Melatonin Wins The Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Updated 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Standings

MelatoninBigCap

June 26th 2016

Back in March when I attended the Santa Anita Handicap, there was some grumbling how this year’s Big ‘Cap had a dearth of talent since many of the top horses had traveled to Dubai for the Dubai World Cup. Then the 16-1 longshot Melatonin won the prestigious race and a number of bystanders groaned “Melatonin?”

Let’s just say, the lines for returning winning tickets that afternoon was rather short. But nobody is saying “Melatonin?” today or feeling shorted by their Big ‘Cap attendance because you can make a strong case that Melatonin is top horse in the world on dirt at the Classic distance of a a mile and a quarter. Why?

First, Melatonin’s winning Gold Cup time of 1:59.79 (shown below) is a time that California Chrome has never eclipsed at that distance. The only active horse who has produced a better time through 1 1/4 mile is Beholder who whose winning time in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar last August was 1:59.77. And Melatonin didn’t have the mild, near perfect San Diego weather to run in. He ran in extreme 90 degree heat yesterday at Santa Anita Park.

Secondly, Melatonin has consistently produced three 100+ Beyer Speed figures in a row: 107 in the Santa Anita Handicap, 104 in the Oaklawn Handicap and a 109 for his Gold Cup winning performance. That is a 106.67 average and only two other horses thus far this year (Noble Bird 110, Mexikoma 107) have produced a 107 or better Beyer in races more than a mile.

So this explains why he rocketed up from 9th to 3rd in my Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings below.

Here are my updated Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders:

1)  California Chrome – The #1 ranked race racehorse on dirt in the world by Longines (source). With his Dubai World Cup win in March, he became the all-time leader in race earnings with $12.5 million dollars. He returned to California to train under Art Sherman and is expected to be an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pegasus World Cup. He is training extremely well and is expected to be an entry in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 23rd.

Career: 21 Starts 12-3-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.93 (calculated) – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Frosted  He has set two track records thus far as a 4 year old. The first came at Meydan in the 1900 meter Al Maktoum Challenge in February. His most recent came in the 124th running of the Metropolitan Handicap with a time of 1:32.73 that resulted in the highest Beyer Speed Figure (123) of his career and the highest of any thoroughbred thus far in 2016. So now the question becomes, should he be entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile or The Classic? He was always viewed as a horse who like distance and never a “miler” prior to his stunning performance in the Met Mile. His next start appears to be in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on August 6th.

Career: 16 Starts 5-6-1-2  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-0-1-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: William Buick
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 103 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 123 2016 Metropolitan Handicap

3) Melatonin– The surprise winner of the 2016 Santa Anita Handicap. He proved his Big ‘Cap performance was no fluke by finishing 2nd behind Effinex in the Oaklawn Handicap and completing the Big ‘Cap-Gold Cup Double. His win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita assures him a spot in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is trained by David Hofmans who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1996 with Alphabet Soup. 

Career: 13 Starts 5-3-3-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0 (107.5 average Beyer)
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Kodiak Kowboy
Trainer: David Hofmans (1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Joe Talamo
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time:  1:59.79 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

4) Nyquist  – The 2016 Kentucky Derby winner missed the Belmont Stakes due to spiking a fever shortly after the Preakness Stakes. He is doing fine and probably will be a candidate for the Haskell Invitational on July 31st.

Career: 9 Starts 8-0-1-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Uncle Mo  
Trainer: Doug O’Neill 
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez 
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.31 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 103 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Kentucky Derby

5) Songbird – Undefeated in 8 career starts. Songbird missed the Kentucky Oaks due to a fever but proved in the Summertime Oaks that she is back and better than ever. She produced career her best time of 1:42.63 in a 1 1/16th mile race and traveled through the mile in 1:35.71. These times indicate to me that Songbird is a tenth or two faster than Beholder right now on the same Santa Anita track. And note that she is coasting home in her victories, so she has plenty more left in the tank. As a 2 year-old, she proved to be faster in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships than Nyquist or Exaggerator on the same track, same 1 1/16th mile distance, on the same day. She has #1 in the world potential. Her next start will come in the 1 1/8th mile Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on Sunday July 24th. It appears her schedule after this will be the 1 1/4 mile Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on August 20th and the 1 1/16th mile Cotillion Stakes at PARX on September 17th. An entry in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff entry seems more likely this year than The Classic.

Career: 8 Starts 8-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

6) Beholder After a stunning performance in the 2015 TVG Pacific Classic (shown below), she was #1 in many Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings last year. Beholder was entered in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic but was unfortunately scratched due to a fever. After a long layoff, she bounced back with an impressive win in the Adoration Stakes. But her last effort, although a win in the Vanity Stakes, may indicate that she has slipped a bit off her 2015 form because she seemed to labor to produce a winning of 1:35.97 in this one mile race. Her next start will come in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on July 31st.

Career: 22 Starts 17-3-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 10

Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Henny Hughes
Trainer: Richard Mandella (2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.772015 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic

7) Exaggerator His disappointing 11th place finish in the Belmont Stakes was a head-scratcher. Trainer Keith Desormeaux believes that Exaggerator didn’t take well to the sandy Belmont surface. His future plans are the Jim Dandy Stakes on July 30th as a prep race for the Travers Stakes on August 27th. But since he excels on a sloppy, off-track, I would love to see him entered in a turf race because usually these type of horses make great turf runners. And his closer style would fit well there too.

Career: 12 Starts 5-3-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>11th
Sire: Curlin (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux 
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.51 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 101 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Santa Anita Derby

8) Effinex – He finished 2nd to American Pharoah in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. For 2016, he has a 3rd place finish in the Santa Anita Derby, a win in the Oaklawn Handicap (shown below) and a head-scratching 6th place finish in the Stephen Foster Handicap. Reviewing his disappointing run in the Stephen Foster, Effinex got off to a poor start and had a bad trip being forced wide that mostly due to his poor start. He is a temperamental horse who has produced a few clunkers but is able to bounce back.  He had Gary Stevens as his jockey in the Stephen Foster but Mike Smith seems to have more magic on him.

Career: 23 Starts 8-2-4-3  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  2-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>6th
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens 
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.11 (calculated) – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic

9) Win the Space  He has bounced between dirt and turf and finally has found a home on dirt. His 2nd place Gold Cup performance proved that this 4 year-old colt was a diamond in the rough and is extremely talented. He produced a 2 minute mile and a quarter (very uncommon) and did so in 90 degree heat. In his start previous to the Gold Cup, he produced a lightning quick 8 1/2 furlong (1 1/16th mile) time of 1:41.55 as a closer. But in the Gold Cup race, Gary Stevens pressed him up on the pace and it paid off. So he proved that he is versatile in running style as well as fast. No word as to where his next start will be. 

Career: 11 Starts 3-1-2-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts 0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Pulpit
Trainer: George Papaprodromou
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:00.03 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 107 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 

10) Mubtaahij His 2nd place finish in the Dubai World Cup was a surprise performance for this enigmatic 4 year old colt who has yet to win a Grade 1 stakes race on US soil. He was transferred to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin for his US campaign in April. He has been working out at Belmont Park and is expected to be entered in the Suburban Handicap on July 9th. He’ll be the race favorite in that field.

Career: 12 Starts 4-2-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>4th–>2nd
Sire: Dubawi
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:03:15* (estimated 1 1/4 mile time from 2016 Dubai World Cup)
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

11) Hoppertunity – He finished 4th in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Bob Baffert admitted before the race that he wasn’t sure that he had him completely ready. Previous to this start, he finished 3rd (and just a neck from 2nd) in the Dubai World Cup. He is extremely consistent and probably would finish in the top 4 in any race no matter the talent in the field because he has never finished below 4th place in a graded stakes race. No word on when or where his next start will be.

Career: 20 Starts 5-6-4-4 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 1st>3rd–>4th
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.16 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 104 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

12) Bradester* – Although he has never raced beyond 1 1/8th mile, Bradester has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with a win in the Stephen Foster Handicap. He is 2-for-2 in 2016. He competed in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and had a disappointing 9th place finish. 5 of his career 9 wins have come at the 1 1/16th mile distance. So one wonders if he is better suited to for the 1 1/8th mile Pegasus World Cup than the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 23 Starts 9-6-2-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 9th>1st>1st
Sire: Lion Heart
Trainer: Eddie Kenneally
Jockey: Joe Bravo
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A (Estimate from Stephen Foster projected out: 2:01.53)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2015 Salvator Mile Stakes


Dropping out of my Top 12 rankings:

Creator – He proved that his Arkansas Derby win wasn’t a fluke with a surprise win in the Belmont Stakes. His next start appears to be in the Travers Stakes on August 27th.

Career: 10 Starts 3-4-1-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st>13th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.58 (calculated) – 2016 Belmont Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2016 Belmont Stakes


Keep an eye on….

Gun Runner He came within 0.08 seconds from setting a track record at Churchill Downs this past Saturday in the Matt Winn Stakes (shown below). His next start will come in the Travers Stakes on August 27th. This 1 1/8th mile distance seems to fit his running style the best. Gun Runner was 2nd and about a length or so from Nyquist at the 1 1/8th pole in the Kentucky Derby. He may be a better Pegasus World Cup contender

Career: 7 Starts 5-0-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st>3rd–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.03 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2016 Matt Winn Stakes


Below are the key upcoming races with “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Classic races in bold font:

July 9th – Suburban Handicap# – Belmont Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $500,000 – NBC
July 23rd – San Diego Handicap – Del Mar – 1 1/16th Mile – Purse: $200,000
July 30th – Jim Dandy Stakes* – Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000
July 31st – Haskell Invitational* – Monmouth Park – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
August 6th – Whitney Handicap – Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000
August 20th – Pacific Classic – Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000
August 27th – Travers Stakes* – Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000 – NBC
September 3rd – Woodward Stakes – Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 – NBCSN
October 1st – Awesome Again Stakes – Santa Anita – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $300,000 – NBCSN
October 8th – Jockey Gold Cup – Belmont Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
*****

November 5th- Breeders’ Cup Classic – Santa Anita  – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $6,000,000 – NBC

* – 3 year olds only
#- 4 year olds and up


–Michael

The 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Race Preview and Analysis

challenge

 

June 24th 2016

Coming tomorrow evening on NBC Sports (7 to 8 PM CST) is another very interesting “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Although it lacks a big name entry like a California Chrome or Frosted, this should be a very entertaining race that has an extremely competitive field top-to-bottom. There are also a few new shooters in this field that are intriguing. Plus, the Gold Cup will shed some more light on who the Breeders Cup Classic contenders are since this race will be run on the same track (Santa Anita) at the same distance (1 1/4th mile) as The Classic.

Two of the horses in this field–Hoppertunity and Melatonin–are ranked in my latest Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings at 7th and 9th respectively. Will Melatonin put them to sleep again like he did in the Big ‘Cap? The defending Gold Cup champion Hard Aces is another entry. Hard Aces appeared in my Breeders’ Cup Classic contender lists last year and he finished 6th in 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The Gold Cup at Santa Anita – 1 1/4th Mile – Race #9 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: Saturday June 25th 7:30 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Bal a Bali (120) – Prat/Mandella – 9-2
2. Second Summer (120) – Gutierrez/Eurton – 4-1
3. Hard Aces (122) – Gonzalez/Sadler – 6-1
4. Lieutenant Colonel (120) – Garcia/Hollendorfer – 8-1
5. Win the Space (120) – Stevens/Papaprodromou – 20-1
6. Hoppertunity (120) – Smith/Baffert – 3-1
7. Melatonin (124) – Talamo/Hofmans – 7-2
8. Imperative (117) – Bejarano/Howard – 6-1

Race Analysis

Hoppertunity – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 3 starts 0-1-1-1. The Baffert-trained 5 year old is probably the most proven and experienced horse in the field heading into this event. He finished 3rd in the Dubai World Cup and is extremely consistent. He has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race. But he rarely wins and especially after a layoff. Put him in your Trifectas and perhaps your Exacta bets. Show bets on Hopps are probably a sure bet here but won’t pay out very much.

Melatonin – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 1 start 1-0-0-0. If he runs like he did in the Santa Anita Handicap back in March, then he will win this one. He proved to me with his 2nd place finish to Effinex in the Oaklawn Handicap that his Big ‘Cap win wasn’t just a fluke performance. Key him to win along with Hard Aces in your Trifectas and Superfectas.

Second Summer – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 0 starts.  He is 4-1 for the morning line odds and I think those odds are way too short. He would have been beaten by Hard Aces in the California Stakes had it been 1 1/4 mile race instead of 1 1/8th mile. A 4th place finish in this field would be a great effort for this horse.

Bal a Bali – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 0 starts on dirt. Another South American project from highly respected trainer Richard Mandella. He did wonders with a Argentinian horse named Catch a Flight last year. Bal a Bali is a turf horse from Brazil making his first start on dirt. He is fast and should be a front runner in this race. In his last start on turf at 1 1/4 mile, he faded to a 4th place finish. I don’t expect anything different on dirt and think he is probably a better candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Hard Aces – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 5 starts 1-1-0-1. Last year’s Gold Cup winner. There is enough speed in this field to aide his closing style. Don’t be surprised if he wins again.

Imperative – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 8 starts 0-0-3-1. He finished 4th behind Melatonin, Hard Aces and Effinex in the Santa Anita Handicap. I really feel that this horse’s best distance is at 1 1/8th mile. So I don’t see him as a serious threat to finish 1st or 2nd here. Consider him for your Superfectas.

Lieutenant Colonel – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 0 starts. He got nipped for 2nd at the wire by Hard Aces in the 1 1/8th mile California Stakes. Before this race, he finished 4th in the The Tokyo City Cup. So distance is not a problem, just the talent he will have to deal with in this field. I wouldn’t put him in any of my trifectas.

Win the Space – Record at 1 1/4 Mile: 0 starts. At first glance, he is probably the worst horse in this field. He has bounced between turf and dirt and only has 4 starts on dirt tracks. However, in his last start, a 1 1/16th mile allowance race at Santa Anita on May 15th, he finished 1st and produced an impressive time of 1:41.55. That was faster than Melatonin’s 1:41.97 that he ran in a 1 1/16th mile allowance race at Santa Anita the race before he won the Santa Anita Handicap. And he has Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens as his rider. He is a closer and I feel that closers will have a shot in this race. So don’t discount the 20-1 longshot.

Overall, I feel this race is wide-open, there is no heavy favorite so expect better payouts than your average race. I am leaning towards a $10 Boxed Exacta of Melatonin, Hard Aces and Hoppertunity (7,3,6) but I have a feeling that we may get a surprise, unexpected result like we did in the Santa Anita Handicap back in March. I recommend seeing the live odds and how the horses look on the track around post-time before making any bets on this one.

–Michael

 

 

Updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings

June 19th 2016

Bradester became the first horse to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his surprise win in the Stephen Foster Handicap yesterday (shown below).

Coming this Saturday is another “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park. This race will be shown live on NBC Sports Network with coverage starting at 7PM CST. Rumored entries are: Melatonin, Hard Aces, Imperative and Second Summer. The 2016 Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin should be the race favorite.

Below are the key upcoming races with “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Classic races in bold font:

June 25th – Gold Cup at Santa Anita – Santa Anita Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $500,000
July 9th – Suburban Handicap – Belmont Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $500,000
July 30th – Jim Dandy Stakes – Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000
July 31st – Haskell Invitational – Monmouth Park – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000
August 6th – Whitney Handicap – Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000
August 20th – TVG Pacific Classic – Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000
August 27th – Travers Stakes – Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000
October 1st – Awesome Again Stakes – Santa Anita Park – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $300,000
October 8th – Jockey Gold Cup Invitational – Belmont Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000
*****
November 5th- Breeders’ Cup Classic – Santa Anita Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $6,000,000

Here are my updated Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders:

1)  California Chrome – The #1 ranked race racehorse on dirt in the world by Longines (source). With his Dubai World Cup win in March, he became the all-time leader in race earnings with $12.5 million dollars. He returned to California to train under Art Sherman and is expected to be an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pegasus World Cup. He is rumored to be an entry in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 23rd.

Career: 21 Starts 12-3-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.93 (calculated) – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 113 –2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Frosted  He has set two track records thus far as a 4 year old. The first came at Meydan in the 1900 meter Al Maktoum Challenge in February. His most recent came in the 124th running of the Metropolitan Handicap with a time of 1:32.73 that resulted in the highest Beyer Speed Figure (123) of his career and the highest of any thoroughbred thus far in 2016. So now the question becomes, should he be entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile or The Classic? He was always viewed as a horse who like distance and never a “miler” prior to his stunning performance in the Met Mile. His next start appears to be in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on August 6th.

Career: 16 Starts 5-6-1-2  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-0-1-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: William Buick
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 123 2016 Metropolitan Handicap

3) Nyquist  – The 2016 Kentucky Derby winner missed the Belmont Stakes due to spiking a fever shortly after the Preakness Stakes. He is doing fine and probably will be a candidate for the Haskell Invitational on July 31st.

Career: 9 Starts 8-0-1-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Uncle Mo  
Trainer: Doug O’Neill 
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez 
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.31 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 –2016 Kentucky Derby

4) Songbird Now undefeated in 8 career starts, Songbird proved in the Summertime Oaks that she is back and better than ever. She produced career her best time of 1:42.63 in a 1 1/16th mile race and traveled through the mile in 1:35.71. These times indicate to me that Songbird is a tenth or two faster than Beholder right now on the same Santa Anita track. And note that she is coasting home in her victories, so she has plenty more left in the tank. As a 2 year-old, she proved to be faster in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships than Nyquist or Exaggerator on the same track, same 1 1/16th mile distance, on the same day. She developed a low grade fever and unfortunately wasn’t entered in the Kentucky Oaks. She has #1 in the world potential. Her next start will come in the 1 1/8th mile Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on Sunday July 24th.

Career: 8 Starts 8-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

5) Beholder After a stunning performance in the 2015 TVG Pacific Classic (shown below), she was #1 in many Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings last year. Beholder was entered in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic but was unfortunately scratched due to a fever. She is the only horse in this group to have won with a sub 2 minute mile and a quarter. After a long layoff, she bounced back with an impressive win in the Adoration Stakes. But her last effort, although a win in the Vanity Stakes, may indicate that she has slipped a bit off her 2015 form because she seemed to labor to produce a winning of 1:35.97 in this one mile race. Her next start will come in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on July 31st.

Career: 22 Starts 17-3-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 10

Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Henny Hughes
Trainer: Richard Mandella (2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.772015 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic

6) Exaggerator His disappointing 11th place finish in the Belmont Stakes was a head-scratcher. Trainer Keith Desormeaux believes that Exaggerator didn’t take well to the sandy Belmont surface. His future plans are the Jim Dandy Stakes on July 30th as a prep race for the Travers Stakes on August 27th.

Career: 12 Starts 5-3-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>11th
Sire: Curlin (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux 
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.51 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Santa Anita Derby

7) Hoppertunity – After winning the 2016 San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita in February, he was shipped to Dubai where he finished 3rd (and just a neck from 2nd) in the Dubai World Cup. He is extremely consistent and somehow seems to always hit the board no matter the race and the competition. He has never finished below 4th place in a graded stakes race. No word on when or where his next start will be.

Career: 19 Starts 5-6-4-3  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-1-1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st>3rd
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.33 (calculated) – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 –2016 San Antonio Stakes

8) Effinex – He finished 2nd to American Pharoah in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. For 2016, he has a 3rd place finish in the Santa Anita Derby, a win in the Oaklawn Handicap (shown below) and a head-scratching 6th place finish in the Stephen Foster Handicap. Reviewing his disappointing run in the Stephen Foster, Effinex got off to a poor start and had a bad trip being forced wide that mostly due to his poor start. He is a temperamental horse who has produced a few clunkers but is able to bounce back. 

Career: 23 Starts 8-2-4-3  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  2-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>6th
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens 
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.11 (calculated) – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic

9) Melatonin – The surprise winner of the 2016 Santa Anita Handicap. He is trained by David Hofmans who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1996 with Alphabet Soup. He should be the race favorite for the upcoming Gold Cup at Santa Anita.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-3-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Kodiak Kowboy
Trainer: David Hofmans (1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Joe Talamo
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:02.01 – 2016 Santa Anita Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2016 Santa Anita Handicap

10) Mubtaahij His 2nd place finish in the Dubai World Cup was a surprise performance for this enigmatic 4 year old colt who has yet to win a Grade 1 stakes race on US soil. He was transferred to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin for his US campaign in April. He has been working out at Belmont Park and is expected to be entered in the Suburban Handicap on July 9th.

Career: 12 Starts 4-2-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>4th–>2nd
Sire: Dubawi
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:03:15* (estimated 1 1/4 mile time from 2016 Dubai World Cup)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97* estimated from Dubai World Cup

11) Bradester* – Although he has never raced beyond 1 1/8th mile, Bradester has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic as noted above. He competed in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and had a disappointing 9th place finish. 5 of his career 9 wins have come at the 1 1/16th mile distance. So one wonders if he is better suited to for the 1 1/8th mile Pegasus World Cup than the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career:23 Starts 9-6-2-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 9th>1st>1st
Sire: Lion Heart
Trainer: Eddie Kenneally
Jockey: Joe Bravo
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2015 Salvator Mile Stakes

12) Creator – He proved that his Arkansas Derby win wasn’t a fluke with a surprise win in the Belmont Stakes. His next start appears to be in the Travers Stakes on August 27th.

Career: 10 Starts 3-4-1-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st>13th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.58 (calculated) – 2016 Belmont Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2016 Belmont Stakes


Dropping out of my Top 12 rankings:

Dortmund  – The 2015 Santa Anita Derby winner drops out of my Top 12 due to the fact that he hasn’t raced since his Native Diver Handicap win in late November of last year. However, he is back in training at Los Alamitos and his next start is rumored to be in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 20th.

Career: 10 Starts 8-0-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Big Brown
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Martin Garcia (2014 Breeders’ Cup Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Santa Anita Derby

Noble Bird – After an impressive win in the Pimlico Special (shown below), Noble Bird followed up this effort with a disappointing 6th place finish in the Metropolitan Handicap. Although he qualified for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, he still hasn’t raced at the Classic 1 1/4 mile distance.

Career: 16 Starts 5-4-0-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>1st–>6th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special


Keep an eye on….

Gun Runner He came within 0.08 seconds from setting a track record at Churchill Downs this past Saturday in the Matt Winn Stakes (shown below). His next start will come in the Travers Stakes on August 27th. This 1 1/8th mile distance seems to fit his running style the best. Gun Runner was 2nd and about a length or so from Nyquist at the 1 1/8th pole in the Kentucky Derby. He may be a better Pegasus World Cup contender

Career: 7 Starts 5-0-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st>3rd–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.03 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2016 Matt Winn Stakes

–Michael

Effinex returns in the “Win and You’re In” Stephen Foster Handicap. Songbird back in action in the Summertime Oaks

challenge

June 18th 2016

With the Triple Crown season now over, the 2nd half of 2016 should be more exciting than the first. The first “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic starts tonight with the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. Effinex the morning line 1/1 favorite. Post time is 8:39 PM CST and the race will be shown on TVG.

Songbird returns in a 5 horse field for the 1 1/16th mile Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita Park. She is the 1/5 morning line favorite and should win this race with ease. Post time is 7:07 PM CST for race #8. I like a Straight 4-2 Exacta (Songbird-Bellamentary) but it probably won’t pay out much.

Stephen Foster Handicap – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #8 at Churchill Downs – Post-Time: 8:39 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. International Star (116) – Geroux/Maker – 6-1
2. Bradester (116) – Bravo/Kenneally – 5-1
3. Effinex (122) – Stevens/Jerkens – 1-1
4. Majestic Harbor (118) – Lanerie/McGee – 5-1
5. El Kabeir (115) – Santanta/Terranova – 12-1
6. Are You Kidding Me (118) – Leparoux/Attfield – 10/1
7. Eagle (117) – Hernandez/Howard – 6-1

Handicapping Advice: I like a $20 Straight Exacta 3-7 (Effinex-Eagle). Effinex is the race favorite. He can be inconsistent and 1 1/8th mile is not his best distance. But I think Effinex ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will have enough to cover this field.

Eagle finished 2nd to Majestic Harbor in his last start in the Alysheba Stakes (shown below). However, Majestic Harbor seems to excel more in 1 1/16th mile races. International Star seems to only run well at The Fairgrounds. El Kabeir has bombed his last two starts with 7th place finishes. Bradester is also inconsistent and has never won past 1 1/16th mile. A mile seems to be his best distance. The Roger Attfield-trained Are You Kidding Me has primarily run on turf and synthetic surfaces.

As far as Trifectas, how about a $5 bet keying Effinex to win–3 over 4,7 over 1, 4, 7? This bet would cost $20.

–Michael

Tepin beats the boys again, wins the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot

June 15th 2016

America has a new International Star. Her name is Tepin. Just like she did in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last October, the 5 year-old mare beat the boys again. This time in the prestigious Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot (shown below) with the 90 year-old Queen Elizabeth II in attendance.


The Mark Casse-trained mare overcame soft turf that she had little experience on, a straight mile, no turn configuration that she had never run before. But Tepin prevailed, holding off the live race favorite Belardo. She also ran without nasal strips and Lasix-two things banned from Ascot races.

Casse said “there were a lot of things stacked against today but in the end her greatness prevailed. A lot of people in the United States will be delighted with this result. I couldn’t even dream this – at the most remarkable place I’ve been to.”

This is the first time a US-based horse has won the Queen Anne and only the second time a US-based horse has won a Group 1 race at Royal Ascot.

The plan for Tepin is to return to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships this coming November to defend her Breeders Cup Mile title (shown below). But she might be a entry in another prestigious race in the UK–the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on July 27th with a purse of 1 Million British Pounds (equivalent to $1.4 Million US dollars).

There is little doubt now that Tepin is the best turf miler in the world. Ranked by Longines as the 11th best racehorse in the world before her Queen Anne Stakes win, Tepin is a serious candidate for American Horse of the Year along with Dubai World Cup winner California Chrome.

–Michael

Frosted etches his name in greatness with a sizzling Met Mile victory and track record

Frosted-1st-G1WoodMemorialStakes-Aqueduct-040415-ACcreditDaveAlcosser-11-HD

June 12th 2016

After setting a track record at Medyan in February for a 1900 Meter race, Frosted set yet another record on Saturday in the Metropolitan Handicap (shown below) with a event record time of 1:32.73. This is a significant accomplishment for two reasons. First, the 2016 Met Mile was the 124th running of race that was first run in 1891. Secondly, his time of 1:32.73 was just 0.53 seconds off the World Record for a dirt mile (1:32.2) set by Dr. Fagar in 1968. But Frosted is known as a horse who likes distance and had he been running in a 1 1/2 mile race on Saturday, he may have had a shot at breaking Secretariat’s world record for mile and a half that I will discuss later.

The Godolphin Racing 4 year-old didn’t have the most perfect trip being forced wide to make his move at the 3/4 pole but still won by a tractor-trailor length (14 1/4 lengths). This was really a jaw-dropping performance since Frosted has never been viewed as a “miler”. This race was really just a tune-up for the Tapit grey colt on his path to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships this fall.

Frosted received a 123 Beyer Speed Figure for his Met Mile win which ranks as tied for the 16th best Beyer Speed Figure ever recorded.

Below are the fifteen Beyer Speed Figures that rank above Frosted’s 123 since Andrew Beyer began assigning them in the mid 1970s. Ghostzapper, who has two BSFs in the top 15, won the 2005 Met Mile with a time of 1:33.20 and received a Beyer Speed Figure of 122 for his performance.

134 – Groovy – Belmont Park – 6 Furlongs – June 21st 1987 
131 – Groovy – Belmont Park – 6 Furlongs – June 6th 1987 
128 – Ghostzapper – Monmouth Park – 1 1/8th Mile – August 21st 2004 
126 – Formal Gold – Saratoga – 1 1/8th Mile – August 2nd 1997 
126 – Gentlemen – Pimlico – 1 3/16th Mile – May 10th 1997 
126 – Will’s Way – Saratoga – 1 1/8th Mile – August 2nd 2007 
125 – Formal Gold – Belmont Park – 1 1/8th Mile – September 20th 1997 
125 – Skip Away – Pimlico – 1 3/16th Mile – May 10th 1997
125 – Bertrando – Belmont Park – 1 1/8th Mile – September 18th 1993 
124 – Sunday Silence – Gulfstream Park – 1 1/4th Mile – November 4th 1989 
124 – Easy Goer – Gulfstream Park – 1 1/4th Mile – November 4th 1989 
124 – Ghostzapper – Lone Star Park – 1 1/4th Mile – October 30th 2004 
124 – Formal Gold – Monmouth Park – 1 1/16th Mile – August 23rd 1997
124 – Midnight Lute – Saratoga – 7 Furlongs – Sept 1st 2007 
124 – Artax – Gulfstream Park – 6 Furlongs – November 6th 1999

Note: Andrew Beyer speculated that had his figures existed in 1973, Secretariat would have scored 139 in his classic 1973 win at the Belmont Stakes.

Did Frosted have a shot at the world record for 1 1/2 Mile? 

Frosted is a horse whose pedigree and history suggests he likes races 1 1/8th mile or longer. He finished 2nd to American Pharoah in last year’s Belmont Stakes. Secretariat still holds the world record for a 1 1/2 mile race at 2:24 set in the 1973 Belmont Stakes (shown below). Secretariat’s fractional time at the mile mark in that race was 1:34.20. Had Frosted been entered in the 1 1/2 mile Brooklyn Invitational race instead of the Met Mile on Saturday, all Frosted needed to do was run another 1/2 mile in 51.26 seconds to break the world record. He ran the final 1/2 mile in last year’s Belmont Stakes in roughly 49.1 seconds while American Pharoah ran it in 48.66 seconds. The “rabbit” in this year’s Belmont Stakes and leader at the mile mark–Gettysburg–ran the last 1/2 mile in roughly 52 seconds flat.

It is interesting to speculate but I believe Frosted would have been in the mix for another world record had he been entered in the Brooklyn Invitational instead of the Met Mile this past Saturday. At the very least, I am confident that he would have broken that event’s record time of 2:26.

 

–Michael

 

2016 Belmont Stakes Entries, Odds and Analysis

June 10th 2016

Below are the entries, post-positions and morning line 0dds for the 148th running of the Belmont Stakes. Exaggerator is the morning line favorite at 9/5 odds. Expect his live race odds to lower. Suddenbreakingnews picks up Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith for this race.

As far as Triple Crown races, Suddenbreakingnews finished the closest to Exaggerator in terms of distance in lengths of any horse in the field with his 5th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Next closest would be Cherry Wine.

The only horse (in this field) who has beaten Exaggerator is Brody’s Cause who finished ahead of him twice as a 2 year-old in the Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile races at Keeneland.

Overall, there isn’t a lot of speed in this field. Trainer Todd Pletcher has two entries: Stradivari (4th place finisher in the Preakness Stakes) and Destin (6th place finisher in the Kentucky Derby). Todd Pletcher is the only trainer in this year’s Belmont Stakes to have won multiple Belmont Stakes races. He is one of the best at training horses for this 1 1/2 mile distance. Pletcher got a 2nd place finish out of a very average Derby trail horse in Commissioner in the 2014 Belmont Stakes.

So Destin, who hasn’t raced since the Kentucky Derby, and Stradivari should be two horses to watch out for and consider in your Trifectas. Stradivari’s sire Medaglia d’Oro finished 2nd in the 2002 Belmont Stakes by 1/2 length after a disappointing 8th place finish in the Preakness Stakes. Exaggerator’s sire Curlin lost by a head in the 2007 Belmont Stakes. I am predicting another win by Exaggerator. The Preakness Stakes was Stradivari’s first race in the slop and I feel that he is a big strong horse that will probably run better on a dry, fast track. So how about a Exaggerator-Stradivari Exacta?

Unless it is a wet race, I wouldn’t bother putting these three horses in your Superfectas: #7 Seeking The Soul, #8 Forever d’Oro and #9 Trojan Nation. They are all 30-1 for a reason because they aren’t fast enough to race with this caliber of competition. Jockey Paco Lopez is riding #6 Gettysburg and he is a very underrated jockey who sometimes can get surprise finishes out of longshots.

Betting Advice: This depends on if the race if run on a dry, fast track or in wet, sloppy conditions. If it is run on a wet, sloppy track, I would place win, place and show bets on Exaggerator and forget trying to come up with any combinations. Even on a dry, fast track, there are many unknowns so I wouldn’t recommend placing large sums of money on this race. I will probably play a $25 Exacta that would cost $50 that keys Exaggerator to win with two horses (4-Suddenbreakingnews and 5-Stradivari). So 11 over 4,5. Then take another $50 and make a Win bet on Exaggerator. But this depends on his live odds. I like win bets on Exaggerator at 4/5 or higher.

Below are post-positions and morning line odds for the 148th Belmont Stakes:

1) Governor Malibu (12/1) – He will assume a stalking position in this race. I consider him a serious play in Trifectas and Superfectas with the same trainer and jockey who propelled Tonalist to a 2014 Belmont Stakes victory. 

Career: 7 Starts 2-4-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire:  Malibu Moon
Trainer:  Christopher Clement (2014 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2014 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 83, 94 – 88.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Peter Pan Stakes

2) Destin (6/1) – A rested Todd Pletcher-trained horse could be dangerous in the Belmont. I like him for Superfecta plays. But he faded a bit down the stretch in the Kentucky Derby that is worrisome.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>6th
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  
TrainerTodd Pletcher (2007 & 2013 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 100, 93 – 96.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – 2016 Tampa Bay Derby

3) Cherry Wine  (8/1) – Although he finished 2nd in the Preakness Stakes, I would be concerned how he will perform on a dry, fast track.

Career: 9 Starts 2-2-2-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>3rd–>2nd
Sire:  Paddy O’Prado 
Trainer: Dale Romans 
Jockey:  Corey Lanerie
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 88, 96 – 92 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  97 – 2016 Preakness Stakes

4) Suddenbreakingnews (10/1) – With Mike Smith as his jockey and his penchant for making up considerable ground as a closer, he should be a candidate for your Trifectas and Superfectas. I really don’t understand why his morning line odds were set at 10/1 versus Destin’s at 6/1 when he finished ahead of him in the 1 1/4 mile Kentucky Derby.

Career: 9 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>2nd–>5th
Sire: Mineshaft 
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel
Jockey: Mike Smith  (2010 & 2013 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 94, 96 –  95 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 –  2016 Kentucky Derby

5) Stradivari (5/1) – I think he is a serious threat to win this race so long as it is on a dry, fast track. A candidate for your Exactas, Trifectas and Superfectas.

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-0-2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (Finished 2nd in 2002 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2007 & 2013 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2007 & 2012 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 100, 95 – 97.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100Keeneland Allowance Race 4/17/16

6) Gettysburg (30/1) – A longshot who is viewed as the potential pacesetter in the Belmont. He has very underrated Paco Lopez as his jockey. I like him best of all the 30/1 longshots for a Superfecta.

Career: 7 Starts 1-1-2-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>5th–>3rd
Sire:  Pioneerof the Nile
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Paco Lopez
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 87 – 87 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 87 – 2016 Arkansas Derby

7) Seeking The Soul (30/1) – The better of the two Dallas Stewart-trained horses but neither will hit the board on a dry, fast track.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>5th–>1st
Sire: Perfect Soul (IRE)
Trainer: Dallas Stewart
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 79, 88 – 83.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  88 – Churchill Downs MSW 5/29/201

8) Forever d’Oro (30/1) – 30/1 for a reason, see above. But he does have the pedigree to go long.

Career: 3 Starts 1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>5th–>1st
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (Finished 2nd in 2002 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Dallas Stewart
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 71, 81 – 76 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  81 – Belmont MSW 5/29/16

9) Trojan Nation (30/1) – He has yet to win a race and it won’t be this either. Don’t bother using him in Superfectas unless it is a wet race.

Career: 7 Starts 0-1-3-1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>16th
Sire:  Street Cry
Trainer:  Patrick Gallagher
Jockey: Aaron Gryder
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 93, 63- 78 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  93 – 2016 Wood Memorial

10) Lani (20/1) – A temperamental Japanese-trained horse who improved in his last start in the Preakness. A Superfecta candidate but not a threat to win.

Career: 8 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>9th–>5th
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Mikio Matsunaga 
Jockey:  Yukata Take
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 93 – 90 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Preakness Stakes

11) Exaggerator (9/5)  – He has never finished below 3rd as a 3 year-0ld. He has never finished below 2nd in his last three Grade 1 Stakes races. His live odds will go lower than 9/5. I think he will win but he is beatable. 

Career: 11 Starts 5-3-1-1 
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 2nd in 2007 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (2009 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 101, 101 – 101 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Santa Anita Derby

12) Brody’s Cause (20/1) – The only horse in this field who has beaten Exaggerator but this came as a 2 year-old. I haven’t been impressed with his 3 year-old campaign thus far. A candidate for your Superfecta.

Career: 7 Starts 3-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 7th–>1st–>7th
Sire: Giant’s Causeway 
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Luis Saez
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 91, 89 – 90 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – 2016 Blue Grass Stakes

13) Creator (10/1) – At 10/1, I expect his odds to go higher. Will he bounce back after a disappointing 13th place finish in the Kentucky Derby? He is a big roll of the dice.

Career: 9 Starts 2-4-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>13th
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 96, 76 – 86 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2016 Arkansas Derby


–Michael