2018 Kentucky Derby Contenders – Copper Bullet

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June 29th 2017

I normally don’t pay that much attention to what 2-year-old colts are doing this time of year because they are immature and racing sprints. Their performance doesn’t often translate well when they stretch out to longer distances. August and September seem to be the months where we start seeing the best of the next Derby class emerge. However, a Steve Asmussen-trained 2-year-old named Copper Bullet captured my attention back in May.

The race was a Maiden Special Weight at Churchill Downs on May 25th. With jockey Florent Geroux on board, Cooper Bullet wired the field. What really got my attention is that he won by 8 lengths in a 5 furlong race and really coasted home. You can see this performance on Bloodhorse.com by clicking HERE.

Copper Bullet received a 75 Beyer Speed Figure and a 90 Equibase Speed Figure. These were the second highest of this class at the time. And the 75 Beyer Speed Figure early in a horses 2-year-old campaign is sort of a standard that I noticed that top Derby contenders accomplished each year.

Cooper Bullet has a decent pedigree, but not exactly one that I would prefer a Kentucky Derby winner to possess. His sire, More Than Ready, won the two graded stakes races as a 2-year-old, the Tremont Stakes (Grade 3) and Sanford Stakes (Grade 2) and as a 3-year-old, he won Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes, finished 2nd in both the Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass Stakes and 4th in the Kentucky Derby in 2000.

Cooper Bullet’s grandsire on his dam’s side was Unbridled’s Song. Unbridled’s Song won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Florida Derby, Wood Memorial Stakes and finished 5th in the 1996 Kentucky Derby.  

Copper Bullet races tomorrow (this Friday June 30th) at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes where is the the favorite at 8/5 odds.

Another 2-year-old that I anxiously await to see race is the full brother to American Pharoah named St Patrick’s Day who is trained by Bob Baffert. You can see from his first workout at Santa Anita Park that there is a resemblance to his famous brother and that he likes to run.


My New Food, Wine and Travel Blog

As I stated in previous blogs, I was working on a new blog about on food and wine. I decided to expand it to travel and finally got the blog up an running. Here’s the first post: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

 

Gun Runner – The 2nd best in the world?

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June 18th 2017

In the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings that came out on June 4th, the Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner ranked 4th and tied with three other horses. After his impressive win in the Stephen Foster Handicap yesterday (shown below), there is little doubt that Gun Runner will move up in the next Longines rankings because he’s the best racehorse in the world behind Arrogate. Sorry Winx fans!

Gun Runner’s time in the 9 furlong Stephen Foster was 1:47.56, just 3 tenths off a track record and the fifth-fastest running of the race. Gun Runner received a Timeform rating of 139 for his 7 length victory. This is the third best Timeform rating this year and his jockey Florent Geroux glided him home in the final 100 yards. The 139 Timeform rating is outstanding when you consider that there have only been about 15 horses (both turf and dirt) to receive a Timeform rating of 140 or greater. One of which was Arrogate back in March in the Dubai World Cup when he received a 141 Timeform rating. Arrogate received a 139 Timeform rating in the Pegasus World Cup in late January.

With the win, Gun Runner receives an automatic entry in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic. And rematch with Arrogate provided both remain healthy. The Louisiana Derby winner finished third in last year’s Kentucky Derby, He was consistently good but not spectacular as a 3-year-old. However, he has really blossomed as a 4-year-old and seems to be getting better with each start. I had previously thought that Arrogate would likely romp again in this year’s Classic. But if Gun Runner keeps progressing, this year’s Classic could be one of the great showdowns.


2017 Breeders Cup Classic Contender Rankings

With the 2017 Breeders Cup World Championships less than five months away, here is a short list of top contenders for the Classic. The next “Win and You’re In” race for the Classic will be the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 30th. This race will be for 3-year-olds only.

  1. Arrogate
  2. Gun Runner*
  3. Shaman Ghost
  4. Cupid
  5. Neolithic

*Clinched a starting spot in Breeders Cup Classic


–Michael

2017 Belmont Stakes Preview

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June 7th 2017 – Updated June 10th 2017 5:00 PM CST

Below are the post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds for the 2017 Belmont Stakes. The race will be shown live on NBC between 5 and 6 PM CST.

Epicharis was treated for lameness on his right front leg on Wednesday and was scratched this morning, Senior Investment was treated for a muscle spasm with acupuncture and Vitamin B12.

Race Analysis: This could be a jockey race. But they will still need to have a horse underneath them that will have enough stamina to challenge at the finish. The starting gate is situated to enable every jockey enough time and room to get into the position that they desire entering the first turn. When the horses come out of the last turn, they will have traveled the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 mile. So the stretch run is where many horses start fading away and where the real race begins.

In my opinion, this race is such a toss-up that no horse should have odds lower than 5/1. Every horse has question marks:

Twisted Tom – His career best Beyer Speed Figure is 78.
Tapwrit – He never really challenged in either the Blue Grass Stakes or Kentucky Derby
Gormley – His Beyer Speed Figures have declined in every start as a 3-year-old. 
J Boys Echo – Big win in the Gotham Stakes but he regressed in his next two starts.
Hollywood Handsome – His only nice win as a 3-year-old came in an allowance race.
Lookin At Lee – Extremely consistent but hasn’t won since August of last year.
Irish War Cry – Which Irish War Cry will show up? He faded badly in the Derby
Senior Investment – Only Graded Stakes win came in a talent depleted Lexington Stakes
Meantime -Last 2 starts came in the slop, has never raced on a dry track beyond 1 mile.
Multiplier – He didn’t dazzle in the Preakness with a 6th place finish
Patch – Pedigree suggests he’ll like the distance but will he have the turn of foot to win?

The pace of this race and who gets out in the early lead is the key in determining a winner of this race. However, this is uncertain. I don’t expect to see Meantime will be out in the early lead as he did in his last two starts. I expect Irish War Cry will be near the front of the pack in the early going but question whether he has the stamina to hang on in a 12 furlong race.

I question if this race will have enough early speed at all to aid a deep closer.  If not, this will hurt Lookin At Lee and Senior Investment’s chances. There are a lot of unknowns.

Irish War Cry is the best horse in this field but he extremely hit-or-miss. He could win or finish dead last. 

I think I am going to wait to see the live odds to find a price. I think there are about 6 horses that I could see winning this under the right scenarios: Irish War Cry, Lookin At Lee, Gormley, Tapwrit, Meantime and Patch.

I am leaning towards Meantime and Patch.

2017 Belmont Stakes – Post-Time 5:37 PM CST

1) Twisted Tom (20/1) – The 3-year-old gelding trained by Chad Brown is coming off a nice win in the Federico Tesio Stakes (shown below). He has won three straight races in a row and has had seven weeks off since his last race.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Creative Cause
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Javier Castellano 
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  78Federico Tesio Stakes

2) Tapwrit (6/1) – The Tampa Bay Derby winner. He finished 5th in Blue Grass Stakes and 6th in the Kentucky Derby. He is well rested and has a pedigree that suggests that he will take to the added distance like his paternal half-brother Tonalist did in the 2014 Belmont Stakes.

Career: 7 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>6th
Sire: Tapit 
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2007 & 2013 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby

3) Gormley (8/1) – The Santa Anita Derby winner. Same owner/trainer combination (Moss/Shirreffs) as Zenyatta, 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo and Royal Mo. He has been training well of late.

Career: 7 Starts 4-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>9th
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2015 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  942017 Sham Stakes

4) J Boys Echo (15/1) – The Dale Romans-trained Gotham Stakes winner. His 102 Beyer Speed Figure that he received for the Gotham Stakes win still ranks near the top of the best Beyers for this class. He has regressed some since that race, finishing 4th in the Blue Grass Stakes and 15th in the Kentucky Derby. However, he has the talent and pedigree to win this race. Although his sire Mineshaft didn’t compete in the Belmont Stakes, his grandsire, A.P. Indy, won the race in 1992.

Career: 7 Starts 2-1-1-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>15th
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1022017 Gotham Stakes

5) Hollywood Handsome (30/1) – He finished 4th in the Louisiana Derby and 5th in the Illinois Derby. His sire Tapizar was a “miler”, so his 30/1 morning line odds are deserved. 

Career: 9 Starts 2-0-3-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>5th–>1st
Sire: Tapizar
Trainer: Dallas Stewart
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  88Churchill Downs 5/20/17

6) Lookin At Lee (5/1) – The Steve Asmussen trained colt is a consistent horse having finished in the Top 4 in the Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He a deep closer racing style that worked well for Asmussen’s Creator in last year’s Belmont Stakes. However, deep closers don’t win the Belmont Stakes very often. I wrote an article on his longshot chances in the Kentucky Derby for US Racing (SEE). I don’t see a win here but he is too consistent not to include in your exotic bets.

Career: 11 Starts 2-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Lookin at Lucky 
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2016 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr (2016 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2017 Kentucky Derby

7) Irish War Cry (7/2) – The son of Curlin and winner of the Wood Memorial. He should be one of the top favorites on the tote board. His sire Curlin lost the 2007 Belmont Stakes by a head to Rags to Riches.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 7th–>1st–>10th
Sire: Curlin (Finished 2nd in the 2007 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Graham Motion 
Jockey: Rajiv Maragh
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  1012017 Wood Memorial

8) Senior Investment (12/1) – The Lexington Stakes winner. He followed up this effort with a surprising third place finish in Preakness Stakes. I don’t like Preakness Stakes runners as a potential Belmont Stakes winner.

Career: 9 Starts 3-0-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 6th–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Discreetly Mine
Trainer: Ken McPeek (2002 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Channing Hill
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  89 2017 Lexington Stakes 

9) Meantime (15/1) – Finished 2nd in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. That was run on sloppy sealed track conditions at Belmont Park. With jockey Mike Smith aboard, you’ve got to like his chances of pulling a mild upset.

Career: 4 Starts 1-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Shackleford (Finished 5th in the 2011 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Brian Lynch
Jockey:  Mike Smith (2010 & 2013 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  91 2017 Peter Pan Stakes

10) Multiplier (15/1)  The Illinois Derby winner, he finished 6th in the Preakness Stakes and received 94 Beyer Speed Figures for both performances. He will have 2014 Belmont Stakes winning jockey Joel Rosario on board so he should be more of a factor than he was in the Preakness. However, I don’t like the chances of a win for any of the Preakness Stakes runners.

Career: 5 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>6th
Sire:  The Factor
Trainer: Brandon Walsh
Jockey:  Joel Rosario (2014 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  94 2017 Preakness Stakes

11) Epicharis (Scratched) – The Japanese horse finished 2nd in the UAE Derby, getting nipped at the finish line by Thunder Snow. I think this is a talented horse with “hit the board” potential but I just don’t see him shipping in and winning a 12 furlong endurance race.

Career: 5 Starts 4-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Gold Allure
Trainer: Kiyoshi Hagiwara
Jockey: Christophe Lemaire
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  N/A

12) Patch (12/1) – The one-eyed Pletcher-trained colt was the sentimental favorite on Derby Day.  I wrote an article on him that can be accessed by clicking HERE. He has the needed rest, the pedigree, trainer and jockey to win the Belmont Stakes.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>14th
Sire: Union Rags (Won the 2012 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2007 & 2013 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2007 & 2012 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  89 2017 Louisiana Derby


RIP HOLY BULL

Sad news…one of the great racehorses in the last century, Holy Bull, had to be euthanized Wednesday June 7th. I saw him in a horse farm tour in October of 2015 and he still seemed feisty and full of life.

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–Michael

The Profile of a Belmont Stakes Winner. Is it one-eyed Patch?

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June 5th 2017 – Updated June 6th 2017

How do you handicap the Belmont Stakes? You don’t. I am being facetious because the Belmont Stakes is the toughest Triple Crown race to handicap. You can pretty much throw out a lot of handicapping analytics because they mean very little when horses are stretching out from 9 to 10 furlongs to the 12 furlong (1 1/2 mile) Belmont Stakes distance for the very first time. The fastest horse in the field rarely wins the Belmont.

Just how tough is the Belmont Stakes to handicap? 

The race favorite has only won once in the last 10 years and that was an incredible horse in Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. The 2nd favorite in the Belmont Stakes hasn’t fared much better, only winning twice during this span. On average, the winner is roughly the 5th or 6th favorite among bettors. The average final odds of the Belmont Stakes winner over the last 10 years? 13.5 to 1.

What does this mean? It usually means that the Belmont Stakes winner is a surprise like we had when Cloud Computing won the Preakness Stakes. It means that longshots have a better chance of winning this leg of the Triple Crown.

Even though it is tough to handicap the Belmont Stakes, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it try. After doing research, I decided to try to profile the typical Belmont Stakes winner from the past 10 years. So here you go:

  • Their race style is typically a stalker, one who sits off the lead pack (top 3 to 5) through the first 1/2 mile and 1 mile of the race. Surprisingly, deep closers don’t win the Belmont Stakes that often like Creator did last year.
  • Rest. The average winner had 4 to 5 weeks off between the Belmont and their last start. Horses who have raced 3 weeks prior (ie. Preakness Stakes runners) don’t fare very well. In the past ten years, only three horses who raced 3 weeks before the Belmont found themselves in the winner circle. The same holds true going back to the year 2000. 12 out of the last 17 Belmont Stakes winners (70.5%) had 4 to 5 weeks off between starts. 
  • As I eluded to earlier, the typical Belmont Stakes winner is neither the race favorite or even the 2nd race favorite. So look at the live odds on tote board at the 5th favorite on down as this is where as the average Belmont Stakes winner will come from.

From the information above and how I think the live odds will go, Classic Empire will likely be the race favorite. The 2nd race favorite will probably be one of these four horses: Epicharis, Tapwrit, Lookin At Lee and Irish War Cry. If I had to pick the most likely 2nd race favorite, I’d say it will be Irish War Cry because he seemed to be real popular in Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools.

So for me, I am scratching off Classic Empire due to his race favorite status and without the standard rest. Add two other Preakness Stakes runners in Senior Investment and Multiplier. And with the recent history of 2nd favorites not faring very well, I am scratching off Irish War Cry.

As I stated above, deep closers don’t often win the Belmont Stakes. For this reason, I don’t like Lookin At Lee’s chances of a win. So scratch off Lookin At Lee. However, I do like his chances of hitting the Superfecta.

The Japanese horse Epicharis. I think he is a legitimately talented horse who has “hit the board” potential. However, I have a hard time seeing “a shipper” winning an endurance race like the Belmont Stakes. Note that Epicharis got nipped for a win in the UAE Derby by Thunder Snow in a race roughly the distance of the 9 1/2 furlong Preakness Stakes but shorter than the Kentucky Derby’s 10 furlong distance. The 12 furlong Belmont Stakes will have plenty of stretch run for him to get mowed down again.

So who am I warming up to as the potential 2017 Belmont Stakes winner?

I will need to see final entries, jockey assignments and post-positions which will be out on Wednesday. But it appears that the one-eyed horse Patch will be entered and ridden by two-time Belmont Stakes winner John Velazquez (who won this year’s Kentucky Derby on Always Dreaming).

Patch’s sire, Union Rags, won the 2012 Belmont Stakes who he has the pedigree to suggest he will like distance. And his trainer, Todd Pletcher, is one of the very best in preparing a horse for the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes.

Patch was the underdog media darling for this year’s Kentucky Derby due to his handicap. He will likely fly a bit more under the radar with bettors this time since he finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby. I don’t think Patch took to the sloppy surface and it was a tall order for any horse, in the 4th start of his career, to come from the far outside post in a field of 20 horses. Patch having one eye may have been a factor in his performance due to sloppy conditions. If he got some mud thrown into one eye, he didn’t have another one to see out of. 

So I am warming up to Patch and Tapwrit as potential Belmont Stakes winners provided the race is run on a dry, fast track.  I will post a Belmont Stakes Preview this Wednesday evening with more of my thoughts and analysis

-Michael