2017 Whitney Stakes Preview

Challenge_home_headline

August 3rd 2017

This coming Saturday we have another high-profile “Win and You’re In” race with the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. Inaugurated in 1928, the Grade 1 “Whitney Handicap” carries a $1.25 million dollar purse. A field of seven horses are vying for an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Gun Runner is the morning odds favorite at 4/5. 

Below are the post-positions, weights, jockeys and morning line odds:

“The Whitney”

The Whitney Stakes  1 1/8th Mile – Race #9 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday August 5th at 4:46 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. War Story (121) – Castellano/Navarro – 6/1
2. Breaking Lucky (117) – Contreras/Baker – 8/1
3. Cautious Giant (117) – Bracho/Quartarolo – 30/1
4. Tu Brutus (117) – I. Ortiz Jr./Contessa – 8/1
5. Keen Ice (121) – J. Ortiz/Pletcher – 3/1
6. Gun Runner (124) – Geroux/Asmussen – 4/5
7. Discreet Lover (117) – Franco/St. Lewis – 25/1

Race Analysis: Gun Runner is the deserved favorite and you could make a great case that he is now the top thoroughbred in the world on dirt with the surprising recent loss by Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap. I am very high on Gun Runner and normally I would recommend placing a nice, big fat win bet on him here. However, Saratoga has lived up to it’s name as the “Graveyard of Champions” with the number of upsets that the track has seen here already this year.

Keen Ice is the second favorite at 3/1 odds and he holds the distinction as the only living horse to beat a Triple Crown champion when he upset American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Is another Keen Ice upset in store? Closers have fared well at Saratoga, but I feel that the son of Curlin prefers 10 furlongs over 9.

I am very interested to see how the Chilean-bred horse Tu Brutus performs in this race. He has produced the highest Beyer Speed Figure (BSF) for in this field (and third best in 2017) when he earned a 118 BSF with his 2nd place finish in the Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct back in early April. However, in his North American racing career, he has raced a the following distances: 1 1/4 mile, 1 3/8th mile and 1 1/2 mile. So I am not sure how he will take to cutting back in distance. 

War Story and Breaking Lucky have never won a Grade 1 race. From looking at their workout history, Breaking Lucky seems to be training better of the two. However, he has been beaten by Gun Runner twice in the Clark Handicap last November and in his most recent start in June in the Stephen H. Foster Handicap. I don’t see an upset coming from either of these horses or the two longshots: Discreet Lover and Cautious Giant.

At any rate, Gun Runner is a fighter and I think a nice Place bet on him would be the safest bet to make here since strange things have been happening at Saratoga. Betting aside, this should be an interesting race and “must-see” TV.


On the Docket…

My next blog will rank the Top Ten 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders and then I will preview the 2017 TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar which is scheduled for Saturday August 19th. Arrogate and Accelerate are expected entries. If both are entered, this would provide a rematch of Arrogate vs Accelerate from the San Diego Handicap.  Like the Whitney Stakes, the TVG Pacific Classic is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

 

2017 Pegasus World Cup Post-Positions and Morning Line Odds

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Updated January 28th 2017 11 am CST

Below are the post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds for the upcoming $12 Million Dollar Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the newly created richest race in the world. Post-time will be at 4:40 PM CST Saturday January 28th and the race will be aired by NBC with live coverage starting at 3:30 PM CST.

This race has a lot of unknowns since no horse will be allowed to use Lasix. But three horses in this field that I think have absolutely no chance of finishing in the Superfecta: War Envoy, Semper Fortis and Prayer for Relief.  Eragon is an unknown. I see nothing from his workouts and race history that make me believe that he will be a factor in the end. Arrogate and California Chrome will finish in the Top 4, so that leaves 8 other horses to round a Superfecta.

I have reviewed previous Donn Handicap races to form an opinion on what it will take to win this race. I think the race-winning time will be in the higher end of the 1:47 range. The only three horses in this field that have run a 1:47 and change through 9 furlongs is: California Chrome, Arrogate and Noble Bird. Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year and does well and wins often when he gets out to an early lead. Otherwise, he often packs it in and becomes a herd runner down the stretch. So he is feast or famine.

Gulfstream Park is a speed-favoring track and there is plenty of early speed in this field. In order to win this race, a horse will have to break sharply out of the gate, settle in and assume the ideal position of a stalker on the race leader. Otherwise, there will be too much traffic to deal with to get to the front.

Keen Ice has the talent to win this race but I like his chances in 10 furlong races better than 9 furlongs. He will have to break well and be pressed up closer to the race leader. If he is running mid-pack at the 3/4 mile mark, he won’t win because he doesn’t have the closing speed to beat Arrogate.

Although I preferred Chrome drawing a post inside of Arrogate, I still like an Arrogate-California Chrome (1-12) Boxed Exacta. Arrogate won’t have a weight advantage in this race as all horses will be assigned 124 pounds. However, realize that an Exacta in this race will probably pay out less than it did in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. A $1 Exacta (Arrogate-California Chrome) paid $5 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, so a $2 Boxed Exacta netted a $3 profit.

I have been reviewing work-out times for the field in order to make recommendations for Trifecta and Superfecta bets. This isn’t going to be a good race for Exotics unless the unexpected happens. If California Chrome and Arrogate’s live odds dip below 1/1, then Exotics won’t pay out much unless some other horse surplants one of the two for first and second. I just don’t see any other horse winning this one except Arrogate and Chrome. If Noble Bird or Neolithic jump out to any early lead, perhaps they could hang on and capture 2nd place.

A big win bet on Arrogate might be your best bet, especially if his live odds are higher than California Chrome’s. California Chrome will have the longest trip in the field starting from the outside post. Arrogate from the #1 post has the talent and ability to wire the field.

A sleeper to round out your Superfecta might be War Story. His workout times have better than his historical times and he is coming off a win in the 9 Furlong Queen County Stakes. Do I think he will finish 4th or better? Probably not but he has raced against top competition and he will have higher odds than a lot of horses in this field so that would help your superfecta payout. 

Shaman Ghost and Breaking Lucky are prime candidates to finish in the Superfecta and in the top half of the field. Breaking Lucky finished 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Shaman Ghost in the Clark Handicap, their last start. However, back in the Woodward Stakes last September, Shaman Ghost displayed better tactical speed and finished nearly a half-length ahead of Breaking Lucky. Shaman Ghost put a nice workout time of 47.70 for 4 furlongs in his last workout, Breaking Lucky had posted very consistent times around 1 min through 5 furlongs in his last two workouts. These two horses are very close but I like Shaman Ghost’s post-position better so I would give him the edge here.

My predicted order of finish*: 1) Arrogate, 2) California Chrome, 3) Keen Ice, 4) Shaman Ghost.

*That is, if Arrogate is 100% healthy and not bothered by his right hind foot. ESPN reported on January 26th: “Arrogate did develop an abscess on the inside of his right hind foot a few weeks ago. Baffert pointed out on Thursday, when Arrogate was paddock schooling before the races, that he has three-quartered that hind shoe — filing off the part of the shoe nearest the abscess — a common tactic used to try to prevent the abscess from being concussed by the shoe and becoming a quarter crack.”

Anyway, Shared Belief had a similar problem and raced just fine. I hope that I am wrong and that we see Chrome go out a winner. Chrome will have to have a 2 length lead at the 3/4 pole, a 1 & 1/2 length lead at the mile mark if he is going to win this if Arrogate is 100%. I am expecting a surprise or two. I don’t think this is a good bettor’s race..a better one just to sit back and watch.

2017 Pegasus World Cup Post-Positions & Odds

1) Arrogate (7/5) – Arrogate is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

2) Prayer For Relief (50/1) –  A way past his prime 9 year-old who has never won a Grade 1 race. He finished 9th in his last start, the 2016 Clark Handicap. His last win came in December 2013 in the Tenacious Handicap at The Fairgrounds. He will need more than prayers in this one to pull off the upset.

Career: 45 Starts 8-6-10-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 21 Starts  4-1-4-3
Last 3 starts: 6th–>5th–>9th
Sire: Jump Start
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Trainer: Dale Romans
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.60 (calculated) – 2012 Strub Stakes  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2012 Tenacious Handicap

3) Neolithic (30/1) – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee. He finished 2nd in the 2016 Discovery Stakes (shown below) in mid November but won an 8 1/2 furlong allowance race on December 14th at Gulfstream Park with a nice time of 1:41.58.  This was just 0.61 seconds off the track record. He received a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort. 

Career: 7 Starts 2-3-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.78 (calculated) – 2016 Discovery Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16

4) Noble Bird (25/1)  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

5) War Story (50/1) – The 5 year-old gelding has raced against top competition over his career with very little success. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic and 8th in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his last two starts, he finished 4th in the 2016 Cigar Mile and then won the 9 furlong Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct on December 17th.

Career: 17 Starts 4-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 4 Starts  1-0-2-0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>4th–>1st
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Jorge Navarro
Jockey: Antonio Gallardo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.39 (calculated) – 2015 Louisiana Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106

6) War Envoy (50/1) – Primarily a European turf runner throughout his career, War Enjoy did compete in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile finishing last and the 1 mile Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar (shown below) last August where he finished 5th.

Career: 21 Starts 2-3-4-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 5th–>8th–>6th
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Craig Dollase
Jockey: Luis Saez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  N/A on dirt
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 on turf

7) Shaman Ghost (20/1) – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. However, this has yet to be confirmed. The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old. 

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey:  Jose Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

8) Semper Fortis (50/1) Named after the US Navy’s moto which in Latin means “Always Strong,” this Doug O’Neill-trained colt finished 2nd in the Los Alamitos Derby (shown below) back in September. However, he then followed with a disappointing 6th place finish in the 7 furlong Malibu Stakes on December 26th. 

Career: 12 Starts 2-4-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>6th
Sire: Distorted Humor
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.50 (calculated) – 2016 Los Alamitos Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 

9) Keen Ice  (12/1) – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

10) Breaking Lucky (25/1) The 5 year-old won the Seagram’s Cup at Woodbine last August (shown below) and finished 2nd to Gun Runner in his most recent start, the 2016 Clark Handicap.

Career: 16 Starts 3-4-3-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>8th–>2nd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Reade Baker
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:48.94 (calculated) – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105

11) Eragon (50/1) – The Argentinian horse was purchased by James McIngvale who had originally purchased a spot in the Pegasus World Cup for Runhappy. Runhappy was retired after the Breeders’ Cup so McIngvale went to South America to find a horse to fill his spot. The recently turned 6 year-old has won three Grade 1 races in South America.  He has raced on turf and dirt and appears to be a better Miler.

Career: 20 Starts 10 wins, 3 Grade 1 wins in South America
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Offlewild
Trainer: Laura Wohlers
Jockey: Edgar Prado
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  N/A

12) California Chrome (6/5) – 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs. But I preferred him having an inside post on Arrogate as he historically has had problems running outside of horses.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic


On the docket…

My next blog will be updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings.

–Michael

The 2017 Pegasus World Cup Field Is Set

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January 17th 2017

UPDATE January 21st 2017 :  Gun Runner, who was rumored to take War Envoy’s spot in the Pegasus World Cup field, is likely not going to be cleared by Gulfstream Park in time to be an entry in the Pegasus World Cup. Gun Runner is currently stabled at the Fairgrounds who has had quarantine in place since December 26th due to an outbreak of equine herpesvirus.

We are now 11 days away from the newly created richest horse race in the world–the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Invitational–set for Saturday January 28th. The race winner will receive $7 million of the $12 million dollar purse. The race be aired on NBC with coverage beginning at 4:30 PM EST. Below are the expected entries. If a horse is scratched in this race, they can be replaced by a”B” horse that is entered in the undercard Poseidon Stakes that will be run at the same 9 furlong (1 1/8th mile) distance.

Overall, with California Chrome and Arrogate entered, this will be an interesting rematch and must-watch TV. However, color me a bit disappointed in the quality of depth in the field and the lack of compelling support races for this event. This is a great concept that is perfectly situated between the NFL Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl and right before the thoroughbred breeding season begins in February.

The Pegasus World Cup is getting a huge boost this year due to the inclusion of the most popular horse in North America currently in California Chrome in a Breeders’ Cup Classic rematch at 9 furlongs vs Arrogate. However, for this race to take off in the future, it is going to require more involvement from the top owners in the sport. This means, stop retiring horses in their prime after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. And it will need better quality support races, namely Derby trail races for 3 year-old fillies and colts.

2017 Pegasus World Cup Entries & Projected Odds

1) California Chrome (1/1) – He will win the 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. I like his chances in a rematch with Arrogate if he draws an inside post position. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Arrogate (7/5) – Arrogate is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands. It appears that he may potentially get a tuneup at Santa Anita Park before the Pegasus World Cup as he is rumored to be entered in San Pasqual Stakes on January 1st.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Keen Ice  (15/1) – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

4) Shaman Ghost (20/1) – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. However, this has yet to be confirmed. The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old. 

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey:  Jose Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

5) Noble Bird (25/1)  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

6) Neolithic (25/1) – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee. He finished 2nd in the 2016 Discovery Stakes (shown below) in mid November but won an 8 1/2 furlong allowance race on December 14th at Gulfstream Park with a nice time of 1:41.58.  This was just 0.61 seconds off the track record. He received a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.  His jockey in that race was Javier Castellano who will most likely be the rider for Keen Ice. So perhaps Jose Lezcano, who was his jockey in the Discovery Stakes, will pick up this ride.

Career: 7 Starts 2-3-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.78 (calculated) – 2016 Discovery Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16

7) Breaking Lucky (30/1) The 5 year-old won the Seagram’s Cup at Woodbine last August (shown below) and finished 2nd to Gun Runner in his most recent start, the 2016 Clark Handicap.

Career: 16 Starts 3-4-3-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>8th–>2nd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Reade Baker
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:48.94 (calculated) – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: Unknown

8) War Story (40/1) The 5 year-old gelding has raced against top competition over his career with very little success. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic and 8th in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his last two starts, he finished 4th in the 2016 Cigar Mile and then won the 9 furlong Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct on December 17th.

Career: 17 Starts 6-4-5-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-2-0-0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>4th–>1st
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Jorge Navarro
Jockey: Antonio Gallardo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.39 (calculated) – 2015 Louisiana Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes

9) Eragon (40/1) – The Argentinian horse was purchased by James McIngvale who had originally purchased a spot in the Pegasus World Cup for Runhappy. Runhappy was retired after the Breeders’ Cup so McIngvale went to South America to find a horse to fill his spot. The recently turned 6 year-old has won three Grade 1 races in South America.  He has raced on turf and dirt and appears to be a better Miler.

Career: 20 Starts 10 wins, 3 Grade 1 wins in South America
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Offlewild
Trainer: Laura Wohlers
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  N/A

10) Ralis (50/1) The Doug O’Neill-trained colt started off his career racing on dirt and showed plenty of promise as a 2 year-old after winning the 2015 Hopeful Stakes (shown below). He then bombed in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race finishing 14th and the 2016 Rebel Stakes where he finished 14th. He was taken off the Derby trail and entered into in the Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day where he finished 10th. He was then switched to turf where the best he could muster were three second place finishes before a 9th place finish in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf race won by Highland Reel.

Career: 16 Starts 2-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: None on Dirt, 4 on Turf
Last 3 starts:  2nd–>6th–>9th
Sire: Square Eddie
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  N/A on Dirt  – Turf  1:47.49 – 2016 Rainbow Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 97 – 2016 Del Mar Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – 2016 Del Mar Derby

11) War Envoy (50/1) – Primarily a European turf runner throughout his career, War Enjoy did compete in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile finishing last and the 1 mile Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar (shown below) last August where he finished 5th.

Career: 21 Starts 2-3-4-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 5th–>8th–>6th
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Craig Dollase
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: Unknown

12) Prayer For Relief (60/1) –  A way past his prime 9 year-old who has never won a Grade 1 race. He finished 9th in his last start, the 2016 Clark Handicap. His last win came in December 2013 in the Tenacious Handicap at The Fairgrounds.

Career: 45 Starts 8-6-10-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 21 Starts  4-1-4-3
Last 3 starts: 6th–>5th–>9th
Sire: Jump Start
Trainer: Dale Romans
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.60 (calculated) – 2012 Strub Stakes  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2012 Tenacious Handicap


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 that are coming up Saturday January 21st.

–Michael

2017 Pegasus World Cup – The Field of Dreams

pegasus-world-cup-logo

December 5th 2016

With the world’s richest horse race coming up in less than 8 weeks, it is now time to speculate on who the twelve runners could be. The Pegasus World Cup Invitational is scheduled for Saturday January 28th 2017 at Gulfstream Park and will be televised by NBC. The Pegasus World Cup winner will receive a record $7 million dollars from the $12 million dollar purse.

There has been little news regarding who the potential entries will be other than California Chrome and possibly Arrogate and Shaman Ghost. So my blog will focus on who the twelve runners should be if we could get the best twelve racehorses in the world entered in this race. The 9 furlong distance, where the starting gate will be positioned so that it will give little stretch run before reaching the first turn, should even up the field and attract the best Milers and Classic distance racehorses.

Unfortunately, the creation of this race didn’t have the effect of delayed retirements that I was expecting. The race date of January 28th lends itself perfectly to a post-Pegasus World Cup retirement where the breeding season doesn’t really kick in until mid February to avoid December foals (ie. a horse born in December 2017 will be considered a 1 year old on January 1st 2018).

So if we could have a dream Pegasus World Cup field of horses who will be racing into 2017, below are entries I would include. Keep in mind the retirements of horses that would have made great Pegasus World Cup candidates: Nyquist, Exaggerator, Frosted, Beholder, Effinex, Tamarkuz, Found, Flintshire and Upstart.

My dream Pegasus World Cup field…

1) California Chrome – He is the most popular horse in North America. Chrome draws huge crowds, even for workouts. He will win the 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. I like his chances in a rematch with Arrogate.

Career: 25 Starts 15-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Arrogate – Arrogate is undoubtably the top horse in North America and he is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Songbird – The star filly whose only loss was on a bob to Beholder in the 2016 Breeders Cup Distaff (shown below). Great things are expected from her in the future. Although there are no plans to run her in the Pegasus World Cup, there are plans to race her against the boys at some point in 2017.

Career: 12 Starts 11-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire:  Medaglia d’Oro
Trainer:  Jerry Hollendorfer
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.21 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff

4) Highland Reel – Highland Reel and the 4 year old turf filly Found were cross-entered in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Both were scratched from the Classic and ran in the Breeders’ Cup Turf race. Highland Reel won the prestigious $4 million dollar turf race while Found finished 3rd. Found was retired shortly after the Breeders Cup World Championships. Their trainer Aiden O’Brien has trained turf horses for dirt races before, doing so most recently with Gleneagles in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. I say, give it another shot!

Career: 19 Starts 7-5-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 7th–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Galileo
Trainer:  Aiden O’Brien
Jockey: Seamie Heffernan 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 112 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf

5) Dortmund – He was winless in 4 starts in 2016 but still ranked in the Top 25 racehorses in the world by Longines. Unfortunately, he had California Chrome as a entry in three of his four starts. His 4th place finish in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was disappointing but perhaps he is not a Miler. He seems to race best at the 8 1/2 to 9 furlong distance. He has never finished below 4th in his career, something that his Derby Trail rival American Pharoah can’t boast. Dortmund is a very talented horse that Bob Baffert plans to race as a 5 year-old in 2017. 

Career: 14 Starts 8-2-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd>2nd–>4th   
Sire: Big Brown
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:48.06 – 2015 Native Diver Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Awesome Again Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Awesome Again Stakes

6) Keen Ice  – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 18 Starts 2-1-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 8th–>3rd–>3rd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

7) Melatonin – In 2016, he completed the elusive Big ‘Cap-Gold Cup Double (ie. winner of the Santa Anita Handicap and Gold Cup at Santa Anita in the same year). His disappointing 5th place finish in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic probably had more to do with a lengthy layoff. He is more of a 10 furlong runner and has only raced once in a 9 furlong race, finishing 2nd to Effinex in the 2016 Oaklawn Handicap. 

Career: 14 Starts 5-3-3-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts:2nd–>1st–>5th   
Sire: Kodiak Kowboy
Trainer: David Hofmans 
Jockey:  Joe Talamo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.16 (calculated) – 2016 Oaklawn Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

8) Stellar Wind – She got out of the gate poorly in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and finished 4th. However, she beat the Distaff Champion Beholder twice in four starts in 2016. In the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she lost to Stopchargingmaria by a neck. The future is bright for her career as a 5 year-old Mare. Note that she has never finished below 4th during her career in 12 starts.

Career: 12 Starts 7-2-1-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-0-2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey:  Victor Espinoza
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.02 (calculated) – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Zenyatta Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Zenyatta Stakes

9) Hoppertunity – Although he is rarely the race favorite in any race, he is one of the most consistent runners in horse racing. In 23 consecutive starts, Hoppertunity has finished 4th or better in every start. He has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race, something that California Chrome can’t boast.

Career: 24 Starts 6-6-4-7   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 9 Starts  2-4-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>4th   
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: John Velazquez/Flavien Prat 
Best Beyer in 1 1/8th Mile Race: 1:48.02 (calculated) – 2015 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

10) ConnectThe 2016 Pennsylvania Derby and Cigar Mile winner. He is another 3 year-old who has a bright future racing as a 4 year-old.

Career: 7 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 6th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey:  Javier Castellano/John Velazquez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.69 – 2016 Curlin Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  106 – 2016 Cigar Mile Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2016 Cigar Mile Handicap

11) Gun Runner  –  A very consistent horse who won his first Grade 1 stakes race in the Clark Handicap and also produced his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 104. Up until the Clark Handicap, the Louisiana Derby winner had some nice finishes in some big races (3rd in 2016 Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Travers Stakes, 2nd in the Penn Derby and 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile). I liked how he has developed under Steve Asmussen and expect him to have a bright future racing as a 4 year-old.

Career: 12 Starts 6-2-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 4 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride  
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.50 – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – 2016 Clark Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2016 Clark Handicap

12) Shaman Ghost – The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old.

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano/Joel Rosario
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

Five Alternates

1) Hard Aces – The 2015 Gold Cup winner at Santa Anita Park. He finished 6th in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is better at 10 furlong distances or greater and has a closer running style.

Career: 37 Starts 7-6-9-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 10 Starts  1-1-2-2
Last 3 starts: 4th–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Hard Spun
Trainer:  John Sadler
Jockey: Santiago Gonzalez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.37 (calculated) – 2015 California Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

2) Noble Bird  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

3) Comfort – The Todd Pletcher-trained 4 year old ran 2nd behind Frosted in the 2016 Whitney Handicap. He has 2 nice wins sandwiched in between: the 2015 State Dinner Stakes (shown below) and the 2016 Seattle Slew Stakes. He has no published workouts since the Seattle Slew Stakes in September.

Career: 9 Starts 5-1-0-4  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Indian Charlie
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.09 (calculated) – 2016 Whitney Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 State Dinner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 State Dinner Stakes

4) Mubtaahij – He ran 2nd in the 2016 Dubai World Cup behind California Chrome and 2nd behind Shaman Ghost in the 2016 Woodward Stakes. He has still yet to win a Grade 1 race.

Career: 15 Starts 4-2-1-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Dubawi
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.94 (calculated) – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

5) Texas Red  – The 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner is back in training and has been working out at Santa Anita Park for the entire month of November. Admittedly, it is a tall order to have ready for an ultra-competitive 9 furlong race by January 28th. But there are prep races available in the the 8 1/2 furlong Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos on December 17th and the 7 furlong Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park on December 26th. If he is entered and performs well, he always had the talent to compete with the best. He was my very early 2015 Kentucky Derby favorite before being taken off the Derby trail due to injury.

Career: 9 Starts 3-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>5th
Sire: Afleet Alex
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey:  Kent Desormeaux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 2015 Jim Dandy Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  105 – 2015 Travers Stakes


On the docket…

My next blog will preview the upcoming 2016 Los Alamitos Futurity. I should have this posted by Thursday evening December 8th after post-positions and morning line odds are published. The race should have a few of the top 2017 Kentucky Derby contenders. Mostly notably, Mastery.

I also plan to preview the newly created Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos set for December 17th that will feature California Chrome.

–Michael

Thanksgiving Weekend Spectacular: Clark Handicap, The Remsen, Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and Cigar Mile Previews

 2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

November 24th 2016

If you are suffering from Breeders’ Cup withdrawal, Thanksgiving Weekend provides some very interesting racing between two tracks: Aqueduct and Churchill Downs. On tap are two key points-paying races on the road to the 2017 Kentucky Derby: The Remsen and the Kentucky Derby Jockey Club Stakes. Plus a return of a few participants from the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in two older handicap division races: The Clark Handicap and The Cigar Mile. Note that the Cigar Mile features Anchor Down, a horse who beat the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Champion Tamarkuz in his last start.

Friday

The Clark Handicap

If you were a little disappointed with the overall competitiveness of the Breeders’ Cup Classic that essentially became a two-horse race, the Clark Handicap promises to deliver a more exciting, wide-open race. The field includes two previous champions of this event: Hoppertunity (2014) and Effinex (2015). Hoppertunity and Effinex both competed in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic finishing 4th and 7th respectively. Also entered, the runner-up in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile–Gun Runner. 

But running a bit under the radar at 8/1 Morning Line odds, is the impressive winner of the Woodward Stakes–Shaman Ghost. Shaman Ghost was scratched from this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a temperature.

The Clark Handicap  – 1 1/8th Mile – Friday November 25th – Race #11 at Churchill Downs – Post-Time: 4:56 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Gun Runner (118) – Geroux/Asmussen – 4-1
2. Effinex (123) – Alvarado/Jerkens – 4-1    
3. Are You Kidding Me (119) – Garcia/Attfield- 15-1 
4. Shaman Ghost (122) – Castellano/Jerkens – 8-1 
5. Hawaakom (116) – Mena/O’Neill – 20-1  
6. Noble Bird (121) – Castellano/Casse -7-2 
7. Breaking Lucky (118) – Contreras/Baker – 8-1
8. Mr. Z (114) – Santana Jr./Lukas – 30-1  
9. Hoppertunity (124) – Velazquez/Baffert – 5-2 
10. Prayer For Relief (115) – Albarado/Romans – 30-1  

Race Commentary:  If Shaman Ghost is 100%, I like him for the win. Hoppertunity can be penciled in for at least a 4th place finish since he has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race during his entire career. Effinex can be inconsistent. He runs best at Belmont Park and tends to perform best in 10 furlong races. The 9 furlong distance is where Gun Runner runs his best races. So I like a 1,2,4,9 Boxed Superfecta and hope the longest odds horse wins to make the payout better. 

Saturday

The Remsen Stakes

The Remsen Stakes has been run since 1904. Often times, the winner of this race is the winterbook favorite to win the following year’s Kentucky Derby. Last year, the Remsen was won last year by Mohaymen who finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby.

The Remsen Stakes  – 1 1/8th Mile – Saturday November 26th – Race #8 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 2:20 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Tellmeafookystory – Carmouche/Pletcher – 20/1
2. Newman – Rosario/Albertrani – 10/1   
3. Hookup – Franco/Cannizzo  – 12/1 
4. Takaful – Albarado/McPeek  – 7/5
5. Tale of Silence – Lezcano/Tagg – 30/1
6. Win With Pride – J.Ortiz/Pletcher – 15/1
7. You’re to Blame – Castellano/C.Brown – 10/1
8. Mo Town – Velazquez/Dutrow – 5/1
9. No Dozing (122) – Centeno/Delacour – 4/1
10. Lead Astray (116) – Gallardo/McGaughey  – 15/1 

Race Commentary:  I offer no betting advice on this one. All of these horses are stretching out to 9 furlongs for the very first time and a number have never raced past one mile. Then there is the one-turn vs two-turn factor. Two horses that have run well in two-turn races are Win With Pride and No Dozing. No Dozing is probably the most accomplished horse in the field, Takaful the most talented.

The Cigar Mile 

Named after two-time Horse of the Year, Cigar, this one mile race offers a $500,000 purse that always seems to attract a few high-profile horses. Last year, it was Tonalist and Mshawish. This year, it’s the Kelso Handicap winner Anchor Down and the Pennsylvania Derby winner Connect.

The Cigar Mile Handicap  – 1 Mile – Saturday November 26th – Race #10 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 3:20 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Anchor Down (121) – J. Ortiz/Pletcher – 9/5
2. Economic Model (116) – Rosario/Brown – 6/1   
3. Realm (114) – Lopez/Tagg – 15/1
4. Mylute (114) – Cancel/Nicks – 30/1
5. Ocean Knight (119) – Velazquez/McLaughlin – 10/1
6. Tale of S’avall (114) – Franco/Tagg – 15/1
7. Connect (118) – Castellano/C.Brown – 3/1
8. War Story (116) – Gallardo/Serey – 20/1
9. Threefiveindia (116) – I.Ortiz Jr/C.Brown – 10/1
10. Divining Rod (116) – Centeno/Delacour  – 6/1

Race Commentary:  Anchor Down has produced two of the top four Beyer Speed Figures in one mile races in 2016: 108 in the Kelso Handicap and 105 in the Westchester Stakes. Both races were at Belmont Park. Frosted’s 123 in the Met Mile and Tamarkuz’s 107 in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile were the other top 4 Beyers in one mile races. Interesting to note, Anchor Down’s winning time of 1:32.90 in the Kelso Handicap was just 0.17 seconds off Frosted’s Met Mile winning time of 1:32.73. Same track, same distance. Essentially, this equals one length. So expect Anchor Down’s live odds to shorten. But note that Anchor Down has never won at Aqueduct: he has a 3rd and a 4th place finish in two starts.

War Story competed in the Breeders’ Cup Classic three weeks ago and finished 8th. Anyway, I like a 1 over 5,7 over 5,7 Trifecta (Anchor Down for the win with Connect & Ocean Knight finishing in 2nd and 3rd in either order). 

Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

Inaugurated in 1920, five horses that have won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes went on the following spring to win the Kentucky Derby: Super Saver (2010), Cannonade (1974), Twenty Grand (1931), Clyde Van Dusen (1929) and Reigh Count (1928). Last year, this race produced four Kentucky Derby runners in Gun Runner, Mor Spirit, Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready. Gun Runner finished 4th in last year’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes but finished a surprising 3rd in the Kentucky Derby after giving Nyquist a real battle through 9 of the 10 furlongs.

The Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes  – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday November 26th – Race #11 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 4:56 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Han Sense  – Leparoux/Maker – 10-1
2. Total Tap – Santana Jr/Asmussen  – 8-1
3. Wildshot  – Lanerie/Arnold – 4-1
4. Romeo O Romeo – Landerous/Williamson  – 15-1
5. Silent Decree – Geroux/Byrne – 15-1   
6. Just Move On – Cannon/Byrne – 5-1 
7. Shareholder Value – Brighmohan/Amoss  
8. Jocker Justice – Rosario/West – 30-1
9. Warrior’s Club – Albarado/Lukas – 8-1
10. Perro Rojo – Court/Zito – 30/1
11. McCraken – Hernandez/Wilkes – 7/2
12. Uncontested – Hill/Catalano – 5/1

Race Commentary: After a 6th place finish in the Iroquois Stakes, Just Move On has improved in two subsequent 8 1/2 furlong races: a 2nd place finish and a win in his last start in an allowance race at Churchill Downs at this same distance. His winning time of 1:44.12 was a decent time. If he can duplicate or improve on this time, he will likely be the winner of this race if run on a dry, fast track. McCraken will likely be the live race favorite after an impressive win in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Overall, I think this race comes down to McCraken and Just Move On for the win. So I like a 6-11 Boxed Exacta. Wildshot is probably my top choice to round out a Trifecta since he finished almost three lengths ahead of the most recent Delta Downs Jackpot Winner Gunnevera in his last start–the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity–back on October 8th.


Also we have the first 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool that will run from Thursday, November 24th at 11 AM CST until Sunday, November 27th at 5 PM CST. You can access the live odds by clicking HERE. I will provide commentary on the live odds by clicking HERE.

–Michael