Monday Myths: Is It a Good Bet to Bet Against the BC Favorites?

Welcome to a continuing handicapping series for our Monday blog space, “Monday Myths.” Each week I’ll use the power of the Betmix database to take common handicapping assumptions and either support or dispel them with data. Betmix data powers the 1/ST BET app and its features like Angler and Birddog give data-minded horseplayers a treasure trove of information in which to query your own curiosities.


It’s a good bet to bet against the favorites at the Breeders’ Cup.


The Championship Days at the Breeders’ Cup, held this Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar, are prime places where horseplayers go fishing for the big one. Why not? There are 14 races with the best of the best domestically and some from around the world. Legendary payouts like Arcangues in the 1993 Classic still roll off the keyboard at $269 for a $2 win bet without looking it up. But is the Breeders’ Cup really an upset paradise, or does it look like any other stakes day in terms of prices?

Data Points:

I dialed up the Betmix database for comparative daily graded stakes data and stacked it against my personal Breeders’ Cup database that spans back to the 1984 inaugural (360+ races). I looked at all graded stakes run in North America since November 1, 2018, spanning the past 3 years (1,300+ races).


The average $2 win payout on graded stakes winners is $12.46.
The average $2 win payout on Breeders’ Cup winners is $21.32.


Favorites win 43% in graded stakes races.
Favorites win 31% in Breeders’ Cup races.


Odds-on (4/5 or less) favorites win 58% in graded stakes races.
Odds-on (4/5 or less) favorites win 43% in Breeders’ Cup races


Horses 10-1 or more win 12% of graded stakes races.
Horses 10-1 or more win 29% of Breeders’ Cup races.


Adjusting for field sizes of 11 (the Breeders’ Cup average), here are how the graded stakes perform:

Average $2 winner is $16.98 in graded stakes races.
Favorites Win 35% in graded stakes races.
Odds-On Favorites Win 45% in graded stakes races.
Horses 10-1 or more win 19% of graded stakes races.


Overall Findings:

Winners in the Breeders’ Cup paid 58% higher than their graded stakes counterparts. Favorites won at a 12% less frequent rate in the Breeders’ Cup than graded stakes, and 15% less frequent when it came to the heaviest favorites (odds-on choices). When it came to upsets at 10-1 or more odds, Breeders’ Cup races were nearly 2-1/2 times more likely to produce that double-digit price winner.

Bottom line:

There’s no other way to slice it, Breeders’ Cup favorites win far less than the national average in everyday races (31% to 37%) and in graded stakes – while the winners pay considerably higher on average and longshots are more frequent. Even when you adjust for field sizes, the Breeders’ Cup still boasts the more attractive numbers for beating the favorites. The handicapping tale that says bet against the favorites at the Breeders’ Cup is true, statistically speaking.

Additional Details:

You can go into Betmix and run your own queries for a deeper dive into this theory and any that you can create. For instance, find out which trainers deliver in these situations most often when expected, or which tracks have had the most reliable favorites in big races.

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