We've got a few days before the entries will be released for the big races this coming weekend so I decided to put together a small excel file that summarizes the previous Breeders' Cup races at Churchill Downs (Breeders' Cup Churchill Track Profile). Below is a historical snap shot of previous Breeders' Cup races at Churchill where I've summarized the average pace after a 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4, the average final time, the number of wire-to-wire winners, and the average running position of the winning horse after a 1/2 mile.
BREEDERS' CUP CLASSIC
Wire-to-wire: 2/6 (Black Tie Affair, Tiznow)
Avg. Beaten Lengths after 1/2 mile: 5.79
Two things stuck out to me with previous editions of the Classic at Churchill Downs: first, the opening quarter and half mile splits are usually quite testing, and second, winners that didn't wire the field came from well-back while stalkers/pressers have fared poorly. Black Tie Affair (IRE) and Tiznow wired the field when they won but Alysheba, Concern, Awesome Again, and Invasor (ARG) were all more than seven lengths behind the leaders after a half mile.
BREEDERS' CUP DISTAFF/LADIES' CLASSIC
Wire-to-wire: 2/6 (One Dreamer, Escena)
Avg. Beaten Lengths after 1/2 mile: 2.75
While stalkers have had a tough time in the Classic, the Distaff at Churchill has historically been a race where it is beneficial to be up near the lead early on. One Dreamer and Escena wired the field, while Spain and Round Pond were no more than 3 1/2 lengths back after a half mile. The farthest back a filly or mare has come from to win the Distaff at Churchill was the 8 3/4 lengths that Personal Ensign made up in 1988. Kind of makes you wonder about the potential Rachel Alexandra/
Blame Blink Luck match-up in this year's Ladies' Classic.
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE
Wire-to-wire: 1/6 (Is It True)
Ave. Beaten Lengths after 1/2 mile: 4.29
When you look at historical charts for Breeders' Cup races, whether the event was held at Churchill Downs or some other track, one thing becomes abundantly clear very quickly: the pace in all of the main track races is almost always quick and punishing. A horse that wins from the front is usually much the best and rarely gets away with pedestrian fractions on the front-end. A route race that sees a six furlong fraction of 1:12+ is as slow as it's going to get and even that split is usually the result of a solid opening quarter.
Previous editions of the Juvenile at Churchill Downs have seen an average half mile of :46+, a punishing number for a bunch of -two-year-olds that are light on racing experience. Is it True wired the Juvenile at Churchill in 1988, but the past five races have seen four stalkers and a deep closer (Street Sense) bring home the hardware.
BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE FILLIES
Wire-to-wire: 1/6 (Dreaming of Anna)
Average Beaten Lengths after 1/2 mile: 4.73
Like the Juvenile, the Juvenile Fillies at Churchill has seen only one gate-to-wire winner (Dreaming of Anna in 2006). Overall, the Juvenile Fillies tends to be a chalky race and that trend has held at Churchill where three of the six winners went off as odds-on favorites.
BREEDERS' CUP MILE
Average Beaten Lengths after 1/2 mile: 5.13
Half of the winners at Churchill in the Mile have been more than seven lengths back of the leaders after a half mile (Miesque, War Chant, Miesque's Approval) while the other three were in prime stalking positions of two or three lengths back. No horse has ever won the Mile at Churchill that was closer than 2 3/4 lengths behind the leaders after a 1/2 mile, a fact that would appear to favor two-time winner Goldikova (IRE) and be a big obstacle to overcome for Sidney's Candy.
BREEDERS' CUP SPRINT
Wire-to-wire: 2/6 (Reraise, Thor's Echo)
Average Beaten Lengths after 1/2 mile: 2.25
When I first started playing Breeders' Cup races I always went with closers in the Sprint because the the overwhelming presence of speed through the field each and every year. After years of ripping up tickets I finally realized that the Sprint will always have an insane pace on the front-end and that alone didn't create any advantage for the closers. High class sprinters can withstand torrid fractions on the front-end and still roll home in good fashion. .
Every single Sprint run at Churchill Downs on a track labeled "Fast" has seen an opening quarter of less than :22 and a half around :44.2 and yet the only closer to win was Gulch in 1988 over a "Sloppy" track.
BREEDERS' CUP TURF
Average Beaten Lengths after 1/2 mile: 5.21
I think the best word to describe the Breeders' Cup Turf when run at Churchill Downs would be "fair". In the six previous editions of the Turf, two horses have gone wire-to-wire (Great Communicator and Buck's Boy), two have come from five or six lengths back (Miss Alleged and Kalanisi), and two were stone-cold closers (Tikkanen and Red Rocks).