Santa Anita Handicap and San Felipe Previews

March 6th 2015 – Updated March 11th 2016

With the mass exodus of many of the top handicap division horses to Dubai for the $10 Million World Cup race on March 26th, Jimmy Jerkins’ Effinex (2nd place finisher in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic) is the odds-on favorite for this year’s Santa Anita Handicap coming up on Saturday March 12th. The San Felipe Stakes for 3 year-olds will be a support race at Santa Anita Park that same day and will be a very important prep race on the Kentucky Derby trail. Below are expected entries in both races.

Santa Anita Handicap Entries

1) Point Piper – The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained 6 year old finished 6th in the San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita back in January. In his last start, he finished 3rd at the Fairgrounds in the Mineshaft Handicap behind Majestic Harbor and Eagle. He has never raced beyond 1 1/8th mile distance. However, if you like longshots, he won the Harry F. Brubaker Stakes last August at Del Mar at 30-1 odds. He was also nominated for the San Luis Rey Stakes turf race to be run on Sunday.  

Career: 20 starts 4-5-3-0, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4 Pct: 60%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 93, 94 – 94.73 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 2015 Big Bear Stakes
Career Earnings: $172,135

2) Melatonin – He doesn’t have much experience racing past 6 1/2 furlongs. In his only start racing past one mile on dirt–a 1 1/16th mile at Santa Anita (incidentally his last start)–he turned in an impressive time of 1:41.97. Maybe he needed to be stretched-out all along. A sleeper? No pun intended, we will see.

Career: 10 starts 3-2-3-1, Win Pct: 30%, Top 3 Pct: 80%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 87, 91 – 91.7 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97
Career Earnings: $168,552

3) Donworth – A lightly raced 4 year-old trained by Doug O’Neill that seems to be coming into his own. He produced his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 104 with his 3rd place finish in his last start in the San Antonio Stakes. Although he seemed to lack the kick necessary in final furlong of that 1 1/8th mile race, it was his first start stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. He does has a pedigree for distance with his sire Tiznow having won the 2001 Santa Anita Handicap and the 2000 & 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic. And his damsire Street Cry who won the 2002 Dubai World Cup.

Career: 5 starts 2-1-2-0, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 104, 95, 93 – 97.3 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1042016 San Antonio Stakes
Career Earnings: $164,000

4) General a Rod – The Todd Pletcher-trained 5 year-old competed in all three Triple Crown races in 2014, finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby, 4th in the Preakness Stakes and 7th in the Belmont Stakes. He received a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 105 in his last start–a 1 1/16th mile race at Gulfstream Park on January 28th. He has never won a graded stakes race and has only competed in three races at a distance of 1 1/4th mile or longer (best finish being a 7th place finish in the 2014 Belmont Stakes).

Career: 14 starts 4-2-1-2, Win Pct: 28.5%, Top 3 Pct: 50%, Top 4 Pct: 64.3%
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 11th — 2014 Kentucky Derby
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 105, 82, 92 – 93 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – Allowance Opt. Claiming Race at Gulfstream Park 1/28/16
Career Earnings: $513.570

5) Effinex – You can make a valid argument that Effinex is really the top older male horse entering 2016 by his last two starts in 2015. In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he finished 2nd and ahead of Honor Code, Keen Ice, Tonalist, Frosted and Hard Aces. Then he won the Clark Handicap in November, besting Hoppertunity and Keen Ice (for a second time).

Career: 20 starts: 7-2-3-4, Win Pct: 35%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4%: 80%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.11 (calculated) – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 104, 112, 92 – 102.7 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1122015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $2,112,950

6) Cyrus Alexander – Another Jerry Hollendorfer-trained colt. He has only competed in two graded stakes races with his best finish being a 4th place in 1 1/16th mile Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita Park in June of 2015. He has never stretched out past 1 1/8th mile in his career.

Career: 12 starts: 3-4-2-1, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4%: 83.3%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 98, 92 – 95.7 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97
Career Earnings: $175,090

7) Hard Aces – He finished 4th in last year’s Big ‘Cap and produced his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 104 with his 6th place finish in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. The John Sadler-trained 6 year-old has a reputation of being lazy in workouts but with his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park last year, he has proven that he can win the big race.

Career: 28 starts 6-3-7-3, Win Pct: 21.4%, Top 3 Pct: 57.1%, Top 4 Pct: 67.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.01 (calculated) – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 95, 104 – 99 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $619,645

8) Imperative – He has two 100+ Beyer Speed Figures (104 & 102) at Santa Anita Park in 2016 already. The 6 year-old gelding hasn’t fared well in previous Big ‘Caps, finishing 7th and 8th respectively in 2014 and 2015. But he is gaining a nose for the finish line, having finished 2nd in his last three starts to Dortmund, California Chrome and Hoppertunity.

Career: 29 starts: 3-8-3-3, Win Pct: 10.3%, Top 3 Pct: 48.3%, Top 4%: 58.6%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.01 (calculated) – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2014 Gold Cup & 2014 Pacific Classic
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 105, 102, 97 – 101.3 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1052016 San Antonio Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,833,120

9) Class Leader – He has bounced between turf and dirt races recently. He has competed in a big graded stakes race at this distance before–the 1 1/4th mile  TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar last August and finished 7th. He is likely a backmarker in this field. He was also nominated for the San Luis Rey Stakes turf race to be run on Sunday.  

Career: 18 starts: 3-2-4-2, Win Pct: 16.7%, Top 3 Pct: 50%, Top 4%: 61.1%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.09 (calculated) – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 7th – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures:  93, 94, 93 – 93.3 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98
Career Earnings: $208,689

Past Performances can be accessed HERE.

Commentary: I expect this year’s Big ‘Cap to be an exciting race if the San Antonio Stakes is any indication of what is in store. As far as betting advice, right now I like a 5-8-3-7 Superfecta (Effinex-Imperative-Donworth-Hard Aces) but I also like a big 5-8 Exacta and a 5-8-3 Trifecta Box. Stay tuned….


The San Felipe Stakes

This year’s San Felipe Stakes, a tune-up race for the Santa Anita Derby, will feature four key horses on the Kentucky Derby trail with four former Kentucky Derby-winning jockeys riding them. Smokey Image will put his undefeated mark on the line against his stiffest competition to date in Mor Spirit, Exaggerator and Danzing Candy. These four horses represent 1/3rd of my Top 12 Kentucky Derby Contenders currently. The winner of San Felipe the past two years have went on to finish in the top 3 of the Kentucky Derby (California Chrome 2014 winner, Dortmund 3rd place finisher in 2015).

The San Felipe Stakes Entries – Race #7 – Post Time 5PM CST

1) Uncle Lino  – The Gary Sherlock-trained 3 year-old finished 2nd in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes behind Mor Spirit. He has fired two 90 Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts.

Career: 4 Starts 1-2-1-0
Sire: Uncle Mo
Jockey: Fernando Perez
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.45 (calculated) – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes

2) Danzing Candy  – He has won his last two starts but will be stepping up in class for the San Felipe Stakes and going an extra half furlong than he has raced to date. Still, he is a talented horse to keep an eye on.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0
Sire: Twirling Candy 
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.73 – Allowance Optional Claiming Race at Santa Anita Park 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Allowance Optional Claiming Race at Santa Anita Park  2/4/16

3) Mor Spirit  – Bob Baffert’s best 2 year-old colt. Winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity and Robert B. Lewis Stakes (winning time of 1:43.21). I feel he has been a bit overrated thus far as his times are way off what Dortmund produced last year in these two races. A win in this race will move him way up my contender list.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
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: 93 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes

4) Cupid  –  Another Bob Baffert-trained 3 year -old, Cupid is a half-brother to Mohaymen having shared the same sire Tapit. He won his last start impressively by 5 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita Park on February 7th.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-0-1
Sire: Tapit
Jockey: Martin Garcia 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.78 – Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita Park 2/7/16
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  88

5) I Will Score – A Jerry Hollendorfer-trained 3 year -old. He  finished 3rd in his last start, the Robert B. Lewis Stakes behind Mor Spirit and Uncle Lino.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Roman Ruler 
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.53 (calculated) – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes

6) Smokey Image  – The Carla Gaines-trained 3 year-old is undefeated in six starts, but five of his wins were at the 7 furlong distance or shorter. His win in the California Cup Derby only generated an 83 Beyer Speed Figure but he won it with ease by over 8 lengths. This Cal-bred may be a Kentucky Derby sleeper on the verge of breaking out. I like his future regardless.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Sire: Southern Image 
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.49 – California Cup Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85

7) Exaggerator  The Desormeaux brothers colt 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 and giving Mohaymen a good battle in the San Vicente Stakes. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). 

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

Commentary: This race appears to be a battle between Mor Spirt, Exaggerator and Smokey Image. So right now I like a 3-6-7 Boxed Exacta.

I will update this blog by Saturday March 12th. And I will also be attending these races and will provide updates Friday evening March 11th.

I am also overdue for a Kentucky Derby Contenders update which I will post by Tuesday March 15th at the latest. I want to see how the San Felipe Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby races turn out as I feel five of the top twelve Derby contenders will be in action this coming Saturday.

–Michael

 

Is Smokey Image the next California Chrome and a Kentucky Derby Sleeper?

Smokey Image - ca cup derby#2

March 1st 2016

Sometimes as handicappers on the Kentucky Derby trail, we get caught up too much in pedigrees and horses in the barns of the top trainers. But as we have seen in the past with horses like Mine That Bird and Funny Cide, sometimes all that is necessary to win Kentucky Derby is having a great horse. And having a great jockey helps too.

So this leads me to the race career of Smokey Image, the Carla Gaines-trained 3 year-old colt who is undefeated in 6 starts. It is probably necessary to mention here that no woman trainer has ever won the Kentucky Derby…so we are told.  It is believed that Mrs. Laska Durnell–the owner of the 1904 Kentucky Derby winner and Missouri-foal Elwood–secretly employed the services of Elwood’s breeder Mrs. J. B. Prather to train him for the Derby. Why? Because her husband and trainer Charles Durnell didn’t think the horse had a chance but she entered him anyway without her husband’s knowledge.  So throw out the whole “No woman trainer…” argument.

Until Smokey Image’s win in the 1 1/16th mile California Cup Derby, he had plenty of skeptics (me included) because his undefeated record came in races at a sprinter distance of 7 furlongs or less. But after the Cal Cup Derby win, Smokey Image is on most handicappers radar and in their Top 10 Kentucky Derby contender lists. However, he is not in anyone’s top 3 and is not in mine currently though I had him as one of five horses to consider for your Kentucky Derby Pool #2 Future Wager.

The majority of Kentucky Derby handicappers have a combination of Mohaymen, Nyquist, Mor Spirit and Brody’s Cause at the top of their lists. Cal-bred horses don’t typically garner a ton of respect as Kentucky Derby contenders as only four horses born in California have ever won the Kentucky Derby: Morvich in 1922, Swaps in 1955, Decidedly in 1962 and California Chrome in 2014.

But California Chrome’s career should have erased some of doubts about Cal-breds. So the burning questions are: Is Smokey Image the next California Chrome in the making and should he be considered a more serious Kentucky Derby contender? Let’s review some relevant facts:

  1. His jockey is Victor Espinoza, who has won the last two Kentucky Derbys with California Chrome in 2014 and American Pharoah in 2015. He also won the 2002 Kentucky Derby on War Emblem.
  2. Smokey Image’s sire was Southern Image, who won the 2004 Santa Anita Handicap, same 1 1/4 mile distance as the Kentucky Derby.
  3. On his mother’s side, his damsire was Free House who gave Silver Charm a battle finishing 3rd in the 1997 Kentucky Derby then won the Pacific Classic and Santa Anita Handicap (both at 1 1/4 mile distances) the following year in 1998 as a 4 year old.

So Smokey Image has a great jockey who has proven that he can win the Kentucky Derby (and a Triple Crown) and a pedigree that suggests that he will like stretching out to the 1 1/4 mile distance.

Smokey Image–Another California Chrome?

Smokey Image is being pointed towards the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 12th. He is following a similar pathway as California Chrome did in 2014 when Chrome raced in the Golden State Juvenile race, the California Cup Derby and the San Felipe Stakes. Chrome finished 6th in the Golden State Juvenile, won the King Glorious Stakes and won the California Cup Derby. However, his win in the San Felipe Stakes is what shot him to the top of the Kentucky Derby contender lists and made him a favorite in the final Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool.

Smokey Image won the Golden State Juvenile by 3/4 ths of a length and then put on this impressive performance in the 2016 California Cup Derby (shown below). He is still a little green as he has an unusual gait going through turns but he smoked the field and won by a tractor-trailer length. And note that he had such a huge lead that the Victor Espinoza eased him up a bit before the finish line.

Smokey Image’s winning time of 1:43.49 was less than 3 tenths of a second off of California Chrome’s winning time of 1:43.22 in the 2014 Cal Cup Derby (shown below). Smokey Image’s time through one mile was 1:36.59 vs. California Chrome’s 1:36.73.

Have we seen this before? Or are we blinded by philosophical methodologies and myopias of ranking the Kentucky Derby contending elite?

All eyes will be on the upcoming and expected Smokey Image vs Mor Spirit duel at Santa Anita Park on March 12th. A win against Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit in the San Felipe would rocket this horse up to the top of the Kentucky Derby contender charts. And perhaps, start a new Smokey Image craze. Irrespective of his Kentucky Derby chances, I see a big win in this horse’s future somewhere down the line if he stays healthy.

–Michael