A July Spectacular! Triple Crown Rematch Weekend. Plus updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings

July 27th 2016 – Updated July 30th 2016 1 PM CST

Usually July is a slow, dull month for the sport horse racing and it has been evident in previous year’s blog statistics. However, this year July has been one of the most exciting summer months for the sport in recent memory. And it is about to go out like a huge Fourth of July fireworks finale this weekend.

Last weekend, the California Chrome vs Dortmund battle in the San Diego Handicap proved to be one of the best horse races of the year thus far. With California Chrome’s win in the San Diego Handicap, he received the top Beyer Speed Figure (111) of the year for dirt races longer than one mile. And Dortmund received a 110 Beyer Speed Figure, the best of his career and tied for 2nd best this year for dirt races longer than one mile.

Then Carina Mia gave the sensational filly Songbird her best battle to date in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga (shown below). She received her career best Beyer Speed Figure (101) with the win. Songbird has now won nine straight races and drawing comparisons to the Queen of Thoroughbreds Zenyatta.


Triple Crown Rematches

This weekend, we will have two big rematches from this year’s Triple Crown races. An exciting Belmont Stakes rematch of Creator and Destin in the Jim Dandy Stakes on Saturday July 30th. Remember that Creator edged Destin at the wire by a nose. Mohaymen will also be entered so the Jim Dandy Stakes will live up to its name. 

Jim Dandy Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday July 30th 5:18 PM CST – Fox Sports 2

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Creator (123) – I. Ortiz/Asmussen – 3-1  
2. Laoban (117) – J.Ortiz/Guillot – 20-1
3. Mohaymen (121) – Alvarado/McLaughlin – 9-5
4. Destin (121) – Castellano/Pletcher – 2-1
5. Governor Malibu (117) – Rosario/Clement – 9-2
6. Race Me Home (117) – Saez/Romans – 15-1

Handicapping Advice:  Saratoga’s track surface seems to adversely affect some horses and very few of the horses in this field have much experience on it. Mohaymen hasn’t raced since the Kentucky Derby in early May, so knows how he will respond after a lengthy layoff. Creator and Race Me Home are both closers who depend on fast opening fractions that I am not sure either will get. In a small field of six horses, I suspect that they will be closer to the lead pack. Laoban has yet to win a race in 7 starts. Really, any of the other five horses in the field could win this race. With no clear favorite, the exotic bets should pay out nice. I am leaning towards Destin as the race winner. And I have a sneaky feeling that Dale Romans’ Race Me Home will surprise and be in the mix at the end. 

Then how about a Nyquist vs Exaggerator rematch in the Haskell Invitational on Sunday? Throw in Gun Runner into the mix and a 60% chance of rain and you’ve got potential for more great drama. The winner gets an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Haskell Invitational – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #12 at Monmouth Park – Post-Time: Sunday July 31st 4:47 PM CST –  NBC

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Nyquist (122) – I. Ortiz/ONeill – 6-5
2. Sunny Ridge (118) – Juarez/Servis – 20-1
3. Awesome Slew (118) – Lopez/Plesa – 15-1
4. Gun Runner (118) – Geroux/Asmussen– 4-1
5. American Freedom (118) – Bejarano/Baffert – 3-1
6. Exaggerator (122) – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 5-2

Handicapping Advice: I think Nyquist wins this one so long as he gets a dry track. If it rains and the track is sloppy, then I like Exaggerator. Gun Runner should be in the mix in either scenario and remember how well he battled Nyquist through 9 furlongs in the Kentucky Derby. American Freedom has won his last two starts in the Sir Barton Stakes and the Iowa Derby. Sunny Ridge hasn’t raced since his 4th place finish in the Withers Stakes back in March. Awesome Slew is probably overmatched in this field.

And for good measure, there will two other horses racing this weekend that are in my Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings: Beholder in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Saturday (Post-Time 7:33 PM CST) and Bradester in the Monmouth Cup on Sunday (Post-Time 2:29 PM CST).

So four horses in my Top 12 Breeders Cup Contender rankings (listed below) will be in action. 

As far as being major contenders in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, the 3 year-old class of 2016 really needs crank it up a notch to catch up with the older horses. Their times and Beyer Speed Figures are lagging behind. Perhaps this is the weekend we see this crop make huge gains. 


Updated Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders:

1)  California Chrome – He’s undefeated in four starts in 2016. With his Dubai World Cup win in March, he became the all-time North American leader in race earnings with $12.5 million dollars. In the San Diego Handicap, California Chrome displayed a fight that we have never seen before since he has usually won with ease. He is expected to be an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pegasus World Cup next January. But his next start appears to be another showdown at Del Mar on August 20th in the Pacific Classic vs Beholder and Dortmund.

Career: 22 Starts 13-3-1-1   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. His next start will likely be in the Pacific Classic on August 20th but that has not been confirmed.

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
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Kodiak Kowboy
Trainer: David Hofmans (1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Joe Talamo
Fastest 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) 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 this Saturday 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

5) 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, a head-scratching 6th place finish in the Stephen Foster but bounced back with a big win in the Suburban Handicap (shown below). His next start appears to be in the Whitney Handicap August 6th.

Career: 24 Starts 9-2-4-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>6th–>1st
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens 
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.04 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic

6) Dortmund Despite Dortmund’s impressive battle with the #1 ranked horse in the world in the San Diego Handicap, I put him 6th in my rankings because he still needs to prove himself beyond 9 furlongs. He has the pedigree for distance. His sire Big Brown won the 2008 Kentucky Derby. However, Dortmund has only raced once at the Classic distance of a miler and a quarter. That came in the 2015 Kentucky Derby where he finished 3rd behind American Pharoah and Firing Line. His next start may be a rematch vs California Chrome in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar August 20th.

Career: 11 Starts 8-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st>1st–>2nd
Sire: Big Brown
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) –  2015 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 101 – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 –2016 San Diego Handicap

7) Nyquist  – The 2016 Kentucky Derby winner missed the Belmont Stakes due to spiking a fever shortly after the Preakness Stakes. He will be an entry in 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 
Fastest 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

8) 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 originally was to start in the Jim Dandy Stakes on July 30th as a prep race for the Travers Stakes on August 27th. But he supposedly was training well and the Desormeaux brothers were hinting at skipping the Jim Dandy. But surprise, surprise, he will be entered in the Haskell Invitational vs Nyquist on July 31st.

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 
Fastest 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

9) Win the Space  A third place finish behind California Chrome and Dortmund in the San Diego Handicap was probably par for the course but I thought he ran a better in the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita. 

Career: 12 Starts 3-1-3-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts 0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Pulpit
Trainer: George Papaprodromou
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 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) 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. He was pegged to start in either the San Diego or Cougar II Handicap races at Del Mar this past weekend but spiked a fever and was scratched from both races.

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

11) Hard Aces – Still competitive as a 6 year-old, he won the Cougar II Handicap this past Sunday (shown below). He finished 6th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic after qualifying with a win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. He is a closer and performs best when the opening fractions are fast. And he is running well this year at Santa Anita–producing a 2nd place finish in both the Santa Anita Handicap and California Stakes to go with his most recent 3rd place finish in the Gold Cup race. The 105 Beyer he received in the Gold Cup was a career best. He will throw a clunker in along the way and is not an early Vegas favorite to win The Classic but he has “hit the board” potential if the race sets up well for his closing style.

Career: 33 Starts 9-6-5-3  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  1-1-1-1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Hard Spun
Trainer: John Sadler 
Jockey: Mario Pino
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.15 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

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


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

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


–Michael

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