Handicapping the Breeders’ Cup Trainers

Horse Racing Radar
Valerie Mellema
Valerie Mellema is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Friday, October 30, 2020

It's an age-old story among horseracing lovers. You take the past performances and start doing the math. How many times has this one won? How often has he gone this distance? What percentage of times has he been in the money? Has he ever competed against this one before?


While we generally compare horses in a race, the same dynamics are often used by players to evaluate jockeys. This year, we can use the same measuring sticks to compare trainers at the Breeders' Cup Championship Series. This year's field in every one of the 14 races is universally acknowledged to be outstanding. The best jockeys from around the world are gathering in Lexington for the series as well. The difference in each race may be the wisdom and instinct of the people prepping the ponies—the trainers.


So how do we evaluate the trainers gathering at Keeneland Race Track? Some players might point to the overall winning percentage in past Breeders' Cup races. Simply qualifying a horse to run in a cup race means you're a topflight trainer. Once the ponies are in the gate, however, that becomes much less significant.


If you are concerned strictly about winning percentage, Brad Cox takes the crown with 25% of his entrants finishing first. We should note, however, that Cox has only had a total of 12 Breeders' Cup runners prior to 2020. He's never had a horse finish second or third, so his in-the-money percentage is also 25%. This year, Cox has nine ponies in line, including highly regarded horses like Arklow and Monomoy Girl, so lots of percentages are going to change.


Overall, next in line with winning percentages of 20% are two trainers. Peter Miller has started 25 Breeders' Cup entrants and has an in-the-money percentage of 44%. This year he has four horses in line.


With almost identical percentages and almost twice as many entrants is Richard Mandella. Over the years, he has posted 45 horses in Breeders' Cup races and boasts a 42% in-the-money percentage. This year he has three chances to claim more victories.


The trainer with the greatest number of possibilities to improve upon his already outstanding percentages is Chad Brown. With a lifetime winning percentage of 16 in Breeders' Cup races and a 38% in-the-money rating, he's prepping 13 horses for Keeneland.


Ranked fifth among winning percentages is the English great John Gosden, whose horses have won 14% of the races they've entered and been in-the-money 28% of the time. This year he's entered three.


Sixth, with a 13% winning record out of 54 horses, is Steve Asmussen. His horses have been in-the-money 31% of the time. Things may change for him since he has nine horses in line this year.


Also, with a lot of horses headed to the gate is Bob Baffert. In addition to the largest total number of Breeders' Cup runners, 119, he has a 12% winning rating and is in the money 32% of the time. This year he's readied six horses for the series.


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