Thank You Churchill Downs for totally destroying the sport of horse racing

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May 4th 2019 – Update May 5th 2019

Sports and officiating. They say a well officiated game/sport is one where you don’t notice the officiating. What I just witnessed today at Churchill Downs with the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby was simply… I’m reaching for adjectives….absurd, astonishing, shocking, stupid…

Every one of these race officials who overturned the win of Maximum Security should be fired immediately. Why?

Rules govern the sport. Rules govern every sport. They are there for a reason to guide the sport and make it safe and have integrity. But millions of people are tuned in, watching the Kentucky Derby, the sport in its most absolute glamorous position—then you stall and extend coverage over a Race Stewards decision on who won. If it was that obvious a foul altered the outcome of a race, the decision should have been quick and easy.

Do I need to mention that the sport of horse racing is in serious decline, almost needing mouth-to-mouth CPR, in the face of a new sports landscape on the horizon where every Joe Blow will be able bet on any sporting event? The sport of horse racing has lost many fans and bettors over the years due to cheating within the sport and organized crime altering race outcomes.

And what do you do, drag out the decision so that the event gets extended coverage, then overturn the finishing order that all these Millions of people watched. You give the win to a 65-1 longshot. Who will never win another Grade 1 stakes race. Put me on record for that.

Simply Dumb.

The rules read: “If in the opinion of the stewards, a foul alters the finish of a race, any offending horses may be disqualified by the stewards.”

Maximum Security led from start to finish. No other horse finished close enough to him for a disqualification to have merit.

The bettors race favorite, Maximum Security, gets the win taken away from him by a horse who would have doing good to hit 4th place in your Superfecta. Maximum Security was the best, the fastest horse in this field and was today. All the NBC commentators agreed. Race Stewards, listen to them.

Then you completely turn your back on bettors. There was $6,212,046 bet on Maximum Security to win compared to $520,907 on Country House. Maximum Security also had $1,495,408 to place and $1,272,082 to show. So roughly $9 million dollars. A really wise move for a sport on CPR.

These colts are inexperienced. A horse in the lead should get to decide where he wants to go. This isn’t Formula One racing with seasoned veteran drivers that you can penalize for blocking. This is horse racing with animals who aren’t as experienced. They don’t have rear view mirrors or side mirrors to know whose behind them and where they are on the track.

The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby should be viewed as a complete farce. I am glad that I have moved into writing about NHL hockey, a sport that has integrity enough to suspend officials and apologize to fans for bad calls by referees.

–Michael

2019 Kentucky Derby Preview

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April 30th 2019 – Updated May 4th 2019 4:50 PM EST

Below is the starting field for the 145th Kentucky Derby with post-positions and jockey assignments. Note the updated Morning Line Odds.

Who’s my Derby Favorite?

It’s really up in the air, I have no magic this year as my Derby favorite, Omaha Beach, has been scratched. Everybody Derby handicapper has been scrambling since this news. But, I want to share some wisdom and one simple race replay for you to watch. The 2019 Arkansas Derby (shown below).

If you remember last year’s sloppy Kentucky Derby, Magnum Moon, by times and speed figures was one of the fastest colts in the field. I liked him and Justify on a dry, fast track. See:  https://www.sbnation.com/2018/5/5/17321102/kentucky-derby-2018-predictions.

But Magnum Moon didn’t take to the slop, neither did a lot of horses. Too much backsplash. Todd Pletcher said they were still cleaning out mud from Patch’s one good eye three days later in an interview.

One thing that is clearly evident from watching the 2019 Arkansas Derby below, is how Improbable raced in traffic, in the slop and challenged Omaha Beach to the wire. And note how jockey Mike Smith hustled up Omaha Beach at the start of this race to avoid any chance of backsplash being a factor. Mike Smith = a very smart and wise jockey.

In your Derby handicapping and betting, give extra attention to colts who historically like to get to the front quick and those who have raced and performed well in an off track condition. It looks to be another slop fest Saturday.

Right now, I like Maximum Security and Improbable but this Derby is wide-open and not a great betting race as it appears from weather reports, to be another wet, sloppy race. Improbable had gate issues in the Arkansas Derby which concerns me.

Overall, I like Maximum Security if it turns out to be a dry race. If it is wet, I am leaning towards Improbable. I didn’t get a chance to handicap this race like I wanted to as my Uncle passed away yesterday unexpectedly so I have been reeling from that news.

2019 Kentucky Derby Starting Field

1) War of Will (15/1) – The Risen Star Stakes winner originally started off as a turf horse with little success before switching to dirt. The change work well for the Mark Casse-trained colt as he reeled off three straight wins. The he simply did not fire in his last start with a head-scratching 9th place finish in the Louisiana Derby. War of Will generally likes to get out towards the front, something he did not do in the Louisiana Derby. But he will now have to drawing the dreaded trail in the Derby. 

Career: 8 Starts 3-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st-->1st–>9th
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.45 (estimated) – 2019 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 96 – 2019 Risen Star Stakes

2) Tax (20/1) – The gelding was a consistent performer at Aqueduct,  with a third place finish in the Remsen Stakes, a win in the Withers Stakes and a second place finish in his last start, the Wood Memorial. Move along.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Arch 
Trainer: Danny Gargan
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.23 – 2019 Withers Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 103 – 2018 Remsen Stakes

3) By My Standards (15/1) – At 22-1 odds, By My Standards was the surprise longshot winner of the Louisiana Derby. This is a colt to consider for your Superfecta bets as he produced a sub-38 second last 3 furlong time in that race, something very few in this field accomplished.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  3rd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Goldencents (Finished 17th in 2013 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Bret Calhoun
Jockey: Gabriel Saez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.53 – 2019 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 102 – 2019 Louisiana Derby

4) Gray Magician (50/1) – He finished 2nd in the UAE Derby. He raced exclusively in the US before that race with little success. A very appropriate 50-1 longshot. Move along.

Career: 8 Starts 1-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Graydar
Trainer: Peter Miller
Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 93 – 2019 Miracle Woods Stakes (Black Type)

5) Improbable (5/1) – The Bob Baffert-trained colt is a consistent runner, never finishing below 2nd in his five career starts. The Los Alamitos Futurity winner finished 2nd to Long Range Toddy in the Rebel Stakes and gave Omaha Beach a run for his money in the Arkansas Derby. He has proven to run well in the slop in the Arky Derby so file that fact away if we get a wet race on Saturday. He has one of the winningest post-positions, post #5, so that will help. I generally like this colt in Trifectas because of his proven consistency. But he has enough speed and fight to win under the right circumstances.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: City Zip
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997,1998, 2003, 2015 & 2018 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.07 (estimated) – 2019 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 100 – 2018 Los Alamitos Futurity

6) Vekoma (15/1) – The Blue Grass Stakes winner. Although he only has four career starts, they all came at different tracks and he never finished below third. He also has a great jockey in Javier Castellano. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits the board.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd—>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: George Weaver
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.93 – 2019 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 101 – 2019 Blue Grass Stakes

7) Maximum Security (8/1) – Just like last year, jockey Luis Saez has one of the fastest colts in the Derby with Maximum Security. Last year, Saez had a disappointing 19th place finish with Magnum Moon in the sloppy Kentucky Derby. The good news here is that Maximum Security won the first race of his 3-year-old campaign on a muddy (sealed) surface at Gulfstream Park. So Maximum Security should be viewed as a dual threat to win on any surface. If you are shopping for a good price on a horse that I think has a serious chance of winning.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st->1st
Sire: New Year’s Day
Trainer: Jason Servis
Jockey: Luis Saez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.86 – 2019 Florida Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 102 – 2019 Florida Derby

8) Tacitus (8/1)  – The Wood Memorial winner has won three straight. A progeny of Tapit, he should take to the added distance. Although I don’t consider him a serious threat to win the Derby, consider him as a candidate to slip into your Superfectas. And I think he has a bright future moving forward with more experience. He’ll win a big stakes race somewhere down the line, I just don’t think its this Saturday.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st-->1st–>1st
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Jason Servis
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.23 – 2019 Wood Memorial Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 103 – 2019 Wood Memorial Stakes

9) Plus Que Parfait (30/1) – The UAE Derby winner. They often don’t perform as well as expected in the Kentucky Derby. His time in the UAE Derby of 1:58.41 was the exact same time Lani produced in the race three years ago. The Ridgling had spotty performances on US soil before shipping over to Dubai for the UAE Derby. He did finish 2nd in the Kentucky Jockey Club race at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old. However, I don’t see him hitting the board on Saturday. 

Career: 7 Starts 2-1-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>13th–>1st
Sire: Point of Entry
Trainer: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Jockey: Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

10) Cutting Humor (30/1) – The Sunland Derby winner that is trained by Todd Pletcher and will now be ridden by Mike Smith. Note that he set a track record in Sunland Derby. His first race was a 2nd place finish on a sloppy track at Belmont. So he has off track experience. With a good mid pack starting spot in the gate, Cutting Humor is the best longshot in this field in my opinion.

Career: 6 Starts 2-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>7th–>1st
Sire: First Samurai
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 & 2018 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:46.94 – 2019 Sunland Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 99 – 2019 Sunland Derby

13) Code of Honor (12/1)– The Shug McGaughey-trained colt won the Fountain of Youth Stakes and finished third in the Florida Derby. McGaughey is a Hall of Fame trainer who won the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Orb. Code of Honor’s jockey John Velazquez is a future Hall of Famer who has won two Kentucky Derbys. I am just not sure Code of Honor has the speed to win the Derby but consider him in your Superfecta bets.

Career: 5 Starts 2-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Noble Mission 
Trainer: Shug McGaughey 
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.94 (estimated) – 2019 Florida Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 95 – 2019 Florida Derby

14) Win Win Win (12/1) After winning Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in January, Win Win Win followed up this effort with a 3rd place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby and a 2nd place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes. At 12-1, these odds are too short for my tastes.

Career: 6 Starts 3-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st->3rd–>2nd
Sire: Hat Trick
Trainer: Michael Trombetta
Jockey: Julian Pimentel
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.49 (estimated) – 2019 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 101 – 2019 Pasco Stakes (Black Type)

15) Master Fencer (50/1) – The Japanese Fukuryu Stakes runner-up. That is exactly what I said to myself when I heard this colt was entered in the Derby. 50-1 morning line odds? Might as well be 500-1 odds as this colt will be like a Toyota racing versus Ferraris in the Kentucky Derby. Why? Master Fencer finished 4th in the Japanese Road to the Kentucky Derby point standings. Plus, he is slow. I converted his estimated time in the 1800 meter Fukuryu Stakes to an estimated time for 9 furlongs which most of this Derby class ran in their final Derby prep. I came up with an estimated time of 1:54.14 on a dry, fast track. He might fare better on an off track as he won an 1800 meter race on a bit of an off track on December 23rd. That estimated time came out better at 1:51.84. Slow, slow, slow.

Career: 6 Starts 2-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>2nd
Sire: Just a Way
Trainer: Koichi Tsunoda
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:54.14 (estimated) – 2019 Fukuryu Stakes (Japan)
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: N/A

16) Game Winner (9/2) – The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and Eclipse 2 Year Old American Male Champion is the current Morning Line odds favorite. Count me as one who doesn’t think he should be. Although I was high on this horse by virtue of his 2-year campaign, Game Winner didn’t win either of his Derby prep races as a 3-year old. In his final Derby prep race, he lost to Roadster in the Santa Anita Derby. The winning time of  that race was 1:51.28— the 4th slowest Santa Anita Derby ever at that 1 1/8th mile distance. 

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Last 3 starts:  1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997,1998, 2003, 2015 & 2018 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.72 – 2019 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 103 – 2018 Breeders Cup Juvenile

17) Roadster (5/1) – The Santa Anita Derby winner is tied at 5/1 odds with Improbable for the 2nd Morning Line favorite. For the same reasons why I am not a big believer in Game Winner, I am not a believer in this colt. One of my horse handicapping colleague’s always like to tell me “Time only matters when you’re in prison” when I bring up fraction and race times. But Roadster’s Santa Anita Derby winning time of 1:51.28 was the 4th slowest ever at that 1 1/8th mile distance. You have to go back to 1957 to find a slower Santa Anita Derby winning race time. This is part of the reason why Mike Smith opted for Omaha Beach over Roadster.

Career: 8 Starts 1-3-1-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Quality Road
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997,1998, 2003, 2015 & 2018 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.28 – 2019 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 98 – 2019 Santa Anita Derby

18) Long Range Toddy (30/1) – After winning the first of the two Rebel Stakes races at Oaklawn Park, the Steve Asmussen-trained colt was expected to be a major challenger in the Arkansas Derby. However, he finished a disappointing 6th in that race. My take is that he had never raced on an wet track before and didn’t take too well to those conditions. 

Career: 7 Starts 1-3-1-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>4th
Sire: Take Charge Indy (Finished 19th in 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Jon Court
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.56 (estimated) – 2019 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 97 – 2019 Rebel Stakes (1)

19) Spinoff (30/1) – Another one of Todd Pletcher’s trainees. He has raced at four different tracks and never finished below third. He lost the lead in his final Derby prep race, the Louisiana Derby, to By My Standards. So there is concern how he will like the added distance of another furlong in the Derby. My verdict, probably a mid pack finisher at best and Pletcher’s second best Derby entry in this race behind Cutting Humor.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd->1st–>2nd
Sire: Hard Spun (Finished 2nd in the 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Manny Franco
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.65 (estimated) – 2019 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 102 – 2019 Louisiana Derby 

20) Country House (30/1) – Country House finished third in the sloppy Arkansas Derby so we know that can handle an off track. He isn’t viewed as a serious threat to win the Derby as he has yet to win a Stakes race of any grade. However, he’s got to be a horse to consider in your Superfectas if we get another wet or sloppy Kentucky Derby.

Career: 6 Starts 1-2-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>4th->3rd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky (Finished 6th in the 2010 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: William Mott
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.99 (estimated) – 2019 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 95 – 2019 Louisiana Derby

21)  Bodexpress (30/1) – The son of Bodemeister, who finished 2nd in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, gets into this Kentucky Derby field due to the scratch to Omaha Beach. He has never won a race in 6 career starts but ran well in the Florida Derby (shown below) with a 2nd place finish behind Maximum Security. The Kentucky Derby is no place to try to break your maiden, especially from post #20.

Career: 6 Starts 0-3-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>2nd—>2nd
Sire: Bodemeister (Finished 2nd in the 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Gustavo Delgado
Jockey: Chris Landeros
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.82 (estimated) – 2019 Florida Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 98 – 2018 Florida Derby


On the docket…

I will preview every Triple Crown race, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup.

–Michael

Derby Analytics – The 2019 Kentucky Derby Winner will be…

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April 28th 2019

When handicapping the Kentucky Derby, there are several analytic tools that I use. The first is the points system. Since the creation of the point system for qualification into the Kentucky Derby, every Kentucky Derby winner earned 100 more qualifying points on the Derby trail. Who are this year’s candidates who scored 100 or more points?

  1. Tacitus – 150
  2. Omaha Beach – 137.5
  3. Vekoma – 110
  4. Plus Que Parfait – 104
  5. Roadster – 100
  6. By My Standards – 100
  7. Maximum Security – 100

This point system has only been in place since 2013, so it can only be viewed as a starting point for trying to figure out your Derby winner. My guess is, if we went back 10 or more years and attached the same point system to the Derby prep races, we would see that most Kentucky Derby winners would have achieved 100 or more points since most Derby winners finished strong in their final Derby prep races.

Another key analytic tool I use is late speed, last 3 furlong fraction times as the Derby winner has to have a strong late kick to win the race in a field of 20 horses. I desire a time under 38 seconds over the last 3 furlongs in their last 9-furlong Derby prep race to ensure that the horse has the necessary closing speed. I look at the time difference between the final time and the 3/4-mile (six-furlong) mark and estimate that a length is generally around 0.16 seconds. It is not exact science but a pretty good estimate if you don’t have times from Trackus.

To illustrate why this is important, below are the final 3-furlong times in the last Derby prep race for the last seven Kentucky Derby winners:

2018 – Justify (36.87 in Santa Anita Derby)
2017 – Always Dreaming (36.56 in Florida Derby)
2016 – Nyquist (37.64 in Florida Derby)
2015 – American Pharoah (37.82 in Arkansas Derby)
2014 – California Chrome (36.69 in Santa Anita Derby)
2013 – Orb (37.74 in Florida Derby)
2012 – I’ll Have Another (36.42 in Santa Anita Derby)

I crunched numbers and of the seven candidates listed above who had 100 or more Derby points, I only found two horses who eclipsed the 3 furlong 38 second mark in their last Derby prep race: Maximum Security and Omaha Beach. Improbable eclipsed this mark but he only finished with 65 Derby points.

1) Maximum Security – 35.96 (1st in Florida Derby)
2) Omaha Beach – 37.45 (1st in Arkansas Derby)
3) Improbable – 37.45 (2nd in Arkansas Derby)

Note that Omaha Beach and Improbable’s times were on a sloppy, wet track which should be slower than times produced on a dry, fast track. Also note that I had to estimate Plus Que Parfait’s last 3 furlong time from the UAE Derby using his last 700 meter time since that race is 1900 meters and not 9 furlongs. I came up with an estimated time of 38.31.

In summary, I think the 2019 Kentucky Derby winner will be one of the three horses listed above: Maximum Security, Omaha Beach and Improbable. That’s if this year’s Run for the Roses is on a dry, fast track. If it is wet, I am leaning towards Omaha Beach and Improbable since they have already performed well on a sloppy, wet track in the Arkansas Derby.

I will wait for final post-positions before declaring my Derby favorite.

—Michael

 

The 2019 Kentucky Derby

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April 27th 2019

We are now one week away from 145th Run for the Roses. I have will be posting a preview of the race once post-positions are confirmed on Tuesday. I haven’t written much on the Derby Trail this year as I have focused more on writing about NHL hockey which can be found here: https://gasnsports.com/category/sports/other-sports/

Overall, I like Omaha Beach and Maximum Security as my Derby co-favorites at the moment. However, I want to see the final post-positions before making any pick recommendations. There is still a part of me that thinks we may get a surprise winner. And especially if it is a wet race. So I will be monitoring the Louisville weather reports.

Stay tuned!

–Michael

2019 Pegasus World Cup Preview

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January 23rd 2019 – Updated January 26th 2019

Coming up this Saturday, the 2019 Pegasus World Cup which sadly seems to be losing some of its original appeal and luster. In what used to be the richest horse race in the world, the Pegasus World Cup purse was reduced from $16 Million in 2018 down to $9 Million for 2019. The inaugural 2017 Pegasus World Cup carried a $12 Million purse surpassing the $10 Million purse offered by the Dubai World Cup.

Why the reduced purse? I am uncertain. Perhaps the purse was spread over to the turf race to give the Pegasus World Cup a better support race. Unfortunately, the Pegasus World Cup was a brilliant idea by Frank Stronach to help keep the stars of the sport in active training but few followed his lead. 

Below are the official entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds for this year’s Pegasus World Cup scheduled for Saturday January 26th at Gulfstream Park. Post time is 4:36 PM CST.  The race will be televised on NBC with coverage beginning at 3:30 PM CST. All horses will carry 124 lbs weight.

2019 Pegasus World Cup 1 1/8th mile – Purse: $9 Million

Post Position/ Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Bravazo- Saez/Lukas – 12-1
2. Something Awesome – Prado/Corrales – 20-1
3. City of Light – Castellano/McCarthy – 5-2
4. Seeking the Soul – Velazquez/Stewart – 12-1
5. Accelerate Rosario/Sadler – 9-5
6. Tom’s d’Etat – Bridgmohan/Stall Jr – 20-1
7. True Timber – Bravo/McLaughlin 30-1
8. Gunnevera – Ortiz Jr/Sano – 8-1
9. Kukulkan – Dettori/Guiterrez – 30-1
10. Audible – Prat/Pletcher – 10-1
11. Imperative – Gaffliaone/Quarterolo – 30-1
12. Patternrecognition – Ortiz/Brown – 10-1

Race Analysis: I have been watching the rumored entries for this race over the past month. My level of excitement dwindled by the day as I saw no real challenger to the John Sadler-trained Accelerate. Accelerate’s only serious threat is the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Champion City of Light.

The 2019 Florida Derby Winner Audible is a name-horse starting from post #10. You may remember that he finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby.  He has run well at Gulfstream Park. However, he wasn’t that impressive in his last start at the track, the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes, where he finished 2nd behind the 25-1 longshot Sir Anthony.

Overall, I was hoping for a better field considering the $9 Million Purse. But “you get what you get” as they say. I’ll take Straight Win bets on Accelerate. Maybe an Accelerate over City of Light Straight Exacta. For Superfecta betting, I’ll will key Accelerate over City of Light, Gunnevera, Bravazo and Audible (#5 over 1,3,8,10 over 1,3,8,10 over 1,3,8,10).

Update: Overnight rain at Gulfstream Park may even up this field. However, note that Accelerate won the sloppy Santa Anita Handicap last year. He is still my pick to win. Bravazo runs well in the slop, so expect his live odds to lower from 12-1.

–Michael

 

 

2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic Preview

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October 31st 2018 – Updated November 3rd 2018 4:40 PM CST

Below is the starting field for the 2018 Breeders Cup Classic with post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds. The race will be aired live by NBC. Post time is 4:44 PM CST/5:44 PM EST.

Breeders’ Cup Classic

Post Position/ Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Thunder Snow – Soumillon/Suroor – 12-1
2. Roaring Lion – Murphy/Gosden – 20-1
3. Catholic Boy – Castellano/Thomas – 8-1
4. Gunnevera – Ortiz Jr/Sano – 20-1
5. Lone Sailor – Graham/Amoss – 30-1
6. McKinzie – Smith/Baffert – 6-1
7. West Coast – Velazquez/Baffert – 5-1
8. Pavel –  Gutierrez/O’Neill – 20-1
9. Mendelssohn – Moore/O’Brien – 12-1
10. Yoshida – Ortiz/Mott – 10-1
11. Mind Your Biscuits – Gaffliaone/Summers – 6-1
12. Axelrod – Bravo/McCarthy – 30-1
13. Discreet Lover – Franco/Lewis – 20-1
14. Accelerate Rosario/Sadler – 5-2

Also Eligibles:
15. Collected – Trainer Bob Baffert – 30-1
16. Toast of New York – Trainer Jamie Osborne – 20-1

Race Commentary:  Overall, I feel that this is one of the weaker Breeders’ Cup Classic fields we have had in awhile. But this race carries a $6 Million dollar purse and I still think this will be an exciting race that could produce a surprise winner. There is no horse in this field that I think is a lock to win it this year.

My feeling right now is that Accelerate is really the class of this field. Usually the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic has had a Beyer Speed Figure (BSF) greater than 115. Only two horses in this field have met or exceeded this standard this year: West Coast in Pegasus World Cup way back in January with a 117 BSF and Accelerate in the Pacific Classic in August with a 115 BSF. For any other horse in this field, this means that they will have to run way better than they have ever had in their career. 

Please note that Accelerate beat West Coast in their most recent race, the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita (shown below), despite Accelerate having to travel the greater distance since he beat him coming from the outside.

Also note that jockey Mike Smith opted to ride McKinzie over West Coast. That tells me all I need to know. That Smith likes his chances better on a 3 year-old (McKinzie) vs the 4 year-old (West Coast).

Accelerate really has the tougher post-position starting from gate 14. If he drew an inside post or a post in the middle of the field, I would key Accelerate to win in my exotic bets. However, also note that trainer John Sadler has never won a Breeders’ Cup Classic. Trainer Bob Baffert, who trains McKinzie and West Coast, has won three.

Overall, I like big Win bets on Game Winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race on Friday than any win bet on a horse in this Breeders’ Cup Classic field. So what I would do is place smaller Boxed Exactas on Accelerate-McKinzie (6,14 over 6,14) and Boxed Trifectas on Accelerate, McKinzie and West Coast (6,7,14 over 6,7,14 over 6,7,14). A $1 Boxed Trifecta would cost $6. 

If I had to pick one horse who I think could surprise everyone, it would be Mind Your Biscuits who won the Lukas Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs in late September and earned a 108 BSF. However, note that Mind Your Biscuits has never raced further than 9 furlongs but he has finished 1st or 2nd in his last six starts.

Updates

Click on Hyperlink for each race to see Brisnet Past Performances

Breeders’ Cup Mile (Turf Race #8): This race is too wide-open for my tastes. But if you want a selection for a Pick 4, I’d go with the Chad Brown trained Analyze It from post position #12. However, there are a number of unknowns in this field. So if you are playing a Pick 4 and like another horse in the field, throw them in. You might want to throw in Next Shares and Oscar Performance. So 2-5-12.

Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Race #9)I like Mike Smith riding on Abel Tasman from post-position #2. This one is no lock but I will take my chances with Mike Smith and the better inside post-position.

Breeders’ Cup Longines Turf (Race #10): I like Enable from post position #2. Enable has won eight straight, including two prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe races. Career: 10 starts, 9 wins. This is as much of a lock as you will find for a turf race and a European shipper. But bet cautiously as Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winners haven’t fared well in this Longines Turf race.

Breeders’ Cup Classic (Race #11): You have got to be concerned with trainer John Sadler’s record in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships and especially with how Catalina Cruiser bombed in the Dirt Mile earlier. So Sadler’s trainee Accelerate, the morning line favorite, may end up the third or fourth favorite by post-time. I am warming up to McKinzie a bit more as my race winner. However, note that Catholic Boy was the early betting favorite for this race on Friday. I still think this race is wide-open and will be must-see TV. I still like Accelerate.

My advice, on the Breeders’ Cup Classic: Bet Small and Enjoy. It will be a fun race.

–Michael

2018 Breeders Cup World Championships

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October 28th 2018

It has been awhile since I posted a blog. With sports betting on the horizon of becoming legalized in a number of states in the near future, I have been trying my hand a handicapping various sports with some friends. The potential goal being the creation of a sports handicapping service in the future with handicappers who excel in various sports. What I learned may become a future blog on US Racing. That being said, one sport that I have excelled at handicapping thus far is NFL football.

Another reason why I haven’t posted a blog in awhile is the fact that I feel this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic field is weaker than year’s past. I do feel that the Classic is more wide open this year and it should be an exciting race. As far as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, I think Game Winner is going to take that race.

Check back later as I will post another blog with some of my Breeders’ Cup World Championship selections. I do plan to focus more on the 2019 Pegasus World Cup in January as it is the richest horse race in the world and I seem to do well historically at Gulfstream Park.

–Michael

Labor Day Special – The Hopeful Stakes and Del Mar Futurity

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September 3rd 2018

It’s Labor Day and time to get a nice “look-see” on potential Kentucky Derby runners for next year with two Grade 1 races: The Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga and the Del Mar FuturityBelow are the post-positions, weights, jockey assignments and morning line odds for both races:

The Hopeful Stakes  – 7 furlongs – Race #10 at Saratoga – Post-Time: 4:38 PM CST. Televised by Fox Sports 2 and TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Sombeyay (122) – Castellano/Pletcher – 5/1 
2. Mind Control (118) – Velazquez/Sacco – 5/1  
3. Nitrous (118) – Santana Jr/Assmussen – 7/2 
4. Thatwouldbegrand (118) – Ortiz Jr/Capuno – 20/1
5. Dream Maker (118) – Leparoux/Casse – 4/1  
6. Backtohisroots (118) – Davis/Terranova – 20/1
7. Mucho (118) – Rosario/Mott – 8/5
8. Derby Date (116) – Saez/Lukas – 15/1 

My Pick:  Mucho has posted a 90 Beyer Speed Figure in a 6 furlong race at Saratoga last month. He’s the fastest horse in this field. However, I’ve got a sneaky feeling that Steve Asmussen’s Nitrous is going to win this one. He has a nice starting position on the inside. So I will probably be doing a #3/#7 Boxed Exacta.


The Del Mar Futurity  – 7 furlongs – Race #9 at Del Mar – Post-Time: 8:05 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Sparky Ville (120) – Stevens/Bonde – 20/1
2. Rowayton (120) – Van Dyke/Hollendorfer – 3/1
3. Roadster (120) – Smith/Baffert – 6/5
4. Savagery (120) – Talamo/Miller- 15/1
5. Spin Lightning (120) – Prat/Mullins – 6/1
6. Sigalert (120) – Baze/Sadler – 8/1
7. Game Winner (120) – Gutierrez/Baffert – 4/1

My Pick: I think Roadster is one of the top 2-year-olds currently along with Jerry Hollendorfer’s Instagrand. Instagrand’s ownership decided to skip this race. I was really hoping, like many other race fans, for this showdown. I like Roadster for the win. I think a #3 over #2,#7 Exacta might be a good play here. But remember that 2-year-olds can be very unpredictable.

–Michael

A Lack of Superstars? Kentucky Derby Classes As 2 Year-Olds

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August 27th 2018

One thing that I have been kind of silent about after the retirement of Justify, is that fact that this sport really lacks a Superstar right now. Why? Because it doesn’t really make good sense for anyone in the media to lament the fact because blog views will go down, TV ratings will go down, interest in the sport will wane. etc. 

Part of the problem with a lack of Superstars in the sport is due to the fact that the casual fan gets to know and develops favorite horses mostly due to exposure from the Kentucky Derby. How many of the past Derby runners from previous years are still racing and doing well in the Older Horse division? Virtually none. Although there is talent in the Older Horse division with Accelerate and Diversify, they lack name recognition with the casual race fan as a consequence of not running in the Kentucky Derby.

The other part of the problem has been the fact that the last few Derby classes have lacked depth which I will get into shortly. When the talent pool of a Derby class lacks depth, ultimately it affects the Older Horse division the next year since injuries and retirements to the breeding shed take away many budding Superstars. 

Typically in the past, before the Curse of Apollo breaker Justify, the vast majority of the time, the future Kentucky Derby winner had raced as a 2-year-old on or before Labor Day. See chart below.

Kentucky Derby Winners – # of Starts as a 2-Year-Old by Labor Day

2017 – Always Dreaming – 2
2016 – Nyquist – 3
2015 – American Pharoah – 1
2014 – California Chrome – 4
2013 – Orb – 1
2012 – I’ll Have Another – 2
2011 – Animal Kingdom – None (1st Start Sept 18th)
2010 – Super Saver – 1
2009 – Mine That Bird – 3
2008 – Big Brown – 1

Critics of Justify state that he dominated a weak Derby class to win his Triple Crown. A Triple Crown is still one of the toughest accomplishments in sports, but this criticism is warranted.

The good news, early reports are this upcoming Kentucky Derby class will be a good one. When looking at Beyer Speed Figures as 2 Year-Olds, I decided to research and find out how many from the past six classes had achieved a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 or better by September 1st.

2018 – 5
2017 – 2 
2016 – 5
2015 – 2
2014 – 10
2013 – 9

The 2013 and 2014 2 Year-Old classes were exceptional and produced Derby winners the following year in California Chrome and American Pharoah. There was little doubt in my mind before this research that American Pharoah and California Chrome both faced tougher competition in their Triple Crown runs than Justify faced this year. This makes me appreciate American Pharoah’s Triple Crown championship even more.

The 2015 2 Year-Old Class that included eventual Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist had some of the weakest Beyer Speed Figures and times. Many in the media moaned about the slow times. The 2017 2-Year-Old class showed a lot of promise but didn’t really deliver as expected as 3 Year-Olds. The poster child here was Bolt d’Oro who had many excited as a 2 Year-Old but kind of faded as a 3 Year-Old.

So when you have a number of weak Derby classes in a row and the Triple Crown Champion is retired after the Belmont Stakes, you have the situation we have right now with a lack of Superstars. But hope springs eternal with the next Derby class.

Early 2019 Kentucky Derby Favorites?

As for the 2019 Kentucky Derby class, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained colt Instagrand and Bob Baffert’s Roadster are the top two on my watch list. I have posted videos of both colts below. Instagrand has already posted Beyer Speed Figures of 88 and 92 in his first two starts.

Both colts are expected to square off in the Del Mar Futurity next Monday. My next blog will preview this race. Stay tuned!


Update With Some Sad News

Shortly after publishing this blog, I caught the unexpected news of the passing of John Asher, who was Vice President of Racing Communications at Churchill Downs. Asher died on an apparent heart attack early this morning. This is really sad news for our sport as John Asher was the most visible face of the Kentucky Derby and a real credit to the sport. The sport needs more people like John, not less.

A Twitter tweet from trainer Bob Baffert sums it up best: John was the warm human face of Churchill Downs. He was as Kentucky as the Derby and the Bluegrass, Bourbon and hot Browns.

Condolences to Asher’s family and friends. He will be missed.

–Michael

Catholic Boy Surprises in Travers, Updated 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

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August 26th 2018

The 149th Travers Stakes (shown below) proved to be exciting and a very humbling race for national handicappers as most experts picked Good Magic, Vino Rosso or Wonder Gadot to win. I picked Gronkowski.  Vino Rosso finished 5th. Gronkowski, Good Magic and Wonder Gadot finished 8th, 9th and 10th (last) respectively. These performances, to say the least, were head-scratchers. I think I could have drawn names out of a hat and fared better. But exotic bets sure paid out well. A 50 cent Trifecta paid back $744.25. Even better, a 10 cent Superfecta paid out $1,796.75.

Best 3-Year-Old still in Training?

It’s a no-brainer that Justify will unanimously win this year’s 3 Year Old Male Dirt Champion award by virtue of becoming the 13th Triple Crown Champion. So this begs the question, who is the best 3 Year Old still in training? It could be the filly Abel Tasman, but as far as colts are concerned, my pick would be Catholic Boy.

In a matter of seven weeks, Catholic Boy has produced a Grade 1 win on the turf in the 10 furlong Belmont Derby and a Grade 1 win on the dirt at the same distance in the Travers Stakes. In the Travers Stakes, Catholic Boy beat the Kentucky Derby Runner-up and Haskell Invitational winner Good Magic, the Preakness Stakes and Haskell Invitational Runner-Up Bravazo and the Belmont Stakes Runner-up Gronkowski.

My Boy Jack Update

I emailed West Point Thoroughbeds CEO Terry Finley, who is a minority owner of My Boy Jack, asking him for an update. Finley said they are resting him and planning on a big 2019 campaign. Per reports found on Bloodhorse.com and the Paulick Report, My Boy Jack will likely have surgery to remove bone chips from his front ankles that isn’t anything serious but probably was affecting his performance. It was discovered after his disappointing 8th place finish in the Belmont Derby.

Below are my updated Breebers’ Cup Classic Contender rankings.

2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1) Accelerate –Accelerate completed the Big Cap-Gold Cup double this spring having been victorious in the Santa Anita Handicap in March and Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes on May 26th. He followed up this effort with a win and career high Beyer Speed Figure of 115 in the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar (shown below). Next Start: The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park on September 29th.

Career: 20 Starts 8-5-5-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  3-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Joel Rosario 
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.38 – 2018 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 1152018 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2018: 115 – 2018 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 115 – 2018 Pacific Classic  

2) Diversify – The 5-year-old gelding eclipsed the $1 Million dollar mark in career earnings with his win in the Suburban Stakes. In hsis next start on August 4th, he won the Whitney Stakes with a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. He runs great in the state of New York and especially at Belmont Park. The question is, can he transfer this form to another track? Last year, he finished 4th in the 9 furlong Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on September 29th. 

Career: 15 Starts 10-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Bellamy Road
Trainer: Richard Violette
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:59.84 – 2018 Suburban Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 110 – 2018 Suburban Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2018: 110- 2018 Suburban Stakes/2018 Whitney Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2018 Suburban Stakes/2018 Whitney Stakes

3) Thunder SnowAs a 3-year-old, many fans will remember his “I’m outta here” start in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. However, he bounced back from that performance to win a couple of Group 1 races: The 2017 Prix Jean Prat (on turf) and the 2018 Dubai World Cup (beating the Bob Baffert-trained West Coast). But his most recent start in the Juddamonte International turf race on August 22nd was puzzling as he finished 8th and dead last. Next Start: Unknown.

Career: 19 Starts 7-5-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts 0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd->1st–>8th
Sire: Helmet
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2018: 111 – 2018 Dubai World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 111 – 2018 Dubai World Cup

4) West Coast – West Coast finished 3rd in last year’s Classic. This year, he has two 2nd places finishes in the Pegasus World Cup and the Dubai World Cup. He has never finished off the board in 11 career starts and has the highest Beyer Speed Figure this year (117) of active horses still in training. Next Start: Nothing announced to date. He was supposed to return to training a few weeks ago, but I cannot find any published workouts.

Career: 11 Starts 6-4-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Flatter
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: 2:01.19 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2018: 117 – 2018 Pegasus World Cup 
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 117 – 2018 Pegasus World Cup 

5) Catholic Boy – He has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Travers Stakes where he received a career best 104 Beyer Speed Figure. However, many believe that he is best suited on the turf and could be an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Turf race. Next Start: Unknown. 

Career: 9 Starts 6-1-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: More Than Ready
Trainer: Jonathan Thomas
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.94 – 2018 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 104 – 2018 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2018: 104 – 2018 Travers Stakes 
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2018 Travers Stakes 


On the Docket…

Time to switch gears a bit. My next blog will likely be a preview of the 2019 Kentucky Derby class, followed by a race preview of the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs scheduled on September 15th. The Iroquois Stakes is the first “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Sentient Jet Juvenile. Early reports suggest that this 2-Year-Old class is a very good one.

–Michael