2017 TVG Pacific Classic Preview

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August 17th 2017 – Updated August 18th 2017 – 7:36 PM CST

Tomorrow evening at Del Mar, we have the highly anticipated next start of Arrogate after his disappointing performance four weeks ago in the San Diego Handicap. The TVG Pacific Classic is a Grade 1 “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It carries a purse of $1 Million dollars.

Below are the post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds:

TVG Pacific Classic – 1 1/4th Mile – Race #8 at Del Mar – Post-Time: Saturday August 19th at 7:45 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Royal Albert Hall – Nakatani/Muhall – 30/1
2. Collected – Garcia/Baffert – 5/2
3. Accelerate – Espinoza/Sadler – 3/1
4. Sorry Erik –  Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 30/1
5. Hard Aces – J. Ortiz/Sadler – 20/1
6. Donworth – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 15/1
7. Curlin Road – Prat/O’Neill – 20/1
8. Arrogate – Smith/Baffert – 1/1

Race Commentary: If you lost money on Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap, here is your opportunity to gain it back. I believe Arrogate’s performance in the San Diego Handicap was just a hiccup along the way and I foresee him waxing the field this time around. He will be starting off at 1/1 odds. I don’t see them dipping below 1/2 as he probably still has bettors worried.

For exotic bets, I would key Arrogate to win but I don’t have a good feel for an exact combination–yet. I do expect Accelerate will make it into the Superfecta but there are a lot of unknown quantities in this field. Collected is a Bob Baffert-trained horse who I like in my Superfecta. Collected has been on a roll this year, winning in has last three starts. I have always thought that he had a lot of unrealized potential. This race is supposed to confirm for Baffert whether he is a Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile or Classic entry.

Collected is fast and you should expect that he’ll be in the lead pack or near the front very early. My concern is that he has yet to race at the 10 furlong (1 1/4 mile) distance.

Update: I like 8 over 2,3,7 over 2,3,7 over 2,3,7 Superfecta. At 1/5 odds, I wouldn’t wager on win bets on Arrogate.


On the Docket…

My next blog will be updated Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings. I should have this out Monday or Tuesday evening (August 21st or 22nd). 

–Michael


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

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August 14th 2017

With the Breeders’ Cup Classic coming up in less than 12 weeks, it is time for a look at the 2017 Classic contenders. With Arrogate’s surprise loss in the San Diego Handicap about 3 weeks ago, “The Classic” seems to be a bit more wide open than anticipated.

Below are my Top Eight 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. I opted for a Top Eight instead of a Top Ten at this point since it was too difficult rank #9 and #10 in my rankings. We still have four key races on the schedule that can add new contenders and change the rankings.

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1) Arrogate – The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion and Longines #1 ranked racehorse in the world was upset by Accelerate in the San Diego Handicap in his last start. This was no doubt an unexpected clunker performance. Arrogate will likely get a chance to redeem himself in a rematch vs Accelerate this coming Saturday in the Pacific Classic. Next Start: The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 19th.

Career: 9 Starts 7-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  4-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)

Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 119 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 122 –2016 Travers Stakes

2) Gun Runner* – He’s extremely consistent and now arguably the top racehorse in the world on dirt. In his last start in the Whitney Stakes, he received his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 112. I considered him for the #1 spot in my rankings but he has already lost twice already to Arrogate (2016 Travers & 2017 Dubai World Cup). And he has never won at the Classic distance of 10 furlongs. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 16 Starts 9-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-2-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.76 (estimated) – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes

3) Keen Ice  – He still holds the distinction of being the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when  he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes. He has a 4th place finish in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic and a 3rd place finish in last year’s Classic. In 2017, he has a 4th place finish in the Pegasus World Cup, a 7th place finish in the Dubai World Cup, a win in the Suburban Handicap and a hard-fought 2nd place finish in the Whitney Handicap. Next Start: Nothing confirmed to date but most likely the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 7th. 

Career: 23 Starts 3-3-5-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Start  1-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>8th–>3rd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz 

Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes/2017 Suburban HC
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 106 – 2017 Suburban Handicap

Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes & 2017 Suburban Handicap

4) Shaman Ghost – He finished 2nd behind Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup and then went on to win the 2017 Santa Anita Derby and the Pimlico Special Handicap. In his last start, he was beaten by Keen Ice in the Suburban Handicap by 3 lengths. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 17 Starts 8-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

5) Cupid – The Bob Baffert-trained winner of the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita (shown below). Although he is not a huge threat to win the Classic, he gives Bob Baffert a nice 1-2 finish possibility with Arrogate. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd. 

Career: 10 Starts 5-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Raphael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.89 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita  

6) Accelerate – The surprise San Diego Handicap winner and the only horse who has beaten Arrogate twice. He would rank higher in my ranking but he has yet to race further than 8 1/2 furlongs. Was his drumming of Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap a fluke? We will see this coming Saturday. Next Start: The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 19th.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-4-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 109 – 2017 San Diego Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2017 San Diego Handicap  

7) Neolithic  – The Todd Pletcher-trainee has two third places finishes behind Arrogate in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup and 2017 Dubai World Cup. He won in his last start, a 7 furlong claiming race at Saratoga. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 10 Starts 3-3-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd->3rd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:04.03* (estimated from 2017 Dubai World Cup)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

8) Girvin* – He qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (shown below). A win in the upcoming Travers Stakes could catapult him to the top of the 2017 3-year-old class. Next Start: The Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 26th.

Career: 7 Starts 4-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 13th–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Robby Albarado (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2.06.71 (estimated) – 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 75- 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar this coming Saturday and potential rematch of Arrogate and Accelerate from the San Diego Handicap. The TVG Pacific Classic is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 


Eddie Olczyk

olcyzk

It was announced last week that NBC TV color commentator Eddie Olczyk is receiving treatments for colon cancer. His absence has been noticed from recent NBC horse racing broadcasts. Eddie is one of my favorite broadcasters as he shares two of my passions: hockey and horse racing. For a man who is a former NHL hockey player, he has developed into a respected handicapper and horse racing analyst. I first saw Eddie play for the Toronto Maple Leafs in St Louis on April Fool Day in 1989. He was a stud left winger and one of the top young American-born NHL stars at the time. Get well soon Eddie!


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

2017 Whitney Stakes Preview

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August 3rd 2017

This coming Saturday we have another high-profile “Win and You’re In” race with the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. Inaugurated in 1928, the Grade 1 “Whitney Handicap” carries a $1.25 million dollar purse. A field of seven horses are vying for an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Gun Runner is the morning odds favorite at 4/5. 

Below are the post-positions, weights, jockeys and morning line odds:

“The Whitney”

The Whitney Stakes  1 1/8th Mile – Race #9 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday August 5th at 4:46 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. War Story (121) – Castellano/Navarro – 6/1
2. Breaking Lucky (117) – Contreras/Baker – 8/1
3. Cautious Giant (117) – Bracho/Quartarolo – 30/1
4. Tu Brutus (117) – I. Ortiz Jr./Contessa – 8/1
5. Keen Ice (121) – J. Ortiz/Pletcher – 3/1
6. Gun Runner (124) – Geroux/Asmussen – 4/5
7. Discreet Lover (117) – Franco/St. Lewis – 25/1

Race Analysis: Gun Runner is the deserved favorite and you could make a great case that he is now the top thoroughbred in the world on dirt with the surprising recent loss by Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap. I am very high on Gun Runner and normally I would recommend placing a nice, big fat win bet on him here. However, Saratoga has lived up to it’s name as the “Graveyard of Champions” with the number of upsets that the track has seen here already this year.

Keen Ice is the second favorite at 3/1 odds and he holds the distinction as the only living horse to beat a Triple Crown champion when he upset American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Is another Keen Ice upset in store? Closers have fared well at Saratoga, but I feel that the son of Curlin prefers 10 furlongs over 9.

I am very interested to see how the Chilean-bred horse Tu Brutus performs in this race. He has produced the highest Beyer Speed Figure (BSF) for in this field (and third best in 2017) when he earned a 118 BSF with his 2nd place finish in the Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct back in early April. However, in his North American racing career, he has raced a the following distances: 1 1/4 mile, 1 3/8th mile and 1 1/2 mile. So I am not sure how he will take to cutting back in distance. 

War Story and Breaking Lucky have never won a Grade 1 race. From looking at their workout history, Breaking Lucky seems to be training better of the two. However, he has been beaten by Gun Runner twice in the Clark Handicap last November and in his most recent start in June in the Stephen H. Foster Handicap. I don’t see an upset coming from either of these horses or the two longshots: Discreet Lover and Cautious Giant.

At any rate, Gun Runner is a fighter and I think a nice Place bet on him would be the safest bet to make here since strange things have been happening at Saratoga. Betting aside, this should be an interesting race and “must-see” TV.


On the Docket…

My next blog will rank the Top Ten 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders and then I will preview the 2017 TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar which is scheduled for Saturday August 19th. Arrogate and Accelerate are expected entries. If both are entered, this would provide a rematch of Arrogate vs Accelerate from the San Diego Handicap.  Like the Whitney Stakes, the TVG Pacific Classic is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

 

2017 Haskell Invitational Preview

haskell

July 30th 2017

The 2017 Haskell Invitational probably has the most competitive field of 3-year-olds that we have seen since the Belmont Stakes. The Haskell is a Grade 1 Stakes race that carries a $1 Million dollar purse. It’s a “Win and You’re In” race as the race winner will earn a starting spot in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

At the 9 furlong distance (1 1/8th mile), any horse in the field has the ability to win this race. All have won a graded stakes race but none have a Grade 1 win yet on their resume.

Below are the post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds:

The Haskell Invitational Stakes

The Haskell Invitational – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #12 at Monmouth Park – Post-Time: Sunday July 30th at 4:47 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Irish War Cry – Maragh/Motion – 5/2
2. Battle of Midway – Prat/Hollendorfer – 5/1
3. Timeline – Castellano/Brown – 3/1
4. Practical Joke – Rosario/Brown – 4/1
5. McCraken – Hernandez/Wilkes – 9/2
6. Hence – Lopez/Asmussen – 12/1
7. Girvin – Albarado/Sharp – 6/1

Race Analysis: Irish War Cry is the morning line favorite. However, I like Timeline for the win. He has already won at Monmouth Park in the 8.5 furlong Pegasus Stakes back in June (shown below) with a really nice time of 1:41.32. I sort of have a hunch that Timeline is a star in the making and that the Haskell will be his coming out party. The Chad Brown-trained colt is undefeated in four starts.

With the field being so close in ability, exotic bets will be harder to hit here than your average seven horse field. However, if I played an exotic bet, I would key Timeline to win in Trifecta over Irish War Cry, Practical Joke and McCraken. That is 3 over 1, 4 and 5 over 1, 4 and 5 over 1, 4 and 5.


Jim Dandy Stakes Recap

It’s been a crazy year for horse racing. Good Samaritan, a turf horse who had never raced on dirt, beat Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and the Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing yesterday in the Jim Dandy Stakes (shown below).

In my preview for the race, I speculated that a closer would have a great chance of pulling off the win but didn’t think the talent was there in this 5 horse field. Obviously, Good Samaritan is more talented than anyone expected and he has made the transition from turf to dirt quite well.


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the 2017 Whitney Handicap which is set for Saturday August 5th. Gun Runner and Keen Ice are expected entries.  The Whitney will be a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With Arrogate’s recent loss in the San Diego Handicap, Gun Runner could quite possibly is the best racehorse in the world on dirt right now.


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

A Preakness Stakes Rematch: Always Dreaming vs Cloud Computing

July 29th 2017

The Jim Dandy Stakes will provide an interesting rematch of Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing from the Preakness Stakes. From a betting perspective, I don’t like the this race. A small field, the best horses coming off significant layoffs. I think Always Dreaming wins. However, if he and Cloud Computing lock into an early battle, it provides a closer a great opportunity to steal a win. I am not sure that any of the other three horses will have the closing ability to pull this off.

Pavel is making his second start after a maiden win in a sprint race. Good Samaritan has primarily ran on turf and synthetic surfaces and he is making is his first start on dirt. Giuseppe the Great has never won a graded stakes race or raced beyond one mile.

For me, this is just a good race to watch and it will be televised live by Fox Sport 2. Live coverage begins 5 pm EST/4 pm CST.

Jim Dandy Stakes

The Jim Dandy Stakes  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday July 29th at 5:18 PM CST.

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Always Dreaming – Velazquez/Pletcher – 1/1 
2. Cloud Computing – Ortiz Jr/Brown – 6/5
3. Giuseppe the Great – Saez/Zito – 10/1
4. Pavel – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 6/1
5. Good Samaritan – Rosario/Mott – 12/1


Haskell Invitational Preview

Tomorrow, I will preview the Haskell Invitational. I should have this out early in the morning.

–Michael

 

The World’s Top Ranked Horse Arrogate loses

DelMar_2017Logo_RGB_CROP2

July 23rd 2017

The world’s top rated horse Arrogate was beaten yesterday in the San Diego Handicap. The word upset doesn’t seem like a strong enough adjective. Why? Arrogate reeled off the best 6 furlong workout time (1:11) of his career just one week before this race. This was a five horse field that he should have wired. It was a tune-up race without a daunting field to beat. But as they say, this is why they don’t play the games, run the races, on paper.

Arrogate simply didn’t fire yesterday. He hung around in last early in the race with everyone fully expecting the huge plunge to the front. It wasn’t IF….but WHEN. But it never happened. Arrogate made a modest move towards the front going into the final corner. However, he lost his mojo coming out of the turn and was subsequently eased towards the end by jockey Mike Smith.

Now the interesting trivia question. Who is the only horse to have finished ahead of Arrogate twice? The San Diego Handicap winner Accelerate who wired the field by 8 1/2 lengths. Accelerate also finished ahead of Arrogate in his very first start in April 17th 2016 at Los Alamitos. 

This result sent shock waves through the sport as I witnessed on Facebook. Seriously, I didn’t think this many fans were watching this. Now who the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic favorite will be is totally up in the air. The Classic will be run at the same track, Del Mar. Perhaps this is what the sport needed as it looked like it was a foregone conclusion that Arrogate would waltz to another Classic victory.


Saratoga Races on Fox Sports 2

Fox Sports 2 is going to air live telecasts of races at Saratoga pretty much every day (starting around 3 or 5 pm CST) all through next weekend. Tuesday July 25th is the only day that they won’t broadcast live races.  The big upcoming races next weekend are the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday July 29th and the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Sunday July 30th. I will preview both races and have this out by Friday evening.


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

-Michael

2018 Kentucky Derby Contenders – Copper Bullet

2018KentuckyDerbyLogo

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

belmont

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?

belmont

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