Handicap Division Holds Value Over Triple Crown Winner in Classic Betting

The hoopla surrounding the first Triple Crown winner in nearly four decades has included the early betting action for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) as American Pharoah has been bet down to odds of 3/2 at Bovada.

We still have four months to go before the Classic is run at Keeneland on Oct. 31, a racing surface the champ has not raced over. The colt likely will make two or three more starts as well.

Do we really want to risk $2 to win just $5 with four months to go?

The handicap division could be tough this year, as it includes last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome, who is currently the co-second choice with Palace Malice at 9/1 at Bovada.

California Chrome makes his next start on turf at Royal Ascot in the Prince of Wales (G1). The jetsetter was second in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in his last start. Could the miles being put on this colt take its toll by October?

Palace Malice was a disappointing third in the Diablo Stakes last out in his first start since last summer. His short-term goal is the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga in August, and he will prep for that in early July, likely at Belmont Park or Monmouth Park.

If you are looking for more value, Honor Code might be your horse. The Shug McGaughey trainee was knocked off the Kentucky Derby trail last year with nagging injuries and was an early favorite for the Run for the Roses.

Back in March, he came back off a layoff with a good-looking late rally to capture the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2). He then was a disappointing fifth in the Alysheba (G2) at Churchill Downs, but the late running colt got no pace at which to run.

He ran a career best in the Met Mile (G1) on the Belmont Stakes Day card, rolling to a 3 ¾ length win and earning a 112 Beyer Speed Figure. His 14/1 betting odds for the Breeders’ Cup Classic look fair.

Another horse that has had physical issues but is now on the top of his game is the Bill Mott trained Lea. The six-year-old made just two starts in 2014, winning the Hal’s Hope (G3) and the Donn Handicap (G1).

This year he started by winning the Hal’s Hope and then was second in the Donn. He shipped to Meydan for the Dubai World Cup where he was third behind Prince Bishop and California Chrome.

He is the betting favorite for Saturday night’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs. The race is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race for the Classic. He is currently at betting odds of 20/1 for the Classic at Bovada and those odds are surely going to shrink if he runs big in the Foster.

Michael Dempsey will be providing selections and analysis for all of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In” races at turfnsport.com.