Final 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

March 30th 2017Updated April 2nd 2017 5:20 PM EST

Below are the morning line odds for the final 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) Pool #4 which can be found HERE. The Future Wager Pool will run from Friday March 31st 12 PM EST to Sunday April 2nd 6 PM EST. Be sure to see my live odds commentary towards the bottom of this article as I will update this section with my thoughts over the weekend. 

I have included each horse’s Brisnet Speed Figure and finish in their last start, which is usually their 2nd to last before the Kentucky Derby. 

# Horse – M/L Odds – Brisnet Speed Figure in Last Start
1. Always Dreaming – 50-1  (84)  – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2. Battalion Runner – 30-1 (96) – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
3. Battle of Midway – 50-1 (92) – 1st in an Allowance race at Santa Anita Park
4. Classic Empire – 12-1 (92) – 3rd Place in the Holy Bull Stakes
5. Cloud Computing – 15-1 (100) – 2nd in the Gotham Stakes
6. El Areeb – 30-1 (91) – 3rd in the Gotham Stakes  Scratched
7. Girvin – 30-1 (98) – 1st in the Risen Star Stakes
8. Gormley – 20-1 (91) – 4th in the San Felipe Stakes
9. Guest Suite – 50-1 (93) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes
10. Gunnevera 6-1 (102) – 1st in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
11. Iliad – 15-1 (94) – 2nd in the San Felipe Stakes
12. Irish War Cry 15-1 (76) – 7th in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
13. J Boys Echo – 10-1 (104) – 1st in the Gotham Stakes
14. Malagacy – 30-1 (95) – 1st in the Rebel Stakes
15. McCraken – 6-1 (99) – 1st in the Sam F. Davis Stakes
16. Mo Town – 50-1 (86) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes
17. One Liner – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Southwest Stakes
18. Practical Joke – 12-1 (95) – 2nd in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
19. Reach the World – 50-1 (91) – 2nd in an Allowance race at Santa Anita Park
20. State of Honor – 50-1 (96) – 2nd in the Tampa Bay Derby
21. Tapwrit – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Tampa Bay Derby
22. Thunder Snow (Ire) – 15-1 (Unknown) – 1st in the UAE Derby
23. Untrapped – 50-1 (93) – 2nd in the Rebel Stakes
24. Mutuel Field/All Others 10-1

Below are the last 15 Kentucky Derby winners and their Brisnet Speed Figure in their 2nd to last start before the Kentucky Derby (which is where we are at today). Compare the horses above to the previous winners below. 

2016: Nyquist (103) – 1st in San Vicente Stakes 
2015: American Pharoah (99) – 1st in Rebel Stakes
2014: California Chrome (102) – 1st in San Felipe Stakes
2013: Orb (102) – 1st in Fountain of Youth Stakes
2012: I’ll Have Another (102) – 1st in Robert B. Lewis Stakes
2011: Animal Kingdom (96) – 2nd place finish in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2010: Super Saver (99) – 3rd in Tampa Bay Derby
2009: Mine That Bird (87) – 2nd in the Borderland Derby
2008: Big Brown (102) – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2007: Street Sense (105) – 1st in the Tampa Bay Derby
2006: Barbaro (104) – 1st in the Holy Bull Stakes
2005: Giacomo (96) – 2nd in the San Felipe Stakes
2004: Smarty Jones (109) – 1st in the Rebel Stakes
2003: War Emblem (105) – 1st in an Allowance race at Sportsman Park
2002: Monarchos (108) – 1st in the Florida Derby

The common denominator is a 3rd place finish or better in their 2nd to last Derby prep and a Brisnet speed figure of 87 or higher. With this information, the following pool horses who didn’t satisfy both requirements:

# Horse – M/L Odds – Brisnet Speed Figure in Last Start
1. Always Dreaming – 50-1  (84)  – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
8. Gormley – 20-1 (91) – 4th in the San Felipe Stakes
9. Guest Suite – 50-1 (93) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes
12. Irish War Cry 15-1 (76) – 7th in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
16. Mo Town – 50-1 (86) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes

This has been a wide-open year on the Kentucky Derby trail with injuries and inconsistency. Based upon historical trends, the horses below are the only ones who I would plunk money down on in a Future Wager. I have Bold-Fonted the most serious Kentucky Derby contenders. You should wait to see how Girvin and Gunnevera perform this Saturday before making any future wagers on them.

# Horse – M/L Odds – Brisnet Speed Figure in Last Start
1. Always Dreaming – 50-1  (84)  – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2. Battalion Runner – 30-1 (96) – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
4. Classic Empire – 12-1 (92) – 3rd Place in the Holy Bull Stakes
13. J Boys Echo – 10-1 (104) – 1st in the Gotham Stakes
14. Malagacy – 30-1 (95) – 1st in the Rebel Stakes
15. McCraken – 6-1 (99) – 1st in the Sam F. Davis Stakes
17. One Liner – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Southwest Stakes
21. Tapwrit – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Tampa Bay Derby

8 1/2 Furlong Times – 1:43 and Under

The most common distance that the Kentucky Derby class has run thus far is 8 1/2 furlongs (1 1/16th mile). Four out of the last five Kentucky Derby winners all had a winning time below 1:43 in an 8 1/2 furlong race during their prep season. 

Nyquist  – 1:43.79 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
American Pharoah  – 1:41.95 – 2014 FrontRunner Stakes
California Chrome – 1:40.59 – 2014 San Felipe Stakes
Orb – 1:42.24 – 2013 Fountain of Youth Stakes
I’ll Have Another – 1:40.84 – 2012 Robert Lewis Stakes

What KDFW Pool #4 horses satisfy this rule?

One Liner – 1:41.85 – 2017 Southwest Stakes
Tapwrit – 1:42.36 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby
McCraken – 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Irish War Cry – 1:42.52 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes
Classic Empire – 1:42.60 – 2016 Breedes’ Cup Juvenile

Note that McCraken beat Tapwrit in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and Irish War Cry beat Classic Empire in the Holy Bull Stakes. However, Irish War Cry pooped out in his last start with a 7th place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.  And Always Dreaming has never raced at the 8 1/2 furlong distance but already has at the 9 furlong distance twice.

Overall, the fastest two horses in this class by their top speed figure are:  One Liner (102 Beyer, 101 Brisnet and 117 E-Speed) in the 2017 Southwest Stakes and  Classic Empire (102 Beyer, 108 Brisnet and 108 E-Speed) in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Classic Empire is a bit of a gamble. He has had his prep race after the Holy Bull Stakes pushed back several times by a foot abscess problem and refusing to workout on several occasions at his Palm Meadows training center. However, he is back in training at a different facility. The best value horse based upon their morning line odds is Malagacy at 30-1. However, he didn’t race as a 2-year-old, something that every Kentucky Derby winner has done since 1998. 

My Advice for KDFW Pool #4

Bet on the three horses below. 

#1 Always Dreaming, #7 One Liner and #15 McCraken

Note that if McCraken and One Liner don’t finish third or better in their final prep, they may be on the outside looking in as far as to getting into the Kentucky Derby. McCraken has 20 points, One Liner has 10. They will likely need 30 to 35 points to be assured of a Kentucky Derby starting spot. Last year it took 32 points to get a starting spot in the Derby. At this time last year, Nyquist had 30 points and Exaggerator 26. Nyquist won the Florida Derby, Exaggerator won the Santa Anita Derby. Nyquist and Exaggerator finished 1-2 in the Kentucky Derby.

UPDATED ODDS – April 1st 5:20 PM EST

Below are the top live odds horses in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool. What you should strive to achieve is 3X greater odds than what you would get on Kentucky Derby day because of unknown post-position draws and unexpected injuries and performances along the way:

Gunnevera – 8/1  <— Not impressive in the Florida Derby, don’t waste your money
McCraken – 5/1 <—A serious contender but I like him at 9-1 or higher.
Always Dreaming – 6/1 <–Impressive Florida Derby performance.
Classic Empire – 9/1 <— Odds way too low based upon his temperamental past.
Tapwrit – 10/1 <—He’s assured a spot in the Derby but he’s not Pletcher’s best colt

Value picks:  Malagacy – 16-1 and One Liner – 18/1 

What horses are assured a Kentucky Derby starting spot? Thundersnow (100)Gunnevera (64), Tapwrit (54), Malagacy (50), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50), Hence (50), Fast and Accurate (50), Practical Joke (34), Untrapped (34) and Classic Empire (32).


On the docket…

My next blog will include updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings which I will post by Monday evening.

–Michael

2017 Louisiana and Florida Derby Previews

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

March 29th 2017 – Updated April 1st 2017 12:30 PM EST

Another huge weekend on the Derby trail is coming up this Saturday with the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby. Both races offer 170 Kentucky Derby points each.  Points are awarded as follows: 1st=100 points; 2nd=40 points; 3rd=20 points; 4th=10 points. Race favorites Gunnevera (64) and Girvin (50) have both clinched a spot in the 2017 Kentucky Derby field.  

Kentucky Derby Bubble Watch

The horses below are on the bubble. I have put the finish they will need this Saturday in order in order to get into the Kentucky Derby field.

Needs a 3rd place finish or better: State of Honor (22), Guest Suite (15)

Needs a 2nd place finish or better:  Three Rules (10), Local Hero (10), Talk Logistics (6) and any other horse in the Louisiana and Florida Derby fields that are not named above as they have scored zero Derby points.

Sub 1:50 Time

What you are really looking for in these two races is a winning time of less than 1:50 as seven out of the last ten Kentucky Derby winners posted a sub 1:50 in their final 9 furlong prep race. Nine out of ten had a sub 1:51 time.

Below are the starting fields and odds.

The Louisiana Derby  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #11 at Fair Grounds – Post-Time: 5:21 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse//Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Patch – Gaffliaone/Pletcher – 9/2 
2. Hollywood Handsome  – Torres/Stewart -12/1
3. Local Hero  – Geroux/Asmussen – 7/2 
4. Senior Investment  – Hill/McPeek – 12/1 
5. Monaco – Maragh/Pletcher – 12/1 
6. Guest Suite – Albarado/Howard – 4/1 
7. Sorry Erik – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 30/1 
8. Girvin – Hernandez Jr/Sharp – 8/5
9. Hotfoot – Stevens/Van Berg – 30/1

Race Commentary: Girvin was the surprise winner of the Risen Star Stakes. I don’t think he is a fluke as he demonstrated excellent closing speed in that race. I like him again in this race. However, as we have seen thus far on the Derby trail, inconsistency has reigned supreme. Todd Pletcher’s has entered Patch and Monaco in the field. Overall, I feel that Patch is his best horse in this field. Pletcher has been a very hot trainer of late on the Derby trail. Patch’s sire Union Rags who won the 2012 Fountain of Youth Stakes and finished 3rd in the Florida Derby as a 3-year-old. I am not sure how good Patch is. However, I had the same questions about One Liner and Malagacy that were answered in the Southwest and Rebel Stakes.

My Prediction: 1) Girvin, 2) Patch, 3) Guest Suite, 4) Local Hero. However, I would probably key Girvin to win over Patch, Guest Suite, Local Hero and Senior Investment in a Superfecta bet. That is 8 over 1, 3, 4, 6 over 1, 3, 4, 6 over 1, 3, 4, 6.  A 50 cent bet of this type would cost $12.


The Florida Derby  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #14 at Gulfstream Park – Post-Time: 5:40 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. State of Honor – Leparoux/Casse – 8/1  
2. Talk Logistics  – Bravo/Plesa – 30/1  
3. Charlie The Greek –  Reyes/Yanakov – 50/1 
4. Always Dreaming – Velazquez/Pletcher – 4/1 
5. Quinientos – Montalvo/Sanchez – 50/1
6. Coleman Rocky – Ortiz/Delgado – 30/1
7. Unbridled Holiday – Juarez/Biancone – 30/1 
8. Impressive Edge – Lanerie/Romans – 12/1 
9. Battalion Runner – Velazquez/Pletcher – 3/1  SCRATCHED
10. Three Rules – Saez/Pinchin – 8/1
11. Gunnevera – Castellano/Sano – 9/5

Race Commentary: Gunnevera is the most talented colt in this disappointing field. However, he will have to overcome the far outside post. Trainer Todd Pletcher will scratch either Always Dreaming or Battalion Runner and run one of them in another Derby prep race. The rumor mill says Battalion Runner was entered as a backup to Always Dreaming. However, I like Battalion Runner’s chances of winning better than Always Dreaming.

My Prediction:  With Battalion Runner getting scratched, I would key Gunnevera to win over State of Honor, Three Rules, Always Dreaming and Talk Logistics. That is #11 over, 1, 2, 4 and 10. A 50 cent bet of this type would cost $12. 


On the docket…

My next blog will include updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings which I will post by Monday evening.

–Michael

Arrogate – Is he really the greatest racehorse since Secretariat?

Arrogate-BCC2016-1

March 27th 2017

In a post-race interview, trainer Bob Baffert called Dubai World Cup winner Arrogate “the greatest racehorse since Secretariat.” At that moment, I wasn’t prepared to disagree. That is quite a statement but Bob Baffert IS one of the greatest trainers in the world. 

Now that I have had more time to think about this, I think Arrogate could possibly be the greatest racehorse on dirt since Secretariat. He is the #1 ranked horse in the world and he confirmed his ranking with his brilliant come from behind win in the Dubai World Cup. With the Dubai win, Arrogate is also the highest earning racehorse in North American history with over $17 million in career winnings.

For comparison purposes, I prepared career summaries of Arrogate along with four other horses that I generally feel were the best since Secretariat. These are Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew, Affirmed and American Pharoah as well as Spectacular Bid who came up short on his Triple Crown bid. No I didn’t forget about Forego, John Henry, Ghostzapper, Curlin, Zenyatta and a number of other great horses we have seen since 1973. I just feel the four horses below generally are considered to be best since Secretariat was retired.

Among the pertinent stats, I have listed each horses career earnings and also provided an inflation adjustment conversion into 2017 dollars. I used the year each horse retired as a starting point for the inflation adjustment. Obviously, there is no inflation adjustment necessary for Arrogate.

Arrogate  – In 2016, he was the Breeders’ Cup Classic champion, 3-year-old American Male Champion and IFHA World’s Best Racehorse. 2017 Pegasus World Cup and 2017 Dubai World Cup.

Career: 8 Starts 7-0-0-0 (87.5% win percentage – 4 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:46.83 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: N/A
Career Earnings: $17,084,600
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $2,135,575

The Four Best Racehorses Since Secretariat

In chronological order

Seattle Slew* 1977 Triple Crown Champion and Horse of the Year. The only Triple Crown winner to finish the series undefeated. He beat 1978 Triple Crown Champion Affirmed and three-time Horse of the Year Forego in the 1978 Marlboro Cup Invitational. He also finished ahead of Affirmed in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Bio Video

Career: 17 Starts 14-2-0-1 (82.4% win percentage – 8 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:45.801979 Marlboro Cup Invitational Handicap
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:58.60 – 1978 Woodward Stakes
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:27.21* (estimate-lost by a nose) – 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Career Earnings: $1,208,276 ($4,515,412 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $265,612

Affirmed*  1978 Triple Crown Champion, 22 wins in 29 career starts. Finished in the Top 3 in all but one start. Horse of the Year in 1978 and 1979. Bio Video

Career: 29 Starts 22-5-1-0 (75.9% win percentage – 14 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.80 – 1978 Jim Dandy Stakes
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:58.40 – 1979 Hollywood Gold Cup
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:26.80 – 1978 Belmont Stakes
Career Earnings: $2,393,818 ($8,032,249 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $276,974

Spectacular Bid Eight times in his career he either matched or set a track record. He holds the North American record for 1 1/4 mile races on dirt with a time of 1:57 4/5. He was the last horse to be named American male dirt champion at age 2, 3 and 4. He won Horse of the Year honors in 1980. He may have won a Triple Crown in 1979 had he not stepped on a safety pin at Belmont. Bio Video

Career: 30 Starts 26-2-1-1 (86.7% win percentage – 12 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:45.801980 California Stakes
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:57.801980 Charles H. Strub Stakes
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:27.40 – 1979 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Career Earnings: $2,781,608 ($8,223,398 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $274,113

American Pharoah 2015 Triple Crown Champion, the very first winner of the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing. American Champion 2-Year-Old Male (2014) and American Champion 3-Year-Old Male (2015), 2015 Horse of the Year and IFHA World’s Best Racehorse in 2015. Since most Triple Crown winners and even those who nearly miss are immediately retired to the stud farm, you have to project out how you think they would fare in the future. Considering that he produced a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 120 in his last start in Breeders’ Cup Classic, I think he would have been even better as a 4 year-old.

Career: 11 Starts 9-1-0-0 (81.8% win percentage – 8 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:00.07 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:26.652015 Belmont Stakes
Career Earnings: $8,650,300 ($8,890,666 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $808,242

*-indicates Triple Crown Winner

The Verdict

I don’t believe that Arrogate can be considered as the best racehorse since Secretariat at this point. He is certainly talented enough and could very well be when all is said and done. However, we still need to see more. All the above horses have won at least eight Grade 1 races, Arrogate has four Grade 1 wins. Arrogate was a late bloomer, his legs needed time to catch up to his big body much like Zenyatta. Therefore he didn’t go through the rigors of a Triple Crown run–something I highly value in determining greatness in a thoroughbred– because he wasn’t physically mature enough.

Unfortunately, I doubt that we will ever see Arrogate run a 1 1/2 mile (12 furlong) race due to a insufficient purse sizes. The Brooklyn Invitational at Belmont in June would be Arrogate’s best bet but it only carries a $400,000 purse. So probably will never be able to compare him at the 12 furlong distance to Secretariat and other greats who raced in the Belmont Stakes.

Last year, Arrogate won the IHFA Best Racehorse in the world but lost to California Chrome North American Horse of the Year honors. American Pharoah, whom Baffert trained, was able to win both awards in 2015 and the very first Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing.

Overall, I would rank Arrogate in the Top 20 greatest North American racehorses of all-time right now due to the simple fact that he is the highest earning racehorse in North American history. However, Arrogate still has more work to do to be considered the greatest since Secretariat. His times through 9 and 10 furlongs don’t rival Seattle Slew or Spectacular Bid. I think he needs to win at least four more Grade 1 races as all the above four horses have accomplished. He also needs to sweep Horse of the Year honors in 2017. 

For now, its plenty OK to just be the best racehorse in the world. And the sport of horse racing in North America has been extremely blessed to have great horses like Arrogate, American Pharoah, California Chrome and Songbird the past few years. Arrogate’s future race entries will make it an extremely interesting year after the Triple Crown races are over.

–Michael 

Arrogate – spectacular in the Dubai World Cup

DWC Logo

March 26th

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the transitive verb Arrogate: “to claim or seize without justification.” It makes a great name for a racehorse. But I am not sure it applies to the Bob Baffert-trained horse named Arrogate. 

Lost in this weekend national college hoops frenzy was a totally impressive performance yesterday by the #1 ranked horse in the world–Arrogate–in the Dubai World Cup (shown below). Arrogate got off to a poor start. When I initially saw this, I thought he surely would get beat today because he is going to have to win with a closer race style that he was unaccustomed to. But Arrogate proves once again to be a very special horse and Mike Smith a great jockey.

Trainer Bob Baffert, who trained the first Grand Slam Champion of thoroughbred racing in 

American Pharoah, hinted in a post-race interview that Arrogate is possibly the best racehorse since Secretariat. As someone who was would normally want to attack such a claim, I was not totally prepared at that moment to disagree. The first thing that popped into my head was the fact that Man o’War and Secretariat were both reddish chestnut colts. Arrogate is a gray or roan colt. That is extremely weak, I know, but its the best I had at the moment.

Arrogate’s last four starts have resulted in a Travers Stakes track record, a Breeders’ Cup Classic championship, a Pegasus World Cup and a Dubai World Cup with Beyer Speed Figures of 122, 120, 119 and 115. He is now the highest earning racehorse in North American race history, already earning over $17 million dollars, in 8 career starts.

Overall, I would like to see him race at least three more times before I am sold on the fact that he’s the best since Secretariat. But for now, he’s undeniably the best racehorse in the world.

–Michael

Arrogate attempts to become the richest racehorse in North American history

DWC Logo

 

March 24th 2017

Tomorrow, the Bob Baffert-trained 4-year-old Arrogate, the #1 ranked thoroughbred in the world by Longines, attempts to become the highest-earning thoroughbred in North American history in the $10 million dollar 2017 Dubai World Cup. If Arrogate wins, he will earn $6 million with a 1st place finish which will push his career race winnings to $17 million dollars. Thus, he would surpass California Chrome’s $14.75 million.in career race winnings.

The Dubai World Cup is a 2000 Meter race which is slightly less than 1 1/4th mile. NBC Sports Network will provide live coverage of the Dubai races from 8:30 to 11:30 AM.

Besides Arrogate, the Dubai World Cup field of 14 includes a few names familiar to North American race fans: 2016 Kentucky Derby runners Gun Runner and Lani, 2015 Kentucky Derby runner Mubtaahij who finished 2nd in the last year’s Dubai World, Pegasus World Cup runners Neolithic and Keen Ice and the San Antonio Handicap winner Hoppertunity. Hoppertunity finished 3rd behind California Chrome and Mubtaahij in last year’s Dubai World Cup.

Other contenders include runners from the 2017 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 race at Dubai (shown below): race winner Long River, 2nd place finisher Special Fighter, 3rd place finisher Furia Cruzada and 4th place finisher Move Up. Note that Furia Cruzada is a 5-year-old mare.

Rounding out the Dubai World Cup are three Japanese horses:  the 2016 Tokyo Daishōten winner Apollo Kentucky and 2nd place finisher Awardee as well as the 2017 February Stakes winner Gold Dream.

Overall, I expect this to be another Arrogate romp similar to what we witnessed in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup. This is partly why I haven’t discussed this race or its expected entries on my blog until now. However, this field is much stronger than the 2017 Pegasus World Cup and it will be interesting to see what horses hit the board behind Arrogate and if anyone can seriously challenge him.

Perhaps Arrogate’s most serious challenger will be the most recent Razorback Handicap winner Gun Runner who had a sizzling time of 1:40.97 and 110 Beyer Speed Figure in that Oaklawn Park race (shown below). Gun Runner beat Shaman Ghost in his previous race, the 2016 Clark Handicap, last November. Shaman Ghost finished 2nd behind Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup.

My prediction: 1) Arrogate, 2) Gun Runner, 3) Hoppertunity and 4) Keen Ice. But usually this race always has a surprise finisher or two. From the Meydan-based horses, Special Fighter and Mubtaahij seem to have the best chance to break into the Top 4.

–Michael

 

Oaklawn Park ‘Deja Vu All Over Again’ – Malagacy! Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

20170318_181108(0)

Malagacy wins the Rebel Stakes

March 20th 2017

Just like it was with One Liner at Oaklawn Park in the Southwest Stakes last month, a lightly-raced Todd Pletcher-trained colt making the first two-turn start of his career, Malagacy, won the Rebel Stakes. Todd Pletcher now has three very promising Kentucky Derby contenders.

Overall, the Rebel Stakes (shown below) was sort of a weird race, the kind you usually get in a wet race but this happened on a dry, fast track. The race favorite, the Bob Baffert-trained American Anthem, finished 10th. And the 4th race favorite, Royal Mo, finished ahead of him in 9th place. Bob Baffert had won six out of the last seven Rebel Stakes races. 

And now the really weird part, the Keith Desormeaux-trained colt, Sonneteer at 112-1 odds, finished 2nd. Sonneteer has yet to break his maiden in 10 starts and he had never eclipsed the 80 Beyer Speed Figure mark in 9 previous starts. But he did in this one however. Of course, this surprise finish killed everyone’s exotic bets, right down to the Exacta. I feel your pain in Hot Springs (inside joke). And consequently, a 50 cent Trifecta paid out $943 and a 10 cent Superfecta paid out $1,138.28. Oaklawn didn’t publish $1 Superfecta winnings, which would have been over 11 grand, because nobody was stupid enough to make that bet.

At any rate, there’s really no clear-cut Derby favorite at this point. This Kentucky Derby class is very deep in talent but lacking consistency. If I were Unique Bella’s owner, I would give strong consideration for entering the filly in the Kentucky Derby instead of the Kentucky Oaks if she runs well in her next start.

Below are my updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings and I am writing them in pencil:

Top Six 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) One Liner – The undefeated son of Into Mischief. His win in the Southwest Stakes earned him a triple digit 102 Beyer Speed Figure, tied for 2nd best of this class in their 3 year-old campaign. I wrote a Kentucky Derby profile on him for US Racing that you can read by clicking HERE. There are questions regarding how he will take to added distance but for now, he’s my #1 for now. Next Start:  Unknown but probably the Florida Derby on April 1st or the Wood Memorial on April 8th

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.85 2017 Southwest Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2017 Southwest Stakes

2) McCraken – The son of Ghostzapper is undefeated in 4 starts. One of his big wins was in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. So there are no concerns of how he will take to the track surface at Churchill Downs. Latest report from Ian Wilkes is that he has filled out and getting stronger, uh oh! Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   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: 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes 

3) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. Later it was found that he was suffering from an undetected foot abscess. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE).  Classic Empire had a minor issue in a previous workout and refused to run. However, he ran 4 furlongs in 48.95 on March 12th at his Palm Meadows training center but refused to workout yesterday at Palm Meadows on March 19th. However, it gets more interesting. Today on March 20th, he breezed at an alternative Ocala Training Center. If Classic Empire is 100% physically and mentally healthy, he’s probably the most talented colt in this class. But I am dropping this “bad boy” back down a notch due to his most recent workout issue. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th. 

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in the 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

4) Malagacy – Another undefeated Pletcher colt in three starts. There were questions regarding how he would take to added distance but Todd Pletcher believed from training that he would handle the step up in distance well and he proved him right by winning the Rebel Stakes. I will have a Kentucky Derby profile of Malagacy on US Racing’s website in the next few days. Next Start: The Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 15th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Shackleford (Finished 4th in the 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Javier Castellano 
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – 2017 Rebel Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – Gulfstream Park 2/12/17

5) Tapwrit – The Tampa Bay Derby winner. He finished 2nd to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis Stakes back in February. His pedigree suggests that he will like added distance. And he has a greater trainer in Todd Pletcher behind him. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire:  Tapit (Finished 9th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.36 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby

6) Girvin – The Risen Star Stakes winner. His sire, Tale of Ekati, won the 2008 Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. He has excellent closing speed. His Risen Star stakes time of 1:43.08 was 0.86 seconds faster than what Gun Runner accomplished the previous year (1:43.94). And Gun Runner finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Girvin is probably not a Kentucky Derby winner but one to keep an eye on and on your early radar for your Derby Day exotic bets. Next Start: The Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati (Finished 4th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.08 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

On my radar:  J Boys Echo, Gunnevera, Practical Joke, Irish War Cry, Iliad, El Areeb and Unique Bella although I haven’t heard anything to suggest she will skip the Kentucky Oaks in favor of the Derby. 


Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Gunnevera (64), Tapwrit (54), Malagacy (50), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50), Practical Joke (34), Untrapped (34) and Classic Empire (32). All have enough Derby points historically to earn a starting spot in the Run for the Roses. 

–Michael

 

2017 Rebel Stakes Preview

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

March 17th 2017

Coming up tomorrow (Saturday March 18th) is another big race on the 2017 Kentucky Derby trail at Oaklawn Park. The Rebel Stakes offers 85 Derby points and a purse of $900,000. At this stage of the 2017 Kentucky Derby trail prep races, this is the 3rd highest paying purse to date and the largest since the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes on November 19th. The Rebel Stakes always attracts some of the top young thoroughbreds in the sport. Notable winners of the Rebel Stakes since 2004 include:

  • American Pharoah (2015) – The 13th Triple Crown champion and the first Grand Slam Champion of thoroughbred racing.
  • Curlin (2007) – 2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders Cup Classic winner who went on to win the 2007 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award, the 2008 Eclipse Older Dirt Male Champion award and Horse of the Year honors in 2007 and 2008.
  • Smarty Jones (2004) – who went on to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the 2004 Eclipse Male 3 Year Old Champion award
  • Lookin At Lucky (2010) – 2010 Preakness Stakes winner who went on to win the 2010 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award
  • Lawyer Ron (2006) – who won the 2007 Eclipse Older Dirt Male award
  • Will Take Charge (2013) – 2013 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion

Other notable Rebel Stakes runners: Afleet Alex who finished 6th in 2005 Rebel Stakes went on to win the 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes and the 2005 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award. Oxbow finished 2nd in the 2013 Rebel Stakes and went on to win the Preakness Stakes that year. Creator finished 3rd in last year’s Rebel Stakes went on to win the 2016 Belmont Stakes.

Below are the entries, jockeys and morning line odds:

The Rebel Stakes  – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #10 at Oaklawn Park – Post-Time: 6:06 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Silver Bullion (115) – Vazquez/Lukas – 30/1
2. Uncontested (122) – Hill/Catalano – 10/1
3. Sonneteer (115) – Eramia/Desormeaux – 301
4. Petrov (115) –  Ortiz/Moquett – 9/2
5. Untrapped (115) – Santana Jr./Asmussen – 8/1
6. Malagacy (115) – Castellano/Pletcher – 4/1
7. American Anthem (115) – Smith/Baffert – 2/1
8. Silver Dust (115) – Lanerie/Morse – 15/1
9. Appalachian Gem (115) – Stevens/Van Berg – 30/1
10. Royal Mo (122) – Espinoza/Shirreffs – 9/2 
11. Lookin At Lee (117) – Santana Jr./Asmussen – 15/1

Race Commentary: Trainer Bob Baffert has won six out of the last seven Rebel Stakes. He brings American Anthem, the morning line favorite, from California to be ridden by jockey Mike Smith. American Anthem will be stretching out from 8 furlongs to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time of his career. Trainer Todd Pletcher shipped in Malagacy who will be making the first two-turn start of his career. He is stretching out from 6 1/2 furlongs to 8 1/2. Normally I don’t like horses making two-turn debuts but it worked out wonderfully for Pletcher’s One Liner in the Southwest Stakes. Oaklawn Park stablemates Uncontested and Petrov hope to stave off the shipped-in competition.

Uncontested starts in the #2 post which has been the winningest post for distance races this year at Oaklawn Park. Uncontested impressed in the muddy 1-Mile Smarty Jones Stakes but has faded down the stretch in both of his starts at 8 1/2 furlongs. He will have no excuses this time. This race may determine if he is a legitimate Derby prospect or better suited for sprint races and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He likes to get out into the early lead. If he has gained stamina since his Southwest Stakes start, he could win this race especially if he gets an off track like he did in the Smarty Jones Stakes.

Petrov has finished 2nd in the last two Oaklawn preps to Uncontested in the Smarty Jones and One Liner in the Southwest. Petrov has the fastest estimated time through 8 1/2 furlongs in this field. He will battle to the end. Just like Steve Asmussen’s Untrapped did in his 2nd place finish to Girvin in the Risen Star Stakes. Then there Asmussen’s super consistent Lookin at Lee who finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 3rd in his first start back for his 3 year-old campaign in the Southwest Stakes.

Finally among the serious threats to win the Rebel, there is the Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Royal Mo, same owner (Jerry and Ann Moss) and trainer (John Shirreffs) combination as Zenyatta, 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo and this year’s Derby hopeful Gormley.

Overall, this is most talented field for 2017 Kentucky Derby hopefuls that we have seen since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race last fall. With so much talent it will be hard to hit exotic bets. Silver Dust is a Tapit-colt who can’t be overlooked because he finished 4th in the Southwest Stakes and will get the early speed he needs. I like Royal Mo but I think he is hurt a bit by his starting gate position. Malagacy seems to be a more accomplished Pletcher colt than One Liner was entering the Southwest Stakes. But this is a deeper, more talented field. It is hard to go against a Baffert colt with his success in the Rebel so I like American Anthem for the win. The rest of the finishing order is anybody’s guess but I generally like Petrov finishing somewhere in the Superfecta. If his odds go south, Petrov could be a nice option for those looking for a sleeper pick for the win because his #4 starting gate position has been the 2nd most winningest gate position for distance races at Oaklawn Park this season.

At any rate, this is must-see-TV and a real star will emerge in this year’s Rebel Stakes. And don’t give up on any of the other top finishers as history suggests. Below are the top Beyer Speed Figures for horses in the Rebel Stakes field: 

Petrov –  96 BSF in 8.5F Southwest Stakes 2nd place finish
Uncontested – 96 BSF in 8F Smarty Jones Stakes win
Malagacy – 95 BSF at 6.5F Gulfstream Park win
Untrapped – 94 BSF in 6F James F. Lewis win
Royal Mo –  94 BSF in 8.5F Robert B. Lewis Stakes win
American Anthem – 94 8F BSF in Sham Stakes 2nd place finish

–Michael


Mastery brilliant in the San Felipe but off the Derby trail. Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby contender rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

March 13th 2017

Mastery performed brilliantly Saturday in the San Felipe Stakes (shown below) with an excellent time of 1:42.28 and 105 Beyer Speed Figure. However, he suffered a condylar fracture to his left front leg and will have surgery today. These are repairable and a horse can usually come back racing depending upon the severity. If not, they will have to be retired to stud. At any rate, Mastery is off the Derby trail and if all goes well, we could see him back racing in the 2nd half of the season.

I am almost afraid to have a Kentucky Derby favorite. My early Kentucky Derby Not This Time had to be taken off the Derby trail and retired back in November due to a soft tissue injury to his right front leg. My next Derby favorite, Classic Empire, has had foot abscess and back issues. Now this unfortunate news for Mastery who I briefly had as my #1 after Classic Empire’s 3rd place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes and One Liner’s Southwest Stakes performance.

In the grand scheme of things, the 2017 Kentucky Derby is so wide open at this point that it might be best to draw names out of a hat. Injuries and inconsistency have kept every handicapper on their toes. This has been kind of a weird year and it appears that the best Derby contenders aren’t on the West Coast this year. We will have a better handle on who the Kentucky Derby favorite will be after the three major final prep races on April 8th. But for now, here are my Top Six Kentucky Derby contenders.

Top Six 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) One Liner – The undefeated son of Into Mischief. His win in the Southwest Stakes earned him a triple digit 102 Beyer Speed Figure, tied for 2nd best of this class in their 3 year-old campaign. I wrote a Kentucky Derby profile on him for US Racing that you can read by clicking HERE. There are questions regarding how he will take to added distance but for now, he’s my #1 for now. Next Start:  Undecided at this point. Todd Pletcher may opt to run him in one more race before the Kentucky Derby. My guess is that it will be the Florida Derby on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.85 2017 Southwest Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2017 Southwest Stakes

2) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. Later it was found that he was suffering from an undetected foot abscess. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE).  Classic Empire had a minor issue in a previous workout and refused to run. However, he ran 4 furlongs in 48.95 yesterday (March 12th) at his Palm Meadows training center. If Classic Empire is 100% healthy, he’s probably the most talented colt in this class. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th. 

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
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

3) McCraken – The son of Ghostzapper is undefeated in 4 starts. One of his big wins was in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. So there are no concerns of how he will take to the track surface at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   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: 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes 

4) Tapwrit – The Tampa Bay Derby winner. He finished 2nd to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis Stakes back in February. His pedigree suggests that he will like added distance. And he has a greater trainer in Todd Pletcher behind him. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire:  Tapit
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.36 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby

5) Girvin – The Risen Star Stakes winner. His sire, Tale of Ekati, won the 2008 Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. He has excellent closing speed. His Risen Star stakes time of 1:43.08 was 0.86 seconds faster than what Gun Runner accomplished the previous year (1:43.94). And Gun Runner finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Girvin is probably not a Kentucky Derby winner but one to keep an eye on and on your early radar for your Derby Day exotic bets. Next Start: The Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.08 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

6Royal Mo The winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. A son of Uncle Mo like his half-brother Mo Town and last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. Same owner/trainer combination as Zenyatta (Moss/Shirreffs) and his Derby trail rival Gormley. Next Start: The Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 18th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)

Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.48 – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94  – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes

On my radar:  J Boys Echo, Gunnevera, Practical Joke, Petrov, American Anthem, Uncontested, Irish War Cry, Iliad, Untrapped, Malagacy, El Areeb and Unique Bella although I haven’t heard anything to suggest she will skip the Kentucky Oaks in favor of the Derby. 


Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park – March 18th

Coming up this Saturday at Oaklawn Park is another key race on the Derby trail that carries a $900,000 purse and 85 Derby points. The Rebel has historically spawned some great champions the past 15 years. Below are the rumored entries for the Rebel Stakes with notable Beyer Speed Figures (BSF). Royal Mo or American Anthem will probably be the early morning line favorite.

Royal Mo – Victor Espinoza/John Shirreffs  – 94 BSF in Robert B. Lewis Stakes win
American Anthem – Mike Smith/Bob Baffert  – 94 BSF in Sham Stakes 2nd place finish
Petrov –  Jose Ortiz/Ron Moquett  – 96 BSF in Southwest Stakes 2nd place finish
Malagacy – Javier Castellano/Todd Pletcher – 95 BSF at Gulfstream Park win
Uncontested – Channing Hill/Wayne Catalano  – 96 BSF in Smarty Jones Stakes win
Untrapped – Ricardo Santana Jr./Steve Asmussen  – 92 BSF in Withers Stakes win
Lookin At Lee – ?/Steve Asmussen – 83 BSF in Breeders Cup Juvenile 4th place finish
Silver Dust – Corey Lanerie/Randy Morse  
Silver Bullion – Ramon Vazquez/D. Wayne Lukas 

Notable winners of the Rebel Stakes since 2004

  • American Pharoah (2015) – The 13th Triple Crown champion and the first Grand Slam Champion of thoroughbred racing.
  • Curlin (2007) – 2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders Cup Classic winner who went on to win the 2007 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award, 2008 Eclipse Older Dirt Male Champion award and Horse of the Year honors in 2007 and 2008.
  • Smarty Jones (2004) – who went on to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the 2004 Eclipse Male 3 Year Old Champion award
  • Lookin At Lucky (2010) – 2010 Preakness Stakes winner who went on to win the 2010 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award
  • Lawyer Ron (2006) – who won the 2007 Eclipse Older Dirt Male Champion award
  • Will Take Charge (2013) – 2013 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion

Other notable Rebel Stakes runners: Afleet Alex who finished 6th in 2005 Rebel Stakes went on to win the 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes and the 2005 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award. Oxbow finished 2nd in the 2013 Rebel Stakes and went on to win the Preakness Stakes that year. Creator finished 3rd in last year’s Rebel Stakes went on to win the 2016 Belmont Stakes.


Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Gunnevera (64), Tapwrit (54), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50) and Practical Joke (34). All have enough Derby points historically to earn a starting spot in the Run for the Roses.

–Michael

The Big ‘Cap and San Felipe Stakes Previews

20160312_143746

March 10th 2017 – Updated March 11th 2017

A big day of racing is scheduled tomorrow at Santa Anita Park with the San Felipe Stakes for Kentucky Derby hopefuls and the Santa Anita Handicap for older division horses (4 years-old and older).

The San Felipe Stakes pays out 50 Kentucky Derby points for first place. So the race winner is essentially assured a starting sport in the Run for the Roses.

The Santa Anita Handicap is an early test for Breeders’ Cup Classic hopefuls. Nicknamed “The Big ‘Cap” since it was the first horse race to offer $100,000, its purse was lowered from $1 Million dollars down to $750,000 this year. The Big ‘Cap has had trouble attracting the top thoroughbreds like it once did due to the competing Dubai World Cup that offers a $10 Million dollar purse. However, it is still a very prestigious race to win. Previous winners include great names from the past like Seabiscuit, Affirmed, John Henry and Spectacular Bid.

10342498_10206339630156359_4740069717280739952_n

Below are the entries, jockeys, post-positions and morning line odds. I rushed a bit to get this blog out so I will update this tomorrow with more commentary.

The San Felipe Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #5 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 4:04 PM CST.  Televised by TVG

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Term of Art (122) – Baze/O’Neill – 20/1
2. Vending Machine (120) – Arroyo/Miller – 20/1
3. Ann Arbor Eddie (120) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 8/1
4. Mastery (124) – Smith/Baffert – 6/5
5. Gormley (124) – Espinoza/Shirreffs – 9/5
6. Iliad (120) – Prat/O’Neill – 5/2
7. Bluegrass Envy (120) – Radosevich/Creque – 50/1

Race Commentary:  Mastery is the fastest horse in this field. However, he is coming off a 91 day layoff. That is concerning as it sometimes takes one race after a long layoff for a horse to back into the flow. Mastery’s stiffest competition is Gormley, so a 4,5 Boxed Exacta is probably your safest bet.

I like Ann Arbor Eddie better than Iliad to round out the Trifecta. Iliad received a 96 Beyer Speed Figure in his last start in the San Vicente Stakes. But that was at 7 furlongs and this race is 8 1/2 furlongs. This will be Iliad’s first two-turn race. Ann Arbor Eddie has already raced two-turns at 8 1/2 and 9 furlong distances. He won at this very same 8 1/2 furlong distance at Santa Anita in the California Cup Derby in late January.

My predicted order of finish: 1) Mastery, 2) Gormley, 3) Ann Arbor Eddie, 4) Iliad, 5) Term of Art, 6) Vending Machine and 7) Bluegrass Envy. However, for Superfecta bets, I would probably play it safe: 4,5 over 4,5 over 3,6 over 3,6. A $1 Superfecta bet of this type would cost $4.


The Santa Anita Handicap  – 1 1/4th Mile – Race #10 at Santa Anita Park  – Post-Time: 6:44 PM CST.  Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Midnight Storm (122) – Bejarano/D’Amato -8/5 
2. Gangster  (115) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 30/1   
3. Shaman Ghost (122) – Castellano/Jerkens – 2/1 
4. Isotherm (119) – Prat/Weaver – 12/1
5. Hard Aces (119) – Espinoza/Sadler – 15/1
6. Follow Me Crev (116) – Desormeaux/Cerin – 8/1  
7. Twentytwentyvision (116) – Smith/Mandella – 12/1
8. Hi Happy (116) – Domingos/Souza – 12/1
9. Imperative (119) – Gallardo/Hess – 5/1

Race Commentary:  This will be an interesting race. Midnight Storm is the fastest horse in the field but he drew the dreaded rail. Melatonin shocked the Big ‘Cap crowd last year from the #1 post-position. However, this is a 10 furlong (1 1/4th mile) race and Shaman Ghost is an equally talented horse and more accomplished at this distance. Remember that he finished 2nd in the Pegasus World Cup behind Arrogate at this same distance.

Hard Aces was given 15/1 morning line odds which I think are way too long for a horse that likes distance. Yes he is inconsistent but he fares much better at 10 furlongs or longer. In last year’s Santa Anita Handicap, Hard Aces finished 2nd and Imperative finished 4th.

A potential sleeper to hit the board is Hi Happy, an Argentinian horse who is making his third start in North America. He has primarily raced on turf but has raced impressively on dirt before in a 1 1/2 mile (2500 meter) race in Argentina (shown below). He doesn’t have outstanding closing speed but does have stamina, consistent speed and just enough kick at the end to potentially slip into the top four finishers.

Overall, I think this race comes down to Midnight Storm and Shaman Ghost. I like Imperative, Hard Aces and Hi Happy to round out the other exotic bets. For a Superfecta bet, I like a 1,3 over 1,3 over 5,8,9 over 5,8,9. A $1 Superfecta bet of variety would cost $12. I doubt that it will pay back a huge amount if the 1st and 2nd live odds favorites finish 1-2. So you may want to try a larger 1-3 Boxed Exacta.


On the docket…

My next blog will include updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings which I will post by Monday evening.

–Michael

Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings for Early March

 

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

March 6th 2017

The 2017 Kentucky Derby is WIDE OPEN. Usually by this stage of the Derby trail season, I have a couple of favorites and one usually goes on to win the Kentucky Derby. There is a ton of talent in this year’s crop of Derby hopefuls but many have proven to be inconsistent or hampered by injuries thus far. 

My surefire early Kentucky Derby favorite, Not This Time, had to be retired due a soft tissue injury to his right front leg back in November. My next favorite, Classic Empire, has been hampered by a foot abscess that explained his lackluster performance in the Holy Bull Stakes. Now he is bothered by back issues and refused to run in his last workout at his Palm Meadows training center. This will set his training schedule back a bit but there is still plenty of time to get him healthy and entered in one of the final Derby prep races.

With as inconsistent as many of the 3 year-olds have been in my previous Top 10 Kentucky Derby contender rankings, I decided to limit my new rankings to the Top Six Derby contenders. As you can tell, I wasn’t blown away with the performances in the Gotham and Fountain of Youth Stakes. J Boys Echo received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 102 for his Gotham Stakes win despite a very pedestrian time of 1:46.34 for 8 1/2 furlongs. The 2nd slowest Gotham Stakes ever? 102 Beyer? To borrow a phrase from the character Spicoli in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High: TOTALLY confusing Mr. Hand. Perhaps on an off track but it was a dry, fast track?

Then Gunnevera received a preliminary 97 Beyer Speed Figure for his Fountain of Youth Stakes win, the same Beyer Speed Figure as Irish War Cry received in the Holy Bull Stakes, despite Gunnevera running the same 8 1/2 furlong distance on the same Gulfstream Park track–1.73 seconds slower. You’ve got to be kidding me Andrew Beyer. Expect both of these speed figures to be adjusted downward.

And to make the 2017 Kentucky Derby even more up in the air, my new #1 Kentucky Derby Contender, One Liner, doesn’t have a pedigree that suggests that he should be ranked #1. But sometimes with pedigrees, there is a paralysis in overanalysis. We will see how this plays out over the next 5 weeks. However, I have been scrambling ever since Not This Time was retired and Classic Empire’s foot abscess issues.

Top Six 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) One Liner – The undefeated son of Into Mischief. His win in the Southwest Stakes earned him a triple digit 102 Beyer Speed Figure, the best of this class in their 3 year-old campaign. I wrote a Kentucky Derby profile on him for US Racing that you can read by clicking HERE. There are questions regarding how he will take to added distance but for now, he’s my #1 for now. Next Start:  Undecided at this point. Todd Pletcher may opt to run him in one more race before the Kentucky Derby. That is risky as he may not earn enough Derby points if he falters with a third place or worse finish.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.85 2017 Southwest Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2017 Southwest Stakes

2) Mastery His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 in the Los Alamitos Futurity 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) McCraken – The son of Ghostzapper is undefeated in 4 starts. One of his big wins was in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. So there are no concerns of how he will take to the track surface at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   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: 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes 

4) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. Later it was found that he was suffering from an undetected foot abscess. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE).  He is tied with One Liner for the highest Beyer Speed Figure (102) in this class for races greater than 8 furlongs. Next Start: Unknown due to his recent back issues. However, trainer Mark Casse is still hopeful of entering him in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 8th. If this doesn’t pan out, he still has the Arkansas Derby the following Saturday.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
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

5) Girvin – The Risen Star Stakes winner. His sire, Tale of Ekati, won the 2008 Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. He has excellent closing speed. His Risen Star stakes time of 1:43.08 was 0.86 seconds faster than what Gun Runner accomplished the previous year (1:43.94). And Gun Runner finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Girvin is probably not a Kentucky Derby winner but one to keep an eye on and on your early radar for your Derby Day exotic bets. Next Start: The Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.08 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

6Royal Mo The winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. A son of Uncle Mo like his half-brother Mo Town. Same owner/trainer combination as Zenyatta (Moss/Shirreffs) and his Derby trail rival Gormley. Next Start: The Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 18th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)

Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.48 – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93  – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes


Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Gunnevera (64), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50) and Practical Joke (34). All have enough Derby points historically to earn a starting spot in the Run for the Roses.

–Michael