Looking ahead – My Early 2016 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

It is never too late to start thinking about another exciting year of thoroughbred racing. Now that the 2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships are over, who are the horses to keep an eye on for next year’s Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic?

For the 2016 Kentucky Derby, here’s my early Top 10 contenders thus far. And a surprise–I have a filly ranked #1:

1) Songbird – Although she will likely be pegged for the Kentucky Oaks, she is the top 2 year-old regardless of gender and she would be my Kentucky Derby favorite. Undefeated Nyquist is the top 2 year-old colt and my early Kentucky Derby favorite and all Songbird did is run a full second faster than him at the same distance, same track and same day at the Breeders Cup World Championships. That would be equivalent to 6 1/2 lengths.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.73 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

2) Nyquist – Winner of three Grade 1 Stakes races: The Del Mar Futurity, the FrontRunner Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. My way too early Kentucky Derby favorite proved that his declining Beyer Speed Figures wasn’t a concern with impressive win in the Juvenile. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt Nyquist is still undefeated in five starts. His stalking racing style reminds me of a young American Pharoah. He will win the Eclipse Top 2 Year Old Male Horse award.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 89 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

3) Swipe – This Desormeaux brothers colt has finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts. However, he keeps narrowing the gap each time. I like his future in races 1 1/8th mile or greater. His sire was Birdstone who won the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes in 2004.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Brody’s Cause Dale Roman’s winner of the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. His sire was Giant’s Causeway who had a great career on the other side of the pond and finished 2nd in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. On closer inspection, this horse has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He looks to be a 1st Saturday in May horse.

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.64 – Churchill Down Maiden Special Weight – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

5) Greenpointcrusader  Although he finished 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, I generally liked his movement up through the field where he was 12th at the three quarter pole and finished 7th and a couple of “necks” from finishing 5th. He should do well in longer distance races.  The winner of Champagne Stakes where he received a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. His time was 0.37 seconds faster than last year’s Champagne Stakes winner Daredevil (who received a 107 Beyer) on a similar sloppy sealed track. Excellent pedigree: sire Bernardini (Rachel’s Valentina’s sire), grand sire A.P. Indy, great-grand sire Seattle Slew. His sire Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness Stakes, Travers Stakes, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and finished 2nd in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.25 – Champagne Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 Champagne Stakes

6) Exaggerator – Another Desormeaux brothers colt, he finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). I am expecting him to improve.

Career: 5 Starts 2-1-0-1 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

7) Matt King Coal – The Linda Rice-trained colt has put up back-to-back 90+ Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts and broke his maiden in his last start while posting a 96 Beyer Speed Figure–the best for a 2 year-old colt this year.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.68 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #5

8) Mohaymen – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt posted an 89 Beyer Speed Figure in the Nashua Stakes on November 4th. His sire is Tapit so that means that he will like distance. A Frosted clone in the making?

Career: 2 Starts 2-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 89 – Nashua Stakes

9) Gift Box – Consider in just his 2nd start, this Chad Brown-trained colt produced a time of 1:43:00 on a sloppy track at Belmont–good for a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. That was faster than American Pharoah’s time of 1:45.78 in the sloppy Rebel Stakes at the same 1 1/16th mile distance. And American Pharoah was a 3 year-old in the Rebel. Call me curious to see what this colt will do in his next start on a dry, fast track at a distance of a mile or more.

Career: 2 Starts 1-0-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – Belmont Maiden Special Weight- Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Belmont Maiden Special Weight- Race #11

10) Sakara – This ranking is probably a bit premature but he is American Pharoah’s half brother from the same Zayat Stables. He broke his maiden in his first start on the turf at the Meadowlands October 24th and he looked quite “Pharoahish” doing it.

Career: 1 Starts 1-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 (turf) – Meadowlands Maiden Special Weight – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A


2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Watch

And now for a look ahead at the top Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders for next season. Both Shared Belief and California Chrome are set to return to racing. Below are my Top 10 contenders entering 2016. The picture will get a little clearer after the Santa Anita Handicap in March.

1) Beholder  It would have been nice to see her race in The Classic but nobody was going to beat American Pharoah that day.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 (2015 Pacific Classic)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic
Career Earnings: $4,436,600

2) Shared Belief – It will be interesting to see how he does in 2016 after sitting out most of this year.

Career: 12 Starts 10-0-0-1, Win Pct: 83.3%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.38 (calculated) – 8/24/14 (2014 Pacific Classic)
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 1152014 Pacific Classic
Career Earnings: $2,932,200

3) Honor Code – He will be a 5 year old in 2016 like Shared Belief and California Chrome. He could emerge as the better horse of the three when all is said and done.

Career: 11 Starts 6-2-2-0, Win Pct: 54.5%, Top 3 Pct: 90.9%, Top 4 Pct: 90.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.83 (calculated) – 10/31/15 (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2015 Whitney Handicap
Career Earnings: $2,518,260

4) California Chrome – I am glad he is coming back, the sport needs him. Looks like he is being pegged for the Dubai World Cup once again.

Career: 18 Starts 9-3-1-1, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 72.2%, Top 4 Pct: 77.8%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $6,322,650

5) Tonalist – Still one of the top horses in North America. The lesson I took away from his Breeders’ Cup Classic run is don’t enter him in the TVG Pacific Classic next year. Give him a 2 month layoff like American Pharoah had and see how he responds to the rest because he tired down the stretch in the Classic.

Career: 15 Starts 6-4-2-1, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 80%, Top 4 Pct: 86.7%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 111 – 2015 Westchester Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed 111 – 2015 Westchester Stakes
Career Earnings: $3,197,000

6) Effinex – A temperamental horse with a lot of talent. A 2nd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic–Jimmy Jerkens has done wonders with him.

Career: 19 Starts 6-2-3-4, Win Pct: 31.6%, Top 3 Pct: 57.9%, Top 4%: 78.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.11 (calculated) – 10/31/15 (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Career Best Beyer Speed: 110 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $1,812,250

7) Keen Ice – The only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion.

Career: 12 Starts 2-1-3-3, Win Pct: 16.7%, Top 3 Pct: 50%, Top 4 Pct: 75%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,790,395

8) Dortmund – I am expecting big things next year from this Bob Baffert-trained colt provided he is 100% healthy.

Career: 9 Starts 7-0-1-1, Win Pct: 77.8%, Top 3 Pct: 66.9%, Top 4%: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Santa Anita Derby
Career Earnings: $1,622,480

9) Frosted – He has a bright future in the sport and should improve as a 4 year-old.

Career: 13 Starts 3-6-1-2, Win Pct: 23%, Top 3 Pct: 69.2%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Pennsylvania Derby
Career Earnings: $2,062,800

10) Smooth Roller  – A scratch from the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Was his Awesome Again Stakes win a fluke or a sign of bigger and better things to come? We will find out.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 111 – 2015 Awesome Again Stakes
Career Earnings: $261,810

–Michael

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