2018 Breeders' Cup Q&A with Mike Shutty - Super Screener
Super Screener

2018 Breeders’ Cup Q&A with Mike Shutty

You asked, Mike has answered!

We got so many great questions from Super Screener readers this year, about the Breeders’ Cup contenders, races and wagering strategy. Many of you asked the same question, so we chose one to represent all of the similar ones.

Enjoy – and if you have questions about these questions, just let us know – Breeders’ Cup is one week away!


Keith J. asks:

One big hole in my handicapping the Breeders’ Cup races is how to approach the turf races with so many foreign horses shipping in. Do you have a technique to help that I may be missing?

This is a common question, Keith, and a challenge US-based handicappers wrestle with each year since the vast majority of our focus of play is in North America. Horse Racing Nation covers the European action all year long so that’s a great resource to stay in touch with what is happening overseas especially in the months leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. Here are some tips on how to evaluate the chances of the Europeans entered in the Breeders’ Cup races.


  • Watch the video replays of the last couple of races for these Europeans.  They are readily available on Horse Racing Nation and on Youtube. We even include key replay links for each race in the Super Screener book.  What you want to look for in your European contender is a horse with a quick turn of foot…one that can close rapidly in the final stages of the race whether they are pressing, coming from off the pace or from far back.  Definitely shy away from pace setter types. They tend to find the US pace too demanding and their fellow European runners with that quick turn of foot have the definite edge over them.
  • Focus on European horses that are running off a layoff or are lightly raced. Really put a harsh lens against European shippers that are coming back in 2 weeks to race here…that quick turn around has typically not worked well for connections.
  • Focus on charges from top barns such as Aidan O’Brien, Sir Michael Soute, John Gosden, Andre Fabre and Charlie Appleby.  They know what it takes to get a runner ready for the Breeders’ Cup and have a track record of success.
  • Europeans hold a decided advantage in the Turf race winning well over 20 of the 34 renewals. Leverage the tips above to help you land on the best of the best in that race.
  • Expect that Europeans will dominate in the newly formed Juvenile Sprint Turf race.  That race was specifically created for European trainers whose barns are loaded with sharp turf sprinting juveniles.
  • Shy away from European horses that are entered in dirt races. It has historically been a losing proposition.  Roaring Lion will run in the Classic and he will get bet. He might hit the board but better European horses that actually had dirt breeding couldn’t manage to win the Classic.  The decision to run is more often driven by the owner than the trainer.


John A. asks:

To save some money and spread some races for the Pick 4, 5 and 6s, I have a decision to make regarding Enable. Everything points to her as the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but she is likely going to be odds on. I think she towers over the field. She makes a solid single in the Pick 6 but also dramatically reduces my chance of a big payoff depending on the other races. My preference would be to single her in the Pick 6 and possibly spread a bit in the Pick 4s and 5s as a cover. In your professional opinion, is she a solid single, and if so, is there anyone else on your radar that may be as well for the weekend?

John, despite the fact that 8 previous Arc winners have unsuccessfully tried to win the Turf, Enable is coming into this via a different pattern.  She will come in very lightly raced versus the previous Arc winners who were coming here on short rest after a very long campaign. I would not try to beat her.  Your horizontal wagering strategy is spot on. Play the Pick 6 like a Pick 5 and use the Pick 4 and Pick 5 as your opportunity to break through with a big payout.  By the way, there have been plenty of Breeders’ Cup Pick 6 tickets that have hit with huge pay offs that included an odds-on favorite in the mix. Definitely heavy up on your long shots in the first four races of that Pick 6 sequence.

Andrew J. asks:

I’ve heard speed doesn’t hold up on the dirt at Churchill Downs. Is that true when it comes to Breeders’ Cup races there? And are there certain distances that speed holds up better at?

Andrew, speed horses typically run as well at Churchill Downs as they do at other tracks across the US.  However, when it comes to the large fields so typical of Breeders’ Cup races, the pace can come up hot and pressured which works in the favor of horses that come from off the pace or even further back and this is particularly true at Churchill Downs.  The Juvenile races are run at 1 1/16 miles and with that short run to the first turn, a presser type can prevail. Also, any race that comes up with 8 or fewer runners will typically produce a more modest pace and a pace or presser type can and will win those races.

Mark G. asks:

Now that we know Mind Your Biscuits can get the distance, how does he stack up against the likes of McKinzie?

Thanks for the question, Mark. I think Mind Your Biscuits is on everyone’s mind regarding his ability to compete at this level and distance. His G3 Lukas Classic running line was indeed impressive and he laid out energy in that race like he could get the 1 ¼ distance.  There’s no question he can “get the distance” but can he do so under a more demanding pace set up? When Mind Your Biscuits races in sprints, or even one-turn miles,  he typically comes from well off the pace. Note that at 1 1/8 miles he took the role of a presser against a modest field and won for fun. He now returns to G1 company and at 1 ¼ miles he’ll press once again but the fractions will be swifter and with the added 1/8th mile of ground over his last race, that is going to take some of that kick out him in the final furlong.  He’s a cinch at the Dirt Mile but more of a board hitter in the Classic…and the risk/reward value proposition will be poor.  

Adriane C. asks:

What race would you say is the best to play if you want to have a big pay day?

At this early juncture it appears the Juvenile Turf Sprint, Turf Sprint, Sprint and Mile are coming up huge when it comes to payout potential. If you are looking for a “score” those are the races I would focus on.

Anthony L. asks:

With Diversify defecting from the Classic, how do you think this will affect the pace scenario, and who do you think will benefit the most?

That was a major defection, Anthony, and if any other pace or presser type drops out of this race that will continue to alter the pace scenario.  Keep in mind that closers have dominated this race in the 8 times it has been run at Churchill Downs regardless of the pace set up. However, Accelerate, West Coast, Mind Your Biscuits, McKinzie, Catholic Boy and Mendelssohn are in the best position to benefit from less pace pressure.  But, if all of these horses run in the Classic, the pace will be more than fair. Stay tuned as we’ll be able to better evaluate the situation once we have the final field in place.

Vincent M. asks:

Which 2-year-old do you like the best in the Juvenile? Game Winner, Complexity or someone else? Can a longshot win that race?

Game Winner will draw all the attention and certainly be the post time favorite and deservedly so.  Code of Honor, however, is sitting on a big race and will probably go off at odds of around 5-1 or maybe even higher. He ran a deceptively good race and will only move forward off that effort as he will thrive going two turns.

James S. asks:

What is your suggestion for a player whose budget isn’t huge, but in the $500-$600 range?

James, you can go a couple of ways here. One thought is to just focus on playing three races in which you have a lot of conviction and value clear. Another thought is to play more races but lock into one horse and use that horse up and down in vertical wagers and spread around that horse in the other slots. That’s a great way to reduce your ticket cost and still have a shot at a big pay out.. It would be best that your “single” horse was a long shot or one that was offering value.  Lastly, you could limit play to Pick 4 wagers especially if you like one or two long shots in the sequence. That approach will also provide you with wagering leverage.

John M. asks:

How much weight should be placed on John Sadler’s poor record outside California, especially in Breeders’ Cup races?

It’s certainly hard to ignore but most of Sadlar’s prior Breeders’ Cup runners weren’t rated high by the Super Screener and were not excepted to do well. Stellar Wind and Switch come to mind as the horses that were most favored by the Super Screener and they hit the board (twice for Switch). Last year’s Breeders’ Cup was probably the most frustrating one for John as nothing went right. He is a great trainer and there is no reason to let his prior record get in the way of backing horses he trains that make sense in the race. He is certainly in a great place to win at least one race this year.


Scott U. asks:

Where do you think you get your best value in Breeders’ Cup races? Is it Pick 3s and Pick 4s or Trifectas and Superfectas?

Scott, it is definitely not the Trifecta nor the Pick 3, relative to the risk, the payouts for those wagers can come up light.  Actually, the Exacta may be the best wager when it comes to value. Because of the deep fields the Exacta will often pay more than fair value. Superfectas can return handsomely but best if a big long shot finishes 1st or 2nd.  You can’t go wrong with the Pick 4 especially in a sequence in which you are really convicted on at least one 15-1 shot or higher.

Bob S. asks:

What about the weather? I am assuming Louisville will be a little chilly that time of year. How will the horses coming from California and Florida react to the colder climate? Is it a factor that can be quantified?

All horses will appreciate the cooler weather. It actually works in the favor of horses coming in from Florida and California as it isn’t cold at all by horse standards in Louisville this time of year but it can actually serve to perk them up. I can’t quantify it but a quick look in the paddock or post parade will be the best indicator of how each horse is coming into the race.

Adrian B. asks:

Is there a post position bias in the sprints or routes at Churchill, especially in large fields?

You definitely want to downgrade horses exiting from post 1 in crowded Sprint, Filly & Mare Sprint, Dirt Mile and Classic fields.  Horses positioned on the inside part of the track in the Juvenile and Juvenile Filly have an edge due to the short distance to the first turn in those 1 1/16 mile affairs. Perhaps even more important is the lane bias that can pop up on this racing surface. For example, in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup, if you were on the rail you had a huge advantage on the dirt track at Churchill Downs.  Often when the track is sealed the inside will be the best place to be. On the other hand, a track that is drying out can favor horses on the outside part of the track. Generally speaking, a horse going 3 wide is not at a disadvantage on this racing surface and that position also minimizes unwanted trouble.

Robert S. asks:

Which Breeders’ Cup races are historically and most likely to be won by the favorite or second choice, and which are historically and most likely to be won by a longer shot?

There are a lot of myths surrounding the answer to this question, Robert.  For example, the belief that the Juvenile Fillies is a chalky race. That was a very accurate statement through 2012; however, over the past 5 years, fillies going off at odds of 17-1 or higher have won 4 of the 5 editions of that race.

I went back and tabulated the number of 10-1+ winners of all the Breeders’ Cup races and here is want I found:

10-1+ Winning 30 to 45% of the Time

  • Dirt Mile (5/11)
  • Sprint (14/34)
  • Turf (12/34)
  • Mile (10/34)

As it turns out the “chalkiest” Breeders’ Cup races, generally speaking are as follows:

  • Distaff
  • Juvenile Turf
  • Juvenile
  • Classic

Daniel R. asks:

In many of the Breeders’ Cup races, it seems to me there are maybe seven or eight horses in a 12-horse field which can win the race besides the top two choices. All the horses are top quality. How can you determine if the horse is moving forward or has peaked?

Daniel, the clues are in the Super Screener screening criteria for each race. In some cases, a lifetime top is a positive signal and in other cases it is a big eliminator.  Generally speaking, with the Juvenile races, you want to see horse exiting a race in which they achieved a new top (unless it is a 10+ point swing). Ideally, you would like to see a horse coming into a Breeders’ Cup race 2nd or 3rd race off a layoff with moderate progression forward in each race leading up to the Breeders’ Cup.  Horses with 5+ races without a break that hit a big number last out have probably peaked and are highly likely to regress off that last effort.

Edward S. asks:

Two questions actually, as I’ll be at the races both days and will be playing the whole card early. Do you see any particular race as a wide-open affair — one where a big longshot could pay? I’m thinking about a big ticket win bet that can be made early without seeing a huge change by post time. Also, which day will have more races with a higher playability score? Should I be betting heavier Friday or Saturday?

If you are able to, Edward, I would avoid placing wagers early in the day especially on Friday.  With Churchill Downs this time of year, it will be critical to see how the track and turf course are playing so that wagering strategies can be modified accordingly.  In answer to your question as to which day will have the most races with a Playability Score of 7+, it will be Saturday as the Turf Sprint, Sprint and Mile clearly are the best value opportunities.  On Friday, the Juvenile Sprint offers high pay out potential as well.