Final 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

March 30th 2017Updated April 2nd 2017 5:20 PM EST

Below are the morning line odds for the final 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) Pool #4 which can be found HERE. The Future Wager Pool will run from Friday March 31st 12 PM EST to Sunday April 2nd 6 PM EST. Be sure to see my live odds commentary towards the bottom of this article as I will update this section with my thoughts over the weekend. 

I have included each horse’s Brisnet Speed Figure and finish in their last start, which is usually their 2nd to last before the Kentucky Derby. 

# Horse – M/L Odds – Brisnet Speed Figure in Last Start
1. Always Dreaming – 50-1  (84)  – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2. Battalion Runner – 30-1 (96) – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
3. Battle of Midway – 50-1 (92) – 1st in an Allowance race at Santa Anita Park
4. Classic Empire – 12-1 (92) – 3rd Place in the Holy Bull Stakes
5. Cloud Computing – 15-1 (100) – 2nd in the Gotham Stakes
6. El Areeb – 30-1 (91) – 3rd in the Gotham Stakes  Scratched
7. Girvin – 30-1 (98) – 1st in the Risen Star Stakes
8. Gormley – 20-1 (91) – 4th in the San Felipe Stakes
9. Guest Suite – 50-1 (93) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes
10. Gunnevera 6-1 (102) – 1st in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
11. Iliad – 15-1 (94) – 2nd in the San Felipe Stakes
12. Irish War Cry 15-1 (76) – 7th in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
13. J Boys Echo – 10-1 (104) – 1st in the Gotham Stakes
14. Malagacy – 30-1 (95) – 1st in the Rebel Stakes
15. McCraken – 6-1 (99) – 1st in the Sam F. Davis Stakes
16. Mo Town – 50-1 (86) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes
17. One Liner – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Southwest Stakes
18. Practical Joke – 12-1 (95) – 2nd in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
19. Reach the World – 50-1 (91) – 2nd in an Allowance race at Santa Anita Park
20. State of Honor – 50-1 (96) – 2nd in the Tampa Bay Derby
21. Tapwrit – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Tampa Bay Derby
22. Thunder Snow (Ire) – 15-1 (Unknown) – 1st in the UAE Derby
23. Untrapped – 50-1 (93) – 2nd in the Rebel Stakes
24. Mutuel Field/All Others 10-1

Below are the last 15 Kentucky Derby winners and their Brisnet Speed Figure in their 2nd to last start before the Kentucky Derby (which is where we are at today). Compare the horses above to the previous winners below. 

2016: Nyquist (103) – 1st in San Vicente Stakes 
2015: American Pharoah (99) – 1st in Rebel Stakes
2014: California Chrome (102) – 1st in San Felipe Stakes
2013: Orb (102) – 1st in Fountain of Youth Stakes
2012: I’ll Have Another (102) – 1st in Robert B. Lewis Stakes
2011: Animal Kingdom (96) – 2nd place finish in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2010: Super Saver (99) – 3rd in Tampa Bay Derby
2009: Mine That Bird (87) – 2nd in the Borderland Derby
2008: Big Brown (102) – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2007: Street Sense (105) – 1st in the Tampa Bay Derby
2006: Barbaro (104) – 1st in the Holy Bull Stakes
2005: Giacomo (96) – 2nd in the San Felipe Stakes
2004: Smarty Jones (109) – 1st in the Rebel Stakes
2003: War Emblem (105) – 1st in an Allowance race at Sportsman Park
2002: Monarchos (108) – 1st in the Florida Derby

The common denominator is a 3rd place finish or better in their 2nd to last Derby prep and a Brisnet speed figure of 87 or higher. With this information, the following pool horses who didn’t satisfy both requirements:

# Horse – M/L Odds – Brisnet Speed Figure in Last Start
1. Always Dreaming – 50-1  (84)  – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
8. Gormley – 20-1 (91) – 4th in the San Felipe Stakes
9. Guest Suite – 50-1 (93) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes
12. Irish War Cry 15-1 (76) – 7th in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
16. Mo Town – 50-1 (86) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes

This has been a wide-open year on the Kentucky Derby trail with injuries and inconsistency. Based upon historical trends, the horses below are the only ones who I would plunk money down on in a Future Wager. I have Bold-Fonted the most serious Kentucky Derby contenders. You should wait to see how Girvin and Gunnevera perform this Saturday before making any future wagers on them.

# Horse – M/L Odds – Brisnet Speed Figure in Last Start
1. Always Dreaming – 50-1  (84)  – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2. Battalion Runner – 30-1 (96) – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
4. Classic Empire – 12-1 (92) – 3rd Place in the Holy Bull Stakes
13. J Boys Echo – 10-1 (104) – 1st in the Gotham Stakes
14. Malagacy – 30-1 (95) – 1st in the Rebel Stakes
15. McCraken – 6-1 (99) – 1st in the Sam F. Davis Stakes
17. One Liner – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Southwest Stakes
21. Tapwrit – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Tampa Bay Derby

8 1/2 Furlong Times – 1:43 and Under

The most common distance that the Kentucky Derby class has run thus far is 8 1/2 furlongs (1 1/16th mile). Four out of the last five Kentucky Derby winners all had a winning time below 1:43 in an 8 1/2 furlong race during their prep season. 

Nyquist  – 1:43.79 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
American Pharoah  – 1:41.95 – 2014 FrontRunner Stakes
California Chrome – 1:40.59 – 2014 San Felipe Stakes
Orb – 1:42.24 – 2013 Fountain of Youth Stakes
I’ll Have Another – 1:40.84 – 2012 Robert Lewis Stakes

What KDFW Pool #4 horses satisfy this rule?

One Liner – 1:41.85 – 2017 Southwest Stakes
Tapwrit – 1:42.36 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby
McCraken – 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Irish War Cry – 1:42.52 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes
Classic Empire – 1:42.60 – 2016 Breedes’ Cup Juvenile

Note that McCraken beat Tapwrit in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and Irish War Cry beat Classic Empire in the Holy Bull Stakes. However, Irish War Cry pooped out in his last start with a 7th place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.  And Always Dreaming has never raced at the 8 1/2 furlong distance but already has at the 9 furlong distance twice.

Overall, the fastest two horses in this class by their top speed figure are:  One Liner (102 Beyer, 101 Brisnet and 117 E-Speed) in the 2017 Southwest Stakes and  Classic Empire (102 Beyer, 108 Brisnet and 108 E-Speed) in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Classic Empire is a bit of a gamble. He has had his prep race after the Holy Bull Stakes pushed back several times by a foot abscess problem and refusing to workout on several occasions at his Palm Meadows training center. However, he is back in training at a different facility. The best value horse based upon their morning line odds is Malagacy at 30-1. However, he didn’t race as a 2-year-old, something that every Kentucky Derby winner has done since 1998. 

My Advice for KDFW Pool #4

Bet on the three horses below. 

#1 Always Dreaming, #7 One Liner and #15 McCraken

Note that if McCraken and One Liner don’t finish third or better in their final prep, they may be on the outside looking in as far as to getting into the Kentucky Derby. McCraken has 20 points, One Liner has 10. They will likely need 30 to 35 points to be assured of a Kentucky Derby starting spot. Last year it took 32 points to get a starting spot in the Derby. At this time last year, Nyquist had 30 points and Exaggerator 26. Nyquist won the Florida Derby, Exaggerator won the Santa Anita Derby. Nyquist and Exaggerator finished 1-2 in the Kentucky Derby.

UPDATED ODDS – April 1st 5:20 PM EST

Below are the top live odds horses in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool. What you should strive to achieve is 3X greater odds than what you would get on Kentucky Derby day because of unknown post-position draws and unexpected injuries and performances along the way:

Gunnevera – 8/1  <— Not impressive in the Florida Derby, don’t waste your money
McCraken – 5/1 <—A serious contender but I like him at 9-1 or higher.
Always Dreaming – 6/1 <–Impressive Florida Derby performance.
Classic Empire – 9/1 <— Odds way too low based upon his temperamental past.
Tapwrit – 10/1 <—He’s assured a spot in the Derby but he’s not Pletcher’s best colt

Value picks:  Malagacy – 16-1 and One Liner – 18/1 

What horses are assured a Kentucky Derby starting spot? Thundersnow (100)Gunnevera (64), Tapwrit (54), Malagacy (50), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50), Hence (50), Fast and Accurate (50), Practical Joke (34), Untrapped (34) and Classic Empire (32).


On the docket…

My next blog will include updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings which I will post by Monday evening.

–Michael

Mastery brilliant in the San Felipe but off the Derby trail. Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby contender rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

March 13th 2017

Mastery performed brilliantly Saturday in the San Felipe Stakes (shown below) with an excellent time of 1:42.28 and 105 Beyer Speed Figure. However, he suffered a condylar fracture to his left front leg and will have surgery today. These are repairable and a horse can usually come back racing depending upon the severity. If not, they will have to be retired to stud. At any rate, Mastery is off the Derby trail and if all goes well, we could see him back racing in the 2nd half of the season.

I am almost afraid to have a Kentucky Derby favorite. My early Kentucky Derby Not This Time had to be taken off the Derby trail and retired back in November due to a soft tissue injury to his right front leg. My next Derby favorite, Classic Empire, has had foot abscess and back issues. Now this unfortunate news for Mastery who I briefly had as my #1 after Classic Empire’s 3rd place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes and One Liner’s Southwest Stakes performance.

In the grand scheme of things, the 2017 Kentucky Derby is so wide open at this point that it might be best to draw names out of a hat. Injuries and inconsistency have kept every handicapper on their toes. This has been kind of a weird year and it appears that the best Derby contenders aren’t on the West Coast this year. We will have a better handle on who the Kentucky Derby favorite will be after the three major final prep races on April 8th. But for now, here are my Top Six Kentucky Derby contenders.

Top Six 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) One Liner – The undefeated son of Into Mischief. His win in the Southwest Stakes earned him a triple digit 102 Beyer Speed Figure, tied for 2nd best of this class in their 3 year-old campaign. I wrote a Kentucky Derby profile on him for US Racing that you can read by clicking HERE. There are questions regarding how he will take to added distance but for now, he’s my #1 for now. Next Start:  Undecided at this point. Todd Pletcher may opt to run him in one more race before the Kentucky Derby. My guess is that it will be the Florida Derby on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.85 2017 Southwest Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2017 Southwest Stakes

2) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. Later it was found that he was suffering from an undetected foot abscess. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE).  Classic Empire had a minor issue in a previous workout and refused to run. However, he ran 4 furlongs in 48.95 yesterday (March 12th) at his Palm Meadows training center. If Classic Empire is 100% healthy, he’s probably the most talented colt in this class. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th. 

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

3) McCraken – The son of Ghostzapper is undefeated in 4 starts. One of his big wins was in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. So there are no concerns of how he will take to the track surface at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes 

4) Tapwrit – The Tampa Bay Derby winner. He finished 2nd to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis Stakes back in February. His pedigree suggests that he will like added distance. And he has a greater trainer in Todd Pletcher behind him. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire:  Tapit
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.36 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby

5) Girvin – The Risen Star Stakes winner. His sire, Tale of Ekati, won the 2008 Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. He has excellent closing speed. His Risen Star stakes time of 1:43.08 was 0.86 seconds faster than what Gun Runner accomplished the previous year (1:43.94). And Gun Runner finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Girvin is probably not a Kentucky Derby winner but one to keep an eye on and on your early radar for your Derby Day exotic bets. Next Start: The Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.08 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

6Royal Mo The winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. A son of Uncle Mo like his half-brother Mo Town and last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. Same owner/trainer combination as Zenyatta (Moss/Shirreffs) and his Derby trail rival Gormley. Next Start: The Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 18th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)

Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.48 – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94  – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes

On my radar:  J Boys Echo, Gunnevera, Practical Joke, Petrov, American Anthem, Uncontested, Irish War Cry, Iliad, Untrapped, Malagacy, El Areeb and Unique Bella although I haven’t heard anything to suggest she will skip the Kentucky Oaks in favor of the Derby. 


Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park – March 18th

Coming up this Saturday at Oaklawn Park is another key race on the Derby trail that carries a $900,000 purse and 85 Derby points. The Rebel has historically spawned some great champions the past 15 years. Below are the rumored entries for the Rebel Stakes with notable Beyer Speed Figures (BSF). Royal Mo or American Anthem will probably be the early morning line favorite.

Royal Mo – Victor Espinoza/John Shirreffs  – 94 BSF in Robert B. Lewis Stakes win
American Anthem – Mike Smith/Bob Baffert  – 94 BSF in Sham Stakes 2nd place finish
Petrov –  Jose Ortiz/Ron Moquett  – 96 BSF in Southwest Stakes 2nd place finish
Malagacy – Javier Castellano/Todd Pletcher – 95 BSF at Gulfstream Park win
Uncontested – Channing Hill/Wayne Catalano  – 96 BSF in Smarty Jones Stakes win
Untrapped – Ricardo Santana Jr./Steve Asmussen  – 92 BSF in Withers Stakes win
Lookin At Lee – ?/Steve Asmussen – 83 BSF in Breeders Cup Juvenile 4th place finish
Silver Dust – Corey Lanerie/Randy Morse  
Silver Bullion – Ramon Vazquez/D. Wayne Lukas 

Notable winners of the Rebel Stakes since 2004

  • American Pharoah (2015) – The 13th Triple Crown champion and the first Grand Slam Champion of thoroughbred racing.
  • Curlin (2007) – 2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders Cup Classic winner who went on to win the 2007 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award, 2008 Eclipse Older Dirt Male Champion award and Horse of the Year honors in 2007 and 2008.
  • Smarty Jones (2004) – who went on to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the 2004 Eclipse Male 3 Year Old Champion award
  • Lookin At Lucky (2010) – 2010 Preakness Stakes winner who went on to win the 2010 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award
  • Lawyer Ron (2006) – who won the 2007 Eclipse Older Dirt Male Champion award
  • Will Take Charge (2013) – 2013 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion

Other notable Rebel Stakes runners: Afleet Alex who finished 6th in 2005 Rebel Stakes went on to win the 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes and the 2005 Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award. Oxbow finished 2nd in the 2013 Rebel Stakes and went on to win the Preakness Stakes that year. Creator finished 3rd in last year’s Rebel Stakes went on to win the 2016 Belmont Stakes.


Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Gunnevera (64), Tapwrit (54), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50) and Practical Joke (34). All have enough Derby points historically to earn a starting spot in the Run for the Roses.

–Michael

Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings for Early March

 

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

March 6th 2017

The 2017 Kentucky Derby is WIDE OPEN. Usually by this stage of the Derby trail season, I have a couple of favorites and one usually goes on to win the Kentucky Derby. There is a ton of talent in this year’s crop of Derby hopefuls but many have proven to be inconsistent or hampered by injuries thus far. 

My surefire early Kentucky Derby favorite, Not This Time, had to be retired due a soft tissue injury to his right front leg back in November. My next favorite, Classic Empire, has been hampered by a foot abscess that explained his lackluster performance in the Holy Bull Stakes. Now he is bothered by back issues and refused to run in his last workout at his Palm Meadows training center. This will set his training schedule back a bit but there is still plenty of time to get him healthy and entered in one of the final Derby prep races.

With as inconsistent as many of the 3 year-olds have been in my previous Top 10 Kentucky Derby contender rankings, I decided to limit my new rankings to the Top Six Derby contenders. As you can tell, I wasn’t blown away with the performances in the Gotham and Fountain of Youth Stakes. J Boys Echo received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 102 for his Gotham Stakes win despite a very pedestrian time of 1:46.34 for 8 1/2 furlongs. The 2nd slowest Gotham Stakes ever? 102 Beyer? To borrow a phrase from the character Spicoli in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High: TOTALLY confusing Mr. Hand. Perhaps on an off track but it was a dry, fast track?

Then Gunnevera received a preliminary 97 Beyer Speed Figure for his Fountain of Youth Stakes win, the same Beyer Speed Figure as Irish War Cry received in the Holy Bull Stakes, despite Gunnevera running the same 8 1/2 furlong distance on the same Gulfstream Park track–1.73 seconds slower. You’ve got to be kidding me Andrew Beyer. Expect both of these speed figures to be adjusted downward.

And to make the 2017 Kentucky Derby even more up in the air, my new #1 Kentucky Derby Contender, One Liner, doesn’t have a pedigree that suggests that he should be ranked #1. But sometimes with pedigrees, there is a paralysis in overanalysis. We will see how this plays out over the next 5 weeks. However, I have been scrambling ever since Not This Time was retired and Classic Empire’s foot abscess issues.

Top Six 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) One Liner – The undefeated son of Into Mischief. His win in the Southwest Stakes earned him a triple digit 102 Beyer Speed Figure, the best of this class in their 3 year-old campaign. I wrote a Kentucky Derby profile on him for US Racing that you can read by clicking HERE. There are questions regarding how he will take to added distance but for now, he’s my #1 for now. Next Start:  Undecided at this point. Todd Pletcher may opt to run him in one more race before the Kentucky Derby. That is risky as he may not earn enough Derby points if he falters with a third place or worse finish.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.85 2017 Southwest Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2017 Southwest Stakes

2) Mastery His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 in the Los Alamitos Futurity is the best so far from this class. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt.  Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.562016 Los Alamitos Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

3) McCraken – The son of Ghostzapper is undefeated in 4 starts. One of his big wins was in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. So there are no concerns of how he will take to the track surface at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8th.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes 

4) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. Later it was found that he was suffering from an undetected foot abscess. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE).  He is tied with One Liner for the highest Beyer Speed Figure (102) in this class for races greater than 8 furlongs. Next Start: Unknown due to his recent back issues. However, trainer Mark Casse is still hopeful of entering him in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 8th. If this doesn’t pan out, he still has the Arkansas Derby the following Saturday.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

5) Girvin – The Risen Star Stakes winner. His sire, Tale of Ekati, won the 2008 Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. He has excellent closing speed. His Risen Star stakes time of 1:43.08 was 0.86 seconds faster than what Gun Runner accomplished the previous year (1:43.94). And Gun Runner finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Girvin is probably not a Kentucky Derby winner but one to keep an eye on and on your early radar for your Derby Day exotic bets. Next Start: The Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on April 1st.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.08 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Risen Star Stakes

6Royal Mo The winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. A son of Uncle Mo like his half-brother Mo Town. Same owner/trainer combination as Zenyatta (Moss/Shirreffs) and his Derby trail rival Gormley. Next Start: The Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 18th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)

Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.48 – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93  – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes


Who’s in the Kentucky Derby? Gunnevera (64), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50) and Practical Joke (34). All have enough Derby points historically to earn a starting spot in the Run for the Roses.

–Michael

Holy Bull! Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

February 8th 2017

They say all great empires fall eventually. The Roman Empire lasted 507 years. The Persian Empire lasted about 200 years. And the 2 year-old Eclipse champion Classic Empire’s reign over his thoroughbred peers lasted a mere 91 days, having been upset in the Holy Bull Stakes this past Saturday. Who beat him? A young upstart gladiator by the name of Irish War Cry who had 15-1 morning line odds.

Classic Empire’s trainer Mark Casse was at a loss for words for his disappointing performance. However, he did say that Classic Empire fretted on the hour trip south from his Palm Meadows Training facility to the racetrack. He balked about loading into the starting gate. He did get bumped a bit in the early going but he was right where he needed to be stalking the pace. Classic Empire did improve on his final fraction time from his previous race. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race, he ran the final 2 1/2 furlongs in 32.12 seconds compared to the Holy Bull where I calculate that he ran it in roughly 31.8 seconds. He just didn’t have the acceleration necessary to catch Irish War Cry and eventually was passed by the late-charging Gunnevera (shown bel0w).

To say that this was a big upset would be an understatement. Shocking? Nope. It happens to a lot of great young thoroughbreds when they transition from 2 to 3. As 3 year-olds, some take off, others regress. Remember last year with Mohaymen? On closer inspection, Classic Empire had four workouts as a 3 year-old prior to the Holy Bull and he threw out a subpar time of 1:03.90 through 5 furlongs in has last workout on January 28th. He had never ran 5 furlongs this slow from published workout records available on Equibase.com (SEE). So something was up with him.

The good news is that Classic Empire appears to be in perfect health. He checked out fine after the race. So the next question is, has lost fire in his belly and that competitive drive? Or did he have a slight ailment that cannot be easily found? Or simply was this just first-race back jitters after a significant layoff. We will see. In 2003, Funny Cide (who was undefeated in 3 starts as a 2 year-old) threw a clunker 5th place finish in the Holy Bull and went on to win the Kentucky Derby. But for now, the 2017 Kentucky Derby trail should be deemed as wide open.

Below are my updated Top 10 Kentucky Derby contender rankings. So be prepared for a wild and fantastic road ahead to the first Saturday in May’s Run For the Roses. Can you believe it’s only 87 days away?

Top 10 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Mastery Mastery received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his very first start. He followed this impressive maiden victory with wins in the Bob Hope Stakes (87 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Los Alamitos Futurity (91 Beyer Speed Figure). His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 is the best so far from this class. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt.  Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.562016 Los Alamitos Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

2) Irish War Cry – Undefeated in three starts. The son of Curlin impressed in the Holy Bull Stakes (shown below). He has a Kentucky Derby winning trainer and jockey behind him. His future is very bright. An early favorite for the Florida Derby. Next Start: The Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 4th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Curlin (Finished 3rd in the 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Graham Motion (2011 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.52 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes

3) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). However, he is somewhat temperamental (remember his previous gate issue?) and that is concerning. I dropped him from 1st to 3rd in my rankings due to his unpredictability. But the talent is there. He still has the highest Beyer Speed Figure (102) in this class for races greater than 8 furlongs. Next Start: Unknown but he won’t race at Gulfstream Park again according to trainer Mark Casse. So with this in mind, the Tampa Bay Derby or the Rebel Stakes seem to be the most attractive fits on the Derby trail schedule.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Gormley He comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes–beating the race favorite Klimt. He followed this effort with a disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He is a talented horse and bounced back like I thought he would with a nice win and 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Sham Stakes on January 7th. Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>7th–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2017 Sham Stakes

5) Uncontested  My early Arkansas Derby favorite. The winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes produced a record-breaking time of 1:36.32 in sloppy conditions over this two-turn 1 Mile race at Oaklawn Park. He received a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. Uncontested has a good pedigree. As a 2 year old, his sire Tiz Wonderful was undefeated in 3 starts and produced Beyer Speed Figures of 99 and 101 before taken off the Derby trail in January of his 3 year-old campaign due to injury. His grand sire Tiznow won two Breeders’ Cup Classics. His grandsire on his dam’s side, Lil E. Tee, won the 1992 Kentucky Derby. So he should like added distance and be one to watch closely going forward. I would rank him higher, just need a dry, fast track win for confirmation. Next Start: The Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on February 20th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>1st
Sire:  Tiz Wonderful
Trainer: Wayne Catalano 
Jockey: Channing Hill
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.97 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2017 Smarty Jones Stakes

6) Gunnevera – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner (shown below). He had a nice late run in the Holy Bull Stakes to capture 2nd place. His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Next Start: To be determined.

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Dialed In (Finished 8th in 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.12 (calculated) – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  89 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes

7Royal Mo The recent winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. A son of Uncle Mo like his half-brother Mo Town. Same owner/trainer combination as Gormley, the Moss’s and trainer John Shirreffs now have two legitimate Derby contenders. They will be split up so that they don’t knock heads until the Kentucky Derby. Next Start: Not confirmed but I am guessing at Oaklawn Park for either the Rebel Stakes or Arkansas Derby. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)

Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.48 – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93  – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes

8) McCraken – Undefeated in 3 starts, the son of Ghostzapper stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and passed with flying colors. As long as he stays healthy, pencil him in for the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 11th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.15 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

9) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But he is training well at Palm Meadows and should be considered an early Wood Memorial race favorite. Next Start: The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

10) Mo Town – The Remsen Stakes winner (shown below). His winning time of 1:51.58 was way off of what Mohaymen produced last year in this race at 1:50.69. However, he did display a decent closing speed of 36 mph in the final 3 furlongs. For comparison purposes, Classic Empire had a closing speed of 35.02 mph in the final 2 1/2 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. So keep a close eye on this one as a 3 year-old. Next Start: Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Anthony Dutrow
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.23 (estimated) – 2016 Remsen Stakes 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.58 – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Remsen Stakes


 On the docket…

My next blog will likely be a preview of the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs scheduled this Saturday February 11th that will feature McCraken. Or perhaps I will write on the 2017 Dubai World Cup and the contenders for that race which is expected to include the undisputed #1 ranked horse in the world–Arrogate.

–Michael

Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings – Classic Empire still #1

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

January 31st 2017

The 2017 Kentucky Derby trail is in full swing with a new major contender added to the fray and Derby trail points leader, Classic Empire, set to race this coming Saturday in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. As I have said multiple times in my previous blogs, the 2017 Kentucky Derby class is a very talented and deep one despite the unexpected early retirement of Not This Time due to injury. So 2017 is going to be an exciting season for 3 year-olds and then we have two dynamic stars in Songbird and Arrogate in the older horse division. 

Below are my early favorites for the final Derby prep races. A lot can change over the next couple of months but these horses appear to be the front-runners right now. Note that Klimt, now under the training of Art Sherman, will not be pointed  towards the Kentucky Derby as he will be given time off :

Louisiana Derby – Lookin At Lee
Florida Derby – Classic Empire
Wood Memorial – Practical Joke
Santa Anita Derby – Mastery
Blue Grass Stakes – McCraken
Arkansas Derby – Uncontested

Below is my updated Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contender rankings. A few horses have moved up or down due to how they have been training:

2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Classic Empire – My early 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite due to the unexpected retirement of Not This Time. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). Note that very few Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners go on to win the Kentucky Derby. But it can be done. Street Sense and Nyquist accomplished this rare feat. Next Start: The Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: DNF–>1st–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

2) Mastery Mastery received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his very first start, the best Beyer Speed Figure for a first-time starter in this 2 year old class. He followed this impressive maiden victory with wins in the Bob Hope Stakes (87 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Los Alamitos Futurity (91 Beyer Speed Figure). His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 is the best so far from this class. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt.  Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.562016 Los Alamitos Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

3) Gormley He comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes–beating the race favorite Klimt. He followed this effort with a disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He is a talented horse and bounced back like I thought he would with a nice win and 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Sham Stakes on January 7th. Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>7th–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2017 Sham Stakes

4) Uncontested   My early Arkansas Derby favorite. The winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes produced a record-breaking time of 1:36.32 in sloppy conditions over this two-turn 1 Mile race at Oaklawn Park. He received a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. Add another half furlong of his prorated final fraction time of 12.84 and his time would have been 1:42.74 through 8 1/2 furlongs. For comparison, American Pharoah ran a 1:45.78 in the sloppy 8 1/2 furlong Rebel Stakes in 2015 at Oaklawn Park. Uncontested has a good pedigree. As a 2 year old, his sire Tiz Wonderful was undefeated in 3 starts and produced Beyer Speed Figures of 99 and 101 before taken off the Derby trail in January of his 3 year-old campaign due to injury. His grand sire Tiznow won two Breeders’ Cup Classics. His grandsire on his dam’s side, Lil E. Tee, won the 1992 Kentucky Derby. So he should like added distance and be one to watch closely going forward. I would rank him higher, just need a dry, fast track win for confirmation. Next Start: The Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on February 20th.

Career:3 Starts 2-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>4th–>1st
Sire:  Tiz Wonderful
Trainer: Wayne Catalano 
Jockey: Channing Hill
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.97 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2016 Smarty Jones Stakes

5) McCraken –  Undefeated in 3 starts, the son of Ghostzapper stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and passed with flying colors. As long as he stays healthy, pencil him in for the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 11th.

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.15 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

6) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But for now, he is really the most proven 2 year-old after Classic Empire. Next Start: The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

7) Three Rules – Surprisingly he was left off Mike Battaglia’s 2nd Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he ran 3rd in the early portion of the race and finished 6th after getting off to poor start out of the gate. Previously, he was undefeated in five starts at Gulfstream Park. His sire Gone Astray never raced further than 9 furlongs and his biggest win was the 2009 Pennsylvania Derby. Next Start: Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>6th
Sire: Gone Astray
Trainer: Jose Pinchin
Jockey: Cornelio Velasquez
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) Gunnevera – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner (shown below). His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Gunnevera’s winning time of 1:45.15 was the 4th fastest Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes in thirteen runnings at the 8 1/2 furlong distance. Exaggerator won last year’s Delta Downs Jackpot in sloppy track conditions with a time of 1:46.48. Next Start: The Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Dialed In
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.51 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  87 – Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes

9) Lookin At Lee – Much like Steve Asmussen’s Gun Runner was last year, a very consistent horse thus far. He finished 2nd behind Not This Time in the Iroquois Stakes, 2nd behind Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity and then 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Perhaps he will improve as a 3 year-old and he is training well at the Fair Grounds. His sire Looking At Lucky, finished 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Then as a 3 year old, he won the Rebel Stakes, finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby, finished 6th in the Kentucky Derby, then won the Preakness Stakes, the Haskell Invitational, the Indiana Derby and finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Next Start: An educated guess, the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds on February 25th.

Career: 6 Starts 2-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.52 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 83 – 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

10) Mo Town – The son of Uncle Mo, so that makes him Nyquist’s half-brother. The recent winner of the 9 furlong Remsen Stakes (shown below). His winning time of 1:51.58 was way off of what Mohaymen produced last year in this race at 1:50.69. However, he did display a decent closing speed of 36.09 mph in the final 3 furlongs. For comparison purposes, Classic Empire had a closing speed of 35.02 mph in the final 2 1/2 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. So keep a close eye on this one as a 3 year-old. Next Start: Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Anthony Dutrow
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.23 (estimated) – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.58 – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Remsen Stakes


 On the docket…

My next blog will preview the Holy Bull Stakes and the San Antonio Handicap. The Holy Bull Stakes is expected to include three of my top 10 Derby contenders in Classic Empire, Three Rules, Gunnevera. Expected entries in the San Antonio Handicap are Melatonin, Hoppertunity, Dalmore, Mor Spirit and Accelerate.

–Michael

2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders – Final 2 year old rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

December 22nd 2016

As we head into the new year, below is my Top 10 2017 Kentucky Derby contenders. This my final ranking of the 2 year-old class of 2016. A snapshot in time of where I think the 2017 Kentucky Derby class is currently. As history suggests, things can change. Horses who had spotty success as 2 year-olds can mature and elevate into greatness as 3 year-olds. Even if they have a mediocre pedigree. Just review California Chrome’s career as one shining example. Nothing California Chrome did as a 2 year-old suggested the greatness that would follow. So you just never know, predicting future Kentucky Derby winners by their 2 year-old career is not an exact science.

Back in my September 8th blog titled2017 Kentucky Derby Watch List–Klimt leads the pack,I listed ten 2 year-old Kentucky Derby hopefuls to watch. Towards the end of the blog, I wrote the following: “Especially keep an eye on any 2 year-old that jockey Mike Smith chooses to ride. A Hall of Fame jockey, Mike magically seems to find his way on some of the best horses.”

I am not Nostradamus but POOF, the Bob Baffert-trained, Mike Smith-ridden Mastery became the 2nd favorite behind Classic Empire in the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool in November after winning the Bob Hope Stakes. Then Mastery laid down a very impressive time of 1:41.56 in the 2016 Los Alamitos Futurity (shown below) a couple of weeks ago. This is the best 8 1/2 furlong (1 1/16 mile) time of any 2 year-old in this class. 

I still believe rather strongly that Not This Time would have been the 2017 Kentucky Derby winner had his career not been cut short by injury. That being said, I have been very high on Classic Empire and now I am very impressed with Mastery who appears to be his chief rival. In fact, I think this is your very early 2017 Kentucky Derby Exacta Box provided they both stay healthy. It will be hard to bet against Bob Baffert and Mike Smith with Mastery. 

Even though Mastery’s time through 8 1/2 furlongs is a full second faster than Classic Empire has run to date, I will add that Classic Empire’s run at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was more taxing due to the warm weather they had in the LA area that day. And given another month and cooler temperatures, I am confident that Classic Empire would be able to cut down his time.

And also note that Dortmund produced a time of 1:40.86 in the 2014 Los Alamitos Futurity and he finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Had Mastery eclipsed Dortmun’s time, I would have ranked him #1.

So without further adieu, here is my final 2017 Kentucky Derby rankings for the 2 year-old class:

2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Classic Empire – My early 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite due to the unexpected retirement of Not This Time. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). Note that very few Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners go on to win the Kentucky Derby. But it can be done. Street Sense and Nyquist accomplished this rare feat. 

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: DNF–>1st–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

2) Mastery   Mastery received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his very first start, the best Beyer Speed Figure for a first-time starter in this 2 year old class. He followed this impressive maiden victory with wins in the Bob Hope Stakes (87 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Los Alamitos Futurity (91 Beyer Speed Figure). His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 is the best so far from this class. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt. 

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.562016 Los Alamitos Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

3) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But for now, he is really the most proven 2 year-old after Classic Empire.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Gormley He 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. He followed this effort with a disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Since this was only his 3rd start, he deserves a mulligan because we know he can do better.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes

5) Klimt  Owned by Kaleem Shah and trained by Bob Baffert–the same combination that produced Bayern and Dortmund. 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. Like Gormley in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a disappointing effort with an 8th place finish. Concerning is the fact that he has finished behind Gormley two races in a row.

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>8th
Sire: Quality Road
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.05 (calculated) – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Del Mar Futurity

6) Gunnevera – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner (shown below). His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Gunnevera’s winning time of 1:45.15 was the 4th fastest Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes in thirteen runnings at the 8 1/2 furlong distance. Exaggerator won last year’s Delta Downs Jackpot in sloppy track conditions with a time of 1:46.48.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Dialed In
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.51 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  87 – Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes

7) McCraken –  Undefeated in 3 starts, the son of Ghostzapper stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and passed with flying colors. As long as he stays healthy, pencil him in for the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs.

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.15 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

8) Three Rules – He finished 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Previously, he was undefeated in five starts at Gulfstream Park. His sire Gone Astray never raced further than 9 furlongs and his biggest win was the 2009 Pennsylvania Derby. I believe he will be one of the early favorites for the Florida Derby.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>6th
Sire: Gone Astray
Trainer: Jose Pinchin
Jockey: Cornelio Velasquez
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

9) Mo Town – The son of Uncle Mo, so that makes him Nyquist’s half-brother. The recent winner of the 9 furlong Remsen Stakes (shown below). His winning time of 1:51.58 was way off of what Mohaymen produced last year in this race at 1:50.69. However, he did display a decent closing speed of 36.09 mph in the final 3 furlongs. For comparison purposes, Classic Empire had a closing speed of 35.02 mph in the final 2 1/2 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. So keep a close eye on this one as a 3 year-old.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Anthony Dutrow
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.23 (estimated) – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.58 – 2016 Remsen Stakes

Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Remsen Stakes

10) Lookin At Lee – Much like Steve Asmussen’s Gun Runner was this year, a very consistent horse thus far. He finished 2nd behind Not This Time in the Iroquois Stakes, 2nd behind Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity and then 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Perhaps he will improve as a 3 year-old. His sire Looking At Lucky, finished 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Then as a 3 year old, he won the Rebel Stakes, finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby, finished 6th in the Kentucky Derby, then won the Preakness Stakes, the Haskell Invitational, the Indiana Derby and finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 6 Starts 2-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.52 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 83 – 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity


On the docket…

What was the most exciting horse race in 2016? There were many great ones but in my next blog, I will unveil my vote for most exciting race in 2016 with corresponding unpublished photos and video that I captured of this race. Plus I’ll give my picks for the Eclipse Award winners.

After this, I will preview the 2017 San Pasqual Stakes scheduled for New Year’s Day that is expected to be a Pegasus World Cup tune-up for Arrogate. Stay tuned!

-Michael

Not This Time Retired. 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #1 Odds

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Not This Time (#10) battles Classic Empire (#9) in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 

November 21st 2016 (Updated November 26th 2016 @12:30PM CST)

Unfortunate news, the extremely promising Dale Romans-trained 2 year old colt, Not This Time, was retired today due to a soft tissue injury to his right front leg. The good news is that he will be fine and will begin a stud career next year at Taylor Made Stallions in Nicholasville, Kentucky. His stud fee was set at $15,000. A very reasonable price.

Not This Time was my early Kentucky Derby favorite. I will add that I correctly named Nyquist as my way too early 2016 Kentucky Derby favorite seven months in advance of the Derby. So this a huge blow. Not This Time shared 8-1 odds with Classic Empire in the recently released 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wagers Pool #1. This pool can be viewed by clicking HERE.

Not This Time and Classic Empire had a wonderful battle in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race shown below. Classic Empire won by a neck but I feel that if this race had been 9 or 10 furlongs, Not This Time would caught and passed him for the win. When you rewatch the race, Not This Time got hemmed in a little behind the lead pack around the three-quarter pole and was forced to go wide to the outside. This is disappointing and unfortunate news but part of thoroughbred racing.

With the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #1 coming up in three days, below are six horses to consider for your future wager. The Pool will run from Thursday, November 24th at 11 AM CST until Sunday, November 27th at 5 PM CST. You can access the live odds starting on Thursday afternoon by clicking HERE.

Six horses to consider for you 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #1

Next to their name, I have included each horse’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager Morning Line Odds and their sire odds in the Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager Pool in parenthesis. You can see the the Sire Future Wager Odds by clicking HERE.

1) Classic Empire (8/1)  – American Pharoah’s half-brother. Looks like his gate issues are behind him. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). With Not This Time’s unfortunate and unexpected early retirement, Classic Empire becomes my early Kentucky Derby favorite by default.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: DNF–>1st–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (12/1) (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

2) Gormley (20/1) – He 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. He followed this effort with a disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Since this was only his 3rd start, he deserves a mulligan because we know he can do better. I like the owner/trainer and jockey combination here and especially at 20/1 morning line odds.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st->7th
Sire: Malibu Moon (20/1)
Trainer: John Sherreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes

3) Practical Joke (15/1) The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But he is probably the most accomplished 2 year old after Classic Empire since Not This Time has been retired.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief (8/1 – ALL Others)
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Mastery (12/1)   He is trained by Bob Baffert. His jockey is Mike Smith. He is a half brother to the late Shared Belief. He received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his very first start, the best Beyer Speed Figure for a first-time starter in this 2 year old class. He followed this impressive maiden victory at Santa Anita Park with another win at Del Mar in the Bob Hope Stakes (shown below) this past Saturday. He received an 86 Beyer Speed Figure. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt. He will just need to prove himself past 7 furlongs. I suspect we might see him race next in the Los Alamitos Futurity on December 10th. 

Career: 2 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: N/A–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride (15/1)
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

5) Klimt (15/1)  Like Gormley in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a disappointing effort with an 8th place finish. Owned by Kaleem Shah and trained by Bob Baffert–the same combination that produced Bayern and Dortmund. 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. So Buyer Beware when it comes to your future wager.

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd->8th
Sire: Quality Road (8/1 – ALL Others)
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.05 (calculated) – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Del Mar Futurity

6) Gunnevera (15/1) – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner (shown below). His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Gunnevera’s winning time of 1:45.15 was the 4th fastest Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes in thirteen runnings at the 8 1/2 furlong distance. Exaggerator won last year’s Delta Downs Jackpot in sloppy track conditions with a time of 1:46.48.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Dialed In (8/1 – ALL Others)
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.51 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  87 – Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes

Three other horses that are on my radar if their live odds are greater than 30-1 or if they entered as expected and perform well this weekend in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes: McCraken and Just Move On

Takaful is expected to be an entry in the Remsen Stakes and was impressive in his first and only start thus far.


LIVE ODDS COMMENTARY – Updated 11/27/16 12:30 PM CST

Links to Live Future Wager Odds: Derby Horses and Sires

Generally speaking for these future wager pools, you try to get at least 3 times the Morning Line Odds for the Kentucky Derby favorite on Derby Day. Morning Line Odds for the last three Kentucky Derby favorites were: Nyquist 3-1, American Pharoah 5-2 and California Chrome 5-2. So question betting on any horse right now when their live odds are less than 7-1. A lot can happen over the next 23 weeks.

Currently, Classic Empire is at 5-1 and his sire Pioneerof the Nile is at 5-1. I would suggest watching Pioneerof the Nile‘s Sire odds vs Classic Empire‘s over the weekend. If they are about the same, you might as well place your bet on Pioneerof the Nile and pick up a few more prospects (ie. Irish Freedom who should be coming back from a pastern injury in late December).

“ALL Others” live odds–For Derby horses is 5-2. For Sires it is 6-1. All Others for Sires picks up some decent Derby contenders in Practical Joke, Klimt, Gunnevera, Lookin At Lee and Three Rules. That is a lot of eggs in the basket. You can usually hedge your way to a profit in these pools if you play it right.

Mastery at 8-1 is getting too much money thrown his way for a horse that has yet to run past 7 furlongs or compete in a two-turn race. Gormley at 26-1 and Klimt at 27-1 are more attractive hedge bets for my Kentucky Derby favorite (Classic Empire) at this point.

I would forget placing any bets on horses with 50-1 Morning Line Odds. None of them really entice me to waste one dollar on at this stage. Syndergaard at 15/1 Morning Line Odds will get a significant amount of money bet on him because he is trained by Todd Pletcher. Right now he is at 28-1. But note that he his sire Majesticperfection was a sprinter and Syndergaard’s speed figures have gone down as he has stretched out past 6 1/2 furlongs.

Also, I recommend placing a few Boxed Exacta bets using Classic Empire and his sire Pioneerof the Nile. Pairing them with “All Others” might be a good option here.

I watched the Remsen and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes today and I wasn’t overly impressed with any of the horses that ran in these races. Takaful had a disappointing, fading effort for third. McCraken seems to be the best of the horses in the future wager pool that ran today but his winning time of 1:44.15 wouldn’t elevate him into my Top 5. And Mo Town’s time of 1:51.58 was way off of what Mohaymen produced last year in this race at 1:50.69. He did display a nice closing speed that times out better than Gunnevera’s time in the Delta Downs Jackpot. McCraken, Wild Shot, Mo Town and No Dozing are probably Derby runners next May but none of them appear to be “hit the board” potential with these efforts.

–Michael

The Road to the 2017 Kentucky Derby continues with the Delta Downs Jackpot

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

November 16th 2016

Just when you thought the sport of horse racing had little to offer after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships until next season…comes the Delta Downs Jackpot. For 2 year-0ld thoroughbred colts, the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes carries the 2nd largest purse after the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at $1 Million dollars. Races on the Kentucky Derby Trail don’t carry this large of a purse until the final leg of the Derby Championship series in late March/early April.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race two weeks ago attracts the majority of the best 2-year-old colts in North America. However, this year, the Delta Downs Jackpot is two weeks after the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile instead of three weeks like it was last year. So some owners probably opted to skip the 14 horse field Breeders Cup Juvenile for this race unless they were overly confident of their chances of winning. Why? Because 1st place in the Delta Downs Jackpot payouts $600,000 and 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points vs 2nd place in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile which pays out $340,000 and 8 Derby qualifying points.

Exaggerator shot up the Kentucky Derby contender charts last year after his Delta Downs Jackpot win in the slop. He went on to win the Santa Anita Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Haskell Invitational. 2012 Delta Downs Jackpot winner Goldencents went on to win the 2013 Santa Anita Derby and two Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile championships in 2013 and 2014. The Delta Downs Jackpot has produced five Kentucky Derby runners the past two years: Exaggerator and Whitmore in 2015 and Ocho Ocho Ocho, Mr. Z and Far Right in 2014. That is just one less Derby runner than the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has produced that last two years. Yes, injuries played in role in this but a fact is a fact.

Money. Yes there is some big money horses in this field. Hot Sean was purchased as a yearling for $550,000, J Boys Echo for $485,000 as a yearling and Dangerfield for $450,00 as a yearling.

So needless to say with entries from trainers like Bob Baffert, Steve Asmussen, Doug O’Neill, Dale Romans and Mark Casse (who has two entries), the 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes is a race you should tune into and watch. I think there are probably three potential Kentucky Derby horses in this race. At present, none of them are close to my Fab Five (Not This Time, Classic Empire, Practical Joke, Gormley and Klimt) but a new star is born often along the way on the Derby trail.

Below are the post-positons, weights, jockeys and morning line odds.

The Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes  – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday November 19th – Race #7 at Delta Downs – Post-Time: 4:45 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Pat On the Back (122) – Albarado/McPeek – 15-1
2. Line Judge (122) – McMahon/Sharp – 6-1    
3. Thirstforlife (117) – Geroux/Casse- 8-1 
4. Our Stormin Norman (117) – Leparoux/Casse – 8-1 
5. Dangerfield (119) – Prat/O’Neill – 12-1  
6. Gunnevera (122) – Castellano/Sano -5-2 
7. Balandeen (117) – Hill/Hartman – 10-1
8. Hot Sean (117) – Pedroza/Baffert – 7-2  
9. J Boys Echo (117) – Desormeaux/Romans – 8-1 
10. Tip Tap Tapizar (119) – Melancon/Asmussen – 10-1  

Race Commentary: Gunnevera is the deserved race favorite having placed 5th in Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland against Classic Empire and Lookin At Lee. However, you never really know about 2 year-olds and how they will take to a track surface. Hot Sean is the 2nd morning line favorite and he has won his last two starts at Santa Anita Park. Dale Roman’s J Boys Echo broke his maiden in his last start at Keeneland and he picks up last year’s Delta Downs Jackpot winning jockey Kent Desormeaux. Mark Casse’s Our Stormin Norman has the highest career Beyer Speed (88) in the field accomplished in his maiden win in a 7 furlong race at Keenland. Overall, I think the race will come down to Gunnevera, Hot Sean, Thirstforlife and J Boys Echo

Thirstforlife ran 3rd in the Best Pal Stakes and 5th in the Iroquois Stakes before winning by a neck in his last start in an 1 1/16th mile allowance race at Keeneland (SEE). He ran the last 2 1/2 furlongs in 30.38 seconds which translates to a very good closing speed of 37 mph. And the track conditions that day was rated as “good” after some rain earlier in the day. Thirstforlife, J Boys Echo and Hot Sean are all racing 5 pounds lighter than Gunnevera. A lot of money will be on Gunnevera, Bob Baffert’s Hot Sean and Dale Roman’s J Boys Echo with Kent Desormeaux on board. So I like betting against the shorter odds horses and would bet on Mark Casse’s Thirstforlife. Casse is very high on this 2 year-0ld who is a half brother to Cavorting.

–Michael

2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders and Review of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

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November 9th 2016

The 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships provided some stellar racing and the Juvenile race (shown below) arguably was the 2nd best race of the event behind the Beholder-Songbird battle in the Distaff race. In my race preview, I thought this year’s  BC juvenile would come down to Not This Time and Classic Empire. However, what I didn’t expect, is that these two would finish so far ahead of the rest of the field. Classic Empire won by a neck and Practical Joke galloped home to finish third and 7 1/2 lengths behind 2nd place finisher Not This Time.

Gormley and Klimt enjoyed the home-track advantage over the East Coast and Midwest horses. Yet both had very puzzling and unexpected poor performances finishing 7th and 8th respectively. I am not alarmed. Two year-olds often throw a mulligan in along the way and I expect both horses to bounce back in the future. However, it is now very clear entering 2017 that Classic Empire and Not This Time are the early co-Kentucky Derby favorites, much like we had with American Pharoah and Dortmund two years ago.

Below are my current 2017 Kentucky Derby contender rankings. I have only ranked five horses because I don’t feel that any other 2 year-olds thus far are on the radar of the top 2. The knee-jerk reaction would be to rank Classic Empire #1 after his big win. He would get my vote for 2 year-old Horse of the Year. But he only won by a neck and I feel that if this race had been 9 or 10 furlongs, Not This Time would caught and passed him for the win. When you rewatch the race, Not This Time got hemmed in a little behind the lead pack around the three-quarter pole and was forced to go wide to the outside. 

2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders 

1) Not This Time  Dale Romans is very high on this Giant’s Causeway colt, calling him “spooky good”. He is Liam’s Map half-brother, the two sharing the same dam (mother) in Miss Macy Sue.  I feel he will get better as he stretches out past 8 1/2 furlongs.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Giant’s Causeway
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.64 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1022016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

2) Classic Empire – American Pharoah’s half-brother. Looks like his gate issues are behind him. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE).

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: DNF–>1st–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

3) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But for now, he is the best after the top 2.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Gormley He 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.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>1st–7th
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes

5) Klimt  Owned by Kaleem Shah and trained by Bob Baffert–the same combination that produced Bayern and Dortmund. 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: 6 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 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.05 (calculated) – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Del Mar Futurity

–Michael

My “way, way too early” 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite

notthistime-2016

September 22nd 2016

Judging from times and Beyer Speed Figures, get ready for a great Triple Crown season next year. The 2016 2 year-old class is a very deep and talented one and much better than last year’s class that included Nyquist, Exaggerator and Mohaymen and better than California Chrome and Shared Belief’s class thus far. And this talent extends itself even to turf. So don’t be surprised if North America produces a colt that will finally compete and beat the European turf horses.

This depth of talent has been the primary reason why I have been reluctant to anoint any 2 year-old thus far as my “way too early Kentucky Derby favorite” like I did one year ago this month with Nyquist. So I am going to scale it up one notch and reveal my “way, way too early 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite.”

Before doing so, I am going to give you my way too early favorites for each of the final North American prep races right before the Kentucky Derby.

Louisiana DerbyStraight Fire

Although he finshed 2nd to Klimt in the Del Mar Furity, his average Beyer Speed Figure in 3 starts is 90. This is the highest average Beyer Speed Figure of any 2 year-old thus far. I am not completely sold on his pedigree. His sire Dominus had moderate success , winning only one Grade 1 race (Dwyer Stakes) before switching to turf.

Much like Firing Line had to get separate from Dortmund on the Derby Trail two years ago, I feel after the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita and many losing battles against Klimt, that the Desormeaux brothers will convince Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing (based on the West Coast) to move their talented colt Straight Fire to the Fairgrounds. Although The Fairgrounds doesn’t have a sterling record of producing Kentucky Derby winners, it has a ton of great history and I feel that the track surface and humidity is a great training ground for the Derby. Steve Asmussen’s Gun Runner won the Louisiana Derby this year and finished third in the Kentucky Derby (much better than I expected). And running in the Louisiana Derby, you get an extra week of prep for the Derby. His Next Race: The FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita Park on October 1st.


Florida DerbyThree Rules

I am not sure what the Florida-bred “Three Rules” is named for. My best guess is: 1) Enter races at Gulfstream Park, 2) Run fast, 3) Win! The ringer of 2 year-old races at Gulfstream Park, he is undefeated in 4 starts. The 94 Beyer Speed Figure achieved in the Dr Fagar Stakes was his best career Beyer but I believe his best race was the Florida Affirmed Stakes shown below. His Next Race: The Florida Sire In Reality Stakes at Gulfstream Park on October 1st.


Santa Anita Derby Klimt

It’s hard to beat Bob Baffert at Santa Anita Park. From the same owner-trainer combination that brought you Bayern and Dortmund comes Klimt who is named after a famous, very controversial pseudo erotic Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. Long pause as many Google his artwork. At any rate, Kaleem Shah has another great colt in Klimt whose time of 1:21.80 in the Del Mar Futurity (shown below) was faster than Nyquist’s time of 1:23.28 in the same race last year. And just 0.32 seconds off of American Pharoah’s time of 1:21.48 in the Del Mar Futurity on a faster synthetic surface.

Klimt is a seriously talented colt with a good pedigree. His sire Quality Road won the Florida Derby, Met Mile, Donn Handicap and Woodward Stakes. Concerning is two separate quarter cracks that kept Quality Road out of all three legs of the Triple Crown. Hopefully this won’t be a problem for Klimt. His Next Race: The FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita Park on October 1st.


Blue Grass StakesNot This Time

Trainer Dale Romans calls Not This Time “spooky good” and he has won his last 2 starts by a combined total of nearly 19 lengths. This Giant’s Causeway colt reminds Romans of his half-brother Brody’s Cause but he is a much faster colt at this stage than Brody’s Cause. Not This Time is also Liam’s Map half-brother, the two sharing the same dam (mother) in Miss Macy Sue. His winning time of 1:45.22 in the muddy Iroquois Stakes race (shown below) was a better time than American Pharoah’s time (1:45.78) in the muddy Rebel Stakes as a 3 year old. May I suggest a name change? How About “Not Even Close” because he has annihilated his competition.” His Next Race: The Breeders Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park on November 5th.


The Wood Memorial – 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 won in his debut at Saratoga and produced an 85 Beyer Speed Figure (see race HERE). His sire Gemologist went undefeated in five starts heading into the 2012 Kentucky Derby where he finished 16th. His Next Race: The Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park on October 15th.


Arkansas DerbyClassic Empire

Despite the fact that he made an about-face coming out of the gate in the Hopeful Stakes, I am still really high on this Mark Casse-trained colt who is American Pharoah’s half-brother. He didn’t want to run that day but when he decides to run, watch out. He’s very talented, just needs maturation. I wrote an article on Classic Empire back in July which you can read by clicking HERE.  The Arkansas Derby seems like an ideal final prep race for Classic Empire just like it was for his famous half-brother American Pharoah. His Next Race: The Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on October 8th.


My way, way too early 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite

At this stage of the 2 year-old campaign, two horses have emerged as the best on the West Coast (Klimt) and the best on the East Coast (Not This Time). Right now, I have to give the nod to Not This Time. Why?

  • He has proven against his peers that he already likes distance and has won impressively at 1 Mile (by 10 lengths) and also at the 1 1/16th Mile distance (by 8 3/4 lengths).
  • He has proven that he is fast on a dry, fast track and also fast in the slop.
  • His final fractions in the Iroquois Stakes are much more impressive than Klimt’s as I will illustrate below.

Final Fractions – Not This Time vs. Klimt

To best illustrate the superiority of Not This Time’s fractions compared to Klimt’s, I will convert their times into miles per hour.

In the Del Mar Futurity, Klimt ran the final furlong (1/8th of a mile) of this 7 furlong race in 12.66 seconds as the battled Straight Fire down the stretch. This works out to be average speed of 35.5 mph.

In the 8 1/2 Furlong Iroquois Stakes, Not This Time was in 5th place (3 lengths) behind the leader at the 3/4 pole and the final 2 1/2 furlongs was run in 30.7 seconds. That is an average speed of 36.6 mph in the slop. Allowing 0.16 second per length, Not This Time ran the final 2 1/2 furlongs in 30.22 seconds. This works out to be a speed of 37.2 mph and please note that Not This Time wasn’t pressured at all for the lead.

In Not This Time’s maiden victory at Ellis Park on August 12th (to see the race, click HERE), he ran the final furlong in 11.82 seconds in this 1 mile race. This works out to be an average speed of 38.0 mph. In the final 2 furlongs, his time was 23.33 seconds. This equates to an even better average speed of 38.5 mph.

So when it is “Go-Time”, Not This Time has some seriously good afterburners. He is going to be difficult to catch down the stretch. This is why I have made him my way, way too early 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite. There is a ton of racing left between now and the Kentucky Derby and horses mature and improve by leaps and bounds during this stage. But any horse who beats Not This Time along the way is probably the new Kentucky Derby favorite.

–Michael


Here are the “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Sentient Jet):

FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita – October 1st on NBC Sports Network
Champagne Stakes at Belmont – October 8th on TVG
Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland – October 8th on NBC