One Liner impresses in the Southwest Stakes

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

February 20th 2017

I’ll be having a new Kentucky Derby atop my next rankings: Todd Pletcher’s One Liner. He ran one hell of a race today with a winning time of 1:41.85. That is FAST!

This will easily result in the first 100+ Beyer of the year for this 3-year-old class. Consider that last year’s winner Suddenbreakingnews won it with a time of 1:45.14 and he received a 93 Beyer and finished 5th in the Kentucky Derby. One Liner would have won last year’s Southwest Stakes by a tractor-trailer length.

My favorite Uncontested ran the same race he did in the Smarty Jones but pooped out and was way behind Petrov at the mile mark, a horse he easily beat in the Smarty Jones. Overall, I was concerned that he raced at too brisk of a pace in the opening fractions. He simply did not run anywhere close to what he ran in the Smarty Jones Stakes even through 1 mile for whatever reason.

Back to One Liner, by my calculations, He ran the final 2 1/2 furlongs in 30.39, good for a speed of over 37mph. That is blazing speed for this age.

Stay tuned! I will be writing a Derby profile about One Liner in the very near future for http://www.usracing.com

–Michael

 

 

 

McCraken Impresses Once Again!

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

February 12th 2017 – Updated February 20th

The Kentucky Derby trail is heating up after an impressive performance yesterday in the Sam F. Davis Stakes by McCraken (shown below). McCraken set a Sam F. Davis Stakes and track record with his winning time of 1:42.45. He also beat some pretty good competition in this field from Todd Pletcher’s stable.

This is exactly the kind of performance you hope your Derby contender has coming off a significant layoff. I was somewhat skeptical that his closer racing style would work on Tampa Bay Downs track surface. But McCraken proved to me that he is a legitimate talent. I expect this colt will gain many new fans along the way and lay down some more great performances.

I still wouldn’t rank him first in my Kentucky Derby contender rankings. I need to see how Mastery performs in his first start as a 3 year-old. I also want to see how Uncontested performs on a dry, fast track at 8 1/2 furlongs. McCraken’s closing race style concerns me a little because closers typically don’t fare very well in a field of 20 in the Kentucky Derby. But read my next bit below to serve as a reminder that sometimes it works out very well. So McCraken he has to be somewhere in the Top 4 Derby contender rankings after yesterday’s performance. MCraken also has a pedigree that suggests he will like added distance and could turn out to be a star like his father Ghostzapper was if he races as a 4 and 5 year-old.

There is a ton of talent in the 2017 Kentucky Derby class. This bodes well for producing exciting Triple Crown races and for the older horse division in the future.


Less than 12 weeks away from Derby Day!

We are now 11 weeks and 6 days away from the famous bugle call and the most exciting 2 minutes in sports. Below is the best HD quality Youtube video you will find of one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Mine That Bird, a 50-1 longshot, from last to first, wins the 2009 Kentucky Derby. This horse showed promise as a 2 year-old but was viewed as lucky to be invited to the race due to his unimpressive 3 year-old campaign.
This brings a smile to my face every time when I rewatch it as Hall of Fame announcer, Tom Durkin, was so surprised that he fumbled to acknowledge who it was that slipped by the frontrunners until Mine That Bird was way past them.
 
And jockey Calvin Borel, who pointed to the crowd way before crossing the finish line, like he had cheated the devil.
Needless to say, a winning $2 Superfecta bet paid out over a half of a million dollars: $557,006.40. Someone hit it and I bet they are still laughing today. And a movie eventually was made about this amazing horse titled 50-1. Recommended viewing.

On the docket…

Southwest Stakes Preview 

My preview of the Southwest Stakes can be found at  https://www.usracing.com/news/analysis/southwest-stakes-trifecta-play

After the Southwest Stakes race, I will publish my next version of Kentucky Derby contender rankings.

–Michael

Sam F. Davis Stakes Preview – McCraken vs Fact Finding

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

February 11th 2017

This afternoon, we have another interesting battle between two undefeated colts on the Derby Trail in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs: McCraken vs Fact Finding. Both colts are undefeated in three starts. The Sam F. Davis Stakes is a prep race for the Tampa Bay Derby and a points-paying race on the Kentucky Derby trail.

Below are the entries, post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds.

The Sam F. Davis Stakes  – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #10 at Tampa Bay Downs – Post-Time: 3:45 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. State of Honor (116) – Leparoux/Casse – 8/1 
2. King and His Court (120) – Boulanger/Casse – 8/1 
3. Fact Finding (116) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 9/2  
4. Chance of Luck (116) – Allen Jr./Bennett – 15/1
5. Six Gun Salute (116) – Morales/Harty -30/1
6. Wild Shot (116) – Albarado/Arnold – 5/1
7. Tapwrit (120) – Ortiz/Pletcher – 8/1  
8. McCraken (122) – Hernandez Jr./Wilkes – 2/1
9. No Dozing (116) – Centeno/Delacour – 4/1

Race Commentary: As we saw last week, expect the unexpected with 3 year-olds coming into the new year after a long layoff. Fact Finding likes to get out into the early lead and won by 7 lengths in his last start–the Smooth Air Stakes. McCraken has a closer racing style and impressed in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, beating Wild Shot by 1 1/4 lengths back in late November. No Dozing also has a closer race style.

How do I see this one playing out? McCraken chasing Fact Finding and Wild Shot down the stretch. Tampa Bay Downs is a speed favoring track unlike Churchill Downs where McCraken won in his last start. I really like McCraken, the son of Ghostzapper, moving forward but I am not sure this track surface suits his racing style. So an upset of the race favorite seems very probable here. Fact Finding with his inside post-position and early speed may be too tough to chase down.

The safest bet on paper is probably an Exacta wheel keying two horses (McCraken & Fact Finding) to win over three horses (McCraken, Fact Finding and Wild Shot) to place. So 3, 8 over 3,6,8. However, this bet may payout less than the bet itself depending on the live odds and if the race favorite (McCraken) wins. A $2 bet of this type would cost $8.

But please note that trainer Todd Pletcher has won this race 4 out of the last 7 years. He won it last year with Destin. Pletcher also has a great jockey on Fact Finding in John Velazquez who has won the Sam F. Davis 3 times. So you may want to take a shot at beating McCraken straight up in a win bet. 

Let the live race odds and the projected Exacta payouts influence your decision. And I would never bet more than $50 on a race with a lot of 3 year-olds making the first start after a long layoff. And I would only plunk down $50 on a race of this type if I was more sure about the horses in the field than this one.


News: Classic Empire Has Foot Abscess

In my previous blog, on Classic Empire’s performance in the Holy Bull Staktes, I noted that I thought that he might have been bothered by a slight ailment of some sort that couldn’t easily be detected post-race. Whoot there it is! This was confirmed in an interview with trainer Mark Casse by Bill Finley for the Thoroughbred Daily News later in the day that I published my last blog.

Casse said We were shocked by the way he acted on Saturday. He’s probably one of the smartest horses I’ve ever trained. He never lets things bother him, but he was a mess. When he came into the paddock, I was shocked how he was acting. On Sunday morning, I was there with him and he was perfect. Got him out and jogged him and he was happy. By Monday morning he was getting around, but he wasn’t good. We did some tests which showed the problem was with his right front foot.

By Monday afternoon, he could not walk. He couldn’t get around the shedrow. We started soaking his foot, we X-rayed his foot. The X-ray of the foot was fine. [Wednesday] morning he had a huge puss pocket bust out of the bulb of his foot. He’s now a happy camper and moving around fine. We feel some relief because we knew something was up and we just couldn’t pinpoint it. I’m guessing this had been brewing but not enough for us to catch it before the race. It’s one thing to be sound at a jog or a gallop, another thing when you’re being asked to run at 40 miles per hour. Now, we have an explanation for what is going on.”

Casse also said that he Gulfstream Park is back in the picture for Classic Empire’s next start.


Your Feedback Needed…

I am looking for suggestions from my readers for ways to improve the content of this blog. In 2016, my blog exploded in terms of views and blog followers. I averaged over 14 views per hour, every hour for the entire year and had a peak of nearly 40,70o views on Kentucky Derby day. I never envisioned that my blog, created in December 2014 out of a love of horse racing and writing, would grow so quickly. I personally thank you for your patronage.

I know for a fact that this blog has been read by many of the top people in the sport of thoroughbred horse racing, from owners, trainers, jockeys and TV and published media members. I currently have a profile on Kentucky Derby contender Uncontested on www.usracing.com. So expect to see some of my work there there, and perhaps other places, from time to time.

Due to time constraints, I am pretty much confined to dirt racing and following the Kentucky Derby Trail, the Triple Crown races, the Breeders’ Cup Classic and all it’s “Win and You’re In” races and the Pegasus World Cup. And any relevant big news or story items related along the way.

So if anyone has an idea or story that they would like published on this site or if anyone is interested in sponsoring this site, email me at mastoidfan@yahoo.com. 

–Michael

Holy Bull! Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

February 8th 2017

They say all great empires fall eventually. The Roman Empire lasted 507 years. The Persian Empire lasted about 200 years. And the 2 year-old Eclipse champion Classic Empire’s reign over his thoroughbred peers lasted a mere 91 days, having been upset in the Holy Bull Stakes this past Saturday. Who beat him? A young upstart gladiator by the name of Irish War Cry who had 15-1 morning line odds.

Classic Empire’s trainer Mark Casse was at a loss for words for his disappointing performance. However, he did say that Classic Empire fretted on the hour trip south from his Palm Meadows Training facility to the racetrack. He balked about loading into the starting gate. He did get bumped a bit in the early going but he was right where he needed to be stalking the pace. Classic Empire did improve on his final fraction time from his previous race. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race, he ran the final 2 1/2 furlongs in 32.12 seconds compared to the Holy Bull where I calculate that he ran it in roughly 31.8 seconds. He just didn’t have the acceleration necessary to catch Irish War Cry and eventually was passed by the late-charging Gunnevera (shown bel0w).

To say that this was a big upset would be an understatement. Shocking? Nope. It happens to a lot of great young thoroughbreds when they transition from 2 to 3. As 3 year-olds, some take off, others regress. Remember last year with Mohaymen? On closer inspection, Classic Empire had four workouts as a 3 year-old prior to the Holy Bull and he threw out a subpar time of 1:03.90 through 5 furlongs in has last workout on January 28th. He had never ran 5 furlongs this slow from published workout records available on Equibase.com (SEE). So something was up with him.

The good news is that Classic Empire appears to be in perfect health. He checked out fine after the race. So the next question is, has lost fire in his belly and that competitive drive? Or did he have a slight ailment that cannot be easily found? Or simply was this just first-race back jitters after a significant layoff. We will see. In 2003, Funny Cide (who was undefeated in 3 starts as a 2 year-old) threw a clunker 5th place finish in the Holy Bull and went on to win the Kentucky Derby. But for now, the 2017 Kentucky Derby trail should be deemed as wide open.

Below are my updated Top 10 Kentucky Derby contender rankings. So be prepared for a wild and fantastic road ahead to the first Saturday in May’s Run For the Roses. Can you believe it’s only 87 days away?

Top 10 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Mastery Mastery received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his very first start. He followed this impressive maiden victory with wins in the Bob Hope Stakes (87 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Los Alamitos Futurity (91 Beyer Speed Figure). His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 is the best so far from this class. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt.  Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.562016 Los Alamitos Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

2) Irish War Cry – Undefeated in three starts. The son of Curlin impressed in the Holy Bull Stakes (shown below). He has a Kentucky Derby winning trainer and jockey behind him. His future is very bright. An early favorite for the Florida Derby. Next Start: The Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 4th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Curlin (Finished 3rd in the 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Graham Motion (2011 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.52 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes

3) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). However, he is somewhat temperamental (remember his previous gate issue?) and that is concerning. I dropped him from 1st to 3rd in my rankings due to his unpredictability. But the talent is there. He still has the highest Beyer Speed Figure (102) in this class for races greater than 8 furlongs. Next Start: Unknown but he won’t race at Gulfstream Park again according to trainer Mark Casse. So with this in mind, the Tampa Bay Derby or the Rebel Stakes seem to be the most attractive fits on the Derby trail schedule.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Gormley He comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes–beating the race favorite Klimt. He followed this effort with a disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He is a talented horse and bounced back like I thought he would with a nice win and 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Sham Stakes on January 7th. Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>7th–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2017 Sham Stakes

5) Uncontested  My early Arkansas Derby favorite. The winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes produced a record-breaking time of 1:36.32 in sloppy conditions over this two-turn 1 Mile race at Oaklawn Park. He received a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. Uncontested has a good pedigree. As a 2 year old, his sire Tiz Wonderful was undefeated in 3 starts and produced Beyer Speed Figures of 99 and 101 before taken off the Derby trail in January of his 3 year-old campaign due to injury. His grand sire Tiznow won two Breeders’ Cup Classics. His grandsire on his dam’s side, Lil E. Tee, won the 1992 Kentucky Derby. So he should like added distance and be one to watch closely going forward. I would rank him higher, just need a dry, fast track win for confirmation. Next Start: The Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on February 20th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>1st
Sire:  Tiz Wonderful
Trainer: Wayne Catalano 
Jockey: Channing Hill
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.97 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2017 Smarty Jones Stakes

6) Gunnevera – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner (shown below). He had a nice late run in the Holy Bull Stakes to capture 2nd place. His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Next Start: To be determined.

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Dialed In (Finished 8th in 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.12 (calculated) – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  89 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes

7Royal Mo The recent winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. A son of Uncle Mo like his half-brother Mo Town. Same owner/trainer combination as Gormley, the Moss’s and trainer John Shirreffs now have two legitimate Derby contenders. They will be split up so that they don’t knock heads until the Kentucky Derby. Next Start: Not confirmed but I am guessing at Oaklawn Park for either the Rebel Stakes or Arkansas Derby. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)

Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.48 – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93  – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes

8) McCraken – Undefeated in 3 starts, the son of Ghostzapper stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and passed with flying colors. As long as he stays healthy, pencil him in for the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 11th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.15 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

9) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But he is training well at Palm Meadows and should be considered an early Wood Memorial race favorite. Next Start: The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

10) Mo Town – The Remsen Stakes winner (shown below). His winning time of 1:51.58 was way off of what Mohaymen produced last year in this race at 1:50.69. However, he did display a decent closing speed of 36 mph in the final 3 furlongs. For comparison purposes, Classic Empire had a closing speed of 35.02 mph in the final 2 1/2 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. So keep a close eye on this one as a 3 year-old. Next Start: Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Anthony Dutrow
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.23 (estimated) – 2016 Remsen Stakes 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.58 – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Remsen Stakes


 On the docket…

My next blog will likely be a preview of the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs scheduled this Saturday February 11th that will feature McCraken. Or perhaps I will write on the 2017 Dubai World Cup and the contenders for that race which is expected to include the undisputed #1 ranked horse in the world–Arrogate.

–Michael

Holy Bull, Robert B. Lewis and San Antonio Stakes Previews

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

February 3rd 2017

If you are sick of all the pre-Super Bowl shows and interviews, then tomorrow the sport of horse racing offers three interesting races, two of which are points-paying races on the Kentucky Derby trail. And the other, a very competitive race on paper in the older horse division.

I have arranged them by their scheduled post times with the first two, the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and Holly Bull Stakes, are 3 year-old races for 2017 Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Points will be awarded as follows: 1st place – 10 points, 2nd place – 4 points, 3rd place – 2 points and 4th place – 1 point.

The Robert B. Lewis Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #2 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 3:00 PM CST.  Televised by TVG

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Royal Mo (120) – Espinoza/Shirreffs – 5/2
2. Irap (120) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 3/1
3. Dangerfield (122) – Desormeaux/O’Neill – 7/2
4. Term of Art (124) – Baze/O’Neill – 9/2
5. Sheer Flattery (120) – Smith/Hollendorfer – 2/1

Race Commentary: This race should come down to Royal Mo and Sheer Flattery and their respective jockeys Victor Espinoza and Mike Smith. Royal Mo is quicker and should get out into the early lead. Whether he can hold off Sheer Flattery is very questionable. Sheer Flattery has already raced at this 8 1/2 furlong distance and is the more accomplished distance runner. So I like Sheer Flattery in this one. So weigh a straight win bet of Sheer Flattery versus a straight 5-1 exacta (Sheer Flattery over Royal Mo). Or how split the difference and make both bets?


The Holy Bull Stakes  – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #12 at Gulfstream Park – Post-Time: 4:35 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Gunnevera (122) – Castellano/Sano -9/2 
2. Perro Rojo (116) – Juarez/Zito – 30/1   
3. Classic Empire (122) – Leparoux/Casse – 3/5 
4. Talk Logistics (116) – Lopez/Plesa – 12/1
5. Irish War Cry (120) – Rosario/Motion – 15/1
6. Fact Finding (120) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 6/1  
7. Shamsaan (116) – Saez/McLaughlin – 20/1
8. Cavil (116) – Lezcano/McLaughlin – 15/1
9. Fire for Effect (116) – Lanerie/Romans – 20/1

Race Commentary:  The 2 year-old Eclipse Award winner Classic Empire should win this one. Who rounds out the Superfecta is anybody’s guess in this 9 horse field. Gunnevera, Fact Finding and Irish War Cry seem to be the best bets here. However, I think Gunnevera will be hurt by drawing the rail. So I like an Exacta keying Classic Empire to win over two horses: Irish War Cry and Fact Finding. That is 3 over 5,6.


And finally, an older division horse race with a few horses that would have been ideal candidates for the Pegasus World Cup. Expect the top finishers in the San Antonio Stakes to be entries in the Santa Anita Handicap in March.

The San Antonio Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #8 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 6:00 PM CST.  Televised by TVG.

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Hoppertunity (125) – Prat/Baffert – 2/1
2. Avanti Bello (120) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 12/1
3. Prospect Park (120) – Arroyo/Sise – 10/1
4. El Huerfano (120) – Espinoza/Miller – 12/1
5. Mor Spirit (122) – Smith/Baffert – 3/1
6. Dalmore (122) – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 8/1
7. Accelerate (125) – Baze/Sadler – 5/2
8. Hard Aces (122) – Gonzalez/Sadler – 6/1

Race Commentary: This will be a very interesting race since Melatonin wasn’t entered as previously expected. I have no idea who will win this one but I expect Hoppertunity and Mor Spirit to land somewhere in the Superfecta. Both Accelerate and Dalmore have put in good times in their workouts leading up to this race. Concerning with Dalmore was the fact that he petered out towards the end of the 8 1/2 furlong San Pasqual Stakes and lost 2nd place to Accelerate. And this race will be 9 furlongs. Victor Espinoza is riding El Huerfano but I don’t expect him to be much of a factor judging from his race history and recent workouts.

Hard Aces is a quality horse but I like him better at 10 furlongs or longer. Avanti Bello finished 5th in the Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos against California Chrome in a weak field. He finished 3rd in his last start, a claiming race at Santa Anita Park. Prospect Park finished behind Accelerate and Dalmore in the San Pasqual Stakes in his last start.

So perhaps a $5 boxed Trifecta of Hoppertunity, Mor Spirit and Accelerate (1,5,7) might be your best bet. This would cost $30. 


 On the docket…

One of my next blogs might be a preview the Sam F. Davis Stakes on February 11th that is expected to include McCraken and/or updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings if I feel that they need to be updated after this weekend’s results. Stay tuned!

–Michael

Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings – Classic Empire still #1

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

January 31st 2017

The 2017 Kentucky Derby trail is in full swing with a new major contender added to the fray and Derby trail points leader, Classic Empire, set to race this coming Saturday in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. As I have said multiple times in my previous blogs, the 2017 Kentucky Derby class is a very talented and deep one despite the unexpected early retirement of Not This Time due to injury. So 2017 is going to be an exciting season for 3 year-olds and then we have two dynamic stars in Songbird and Arrogate in the older horse division. 

Below are my early favorites for the final Derby prep races. A lot can change over the next couple of months but these horses appear to be the front-runners right now. Note that Klimt, now under the training of Art Sherman, will not be pointed  towards the Kentucky Derby as he will be given time off :

Louisiana Derby – Lookin At Lee
Florida Derby – Classic Empire
Wood Memorial – Practical Joke
Santa Anita Derby – Mastery
Blue Grass Stakes – McCraken
Arkansas Derby – Uncontested

Below is my updated Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contender rankings. A few horses have moved up or down due to how they have been training:

2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Classic Empire – My early 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite due to the unexpected retirement of Not This Time. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). Note that very few Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners go on to win the Kentucky Derby. But it can be done. Street Sense and Nyquist accomplished this rare feat. Next Start: The Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: DNF–>1st–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

2) Mastery Mastery received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his very first start, the best Beyer Speed Figure for a first-time starter in this 2 year old class. He followed this impressive maiden victory with wins in the Bob Hope Stakes (87 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Los Alamitos Futurity (91 Beyer Speed Figure). His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 is the best so far from this class. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt.  Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.562016 Los Alamitos Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

3) Gormley He comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes–beating the race favorite Klimt. He followed this effort with a disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He is a talented horse and bounced back like I thought he would with a nice win and 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Sham Stakes on January 7th. Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>7th–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2017 Sham Stakes

4) Uncontested   My early Arkansas Derby favorite. The winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes produced a record-breaking time of 1:36.32 in sloppy conditions over this two-turn 1 Mile race at Oaklawn Park. He received a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. Add another half furlong of his prorated final fraction time of 12.84 and his time would have been 1:42.74 through 8 1/2 furlongs. For comparison, American Pharoah ran a 1:45.78 in the sloppy 8 1/2 furlong Rebel Stakes in 2015 at Oaklawn Park. Uncontested has a good pedigree. As a 2 year old, his sire Tiz Wonderful was undefeated in 3 starts and produced Beyer Speed Figures of 99 and 101 before taken off the Derby trail in January of his 3 year-old campaign due to injury. His grand sire Tiznow won two Breeders’ Cup Classics. His grandsire on his dam’s side, Lil E. Tee, won the 1992 Kentucky Derby. So he should like added distance and be one to watch closely going forward. I would rank him higher, just need a dry, fast track win for confirmation. Next Start: The Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on February 20th.

Career:3 Starts 2-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>4th–>1st
Sire:  Tiz Wonderful
Trainer: Wayne Catalano 
Jockey: Channing Hill
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.97 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2016 Smarty Jones Stakes

5) McCraken –  Undefeated in 3 starts, the son of Ghostzapper stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and passed with flying colors. As long as he stays healthy, pencil him in for the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 11th.

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.15 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

6) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But for now, he is really the most proven 2 year-old after Classic Empire. Next Start: The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

7) Three Rules – Surprisingly he was left off Mike Battaglia’s 2nd Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he ran 3rd in the early portion of the race and finished 6th after getting off to poor start out of the gate. Previously, he was undefeated in five starts at Gulfstream Park. His sire Gone Astray never raced further than 9 furlongs and his biggest win was the 2009 Pennsylvania Derby. Next Start: Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>6th
Sire: Gone Astray
Trainer: Jose Pinchin
Jockey: Cornelio Velasquez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.63 – 2016 Florida In Reality Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Florida Dr Fagar Stakes

8) Gunnevera – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner (shown below). His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Gunnevera’s winning time of 1:45.15 was the 4th fastest Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes in thirteen runnings at the 8 1/2 furlong distance. Exaggerator won last year’s Delta Downs Jackpot in sloppy track conditions with a time of 1:46.48. Next Start: The Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Dialed In
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.51 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  87 – Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes

9) Lookin At Lee – Much like Steve Asmussen’s Gun Runner was last year, a very consistent horse thus far. He finished 2nd behind Not This Time in the Iroquois Stakes, 2nd behind Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity and then 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Perhaps he will improve as a 3 year-old and he is training well at the Fair Grounds. His sire Looking At Lucky, finished 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Then as a 3 year old, he won the Rebel Stakes, finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby, finished 6th in the Kentucky Derby, then won the Preakness Stakes, the Haskell Invitational, the Indiana Derby and finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Next Start: An educated guess, the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds on February 25th.

Career: 6 Starts 2-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.52 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 83 – 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

10) Mo Town – The son of Uncle Mo, so that makes him Nyquist’s half-brother. The recent winner of the 9 furlong Remsen Stakes (shown below). His winning time of 1:51.58 was way off of what Mohaymen produced last year in this race at 1:50.69. However, he did display a decent closing speed of 36.09 mph in the final 3 furlongs. For comparison purposes, Classic Empire had a closing speed of 35.02 mph in the final 2 1/2 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. So keep a close eye on this one as a 3 year-old. Next Start: Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Anthony Dutrow
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.23 (estimated) – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.58 – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Remsen Stakes


 On the docket…

My next blog will preview the Holy Bull Stakes and the San Antonio Handicap. The Holy Bull Stakes is expected to include three of my top 10 Derby contenders in Classic Empire, Three Rules, Gunnevera. Expected entries in the San Antonio Handicap are Melatonin, Hoppertunity, Dalmore, Mor Spirit and Accelerate.

–Michael

Arrogate – the fastest North American thoroughbred since…

January 29th 2017

Arrogate won his 6th consecutive race yesterday in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in dominating fashion. Mike Smith admitted that he coasted him home in the final 100 yards. Now the next question is, who is going to be able to beat him in 2017? Nobody in my opinion.

In his last three starts, Arrogate has produced Beyer Speed Figures of 122 in the Travers Stakes, 120 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and 119 in the Pegasus World Cup. He just turned 4 years-old and thoroughbreds typically peak around 4 1/2 years-old.

Arrogate is undeniably fast, the #1 ranked horse in the world by Longines and he confirmed that yesterday. Out of curiosity, this led me to research the fastest thoroughbreds of the last 20 years to see how Arrogates rates with some of the best from this time frame.

Well, Arrogate is arguably faster than American Pharoah. He proved that in the Travers Stakes by setting an event and track record of 1:59.36. American Pharoah got upset by Keen Ice in the 2015 Travers. Both horses received Beyer Speed Figures of 120 in their Breeders’ Cup Classic races. American Pharoah’s previous best Beyer Speed Figure before the Classic was 109 in the Haskell Invitational. And then 105 in the Belmont Stakes before the Haskell.

You could argue that American Pharoah was never pressed in his Breeders’ Cup Classic run like Arrogate was with California Chrome and thus could have produced a faster time and higher Beyer Speed Figure (BSF).  And that he was on an upward plain and would have accomplished much more as a 4 year-old. I agree. However, he never produced two 120+ Beyer Speed Figures or matched Arrogates times at the 9 and 10 furlong distances.

So what North American Thoroughbred is Arrogate the fastest since? Answer: Ghostzapper and it isn’t real close. But note that Ghostzapper accomplished most of his eye-popping Beyer Speed Figures and times as a 4 year-old. Here is what Ghostzapper produced in 2004 as a 4-year-old:

Tom Fool Handicap – 7 Furlongs – 7/04/2004 – Time of 1:20.42 and BSF of 120
Philip H. Iselin Handicap – 9 Furlongs – 8/21/2004 – Time of 1:47.66 and BSF of 128
Woodward Stakes – 9 Furlongs – 9/11/2004 – Time of 1:46.38 and BSF of 114
Breeders’ Cup Classic – 10 Furlongs – 10/30/2004 – Time of 1:59.02 and BSF of 124

So it will be interesting to see what Arrogate accomplishes as a 4 year-old in 2017. It is unbelievable to think, that this horse who seemingly came out of nowhere, already ranks 3rd all-time in career earnings. He is just $3.66 million in race winnings behind California Chrome and should surpass him this year if he stays healthy. 


On the docket…

My next blog will be updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings. And I have a new rising 3 year-old star that I feel you need to keep a close eye on. I hope to have this blog out by next Friday evening at the latest and if time permits, race previews of the Holy Bull Stakes and the San Antonio Handicap. The Holy Bull Stakes is expected to include three of my top 10 Derby contenders in Classic Empire, Three Rules, Gunnevera. Expected entries in the San Antonio Handicap are Melatonin, Hoppertunity, Dalmore, Mor Spirit and Accelerate.

–Michael

2017 Pegasus World Cup Post-Positions and Morning Line Odds

pegasus-world-cup-logo

Updated January 28th 2017 11 am CST

Below are the post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds for the upcoming $12 Million Dollar Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the newly created richest race in the world. Post-time will be at 4:40 PM CST Saturday January 28th and the race will be aired by NBC with live coverage starting at 3:30 PM CST.

This race has a lot of unknowns since no horse will be allowed to use Lasix. But three horses in this field that I think have absolutely no chance of finishing in the Superfecta: War Envoy, Semper Fortis and Prayer for Relief.  Eragon is an unknown. I see nothing from his workouts and race history that make me believe that he will be a factor in the end. Arrogate and California Chrome will finish in the Top 4, so that leaves 8 other horses to round a Superfecta.

I have reviewed previous Donn Handicap races to form an opinion on what it will take to win this race. I think the race-winning time will be in the higher end of the 1:47 range. The only three horses in this field that have run a 1:47 and change through 9 furlongs is: California Chrome, Arrogate and Noble Bird. Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year and does well and wins often when he gets out to an early lead. Otherwise, he often packs it in and becomes a herd runner down the stretch. So he is feast or famine.

Gulfstream Park is a speed-favoring track and there is plenty of early speed in this field. In order to win this race, a horse will have to break sharply out of the gate, settle in and assume the ideal position of a stalker on the race leader. Otherwise, there will be too much traffic to deal with to get to the front.

Keen Ice has the talent to win this race but I like his chances in 10 furlong races better than 9 furlongs. He will have to break well and be pressed up closer to the race leader. If he is running mid-pack at the 3/4 mile mark, he won’t win because he doesn’t have the closing speed to beat Arrogate.

Although I preferred Chrome drawing a post inside of Arrogate, I still like an Arrogate-California Chrome (1-12) Boxed Exacta. Arrogate won’t have a weight advantage in this race as all horses will be assigned 124 pounds. However, realize that an Exacta in this race will probably pay out less than it did in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. A $1 Exacta (Arrogate-California Chrome) paid $5 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, so a $2 Boxed Exacta netted a $3 profit.

I have been reviewing work-out times for the field in order to make recommendations for Trifecta and Superfecta bets. This isn’t going to be a good race for Exotics unless the unexpected happens. If California Chrome and Arrogate’s live odds dip below 1/1, then Exotics won’t pay out much unless some other horse surplants one of the two for first and second. I just don’t see any other horse winning this one except Arrogate and Chrome. If Noble Bird or Neolithic jump out to any early lead, perhaps they could hang on and capture 2nd place.

A big win bet on Arrogate might be your best bet, especially if his live odds are higher than California Chrome’s. California Chrome will have the longest trip in the field starting from the outside post. Arrogate from the #1 post has the talent and ability to wire the field.

A sleeper to round out your Superfecta might be War Story. His workout times have better than his historical times and he is coming off a win in the 9 Furlong Queen County Stakes. Do I think he will finish 4th or better? Probably not but he has raced against top competition and he will have higher odds than a lot of horses in this field so that would help your superfecta payout. 

Shaman Ghost and Breaking Lucky are prime candidates to finish in the Superfecta and in the top half of the field. Breaking Lucky finished 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Shaman Ghost in the Clark Handicap, their last start. However, back in the Woodward Stakes last September, Shaman Ghost displayed better tactical speed and finished nearly a half-length ahead of Breaking Lucky. Shaman Ghost put a nice workout time of 47.70 for 4 furlongs in his last workout, Breaking Lucky had posted very consistent times around 1 min through 5 furlongs in his last two workouts. These two horses are very close but I like Shaman Ghost’s post-position better so I would give him the edge here.

My predicted order of finish*: 1) Arrogate, 2) California Chrome, 3) Keen Ice, 4) Shaman Ghost.

*That is, if Arrogate is 100% healthy and not bothered by his right hind foot. ESPN reported on January 26th: “Arrogate did develop an abscess on the inside of his right hind foot a few weeks ago. Baffert pointed out on Thursday, when Arrogate was paddock schooling before the races, that he has three-quartered that hind shoe — filing off the part of the shoe nearest the abscess — a common tactic used to try to prevent the abscess from being concussed by the shoe and becoming a quarter crack.”

Anyway, Shared Belief had a similar problem and raced just fine. I hope that I am wrong and that we see Chrome go out a winner. Chrome will have to have a 2 length lead at the 3/4 pole, a 1 & 1/2 length lead at the mile mark if he is going to win this if Arrogate is 100%. I am expecting a surprise or two. I don’t think this is a good bettor’s race..a better one just to sit back and watch.

2017 Pegasus World Cup Post-Positions & Odds

1) Arrogate (7/5) – Arrogate is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

2) Prayer For Relief (50/1) –  A way past his prime 9 year-old who has never won a Grade 1 race. He finished 9th in his last start, the 2016 Clark Handicap. His last win came in December 2013 in the Tenacious Handicap at The Fairgrounds. He will need more than prayers in this one to pull off the upset.

Career: 45 Starts 8-6-10-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 21 Starts  4-1-4-3
Last 3 starts: 6th–>5th–>9th
Sire: Jump Start
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Trainer: Dale Romans
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.60 (calculated) – 2012 Strub Stakes  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2012 Tenacious Handicap

3) Neolithic (30/1) – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee. He finished 2nd in the 2016 Discovery Stakes (shown below) in mid November but won an 8 1/2 furlong allowance race on December 14th at Gulfstream Park with a nice time of 1:41.58.  This was just 0.61 seconds off the track record. He received a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort. 

Career: 7 Starts 2-3-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.78 (calculated) – 2016 Discovery Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16

4) Noble Bird (25/1)  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

5) War Story (50/1) – The 5 year-old gelding has raced against top competition over his career with very little success. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic and 8th in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his last two starts, he finished 4th in the 2016 Cigar Mile and then won the 9 furlong Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct on December 17th.

Career: 17 Starts 4-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 4 Starts  1-0-2-0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>4th–>1st
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Jorge Navarro
Jockey: Antonio Gallardo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.39 (calculated) – 2015 Louisiana Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106

6) War Envoy (50/1) – Primarily a European turf runner throughout his career, War Enjoy did compete in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile finishing last and the 1 mile Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar (shown below) last August where he finished 5th.

Career: 21 Starts 2-3-4-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 5th–>8th–>6th
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Craig Dollase
Jockey: Luis Saez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  N/A on dirt
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 on turf

7) Shaman Ghost (20/1) – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. However, this has yet to be confirmed. The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old. 

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey:  Jose Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

8) Semper Fortis (50/1) Named after the US Navy’s moto which in Latin means “Always Strong,” this Doug O’Neill-trained colt finished 2nd in the Los Alamitos Derby (shown below) back in September. However, he then followed with a disappointing 6th place finish in the 7 furlong Malibu Stakes on December 26th. 

Career: 12 Starts 2-4-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>6th
Sire: Distorted Humor
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.50 (calculated) – 2016 Los Alamitos Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 

9) Keen Ice  (12/1) – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

10) Breaking Lucky (25/1) The 5 year-old won the Seagram’s Cup at Woodbine last August (shown below) and finished 2nd to Gun Runner in his most recent start, the 2016 Clark Handicap.

Career: 16 Starts 3-4-3-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>8th–>2nd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Reade Baker
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:48.94 (calculated) – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105

11) Eragon (50/1) – The Argentinian horse was purchased by James McIngvale who had originally purchased a spot in the Pegasus World Cup for Runhappy. Runhappy was retired after the Breeders’ Cup so McIngvale went to South America to find a horse to fill his spot. The recently turned 6 year-old has won three Grade 1 races in South America.  He has raced on turf and dirt and appears to be a better Miler.

Career: 20 Starts 10 wins, 3 Grade 1 wins in South America
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Offlewild
Trainer: Laura Wohlers
Jockey: Edgar Prado
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  N/A

12) California Chrome (6/5) – 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs. But I preferred him having an inside post on Arrogate as he historically has had problems running outside of horses.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic


On the docket…

My next blog will be updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings.

–Michael

My picks for the 2016 Eclipse Awards and Race of the Year

 20161104_162834

January 20th 2017

The 46th annual Eclipse Awards will be aired live tomorrow evening (January 21st) on TVG2 network at 7 PM CST. Below are my picks to win each award. I have purposely left out the Steeplechase Award because I am not fond of that form of horse racing and do not follow it. I have underlined the selections that I think are slam dunks.

With the other awards, strong arguments could be made for one of the other nominees. Especially the Male Turf award between Flintshire and Highland Reel. Highland Reel won the Breeders Cup Turf race, his only start on North American soil in 2016. Whereas, Flintshire was the top turf male in North America all year long until the Breeders Cup World Championships.

Horse of the Year – California Chrome
Older male – California Chrome
Older female – Beholder
3-year-old male – Arrogate
3-year-old female – Songbird
2-year-old male – Classic Empire
2-year-old female – Champagne Room
Male sprinter – A.P. Indian
Female sprinter – Finest City
Male turf – Flintshire
Female turf – Tepin
Owner – Juddmonte Farms
Trainer – Chad Brown
Breeder – WinStar Farm
Jockey – Mike Smith
Apprentice Jockey – Lane Luzzi

My pick for 2016 Race of the Year?

There were many great races in 2016. It was another very exciting season for horse racing with California Chrome winning the Dubai World Cup, Frosted setting a Met Mile track record, Arrogate setting a track record and event record in the Travers Stakes, Creator beating Destin by a nose in the Belmont Stakes, the Breeders Cup Juvenile and Breeders Cup Classic races, the pack of four crossing the finish line in the Woodward Stakes with Shaman Ghost winning by a head, etc.

But for me, the Race of the Year was the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff which pitted the 3 year-old rising star filly Songbird vs the 6 year-old mare Beholder who was making the last start of her career. Beholder won by a nose. This race has to be one of the Top 10 Breeders’ Cup races in the history of the event.

I witnessed the dramatic ending along the rail just past the finish-line. Nobody knew who won at the time. And I am still not 100% sure it was that close. But I will say that I was happy for Beholder and Gary Stevens. I think Beholder will go down as one of the Top 100 North American thoroughbreds of all-time. It was a very fitting ending to a great career.

Below are some of the pictures and video I shot.

“The Finish”

Post Race

The Crowned Champion Beholder

Gallery


On the docket…

My next couple of blogs will be on the Pegasus World Cup and updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings.

–Michael

The 2017 Pegasus World Cup Field Is Set

pegasus-world-cup-logo

January 17th 2017

UPDATE January 21st 2017 :  Gun Runner, who was rumored to take War Envoy’s spot in the Pegasus World Cup field, is likely not going to be cleared by Gulfstream Park in time to be an entry in the Pegasus World Cup. Gun Runner is currently stabled at the Fairgrounds who has had quarantine in place since December 26th due to an outbreak of equine herpesvirus.

We are now 11 days away from the newly created richest horse race in the world–the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Invitational–set for Saturday January 28th. The race winner will receive $7 million of the $12 million dollar purse. The race be aired on NBC with coverage beginning at 4:30 PM EST. Below are the expected entries. If a horse is scratched in this race, they can be replaced by a”B” horse that is entered in the undercard Poseidon Stakes that will be run at the same 9 furlong (1 1/8th mile) distance.

Overall, with California Chrome and Arrogate entered, this will be an interesting rematch and must-watch TV. However, color me a bit disappointed in the quality of depth in the field and the lack of compelling support races for this event. This is a great concept that is perfectly situated between the NFL Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl and right before the thoroughbred breeding season begins in February.

The Pegasus World Cup is getting a huge boost this year due to the inclusion of the most popular horse in North America currently in California Chrome in a Breeders’ Cup Classic rematch at 9 furlongs vs Arrogate. However, for this race to take off in the future, it is going to require more involvement from the top owners in the sport. This means, stop retiring horses in their prime after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. And it will need better quality support races, namely Derby trail races for 3 year-old fillies and colts.

2017 Pegasus World Cup Entries & Projected Odds

1) California Chrome (1/1) – He will win the 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. I like his chances in a rematch with Arrogate if he draws an inside post position. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Arrogate (7/5) – Arrogate is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands. It appears that he may potentially get a tuneup at Santa Anita Park before the Pegasus World Cup as he is rumored to be entered in San Pasqual Stakes on January 1st.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Keen Ice  (15/1) – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

4) Shaman Ghost (20/1) – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. However, this has yet to be confirmed. The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old. 

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey:  Jose Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

5) Noble Bird (25/1)  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

6) Neolithic (25/1) – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee. He finished 2nd in the 2016 Discovery Stakes (shown below) in mid November but won an 8 1/2 furlong allowance race on December 14th at Gulfstream Park with a nice time of 1:41.58.  This was just 0.61 seconds off the track record. He received a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.  His jockey in that race was Javier Castellano who will most likely be the rider for Keen Ice. So perhaps Jose Lezcano, who was his jockey in the Discovery Stakes, will pick up this ride.

Career: 7 Starts 2-3-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.78 (calculated) – 2016 Discovery Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16

7) Breaking Lucky (30/1) The 5 year-old won the Seagram’s Cup at Woodbine last August (shown below) and finished 2nd to Gun Runner in his most recent start, the 2016 Clark Handicap.

Career: 16 Starts 3-4-3-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>8th–>2nd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Reade Baker
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:48.94 (calculated) – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: Unknown

8) War Story (40/1) The 5 year-old gelding has raced against top competition over his career with very little success. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic and 8th in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his last two starts, he finished 4th in the 2016 Cigar Mile and then won the 9 furlong Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct on December 17th.

Career: 17 Starts 6-4-5-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-2-0-0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>4th–>1st
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Jorge Navarro
Jockey: Antonio Gallardo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.39 (calculated) – 2015 Louisiana Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes

9) Eragon (40/1) – The Argentinian horse was purchased by James McIngvale who had originally purchased a spot in the Pegasus World Cup for Runhappy. Runhappy was retired after the Breeders’ Cup so McIngvale went to South America to find a horse to fill his spot. The recently turned 6 year-old has won three Grade 1 races in South America.  He has raced on turf and dirt and appears to be a better Miler.

Career: 20 Starts 10 wins, 3 Grade 1 wins in South America
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Offlewild
Trainer: Laura Wohlers
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  N/A

10) Ralis (50/1) The Doug O’Neill-trained colt started off his career racing on dirt and showed plenty of promise as a 2 year-old after winning the 2015 Hopeful Stakes (shown below). He then bombed in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race finishing 14th and the 2016 Rebel Stakes where he finished 14th. He was taken off the Derby trail and entered into in the Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day where he finished 10th. He was then switched to turf where the best he could muster were three second place finishes before a 9th place finish in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf race won by Highland Reel.

Career: 16 Starts 2-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: None on Dirt, 4 on Turf
Last 3 starts:  2nd–>6th–>9th
Sire: Square Eddie
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  N/A on Dirt  – Turf  1:47.49 – 2016 Rainbow Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 97 – 2016 Del Mar Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – 2016 Del Mar Derby

11) War Envoy (50/1) – Primarily a European turf runner throughout his career, War Enjoy did compete in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile finishing last and the 1 mile Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar (shown below) last August where he finished 5th.

Career: 21 Starts 2-3-4-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 5th–>8th–>6th
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Craig Dollase
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: Unknown

12) Prayer For Relief (60/1) –  A way past his prime 9 year-old who has never won a Grade 1 race. He finished 9th in his last start, the 2016 Clark Handicap. His last win came in December 2013 in the Tenacious Handicap at The Fairgrounds.

Career: 45 Starts 8-6-10-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 21 Starts  4-1-4-3
Last 3 starts: 6th–>5th–>9th
Sire: Jump Start
Trainer: Dale Romans
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.60 (calculated) – 2012 Strub Stakes  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2012 Tenacious Handicap


On the docket…

What was the most exciting horse race in 2016? There were many great ones but in my next blog, I will unveil my vote for most exciting race in 2016 with corresponding unpublished photos and video that I captured of this race. Plus I’ll give my picks for the Eclipse Award winners that are coming up Saturday January 21st.

–Michael