The 2018 Kentucky Derby Preview

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May 1st 2018

Below are the entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds for the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby. The race will be aired live on NBC this coming Saturday around 5:45 PM CST.

As I have said in previous blogs, I think this is going to be one of the most exciting Derby’s we have seen in a long while.

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2018 Kentucky Derby Starting Field

1) Firenze Fire (50/1) – The Jerome Stakes winner (shown below). His  career best Beyer Speed Figure of 90 was accomplished as a 2-year-old in the Champagne Stakes. He will be one of the longershots in the field but has a very underrated jockey in Paco Lopez.

Career: 9 Starts 4-1-0-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>4th->4th
Sire: Poseiden’s Warrior
Trainer: Jason Servis (2004 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Paco Lopez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.59 (estimated) – 2018 Wood Memorial
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2017 Champagne Stakes

2) Free Drop Billy (30/1) – The Dale Romans-trained Breeders’s Futurity winner. He had a disappointing 9th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race. He has been consistent but unspectacular since. Not a huge threat to win in this field.

Career: 8 Starts 2-3-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>3rd
Sire: Union Rags (Finished 7th in the 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.70 (estimated) – 2018 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2018 Holy Bull Stakes

3) Promises Fulfilled (30/1) – The Fountain of Youth Stakes winner led 6 furlongs in the Florida Derby but faded down the stretch with a 9th place finish. Not a good sign when you are jumping up from 9 furlongs to 10.

Career: 5 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>9th
Sire:  Shackleford (Finished 4th in the 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Corie Lanerie
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:55.12 (estimated) – 2018 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2018 Fountain of Youth Stakes

4) Flameaway (30/1) – The Sam F. Davis winner at Tampa Bay Downs. He finished 2nd in the Blue Grass Stakes (shown below).

Career: 9 Starts 5-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd—>2nd
Sire: Scat Daddy
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Jose Lezcano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.42 (estimated) – 2018 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2018 Blue Grass Stakes

5) Audible (8/1) Last year, the Florida Derby winner who was trained by Todd Pletcher–Always Dreaming–went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Can lightning strike twice? Apparently last year’s Always Dreaming rider doesn’t think so as John Velazquez has chosen to ride Vino Rosso on Derby Day.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st->1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.48 – 2018 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2018 Florida Derby

6) Good Magic (12/1) – The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and the Eclipse 2-year-old Male Champion. He had a somewhat disappointing 3rd place finish in the 2018 Fountain of Youth Stakes but bounced back to win the Blue Grass Stakes.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:  1st–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Jose Ortiz 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.18 – 2018 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

7) Justify (3/1) – The race favorite. He is fast but inexperienced. However, he has 100+ Beyer Speed Figures in all three career starts. He’ll be up against the Curse of Apollo. But if had to pick a trainer-jockey combo to break the Curse, it would be Baffert-Smith.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:  1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Scat Daddy
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997,1998, 2003, & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.72 – 2018 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2018 Santa Anita Derby

8) Lone Sailor (50/1) – The Tom Amoss-trained colt is a deep closer who briefly took the lead in the Lousiana Derby only to lose by a neck to Noble Indy (shown below). I question whether he really wants the 10 furlong distance.

Career: 8 Starts 1-3-1-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 9th–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Majestic Warrior 
Trainer: Tom Amoss
Jockey: James Graham
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.32 (estimated) – 2018 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2018 Louisiana Derby

9) Hofburg (20/1) – A second place finisher in the Florida Derby. He’s talented but very inexperienced with only 3 career starts under his belt. However, he should like the added distance as a son of Tapit.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: William Mott
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.96 (estimated) – 2018 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Florida Derby

10) My Boy Jack (30/1)   While he is not a huge threat to win on a dry, fast track in this field, he certainly has a chance and his chances improve exponentially on a wet track. I wrote an article on his chances in the Kentucky Derby for US Racing which can be accessed HERE. And for movie buffs, no he is not named after Jack Kipling who the “My Boy Jack” movie is based on. Great movie though.

Career: 10 Starts 3-3-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Creative Cause (Finished 5th in the 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.40 (estimated) – 2018 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Louisiana Derby

11) Bolt d’Oro (8/1) – Much like Classic Empire was last year, a star as a 2-year-old who hasn’t seemed to take it to the level we expected as a 3-year-old. He’s has an excellent pedigree and I generally feel we have yet to see him run his best race. He’ll have two-time Kentucky Derby winner Victor Espinoza as his jockey.

Career: 6 Starts 4-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (Finished 4th in 2002 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Ruis
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.20 (estimated) – 2018 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2017 FrontRunner Stakes

12) Enticed (30/1) – The other son of Medaglia d’Oro in the field. He won the Gotham Stakes and then finished 2nd in the Wood Memorial behind Vino Rosso.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-1-1   
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (Finished 4th in 2002 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.27 (estimated) 2018 Wood Memorial
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2018 Gotham Stakes

13) Bravazo (50/1) – After opening up his 3-year-old campaign with two wins, most notably the Risen Star Stakes, he had a disappointing 8th place finish in his final Derby prep at Fair Grounds in the Louisiana Derby.

Career: 8 Starts 3-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>8th
Sire: Awesome Again
Trainer: D.Wayne Lukas (1988,1995,1996 & 1999 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:53.68 (estimated) – 2018 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2018 Risen Star Stakes

14) Mendelssohn (5/1) – The 2018 UAE Derby winner. UAE Derby winners haven’t fared all that well in the Kentucky Derby but Mendelssohn should be viewed as a serious contender setting a UAE Derby track record and winning by 18 1/2 lengths.

Career: 7 Starts 4-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Scat Daddy
Trainer: Aidan O’Bryan
Jockey: Ryan Moore
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2018 UAE Derby

15) Instilled Regard (50/1) – A consistent colt. In seven career starts, he has never finished out of the Superfecta.

Career: 7 Starts 2-2-1-2  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th->4th
Sire: Arch 
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.24 (estimated) – 2018 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – 2018 Lecomte Stakes

16) Magnum Moon (6/1) – The 2018 Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby winner. His final 3 furlong time in the Arkansas Derby is the fastest in the class. Like Justify, he will be vying to break the Curse of Apollo.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st>1st–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Luis Saez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.86 – 2018 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2018 Arkansas Derby 

17) Solomini (30/1) – The Bob Baffert-trainee was yet to win since his first start as a 2-year-old. However, noteworthy that he finished 2nd in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race behind Good Magic (shown below). His 3-year-old campaign has been a bit disappointing with a 2nd place finish in the Rebel Stakes and a 3rd place finish in the Arkansas Derby. And he draws post-position #17, a post that no colt has ever won the Derby from.

Career: 6 Starts 1-3-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  3rd–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997,1998, 2003, & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Flavien Prat 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.54 (estimated) 2018 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

18) Vino Rosso (12/1) – His name in Italian means “Red Wine” and he’s moving up my board. The Wood Memorial winner will get last year’s Derby winning jockey John Velazquez. His reasoning? He thinks he has more potential than Audible at getting the distance (SEE). I was a bit surprised Churchill Downs handicapper gave him 12/1 morning line odds. I think he will be well south of that number on Derby Day. So many love Italian red wine.

Career: 5 Starts 3-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>4th–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.79 – 2018 Wood Memorial
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2018 Wood Memorial

19) Noble Indy (30/1) – The surprise winner of the 2018 Louisiana Derby winner and yet another Derby horse trained by Todd Pletcher. Noble Indy is an above average colt in this field, but I don’t feel that he has the speed of the other Pletcher trainees. 

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Take Charge Indy (Finished 19th in 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.28 – 2018 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2018 Louisiana Derby

20) Combatant (50/1) – The lone Steve Asmussen Derby entry. Combatant is yet another son of Scat Daddy in this field. He’s a quality horse but not a serious threat to win in this very talented field. He’s only win came in a Maiden Special Weight race as a 2-year-old at Churchill Downs. He’s a deep closer who you might consider in your superfectas

Career: 7 Starts 1-3-1-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>4th
Sire: Scat Daddy
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.56 (estimated) 2018 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Smarty Jones Stakes

Note: In a rush to get this out early as possible, I caught and already corrected a few minor errors and typos. If you see any more, let me know.


On the docket…

My next blog will provide handicapping advice for the Derby. I should have this out by Thursday evening.

–Michael

2018 Kentucky Derby Contenders and Pool #2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers

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February 9th 2018

Opening up today is Pool #2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers. The pool is open from Friday February 9th at Noon EST until Sunday February 11th at 6 PM EST. Below are Morning Line Odds along with each horse’s highest Brisnet Speed Figure. Horses with an asterisk are newcomers that were not in Pool #1. Horses in bold font are colts who I had in my Top 25 Kentucky Derby contender watch list.

Colts who were in my Top 25 watch list that didn’t make this Future Wager pool are (with the highest Brisnet Speed Figure): Dak Attack (94), Marconi (94), Paved, Noble Indy (97), Vino Rosso (90) and World of Trouble (101).

The problem with this pool is that there are a few really great colts who have yet to race this year. So it is hard to extrapolate how they might have improved vs some of the most recent new stars like Audible and Mourinho.

Please note that Catholic Boy is entered into tomorrow’s Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. So you may want to wait and see how her performs in that race before putting any money down on him. I had originally hoped to preview that race but I have been battling Bronchitis. I’m sure many can relate because its been a very bad cold and flu season this year. However, looking over that field, Catholic Boy is the deserved 8/5 morning line favorite and would be my choice to win over Vino Rosso and Hollywood Star.

2018 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #2

  1. Audible* 12-1 – 105 
  2. Avery Island 20-1 – 94
  3. Bolt d’Oro 10-1 – 105
  4. Catholic Boy* 20-1 – 98
  5. Combatant* 50-1 – 95
  6. Copper Bullet 50-1 – 94 —-> The best longshot in this pool
  7. Enticed 30-1 – 93
  8. Firenze Fire 30-1 – 96
  9. Free Drop Billy 20-1 – 99
  10. Good Magic 10-1 – 105
  11. Instilled Regard* 30-1 – 100
  12. Mask 12-1 – 100
  13. McKinzie 8-1 – 104
  14. Mendelssohn 30-1 – 91 —-> Better Beware: Turf Horse
  15. Montauk 20-1 – 88
  16. Mourinho* 12-1 – 99
  17. Principe Guilherme 30-1 – 92
  18. Retirement Fund* 30-1 – 94
  19. Solomini 20-1 – 101 
  20. Sporting Chance 50-1 – 98 —-> Another longshot worthy of consideration
  21. Strike Power* 20-1 – 103
  22. Tiz Mischief 30-1 – 93
  23. Untamed Domain 30-1 – 89
  24. Mutuel Field/All Others 7/2

My Top Five Kentucky Derby Contenders

Below are detailed profiles on my Top 5 Kentucky Derby contenders:

1) Bolt d’Oro – Although he won two Grade 1 races and produced the highest Beyer Speed Figure of any 2-year-colt last year, he lost the Eclipse Award for 2 Year Old Male Champion to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic. I was a little surprised by this. He is the paternal half brother to Songbird and Rachel Alexandra out of an A.P. Indy mare so I love the pedigree. He picks up four time Eclipse Jockey of the Year Javier Castellano as his rider. His Next Start:  The 2018 San Felipe at Santa Anita Park on March 10th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (Finished 4th in 2002 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mick Ruis
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.54 – 2017 FrontRunner Stakes
Closing Speed Estimate: 35.62 mph
Career Best Speed Figures: 103 Beyer, 105 Brisnet, 109 Equibase

2) McKinzie – He is the Top 3 year-old in Bob Baffert’s barn thus far. He is undefeated in three starts. He has plenty of winners behind him. His sire (Street Sense), trainer (Bob Baffert) and jockey (Mike Smith) are all former Kentucky Derby winners. His Next Start:  Like Bolt d’Oro, it appears to be the 2018 San Felipe at Santa Anita Park on March 10th. Oh what a race that will be. Mark your calendars.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Street Sense (2007 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby winning trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.69 (estimated) – 2017 Los Alamitos Futurity
Closing Speed Estimate: 36.99 mph
Career Best Speed Figures: 99 Beyer, 104 Brisnet, 110 Equibase

3) Good Magic – The 2018 Eclipse Award 2 Year Old Male Champion and 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Champion. He is also trained by the 2018 Eclipse Award winning trainer Chad Brown. His Next Start:  The Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 3rd.

Career: 3 Starts 1-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in the 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.34 – 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Closing Speed Estimate: 36.31 mph
Career Best Speed Figures: 100 Beyer, 105 Brisnet, 109 Equibase

4) Audible – The 2018 Holy Bull Stakes winner and probably the early Florida Derby favorite. The only question mark is his pedigree and whether he will like the 10 furlong distance. His sire Into Mischief never raced further than 8 1/2 furlongs. His Next Start:  The Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 31st.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief 
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 and 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.92 – 2018 Holy Bull Stakes
Closing Speed Estimate: 37.60 mph
Career Best Speed Figures: 99 Beyer, 105 Brisnet, 99 Equibase

5) Mourinho – The recent Smarty Jones Stakes winner. Remember last year when Bob Baffert didn’t have a 3 year-old that qualified for the Kentucky Derby? It’s not happening this year, his barn is loaded. Mourinho is Baffert’s next best Derby contender based upon performance thus far. His Next Start:  The Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on February 19th.

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Super Saver (2010 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby winning trainer)
Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Closing Speed Estimate: 36.03 mph
Career Best Speed Figures: 99 Beyer, 99 Brisnet, 107 Equibase


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the 2018 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn scheduled for Monday February 19th.

–Michael

2018 Holy Bull and Wither Stakes Previews

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February 2nd 2018 – Updated February 3rd 4AM 

The road to the Kentucky Derby continues tomorrow with three point paying races scheduled: The Withers Stakes, the Robert B. Lewis and the Holy Bull Stakes. I will only preview two of the races as I have been a bit under the weather and feel that the Withers Stakes and Holy Bull have the more talented fields.

After the Pegasus World Cup, I spent time researching and compiling a Top 25 2018 Kentucky Derby contender list. I did this in anticipation of a Pool #2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers opening up next Friday February 9th. Five of the horses on my list are entered in races tomorrow. These colts are: Firenze Fire, Marconi and Avery Island in the Withers and Enticed, Free Drop Billy and Tiz Mischief in the Holy Bull.

The Robert B. Lewis Stakes usually has at least one high profile Derby contender but none of the 9 horses in that field were in my Top 25 list.

The Withers Stakes

The Withers – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #8 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: Saturday February 3rd at 3:35 PM CST. Televised by FS2 (Fox Sports 2) 

Post/Horse/Jockey/Weight/Trainer/Odds
1. Firenze Fire (122) – McCarthy/Servis – 9/5
2. Marconi (116) – Lopez/Pletcher – 3/1
3. Bal Harbour (118) – Carmouche/Pletcher – 6/1
4. Avery Island (122) – Bravo/McLaughlin – 8/5
5. Coltandmississippi (118) – Alvarado/Pletcher – 12/1
6. California Night (116) – Hernandez/Maker – 15/1

Race Commentary:  Although this field is small with six horses, it has three talented colts in Firenze Fire, Marconi and Avery Island. The 9 furlong (1 1/8th mile distance) will provide a good measuring stick as the final Derby preps before the Kentucky Derby are all run at the 9 furlong distance.

As far as who I think will win? This one is too tough to handicap. I’d probably lean towards Avery Island or Marconi since they both have raced at Aqueduct at the same 9 furlong distance back in December. But Firenze Fire ran very well in his last start at Aqueduct in the Jerome Stakes at 8 furlongs. So if you are planning on betting, how about a Boxed Trifecta using these three horses?

The Holy Bull Stakes

The Holy Bull Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #12 at Gulfstream Park – Post-Time: Saturday February 3rd at 4:49 PM CST. Televised by FS2 (Fox Sports 2) and TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Weight/Trainer/Odds
1. Enticed (122) – Rosario/McLaughlin – 3/1
2. Free Drop Billy (122) – Saez/Romans – 6/1
3. Master Manipulator (116) – Ortiz/Guillot – 20/1
4. Audible (116) – Castellano/Pletcher – 6/1
5. Bandito (116) – Zavas/Romans – 20/1
6. Hollywood Star (116) – Ortiz Jr/Romans – 12/1
7. Tiz Mischief (116) – Albarado/Romans – 4/1
8. Pony Up (116) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 8/1
9. Tip Sheet (116) – Jaramillo/Gold – 30/1
10. Aequor (116) – Lezcano/Delgado – 15/1
11.Mississippi (116) – Leparoux/Casse – 5/1

Race Commentary:  Overall, I think this race comes down to Enticed and Tiz Mischief. The two horses battled for the win in the Kentucky Jockey Club stakes at Churchill Downs back in November (see below)

The Godolphin owned colt, Enticed, would rank in my Top Five 2018 Kentucky Derby contenders. He has a great pedigree (Sire: Medaglia d’Oro out of a Mineshaft mare It’s Tricky). His mother, It’s Tricky, was a great runner herself, winning the 2011 Acorn Stakes, the 2011 Coaching Club American Oaks, the 2012 Ogden Phipps Handicap.

However, I am anxious to see how Todd Pletcher’s entries Audible and Pony Up fare. In a field of 11 with such inexperience, anything can happen. So expect the unexpected. Perhaps the best bet would be a 1-7 Boxed Exacta (Enticed-Tiz Mischief). A sleeper in this field could be the Mark Casse-trained colt Mississippi. However, he will have to overcome an unfortunate far outside post-position. This race will answer a lot of questions and hopefully produce an early Florida Derby frontrunner.


On the Docket…

My next blog will focus in on the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers scheduled for next weekend, opening up Friday February 9th and closing on Sunday evening February 11th.

–Michael

MLK Day Special – 2018 Smarty Jones Stakes Preview

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January 14th 2018 – Updated January 15th

The Road to the Kentucky Derby trail continues tomorrow on Martin Luther King Day at Oaklawn Park. Another 17 Derby points are up for grabs (10-4-2-1). Although this is a small seven horse field, it should be an interesting race with entries from Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen.

The Smarty Jones Stakes is named after one of my all-time personal favorites. The Pennsylvania-bred who swept the Southwest Stakes, the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in 2004 en route to winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes that year. His bid for the Triple Crown came up short by a length in the Belmont Stakes with a second place finish to Birdstone.

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

The Smarty Jones Stakes

The Smarty Jones Stakes – 1 Mile – Race #8 at Oaklawn Park – Post-Time: Monday January 15th at 4:38 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Weight/Trainer/Odds
1. Combatant (115) – Santana Jr/Asmussen – 2/1
2. Lone Rock (115) – Stevens/Van Meter – 12/1 (Scratched)
3. Tap Daddy (117) – Contreras/Asmussen – 8/1
4. Mourinho (115) – Van Dyke/Baffert – 3/2
5. Arched Feather (115) – Court/Frederick – 30/1
6. Navistar (115) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 5/2 (Scratched)
7. Bode’s Maker (115) – Wethey Jr/Milligan – 30/1

Race Commentary: The Bob Baffert trainee Mourinho is the race favorite at 3/2 odds. He has the highest E Speed Figure (104) in the field. Mourinho has two second place finishes in his last two starts (Speakeasy Stakes and Bob Hope Stakes). From Steve Asmussen’s barn, Combatant is the 2nd race favorite at 2/1 odds. Combatant finished 2nd in his last start–the Remington Springboard Mile back in December. Asmussen’s other entry, Tap Daddy (8/1), won in his last start on turf at Churchill Downs. Prior to this start, he finished 2nd in the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (8 1/2 furlongs). 

There are high expectations for the Todd Pletcher trained colt Navistar. The son of Union Rags was purchased for $900,000 as a 2 year-old in the OBS March 2017 sale. He will be ridden by Johnny V (John Velazquez) so I suspect he might be the live race favorite with bettors come post-time. Just remember that Navistar and Mourinho will both be making their two-turn debuts.

Rounding out the field, Lone Rock (12/1), Arched Feather (30/1) and Bode’s Maker (30/1). Gary Stevens will ride Lone Rock who had a fourth place finish at Oaklawn Park in his last start. Arched Feather broke his maiden won in his last start at Churchill Downs at 8 1/2 furlongs. 

As I stated in my previous blog, you never know what to expect with these January Derby trail races. I prefer to watch and see how this plays out rather than wager anything big. Crunching numbers, this appears to be a really good race on paper as the top four horses in this field (Mourinho, Combatant, Navistar and Tap Daddy) all have very similar closing speeds. So I am expecting a close race. And my hunch is that there are at least two future Kentucky Derby runners in this field.


Firenze Fire Wins the 2018 Jerome Stakes

Firenze Fire finished strong down the stretch in yesterday’s Jerome Stakes (shown below). Barring injury, pencil him in for this year’s Kentucky Derby. He currently sits tied for 2nd in Derby points with 20.


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the 2018 Pegasus World Cup contenders. 

–Michael

The Road to the Kentucky Derby — The 2018 Jerome Stakes

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January 11th 2018

The month of January begins the unveiling of how well last year’s promising 2 year-old colts have developed over the layoff. Some improve by leaps and bounds, other regress. The Sham Stakes last Saturday (shown below) told us that the Bob Baffert-trained colt McKinzie is a serious Kentucky Derby contender. He’s a perfect 3 for 3 thus far. However, unlike many of the other Kentucky Derby hopefuls, McKinzie had remained in training since he debut in late October of last year.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby trail continues this Saturday with another qualifying point paying race at Aqueduct with the Jerome Stakes. 17 Derby points are up for grabs. The Jerome Stakes has been run since 1866 and has some notable race winners in Kelso, Bold RulerTom Fool and Afleet. The John Servis-trained colt Firenze Fire is the 3/5 race favorite. The race record is 1:33:20 held by Noble Nashua (1981).

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

The Jerome Stakes

The Jerome Stakes – 1 Mile – Race #8 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: Saturday January 13th at 2:50 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Weight/Trainer/Odds
1. Coltandmississippi (118) – McCarthy/Pletcher – 6/1
2. Seven Trumpets (118) – Lopez/Romans – 3/1
3. Regalian (116) – Reyes/Englehart – 20/1
4. Factor This (116) – Davis/Barker – 30/1
5. Smooth B (118) – RoccoJr/Reid Jr – 10/1
6. Old Time Revival (116) – Alvarado/Decker – 10/1
7. Firenze Fire (122) – Franco/Servis – 3/5
8. Glenwood (118) – Carmouche/Wilkinson – 50/1

Race Commentary:  Overall, I like two colts in this field: Seven Trumpets and Firenze Fire. And I think the race will come down to these two. Firenze Fire won the Champagne Stakes and finished 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Seven Trumpets has won his last two starts. However, keep an eye on Coltandmississippi. He is a paternal half brother to American Pharoah and he’s trained by Todd Pletcher. Coltandmississsippi and has been inconsistent in four career starts (two wins, a 5th and 10th place finish) thus far. But you have to love the pedigree/trainer combo.

Overall, you never know what to expect with these January Derby trail races with colts coming off layoffs. So this isn’t a good betting race but one a great one to watch anyway. Perhaps a new star will emerge.


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the 2018 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park scheduled for Monday January 15th–Martin Luther King Day. After that, my next blog will be one on the 2018 Pegasus World Cup contenders. I will have Smarty Jones Stakes preview out by Sunday night at the latest.

-Michael

2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Race Preview. Will Bolt d’Oro stay undefeated?

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November 1st 2017 

With the impending retirement of Arrogate after the Breeders’ Cup Classic, I feel that more eyes will be on the future stars of the 2018 Kentucky Derby class in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Overall, this 2-year-old class appears to be better than last year’s crop at this same time.

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

Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 1 & 1/16th Mile –  Race #10 at Del Mar – Saturday November 4th at 5:58 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. U S Navy Flag – Moore/O’Brien – 8/1
2. Solomini – Prat/Baffert – 6/1
3. Firenze Fire – I.Ortiz Jr/Servis – 6/1
4. Givemeaminit – Castellano/Stewart – 20/1
5. Free Drop Billy – Albarado/Romans -5/1
6. Good Magic – J.Ortiz/Brown – 8/1
7. The Tabulator – Valdivia Jr/Rivelli – 20/1
8. Bahamian – Gutierrez/Callaghan – 30/1
9. Hazit – Velazquez/Pletcher – 20/1
10) Golden Dragon – Roman/Yanakov – 30/1
11) Bolt d’Oro – Nakatani/Ruis – 9/5
12. Hollywood Star – Rosario/Romans – 15/1

Race Commentary: Overall, this is a weaker field than I anticipated for a prestigious Breeders’ World Champion race with a $2 Million Dollar purse. Bolt d’Oro and The Tabulator are the only two undefeated colts in this field, both having won in each of their 3 starts. There are three colts who have yet to break their maiden: Givemeaminit, Good Magic, Bahamian. The Aidan O’Brien-trained U S Navy Flag is a European horse who has only raced sprints on turf. 

As far as Speed Figures, here are the only horses in the field who have eclipsed an 85 Beyer Speed Figure:

Bolt d’Oro – 100        
Firenze Fire – 90
Good Magic – 89
Solomini – 87

My Pick: 2-year-olds are inconsistent and unpredictable.  So I would steer away from difficult to hit exotics. I like win bets on Bolt d’Oro and Firenze Fire. The only exotic bet I would consider is a Boxed Exacta 3-11 (Bolt d’Oro and Firenze Fire). Bolt d’Oro is the class of this field and my early favorite for the 2018 Kentucky Derby. However, he is going to be hindered somewhat with a far outside starting post in a 12 horse field. This could put Bolt d’Oro in the cross-hairs of a closer like Firenze Fire coming down the stretch.

Firenze Fire displayed excellent closing speed in the Champagne Stakes (shown below).

The only concern with Firenze Fire is that he will be making his first start in a two-turn race. However, this may not hurt his closing style that much. So a Boxed Exacta of Firenze Fire-Bolt d’Oro might be a wiser bet if Bolt D’Oro’s live odds move closer to 1/1.


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the Breeders’ Cup Classic field. I will have this out late tomorrow (Thursday) evening.


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

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

–Michael

Labor Day Special – An early look at the 2018 Kentucky Derby Class

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September 3rd 2017 – Updated September 4th 2017 4 PM CST

The 2018 Kentucky Derby trail officially kicks off September 16th with the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. However tomorrow, we have a Labor Day special with two Grade 1 races for 2-year-olds in the Hopeful Stakes and Del Mar Futurity. These two races will give us some insight on who the stars of next year’s Derby Trail class might be. I have a few on my radar already.

Copper Bullet

Currently, I am very high on the Steve Asmussen-trained colt named Copper Bullet who won the Saratoga Special Stakes (shown below). Same owner/trainer combination as Gun Runner. I first wrote about him back in June Unfortunately, it was announced yesterday that he will be sidelined due to shin issues and likely miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

I am also very high on three other horses: St Patrick’s Day, Run Away and Zatter.

St Patrick’s Day

The Bob Baffert-trained St Patrick’s Day is a full brother to American Pharoah. He broke his maiden yesterday at Del Mar (shown below)

Run Away

Owned by Kaleem Shah, trained by Simon Callaghan, the son of Run Away and Hide is a perfect 3-for-3 with his Best Pal Stakes victory (shown below). He’ll be a Labor Day runner in the Del Mar Futurity.

Zatter

Owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Bob Baffert. The son of Midnight Lute defeated St. Patrick’s Day at Del Mar back on August 20th (shown below) which was the first career start for both colts. Zatter will face Run Away in the Del Mar Futurity.


Below are the post-positions, weights, jockey assignments and odds for the Hopeful Stakes and Del Mar Futurity:

The Hopeful Stakes  – 7 furlongs – Race #9 at Saratoga – Post-Time: 4:05 PM CST. Televised by Fox Sports 2 and TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Mojovation (118) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 2/1 
2. Oskar Blues (118) – Davis/McPeek – 10/1  
3. Firenze Fire (122) – Ortiz Jr/Servis – 7/2 
4. Psychoanalyze (118) – Franco/Lynch- 15/1
5. National Flag (118) – J.Ortiz/Pletcher – 9/2 
6. Sporting Chance (118) – Saez/Lukas – 8/1
7. Givemeaminit (116) – Rosario/Stewart – 10/1
8. Free Drop Billy (118) – Albarado/Romans – 4/1 

My Pick:  Mojovation is the fastest horse in this field. Free Drop Billy has the 2nd fastest closing speed but he was beaten by Firenze Fire in his last start. If you like a longer shot, Oskar Blues has already put up a decent time of 1:23.99 at this 7 furlong distance at Saratoga. I like a 1 with 3,8 Exacta and win/place/show bets on Mojovation.


The Del Mar Futurity  – 7 furlongs – Race #8 at Del Mar – Post-Time: 7:36 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Soul Streit (120) – Smith/Baffert – 4/1
2. Master Ruler (118) – Roman/Sadler – 20/1
3. Run Away (123) – Prat/Callaghan – 5/2
4. Tatters to Riches (120) – Baze/Mullins- 4/1
5. Fleetwood (118) – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 20/1
6. Bolt d’Oro (120) – Nakatani/Ruis – 6/1
7. Gracida (120) – Espinoza/O’Neill – 12/1
8. Dia de Pago (118) – Gonzalez/Cerin – 12/1
9. Zatter (118) – Bejarano/Baffert – 7/2

My Pick: I think Run Away picks up his fourth win in four starts. Zatter will battle but I am concerned that he won’t be able to overcome his outside post-position. If you like longer shots, the Doug O’Neill-trained Gracida with Victor Espinoza on board could surprise and be a good show bet if his odds stay above 10/1.


On the Docket…

My next blog will likely be a Breeders’ Cup Contender ranking update followed by a preview of the Iroquois Stakes scheduled for September 16th at Churchill Downs. The Iroquois is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

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

–Michael