Why Justify will become the 13th Triple Crown Champion

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May 24th 2018

I am working on my next US Racing article “Why Justify will become the 13th Triple Crown Champion

There has only been one undefeated Triple Crown contender–Seattle Slew–who won the Triple Crown. Justify is the great-great-great grandson of Seattle Slew on his dam’s side. Seattle Slew is the only undefeated Triple Crown contender entering the Belmont Stakes who pulled it off (see below).

Stay tuned!
–Michael Cox

Triple Crown contenders entering the Belmont Stakes. How many were there? And how they fared

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May 22nd 2018

I was curious and did some more research today that I think many of my readers might be interested in. My curiosity was: How many Triple Crown contenders entered the Belmont Stakes undefeated?

With Justify’s win in the Preakness Stakes, he became only the 5th Triple Crown contender in history entering the Belmont Stakes undefeated. Here are the five horses and their outcome in the Belmont Stakes.

1969 – Majestic Prince – 2nd (lost by 5 1/2 lengths) – He had won 9 straight races
1977 – Seattle Slew – 1st (won by 4 lengths) – He had won 8 straight races and made it 9
2004 – Smarty Jones – 2nd (lost by 1 length) – He had won 8 straight races.
2008 – Big Brown – 9th -Did Not Finish – He had won 5 straight races.
2018 – Justify – ? – He is on a 5 race winning streak.

Justify attempts to become only the 2nd horse ever since Seattle Slew to win the Triple Crown undefeated.

–Michael

Justify’s Triple Crown Odds

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May 21st 2018

With the 143rd Preakness Stakes now in the books, my focus will be on potential entries and Justify’s odds of pulling off the Triple Crown. Currently, it appears that he has even 1:1 odds which equates to a 50% chance. I think that is about right until we know for certain who is going to be entered.

First the good news, Justify came out of the Preakness in fine shape according to Trainer Bob Baffert. 

In Justify’s corner, he has one of the best trainers in the world who has won a Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharoah. Plus he is ridden by one of the top jockeys in the world as well in Mike Smith. Both Baffert and Smith have both won the Belmont Stakes twice during their career.

Thus far, it appears that Justify’s competition for the Belmont Stakes will be: Bravazo, Tenfold, Blended Citizen, Hofburg, Vino Rosso and possibly My Boy Jack, Free Drop Billy, Solomini and Audible. The latter is probably doubtful since Audible has the same ownership group (WinStar Farm/China Horse Club) as Justify. Common sense says you don’t try to beat yourself out of a Triple Crown. And the Florida Derby winner Audible is a talented colt who hit the board in the Kentucky Derby.

Winning the Belmont Stakes will be much more difficult than winning the Preakness Stakes as this potential field is much more talented and perhaps better suited for the Mile and a Half at Belmont Park than the Preakness Stakes field had against Justify cutting back a bit on distance in similar sloppy conditions as the Derby.

Bravazo had an impressive late run in the Preakness. You sort of got the feeling that if the Preakness would have been 10 furlongs instead of 9 1/2, Bravazo would have won beaten Justify to the wire. However, if the Preakness Stakes had been run on a dry, fast track, I don’t think this race would have been this close.

Interesting is the fact that despite a Preakness Stakes time (1:55.93) that was faster than American Pharoah’s (1:58.46) and Exaggerator’s (1:58.31) sloppy Preakness Stakes times, Justify only received a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. Justify’s closing speed time from the 3/4th mile mark was also faster in the Preakness Stakes than the Kentucky Derby. However, Pimlico’s track runs a bit faster in sloppy conditions than Churchill Downs.

Stay tuned, I will be monitoring this closely and will provide updates periodically. Since there are 3 weeks between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, news comes a little slower but I expect to know more by next Monday.

–Michael

2018 Preakness Stakes Preview

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May 16th 2018 – Updated May 19th 2018 at 12:05 PM CST

Below are the entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds for the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. The race will be aired live on NBC this coming Saturday around 5:48 PM CST. Be sure to catch my latest article on US RacingTriple Crown Fever: Why Justify Could Become The 13th Triple Crown Champion.” 

2018 Preakness Stakes Starting Field

1) Quip (12/1) – The 19-1 odds winner of the Tampa Bay Derby. He followed up this effort with a 2nd place finish behind Magnum Moon in the Arkansas Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 3-1-0-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 7th->1st->2nd
Sire: Distorted Humor
Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Tampa Bay Derby

2) Lone Sailor (15/1) – The Tom Amoss-trained colt is a deep closer who briefly took the lead in the Louisiana Derby only to lose by a neck to Noble Indy (shown below). Although I had questioned whether he would like distance, he finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 9 Starts 1-3-1-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>8th
Sire: Majestic Warrior 
Trainer: Tom Amoss
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2018 Louisiana Derby

3) Sporting Chance (30/1) – In his most recent start, he finished 4th in the Pat Day Mile (shown below). He has had problems in a couple of races with lugging out down the stretch. He’s talented but quirky.

Career: 7 Starts 2-1-1-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>4th–>4th
Sire: Tiznow
Trainer: D.Wayne Lukas (1980,1985,1994,1995,1999, 2013 Preakness S.Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 91 – 2018 Blue Grass Stakes

4) Diamond King (30/1) – The Federico Tesio Stakes winner (shown below). He will be ridden by two-time Preakness Stakes winning jockey Javier Castellano. However, note that he has yet to produce a 90+ Beyer Speed Figure in 6 career starts. But he did eclipse the 37 second mark in the last 3 furlongs of the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Quality Road
Trainer: John Servis (2004 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2006 & 2017 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 84 – 2018 Federico Tesio Stakes

5) Good Magic (3/1) – The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and the Eclipse 2-year-old Male Champion. The Blue Grass Stakes winner finished 2nd behind Justify in the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 6 Starts 2-3-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Curlin (Finished 1st in the 2007 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Chad Brown (2017 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz Jr.
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

6) Tenfold (20/1) – The Steve Asmussen-trained colt finished 5th in the Arkansas Derby (shown below). He’s a bit inexperienced, having 3 career starts with his debut in February.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>1st–>5th
Sire: Curlin (Finished 1st in the 2007 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 & 2009 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.  
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – 2018 Arkansas Derby

7) Justify (1/2) – The 2018 Kentucky Derby winner and race favorite. Trainer Bob Baffert was a little surprised by the short morning line odds of 1/2. So was I. However, if Justify doesn’t win the Preakness Stakes, consider it a huge upset. When Bob Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby, he has always went on to winning the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015)

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts:  1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Scat Daddy
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997-98, 2001-02, 2010 & 2015 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1993 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2018 Santa Anita Derby

8) Bravazo (20/1) – After opening up his 3-year-old campaign with two wins, most notably the Risen Star Stakes (shown below), he had a disappointing 8th place finish in his final Derby prep at Fair Grounds in the Louisiana Derby. However, he recovered nicely and finished a surprising 6th in the Kentucky Derby.

Career: 9 Starts 3-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>6th
Sire: Awesome Again
Trainer: D.Wayne Lukas (1980,1985,1994,1995,1999, 2013 Preakness S.Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Luis Saez
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2018 Risen Star Stakes

Handicapping Advice

Justify will win this race so key him in all of your exotics.  It appears that we are going to have a wet track, so I am using Bravazo with Justify and Good Magic. I think the finishing order will be #1) Justify, #2) Good Magic with Quip and Bravazo battling it out for third. Watching races on the wet Pimlico track yesterday, it appears that favorites are doing well and horses who get out up front early do well. Drawing the rail, Quip’s owner said they are sending him early so I suspect he is a horse who we might see in the early lead.

So here is what I am doing but please note that a race with a 1/2 favorite who will likely move to 1/5 or 2/5 by post-time,  exotics won’t pay out well unless Justify gets upset.

Exacta: 7/5 (beware it won’t pay out well)
Trifecta #2: 7/1,5/1,5,8
Superfecta #1: 7/5/1,8/1,8
Superfecta #2: 7/1,5,8/1,5,8/1,5,6,8

For those who are thinking about placing win bets on Justify, below is a scale that will tell you how much you should expect to get back .

Win Bet Scale

1/9 odds – $20 pays back $22.22, $100 pays back $111.11
1/5 odds – $20 pays back $24, $100 pays back $120
2/9 odds – $20 pays back $24.44, $100 pays back $122.22
2/5 odds – $20 pays back $28, $100 pays back $140
3/9 odds – $20 pays back $26.67, $100 pays back $133.33
1/2 odds – $20 pays back $30, $100 pays back $150
4/9 odds – $20 pays back $28.89, $100 pays back $144.44
3/5 odds – $20 pays back $32, $100 pays back $160
4/5 odds – $20 pays back $36, $100 pays back $180


On the docket…

My next blog will be a preview of the Belmont Stakes.

–Michael

Triple Crown Fever – Justified

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May 15th 2018

As Yogi Berra would say, “It feels like deja vu all over again.” I just got this feeling about Justify that he may be another Bob Baffert-trained Triple Crown winner. I write about it in my latest article for US RacingTriple Crown Fever: Why Justify Could Become The 13th Triple Crown Champion.” 

My next blog will preview the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes which I should have out tomorrow evening.

–Michael

Fans of Justify – Triple Crown watch

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May 9th 2018

All fans of Justify, stay tuned. I am working on an article on the Baffert-trained colt for US Racing. I think you will like it. A secret, I have already purchased tickets for the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, reserved a hotel room and flights to New York in June. I posted a blog article late Sunday night, early Monday morning where I am calling Justify the 2018 Preakness Stakes winner. 

And thanks to my blog readers, my article Who’s your ‘Daisy’ for the 2018 Kentucky Derby?” was the top viewed free-lance article and 3rd overall for the month of April in terms of views on US Racing having only been published and viewable for last six days of the month. Last year, my article on Always Dreaming was the free lance top article on that site and 2nd overall during Derby month.

Exciting times ahead!

–Michael

Triple Crown Contender: Why Justify will win the 2018 Preakness Stakes

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May 7th 2018 – Updated May 13th 2018

For all the fans of the “Curse of Apollo” breaker Justify, I am already calling the 143rd Preakness Stakes another victory for the Bob Baffert-trained colt. Looking over the rumored entries, I see no colt that poses a serious threat. Currently, the list of rumored entries include:

Good Magic – Kentucky Derby Runner-Up
Bravazo – 6th in the Kentucky Derby
Lone Sailor – 8th in the Kentucky Derby
Quip – Arkansas Derby Runner-Up
Tenfold – 5th in the Arkansas Derby
Givemeaminit – 3rd in the Pat Day Mile
Sporting Chance – 4th in the Pat Day Mile
Diamond King – Federico Tesio Stakes Winner

Justify has proven that he can win on a dry, fast track and in the slop. Four career starts, all earning 100+ Beyer Speed Figures. He was awarded a 103 Beyer Speed Figure for the Kentucky Derby. Below are the only 3-year-olds with a 100+ Beyer Speed Figures in races longer than one mile.

Justify – 107 – Santa Anita Derby – 9 furlongs
Mendelssohn – 106 – UAE Derby – 1900 Meters
Justify – 103 – Kentucky Derby – 10 furlongs
Bolt d’Oro – 102 – Santa Anita Derby – 9 furlong
McKinzie – 101 – San Felipe Staaks – 8 1/2 furlongss
Bolt d’Oro – 101 – San Felipe Stakes – 8 1/2 furlongs

I will be monitoring the Preakness Stakes news and rumored entries closely in preparation for a preview of the race which is just 12 days away. But right now, I’d give Justify early 4/5 odds as the race favorite. A victory in the Preakness Stakes will give the sport what has needed the past couple of years, a Triple Crown contender entering the Belmont Stakes. A victory at Belmont seems to be a much taller task against a colt such as the Todd Pletcher-trained colt Vino Rosso who will be rested up for the last leg of the Triple Crown. Pletcher has won the Belmont Stakes three times (2007, 2013, 2017) vs Bob Baffert’s two (2001, 2015).

–Michael

The Curse of Apollo is broken…but

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May 5th 2018

I am forever grateful that the Curse of Apollo was finally broken in my, our, lifetime. I thought it was in huge danger and I happy it has ended. The 2018 Kentucky Derby was exciting but…I really wish it was broken on a dry, fast track. My race favorite Magnum Moon, whose paternal brother Orb, who won in the sloppy 2013 Kentucky Derby, did not take well to the slop and finished 19th. My wet track favorite, My Boy Jack, did better finishing 5th. Good thing that through future wagers, I still came out ahead $180 this Derby.

Wet races are the great equalizer. Justify is a great 3-year-old who had experience racing on an off-track before and benefited from an inside post-position. However, how will he fare on a dry, fast track at Pimlico? I think pretty well. but I doubt that he will be my early favorite for the Belmont Stakes. I will have to research this but when was the last time a Kentucky Derby winner who who in sloppy track conditions went on to won the Triple Crown?

–Michael

Total Armageddon: Cancel all previous bets for the 2018 Kentucky Derby–It’s raining at Churchill Downs

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May 5th 2018 5:58 PM EST

Just a warning. Although there was a 90% chance of rain on Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky, today there was supposed to be a 5% chance today. However, it is raining now at Churchill Downs.

The best horses in the slop: My Boy Jack, Justify and Audible. Stay tuned! I will be updating this blog clear up until post-time. But my gut feeling is to pass on betting on this year’s Kentucky Derby because there will be better races to bet on in the future.

Magnom Moon’s paternal half-brother Orb won the 2013 Kentucky Derby from the same #16 post in the 2013 Kentucky Derby

I am backing off due to the unpredictability of a wet race. So I cancelled all previous bets. But I placed a 50 cent boxed Trifecta with four horses: 5, 7, 10, 16 that cost $12. I made it twice. $24 total. There will be better races to bet on in the future. Just enjoy the chaos and unpredictability of this year’s Derby.

I am also taking $50. Betting $33 on My Boy jack and $17 on Magnum Moon. Expected Payout about $230 plus. 

–Michael

Who’s my 2018 Kentucky Derby Favorite? I see a Bad Moon a-rising

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May 3rd 2018 – Updated May 5th 2018 4:15 PM EST (see bottom of page, U-Oh RAIN!)

All week, friends and co-workers have been asking me: “Mike, who’s your Derby favorite?” This year’s Kentucky Derby is so wide-open that I almost feel like going into hiding. I thought I had this figured out after the San Felipe Stakes, McKinzie or Bolt d’Oro. But McKinzie was taken off the Derby trail due to an injury. The Bolt d’Oro was beaten by Justify in the Santa Anita Derby.

If you read my “Who’s your Daisy in the 2018 Kentucky Derby?” article on US Racing, I don’t feel too confident that I’m your ‘Huckleberry’ this year. There are about 6-7 horses that I think can win it this year.

Folks, I think this is a far better race for 10 cent Superfectas and 50 cent Trifectas than placing big win bets. When I can narrow the potential Derby winner down to two horses like I can most years, I like to make big win bets on my two favorites. For example, Horse A is 3-1 and Horse B is 4-1. I’d take $100 and bet $55 of it on Horse A and $45 on Horse B. The payouts for each would be as follows: Horse A $220 and Horse B $225. So if you can narrow it down to two horses, you can more than double your money (120-125% Return on Investment). The higher the odds for the two favorites, the better the pay out. Last year I tripled my money playing a combination of Always Dreaming and Classic Empire. But this becomes less profitable and inadvisable with a three-horse or more combination.

Still everyone wants to know who I favor the most in this year’s Derby?

Drumroll….

If it is a wet race, I like My Boy Jack and Justify as both have proven that run well in the slop. I go into more detail of why I like My Boy Jack in a Derby profile I wrote for US Racing. Update: The weather forecast looks good for Louisville, 5% chance of chance.

If it is a dry race, it becomes more difficult since this field has a lot of fast colts. As I stated earlier, I think there are 6 to 7 horses that can win this year’s Derby on a dry fast track. These colts are: Justify, Magnum Moon, Mendelssohn, Audible, Bolt d’Oro, Vino Rosso and My Boy Jack.

All of these colts have a few things that they can be dinged on when looking for a prototype Derby winner. I will discuss below:

Justify (3/1) – Only one horse since WWII that has won the Kentucky Derby while never facing 10 or more starters in a prep race (American Pharoah in 2015). The largest field Justify has faced has been six. And then the Curse of Apollo to boot: No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby having not raced as a 2-year-old. Justify is inexperienced, having only 3 career starts, all during his 3-year-old campaign. Plus he has never raced outside the state of California.

Magnum Moon (6/1) – Same as Justify, the Curse of the Apollo works against him. However, he did face 10 starters in the Rebel Stakes. Admittedly, I didn’t think there was a serious Derby contender in the Arkansas Derby when I made my Future Wager picks the week before. I was humbled. The concern with Magnum Moon, is that he has already raced 4 times this year. Was the Arkansas Derby his peak performance? 

Mendelssohn (5/1) – No UAE Derby winner has ever won the Kentucky Derby. Plus, he had to be shipped overseas. I generally like shippers-over to get one more start under their belt on US soil before a big graded stakes race like the Kentucky Derby. But Mendelssohn was able to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf race without a prep race in the US. 

Audible (8/1) – The Florida Derby winner drew an excellent post-position (#5). Five out of the last twenty-five Derby winners started from post #5. The Florida Derby has produced the last two Kentucky Derby winners and three out of the last five. Concerning is that jockey John Velazquez opted for Vino Rosso as his mount in this year’s Derby.

Bolt d’Oro (8/1) – A very talented colt as a 2-year-old. He won the FrontRunners Stakes which has produced three out of the last four Kentucky Derby winners. Expectations were high for this son of Medaglia d’Oro entering 2018. However, he has yet to cross the wire first in his 3-year-old campaign, winning the San Felipe Stakes due to a Stewards Inquiry and disqualification to McKinzie. I sort of get the feeling that he may be this year’s version of Classic Empire. Classic Empire finished 3rd in last year’s Kentucky Derby.

Vino Rosso (12/1) – The Wood Memorial winner. I will admit that I was surprised the John Velazquez chose Vino Rosso over Audible for his Derby mount. Audible is a faster colt by times and Speed Figures. But Johnny V thinks that the son of Curlin, Vino Rosso, will like the added distance better. Since Velazquez won the Derby last year, you’ve got to take note of that.

My Derby Pick (dry, fast track)

When faced with so many unknowns, my feeling that if I am going to put my reputation on the line and get beat, I am going to down with the ship with the fastest colt in the field.

So, I am leaning towards Magnum Moon as my dry, fast track Derby favorite. There is an old saying in basketball, you can’t teach height. Well in horse racing, you can’t teach late speed. In the chart below, Magnum Moon’s final 3 furlong time in the Arkansas Derby was the fastest in this class in the major 9 furlong Derby prep races.

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Plus his last furlong in the Arkansas Derby (shown below) was in under 12 seconds (11.99). 11.99!<—- Find me any colt in this field who has run the last furlong that fast. You won’t. And it was a hand ride in the final 1/16th. Note that American Pharoah’s final furlong time in the 2015 Arkansas Derby was 12.58 but he coasted home with an 8 length lead.

And if you watch the race above, Magnum Moon seemed to lug out for no apparent reason coming onto the stretch. Otherwise his final 3 furlong time would have been faster. The shortest distance between point A and point B is a straight line. Jockey Luis Saez is going to have to keep him straight as possible coming onto the stretch. One thing that I liked though, when Quip came up next to him and looked him in the eye, Magnum Moon said it was Go-Time and left the field in the dust. His jockey did nothing. Magnum Moon wants to be first. He has been in 4 career starts.

Another factor I like with Magnum Moon, he has a historically winning post-position, Post #16. Five horses in the last 25 years have won from this post, including his paternal half-brother: Orb (2013), Animal Kingdom (2011); Monarchos (2001); Charismatic (1999); Thunder Gulch (1995).

Overall, this is why I am leaning towards the undefeated Magnum Moon. I see a Bad Moon a-rising, I see trouble on the way…if it rains and the track is slop, My Boy Jack becomes my Derby favorite.

Betting Advice (U-Oh, its raining at Churchill Downs)

CANCEL ALL BETS!

The secret of My Boy Jack is out as he was at 5-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby advance and still sitting at 5/1. I have been singing his praises for weeks and my US Racing is getting a ton of views: “If you are looking for a Kentucky Derby sleeper. This is your horse!” https://www.usracing.com/news/kentucky-derby-road-to-the-roses/youre-looking-kentucky-derby-sleeper-horse

Maybe I should keep my mouth shut. That is too short of odds for a colt I identified early on as a “Derby sleeper.” He’s no sleeper now.  I still think My Boy Jack has “Hit the Board” potential but at 5-1 vs 30-1, its not going to make your exotics pay back as well. But now it is a wet race so he shoots up my board.

 

 

Overall, I am not betting big on this race as it is too up-in-the air for my tastes and that was before it rained. One thing I have learned over the years is that sometimes better to wait it out for a “lock” further on down the line and then bet big on it.

I will be monitoring the live odds clear up until post-time if I have a change of mind due to how the live odds shake out.There haven’t been much change in the odds. You can check on them by clicking here: https://www.kentuckyderby.com/wager/kentucky-derby-live-odds

–Michael