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Jon White: Favorites Struggled at 2017 Del Mar Breeders' Cup | Wednesday, September 15

by Xpressbet

September 15, 2021

It turned out that favorites did not do well in Week 1 of the National Football League, winning just four of the 12 games against the spread. How bad did favorites do? It was the worst cover percentage by favorites in Week 1 of the NFL since 1999.

To further illustrate how poorly favorites fared in Week 1 of the NFL this year, the underdog won nine games outright. It’s the most outright wins by an underdog in Week 1 of the NFL since 1983.

The biggest upset in Week 1 this year was the 23-16 victory by the 6.5-point underdog Pittsburgh Steelers at the Buffalo Bills. Pittsburgh was plus 230 on the money line (meaning if you bet $100 on the Steelers, it resulted in a $230 profit).

But if you think favorites had a difficult time in Week 1 of the NFL this year, that’s nothing compared to how favorites did the last time the Breeders’ Cup was held at Del Mar in 2017.

How about this? Not a single favorite won a Breeders’ Cup race on the dirt at Del Mar in 2017. It’s certainly something to keep in mind when Del Mar plays host to the Breeders’ Cup again this year on Nov. 5-6. This will be just the second time that the Breeders’ Cup is held at the track “where the turf meets the surf.”

Will Breeders’ Cup favorites do better this time at Del Mar? Well, they sure can’t do much worse than in the 2107 Breeders’ Cup.

The favorite won only two of the 14 races at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar. The percentage of winning favorites was a measly 14.2%. By comparison, the percentage of winning favorites at the recently concluded Del Mar summer meet was 34.2%, according to Mac McBride, the track’s director of media.

Perhaps it was a sign that chalk was going to have a rough time of it at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup when in the very first Breeders’ Cup race, the Juvenile Fillies Turf, the 2-1 favorite, Happily, finished last in the field of 14.

The only two favorites to get the job done at that Breeders’ Cup were Mendelssohn at 9-2 in the Juvenile Turf and World Approval at 5-2 in the Mile.

Below, listed in the same order from top to bottom in which the races were run, is how the favorite did in the 14 Breeders’ Cup races of 2017:

Finish Horse Favored (BC Race) Odds

14 Happily (Juvenile Fillies Turf) 2-1
8 Mor Spirit (Dirt Mile) 2-1
1 MENDELSSOHN (Juvenile Turf) 9-2
4 Elate (Distaff) 2-1
2 Sound And Silence (Juvenile Turf Sprint) 3-1
7 Moonshine Memories (Juvenile Fillies) 2-1
10 Lady Aurelia (Turf Sprint) 9-10
7 Unique Bella (Filly & Mare Sprint) 11-10
7 Lady Eli (Filly & Mare Turf) 3-2
6 Drefong (Sprint) 7-5
3 Bolt d’Oro (Juvenile) 7-10
3 Highland Reel (Turf) 7-5
5 Arrogate (Classic) 2-1

For the record, Arrogate finished in a dead heat for fifth in the BC Classic with Gunnevera.

The favorite did not win any of the seven 2017 Breeders’ Cup races contested on the dirt at Del Mar. The favorite won two of the seven Breeders’ Cup races run on the grass.


Below is what the odds were for each 2017 Breeders’ Cup winner:

Odds Winner (BC Race)

3-1 Rushing Fall (Juvenile Fillies Turf)
14-1 Battle of Midway (Dirt Mile)
9-2 Mendelssohn (Juvenile Turf)
7-2 Forever Unbridled (Distaff)
14-1 Declarationofpeace (Juvenile Turf Sprint)
17-1 Caledonia Road (Juvenile Fillies)
30-1 Stormy Liberal (Turf Sprint)
66-1 Bar of Gold (Filly & Mare Sprint)
11-1 Wuheida (Filly & Mare Turf)
9-2 Roy H (Sprint)
5-2 World Approval (Mile)
11-1 Good Magic (Juvenile)
14-1 Talismanic (Turf)
2-1 Gun Runner (Classic)

In the BC Classic, Arrogate was sent away as the $2.10 to $1 favorite. Gun Runner was the second choice in the wagering at $2.40 to $1.


You might be surprised that the track from which the most winners at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar last raced was Belmont Park. Three of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup winners had last started there.

In fact, runners coming off a race at a New York track did quite well at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup. In addition to the three winners who had last raced at Belmont, two other Breeders’ Cup winners had last started at Saratoga.

Below is where each winner at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup last raced:

Last Start (Winner) BC Race

Keeneland (Rushing Fall) Juvenile Fillies Turf
Remington (Battle of Midway) Dirt Mile
England (Mendelssohn) Juvenile Turf
Saratoga (Forever Unbridled) Distaff
Ireland (Declarationofpeace) Juvenile Turf Sprint
Belmont (Caledonia Road) Juvenile Fillies
Belmont (Stormy Liberal) Turf Sprint
Keeneland (Bar of Gold) Filly & Mare Sprint
France (Wuheida) Filly & Mare Turf
Santa Anita (Roy H) Sprint
Woodbine (World Approval) Mile
Belmont (Good Magic) Juvenile
France (Talismanic) Turf
Saratoga (Gun Runner) Classic


Almost twice as many winners at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup were coming off a loss than a win. Only five were coming off a victory, while nine were coming off a defeat.

Below is where each winner at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup finished in his/her most recent start:

Last Race W or L (BC Winner) BC Race (Last-Race Finish if Loss)

W (Rushing Fall) Juvenile Fillies Turf
L (Battle of Midway) Dirt Mile (2nd)
L (Mendelssohn) Juvenile Turf (2nd)
W (Forever Unbridled) Distaff
L (Declarationofpeace) Juvenile Turf Sprint (3rd)
L (Caledonia Road) Juvenile Fillies (2nd)
L (Stormy Liberal) Turf Sprint (8th)
L (Bar of Gold) Filly & Mare Sprint (6th)
L (Wuheida) Filly & Mare Turf (4th)
W (Roy H) Sprint
W (World Approal) Mile
L (Good Magic) Juvenile (2nd)
L (Talismanic) Turf (3rd)
W (Gun Runner) Classic


Among jockeys, Ryan Moore and John Velazquez were the leaders with two wins each. Three trainers had two victories apiece: Chad Brown, Aidan O’Brien and Peter Miller.

The winning jockey and trainer for each winner at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup is listed below:

Winner (Jockey & Trainer)

Rushing Fall (Javier Castellano & Chad Brown)
Battle of Midway (Flavien Prat & Jerry Hollendorfer)
Mendelssohn (Ryan Moore & Aidan O’Brien)
Forever Unbridled (John Velazquez & Dallas Stewart)
Declarationofpeace (Ryan Moore & Aidan O’Brien)
Caledonia Road (Mike Smith & Ralph Nicks)
Stormy Liberal (Joel Rosario & Peter Miller)
Bar of Gold (Irad Ortiz Jr. & John Kimmel)
Wuheida (William Buick & Charles Appleby)
Roy H (Kent Desormeaux & Peter Miller)
World Approval (John Velazquez & Mark Casse)
Good Magic (Jose Ortiz & Chad Brown)
Talismanic (Mickael Barzalona & Andre Fabre)
Gun Runner (Florent Geroux & Steve Asmussen)


Gun Runner won the BC Classic by 2 1/4 lengths while on his way to being voted 2017 Horse of the Year. He was credited with a 117 Beyer Speed Figure for his BC Classic performance. It was the highest Beyer at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup.

Below is a list of the winner’s Beyer Speed Figure for each 2017 Breeders’ Cup race:

BSF Winner (BC Race)

85 Rushing Fall (Juvenile Fillies Turf)
108 Battle of Midway (Dirt Mile)
86 Mendelssohn (Juvenile Turf)
99 Forever Unbridled (Distaff)
85 Declarationofpeace (Juvenile Turf Sprint)
82 Caledonia Road (Juvenile Fillies)
103 Stormy Liberal (Turf Sprint)
94 Bar of Gold (Filly & Mare Sprint)
104 Wuheida (Filly & Mare Turf)
111 Roy H (Sprint)
107 World Approval (Mile)
100 Good Magic (Juvenile)
108 Talismanic (Turf)
117 Gun Runner (Classic)


Precisionist’s 125 remains the highest Beyer Speed Figure recorded by a Breeders’ Cup winner. He logged that figure when victorious in the 1985 BC Sprint at Aqueduct. Precisionist was voted a 1985 Eclipse Award as champion sprinter.

Below are all of the Beyer Speed Figures of 120 or higher by a Breeders’ Cup winner from 1984 through 2020:

Beyer Winner (BC Race, Track)

125 Precisionist (1985 Sprint at Aqueduct)
124 Sunday Silence (1989 Classic at Gulfstream Park)
124 Artax (1999 Sprint at Gulfstream Park)
124 Ghostzapper (2004 Classic at Lone Star Park)
122 Alysheba (1988 Classic at Churchill Downs)
121 Very Subtle* (1987 Sprint at Hollywood Park)
120 Princess Rooney* (1984 Distaff at Hollywood Park)
120 Proud Truth (1985 Classic at Aqueduct)
120 Black Tie Affair (1991 Classic at Churchill Downs)
120 Skip Away (1997 Classic at Hollywood Park)
120 Cajun Beat (2003 Sprint at Santa Anita Park)
120 American Pharoah (2015 Classic at Keeneland)
120 Arrogate (2017 Classic at Santa Anita)



Who are the best of the best to have participated in Breeders’ Cup races?

I have come up with my list of the best horses to have run in the Breeders’ Cup. This is the way I see it. Undoubtedly your list would be different, quite possibly much different, than mine.

My approach to was to take all of the Breeders’ Cup starters from my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America. This is a list that I have updated from time to time. My horses on my Breeders’ Cup list all come from my current Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries and are listed in the same order.

It turns out the only Triple Crown winner to have ever run in a Breeders’ Cup race, American Pharoah, sits atop my ranking of the best horses to have participated in the Breeders’ Cup, as shown below (in parentheses is where the horse ranked on my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America):

1. American Pharoah (15)
2. Zenyatta (24)
3. Sunday Silence (28)
4. Cigar (29)
5. Easy Goer (33)
6. Alysheba (34)
7. Curlin (35)
8. Arrogate (36)
9. Shared Belief (37)
10. California Chrome (38)
11. Personal Ensign (40)
12. All Along (41)
13. Wise Dan (42)
14. Precisionist (75)
15. Ghostzapper (76)
16. Tiznow (78)
17. Skip Away (79)
18. Point Given (82)
19. Inside Information (83)
20. Gun Runner (84)
21. Lady’s Secret (85)
22. Beholder (86)
23. Azeri (87)
24. A.P. Indy (91)
25. Silver Charm (94)
26. Go for Wand (96)
27. Slew o’ Gold (98)

The horses ranked from No. 1 down to No. 14 (ranked higher than No. 15 American Pharoah) on my current list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries all did not race in the Breeders’ Cup. They are:

1. Man o’ War
2. Secretariat
3. Citation
4. Kelso
5. Spectacular Bid
6. Native Dancer
7. Dr. Fager
8. Seattle Slew
9. Count Fleet
10. Affirmed
11. Ruffian
12. Swaps
13. Phar Lap
14. Forego


There is no change in the order of the Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll from last week. The Top 10 is listed below:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 333 Knicks Go (20)
2. 312 Letruska (6)
3. 304 Essential Quality (10)
4. 164 Gamine
5. 152 Maxfield
6. 132 Max Player
7. 114 Domestic Spending
8. 106 Jackie’s Warrior
9. 90 Malathaat
10. 55 Silver State