The Year of Bad Officiating: Why the Kentucky Derby Disqualification might actually be a good thing

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May 16th 2019

Whether you are a fan of horse racing or not, I am sure you have heard by now about the controversial disqualification in the 2019 Kentucky Derby that took a win off the board from Maximum Security. You may ask, why should I care if I am not a horse racing fan? I doubt anyone writing this isn’t a horse racing fan. However, if you love sports in general, you just may reap the rewards of better officiating of all professional sports in the near future due to this controversial decision. I’ll explain.

The owners of Maximum Security are filing a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court seeking to overturn the race stewards’ decision and make Maximum Security the official winner as well as receiving the $1.86 million winner’s share.

Although some believe that this court case will be thrown out, I think the case will be heard. The Kentucky Derby is simply too high-profile of a race, with too much money bet on it, for this case to not to be heard. Even President Trump tweeted his disdain over the disqualification. Not hearing the case would only invite corruption to a sport that had issues in the past with doping and organized crime affecting race outcomes. Bettors are consumers and it is the government’s responsibility to protect consumers.

With sports-betting on the verge of sweeping the country after New Jersey won a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court last year, a bad call or disqualification just doesn’t affect Vegas vacationers, it is going to affect many more Americans in the future.

The public needs to be protected from fraud. As sports-betting grows, there is going to be more upward pressure to “get it right” because professional sporting events will be viewed as more than just entertainment. We may already be there at this point now when you consider the recent FBI probe into college basketball.

This is why this court case may actually be a very good thing for the fans and athletes in all sports. If Maximum Security’s ownership group wins their court case, the next step will be refunding money to all those who had placed bets on Maximum Security. It may take a class action lawsuit, but bettors will get their money back if Maximum Security’s win is restored.

This will force professional sports leagues to improve officiating out of fear of future lawsuits. Yes, that includes the NFL which is still reeling from the controversial non-call in the Saints-Rams NFC Championship game. The New Orleans Saints most likely win that game and advance to the Super Bowl if Pass Interference had been called by the referee who standing in plain view of the incident.

And the NHL for those who watched last night’s Sharks-Blues game. The San Jose Sharks were the Game 7 beneficiary of a bad call in the 1st round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs vs the Vegas Golden Knights. The NHL even apologized to the Vegas Golden Knights and their fanbase over the 5 minute Major penalty for Cross-Checking that should have been a 2 minute minor at most. And now last night’s game (see video below). How the NHL can review goals to see if the play was offsides but can’t review a goal scored via an illegal hand pass (that the refs missed) is beyond me.

Interesting and timely, Fan Duel Sportsbook has refunded all Moneyline bets made on St Louis over this controversial finish. See https://sports.yahoo.com/news/gambling-site-makes-honourable-move-after-blown-call-in-sharks-blues-game-3-175822562.html

It may force the sport of horse racing to require Race Stewards to have actual experience as a jockey and not just as an exercise rider who attends a school to be a Race Steward.

Overall, I expect to see more video review and better officiating in all sports if Maximum Security’s ownership group successfully wins their court case. The technology is certainly there and a landmark ruling could set a precedent for similar sports related court cases in the future.

For professional sports leagues, there would be too much to lose other than integrity and some television ratings if poor officiating alters outcomes and generates court cases and lawsuits.

For this reason, we all should hope that Maximum Security’s owners win their case and his Derby win restored.

—Michael

Please visit my new multi-sport website: https://coxsportsnet.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

his win his Derby win is restored.

2019 Preakness Stakes Preview

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May 16th 2019 – Updated May 18th 2019 5:46 PM EST

As I delve into handicapping this year’s Preakness Stakes, my level of excitement has grown. With no Country House or Maximum Security entered in the field, many viewers won’t tune in to watch this Saturday. Not tuning in, I think will be a big mistake. This year’s Preakness Stakes is wide-open. I think this is going to be a really exciting race and a good one for bettors with no short price favorite.

Below are the entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds for this Saturday’s 144th running of the Preakness Stakes.

The Preakness Stakes – 9 1/2 furlongs. Race #13 at Pimlico. Post-time: 6:48 PM EST. Televised by NBC.

1) War of Will (4/1) – The Risen Star Stakes winner originally started off as a turf horse with little success before switching to dirt. The change worked well for the Mark Casse-trained colt as he reeled off three straight wins. War of Will generally likes to get out towards the front which will bode well in the Preakness Stakes. 

Career: 9 Starts 3-1-1-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st-->9th–>7th
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 96 – 2019 Risen Star Stakes

2) Bourbon War (12/1) – The Tapit colt finished 4th in the Florida Derby. His most impressive performance came in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (shown below) where he unleashed a late charge to finish second.

Career: 5 Starts 2-1-0-2 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st-->2nd–>4th
Sire: Tapit 
Trainer: Mark Hennig
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 96 – 2018 Remsen Stakes

3) Warrior’s Charge (12/1) – The Brad Cox-trained colt has never raced in a graded stakes race. So, I don’t understand the 12-1 morning line odds even if two-time Preakness Stakes winning jockey Javier Castellano is on board.

areer: 5 Starts 2-0-3-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Munnings
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2006 and 2017 Preakness Stakes Winning Jockey)
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 99 – 2019 Lexington Stakes

4) Improbable (5/2) – The Bob Baffert-trained colt is a consistent runner, never finishing below 4th in his six career starts. The Los Alamitos Futurity winner had some issues loading into the gate in the Arkansas Derby. He finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby after a poor start out of the gate. Note that Improbable ran as fast as Maximum Security after the bad start. He gets Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith for this race, so I am confident he will be the live race favorite come post-time.

Career: 6 Starts 3-2-0-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: City Zip
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2010, 2015 & 2018 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1993 & 2018 Preakness Stakes Winning Jockey)
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 100 – 2018 Los Alamitos Futurity

5) Owendale (10/1) – After a disappointing 8th place finish in the Risen Star Stakes, the Brad Cox-trained colt bounced back with an impressive win in the Lexington Stakes winner (shown below).

Career: 8 Starts 3-1-1-2  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 99 – 2019 Lexington Stakes

6) Market King (30/1) – He’s 30-1, and the only reason why he’s not 50-1, is due to his Hall of Fame trainer. D. Wayne Lukas who has won six Preakness Stakes races. This colt has never produced a Brisnet Speed Figure over 90 in eight career starts.

Career: 8 Starts 1-1-2-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>11th
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas (1980, 1985, 1994, 1995, 1999 & 2013 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Jon Court
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 88 – 2019 Rebel Stakes

7) Alwaysmining (8/1) –  The Frederico Tesio Stakes winner (shown below) is the most experienced horse in the field. The Frederico Tesio Stakes is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Preakness Stakes but hasn’t produced a winner for the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown since 1983 with Deputed Testamony.

Career: 12 Starts 7-0-1-2  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Stay Thirsty
Trainer: Kelly Rubley
Jockey: Daniel Centeno
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 99 – 2019 Frederico Tesio Stakes (Black Type)

8) Signalman (30/1) – The 2018 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner (shown below). He finished 3rd in his last start, the Blue Grass Stakes. This is a quality colt, who you may remember, finished 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. I had hoped that he would find his way into this year’s Kentucky Derby. I felt he could have been a Derby sleeper since he had run so well before at Churchill Downs. So, 30/1 seems too long to me here but I am not sure the Pimlico track fits his running style.

Career: 7 Starts 2-2-2-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>7th–>3rd
Sire: General Quarters (Finished 9th in the 2009 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Kenneth McPeek
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 99 – 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

9)  Bodexpress (20/1) – The son of Bodemeister. Bodemeister finished 2nd in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in 2012. A nice pedigree but Bodexpress has failed to break his maiden in 7 career starts. He did run well in the Florida Derby (shown below) with a 2nd place finish behind Maximum Security.

Career: 7 Starts 0-3-0-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>13th
Sire: Bodemeister (Finished 2nd in the 2012 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Gustavo Delgado
Jockey: John Velazquez
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 98 – 2018 Florida Derby

10) Everfast (50/1) – The Dale Romans-trained colt finished 2nd in the Holy Bull Stakes (shown below) but really hasn’t done much since. A very appropriate longshot in this field but I think 50-1 is a bit too long given the trainer and the rider.

Career: 10 Starts 1-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>9th–>5th
Sire: Take Charge Indy (Finished 19th in 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 94 – 2019 Holy Bull Stakes

11) Laughing Fox (20/1) – The Steve Asmussen-trained colt is coming off a win in the Oaklawn Park Invitational. He finished 4th in the sloppy Arkansas Derby. Asmussen has won the Preakness Stakes twice. This colt’s form is improving, just wish that he had drawn an inside post.

Career: 7 Starts 3-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 7th–>4th–>1st
Sire: Union Rags
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 & 2009 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 96 – 2019 Oaklawn Park Invitational (Black Type)

12) Anothertwistafate (6/1) – The runner-up in the Sunland Park Derby and the Lexington Stakes. His best performance came on an all-weather surface at Golden Gate in the El Camino Real Derby (shown below). This colt has speed and the Pimlico track and Preakness race distance does fit his running style. He probably won’t win this Saturday but consider him in all your exotic bets.

Career: 6 Starts 3-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Scat Daddy
Trainer: Blaine Wright
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 99 – 2019 El Camino Real Derby

13) Win Win Win (15/1) – After winning Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in January, Win Win Win followed up this effort with a 3rd place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby, a 2nd place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes and a 9th place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>9th
Sire: Hat Trick
Trainer: Michael Trombetta
Jockey: Julian Pimentel
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 101 – 2019 Pasco Stakes (Black Type)

Handicapping Advice

The Pimlico straight is 80 feet shorter than Churchill Downs and the Preakness is 1/2 furlong shorter than the Kentucky Derby. The turns at Pimlico have less banking, so it is more difficult for horses to accelerate through the turns. All of this works against deep closers. It benefits early speed types and inside runners. So I would think you would want a horse that gets out towards the front early and makes his move early.

The Preakness exotic bets usually don’t pay out well unless longshots finish in the top 3 or the race favorite gets beat. Just like the Kentucky Derby was 2 weeks ago, this race seems pretty wide-open. So I am expecting that the exotic bets will pay out much better than it did last year with no short price favorite like we had with Justify.

My Preakness Stakes pick for tomorrow is Improbable. This is no “lock” by any stretch of the imagination with his previous gate issues. But if I am going to pick a favorite, I am going with a horse that has proven to be nearly as fast as Omaha Beach and was faster than Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby after his bad start.

At the 1/4th mark, of the Kentucky Derby, Improbable was 4 3/4 lengths behind but he finished 3 1/4 lengths behind. That is making up 1 1/2 lengths. He will get Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith who is good at getting the most out of his mount and being able to calm a high-strung horse.

Plus Improbable is trained by Bob Baffert who has won seven Preakness Stakes. Jockey Mike Smith has won two.

Improbable also has a decent post-position (#4). The Preakness favors inside runners who get out to the front early. This bodes well for ImprobableWarrior’s ChargeAlwaysmining and War of Will.

This field is wide-open and if I am betting on it, I have to key who I feel is the fastest horse in the field. You can have a paralysis of analysis trying to handicap this race. You’ve got to put “the baby to bed” at some point as they say. If I am going down with the ship, I’ve got to go down with the best trainer, best jockey and fastest horse in the field.

So, I am playing a win bet on Improbable and a some 10 cent Superfectas keying Improbable with the following combination:

4, over 1,3,5,7, over 1,3,5,7,12 over 1,3,5,7,9,12

I wouldn’t recommend betting huge amounts on this race. I am steering away from Exactas and Trifectas because I feel Superfecta are the better exotic bet for this race.

I will keep updating this clear up until post-time if I like anything else.

Stay tuned! And please visit my new multi-sport website: https://coxsportsnet.com/

–Michael


 

Launching A New Multi-Sport Website

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May 12th 2019

I wanted to give all of my readers the link to a new multi-sport website that I created. I will keep this one for at least the rest of this year but will eventually transition fully to the new website. Please bookmark the new address: Coxsportsnet.com

So why the change? After five years of blogging on the sport of horse racing, I found that the majority of my blog views came in a three month span leading up to the Kentucky Derby. After the Kentucky Derby, views drop off considerably and especially if there is no Triple Crown candidate. It is hard to generate any kind of significant Ad revenue with these dynamics.

By switching to a multi-sport website platform, I hope to publish really good content on a wide range of sports and generate revenue. Revenue that I can use to pay contributors for article submissions and photo media to enhance website views.

I have a network of talented friends who are writers, authors, photographer and sports handicappers that should make this new site even better.

Stay tuned! I am still in the process of tweaking the new site and trying to enhance it.

–Michael

 

 

 

How to Grow and Improve the Sport of Horse Racing.

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Although I have been silent for awhile, I have submitted a new US Racing article to my editor on how to grow and improve the sport of horse racing. I love the sport of horse racing. I want it to succeed and regain past glory. However, the sport has been stuck in the past when it comes to safety and needs to really think outside the box. The thinking “We’ve have done it this way for years” needs to change.

Other sports have changed, through pressure from unions and lawsuits, and improved safety. A horse can’t talk or sue like a professional athlete. Jockeys have a union but they don’t have as much power as other pro sports unions.

The Kentucky Derby disqualification of Maximum Security really tarnishes the sport and affects the confidence in many. Keep in mind that the sport of horse racing was once one of the top two sports at the turn of the 20th Century but has dwindled to a niche sport due to internal cheating, doping and organized crime affecting outcomes over the years.

If the sport is going to bring more fans back, it has to change with the times and improve safety and fan experience. And display integrity enough to make good officiating decisions. Social media doesn’t agree with the disqualification of Maximum Security. Just look at any Facebook post from Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby for proof. That my friends, is a huge problem and its not like there aren’t knowledgeable people in the sport who agree with the disqualification either. I being one of them.

Perhaps another article I may write is to break down the DQ of Maximum Security on why it was a bad decision.

–Michael

 

Thank You Churchill Downs for totally destroying the sport of horse racing

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May 4th 2019 – Update May 5th 2019

Sports and officiating. They say a well officiated game/sport is one where you don’t notice the officiating. What I just witnessed today at Churchill Downs with the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby was simply… I’m reaching for adjectives….absurd, astonishing, shocking, stupid…

Every one of these race officials who overturned the win of Maximum Security should be fired immediately. Why?

Rules govern the sport. Rules govern every sport. They are there for a reason to guide the sport and make it safe and have integrity. But millions of people are tuned in, watching the Kentucky Derby, the sport in its most absolute glamorous position—then you stall and extend coverage over a Race Stewards decision on who won. If it was that obvious a foul altered the outcome of a race, the decision should have been quick and easy.

Do I need to mention that the sport of horse racing is in serious decline, almost needing mouth-to-mouth CPR, in the face of a new sports landscape on the horizon where every Joe Blow will be able bet on any sporting event? The sport of horse racing has lost many fans and bettors over the years due to cheating within the sport and organized crime altering race outcomes.

And what do you do, drag out the decision so that the event gets extended coverage, then overturn the finishing order that all these Millions of people watched. You give the win to a 65-1 longshot. Who will never win another Grade 1 stakes race. Put me on record for that.

Simply Dumb.

The rules read: “If in the opinion of the stewards, a foul alters the finish of a race, any offending horses may be disqualified by the stewards.”

Maximum Security led from start to finish. No other horse finished close enough to him for a disqualification to have merit.

The bettors race favorite, Maximum Security, gets the win taken away from him by a horse who would have doing good to hit 4th place in your Superfecta. Maximum Security was the best, the fastest horse in this field and was today. All the NBC commentators agreed. Race Stewards, listen to them.

Then you completely turn your back on bettors. There was $6,212,046 bet on Maximum Security to win compared to $520,907 on Country House. Maximum Security also had $1,495,408 to place and $1,272,082 to show. So roughly $9 million dollars. A really wise move for a sport on CPR.

These colts are inexperienced. A horse in the lead should get to decide where he wants to go. This isn’t Formula One racing with seasoned veteran drivers that you can penalize for blocking. This is horse racing with animals who aren’t as experienced. They don’t have rear view mirrors or side mirrors to know whose behind them and where they are on the track.

The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby should be viewed as a complete farce. I am glad that I have moved into writing about NHL hockey, a sport that has integrity enough to suspend officials and apologize to fans for bad calls by referees.

–Michael

2019 Kentucky Derby Preview

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April 30th 2019 – Updated May 4th 2019 4:50 PM EST

Below is the starting field for the 145th Kentucky Derby with post-positions and jockey assignments. Note the updated Morning Line Odds.

Who’s my Derby Favorite?

It’s really up in the air, I have no magic this year as my Derby favorite, Omaha Beach, has been scratched. Everybody Derby handicapper has been scrambling since this news. But, I want to share some wisdom and one simple race replay for you to watch. The 2019 Arkansas Derby (shown below).

If you remember last year’s sloppy Kentucky Derby, Magnum Moon, by times and speed figures was one of the fastest colts in the field. I liked him and Justify on a dry, fast track. See:  https://www.sbnation.com/2018/5/5/17321102/kentucky-derby-2018-predictions.

But Magnum Moon didn’t take to the slop, neither did a lot of horses. Too much backsplash. Todd Pletcher said they were still cleaning out mud from Patch’s one good eye three days later in an interview.

One thing that is clearly evident from watching the 2019 Arkansas Derby below, is how Improbable raced in traffic, in the slop and challenged Omaha Beach to the wire. And note how jockey Mike Smith hustled up Omaha Beach at the start of this race to avoid any chance of backsplash being a factor. Mike Smith = a very smart and wise jockey.

In your Derby handicapping and betting, give extra attention to colts who historically like to get to the front quick and those who have raced and performed well in an off track condition. It looks to be another slop fest Saturday.

Right now, I like Maximum Security and Improbable but this Derby is wide-open and not a great betting race as it appears from weather reports, to be another wet, sloppy race. Improbable had gate issues in the Arkansas Derby which concerns me.

Overall, I like Maximum Security if it turns out to be a dry race. If it is wet, I am leaning towards Improbable. I didn’t get a chance to handicap this race like I wanted to as my Uncle passed away yesterday unexpectedly so I have been reeling from that news.

2019 Kentucky Derby Starting Field

1) War of Will (15/1) – The Risen Star Stakes winner originally started off as a turf horse with little success before switching to dirt. The change work well for the Mark Casse-trained colt as he reeled off three straight wins. The he simply did not fire in his last start with a head-scratching 9th place finish in the Louisiana Derby. War of Will generally likes to get out towards the front, something he did not do in the Louisiana Derby. But he will now have to drawing the dreaded trail in the Derby. 

Career: 8 Starts 3-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st-->1st–>9th
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.45 (estimated) – 2019 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 96 – 2019 Risen Star Stakes

2) Tax (20/1) – The gelding was a consistent performer at Aqueduct,  with a third place finish in the Remsen Stakes, a win in the Withers Stakes and a second place finish in his last start, the Wood Memorial. Move along.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Arch 
Trainer: Danny Gargan
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.23 – 2019 Withers Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 103 – 2018 Remsen Stakes

3) By My Standards (15/1) – At 22-1 odds, By My Standards was the surprise longshot winner of the Louisiana Derby. This is a colt to consider for your Superfecta bets as he produced a sub-38 second last 3 furlong time in that race, something very few in this field accomplished.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  3rd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Goldencents (Finished 17th in 2013 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Bret Calhoun
Jockey: Gabriel Saez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.53 – 2019 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 102 – 2019 Louisiana Derby

4) Gray Magician (50/1) – He finished 2nd in the UAE Derby. He raced exclusively in the US before that race with little success. A very appropriate 50-1 longshot. Move along.

Career: 8 Starts 1-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Graydar
Trainer: Peter Miller
Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 93 – 2019 Miracle Woods Stakes (Black Type)

5) Improbable (5/1) – The Bob Baffert-trained colt is a consistent runner, never finishing below 2nd in his five career starts. The Los Alamitos Futurity winner finished 2nd to Long Range Toddy in the Rebel Stakes and gave Omaha Beach a run for his money in the Arkansas Derby. He has proven to run well in the slop in the Arky Derby so file that fact away if we get a wet race on Saturday. He has one of the winningest post-positions, post #5, so that will help. I generally like this colt in Trifectas because of his proven consistency. But he has enough speed and fight to win under the right circumstances.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: City Zip
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997,1998, 2003, 2015 & 2018 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.07 (estimated) – 2019 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 100 – 2018 Los Alamitos Futurity

6) Vekoma (15/1) – The Blue Grass Stakes winner. Although he only has four career starts, they all came at different tracks and he never finished below third. He also has a great jockey in Javier Castellano. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits the board.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd—>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: George Weaver
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.93 – 2019 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 101 – 2019 Blue Grass Stakes

7) Maximum Security (8/1) – Just like last year, jockey Luis Saez has one of the fastest colts in the Derby with Maximum Security. Last year, Saez had a disappointing 19th place finish with Magnum Moon in the sloppy Kentucky Derby. The good news here is that Maximum Security won the first race of his 3-year-old campaign on a muddy (sealed) surface at Gulfstream Park. So Maximum Security should be viewed as a dual threat to win on any surface. If you are shopping for a good price on a horse that I think has a serious chance of winning.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st->1st
Sire: New Year’s Day
Trainer: Jason Servis
Jockey: Luis Saez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.86 – 2019 Florida Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 102 – 2019 Florida Derby

8) Tacitus (8/1)  – The Wood Memorial winner has won three straight. A progeny of Tapit, he should take to the added distance. Although I don’t consider him a serious threat to win the Derby, consider him as a candidate to slip into your Superfectas. And I think he has a bright future moving forward with more experience. He’ll win a big stakes race somewhere down the line, I just don’t think its this Saturday.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st-->1st–>1st
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Jason Servis
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.23 – 2019 Wood Memorial Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 103 – 2019 Wood Memorial Stakes

9) Plus Que Parfait (30/1) – The UAE Derby winner. They often don’t perform as well as expected in the Kentucky Derby. His time in the UAE Derby of 1:58.41 was the exact same time Lani produced in the race three years ago. The Ridgling had spotty performances on US soil before shipping over to Dubai for the UAE Derby. He did finish 2nd in the Kentucky Jockey Club race at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old. However, I don’t see him hitting the board on Saturday. 

Career: 7 Starts 2-1-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>13th–>1st
Sire: Point of Entry
Trainer: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Jockey: Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

10) Cutting Humor (30/1) – The Sunland Derby winner that is trained by Todd Pletcher and will now be ridden by Mike Smith. Note that he set a track record in Sunland Derby. His first race was a 2nd place finish on a sloppy track at Belmont. So he has off track experience. With a good mid pack starting spot in the gate, Cutting Humor is the best longshot in this field in my opinion.

Career: 6 Starts 2-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>7th–>1st
Sire: First Samurai
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 & 2018 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:46.94 – 2019 Sunland Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 99 – 2019 Sunland Derby

13) Code of Honor (12/1)– The Shug McGaughey-trained colt won the Fountain of Youth Stakes and finished third in the Florida Derby. McGaughey is a Hall of Fame trainer who won the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Orb. Code of Honor’s jockey John Velazquez is a future Hall of Famer who has won two Kentucky Derbys. I am just not sure Code of Honor has the speed to win the Derby but consider him in your Superfecta bets.

Career: 5 Starts 2-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Noble Mission 
Trainer: Shug McGaughey 
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.94 (estimated) – 2019 Florida Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 95 – 2019 Florida Derby

14) Win Win Win (12/1) After winning Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in January, Win Win Win followed up this effort with a 3rd place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby and a 2nd place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes. At 12-1, these odds are too short for my tastes.

Career: 6 Starts 3-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st->3rd–>2nd
Sire: Hat Trick
Trainer: Michael Trombetta
Jockey: Julian Pimentel
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.49 (estimated) – 2019 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 101 – 2019 Pasco Stakes (Black Type)

15) Master Fencer (50/1) – The Japanese Fukuryu Stakes runner-up. That is exactly what I said to myself when I heard this colt was entered in the Derby. 50-1 morning line odds? Might as well be 500-1 odds as this colt will be like a Toyota racing versus Ferraris in the Kentucky Derby. Why? Master Fencer finished 4th in the Japanese Road to the Kentucky Derby point standings. Plus, he is slow. I converted his estimated time in the 1800 meter Fukuryu Stakes to an estimated time for 9 furlongs which most of this Derby class ran in their final Derby prep. I came up with an estimated time of 1:54.14 on a dry, fast track. He might fare better on an off track as he won an 1800 meter race on a bit of an off track on December 23rd. That estimated time came out better at 1:51.84. Slow, slow, slow.

Career: 6 Starts 2-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>2nd
Sire: Just a Way
Trainer: Koichi Tsunoda
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:54.14 (estimated) – 2019 Fukuryu Stakes (Japan)
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: N/A

16) Game Winner (9/2) – The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and Eclipse 2 Year Old American Male Champion is the current Morning Line odds favorite. Count me as one who doesn’t think he should be. Although I was high on this horse by virtue of his 2-year campaign, Game Winner didn’t win either of his Derby prep races as a 3-year old. In his final Derby prep race, he lost to Roadster in the Santa Anita Derby. The winning time of  that race was 1:51.28— the 4th slowest Santa Anita Derby ever at that 1 1/8th mile distance. 

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Last 3 starts:  1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997,1998, 2003, 2015 & 2018 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.72 – 2019 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 103 – 2018 Breeders Cup Juvenile

17) Roadster (5/1) – The Santa Anita Derby winner is tied at 5/1 odds with Improbable for the 2nd Morning Line favorite. For the same reasons why I am not a big believer in Game Winner, I am not a believer in this colt. One of my horse handicapping colleague’s always like to tell me “Time only matters when you’re in prison” when I bring up fraction and race times. But Roadster’s Santa Anita Derby winning time of 1:51.28 was the 4th slowest ever at that 1 1/8th mile distance. You have to go back to 1957 to find a slower Santa Anita Derby winning race time. This is part of the reason why Mike Smith opted for Omaha Beach over Roadster.

Career: 8 Starts 1-3-1-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Quality Road
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997,1998, 2003, 2015 & 2018 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.28 – 2019 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 98 – 2019 Santa Anita Derby

18) Long Range Toddy (30/1) – After winning the first of the two Rebel Stakes races at Oaklawn Park, the Steve Asmussen-trained colt was expected to be a major challenger in the Arkansas Derby. However, he finished a disappointing 6th in that race. My take is that he had never raced on an wet track before and didn’t take too well to those conditions. 

Career: 7 Starts 1-3-1-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>4th
Sire: Take Charge Indy (Finished 19th in 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Jon Court
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.56 (estimated) – 2019 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 97 – 2019 Rebel Stakes (1)

19) Spinoff (30/1) – Another one of Todd Pletcher’s trainees. He has raced at four different tracks and never finished below third. He lost the lead in his final Derby prep race, the Louisiana Derby, to By My Standards. So there is concern how he will like the added distance of another furlong in the Derby. My verdict, probably a mid pack finisher at best and Pletcher’s second best Derby entry in this race behind Cutting Humor.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd->1st–>2nd
Sire: Hard Spun (Finished 2nd in the 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Manny Franco
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.65 (estimated) – 2019 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 102 – 2019 Louisiana Derby 

20) Country House (30/1) – Country House finished third in the sloppy Arkansas Derby so we know that can handle an off track. He isn’t viewed as a serious threat to win the Derby as he has yet to win a Stakes race of any grade. However, he’s got to be a horse to consider in your Superfectas if we get another wet or sloppy Kentucky Derby.

Career: 6 Starts 1-2-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>4th->3rd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky (Finished 6th in the 2010 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: William Mott
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.99 (estimated) – 2019 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 95 – 2019 Louisiana Derby

21)  Bodexpress (30/1) – The son of Bodemeister, who finished 2nd in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, gets into this Kentucky Derby field due to the scratch to Omaha Beach. He has never won a race in 6 career starts but ran well in the Florida Derby (shown below) with a 2nd place finish behind Maximum Security. The Kentucky Derby is no place to try to break your maiden, especially from post #20.

Career: 6 Starts 0-3-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>2nd—>2nd
Sire: Bodemeister (Finished 2nd in the 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Gustavo Delgado
Jockey: Chris Landeros
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.82 (estimated) – 2019 Florida Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 98 – 2018 Florida Derby


On the docket…

I will preview every Triple Crown race, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup.

–Michael

Derby Analytics – The 2019 Kentucky Derby Winner will be…

Kentucky-Derby-145-logo

April 28th 2019

When handicapping the Kentucky Derby, there are several analytic tools that I use. The first is the points system. Since the creation of the point system for qualification into the Kentucky Derby, every Kentucky Derby winner earned 100 more qualifying points on the Derby trail. Who are this year’s candidates who scored 100 or more points?

  1. Tacitus – 150
  2. Omaha Beach – 137.5
  3. Vekoma – 110
  4. Plus Que Parfait – 104
  5. Roadster – 100
  6. By My Standards – 100
  7. Maximum Security – 100

This point system has only been in place since 2013, so it can only be viewed as a starting point for trying to figure out your Derby winner. My guess is, if we went back 10 or more years and attached the same point system to the Derby prep races, we would see that most Kentucky Derby winners would have achieved 100 or more points since most Derby winners finished strong in their final Derby prep races.

Another key analytic tool I use is late speed, last 3 furlong fraction times as the Derby winner has to have a strong late kick to win the race in a field of 20 horses. I desire a time under 38 seconds over the last 3 furlongs in their last 9-furlong Derby prep race to ensure that the horse has the necessary closing speed. I look at the time difference between the final time and the 3/4-mile (six-furlong) mark and estimate that a length is generally around 0.16 seconds. It is not exact science but a pretty good estimate if you don’t have times from Trackus.

To illustrate why this is important, below are the final 3-furlong times in the last Derby prep race for the last seven Kentucky Derby winners:

2018 – Justify (36.87 in Santa Anita Derby)
2017 – Always Dreaming (36.56 in Florida Derby)
2016 – Nyquist (37.64 in Florida Derby)
2015 – American Pharoah (37.82 in Arkansas Derby)
2014 – California Chrome (36.69 in Santa Anita Derby)
2013 – Orb (37.74 in Florida Derby)
2012 – I’ll Have Another (36.42 in Santa Anita Derby)

I crunched numbers and of the seven candidates listed above who had 100 or more Derby points, I only found two horses who eclipsed the 3 furlong 38 second mark in their last Derby prep race: Maximum Security and Omaha Beach. Improbable eclipsed this mark but he only finished with 65 Derby points.

1) Maximum Security – 35.96 (1st in Florida Derby)
2) Omaha Beach – 37.45 (1st in Arkansas Derby)
3) Improbable – 37.45 (2nd in Arkansas Derby)

Note that Omaha Beach and Improbable’s times were on a sloppy, wet track which should be slower than times produced on a dry, fast track. Also note that I had to estimate Plus Que Parfait’s last 3 furlong time from the UAE Derby using his last 700 meter time since that race is 1900 meters and not 9 furlongs. I came up with an estimated time of 38.31.

In summary, I think the 2019 Kentucky Derby winner will be one of the three horses listed above: Maximum Security, Omaha Beach and Improbable. That’s if this year’s Run for the Roses is on a dry, fast track. If it is wet, I am leaning towards Omaha Beach and Improbable since they have already performed well on a sloppy, wet track in the Arkansas Derby.

I will wait for final post-positions before declaring my Derby favorite.

—Michael

 

The 2019 Kentucky Derby

Kentucky-Derby-145-logo

April 27th 2019

We are now one week away from 145th Run for the Roses. I have will be posting a preview of the race once post-positions are confirmed on Tuesday. I haven’t written much on the Derby Trail this year as I have focused more on writing about NHL hockey which can be found here: https://gasnsports.com/category/sports/other-sports/

Overall, I like Omaha Beach and Maximum Security as my Derby co-favorites at the moment. However, I want to see the final post-positions before making any pick recommendations. There is still a part of me that thinks we may get a surprise winner. And especially if it is a wet race. So I will be monitoring the Louisville weather reports.

Stay tuned!

–Michael

2019 Pegasus World Cup Preview

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January 23rd 2019 – Updated January 26th 2019

Coming up this Saturday, the 2019 Pegasus World Cup which sadly seems to be losing some of its original appeal and luster. In what used to be the richest horse race in the world, the Pegasus World Cup purse was reduced from $16 Million in 2018 down to $9 Million for 2019. The inaugural 2017 Pegasus World Cup carried a $12 Million purse surpassing the $10 Million purse offered by the Dubai World Cup.

Why the reduced purse? I am uncertain. Perhaps the purse was spread over to the turf race to give the Pegasus World Cup a better support race. Unfortunately, the Pegasus World Cup was a brilliant idea by Frank Stronach to help keep the stars of the sport in active training but few followed his lead. 

Below are the official entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds for this year’s Pegasus World Cup scheduled for Saturday January 26th at Gulfstream Park. Post time is 4:36 PM CST.  The race will be televised on NBC with coverage beginning at 3:30 PM CST. All horses will carry 124 lbs weight.

2019 Pegasus World Cup 1 1/8th mile – Purse: $9 Million

Post Position/ Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Bravazo- Saez/Lukas – 12-1
2. Something Awesome – Prado/Corrales – 20-1
3. City of Light – Castellano/McCarthy – 5-2
4. Seeking the Soul – Velazquez/Stewart – 12-1
5. Accelerate Rosario/Sadler – 9-5
6. Tom’s d’Etat – Bridgmohan/Stall Jr – 20-1
7. True Timber – Bravo/McLaughlin 30-1
8. Gunnevera – Ortiz Jr/Sano – 8-1
9. Kukulkan – Dettori/Guiterrez – 30-1
10. Audible – Prat/Pletcher – 10-1
11. Imperative – Gaffliaone/Quarterolo – 30-1
12. Patternrecognition – Ortiz/Brown – 10-1

Race Analysis: I have been watching the rumored entries for this race over the past month. My level of excitement dwindled by the day as I saw no real challenger to the John Sadler-trained Accelerate. Accelerate’s only serious threat is the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Champion City of Light.

The 2019 Florida Derby Winner Audible is a name-horse starting from post #10. You may remember that he finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby.  He has run well at Gulfstream Park. However, he wasn’t that impressive in his last start at the track, the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes, where he finished 2nd behind the 25-1 longshot Sir Anthony.

Overall, I was hoping for a better field considering the $9 Million Purse. But “you get what you get” as they say. I’ll take Straight Win bets on Accelerate. Maybe an Accelerate over City of Light Straight Exacta. For Superfecta betting, I’ll will key Accelerate over City of Light, Gunnevera, Bravazo and Audible (#5 over 1,3,8,10 over 1,3,8,10 over 1,3,8,10).

Update: Overnight rain at Gulfstream Park may even up this field. However, note that Accelerate won the sloppy Santa Anita Handicap last year. He is still my pick to win. Bravazo runs well in the slop, so expect his live odds to lower from 12-1.

–Michael