TVG Pacific Classic Preview – Beholder vs The Boys

It is not too often that the girls compete against the boys but that is what we have tonight at 8:10pm CST in the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar with a 5 year old mare “Beholder” competing against some of the top Classic division horses like Bayern, Catch A Flight, Hard Aces and Hoppertunity. Beholder is great horse and she is the morning line favorite.

This 1 1/4 mile race is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and carries a $1 Million dollar purse. The race will be televised live on TVG. Due its 1 1/4 mile distance, this will be a good gauge for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Below are post positions, weights, jockeys and morning line odds:

PP horse (weight) jockey/trainer odds

1. Class Leader (124) Smith/Sadler 15-1
2. Bailoutbobby (124) Graham/O’Neill 20-1
3. Bayern (124) Bejarano/Baffert 6-1
4. Hard Aces (124) Espinoza/Sadler 5-1
5. Red Vine (124) Rosario/Clement 6-1
6. Imperative (124) Nakatani/Baltas 12-1
7. Catch a Flight (124) Prat/Mandella 9-2
8. Hoppertunity (124) Garcia/Baffert 5-1
9. Beholder (119) Stevens/Mandella 5-2
10. Midnight Storm (124) Baze/D’Amato 20-1

Overall, my thoughts. Beholder is a formidable opponent. She is riden by Gary Stevens, who chose Beholder over Catch A Flight for his ride. I am a bit surprised by this decision because Beholder has never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile distance. Martin Garcia chose Hoppertunity over Bayern for his mount. No surprise there, Hoppertunity has been a better horse than Bayern this year.

Although she is the 5/2 morning line favorite, I don’t think Beholder will win this race. She has never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile. However, I do think she will finish in the money. I think the win will come down to three horses: Hoppertunity, Catch A Flight and Hard Aces, with Beholder being in the mix but fading a bit at the end. Red Vine is 6/1 odds but hasn’t raced longer than 1 3/8 miles where he finished 4th in an allowance race. Imperative is a 12/1 odds and finished 3rd in last year’s Pacific Classic. But he has had a few stinker performances since then.

Bayern hasn’t done anything this year to make me believe in will finish in the Top 4 as he has faded out down the stretch in shorter distance races. So this rules out an expensive Superfecta Box with five horses including Bayern. Bailoutbobby, Class Leader and Midnight Storm are the three longshots. As far as longshots having a chance to finish in the Top 4, I like Bailoutbobby’s chances the best. So here is my betting advice. How about a $4 Boxed Superfecta with four horses (4-7-8-9). This would cost $96. And hope that the longer odds horse of the four (most likely Hard Aces) wins the race as it will pay out nicer.

–Michael

Updated 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contender Rankings – American Pharoah and Honor Code 1-2

My updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings. Dropping out of my top 14 are Palace Malice and Lea. Palace Malice finished 4th in the Alydar Stakes. He didn’t seem to be much of a factor and really had labor to grind out a spot in the money against a mediocre field. Lea, who many experts picked to win the Whitney Handicap, had a disappointing 6th place finish and faded a bit towards the end. Nobody expected to see either of these horses backslide like they did. Same goes for Noble Bird who finished dead last in the Whitney but remains 14th in my rankings by virtue of already having secured a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic field.

1) American Pharoah*  – He confirmed his #1 ranking with his performance in the Haskell Invitational with a sizzling 109 Beyer Speed Figure. He now has reeled off eight straight wins. He currently is ranked #2 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and ranked #1 in the most recent NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred poll. His next start after the Haskell has not been confirmed but expected to be the Travers Stakes August 29th.

Career: 9 Starts 8-0-0-0, Win Pct: 88.9%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.02 – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby

2) 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 ranks 2nd in NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred behind American Pharoah. He has yet to race longer than 1 1/8th mile and that is why I can’t rank him ahead of American Pharoah despite his impressive speed figures. But I am not concerned as 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

3) 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

4) Catch A Flight  – The Argentinian horse has never finished below 3rd in his North American career thus far. He has won 10 of 17 career starts, 4 out of 7 in North America. He is ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and appears to be an upcoming horse who is getting better as his San Diego Handicap performance indicates. 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. His next start is confirmed as the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 22nd.

Career (North America) : 7 Starts 4-0-3-0, Win Pct: 57.1%, 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: 2:01.37 (calculated) – 3/7/15 (2015 Santa Anita Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Santa Anita Handicap

5) Liam’s Map – 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? However, he looks like a horse on the rise under the guise of one the top trainers in Todd Pletcher.

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

6) Effinex  – 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

7) Hoppertunity  – Not likely a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner but a horse who is consistent enough to finish in the money. In 9 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 a fourth place finish in the San Diego Handicap. He did 5 furlongs in one minute flat at Saratoga on August 7th. His next start will be the TVG Pacific Classic on August 22nd.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-2-2, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.36 (calculated) – 4/5/14 (2014 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.47 (calculated) – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2015 Gold Cup

8) 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. 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 appears to be at Del Mar in the TVG Pacific Classic on August 22nd.

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: 2:02.46 – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup

9) 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 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 that was pegged to be the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 22nd, may be questionable.

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

10) Frosted – He finished 2nd behind Texas Red in the Jim Dandy Stakes but he likes distance (his sire was Tapit). He finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby and 2nd in the Belmont Stakes–a quality horse who has never finished below 4th place in 10 career starts. His next start will be the Travers Stakes on August 29th.

Career: 10 Starts 2-6-0-2, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 80%, 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: 2:03.54 (calculated) – 5/2/2015 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 4th – 2015 Kentucky Derby

11) Bayern – He stays in my top 14 due to past performance. He was last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. In 2015, he had two consecutive last place finishes (6th, 10th) in two starts before his 3rd place finish in the San Diego Handicap last month. It is blatantly obvious that he is not the horse he was in 2014 but he did improve in his last start. He worked out at Del Mar on August 5th and turned 6 furlongs in 1:11.60. That was an improvement over his last workout (1:13.20) at the same 6 furlong distance at Del Mar. His next start will be the TVG Pacific Classic on August 22nd, which will be very telling about his future.

Career: 13 Starts 6-1-2-0, Win Pct: 46.2%, Top 3 Pct: 69.2%, Top 4 Pct: 69.2%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:46.96 – 9/20/14 (2014 Pennsylvania Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.88 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic

12) Keen Ice – An improving horse who finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational with a 105 Beyer Speed Figure. His next start after the Haskell is not confirmed but expected to be the Travers Stakes August 29th.

Career: 10 Starts 1-1-3-2, Win Pct: 10%, Top 3 Pct: 50%, Top 4 Pct: 70%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.02 – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 7th – 2015 Kentucky Derby

13) Texas Red – 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. He appears to be back on track heading down the stretch. His next start is expected to be the Travers Stakes August 29th.

Career: 8 Starts 3-3-1-1, Win Pct: 37.5%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 8/1/2015 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

14) Noble Bird– I am not sure what happened to Noble Bird in the Whitney Handicap where he finished dead last. Injury? No word yet. 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 horses who have already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic


Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Times for 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contenders.  I used times at the 1 & 1/4 mile mark from the 2015 Belmont Stakes for American Pharoah and Frosted since these times were better than their times in the Kentucky Derby. 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) Bayern –  1:59.88 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
2) Tonalist  – 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
3) Palace Malice  – 2:00.78 (calculated) – 9/28/13 (2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup)
4) Catch A Flight   – 2:01.37 (calculated) – 3/7/15 (2015 Santa Anita Handicap)
5) Effinex  – 2:01.55 – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
6) American Pharoah  –  2:02.37 – 6/5/15 (2015 Belmont Stakes)
7) Hard Aces  –  2:02.46 – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
8) Hoppertunity  –  2:02.47 (calculated) – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
9) Frosted  –   2:02.69 (calculated) – 6/5/2015 (2015 Belmont Stakes)
10) Dortmund –  2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)

Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Times for 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contenders. American Pharoah coasted home in the Haskell Invitational. Had Victor Espinoza raced him hard to the wire, his final time probably would have eclipsed the Haskell race record of 1:47.00.

1) Bayern – 1:46.96 – 9/20/14 (2014 Pennsylvania Derby)
2) Catch A Flight  – 1:47.73 – 5/30/14 (2015 Californian Stakes)
3) Honor Code* – 1:47.82 – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
4) Liam’s Map – 1:47.86 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
5) Noble Bird– 1:47.94 – 6/13/15 (2015 Stephen Foster Handicap)
6) American Pharoah*  – 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
7) Tonalist  – 1:48.1 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
8) Keen Ice – 1:48.31 (calculated) – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
9) Hoppertunity  – 1:48.36 (calculated) – 4/5/14 (2014 Santa Anita Derby)
10) Hard Aces*  –  1:48.37 (calculated) – 5/30/15 (2015 Californian Stakes)
11) Effinex  – 1:48.51 – 4/11/15 (2014 Empire Classic)
12) Dortmund – 1:48.73 – 4/4/15 (2015 Santa Anita Derby)
13) Texas Red – 1:48.77 – 8/1/2015 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
14) Frosted – 1:48.85 (calculated) – 8/1/15 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)


The remaining “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races (Classic Division):

Aug. 22nd – The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – TVG
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:

Aug. 29th – The Travers Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
Sept. 5th – The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 –  NBCSN

–Michael

Honor Code – A New Star is Born and Rival to American Pharoah

Honor Code Hero1

Honor Code edges out Liam’s Map by a neck in the Whitney Handicap – Photo: NYRA

Honor Code answered any questions that I had about him yesterday with his outstanding come-from-behind win in the Whitney Handicap (video shown below). The questions marks I had about this blazingly fast horse: Although he has the pedigree for distance, we hadn’t seen him accomplish much in two-turn races this year. He hadn’t competed in a race longer than 1 1/16th mile since his 2 year-old campaign when he won the Remsen Stakes in 2013. Folks, Honor Code is THE REAL DEAL. He is a huge threat to American Pharoah’s bid of capturing horse racing’s Grand Slam (The Triple Crown and Breeders Cup Classic win). Why? Consider this:

  1. Honor Code’s Whitney Handicap winning time of 1:47.82 compared to American Pharoah’s Haskell Invitational winning time of 1:47.95 just a week apart at the same 1 1/8th mile distance. Different track but Honor Code received a better Beyer Speed figure (113) for his run than American Pharoah (109). Granted, American Pharoah coasted in on his win but Honor Code’s closer style will make him a huge threat no matter what post position he draws in the 1 1/4 mile Breeders’ Cup Classic. He drew the dreaded rail in a talent laden Whitney HC and won.
  2. Honor Code now has two of the top three Beyer Speed Figures this year: 112 in the Met Mile and 113 in yesterday’s Whitney Handicap. He is the fastest horse in North America right now.


The Breeders’ Cup Classic in October is shaping up to be a showdown of epic proportions: American Pharoah vs Honor Code. I will post my updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings by the end of the week but here is your future Breeders’ Cup Classic Boxed Trifecta. Palace Malice races today at Saratoga at the same 1 1/8th mile distance so that is why I am holding off on an updated rankings list.

1) American Pharoah  – He confirmed his #1 ranking with his performance in the Haskell Invitational with a sizzling 109 Beyer Speed Figure. He now has reeled off eight straight wins. He currently is ranked #2 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and ranked #1 in the most recent NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred poll. His next start after the Haskell has not been confirmed but expected to be the Travers Stakes August 29th.

Career: 9 Starts 8-0-0-0, Win Pct: 88.9%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.02 – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby

2) Honor Code – The Met-Mile winner with a blazing 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced another 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 and that is why I can’t rank him ahead of American Pharoah despite his impressive speed figures. But I am not concerned as 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

3) 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. He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year.

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


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

Aug. 22nd – The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – TVG
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:

Aug. 29th – The Travers Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
Sept. 5th – The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 –  NBCSN

–Michael

Updated 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contender Rankings

This past weekend, the Jim Dandy Stakes and Haskell Invitational gave us the following information: American Pharoah showed no rustiness coming off a layoff. And Texas Red is back, edging out Frosted.

I still like Frosted over Texas Red in 1 1/4 mile race. In the Haskell Invitational, American Pharoah continued to prove his dominance making it 8 straight wins in a row. I loved the performance of 2nd-place finisher, Keen Ice, who came off the pace like gangbusters. This will bode well in a 1 1/4 mile race. Keen Ice is an improving horse. I don’t see him as one who can beat American Pharoah but one that could finish in the money in the Breeders’ Cup Classic if he makes it into the field.



So here’s my updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings. Dropping out of my Top 14 are Constitution and Honor Code. Two really good horses but we will see how they fare in their next start.

1) American Pharoah*  – He confirmed his #1 ranking with his performance in the Haskell Invitational with a sizzling 109 Beyer Speed Figure. He now has reeled off 8 straight wins. He currently is ranked #2 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and ranked #1 in the most recent NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred poll. And much deserved as he is the first Triple Crown Winner in 37 years. His next start after the Haskell has not been confirmed but expected to be the Travers Stakes August 29th.

Career: 9 Starts 8-0-0-0, Win Pct: 88.9%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.02 – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby

2) Tonalist  – Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes and now two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap). He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap ranks as the third highest speed figure this year for races 1 1/4 mile. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap this weekend on August 8th.

Career: 12 Starts 5-4-1-1, Win Pct: 41.7%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:49.52 (calculated) – 7/26/14 (2014 Jim Dandy Stakes)
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

3) Catch A Flight  – The Argentinian horse has never finished below 3rd in his North American career thus far, so that is where I am placing him in my rankings. He has won 10 of 17 career starts, 4 out of 7 in North America. He is ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and appears to be an upcoming horse who is getting better as his San Diego Handicap performance indicates. 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. His next start is confirmed as the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 22nd.

Career (North America) : 7 Starts 4-0-3-0, Win Pct: 57.1%, 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: 2:01.37 (calculated) – 3/7/15 (2015 Santa Anita Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Santa Anita Handicap

4) Lea – In 2015, he has a win (Hal’s Hope Stakes), two second place finishes (Donn Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap) and a third place finish. The third place finish was in the Dubai World Cup where he finished behind Prince Bishop and California Chrome. He has two impressive Beyer Speed Figures of 110 in the Hal’s Hope Stakes and 108 in the Stephen Foster Handicap. He is working out well at Saratoga. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

Career: 16 Starts 7-4-3-1, Win Pct: 43.8%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 93.8%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:46.86 – 2/9/14 (2014 Donn Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.88 (calculated)- 3/28/15 (2015 Dubai World Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Dubai World Cup

5) Palace Malice  – He finished 3rd in his only start in 2015 in the 6 furlong Diablo Stakes at Belmont on May 10th. He won four out of five races last year, most notably the Metropolitan Handicap. In 2013, he won the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes and finished 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Considered one of the best older horses last year. He was supposed to be entered in the Whitney Handicap but instead will be entered into Sunday’s $100,000 Alydar Stakes at Saratoga.

Career: 18 Starts 7-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.9%, Top 3 Pct: 72.2%, Top 4 Pct: 77.8%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.37 – 7/27/13 (2013 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.78 (calculated)- 9/28/13 (2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup

6) Effinex  – 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 108 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. He could be peaking and maturing at the right time. He worked out at Saratoga July 29th. 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

7) 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 expect to improve as I don’t think we have seen the best from him yet. His next start appears to be the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 22nd.

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

8) Hoppertunity  – 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 a fourth place finish in the San Diego Handicap. He is consistent and has never finished below 5th in 12 career starts. His next start will be the TVG Pacific Classic on August 22nd.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-2-2, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.36 (calculated) – 4/5/14 (2014 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.47 (calculated) – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2015 Gold Cup

9) 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. 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 very good. His next start appears to be at Del Mar in the TVG Pacific Classic on August 22nd.

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: 2:02.46 – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup

10) Frosted – He finished 2nd behind Texas Red in the Jim Dandy Stakes but he likes distance (his sire was Tapit). He finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby and 2nd in the Belmont Stakes. His next start will be the Travers Stakes on August 29th.

Career: 10 Starts 2-6-0-2, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 80%, 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: 2:03.54 (calculated) – 5/2/2015 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 4th – 2015 Kentucky Derby

11) Bayern – Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. He has had two consecutive last place finishes (6th, 10th) in two starts before his 3rd place finish in the San Diego Handicap. He is not the horse he was in 2014 but he did improve in his last start. His next start will be the TVG Pacific Classic on August 22nd.

Career: 13 Starts 6-1-2-0, Win Pct: 46.2%, Top 3 Pct: 69.2%, Top 4 Pct: 69.2%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:46.96 – 9/20/14 (2014 Pennsylvania Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.88 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic

12) Noble Bird– 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. He has won three out of his last four races. His only downside is that he has never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap August 8th.

Career: 10 Starts 4-3-0-1, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 70%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.94 – 6/13/15 (2015 Stephen Foster Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

13) Keen Ice – An improving horse who finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational with a 105 Beyer Speed Figure His next start after the Haskell is not confirmed but expected to be the Travers Stakes August 29th.

Career: 10 Starts 1-1-3-2, Win Pct: 10%, Top 3 Pct: 50%, Top 4 Pct: 70%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.02 – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 7th – 2015 Kentucky Derby

14) Texas Red – He earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the Jim Dandy Stakes. He was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury. He appears to be back on track heading down the stretch. Could he be this year’s version of Shared Belief? Both horses won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as two year olds but missed the Kentucky Derby due to injury.

Career: 8 Starts 3-3-1-1, Win Pct: 37.5%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 8/1/2015 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

* – indicates horses who have already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic


Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Times.  I used times at the 1 & 1/4 mile mark from the 2015 Belmont Stakes for American Pharoah and Frosted since these times were better than their times in the Kentucky Derby. 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) Bayern –  1:59.88 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
2) Tonalist  – 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
3) Palace Malice  – 2:00.78 (calculated) – 9/28/13 (2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup)
4) Catch A Flight   – 2:01.37 (calculated) – 3/7/15 (2015 Santa Anita Handicap)
5) Effinex  – 2:01.55 – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
6) American Pharoah  –  2:02.37 – 6/5/15 (2015 Belmont Stakes)
7) Hard Aces  –  2:02.46 – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
8) Hoppertunity  –  2:02.47 (calculated) – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
9) Frosted  –   2:02.69 (calculated) – 6/5/2015 (2015 Belmont Stakes)
10) Dortmund –  2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
11) Lea –  2:03.88 (calculated) – 3/28/15 (2015 Dubai World Cup)


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

Aug. 8th – The Whitney Handicap at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,500,000 – NBC
Aug. 22nd – The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – TVG
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:

Aug. 29th – The Travers Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
Sept. 5th – The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 –  NBCSN

–Michael

Catch A Flight upsets Bayern & Hoppertunity – Updated Breeders’s Cup Classic Rankings

Catch A Flight wins the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar – (AP / BENOIT PHOTO)

The San Diego Handicap at Del Mar yesterday (shown below) provided a dramatic finish and much-needed information for any Breeders’ Cup Classic contender list. The San Diego Handicap was top-heavy in talent with entries Bayern, Hoppertunity and a very promising Argentinian horse named Catch A Flight. This race was 1 1/16th mile, so I am viewing it through 1 1/4 mile spectacles (same distance as the BCC).

My thoughts, Bayern is definitely not the same horse he was in 2014. He had no excuses with his 3rd place finish. He took the early lead where he has been successful in the past but tailed off at the end. But I take this a step forward after two last place finishes in 2015. Remember, he sat out earlier in the year due to a quarter crack in his hind foot  Overall, I was more impressed with Catch A Flight and Hoppertunity (who finished 4th) as both came on like gang-busters at the end.


So here is my updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings with Wynn Las Vegas Odds

1) American Pharoah (5/2) – He currently is ranked #1 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and also ranked #1 in the most recent NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred poll. And much deserved as he is the first Triple Crown Winner in 37 years. His return to racing has been confirmed to be the Haskell Invitational August 2nd. His workouts are going well, he will wire the Haskell field. His next start after the Haskell is not confirmed but expected to be the Travers Stakes August 29th.

Career: 8 Starts 7-0-0-0, Win Pct: 87.5%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.52 – 4/11/15 (2015 Arkansas Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.02 – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby

2) Tonalist (10/1) – Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes and now two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap). He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap ranks as the third highest speed figure this year for races 1 1/4 mile. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

Career: 12 Starts 5-4-1-1, Win Pct: 41.7%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:49.52 (calculated) – 7/26/14 (2014 Jim Dandy Stakes)
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

3) Catch A Flight (20/1)  -The Argentinian horse has never finished below 3rd in his North American career thus far, so that is where I am placing him in my rankings. He has won 10 of 17 career starts, 4 out of 7 in North America. He is ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and appears to be an upcoming horse who is getting better as his San Diego Handicap performance indicates. 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. His next start is confirmed as the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 22nd.

Career (North America) : 7 Starts 4-0-3-0, Win Pct: 57.1%, 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: 2:01.37 (calculated) – 3/7/15 (2015 Santa Anita Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Santa Anita Handicap

4) Lea (20/1) – In 2015, he has a win (Hal’s Hope Stakes), two second place finishes (Donn Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap) and a third place finish. The third place finish was in the Dubai World Cup where he finished behind Prince Bishop and California Chrome. He has two impressive Beyer Speed Figures of 110 in the Hal’s Hope Stakes and 108 in the Stephen Foster Handicap. He is working out well at Saratoga. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

Career: 16 Starts 7-4-3-1, Win Pct: 43.8%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 93.8%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:46.86 – 2/9/14 (2014 Donn Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.88 (calculated)- 3/28/15 (2015 Dubai World Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Dubai World Cup

5) Palace Malice (6/1) – He finished 3rd in his only start in 2015 in the 6 furlong Diablo Stakes at Belmont on May 10th. He won four out of five races last year, most notably the Metropolitan Handicap. In 2013, he won the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes and finished 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Considered one of the best older horses last year. I will say that 6/1 odds for a horse that has yet to race this year is too rich. He did work out July 4th and July 20th at Saratoga. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

Career: 18 Starts 7-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.9%, Top 3 Pct: 72.2%, Top 4 Pct: 77.8%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.37 – 7/27/13 (2013 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.78 (calculated)- 9/28/13 (2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup

6) Effinex (50/1) – 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 108 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. He could be peaking and maturing at the right time. He has yet to work out this month. His next start will be at Saratoga for the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

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

7) Dortmund (12/1) – 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. He was supposed to be entered into the Los Alamitos Derby on July 4th but his next start appears to be the Jim Dandy Stakes on August 1st.

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

8) Hoppertunity (10/1)  – 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 a fourth place finish in the San Diego Handicap. He is consistent and has never finished below 5th in 12 career starts. His next start will be the TVG Pacific Classic on August 22nd.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-2-2, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.36 (calculated) – 4/5/14 (2014 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.47 (calculated) – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2015 Gold Cup

9) Frosted (15/1) – Like Tonalist and Constitution, the son of Tapit. The winner of the Wood Memorial where he posted a 103 Beyer Speed Figure. He finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby and 2nd in the Belmont Stakes. His next start is likely to be the Jim Dandy Stakes August 1st, followed by Travers Stakes on August 29th.

Career: 9 Starts 2-5-0-2, Win Pct: 22.2%, Top 3 Pct: 77.8%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:50.31 – 4/4/15 (2015 Wood Memorial)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.54 (calculated) – 5/2/2015 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 4th – 2015 Kentucky Derby

10) 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 workouts of late haven’t been impressive. No word on when his next start will be.

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: 2:02.46 – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup

11) Bayern (25/1) – Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. He has had two consecutive last place finishes (6th, 10th) in two starts before his 3rd place finish in the San Diego Handicap. No word on when his next start will be.

Career: 13 Starts 6-1-2-0, Win Pct: 46.2%, Top 3 Pct: 69.2%, Top 4 Pct: 69.2%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:46.96 – 9/20/14 (2014 Pennsylvania Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.88 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic

12) Noble Bird* (No Odds) – 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. Why Wynn Las Vegas has no odds listed for him is puzzling. He has won three out of his last four races. His only downside is that he has never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile. His next start is expected to be the Whitney Handicap August 8th.

Career: 10 Starts 4-3-0-1, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 70%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.94 – 6/13/15 (2015 Stephen Foster Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

13) Constitution (11/1) – Winner of 4 out 6 career starts which includes the Donn Handicap earlier in the year. Currently tied with Shared Belief for the Top Beyer Speed Figure in 2015 for races longer than a mile with a speed figure of 111. He has never raced longer than a 1 1/8th  mile. However, with his pedigree (Sire Tapit), I have no concerns that he will have distance issues. He has been working out, but no word on when this Todd Pletcher-trained horse’s next start will be.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-1, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:49.16 – 3/29/14 (2014 Florida Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

14) Honor Code (15/1) – The Met-Mile winner with a blazing 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He has a 5th place finish in th Alysheba Stakes and a win in the Gulfstream Park Handicap in his other two starts in 2015. 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 am not concerned as he is bred for distance. He demonstrated that he has closing speed in the Met Mile. His last two workouts have been less than impressive but he is a closer. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap August 8th.

Career: 8 Starts 5-2-0-0, Win Pct: 62.5%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:52.92 – 11/30/14 (2014 Remsen Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

* – indicates horses who have already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic


Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Times.  I used times at the 1 & 1/4 mile mark from the 2015 Belmont Stakes for American Pharoah and Frosted since these times were better than their times in the Kentucky Derby. 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) Bayern –  1:59.88 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
2) Tonalist  – 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
3) Palace Malice  – 2:00.78 (calculated) – 9/28/13 (2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup)
4) Catch A Flight   – 2:01.37 (calculated) – 3/7/15 (2015 Santa Anita Handicap)
5) Effinex  – 2:01.55 – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
6) American Pharoah  –  2:02.37 – 6/5/15 (2015 Belmont Stakes)
7) Hard Aces  –  2:02.46 – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
8) Hoppertunity  –  2:02.47 (calculated) – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
9) Frosted  –   2:02.69 (calculated) – 6/5/2015 (2015 Belmont Stakes)
10) Dortmund –  2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
11) Lea –  2:03.88 (calculated) – 3/28/15 (2015 Dubai World Cup)


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

Aug. 2nd – The Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
Aug. 8th – The Whitney Handicap at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,500,000 – NBC
Aug. 22nd – The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – TVG
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:

Aug. 29th – The Travers Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
Sept. 5th – The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 –  NBCSN

–Michael

2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings

Photo credit: Mark Mahan

I decided to do more research and come up with a better, more detailed Breeders’ Cup Contender ranking list. This list relies more upon capability based upon past performances since the first half of the year is used as a tuneup for the latter half for most of these older horses. The month of August will tell us much more as many of these horses will race in one or two races. The key races are listed below.

Ranking with Wynn Las Vegas Odds

1) American Pharoah (5/2) – He currently is ranked #1 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and also ranked #1 in the most recent NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred poll. And much deserved as he is the first Triple Crown Winner in 37 years. His return to racing has been confirmed to be the Haskell Invitational August 2nd. Followed by the Travers Stakes August 29th.

Career: 8 Starts 7-0-0-0, Win Pct: 87.5%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.52 – 4/11/15 (2015 Arkansas Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.02 – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby

2) Tonalist (10/1) – Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes and now two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap). He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap ranks as the third highest speed figure this year for races 1 1/4 mile. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

Career: 12 Starts 5-4-1-1, Win Pct: 41.7%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:49.52 (calculated) – 7/26/14 (2014 Jim Dandy Stakes)
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

3) Bayern (25/1) – Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. He has had two consecutive last place finishes (6th, 10th) in two starts this year. But both races were a mile or under. Many suspected that he might have an undetected ailment of some sort or not fully recovered from the quarter crack in his hind foot that kept him out of the San Antonio Stakes earlier in the year. However, Bob Baffert insists that he is in perfect health. He is training well so I expect Bayern to bounce back. His next start appears to be the San Diego Handicap on July 25th.

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-0, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 66.7%, Top 4 Pct: 66.7%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:46.96 – 9/20/14 (2014 Pennsylvania Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.88 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic

4) Palace Malice (6/1) – He finished 3rd in his only start in 2015 in the 6 furlong Diablo Stakes at Belmont on May 10th. He won four out of five races last year, most notably the Metropolitan Handicap. In 2013, he won the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes and finished 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Considered one of the best older horses last year. No word yet on when his next start will be but I am guessing it will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th. He did work out July 4th at Saratoga.

Career: 18 Starts 7-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.9%, Top 3 Pct: 72.2%, Top 4 Pct: 77.8%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.37 – 7/27/13 (2013 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.78 (calculated)- 9/28/13 (2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup

5) Lea (20/1) – In 2015, he has a win (Hal’s Hope Stakes), two second place finishes (Donn Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap) and a third place finish. The third place finish was in the Dubai World Cup where he finished behind Prince Bishop and California Chrome. He has two impressive Beyer Speed Figures of 110 in the Hal’s Hope Stakes and 108 in the Stephen Foster Handicap. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

Career: 16 Starts 7-4-3-1, Win Pct: 43.8%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 93.8%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:46.86 – 2/9/14 (2014 Donn Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.88 (calculated)- 3/28/15 (2015 Dubai World Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Dubai World Cup

6) Effinex (50/1) – 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 108 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. He could be peaking and maturing at the right time. His next start will be at Saratoga for the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

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

7) Dortmund (12/1) – 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. He was supposed to be entered into the Los Alamitos Derby on July 4th but his next start appears to be the Jim Dandy Stakes on August 1st.

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

8) Hoppertunity (10/1)  – In 2015, he has a win in the San Pasqual Stakes, two third place finishes in the San Antonio and Stephen Foster Handicap and lost to Hard Aces in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita by a nose. He is consistent and has never finished below fifth in eleven career starts. No word as to when his start start will be.

Career: 11 Starts 4-3-2-1, Win Pct: 36.4%, Top 3 Pct: 81.8%, Top 4 Pct: 90.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.36 (calculated) – 4/5/14 (2014 Santa Anita Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.47 (calculated) – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 2nd – 2015 Gold Cup

9) 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.

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: 2:02.46 – 6/27/14 (2015 Gold Cup)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup

10) Noble Bird* (No Odds) – 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. Why Wynn Las Vegas has no odds listed for him is puzzling. He has won three out of his last four races. His only downside is that he has never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile.

Career: 10 Starts 4-3-0-1, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 70%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.94 – 6/13/15 (2015 Stephen Foster Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

11) Constitution (11/1) – Winner of 4 out 6 career starts which includes the Donn Handicap earlier in the year. Currently tied with Shared Belief for the Top Beyer Speed Figure in 2015 for races longer than a mile with a speed figure of 111. He has never raced longer than a 1 1/8th  mile. However, with his pedigree (Sire Tapit), I have no concerns that he will have distance issues. No word on when this Todd Pletcher-trained horse’s next start will be.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-1, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:49.16 – 3/29/14 (2014 Florida Derby)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

12) Frosted (15/1) – Like Tonalist and Constitution, the son of Tapit. The winner of the Wood Memorial where he posted a 103 Beyer Speed Figure. He finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby and 2nd in the Belmont Stakes. His next start is likely to be the Jim Dandy Stakes August 1st, followed by Travers Stakes on August 29th.

Career: 9 Starts 2-5-0-2, Win Pct: 22.2%, Top 3 Pct: 77.8%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:50.31 – 4/4/15 (2015 Wood Memorial)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.54 (calculated) – 5/2/2015 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 4th – 2015 Kentucky Derby

13) Honor Code (15/1) – The Met-Mile winner with a blazing 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He has a 5th place finish in th Alysheba Stakes and a win in the Gulfstream Park Handicap in his other two starts in 2015. 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 am not concerned as he is bred for distance. He demonstrated that he has closing speed in the Met Mile. I expect this horse to move up the rankings. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap August 8th.

Career: 8 Starts 5-2-0-0, Win Pct: 62.5%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:52.92 – 11/30/14 (2014 Remsen Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

14) Texas Red (25/1) – He was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury set-back. His closing style will be an asset in a 1 1/4 mile race. He finished 2nd in his most recent start in the 1 Mile Dwyer Stakes at Belmont on July 4th. He has never finished below 4th place in seven career starts. He has also never raced longer than 1 1/16 mile. His next start appears to be the Jim Dandy Stakes on August 1st.

Career: 7 Starts 2-3-1-1, Win Pct: 28.5%, Top 3 Pct: 85.7%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: N/A
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

* – indicates horses who have already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic


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

Aug. 2nd – The Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
Aug. 8th – The Whitney Handicap at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,500,000 – NBC
Aug. 22nd – The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – TVG
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:

Aug. 29th – The Travers Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
Sept. 5th – The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 –  NBCSN

–Michael

California Chrome and Firing Line likely out for the season. Updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

With the recent news that California Chrome (cannon bone bruise) and Firing Line (foot bruise) are out for the rest of the year with injuries, below is my updated Breeder’s Cup Contender list. There is still a lot of talent left for the Classic.

1) American Pharoah – He currently is ranked #1 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and also ranked #1 in the most recent NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred poll. And much deserved as he is the first Triple Crown Winner in 37 years. His return to racing has been confirmed to be the Haskell Invitational August 2nd. Followed by the Travers Stakes August 29th. Career: 8 Starts 7-0-0-0, Win Pct: 87.5%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%

2) Effinex– 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 in the Excelsior Stakes on April 25th and his 108 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. He could be peaking and maturing at the right time. His next start will be at Saratoga for the Whitney Handicap on August 8th. Career: 16 Starts 6-1-2-2, Win Pct: 37.5%, Top 3 Pct: 56.25%, Top 4%: 68.8%

3) Tonalist – Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes and now two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap). He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap ranks as the third highest speed figure this year for races 1 1/4 mile. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th. Career: 12 Starts 5-4-1-1, Win Pct: 41.7%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%

4) Bayern– Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. His ranking is more due to his 2014 form. He has had two consecutive last place finishes (6th, 10th) in two starts this year. But both races were a mile or under. Many suspected that he might have an undetected ailment of some sort or not fully recovered from the quarter crack in his hind foot that kept him out of the San Antonio Stakes. However, Bob Baffert insists that he is in perfect health. I expect Bayern to bounce back. His next start appears to be the San Diego Handicap on July 25th. Another dud performance here and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets put on the shelf. Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-0, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 66.7%, Top 4 Pct: 66.7%

5) 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 and he has never finished below 4th. Another Bob Baffert-trained horse that I expect to improve as I don’t think we have seen the best from him yet. He was supposed to be entered into the Los Alamitos Derby on July 4th but his next start appears to be the Jim Dandy Stakes on August 1st. Career: 8 Starts 6-0-1-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 100%

6) Constitution – Winner of 4 out 6 career starts which includes the Donn Handicap earlier in the year. Currently tied with Shared Belief for the Top Beyer Speed Figure in 2015 for races longer than a mile with a speed figure of 111. He has never raced longer than a 1 1/8th  mile. However, with his pedigree (Sire Tapit), I have no concerns that he will have distance issues. No word on when this Todd Pletcher-trained horse’s next start will be. Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-1, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 100%

7) Lea – In 2015, he has a win (Hal’s Hope Stakes), two second place finishes (Donn Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap) and a third place finish. The third place finish was in the Dubai World Cup where he finished behind Prince Bishop and California Chrome. He has two impressive Beyer Speed Figures of 110 in the Hal’s Hope Stakes and 108 in the Stephen Foster Handicap. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th. Career: 16 Starts 7-4-3-1, Win Pct: 43.8%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 93.8%

8) Noble Bird– 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. He has won three out of his last four races. His only downside is that he has never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile. Career: 10 Starts 4-3-0-1, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 70%, Top 4 Pct: 80%

9) Palace Malice – He finished 3rd in his only start in 2015 in the 6 furlong Diablo Stakes at Belmont on May 10th. He won four out of five races last year, most notably the Metropolitan Handicap. In 2013, he won the Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes. Considered one of the best older horses last year. No word yet on when his next start will be but I am guessing it will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th. He did work out July 4th at Saratoga. Career: 18 Starts 7-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.9%, Top 3 Pct: 72.2%, Top 4 Pct: 77.8%

10) Frosted – Like Tonalist and Constitution, the son of Tapit. The winner of the Wood Memorial where he posted a 103 Beyer Speed Figure. He finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby and 2nd in the Belmont Stakes. His next start is likely to be the Jim Dandy Stakes August 1st, followed by Travers Stakes on August 29th. Career: 9 Starts 2-5-0-2, Win Pct: 22.2%, Top 3 Pct: 77.8%, Top 4 Pct: 100%

11) Honor Code – The Met-Mile winner with a blazing 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He has a 5th place finish in th Alysheba Stakes and a win in the Gulfstream Park Handicap in his other two starts in 2015. 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 am not concerned as he is bred for distance. He demonstrated that he has closing speed in the Met Mile. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap August 8th. Career: 8 Starts 5-2-0-0, Win Pct: 62.5%, Top 3 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%, Top 4 Pct: 87.5%

12) Hoppertunity  – In 2015, he has a win in the San Pasqual Stakes, two third place finishes in the San Antonio and Stephen Foster Handicap and lost to Hard Aces in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita by a nose. He is consistent and has never finished below fifth in eleven career starts. No word as to when his start start will be. Career: 11 Starts 4-3-2-1, Win Pct: 36.4%, Top 3 Pct: 81.8%, Top 4 Pct: 90.9%

13) 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. One wonders if his big win in the Gold Cup was more a byproduct of Victor Espinoza’s jockeying. Career: 23 starts 6-3-7-2, Win Pct: 26.1%, Top 3 Pct: 69.6%, Top 4 Pct: 78.2%

14) Texas Red – He was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury set-back. His closing style will be an asset in a 1 1/4 mile race. He finished 2nd in his most recent start in the 1 Mile Dwyer Stakes at Belmont on July 4th. He has never finished below 4th place in seven career starts. His next start appears to be the Jim Dandy Stakes on August 1st. Career: 7 Starts 2-3-1-1, Win Pct: 28.5%, Top 3 Pct: 85.7%, Top 4 Pct: 100%

Other horses to keep an eye on:  Race Day, Wicked Strong, Moreno, Carpe Diem, Coach Inge, Commissioner and Protonico.

* – indicates horses who have already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic


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

Aug. 2nd – The Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
Aug. 8th – The Whitney Handicap at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,500,000 – NBC
Aug. 22nd – The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – TVG
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:

Aug. 29th – The Travers Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000 – NBC
Sept. 5th – The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 –  NBCSN

–Michael

Holy Effinex! Updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

Effinex beats Tonalist in the Belmont Handicap – Photo Credit: NYRA/Adam Coglianese

If American Pharoah is going to become the first horse to win the Quadruple Crown (Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic), he has his work cut out for him. Yesterday’s Suburban Handicap at Belmont (video below) produced an exciting finish that saw Effinex beat Tonalist on a head bob. Both horses received 108 Beyer Speed Figures, the 2nd highest all year for races 1 & 1/4th mile or longer. (Note: Share Belief produced a 111 Beyer Speed Figure back in March in the 1 1/4th mile Santa Anita Handicap but is out for the year due to injury).


Effinex’s winning time was 2:01.55 for this 1 1/4 mile race–same distance as the Breeders’ Cup Classic. What was American Pharoah’s time in the Belmont Stakes through 1 1/4 miles 4 weeks ago? 2:02.37. But note that Effinex DNF’d on the same day at Belmont in the Brooklyn Invitational Stakes.

So here is my updated Breeder’s Cup Contender list:

1) American Pharoah – He currently is ranked #1 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and also ranked #1 in the most recent NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred poll. And much deserved as he is the first Triple Crown Winner in 37 years. His return to racing has been confirmed to be the Haskell Invitational August 2nd. Followed by the Travers Stakes August 29th

2) Effinex– 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 108 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. I will need to see another solid performance before I would move him ahead of American Pharoah. His next start will be at Saratoga for the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

3) Tonalist– For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes and now two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap). He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap ranks as the third highest speed figure this year for races 1 1/4 mile. His next start will be the Whitney Handicap on August 8th.

4) California Chrome – The 2014 Horse of the Year, he has had a decent 2015 with two 2nd places in two starts–the San Antonio Handicap (behind Shared Belief with a 105 Beyer Speed Figure) and Dubai World Cup. I really liked his performance in the Dubai World Cup even though he finished 2nd. He finished 3rd in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start is rumored to be the Arlington Million on August 15th. But note that if he runs in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he will have a different jockey as Victor Espinoza will ride American Pharoah.

5) Firing Line – Although he bombed in the muddy Preakness Stakes, he never finished worst than 2nd before this race. And remember that he finished a length behind American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby– the same 1 & 1/4 mile distance as the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be. Some horses don’t race well in the slop, so I think he deserves a Mulligan for his Preakness performance. He suffered a slight foot injury in June and is being pointed to return to racing for the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 22nd or the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 29th.

6) Bayern– Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. He has had two consecutive last place finishes (6th, 10th) in two starts this year. But both races were a mile or under. However, this was thought to be his strength last year and many questioned how he would fare in two-turn races. Many suspected that he might have an undetected ailment of some sort but he is in perfect health. I expect this Bob Baffert-trained horse to bounce back. His next start appears to be the San Diego Handicap on July 25th. Another dud performance here and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets put on the shelf.

7) 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 expect to improve as I don’t think we have seen the best from him yet. He was supposed to be entered into the Los Alamitos Derby on July 4th but his next start appears to be the Jim Dandy Stakes on August 1st.

8) Constitution– Winner of 4 out 6 career starts which includes the Donn Handicap earlier in the year. Currently tied with Shared Belief for the Top Beyer Speed Figure in 2015 for races longer than a mile with a speed figure of 111. He has never raced longer than a 1 1/8th  mile. However, with his pedigree (Sire Tapit), I have no concerns that he will have distance issues. No word on when his next start will be.

Other horses to keep an eye on: Lea, Noble Bird, Coach Inge, Palace Malice, Hard Aces, Moreno, Frosted, Honor Code, Hoppertunity, Texas Red and Toast of New York who finished 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year but has yet to race this year. Texas Red was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury set-back. His closing style will be an asset in a 1 1/4 mile race. He finished 2nd in his return to race yesterday in the 1 Mile Dwyer Stakes at Belmont.

–Michael