Nyquist Still Unbeaten! Back to back Triple Crown Winners? A real legitimate possibility

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May 7th, 2016

GET EXCITED horse racing fans! We had a blast last year watching American Pharoah win a Triple Crown and then the very first Grand Slam of thoroughbred racing with his win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Nyquist’s winning time in the Kentucky Derby of 2:01.31 (shown below) was faster than American Pharoah’s time of 2:03.02 and the fastest since Funny Cide’s winning time of 2:01.19 in 2003. The opening fractions were fast which set up the race well for closers but Nyquist was simply too strong to beat.

We had back to back Triple Crown winners in the 1970s with Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. Can lightning strike twice like it did in the 1970s?

It is a real, legitimate possibility. Remember that I correctly identified Nyquist as the Kentucky Derby favorite 241 days ago in this blog. And I had 1st and 2nd place Kentucky Derby finishers ranked 1-2 in my last Kentucky Derby Contenders blog.

How well did Nyquist run in the Kentucky Derby? He earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure. Last year, American Pharoah received a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for his Kentucky Derby win. But the revealing fact is that Nyquist would have beaten the 2015 Kentucky Derby version of American Pharoah by 5 1/4 lengths when you look at the final quarter mile fractions. The pace was faster this year than last (2015: 23.24, 47.34, 1:11.29 & 1:36.45 vs 2016: 22.58, 45.72, 1:10.40 & 1:35.61). Nyquist should have been a little more tired having gone through a mile 0.84 seconds faster than American Pharoah had to in 2015. But the final 1/4th mile fraction of this year’s Kentucky Derby was 25.70 vs last year’s time of 26.57. That is 0.87 seconds faster for Nyquist which equates to at least 5 1/4 lengths.

It is time to get REAL excited again. Nyquist has a better resume thus far than American Pharoah. The Preakness Stakes will be another difficult test but I am confident that Nyquist can handle the competition.

So now I leave you with the #1 hit in 1978–Andy Gibb’s Shadow Dancing–the last year we had back-to-back Triple Crown winners. It is time to get dancing again! Nyquist will undoubtedably be in the shadow of American Pharoah but that is a very good shadow to be in.

–Michael

 

The 2016 Kentucky Derby Starting Lineup, Post Positions, Odds and Analysis

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May 4th, 2016 – Updated May 7th, 2016

The “most exciting 2 minutes in sports” is less than 3 days away and the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby promises to live up to the hype. We have a talented horse in Nyquist who is trying to join a “Who’s Who in Thoroughbred Racing” of horses who entered the Kentucky Derby undefeated and came away with the Roses. Previous undefeated Derby horses who went on to win the Kentucky Derby are Regret in 1915, Morvich in 1922, Majestic Prince in 1969, Seattle Slew in 1977, Smarty Jones in 2004, Barbaro in 2006 and Big Brown in 2008.

Nyquist drew post #13 but before anybody views this as unlucky, this is the same position he won from in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race (shown below). And Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby in 2004 from post 13:

And now for the analysis…

Since 1990, the lowest Kentucky Derby winning Beyer Speed Figure was 97 when California Chrome won in 2014. All other winners eclipsed a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. I generally feel that if a horse wants to “be the part”–a Kentucky Derby winner, he should at least “look the part” and have produced a 97 or higher Beyer Speed Figure thus far. Only 6 horses in the 2016 Kentucky Derby field meet this criteria: Exaggerator, Nyquist, Destin, Danzing Candy, Outwork and Mor Spirit.

Danzing Candy will likely be the pacesetter and I don’t believe that he has the stamina to be able to hang on for the win. Outwork had to struggle to beat a 81-1 odd horse in Trojan Nation in the Wood Memorial. Destin is a fast horse but he has never raced further than 1 1/16th mile. Will he have the stamina to go an extra 1 1/2 furlongs?

Mor Spirit has never finished below 2nd in 7 career starts but I view him more as a horse to round out a Trifecta. So I think the 2016 Kentucky Derby will come down to Nyquist, Exaggerator and Destin. Although it didn’t happen last year, usually one 20-1 or greater odds horse finishes in the Top 4. So keep an eye on the odds for Suddenbreakingnews. Majesto and Whitmore.

Generally, I don’t see a lot of early speed in this field so this doesn’t bode well for closers. This is one of the factors that I think will aid Nyquist. Nyquist has won several different ways: as a pacesetter, as a stalker and coming off the pace and from mid pack like he demonstrated in the 15 horse Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race. He is the deserved race favorite and my pick to win the 2016 Kentucky Derby.

Handicapping Advice: Large win bets on Nyquist if his live odds are 5/2 or greater. Right now his live odds are 2-1. I placed two $10 Boxed Exactas that cost $60 each. The first was 9-11-13 (Destin, Exaggerator and Nyquist) because these are the three fastest horses in the field by times and Beyer Speed Figures. The second Boxed Exacta I placed was 11-13-17 (Nyquist, Exaggerator and Mor Spirit).

I like Majesto as a longshot for Superfectas and his current live odds are 62-1. A $10 win bet here seems inviting but I expect these odds to lower. I always like to place ten to twenty $1 straight Superfectas with various combinations and throwing in a few longshots. It is tough to hit a Superfecta in the Kentucky Derby. Usually you are doing real good to hit 3 out of 4 horses. But “you can’t win if you don’t play” as they say and hitting a Superfecta in the Kentucky Derby usually pays out nicely.

Here are a few of the Straight Superfectas I have placed: (11-13-17-9), (11-9-3-13), (11-9-13-17), (13-9-18-11), (13-11-9-17), (18-13-17-11). I placed a $1 Super High Five bet of (13-11- 9-17-15).

Below are the 2016 Kentucky Derby Post Positions, Jockeys and Morning Line Odds by Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia. Note that a bold font text is hyperlinked to either a horse’s Equibase profile or a race video from Youtube. This is to aid in your own research:

The 142nd Kentucky Derby – Churchill Downs Race #12 – Post Time 5:34 PM CST (NBC)

1) Trojan Nation (50/1) – Has never won a race, draws dreaded rail
Career: 6 Starts 0-1-3-1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Street Cry  
Trainer: Patrick Gallagher
Jockey: Aaron Gryder
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.96 (calculated) – Wood Memorial
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures:  74, 93  – 83.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Wood Memorial

2) Suddenbreakingnews (20/1) – A closer to consider for your Superfecta
Career: 8 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>2nd
Sire: Mineshaft 
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel
Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.30 (calculated)Arkansas Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 86, 94  – 90 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – Arkansas Derby

3) Creator (10/1) – Arkansas Derby winner, a closer
Career: 8 Starts 2-4-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.14 – Arkansas Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 96  – 93 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 –Arkansas Derby

4) Mo Tom (20/1) – Lecomte Stakes winner who has regressed in 2 consecutive starts
Career: 7 Starts 3-0-3-1
Last 3 starts: 1st->3rd–>4th
Sire: Uncle Mo  (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Thomas Amoss
Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.02 (calculated) – Louisiana Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 82  – 84.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Lecomte Stakes

5) Gun Runner (10/1) – Louisiana Derby winner, meager Beyer Speed Figures
Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st

Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.06 – Louisiana Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 91  – 90.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Louisiana Derby 

6) My Man Sam (20/1) – Surprise 2nd place finisher in Blue Grass Stakes
Career: 4 Starts 1-2-0-0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Trappe Shot 
Trainer: Chad Brown 
Jockey:  Irad Ortiz Jr
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.48 (calculated) – Blue Grass Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 95, 88  – 91.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – Aqueduct Opt Claiming Race 3/6/16

7) Oscar Nominated (50/1) – A turf horse who has never raced on real dirt
Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-2
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Kitten’s Joy
Trainer: Michael Maker 
Jockey:  Julien Leparoux
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.82 – Spiral Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 79, 82  – 81.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 82 – Spiral Stakes

8) Lani (30/1) – Japanese trained horse who displayed great fight in winning the UAE Derby
Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mikio Matsunaga 
Jockey:  Yukata Take
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A – 1:52.84 (estimated time from 1900 Meter UAE Derby)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: ?, 83 (estimated)
Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

9) Destin (15/1) – Set track record at Tampa Bay Derby, never raced further than 1 1/16th mile
Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  (Finished 2nd in 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/8 Mile Time: N/A – 1:49.37 (projected time from 1 1/16 mile Tampa Bay Derby)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 100  – 99 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

10) Whitmore (20/1) – A closer with a favorable post position & new jockey Victor Espinoza
Career: 6 Starts 2-2-1-0 
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Pleasantly Perfect (2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Ron Moquett 
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.89 (calculated)
 – Arkansas Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 92, 92  – 92 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 –Arkansas Derby

11) Exaggerator (8/1) – A closer & most likely threat to Nyquist. Best Beyer average in 2016
Career: 9 Starts 4-2-1-1 
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby, 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.66 – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 96, 103  – 99.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – Santa Anita Derby

12) Tom’s Ready (30/1) – Not sure what he is ready for
Career: 9 Starts 1-4-0-1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>2nd

Sire: More Than Ready
Trainer: Dallas Stewart 
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr 
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.74 (calculated) – Louisiana Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 69, 85  – 77 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85 – Louisiana Derby 

13) Nyquist (3/1) – Undefeated race favorite, my projected winner
Career: 7 Starts 7-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo  (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill (2012 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.11 – Florida Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 101, 94  – 97.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

14) Mohaymen  (10/1) – Coming off disappointing 4th place finish in Florida Derby
Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.43 (calculated) – Florida Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 95, 80  – 87.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – Holy Bull Stakes

15) Outwork  (15/1) –  Might be Pletcher’s best Derby horse
Career: 4 Starts 3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.92 – Wood Memorial
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 93  – 95.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

16) Shagaf (20/1) – Coming off disappointing 5th place finish in the Wood
Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>5th
Sire: Bernardini (Finished 2nd in 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Chad Brown 
Jockey:  Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:56.73 (calculated) – Wood Memorial
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 87  – 87 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Aqueduct MSW 11/22/15

17) Mor Spirit (12/1) – No horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby from post #17
Career: 7 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Eskendereya 
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.66 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 94  – 95.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97San Felipe Stakes

18) Majesto (30/1) – Coming off his career best performance
Career: 6 Starts 1-2-2-0
Last 3 starts:  3rd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Tiznow (2000 and 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Gustavo Delgado
Jockey: Emisael Jaramillo
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.63 (calculated) – Florida Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 84, 89  – 87.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 89 – Florida Derby 

19) Brody’s Cause (12/1) – Blue Grass Stakes winner, a closer to consider for your Superfecta
Career: 6 Starts 3-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>7th–>1st
Sire: Giant’s Causeway (Finished 2nd in 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Luis Saez
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.20 – Blue Grass Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 80, 91  – 85.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Blue Grass Stakes

20) Danzing Candy  (15/1) –  A speed horse who is viewed as the most likely pacesetter 
Career: 5 Starts 3-0-0-1 
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Twirling Candy
Trainer: Clifford Sise
Projected Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.78 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 100, 83  – 91.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes


RANKINGS

Since the Kentucky Derby is usually won by the horse that gets to the 1 1/8th pole first, below is the Kentucky Derby field ranked by time in their last race (1 1/8th mile) along with Beyer Speed Figures. Destin and Lani’s times are projected since their last race wasn’t at 1 1/8th mile.

Horse – Time (track condition) Finishing Position/Race – Beyer Speed Figure
1) Nyquist – 1:49.11 (good) 1st Florida Derby – 94 BSF
2) Destin – 1:49.37# (fast) 1st Tampa Bay Derby – 100 BSF
3) Majesto – 1:49.63* (good) 2nd Florida Derby – 89 BSF
4) Exaggerator – 1:49.66 (sloppy) 1st Santa Anita Derby – 103 BSF
5) Creator – 1:50.14 (fast) 1st Arkansas Derby – 96 BSF
6) Brody’s Cause – 1:50.20 (fast) 1st Blue Grass Stakes – 91 BSF
7) Suddenbreakingnews – 1:50.30* (fast) 2nd Arkansas Derby – 94 BSF
8) Mohaymen – 1:50.43* (good) 4th Florida Derby – 80 BSF
9) My Man Sam – 1:50.48* (good) 2nd Blue Grass Stakes – 88 BSF
10) Mor Spirit – 1:50.66* (sloppy) 2nd Santa Anita Derby – 94 BSF
11) Gun Runner – 1:51.06 (fast) 1st Louisiana Derby – 91 BSF
12) Tom’s Ready – 1:51.74* (fast) 2nd Louisiana Derby – 85 BSF
13) Danzing Candy – 1:51.78* (sloppy) 4th Santa Anita Derby – 83 BSF
14) Oscar Nominated – 1:51.82 (fast, synthetic) 1st Spiral Stakes – 82 BSF
15) Mo Tom – 1:52.02* (fast) 4th Louisiana Derby – 82 BSF
16) Lani – 1:52.84@ (fast) 1st UAE Derby – 83 BSF
17) Whitmore – 1:52.89* (fast) 3rd Arkansas Derby – 92 BSF
18) Outwork – 1:52.92 (muddy) 1st Wood Memorial Stakes – 93 BSF
19) Trojan Nation – 1:52.96* (muddy) 2nd Wood Memorial Stakes – 93 BSF
20) Shagaf – 1:56.73* (muddy) 5th Wood Memorial Stakes – 87 BSF

* – Estimated time from 1 1/8th mile race
# – Projected time from 1 1/16th mile race
@ – Projected time from 1900 Meter race

Ranking by Average Beyer Speed Figure of Last 2 Races:

1) Exaggerator (8/1)  Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 96, 103  – 99.5 avg
2) Destin (15/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 100  – 99 avg
3) Nyquist (3/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 101, 94  – 97.5 avg
4) Mor Spirit (12/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 94  – 95.5 avg
5) Outwork  (15/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 93  – 95.5 avg
6) Creator (10/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 96  – 93 avg
7) Danzing Candy  (15/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 100, 83  – 91.5 avg
8) Whitmore (20/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 92, 92  – 92 avg
9) My Man Sam (20/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 95, 88  – 91.5 avg
10) Gun Runner (10/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 91  – 90.5 avg
11) Suddenbreakingnews (20/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 86, 94  – 90 avg
12) Majesto (30/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 84, 89  – 87.5 avg
13) Mohaymen  (10/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 95, 80  – 87.5 avg
14) Shagaf (20/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 87  – 87 avg
15) Brody’s Cause (12/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 80, 91  – 85.5 avg
16) Mo Tom (20/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 82  – 84.5 avg
17) Trojan Nation (50/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures:  74, 93  – 83.5 avg
18) Oscar Nominated (50/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 79, 82  – 81.5 avg
19) Tom’s Ready (30/1) Derby Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 69, 85  – 77 avg


ODDS

Below are the Kentucky Derby Morning Line Odds and the direction I think the Live Odds will go:

Nyquist – 3/1 – a bit lower but not below 5/2
Exaggerator – 8/1 – lower
Mohaymen – 10/1 – lower
Creator – 10/1 – higher
Gun Runner – 10/1 – higher
Mor Spirit – 12/1 –  same
Brody’s Cause – 12/1 – higher
Outwork – 15/1 – lower
Destin – 15/1 – lower
Danzing Candy- 15/1 – higher
Suddenbreakingnew – 20/1 – lower
Mo Tom – 20/1 – higher
Whitmore – 20/1 – lower
My Man Sam – 20/1 – higher
Shagaf – 20/1 – higher
Lani – 30/1 – lower
Tom’s Ready – 30/1 – much higher
Majesto – 30/1 – lower
Trojan Nation – 50/1 – much higher
Oscar Nominated – 50/1 – much higher

***You can follow the live Kentucky Derby odds by clicking HERE

Stay tuned for updates and more handicapping advice.

–Michael

Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

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April 18th 2016 – Updated April 28th 2016

The Kentucky Derby prep season is officially over and it went out with a bang in the Arkansas Derby this past Saturday when Creator (11.6-1 odds) surprised the Oaklawn crowd with the win. This has been a theme for the big point paying final Derby prep races this season as none of the race favorites found victory lane. Not a single one. Let’s review: Mo Tom (Louisiana Derby), Mohaymen (Florida Derby), Shagaf (Wood Memorial), Zulu (Blue Grass Stakes), Mor Spirit (Santa Anita Derby) and Cupid (Arkansas Derby).

Who won these races? Gun Runner the bettors 3rd favorite in the Louisiana Derby. Nyquist the bettors 2nd favorite in the Florida Derby. Outwork the bettors 2nd favorite in the Wood Memorial. Brody’s Cause–2nd favorite in the Blue Grass Stakes. Exaggerator–3rd favorite in the Santa Anita Derby. And Creator, the bettors 4th favorite in the Arkansas Derby.

The Kentucky Derby favorite only wins roughly 1/3rd of the time. So when you are alone in your thoughts at the Churchill Downs window and ready to place a Win bet for the Kentucky Derby, you might opt for the 2nd favorite among bettors. Right now that appears to be Exaggerator and if the Derby is a wet, sloppy race this year, he should be your race favorite. Remember how the Desormeaux brother’s colt Swipe gave Nyquist a run for his money last year? Keith and Kent Desormeaux felt all along that Exaggerator was their most talented Derby trail colt with the most upside.

Overall, the unpredictability of the big Derby prep races says quite a bit about this 2016 Kentucky Derby class. We were spoiled by the 2014 and 2015 classes. The 2016 class as a lot are INCONSISTENT, their times are slow and they have failed to produce any eye-popping Beyer Speed Figures. Note that we didn’t have a 2 year-old in this class eclipse the 100 mark for a Beyer Speed Figure. This was the first time this has happened going back to the records I have from 1993.

So this is why I think the 2016 Kentucky Derby will be wide open and an exciting race. Nyquist undoubtedly is the cream of the crop. And the filly Songbird is the best 3 year-old regardless of gender and a superstar in the making. Unfortunately, she will miss the Kentucky Oaks due to a fever but she will be back.

Getting back to Nyquist, he has impressively gone undefeated in 7 starts. He should be the Kentucky Derby favorite around 5/2 or 3/1 odds. He has proven that he can win several different ways as pacesetter, as a stalker and coming off the pace like he did in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that I alluded to in my last blog.

If you need a visual reminder, rewatch Nyquist (horse #13) in this video below. This is a 15 horse Breeders’ Cup Juvenile field (just 5 less than the Kentucky Derby field) and Nyquist displays impressive talent moving mid pack through traffic to cross the wire first. He didn’t have the greatest trip and was forced wide:

We will have to wait to see who officially gets entered into the Kentucky Derby and post-position draws. However, right now, I see Nyquist assuming a stalking position behind Danzing Candy in the Kentucky Derby. I see Destin and Mor Spirit in the same stalking group. Then I think these three will battle it out for the lead coming into the stretch and then the leader will have to ward off late chargers Exaggerator, Brody’s Cause, Suddenbreakingnews and Creator. Right now as far as betting strategies, I would probably key Nyquist to win in a Trifecta with 3 horses: Exaggerator, Destin and Mor Spirit.

Below is my Top 10 Kentucky Derby contenders along with projected Kentucky Derby morning line odds in parentheses. As you will see, I don’t have the Arkansas Derby winner Creator in my Top 10 as I feel Steve Asmussen’s most talented Derby horse is Gun Runner. Why is that? It took Creator six attempts to break his maiden. I think the race that 2nd place finisher Suddenbreakingnews ran in the Arkansas Derby will translate better to the Kentucky Derby with an additional furlong of distance.

I also moved Mohaymen up a few spots as I feel that I may have been a bit too harsh on his 4th place finish in the Florida Derby. Note that in the past 20 years, only two horses (Giacomo and Mine That Bird) finished 4th in their final prep race (the Santa Anita Derby) and went on to win the Kentucky Derby.

***I originally had Outwork 4th and Mor Spirit 5th in my rankings but after reviewing times from the final 3/8ths of a mile in the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby, Mor Spirit had a significantly faster stretch run. So I moved Mor Spirit up one and Outwork down one. I also switched Brody’s Cause and Danzing Candy because I feel that a closer will fare better than a pacesetter in this year’s Derby.

1) Nyquist (3/1 Odds) – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year. Undefeated in 7 starts, he has 4 Grade 1 stakes wins and has already earned $3.3 million dollars. He was the first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente in January. Trainer Doug O’Neill is following the same “2 races as a 3 year-old” strategy that he used with I’ll Have Another to win the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 7-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo  (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill (2012 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.11 – Florida Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 101, 94  – 97.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

2) Exaggerator (6/1) – The only Derby trail horse to produce three 95+ Beyer Speed Figures in 2016: San Vicente Stakes 98, San Felipe Stakes 96, Santa Anita 103. His 103 Beyer Speed Figure earned in the Santa Anita Derby is the top speed figure for this year’s Kentucky Derby crop. His pedigree (Sire: Curlin) suggests that he should excel in races as the distances gets longer. If anybody is going to upset Nyquist, Exaggerator seems to be the most likely. He lost to Nyquist in the San Vicente but he will have 3 more furlongs to work with at Churchill Downs. 

Career: 9 Starts 4-2-1-1 
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby, 1st in 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.66 – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 96, 103  – 99.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – Santa Anita Derby

3) Destin (12/1) – He set track record of 1:42.82 in the Tampa Bay Derby (shown below)–good for a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He is the full brother to Creative Cause who finished 5th in the Kentucky Derby and 3rd in the Preakness Stakes in 2012. Todd Pletcher bypassed a final Derby prep race, instead opting for some rest and 8 weeks of training. A fast, fresh horse could be very dangerous in the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  (Finished 2nd in 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.82Tampa Bay Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 100  – 99 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

4) Mor Spirit (12/1) – After his Robert B. Lewis Stakes win, he has two 2nd place finishes in the San Felipe Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. I think his running style is best suited for dry, fast tracks. Note that he has never finished below 2nd place in all seven of his career starts.

Career: 7 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Eskendereya 
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.66 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 94  – 95.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97San Felipe Stakes

5) Outwork  (15/1) – Winner of the Wood Memorial, he is a half brother to Nyquist. Prior to the Tampa Bay Derby, he had never raced further than 6 furlongs. He broke his maiden way back in April of 2015 at Keeneland but didn’t resume racing until this past February. He has never finished below 2nd in 4 career starts. He seems to be peaking at the right time.

Career: 4 Starts 3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.98 (calculated) – Tampa Bay Derby
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.92 – Wood Memorial
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 93  – 95.5 avg
Beyer Speed Average for 2016: 989.3Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

6) Mohaymen  (8/1) – He finished a disappointing 4th in the Florida Derby and didn’t seem to have the necessary kick and stamina down the stretch to make me feel that he will be in the mix in the Kentucky Derby. 

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Projected Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.43 (calculated) – Florida Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 95, 80  – 87.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – Holy Bull Stakes

7) Brody’s Cause (15/1) Dale Roman’s winner of the Blue Grass Stakes and the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. He has excellent closing speed which may make him a factor in the Kentucky Derby if the opening fractions are fast. 

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>7th–>1st
Sire: Giant’s Causeway (Finished 2nd in 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Projected Jockey: Luis Saez
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.20 – Blue Grass Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 80, 91  – 85.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Blue Grass Stakes

8) Danzing Candy  (20/1) – The San Felipe Stakes  winner (shown below) finished a disappointing 4th in the Santa Anita Derby. He may be a one-trick pony, limited to getting out early into the lead for wins. This won’t translate well to the 1 1/4 mile Kentucky Derby distance.

Career: 5 Starts 3-0-0-1 
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Twirling Candy
Trainer: Clifford Sise
Projected Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.04 – San Felipe Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.78 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 100, 83  – 91.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes

9) Gun Runner (15/1) – Since the creation of the Derby point system in 2013, every Kentucky Derby winner had 150 or more Derby points. Gun Runner is the only horse that will fit this description this year (151 points). I generally don’t see him as a serious threat to win the Kentucky Derby. The last Louisiana Derby winner that went on to win the Kentucky Derby was Grindstone in 1996. I see Gun Runner more as a horse who could round out a superfecta. 

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st

Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Projected Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Keeneland Allowance Race 10/17/15
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.06 – Louisiana Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 91  – 90.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Louisiana Derby 

10) Suddenbreakingnews (20/1) – He will join Exaggerator and Brody’s Cause as closers that will try to mow down Nyquist in the final furlong. 

Career: 8 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>2nd
Sire: Mineshaft 
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel
Projected Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.64 (calculated) – Rebel Stakes 
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.30 (calculated)Arkansas Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 86, 94  – 90 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes


These 20 horses have qualified for the Kentucky Derby: Gun Runner 151, Nyquist 130, Exaggerator 126, Outwork 120, Brody’s Cause 114, Creator 110, Lani 100, Mor Spirit 84, Mohaymen 80, Danzing Candy 60, Destin 51, Cupid 50, Shagaf 50, Oscar Nominated 50, Suddenbreakingnews 50, Whitmore 44, Tom’s Ready 44, My Man Sam 40, Majesto 40 and Trojan Nation 40.

There are always horses every year who qualify for the Derby but aren’t entered for various reasons. It was announced last week that Bob Baffert won’t enter Cupid into the Derby. So these six horses will be next in line in case any horse listed above isn’t entered or they can become one of the two alternates in case of scratches: Mo Tom 32, Fellowship 32, Adventist 32, Laoban 32, Dazzling Gem 30, Cherry Wine 25.

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


FWIW – Beyer Speed Figures in the Kentucky Derby

Since 1990, the lowest winning Beyer Speed Figure for the Kentucky Derby came in 2014 when California Chrome won with a 97 Beyer. The only horses projected to start in this year’s Kentucky Derby that have produced a 97 or higher Beyer Speed Figure are: Exaggerator (103, 98), Nyquist (101), Destin (100, 98),  Danzing Candy (100), Outwork (98) and Mor Spirit (97).    


 I would also like to remind everyone that many handicappers have various predictive analytics they like to use to forecast the Kentucky Derby winner. I have a few I like, such as raced as a 2 year-0ld, broke his maiden in his first 3 starts, produced a sub 1:50 time in a 1 1/8th mile race, finished first or second in his last start, etc.

However, remember that occasionally there will be a horse like Mine That Bird where you can just throw every conventional analytic out the window. Mine that Bird finished 4th in the 2009 Sunland Derby–his last derby prep race. Most of his success came as a 2 year old on synthetic surfaces at Woodbine in Canada. He finished dead last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race. Consequently, he was a 50-1 longshot but scored one of the biggest upsets in sports history by winning the 2009 Kentucky Derby (shown below).

–Michael

Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

April 11th 2016

After a huge weekend on the Derby trail, below is my updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings. The undefeated Nyquist is the standout in this year’s crop and my favorite entering the Derby. He’s #1 in my rankings not simply because he is undefeated. He’s #1 due to the fact that unlike most of his peers, he has won several different ways: as a pacesetter (Florida Derby & San Vicente), as a stalker (Del Mar Futurity & FrontRunner Stakes) and coming off the pace, midpack and manoeuvring through traffic like he did in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (see horse #13 below).

Plus, he is battle tested and has shown a willingness to fight for a win like he did against Swipe in the FrontRunner Stakes. He is about as complete of a horse you can have at this point.

But just as American Pharoah proved to be beatable last year, Nyquist can be beaten as well.

I think the 2016 Kentucky Derby will be more wide open than the past two Derbys. This year’s 3 year-old crop have produced slower times, lower Beyer Speed figures and have been more inconsistent than I can remember. Last year, American Pharoah and Dortmund were consistent, produced some great times and speed figures and went into the Derby as the consensus 1-2. We don’t have a consensus 1-2 this year. The wet tracks at Aqueduct and Santa Anita produced a few surprises this past Saturday, most notably 81-1 longshot Trojan Nation finishing 2nd to Outwork in a photo finish in the Wood. So I am not sure how much useful information the wet races provided.

Exaggerator bounced back from a so-so third place finish in San Felipe and ran a huge race to win the Santa Anita Derby. But is he just a horse that excelled on a wet, sloppy track? I think he would have ran a huge race on any track condition, so he moves to #2 in my rankings.

Brody’s Cause bounced back from a lackluster 7th place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby to win the Blue Grass Stakes. Mohaymen believers may point to this performance as hope that their favorite Tapit-colt will re-emerge on Derby day after a disappointing 4th place finish in the Florida Derby. But the Tampa Bay Derby was Brody’s Cause first start as a 3 year-old. The Florida Derby was Mohaymen’s third start as a 3 year-old and he was right where he needed to be but seemed to lack stamina and the final kick to press Nyquist. Mohaymen could bounce back but history proves way more often that a disappointing effort in a horse’s final Derby prep race doesn’t usually translate into Roses.

Also adding to the mystery and wide-openness of this year’s Derby is a horse like Destin who set a track record in the Tampa Bay Derby and will skip the final Derby prep races, opting for rest and 8 weeks of training under Todd Pletcher. Destin has proven to be fast. And a fresh, fast horse could be extremely dangerous in the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher used the same strategy of skipping prep races with Liam’s Map and Stopchargingmaria last year and was successful with it in the Breeders’ Cup World Championship.

So here it is…

My Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

1) Nyquist (130 Derby Points) – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year put on a dazzling display to win the Florida Derby (shown below). That was all Nyquist, his jockey Mario Gutierrez never had to show him the whip. Undefeated in 7 starts, he now has 4 Grade 1 stakes wins and has already earned $3.3 million dollars. He has answered any criticism you may have had that his times and Beyer Speed Figures weren’t impressive or that he is better suited as a miler. He just wins. He was the first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente. His next start will be the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Doug O’Neill is following the same “2 races as a 3 year-old” strategy that he used with I’ll Have Another to win the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 7-0-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo 
Trainer: Doug O’Neill (2012 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.11 – Florida Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

2) Exaggerator (126 Derby Points) – The surprise winner of the Santa Anita Derby. He simply blew away the field to pick up the biggest win of his career. Breaking the 1:50 mark in a 1 1/8th mile race on a sloppy track was an impressive feat. He earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort–the best Beyer Speed Figure of 3 year-old colt thus far. His pedigree (Sire: Curlin) suggests that he should excel in races as the distances gets longer. 

Career: 9 Starts 4-2-1-1 
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.66 – Santa Anita Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103Santa Anita Derby

3) Destin (51 Derby Points) – The Todd Pletcher-trained colt broke into my contender list by virtue of his performance in the Tampa Bay Derby (shown below) where he set a track record with a time of 1:42.82–good for a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He is the full brother to Creative Cause who finished 5th in the Kentucky Derby and 3rd in the Preakness Stakes in 2012. His next start will be the Kentucky Derby as Todd Pletcher is bypassing another Derby prep race and focusing on 8 weeks of training instead. I would have liked to see how he fared stretching out to 1 1/8th mile on a track other than Tampa Bay Downs. However, it is hard to fault a move from one of the top trainers in the business.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.82Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

4) Outwork  (120 Derby Points) – Winner of the Wood Memorial, he earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for his effort. Outwork is a half brother to Nyquist. Prior to the Tampa Bay Derby, he had never raced further than 6 furlongs. He broke his maiden way back in April of 2015 at Keeneland but didn’t resume racing until this past February. He seems to be peaking at the right time.

Career: 4 Starts 3-1-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.98 (calculated) – Tampa Bay Derby
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.92 – Wood Memorial
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

5) Mor Spirit (84 Derby Points) – After his Robert B. Lewis Stakes win, he has two 2nd place finishes in the San Felipe Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. I think his running style is best suited for dry, fast tracks. Note that he has finished 1st or 2nd in all seven of his career starts.

Career: 7 Starts 3-4-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.66 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97San Felipe Stakes

6) Danzing Candy  (60 Derby Points) – The San Felipe Stakes  winner (shown below) finished a disappointing 4th in the Santa Anita Derby. He may be a one-trick pony, limited to getting out early into the lead for wins. This won’t translate well to the 1 1/4 mile Kentucky Derby distance.

Career: 5 Starts 3-0-0-1 
Sire: Twirling Candy
Trainer: Clifford Sise
Projected Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.04 – San Felipe Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.78 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes

7) Cupid  (50 Derby Points) –  Another Bob Baffert-trained 3 year-old who moved into my contender list after a solid win in the 14 horse field of Rebel Stakes. His winning time was 1:43.84 and resulted in a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. He displayed the necessary fight in this race when challenged by Whitmore. He is a half-brother to Mohaymen having shared the same sire Tapit. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby April 16th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-1
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.78 – Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita Park 2/7/16
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  95 Rebel Stakes

8) Brody’s Cause (114 Derby Points) Dale Roman’s winner of the Blue Grass Stakes and the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. I would have ranked him higher but on a dry fast track at Keeneland, his time of 1:50.20 wasn’t that impressive in the Blue Grass Stakes. However, he has excellent closing speed which may make him a factor in the Kentucky Derby if the opening fractions are fast. 

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-1-0
Sire: Giant’s Causeway 
Trainer: Dale Romans
Projected Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.20 – Blue Grass Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Blue Grass Stakes

9) Mohaymen  (80 Derby Points) – Some may be surprised to find Mohaymen this far down the list. But the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt finished a disappointing 4th in the Florida Derby and didn’t seem to have the necessary kick down the stretch to make me feel that he could be a Kentucky Derby winner. He couldn’t even hold off Fellowship for third place, a horse that finished third behind him in his last two wins. Was it the wet track that he didn’t like? Whatever the reason, after the Holy Bull Stakes win in January–Mohaymen has regressed. A more relevant question: Who has Mohaymen beaten? No horse that will make the Kentucky Derby field.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-1
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Projected Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.43 (calculated) – Florida Derby 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – Holy Bull Stakes

10) Gun Runner (151 Derby Points) – The Steve Asmussen-trained horse has secured his spot in the Kentucky Derby with a Louisiana Derby win. He has won his 2 starts as a 3-year-old but has failed to put up impressive times or Beyer Speed Figures. I generally don’t see him as a serious threat to win the Kentucky Derby. The last Louisiana Derby winner that went on to win the Kentucky Derby was Grindstone in 1996. I see Gun Runner more as a horse who could round out a superfecta. He will be well-rested and have plenty of time to train up to the Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-1
Sire: Candy Ride

Trainer: Steve Ausmussen 
Projected Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.94 – Risen Star Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.06 – Louisiana Derby 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Louisiana Derby 

Others to keep an eye on include:

Suddenbreakingnews (10 Derby Points) – The Southwest Stakes winner finished 5th in the Rebel Stakes. This was a disappointing finish as the race seemed to set up well for his closer running style with fast opening fractions from Cupid. However, this performance was not enough to drop him off the Derby radar. He seemed to get blocked a bit and if this was a 1 1/8th mile race like the Arkansas Derby will be, he seemed to have plenty of steam left to hit the board. His sire was Mineshaft–2003 Horse of the Year. Closer’s always have a chance in the Derby when the opening fractions are fast. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 16th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Mineshaft 
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel
Projected Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.64 (calculated) – Rebel Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes

Swipe (12 Derby Points) – This Desormeaux brothers colt finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts and narrowed the gap each time. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and has been back in in training since February 27th. He has been rumored to be an entry in the Lexington Stakes on April 16th but this race only pays out 10 points to the winner. His next start will have to come in the Arkansas Derby if he wants a shot at the Kentucky Derby. He has 12 Kentucky Derby points and will need a 3rd place finish or better to have a chance at the Run for the Roses.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Sire: Birdstone (Finished 8th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (if he doesn’t ride Exaggerator)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Collected (11 Derby Points)Yet another Bob Baffert-trainee, the Sham Stakes winner collected his biggest win and best Beyer Speed Figure (90) in the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes on March 20th. No word yet as to where his next start will be but it will have to be the Arkansas Derby on April 16th if he wants to get into the Kentucky Derby field.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: City Zip

Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Martin Garcia 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.98 (calculated) – Southwest Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.90Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes


Horses who currently have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby include: Gun Runner 151, Nyquist 130, Exaggerator 126Outwork 120, Brody’s Cause 114Lani 100, Mor Spirit 84, Mohaymen 80Danzing Candy 60, Destin 51, Cupid 50, Shagaf 50, Oscar Nominated 50, Tom’s Ready 44, My Man Sam 40Majesto 40, Trojan Nation 40, Fellowship 32, Mo Tom 32, Adventist 32 and Laoban 32.

Note that there 21 horses above and the Kentucky Derby field is 20 with two alternates in case of scratches. There is another big points-paying race in the Arkansas Derby this coming Saturday. However, every year there are always a few horses who qualify for the Derby but aren’t entered for various reasons.

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

Arkansas Derby – Oaklawn Park – April 16th, 2016 (Cupid, Suddenbreakingnews)
Lexington Stakes – Keeneland – April 16th, 2016 (Swipe)

Interesting Fact: 70% of the Kentucky Derby winners the past 20 years raced in one of these three final Derby prep races: The Santa Anita Derby (6), The Florida Derby (4) and the Arkansas Derby (4).

The other Derby Prep races to produce Kentucky Derby winners: Louisiana Derby (2), Wood Memorial (2), Blue Grass Stakes (1) and the Lexington Stakes (1).

–Michael

My Top 12 Kentucky Derby Contender List

kentucky derby contenders

April 2nd, 2016

Five weeks away from the Kentucky Derby and with the Nyquist vs Mohaymen battle now behind us, below is my updated Kentucky Derby Contender list. With the impressive Florida Derby win, Nyquist moves back into the #1 spot that I originally had him in during the fall of last year when I named him my “way too early Kentucky Derby favorite” on September 9th. Mohaymen free falls to 6th after an unexplained disappointing 4th place finish in the Florida Derby. Everything seemed to set up well for Mohaymen but he just didn’t fire when he had to coming down the stretch.

Please note that next Saturday April 9th will be a huge day on the Derby Trail with three Derby prep races scheduled: the Wood Memorial, the Blue Grass Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. So I will have an updated contender list on Sunday April 10th.

My Top 12 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

1) Nyquist (130 Derby Points) – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year put on a dazzling display to win the Florida Derby (shown below). That was all Nyquist, his jockey Mario Gutierrez never had to show him the whip. Undefeated in 7 starts, he now has 4 Grade 1 stakes wins and has already earned $2.3 million dollars. He has answered any criticism you may have had that his times and Beyer Speed Figures weren’t impressive or that his smallish build makes him better suited as a miler. He just wins. He was first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente. His next start will be the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Doug O’Neill is following the same “2 races as a 3 year-old” strategy that he used with I’ll Have Another to win the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 7-0-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo 
Projected Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.11 – Florida Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

2) Destin (51 Derby Points) – The Todd Pletcher-trained colt broke into my contender list by virtue of his performance in the Tampa Bay Derby (shown below) where he set a track record with a time of 1:42.82–good for a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He is the full brother to Creative Cause who finished 5th in the Kentucky Derby and 3rd in the Preakness Stakes in 2012. His next start will be the Kentucky Derby as Todd Pletcher is bypassing another Derby prep race and focusing on 8 weeks of training instead. I would have liked to see how he fared stretching out to 1 1/8th mile on a track other than Tampa Bay Downs. However, it is hard to fault a move from one of the top trainers in the business.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.82 – Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

3) Mor Spirit (44 Derby Points) – Bob Baffert’s best Derby trail horse thus far. I have been somewhat critical of his times since they have been way off what Dortmund produced last year in Los Alamitos Futurity, Robert B. Lewis Stakes and now the San Felipe Stakes. However, what I witnessed in the San Felipe was a horse that came off the pace and made up significant ground to finish 2nd. He is my favorite to win the Santa Anita Derby on April 9th that will be half furlong (1/16th of a mile) further than the San Felipe Stakes.

Career: 6 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Projected Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – San Felipe Stakes

4) Danzing Candy  (50 Derby Points) – The surprise winner of the San Felipe Stakes (shown below). He has three wins in his last three starts. He got a perfect trip in the San Felipe by getting out in the lead and then holding on for the win. Give credit to jockey Mike Smith for this win because it was a great strategy because the track wasn’t forgiving to closers that day. His next start will be a rematch against Mor Spirit in the Santa Anita Derby April 9th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0 
Sire: Twirling Candy
Projected Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.04 – San Felipe Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes

5) Cupid  (50 Derby Points) –  Another Bob Baffert-trained 3 year-old who moved into my contender list after a solid win in the 14 horse field of Rebel Stakes. His winning time was 1:43.84 which is a very good time at Oaklawn Park and resulted in a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. He displayed the necessary fight in this race when challenged by Whitmore. He is a half-brother to Mohaymen having shared the same sire Tapit. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby April 16th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-1
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.78 – Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita Park 2/7/16
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  95 Rebel Stakes

6) Mohaymen  (80 Derby Points) – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt finished a disappointing 4th in the Florida Derby and didn’t seem to have the necessary kick down the stretch to make me feel that he could be a Kentucky Derby winner. He couldn’t even hold off Fellowship for third place, a horse that finished third behind him in his last two wins. Was it the wet track that he didn’t like? Whatever the reason, after the Holy Bull Stakes win in January–Mohaymen has regressed.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-1
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.43 (calculated) – Florida Derby 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Holy Bull Stakes

7) Exaggerator (26 Derby Points) – The Desormeaux brothers colt finished 3rd in the San Felipe Stakes. I expected a better performance in this race from the Delta Downs Jackpot winner who gave Nyquist a good battle in the San Vicente Stakes. However, with his pedigree (Sire: Curlin), I wouldn’t give up on him yet as he should excel in races as the distances gets longer. His next start will be the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park on April 9th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-1 
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98San Vicente Stakes

8) Zulu  (20 Derby Points) – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee and half-brother to Greenpointcrusader. He finished 2nd to Mohaymen in Fountain of Youth Stakes (shown below) and answered some questions in that race as to how he would like distance since it was his first past 7 furlongs. He also showed a willingness to battle so this was a performance that can be built on. His next start will be the Blue Grass Stakes on April 9th. 

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Bernardini 
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.20 (calculated) – Fountain of Youth Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Fountain of Youth Stakes

9) Matt King Coal  (0 Derby Points)- The Linda Rice-trained colt returned to racing as a 3 year-old on March 6th at Aqueduct and produced a win with a time of 1:44.92 (good for a 97 Beyer Speed Figure). In his last three starts, he has produced Beyer Speed Figures of 93, 96 and 97. I like the upward progression. His next start will be the Wood Memorial on April 9th. He will have to win or finish 2nd in order to obtain enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0
Sire: Cool Coal Man (Finished 15th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)

Projected Jockey: Jose Ortiz 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – Aqueduct Allowance Optional Claiming Race– 3/6/16

10) Collected (11 Derby Points)Yet another Bob Baffert-trainee, the Sham Stakes winner collected his biggest win and best Beyer Speed Figure (90) in the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes on March 20th. No word yet as to where his next start will be but the Arkansas Derby on April 16th seems like the most logical.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: City Zip

Projected Jockey: Martin Garcia 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.98 (calculated) – Southwest Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.90 – Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes

11) Gun Runner (151 Derby Points) – The Steve Asmussen-trained horse has secured his spot in the Kentucky Derby with a Louisiana Derby win. He has won his 2 starts as a 3-year-old but has failed to put up impressive times or Beyer Speed Figures. I generally don’t see him as a serious threat to win the Kentucky Derby. The last Louisiana Derby winner that went on to win the Kentucky Derby was Grindstone in 1996. I see Gun Runner more as a horse who could round out a superfecta. He will be well-rested and have plenty of time to train up to the Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-1
Sire: Candy Ride

Projected Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.94 – Risen Star Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.06 – Louisiana Derby 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Louisiana Derby 

12) Shagaf (50 Derby Points)Like Mohaymen, another Chad Brown trainee from Shadwell Stables. He is undefeated in 3 starts and displayed a fighting spirit to win the Gotham Stakes (shown below). His next start will be the Wood Memorial on April 9th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0
Sire: Bernardini 
Projected Jockey: Irad Ortiz
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.90 – Gotham Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – MSW Aqueduct – 11/22/15

Others to keep an eye on include:

Suddenbreakingnews (10 Derby Points) – The Southwest Stakes winner finished 5th in the Rebel Stakes. This was a disappointing finish as the race seemed to set up well for his closer running style with fast opening fractions from Cupid. However, this performance was not enough to drop him off the Derby radar. He seemed to get blocked a bit and if this was a 1 1/8th mile race like the Arkansas Derby will be, he seemed to have plenty of steam left to hit the board. His sire was Mineshaft–2003 Horse of the Year. Closer’s always have a chance in the Derby when the opening fractions are fast. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 16th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Mineshaft 
Projected Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.64 (calculated) – Rebel Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes

Outwork  (20 Derby Points) – A Todd Pletcher-trained horse and a half brother to Nyquist. Prior to the Tampa Bay Derby, he had never raced further than 6 furlongs. He broke his maiden way back in April of 2015 at Keeneland but didn’t resume racing until this past February. His next start will be the Wood Memorial April 9th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.98 – Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

Swipe (12 Derby Points) – This Desormeaux brothers colt finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts and narrowed the gap each time. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and has been back in in training since February 27th. His most recent work was 6 furlongs at 1:13.00 at Santa Anita Park on April 2nd. His next start will be the Lexington Stakes on April 16th. He has 12 Kentucky Derby points and will have to win this race and pick up the 10 first place points. 22 Derby points may or may not be enough to get him into the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Sire: Birdstone (Finished 8th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (if he doesn’t ride Exaggerator)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile


Horses who currently have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby include: Gun Runner 151, Nyquist 130, Lani 100, Mohaymen 80, Destin 51, Cupid 50, Danzing Candy 50, Shagaf 50, Oscar Nominated 50, Mor Spirit 44, Tom’s Ready 44, Majesto 40, Fellowship 32 and Mo Tom 32.

Horses who are either off the Derby trail or won’t have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby: Gift Box, Greenpointcrusader, Airoforce, Cocked and Loaded, Toews On Ice, Awesome Speed,  Conquest Big E

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

Wood Memorial – Aqueduct – April 9th, 2016  (Shagaf, Matt King Coal, Outwork)
Blue Grass Stakes – Keeneland – April 9th, 2016 (Zulu, Brody’s Cause)
Santa Anita Derby – Santa Anita Park – April 9th, 2016  (Mor Spirit, Danzing Candy, Exaggerator)
Arkansas Derby – Oaklawn Park – April 16th, 2016 (Cupid, Suddenbreakingnews)
Lexington Stakes – Keeneland – April 16th, 2016 (Swipe)

Interesting Fact: 70% of the Kentucky Derby winners the past 20 years raced in one of these three final Derby prep races: The Santa Anita Derby (6), The Florida Derby (4) and the Arkansas Derby (4).

The other Derby Prep races to produce Kentucky Derby winners: Louisiana Derby (2), Wood Memorial (2), Blue Grass Stakes (1) and the Lexington Stakes (1).

–Michael

Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

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2016 San Felipe Stakes winner Danzing Candy, ridden by Mike Smith – Credit: Michael J. Cox

March 15, 2016
(Updated March 28th 2016)

Below is my updated 2016 Kentucky Derby contender rankings. Mohaymen and Nyquist are still 1-2 and the notch above the rest of the pack. Dropping out of my Top 10 are: Smokey Image who was previously undefeated but demonstrated no fight in the San Felipe Stakes, Brody’s Cause who is a closer than didn’t close in the Tampa Bay Derby and finished a disappointing 7th, Gift Box and Mo Tom who was edged out due to the performances of other horses. Suddenbreakingnews and Greenpointcrusader drop out due to disappointing finishes in the Rebel Stakes and Louisiana Derby.

I feel we won’t have a Triple Crown contender heading into the Belmont Stakes this year. It seems to be a wide open, weird kind of year. We will have a clearer picture of what to expect the rest of the year after the Florida Derby on April 2nd when matchup of Mohaymen vs Nyquist is expected to take place.

My Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

1) Mohaymen  – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is undefeated in 5 starts. In the Fountain of Youth Stakes, I was initially disappointed that he didn’t lower the time he produced in the Holy Bull Stakes. But after review, this was a good prep race for him as he rallied off the pace and had to go wide and deal with traffic to get the win. His sire was Tapit so his pedigree suggests that he will like stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. His next start will be a showdown vs Nyquist in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 2nd.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.92 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Holy Bull Stakes

2) Nyquist – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year is undefeated in 6 starts. He was first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente. He is being pointed for the Florida Derby on April 2nd. Trainer Doug O’Neill is following the same “2 races as a 3 year-old” strategy that he used with I’ll Have Another to win the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo 
Projected Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

3) Destin – The Todd Pletcher-trained colt breaks into my Top 10 and all the way to #3 by virtue of his performance in the Tampa Bay Derby (shown below) where he set a track record with a time of 1:42.82–good for a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He is the full brother to Creative Cause who finished 5th in the Kentucky Derby and 3rd in the Preakness Stakes in 2012. It remains to be seen if he just likes Tampa Bay Downs track. Hopefully his next start will come elsewhere.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best Mile Time: 1:38.73 (calculated) – Gulfstream Allowance Opt. Claiming Race – 12/18/15
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.82 – Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

4) Mor Spirit – Bob Baffert’s best Derby trail horse thus far. I have been somewhat critical of his times since they have been way off what Dortmund produced last year in Los Alamitos Futurity, Robert B. Lewis Stakes and now the San Felipe Stakes. However, what I witnessed in the San Felipe was a horse that came off the pace and made up significant ground to finish 2nd. He is my favorite to win the Santa Anita Derby on April 9th that will be half furlong (1/16th of a mile) further than the San Felipe Stakes.

Career: 6 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Projected Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/23/15
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – San Felipe Stakes

5) Danzing Candy – The surprise winner of the San Felipe Stakes (shown below). He has three wins in his last three starts. He got a perfect trip in the San Felipe by getting out in the lead and then holding on for the win. Give credit to jockey Mike Smith for this win because it was a great strategy because the track wasn’t forgiving to closers that day. His next start will be a rematch against Mor Spirit in the Santa Anita Derby April 9th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0 
Sire: Twirling Candy
Projected Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.73 – Santa Anita Allowance Opt Claiming Race – 2/4/16
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.04 – San Felipe Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes

6) Cupid  –  Another Bob Baffert-trained 3 year -old who moves into my Top 10 after a solid win in the 14 horse field of Rebel Stakes. His winning time was 1:43.84 which is a very good time at Oaklawn Park and resulted in a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. He displayed the necessary fight in this race when challenged by Whitmore. He is a half-brother to Mohaymen having shared the same sire Tapit. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby April 16th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-1
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.78 – Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita Park 2/7/16
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  95Rebel Stakes

7) Exaggerator – The Desormeaux brothers colt finished 3rd in the San Felipe Stakes. I expected a better performance in this race from the Delta Downs Jackpot winner who gave Mohaymen a good battle in the San Vicente Stakes. However, with his pedigree (Sire: Curlin), I wouldn’t give up on him yet as he should excel in races as the distances gets longer. His next start is likely to be the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park on April 9th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-1 
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – San Vicente Stakes

8) Zulu – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee and half-brother to Greenpointcrusader. He finished 2nd to Mohaymen in Fountain of Youth Stakes (shown below) and answered some questions in that race as to how he would like distance since it was his first past 7 furlongs. He also showed a willingness to battle so this was a performance that can be built on. His next start will be the Wood Memorial or Blue Grass Stakes on April 9th. 

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Bernardini 
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.20 (calculated) – Fountain of Youth Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Fountain of Youth Stakes

9) Matt King Coal – The Linda Rice-trained colt returned to racing as a 3 year-old on March 6th at Aqueduct and produced a win with a time of 1:44.92 (good for a 97 Beyer Speed Figure). In his last three starts he has produced Beyer Speed Figures of 93, 96 and 97. I like the upward progression. His next start will be the Wood Memorial on April 9th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0
Sire: Cool Coal Man (Finished 15th in the 2008 Kentucky Derby)

Projected Jockey: Jose Ortiz 
Best  Mile Time: 1:36.68 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #6
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – Aqueduct Allowance Optional Claiming Race– 3/6/16

10) Collected – Yet another Bob Baffert-trainee, the Sham Stakes winner collected his biggest win and best Beyer Speed Figure (90) in the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes. No word yet as to where his next start will be.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: City Zip 

Projected Jockey: Martin Garcia 
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:38.00 – Sham Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.98 (calculated) – Southwest Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.90 – Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes

Others to keep an eye on include:

Suddenbreakingnews – The Southwest Stakes winner finished 5th in the Rebel Stakes. This was a disappointing finish as the race seemed to set up well for his closer running style with fast opening fractions from Cupid. However, this performance was not enough to drop him off the Derby radar. He seemed to get blocked a bit and if this was a 1 1/8th mile race like the Arkansas Derby will be, he seemed to have plenty of steam left to hit the board. His sire was Mineshaft–2003 Horse of the Year. Closer’s always have a chance in the Derby when the opening fractions are fast. His next start will be the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 16th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Mineshaft 
Projected Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:39.17 (calculated) – Remington Springboard Mile
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.64 (calculated) – Rebel Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes

Outwork – A Todd Pletcher-trained horse and a half brother to Nyquist. Prior to the Tampa Bay Derby, he had never raced further than 6 furlongs. He broke his maiden way back in April of 2015 at Keeneland but didn’t resume racing until this past February.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.98 – Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

Swipe – This Desormeaux brothers colt finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts and narrowed the gap each time. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and has been back in in training for the past 3 weeks. His most recent work was 1:12.80 in 6 furlongs at Santa Anita Park on March 19th. No word on when his next start will be but entries in the Louisiana Derby (March 26th) and Arkansas Derby (April 16th) would give him two great preps before the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Sire: Birdstone (Finished 8th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (if he doesn’t ride Exaggerator)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile


Horses who currently have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby include: Gun Runner 151, Lani 100 and Mohaymen 70.

Other horses who likely have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby:  Destin 51, Cupid 50, Danzing Candy 50, Shagaf 50, Mor Spirt 44, Tom’s Ready 44 and Mo Tom 32.

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

Florida Derby – Gulfstream – April 2nd, 2016
Spiral Stakes – Turfway Park – April 2nd, 2016

–Michael

My Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contenders

Mohaymen mows down the Holy Bull – Photo: Kenny Martin

February 1st, 2016 (96 days away from the Kentucky Derby)
Updated: February 6, 2016 

Last year at this time, my top three Kentucky Derby Contenders were Texas Red, Dortmund and American Pharoah (See 1/27/15 article). Texas Red suffered an injury and wasn’t entered in the 2015 Kentucky Derby but American Pharoah and Dortmund both finished in the money-1st and 3rd respectively.

I generally feel that the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner will be a horse in my current Top 5 rankings: Mohaymen, Songbird (if the filly is entered), Nyquist, Swipe and Brody’s Cause. With more emphasis on the Top 3 since Swipe is rebounding from injury and Brody’s Cause apparently resuming racing as a 3 year-old somewhat later than typical. And my top 3 are all undefeated thus far.

1) Mohaymen – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is undefeated in 4 starts and posted an impressive time of 1:42.07 in the Holy Bull Stakes. When you watch that race and realize that he didn’t get off to the best start—yet he dealt with some traffic and then mowed down the field without being shown the whip–you have to be impressed. He is easily a sub 1:42 sec horse at the 1 1/16th mile race distance. Mohaymen is a half brother to the horse Frosted but he is way ahead of him at this stage of his career. His sire was Tapit so his pedigree suggests that he will like stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. His next start will be the Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 27th at Gulfstream Park.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.92 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Holy Bull Stakes

2) Songbird – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Female Horse of the Year, she was the top 2 year-old regardless of gender. Undefeated Nyquist was the Eclipse-winning 2 year-old colt and all Songbird did is run a full second faster than him at the same distance, same track and on the same day at the Breeders Cup World Championships. That would be equivalent to 6 1/2 lengths. She dominated the Las Virgenes Stakes, winning by 6 1/2 lengths and producing a time of 1:36.84. It is hard to say how good she really is when she has yet to be challenged. She is being pointed towards the Santa Anita Oaks on April 9th and then the Kentucky Oaks on May 6th. Her owner Rick Porter said he will not enter her into the Kentucky Derby. How about the Preakness Stakes?

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.84 – Las Virgenes Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.73 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

3) Nyquist – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year. Winner of three Grade 1 Stakes races: The Del Mar Futurity, the FrontRunner Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. My way too early Kentucky Derby favorite proved that his declining Beyer Speed Figures wasn’t a concern with impressive win in the Juvenile. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt is still undefeated in five starts. His stalking racing style reminds me of a young American Pharoah. He is being pointed for the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park on February 15th and then the Florida Derby on April 2nd.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 89 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Swipe – This Desormeaux brothers colt has finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts. However, he kept narrowing the gap each time. I like his future in races 1 1/8th mile or greater. His sire was Birdstone who won the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes in 2004. Swipe had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and is expected to resume training soon (February 16th is the rumored date).

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

5) Brody’s Cause Dale Roman’s winner of the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. His sire was Giant’s Causeway who had a great career on the other side of the pond and finished 2nd in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. This colt has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He looks to be a First Saturday in May horse. He is being pegged for the Tampa Bay Derby March 12th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.64 – Churchill Down MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

And the best of the rest:

Greenpointcrusader  A second place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes was a good return to form performance. The Champagne Stakes winner has an excellent pedigree: sire Bernardini (Rachel’s Valentina’s sire), grand sire A.P. Indy, great-grand sire Seattle Slew. His sire Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness Stakes, Travers Stakes, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and finished 2nd in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start appears to be in the Louisiana Derby at the Fairgrounds on March 26th.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.25 – Champagne Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.63 (calculated) – Holy Bull Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 Champagne Stakes

Exaggerator – Another Desormeaux brothers colt, he finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then followed this effort with a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). I am expecting him to improve and his Delta Downs Jackpot win was a step in the right direction. His next start is expected to be the San Vincte Stakes at Santa Anita Park February 15th.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Delta Downs Jackpot

Gift Box – In just his 2nd start, this Chad Brown-trained colt produced a time of 1:43:00 on a sloppy track at Belmont–good for a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. That was faster than American Pharoah’s time of 1:45.78 in the sloppy Rebel Stakes at the same 1 1/16th mile distance. And American Pharoah was a 3 year-old in the Rebel. He finished a respectable 3rd in the Remsen Stakes. So it is still up in the air if this colt is just a good slop-track runner or if he will excel on dry, fast tracks. His next start appears to be the Risen Star Stakes on February 20th at the Fairgrounds.

Career: 3 Starts 1-0-2-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – Belmont MSW- Race #11
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.17 (calculated) – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Belmont MSW- Race #11

Mor Spirit – Bob Baffert’s best 2 year-old colt. His win in the Los Alamitos Futurity was a solid effort and I liked how he rallied off the pace for the win. In Mor Spirit’s next start, the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on February 6th, he produced a winning time of 1:43.21. His times are way off what Dortmund produced last year in these two races. So I see him as an above average Derby horse but not one who will finish in the money.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5

Airoforce – This Mark Casse-trained colt made the transition from turf to dirt with ease by winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes race on a wet track at Churchill Downs. An impressive effort but I will need to see how he performs on a dry fast track. His next start will be the Risen Star Stakes February 20th at the Fairgrounds.

Airoforce Kentucky Jockey Club 615 X 400

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A (on dirt)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.48 – Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

Matt King Coal – The Linda Rice-trained colt has put up back-to-back 90+ Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts, breaking his maiden in his last start while posting a 96 Beyer Speed Figure–the best for a 2 year-old colt this year. I thought enough of this colt to place $10 on him in the 1st Kentucky Derby Future Wagers Pool that will pay back $889 if he wins. His pedigree (sire: Cool Coal Man) suggests that he might be better suited for a 1 mile to 1 1/8th mile distances. His next start was supposed to be the Jerome Stakes January 2nd but he developed an illness and wasn’t entered. He resumed training February 7th.

Matt King Coal runs 1st Place @ Belmont On 10/29/2015

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.68 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #6
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #6

Smokey Image – He is undefeated in six starts, but five of his wins were at the 7 furlong distance or shorter. He might prove to be a better dirt-miler than a Derby horse. His next start is pegged to be the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park March 12th. That race will probably be a great litmus test to determine if this horse is for real as a Derby contender.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.49 – California Cup Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85


 

 

Here are rankings by time for the most common denominator distance of 1 1/16th mile:

  1. Mohaymen – 1:42.07
  2. Greenpointcrusader – 1:42.63 (calculated)
  3. Songbird – 1:42.73
  4. Gift B0x – 1:43.00
  5. Matt King Coal – 1:43.02 (calculated)
  6. Fellowship – 1:43.03 (calculated)
  7. Mor Spirit – 1:43.21
  8. Brody’s Cause – 1:43.27
  9. Exaggerator – 1:43.43 (calculated)
  10. Smokey Image – 1:43.49
  11. Nyquist – 1:43.79
  12. Swipe – 1:43.87

-Michael

Songbird – Could she be the next Kentucky Derby winning filly?

Last year, American Pharoah ended a 37-year drought by becoming 12th Triple Crown Champion. A far rarer feat in horse racing is a filly winning the Kentucky Derby. It has only happened 3 times in 141 Kentucky Derbies. Regret became the first in 1915. Then Genuine Risk in 1980 and Winning Colors in 1988 (video shown below).

So it has been 28 years since the last filly–Winning Colors–won the Kentucky Derby. This year’s crop of fillies headlined by Songbird and Rachel’s Valentina is the best in recent memory.

Entering 2016, I felt that Songbird was the best 2 year-old in 2015 regardless of gender and she showed me enough to warrant racing against the boys. Her performance and winning time in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race (shown below) compared to Nyquist‘s winning time at the same distance, same track on the same day in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race is what sold me on this filly. Songbird won with a time of 1:42.73  (Mike Smith never had to use the whip) vs Nyquist’s time of 1:43.79.  A full second faster and good for over 6 lengths. I was there at Keeneland that weekend and her race that day was the earlier one (race #3) and generally the track got faster over the course of the day.
 
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith is really high on this filly and he had contemplated retiring at age 50 until he rode Songbird. He has fallen in love all over again (I don’t blame him). Smith has ridden some great horses and especially great fillies over his career with the best being Zenyatta (see highlight video below).

Could Songbird be the best filly since Zenyatta? Zenyatta had a different style. She was a closer which matched up well on faster synthetic track surfaces that she primarily ran on. But Zenyatta did race on a dirt surface as a 4 year-old in the 2008 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park. Her winning time in this 1 1/16th mile race? 1:42.64. Songbird has already came within a tenth of a second (0.09 seconds to be exact) of that time as a 2 year-0ld racing against the best fillies in the world. And Mike Smith never had to show or use the whip on Songbird like he had to with Zenyatta. Songbird’s racing style is get out in front early and WIRE THE FIELD.

Songbird is undefeated in 4 starts. So what is the plan for her? Songbird’s next race is pegged to be the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes against the girls at Santa Anita Park on February 6th. I feel that trainer Jerry Hollendorfer could follow a similar schedule that Winning Colors had in 1988 when she raced the following races:


Unfortunately, the Santa Anita Oaks and the Santa Anita Derby are on the same day this year so Songbird would have to be entered in the San Felipe Stakes against the boys on March 12th or the Santa Ysabel Stakes against the girls on March 5th before the Santa Anita Derby on April 9th.

If jockey Mike Smith is excited about this filly and she kept him from retirement, that is good enough for me. She is special. Keep a close eye on her in the coming months. A filly in the Kentucky Derby would be exciting for the sport. A filly with a chance at winning a Triple Crown would be pandemonium.

–Michael