2016 Travers Stakes Preview – Will Exaggerator prevail at the Graveyard of Champions?

2016-travers-stakes-lapel-pin-silver-metal-2

August 24th 2016 – Updated 8/26/16 (see below)

Coming this Saturday on NBC is the 147th running of the Travers Stakes for 3 year-olds. Consider the history of this race at the hallowed grounds of Saratoga. It was first run in 1864 when Abraham Lincoln was President. That was seven score and twelve years ago. It was once viewed as the fourth leg of the Triple Crown. It seems to produce upsets or controversy. Most notably in 1930 when the Triple Crown champion Gallant Fox was upset by the 100-1 longshot Jim Dandy. More fresh on everyour minds was last year when Keen Ice shocked the Saratoga crowd by beating American Pharoah.

Then there was the Affirmed vs Alydar showdown in 1978 that resulted in Affirmed being disqualified by a foul. To date, the only Triple Crown winner to ever win the Travers Stakes was Whirlaway in 1941.

There is no Triple Crown winner this year to test the Saratoga racing gods but we do have a number of horses in this field that competed in this year’s Triple Crown races:

Exaggerator – Preakness Stakes winner, 2nd in the Kentucky Derby, 11th in the Belmont Stakes
Creator – Belmont Stakes winner, 13th in the Kentucky Derby
Destin – 2nd in the Belmont Stakes, 6th in the Kentucky Derby
Gun Runner – 3rd in the Kentucky Derby 
Governo Malibu – 4th in the Belmont Stakes
My Man Sam – 11th in the Kentucky Derby
Majesto – 18th in the Kentucky Derby
Laoban – the surprise Jim Dandy Stakes winner who finished 6th in the Preakness
Forever d’Oro – 13th in the Belmont Stakes

Plus some late bloomers like the Curlin Stakes winner Connect, Bob Baffert’s Iowa Derby winner American Freedom who finished 2nd to Exaggerator in the Haskell Invitational and Bob Baffert’s other promising colt–Arrogate–who produced a 103 Beyer Speed Figure at Santa Anita Park in June.

Then there’s the once promising Chad Brown colt Gift Box who was sidelined during the Derby trail season due to illness. He gave Connect a real battle in the Curlin Stakes. And the 50-1 odds horse Anaximandros. I think his name means longshot in Latin.

Here are the post-positions, riders and morning line odds:

The Travers Stakes – 1 1/4th Mile – Saturday August 27th – Race #11 at Saratoga – Post-Time: 4:44 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post Horse/(Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Arrogate – Smith/Baffert – 10-1
2. American Freedom – Bejarano/Baffert – 6-1
3. My Man Sam – Franco/Brown – 20-1
4. Governor Malibu – Rosario/Clement – 12-1
5. Forever d’Oro – Saez/Stewart – 30-1
6. Anaximandros – Reyes/Yakakov – 50-1
7. Exaggerator – Desormeax/Desormeax – 3-1
8. Destin – Castellano/Pletcher – 10-1
9. Gift Box – Alvarado/Brown- 12-1
10. Connect – Velazquez/Brown – 4-1
11. Majesto – Santana/Delgato – 30-1   SCRATCHED
12. Creator – Ortiz Jr./Asmussen – 15-1
13. Laoban – Ortiz/Guillot – 15-1
14. Gun Runner – Geroux/Asmussen – 10-1

My Prediction: This will be an interesting race. Exaggerator is the class of the field. He has won before at Saratoga as a 2 year old. He has a good starting position in the middle of pack. It would be hard to bet against him here but why would this year be any different for a race that typically springs upsets? Especially when there is no rain in the forecast. This race is very hard to handicap since a few of these horses, and some very promising ones like Connect, have yet to race 10 furlongs. And those who raced in the Kentucky Derby may have significantly improved by now. This race’s exotic bets should payout nice if you are lucky enough to hit one. 

Here are the Top Beyer Speed Figures for horses in this field at races longer than one mile

Arrogate              SA           24 Jun   1 1/16M         103
Exaggerator       SA           09 Apr   1 1/8M           103
Connect               SAR        29 Jul     1 1/8M           101
Exaggerator       CD          07 May 1 1/4M            101
Exaggerator       MTH      31 Jul     1 1/8M            101
Exaggerator       PIM        21 May 1 3/16M           101
Laoban                 SAR       30 Jul  1 1/8M               101
Destin                  TAM      12 Mar  1 1/16M           100

This is why I would lean towards picking Exaggerator (The Slopmeister) to win this race even on a dry track surface. Connect and American Freedom are probably good bets to finish in the superfecta. After that, it depends on which Gun Runner, Creator and Destin shows up. Arrogate is hurt by drawing the rail. I have no magic crystal ball for this one folks. Good luck and happy viewing!

Update! 8/26/16

One thing I noticed in my research tonight is how the top 3 finishers in Jim Dandy Stakes fared in the Travers Stakes the past 4 years. The Jim Dandy Stakes is a 9 furlong (1 1/8th mile) race that is a prep race for the Travers.

2015 – Frosted finished 2nd in the Jim Dandy and 3rd in the Travers
2014 – Wicked Strong and Tonalist finished 1-2 in the Jim Dandy and then 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Travers.
2013 – Will Take Charge finished 2nd in the Jim Dandy and won the Travers
2012 – Alpha and Neck ‘n Neck finished 1-2 in the Jim Dandy and tied in a dead heat in the Travers.

The Top 3 finishers in this year’s Jim Dandy Stakes were: 1) Laoban, 2) Governor Malibu and 3) Destin. So if you are looking for horses to put into your superfecta bets, it would be a good idea to include one or two of these horses. Of the three, Governor Malibu seems to be the safest bet of the three to hit the board based on his career history.

Two horses that I wouldn’t put in my superfectas are: Anaximandros and My Man Sam. Majesto has been scratched. Forever d’Oro is the only longshot that might have a chance to hit the board. He is a half-brother to Songbird but he has yet to run like it. He crapped out in the Belmont Stakes but moved up well in the Curlin Stakes to finish 3rd.

As I stated earlier, this will be an interesting race. Sort of a mini Kentucky Derby. Since the Haskell Invitational was a wet race, which some horses don’t run well in, we could see a return to form for a horse like Gun Runner. But I am not convinced he likes a mile and a quarter.

–Michael

A July Spectacular! Triple Crown Rematch Weekend. Plus updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings

July 27th 2016 – Updated July 30th 2016 1 PM CST

Usually July is a slow, dull month for the sport horse racing and it has been evident in previous year’s blog statistics. However, this year July has been one of the most exciting summer months for the sport in recent memory. And it is about to go out like a huge Fourth of July fireworks finale this weekend.

Last weekend, the California Chrome vs Dortmund battle in the San Diego Handicap proved to be one of the best horse races of the year thus far. With California Chrome’s win in the San Diego Handicap, he received the top Beyer Speed Figure (111) of the year for dirt races longer than one mile. And Dortmund received a 110 Beyer Speed Figure, the best of his career and tied for 2nd best this year for dirt races longer than one mile.

Then Carina Mia gave the sensational filly Songbird her best battle to date in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga (shown below). She received her career best Beyer Speed Figure (101) with the win. Songbird has now won nine straight races and drawing comparisons to the Queen of Thoroughbreds Zenyatta.


Triple Crown Rematches

This weekend, we will have two big rematches from this year’s Triple Crown races. An exciting Belmont Stakes rematch of Creator and Destin in the Jim Dandy Stakes on Saturday July 30th. Remember that Creator edged Destin at the wire by a nose. Mohaymen will also be entered so the Jim Dandy Stakes will live up to its name. 

Jim Dandy Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday July 30th 5:18 PM CST – Fox Sports 2

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Creator (123) – I. Ortiz/Asmussen – 3-1  
2. Laoban (117) – J.Ortiz/Guillot – 20-1
3. Mohaymen (121) – Alvarado/McLaughlin – 9-5
4. Destin (121) – Castellano/Pletcher – 2-1
5. Governor Malibu (117) – Rosario/Clement – 9-2
6. Race Me Home (117) – Saez/Romans – 15-1

Handicapping Advice:  Saratoga’s track surface seems to adversely affect some horses and very few of the horses in this field have much experience on it. Mohaymen hasn’t raced since the Kentucky Derby in early May, so knows how he will respond after a lengthy layoff. Creator and Race Me Home are both closers who depend on fast opening fractions that I am not sure either will get. In a small field of six horses, I suspect that they will be closer to the lead pack. Laoban has yet to win a race in 7 starts. Really, any of the other five horses in the field could win this race. With no clear favorite, the exotic bets should pay out nice. I am leaning towards Destin as the race winner. And I have a sneaky feeling that Dale Romans’ Race Me Home will surprise and be in the mix at the end. 

Then how about a Nyquist vs Exaggerator rematch in the Haskell Invitational on Sunday? Throw in Gun Runner into the mix and a 60% chance of rain and you’ve got potential for more great drama. The winner gets an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Haskell Invitational – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #12 at Monmouth Park – Post-Time: Sunday July 31st 4:47 PM CST –  NBC

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Nyquist (122) – I. Ortiz/ONeill – 6-5
2. Sunny Ridge (118) – Juarez/Servis – 20-1
3. Awesome Slew (118) – Lopez/Plesa – 15-1
4. Gun Runner (118) – Geroux/Asmussen– 4-1
5. American Freedom (118) – Bejarano/Baffert – 3-1
6. Exaggerator (122) – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 5-2

Handicapping Advice: I think Nyquist wins this one so long as he gets a dry track. If it rains and the track is sloppy, then I like Exaggerator. Gun Runner should be in the mix in either scenario and remember how well he battled Nyquist through 9 furlongs in the Kentucky Derby. American Freedom has won his last two starts in the Sir Barton Stakes and the Iowa Derby. Sunny Ridge hasn’t raced since his 4th place finish in the Withers Stakes back in March. Awesome Slew is probably overmatched in this field.

And for good measure, there will two other horses racing this weekend that are in my Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings: Beholder in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Saturday (Post-Time 7:33 PM CST) and Bradester in the Monmouth Cup on Sunday (Post-Time 2:29 PM CST).

So four horses in my Top 12 Breeders Cup Contender rankings (listed below) will be in action. 

As far as being major contenders in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, the 3 year-old class of 2016 really needs crank it up a notch to catch up with the older horses. Their times and Beyer Speed Figures are lagging behind. Perhaps this is the weekend we see this crop make huge gains. 


Updated Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders:

1)  California Chrome – He’s undefeated in four starts in 2016. With his Dubai World Cup win in March, he became the all-time North American leader in race earnings with $12.5 million dollars. In the San Diego Handicap, California Chrome displayed a fight that we have never seen before since he has usually won with ease. He is expected to be an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pegasus World Cup next January. But his next start appears to be another showdown at Del Mar on August 20th in the Pacific Classic vs Beholder and Dortmund.

Career: 22 Starts 13-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.93 (calculated) – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Frosted  He has set two track records thus far as a 4 year old. The first came at Meydan in the 1900 meter Al Maktoum Challenge in February. His most recent came in the 124th running of the Metropolitan Handicap with a time of 1:32.73 that resulted in the highest Beyer Speed Figure (123) of his career and the highest of any thoroughbred thus far in 2016. So now the question becomes, should he be entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile or The Classic? He was always viewed as a horse who like distance and never a “miler” prior to his stunning performance in the Met Mile. His next start appears to be in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on August 6th.

Career: 16 Starts 5-6-1-2    Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-0-1-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: William Buick
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 103 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 123 2016 Metropolitan Handicap

3) Melatonin– The surprise winner of the 2016 Santa Anita Handicap. He proved his Big ‘Cap performance was no fluke by finishing 2nd behind Effinex in the Oaklawn Handicap and completing the Big ‘Cap-Gold Cup Double. His win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita assures him a spot in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is trained by David Hofmans who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1996 with Alphabet Soup. His next start will likely be in the Pacific Classic on August 20th but that has not been confirmed.

Career: 13 Starts 5-3-3-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Kodiak Kowboy
Trainer: David Hofmans (1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Joe Talamo
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time:  1:59.79 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

4) Beholder After a stunning performance in the 2015 TVG Pacific Classic (shown below), she was #1 in many Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings last year. Beholder was entered in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic but was unfortunately scratched due to a fever. After a long layoff, she bounced back with an impressive win in the Adoration Stakes. But her last effort, although a win in the Vanity Stakes, may indicate that she has slipped a bit off her 2015 form because she seemed to labor to produce a winning of 1:35.97 in this one mile race. Her next start will come in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar this Saturday July 31st.

Career: 22 Starts 17-3-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 10

Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Henny Hughes
Trainer: Richard Mandella (2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.772015 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic

5) Effinex – He finished 2nd to American Pharoah in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. For 2016, he has a 3rd place finish in the Santa Anita Derby, a win in the Oaklawn Handicap, a head-scratching 6th place finish in the Stephen Foster but bounced back with a big win in the Suburban Handicap (shown below). His next start appears to be in the Whitney Handicap August 6th.

Career: 24 Starts 9-2-4-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>6th–>1st
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens 
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.04 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic

6) Dortmund Despite Dortmund’s impressive battle with the #1 ranked horse in the world in the San Diego Handicap, I put him 6th in my rankings because he still needs to prove himself beyond 9 furlongs. He has the pedigree for distance. His sire Big Brown won the 2008 Kentucky Derby. However, Dortmund has only raced once at the Classic distance of a miler and a quarter. That came in the 2015 Kentucky Derby where he finished 3rd behind American Pharoah and Firing Line. His next start may be a rematch vs California Chrome in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar August 20th.

Career: 11 Starts 8-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st>1st–>2nd
Sire: Big Brown
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) –  2015 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 101 – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 –2016 San Diego Handicap

7) Nyquist  – The 2016 Kentucky Derby winner missed the Belmont Stakes due to spiking a fever shortly after the Preakness Stakes. He will be an entry in the Haskell Invitational on July 31st.

Career: 9 Starts 8-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Uncle Mo  
Trainer: Doug O’Neill 
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.31 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 103 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Kentucky Derby

8) Exaggerator His disappointing 11th place finish in the Belmont Stakes was a head-scratcher. Trainer Keith Desormeaux believes that Exaggerator didn’t take well to the sandy Belmont surface. His future plans originally was to start in the Jim Dandy Stakes on July 30th as a prep race for the Travers Stakes on August 27th. But he supposedly was training well and the Desormeaux brothers were hinting at skipping the Jim Dandy. But surprise, surprise, he will be entered in the Haskell Invitational vs Nyquist on July 31st.

Career: 12 Starts 5-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>11th
Sire: Curlin (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.51 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 101 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Santa Anita Derby

9) Win the Space  A third place finish behind California Chrome and Dortmund in the San Diego Handicap was probably par for the course but I thought he ran a better in the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita. 

Career: 12 Starts 3-1-3-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts 0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Pulpit
Trainer: George Papaprodromou
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:00.03 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 107 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 

10) Hoppertunity – He finished 4th in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Bob Baffert admitted before the race that he wasn’t sure that he had him completely ready. Previous to this start, he finished 3rd (and just a neck from 2nd) in the Dubai World Cup. He is extremely consistent and probably would finish in the top 4 in any race no matter the talent in the field because he has never finished below 4th place in a graded stakes race. He was pegged to start in either the San Diego or Cougar II Handicap races at Del Mar this past weekend but spiked a fever and was scratched from both races.

Career: 20 Starts 5-6-4-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 1st>3rd–>4th
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.16 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 104 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

11) Hard Aces – Still competitive as a 6 year-old, he won the Cougar II Handicap this past Sunday (shown below). He finished 6th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic after qualifying with a win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. He is a closer and performs best when the opening fractions are fast. And he is running well this year at Santa Anita–producing a 2nd place finish in both the Santa Anita Handicap and California Stakes to go with his most recent 3rd place finish in the Gold Cup race. The 105 Beyer he received in the Gold Cup was a career best. He will throw a clunker in along the way and is not an early Vegas favorite to win The Classic but he has “hit the board” potential if the race sets up well for his closing style.

Career: 33 Starts 9-6-5-3  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  1-1-1-1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Hard Spun
Trainer: John Sadler 
Jockey: Mario Pino
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.15 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

12) Bradester* – Although he has never raced beyond 1 1/8th mile, Bradester has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with a win in the Stephen Foster Handicap. He is 2-for-2 in 2016. He competed in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and had a disappointing 9th place finish. 5 of his career 9 wins have come at the 1 1/16th mile distance. So one wonders if he is better suited to for the 1 1/8th mile Pegasus World Cup than the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 23 Starts 9-6-2-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 9th>1st>1st
Sire: Lion Heart
Trainer: Eddie Kenneally
Jockey: Joe Bravo
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A (Estimate from Stephen Foster projected out: 2:01.53)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2015 Salvator Mile Stakes


Below are the key upcoming races with “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Classic races in bold font:

July 30th – Jim Dandy Stakes* – Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000
July 31st – Haskell Invitational* – Monmouth Park – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
August 6th – Whitney Handicap – Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000
August 20th – Pacific Classic – Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000
August 27th – Travers Stakes* – Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000 – NBC
September 3rd – Woodward Stakes – Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 – NBCSN
October 1st – Awesome Again Stakes – Santa Anita – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $300,000 – NBCSN
October 8th – Jockey Gold Cup – Belmont Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
*****

November 5th – Breeders’ Cup Classic – Santa Anita  – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $6,000,000 – NBC

* – 3 year olds only


–Michael

2016 Belmont Stakes Entries, Odds and Analysis

June 10th 2016

Below are the entries, post-positions and morning line 0dds for the 148th running of the Belmont Stakes. Exaggerator is the morning line favorite at 9/5 odds. Expect his live race odds to lower. Suddenbreakingnews picks up Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith for this race.

As far as Triple Crown races, Suddenbreakingnews finished the closest to Exaggerator in terms of distance in lengths of any horse in the field with his 5th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Next closest would be Cherry Wine.

The only horse (in this field) who has beaten Exaggerator is Brody’s Cause who finished ahead of him twice as a 2 year-old in the Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile races at Keeneland.

Overall, there isn’t a lot of speed in this field. Trainer Todd Pletcher has two entries: Stradivari (4th place finisher in the Preakness Stakes) and Destin (6th place finisher in the Kentucky Derby). Todd Pletcher is the only trainer in this year’s Belmont Stakes to have won multiple Belmont Stakes races. He is one of the best at training horses for this 1 1/2 mile distance. Pletcher got a 2nd place finish out of a very average Derby trail horse in Commissioner in the 2014 Belmont Stakes.

So Destin, who hasn’t raced since the Kentucky Derby, and Stradivari should be two horses to watch out for and consider in your Trifectas. Stradivari’s sire Medaglia d’Oro finished 2nd in the 2002 Belmont Stakes by 1/2 length after a disappointing 8th place finish in the Preakness Stakes. Exaggerator’s sire Curlin lost by a head in the 2007 Belmont Stakes. I am predicting another win by Exaggerator. The Preakness Stakes was Stradivari’s first race in the slop and I feel that he is a big strong horse that will probably run better on a dry, fast track. So how about a Exaggerator-Stradivari Exacta?

Unless it is a wet race, I wouldn’t bother putting these three horses in your Superfectas: #7 Seeking The Soul, #8 Forever d’Oro and #9 Trojan Nation. They are all 30-1 for a reason because they aren’t fast enough to race with this caliber of competition. Jockey Paco Lopez is riding #6 Gettysburg and he is a very underrated jockey who sometimes can get surprise finishes out of longshots.

Betting Advice: This depends on if the race if run on a dry, fast track or in wet, sloppy conditions. If it is run on a wet, sloppy track, I would place win, place and show bets on Exaggerator and forget trying to come up with any combinations. Even on a dry, fast track, there are many unknowns so I wouldn’t recommend placing large sums of money on this race. I will probably play a $25 Exacta that would cost $50 that keys Exaggerator to win with two horses (4-Suddenbreakingnews and 5-Stradivari). So 11 over 4,5. Then take another $50 and make a Win bet on Exaggerator. But this depends on his live odds. I like win bets on Exaggerator at 4/5 or higher.

Below are post-positions and morning line odds for the 148th Belmont Stakes:

1) Governor Malibu (12/1) – He will assume a stalking position in this race. I consider him a serious play in Trifectas and Superfectas with the same trainer and jockey who propelled Tonalist to a 2014 Belmont Stakes victory. 

Career: 7 Starts 2-4-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire:  Malibu Moon
Trainer:  Christopher Clement (2014 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2014 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 83, 94 – 88.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Peter Pan Stakes

2) Destin (6/1) – A rested Todd Pletcher-trained horse could be dangerous in the Belmont. I like him for Superfecta plays. But he faded a bit down the stretch in the Kentucky Derby that is worrisome.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>6th
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  
TrainerTodd Pletcher (2007 & 2013 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 100, 93 – 96.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – 2016 Tampa Bay Derby

3) Cherry Wine  (8/1) – Although he finished 2nd in the Preakness Stakes, I would be concerned how he will perform on a dry, fast track.

Career: 9 Starts 2-2-2-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>3rd–>2nd
Sire:  Paddy O’Prado 
Trainer: Dale Romans 
Jockey:  Corey Lanerie
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 88, 96 – 92 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  97 – 2016 Preakness Stakes

4) Suddenbreakingnews (10/1) – With Mike Smith as his jockey and his penchant for making up considerable ground as a closer, he should be a candidate for your Trifectas and Superfectas. I really don’t understand why his morning line odds were set at 10/1 versus Destin’s at 6/1 when he finished ahead of him in the 1 1/4 mile Kentucky Derby.

Career: 9 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>2nd–>5th
Sire: Mineshaft 
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel
Jockey: Mike Smith  (2010 & 2013 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 94, 96 –  95 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 –  2016 Kentucky Derby

5) Stradivari (5/1) – I think he is a serious threat to win this race so long as it is on a dry, fast track. A candidate for your Exactas, Trifectas and Superfectas.

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-0-2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (Finished 2nd in 2002 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2007 & 2013 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2007 & 2012 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 100, 95 – 97.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100Keeneland Allowance Race 4/17/16

6) Gettysburg (30/1) – A longshot who is viewed as the potential pacesetter in the Belmont. He has very underrated Paco Lopez as his jockey. I like him best of all the 30/1 longshots for a Superfecta.

Career: 7 Starts 1-1-2-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>5th–>3rd
Sire:  Pioneerof the Nile
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Paco Lopez
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 87 – 87 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 87 – 2016 Arkansas Derby

7) Seeking The Soul (30/1) – The better of the two Dallas Stewart-trained horses but neither will hit the board on a dry, fast track.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>5th–>1st
Sire: Perfect Soul (IRE)
Trainer: Dallas Stewart
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 79, 88 – 83.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  88 – Churchill Downs MSW 5/29/201

8) Forever d’Oro (30/1) – 30/1 for a reason, see above. But he does have the pedigree to go long.

Career: 3 Starts 1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>5th–>1st
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (Finished 2nd in 2002 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Dallas Stewart
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 71, 81 – 76 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  81 – Belmont MSW 5/29/16

9) Trojan Nation (30/1) – He has yet to win a race and it won’t be this either. Don’t bother using him in Superfectas unless it is a wet race.

Career: 7 Starts 0-1-3-1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>16th
Sire:  Street Cry
Trainer:  Patrick Gallagher
Jockey: Aaron Gryder
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 93, 63- 78 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  93 – 2016 Wood Memorial

10) Lani (20/1) – A temperamental Japanese-trained horse who improved in his last start in the Preakness. A Superfecta candidate but not a threat to win.

Career: 8 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>9th–>5th
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Mikio Matsunaga 
Jockey:  Yukata Take
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 93 – 90 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Preakness Stakes

11) Exaggerator (9/5)  – He has never finished below 3rd as a 3 year-0ld. He has never finished below 2nd in his last three Grade 1 Stakes races. His live odds will go lower than 9/5. I think he will win but he is beatable. 

Career: 11 Starts 5-3-1-1 
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 2nd in 2007 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (2009 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 101, 101 – 101 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Santa Anita Derby

12) Brody’s Cause (20/1) – The only horse in this field who has beaten Exaggerator but this came as a 2 year-old. I haven’t been impressed with his 3 year-old campaign thus far. A candidate for your Superfecta.

Career: 7 Starts 3-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 7th–>1st–>7th
Sire: Giant’s Causeway 
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Luis Saez
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 91, 89 – 90 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – 2016 Blue Grass Stakes

13) Creator (10/1) – At 10/1, I expect his odds to go higher. Will he bounce back after a disappointing 13th place finish in the Kentucky Derby? He is a big roll of the dice.

Career: 9 Starts 2-4-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>13th
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 96, 76 – 86 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2016 Arkansas Derby


–Michael

The 2016 Kentucky Derby Starting Lineup, Post Positions, Odds and Analysis

kentucky-derby-trophy (1)

May 4th, 2016 – Updated May 7th, 2016

The “most exciting 2 minutes in sports” is less than 3 days away and the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby promises to live up to the hype. We have a talented horse in Nyquist who is trying to join a “Who’s Who in Thoroughbred Racing” of horses who entered the Kentucky Derby undefeated and came away with the Roses. Previous undefeated Derby horses who went on to win the Kentucky Derby are Regret in 1915, Morvich in 1922, Majestic Prince in 1969, Seattle Slew in 1977, Smarty Jones in 2004, Barbaro in 2006 and Big Brown in 2008.

Nyquist drew post #13 but before anybody views this as unlucky, this is the same position he won from in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race (shown below). And Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby in 2004 from post 13:

And now for the analysis…

Since 1990, the lowest Kentucky Derby winning Beyer Speed Figure was 97 when California Chrome won in 2014. All other winners eclipsed a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. I generally feel that if a horse wants to “be the part”–a Kentucky Derby winner, he should at least “look the part” and have produced a 97 or higher Beyer Speed Figure thus far. Only 6 horses in the 2016 Kentucky Derby field meet this criteria: Exaggerator, Nyquist, Destin, Danzing Candy, Outwork and Mor Spirit.

Danzing Candy will likely be the pacesetter and I don’t believe that he has the stamina to be able to hang on for the win. Outwork had to struggle to beat a 81-1 odd horse in Trojan Nation in the Wood Memorial. Destin is a fast horse but he has never raced further than 1 1/16th mile. Will he have the stamina to go an extra 1 1/2 furlongs?

Mor Spirit has never finished below 2nd in 7 career starts but I view him more as a horse to round out a Trifecta. So I think the 2016 Kentucky Derby will come down to Nyquist, Exaggerator and Destin. Although it didn’t happen last year, usually one 20-1 or greater odds horse finishes in the Top 4. So keep an eye on the odds for Suddenbreakingnews. Majesto and Whitmore.

Generally, I don’t see a lot of early speed in this field so this doesn’t bode well for closers. This is one of the factors that I think will aid Nyquist. Nyquist has won several different ways: as a pacesetter, as a stalker and coming off the pace and from mid pack like he demonstrated in the 15 horse Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race. He is the deserved race favorite and my pick to win the 2016 Kentucky Derby.

Handicapping Advice: Large win bets on Nyquist if his live odds are 5/2 or greater. Right now his live odds are 2-1. I placed two $10 Boxed Exactas that cost $60 each. The first was 9-11-13 (Destin, Exaggerator and Nyquist) because these are the three fastest horses in the field by times and Beyer Speed Figures. The second Boxed Exacta I placed was 11-13-17 (Nyquist, Exaggerator and Mor Spirit).

I like Majesto as a longshot for Superfectas and his current live odds are 62-1. A $10 win bet here seems inviting but I expect these odds to lower. I always like to place ten to twenty $1 straight Superfectas with various combinations and throwing in a few longshots. It is tough to hit a Superfecta in the Kentucky Derby. Usually you are doing real good to hit 3 out of 4 horses. But “you can’t win if you don’t play” as they say and hitting a Superfecta in the Kentucky Derby usually pays out nicely.

Here are a few of the Straight Superfectas I have placed: (11-13-17-9), (11-9-3-13), (11-9-13-17), (13-9-18-11), (13-11-9-17), (18-13-17-11). I placed a $1 Super High Five bet of (13-11- 9-17-15).

Below are the 2016 Kentucky Derby Post Positions, Jockeys and Morning Line Odds by Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia. Note that a bold font text is hyperlinked to either a horse’s Equibase profile or a race video from Youtube. This is to aid in your own research:

The 142nd Kentucky Derby – Churchill Downs Race #12 – Post Time 5:34 PM CST (NBC)

1) Trojan Nation (50/1) – Has never won a race, draws dreaded rail
Career: 6 Starts 0-1-3-1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Street Cry  
Trainer: Patrick Gallagher
Jockey: Aaron Gryder
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.96 (calculated) – Wood Memorial
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures:  74, 93  – 83.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Wood Memorial

2) Suddenbreakingnews (20/1) – A closer to consider for your Superfecta
Career: 8 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>2nd
Sire: Mineshaft 
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel
Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.30 (calculated)Arkansas Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 86, 94  – 90 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – Arkansas Derby

3) Creator (10/1) – Arkansas Derby winner, a closer
Career: 8 Starts 2-4-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.14 – Arkansas Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 96  – 93 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 –Arkansas Derby

4) Mo Tom (20/1) – Lecomte Stakes winner who has regressed in 2 consecutive starts
Career: 7 Starts 3-0-3-1
Last 3 starts: 1st->3rd–>4th
Sire: Uncle Mo  (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Thomas Amoss
Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.02 (calculated) – Louisiana Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 82  – 84.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Lecomte Stakes

5) Gun Runner (10/1) – Louisiana Derby winner, meager Beyer Speed Figures
Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st

Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.06 – Louisiana Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 91  – 90.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Louisiana Derby 

6) My Man Sam (20/1) – Surprise 2nd place finisher in Blue Grass Stakes
Career: 4 Starts 1-2-0-0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Trappe Shot 
Trainer: Chad Brown 
Jockey:  Irad Ortiz Jr
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.48 (calculated) – Blue Grass Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 95, 88  – 91.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – Aqueduct Opt Claiming Race 3/6/16

7) Oscar Nominated (50/1) – A turf horse who has never raced on real dirt
Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-2
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Kitten’s Joy
Trainer: Michael Maker 
Jockey:  Julien Leparoux
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.82 – Spiral Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 79, 82  – 81.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 82 – Spiral Stakes

8) Lani (30/1) – Japanese trained horse who displayed great fight in winning the UAE Derby
Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mikio Matsunaga 
Jockey:  Yukata Take
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A – 1:52.84 (estimated time from 1900 Meter UAE Derby)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: ?, 83 (estimated)
Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

9) Destin (15/1) – Set track record at Tampa Bay Derby, never raced further than 1 1/16th mile
Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  (Finished 2nd in 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/8 Mile Time: N/A – 1:49.37 (projected time from 1 1/16 mile Tampa Bay Derby)
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 100  – 99 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

10) Whitmore (20/1) – A closer with a favorable post position & new jockey Victor Espinoza
Career: 6 Starts 2-2-1-0 
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Pleasantly Perfect (2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Ron Moquett 
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.89 (calculated)
 – Arkansas Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 92, 92  – 92 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 –Arkansas Derby

11) Exaggerator (8/1) – A closer & most likely threat to Nyquist. Best Beyer average in 2016
Career: 9 Starts 4-2-1-1 
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby, 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.66 – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 96, 103  – 99.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – Santa Anita Derby

12) Tom’s Ready (30/1) – Not sure what he is ready for
Career: 9 Starts 1-4-0-1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>2nd

Sire: More Than Ready
Trainer: Dallas Stewart 
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr 
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.74 (calculated) – Louisiana Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 69, 85  – 77 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85 – Louisiana Derby 

13) Nyquist (3/1) – Undefeated race favorite, my projected winner
Career: 7 Starts 7-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo  (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill (2012 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.11 – Florida Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 101, 94  – 97.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

14) Mohaymen  (10/1) – Coming off disappointing 4th place finish in Florida Derby
Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.43 (calculated) – Florida Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 95, 80  – 87.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – Holy Bull Stakes

15) Outwork  (15/1) –  Might be Pletcher’s best Derby horse
Career: 4 Starts 3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.92 – Wood Memorial
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 93  – 95.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

16) Shagaf (20/1) – Coming off disappointing 5th place finish in the Wood
Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>5th
Sire: Bernardini (Finished 2nd in 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Chad Brown 
Jockey:  Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:56.73 (calculated) – Wood Memorial
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 87  – 87 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Aqueduct MSW 11/22/15

17) Mor Spirit (12/1) – No horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby from post #17
Career: 7 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Eskendereya 
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.66 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 94  – 95.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97San Felipe Stakes

18) Majesto (30/1) – Coming off his career best performance
Career: 6 Starts 1-2-2-0
Last 3 starts:  3rd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Tiznow (2000 and 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Gustavo Delgado
Jockey: Emisael Jaramillo
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.63 (calculated) – Florida Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 84, 89  – 87.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 89 – Florida Derby 

19) Brody’s Cause (12/1) – Blue Grass Stakes winner, a closer to consider for your Superfecta
Career: 6 Starts 3-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>7th–>1st
Sire: Giant’s Causeway (Finished 2nd in 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Luis Saez
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.20 – Blue Grass Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 80, 91  – 85.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Blue Grass Stakes

20) Danzing Candy  (15/1) –  A speed horse who is viewed as the most likely pacesetter 
Career: 5 Starts 3-0-0-1 
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Twirling Candy
Trainer: Clifford Sise
Projected Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.78 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 100, 83  – 91.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes


RANKINGS

Since the Kentucky Derby is usually won by the horse that gets to the 1 1/8th pole first, below is the Kentucky Derby field ranked by time in their last race (1 1/8th mile) along with Beyer Speed Figures. Destin and Lani’s times are projected since their last race wasn’t at 1 1/8th mile.

Horse – Time (track condition) Finishing Position/Race – Beyer Speed Figure
1) Nyquist – 1:49.11 (good) 1st Florida Derby – 94 BSF
2) Destin – 1:49.37# (fast) 1st Tampa Bay Derby – 100 BSF
3) Majesto – 1:49.63* (good) 2nd Florida Derby – 89 BSF
4) Exaggerator – 1:49.66 (sloppy) 1st Santa Anita Derby – 103 BSF
5) Creator – 1:50.14 (fast) 1st Arkansas Derby – 96 BSF
6) Brody’s Cause – 1:50.20 (fast) 1st Blue Grass Stakes – 91 BSF
7) Suddenbreakingnews – 1:50.30* (fast) 2nd Arkansas Derby – 94 BSF
8) Mohaymen – 1:50.43* (good) 4th Florida Derby – 80 BSF
9) My Man Sam – 1:50.48* (good) 2nd Blue Grass Stakes – 88 BSF
10) Mor Spirit – 1:50.66* (sloppy) 2nd Santa Anita Derby – 94 BSF
11) Gun Runner – 1:51.06 (fast) 1st Louisiana Derby – 91 BSF
12) Tom’s Ready – 1:51.74* (fast) 2nd Louisiana Derby – 85 BSF
13) Danzing Candy – 1:51.78* (sloppy) 4th Santa Anita Derby – 83 BSF
14) Oscar Nominated – 1:51.82 (fast, synthetic) 1st Spiral Stakes – 82 BSF
15) Mo Tom – 1:52.02* (fast) 4th Louisiana Derby – 82 BSF
16) Lani – 1:52.84@ (fast) 1st UAE Derby – 83 BSF
17) Whitmore – 1:52.89* (fast) 3rd Arkansas Derby – 92 BSF
18) Outwork – 1:52.92 (muddy) 1st Wood Memorial Stakes – 93 BSF
19) Trojan Nation – 1:52.96* (muddy) 2nd Wood Memorial Stakes – 93 BSF
20) Shagaf – 1:56.73* (muddy) 5th Wood Memorial Stakes – 87 BSF

* – Estimated time from 1 1/8th mile race
# – Projected time from 1 1/16th mile race
@ – Projected time from 1900 Meter race

Ranking by Average Beyer Speed Figure of Last 2 Races:

1) Exaggerator (8/1)  Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 96, 103  – 99.5 avg
2) Destin (15/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 100  – 99 avg
3) Nyquist (3/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 101, 94  – 97.5 avg
4) Mor Spirit (12/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 94  – 95.5 avg
5) Outwork  (15/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 93  – 95.5 avg
6) Creator (10/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 96  – 93 avg
7) Danzing Candy  (15/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 100, 83  – 91.5 avg
8) Whitmore (20/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 92, 92  – 92 avg
9) My Man Sam (20/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 95, 88  – 91.5 avg
10) Gun Runner (10/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 91  – 90.5 avg
11) Suddenbreakingnews (20/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 86, 94  – 90 avg
12) Majesto (30/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 84, 89  – 87.5 avg
13) Mohaymen  (10/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 95, 80  – 87.5 avg
14) Shagaf (20/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 87  – 87 avg
15) Brody’s Cause (12/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 80, 91  – 85.5 avg
16) Mo Tom (20/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 82  – 84.5 avg
17) Trojan Nation (50/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures:  74, 93  – 83.5 avg
18) Oscar Nominated (50/1) Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 79, 82  – 81.5 avg
19) Tom’s Ready (30/1) Derby Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 69, 85  – 77 avg


ODDS

Below are the Kentucky Derby Morning Line Odds and the direction I think the Live Odds will go:

Nyquist – 3/1 – a bit lower but not below 5/2
Exaggerator – 8/1 – lower
Mohaymen – 10/1 – lower
Creator – 10/1 – higher
Gun Runner – 10/1 – higher
Mor Spirit – 12/1 –  same
Brody’s Cause – 12/1 – higher
Outwork – 15/1 – lower
Destin – 15/1 – lower
Danzing Candy- 15/1 – higher
Suddenbreakingnew – 20/1 – lower
Mo Tom – 20/1 – higher
Whitmore – 20/1 – lower
My Man Sam – 20/1 – higher
Shagaf – 20/1 – higher
Lani – 30/1 – lower
Tom’s Ready – 30/1 – much higher
Majesto – 30/1 – lower
Trojan Nation – 50/1 – much higher
Oscar Nominated – 50/1 – much higher

***You can follow the live Kentucky Derby odds by clicking HERE

Stay tuned for updates and more handicapping advice.

–Michael

Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

kentucky_derby_20142

April 18th 2016 – Updated April 28th 2016

The Kentucky Derby prep season is officially over and it went out with a bang in the Arkansas Derby this past Saturday when Creator (11.6-1 odds) surprised the Oaklawn crowd with the win. This has been a theme for the big point paying final Derby prep races this season as none of the race favorites found victory lane. Not a single one. Let’s review: Mo Tom (Louisiana Derby), Mohaymen (Florida Derby), Shagaf (Wood Memorial), Zulu (Blue Grass Stakes), Mor Spirit (Santa Anita Derby) and Cupid (Arkansas Derby).

Who won these races? Gun Runner the bettors 3rd favorite in the Louisiana Derby. Nyquist the bettors 2nd favorite in the Florida Derby. Outwork the bettors 2nd favorite in the Wood Memorial. Brody’s Cause–2nd favorite in the Blue Grass Stakes. Exaggerator–3rd favorite in the Santa Anita Derby. And Creator, the bettors 4th favorite in the Arkansas Derby.

The Kentucky Derby favorite only wins roughly 1/3rd of the time. So when you are alone in your thoughts at the Churchill Downs window and ready to place a Win bet for the Kentucky Derby, you might opt for the 2nd favorite among bettors. Right now that appears to be Exaggerator and if the Derby is a wet, sloppy race this year, he should be your race favorite. Remember how the Desormeaux brother’s colt Swipe gave Nyquist a run for his money last year? Keith and Kent Desormeaux felt all along that Exaggerator was their most talented Derby trail colt with the most upside.

Overall, the unpredictability of the big Derby prep races says quite a bit about this 2016 Kentucky Derby class. We were spoiled by the 2014 and 2015 classes. The 2016 class as a lot are INCONSISTENT, their times are slow and they have failed to produce any eye-popping Beyer Speed Figures. Note that we didn’t have a 2 year-old in this class eclipse the 100 mark for a Beyer Speed Figure. This was the first time this has happened going back to the records I have from 1993.

So this is why I think the 2016 Kentucky Derby will be wide open and an exciting race. Nyquist undoubtedly is the cream of the crop. And the filly Songbird is the best 3 year-old regardless of gender and a superstar in the making. Unfortunately, she will miss the Kentucky Oaks due to a fever but she will be back.

Getting back to Nyquist, he has impressively gone undefeated in 7 starts. He should be the Kentucky Derby favorite around 5/2 or 3/1 odds. He has proven that he can win several different ways as pacesetter, as a stalker and coming off the pace like he did in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that I alluded to in my last blog.

If you need a visual reminder, rewatch Nyquist (horse #13) in this video below. This is a 15 horse Breeders’ Cup Juvenile field (just 5 less than the Kentucky Derby field) and Nyquist displays impressive talent moving mid pack through traffic to cross the wire first. He didn’t have the greatest trip and was forced wide:

We will have to wait to see who officially gets entered into the Kentucky Derby and post-position draws. However, right now, I see Nyquist assuming a stalking position behind Danzing Candy in the Kentucky Derby. I see Destin and Mor Spirit in the same stalking group. Then I think these three will battle it out for the lead coming into the stretch and then the leader will have to ward off late chargers Exaggerator, Brody’s Cause, Suddenbreakingnews and Creator. Right now as far as betting strategies, I would probably key Nyquist to win in a Trifecta with 3 horses: Exaggerator, Destin and Mor Spirit.

Below is my Top 10 Kentucky Derby contenders along with projected Kentucky Derby morning line odds in parentheses. As you will see, I don’t have the Arkansas Derby winner Creator in my Top 10 as I feel Steve Asmussen’s most talented Derby horse is Gun Runner. Why is that? It took Creator six attempts to break his maiden. I think the race that 2nd place finisher Suddenbreakingnews ran in the Arkansas Derby will translate better to the Kentucky Derby with an additional furlong of distance.

I also moved Mohaymen up a few spots as I feel that I may have been a bit too harsh on his 4th place finish in the Florida Derby. Note that in the past 20 years, only two horses (Giacomo and Mine That Bird) finished 4th in their final prep race (the Santa Anita Derby) and went on to win the Kentucky Derby.

***I originally had Outwork 4th and Mor Spirit 5th in my rankings but after reviewing times from the final 3/8ths of a mile in the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby, Mor Spirit had a significantly faster stretch run. So I moved Mor Spirit up one and Outwork down one. I also switched Brody’s Cause and Danzing Candy because I feel that a closer will fare better than a pacesetter in this year’s Derby.

1) Nyquist (3/1 Odds) – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year. Undefeated in 7 starts, he has 4 Grade 1 stakes wins and has already earned $3.3 million dollars. He was the first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente in January. 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
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo  (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
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
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 101, 94  – 97.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

2) Exaggerator (6/1) – The only Derby trail horse to produce three 95+ Beyer Speed Figures in 2016: San Vicente Stakes 98, San Felipe Stakes 96, Santa Anita 103. His 103 Beyer Speed Figure earned in the Santa Anita Derby is the top speed figure for this year’s Kentucky Derby crop. His pedigree (Sire: Curlin) suggests that he should excel in races as the distances gets longer. If anybody is going to upset Nyquist, Exaggerator seems to be the most likely. He lost to Nyquist in the San Vicente but he will have 3 more furlongs to work with at Churchill Downs. 

Career: 9 Starts 4-2-1-1 
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby, 1st in 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
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
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 96, 103  – 99.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – Santa Anita Derby

3) Destin (12/1) – He set track record of 1:42.82 in the Tampa Bay Derby (shown below)–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. Todd Pletcher bypassed a final Derby prep race, instead opting for some rest and 8 weeks of training. A fast, fresh horse could be very dangerous in the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  (Finished 2nd in 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.82Tampa Bay Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 100  – 99 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

4) Mor Spirit (12/1) – 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 never finished below 2nd place in all seven of his career starts.

Career: 7 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
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
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 94  – 95.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97San Felipe Stakes

5) Outwork  (15/1) – Winner of the Wood Memorial, he 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 has never finished below 2nd in 4 career starts. He seems to be peaking at the right time.

Career: 4 Starts 3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo (Finished 10th in 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
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
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 93  – 95.5 avg
Beyer Speed Average for 2016: 989.3Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – Tampa Bay Derby

6) Mohaymen  (8/1) – He finished a disappointing 4th in the Florida Derby and didn’t seem to have the necessary kick and stamina down the stretch to make me feel that he will be in the mix in the Kentucky Derby. 

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
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 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 95, 80  – 87.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – Holy Bull Stakes

7) Brody’s Cause (15/1) Dale Roman’s winner of the Blue Grass Stakes and the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. 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
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>7th–>1st
Sire: Giant’s Causeway (Finished 2nd in 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Projected Jockey: Luis Saez
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.20 – Blue Grass Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 80, 91  – 85.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Blue Grass Stakes

8) Danzing Candy  (20/1) – 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 
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
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
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 100, 83  – 91.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes

9) Gun Runner (15/1) – Since the creation of the Derby point system in 2013, every Kentucky Derby winner had 150 or more Derby points. Gun Runner is the only horse that will fit this description this year (151 points). 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. 

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st

Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Projected Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Keeneland Allowance Race 10/17/15
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.06 – Louisiana Derby 
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 91  – 90.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – Louisiana Derby 

10) Suddenbreakingnews (20/1) – He will join Exaggerator and Brody’s Cause as closers that will try to mow down Nyquist in the final furlong. 

Career: 8 Starts 3-4-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>2nd
Sire: Mineshaft 
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel
Projected Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.64 (calculated) – Rebel Stakes 
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.30 (calculated)Arkansas Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 86, 94  – 90 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes


These 20 horses have qualified for the Kentucky Derby: Gun Runner 151, Nyquist 130, Exaggerator 126, Outwork 120, Brody’s Cause 114, Creator 110, Lani 100, Mor Spirit 84, Mohaymen 80, Danzing Candy 60, Destin 51, Cupid 50, Shagaf 50, Oscar Nominated 50, Suddenbreakingnews 50, Whitmore 44, Tom’s Ready 44, My Man Sam 40, Majesto 40 and Trojan Nation 40.

There are always horses every year who qualify for the Derby but aren’t entered for various reasons. It was announced last week that Bob Baffert won’t enter Cupid into the Derby. So these six horses will be next in line in case any horse listed above isn’t entered or they can become one of the two alternates in case of scratches: Mo Tom 32, Fellowship 32, Adventist 32, Laoban 32, Dazzling Gem 30, Cherry Wine 25.

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


FWIW – Beyer Speed Figures in the Kentucky Derby

Since 1990, the lowest winning Beyer Speed Figure for the Kentucky Derby came in 2014 when California Chrome won with a 97 Beyer. The only horses projected to start in this year’s Kentucky Derby that have produced a 97 or higher Beyer Speed Figure are: Exaggerator (103, 98), Nyquist (101), Destin (100, 98),  Danzing Candy (100), Outwork (98) and Mor Spirit (97).    


 I would also like to remind everyone that many handicappers have various predictive analytics they like to use to forecast the Kentucky Derby winner. I have a few I like, such as raced as a 2 year-0ld, broke his maiden in his first 3 starts, produced a sub 1:50 time in a 1 1/8th mile race, finished first or second in his last start, etc.

However, remember that occasionally there will be a horse like Mine That Bird where you can just throw every conventional analytic out the window. Mine that Bird finished 4th in the 2009 Sunland Derby–his last derby prep race. Most of his success came as a 2 year old on synthetic surfaces at Woodbine in Canada. He finished dead last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race. Consequently, he was a 50-1 longshot but scored one of the biggest upsets in sports history by winning the 2009 Kentucky Derby (shown below).

–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

Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

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2016 San Felipe Stakes winner Danzing Candy, ridden by Mike Smith – Credit: Michael J. Cox

March 15, 2016
(Updated March 28th 2016)

Below is my updated 2016 Kentucky Derby contender rankings. Mohaymen and Nyquist are still 1-2 and the notch above the rest of the pack. Dropping out of my Top 10 are: Smokey Image who was previously undefeated but demonstrated no fight in the San Felipe Stakes, Brody’s Cause who is a closer than didn’t close in the Tampa Bay Derby and finished a disappointing 7th, Gift Box and Mo Tom who was edged out due to the performances of other horses. Suddenbreakingnews and Greenpointcrusader drop out due to disappointing finishes in the Rebel Stakes and Louisiana Derby.

I feel we won’t have a Triple Crown contender heading into the Belmont Stakes this year. It seems to be a wide open, weird kind of year. We will have a clearer picture of what to expect the rest of the year after the Florida Derby on April 2nd when matchup of Mohaymen vs Nyquist is expected to take place.

My Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

1) Mohaymen  – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is undefeated in 5 starts. In the Fountain of Youth Stakes, I was initially disappointed that he didn’t lower the time he produced in the Holy Bull Stakes. But after review, this was a good prep race for him as he rallied off the pace and had to go wide and deal with traffic to get the win. His sire was Tapit so his pedigree suggests that he will like stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. His next start will be a showdown vs Nyquist in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 2nd.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
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: 1:50.92 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Holy Bull Stakes

2) Nyquist – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year is undefeated in 6 starts. He was first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente. He is being pointed for the Florida Derby on April 2nd. 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: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo 
Projected Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

3) Destin – The Todd Pletcher-trained colt breaks into my Top 10 and all the way to #3 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. It remains to be seen if he just likes Tampa Bay Downs track. Hopefully his next start will come elsewhere.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-1
Sire: Giant’s Causeway  
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best Mile Time: 1:38.73 (calculated) – Gulfstream Allowance Opt. Claiming Race – 12/18/15
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.82 – Tampa Bay Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – Tampa Bay Derby

4) Mor Spirit – 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 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/23/15
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – San Felipe Stakes

5) Danzing Candy – 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 Mile Time: 1:36.73 – Santa Anita Allowance Opt Claiming Race – 2/4/16
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.04 – San Felipe Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100San Felipe Stakes

6) Cupid  –  Another Bob Baffert-trained 3 year -old who moves into my Top 10 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:  95Rebel Stakes

7) Exaggerator – 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 Mohaymen 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 is likely to 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: 98 – San Vicente Stakes

8) Zulu – 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 Wood Memorial or 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 – 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.

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

Projected Jockey: Jose Ortiz 
Best  Mile Time: 1:36.68 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #6
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 – 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. No word yet as to where his next start will be.

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

Projected Jockey: Martin Garcia 
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:38.00 – Sham Stakes
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: 90 – Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes

Others to keep an eye on include:

Suddenbreakingnews – 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 Mile Time: 1:39.17 (calculated) – Remington Springboard Mile
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.64 (calculated) – Rebel Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes

Outwork – 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.

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 – 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 for the past 3 weeks. His most recent work was 1:12.80 in 6 furlongs at Santa Anita Park on March 19th. No word on when his next start will be but entries in the Louisiana Derby (March 26th) and Arkansas Derby (April 16th) would give him two great preps before 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, Lani 100 and Mohaymen 70.

Other horses who likely have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby:  Destin 51, Cupid 50, Danzing Candy 50, Shagaf 50, Mor Spirt 44, Tom’s Ready 44 and Mo Tom 32.

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

Florida Derby – Gulfstream – April 2nd, 2016
Spiral Stakes – Turfway Park – April 2nd, 2016

–Michael

2016 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #3

March 8th 2016

Below is the latest Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #3 that opens this Friday March 11th at 11 AM CST and closes Sunday March 13th at 5 PM CST. There are eight horses making their first appearance in a Future Wager pool. The only two that I find mildly appealing right now are Suddenbreakingnews and Cupid.

Overall, you will want to wait to see how the San Felipe Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby races unfold before making any wagers because ten of the horses in this pool are expected to be in action in one of the aforementioned races. At 7-2 and 9-2 odds for Mohaymen and Nyquist respectively, these odds are too short for my taste and I would rather wait until Derby day to wager on them to assure they make the field. I like to get 3X the expected Derby day odds for a win bet in a future wager pool. I think you would be better served playing Exacta combinations with these two horses or making small win bets on undervalued horses such as Matt King Coal.

I will update this as we go along this weekend. You can follow the live odds by clicking HERE.

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 – March 11 through March 13th
Blue font represents horses who are expected to be in action this weekend in either the San Felipe Stakes or Tampa Bay Derby.
No. Name Trainer Pool 1 Pool 2 Pool 3
1 American Dubai R. Richards ———- ———- 50-1
2 Brody’s Cause D. Romans 21-1 15-1 20-1
3 Cupid B. Baffert ———– ———– 30-1
4 Danzing Candy C. Sisse ———– 28-1 30-1
5 Destin T. Pletcher ———– ———– 30-1
6 Economic Model C. Brown ———– ———– 50-1
7 Exaggerator K. Desormeaux 25-1 22-1 15-1
8 Forevamo A. Stall, Jr. ———– ———– 50-1
9 Greenpointcrusader D. Schettino 28-1 31-1 30-1
10 Gun Runner S. Asmussen 57-1 25-1 20-1
11 Matt King Coal L. Rice 87-1 ———– 50-1
12 Mo Tom T. Amoss ———– 28-1 20-1
13 Mohaymen K. McLaughlin 11-1 4-1 7-2
14 Mor Spirit B. Baffert 31-1 12-1 12-1
15 Nyquist D. O’Neill 9-1 7-1 9-2
16 Riker M. Casse 99-1 ———– 50-1
17 Shagaf C. Brown ———– ———– 20-1
18 Smokey Image C. Gaines ———– 19-1 20-1
19 Suddenbreakingnews D.K. VonHemel ———– ———– 20-1
20 Swipe K. Desormeaux 18-1 ———– 20-1
21 Uncle Lino G. Sherlock ———– ———– 50-1
22 Whitmore R. Moquett ———– 81-1 50-1
23 Zulu T. Pletcher ———– 24-1 20-1
24 Mutuel Field 3-5 5-2 9-2