2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships Preview

UPDATED 10/31/2015 4PM CST – Biggest news Beholder will be scratched from the Classic

Below are what I feel are the really key “starpower” races during the Breeders’ Cup World Championships this coming weekend at Keeneland. I will be there in attendance both days and will provide updates as time permits. I will also edit this blog with more detail and insight later. And remember that if any of these races are a wet races, you can throw most of this advice out the window.

Friday October 30th – All races televised on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) 2 to 5 PM CST

Race #5 – Hagyard Fayette – 1 1/8 Mile – $200,000 – 1:47 PM CST
This is not a Breeders’ Cup race but a good race to open the day since it has some decent horses like Hoppertunity, Commissioner, V.E. Day, Protonico, Race Day and Departing.

My Projected Winner: I like Hoppertunity but would only make a Show or Place bet here. He has never finished below 4th in a Graded Stakes race in 11 career starts. I see no reason why he would finish below 3rd in this field.

Race #7 – Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – 1 Mile – $1,000,000 – 3:10 PM CST
A race for the fastest 3 year-olds and up through One Mile.

My Projected Winner: #3 Liam’s Map. I think Liam’s Map wires this field. He is 1/1 Morning Line Odds. Red Vine is 6/1 Morning Line odds and Wicked Strong is 5/1 Morning Line odds. I like a Straight Exacta (#3 Liam’s Map-#1 Red Vine) in this one. I like Wicked Strong but not at this short of distance.  Tapiture is another good horse. So consider both for rounding out your Trifectas and Superfectas. I am not sure how much a Trifecta would pay out in this scenario with Liam’s Map on top as I expect his odds to lower from 1/1, so you may have to key him to win in a Superfecta over Red Vine, Wicked Strong and Tapiture. I think I am going to key Liam’s Map to win #3 over 1,5,8,9 (Red Vine, Lea, Wicked Strong and Tapiture). This $1 Superfecta would cost $24. I may place $50 on Liam’s Map to win.

Race #9 – Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff –  1 1/8 Mile – $2,000,000 4:35 PM CST
Formerly known as the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, this is the top race for fillies and mares.

My Projected Winner:  #7 Wedding Toast. She is best horse in the field. Last year’s Champion, Untapable, has already been scratched due to spiking a fever. Sheer Drama, Got Lucky, Stopchargingmaria and I’m a Chatterbox are all really good horses. So I am going to place $50 on Wedding Toast to Place. if I have done well in the other races, I may change this to a Win bet.

Saturday October 31st – NBC will televise from 3-5 PM CST. NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will televise from Noon to 3 PM CST

Race #3 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – 1 1/16 Mile – $2,000,000 11:05 AM CST
The top race for 2-year-old fillies. Points are awarded for entry into the 2016 Kentucky Oaks. This is a great crop of fillies this year.

My Projected Winner:  I am a fan of #9 Rachel’s Valentina (7/2 Morning Line odds) and hopes she wins. But #10 Songbird (7/5 Morning Line odds) is the better horse right now. I may place a 10-9-2 (Songbird, Rachel’s Valentina and Tap to It) Straight Exacta.

Race #7 – Twinspires Breeders’ Cup Sprint – Six Furlongs – $1,500,000 – 1:50 PM CST

My Projected Winner: #5 Runhappy. He is 3/1 Morning Line odds while Morning Line race favorite Private Zone is 5/2. I think Runhappy is on a roll and like his post position better than Private Zone.

Race #9 – Breeders’ Cup Sentient Jet Juvenile – 1 1/16 Mile – $2,000,000 3:10 PM CST
The top race for 2 year-old colts and geldings. These horses are a part of the Kentucky Derby Trail and will earn points for entry into the 2016 Kentucky Derby. Points awarded to this year’s top four finishers in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile have been doubled and will be 20-8-4-2.

My Projected Winner:  Nyquist, who is undefeated in four starts and my early 2016 Kentucky Derby favorite, will probably be the live race favorite. Brody’s Cause is the Morning Line Favorite at 7/2 odds. However, I like Greenpointcrusader at 4/1 Morning Line odds in this race. I generally feel that Greenpointcrusader is the fastest horse in the field but Brody’s Cause is a tremendous closer. If this pace is fast, this will play right into Brody’s Cause strength. If you want to play this one safe, place a Boxed Exacta with 3 horses (#3 Greenpointcrusader, #7 Brody’s Cause and #13 Nyquist). But remember my personal rule, never bet more than $50 on a race for 2 year-olds.

Race #10 – Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf – 1 ½ Mile – $3,000,000 3:50 PM CST
The best turf race in North America, that carries a $3 Million Dollar purse. It routinely draws some of the top turf horses from Europe.

My Projected Winner: The British-bred Golden Horn will probably be the race favorite. #10 The Pizza Man is a tremendous closer and I think this distance (1 1/2 mile) suits his running style the best. He has 15-1 Morning Line odds so I may make a big Place bet on him. The turf should be softer than normal due to the rain and this works against the European horses who like firmer surfaces.

Race #11 – Breeders’ Cup Classic – 1 ¼ mile = $5,000,000 4:35 PM CST
The Super Bowl of Thoroughbred Racing as this race draws the very best horse 3 years-old and older.

Breeders’ Cup Classic 2015 Post Positions & Morning Line Odds

1. Tonalist – Jockey John Velazquez – 6/1
2. Keen Ice – Jockey Irad Ortiz 12/1
3. Frosted Jockey Joel Rosario – 15/1
4. American Pharoah – Jockey Victor Espinoza – 6/5
5. Gleneagles – Jockey Ryan Moore – 20/1
6. Effinex – Jockey Mike Smith – 30/1
7. Smooth Roller – Jockey Tyler Baze – 15/1
8. Hard Aces Jockey Joe Talamo – 50/1
9. Honor Code – Jockey Javier Castellano – 6/1
10. Beholder 3-1 – Jockey Gary Stevens -3/1 SCRATCHED

My Projected Winner:  I correctly predicted Bayern would win last year’s Classic but I feel less confident about the outcome of this one. Now that Beholder has been scratched, I think this race comes down to Tonalist and American Pharoah but Honor Code and Keen Ice all have the ability to win this race. If Tonalist runs like he did in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race, and he is pressed up on the pace, I think he wins this one. So I am leaning towards Tonalist but my question is: will he be tired and be able to repeat his last performance? He will have to be pressed up on the pace as opposed to his normal closing style or he won’t win. Will drawing the dreaded rail hurt his trip? I don’t think this is a race sets up well for closers like #9 Honor Code. As far as betting, I am liking a big Boxed Exacta of  (#1 Tonalist and #4 American Pharoah). I also like a $10 Boxed Trifecta of (1,4,9) that would cost $60.

–Michael

Updated 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings – The Greatest Race of The 21st Century

Photo: Sophie Shore/Eclipse Sportswire

UPDATED 10/21/2015 – Only 10 horses (all of my most recent Top 10) were pre-entered into the Breeders’ Cup Classic today (Wednesday 10/21/15).

This year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic will without a doubt be “The Greatest Race of the 21st Century.”  Never before has the Super Bowl of Thoroughbred Racing had a Triple Crown Champion competing in it in an attempt to win the first Quadruple Crown (Triple Crown + Breeders’ Cup Classic). Or the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing as it has also been called.

Overall, my thoughts are—this race will have a talent-packed field and I expect the finish to resemble a shootout at the OK Corral. I expect the finish to be a chaotic mess much like the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic (shown below) when Zenyatta won.


With such a star-studded field for this year’s Classic, I am placing more emphasis on horses who are *hot* and ones that have demonstrated speed in the final 1/2 mile of a 1 1/4 mile race. This may surprise many but my new #1 and the horse that I think should be the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic is (long pause)….Tonalist. Yes, Tonalist.


Why? His performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race (shown above) was more impressive than the 109 Beyer Speed Figure he received. Let me explain:

At the 3/4 mile mark, Constitution led the way with a fraction time of 1:12.48 and Tonalist went on to win on a sloppy track with a final time of 2:02.16. That is just 0.04 seconds off his winning time in last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (2:02.12) on a dry fast track. When you subtract the final winning time of 2:02.16 from the time at the 3/4th mile mark (1:12.48)–that equals 49.68 seconds. When you consider that Tonalist was three lengths behind Constitution and Wicked Strong at that point (roughly 0.48 seconds), this means that Tonalist ran the last half mile in roughly 49.2 seconds.

Show me a horse this year that has run that fast in the last 1/2 mile of a 1 1/4 mile race on a fast dry track let alone a sloppy wet track? You can’t. I have crunched the numbers already and this will be a subject in a future blog. Beholder ran the last 1/2 mile in roughly 49.45 seconds in the TVG Pacific Classic on a dry fast track. Yes, Beholder won that race by 8 1/4 lengths comfortably but jockey John Velazquez never even had to show Tonalist the whip in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race either. In the Travers Stakes, American Pharoah ran the last 1/2 mile in 50.09 seconds. And I estimated the Keen Ice ran it in 49.35 seconds. This was on a dry, fast track with both runners hustling to the wire.

Bayern won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic running the last half mile in 49.66 seconds. And Bayern’s winning time of 1:59.88 was the 6th fastest in Breeders’ Cup Classic history.

In my opinion, if Tonalist runs as well as he did in this year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup race, he will win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I correctly predicted Bayern to win last year’s classic. Tonalist should be the race favorite and in all of your Exacta bets.


My updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings:

1) Tonalist*  – An impressive win on a sloppy track in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race moves him up to #1. Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he now has two wins, two 2nd places finishes and a 3rd place finish. His 3rd place finish in the Whitney Handicap produced a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced a 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap and a 111 Beyer in the Met Mile. And he performs better in races 1 1/4 mile or longer. He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His next start will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 14 Starts 6-4-2-1, Win Pct: 42.9%, Top 3 Pct: 85.7%, Top 4 Pct: 92.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.1 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 110 – 2015 Whitney Handicap
Last Two Beyers: 109, 110 Average: 109.5
Career Earnings: $3,097,000

2) American Pharoah*  –  I truly believe that American Pharoah thought he had the Travers race won when he shook off Frosted. He has never experienced battling and separating from a horse only for another to come from the outside like gangbusters that late in the race. I think the added rest will do Pharoah well as he produced his best Beyer Speed Figure in the Haskell Invitational coming off a 2 month layoff. His next start of course will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st.

Career: 10 Starts 8-1-0-0, Win Pct: 80%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 109 – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Last Two Beyers: 105, 109 Average: 107
Career Earnings: $5,900,300

3) Beholder*  – She dropped below American Pharoah as I was expecting a better performance in the Zenyatta Stakes in which she produced the worst time of her three Zenyatta Stakes career wins (1:42.83 vs 1:42.19 in 2014 and 1:42.11 in 2013). Her Beyer Speed Figure hasn’t been published yet but it had to have been under 106. Yes, it was warmer than usual at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. Yes, she won comfortably and by a bigger margin than the previous Zenyatta Stakes races. And yes, Gary Stevens never asked her to go so she had a little more left in the tank. However, she has legitimate concerns, acknowledged by her trainer Richard Mandella, on how well she will travel. She has never won outside of the state of California and her two most recent losses came at Belmont Park in the Ogden Phipps (4th) in June 2014 and the Kentucky Oaks (2nd) in May 2013. Nevertheless, she has reeled off six straight wins. And Beholder’s times are all faster than Pharoah’s at the 1 1/16 mile (1:41.67 vs 1:41.95), 1 1/8 mile (1:47.77 vs 1:47.95) and 1 1/4 mile (1:59.77 vs 2:01.69) distances. The 114 Beyer Speed Figure she received for her TVG Pacific Classic win is the top Beyer Speed Figure recorded in 2015 for races longer than 1 1/8 mile (source). Her next start will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st even though she has also qualified for the Longines Distaff. She arrived at Keeneland October 19th so this bodes well for history of not traveling well.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.77 – 11/1/13 (2013 Breeders Cup Distaff)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 114 – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Last Two Beyers: 99, 114 Average: 106.5
Career Earnings: $4,436,600

4) Keen Ice – The only living horse that has beaten a Triple Crown Champion. He finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational (105 Beyer Speed Figure). Then finally beat the Triple Crown winner in the Travers Stakes. His Beyer Speed Figure for the Travers Stakes was 106. He is an improving horse. His owner, Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing, recently said: “We believe that (Keen Ice) is the fastest, best-bred 3-year-old in the world today.” Note that Keen Ice’s sire Curlin, won the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start should be Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 10 Starts 2-1-3-2, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Last Two Beyers: 106,105 Average: 105.5
Career Earnings: $1,490,395

5) Honor Code*  – I dropped him two spots due to a disappointing 3rd place finish in the Kelso Handicap. I don’t want to drop him more as a wet, sloppy track doesn’t favor his speed. However, he still should have had this field covered. He has produced some great Beyer Speed Figures: a 112 for his winning effort in The Met-Mile. He produced another sizzling 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney Handicap. He has a nice pedigree, the son of A.P. Indy and the grandson of Seattle Slew. He has yet to race longer than 1 1/8th mile but I think he will fare even better in a 1 1/4 mile race–he is bred for distance. His next start will be in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 10 Starts 6-2-1-0, Win Pct: 60%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.82 – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 113 – 2015 Whitney Handicap
Last Two Beyers: 103,113 Average: 108
Career Earnings: $2,018,260

6) Frosted  – He has a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, a 2nd place finish in the Belmont Stakes, a 3rd place finish in the Travers Stakes and a win in the Pennsylvania Derby.  With the Penn Derby win, he has now eclipsed over $2 Million in career earnings. He is a quality horse who has never finished below 4th place in 11 career starts. He shares the same sire (Tapit) as does Tonalist. I think he will have a great 4-year-old campaign. His next start will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 12 Starts 3-6-1-2, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.85 (calculated) – 8/1/15 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Pennsylvania Derby
Last Two Beyers: 106,102 Average: 104
Career Earnings: $2,062,800

7) Smooth Roller*  – The surprise winner of the Awesome Again Stakes in just the 4th start of his career, it is hard to rank him much higher due to lack of experience. However, he did beat Bayern, Hoppertunity and Hard Aces and produced a eye-opening 111 Beyer Speed Figure in less than favorable weather conditions at Santa Anita. That speed figure is tied for the 5th best for races more than a mile. With the win, he has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and likely will be a longshot. He will have to race 7 pounds heaver in the Classic than he did in the Awesome Again stakes.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.08 – 9/26/15 (2015 Awesome Again Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 111 – 2015 Awesome Again Stakes
Last Two Beyers: 111,93 Average: 102
Career Earnings: $261,810

8) Effinex – Finished 3rd in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race. A temperamental horse with talent at the 1 1/4 mile distance. He acted up in the starting gate in the Woodward Stakes and finished 4th. Previous to this he had the weird run in the Brooklyn Handicap where he veered away from the rest of the pack coming around a turn and DNF’d. But the 2015 Suburban Handicap winner still has two of the top four Beyer Speed Figures this year for races 1 1/4th mile or longer: 107 Beyer at Aqueduct on April 25th and his 107 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. His next start is uncertain but should be the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 17 Starts 6-1-2-3, Win Pct: 35.2%, Top 3 Pct: 52.9%, Top 4%: 70.5%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.44 (calculated) – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.55 – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 107 – 2015 Excelsior Stakes
Last Two Beyers: 95,103 Average: 99
Career Earnings: $812,250

9) Hard Aces* After two consecutive 6th places finishes, Hard Aces doesn’t appear to be a serious Classic contender but he hangs in my rankings due to having qualified for The Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. No word yet on whether he will be entered.

Career: 24 starts 6-3-7-2, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 66.7%, Top 4 Pct: 75%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.37 (calculated) – 5/30/15 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 99 – 2015 Gold Cup
Last Two Beyers: 93,93 Average: 93
Career Earnings: $592,395

10) Gleneagles  – After a 6th place finish in his last start–The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes–he drops to last in my rankings. The 3 year-old colt from Ireland has only raced on turf and never further than 1 mile. I wouldn’t normally consider such a horse a threat in 1 1/4 mile dirt races in the US because you never know how a horse will respond on that surface and how they will react when they get dirt kicked up in their face. However, he is being pointed towards the Classic because his trainer feels that he has great tactical speed that will translate well on dirt. Remember that the British-trained turf horse Raven’s Pass won 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic with the third fastest time (1:59.27) in Breeders’ Cup Classic history. So a few make the transition very well. But I am not guessing Gleneagles will. I feel he should be entered into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile.

Career: 10 starts 7-0-1-1, Win Pct: 70%, Top 3 Pct: 80%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: N/A
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Top Two Beyers: N/A
Career Earnings: $1,404,108

* Indicates a horse who has already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic


Off the Breeders’ Cup Classic Trail

Wicked Strong  – Was entered into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Liam’s Map – Was be entered into Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and should be the favorite for that race.

Coach Inge – won’t be entered into the Breeders’ Cup Classic

Catch a Flight – sidelined due to body soreness that prevented him from entering the Awesome Again Stakes

Dortmund – He is entered in the Big Bear Stakes Saturday Oct. 24th at Santa Anita.

Noble Bird* – Although he has qualified for the Classic, his trainer Mark Casse has decided to rest him for a couple of months with plans to bring him back next year.

Texas Red  –  He is sidelined for the rest of 2015 with a cannon bone bruise. Another setback for an extremely talented and promising horse.


Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Times for 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contenders. For calculated times of non-winning horses, I used the official race time of the winner and the following to compute an estimated time [One length is equal to 0.16 seconds, three-quarters of a length is equal to 0.12, a half-length equals 0.08, a neck is equal to 0.04, a head is equal to 0.02 and a nose is 0.01].

1) Beholder1:59.77 – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (1st in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
2) Tonalist – 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 at Santa Anita (5th in 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
3) Effinex  2:01.55 – 7/4/15 at Belmont Park (1st in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
4) Keen Ice – 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (1st in 2015 Travers Stakes)
5) American Pharoah* –  2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
6) Hard Aces*  –  2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (6th in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
7) Frosted – 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)

Honor Code, Smooth Roller and Gleneagles have never raced at the 1 1/4 mile distance.


Top Beyer Speed Figures in 2015 for races 1 1/4 Mile

1) Beholder (f) DMR 22 Aug 1 1/4M 114
2) Shared Belief SA 07 Mar 1 1/4M 111
3) Tonalist BEL 03 Oct 1 1/4M 109
4) Effinex AQU 25 Aprl 1 1/4M 107
5) Effinex BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
6) Tonalist BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
7) Keen Ice SAR 29 Aug 1 1/4M 106

Updated 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings

Below is my updated Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings with the latest odds from usracing.com. I have put American Pharoah back on top ahead of Beholder and give my reasons why in their bios.

The races at Belmont Park coming this Saturday–the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Kelso Handicap–will impact the next rankings. Check back Friday and I will have a preview of those two races plus the Champagne Stakes for 2 year-olds.

1) American Pharoah*  (3/2) –  He is back in my #1 spot due to the fact that he is training well and due to some concerns with Beholder. I truly believe that American Pharoah thought he had the Travers race won when he shook off Frosted. He has never experienced battling and separating from a horse only for another to come from the outside like gangbusters that late in the race. I think the added rest will do Pharoah well as he produced his best Beyer Speed Figure in the Haskell Invitational coming off a 2 month layoff. His next start of course will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st.

Career: 10 Starts 8-1-0-0, Win Pct: 80%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 109 – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Career Earnings: $5,900,300

2) Beholder*  (11-2) – She drops to #2 as I was expecting a better performance in the Zenyatta Stakes in which she produced the worst time of her three Zenyatta Stakes career wins (1:42.83 vs 1:42.19 in 2014 and 1:42.11 in 2013). Her Beyer Speed Figure was 99. Yes, it was warmer than usual at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. Yes, she won comfortably and by a bigger margin than the previous Zenyatta Stakes races. And yes, Gary Stevens never asked her to go so she had a little more left in the tank. However, she has legitimate concerns, acknowledged by her trainer Richard Mandella, on how well she will travel. She has never won outside of the state of California and her two most recent losses came at Belmont Park in the Ogden Phipps (4th) in June 2014 and the Kentucky Oaks (2nd) in May 2013. Nevertheless, she has reeled off six straight wins. And Beholder’s times are all faster than Pharoah’s at the 1 1/16 mile (1:41.67 vs 1:41.95), 1 1/8 mile (1:47.77 vs 1:47.95) and 1 1/4 mile (1:59.77 vs 2:01.69) distances. The 114 Beyer Speed Figure she received for her TVG Pacific Classic win is the top Beyer Speed Figure recorded in 2015 for races longer than 1 1/8 mile (source). Her next start will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st even though she has also qualified for the Longines Distaff.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.77 – 11/1/13 (2013 Breeders Cup Distaff)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 114 – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Career Earnings: $4,436,600

3) Honor Code*  (8/1) – The Met-Mile winner with a blazing 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced another sizzling 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney Handicap. This makes his 5th place finish in the Alysheba Stakes puzzling. He has a nice pedigree, the son of A.P. Indy and the grandson of Seattle Slew. He has yet to race longer than 1 1/8th mile but I think he will fare even better in a 1 1/4 mile race–he is bred for distance. His next start will be the Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park on October 3rd.

Career: 9 Starts 6-2-0-0, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.82 – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 113 – 2015 Whitney Handicap
Career Earnings: $1,978,260

4) Liam’s Map (14/1) – His performance in the Woodward Stakes proved to me that this Todd Pletcher-trained horse is a rising star and a serious Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender. He received a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance which ties Beholder’s 114 in the Pacific Classic as the top Beyer Speed Figure for 2015. Although it has been bandied about that he should be entered into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile instead of the Classic, he’s got to be entered into the Classic in my opinion. He got faster at Saratoga in one month at the same 1 1/8th mile distance– 1:47.44–beating Honor Code’s time of 1:47.82 in the Whitney (whom he lost to by a neck).  Like Honor Code, he received a 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney. He has never finished below 2nd in 7 career starts and is a neck away from having 6 straight wins. His next start is uncertain and will depend on whether they are prepping him for the Breeders’ Cup Classic or Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He was nominated for the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd but was not entered.

Career: 7 Starts 5-2-0-0, Win Pct: 71.4%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.44 – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 114 – 2015 Woodward Stakes
Career Earnings: $808,940

5) Tonalist  (10/1) – Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes, two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap) and a 3rd place finish (Whitney Handicap). His third place finish in the Whitney Handicap produced a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced a 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap and a 111 Beyer in the Met Mile. And he performs better in races 1 1/4 mile or longer. He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His next start will be defending his title in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 13 Starts 5-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.5%, Top 3 Pct: 84.6%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.1 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 111 – 2015 Metropolitan Handicap
Career Earnings: $2,497,000

6) Keen Ice (7/1) – A horse that finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational (105 Beyer Speed Figure). Then finally beating the Triple Crown winner in the Travers Stakes. His Beyer Speed Figure for the Travers Stakes was 106. He is an improving horse. His owner, Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing, recently said: “We believe that (Keen Ice) is the fastest, best-bred 3-year-old in the world today.” Note that Keen Ice’s sire Curlin, won the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start was rumored to be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd but he was not entered.

Career: 10 Starts 2-1-3-2, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,490,395

7) Frosted (14/1) – He has a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, a 2nd place finish in the Belmont Stakes, a 3rd place finish in the Travers Stakes and a win in the Pennsylvania Derby.  With the Penn Derby win, he has now eclipsed over $2 Million in career earnings. He is a quality horse who has never finished below 4th place in 11 career starts. He shares the same sire (Tapit) as does Tonalist. I think he will have a great 4-year-old campaign. His next start should be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st.

Career: 12 Starts 3-6-1-2, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.85 (calculated) – 8/1/15 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Pennsylvania Derby
Career Earnings: $2,062,800

8) Effinex (80/1) – A temperamental horse with talent at the 1 1/4 mile distance. He acted up in the starting gate in the Woodward Stakes and finished 4th. Previous to this he had the weird run in the Brooklyn Handicap where he veered away from the rest of the pack coming around a turn and DNF’d. But the 2015 Suburban Handicap winner still has two of the top four Beyer Speed Figures this year for races 1 1/4th mile or longer: 107 Beyer at Aqueduct on April 25th and his 107 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. His next start will be the Jockey Gold Cup at Belmont on October 3rd.

Career: 17 Starts 6-1-2-3, Win Pct: 35.2%, Top 3 Pct: 52.9%, Top 4%: 70.5%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.44 (calculated) – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.55 – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 107 – 2015 Excelsior Stakes
Career Earnings: $812,250

9) Coach Inge (45/1) – This Todd Pletcher-trained horse, I felt, was underrated entering the Woodward Stakes. He won the 1 1/2 mile Brooklyn Handicap back in June while demonstrating a fighting spirit and producing a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. He received a 106 Beyer Speed Figure for his 2nd place finish in the Woodward Stakes. For 2015, he has two wins, two 2nd place finishes and two 3rd place finishes. He seems to like distance and has finished in the mix with Liam’s Map, Tonalist and Effinex. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him spring an upset along the way similar to Keen Ice’s in the Whitney. Maybe it will be in his next start–the Jockey Gold Cup at Belmont October 3rd.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-2-1, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4%: 83.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.2 (calculated) – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.77 (calculated) – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Woodward Stakes
Career Earnings: $556,177

10) Smooth Roller* (?/1) – The surprise winner of the Awesome Again Stakes in just the 4th start of his career, it is hard to rank him much higher due to lack of experience. However, he did beat Bayern, Hoppertunity and Hard Aces and produced a eye-opening 111 Beyer Speed Figure in less than favorable weather conditions at Santa Anita. That speed figure is tied for the 5th best for races more than a mile. With the win, he has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and likely will be a longshot.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.08 – 9/26/15 (2015 Awesome Again Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 111 – 2015 Awesome Again Stakes
Career Earnings: $261,810

11) Catch a Flight (24/1)  – The Argentinian horse has never finished below 3rd in his North American career thus far. He finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Handicap in March behind Shared Belief and Moreno, but beat Moreno in the Californian Stakes on May 30th (106 Beyer Speed Figure). He finished third behind Hard Aces and Hoppertunity in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 27th, but beat Hoppertunity in the San Diego Handicap. Then he finished 2nd behind Beholder in the TVG Pacific Classic. His next start may be the Awesome Again Stakes September 26th. It has not been confirmed that he will be pointed towards the Classic. His jockey Gary Stevens will opt to ride Beholder in the Classic, otherwise I would rank him higher.

Career (North America) : 8 Starts 4-1-3-0, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.73 – 5/30/14 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.09 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd –2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 106 – 2015 Californian Stakes
Career Earnings: $773,239

12) Gleneagles (13/1)  – The 3 year-old colt from Ireland that has only raced on turf and never further than 1 mile. Winner of his last three races, including the St James’s Palace Stakes. I wouldn’t normally consider such a horse a threat in 1 1/4 mile dirt races in the US because you never know how a horse will respond on that surface and how they will react when they get dirt kicked up in their face. However, he is being pointed towards the Classic because his trainer feels that he has great tactical speed that will translate well on dirt. Remember that the British-trained turf horse Raven’s Pass won 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic with the third fastest time (1:59.27) in Breeders’ Cup Classic history. So a few make the transition very well. He was scratched from his last start due to wet conditions. His next start is slated to be the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on October 17th.

Career: 9 starts 7-0-1-1, Win Pct: 77.8%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: N/A
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Career Earnings: $1,404,108

13) Wicked Strong (24/1) – Last year’s Wood Memorial and Jim Dandy Stakes winner, he finished 4th in both the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. The 4 year-old Jimmy Jerkens colt sneaks into my Top 14 due consistency. He is winless in 2015, with one 2nd place finish, two 3rd place finishes, two 4th place finishes and a 5th place finish. He isn’t likely a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner but a top 4 finish is not out of the question. He next start is likely going to be the Breeders’ Cup Classic if he is nominated.

Career: 17 Starts 3-3-3-5, Win Pct: 17.6%, Top 3 Pct: 52.9%, Top 4 Pct: 82.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 8/1/2015 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.64 (calculated) – 4/25/2015 (2015 Excelsior Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2014 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 104 – 2015 Woodward Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,734,460

14) Hard Aces* (45/1)After two consecutive 6th places finishes, Hard Aces doesn’t appear to be a serious Classic contender but he hangs in my Top 14 due to having qualified for The Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. No word yet on whether he will be entered.

Career: 24 starts 6-3-7-2, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 66.7%, Top 4 Pct: 75%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.37 (calculated) – 5/30/15 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 99 – 2015 Gold Cup
Career Earnings: $592,395


Off the Breeders’ Cup Classic Trail

Dortmund – Bob Baffert is targeting him for the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on November 27th.

Noble Bird* – Although he has qualified for the Classic, his trainer Mark Casse has decided to rest him for a couple of months with plans to bring him back next year.

Texas Red  –  He is sidelined for the rest of 2015 with a cannon bone bruise. Another setback for an extremely talented and promising horse.

* Indicates a horse who has already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.


Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Times for 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contenders. For calculated times of non-winning horses, I used the official race time of the winner and the following to compute an estimated time [One length is equal to 0.16 seconds, three-quarters of a length is equal to 0.12, a half-length equals 0.08, a neck is equal to 0.04, a head is equal to 0.02 and a nose is 0.01].

1) Beholder1:59.77 – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (1st in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
2) Tonalist – 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 at Santa Anita (5th in 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
3) Catch A Flight  – 2:01.09 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (2nd in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
4) Effinex  2:01.55 – 7/4/15 at Belmont Park (1st in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
5) Keen Ice – 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (1st in 2015 Travers Stakes)
6) American Pharoah* –  2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
7) Coach Inge – 2:01.77 (calculated) – 7/5/15 at Belmont Park (3rd in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
8) Hard Aces*  –  2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (6th in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
9) Frosted – 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
10) Wicked Strong – 2:02.64 (calculated) – 4/25/15 at Aqueduct (3rd in 2015 Excelsior Stakes)

Honor Code, Liam’s Map, Smooth Roller and Gleneagles have never raced at the 1 1/4 mile distance.


Top Beyer Speed Figures in 2015 for races 1 1/4 Mile

1) Beholder (f) DMR 22 Aug 1 1/4M 114
2) Shared Belief SA 07 Mar 1 1/4M 111
3) Effinex AQU 25 Apr 1 1/4M 107
4) Effinex BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
5) Tonalist BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
6) Keen Ice SAR 29 Aug 1 1/4M 106
7) Red Rifle AQU 25 Apr 1 1/4M 106

–Michael

Super Saturday Review: Nyquist, Beholder and Smooth Roller Advance to Breeders’ Cup World Championships

A lot can change between now and the 1st Saturday in May but here is your early 2016 Kentucky Derby favorite. Nyquist, named after Detroit Red Wings hockey player Gustav Nyquist, won the FrontRunner Stakes and demonstrated a willingness to fight for the win in extreme heat at Santa Anita Park. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt is perfect thus far, 4 starts, 4 wins.

The race played out exactly as I had predicted in my preview blog, a Nyquist-Swipe 1-2 finish. American Pharoah won this race last year with a time that was almost a full 3 seconds faster than Nyquist’s time of 1:44.89 (the 2nd slowest in 27 years). But I am not concerned, they were moving up post times and throwing buckets of water on winning horses due to the heat. With the win, Nyquist has assured himself of a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Sentient Jet) along with Cocked and Loaded on October 31st.


The Zenyatta Stakes

Beholder won the Zenyatta Stakes (shown below) in easy fashion. Jockey Gary Stevens said in a post-race interview that he never asked her to run. She has now won six straight races and three straight Zenyatta Stakes. My Sweet Addiction, ridden by Mike Smith, finished 2nd. Beholder secured herself a starting spot in the Longines Distaff but her owner has committed to entering her in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.


The Awesome Again Stakes

Smooth Roller was the surprise winner in the Awesome Again Stakes (shown below). Just who is Smooth Roller and how does a horse, who had three career starts entering this event, find himself qualified to race against the top thoroughbreds in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in October?

He beat race favorite and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern, who finished 3rd. The 4 year-old gelding’s winning time of 1:48.08 in the extreme heat condition was very impressive as this tops the time of three great horses who had won this event the past three years: Shared Belief in 2014 (1:48.58), Mucho Macho Man in 2013 (1:48.30) and Game On Dude in 2012 (1:48.98). He received a 111 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance.

Smooth Roller will likely be one of the longer shots in the Breeders’ Cup Classic but he proved yesterday that he deserves a chance against racing’s best.


Coming on Wednesday, my updated Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings.

–Michael

Frosted is Grrreat! in the Penn Derby – Updated 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders.

Frosted wins 2015 PA Derby.

Photo: Sophie Shore/Eclipse Sportswire

We have reached the time of the year where we only have two more weekends left of prep races for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Yesterday’s Pennsylvania Derby (video shown below) produced no new rising stars as Frosted handled the field at PARX with a winning time of 1:50.04. The fractions were slow in the beginning of the race so that contributed to the pedestrian time. But Frosted did earn a 106 Beyer Speed Figure for this performance.


Currently, I believe that the top 6 horses in my rankings below are the only ones who have a chance of winning the Classic. The others all are candidates to finish in the money. American Pharoah and Beholder are both training well. American Pharoah’s times in these workouts have been quicker than Beholder’s. It appears that American Pharoah won’t race again until the Classic. This might be a great strategy as his best Beyer Speed Figure (109 in the Haskell Invitational) came after a 2 month layoff.

So below is my updated Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings with Wynn Las Vegas Odds from September 6th:

1) Beholder*  (5/1) – She confirmed that she likes distance and can race with the boys–the first female to win the Pacific Classic. She has reeled off five straight wins. Although a few will question why I have Beholder ranked ahead of American Pharoah, her times are all faster than Pharoah’s at the 1 1/16 mile (1:41.67 vs 1:41.95), 1 1/8 mile (1:47.77 vs 1:47.95) and 1 1/4 mile (1:59.77 vs 2:01.69) distances. Just like Pharoah against her competition, she hasn’t been pressed. And the 114 Beyer Speed Figure she received for her TVG Pacific Classic win is the top Beyer Speed Figure recorded in 2015 for races longer than 1 1/8 mile (source). Her next start will be the 1 1/16 mile Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita on September 26th and it has been confirmed that she will be entered into the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.77 – 11/1/13 (2013 Breeders Cup Distaff)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 114,97,98  Avg: 103
Career Earnings: $4,256,600

2) American Pharoah*  (3/2)  –  He dropped to #2 due to his performance in the Travers that was good but not “Pharoah” good. I take this as a blip on the radar at Saratoga–known as the Graveyard of Champions. One thing that is concerning though–his two toughest races have been the Kentucky Derby and the Travers Stakes (both 1 1/4 mile distance races as the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be). And to make matters worse, he will face tougher competition in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But I truly believe after rewatching the Travers, that American Pharoah thought he had the race won when he shook off Frosted. He has never experienced battling and separating from a horse only for another to come from the outside like gangbusters that late in the race. He is training very well. His next start will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st.

Career: 10 Starts 8-1-0-0, Win Pct: 80%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 105,109,105  Avg: 106.33
Career Earnings: $5,900,300

3) Honor Code*  (8/1) – The Met-Mile winner with a blazing 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced another sizzling 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney Handicap. This makes his 5th place finish in the Alysheba Stakes puzzling. He has a nice pedigree, the son of A.P. Indy and the grandson of Seattle Slew. He has yet to race longer than 1 1/8th mile but I think he will fare even better in a 1 1/4 mile race–he is bred for distance. His next start will likely be the Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park on October 3rd..

Career: 9 Starts 6-2-0-0, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.82 – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 113,112,92  Avg: 105.67
Career Earnings: $1,978,260

4) Liam’s Map (15/1) – His performance in the Woodward Stakes proved to me that this Todd Pletcher-trained horse is a rising star and a serious Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender. He received a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance which ties Beholder’s 114 in the Pacific Classic as the top Beyer Speed Figure for 2015. Although it has been bandied about that he should be entered into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile instead of the Classic, he’s got to be entered into the Classic in my opinion. He got faster at Saratoga in one month at the same 1 1/8th mile distance– 1:47.44–beating Honor Code’s time of 1:47.82 in the Whitney (whom he lost to by a neck).  Like Honor Code, he received a 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney. He has never finished below 2nd in 7 career starts and is a neck away from having 6 straight wins. His next start is uncertain and will depend on whether they are prepping him for the Breeders’ Cup Classic or Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Career: 7 Starts 5-2-0-0, Win Pct: 71.4%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.44 – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 114,113,106  Avg: 111
Career Earnings: $808,940

5) Tonalist  (14/1) – Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes, two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap) and a 3rd place finish (Whitney Handicap). His third place finish in the Whitney Handicap produced a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced a 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap and a 111 Beyer in the Met Mile. And he performs better in races 1 1/4 mile or longer. He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His next start will be defending his title in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 13 Starts 5-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.5%, Top 3 Pct: 84.6%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.1 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 110,107,105  Avg: 107.33
Career Earnings: $2,497,000

6) Keen Ice  (12/1) – A horse that finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational (105 Beyer Speed Figure). Then finally beating the Triple Crown winner in the Travers Stakes. His Beyer Speed Figure for the Travers Stakes was 106. He is an improving horse. His owner, Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing, recently said: “We believe that (Keen Ice) is the fastest, best-bred 3-year-old in the world today.” Note that Keen Ice’s sire Curlin, won the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start is rumored to be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 10 Starts 2-1-3-2, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Travers Stakes
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 106,105,96  Avg: 102.33
Career Earnings: $1,490,395

7) Frosted (14/1) – He has a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, a 2nd place finish in the Belmont Stakes, a 3rd place finish in the Travers Stakes and a win in the Pennsylvania Derby.  With the Penn Derby win, he has now eclipsed over $2 Million in career earnings. He is a quality horse who has never finished below 4th place in 11 career starts. He shares the same sire (Tapit) as does Tonalist. I think he will have a great 4-year-old campaign. His next start should be the Breeders’ Cup Classic October 31st.

Career: 12 Starts 3-6-1-2, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.85 (calculated) – 8/1/15 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Travers Stakes
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 106,102,104  Avg: 104
Career Earnings: $2,062,800

8) Effinex  (75/1) – A temperamental horse with talent at the 1 1/4 mile distance. He acted up in the starting gate in the Woodward Stakes and finished 4th. Previous to this he had the weird run in the Brooklyn Handicap where he veered away from the rest of the pack coming around a turn and DNF’d. But the 2015 Suburban Handicap winner still has two of the top four Beyer Speed Figures this year for races 1 1/4th mile or longer: 107 Beyer at Aqueduct on April 25th and his 107 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. His next start will probably be the Jockey Gold Cup at Belmont on October 3rd.

Career: 17 Starts 6-1-2-3, Win Pct: 35.2%, Top 3 Pct: 52.9%, Top 4%: 70.5%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.44 (calculated) – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.55 – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 103,107,?
Career Earnings: $812,250

9) Coach Inge (50/1) – This Todd Pletcher-trained horse, I felt, was underrated entering the Woodward Stakes. He won the 1 1/2 mile Brooklyn Handicap back in June while demonstrating a fighting spirit and producing a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. He received a 106 Beyer Speed Figure for his 2nd place finish in the Woodward Stakes. For 2015, he has two wins, two 2nd place finishes and two 3rd place finishes. He seems to like distance and has finished in the mix with Liam’s Map, Tonalist and Effinex. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him spring an upset along the way similar to Keen Ice’s in the Whitney. His next start will be the Jockey Gold Cup at Belmont October 3rd.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-2-1, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4%: 83.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.2 (calculated) – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.77 (calculated) – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 106,?,102  Avg: ?
Career Earnings: $556,177

10) Catch A Flight (15/1) – The Argentinian horse has never finished below 3rd in his North American career thus far. He finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Handicap in March behind Shared Belief and Moreno, but beat Moreno in the Californian Stakes on May 30th (106 Beyer Speed Figure). He finished third behind Hard Aces and Hoppertunity in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 27th, but beat Hoppertunity in the San Diego Handicap. Then he finished 2nd behind Beholder in the TVG Pacific Classic. His next start may be the Awesome Again Stakes September 26th. It has not been confirmed that he will be pointed towards the Classic. His jockey Gary Stevens will opt to ride Beholder in the Classic, so I am dropping him several spots.

Career (North America) : 8 Starts 4-1-3-0, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.73 – 5/30/14 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.09 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd –2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 102,?, ?  Avg: ?
Career Earnings: $773,239

11) Hoppertunity (30/1)  – Not likely a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner but a horse who is consistent enough to finish in the money. In 10 career graded stakes race starts, he has never finished below 4th. In 2015, he has a win in the San Pasqual Stakes, two third place finishes in the San Antonio and Stephen Foster Handicap, lost to Hard Aces in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita by a nose and fourth place finishes in the San Diego Handicap and TVG Pacific Classic. No word on where his start will be but he was nominated for the Awesome Again Stakes race on September 26th. It has yet to be confirmed if he will be entered into the Classic. So I am dropping down the rankings several spots.

Career: 13 Starts 4-3-2-3, Win Pct: 30.7%, Top 3 Pct: 69.2%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.36 (calculated) – 4/5/14 (2014 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.33 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2015 Gold Cup
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 99,100,99  Avg: 99.33
Career Earnings: $1,351,675

12) Dortmund (20/1) – He finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Another Bob Baffert-trained horse that I feel that we haven’t seen the best from him yet. However, he suffered bruised ribs in a gate mishap in early August. He had been working out at Del Mar but worked out at Santa Anita September 12th turning 5 furlongs in 59.20. His next start is uncertain.

Career: 8 Starts 6-0-1-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.73 – 4/4/15 (2015 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: ?,106,104  Avg: ?
Career Earnings: $1,579,400

13) Hard Aces*  (40/1) –  He has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. For 2015, he has two wins, a 3rd, a 4th and a 6th place finish in his most recent race–The TVG Pacific Classic. One wonders if his big win in the Gold Cup was more a byproduct of Victor Espinoza’s jockeying. His recent workouts at Del Mar have been good. His next start is uncertain but seems likely to be the Awesome Again Stakes on September 26th.

Career: 23 starts 6-3-7-2, Win Pct: 26.1%, Top 3 Pct: 69.6%, Top 4 Pct: 78.2%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.37 (calculated) – 5/30/15 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 93,99,99  Avg: 97
Career Earnings: $592,395

14) Gleneagles (14/1) – The 3 year-old colt from Ireland that has only raced on turf and never further than 1 mile. Winner of his last three races, including the St James’s Palace Stakes. I wouldn’t normally consider such a horse a threat in 1 1/4 mile dirt races in the US. However, he is being pointed towards the Classic because his trainer feels that he has great tactical speed that will translate well on dirt. And remember that the British-trained turf horse Raven’s Pass won 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic with the third fastest time (1:59.27) in Breeders’ Cup Classic history. So a few make the transition very well.

Career: 9 starts 7-0-1-1, Win Pct: 77.8%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: N/A
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Career Earnings: $1,404,108

Honorable Mention:

Wicked Strong (25/1)

Career: 17 Starts 3-3-3-5, Win Pct: 17.6%, Top 3 Pct: 52.9%, Top 4 Pct: 82.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 8/1/2015 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.45 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2014 Travers Stakes
Last 3 Beyer Speed Figures: 104,103,100  Avg: 102.33
Career Earnings: $1,734,460


Off the Breeders’ Cup Trail

Noble Bird* – Although he has qualified for the Classic, his trainer Mark Casse has decided to rest him for a couple of months with plans to bring him back next year.

Texas Red  –  He is sidelined for the rest of 2015 with a cannon bone bruise. Another setback for an extremely talented and promising horse.

* Indicates a horse who has already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.


Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Times for 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contenders. For calculated times of non-winning horses, I used the official race time of the winner and the following to compute an estimated time [One length is equal to 0.16 seconds, three-quarters of a length is equal to 0.12, a half-length equals 0.08, a neck is equal to 0.04, a head is equal to 0.02 and a nose is 0.01].

1) Beholder1:59.77 – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (1st in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
2) Tonalist – 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 at Santa Anita (5th in 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
3) Catch A Flight  – 2:01.09 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (2nd in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
4) Hoppertunity  – 2:01.33 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (4th in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
5) Effinex  2:01.55 – 7/4/15 at Belmont Park (1st in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
6) Keen Ice – 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (1st in 2015 Travers Stakes)
7) American Pharoah*  –  2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
8) Coach Inge – 2:01.77 (calculated) – 7/5/2015 at Belmont Park (3rd in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
9) Hard Aces*  –  2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (6th in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
10) Frosted – 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
11) Texas Red – 2:02.45 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
12) Dortmund – 2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/2015 at Churchill Downs (3rd in 2015 Kentucky Derby)

Honor Code, Liam’s Map and Gleneagles have never raced at the 1 1/4 mile distance.


Top Beyer Speed Figures in 2015 for races 1 1/4 Mile

1) Beholder (f) DMR 22 Aug 1 1/4M 114
2) Shared Belief SA 07 Mar 1 1/4M 111
3) Effinex AQU 25 Apr 1 1/4M 107
4) Effinex BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
5) Tonalist BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
6) Keen Ice SAR 29 Aug 1 1/4M 106
7) Red Rifle AQU 25 Apr 1 1/4M 106

The remaining “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Classic Races:


Sept. 26th – The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $300,000 – TVG
Oct. 3rd – Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC

–Michael

American Pharoah vs Beholder – Who should be the favorite in the Classic?

In the most recent NTRA poll, American Pharoah is ranked #1 and Beholder is ranked #2 (source). I agree American Pharoah is the best horse in North America and the world right now. He will undoubtedly will be the Morning Line favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, probably somewhere between 3/2 to 5/2 odds. Beholder will probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of 3/1 to 5/1 odds unless she falters in the Zenyatta Stakes in a few weeks.

So the question is, should American Pharoah–a 3 year-old Triple Crown Champion–really be the favorite in this 1 1/4 mile race against the best Classic Division horses who are more experienced and mature? Or should the 5 year-old mare Beholder–the first female to win the Pacific Classic–be the race favorite?

I will take a closer look.

Key Facts:

  • Beholder has won 9 out of her last 10 starts–a 90% win percentage. American Pharoah has won 8 out of his last 10 starts–an 80% win percentage.
  • Beholder was the Champion 2-year-old filly in 2012 and the Champion 3-year-old filly in 2013. American Pharoah was the Champion 2-year-old colt in 2014 and will undoubtedly be the Champion 3-year-old colt this year.
  • Neither horse has raced at Keeneland before where this year’s Breeders Cup World Championship will be held. In fact, the only horse of the Big Six (American Pharoah, Beholder, Honor Code, Liam’s Map, Tonalist and Keen Ice) to have raced at Keeneland was Keen Ice in the 2nd start of his career–he placed 5th–but that was on the Polytrack surface. Keeneland was converted back to dirt this year.
  • Beholder’s best Beyer Speed Figure this year is 114 (TVG Pacific Classic August 22nd) compared to American Pharoah’s 109 (Haskell Invitational August 2nd).
  • Beholder’s 114 Beyer Speed Figure is the best this year at the 1 1/4 mile distance, eclipsing Shared Belief’s 111 Beyer in the Santa Anita Handicap March 7th.
  • American Pharoah’s 109 Beyer came 57 days after his last race at Belmont June 6th. If American Pharoah doesn’t race until the Breeders Cup Classic, it will be 63 days between his last race on August 29th. So he may produce the best race of his career with the rest. It has been bandied about that no horse has won the Breeders’ Cup Classic with that long of a layoff. But Invasor won the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic with a 91 day layoff between races.
  • American Pharoah has raced twice at the 1 1/4 mile distance–this year’s Kentucky Derby and the Travers Stakes. His best time came at Saratoga in the Travers Stakes with a calculated time of 2:01.69 for his 2nd place finish. Beholder has raced only once at the 1 1/4 mile distance and that was a Del Mar in the TVG Pacific Classic where she won with a time of 1:59.77–that’s nearly 2 seconds faster than American Pharoah’s. Del Mar is considered a faster track than Saratoga. But note that Beholder won by over 8 lengths so she cruised home with the win and her time could have been better with some pressure.

Overall, my thoughts are–viewed in a vacuum–Beholder is my odds-on favorite right now to win this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. Beholder has proven to be faster than American Pharoah at every distance over 1 mile–1 1/16 mile (1:41.67 vs 1:41.95), 1 1/8 mile (1:47.77 vs 1:47.95) and 1 1/4 mile (1:59.77 vs 2:01.69) distances.

Although American Pharoah is ranked #1 in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and Beholder ranks #18 (source), the rest of the world needs to wake up to this super fast mare who appears to be American Pharoah’s Cleopatra.


–Michael

Liam’s Map Prevails in Woodward Stakes – Updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings

Yesterday’s win by Liam’s Map in the Woodward Stakes has convinced me that this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic is going to be–THE RACE OF THE 21st CENTURY. It will get the highest TV ratings in Breeders’ Cup history.

Initially dejected when I learned that California Chrome and Shared Belief wouldn’t be competing in the Classic due to injuries, well in two short months time the sport has generated a few new major stars. American Pharoah, Beholder, Honor Code and Liam’s Map are all better horses than California Chrome and Shared Belief–their times and Beyer Speed Figures back it up. Liam’s Map ran the fastest Woodward Stakes (shown below) since it was moved to Saratoga, besting Curlin’s and Rachel’s Alexandra’s time.


So below is my updated Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings. Note that a new horse from Ireland named Gleneagles has shown up on a few of these contender ranking lists. My thoughts–he is a 3-year-old turf horse who has never raced on dirt or at a distance longer than 1 mile. So, I don’t consider him to be a serious contender for the Classic at this point:

1) Beholder*  – She confirmed that she likes distance and can race with the boys–the first female to win the Pacific Classic. She has reeled off five straight wins. Although a few will question why I have Beholder ranked ahead of American Pharoah, her times are all faster than Pharoah’s at the 1 1/16 mile (1:41.67 vs 1:41.95), 1 1/8 mile (1:47.77 vs 1:47.95) and 1 1/4 mile (1:59.77 vs 2:01.69) distances. Just like Pharoah against her competition, she hasn’t been pressed. And the 114 Beyer Speed Figure she received for her TVG Pacific Classic win is the top Beyer Speed Figure recorded in 2015 for races longer than 1 1/8 mile (source). Her next start will be the 1 1/16 mile Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita on September 26th.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.77 – 11/1/13 (2013 Breeders Cup Distaff)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic

2) American Pharoah*   –  He dropped to #2 due to his performance in the Travers that was good but not “Pharoah” good. I take this as a blip on the radar at Saratoga–known as the Graveyard of Champions. One thing that is concerning though–his two toughest races have been the Kentucky Derby and the Travers Stakes (both 1 1/4 mile distance races as the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be). And to make matters worse, he will face tougher competition in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But I truly believe after rewatching the Travers, that American Pharoah thought he had the race won when he shook off Frosted. He has never experienced battling and separating from a horse only for another to come from the outside like gangbusters that late in the race. His next start will likely be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st.

Career: 10 Starts 8-1-0-0, Win Pct: 80%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby

3) Honor Code*  – The Met-Mile winner with a blazing 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced another sizzling 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney Handicap. This makes his 5th place finish in the Alysheba Stakes puzzling. He has a nice pedigree, the son of A.P. Indy and the grandson of Seattle Slew. He has yet to race longer than 1 1/8th mile but I think he will fare even better in a 1 1/4 mile race–he is bred for distance. His next start will likely be the Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park on October 3rd..

Career: 9 Starts 6-2-0-0, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.82 – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

4) Liam’s Map – His performance in the Woodward Stakes proved to me that this Todd Pletcher-trained horse is a rising star and a serious Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender. He received a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance which ties Beholder’s 114 in the Pacific Classic as the top Beyer Speed Figure for 2015. Although it has been bandied about that he should be entered into the Breeders’ Cup Mile instead of the Classic, he’s got to be entered into the Classic in my opinion. He got faster at Saratoga in one month at the same 1 1/8th mile distance– 1:47.44–beating Honor Code’s time of 1:47.82 in the Whitney (whom he lost to by a neck).  Like Honor Code, he received a 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney. He has never finished below 2nd in 7 career starts and is a neck away from having 6 straight wins. His next start is uncertain.

Career: 7 Starts 5-2-0-0, Win Pct: 71.4%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.44 – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

5) Tonalist  – Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes, two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap) and a 3rd place finish (Whitney Handicap). His third place finish in the Whitney Handicap produced a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced a 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap and a 111 Beyer in the Met Mile. And he is better at races 1 1/4 mile or longer. He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His next start will be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 13 Starts 5-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.5%, Top 3 Pct: 84.6%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.1 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Jockey Club Gold Cup

6) Keen Ice  – A horse that finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational (105 Beyer Speed Figure). Then finally beating the Triple Crown winner in the Travers Stakes. His Beyer Speed Figure for the Travers Stakes was 106. He is an improving horse. His owner, Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing, recently said: “We believe that (Keen Ice) is the fastest, best-bred 3-year-old in the world today.” Note that Keen Ice’s sire Curlin, won the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start is rumored to be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 10 Starts 2-1-3-2, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Travers Stakes

7) Catch A Flight – The Argentinian horse has never finished below 3rd in his North American career thus far. He is ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, though will change if Beholder is entered in the Classic. He finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Handicap in March behind Shared Belief and Moreno, but beat Moreno in the Californian Stakes on May 30th (106 Beyer Speed Figure). He finished third behind Hard Aces and Hoppertunity in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 27th, but beat Hoppertunity in the San Diego Handicap. Then he finished 2nd behind Beholder in the TVG Pacific Classic. No word on when and where his next start will be.

Career (North America) : 8 Starts 4-1-3-0, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.73 – 5/30/14 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.09 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd –2015 TVG Pacific Classic

8) Frosted – He has a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, a 2nd place finish in the Belmont Stakes and a 3rd place finish in the Travers Stakes.  He is a quality horse who has never finished below 4th place in 11 career starts. His next start is rumored to be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 11 Starts 2-6-1-2, Win Pct: 18.2%, Top 3 Pct: 81.8%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.85 (calculated) – 8/1/15 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Travers Stakes

9) Hoppertunity  – Not likely a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner but a horse who is consistent enough to finish in the money. In 10 career graded stakes race starts, he has never finished below 4th. In 2015, he has a win in the San Pasqual Stakes, two third place finishes in the San Antonio and Stephen Foster Handicap, lost to Hard Aces in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita by a nose and fourth place finishes in the San Diego Handicap and TVG Pacific Classic. No word on where his start will be.

Career: 13 Starts 4-3-2-3, Win Pct: 30.7%, Top 3 Pct: 69.2%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.36 (calculated) – 4/5/14 (2014 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.33 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2015 Gold Cup

10) Effinex  – A temperamental horse with talent at the 1 1/4 mile distance. He acted up in the starting gate in the Woodward Stakes and finished 4th. Previous to this he had the weird run in the Brooklyn Handicap where he veered away from the rest of the pack coming around a turn and DNF’d. But the 2015 Suburban Handicap winner still has two of the top four Beyer Speed Figures this year for races 1 1/4th mile or longer: 107 Beyer at Aqueduct on April 25th and his 107 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. His next start will probably be the Jockey Gold Cup at Belmont on October 3rd.

Career: 17 Starts 6-1-2-3, Win Pct: 35.2%, Top 3 Pct: 52.9%, Top 4%: 70.5%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.44 (calculated) – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.55 – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A

11) Hard Aces*  –  He has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. For 2015, he has two wins, a 3rd, a 4th and a 6th place finish in his most recent race–The TVG Pacific Classic. One wonders if his big win in the Gold Cup was more a byproduct of Victor Espinoza’s jockeying. His recent workouts at Del Mar have been good. His next start is uncertain.

Career: 23 starts 6-3-7-2, Win Pct: 26.1%, Top 3 Pct: 69.6%, Top 4 Pct: 78.2%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.37 (calculated) – 5/30/15 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup

12) Dortmund – He finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. But remember that he has won 6 races out of 8 starts. Another Bob Baffert-trained horse that I feel that we haven’t seen the best from him yet. However, he suffered bruised ribs in a gate mishap in early August. But he did work out at Del Mar on August 24th, August 31st and September 6th. His next start is uncertain but don’t be surprised if he is entered into the Pennsylvania Derby on September 19th.

Career: 8 Starts 6-0-1-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.73 – 4/4/15 (2015 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Kentucky Derby

13) Coach Inge – This Todd Pletcher-trained horse, I felt, was underrated entering the Woodward Stakes and mentioned this in my pre-race blog. He won the 1 1/2 mile Brooklyn Handicap back in June while demonstrating a fighting spirit and producing a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. He received a 106 Beyer Speed Figure for his 2nd place finish in the Woodward Stakes. For 2015, he has two wins, two 2nd place finishes and two 3rd place finishes. He seems to like distance and has finished in the mix with Liam’s Map, Tonalist and Effinex. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him spring an upset along the way similar to Keen Ice’s in the Whitney. His next start will be the Jockey Gold Cup at Belmont October 3rd.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-2-1, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4%: 83.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.2 (calculated) – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.77 (calculated) – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A

14) Texas Red  – A fifth place finish in the Travers was disappointing but he is still recovering. He earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the Jim Dandy Stakes. He won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a two year old and was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury. No word yet on when his next start will be.

Career: 9 Starts 3-3-1-1, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 77.8%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 8/1/2015 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.45 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 5th – 2015 Travers Stakes

Noble Bird* UPDATE: Although he has qualified for the Classic, his trainer Mark Casse has decided to rest him for a couple of months with plans to bring him back next year. It appears that he is off the Breeders’ Cup Classic trail.

* Indicates a horse who has already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Honorable Mention: Wicked Strong


Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Times for 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contenders. For calculated times of non-winning horses, I used the official race time of the winner and the following to compute an estimated time [One length is equal to 0.16 seconds, three-quarters of a length is equal to 0.12, a half-length equals 0.08, a neck is equal to 0.04, a head is equal to 0.02 and a nose is 0.01].

1) Beholder1:59.77 – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (1st in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
2) Tonalist – 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 at Santa Anita (5th in 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
3) Catch A Flight  – 2:01.09 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (2nd in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
4) Hoppertunity  – 2:01.33 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (4th in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
5) Effinex  2:01.55 – 7/4/15 at Belmont Park (1st in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
6) Keen Ice – 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (1st in 2015 Travers Stakes)
7) American Pharoah*  –  2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
8) Coach Inge – 2:01.77 (calculated) – 7/5/2015 at Belmont Park (3rd in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
9) Hard Aces*  –  2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (6th in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
10) Frosted – 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
11) Texas Red – 2:02.45 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
12) Dortmund – 2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/2015 at Churchill Downs (3rd in 2015 Kentucky Derby)

Honor Code, Liam’s Map and Noble Bird have never raced at the 1 1/4 mile distance.


Top Beyer Speed Figures in 2015 for races 1 1/4 Mile

1) Beholder (f) DMR 22 Aug 1 1/4M 114
2) Shared Belief SA 07 Mar 1 1/4M 111
3) Effinex AQU 25 Apr 1 1/4M 107
4) Effinex BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
5) Tonalist BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
6) Keen Ice SAR 29 Aug 1 1/4M 106
7) Red Rifle AQU 25 Apr 1 1/4M 106

The remaining “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Classic Races:


Sept. 26th – The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $300,000 – TVG
Oct. 3rd – Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC

Other notable races:

Sept 19th – The Pennsylvania Derby at PARX – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – TVG

–Michael

Woodward Stakes Preview – The Return of Liam’s Map

Liam's Map wins 2014 Harlan's Holiday

Photo: Natalie Fawkes, Gulfstream Park

Another good race coming this Saturday, September 5th at 4:47 PM CST, the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. This 1 1/8 mile race carries a $600,000 purse and will be shown on NBC Sports. It has two of my top 14 Breeders’ Cup contenders (Liam’s Map and Effinex). Two other good horses, Wicked Strong and Coach Inge, should make this a very interesting race.

Liam’s Map is the deserved favorite but Coach Inge is a horse to watch out for at this distance. He led the Surburban Handicap after 9 furlongs (1 1/8 mile) shown below. He should give Liam’s Map a run for his money. He is well rested and was a healthy scratch from the Whitney Handicap. He has finished in the Top 3 in all five races he has competed in this year.


Coach Inge won the race previous to the Suburban Handicap–the 1 1/2 mile Brooklyn Handicap (video shown below) where he displayed a fighting spirit and willingness to battle. When he was given 15/1 morning line odds in the Whitney Handicap (before being scratched), I thought those odds were too long.


Effinex is a great horse but I like him better at the 1 1/4 mile distance. Commanding Curve has never really did much after his 2nd place finish in last year’s Kentucky Derby. Protonico has won his last two starts but hasn’t raced since May 1st. Bay of Plenty beat Mylute in the Alydar Stakes at Saratoga on August 9th at this same 1 1/8 mile distance.

Below are the 2015 Woodward Stakes Post Positions. Jockey/Trainer & Morning Line Odds:

1 Wicked Strong – Saez/Jerkens – 5/1
2 Liam’s Map – Castellano/Pletcher – 6/5
3 Commanding Curve – Bridgmohan/Stewart – 30/1
4 Bay of Plenty – Rosario/McLaughlin – 10/1
5 Mylute – Ortiz, Jr./Pletcher – 15/1
6 Coach Inge – Velazquez/Pletcher – 6/1
7 Effinex – Alvarado/Jerkens – 4/1
8 Protonico – Ortiz/Pletcher – 12/1

I see this race with Liam’s Map and Coach Inge jumping out into the early lead and trying to stave off late chargers Effinex and Wicked Strong down the stretch. Liam’s Map won’t have any horse in this race with the closing speed of Honor Code as he did in the Whitney Handicap. If this were a 1 1/4 mile race, I would pick Effinex as the race winner.

So my projected order of finish: 1) Liam’s Map, 2) Coach Inge, 3) Effinex, 4) Wicked Strong, 5) Bay of Plenty, 6) Protonico, 7) Commanding Curve, 8) Mylute

Overall, I don’t think this is a good betting race for high payout trifecta or superfectas. So I would recommend placing big exacta bets. Probably the safer way to go would be a 2,6,7 Exacta Box with 3 horses. A $1 Exacta Box with 3 horses would cost $6, so a $10 one would cost $60.

–Michael

Keen Ice stuns Travers crowd. Updated Breeders’ Cup Rankings

After Keen Ice’s stunning upset of American Pharoah on Saturday (video shown below), there were hints from Zayat Stables that American Pharoah could be retired. This is premature and hopefully just an emotional response. The last Triple Crown winner to win the Travers Stakes was Whirlaway in 1941. Although the upset radar was in on in full force on Saturday at Saratoga–known as the Graveyard of Champions–nobody saw Keen Ice as the upset threat. Texas Red, Frosted, Upstart…yes but most had Keen Ice in their top 4 or 5. His recent workouts were mediocre.


The race played out like I thought it would through 9 furlongs–American Pharoah and Frosted. But Keen Ice came from literally nowhere and seemed to have an extragear that American Pharoah and Frosted didn’t have. You have got to be impressed with his effort. Keen Ice isn’t near the horse that American Pharoah is. He finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont and 2nd in the Haskell Invitational behind American Pharoah. But he ran the race of his life Saturday and upset the Triple Crown champion.

American Pharoah will bounce back. But now the 5 year old mare Beholder is the odds-on favorite to win the Superbowl of horse racing in October–The Breeders’ Cup Classic.


Here is my updated Breeders’ Cup rankings and updated Vegas Odds. Please note that Palace Malice, who had been in some of my previous rankings, has been retired:

1) Beholder*  (6/1) – She confirmed that she likes distance and can race with the boys. She received a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for her TVG Pacific Classic win. The first female to win the Pacific Classic.  She has reeled off five straight wins. Her next start will be the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita on September 26th.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.77 – 11/1/13 (2013 Breeders Cup Distaffl)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic

2) American Pharoah* (5/2)  –  He drops to #2 due to his performance in the Travers that was good (he shook off Frosted) but not Pharoah good. I take this as a blip on the radar at Saratoga–known as the Graveyard of Champions. One thing that is concerning though. His two toughest races have been the Kentucky Derby and the Travers Stakes, both 1 1/4 mile distance races as the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be. And to make matters worse, he will face tougher competition in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start is up in the air as his owner has hinted at retirement.

Career: 10 Starts 8-1-0-0, Win Pct: 80%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby

3) Honor Code* (6/1) – The Met-Mile winner with a blazing 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced another sizzling 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney Handicap. This makes his 5th place finish in the Alysheba Stakes puzzling. He has a nice pedigree, the son of A.P. Indy and the grandson of Seattle Slew. He has yet to race longer than 1 1/8th mile but I think he will fare even better in a 1 1/4 mile race–he is bred for distance. His next start could be the Jockey Gold Cup race October 3rd at Belmont Park.

Career: 9 Starts 6-2-0-0, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.82 – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

4) Tonalist (15/1)  – Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes, two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap) and a 3rd place finish (Whitney Handicap). His third place finish in the Whitney Handicap produced a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced a 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap and a 111 Beyer in the Met Mile. And he is better at races 1 1/4 mile or longer. He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His next start will be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 13 Starts 5-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.5%, Top 3 Pct: 84.6%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.1 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Jockey Club Gold Cup

5) Keen Ice (10/1) – A horse that finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational (105 Beyer Speed Figure) and then finally beat him in the Travers Stakes. His Beyer Speed Figure for the Travers was 106. He is improving. His next start is rumored to be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 10 Starts 2-1-3-2, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Travers Stakes

6) Catch A Flight  (25/1) – The Argentinian horse has never finished below 3rd in his North American career thus far. He is ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. He finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Handicap in March behind Shared Belief and Moreno, but beat Moreno in the Californian Stakes on May 30th (106 Beyer Speed Figure). He finished third behind Hard Aces and Hoppertunity in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 27th, but beat Hoppertunity in the San Diego Handicap. Then he finished 2nd and 8 1/4 lengths behind Beholder in the TVG Pacific Classic. No word on when and where his next start will be.

Career (North America) : 8 Starts 4-1-3-0, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.73 – 5/30/14 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.09 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd –2015 TVG Pacific Classic

7) Frosted (18/1) – He has a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, a 2nd place finish in the Belmont Stakes and a 3rd place finish in the Travers Stakes.  He is a quality horse who has never finished below 4th place in 11 career starts. His next start is rumored to be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 11 Starts 2-6-1-2, Win Pct: 18.2%, Top 3 Pct: 81.8%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.85 (calculated) – 8/1/15 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Travers Stakes

8) Liam’s Map (25/1) – Although it appeared that he faded a bit down the stretch in the Whitney Handicap, it was more like Honor Code dug in to beat him by a neck. You had to be impressed with this horse’s first graded stakes race against a highly talented field. Like Honor Code, he received a 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney. He has never finished below 2nd in 6 career starts. My only concern is how well will he be able to stretch out to a 1 1/4 mile? His next start is expected to be the Woodward Stakes September 5th.

Career: 6 Starts 4-2-0-0, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.86 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

9) Effinex (30/1)  – The Suburban Handicap winner, he has now produced two of the top four Beyer Speed Figures this year for races 1 1/4th mile or longer: 107 Beyer at Aqueduct on April 25th and his 107 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. Sandwiched in between was a DNF in the Brooklyn Handicap where he oddly veered away from the rest of the pack coming around a turn. He worked out at Saratoga July 29th and August 2nd. His next start will be the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 5th.

Career: 16 Starts 6-1-2-2, Win Pct: 37.5%, Top 3 Pct: 56.25%, Top 4%: 68.8%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.51 – 4/11/15 (2014 Empire Classic)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.55 – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A

10) Hoppertunity  (22/1) – Not likely a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner but a horse who is consistent enough to finish in the money. In 10 career graded stakes race starts, he has never finished below 4th. In 2015, he has a win in the San Pasqual Stakes, two third place finishes in the San Antonio and Stephen Foster Handicap, lost to Hard Aces in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita by a nose and fourth place finishes in the San Diego Handicap and TVG Pacific Classic. No word on where his start will be.

Career: 13 Starts 4-3-2-3, Win Pct: 30.7%, Top 3 Pct: 69.2%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.36 (calculated) – 4/5/14 (2014 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.33 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2015 Gold Cup

11) Hard Aces* (25/1)  –  He has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. For 2015, he has two wins, a 3rd, a 4th and a 6th place finish. One wonders if his big win in the Gold Cup was more a byproduct of Victor Espinoza’s jockeying. His recent workouts at Del Mar have been good, most notably a 1:26.60 in 7 furlongs. His next start is uncertain.

Career: 23 starts 6-3-7-2, Win Pct: 26.1%, Top 3 Pct: 69.6%, Top 4 Pct: 78.2%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.37 (calculated) – 5/30/15 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup

12) Dortmund (25/1) – He finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. But remember that he has won 6 races out of 8 starts. Another Bob Baffert-trained horse that I expect to improve as I don’t think we have seen the best from him yet. However, he suffered bruised ribs in a gate mishap last week and his next start is uncertain.

Career: 8 Starts 6-0-1-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.73 – 4/4/15 (2015 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Kentucky Derby

13) Texas Red (18/1) – A fifth place finish in the Travers was disappointing but he is still recoveringHe earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the Jim Dandy Stakes. He won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a two year old and was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury. No word yet on when his next start will be.

Career: 9 Starts 3-3-1-1, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 77.8%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 8/1/2015 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.45 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 5th – 2015 Travers Stakes

14) Noble Bird* (20/1) – I am not sure what happened to Noble Bird in the Whitney Handicap where he finished dead last. He has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Stephen Foster Handicap where he beat Lea while registering a 108 Beyer Speed Figure. His only downside is that he has never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile. His next start is uncertain.

Career: 11 Starts 4-3-0-1, Win Pct: 36.4%, Top 3 Pct:63.6%, Top 4 Pct: 73.7%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.94 – 6/13/15 (2015 Stephen Foster Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

* Indicates a horse who has already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.


Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Times for 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contenders. For calculated times of non-winning horses, I used the official race time of the winner and the following to compute an estimated time [One length is equal to 0.16 seconds, three-quarters of a length is equal to 0.12, a half-length equals 0.08, a neck is equal to 0.04, a head is equal to 0.02 and a nose is 0.01].

1) Beholder*  – 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (1st in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
2) Tonalist  – 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 at Santa Anita (5th in 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
3) Catch A Flight  – 2:01.09 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (2nd in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
4) Hoppertunity  – 2:01.33 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (4th in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
5) Effinex  2:01.55 – 7/4/15 at Belmont (1st in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
6) Keen Ice – 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (1st in 2015 Travers Stakes)
7) American Pharoah*  –  2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
8) Hard Aces*  –  2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (6th in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
9) Frosted – 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
10) Texas Red – 2:02.45 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 at Saratoga (5th in 2015 Travers Stakes)
11) Dortmund – 2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/2015 at Churchill Downs (3rd in 2015 Kentucky Derby)

Honor Code, Liam’s Map and Noble Bird have never raced at the 1 1/4 mile distance.


The remaining “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Classic Races:

Sept. 26th – The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $250,000 – TVG
Oct. 3rd – Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC

Other Notable Classic Division Races:

Sept. 5th – The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 –  NBCSN
–Michael

2015 Travers Stakes Preview: Should American Pharoah be on upset alert?


Today at 4:46 PM CST on NBC, American Pharoah gets a chance to extend his 8 race winning streak in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. This 1 1/4 mile race has a $1.6 million dollar purse and will be a good gauge for the Breeders’ Cup Classic as it is run at the same 1 1/4 mile distance. Below are post positions, jockey/trainer and morning line odds:

1. Upstart – Ortiz Jr./Violette – 15-1
2. American Pharoah – Espinoza/Baffert – 1-5
3. Mid Ocean – Franco/Weaver – 50-1
4. Texas Red – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 8-1
5. Frammento – Ortiz/Zito – 30-1
6. Frosted – Rosario/McLaughlin – 6-1
7. Keen Ice – Castellano/Romans – 12-1
8. Tale of Verve – Stevens/Stewart – 30-1
9. King of New York – Leparoux/McPeek – 50-1
10. Smart Transition – Velazquez/Shirreffs – 20-1

Saratoga has a history of producing upsets and many felt Bob Baffert should skip the Travers and run American Pharoah in the Woodward Stakes next weekend. As a result, a few members of the horse racing media (Kevin Cox, Mike Watchmaker and Michelle Yu) are calling for an upset today and predicting Texas Red as the race winner. My opinion? It is not going to happen. American Pharoah will prevail again.

Texas Red was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury back in February. As a 2-year-old, he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race (shown below) the ability as a closer that would make him a serious threat in a 1 1/4 mile race like the Kentucky Derby and especially with fast opening fractions. But he has had to slowly work his way back from injury and I just don’t think his workout times and two previous post-injury races (Dwyer Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes) have given me any cause for upset alarm today.

Texas Red beat Frosted in the Jim Dandy Stakes (video click HERE) but this was a 1 1/8 mile race and like Frosted’s long strides to edge out Texas Red in a 1 1/4 mile race.

My predicted finishing order (I think the Saratoga track handicapper has got this one right): 1) American Pharoah, 2) Frosted, 3) Texas Red, 4) Keen Ice, 5) Upstart, 6) Smart Transition, 7) Tale of Verve, 8) Frammento, 9) King of New York, 10) Mid Ocean


–Michael