"Lookin At Lucky at Breeder's Cup Juvenile" by Lisa Andres is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Not many more sporting events are popular than the Breeders Cup, which remains one of the crowning tournaments on the annual horse-racing candidates.

Every year in November, at varying locations, fans typically flock to a given track. Though audience capacities differ by destination, the Breeders Cup has been known to attract six figures’ worth of people, and its most recent “lowest” total fell just below 70,000.

The two-day racing event’s popularity is further illustrated in the cash awarded and generated. Few singular tournaments attract more money from sports bettors; even the most occasional investors like to try their hand at placing wagers. And more than that, the prize pool across 14 races for winning steeds has now exceeded $25 million.

Interest in the 2020 Breeders Cup specifically should be uniquely high. No one knows what to expect amid the coronavirus pandemic. It is scheduled to take place, on November 6 and 7, amid unprecedented circumstances. The race will take a hit with the absence of fan attendance, but sheer curiosity should still be good for business at sportsbooks, on television, on streaming services and at publications that offer analysis on the participants.

Picking a winner, particularly now, is hardly a scientific process. You can simply look at popular Breeders’ Cup betting odds to determine who might outpace the field, but that only gets you so far. 

It is more useful to know about the horses racing in general. And after some extensive research, we’ve put together a list of our five most likely Breeders’ Cup winners, based on a variety of different factors that will be discussed within.

1. Aunt Pearl

Aunt Pearl’s Breeders Cup is skyrocketing. 

Among the biggest reasons behind this rise is a strong 2020 showing. Aunt Pearl is 2-for-2 in podium placements thus far, including an outright victory at Keeneland, which will host the Breeders Cup.

Familiarity with both the dirt and turf ovals should go a long way. Aunt Pearl has raced so well on the back of a more aggressive approach. Where many of the horses in her class end up trailing the pack from behind and making a push later, she and her rider, Florent Geroux, have gone pedal to the metal out of the gate.

2. Jackie’s Warrior

Many people worried about how a distance race such as the Breeders Cup would impact the ability for Jackie’s Warrior to seriously contender. 

Consider those concerns dead in the water.

Jackie’s Warrior earned the benefit of the doubt with a super strong victory on October 10 at Belmont Park. Equally important, his most recent victories have mostly come handedly, outstripping second-place hopefuls by as many as five-and-a-half lengths.

"Breeders Cup Classic 2014" by Scott Ableman is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

3. Civil Union

Versatility is Civil Union’s greatest strength, which should serve her well in this setting. 

While she has racked up some excellent performances while pacing herself throughout, she has real speed to her repertoire. Her final quarter-mile speed in the Grade I Flower Bowl Stakes at Belmont on October 10, which she won by a head, clocked in at under 22.8 seconds, according to Trakus data.

Keeneland’s turf will be a concern for Civil Union, as it is for all five-year-olds. But if she can hang by the middle of the pack or near the front out of the gate, she’ll have a real opportunity to stave off pushes from those who like to run a more paced race behind her.

4. Improbable

How could we not include Improbable? The four-year-old, trained by the notorious Bob Baffert, is considered a near-consensus favorite. 

Ahead of the Breeders Cup, experts compiled rankings of the best horses. Improbable won the process handedly, receiving 54 more votes than the second-place finisher. 

Known for gradually accelerating around turns, he has the potential to blow away his competition, even on his turf. Some of his best races include wins by seven-plus lengths, even after hovering outside the top five from the opening gun.

5. Swiss Skydiver

Most will consider Swiss Skydiver a wild card. Not us. 

The three-year-old just pulled off the most impressive victory of her career, winning the October 3 Grade I Preakness by edging out Kentucky Derby victor Authentic. That’s positively ridiculous. And while some wonder whether she’ll have enough fuel left in the tank to outpace the older horses at the Breeder’s Cup, we’re not exactly worried. 

Swiss Skydiver’s speed has increased in virtually all of the nine races she’s won this year. Not only that, but she’s proven most effective on one-and-a-quarter mile tracks—the exact distance she’ll run at the 2020 Breeder’s Cup.