Updated 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings

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October 11th 2017 – Updated November 1st 2017 4:15 PM CST

This year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic appears to be wide-open. Gun Runner will the likely favorite but he does his best work at 9 furlongs (1 1/8th mile). Last year’s Breeders’ Cup champion Arrogate has been less than impressive in his last two starts. Add this up and we may have a surprise winner in The Classic.

Below are my top 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders with the morning line odds.  

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1) Gun Runner* (9/5) – He’s extremely consistent and now arguably the top racehorse in the world on dirt. In his last two starts in the Whitney Stakes and Woodward Stakes, he produced his two best career Beyer Speed Figures of 112 and 115. The only knock on his resume currently is that he has never won at the Classic distance of 10 furlongs. Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 17 Starts 10-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-2-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.76 (estimated) – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 115 – 2017 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 115 – 2017 Woodward Stakes

2) Collected* (6/1) – He’s a perfect 4 for 4 in 2017. His surprise win in the Pacific Classic answered any questions you might have had about his ability to stretch out to 10 furlongs. – Next Start: The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 11 Starts 8-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: City Zip
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Martin Garcia (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.70 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic

3) Arrogate (2/1) – The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion was upset by Accelerate in the San Diego Handicap and then by Collected in the TVG Pacific Classic. There is no doubt that his has lost some closing speed and he has been prone of late to not getting out of the gate quick enough. The most recent news is that the defending Pegasus World Cup champion won’t be defending his title. He will be retired after the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 10 Starts 7-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  4-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>2nd
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 119 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes

4) West Coast (6/1) – The recent winner of the Pennsylvania Derby (107 Beyer Speed Figure).  His Travers Stakes win still ranks as his most impressive performance. There have only been seven other horses who posted a faster time in the Travers at the 10 furlong distance than West Coast’s 2:01.91.  One of which was track record holder Arrogate last year (1:59.36). Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 8 Starts 6-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Flatter
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.19 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 

5) Mubtaahij* (12/1) – The recent winner of the Awesome Again Stakes (shown below). Mubtaahij has historically been sort of an enigma but appears to have blossomed and matured under the training of Bob Baffert. Although he is not a huge threat to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he does have “hit the board” potential with a 2nd place and 4th place finish in the last two Dubai World Cup races. Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 18 Starts 5-4-1-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>4th–>1st
Sire: Dubawi
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.28 (estimated) – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 99 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 102- 2017 Awesome Again Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

6) Gunnevera (30/1) – Although he is not likely to win against this level of competition, he has a closer’s chance of hitting the board. There is no doubt that he has improved since his 7th place finish in this year’s Kentucky Derby. – Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 13 Starts 5-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Dialed In
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Edgard Zayas
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2.01.71 (estimated) – 2017 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 104 – 2017 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 104 – 2017 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2017 Travers Stakes

7) Pavel (20/1)– Coming off a career high Beyer Speed Figure of 104 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont. He has just four career starts but could surprise in The Classic. – Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Creative Cause
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2.01.24 (estimated) – 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 104 – 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 104 – 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup

8) War Decree (30/1) – Primarily a turf horse, he did win a Group 3 (Grade 3) race on a Polytrack surface in Ireland in his last start at distance 150 yards longer than the Classic distance of 10 furlongs (1 1/4 mile). So there are no questions that he can go the distance.  Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on November 3rd or the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 6th–>5th–>1st
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
Jockey: Donnacha O’Brien?
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

Other Breeders’ Cup Classic entries: Win the Space (30/1) , War Story (30/1) and Churchill (15/1). Win the Space and War Decree have been cross-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Churchill has also been cross-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (Turf). War Story has been entered in the Breeders’ Cup Turf race.

Keen Ice was pre-entered in the Classic but was retired after suffering an ankle injury

Note: An asterisk * indicates horses who have qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic by virtue of winning a “Win and You’re In’ race.


On the Docket…

My next blog will focus in on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contenders.


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

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

–Michael

Updated 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings

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October 4th 2017

Below are my top 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. We still have one remaining “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic coming up this Saturday with the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont.

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1) Gun Runner* – He’s extremely consistent and now arguably the top racehorse in the world on dirt. In his last two starts in the Whitney Stakes and Woodward Stakes, he produced his two best career Beyer Speed Figures of 112 and 115. The only knock on his resume currently is that he has never won at the Classic distance of 10 furlongs. Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 17 Starts 10-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-2-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.76 (estimated) – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 115 – 2017 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 115 – 2017 Woodward Stakes

2) Collected* – He’s a perfect 4 for 4 in 2017. His surprise win in the Pacific Classic answered any questions you might have had about his ability to stretch out to 10 furlongs. – Next Start: The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 11 Starts 8-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: City Zip
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Martin Garcia (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.70 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic

3) Arrogate – The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion was upset by Accelerate in the San Diego Handicap and then by Collected in the TVG Pacific Classic. There is no doubt that his has lost some closing speed and he has been prone of late to not getting out of the gate quick enough. Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 10 Starts 7-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  4-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>2nd
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 119 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes

4) West Coast – The recent winner of the Pennsylvania Derby (107 Beyer Speed Figure).  His Travers Stakes win still ranks as his most impressive performance. There have only been seven other horses who posted a faster time in the Travers at the 10 furlong distance than West Coast’s 2:01.91.  One of which was track record holder Arrogate last year (1:59.36). Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 8 Starts 6-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Flatter
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.19 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 

5) Keen Ice – He still holds the distinction of being the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes. He has a 4th place finish in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic and a 3rd place finish in last year’s Classic. In 2017, he has a 4th place finish in the Pegasus World Cup, a 7th place finish in the Dubai World Cup, a win in the Suburban Handicap and a hard-fought 2nd place finish in the Whitney Handicap. Next Start: The Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 7th.

Career: 23 Starts 3-3-5-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Start  2-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes/2017 Suburban HC
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 106 – 2017 Suburban Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes & 2017 Suburban Handicap

6) Mubtaahij* The recent winner of the Awesome Again Stakes (shown below). Mubtaahij has historically been sort of an enigma but appears to have blossomed and matured under the training of Bob Baffert. Although he is not a huge threat to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he does have “hit the board” potential with a 2nd place and 4th place finish in the last two Dubai World Cup races. Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 18 Starts 5-4-1-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>4th–>1st
Sire: Dubawi
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
Best 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.28 (estimated) – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 99 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 102- 2017 Awesome Again Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

7) Cupid – The Bob Baffert-trained winner of the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita (shown below). He had a disappointing 4th place finish in his last start, the Awesome Again Stakes. He was right where he needed to be going into the stretch but didn’t have closing speed to match his competition in the last furlong. Not inspiring since the Breeders’ Cup Classic will have be a furlong longer than the Awesome Again Stakes. Next Start: Presumably the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th but don’t be surprised if he is entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile instead.

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Raphael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.89 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

8) Gunnevera  – Although he is not likely to win against this level of competition, he has a closer’s chance of hitting the board. There is no doubt that he has improved since his 7th place finish in this year’s Kentucky Derby. – Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 13 Starts 5-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Dialed In
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Edgard Zayas
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2.01.71 (estimated) – 2017 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 104 – 2017 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 104 – 2017 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2017 Travers Stakes

9) Girvin* – He makes my Top 10 because he has already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (shown below). However, his 11th place finish in Travers Stakes was disappointing and he followed up that performance with another disappointing effort in the Oklahoma Derby (5th place finish). Girvin may be better suited for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Next Start: Uncertain. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is retired.

Career: 8 Starts 4-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>11th
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Robby Albarado (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2.04.39 (estimated) – 2017 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 75 – 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby


On the Docket…

I was planning on writing a preview of the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park that is scheduled for Saturday October 7th. However, I will be out of town and this year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup really only has two name-horse in Keen Ice. This race will be the last “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’s Cup Classic. I will post updated Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings sometime next week along with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile rankings.


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 FrontRunner Stakes and Awesome Again Stakes Previews

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September 29th 2017

Coming up tomorrow at Santa Anita Park are key two “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The FrontRunner Stakes for the Breeders’ Cup Sentient Jet Juvenile and the Awesome Again Stakes for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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

The FrontRunner Stakes

1 & 1/16th Mile – Race #8 at Santa Anita – Post-Time: 6:03 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Zatter – Bejarano/Baffert – 5/2
2. Take the One O One – Talamo/Koriner – 15/1
3. Ayacara – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 10/1
4. Bolt d’Oro – Nakatani/Ruis – 2/1
5. City Plan – Van Dyke/Harty – 20/1
6. Texas Wedge – Roman/Miller – 6/1
7. Encumbered – Gutierrez/Callaghan – 8/1
8. Solomini – Prat/Baffert – 4/1
9. Continental Divide – Espinoza/Cassidy – 15/1

My Pick: I think this race comes down to Bolt d’Oro and the two Baffert entries. I like Bolt d’Oro for the win. With the unpredictability of 2-year-olds, I would make straight win bets on Bolt d’Oro and wouldn’t play trifectas or superfectas. The only exotic bet I would consider is an exacta keying Bolt d’Oro over Solomini and Zatter. That is 4 over 1,8.

I wrote an article a few weeks ago for US racing profiling my three current favorites on the 2018 Kentucky Derby trail: Bolt d’Oro, Copper Bullet and St Patrick’s Day. The article can be accessed by clicking HERE.


The Awesome Again Stakes

1 & 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Santa Anita – Post-Time: 7:05 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Win the Space (122) – Talamo/Papaprodromou – 15/1
2. Dortmund (122) – Stevens/Sherman – 8/1  Scratched
3. Midnight Storm (122) – Baze/D’Amato – 3/1
4. Curlin Rules (122) – Prat/Sadler – 6/1
5. Breaking Lucky (122) – Smith/Baker – 5/1
6. Mubtaahij (122) – Van Dyke/Baffert – 4/1
7. Donworth (122) – Gutierez/O’Neill – 6/1
8. Cupid (126) – Bejarano/Baffert – 2/1

My Pick: Cupid is the only horse in this field coming off a win. He’s my race favorite and should have this field covered. As for exotics, this field is unpredictable and I would stick primarily with straight win bets on Cupid. Any of the remaining six horses could hit the board.


On the Docket…

My next blog will be an updated Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings.


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 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

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August 27th 2017

The Travers Stakes proved to be another exciting race that vaulted race winner, West Coast, into my Top Ten Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. 24-1 longshot Gunnevera ran a great race too as I predicted in my Travers race preview. So I will be keeping a close eye on Gunnevera’s workouts and next race entry as I feel he may be peaking at the right time. 

Below are my Top Ten 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. We still have a couple of races on the schedule that can add new contenders and change the rankings. One such race will be the Woodward Stakes next weekend.

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1) Gun Runner* – He’s extremely consistent and now arguably the top racehorse in the world on dirt. In his last start in the Whitney Stakes, he received his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 112. The only knock on his resume currently is that he has never won at the Classic distance of 10 furlongs. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 16 Starts 9-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-2-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.76 (estimated) – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes

2) Collected* – He moved up in the 4th place in the latest NTRA poll. He’s a perfect 4 for 4 in 2017. His surprise win in the Pacific Classic answered any questions you might have had about his ability to stretch out to 10 furlongs. – Next Start: The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 11 Starts 8-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: City Zip
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Martin Garcia (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.70 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic

3) Arrogate – The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion was upset by Accelerate in the San Diego Handicap and then by Collected in the TVG Pacific Classic. There is no doubt that his has lost some closing speed and he has been prone of late to not getting out of the gate quick enough. Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 10 Starts 7-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  4-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>2nd
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 119 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes

4) Accelerate – The surprise San Diego Handicap winner and the only horse who has beaten Arrogate twice. Next Start: Nothing confirmed to date.

Career: 13 Starts 4-3-5-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.38 (estimated) – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 110 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 110 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2017 Pacific Classic

5) Keen Ice  – He still holds the distinction of being the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes. He has a 4th place finish in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic and a 3rd place finish in last year’s Classic. In 2017, he has a 4th place finish in the Pegasus World Cup, a 7th place finish in the Dubai World Cup, a win in the Suburban Handicap and a hard-fought 2nd place finish in the Whitney Handicap. Next Start: Nothing confirmed to date but most likely the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 7th. 

Career: 23 Starts 3-3-5-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Start  1-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>8th–>3rd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes/2017 Suburban HC
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 106 – 2017 Suburban Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes & 2017 Suburban Handicap

6) Shaman Ghost – He finished 2nd behind Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup and then went on to win the 2017 Santa Anita Derby and the Pimlico Special Handicap. In his last start, he was beaten by Keen Ice in the Suburban Handicap by 3 lengths. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 17 Starts 8-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

7) Cupid – The Bob Baffert-trained winner of the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita (shown below). Although he is not a huge threat to win the Classic, he gives Bob Baffert a nice 1-2 finish possibility with Arrogate. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd. 

Career: 10 Starts 5-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Raphael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.89 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita  

8) West Coast – Yet another Breeders’ Cup Classic contender from Bob Baffert’s barn. His time of 2:01.19 in the Travers Stakes was impressive. There have only been seven other horses who posted a faster time in the Travers at the 10 furlong distance.  One of which was track record holder Arrogate last year (1:59.36). The other six horses were General Assembly, Honest Pleasure, Easy Goer, Thunder Rumble, Play Fellow and Loud. Next Start: Nothing announced to date.

Career: 7 Starts 5-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Flatter
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.19 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 

9) Neolithic  – The Todd Pletcher-trainee has two third places finishes behind Arrogate in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup and 2017 Dubai World Cup. He won in his last start, a 7 furlong claiming race at Saratoga. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 10 Starts 3-3-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd->3rd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:04.03* (estimated from 2017 Dubai World Cup)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

10) Girvin* – He makes my Top 10 because he has already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (shown below). However, his Travers Stakes performance was disappointing and he may be better suited for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Next Start: Uncertain.

Career: 8 Starts 4-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>11th
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Robby Albarado (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2.04.39 (estimated) – 2017 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 75 – 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby

Honorable Mention: Gunnevera and Hoppertunity


On the Docket…

My next blog will be a preview of the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga that is scheduled for next weekend, Saturday September 2nd. The Woodward is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’s Cup Classic. I should have this blog out by Thursday evening.


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 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

Challenge_home_headline

August 14th 2017

With the Breeders’ Cup Classic coming up in less than 12 weeks, it is time for a look at the 2017 Classic contenders. With Arrogate’s surprise loss in the San Diego Handicap about 3 weeks ago, “The Classic” seems to be a bit more wide open than anticipated.

Below are my Top Eight 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. I opted for a Top Eight instead of a Top Ten at this point since it was too difficult rank #9 and #10 in my rankings. We still have four key races on the schedule that can add new contenders and change the rankings.

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1) Arrogate – The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion and Longines #1 ranked racehorse in the world was upset by Accelerate in the San Diego Handicap in his last start. This was no doubt an unexpected clunker performance. Arrogate will likely get a chance to redeem himself in a rematch vs Accelerate this coming Saturday in the Pacific Classic. Next Start: The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 19th.

Career: 9 Starts 7-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  4-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)

Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 119 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 122 –2016 Travers Stakes

2) Gun Runner* – He’s extremely consistent and now arguably the top racehorse in the world on dirt. In his last start in the Whitney Stakes, he received his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 112. I considered him for the #1 spot in my rankings but he has already lost twice already to Arrogate (2016 Travers & 2017 Dubai World Cup). And he has never won at the Classic distance of 10 furlongs. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 16 Starts 9-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-2-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.76 (estimated) – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes

3) Keen Ice  – He still holds the distinction of being the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when  he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes. He has a 4th place finish in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic and a 3rd place finish in last year’s Classic. In 2017, he has a 4th place finish in the Pegasus World Cup, a 7th place finish in the Dubai World Cup, a win in the Suburban Handicap and a hard-fought 2nd place finish in the Whitney Handicap. Next Start: Nothing confirmed to date but most likely the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 7th. 

Career: 23 Starts 3-3-5-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Start  1-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>8th–>3rd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz 

Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes/2017 Suburban HC
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 106 – 2017 Suburban Handicap

Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes & 2017 Suburban Handicap

4) Shaman Ghost – He finished 2nd behind Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup and then went on to win the 2017 Santa Anita Derby and the Pimlico Special Handicap. In his last start, he was beaten by Keen Ice in the Suburban Handicap by 3 lengths. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 17 Starts 8-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

5) Cupid – The Bob Baffert-trained winner of the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita (shown below). Although he is not a huge threat to win the Classic, he gives Bob Baffert a nice 1-2 finish possibility with Arrogate. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd. 

Career: 10 Starts 5-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Raphael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.89 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita  

6) Accelerate – The surprise San Diego Handicap winner and the only horse who has beaten Arrogate twice. He would rank higher in my ranking but he has yet to race further than 8 1/2 furlongs. Was his drumming of Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap a fluke? We will see this coming Saturday. Next Start: The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 19th.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-4-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 109 – 2017 San Diego Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2017 San Diego Handicap  

7) Neolithic  – The Todd Pletcher-trainee has two third places finishes behind Arrogate in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup and 2017 Dubai World Cup. He won in his last start, a 7 furlong claiming race at Saratoga. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 10 Starts 3-3-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd->3rd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:04.03* (estimated from 2017 Dubai World Cup)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

8) Girvin* – He qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (shown below). A win in the upcoming Travers Stakes could catapult him to the top of the 2017 3-year-old class. Next Start: The Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 26th.

Career: 7 Starts 4-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 13th–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Robby Albarado (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2.06.71 (estimated) – 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 75- 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar this coming Saturday and potential rematch of Arrogate and Accelerate from the San Diego Handicap. The TVG Pacific Classic is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 


Eddie Olczyk

olcyzk

It was announced last week that NBC TV color commentator Eddie Olczyk is receiving treatments for colon cancer. His absence has been noticed from recent NBC horse racing broadcasts. Eddie is one of my favorite broadcasters as he shares two of my passions: hockey and horse racing. For a man who is a former NHL hockey player, he has developed into a respected handicapper and horse racing analyst. I first saw Eddie play for the Toronto Maple Leafs in St Louis on April Fool Day in 1989. He was a stud left winger and one of the top young American-born NHL stars at the time. Get well soon Eddie!


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

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

–Michael

2016 Pennsylvania Derby – Nyquist vs Exaggerator once more

 

nyquist-winner-2015

September 21st 2016

Coming this Saturday is another interesting battle of the top three finishers in this year’s Kentucky Derby: Nyquist, Exaggerator and Gun RunnerWith a purse of $1.250,000, the Penn Derby always attracts some of the top 3 year olds and this year’s field (shown below) is no exception. Other entries include: the West Virginia Derby winner Cupid, the Smarty Jones Stakes winner Awesome Slew and the Withers Stakes winner Sunny Ridge who placed 3rd in the Haskell Invitational. 

The Pennsylvania Derby – 1 1/8th Mile – Saturday September 24th – Race #11 at PARX – Post-Time: 4:45 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Awesome Slew (122) – Lopez/Plesa – 10-1
2. Exaggerator (124) – Desormeax/Desormeax – 9-2
3. Summer Revolution (117) – Smith/Rodriguez – 8-1
4. Connect (119) – Velazquez/Brown – 12-1
5. Cupid (122) – Bejarano/Baffert – 5-1
6. Wild About Deb (117) – Pejeira/Preciado – 20-1
7. Gun Runner (122) – Geroux/Asmussen – 6-1
8. My Man Sam (117) – Franco/Brown – 20-1
9. Nyquist (124) – Gutierrez/O’Neill- 5-2
10. Sunny Ridge (122) – Bravo/Servis – 12-1
11. Discreet Lover (117) – Flores/Lewis – 30-1  
12. Hit It Once More (119) – Ortiz Jr./Sciacca – 20-1

Race Analysis: This should be one helluva race. Summer Revolution will provide the speed and early pace which will bode well for Exaggerator’s closing style. He should get Awesome Slew to go with him from the #1 post. Right now the weather forecast shows that it will be a dry race by post time (25% chance of early morning showers). So I think Nyquist will bounce back and finish ahead of Exaggerator. But will it be good enough for the win? Nyquist deserves to be the race favorite but not at odds lower than 2-1. He hasn’t won since the Kentucky Derby back in May.

Nyquist is my reluctant top choice but I think we could have a surprise winner in this one. The Bob Baffert-trained Cupid is capable of providing the upset as is Gun Runner. But my longshot choice would be the son of Awesome Again–Awesome Slew–who might be prime to wire this field like he did in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx shown below. And he won’t have to come from the outside post  across traffic to get there starting in Post #1.

Summer Revolution seems initially inviting with Mike Smith on-board but he has never raced further than 7 furlongs and finished 4th in his last start (King’s Bishop Stakes) against lesser competition. Connect is a good horse who I was high on entering the Travers Stakes. He received a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in the Curlin Stakes but disappointingly finished 6th in the Travers. And he was 6th after 9 furlongs in that race too.

So I would probably recommend a boxed Superfecta of five horses (1,2,5,7 & 9). A 10 cent boxed Superfecta with 5 horses would cost $12. If any of these horses are scratched, then add the 4 horse Connect. If you believe Connect will bounce back, another 10 cent Superfecta you can try is 1, 2, 7, 9 with 1, 2, 5, 7, 9 with 1, 2, 5, 7, 9 with 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 which would cost $12.60. This bet eliminates Cupid from winning and Nyquist from a 4th place finish but adds Connect as a 4th place finisher.

–Michael

Arkansas Derby and Oaklawn Handicap Previews

April 16th 2016

Today will be a very interesting day on several levels at Oaklawn Park. First, the $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby will catapult at least one horse into the Kentucky Derby field. Secondly, the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap will be be an intriguing race in the older horse division and as a future reference for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic contender watch.

The Oaklawn Handicap will be a rematch of the Santa Anita Handicap race winner Melatonin and 3rd place finisher Effinex who was the race favorite for that race. Point Piper is also entered in the Oaklawn Handicap and he finished 5th in the Santa Anita Handicap. Thrown into this mix is the Razorback Stakes winner Upstart and Todd Pletcher’s Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Blofeld.

As for the Arkansas Derby, it is interesting to note that three out of the last four race Arky Derby winners have gone on to finish in the top 3 of the Kentucky Derby (2015 American Pharoah- 1st, 2014 Danza – 3rd, 2012 Bodemeister 2nd).

Bob Baffert’s Cupid is the morning line favorite at 2/1 odds in the Arkansas Derby. However, some background info on the Derby prep races at Oaklawn Park this year–the race favorite has failed to win every race. Here is how the race favorites have fared. In the Smarty Jones Stakes, Toews On Ice finished 6th. In the Southwest Stakes, Collected finished 4th. In the Rebel Stakes, Suddenbreakingnews finished 5th. 

I think both of these races are wide open and will be exciting races to watch. Below are post position draws and morning line odds.

Oaklawn Handicap – 1 1/8th Mile Race #9 at Oaklawn Park – Post-Time: 5:09 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Blofeld (116) – Velazquez/Pletcher 4-1
2. Melatonin (119) – Talamo/Hofmans 7-2
3. Point Piper (113) – Garcia/Hollendorfer 15-1
4. Financial Modeling (113) – Ortiz/Cox 8-1
5. Carve (115) – Bejarano/Asmussen 15-1
6. Upstart (119) – Bravo/Violette 7/2
7. Domain’s Rap (114) – Vazquez/Villafranco 12-1
8. Effinex (121) – Smith/Jerkens 2-1

Commentary: The most compelling story line here is Melatonin, the surprise winner of the Santa Anita Handicap. Was his win in the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap a fluke or is Melatonin the real deal? I have no magic handicapping advice for this one but a Show bet on Effinex should be a safe bet. Blofeld was given 4/1 morning line odds but he has never raced further than 1 mile. I like a 2,6,8 Boxed Trifecta and Upstart for the surprise win.

Upstart was a third place finisher in the 1 1/8th mile Haskell Invitational last year behind American Pharoah and Keen Ice. Jockey Joe Bravo seems to have some magic at this track haven ridden 41-1 odds Danza to a 2014 Arkansas Derby victory. And he is coming off a win on Upstart in the Razorback Handicap.

Arkansas Derby – 1 1/8th Mile Race #11 at Oaklawn Park – Post Time: 6:18 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Discreetness – Court/Fires 20-1
2. Cutacorner – Birzer/Van Berg 50-1
3. Creator – Santana Jr./Asmussen 10-1
4. Suddenbreakingnews – Quinonez/Von Hemel 5-1
5. American Pioneer – Bejarano/Catalano 8-1
6. Unbridled Outlaw – Lanerie/Romans 10-1
7. Dazzling Gem – Talamo/Cox 12-1
8. Whitmore – Ortiz Jr./Moquett 9-2
9. Luna de Loco – Bravo/Asmussen 30-1
10. Cupid – Garcia/Baffert 2-1
11. Gray Sky – Vazquez/Lukas 30-1
12. Gettysburg – Velazquez/Pletcher 6-1

Commentary: I like Cupid but if immediate history holds form at Oaklawn as I noted earlier, the race favorite doesn’t win. If anyone is going to beat Cupid it will be one of these three horses: Whitmore, Suddenbreakingnews and Gettysburg. There are no concerns about Gettysburg going the distance as he finished 2nd in the 1 1/8th Sunland Park Festival of Racing back in March. Suddenbreakingnews is a closer. He won the Southwest Stakes but finished a disappointing 5th in the Rebel Stakes. He should finish higher than 5th with an extra furlong to work his closer magic.

Whitmore finished 2nd in the Southwest and Rebel Stakes. He has sort of been the bridesmaid at Oaklawn this year. He did press Cupid for the win in the Rebel. Will it be his turn to visit victory lane? I am not sure. I like a 4-10 (Suddenbreakingnews, Cupid) Exacta Box in this one.

–Michael

Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

April 11th 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here it is…

My Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others to keep an eye on include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

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

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

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

–Michael

My Top 12 Kentucky Derby Contender List

kentucky derby contenders

April 2nd, 2016

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

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

My Top 12 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others to keep an eye on include:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

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

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

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

–Michael

2016 Rebel Stakes Preview – Suddenbreakingnews the morning line favorite

March 18th 2016
Coming up tomorrow at Oaklawn Park is the highly anticipated Rebel Stakes with a $900,000 purse that has attracted a full field of 14 horses. Four of these 3 year-olds were in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #3: American Dubai (99-1), Cupid (36-1), Suddenbreakingnews (14-1) and Whitmore (42-1). Cherry Wine was absent in the last pool but was in Pool #2 at 31-1 final odds. Below are the post-positions and morning line odds.

Post Position/Horse (weight)/Jockey/Trainer
1. Creator (115) – Santana Jr./Asmussen – 6/1
1A. Madtap (117) – Nakatani/Asmussen – 6/1
2. Z Royal (115) – Vazquez/Lukas – 20/1
2X. Gray Sky (115) – Geroux/Lukas – 20/1
3. Ralis (117) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 12/1
4. Cupid (115) – Garcia/Baffert – 7/2
5. Discreetness (122) – Court/Fires – 12/1
6. Siding Spring (115) – Rocco/Casse – 20/1
7. Spikes Shirl (115) – Castanon/Stewart – 30/1
8. American Dubai (115) – Landeros/Richards – 12/1
9. Cutacorner (117) – Birzer/Van Berg – 30/1
10. Whitmore (117) – Ortiz Jr./Moquett – 7/2
11. Cherry Wine (115) – Lanerie/Romans – 12/1
12. Suddenbreakingnews (122) – Quinonez/Von Hemel – 3/1


Overall, this will be an exciting race if the Southwest Stakes (shown below) was any indication. I think this race will come down to a battle between four horses: Cupid, Suddenbreakingnews, Madtap and Cherry Wine. Cupid was a scratch from the San Felipe last week at Santa Anita and shipped to Oaklawn Park for this race instead. Madtap raced at Oaklawn Park two weeks ago on March 5th and won with a very good time of 1:43.85 at the same 1 1/16th mile distance. Both of the horses may wear down in the stretch due to tiredness. So I feel that this race may set up well for another win by Suddenbreakingnews. I think this is a better race to watch than bet.

–Michael