The Breeders Cup Dirt Mile Handicapping Dilemma


Liam's Map - 2015 Breeders Cup Dirt Mile Winner

There is a major difference between 8f Derby Prep races when comparing them to the 8f Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. Derby Prep races are run by immature young colts who thrive off of their speedy inheritance because that is what they are relying on at this distance. The “average” colt cannot compete alongside that speed and the only times when stamina reigns supreme is if the horse is a budding monster. The Dirt Mile race is run later in the season, with much more mature contenders. Handicapping the two races is completely different when looking at the breeding of those who capture the advantage in the two separate races.

When looking to distinguish those who are “Built for the Race” one must take into consideration the exact race they are handicapping. Simply looking at the distance of each individual race will never ever give you a direct hit on the advantaged. For instance, the “type” of breeding that wins the 8f Champagne Stakes is not the same type of breeding that wins the 8f Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. Every race must be judged Apples for Apples.

It may surprise most that the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile does not favor inherited SPEED in the same manner that it favors most every 8f graded stakes race. It would most likely surprise you even more to know that the Dirt Mile doesn’t even favor speed in the same manner as it does in the 10f Breeders Cup Classic. Most would consider that the shorter race would be an easy call for speed leaning inheritance and much easier for a speed demon to conquer running 2 furlongs shorter. It just isn’t so.

Unlike the Breeders Cup Classic, which debuted in 1984, the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile dates back to 2007. That is only 13 editions with each race held at separate tracks along the way. The first 3 editions, somewhat different, still follow the same basic rules. In the first running back in 2007, the Dirt Mile was actually run at 1 mile and 70 yds. In 2008 and 2009, the race was run at Oak Tree on All Weather Surface. Hardly a “true” Dirt Mile Race, but still an edition none-the-less. So the first three Dirt Mile races in its history were slightly different than the rest but still, when grouped with the other 10, still hold the same advantaged results throughout its total history.

Out of the 13 Dirt Mile Editions, only one time was it run at Keeneland Race Track, the site of this year’s Breeders Cup. When looking at the history of any Graded Stakes race, everything should be perfectly aligned, including the track. The full Breeders Cup program is a legitimate exception because this is the only race which moves around the country but one thing remains constant – the competitors are already known as the best within that division. You are handicapping a field of horses who are all peers regardless of their breeding. All three categories, Speed guys, Average guys and Stamina guys who excelled throughout the year are all competitive within that specific division. They are considered the best of the best in the world at that specific distance and on that specific surface.


Of course, you would receive even greater correlations when looking at the history on the exact track and that point would always take precedence. If the Breeders races were held at Santa Anita, you would always look at the advantages at that track first, then you would consider the specifications from other tracks as the secondary impact.

The only Breeders Cup races that do not adhere to these same principles are the Juvenile races. The juveniles are relying heavily on their inheritance because of their immaturity. They are not being grouped in the gates against their “talented peers” but rather because they were fast enough to dominate their maiden and possibly one or two other races. Basically, the contenders in the Juvenile races are running scared and blind and not necessarily against the “best of the best” at that distance. All of this is considered common sense which is a key component to handicapping and cashing your ticket, but sometimes it needs to be reiterated to fully understand the dynamics of gambling with the extra bonus of using breeding to draw out the advantaged.


When looking at the history of the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile, including those first three years, Speed horses end up being the least advantaged of the bunch. How can it be? Speed is always advantaged right? The fastest horses always win and those bred with a high amount of speed at 8f will usually always dominate the field. What makes the Dirt Mile race so different? What happens when a group of highly talented and proven colts at that specific distance gather together in the gate? They act and run just as they have throughout the year – at a higher level. All of them. Their style doesn’t change. Speed takes control – ALL OF THE SPEED – and they beat each other down. It doesn’t matter if they are at Santa Anita or Churchill Downs or Del Mar or Oak Tree – at 8f, these talented colts who are bred with an overabundance of speed kick it for 7 to 7.5f and then they expire. They are all too good, too fast and too dominant in their previous races that they find a complete handicap against each other. Their speed is highlighted above and beyond, which is what got them that Dirt Mile gate in the first place – and when you have an overabundance of them – it unfortunately leads to their ultimate loss. It isn't short enough to play easily to the sprinting speedsters and it isn't long enough to separate those with the perfect extra speed/extra stamina balance. The 8f lies just off of that perfect sweet spot for the speed demons.

Colts bred with an index over 3.00 have no luck in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile because the competition against each other is too much to sustain for a complete mile. This is opposite of what happens in the Breeders Cup Classic which is a completely different scenario and will be discussed in a different article. The Dirt Mile has its own dynamics and it has to do with style, talent, breeding and the high amount of competitors within the field who compare EVENLY to the peer in the next stall. Too many of the same qualities, the same will and determination and the same style. It is a recipe for disaster for the speed guys at that particular distance for a group of the best milers in the world.

There are two types of horses that dominate the Dirt Mile.

  1. Horses with an index of 3.00 and under with the majority falling into the average 2.00 to 2.90 range and secondly the stamina horses under 2.00.

  2. Overloaded Profiles.



Out of the 13 editions of the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile, only ONE colt did not adhere to rule #1 and went on to win his trophy with his speedy pedigree. There is usually always one exception. As luck would have it this year, (that was written sarcastically) the track where this lone speed demon hit the wire first was none other than Keeneland Race Track. The Breeders Cup was only held at Keeneland one time, and that track produced the only speed winner. The amazing thing though, he followed Rule #2. Never underestimate an overloaded Chef Profile for the big Graded Stakes races. They inherited so much extraordinary elite characteristics across the distance spectrum that these guys always hold an advantage no matter the distance. This statement is true for most ALL graded stakes races.


Here is the list of the winners of every edition of the Dirt Mile including the two run on AWS and the 1mi 70yd edition:




2.38 – SPUN TO RUN – Santa Anita 2019

2.43 – CITY OF LIGHT – Churchill Downs 2018

2.83 – BATTLE OF MIDWAY – Del Mar 2017 (Profile Points = 44)

2.11 – TAMARKUZ – Santa Anita 2016

6.60 – LIAM’S MAP – KEENELAND 2015 (PROFILE POINTS = 38)

1.67 – GOLDENCENTS – Santa Anita 2014

1.67 – GOLDENCENTS – Santa Anita 2013

3.00 – TAPIZAR – Santa Anita 2012

2.00 – CALEB’S POSSE – Churchill Downs 2011

1.80 – DAKOTA PHONE – Churchill Downs 2010

2.82 – FURTHEST LAND – Oak Tree AWS 2010

1.67 – ALBERTUS MAXIMUS – Oak Tree AWS 2009

2.56 – CORINTHIAN – Monmouth Park 1mi 70yd 2008

Out of the 13 races:


Colts with an index of 3.00 and under won 12 times, which is a 92.3% ratio.

Colts with an average index (2.00 – 3.00) won 8 times, which is a 61.5% ratio.

Colts with and average index below 2.00 won 4 times, which is a 30.8% ratio.

Colts with an average index above 3.00 won 1 time, which is a 7.7% ratio.



Only one speed colt won, Liam’s Map, and he had a loaded profile: DP = 5-25-6-0-2 (38) with crazy dominance in the Intermediate slot (7f – 9f) with 25 points.

But here is the sting – The Keeneland track did produce the only high indexed speed winner in the entire history of the Breeders Dirt Mile Race. Was it because Liam’s Map had an overloaded profile or was it because the track itself did indeed cater to speed at the mile distance? Using dosage as an additional tool in your handicapping arsenal is imperative when things are cut and dry. The fact that a 6.60 indexed horse did in fact take that trophy at the exact same track that the race will be run this year leaves too big of a question. We don’t know if it was the speed quality or the overloaded profile that contributed to the advantage. So this year, it must rest on the Past Performance sheets without the use of breeding for this particular race. Had Liam’s Map won on any other track, it would have been a different story - And that story would have allowed us to cross off well over half the field easily and painlessly.


That year, 2015, Liam’s Map was installed in an 11 horse gate. Out of the 11 colts, only 2 horses held a chef index over 3.00. Liam’s Map at 6.60 and Valid at 3.31. All of the other nine horses held 3.00 and under indexes. Lea, Red Vine, Wicked Strong, Mr. Z, Street Strategy, War Story, Bradester, Tapiture and War Envoy. This means that historically, 9 colts held the advantage over Liam’s Map for this particular race. Every race run prior to 2015 saw a winner with a mid-range and under index. The stand-out quality as far as breeding was concerned, was the fact that Liam’s Map was the only loaded colt on the field. None came close to that high 38 total points.

There is a very strong probability that the winner of this race will hold a 3.00 and under index just like the predominate victors of the past, however, Liam’s Map throws the entire notion into a tailspin. The fact that he held that loaded profile is one thing, but we cannot rely on it. There is a 50-50 chance that his 6.60 index had no impact and the loaded profile took over on that Keeneland track. There is a 50-50 chance that the extremely high index meant everything at Keeneland. We only have the other tracks to consult, and in that regard, it does point to those points aiding his wild advantage, but it isn’t 100% set in stone. If the Breeders Cup were being held at Santa Anita or Churchill Downs this year, there would have been NO QUESTION at all and we would have been tossing horses left and right with ease. The Keeneland track itself killed it for us this year for the Dirt Mile as far as reliance on those incredibly consistent breeding numbers. We can’t be 100% confident because of that one race in 2015.

What are your feelings on the consistency of the past in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile as it relates to Liam’s Map at Keeneland with his overloaded profile vs his high 6.60 index? Was Liam's Map the solo exception because as it usually follows, there is always an exception because the horse was simply exceptional?

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