Arkansas Derby and Oaklawn Handicap Previews

April 16th 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2016 Rebel Stakes Preview – Suddenbreakingnews the morning line favorite

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

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

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



The Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #2

February 7th 2016 
Updated February 14th 2016 4:15 PM CST (see below)

The Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) Pool #2 will be active this coming Friday February 12th at 11 AM CST through Sunday February 14th at 5PM CST. There are 13 new horses in this pool (shown with an asterisk).

Derby Wager Pool 2

1. Airoforce 20-1
2. Awesome Banner* 30-1
3. Brody’s Cause 30-1
4. Cherry Wine* 50-1
5. Cocked and Loaded 50-1
6. Collected* 30-1
7. Danzing Candy* 30-1
8. Discreetness* 50-1
9. Exaggerator 20-1
10. Gettysburg* 50-1 <–raced in Sam F. Davis Stakes 2/13/16 & finished a disappointing 5th
11. Gift Box 30-1
12. Greenpointcrusader 20-1
13. Gun Runner 50-1
14. Mo Tom* 50-1
15. Mohaymen 8-1
16. Mor Spirit 15-1
17. Nyquist 12-1
18. Shagaf* 30-1
19. Smokey Image* 30-1
20. Tom’s Ready* 50-1
21. Vorticity* 50-1
22. Whitmore* 50-1
23. Zulu* 30-1
24. Mutuel Field (All Others) 4-5

*Wagering interest not included in KDFW Pool 1

At this point in the future wager pool, I believe that the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner is somewhere in this pool so I would not place any bets on “All Others.” I expect that the bettors two favorites will be Mohaymen and Nyquist. I would give the nod to Mohaymen over Nyquist right now. However, I feel that 8-1 odds for Mohaymen is too short at this stage of the future wager pools. I still like Brody’s Cause and Exaggerator.

Overall, I was surprised that Mike Battaglia dropped Swipe, Flexibility and Sunny Ridge from Pool #1.  I was also surprised by the inclusion of these three horses: Whitmore, Tom’s Ready and Cherry Wine. I wouldn’t waste any money on these three nor would I place any money on Vorticity and Gun Runner.

Two horses that I feel will be liked too much by bettors and have final odds much lower than their on-track accomplishments warrant are: Mor Spirit and Zulu. Mor Spirit is a Bob Baffert-trained horse and his times and Beyer Speed Figures in the Los Alamitos Futurity and Robert B. Lewis Stakes aren’t even close to what Dortmund’s were last year. Zulu is a Todd Pletcher horse who is undefeated in 2 starts but has never raced further than 7 furlongs. He might be a “Miler” in the mode of Liam’s Map but I am skeptical of him being a threat in the Kentucky Derby at this point.

So below are five key horses to consider for your future wager.  Below these five are some other horses to consider if you can get a “price.”

1) MohaymenMorning Line Odds: 8-1

The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is undefeated in 4 starts and posted an impressive time of 1:42.07 in the Holy Bull Stakes. When you watch that race and realize that he didn’t get off to the best start—yet he dealt with some traffic and then mowed down the field without being shown the whip–you have to be impressed. He is easily a sub 1:42 sec horse at the 1 1/16th mile race distance. Mohaymen is a half brother to the horse Frosted but he is way ahead of him at this stage of his career. His sire was Tapit so his pedigree suggests that he will like stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. His next start will be the Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 27th at Gulfstream Park.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes
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 – Morning Line Odds: 12-1

The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year. Winner of three Grade 1 Stakes races: The Del Mar Futurity, the FrontRunner Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. My way too early Kentucky Derby favorite proved that his declining Beyer Speed Figures wasn’t a concern with an impressive win in the Juvenile. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt is still undefeated in five starts. His stalking racing style reminds me of a young American Pharoah. Just remember the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile curse–the last horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that went on to win the Kentucky Derby was Street Sense in 2007. He is being pointed for the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park on February 15th and then the Florida Derby on April 2nd.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 89 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

3) Brody’s Cause – Morning Line Odds: 30-1

Dale Roman’s winner of the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. His sire was Giant’s Causeway who had a great career on the other side of the pond and finished 2nd in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. This colt has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated above in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity as well as in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He looks to be a First Saturday in May horse. I think his 30-1 Morning Line Odds are a bit too long with his closing speed (I expected 20/1 M/L odds). He is being pegged for the Tampa Bay Derby March 12th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.64 – Churchill Down MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

4) Exaggerator – Morning Line Odds: 20-1

A Desormeaux brothers colt, they feel that he is more talented than Swipe. He finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then followed this effort with a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). Remember, his jockey Keith Desormeaux is a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby. His next start is expected to be the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita February 15th. 

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Delta Downs Jackpot

5) Smokey ImageMorning Line Odds: 30-1

He is undefeated in six starts, but five of his wins were at the 7 furlong distance or shorter. He might prove to be a better dirt-miler than a Derby horse. His next start is pegged to be the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park March 12th. That race will probably be a great litmus test to determine if this horse is for real as a Derby contender–or one who has just raced against inferior competition. However, a horse who has a nose for the finish line in 6 starts should not be ignored. I like him right around 30-1 or longer odds.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.49 – California Cup Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85

Other horses to consider if you can get a “price” (live odds greater than 50-1)

Discreetness – winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes, undefeated in 4 starts. He has yet to race further than 1 mile.
Gift Box – Chad Brown’s colt resumed training January 19th. He finished 3rd behind Mohaymen and Flexibility in the Remsen Stakes.

Pay close attention to Exacta betting in this pool. This is where you can reap big rewards for just a few bucks.

Update February 13th 4:15 PM CST

Here are the top ten horses based upon current live odds:

  1. #24 – All Others – 3/1
  2. #15 – Mohaymen – 4/1
  3. #17 – Nyquist – 7/1
  4. #16 – Mo Spirit – 12/1
  5. #3 – Brody’s Cause – 14/1
  6. #1 – Airoforce – 15/1
  7. #19 – Smokey Image – 18/1
  8. #9 – Exaggerator – 22/1
  9. #23 – Zulu – 23/1
  10. #14 – Mo Tom – 30/1

My thoughts thus far–too much money is chasing Mohaymen (4/1 live odds) and Nyquist  (7/1 live odds) right now. We are still roughly 12 weeks out from the Kentucky Derby and a lot can happen between now and the first Saturday in May. To give you a perspective, American Pharoah had 5/1 final odds in the Kentucky Derby Pool #4 last year and he was given 5/2 Morning Line Odds for the Kentucky Derby when his live odds ended up at 2.9/1.

Right now, Exacta bets using these two and taking some flyers on a few other horses with Win bets look to be the best betting options. Brody’s Cause is 14-1 at the time of this update, so a $20 Win bet in this pool would pay back around $300. He offers more value at this point. Gift Box at 57-1 is very intriguing. Remember that he ran a 1:43 flat in a 1 1/16th mile race on a sloppy track at Belmont on October 3rd as a 2 year-old. See race HERE

Todd Pletcher’s Gettysburg (half brother to American Pharoah) was an intriguing prospect until when he ran a disappointing 5th in the Sam F. Davis Stakes today (see below)

Danzing Candy at 29-1 looks like a good option in this pool since he ridden by Mike Smith.

“All Others” currently at the time of this update is 3/1. Don’t forget that “All Others” in this pool includes Swipe who is supposed to resume training February 16th, Bob Baffert’s Cupid (half brother to Mohaymen due sharing the same sire Tapit) and Linda Rice’s Matt King Coal who resumed  training February 7th.