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Book Review

Crushing the Cup 2019 The Handicapper's Guide to Breeders' Cup XXXVI
by Jim Mazur and Peter Mallett
from Progressive Handicapping Inc., 126 pages paperback

Crushing The Cup celebrates its 28th renewal in 2019. The flagship product of Progressive Handicapping Inc. compiles all sorts of statistics from past Breeders' Cups in order to come up with a winning profile for each of the 14 Breeders' Cup World Championships races. No stone is left unturned as authors and professional players Jim Mazur and Peter Mallett examine track biases of the host track, prep races and running styles used by past winners, number of days since last start, and much more. This is a "must read" for horseplayers at all levels of betting since it offers so many different angles to work with to find that elusive "crush" on the big day.

After the intro, the first chapter is a narrative of last year's event at Churchill Downs, listing in detail what their picks had been and how they came up with them, what bets were placed based on those picks, and how much money was won or lost. For the second year in a row, Mallett did not travel to the BC host track, instead working from his Niagara Falls-area base and placed his bets at an OTB on the U.S. side of the border, while Mazur hosted the annual Progressive Handicapping Breeders' Cup Bash at Mohegan Sun Casino with members of his "cartel". The team was spared heavy losses when 25-1 longshot Shamrock Rose won the Filly and Mare Sprint, as the race was not part of the Pick 5 nor the Pick 6, but later in the card, Oscar Performance's poor showing in the Mile followed by favorites/short priced horses winning the rest of the way meant a losing day. They had picked 12 of the 14 winners, but all at such short odds that there was no "big score" as there had been the last 2 editions. Their "full disclosure" lends much more credibility to their publication than a series of what appears to be red-boarded "winning" bets like you might see elsewhere.

The Breeders' Cup site changes every year, which could present problems for bettors unfamiliar with the host track. Thankfully, with the Championships returning to the Arcadia oval for a record tenth time, there is enough data to come up with trends to look out for. Mazur and Mallett spend an entire chapter "About Santa Anita", discussing what the facility looks like, the track's biases at each of the Cup's race distances, and which tracks are more favorable sites for prep races. They point out that the 2 Southern California BC host tracks (Santa Anita and Del Mar) are home to the shortest stretches in North America, resulting in slow final quarter mile times as the first 1/16 mile of the final quarter is on the turn. The two turf sprints (Turf Sprint on Saturday and Juvenile Turf Sprint on Friday) will experience a cutback from the traditional, unique-to-Santa Anita 6 1/2-furlong downhill trip to 5 furlongs on the infield oval, a change made for safety considerations to avoid sprinters having to cross the dirt track into the stretch. However, the Turf and Filly and Mare Turf will retain their usual trips that start on the hill and cross over before passing the stands for the first time.

For the rest of the book, each of the 14 races is featured in its own chapter. Each begins with a chart listing the past winners of the race (for the original 7, only Santa Anita runnings), the winning trainer and jockey, the running style used, age (where applicable), post position, win and exacta payoffs, and the Beyer figure. In a quick glance you can already see some trends unfolding. Some races feature more winning favorites, some are biased to a certain running style, some see most of its winners coming from a certain prep race. These angles are explained in the text that follows, so you know exactly what to look for when handicapping the races; these angles are ultimately what are used to sort the field into Crushers, Gray Zoners, and Pretenders. Each chapter concludes with the Daily Racing Form past performances of the last few Cup winners (SA runnings only for the original 7), again giving the reader a chance to look for trends. Data that have been omitted for space considerations, including "Original 7" data for non-SA editions, are available in a free appendix on their website, using the login data on Page 49.

To accompany Crushing the Cup, Mazur and Mallett release The Crushing Zone about 2 weeks before Championship day. This newsletter-sized publication sorts the pre-entrants for each race into the categories of Crushing Zone, Gray Zone, and Pretenders. Internet users can access this document from their website (which is loaded onto the user's account on proghandicap.com), or you can have the hardcopy shipped Priority Mail. The Zone gets a major update immediately after the post positions are drawn, since the draw can easily upgrade or downgrade a horse's chances, then daily through Friday based on last minute changes such as late scratches, good or bad morning gallops, or wet weather forecasts.

Crushing The Cup 2019 is an excellent publication for anybody wanting to bet the tough Breeders' Cup races on November 1-2 or for newer horseplayers wanting to learn more about the use of angles and biases as handicapping weapons. Mazur and Mallett have done their homework through 27 years of experience, and the fruit of their labor is yours for just $29.95. From their Breeders' Cup experience they have expanded their operations and also publish similar statistical analyses for the Triple Crown and for the various major circuits in North America.

Crushing The Cup 2019 has a cover price of $29.95 and is available from Progressive Handicapping Inc. There are several package deals available which include combinations of some or all of their Breeders' Cup products (Crushing the Cup, Crushing Zones, and daily selections), and the book can be purchased in traditional hardcopy or as a PDF file. Fans who are not traveling to California but want to join Mazur with co-hosts Mike Mutnansky and Mike Vesce can attend the ninth annual Breeders' Cup Bash at Mohegan Sun Casino, which includes private seminars with Mazur and eligibility to buy into the Pick 5 and Pick 6 Cartel explained above, as well as participate in a handicapping tournament among the attendees.

Rating:     5/5

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