2016 Awesome Again, FrontRunner and Zenyatta Stakes Previews. Will California Chrome be awesome again? Plus updated 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings

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September 27th 2016 – Updated October 1st 2016

Three very key “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships are coming up this Saturday at Santa Anita Park with the FrontRunner Stakes for the Sentient Jet Juvenile race, the Awesome Again Stakes for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Zenyatta Stakes for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. This block of races will be televised live on NBC Sports.

Below are the post-positions and morning line odds for all three races. 

The FrontRunner Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday October 1st – Race #6 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 5:00 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports.

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Gormley – Espinosa/Shirreffs – 8/1
2. Plum Daddy  – Smith/Callaghan – 6/1
3. Secret House  – Gonzalez/O’Neill – 20/1
4. Midnight Pleasure – Garcia/Ruis  – 6/1
5. Straight Fire  – Prat/Desormeaux – 9/5   
6. Klimt – Bejarano/Baffert – 6/5
7. Vibe – Desormeaux/Desormeaux  – 20/1    

Race analysis: This should be a battle between Klimt and Straight Fire. Straight Fire has the highest average Beyer Speed Figure (90) in his 3 starts of any 2 year-0ld thus far. However, he couldn’t stay with Klimt through 7 furlongs in the Del Mar Futurity so I don’t expect much will be different in 3+ weeks. But with 2 year-olds, you never know. Plum Daddy has won at 8 furlongs (1 mile). So if I were betting, I would probably place a small 6 over 2,5 over 2,5 Trifecta. But betting on 2 year-olds is risky due to their inconsistency.


The Awesome Again Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile – Saturday October 1st – Race #7 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 5:30 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports.

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. California Chrome (125) – Espinoza/Sherman -2/5
2. Dortmund (121) – Bejarano/Baffert -5/2
3. Hoppertunity (121) – Pratt/Baffert – 6/1  SCRATCHED
4. Win the Space (121) – Stevens/Papaprodromou -20/1
5. Soi Phet (121) – Desormeaux/Powell -30/1
6. El Huerfano (121) – Pedroza/Miller – 50/1  SCRATCHED
7. Hard Aces (124) – Gonzalez/Sadler  – 15/1

Race analysis: Dortmund is training well and I expect him to give California Chrome a better battle than he did in the Pacific Classic. The 9 furlong distance puts Chrome more in his crosshairs. However, this is California Chrome’s race to lose and exotics will payout next to nothing like they did in the San Diego Handicap if Chrome wins. So this is a better race to watch and than wager on. Especially with the two scratches.


beholder-distaff-2013

The Zenyatta Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday October 1st – Race #9 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 6:30 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports.

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Off the Board (121) – Pereira/Mandella – 30/1
2. Beholder (125) – Stevens/Mandella – 3/5
3. Vale Dori (121) – Bejarano/Baffert – 10/1
4. Tara’s Tango (123) – Garcia/Hollendorfer – 6/1
5. Stellar Wind (125) – Espinosa/Sadler  – 8/5

Race analysis: There are handicappers out there who believe that Beholder is prime to be upset again by Stellar Wind like she was in the Clement L Hirsch Stakes back on July 30th. I tend to believe that Beholder and Gary Stevens were caught off guard by that performance and will bounce back. That being said, you are better off laying down a large 2,5 Boxed Exacta. It seems very safe with this field.

If you want to try a Trifecta bet and are looking for a horse to round one out, I like Vale Dori better than Tara’s Tango. Vale Dori has raced against the boys in the UAE Derby back in March and finished 4th.


2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

After a very weird Pennsylvania Derby, with Nyquist and Exaggerator finishing 6th and 7th and behind Wild About Deb and My Man Sam, the 2016 Kentucky Derby class has faded down the stretch to new shooters. The only 3 year-old who is a serious threat to win “The Classic” this year is Arrogate. And note that 3 year-olds have won the Breeders Cup Classic only 9 times in 32 runnings of the race. That is only 28%. 

One thing I have been keeping an eye on is Beyer Speed Figures. Below is the Beyer Speed Figures for the last ten runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The average Beyer Speed Figure for this 10 year period was 113.4.

2015       American Pharoah (120)
2014       Bayern (113)
2013       Mucho Macho Man (112)
2012       Fort Larned (117)
2011       Drosselmeyer (104)
2010       Blame (111)
2009       Zenyatta (112)
2008       Raven’s Pass (110)
2007       Curlin (119)
2006       Invasor (106)

I think it is going to take a 112+ Beyer Speed Figure to win this year’s Classic. This was the Beyer Speed Figure that Effinex received for his 2nd place finish behind American Pharoah in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (BCC). American Pharoah’s highest Beyer Speed Figure entering last year’s classic was 109 before he reeled off a 120 to become the first Grand Slam winner of Thoroughbred racing. Bayern’s highest was 111 before he produced a career high 113 in the 2014 edition of the BCC. So a 109 Beyer Speed Figure could be a benchmark for 3 year-olds to be viewed as serious threats to win The Classic. The highest Beyer Speed Figure a 3 year-old has produced thus far at more than a mile distance is the 122 by Arrogate.

After the Awesome Again Stakes this Saturday, there is only one more “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders Cup Classic. The Jockey Gold Cup at Belmont Park on October 8th which will be shown on NBC.

And now onto the rankings. I have only ranked contenders through the Top 7 and separated them into different categories. I don’t think any of the horses outside of my Top 7 are serious threats to win at this point. Perhaps the Awesome Again Stakes and Jockey Gold Cup races may change my mind.

2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

The Big Three – West Coast Triumvirate

1)  California Chrome* – He’s undefeated in five starts in 2016. The all-time North American leader in race earnings with $13.25 million dollars. His win in the Pacific Classic was arguably the best performance of his career. Next Start:  The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park this Saturday October 1st.

Career: 23 Starts 14-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 6
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  4-1-1-0
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 & 2016 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 113 – 2016 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic & 2016 Pacific Classic

2) Arrogate – There is no doubt that Bob Baffert has a star colt in Arrogate who set a Travers Stakes and Saratoga track record (1:59.36) for a 1 1/4 mile race. His final quarter mile fraction was 23.84. American Pharoah’s final fraction in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was 24.60. Here are the best career final fractions of his competition in mile and a quarter races: California Chrome 24.44 2016 Pacific Classic, Melatonin 24.27 2016 Gold Cup race at Santa Anita, Beholder  24.65 2015 Pacific Classic. Arrogate will get a 4 pound advantage over California Chrome and older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I just need more than one great performance to elevate him higher over Chrome who is undefeated in 2016. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we will get that. Next Start: Bob Baffert indicated that he is going to train Arrogate up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic like he did with American Pharoah. 

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009 & 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.362016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Melatonin–  The Rodney Dangerfield of thoroughbreds because he gets no respect. At the Classic distance of a miler and a quarter, he is undefeated in two starts and has an average Beyer Speed Figure of 108. 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. He was originally pegged to start in the Pacific Classic but he wasn’t entered due to coming off a persistent illness. Next Start: He will train up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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 Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

Slim chance of winning, top picks for your Superfecta

4) Beholder Her 2nd place finish in the Pacific Classic was a commendable performance. However, she has slipped a bit off of her 2015 form where she had the stunning performance in the 2015 TVG Pacific Classic (shown below) that put her #1 in many Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings last year. Her trainer Richard Mandella said that he may opt for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff instead of The Classic. Until this decision is made, Beholder will stay in my rankings. Next Start:  The Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park this Saturday October 1st.

Career: 24 Starts 17-5-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 10
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
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 Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic

5) Dortmund Nice performances in the San Diego Handicap (2nd) and Pacific Classic (3rd), but he still needs to prove himself beyond 9 furlongs. He has the pedigree for distance. His sire Big Brown won the 2008 Kentucky Derby. The rumor mill suggests that he might be entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile over The Classic. if Beholder and Dortmund are entered in The Classic, Gary Stevens will most likely be Beholder’s rider. Next Start: The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park this Saturday October 1st.

Career: 12 Starts 8-1-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-2-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>3rd
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: 2:01.29 (calculated) – 2016 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 101 – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 –2016 San Diego Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 –2016 San Diego Handicap

6) Frosted  I moved Frosted back up 3 spots because I feel that the added rest after his disappointing Woodward performance will do him good. I still think he would be better suited for the Dirt Mile but that will be a tough race as well. He set the track record 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. As he has stretched out past a mile, his Beyer Speed Figures have declined (107 in the Whitney Stakes and 105 in the Woodward Stakes). But he got off to a bad start in the Woodward Stakes and that may have cost him a win. Next Start: He will train up to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

Career: 18 Starts 6-6-2-2    Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-0-1-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joel Rosario
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
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 123 – 2016 Metropolitan Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 123 2016 Metropolitan Handicap

7) Effinex – His 4th place finish in the Whitney Stakes was a disappointment. He finished 2nd to American Pharoah in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. For 2016, it is very clear that he has slipped a bit, only capturing wins in the Oaklawn and Suburban Handicaps. The Jimmy Jerkens-trained 5 year old can be enigmatic at times and prone to get off to bad starts (see 2016 Stephen Foster Handicap). But then he can bounce back with a nice performance like he had in the Suburban Handicap in July. Jockey Mike Smith seems to get the best out of him but Smith will ride Arrogate in The Classic. Next Start: The Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 8th.

Career: 25 Starts 9-2-4-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 6th–>1st–>4th
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 Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Oaklawn Handicap

Career Best Beyer Speed: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic

Not a serious threat to win but ‘hit the board’ potential

Hoppertunity – He kept his streak alive of finishing 4th or better in every graded stakes race in his career with a 4th place finish in the Pacific Classic. He is extremely consistent and you get the feeling that he would probably finish in the top 4 in any race no matter the talent in the field. Next Start:  The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park this Saturday October 1st.

Career: 21 Starts 5-6-4-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-1-1-3
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>4th–>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:  105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

Shaman Ghost – After rewatching his Woodward Stakes performance and also learning that had a post-race cough after his disappointing 5th place finish in the Suburban Handicap, I am once again a believer in this Jimmy Jerkens-trained son of Ghostzapper. When you watch the Woodward Stakes race (shown below), Shaman Ghost ran one helluva race. He displayed a willingness to fight for a win and also an ability to go wide and snake through traffic. This is a very talented 4 year-old with a bright future. His jockey Javier Castellano won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic on his father. Next Start: The Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 8th.

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.12 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: ? – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

Mubtaahij – This once enigmatic colt has been a fairly consistent in his last three starts. He finished 2nd in the Dubai World Cup behind California Chrome, 3rd in the Suburban Handicap and finished 2nd in a photo finish for the win in the Woodward Stakes. He appears to be a rail-runner which limits his options down the stretch and he has yet to win a Grade 1 stakes race. Next Start: The Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 8th.

Career: 14 Starts 4-3-1-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Dubawi
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.28 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 99 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

Qualified for ‘The Classic’ but would be longshots

Exaggerator The Slopmeister is dependent on a fast pace and an off track. If it rains in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, his odds will shorten.

Career: 15 Starts 6-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Start  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>11th–>7th
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 Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 101 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 103 – 2016 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Santa Anita Derby

Bradester*  Rumored to be entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He has never raced further than 9 furlongs.

Career: 25 Starts 10-6-2-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>8th
Sire: Lion Heart
Trainer: Eddie Kenneally
Jockey: Joe Bravo
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  101 – Stephen Foster Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2015 Salvator Mile Stakes

3 Year-Olds who could be big Classic contenders next year

American Freedom  He will be entered in either Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Las Vegas Dirt Mile.

Career: 6 Starts 3-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Pulpit
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.52 (calculated) – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 104 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2016 Travers Stakes

Connect  The surprise winner of the Pennsylvania Derby. He makes up for a disappointing 6th place finish in the Travers Stakes.

Career: 6 Starts 4-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>6th–>1st
Sire: Pulpit
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.84 (calculated) – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: ?? – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Pennsylvania Derby

Gun Runner  – A very consistent runner who could star as a 4 year-old. He is rumored to be an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Career: 10 Starts 5-1-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Start  0-0-2-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Candy Ride  
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:02.03 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes

Nyquist  – Probably a better fit for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at this point since he has faded down the stretch in two 9 furlong races.

Career: 11 Starts 8-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>4th–>6th
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

–Michael

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