Beating Zenyatta: A Punter’s Guide to the Breeders' Cup Classic

November 6, 2009

Zenyatta is a capable horse, but as the name favorite she is likely to be overbet considerably. More importantly, she can be beaten.

Although Zenyatta is currently undefeated, most of her 13 wins have been close. In addition, one should not read too much into her workouts at this distance because she too could become gassed. From a bettor's standpoint, since Zenyatta is the public's favorite, the odds will be low and so will one's return. Therefore, it will be your job to beat her with a smart bet that will bring in more favorable odds.

Also bear in mind Zenyatta isn’t the only favorite.

British bookmakers have listed Irish racehorse Rip Van Winkle as their favorite despite this race being his first time on the synthetics. Still, questions continue to loom over his health, as Rip Van Winkle has been plagued by foot problems overseas. If I’m going to give a horse my money, I want to be sure that he is 100% and able to give it his all at post time. With Rip Van Winkle, there is no such guarantee.

The true competition for Zenyatta is Summer Bird. The three year-old who disappointed in the Kentucky Derby was last seen winning a Grade 1 race at Belmont by a length in October. We know Summer Bird ships well and has the best speed figures at this 1 and 1/4th mile distance. Odds will be close on this surefire contender.

Quality Road also has a strong upside. He has faced strong competition in the past, perhaps most famously when he upset Dunkirk in the Florida Derby. He also has the highest speed ratings in this one, and can win on the dirt. As such, he is a horse that one must take seriously.

Furthermore, Quality Road was second in his last race and third in his race before that one. Both were Grade 1 races coincidentally at the same distance of the upcoming Breeders' Cup. When viewed cumulatively, it's hard to find a knock against this horse.

So where can a punter find value in a tight Breeders' Cup field?

One horse worth noting is Gio Ponti. In early October, Gio Ponti tried a mile and a half G1 race at Belmont and came in second. This is not a bad horse to consider, although he did lose badly in his only trip on the synthetics. More recently, he produced a very high speed figure in another mile and a half race in which he finished second.

However, I like Einstein. This talented horse has yet to run a really bad race in his career, and will have a morning line of 12-1. And although he has not run in two months, this is in keeping with the pattern of his career and should not be a concern. In fact, Einstein finished second by a neck in that G-1 September race. Most likely, he finishes in the money.

By Joe Hammond
Contributing Writer for

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