1 drill.

“We weren’t looking for anything fancy, just a little bit more without doing a whole lot,” Sadler added.

According to Sadler, Flightline’s “serious works” will be on Oct. 15 and Oct. 22.

“Those will be the pivotal works,” said Sadler, who has done nothing less than an outstanding job training Flightline.

Following Flightline’s Oct. 22 workout, he is scheduled to be shipped to Kentucky the following day. The 4-year-old superstar then is to have “a simple workout” at Keeneland on Oct. 29 or Oct. 30, according to Sadler.


The Top 10 for this week is below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

 1. 340 Flightline (34)
 2. 293 Life Is Good
 3. 245 Epicenter
 4. 181 Nest
 5. 175 Olympiad
 6. 127 Jackie’s Warrior
 7. 108 Taiba
 8.   80 Hot Rod Charlie
 9.   67 Malathaat
10.   57 Jack Christopher

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