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BREEDERS' CUP 2011: The Sprints And Their Payouts

Historically, one of the more difficult handicapping races on the entire Breeders' Cup card is the Sprint.  Jam packed with 12 to 14 horses, most of which want to be out on the front-end setting the pace, the Sprint field usually sets the stage for a wild race and unpredictable results.  Beginning in 2007, the Breeders' Cup added several new sprinting options to the card - the Filly and Mare Sprint and the Turf Sprint. [The Juvenile Sprint is new for 2011.] In their short existence, both the Filly and Mare Sprint and the Turf Sprint have proven to be almost as challenging as the Sprint, and have produced their fair share of big prices.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of each race, let's first take a look at the historical payouts for all three. The chart below summarizes the median payouts for the Turf Sprint, Filly & Mare Sprint, and Sprint.

Median Payouts
Race Win Exacta Trifecta Superfecta
Turf Sprint     15.80      156.20    1,393.60      17,630.80
F&M Sprint     13.40      107.50       999.00        7,520.30
Sprint     13.60      300.30    2,396.60      28,545.00


Those are pretty good numbers all across the board, especially the mammoth exotic payouts of the Sprint over the history of the race. The Turf Sprint's $15.80 median win payout would put it ahead of all of the original eight Breeders' Cup races. (We'll probably have to wait a few years to see how those numbers stabilize.) And all of those numbers, for all three races, put them in the top half of all historical payouts.

One of the more interesting takeaways from the above chart is the fact that half of all Sprint superfectas pay more than $28k, which includes the monster score of $113,911.80 in 2006 at Churchill Downs.Those are incredible numbers for the super.  In fact, the lowest Sprint superfecta in history is the $484.60 it paid out in 2008; no other super has been below $1,000, and only 3 of the 14 Sprint superfecta have returned less than $10,000.  That's some serious iron being thrown around.

Overall, the Sprint has produced the highest median win, exacta, trifecta and superfecta payouts of any of the original eight Breeders’ Cup races. And in terms of comparison to the original eight races in terms of the exotics, it isn’t even close. 

Sprint Median Next Highest
Exacta            300.30          145.70
Trifecta        2,396.60      1,113.70
Super      28,545.00      8,705.60


The next closest median exacta is over $150 less than the Sprint ($145.70 of the Mile). Trifecta? Over $1,200 less ($1,113.70 of the Filly & Mare Turf).  And no one comes close to the superfecta median of $28k (2nd highest is the $8.7k of the Mile).

The Sprint payouts are even more encouraging when you consider the field size issues with that race over the last four years.  Prior to 2007, only once in 23 years did the Sprint go to post with less than ten horses.  Since 2007, we've had fields of 10, 8, 9, and 12, with a nine horse field on tap for the 2011 version.  The Sprint, it seems, has felt the full blow of the introduction of the Dirt Sprint in 2007, a race that provides a one-turn outlet for horses that don't quite fit at six furlongs. But the smaller fields have crippled the payouts (so far) as we've seen $10k+ supers that last two years, and $2k+ trifectas.  As a comparison, the Turf Sprint has featured a full field of 14 in all three years of its existence, and (barring any scratches) it will go to post with 14 again this year. The Filly and Mare Sprint has drawn field of 10, 13, 9 and 13 in it's first four years, and has drawn 13 entries for the 2011 version.

With all the box car prices in these three races, it might be helpful to take a look at the median odds of the horses that have finished 1-2-3-4 in their respective years.

Median Odds
Race 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Turf Sprint 6.90 9.60 9.70 13.90
F&M Sprint 5.70 4.85 7.20 11.75
Sprint 5.80 13.50 11.20 6.80

If you look through the year-by-year numbers (BC Historical Payouts; tab "Odds"), you can see that the Sprint generally produces at least one bomb in the top four finishers every single year.  In the entire history of the Sprint, there have been only three years where at least on 10/1 horse didn't finish in the top four (1984, 1985, 2010).