October 23, 2018

Top 5 Horse Racing Upsets of 2017

First, some ground rules: There are two ways to consider a race “an upset”: 1. Who won, and 2. Who lost. In making this list, I considered not only the winner but also the beaten favorite. I also considered stakes races more heavily. Yes, the fortunes and emotions of countless people ride on every race, but the more people who are upset by a result the more I consider it an upset.

  1. Green Gratto wins the Carter Handicap at 54-to-1

Scroll down for the only other Grade 1 winner to pay at least $88 this year. I.e. Green Gratto is one of only two Grade 1 winners at odds of at least 43-to-1. He won the Carter Handicap and paid $110 to win in the process.

That the upset occurred in the Carter is somewhat noteworthy in that since the race achieved Grade 1 status in 1988 the previous high winning odds was Swagger Jack at 15.8-to-1 in 2013 and before that Bishop Court Hill at 8-to-1 in 2006.

  1. Streamline wins the Azeri Stakes, as 3-to-10 Terra Promessa finishes 5th

Terra Promessa wasn’t the only horse a 3-to-10 or worse to lose a graded stakes this year (Scroll down for one and Paradise Woods in the Torrey Pines Stakes is the other), but she did probably receive the worst trip of these three losers.

  1. Bullards Alley wins the Pattison Canadian International at 42.95-to-1

There were only six horses (so far) this year who won a graded stakes at odds of at least 32-to-1, and three of them happened at Woodbine led by Bullards Alley not because he paid the most to win (Go Pro paid $91.30 when winning the King Edward Stakes) but because it happened in a Grade 1 race.

Also, Bullard’s Alley not only won one of Canada’s most prestigious races, but also blitzed the field, winning by 10 ¾ lengths. The last horse to win a Grade 1 (flat) race and pay at least $30 to win was Street Sense at 15.2-to-1 odds in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and the last horse to pay at least $80 and win by at least 8 lengths in a Grade 1 race was Pretty Discreet in the 1995 Alabama Stakes.

This was an upset performance of truly historic proportions.

  1. Bar of Gold wins the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at 66.7-to-1

When Bar of Gold won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and paid $135.40 she became just the third hose this century (and only female) to pay at least $133 to win a Grade 1 race—joining Sarava in the 2002 Belmont Stakes ($142.50) and Seek Gold in the 2006 Stephen Foster ($185.40).

Of the 14 Grade 1 races this century to produce at least a $100 win payout, 3 have come in Breeders’ Cup races with Take Charge Brandi ($125.40) in the 2014 Juvenile Fillies and Court Vision ($131.60) in the 2011 Mile being the others.

Another three have come in classic races: the aforementioned Sarava and Mine That Bird ($103.20) and Giacomo ($102.60) in the 2009 and 2005 Kentucky Derbys, respectively.

Churchill Downs played host to five of these races: Court Vision Giacomo, Mine That Bird, and Seek Gold already mentioned plus Colonial Colony ($127.20) in the 2004 Stephen Foster.

Unique Bella was the 11-to-10 beaten favorite in Bar of Gold’s Filly & Mare Sprint, making this upset much more about who won than the favorite who lost, as Unique Bella was a play against for many sharp handicappers (though not me).

  1. Accelerate wins the San Diego Handicap, as 1-to-20 Arrogate finishes 4th of 5 to trigger massive win, place, and show payoffs

When Arrogate finished 4th in the San Diego Handicap at odds of 1-to-20 he became just the 2nd horse this century to finish off the board at that price in a graded stakes (War Pass—7th in the 2008 Tampa Bay Derby—is the other).

Losing at that price truly is historic. Through December 17, there have been 56 horses go off at 1-to-20 this year with 50 wins (89.2%), 3 seconds, and 1 third (96.4% in the money). The two not to hit the board were Chips All In on September 30 at Sandy Downs in Idaho and Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap on July 22 at Del Mar.

Arrogate also holds the distinction of being the only horse with odds of 1-to-20, 1-to-10, or 1-to-5 to lose a graded stakes this year, and the first 1-to-20 horse to lose a graded stakes since Sister Moon was second in the 2012 Railbird Stakes at Hollywood Park.

All this is not meant to take anything away from Accelerate winning the San Diego, but it’s only this year’s biggest upset because Arrogate lost it.

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