My Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contenders

Mohaymen mows down the Holy Bull – Photo: Kenny Martin

February 1st, 2016 (96 days away from the Kentucky Derby)
Updated: February 6, 2016 

Last year at this time, my top three Kentucky Derby Contenders were Texas Red, Dortmund and American Pharoah (See 1/27/15 article). Texas Red suffered an injury and wasn’t entered in the 2015 Kentucky Derby but American Pharoah and Dortmund both finished in the money-1st and 3rd respectively.

I generally feel that the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner will be a horse in my current Top 5 rankings: Mohaymen, Songbird (if the filly is entered), Nyquist, Swipe and Brody’s Cause. With more emphasis on the Top 3 since Swipe is rebounding from injury and Brody’s Cause apparently resuming racing as a 3 year-old somewhat later than typical. And my top 3 are all undefeated thus far.

1) Mohaymen – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is undefeated in 4 starts and posted an impressive time of 1:42.07 in the Holy Bull Stakes. When you watch that race and realize that he didn’t get off to the best start—yet he dealt with some traffic and then mowed down the field without being shown the whip–you have to be impressed. He is easily a sub 1:42 sec horse at the 1 1/16th mile race distance. Mohaymen is a half brother to the horse Frosted but he is way ahead of him at this stage of his career. His sire was Tapit so his pedigree suggests that he will like stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. His next start will be the Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 27th at Gulfstream Park.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.92 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Holy Bull Stakes

2) Songbird – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Female Horse of the Year, she was the top 2 year-old regardless of gender. Undefeated Nyquist was the Eclipse-winning 2 year-old colt and all Songbird did is run a full second faster than him at the same distance, same track and on the same day at the Breeders Cup World Championships. That would be equivalent to 6 1/2 lengths. She dominated the Las Virgenes Stakes, winning by 6 1/2 lengths and producing a time of 1:36.84. It is hard to say how good she really is when she has yet to be challenged. She is being pointed towards the Santa Anita Oaks on April 9th and then the Kentucky Oaks on May 6th. Her owner Rick Porter said he will not enter her into the Kentucky Derby. How about the Preakness Stakes?

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.84 – Las Virgenes Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.73 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

3) Nyquist – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year. 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 is still undefeated in five starts. His stalking racing style reminds me of a young American Pharoah. He is being pointed for the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park on February 15th and then the Florida Derby on April 2nd.

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

4) Swipe – This Desormeaux brothers colt has finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts. However, he kept 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. Swipe had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and is expected to resume training soon (February 16th is the rumored date).

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

5) 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. This colt has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He looks to be a First Saturday in May horse. He is being pegged for the Tampa Bay Derby March 12th. 

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

And the best of the rest:

Greenpointcrusader  A second place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes was a good return to form performance. The Champagne Stakes winner has an 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. His next start appears to be in the Louisiana Derby at the Fairgrounds on March 26th.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.25 – Champagne Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.63 (calculated) – Holy Bull Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 Champagne Stakes

Exaggerator – Another Desormeaux brothers colt, he finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then followed this effort with a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). I am expecting him to improve and his Delta Downs Jackpot win was a step in the right direction. His next start is expected to be the San Vincte Stakes at Santa Anita Park February 15th.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Delta Downs Jackpot

Gift Box – 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. He finished a respectable 3rd in the Remsen Stakes. So it is still up in the air if this colt is just a good slop-track runner or if he will excel on dry, fast tracks. His next start appears to be the Risen Star Stakes on February 20th at the Fairgrounds.

Career: 3 Starts 1-0-2-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – Belmont MSW- Race #11
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.17 (calculated) – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Belmont MSW- Race #11

Mor Spirit – Bob Baffert’s best 2 year-old colt. His win in the Los Alamitos Futurity was a solid effort and I liked how he rallied off the pace for the win. In Mor Spirit’s next start, the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on February 6th, he produced a winning time of 1:43.21. His times are way off what Dortmund produced last year in these two races. So I see him as an above average Derby horse but not one who will finish in the money.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5

Airoforce – This Mark Casse-trained colt made the transition from turf to dirt with ease by winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes race on a wet track at Churchill Downs. An impressive effort but I will need to see how he performs on a dry fast track. His next start will be the Risen Star Stakes February 20th at the Fairgrounds.

Airoforce Kentucky Jockey Club 615 X 400

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A (on dirt)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.48 – Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

Matt King Coal – The Linda Rice-trained colt has put up back-to-back 90+ Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts, breaking his maiden in his last start while posting a 96 Beyer Speed Figure–the best for a 2 year-old colt this year. I thought enough of this colt to place $10 on him in the 1st Kentucky Derby Future Wagers Pool that will pay back $889 if he wins. His pedigree (sire: Cool Coal Man) suggests that he might be better suited for a 1 mile to 1 1/8th mile distances. His next start was supposed to be the Jerome Stakes January 2nd but he developed an illness and wasn’t entered. He resumed training February 7th.

Matt King Coal runs 1st Place @ Belmont On 10/29/2015

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.68 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #6
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #6

Smokey Image – He is undefeated in six starts, but five of his wins were at the 7 furlong distance or shorter. He might prove to be a better dirt-miler than a Derby horse. His next start is pegged to be the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park March 12th. That race will probably be a great litmus test to determine if this horse is for real as a Derby contender.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.49 – California Cup Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85


 

 

Here are rankings by time for the most common denominator distance of 1 1/16th mile:

  1. Mohaymen – 1:42.07
  2. Greenpointcrusader – 1:42.63 (calculated)
  3. Songbird – 1:42.73
  4. Gift B0x – 1:43.00
  5. Matt King Coal – 1:43.02 (calculated)
  6. Fellowship – 1:43.03 (calculated)
  7. Mor Spirit – 1:43.21
  8. Brody’s Cause – 1:43.27
  9. Exaggerator – 1:43.43 (calculated)
  10. Smokey Image – 1:43.49
  11. Nyquist – 1:43.79
  12. Swipe – 1:43.87

-Michael

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