Florida Derby Preview – Nyquist vs Mohaymen

March 31st, 2016

Coming this Saturday will be the most intriguing race thus far this year when the top two Kentucky Derby contenders, Nyquist and Mohaymen, square off in the Florida Derby. It is very unusual for the consensus top two to meet before the Kentucky Derby as owners usually opt for the past of least resistance–a different Derby prep race and a better chance for 1st place money. Since both horses are undefeated, this is must-watch TV.

Mohaymen should be the race favorite, having already raced at the 1 1/8th mile distance as a 2 year old and also having two races of experience at Gulfstream Park. Whoever wins this race will be the heavy Kentucky Derby favorite will be from here on out. I expect the final race time to be in the 1:48 range provided it is run on a dry, fast track. Below are the post positions and morning line odds. I expect Mohaymen’s final race odds to lower, probably to 4/5.

Florida Derby – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #14 Gulfstream Park April 2nd – Post Time: 5:48PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ ML Odds
1. Sawyers Mickey (122) Spieth/Walder 30-1
2. Fellowship (122) Lezcano/Gold 15-1
3. Majesto (122) Castellano/Delgado 20-1
4. Nyquist (122) Gutierrez/O’Neill 6-5
5. Copingaway (122) Vasquez/Mejia 50-1
6. Chovanes (122) Zayas/Navarro 30-1
7. Takeittotheedge (122) Gaffalione/Romans 20-1
8. Fashionable Freddy (122) Juarez/Zito 30-1
9. Mohaymen (122) Alvarado/McLaughlin 1-1
10. Isofass (122) Leparoux/Abbott 30-1

Commentary: Overall, I think this race will shake out in this order: 1st- Mohaymen, 2nd-Nyquist and 3rd-Fellowship. But Fellowship, who has finished 3rd to Mohaymen in his last two starts at Gulfstream, could be a surprise in this race. So I would recommend playing a $10 Trifecta 4/9 over 2/4/9 over 2/4 that would cost $30. There will be a lot of 9 over 4 Exactas or 4/9 Boxed Exactas played in this race–I may play some too. However, if Fellowship can bust up the perceived Mohaymen-Nyquist 1-2 Finish, your Trifecta will pay out very nice.

If you want Superfecta advice, I would probably place a $5 straight Superfecta bet of 9 over 4 over 2 over 3/7/10. That will cost $15. I just don’t see this race as a great superfecta betting race with two low odds horses expected to finish 1-2.

–Michael

 

2016 Dubai World Cup Preview – California Chrome is race favorite

March 23rd, 2016

The coming Saturday at Noon CST is the highly anticipated Dubai World Cup featuring California Chrome. 1st place pays out $6 Million dollars, 2nd place $2 Million, 3rd place $1 Million and 4th and 5th split the remaining $1 Million. The field also has five other American thoroughbreds: Frosted, Keen Ice, Hoppertunity, Mshawish and Candy Boy. Teletext is a Kentucky-bred horse who never raced in the US. Mubtaahij is an Irish horse who raced in the 2015 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes finishing 8th and 4th respectively. Meydan racecourse doesn’t allow betting because all forms of gambling are illegal in the UAE. California Chrome was the consensus race favorite for all of the major online gambling websites.

Horses who have competed in previous year’s Dubai World Cups include California Chrome (2nd in 2014), Candy Boy (4th in 2015) and the Japanese horse Hokko Tarumae (5th in 2015, 16th in 2014).

The Irish horse Special Fighter won the 2000 Meter Al Maktoum Round 3 at Meyden back on March 5th with Gun Pit finishing 2nd, Mubtaahij 4th and Keen Ice finishing 7th. Frosted set a track record for the 1900 Meter Al Maktoum Round 2 on February 4th with Special Fighter finishing 6th in that race.

Dubai World Cup – 2000 Meters (approximately 1 1/4 mile) at Meydan Racecourse – Post Time: Saturday March 26 NOON CST

Post Position/Horse/Country/Jockey/Trainer/Rating

  1. Keen Ice (USA) – R. Moore/Romans – 120
  2. Mshawish (USA) – L. Dettori/Pletcher – 115
  3. Gun Pit (AUS) – J. Moreira/Fownes – 115
  4. Mubtaahij (IRE) – C Soumillon/De Kock – 119
  5. Special Fighter (IRE) – F. Jara/Muhairi – 119
  6. Candy Boy (USA) – P. Dobbs/Watson – 115
  7. Vadamos (FR) – V. Cheminaud/Fabre – 113
  8. Hokko Tarumae (JAP) – H. Miyuki/Nishiura – 116
  9. Frosted (USA) – W. Buick/McLaughlin – 120
  10. Hoppertunity (USA) – F. Prat/Baffert – 116
  11. California Chrome (USA) – V. Espinoza/Sherman – 121
  12. Teletext (USA) – S. De Souza/Harabi – 113

Commentary:  This is a difficult race to handicap because big races at Meydan often have surprise winners. That being said, I think this race should come down to California Chrome, Frosted and Special Fighter for the win. Hoppertunity has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race and is coming off a win in the 1 1/8th mile San Antonio Stakes.

Keen Ice is capable of hitting the board and likes this distance. However, he has had disappointing 6th and 7th place finishes in his last two starts. He finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Mshawish is coming off a win in the 1 1/8th mile Donn Handicap back on February 4th and has turf race experience at Meydan. I think he is better suited for races 1 1/8th mile or less.

–Michael

 

2016 Rebel Stakes Preview – Suddenbreakingnews the morning line favorite

March 18th 2016
Coming up tomorrow at Oaklawn Park is the highly anticipated Rebel Stakes with a $900,000 purse that has attracted a full field of 14 horses. Four of these 3 year-olds were in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #3: American Dubai (99-1), Cupid (36-1), Suddenbreakingnews (14-1) and Whitmore (42-1). Cherry Wine was absent in the last pool but was in Pool #2 at 31-1 final odds. Below are the post-positions and morning line odds.

Post Position/Horse (weight)/Jockey/Trainer
1. Creator (115) – Santana Jr./Asmussen – 6/1
1A. Madtap (117) – Nakatani/Asmussen – 6/1
2. Z Royal (115) – Vazquez/Lukas – 20/1
2X. Gray Sky (115) – Geroux/Lukas – 20/1
3. Ralis (117) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 12/1
4. Cupid (115) – Garcia/Baffert – 7/2
5. Discreetness (122) – Court/Fires – 12/1
6. Siding Spring (115) – Rocco/Casse – 20/1
7. Spikes Shirl (115) – Castanon/Stewart – 30/1
8. American Dubai (115) – Landeros/Richards – 12/1
9. Cutacorner (117) – Birzer/Van Berg – 30/1
10. Whitmore (117) – Ortiz Jr./Moquett – 7/2
11. Cherry Wine (115) – Lanerie/Romans – 12/1
12. Suddenbreakingnews (122) – Quinonez/Von Hemel – 3/1


Overall, this will be an exciting race if the Southwest Stakes (shown below) was any indication. I think this race will come down to a battle between four horses: Cupid, Suddenbreakingnews, Madtap and Cherry Wine. Cupid was a scratch from the San Felipe last week at Santa Anita and shipped to Oaklawn Park for this race instead. Madtap raced at Oaklawn Park two weeks ago on March 5th and won with a very good time of 1:43.85 at the same 1 1/16th mile distance. Both of the horses may wear down in the stretch due to tiredness. So I feel that this race may set up well for another win by Suddenbreakingnews. I think this is a better race to watch than bet.

–Michael

 

Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

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2016 San Felipe Stakes winner Danzing Candy, ridden by Mike Smith – Credit: Michael J. Cox

March 15, 2016
(Updated March 28th 2016)

Below is my updated 2016 Kentucky Derby contender rankings. Mohaymen and Nyquist are still 1-2 and the notch above the rest of the pack. Dropping out of my Top 10 are: Smokey Image who was previously undefeated but demonstrated no fight in the San Felipe Stakes, Brody’s Cause who is a closer than didn’t close in the Tampa Bay Derby and finished a disappointing 7th, Gift Box and Mo Tom who was edged out due to the performances of other horses. Suddenbreakingnews and Greenpointcrusader drop out due to disappointing finishes in the Rebel Stakes and Louisiana Derby.

I feel we won’t have a Triple Crown contender heading into the Belmont Stakes this year. It seems to be a wide open, weird kind of year. We will have a clearer picture of what to expect the rest of the year after the Florida Derby on April 2nd when matchup of Mohaymen vs Nyquist is expected to take place.

My Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

1) Mohaymen  – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is undefeated in 5 starts. In the Fountain of Youth Stakes, I was initially disappointed that he didn’t lower the time he produced in the Holy Bull Stakes. But after review, this was a good prep race for him as he rallied off the pace and had to go wide and deal with traffic to get the win. His sire was Tapit so his pedigree suggests that he will like stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. His next start will be a showdown vs Nyquist in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 2nd.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Junior Alvarado
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) Nyquist – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year is undefeated in 6 starts. He was first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente. He is being pointed for the Florida Derby on April 2nd. Trainer Doug O’Neill is following the same “2 races as a 3 year-old” strategy that he used with I’ll Have Another to win the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo 
Projected Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

3) Destin – The Todd Pletcher-trained colt breaks into my Top 10 and all the way to #3 by virtue of his performance in the Tampa Bay Derby (shown below) where he set a track record with a time of 1:42.82–good for a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He is the full brother to Creative Cause who finished 5th in the Kentucky Derby and 3rd in the Preakness Stakes in 2012. It remains to be seen if he just likes Tampa Bay Downs track. Hopefully his next start will come elsewhere.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best Mile Time: 1:38.73 (calculated) – Gulfstream Allowance Opt. Claiming Race – 12/18/15
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.82 – Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

4) Mor Spirit – Bob Baffert’s best Derby trail horse thus far. I have been somewhat critical of his times since they have been way off what Dortmund produced last year in Los Alamitos Futurity, Robert B. Lewis Stakes and now the San Felipe Stakes. However, what I witnessed in the San Felipe was a horse that came off the pace and made up significant ground to finish 2nd. He is my favorite to win the Santa Anita Derby on April 9th that will be half furlong (1/16th of a mile) further than the San Felipe Stakes.

Career: 6 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Projected Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/23/15
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – San Felipe Stakes

5) Danzing Candy – The surprise winner of the San Felipe Stakes (shown below). He has three wins in his last three starts. He got a perfect trip in the San Felipe by getting out in the lead and then holding on for the win. Give credit to jockey Mike Smith for this win because it was a great strategy because the track wasn’t forgiving to closers that day. His next start will be a rematch against Mor Spirit in the Santa Anita Derby April 9th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0 
Sire: Twirling Candy
Projected Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.73 – Santa Anita Allowance Opt Claiming Race – 2/4/16
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.04 – San Felipe Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes

6) Cupid  –  Another Bob Baffert-trained 3 year -old who moves into my Top 10 after a solid win in the 14 horse field of Rebel Stakes. His winning time was 1:43.84 which is a very good time at Oaklawn Park and resulted in a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. He displayed the necessary fight in this race when challenged by Whitmore. He is a half-brother to Mohaymen having shared the same sire Tapit. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby April 16th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-1
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.78 – Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita Park 2/7/16
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  95Rebel Stakes

7) Exaggerator – The Desormeaux brothers colt finished 3rd in the San Felipe Stakes. I expected a better performance in this race from the Delta Downs Jackpot winner who gave Mohaymen a good battle in the San Vicente Stakes. However, with his pedigree (Sire: Curlin), I wouldn’t give up on him yet as he should excel in races as the distances gets longer. His next start is likely to be the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park on April 9th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-1 
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – San Vicente Stakes

8) Zulu – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee and half-brother to Greenpointcrusader. He finished 2nd to Mohaymen in Fountain of Youth Stakes (shown below) and answered some questions in that race as to how he would like distance since it was his first past 7 furlongs. He also showed a willingness to battle so this was a performance that can be built on. His next start will be the Wood Memorial or Blue Grass Stakes on April 9th. 

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Bernardini 
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.20 (calculated) – Fountain of Youth Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Fountain of Youth Stakes

9) Matt King Coal – The Linda Rice-trained colt returned to racing as a 3 year-old on March 6th at Aqueduct and produced a win with a time of 1:44.92 (good for a 97 Beyer Speed Figure). In his last three starts he has produced Beyer Speed Figures of 93, 96 and 97. I like the upward progression. His next start will be the Wood Memorial on April 9th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0
Sire: Cool Coal Man (Finished 15th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)

Projected Jockey: Jose Ortiz 
Best  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: 97 – Aqueduct Allowance Optional Claiming Race– 3/6/16

10) Collected – Yet another Bob Baffert-trainee, the Sham Stakes winner collected his biggest win and best Beyer Speed Figure (90) in the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes. No word yet as to where his next start will be.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: City Zip 

Projected Jockey: Martin Garcia 
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:38.00 – Sham Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.98 (calculated) – Southwest Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.90 – Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes

Others to keep an eye on include:

Suddenbreakingnews – The Southwest Stakes winner finished 5th in the Rebel Stakes. This was a disappointing finish as the race seemed to set up well for his closer running style with fast opening fractions from Cupid. However, this performance was not enough to drop him off the Derby radar. He seemed to get blocked a bit and if this was a 1 1/8th mile race like the Arkansas Derby will be, he seemed to have plenty of steam left to hit the board. His sire was Mineshaft–2003 Horse of the Year. Closer’s always have a chance in the Derby when the opening fractions are fast. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 16th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Mineshaft 
Projected Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:39.17 (calculated) – Remington Springboard Mile
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.64 (calculated) – Rebel Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes

Outwork – A Todd Pletcher-trained horse and a half brother to Nyquist. Prior to the Tampa Bay Derby, he had never raced further than 6 furlongs. He broke his maiden way back in April of 2015 at Keeneland but didn’t resume racing until this past February.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.98 – Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

Swipe – This Desormeaux brothers colt finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts and narrowed the gap each time. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and has been back in in training for the past 3 weeks. His most recent work was 1:12.80 in 6 furlongs at Santa Anita Park on March 19th. No word on when his next start will be but entries in the Louisiana Derby (March 26th) and Arkansas Derby (April 16th) would give him two great preps before the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Sire: Birdstone (Finished 8th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (if he doesn’t ride Exaggerator)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile


Horses who currently have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby include: Gun Runner 151, Lani 100 and Mohaymen 70.

Other horses who likely have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby:  Destin 51, Cupid 50, Danzing Candy 50, Shagaf 50, Mor Spirt 44, Tom’s Ready 44 and Mo Tom 32.

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

Florida Derby – Gulfstream – April 2nd, 2016
Spiral Stakes – Turfway Park – April 2nd, 2016

–Michael

2016 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #3

March 8th 2016

Below is the latest Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #3 that opens this Friday March 11th at 11 AM CST and closes Sunday March 13th at 5 PM CST. There are eight horses making their first appearance in a Future Wager pool. The only two that I find mildly appealing right now are Suddenbreakingnews and Cupid.

Overall, you will want to wait to see how the San Felipe Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby races unfold before making any wagers because ten of the horses in this pool are expected to be in action in one of the aforementioned races. At 7-2 and 9-2 odds for Mohaymen and Nyquist respectively, these odds are too short for my taste and I would rather wait until Derby day to wager on them to assure they make the field. I like to get 3X the expected Derby day odds for a win bet in a future wager pool. I think you would be better served playing Exacta combinations with these two horses or making small win bets on undervalued horses such as Matt King Coal.

I will update this as we go along this weekend. You can follow the live odds by clicking HERE.

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 – March 11 through March 13th
Blue font represents horses who are expected to be in action this weekend in either the San Felipe Stakes or Tampa Bay Derby.
No. Name Trainer Pool 1 Pool 2 Pool 3
1 American Dubai R. Richards ———- ———- 50-1
2 Brody’s Cause D. Romans 21-1 15-1 20-1
3 Cupid B. Baffert ———– ———– 30-1
4 Danzing Candy C. Sisse ———– 28-1 30-1
5 Destin T. Pletcher ———– ———– 30-1
6 Economic Model C. Brown ———– ———– 50-1
7 Exaggerator K. Desormeaux 25-1 22-1 15-1
8 Forevamo A. Stall, Jr. ———– ———– 50-1
9 Greenpointcrusader D. Schettino 28-1 31-1 30-1
10 Gun Runner S. Asmussen 57-1 25-1 20-1
11 Matt King Coal L. Rice 87-1 ———– 50-1
12 Mo Tom T. Amoss ———– 28-1 20-1
13 Mohaymen K. McLaughlin 11-1 4-1 7-2
14 Mor Spirit B. Baffert 31-1 12-1 12-1
15 Nyquist D. O’Neill 9-1 7-1 9-2
16 Riker M. Casse 99-1 ———– 50-1
17 Shagaf C. Brown ———– ———– 20-1
18 Smokey Image C. Gaines ———– 19-1 20-1
19 Suddenbreakingnews D.K. VonHemel ———– ———– 20-1
20 Swipe K. Desormeaux 18-1 ———– 20-1
21 Uncle Lino G. Sherlock ———– ———– 50-1
22 Whitmore R. Moquett ———– 81-1 50-1
23 Zulu T. Pletcher ———– 24-1 20-1
24 Mutuel Field 3-5 5-2 9-2

Santa Anita Handicap and San Felipe Previews

March 6th 2015 – Updated March 11th 2016

With the mass exodus of many of the top handicap division horses to Dubai for the $10 Million World Cup race on March 26th, Jimmy Jerkins’ Effinex (2nd place finisher in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic) is the odds-on favorite for this year’s Santa Anita Handicap coming up on Saturday March 12th. The San Felipe Stakes for 3 year-olds will be a support race at Santa Anita Park that same day and will be a very important prep race on the Kentucky Derby trail. Below are expected entries in both races.

Santa Anita Handicap Entries

1) Point Piper – The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained 6 year old finished 6th in the San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita back in January. In his last start, he finished 3rd at the Fairgrounds in the Mineshaft Handicap behind Majestic Harbor and Eagle. He has never raced beyond 1 1/8th mile distance. However, if you like longshots, he won the Harry F. Brubaker Stakes last August at Del Mar at 30-1 odds. He was also nominated for the San Luis Rey Stakes turf race to be run on Sunday.  

Career: 20 starts 4-5-3-0, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4 Pct: 60%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 93, 94 – 94.73 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 2015 Big Bear Stakes
Career Earnings: $172,135

2) Melatonin – He doesn’t have much experience racing past 6 1/2 furlongs. In his only start racing past one mile on dirt–a 1 1/16th mile at Santa Anita (incidentally his last start)–he turned in an impressive time of 1:41.97. Maybe he needed to be stretched-out all along. A sleeper? No pun intended, we will see.

Career: 10 starts 3-2-3-1, Win Pct: 30%, Top 3 Pct: 80%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 87, 91 – 91.7 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97
Career Earnings: $168,552

3) Donworth – A lightly raced 4 year-old trained by Doug O’Neill that seems to be coming into his own. He produced his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 104 with his 3rd place finish in his last start in the San Antonio Stakes. Although he seemed to lack the kick necessary in final furlong of that 1 1/8th mile race, it was his first start stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. He does has a pedigree for distance with his sire Tiznow having won the 2001 Santa Anita Handicap and the 2000 & 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic. And his damsire Street Cry who won the 2002 Dubai World Cup.

Career: 5 starts 2-1-2-0, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 104, 95, 93 – 97.3 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1042016 San Antonio Stakes
Career Earnings: $164,000

4) General a Rod – The Todd Pletcher-trained 5 year-old competed in all three Triple Crown races in 2014, finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby, 4th in the Preakness Stakes and 7th in the Belmont Stakes. He received a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 105 in his last start–a 1 1/16th mile race at Gulfstream Park on January 28th. He has never won a graded stakes race and has only competed in three races at a distance of 1 1/4th mile or longer (best finish being a 7th place finish in the 2014 Belmont Stakes).

Career: 14 starts 4-2-1-2, Win Pct: 28.5%, Top 3 Pct: 50%, Top 4 Pct: 64.3%
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 11th — 2014 Kentucky Derby
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 105, 82, 92 – 93 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – Allowance Opt. Claiming Race at Gulfstream Park 1/28/16
Career Earnings: $513.570

5) Effinex – You can make a valid argument that Effinex is really the top older male horse entering 2016 by his last two starts in 2015. In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he finished 2nd and ahead of Honor Code, Keen Ice, Tonalist, Frosted and Hard Aces. Then he won the Clark Handicap in November, besting Hoppertunity and Keen Ice (for a second time).

Career: 20 starts: 7-2-3-4, Win Pct: 35%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4%: 80%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.11 (calculated) – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 104, 112, 92 – 102.7 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1122015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $2,112,950

6) Cyrus Alexander – Another Jerry Hollendorfer-trained colt. He has only competed in two graded stakes races with his best finish being a 4th place in 1 1/16th mile Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita Park in June of 2015. He has never stretched out past 1 1/8th mile in his career.

Career: 12 starts: 3-4-2-1, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4%: 83.3%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 98, 92 – 95.7 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97
Career Earnings: $175,090

7) Hard Aces – He finished 4th in last year’s Big ‘Cap and produced his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 104 with his 6th place finish in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. The John Sadler-trained 6 year-old has a reputation of being lazy in workouts but with his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park last year, he has proven that he can win the big race.

Career: 28 starts 6-3-7-3, Win Pct: 21.4%, Top 3 Pct: 57.1%, Top 4 Pct: 67.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.01 (calculated) – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 95, 104 – 99 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $619,645

8) Imperative – He has two 100+ Beyer Speed Figures (104 & 102) at Santa Anita Park in 2016 already. The 6 year-old gelding hasn’t fared well in previous Big ‘Caps, finishing 7th and 8th respectively in 2014 and 2015. But he is gaining a nose for the finish line, having finished 2nd in his last three starts to Dortmund, California Chrome and Hoppertunity.

Career: 29 starts: 3-8-3-3, Win Pct: 10.3%, Top 3 Pct: 48.3%, Top 4%: 58.6%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.01 (calculated) – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2014 Gold Cup & 2014 Pacific Classic
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 105, 102, 97 – 101.3 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1052016 San Antonio Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,833,120

9) Class Leader – He has bounced between turf and dirt races recently. He has competed in a big graded stakes race at this distance before–the 1 1/4th mile  TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar last August and finished 7th. He is likely a backmarker in this field. He was also nominated for the San Luis Rey Stakes turf race to be run on Sunday.  

Career: 18 starts: 3-2-4-2, Win Pct: 16.7%, Top 3 Pct: 50%, Top 4%: 61.1%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.09 (calculated) – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 7th – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures:  93, 94, 93 – 93.3 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98
Career Earnings: $208,689

Past Performances can be accessed HERE.

Commentary: I expect this year’s Big ‘Cap to be an exciting race if the San Antonio Stakes is any indication of what is in store. As far as betting advice, right now I like a 5-8-3-7 Superfecta (Effinex-Imperative-Donworth-Hard Aces) but I also like a big 5-8 Exacta and a 5-8-3 Trifecta Box. Stay tuned….


The San Felipe Stakes

This year’s San Felipe Stakes, a tune-up race for the Santa Anita Derby, will feature four key horses on the Kentucky Derby trail with four former Kentucky Derby-winning jockeys riding them. Smokey Image will put his undefeated mark on the line against his stiffest competition to date in Mor Spirit, Exaggerator and Danzing Candy. These four horses represent 1/3rd of my Top 12 Kentucky Derby Contenders currently. The winner of San Felipe the past two years have went on to finish in the top 3 of the Kentucky Derby (California Chrome 2014 winner, Dortmund 3rd place finisher in 2015).

The San Felipe Stakes Entries – Race #7 – Post Time 5PM CST

1) Uncle Lino  – The Gary Sherlock-trained 3 year-old finished 2nd in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes behind Mor Spirit. He has fired two 90 Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts.

Career: 4 Starts 1-2-1-0
Sire: Uncle Mo
Jockey: Fernando Perez
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.45 (calculated) – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes

2) Danzing Candy  – He has won his last two starts but will be stepping up in class for the San Felipe Stakes and going an extra half furlong than he has raced to date. Still, he is a talented horse to keep an eye on.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0
Sire: Twirling Candy 
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.73 – Allowance Optional Claiming Race at Santa Anita Park 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Allowance Optional Claiming Race at Santa Anita Park  2/4/16

3) Mor Spirit  – Bob Baffert’s best 2 year-old colt. Winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity and Robert B. Lewis Stakes (winning time of 1:43.21). I feel he has been a bit overrated thus far as his times are way off what Dortmund produced last year in these two races. A win in this race will move him way up my contender list.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
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: 93 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes

4) Cupid  –  Another Bob Baffert-trained 3 year -old, Cupid is a half-brother to Mohaymen having shared the same sire Tapit. He won his last start impressively by 5 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita Park on February 7th.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-0-1
Sire: Tapit
Jockey: Martin Garcia 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.78 – Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita Park 2/7/16
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  88

5) I Will Score – A Jerry Hollendorfer-trained 3 year -old. He  finished 3rd in his last start, the Robert B. Lewis Stakes behind Mor Spirit and Uncle Lino.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Roman Ruler 
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.53 (calculated) – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes

6) Smokey Image  – The Carla Gaines-trained 3 year-old is undefeated in six starts, but five of his wins were at the 7 furlong distance or shorter. His win in the California Cup Derby only generated an 83 Beyer Speed Figure but he won it with ease by over 8 lengths. This Cal-bred may be a Kentucky Derby sleeper on the verge of breaking out. I like his future regardless.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Sire: Southern Image 
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.49 – California Cup Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85

7) Exaggerator  The Desormeaux brothers colt 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 and giving Mohaymen a good battle in the San Vicente Stakes. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). 

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-1 
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – San Vicente Stakes

Commentary: This race appears to be a battle between Mor Spirt, Exaggerator and Smokey Image. So right now I like a 3-6-7 Boxed Exacta.

I will update this blog by Saturday March 12th. And I will also be attending these races and will provide updates Friday evening March 11th.

I am also overdue for a Kentucky Derby Contenders update which I will post by Tuesday March 15th at the latest. I want to see how the San Felipe Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby races turn out as I feel five of the top twelve Derby contenders will be in action this coming Saturday.

–Michael

 

Undefeated Songbird makes it 6 in a row in the Santa Ysabel

March 5th 2016

Today at Santa Anita Park, Songbird churned out another familiar winning tune, extending her undefeated streak to six with a dominant performance in the 1 1/16th mile Santa Ysabel Stakes (shown below). What was most impressive is that she produced a final winning time of 1:43.02 so effortlessly.

It has been extremely clear since last October that this filly was as talented as any of the 2 year-old colts but her owner Rick Porter has insisted that he will not enter her in the Kentucky Derby stating: “Running in the Derby would just be for ego, and I’m over that. I would love to win the Derby, but with a really good colt.”

Instead, Songbird will be pointed towards the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 6th. However, don’t be surprised if she eventually contests the boys at some point in the fall if she continues to dominate the filly fields. But after the Kentucky Oaks, her owner stated in December that he is looking ahead and eyeing the Filly Triple Crown (aka the New York Filly Triple Tiara). Over the years, this has involved three of these four races: The 1-mile Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park June 11th, the 1 1/16th mile Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont on July 2nd, the 1 1/8th mile Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on July 24th and the 1 1/4th mile Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on August 20th.

One thing that is certain, there is a ton of Girl Power talent to look forward to watching this year with three-year-olds Songbird, Rachel’s Valentina and Cathryn Sophia. Then the older division stars like Beholder, Lady Eli, Tepin and Stopchargingmaria.

–Michael

 

Effinex to race in the Santa Anita Handicap. Is he the top active thoroughbred in the world?

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Effinex wins the Clark Handicap – Photo Credit: Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs

March 4th 2016

With a number of the top North American thoroughbreds like California Chrome, Frosted, Keen Ice and Hoppertunity making the trek overseas to Dubai this year for the $10 million Dubai World Cup, it has put a damper on the potential field for what once was the richest horse race in the world–The Santa Anita Handicap. The ‘Big Cap is a prestigious race, the very first to offer $100,000 purse and one that has attracted some notable great horses like Seabiscuit, Citation, Affirmed and Spectacular Bid.

Yesterday, Effinex was confirmed as an entry in the 79th running of the Santa Anita Handicap. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens contemplated taking Effinex to Dubai for the World Cup race but wisely opted to stay “home” and focus on winning the one of the crown jewels of horse racing.

With the retirements of American Pharoah, Honor Code, Liam’s Map, Tonalist, et al, you can make a valid argument that Effinex is really the top older male horse entering 2016, especially by his last two starts in 2015. Honor Code won the Eclipse Older Male award for 2015. Effinex finished 4th in the voting behind Honor Code, Liam’s Map and Tonalist. But in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Effinex finished 2nd and ahead of Honor Code, Keen Ice, Tonalist, Frosted and Hard Aces. Then he went on to win the Clark Handicap in November (shown below), beating two Dubai bound horses in Hoppertunity and Keen Ice (for a second time).

Effinex can be temperamental and act up on occasion. He is sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of thoroughbreds as Wynn Las Vegas had him at 30/1 odds to win the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic in their last update. But the Jimmy Jerkens-trained 5 year-old has proven that he is a fighter and has beaten some of the best. I consider him along with Beholder and California Chrome as one of the top three 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. A Santa Anita Handicap win could push him to #1 on my list.

Effinex – Career: 20 starts: 7-2-3-4, Win Pct: 35%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4%: 80%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.11 (calculated) – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 104, 110, 95 – 103 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1102015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $2,112,950

Effinex is expected to be joined by Imperative, up and coming Donworth and last year’s Gold Cup winner Hard Aces in the Santa Anita Handicap. Other nominations can be found HERE. I expect this year’s Big ‘Cap to be an exciting race if the San Antonio Stakes is any indication of what is in store.

Imperative – Career: 29 starts: 3-8-3-3, Win Pct: 10.3%, Top 3 Pct: 48.3%, Top 4%: 58.6%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.01 (calculated) – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2014 Gold Cup & 2014 Pacific Classic
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 105, 102, 97 – 101.3 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1072015 Charles Town Classic
Career Earnings: $1,833,120

Donworth  Career: 5 starts 2-1-2-0, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 104, 95, 93 – 97.3 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1042016 San Antonio Stakes
Career Earnings: $164,000

Hard Aces – Career: 28 starts 6-3-7-3, Win Pct: 21.4%, Top 3 Pct: 57.1%, Top 4 Pct: 67.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.01 (calculated) – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 94, 104 – 98.7 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $619,645

–Michael

 

Is Smokey Image the next California Chrome and a Kentucky Derby Sleeper?

Smokey Image - ca cup derby#2

March 1st 2016

Sometimes as handicappers on the Kentucky Derby trail, we get caught up too much in pedigrees and horses in the barns of the top trainers. But as we have seen in the past with horses like Mine That Bird and Funny Cide, sometimes all that is necessary to win Kentucky Derby is having a great horse. And having a great jockey helps too.

So this leads me to the race career of Smokey Image, the Carla Gaines-trained 3 year-old colt who is undefeated in 6 starts. It is probably necessary to mention here that no woman trainer has ever won the Kentucky Derby…so we are told.  It is believed that Mrs. Laska Durnell–the owner of the 1904 Kentucky Derby winner and Missouri-foal Elwood–secretly employed the services of Elwood’s breeder Mrs. J. B. Prather to train him for the Derby. Why? Because her husband and trainer Charles Durnell didn’t think the horse had a chance but she entered him anyway without her husband’s knowledge.  So throw out the whole “No woman trainer…” argument.

Until Smokey Image’s win in the 1 1/16th mile California Cup Derby, he had plenty of skeptics (me included) because his undefeated record came in races at a sprinter distance of 7 furlongs or less. But after the Cal Cup Derby win, Smokey Image is on most handicappers radar and in their Top 10 Kentucky Derby contender lists. However, he is not in anyone’s top 3 and is not in mine currently though I had him as one of five horses to consider for your Kentucky Derby Pool #2 Future Wager.

The majority of Kentucky Derby handicappers have a combination of Mohaymen, Nyquist, Mor Spirit and Brody’s Cause at the top of their lists. Cal-bred horses don’t typically garner a ton of respect as Kentucky Derby contenders as only four horses born in California have ever won the Kentucky Derby: Morvich in 1922, Swaps in 1955, Decidedly in 1962 and California Chrome in 2014.

But California Chrome’s career should have erased some of doubts about Cal-breds. So the burning questions are: Is Smokey Image the next California Chrome in the making and should he be considered a more serious Kentucky Derby contender? Let’s review some relevant facts:

  1. His jockey is Victor Espinoza, who has won the last two Kentucky Derbys with California Chrome in 2014 and American Pharoah in 2015. He also won the 2002 Kentucky Derby on War Emblem.
  2. Smokey Image’s sire was Southern Image, who won the 2004 Santa Anita Handicap, same 1 1/4 mile distance as the Kentucky Derby.
  3. On his mother’s side, his damsire was Free House who gave Silver Charm a battle finishing 3rd in the 1997 Kentucky Derby then won the Pacific Classic and Santa Anita Handicap (both at 1 1/4 mile distances) the following year in 1998 as a 4 year old.

So Smokey Image has a great jockey who has proven that he can win the Kentucky Derby (and a Triple Crown) and a pedigree that suggests that he will like stretching out to the 1 1/4 mile distance.

Smokey Image–Another California Chrome?

Smokey Image is being pointed towards the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 12th. He is following a similar pathway as California Chrome did in 2014 when Chrome raced in the Golden State Juvenile race, the California Cup Derby and the San Felipe Stakes. Chrome finished 6th in the Golden State Juvenile, won the King Glorious Stakes and won the California Cup Derby. However, his win in the San Felipe Stakes is what shot him to the top of the Kentucky Derby contender lists and made him a favorite in the final Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool.

Smokey Image won the Golden State Juvenile by 3/4 ths of a length and then put on this impressive performance in the 2016 California Cup Derby (shown below). He is still a little green as he has an unusual gait going through turns but he smoked the field and won by a tractor-trailer length. And note that he had such a huge lead that the Victor Espinoza eased him up a bit before the finish line.

Smokey Image’s winning time of 1:43.49 was less than 3 tenths of a second off of California Chrome’s winning time of 1:43.22 in the 2014 Cal Cup Derby (shown below). Smokey Image’s time through one mile was 1:36.59 vs. California Chrome’s 1:36.73.

Have we seen this before? Or are we blinded by philosophical methodologies and myopias of ranking the Kentucky Derby contending elite?

All eyes will be on the upcoming and expected Smokey Image vs Mor Spirit duel at Santa Anita Park on March 12th. A win against Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit in the San Felipe would rocket this horse up to the top of the Kentucky Derby contender charts. And perhaps, start a new Smokey Image craze. Irrespective of his Kentucky Derby chances, I see a big win in this horse’s future somewhere down the line if he stays healthy.

–Michael