Updated 2018 Belmont Stakes Contenders – Audible will not be entered


May 25th 2018

As many expected, it was announced today that the Florida Derby winner Audible will not run in the Belmont Stakes. Audible has the same ownership group (WinStar Farm/China Horse Club) as Justify.

So far, it appears that Justify’s competition for the Belmont Stakes will be:

Bravazo (Luis Saez/D. Wayne Lukas) –  Preakness Stakes Runner-Up
Vino Rosso (John Velazquez/Todd Pletcher) – 9th place finisher in the Kentucky Derby
Noble Indy (Florent Geroux/Todd Pletcher) – 17th place finisher in Kentucky Derby
Tenfold (Ricardo Santana Jr/Steve Asmussen) – 3rd place finisher in Preakness Stakes
Blended Citizen (Kyle Frey/Doug O’Neill) – Peter Pan Stakes Winner
Hofburg (Irad Ortiz Jr/Bill Mott) – 7th place finisher in the Kentucky Derby
Gronkowski (?/Chad Brown) – Burradon Stakes Winner
Free Drop Billy
(Robbie Albarado/Dale Romans) – 16th place finisher in Kentucky Derby
Restoring Hope
(Flavien Prat?/Bob Baffert) – 12th place finisher in Peter Pan Stakes
(?/Dermont Weld) – UK turf horse

Current Odds (Wynn Las Vegas)

Justify – 1/1
Bravazo – 8/1
Hofburg – 10/1
Vino Rosso – 11/1
Noble Indy – 12/1
Tenfold – 12/1
Restoring Hope – 20/1
Blended Citizen – 28/1
Gronkowski – 40/1
Free Drop Billy – 40/1
Bandua – No odds


Why Justify will become the 13th Triple Crown Champion


May 24th 2018

I am working on my next US Racing article “Why Justify will become the 13th Triple Crown Champion

There has only been one undefeated Triple Crown contender–Seattle Slew–who won the Triple Crown. Justify is the great-great-great grandson of Seattle Slew on his dam’s side. Seattle Slew is the only undefeated Triple Crown contender entering the Belmont Stakes who pulled it off (see below).

Stay tuned!
–Michael Cox

Triple Crown contenders entering the Belmont Stakes. How many were there? And how they fared


May 22nd 2018

I was curious and did some more research today that I think many of my readers might be interested in. My curiosity was: How many Triple Crown contenders entered the Belmont Stakes undefeated?

With Justify’s win in the Preakness Stakes, he became only the 5th Triple Crown contender in history entering the Belmont Stakes undefeated. Here are the five horses and their outcome in the Belmont Stakes.

1969 – Majestic Prince – 2nd (lost by 5 1/2 lengths) – He had won 9 straight races
1977 – Seattle Slew – 1st (won by 4 lengths) – He had won 8 straight races and made it 9
2004 – Smarty Jones – 2nd (lost by 1 length) – He had won 8 straight races.
2008 – Big Brown – 9th -Did Not Finish – He had won 5 straight races.
2018 – Justify – ? – He is on a 5 race winning streak.

Justify attempts to become only the 2nd horse ever since Seattle Slew to win the Triple Crown undefeated.


Justify’s Triple Crown Odds


May 21st 2018

With the 143rd Preakness Stakes now in the books, my focus will be on potential entries and Justify’s odds of pulling off the Triple Crown. Currently, it appears that he has even 1:1 odds which equates to a 50% chance. I think that is about right until we know for certain who is going to be entered.

First the good news, Justify came out of the Preakness in fine shape according to Trainer Bob Baffert. 

In Justify’s corner, he has one of the best trainers in the world who has won a Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharoah. Plus he is ridden by one of the top jockeys in the world as well in Mike Smith. Both Baffert and Smith have both won the Belmont Stakes twice during their career.

Thus far, it appears that Justify’s competition for the Belmont Stakes will be: Bravazo, Tenfold, Blended Citizen, Hofburg, Vino Rosso and possibly My Boy Jack, Free Drop Billy, Solomini and Audible. The latter is probably doubtful since Audible has the same ownership group (WinStar Farm/China Horse Club) as Justify. Common sense says you don’t try to beat yourself out of a Triple Crown. And the Florida Derby winner Audible is a talented colt who hit the board in the Kentucky Derby.

Winning the Belmont Stakes will be much more difficult than winning the Preakness Stakes as this potential field is much more talented and perhaps better suited for the Mile and a Half at Belmont Park than the Preakness Stakes field had against Justify cutting back a bit on distance in similar sloppy conditions as the Derby.

Bravazo had an impressive late run in the Preakness. You sort of got the feeling that if the Preakness would have been 10 furlongs instead of 9 1/2, Bravazo would have won beaten Justify to the wire. However, if the Preakness Stakes had been run on a dry, fast track, I don’t think this race would have been this close.

Interesting is the fact that despite a Preakness Stakes time (1:55.93) that was faster than American Pharoah’s (1:58.46) and Exaggerator’s (1:58.31) sloppy Preakness Stakes times, Justify only received a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. Justify’s closing speed time from the 3/4th mile mark was also faster in the Preakness Stakes than the Kentucky Derby. However, Pimlico’s track runs a bit faster in sloppy conditions than Churchill Downs.

Stay tuned, I will be monitoring this closely and will provide updates periodically. Since there are 3 weeks between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, news comes a little slower but I expect to know more by next Monday.


Triple Crown Watch – Justfy wins the Preakness


May 19th 2018

Told ya! Show me proof that one National Handicapper predicted that Justify will win the Preakness Stakes before me. You won’t. I posted this blog at 12:05 AM on May 7th. https://thederbyhandicapper.com/2018/05/07/triple-crown-contender-why-justify-will-win-the-2018-preakness-stakes/

American Pharoah’s sloppy Preakness Stakes time: 1:58.46

Justify’s sloppy Preakness Stakes time: 1:55.93

I ordered these tickets on Monday May 7th after the Kentucky Derby because I liked his Triple Crown chances.

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–Michael Cox

2018 Preakness Stakes Preview


May 16th 2018 – Updated May 19th 2018 at 12:05 PM CST

Below are the entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds for the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. The race will be aired live on NBC this coming Saturday around 5:48 PM CST. Be sure to catch my latest article on US RacingTriple Crown Fever: Why Justify Could Become The 13th Triple Crown Champion.” 

2018 Preakness Stakes Starting Field

1) Quip (12/1) – The 19-1 odds winner of the Tampa Bay Derby. He followed up this effort with a 2nd place finish behind Magnum Moon in the Arkansas Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 7th->1st->2nd
Sire: Distorted Humor
Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Tampa Bay Derby

2) Lone Sailor (15/1) – The Tom Amoss-trained colt is a deep closer who briefly took the lead in the Louisiana Derby only to lose by a neck to Noble Indy (shown below). Although I had questioned whether he would like distance, he finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 9 Starts 1-3-1-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>8th
Sire: Majestic Warrior 
Trainer: Tom Amoss
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2018 Louisiana Derby

3) Sporting Chance (30/1) – In his most recent start, he finished 4th in the Pat Day Mile (shown below). He has had problems in a couple of races with lugging out down the stretch. He’s talented but quirky.

Career: 7 Starts 2-1-1-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>4th–>4th
Sire: Tiznow
Trainer: D.Wayne Lukas (1980,1985,1994,1995,1999, 2013 Preakness S.Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – 2018 Blue Grass Stakes

4) Diamond King (30/1) – The Federico Tesio Stakes winner (shown below). He will be ridden by two-time Preakness Stakes winning jockey Javier Castellano. However, note that he has yet to produce a 90+ Beyer Speed Figure in 6 career starts. But he did eclipse the 37 second mark in the last 3 furlongs of the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Quality Road
Trainer: John Servis (2004 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2006 & 2017 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 84 – 2018 Federico Tesio Stakes

5) Good Magic (3/1) – The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and the Eclipse 2-year-old Male Champion. The Blue Grass Stakes winner finished 2nd behind Justify in the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 6 Starts 2-3-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Curlin (Finished 1st in the 2007 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Chad Brown (2017 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz Jr.
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

6) Tenfold (20/1) – The Steve Asmussen-trained colt finished 5th in the Arkansas Derby (shown below). He’s a bit inexperienced, having 3 career starts with his debut in February.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>1st–>5th
Sire: Curlin (Finished 1st in the 2007 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 & 2009 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.  
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – 2018 Arkansas Derby

7) Justify (1/2) – The 2018 Kentucky Derby winner and race favorite. Trainer Bob Baffert was a little surprised by the short morning line odds of 1/2. So was I. However, if Justify doesn’t win the Preakness Stakes, consider it a huge upset. When Bob Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby, he has always went on to winning the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015)

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts:  1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Scat Daddy
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997-98, 2001-02, 2010 & 2015 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1993 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2018 Santa Anita Derby

8) Bravazo (20/1) – After opening up his 3-year-old campaign with two wins, most notably the Risen Star Stakes (shown below), he had a disappointing 8th place finish in his final Derby prep at Fair Grounds in the Louisiana Derby. However, he recovered nicely and finished a surprising 6th in the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 9 Starts 3-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>6th
Sire: Awesome Again
Trainer: D.Wayne Lukas (1980,1985,1994,1995,1999, 2013 Preakness S.Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Luis Saez
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2018 Risen Star Stakes

Handicapping Advice

Justify will win this race so key him in all of your exotics.  It appears that we are going to have a wet track, so I am using Bravazo with Justify and Good Magic. I think the finishing order will be #1) Justify, #2) Good Magic with Quip and Bravazo battling it out for third. Watching races on the wet Pimlico track yesterday, it appears that favorites are doing well and horses who get out up front early do well. Drawing the rail, Quip’s owner said they are sending him early so I suspect he is a horse who we might see in the early lead.

So here is what I am doing but please note that a race with a 1/2 favorite who will likely move to 1/5 or 2/5 by post-time,  exotics won’t pay out well unless Justify gets upset.

Exacta: 7/5 (beware it won’t pay out well)
Trifecta #2: 7/1,5/1,5,8
Superfecta #1: 7/5/1,8/1,8
Superfecta #2: 7/1,5,8/1,5,8/1,5,6,8

For those who are thinking about placing win bets on Justify, below is a scale that will tell you how much you should expect to get back .

Win Bet Scale

1/9 odds – $20 pays back $22.22, $100 pays back $111.11
1/5 odds – $20 pays back $24, $100 pays back $120
2/9 odds – $20 pays back $24.44, $100 pays back $122.22
2/5 odds – $20 pays back $28, $100 pays back $140
3/9 odds – $20 pays back $26.67, $100 pays back $133.33
1/2 odds – $20 pays back $30, $100 pays back $150
4/9 odds – $20 pays back $28.89, $100 pays back $144.44
3/5 odds – $20 pays back $32, $100 pays back $160
4/5 odds – $20 pays back $36, $100 pays back $180

On the docket…

My next blog will be a preview of the Belmont Stakes.


Triple Crown Fever – Justified


May 15th 2018

As Yogi Berra would say, “It feels like deja vu all over again.” I just got this feeling about Justify that he may be another Bob Baffert-trained Triple Crown winner. I write about it in my latest article for US RacingTriple Crown Fever: Why Justify Could Become The 13th Triple Crown Champion.” 

My next blog will preview the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes which I should have out tomorrow evening.


Fans of Justify – Triple Crown watch


May 9th 2018

All fans of Justify, stay tuned. I am working on an article on the Baffert-trained colt for US Racing. I think you will like it. A secret, I have already purchased tickets for the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, reserved a hotel room and flights to New York in June. I posted a blog article late Sunday night, early Monday morning where I am calling Justify the 2018 Preakness Stakes winner. 

And thanks to my blog readers, my article Who’s your ‘Daisy’ for the 2018 Kentucky Derby?” was the top viewed free-lance article and 3rd overall for the month of April in terms of views on US Racing having only been published and viewable for last six days of the month. Last year, my article on Always Dreaming was the free lance top article on that site and 2nd overall during Derby month.

Exciting times ahead!


Triple Crown Contender: Why Justify will win the 2018 Preakness Stakes


May 7th 2018 – Updated May 13th 2018

For all the fans of the “Curse of Apollo” breaker Justify, I am already calling the 143rd Preakness Stakes another victory for the Bob Baffert-trained colt. Looking over the rumored entries, I see no colt that poses a serious threat. Currently, the list of rumored entries include:

Good Magic – Kentucky Derby Runner-Up
Bravazo – 6th in the Kentucky Derby
Lone Sailor – 8th in the Kentucky Derby
Quip – Arkansas Derby Runner-Up
Tenfold – 5th in the Arkansas Derby
Givemeaminit – 3rd in the Pat Day Mile
Sporting Chance – 4th in the Pat Day Mile
Diamond King – Federico Tesio Stakes Winner

Justify has proven that he can win on a dry, fast track and in the slop. Four career starts, all earning 100+ Beyer Speed Figures. He was awarded a 103 Beyer Speed Figure for the Kentucky Derby. Below are the only 3-year-olds with a 100+ Beyer Speed Figures in races longer than one mile.

Justify – 107 – Santa Anita Derby – 9 furlongs
Mendelssohn – 106 – UAE Derby – 1900 Meters
Justify – 103 – Kentucky Derby – 10 furlongs
Bolt d’Oro – 102 – Santa Anita Derby – 9 furlong
McKinzie – 101 – San Felipe Staaks – 8 1/2 furlongss
Bolt d’Oro – 101 – San Felipe Stakes – 8 1/2 furlongs

I will be monitoring the Preakness Stakes news and rumored entries closely in preparation for a preview of the race which is just 12 days away. But right now, I’d give Justify early 4/5 odds as the race favorite. A victory in the Preakness Stakes will give the sport what has needed the past couple of years, a Triple Crown contender entering the Belmont Stakes. A victory at Belmont seems to be a much taller task against a colt such as the Todd Pletcher-trained colt Vino Rosso who will be rested up for the last leg of the Triple Crown. Pletcher has won the Belmont Stakes three times (2007, 2013, 2017) vs Bob Baffert’s two (2001, 2015).


The Curse of Apollo is broken…but


May 5th 2018

I am forever grateful that the Curse of Apollo was finally broken in my, our, lifetime. I thought it was in huge danger and I happy it has ended. The 2018 Kentucky Derby was exciting but…I really wish it was broken on a dry, fast track. My race favorite Magnum Moon, whose paternal brother Orb, who won in the sloppy 2013 Kentucky Derby, did not take well to the slop and finished 19th. My wet track favorite, My Boy Jack, did better finishing 5th. Good thing that through future wagers, I still came out ahead $180 this Derby.

Wet races are the great equalizer. Justify is a great 3-year-old who had experience racing on an off-track before and benefited from an inside post-position. However, how will he fare on a dry, fast track at Pimlico? I think pretty well. but I doubt that he will be my early favorite for the Belmont Stakes. I will have to research this but when was the last time a Kentucky Derby winner who who in sloppy track conditions went on to won the Triple Crown?