2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Race Preview. Will Bolt d’Oro stay undefeated?

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November 1st 2017 

With the impending retirement of Arrogate after the Breeders’ Cup Classic, I feel that more eyes will be on the future stars of the 2018 Kentucky Derby class in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Overall, this 2-year-old class appears to be better than last year’s crop at this same time.

Below are the entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds:

Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 1 & 1/16th Mile –  Race #10 at Del Mar – Saturday November 4th at 5:58 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. U S Navy Flag – Moore/O’Brien – 8/1
2. Solomini – Prat/Baffert – 6/1
3. Firenze Fire – I.Ortiz Jr/Servis – 6/1
4. Givemeaminit – Castellano/Stewart – 20/1
5. Free Drop Billy – Albarado/Romans -5/1
6. Good Magic – J.Ortiz/Brown – 8/1
7. The Tabulator – Valdivia Jr/Rivelli – 20/1
8. Bahamian – Gutierrez/Callaghan – 30/1
9. Hazit – Velazquez/Pletcher – 20/1
10) Golden Dragon – Roman/Yanakov – 30/1
11) Bolt d’Oro – Nakatani/Ruis – 9/5
12. Hollywood Star – Rosario/Romans – 15/1

Race Commentary: Overall, this is a weaker field than I anticipated for a prestigious Breeders’ World Champion race with a $2 Million Dollar purse. Bolt d’Oro and The Tabulator are the only two undefeated colts in this field, both having won in each of their 3 starts. There are three colts who have yet to break their maiden: Givemeaminit, Good Magic, Bahamian. The Aidan O’Brien-trained U S Navy Flag is a European horse who has only raced sprints on turf. 

As far as Speed Figures, here are the only horses in the field who have eclipsed an 85 Beyer Speed Figure:

Bolt d’Oro – 100        
Firenze Fire – 90
Good Magic – 89
Solomini – 87

My Pick: 2-year-olds are inconsistent and unpredictable.  So I would steer away from difficult to hit exotics. I like win bets on Bolt d’Oro and Firenze Fire. The only exotic bet I would consider is a Boxed Exacta 3-11 (Bolt d’Oro and Firenze Fire). Bolt d’Oro is the class of this field and my early favorite for the 2018 Kentucky Derby. However, he is going to be hindered somewhat with a far outside starting post in a 12 horse field. This could put Bolt d’Oro in the cross-hairs of a closer like Firenze Fire coming down the stretch.

Firenze Fire displayed excellent closing speed in the Champagne Stakes (shown below).

The only concern with Firenze Fire is that he will be making his first start in a two-turn race. However, this may not hurt his closing style that much. So a Boxed Exacta of Firenze Fire-Bolt d’Oro might be a wiser bet if Bolt D’Oro’s live odds move closer to 1/1.


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the Breeders’ Cup Classic field. I will have this out late tomorrow (Thursday) evening.


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Looking ahead to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sentient Jet Juvenile and early 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

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October 18th 2016

With the Breeders’ Cup Sentient Jet Juvenile race coming up in 18 days on November 5th, it is time to take a closer look at the possible entries  for that race which serves as a nice preview of next year’s Kentucky Derby contenders. 

As I have maintained in previous blogs, this is a very deep and talented crop. In terms of Beyer Speed Figures and times, the 2017 Kentucky Derby class appears to be much better than last year’s at this stage of the game and it is probably better than California Chrome’s class three years ago. 

I will be at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships again this year to view this race as well as all the others. Here are eight 2-year-old colts to keep an eye on. Note: An asterisk indicates horses who have won a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Contenders 

1) Not This Time Dale Romans is very high on this Giant’s Causeway colt, calling him “spooky good”. He reminds him of his half-brother Brody’s Cause. He is also Liam’s Map half-brother, the two sharing the same dam (mother) in Miss Macy Sue.  He has won his last two starts by nearly 19 lengths and seems to be able to kick it into a higher gear with great acceleration in the final couple of furlongs. We probably won’t get the full understanding of what he can really do until he races against some stiffer competition.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Giant’s Causeway
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Fastest 1 Mile Time: 1:35.99 – 2016 Ellis Park MSW 8/12/16
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.22 (muddy conditions) – 2016 Iroquios Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Iroquios Stakes

2) Classic Empire– American Pharoah’s half-brother. Looks like Blinkers On helped him through his gate issues in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). He is right where I thought he would be after his hiccup in the Hopeful Stakes.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>DNF–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 Mile Time:  1:36.89*  – time from 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.412016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

3) GormleyHe comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes (shown below)–beating the race favorite Klimt. So far, this is the highest Beyer Speed Figure for a 2 year-old at more than a mile distance. My only concern is, he probably won’t be able to run like he did in FrontrRunner Stakes and win a 10 furlong race. But give him credit, he used the rail post to his advantage and didn’t tire at the end. Expect many more Gormley vs Klimt battles on the west coast in the future.

Career: 2 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: N/A–>1st–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest Mile Time: 1:36.87* – time from 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes

4) Klimt  Owned by Kaleem Shah and trained by Bob Baffert–the same combination that produced Bayern and Dortmund. He lost to Gormley in the FrontRunner Stakes but gained valuable experience sitting off the pace as a stalker. Klimt’s sire Quality Road won the Florida Derby, Met Mile, Donn Handicap, Woodward Stakes. Quality Road suffered two quarter cracks that prevented him from competing in all three legs of the Triple Crown. 

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Quality Road
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Fastest 1 Mile Time: 1:37.51* – estimated time from 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.05 (calculated) – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Del Mar Futurity

5) Practical JokeThe Chad Brown-trainee now has two Grade 1 stakes wins. His time of 1:34.68 in the Champagne Stakes was a great time, even considering that this was a one turn race. However, like Syndergaard whom he beat by a nose, neither have competed in a two-turn race thus far. This is why both aren’t ranked higher. Plus, East Coast colts haven’t fared as well as their West Coast counterparts the past few years on the Derby trail. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. 

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 Mile Time:  1:34.682016 Champagne Stakes
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – 2016 Champagne Stakes

6) Syndergaard  He lost by a nose to Practical Joke in the Champagne. This Todd Pletcher-trainee has an average Beyer Speed Figure of 88 in 3 starts. However, I am concerned that he will like distance. His sire Majesticperfection was a sprinter that didn’t race until he was 4 years old but won 5 out of 6 sprint races.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Majesticperfection
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 Mile Time: 1:34.69 (calculated) – 2016 Champagne Stakes
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Funny Cide Stakes

7) Three Rules – He has owned the 2 year-old races at Gulfstream Park thus far and is the current winnings leader for 2 year-old colts at $680,640. His sire Gone Astray never raced further than 9 furlongs and his biggest win was the 2009 Pennsylvania Derby. He appears to be the early favorite for the Florida Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Gone Astray
Trainer: Jose Pinchin
Jockey: Cornelio Velasquez
Fastest Mile Time: 1:37.81 – 2016 Florida In Reality Stakes
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.63 – 2016 Florida In Reality Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Florida Dr Fagar Stakes

8) Theory When it comes to the pedigree, trainer and jockey combination, Theory is probably the most attractive 2 year-old colt. Trained by Todd Pletcher who won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver. Ridden by jockey John Velazquez who won the 2011 Kentucky Derby on Animal Kingdom. Theory has raced twice at the 6 furlong distance and received 85 Beyer Speed Figures for both races. His sire Gemologist went undefeated in five starts heading into the 2012 Kentucky Derby where he finished 16th. 

Career: 2 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Sire: Gemologist (Finished 16th in 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 Mile Time:  N/A
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85 – 2016 Futurity Stakes

In addition to the above horses, here are three more talented 2 year-olds that could be entries in the Juvenile race: Royal Copy, Big Gray Rocket and Lookin At Lee.

–Michael

The Road to 2017 Kentucky Derby begins – Iroquois Stakes Preview

 

 

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September 16th 2016

The road to the 2017 Kentucky Derby officially begins this Saturday where it ends–at Churchill Downs with the Iroquois Stakes. This is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Sentient Jet Juvenile race and the winner also gets 10 points in the Kentucky Derby standings.

The race is named after the horse Iroquois–the first American horse to win the Epson Derby. Four years ago this race was increased from one mile to 8 1/2 furlongs (1 1/16th mile). The past three years, this race has spawned just three Kentucky Derby starters: Tapiture and Ride On Curlin in 2013 and Mr. Z in 2014. 

Overall, I feel the field for this year’s race–at this point in these 2 year-olds careers–appears to be better than the last three Iroquois Stakes fields. I also feel that there is at lease one future 2017 Kentucky Derby starter in this field. Perhaps even two or three. Five horses to watch closely are Not This Time, Blame Will, Recruiting Ready, Lookin At Lee and Thirstforlife.

I generally avoid trying to handicap 2 year-old races since they are often inconsistent. However, I really like two horses in this field: Not This Time and Blame Will.

Dale Roman’s Not This Time ran a sub 1:36 mile at Ellis Park back on August 12th. He won by 10 lengths with a winning time of 1:35.99. Consider that American Pharoah’s first recorded mile time came in the 1 1/16th mile 2014 FrontRunner Stakes where he ran the mile in 1:35.77 and a 1:41.95 final time.

D. Wayne Lukas’s Blame Will earned an 88 Beyer Speed Figure in his last start at Saratoga. He was purchased as a yearling for $600,000, so there are high expectations for this colt. His sire Blame won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

If this is run on a dry, fast track, I expect the winning time to be 1:42 to 1:43 range. Below are the post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds:

The Iroquois Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday September 17th – Race #8 at Churchill Downs – Post-Time: 5:59 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post Horse/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Lookin At Lee – Castellano/Asmussen – 6-1
2. Honor Thy Father Lucky – Lanerie/McPeek – 8-1    
3. Skinflint – Castanon/Kobiskie – 20-1
4. Thirstforlife – Geroux/Casse – 7-2 
5. Blame Will – Saez/Lukas – 4-1
6. Just Move On (118) – Valdiva/Byrne – 10-1
7. Recruiting Ready (118) – Stevens/DePaz – 3-1
8. Not This Time (118) – Albarado/Romans – 4-1  


–Michael

American Pharoah’s half-brother “Classic Empire” – 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Watch?

July 12th 2016

The month of July is way too early to come up with next year’s Kentucky Derby favorite or even a contender list for that matter. At least, that is my opinion because the majority of the most recent Kentucky Derby winners didn’t make their race debut until the months of August or September. The exception being California Chrome who first raced in April of his 2 year-old campaign. However, when a 2 year-old with a great pedigree and an excellent trainer behind him displays great promise on the race track, it gets my attention.

That is what happened 10 days ago at Churchill Downs when the 2 year-old Mark Casse-trained colt Classic Empire won the 6 furlong Bashford Manor Stakes (shown below).


Classic Empire is a half -brother to Triple Crown and Grand Slam Champion American Pharoah, both sharing the same sire Pioneerof the Nile. He also would be a third cousin to American Pharoah on his dam’s side since they both have the same great grandsire Storm Cat. So he essentially shares 5/8ths the same genes as American Pharoah.

But genes aside, we all know in horse racing that it takes more than genetics. Many exciting progeny have bombed or never made it to the race track. Here is what peaked my interest and gets me mildly me excited about Classic Empire. He has two wins in two starts. Classic Empire’s winning time of 1:09.39 was the 2nd fastest time in the 26 years that the Bashford Manor Stakes has been a graded stakes race. And Classic Empire received a 87 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest thus far for any 2 year-old colt or filly at a distance of 6 furlongs or longer.

His win in the Bashford Manor Stakes was a Grade 3 stakes race. And shall I add that he overcame the dreaded rail in this race and displayed great maturity navigating through traffic? At this point in their careers, he is way ahead of his half-brother American Pharoah who didn’t make his race debut during his 2 year old campaign until August and didn’t win his first race until the Del Mar Futurity in September.

And when you watch the replay above, how Classic Empire blew through the field coming down the stretch to nip Recruiting Ready at the wire–he looked quite “Pharoahish” doing so–it is very obvious to me that this colt will like longer distances. Just how long, we don’t know but he has one of the top trainers–and arguably the hottest trainer right now–in Mark Casse.

Always viewed as a great trainer, Mark Casse has gained worldwide attention the past 8 months for what he has done with Tepin and Catch a Glimpse on the turf side. Tepin is viewed as the 2nd best North American racehorse this year in polls behind California Chrome. And on dirt, Casse’s Noble Bird won the Stephen Foster last year and Noble Bird’s 110 Beyer Speed Figure in the Pimlico Special back in May is still the top Beyer Speed Figure in 2016 for races longer than one mile.

It is way too early to draw conclusions on Classic Empire’s future or make too many comparisons to his famous half-brother. He may flame out like so many other promising 2 year-olds do along the way.

But for now, Classic Empire has to be on everyone’s radar and at the very minimum, viewed as a 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender this fall.

–Michael