Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings – Classic Empire still #1

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

January 31st 2017

The 2017 Kentucky Derby trail is in full swing with a new major contender added to the fray and Derby trail points leader, Classic Empire, set to race this coming Saturday in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. As I have said multiple times in my previous blogs, the 2017 Kentucky Derby class is a very talented and deep one despite the unexpected early retirement of Not This Time due to injury. So 2017 is going to be an exciting season for 3 year-olds and then we have two dynamic stars in Songbird and Arrogate in the older horse division. 

Below are my early favorites for the final Derby prep races. A lot can change over the next couple of months but these horses appear to be the front-runners right now. Note that Klimt, now under the training of Art Sherman, will not be pointed  towards the Kentucky Derby as he will be given time off :

Louisiana Derby – Lookin At Lee
Florida Derby – Classic Empire
Wood Memorial – Practical Joke
Santa Anita Derby – Mastery
Blue Grass Stakes – McCraken
Arkansas Derby – Uncontested

Below is my updated Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contender rankings. A few horses have moved up or down due to how they have been training:

2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Classic Empire – My early 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite due to the unexpected retirement of Not This Time. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). Note that very few Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners go on to win the Kentucky Derby. But it can be done. Street Sense and Nyquist accomplished this rare feat. Next Start: The Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: DNF–>1st–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

2) Mastery Mastery received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his very first start, the best Beyer Speed Figure for a first-time starter in this 2 year old class. He followed this impressive maiden victory with wins in the Bob Hope Stakes (87 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Los Alamitos Futurity (91 Beyer Speed Figure). His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 is the best so far from this class. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt.  Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.562016 Los Alamitos Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

3) Gormley He comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes–beating the race favorite Klimt. He followed this effort with a disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He is a talented horse and bounced back like I thought he would with a nice win and 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Sham Stakes on January 7th. Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>7th–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2017 Sham Stakes

4) Uncontested   My early Arkansas Derby favorite. The winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes produced a record-breaking time of 1:36.32 in sloppy conditions over this two-turn 1 Mile race at Oaklawn Park. He received a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. Add another half furlong of his prorated final fraction time of 12.84 and his time would have been 1:42.74 through 8 1/2 furlongs. For comparison, American Pharoah ran a 1:45.78 in the sloppy 8 1/2 furlong Rebel Stakes in 2015 at Oaklawn Park. Uncontested has a good pedigree. As a 2 year old, his sire Tiz Wonderful was undefeated in 3 starts and produced Beyer Speed Figures of 99 and 101 before taken off the Derby trail in January of his 3 year-old campaign due to injury. His grand sire Tiznow won two Breeders’ Cup Classics. His grandsire on his dam’s side, Lil E. Tee, won the 1992 Kentucky Derby. So he should like added distance and be one to watch closely going forward. I would rank him higher, just need a dry, fast track win for confirmation. Next Start: The Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on February 20th.

Career:3 Starts 2-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>4th–>1st
Sire:  Tiz Wonderful
Trainer: Wayne Catalano 
Jockey: Channing Hill
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.97 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2016 Smarty Jones Stakes

5) McCraken –  Undefeated in 3 starts, the son of Ghostzapper stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and passed with flying colors. As long as he stays healthy, pencil him in for the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 11th.

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.15 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

6) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But for now, he is really the most proven 2 year-old after Classic Empire. Next Start: The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

7) Three Rules – Surprisingly he was left off Mike Battaglia’s 2nd Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he ran 3rd in the early portion of the race and finished 6th after getting off to poor start out of the gate. Previously, he was undefeated in five starts at Gulfstream Park. His sire Gone Astray never raced further than 9 furlongs and his biggest win was the 2009 Pennsylvania Derby. Next Start: Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>6th
Sire: Gone Astray
Trainer: Jose Pinchin
Jockey: Cornelio Velasquez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.63 – 2016 Florida In Reality Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Florida Dr Fagar Stakes

8) Gunnevera – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner (shown below). His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Gunnevera’s winning time of 1:45.15 was the 4th fastest Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes in thirteen runnings at the 8 1/2 furlong distance. Exaggerator won last year’s Delta Downs Jackpot in sloppy track conditions with a time of 1:46.48. Next Start: The Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Dialed In
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.51 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  87 – Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes

9) Lookin At Lee – Much like Steve Asmussen’s Gun Runner was last year, a very consistent horse thus far. He finished 2nd behind Not This Time in the Iroquois Stakes, 2nd behind Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity and then 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Perhaps he will improve as a 3 year-old and he is training well at the Fair Grounds. His sire Looking At Lucky, finished 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Then as a 3 year old, he won the Rebel Stakes, finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby, finished 6th in the Kentucky Derby, then won the Preakness Stakes, the Haskell Invitational, the Indiana Derby and finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Next Start: An educated guess, the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds on February 25th.

Career: 6 Starts 2-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.52 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 83 – 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

10) Mo Town – The son of Uncle Mo, so that makes him Nyquist’s half-brother. The recent winner of the 9 furlong Remsen Stakes (shown below). His winning time of 1:51.58 was way off of what Mohaymen produced last year in this race at 1:50.69. However, he did display a decent closing speed of 36.09 mph in the final 3 furlongs. For comparison purposes, Classic Empire had a closing speed of 35.02 mph in the final 2 1/2 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. So keep a close eye on this one as a 3 year-old. Next Start: Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Anthony Dutrow
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.23 (estimated) – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.58 – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Remsen Stakes


 On the docket…

My next blog will preview the Holy Bull Stakes and the San Antonio Handicap. The Holy Bull Stakes is expected to include three of my top 10 Derby contenders in Classic Empire, Three Rules, Gunnevera. Expected entries in the San Antonio Handicap are Melatonin, Hoppertunity, Dalmore, Mor Spirit and Accelerate.

–Michael

Arrogate – the fastest North American thoroughbred since…

January 29th 2017

Arrogate won his 6th consecutive race yesterday in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in dominating fashion. Mike Smith admitted that he coasted him home in the final 100 yards. Now the next question is, who is going to be able to beat him in 2017? Nobody in my opinion.

In his last three starts, Arrogate has produced Beyer Speed Figures of 122 in the Travers Stakes, 120 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and 119 in the Pegasus World Cup. He just turned 4 years-old and thoroughbreds typically peak around 4 1/2 years-old.

Arrogate is undeniably fast, the #1 ranked horse in the world by Longines and he confirmed that yesterday. Out of curiosity, this led me to research the fastest thoroughbreds of the last 20 years to see how Arrogates rates with some of the best from this time frame.

Well, Arrogate is arguably faster than American Pharoah. He proved that in the Travers Stakes by setting an event and track record of 1:59.36. American Pharoah got upset by Keen Ice in the 2015 Travers. Both horses received Beyer Speed Figures of 120 in their Breeders’ Cup Classic races. American Pharoah’s previous best Beyer Speed Figure before the Classic was 109 in the Haskell Invitational. And then 105 in the Belmont Stakes before the Haskell.

You could argue that American Pharoah was never pressed in his Breeders’ Cup Classic run like Arrogate was with California Chrome and thus could have produced a faster time and higher Beyer Speed Figure (BSF).  And that he was on an upward plain and would have accomplished much more as a 4 year-old. I agree. However, he never produced two 120+ Beyer Speed Figures or matched Arrogates times at the 9 and 10 furlong distances.

So what North American Thoroughbred is Arrogate the fastest since? Answer: Ghostzapper and it isn’t real close. But note that Ghostzapper accomplished most of his eye-popping Beyer Speed Figures and times as a 4 year-old. Here is what Ghostzapper produced in 2004 as a 4-year-old:

Tom Fool Handicap – 7 Furlongs – 7/04/2004 – Time of 1:20.42 and BSF of 120
Philip H. Iselin Handicap – 9 Furlongs – 8/21/2004 – Time of 1:47.66 and BSF of 128
Woodward Stakes – 9 Furlongs – 9/11/2004 – Time of 1:46.38 and BSF of 114
Breeders’ Cup Classic – 10 Furlongs – 10/30/2004 – Time of 1:59.02 and BSF of 124

So it will be interesting to see what Arrogate accomplishes as a 4 year-old in 2017. It is unbelievable to think, that this horse who seemingly came out of nowhere, already ranks 3rd all-time in career earnings. He is just $3.66 million in race winnings behind California Chrome and should surpass him this year if he stays healthy. 


On the docket…

My next blog will be updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings. And I have a new rising 3 year-old star that I feel you need to keep a close eye on. I hope to have this blog out by next Friday evening at the latest and if time permits, race previews of the Holy Bull Stakes and the San Antonio Handicap. The Holy Bull Stakes is expected to include three of my top 10 Derby contenders in Classic Empire, Three Rules, Gunnevera. Expected entries in the San Antonio Handicap are Melatonin, Hoppertunity, Dalmore, Mor Spirit and Accelerate.

–Michael

2017 Pegasus World Cup Post-Positions and Morning Line Odds

pegasus-world-cup-logo

Updated January 28th 2017 11 am CST

Below are the post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds for the upcoming $12 Million Dollar Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the newly created richest race in the world. Post-time will be at 4:40 PM CST Saturday January 28th and the race will be aired by NBC with live coverage starting at 3:30 PM CST.

This race has a lot of unknowns since no horse will be allowed to use Lasix. But three horses in this field that I think have absolutely no chance of finishing in the Superfecta: War Envoy, Semper Fortis and Prayer for Relief.  Eragon is an unknown. I see nothing from his workouts and race history that make me believe that he will be a factor in the end. Arrogate and California Chrome will finish in the Top 4, so that leaves 8 other horses to round a Superfecta.

I have reviewed previous Donn Handicap races to form an opinion on what it will take to win this race. I think the race-winning time will be in the higher end of the 1:47 range. The only three horses in this field that have run a 1:47 and change through 9 furlongs is: California Chrome, Arrogate and Noble Bird. Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year and does well and wins often when he gets out to an early lead. Otherwise, he often packs it in and becomes a herd runner down the stretch. So he is feast or famine.

Gulfstream Park is a speed-favoring track and there is plenty of early speed in this field. In order to win this race, a horse will have to break sharply out of the gate, settle in and assume the ideal position of a stalker on the race leader. Otherwise, there will be too much traffic to deal with to get to the front.

Keen Ice has the talent to win this race but I like his chances in 10 furlong races better than 9 furlongs. He will have to break well and be pressed up closer to the race leader. If he is running mid-pack at the 3/4 mile mark, he won’t win because he doesn’t have the closing speed to beat Arrogate.

Although I preferred Chrome drawing a post inside of Arrogate, I still like an Arrogate-California Chrome (1-12) Boxed Exacta. Arrogate won’t have a weight advantage in this race as all horses will be assigned 124 pounds. However, realize that an Exacta in this race will probably pay out less than it did in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. A $1 Exacta (Arrogate-California Chrome) paid $5 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, so a $2 Boxed Exacta netted a $3 profit.

I have been reviewing work-out times for the field in order to make recommendations for Trifecta and Superfecta bets. This isn’t going to be a good race for Exotics unless the unexpected happens. If California Chrome and Arrogate’s live odds dip below 1/1, then Exotics won’t pay out much unless some other horse surplants one of the two for first and second. I just don’t see any other horse winning this one except Arrogate and Chrome. If Noble Bird or Neolithic jump out to any early lead, perhaps they could hang on and capture 2nd place.

A big win bet on Arrogate might be your best bet, especially if his live odds are higher than California Chrome’s. California Chrome will have the longest trip in the field starting from the outside post. Arrogate from the #1 post has the talent and ability to wire the field.

A sleeper to round out your Superfecta might be War Story. His workout times have better than his historical times and he is coming off a win in the 9 Furlong Queen County Stakes. Do I think he will finish 4th or better? Probably not but he has raced against top competition and he will have higher odds than a lot of horses in this field so that would help your superfecta payout. 

Shaman Ghost and Breaking Lucky are prime candidates to finish in the Superfecta and in the top half of the field. Breaking Lucky finished 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Shaman Ghost in the Clark Handicap, their last start. However, back in the Woodward Stakes last September, Shaman Ghost displayed better tactical speed and finished nearly a half-length ahead of Breaking Lucky. Shaman Ghost put a nice workout time of 47.70 for 4 furlongs in his last workout, Breaking Lucky had posted very consistent times around 1 min through 5 furlongs in his last two workouts. These two horses are very close but I like Shaman Ghost’s post-position better so I would give him the edge here.

My predicted order of finish*: 1) Arrogate, 2) California Chrome, 3) Keen Ice, 4) Shaman Ghost.

*That is, if Arrogate is 100% healthy and not bothered by his right hind foot. ESPN reported on January 26th: “Arrogate did develop an abscess on the inside of his right hind foot a few weeks ago. Baffert pointed out on Thursday, when Arrogate was paddock schooling before the races, that he has three-quartered that hind shoe — filing off the part of the shoe nearest the abscess — a common tactic used to try to prevent the abscess from being concussed by the shoe and becoming a quarter crack.”

Anyway, Shared Belief had a similar problem and raced just fine. I hope that I am wrong and that we see Chrome go out a winner. Chrome will have to have a 2 length lead at the 3/4 pole, a 1 & 1/2 length lead at the mile mark if he is going to win this if Arrogate is 100%. I am expecting a surprise or two. I don’t think this is a good bettor’s race..a better one just to sit back and watch.

2017 Pegasus World Cup Post-Positions & Odds

1) Arrogate (7/5) – Arrogate is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

2) Prayer For Relief (50/1) –  A way past his prime 9 year-old who has never won a Grade 1 race. He finished 9th in his last start, the 2016 Clark Handicap. His last win came in December 2013 in the Tenacious Handicap at The Fairgrounds. He will need more than prayers in this one to pull off the upset.

Career: 45 Starts 8-6-10-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 21 Starts  4-1-4-3
Last 3 starts: 6th–>5th–>9th
Sire: Jump Start
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Trainer: Dale Romans
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.60 (calculated) – 2012 Strub Stakes  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2012 Tenacious Handicap

3) Neolithic (30/1) – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee. He finished 2nd in the 2016 Discovery Stakes (shown below) in mid November but won an 8 1/2 furlong allowance race on December 14th at Gulfstream Park with a nice time of 1:41.58.  This was just 0.61 seconds off the track record. He received a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort. 

Career: 7 Starts 2-3-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.78 (calculated) – 2016 Discovery Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16

4) Noble Bird (25/1)  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

5) War Story (50/1) – The 5 year-old gelding has raced against top competition over his career with very little success. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic and 8th in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his last two starts, he finished 4th in the 2016 Cigar Mile and then won the 9 furlong Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct on December 17th.

Career: 17 Starts 4-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 4 Starts  1-0-2-0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>4th–>1st
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Jorge Navarro
Jockey: Antonio Gallardo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.39 (calculated) – 2015 Louisiana Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106

6) War Envoy (50/1) – Primarily a European turf runner throughout his career, War Enjoy did compete in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile finishing last and the 1 mile Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar (shown below) last August where he finished 5th.

Career: 21 Starts 2-3-4-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 5th–>8th–>6th
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Craig Dollase
Jockey: Luis Saez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  N/A on dirt
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 on turf

7) Shaman Ghost (20/1) – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. However, this has yet to be confirmed. The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old. 

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey:  Jose Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

8) Semper Fortis (50/1) Named after the US Navy’s moto which in Latin means “Always Strong,” this Doug O’Neill-trained colt finished 2nd in the Los Alamitos Derby (shown below) back in September. However, he then followed with a disappointing 6th place finish in the 7 furlong Malibu Stakes on December 26th. 

Career: 12 Starts 2-4-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>6th
Sire: Distorted Humor
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.50 (calculated) – 2016 Los Alamitos Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 

9) Keen Ice  (12/1) – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

10) Breaking Lucky (25/1) The 5 year-old won the Seagram’s Cup at Woodbine last August (shown below) and finished 2nd to Gun Runner in his most recent start, the 2016 Clark Handicap.

Career: 16 Starts 3-4-3-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>8th–>2nd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Reade Baker
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:48.94 (calculated) – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105

11) Eragon (50/1) – The Argentinian horse was purchased by James McIngvale who had originally purchased a spot in the Pegasus World Cup for Runhappy. Runhappy was retired after the Breeders’ Cup so McIngvale went to South America to find a horse to fill his spot. The recently turned 6 year-old has won three Grade 1 races in South America.  He has raced on turf and dirt and appears to be a better Miler.

Career: 20 Starts 10 wins, 3 Grade 1 wins in South America
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Offlewild
Trainer: Laura Wohlers
Jockey: Edgar Prado
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  N/A

12) California Chrome (6/5) – 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs. But I preferred him having an inside post on Arrogate as he historically has had problems running outside of horses.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic


On the docket…

My next blog will be updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings.

–Michael

My picks for the 2016 Eclipse Awards and Race of the Year

 20161104_162834

January 20th 2017

The 46th annual Eclipse Awards will be aired live tomorrow evening (January 21st) on TVG2 network at 7 PM CST. Below are my picks to win each award. I have purposely left out the Steeplechase Award because I am not fond of that form of horse racing and do not follow it. I have underlined the selections that I think are slam dunks.

With the other awards, strong arguments could be made for one of the other nominees. Especially the Male Turf award between Flintshire and Highland Reel. Highland Reel won the Breeders Cup Turf race, his only start on North American soil in 2016. Whereas, Flintshire was the top turf male in North America all year long until the Breeders Cup World Championships.

Horse of the Year – California Chrome
Older male – California Chrome
Older female – Beholder
3-year-old male – Arrogate
3-year-old female – Songbird
2-year-old male – Classic Empire
2-year-old female – Champagne Room
Male sprinter – A.P. Indian
Female sprinter – Finest City
Male turf – Flintshire
Female turf – Tepin
Owner – Juddmonte Farms
Trainer – Chad Brown
Breeder – WinStar Farm
Jockey – Mike Smith
Apprentice Jockey – Lane Luzzi

My pick for 2016 Race of the Year?

There were many great races in 2016. It was another very exciting season for horse racing with California Chrome winning the Dubai World Cup, Frosted setting a Met Mile track record, Arrogate setting a track record and event record in the Travers Stakes, Creator beating Destin by a nose in the Belmont Stakes, the Breeders Cup Juvenile and Breeders Cup Classic races, the pack of four crossing the finish line in the Woodward Stakes with Shaman Ghost winning by a head, etc.

But for me, the Race of the Year was the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff which pitted the 3 year-old rising star filly Songbird vs the 6 year-old mare Beholder who was making the last start of her career. Beholder won by a nose. This race has to be one of the Top 10 Breeders’ Cup races in the history of the event.

I witnessed the dramatic ending along the rail just past the finish-line. Nobody knew who won at the time. And I am still not 100% sure it was that close. But I will say that I was happy for Beholder and Gary Stevens. I think Beholder will go down as one of the Top 100 North American thoroughbreds of all-time. It was a very fitting ending to a great career.

Below are some of the pictures and video I shot.

“The Finish”

Post Race

The Crowned Champion Beholder

Gallery


On the docket…

My next couple of blogs will be on the Pegasus World Cup and updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings.

–Michael

The 2017 Pegasus World Cup Field Is Set

pegasus-world-cup-logo

January 17th 2017

UPDATE January 21st 2017 :  Gun Runner, who was rumored to take War Envoy’s spot in the Pegasus World Cup field, is likely not going to be cleared by Gulfstream Park in time to be an entry in the Pegasus World Cup. Gun Runner is currently stabled at the Fairgrounds who has had quarantine in place since December 26th due to an outbreak of equine herpesvirus.

We are now 11 days away from the newly created richest horse race in the world–the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Invitational–set for Saturday January 28th. The race winner will receive $7 million of the $12 million dollar purse. The race be aired on NBC with coverage beginning at 4:30 PM EST. Below are the expected entries. If a horse is scratched in this race, they can be replaced by a”B” horse that is entered in the undercard Poseidon Stakes that will be run at the same 9 furlong (1 1/8th mile) distance.

Overall, with California Chrome and Arrogate entered, this will be an interesting rematch and must-watch TV. However, color me a bit disappointed in the quality of depth in the field and the lack of compelling support races for this event. This is a great concept that is perfectly situated between the NFL Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl and right before the thoroughbred breeding season begins in February.

The Pegasus World Cup is getting a huge boost this year due to the inclusion of the most popular horse in North America currently in California Chrome in a Breeders’ Cup Classic rematch at 9 furlongs vs Arrogate. However, for this race to take off in the future, it is going to require more involvement from the top owners in the sport. This means, stop retiring horses in their prime after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. And it will need better quality support races, namely Derby trail races for 3 year-old fillies and colts.

2017 Pegasus World Cup Entries & Projected Odds

1) California Chrome (1/1) – He will win the 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. I like his chances in a rematch with Arrogate if he draws an inside post position. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Arrogate (7/5) – Arrogate is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands. It appears that he may potentially get a tuneup at Santa Anita Park before the Pegasus World Cup as he is rumored to be entered in San Pasqual Stakes on January 1st.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Keen Ice  (15/1) – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

4) Shaman Ghost (20/1) – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. However, this has yet to be confirmed. The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old. 

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey:  Jose Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

5) Noble Bird (25/1)  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

6) Neolithic (25/1) – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee. He finished 2nd in the 2016 Discovery Stakes (shown below) in mid November but won an 8 1/2 furlong allowance race on December 14th at Gulfstream Park with a nice time of 1:41.58.  This was just 0.61 seconds off the track record. He received a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.  His jockey in that race was Javier Castellano who will most likely be the rider for Keen Ice. So perhaps Jose Lezcano, who was his jockey in the Discovery Stakes, will pick up this ride.

Career: 7 Starts 2-3-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.78 (calculated) – 2016 Discovery Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16

7) Breaking Lucky (30/1) The 5 year-old won the Seagram’s Cup at Woodbine last August (shown below) and finished 2nd to Gun Runner in his most recent start, the 2016 Clark Handicap.

Career: 16 Starts 3-4-3-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>8th–>2nd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Reade Baker
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:48.94 (calculated) – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: Unknown

8) War Story (40/1) The 5 year-old gelding has raced against top competition over his career with very little success. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic and 8th in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his last two starts, he finished 4th in the 2016 Cigar Mile and then won the 9 furlong Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct on December 17th.

Career: 17 Starts 6-4-5-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-2-0-0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>4th–>1st
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Jorge Navarro
Jockey: Antonio Gallardo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.39 (calculated) – 2015 Louisiana Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes

9) Eragon (40/1) – The Argentinian horse was purchased by James McIngvale who had originally purchased a spot in the Pegasus World Cup for Runhappy. Runhappy was retired after the Breeders’ Cup so McIngvale went to South America to find a horse to fill his spot. The recently turned 6 year-old has won three Grade 1 races in South America.  He has raced on turf and dirt and appears to be a better Miler.

Career: 20 Starts 10 wins, 3 Grade 1 wins in South America
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Offlewild
Trainer: Laura Wohlers
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  N/A

10) Ralis (50/1) The Doug O’Neill-trained colt started off his career racing on dirt and showed plenty of promise as a 2 year-old after winning the 2015 Hopeful Stakes (shown below). He then bombed in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race finishing 14th and the 2016 Rebel Stakes where he finished 14th. He was taken off the Derby trail and entered into in the Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day where he finished 10th. He was then switched to turf where the best he could muster were three second place finishes before a 9th place finish in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf race won by Highland Reel.

Career: 16 Starts 2-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: None on Dirt, 4 on Turf
Last 3 starts:  2nd–>6th–>9th
Sire: Square Eddie
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  N/A on Dirt  – Turf  1:47.49 – 2016 Rainbow Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 97 – 2016 Del Mar Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – 2016 Del Mar Derby

11) War Envoy (50/1) – Primarily a European turf runner throughout his career, War Enjoy did compete in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile finishing last and the 1 mile Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar (shown below) last August where he finished 5th.

Career: 21 Starts 2-3-4-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 5th–>8th–>6th
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Craig Dollase
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: Unknown

12) Prayer For Relief (60/1) –  A way past his prime 9 year-old who has never won a Grade 1 race. He finished 9th in his last start, the 2016 Clark Handicap. His last win came in December 2013 in the Tenacious Handicap at The Fairgrounds.

Career: 45 Starts 8-6-10-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 21 Starts  4-1-4-3
Last 3 starts: 6th–>5th–>9th
Sire: Jump Start
Trainer: Dale Romans
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.60 (calculated) – 2012 Strub Stakes  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2012 Tenacious Handicap


On the docket…

What was the most exciting horse race in 2016? There were many great ones but in my next blog, I will unveil my vote for most exciting race in 2016 with corresponding unpublished photos and video that I captured of this race. Plus I’ll give my picks for the Eclipse Award winners that are coming up Saturday January 21st.

–Michael

2017 Pegasus World Cup Expected Entries

pegasus-world-cup-logo

Updated January 16th 2017

We are now less than two weeks away from the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Invitational–now the richest horse race in the world with a $12 Million Dollar purse. Below are the expected entries followed by other possible entries based upon chatter I have heard within the sport. Connect’s owner Paul Pompa Jr said recently that Connect would not be pointed for the Pegasus World Cup. The Chad Brown-trained colt will be pointed towards the 2017 Met Mile at Belmont Park in June to start his 4 year-0ld campaign.

2017 Pegasus World Cup Expected Entries 

1) California Chrome – He will win the 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. I like his chances in a rematch with Arrogate if he draws an inside post position. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Arrogate – Arrogate is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands. It appears that he may potentially get a tuneup at Santa Anita Park before the Pegasus World Cup as he is rumored to be entered in San Pasqual Stakes on January 1st.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Keen Ice  – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

4) Shaman Ghost – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. However, this has yet to be confirmed. The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old. 

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey:  Jose Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

5) Noble Bird  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

6) Neolithic  – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee. He finished 2nd in the 2016 Discovery Stakes (shown below) in mid November but won an 8 1/2 furlong allowance race on December 14th at Gulfstream Park with a nice time of 1:41.58.  This was just 0.61 seconds off the track record. He received a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.  His jockey in that race was Javier Castellano who will most likely be the rider for Keen Ice. So perhaps Jose Lezcano, who was his jockey in the Discovery Stakes, will pick up this ride.

Career: 7 Starts 2-3-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.78 (calculated) – 2016 Discovery Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16

7) War Story The 5 year-old gelding has raced against top competition over his career with very little success. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic and 8th in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his last two starts, he finished 4th in the 2016 Cigar Mile and then won the 9 furlong Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct on December 17th.

Career: 17 Starts 6-4-5-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-2-0-0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>4th–>1st
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Jorge Navarro
Jockey: Antonio Gallardo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.39 (calculated) – 2015 Louisiana Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes

8) Eragon – The Argentinian horse was purchased by James McIngvale who had originally purchased a spot in the Pegasus World Cup for Runhappy. Runhappy was retired after the Breeders’ Cup so McIngvale went to South America to find a horse to fill his spot. The recently turned 6 year-old has won three Grade 1 races in South America.  He has raced on turf and dirt and appears to be a better Miler. Now the question is, who will be his jockey? Gary Stevens would have been a great fit here but he is recovering from hip surgery.

Career: 20 Starts 10 wins, 3 Grade 1 wins in South America
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Offlewild
Trainer: Laura Wohlers
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  N/A

Other Expected Entries: Breaking Lucky, Prayer For Relief, Ralis and War Envoy


On the docket…

What was the most exciting horse race in 2016? There were many great ones but in my next blog, I will unveil my vote for most exciting race in 2016 with corresponding unpublished photos and video that I captured of this race. Plus I’ll give my picks for the Eclipse Award winners.

–Michael