2016 Breeders Cup Classic Pre-Entries and Analysis. Arrogate a serious threat to California Chrome

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Updated October 31st 2016

We are now five days away from the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Below are post-position and morning line odds for this year’s Classic and how I would rank them. This is a very talented field. Nyquist was pre-entered for The Classic but he will be scratched due to having a puffy ankle after a workout October 27th. He has been subsequently been retired. Gunner Runner will opt for the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. Found and Highland Reel will opt for the Breeders Cup Turf race.

Although California Chrome is the morning line even-money favorite, don’t discount Arrogate. Since all the money will be on Chrome, I would highly recommend a Boxed Exacta including both horses. Arrogate’s jockey Mike Smith has won The Classic three times, the most of any active jockey. His trainer Bob Baffert has won The Classic twice. They will be a formidable foe for California Chrome because Arrogate has demonstrated that he has a higher closing speed. Below are California Chrome and Arrogate’s final fractions from their last 4 US races. I have included their weights for each race in parenthesis. 

California Chrome

Awesome Again Stakes – 10/1/16 (125) – 38.79 sec in final 3 furlongs = 34.08 mph
Pacific Classic – 8/20/16 (124) – 24.17 sec in final 2 furlongs = 37.24 mph, 48.91 sec in final 4 furlongs = 36.80 mph
San Diego Handicap – 7/23/16 ( 126) – 30.31 sec  in final 2 1/2 furlongs = 37.12 mph
San Pasqual Stakes – 1/9/16 (119)  – 30.37 sec in final 2 1/2 furlongs = 37.0 mph

Travers Stakes – 8/27/16 (126) – 23.84 sec in final 2 furlongs = 37.75 mph, 48.51 sec in final 4 furlongs = 37.11 mph
Del Mar – 8/4/16 (117) – 29.4 sec in final 2 1/2 furlongs = 38.27 mph
Santa Anita – 6/24/16 (118) – 30.42 sec in final 2 1/2 furlongs = 36.98 mph
Santa Anita MSW- 6/5/16 (120) – 29.87 sec in final 2 1/2 furlongs = 37.66 mph

2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Entries

1)  California Chrome* (1/1) – He’s now undefeated in six starts in 2016. The all-time North American leader in race earnings with $13.4 million dollars. He is currently ranked #1 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings (SEE). His win in the Pacific Classic was arguably the best performance of his career. Next Start:  The  Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 24 Starts 15-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  4-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 112
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 & 2016 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 113 – 2016 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic & 2016 Pacific Classic

2) Arrogate (5/2) – There is no doubt that Bob Baffert has a star colt in Arrogate who set a Travers Stakes and Saratoga track record (1:59.36) for a 1 1/4 mile race. His final quarter mile fraction was 23.84. American Pharoah’s final fraction in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was 24.60. Here are the best career final fractions of his competition in mile and a quarter races: California Chrome 24.44 2016 Pacific Classic, Melatonin 24.27 2016 Gold Cup race at Santa Anita, Beholder  24.65 2015 Pacific Classic. Arrogate will get a 4 pound advantage over California Chrome and older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I just need more than one great performance to elevate him higher over Chrome who is undefeated in 2016. Next Start:  The  Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 108
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009 & 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.362016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Melatonin* (12/1) –  The Rodney Dangerfield of thoroughbreds because he gets no respect. At the Classic distance of a miler and a quarter, he is undefeated in two starts and has an average Beyer Speed Figure of 108. 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. He was originally pegged to start in the Pacific Classic but he wasn’t entered due to coming off a persistent illness. However, he is training very well currently. Next Start:  The  Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

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   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 106.7
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 Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

4) Hoppertunity* (15/1) – A surprise winner of the Jockey Gold Cup race. A well earned victory for a horse who has been the bridesmaid way too often. He has finished 4th or better in every graded stakes race in his career. Hopps is extremely consistent and you get the feeling that he would probably finish in the top 4 in any race no matter the talent in the field. This is why I am ranking him 4th in these rankings. Some how, he always finds a way to finish in the Superfecta. Next Start:  The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 22 Starts 6-6-4-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  1-1-1-3
Last 3 starts: 4th–>4th–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 103.3
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.16 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

5) Frosted* (5/1) –  I feel that the added rest after his disappointing Woodward performance will do him good. I still think he would be better suited for the Dirt Mile but that will be a tough race as well. He set the track record 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 thus far in 2016. As he has stretched out past a mile, his Beyer Speed Figures have declined (107 in the Whitney Stakes and 105 in the Woodward Stakes). But he got off to a bad start in the Woodward Stakes and that may have cost him a win. Next Start:  The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 18 Starts 6-6-2-2    Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-0-1-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 111.7
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joel Rosario
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
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 123 – 2016 Metropolitan Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 123 2016 Metropolitan Handicap

6) Effinex (15/1) He finished 2nd to Hoppertunity in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race. He also finished 2nd to American Pharoah in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. For 2016, it is very clear that he has slipped a bit, only capturing wins in the Oaklawn and Suburban Handicaps. The Jimmy Jerkens-trained 5 year old can be enigmatic at times and prone to get off to bad starts (see 2016 Stephen Foster Handicap). But then he can bounce back with a nice performance like he had in the Suburban Handicap in July. Note that Effinex has never finished below 4th in a 10 furlong (1 1/4th mile) race. Jockey Mike Smith seems to get the best out of him but Smith will ride Arrogate in The Classic. Next Start:  The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 26 Starts 9-3-4-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 8 Starts  3-2-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 103.3
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens 
Jockey:  Flavian Prat
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.76 (calculated) – 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Oaklawn Handicap

Career Best Beyer Speed: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic

7) Shaman Ghost (20/1) – After rewatching his Woodward Stakes performance and also learning that had a post-race cough after his disappointing 5th place finish in the Suburban Handicap, I am once again a believer in this Jimmy Jerkens-trained son of Ghostzapper. When you watch the Woodward Stakes race (shown below), Shaman Ghost ran one helluva race. He displayed a willingness to fight for a win and also an ability to go wide and snake through traffic. This is a very talented 4 year-old with a bright future. His jockey Javier Castellano won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic on his father. Next Start:  The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure:  99.7
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.12 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: ? – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

8) Win the Space (30/1) 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. He is also cross-entered in the Breeders Cup Turf race. Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Breeders Cup Turf race on November 5th.

Career: 14 Starts 3-1-4-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-1-0-0 
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>DNF–>3rd   Average Beyer Speed Figure: ?
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

9) Keen Ice  (20/1) –  The only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion. He shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). He also finished 4th in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic. However, this year will be a taller order. Keen Ice is coming back from a long layoff due to injury and he finished 3rd in a mile allowance race at Belmont on October 7th. Next Start:  The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 17 Starts 2-1-4-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Start  1-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>8th–>3rd
Sire: Uncle Mo  
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Unknown
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

10) War Story (30/1) – Although he was given 30/1 morning line odds, it really should have been 50/1. War Story has never finished in the Top 4 in a 10 furlong race and has yet to win a Grade 1 race. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby and 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic. He most recent performance, a 2nd place finish in the Pa Derby Champion Stakes, is shown below.

Career: 14 Starts 3-3-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  0-0-0-0 
Last 3 starts: 1st–>7th–>2nd
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Mario Serey Jr.
Jockey: Scott Speith
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:03.77 (calculated) – 2016 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Thistletown Allowance Race 7/30/16


–Michael

2016 Dubai World Cup Preview – California Chrome is race favorite

March 23rd, 2016

The coming Saturday at Noon CST is the highly anticipated Dubai World Cup featuring California Chrome. 1st place pays out $6 Million dollars, 2nd place $2 Million, 3rd place $1 Million and 4th and 5th split the remaining $1 Million. The field also has five other American thoroughbreds: Frosted, Keen Ice, Hoppertunity, Mshawish and Candy Boy. Teletext is a Kentucky-bred horse who never raced in the US. Mubtaahij is an Irish horse who raced in the 2015 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes finishing 8th and 4th respectively. Meydan racecourse doesn’t allow betting because all forms of gambling are illegal in the UAE. California Chrome was the consensus race favorite for all of the major online gambling websites.

Horses who have competed in previous year’s Dubai World Cups include California Chrome (2nd in 2014), Candy Boy (4th in 2015) and the Japanese horse Hokko Tarumae (5th in 2015, 16th in 2014).

The Irish horse Special Fighter won the 2000 Meter Al Maktoum Round 3 at Meyden back on March 5th with Gun Pit finishing 2nd, Mubtaahij 4th and Keen Ice finishing 7th. Frosted set a track record for the 1900 Meter Al Maktoum Round 2 on February 4th with Special Fighter finishing 6th in that race.

Dubai World Cup – 2000 Meters (approximately 1 1/4 mile) at Meydan Racecourse – Post Time: Saturday March 26 NOON CST

Post Position/Horse/Country/Jockey/Trainer/Rating

  1. Keen Ice (USA) – R. Moore/Romans – 120
  2. Mshawish (USA) – L. Dettori/Pletcher – 115
  3. Gun Pit (AUS) – J. Moreira/Fownes – 115
  4. Mubtaahij (IRE) – C Soumillon/De Kock – 119
  5. Special Fighter (IRE) – F. Jara/Muhairi – 119
  6. Candy Boy (USA) – P. Dobbs/Watson – 115
  7. Vadamos (FR) – V. Cheminaud/Fabre – 113
  8. Hokko Tarumae (JAP) – H. Miyuki/Nishiura – 116
  9. Frosted (USA) – W. Buick/McLaughlin – 120
  10. Hoppertunity (USA) – F. Prat/Baffert – 116
  11. California Chrome (USA) – V. Espinoza/Sherman – 121
  12. Teletext (USA) – S. De Souza/Harabi – 113

Commentary:  This is a difficult race to handicap because big races at Meydan often have surprise winners. That being said, I think this race should come down to California Chrome, Frosted and Special Fighter for the win. Hoppertunity has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race and is coming off a win in the 1 1/8th mile San Antonio Stakes.

Keen Ice is capable of hitting the board and likes this distance. However, he has had disappointing 6th and 7th place finishes in his last two starts. He finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Mshawish is coming off a win in the 1 1/8th mile Donn Handicap back on February 4th and has turf race experience at Meydan. I think he is better suited for races 1 1/8th mile or less.

–Michael

 

California Chrome Wins in Dubai. Updated 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Watch List

February 26th 2016

California Chrome won his prep race for the Dubai World Cup yesterday with ease (shown below). He produced a final time of 2:04.32 in the Trans Gulf Electromechanical Trophy Handicap carrying 16 1/2 pounds more than the rest of the field. Overall, this was a good performance and his time is about what I expected under the circumstances.

Trainer Art Sherman has California Chrome right where he needs to be for the upcoming Dubai World Cup. However, the competition for this year’s Dubai World Cup will be even stiffer than last year’s. Both Frosted and Keen Ice (two horses in my top 10 Breeders’ Cup Classic watch list below) are in Dubai and are expected to be entered in the world’s richest horse race.


Updated 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Watch List

1) Beholder  Her 114 Beyer Speed Figure in the TVG Pacific Classic was the 2nd best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015 for distances 1 1/4 mile or greater. A disappointing scratch from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to a fever and irritated lungs. Her next start will be the Vanity Handicap at Santa Anita Park on June 4th.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.772015 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic
Career Earnings: $4,436,600

2) California Chrome –  He has looked good in two starts thus far in 2016 with a win in the San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita on January 9th and his win at Meydan on February 25th discussed above. His next start will be the Dubai World Cup on March 26th.

Career: 20 Starts 11-3-1-1, Win Pct: 55%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 (calculated) – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $6,532,650

3) Effinex – A 2nd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and a win in the Clark Handicap made him one of the top returning handicap division horses in 2016. His next start is rumored to be the Santa Anita Handicap on March 12th if he isn’t shipped to Dubai for the Dubai World Cup.

Career: 20 Starts 7-2-3-4, Win Pct: 35%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4%: 80%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.11 (calculated) – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed: 110 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $2,112,950

4) Frosted – The Pennsylvania Derby winner finished a disappointing 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic but followed up this effort by setting a track record for a 1900 meter race at Meydan with a time of 1:56.67. His next start will be the Al Maktoum Challenge Rd 3 race on March 5th as a prep race for the Dubai World Cup.

Career: 14 Starts 4-6-1-2, Win Pct: 28.5%, Top 3 Pct: 78.6%, Top 4 Pct: 92.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Pennsylvania Derby
Career Earnings: $2,212,800

5) Keen Ice – The only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion. He has had two disappointing finishes in his last two starts–as 4th place finish in the Clark Handicap and a 6th place finish in the Donn Handicap. Remember that he likes distance and both of these races were 1 1/8th mile. Like Frosted, his next start will be at Meydan on March 5th in the Al Maktoum Challenge Rd 3 as a prep race for the Dubai World Cup.

Career: 14 Starts 2-1-3-4, Win Pct: 14.3%, Top 3 Pct: 42.9%, Top 4 Pct: 71.4%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,819,645

6) Dortmund – He is two-for-two since his comeback after the long layoff after the Kentucky Derby: A win in the Big Bear Stakes in October and Native Diver Handicap in November. He wasn’t training well in January and trainer Bob Baffert decided gave him the month of February off due to a hoof issue (quarter crack suffered prior to Clark Handicap). His return to racing is expected to be late Spring/early Summer.

Career: 10 Starts 8-0-1-1, Win Pct: 80%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4%: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Santa Anita Derby
Career Earnings: $1,712,480

7) Texas Red  A fifth place finish in the Travers was disappointing but prior to this race, he earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the Jim Dandy Stakes. So he may have needed time to build up endurance after his long layoff. He won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a two year old and was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury. He has been training during the month of February at Santa Anita Park. So I expect a tune-up race at Santa Anita like the 7 furlong San Carlos Stakes on March 12th.

Career: 9 Starts 3-3-1-1, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 77.8%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.45 (calculated) – 2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,767,300

8) Firing Line – A promising horse that finished 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby. He also set a track record in the Sunland Derby. He sat out the rest of 2015 after his 7th place finish in the Preakness Stakes due to foot problems. He is expected to return to racing in late March/early April and is reportedly doing light workouts now. With a year layoff, it will be interesting to see if he bounces back and displays the talent he displayed as a 3 year-old.

Career: 7 Starts 2-4-0-0, Win Pct: 28.6%, Top 3 Pct: 85.7%, Top 4 Pct: 85.7%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.18 (calculated) – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Earnings: $974,800

9) Hoppertunity – This Bob Baffert-trained 5 year-old has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race in his career. That is 15 graded stakes races, so he has always been a quality horse. He earned a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 104 in San Pasqual Stakes in January with his 3rd place finish behind California Chrome. Then in his next start (shown below), he won the San Antonio Handicap and earned another triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure of 100. His next start will be the Santa Anita Handicap March 12th where he will likely be the race favorite.

Career: 18 Starts 5-6-3-3, Win Pct: 27.8%, Top 3 Pct: 77.8%, Top 4 Pct: 94.4%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.33 (calculated) – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,872,650

10) Smooth Roller  – A scratch from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to a tendon in his left foreleg. His Awesome Again Stakes win was impressive and perhaps a sign of better things to come if he can stay healthy. He has yet to work out in 2016 and there has been no news as to when he will resume training. So he drops to 10th on my list but too talented to disappear from my watch list.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 111 – 2015 Awesome Again Stakes
Career Earnings: $261,810


Notes: Mshawish really impressed me in the Donn Handicap and is rumored to be a potential entry in the Dubai World Cup but is more likely pegged to be a dirt miler if he isn’t moved back to turf.

–Michael

 

 

Songbird and Keen Ice highlight a Big Day of Racing

February 5, 2016

Tomorrow–Saturday February 6th–there are four key races to watch. Three of which are at Santa Anita Park in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes that features Bob Baffert’s Mo Spirit, the Las Virgenes Stakes with the star filly Songbird and the San Antonio Stakes that has many quality repeat runners from the San Pasqual Stakes that was won by California Chrome last month. And then “The Donn” at Gulfstream Park that includes Keen Ice and a few potential budding older horse division stars.

Robert Lewis Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #4 at Santa Anita – Post Time: 4:00 PM CST

PP horse (weight) jockey/trainer/Odds
1. Let’s Meet in Rio (119) Desormeaux/Baffert – 6/1
2. I Will Score (119) Smith/Hollendorfer – 5/2
3. Dressed in Hermes (121) Bejarano/Armstrong – 6/1
4. Laoban (119) Baze/Guillot – 12/1
5. Mor Spirit (124) Stevens/Baffert – 8/5
6. Path of David (119) Talamo/Mulhall – 8/1
7. Uncle Lino (119) Perez/Sherlock – 5/1

Prediction: I like a 5/1 Boxed Exacta. Let’s Meet in Rio is a closer who should make this an exciting finish. I Will Score is undefeated in two starts but has never raced longer than 6 1/2 furlongs. Maybe you place a 5-1-2 (Mor Spirit-Let’s Meet in Rio-I Will Score) Straight Trifecta.

Las Virgenes Stakes – 1 Mile – Race #5 at Santa Anita – Post Time: 4:30 PM CST

PP horse (weight) jockey/trainer/Odds
1. She’s a Warrior (118) Prat/Eurton – 20/1
2. Land Over Sea (118) Guterrez/O’Neill – 8/1
3. Street Fancy (123) Espinoza/D’Amato – 6/1
4. Jade Princess (118) Garcia/Baffert – 10/1
5. Decked Out (118) Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 20/1
6. Songbird (123) Smith/Hollendorfer – 1/5
7. Merirosvo (118) Van Dyke/Gallagher – 30/1

Prediction: Songbird will wire this field. It will be interesting to see if she wins this with a sub 1:36 time. You won’t win very much money on a win bet with Songbird so try a 6-3 Straight Exacta.

Donn Handicap – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #13 at Gulfstream Park – Post Time: 4:53 PM CST

PP horse (weight) jockey/trainer/Odds
1. Madefromlucky (116) Rosario/Pletcher – 5/1
2. Closing Bell (114) Lezcano/Mott – 15/1
3. Mshawish (117) Velazquez/Pletcher – 7/2
4. Valid (117) Juarez/Vitali – 6/1
5. Mexikoma (115) Lanerie/Dilger – 8/1
6. Keen Ice (121) Castellano/Romans – 5/2
7. Itsaknockout (118) Saez/Pletcher – 4/1
8. Financial Modeling (115) Ortiz Jr./Brown – 6/1

Prediction: With a $500,000 purse, this is always attracts good older horses. Keen Ice headlines the field and is the morning line favorite. But he doesn’t excel at this distance. This is probably the toughest race of the four to predict. Mexikoma has the highest Beyer Speed Figure of any horse thus far at 107 that he received at Gulfstream Park in the Sunshine Millions Classic. Mshawish made the transition from turf quite well and should factor in the money. Itsaknockout, Valid and Madefromlucky are all good horses.

San Antonio Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile- Race #7 at Santa Anita – Post Time: 5:30 PM CST

PP horse (weight) jockey/trainer/Odds
1. Cat Burglar (119) Bejarano/Baffert – 4/1
2. Donworth (119) Gutierrez/O’Neill – 6/1
3. Cyrus Alexander (119) Garcia/Hollendorfer – 6/1
4. Hard Aces (121) Talamo/Sadler – 10/1
5. Hoppertunity (119) Prat/Baffert – 3/1
6. Blingo (119) Solis/Sheriffs – 20/1
7. Imperative (119) Smith/Baltas – 5/2
8. El Kabeir (119) Stevens/Terranova – 6/1

Prediction: Another race for older horses with a $500,000 purse, a Hoppertunity Place bet is pretty safe here. I also like a 5/7 Straight Exacta.


Check back tomorrow for an update.

–Michael

The 12 Most Exciting Horse Races in 2015

Below are what I feel are 12 of the most exciting horse races in 2015. #4 and #5 on my list are two races that I feel slipped under the radar that would probably rank higher if it weren’t for the Horse of a Lifetime–American Pharoah–rewriting history books.  I will add that there were many more great races that didn’t make this list but these were the most memorable due to the dramatics, history or prestige of the race at stake. Feel free to comment on any you feel that I have left off.

1) The Belmont Stakes that saw American Pharoah win the first Triple Crown in 37 years. Truly a magical moment.

2) Another magical moment in horse racing history–American Pharoah winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic to become the very first horse to win the Grand Slam of horse racing.

3) The 2015 Kentucky Derby was a great battle between American Pharoah and Firing Line.

4) Far From Over (horse #2) has a stumbling bad start but comes back from dead last to win the Withers Stakes.

5) The Illinois-bred “The Pizza Man” comes back for a dramatic win in the Arlington Million.

6) The 2015 San Antonio Stakes. This was billed as the “Clash of the Titans” that pitted Shared Belief vs the 2014 Horse of the Year in California Chrome at the beautiful Santa Anita Park venue in February.

7) The biggest upset of the year in horse racing–Keen Ice beats American Pharoah and stuns the Travers Stakes crowd.

8) Beholder becoming the first female to win the Pacific Classic and doing it in the most impressive fashion.

9) Dortmund vs. Firing Line in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.

10) American Pharoah wins the sloppy Preakness Stakes.

11) Tepin–the Flying Filly–wins the Breeders Cup Mile against the boys.

12) Mongolian Saturday at 15-1 Odds holds on for the upset in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

–Michael

My Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contenders and 2016 Breeders’ Cup Watch List

UPDATED  12/9/2015  4:30 PM CST

Here are my updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contenders. The filly Songbird is still my #1. Mohaymen moves way up the list with his performance in the Remsen Stakes.

1) Songbird – Although she will likely be pegged for the Kentucky Oaks, she is the top 2 year-old regardless of gender and she would be my Kentucky Derby favorite. Undefeated Nyquist is the top 2 year-old colt and my early Kentucky Derby favorite and all Songbird did is run a full second faster than him at the same distance, same track and on the same day at the Breeders Cup World Championships. That would be equivalent to 6 1/2 lengths. She will win the 2015 Eclipse Top 2 Year Old Female Horse award.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.73 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

2) Nyquist – 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 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. He will win the 2015 Eclipse Top 2 Year Old Male Horse award.

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) Mohaymen – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt posted an impressive 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Remsen Stakes on Saturday and a 89 Beyer Speed Figure in the Nashua Stakes on November 4th. For those who loved the horse Frosted on the Kentucky Derby trail last year, he is his half brother and is a striking resemblance. However, he is better than Frosted at this stage of his career. His time of 1:50.69 was faster than Honor Code’s in 2013 and Frosted and Keen Ice’s time last year in the Remsen. He is undefeated in 3 starts and the new dark horse to win the 2016 Kentucky Derby. His sire was Tapit so that makes him a half-brother to Tonalist too.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.69 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94- Remsen Stakes

4) Swipe – This Desormeaux brothers colt has finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts. However, he keeps narrowing the gap each time. I like his future in races 1 1/8th mile or greater. His sire was Birdstone who won the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes in 2004.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

5) Brody’s Cause 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. On closer inspection, this horse has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He looks to be a First Saturday in May horse.

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

6) Exaggerator – Another Desormeaux brothers colt, 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). I am expecting him to improve and his Delta Downs Jackpot win was a step in the right direction.

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

7) Gift Box – Consider in just his 2nd start, this Chad Brown-trained colt produced a time of 1:43:00 on a sloppy track at Belmont–good for a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. That was faster than American Pharoah’s time of 1:45.78 in the sloppy Rebel Stakes at the same 1 1/16th mile distance. And American Pharoah was a 3 year-old in the Rebel. He finished a respectable 3rd in the Remsen Stakes.

Career: 3 Starts 1-0-2-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – Belmont MSW- Race #11
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.17 (calculated)
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Belmont MSW- Race #11

8) Greenpointcrusader  Although he finished 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, I generally liked his movement up through the field where he was 12th at the three quarter pole and finished 7th and a couple of “necks” from finishing 5th. He should do well in longer distance races.  The winner of Champagne Stakes where he received a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. His time was 0.37 seconds faster than last year’s Champagne Stakes winner Daredevil (who received a 107 Beyer) on a similar sloppy sealed track. Excellent pedigree: sire Bernardini (Rachel’s Valentina’s sire), grand sire A.P. Indy, great-grand sire Seattle Slew. His sire Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness Stakes, Travers Stakes, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and finished 2nd in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.25 – Champagne Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 Champagne Stakes

9) Matt King Coal – The Linda Rice-trained colt has put up back-to-back 90+ Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts and broke his maiden in his last start while posting a 96 Beyer Speed Figure–the best for a 2 year-old colt this year.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.68 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #5

10) Airoforce – This Mark Casse-trained colt made the transition from turf to dirt with ease by winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes race on a wet track at Churchill Downs on Saturday. An impressive effort but I will need to see how he performds on a dry fast track.

Airoforce Kentucky Jockey Club 615 X 400

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A (on dirt)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.48 – Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

 

2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Watch

And now for my updated 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic watch list. Unbelievable and very sad news that Shared Belief passed away December 3rd due to a bout with colic. Also, Honor Code and Tonalist have been retired to the stud farm. The Breeders’ Cup Classic contender picture will get a little clearer after the Santa Anita Handicap in March.

1) Beholder  It would have been nice to see her race in The Classic but nobody was going to beat American Pharoah that day. Her 114 Beyer Speed Figure in the TVG Pacific Classic was the 2nd best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015 for distances 1 1/4 mile or greater.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 (2015 Pacific Classic)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic
Career Earnings: $4,436,600

2) Effinex – A 2nd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and a win in the Clark Handicap make him a strong candidate to win the 2015 Eclipse Older Dirt Male Horse of the Year award.

Career: 20 Starts 7-2-3-4, Win Pct: 35%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4%: 80%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.11 (calculated) – 10/31/15 (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Career Best Beyer Speed: 110 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $2,112,950

3) California Chrome – I am glad he is coming back, the sport needs him. Looks like he is being pegged for the San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita January 9th and eventually for the Dubai World Cup once again.

Career: 18 Starts 9-3-1-1, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 72.2%, Top 4 Pct: 77.8%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $6,322,650

4) Dortmund – He is two-for-two since his comeback after the long layoff after the Kentucky Derby: A win in the Native Diver Handicap this past Saturday and the Big Bear Stakes in October. I am expecting big things next year from this Bob Baffert-trained colt provided he is 100% healthy. His next start appears to be the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on December 26th.

Career: 10 Starts 8-0-1-1, Win Pct: 80%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4%: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Santa Anita Derby
Career Earnings: $1,712,480

5) Keen Ice – The only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion. His 4th place finish in the Clark Handicap was a bit disappointing but he likes 1 1/4 mile distances.

Career: 13 Starts 2-1-3-4, Win Pct: 15.3%, Top 3 Pct: 46.1%, Top 4 Pct: 76.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,814,645

6) Frosted – He has a bright future in the sport and should improve as a 4 year-old. His Pennsylvania Derby win was the biggest of his career.

Career: 13 Starts 3-6-1-2, Win Pct: 23%, Top 3 Pct: 69.2%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Pennsylvania Derby
Career Earnings: $2,062,800

7) Smooth Roller  – A scratch from the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Was his Awesome Again Stakes win a fluke or a sign of bigger and better things to come? We will find out.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 111 – 2015 Awesome Again Stakes
Career Earnings: $261,810

8) Firing Line – A promising horse that finished 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby. He also set a track record in the Sunland Derby. He sat out the year after his 7th place finish in the Preakness Stakes due to foot problems. He is expected to return to racing in late March/early April.

Career: 7 Starts 2-4-0-0, Win Pct: 28.6%, Top 3 Pct: 85.7%, Top 4 Pct: 85.7%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.18 (calculated) – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Earnings: $974,800

9) Catch A Flight – The Argentinian horse has never finished below 3rd in his North American career thus far. He finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Handicap in March behind Shared Belief and Moreno. Then he finished 2nd behind Beholder in the TVG Pacific Classic. He is recovering from body soreness that prevented him from entering the Awesome Again Stakes

Career (North America) : 8 Starts 4-1-3-0, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.09 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106- 2015 California Stakes
Career Earnings: $773,239

10) Texas Red  – A fifth place finish in the Travers was disappointing but he is still recovering. He earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the Jim Dandy Stakes. He won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a two year old and was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury. .

Career: 9 Starts 3-3-1-1, Win Pct: 33.3%, Top 3 Pct: 77.8%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.45 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,767,300


In Memoriam

Shared Belief – RIP. Unbelievable news that he passed away December 3rd after a bout with colic. He posted Beyer Speed Figures of 107 and 111 in two of his three starts in 2015.

Career: 12 Starts 10-0-0-1, Win Pct: 83.3%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.38 (calculated) – 8/24/14 (2014 Pacific Classic)
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 1152014 Pacific Classic
Career Earnings: $2,932,200

–Michael

Black Friday Special-Effinex & Keen Ice duel in the Clark Handicap. Plus 2016 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #1

 

Updated: 11/28/15 11:30AM CST

If you have been suffering from horse racing withdrawal after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, then you will have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Holiday weekend as there are several intriguing races for your viewing pleasure.

On tap for Black Friday will be one of the oldest horse races in North America (1875)–The Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs–that will include Effinex, Keen Ice, Hoppertunity and Race Day. If Effinex wins, he makes a great case to win Champion Older Male of the Year.

Saturday at Aqueduct will have two interesting races, the Cigar Mile with entries Tonalist, Private Zone  and Red Vine. And the Remsen Stakes for 2 year-olds that has two of my top 10 2016 Kentucky Derby Favorties: Mohaymen and Gift Box.

At Del Mar, Dortmund is entered in the Native Diver Handicap and will be competing against the 5 year old Mare Yahilwa, Iron Fist who finished 2nd in the Penn Derby this past September behind Frosted and Imperative who finished 4th in this year’s Awesome Again Stakes.

Plus the 2016 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #1 kicks off this weekend.

I will update this for all of these races once post positions and Morning Line Odds are known.

The Clark Handicap (Race #11) at Churchill Downs
Friday Nov 27th. Post time: 4:35 PM CST. Purse: $500,000. Distance: 1 1/8 miles. TV: TVG

Post Position/Horse (weight)/Jockey/Trainer/ML Odds
1. Keen Ice (120) Lanerie/Romans – 3/1
2. Looks to Spare (113) Lebron/Umarov – 30/1
3. Mr. Z (114) Santana Jr./Lukas – 15/1
4. Frivolous (115) Court/Oliver – 15/1
5. Protonico (117) Leparoux/Pletcher – 8/1
6. Hoppertunity (121) Garcia/Baffert – 7/2
7. Shotgun Kowboy (113) Berry/Trout – 20/1
8. Effinex (122) Smith/Jerkens – 5/2
9. Race Day (122) Velazquez/Pletcher – 7/2

My prediction: Effinex can be temperamental but surprisingly finished 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I am not sure 1 1/8th mile is his or Keen Ice’s best distance. So this is a tough race to handicap. Right now, I like a $10 straight Supefecta with 9-6-8-1 and a $5 Boxed Exacta with three horses 6-8-9 that would cost $30. That is $40 and all that I would plunk down on this race that will have more spectator value as race just to watch.

Note: Effinex won and $40 advice would have paid back $72.50.

Remsen Stakes (Race #5) at Aqueduct
Saturday Nov 28th. Post time: 12:50 PM CST. Purse: $300,000. Distance: 1 1/8 miles. TV: TVG

Post Position/Horse (weight)/Jockey/Trainer/ML Odds
1. Donegal Moon (116) Velazquez/Pletcher – 15/1
2. Sail Ahoy (116) Rosario/McGaughey – 6/1
3. Mohaymen (122) Alvarado/McLaughlin – 8/5
4. Flexibility (116) I.Ortiz/Brown – 3/1
5. Ravenheart (116) Carmouche/Abbott – 30/1
6. Gift Box (116) Castellano/Brown -4/1
7. Hunter O’Riley (116) L.Saez/Sharp – 15/1
8. Runaway King (116) G.Saez/Ice – 20/1
9. Marengo Road (116) J.Ortiz/Trombetta – 12/1

My prediction: 2 year-old races can be unpredictable. I never bet more than $50 on them unless it is a huge win bet that I feel confident about. So I would probably place a $15 Boxed Exacta 3-6 that would cost $30.

Cigar Mile Handicap (Race #9) at Aqueduct
Saturday Nov 28th. Post time: 2:50 PM CST. Purse: $500,000. Distance: 1 mile. TV: TVG

Post Position/Horse (weight)/Jockey/Trainer/ML Odds
1. Marking (116) J.Ortiz/McLaughlin – 15/1
2. Mshawish (116) Castellano/Pletcher – 10/1
3. Red Vine (118) Rosario/Clement – 8/1
4. Matrooth (116) I.Ortiz/Brown – 6/1
5. Tonalist (124) Velazquez/Clement – 2/1
6. Full of Mine (108) Rodriquez/Chatterpaul – 50/1
7. Private Zone (123) L.Saez/Sharp – 6/5

My Prediction: Another tough race to handicap. Tonalist appeared to tire down the stretch in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and he is better in distance races. Private Zone, last year’s Cigar Mile winner, is the horse to beat in this field once again.  Marking has been scratched so Superfectas are out of play. Not sure how much trifectas would pay out in a 6 horse field. So you might opt for a large Boxed Exacta with 3 horses (3,5,7).

Native Diver Stakes (Race #8) at Del Mar
Saturday Nov 28th. Post time: 6:00 PM CST. Purse: $150,000. Distance: 1 1/8 miles. TV: TVG

Post Position/Horse (weight)/Jockey/Trainer/ML Odds
1. Cat Burglar (118) Espinosa/Baffert -12/1
2. Majestic City (120) Puglisi/Baltas – 20/1
3. Dortmund (124) Stevens/Baffert – 6/5
4. Iron Fist (115) Smith/Hollendorfer – 2/1
5. Big Cazanova (120) Velazquez/Miller – 10/1
6. Yahilwa (117) Graham/Cassidy – 12/1
7. Imperative (120) L.Saez/Baltas – 4/1

My Prediction: Dortmund wins this one with ease. He will probably have 2/5 final odds. He is coming off a win in his last race-the 1 mile Big Bear Stakes on October 24th-where he posted a 105 Beyer Speed Figure. The only question is who will finish 2nd. My guess is that it will be Iron Fist ridden by Mike Smith. So a 3-4 Straight Exacta is how I would bet.

2016 Derby Future Wager Pool 1 (Thursday Nov 26th-Sunday Nov 29th)

Morning line odds by Mike Battaglia.

1. Airoforce 20-1
2. Annual Report 30-1
3. Brody’s Cause 15-1
4. Cocked and Loaded 30-1
5. Conquest Big E 50-1
6. Drefong 30-1
7. Exaggerator 30-1
8. Flexibility 30-1
9. Gift Box 30-1
10. Greenpointcrusader 30-1
11. Gun Runner 30-1
12. Matt King Coal 20-1
13. Mohaymen 15-1
14. Mor Spirit 20-1
15. Nyquist 10-1
16. Rated R Superstar 50-1
17. Riker 30-1
18. Sail Ahoy 30-1
19. Sunny Ridge 50-1
20. Swipe 15-1
21. Synchrony 30-1
22. Toews On Ice 30-1
23. Unbridled Outlaw 30-1
24. All Others 7-5

Bold Font represents horses in my most recent Early Kentucky Derby Favorite Rankings which you can read by clicking HERE

My advice, take #24 All Others as no colt has really emerged as an overwhelming favorite in my opinion when looking at historical Beyer Speed Figures. Nyquist is the best 2 year-old colt thus far but I feel that this may be a late bloomer class like 2007. The filly Songbird is the best 2 year-old regardless of gender.

–Michael

Looking ahead – My Early 2016 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

It is never too late to start thinking about another exciting year of thoroughbred racing. Now that the 2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships are over, who are the horses to keep an eye on for next year’s Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic?

For the 2016 Kentucky Derby, here’s my early Top 10 contenders thus far. And a surprise–I have a filly ranked #1:

1) Songbird – Although she will likely be pegged for the Kentucky Oaks, she is the top 2 year-old regardless of gender and she would be my Kentucky Derby favorite. Undefeated Nyquist is the top 2 year-old colt and my early Kentucky Derby favorite and all Songbird did is run a full second faster than him at the same distance, same track and same day at the Breeders Cup World Championships. That would be equivalent to 6 1/2 lengths.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.73 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

2) Nyquist – 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 impressive win in the Juvenile. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt Nyquist is still undefeated in five starts. His stalking racing style reminds me of a young American Pharoah. He will win the Eclipse Top 2 Year Old Male Horse award.

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) Swipe – This Desormeaux brothers colt has finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts. However, he keeps narrowing the gap each time. I like his future in races 1 1/8th mile or greater. His sire was Birdstone who won the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes in 2004.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Brody’s Cause 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. On closer inspection, this horse has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He looks to be a 1st Saturday in May horse.

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

5) Greenpointcrusader  Although he finished 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, I generally liked his movement up through the field where he was 12th at the three quarter pole and finished 7th and a couple of “necks” from finishing 5th. He should do well in longer distance races.  The winner of Champagne Stakes where he received a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. His time was 0.37 seconds faster than last year’s Champagne Stakes winner Daredevil (who received a 107 Beyer) on a similar sloppy sealed track. Excellent pedigree: sire Bernardini (Rachel’s Valentina’s sire), grand sire A.P. Indy, great-grand sire Seattle Slew. His sire Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness Stakes, Travers Stakes, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and finished 2nd in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.25 – Champagne Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 Champagne Stakes

6) Exaggerator – Another Desormeaux brothers colt, he finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). I am expecting him to improve.

Career: 5 Starts 2-1-0-1 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

7) Matt King Coal – The Linda Rice-trained colt has put up back-to-back 90+ Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts and broke his maiden in his last start while posting a 96 Beyer Speed Figure–the best for a 2 year-old colt this year.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.68 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #5

8) Mohaymen – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt posted an 89 Beyer Speed Figure in the Nashua Stakes on November 4th. His sire is Tapit so that means that he will like distance. A Frosted clone in the making?

Career: 2 Starts 2-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 89 – Nashua Stakes

9) Gift Box – Consider in just his 2nd start, this Chad Brown-trained colt produced a time of 1:43:00 on a sloppy track at Belmont–good for a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. That was faster than American Pharoah’s time of 1:45.78 in the sloppy Rebel Stakes at the same 1 1/16th mile distance. And American Pharoah was a 3 year-old in the Rebel. Call me curious to see what this colt will do in his next start on a dry, fast track at a distance of a mile or more.

Career: 2 Starts 1-0-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – Belmont Maiden Special Weight- Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Belmont Maiden Special Weight- Race #11

10) Sakara – This ranking is probably a bit premature but he is American Pharoah’s half brother from the same Zayat Stables. He broke his maiden in his first start on the turf at the Meadowlands October 24th and he looked quite “Pharoahish” doing it.

Career: 1 Starts 1-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 (turf) – Meadowlands Maiden Special Weight – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A


2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Watch

And now for a look ahead at the top Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders for next season. Both Shared Belief and California Chrome are set to return to racing. Below are my Top 10 contenders entering 2016. The picture will get a little clearer after the Santa Anita Handicap in March.

1) Beholder  It would have been nice to see her race in The Classic but nobody was going to beat American Pharoah that day.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 (2015 Pacific Classic)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic
Career Earnings: $4,436,600

2) Shared Belief – It will be interesting to see how he does in 2016 after sitting out most of this year.

Career: 12 Starts 10-0-0-1, Win Pct: 83.3%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 91.7%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.38 (calculated) – 8/24/14 (2014 Pacific Classic)
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 1152014 Pacific Classic
Career Earnings: $2,932,200

3) Honor Code – He will be a 5 year old in 2016 like Shared Belief and California Chrome. He could emerge as the better horse of the three when all is said and done.

Career: 11 Starts 6-2-2-0, Win Pct: 54.5%, Top 3 Pct: 90.9%, Top 4 Pct: 90.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.83 (calculated) – 10/31/15 (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2015 Whitney Handicap
Career Earnings: $2,518,260

4) California Chrome – I am glad he is coming back, the sport needs him. Looks like he is being pegged for the Dubai World Cup once again.

Career: 18 Starts 9-3-1-1, Win Pct: 50%, Top 3 Pct: 72.2%, Top 4 Pct: 77.8%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $6,322,650

5) Tonalist – Still one of the top horses in North America. The lesson I took away from his Breeders’ Cup Classic run is don’t enter him in the TVG Pacific Classic next year. Give him a 2 month layoff like American Pharoah had and see how he responds to the rest because he tired down the stretch in the Classic.

Career: 15 Starts 6-4-2-1, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 80%, Top 4 Pct: 86.7%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 111 – 2015 Westchester Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed 111 – 2015 Westchester Stakes
Career Earnings: $3,197,000

6) Effinex – A temperamental horse with a lot of talent. A 2nd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic–Jimmy Jerkens has done wonders with him.

Career: 19 Starts 6-2-3-4, Win Pct: 31.6%, Top 3 Pct: 57.9%, Top 4%: 78.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.11 (calculated) – 10/31/15 (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Career Best Beyer Speed: 110 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $1,812,250

7) Keen Ice – The only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion.

Career: 12 Starts 2-1-3-3, Win Pct: 16.7%, Top 3 Pct: 50%, Top 4 Pct: 75%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,790,395

8) Dortmund – I am expecting big things next year from this Bob Baffert-trained colt provided he is 100% healthy.

Career: 9 Starts 7-0-1-1, Win Pct: 77.8%, Top 3 Pct: 66.9%, Top 4%: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Santa Anita Derby
Career Earnings: $1,622,480

9) Frosted – He has a bright future in the sport and should improve as a 4 year-old.

Career: 13 Starts 3-6-1-2, Win Pct: 23%, Top 3 Pct: 69.2%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Pennsylvania Derby
Career Earnings: $2,062,800

10) Smooth Roller  – A scratch from the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Was his Awesome Again Stakes win a fluke or a sign of bigger and better things to come? We will find out.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 111 – 2015 Awesome Again Stakes
Career Earnings: $261,810

–Michael

2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships Preview

UPDATED 10/31/2015 4PM CST – Biggest news Beholder will be scratched from the Classic

Below are what I feel are the really key “starpower” races during the Breeders’ Cup World Championships this coming weekend at Keeneland. I will be there in attendance both days and will provide updates as time permits. I will also edit this blog with more detail and insight later. And remember that if any of these races are a wet races, you can throw most of this advice out the window.

Friday October 30th – All races televised on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) 2 to 5 PM CST

Race #5 – Hagyard Fayette – 1 1/8 Mile – $200,000 – 1:47 PM CST
This is not a Breeders’ Cup race but a good race to open the day since it has some decent horses like Hoppertunity, Commissioner, V.E. Day, Protonico, Race Day and Departing.

My Projected Winner: I like Hoppertunity but would only make a Show or Place bet here. He has never finished below 4th in a Graded Stakes race in 11 career starts. I see no reason why he would finish below 3rd in this field.

Race #7 – Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – 1 Mile – $1,000,000 – 3:10 PM CST
A race for the fastest 3 year-olds and up through One Mile.

My Projected Winner: #3 Liam’s Map. I think Liam’s Map wires this field. He is 1/1 Morning Line Odds. Red Vine is 6/1 Morning Line odds and Wicked Strong is 5/1 Morning Line odds. I like a Straight Exacta (#3 Liam’s Map-#1 Red Vine) in this one. I like Wicked Strong but not at this short of distance.  Tapiture is another good horse. So consider both for rounding out your Trifectas and Superfectas. I am not sure how much a Trifecta would pay out in this scenario with Liam’s Map on top as I expect his odds to lower from 1/1, so you may have to key him to win in a Superfecta over Red Vine, Wicked Strong and Tapiture. I think I am going to key Liam’s Map to win #3 over 1,5,8,9 (Red Vine, Lea, Wicked Strong and Tapiture). This $1 Superfecta would cost $24. I may place $50 on Liam’s Map to win.

Race #9 – Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff –  1 1/8 Mile – $2,000,000 4:35 PM CST
Formerly known as the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, this is the top race for fillies and mares.

My Projected Winner:  #7 Wedding Toast. She is best horse in the field. Last year’s Champion, Untapable, has already been scratched due to spiking a fever. Sheer Drama, Got Lucky, Stopchargingmaria and I’m a Chatterbox are all really good horses. So I am going to place $50 on Wedding Toast to Place. if I have done well in the other races, I may change this to a Win bet.

Saturday October 31st – NBC will televise from 3-5 PM CST. NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will televise from Noon to 3 PM CST

Race #3 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – 1 1/16 Mile – $2,000,000 11:05 AM CST
The top race for 2-year-old fillies. Points are awarded for entry into the 2016 Kentucky Oaks. This is a great crop of fillies this year.

My Projected Winner:  I am a fan of #9 Rachel’s Valentina (7/2 Morning Line odds) and hopes she wins. But #10 Songbird (7/5 Morning Line odds) is the better horse right now. I may place a 10-9-2 (Songbird, Rachel’s Valentina and Tap to It) Straight Exacta.

Race #7 – Twinspires Breeders’ Cup Sprint – Six Furlongs – $1,500,000 – 1:50 PM CST

My Projected Winner: #5 Runhappy. He is 3/1 Morning Line odds while Morning Line race favorite Private Zone is 5/2. I think Runhappy is on a roll and like his post position better than Private Zone.

Race #9 – Breeders’ Cup Sentient Jet Juvenile – 1 1/16 Mile – $2,000,000 3:10 PM CST
The top race for 2 year-old colts and geldings. These horses are a part of the Kentucky Derby Trail and will earn points for entry into the 2016 Kentucky Derby. Points awarded to this year’s top four finishers in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile have been doubled and will be 20-8-4-2.

My Projected Winner:  Nyquist, who is undefeated in four starts and my early 2016 Kentucky Derby favorite, will probably be the live race favorite. Brody’s Cause is the Morning Line Favorite at 7/2 odds. However, I like Greenpointcrusader at 4/1 Morning Line odds in this race. I generally feel that Greenpointcrusader is the fastest horse in the field but Brody’s Cause is a tremendous closer. If this pace is fast, this will play right into Brody’s Cause strength. If you want to play this one safe, place a Boxed Exacta with 3 horses (#3 Greenpointcrusader, #7 Brody’s Cause and #13 Nyquist). But remember my personal rule, never bet more than $50 on a race for 2 year-olds.

Race #10 – Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf – 1 ½ Mile – $3,000,000 3:50 PM CST
The best turf race in North America, that carries a $3 Million Dollar purse. It routinely draws some of the top turf horses from Europe.

My Projected Winner: The British-bred Golden Horn will probably be the race favorite. #10 The Pizza Man is a tremendous closer and I think this distance (1 1/2 mile) suits his running style the best. He has 15-1 Morning Line odds so I may make a big Place bet on him. The turf should be softer than normal due to the rain and this works against the European horses who like firmer surfaces.

Race #11 – Breeders’ Cup Classic – 1 ¼ mile = $5,000,000 4:35 PM CST
The Super Bowl of Thoroughbred Racing as this race draws the very best horse 3 years-old and older.

Breeders’ Cup Classic 2015 Post Positions & Morning Line Odds

1. Tonalist – Jockey John Velazquez – 6/1
2. Keen Ice – Jockey Irad Ortiz 12/1
3. Frosted Jockey Joel Rosario – 15/1
4. American Pharoah – Jockey Victor Espinoza – 6/5
5. Gleneagles – Jockey Ryan Moore – 20/1
6. Effinex – Jockey Mike Smith – 30/1
7. Smooth Roller – Jockey Tyler Baze – 15/1
8. Hard Aces Jockey Joe Talamo – 50/1
9. Honor Code – Jockey Javier Castellano – 6/1
10. Beholder 3-1 – Jockey Gary Stevens -3/1 SCRATCHED

My Projected Winner:  I correctly predicted Bayern would win last year’s Classic but I feel less confident about the outcome of this one. Now that Beholder has been scratched, I think this race comes down to Tonalist and American Pharoah but Honor Code and Keen Ice all have the ability to win this race. If Tonalist runs like he did in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race, and he is pressed up on the pace, I think he wins this one. So I am leaning towards Tonalist but my question is: will he be tired and be able to repeat his last performance? He will have to be pressed up on the pace as opposed to his normal closing style or he won’t win. Will drawing the dreaded rail hurt his trip? I don’t think this is a race sets up well for closers like #9 Honor Code. As far as betting, I am liking a big Boxed Exacta of  (#1 Tonalist and #4 American Pharoah). I also like a $10 Boxed Trifecta of (1,4,9) that would cost $60.

–Michael

Updated 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings – The Greatest Race of The 21st Century

Photo: Sophie Shore/Eclipse Sportswire

UPDATED 10/21/2015 – Only 10 horses (all of my most recent Top 10) were pre-entered into the Breeders’ Cup Classic today (Wednesday 10/21/15).

This year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic will without a doubt be “The Greatest Race of the 21st Century.”  Never before has the Super Bowl of Thoroughbred Racing had a Triple Crown Champion competing in it in an attempt to win the first Quadruple Crown (Triple Crown + Breeders’ Cup Classic). Or the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing as it has also been called.

Overall, my thoughts are—this race will have a talent-packed field and I expect the finish to resemble a shootout at the OK Corral. I expect the finish to be a chaotic mess much like the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic (shown below) when Zenyatta won.


With such a star-studded field for this year’s Classic, I am placing more emphasis on horses who are *hot* and ones that have demonstrated speed in the final 1/2 mile of a 1 1/4 mile race. This may surprise many but my new #1 and the horse that I think should be the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic is (long pause)….Tonalist. Yes, Tonalist.


Why? His performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race (shown above) was more impressive than the 109 Beyer Speed Figure he received. Let me explain:

At the 3/4 mile mark, Constitution led the way with a fraction time of 1:12.48 and Tonalist went on to win on a sloppy track with a final time of 2:02.16. That is just 0.04 seconds off his winning time in last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (2:02.12) on a dry fast track. When you subtract the final winning time of 2:02.16 from the time at the 3/4th mile mark (1:12.48)–that equals 49.68 seconds. When you consider that Tonalist was three lengths behind Constitution and Wicked Strong at that point (roughly 0.48 seconds), this means that Tonalist ran the last half mile in roughly 49.2 seconds.

Show me a horse this year that has run that fast in the last 1/2 mile of a 1 1/4 mile race on a fast dry track let alone a sloppy wet track? You can’t. I have crunched the numbers already and this will be a subject in a future blog. Beholder ran the last 1/2 mile in roughly 49.45 seconds in the TVG Pacific Classic on a dry fast track. Yes, Beholder won that race by 8 1/4 lengths comfortably but jockey John Velazquez never even had to show Tonalist the whip in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race either. In the Travers Stakes, American Pharoah ran the last 1/2 mile in 50.09 seconds. And I estimated the Keen Ice ran it in 49.35 seconds. This was on a dry, fast track with both runners hustling to the wire.

Bayern won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic running the last half mile in 49.66 seconds. And Bayern’s winning time of 1:59.88 was the 6th fastest in Breeders’ Cup Classic history.

In my opinion, if Tonalist runs as well as he did in this year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup race, he will win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I correctly predicted Bayern to win last year’s classic. Tonalist should be the race favorite and in all of your Exacta bets.


My updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Rankings:

1) Tonalist*  – An impressive win on a sloppy track in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race moves him up to #1. Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he now has two wins, two 2nd places finishes and a 3rd place finish. His 3rd place finish in the Whitney Handicap produced a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced a 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap and a 111 Beyer in the Met Mile. And he performs better in races 1 1/4 mile or longer. He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His next start will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 14 Starts 6-4-2-1, Win Pct: 42.9%, Top 3 Pct: 85.7%, Top 4 Pct: 92.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.1 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 110 – 2015 Whitney Handicap
Last Two Beyers: 109, 110 Average: 109.5
Career Earnings: $3,097,000

2) American Pharoah*  –  I truly believe that American Pharoah thought he had the Travers race won when he shook off Frosted. He has never experienced battling and separating from a horse only for another to come from the outside like gangbusters that late in the race. I think the added rest will do Pharoah well as he produced his best Beyer Speed Figure in the Haskell Invitational coming off a 2 month layoff. His next start of course will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st.

Career: 10 Starts 8-1-0-0, Win Pct: 80%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 109 – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Last Two Beyers: 105, 109 Average: 107
Career Earnings: $5,900,300

3) Beholder*  – She dropped below American Pharoah as I was expecting a better performance in the Zenyatta Stakes in which she produced the worst time of her three Zenyatta Stakes career wins (1:42.83 vs 1:42.19 in 2014 and 1:42.11 in 2013). Her Beyer Speed Figure hasn’t been published yet but it had to have been under 106. Yes, it was warmer than usual at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. Yes, she won comfortably and by a bigger margin than the previous Zenyatta Stakes races. And yes, Gary Stevens never asked her to go so she had a little more left in the tank. However, she has legitimate concerns, acknowledged by her trainer Richard Mandella, on how well she will travel. She has never won outside of the state of California and her two most recent losses came at Belmont Park in the Ogden Phipps (4th) in June 2014 and the Kentucky Oaks (2nd) in May 2013. Nevertheless, she has reeled off six straight wins. And Beholder’s times are all faster than Pharoah’s at the 1 1/16 mile (1:41.67 vs 1:41.95), 1 1/8 mile (1:47.77 vs 1:47.95) and 1 1/4 mile (1:59.77 vs 2:01.69) distances. The 114 Beyer Speed Figure she received for her TVG Pacific Classic win is the top Beyer Speed Figure recorded in 2015 for races longer than 1 1/8 mile (source). Her next start will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31st even though she has also qualified for the Longines Distaff. She arrived at Keeneland October 19th so this bodes well for history of not traveling well.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.77 – 11/1/13 (2013 Breeders Cup Distaff)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 114 – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Last Two Beyers: 99, 114 Average: 106.5
Career Earnings: $4,436,600

4) Keen Ice – The only living horse that has beaten a Triple Crown Champion. He finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Belmont Stakes and 2nd behind American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational (105 Beyer Speed Figure). Then finally beat the Triple Crown winner in the Travers Stakes. His Beyer Speed Figure for the Travers Stakes was 106. He is an improving horse. His owner, Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing, recently said: “We believe that (Keen Ice) is the fastest, best-bred 3-year-old in the world today.” Note that Keen Ice’s sire Curlin, won the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start should be Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 10 Starts 2-1-3-2, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4 Pct: 80%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Last Two Beyers: 106,105 Average: 105.5
Career Earnings: $1,490,395

5) Honor Code*  – I dropped him two spots due to a disappointing 3rd place finish in the Kelso Handicap. I don’t want to drop him more as a wet, sloppy track doesn’t favor his speed. However, he still should have had this field covered. He has produced some great Beyer Speed Figures: a 112 for his winning effort in The Met-Mile. He produced another sizzling 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney Handicap. He has a nice pedigree, the son of A.P. Indy and the grandson of Seattle Slew. He has yet to race longer than 1 1/8th mile but I think he will fare even better in a 1 1/4 mile race–he is bred for distance. His next start will be in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 10 Starts 6-2-1-0, Win Pct: 60%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.82 – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 113 – 2015 Whitney Handicap
Last Two Beyers: 103,113 Average: 108
Career Earnings: $2,018,260

6) Frosted  – He has a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, a 2nd place finish in the Belmont Stakes, a 3rd place finish in the Travers Stakes and a win in the Pennsylvania Derby.  With the Penn Derby win, he has now eclipsed over $2 Million in career earnings. He is a quality horse who has never finished below 4th place in 11 career starts. He shares the same sire (Tapit) as does Tonalist. I think he will have a great 4-year-old campaign. His next start will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 12 Starts 3-6-1-2, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 83.3%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.85 (calculated) – 8/1/15 (2015 Jim Dandy Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/2015 (2015 Travers Stakes)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 106 – 2015 Pennsylvania Derby
Last Two Beyers: 106,102 Average: 104
Career Earnings: $2,062,800

7) Smooth Roller*  – The surprise winner of the Awesome Again Stakes in just the 4th start of his career, it is hard to rank him much higher due to lack of experience. However, he did beat Bayern, Hoppertunity and Hard Aces and produced a eye-opening 111 Beyer Speed Figure in less than favorable weather conditions at Santa Anita. That speed figure is tied for the 5th best for races more than a mile. With the win, he has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and likely will be a longshot. He will have to race 7 pounds heaver in the Classic than he did in the Awesome Again stakes.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.08 – 9/26/15 (2015 Awesome Again Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 111 – 2015 Awesome Again Stakes
Last Two Beyers: 111,93 Average: 102
Career Earnings: $261,810

8) Effinex – Finished 3rd in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race. A temperamental horse with talent at the 1 1/4 mile distance. He acted up in the starting gate in the Woodward Stakes and finished 4th. Previous to this he had the weird run in the Brooklyn Handicap where he veered away from the rest of the pack coming around a turn and DNF’d. But the 2015 Suburban Handicap winner still has two of the top four Beyer Speed Figures this year for races 1 1/4th mile or longer: 107 Beyer at Aqueduct on April 25th and his 107 Beyer on July 4th at Belmont. His next start is uncertain but should be the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 17 Starts 6-1-2-3, Win Pct: 35.2%, Top 3 Pct: 52.9%, Top 4%: 70.5%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.44 (calculated) – 9/5/15 (2015 Woodward Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.55 – 7/4/15 (2015 Suburban Handicap)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 107 – 2015 Excelsior Stakes
Last Two Beyers: 95,103 Average: 99
Career Earnings: $812,250

9) Hard Aces* After two consecutive 6th places finishes, Hard Aces doesn’t appear to be a serious Classic contender but he hangs in my rankings due to having qualified for The Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. No word yet on whether he will be entered.

Career: 24 starts 6-3-7-2, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 66.7%, Top 4 Pct: 75%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.37 (calculated) – 5/30/15 (2015 Californian Stakes)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2015: 99 – 2015 Gold Cup
Last Two Beyers: 93,93 Average: 93
Career Earnings: $592,395

10) Gleneagles  – After a 6th place finish in his last start–The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes–he drops to last in my rankings. The 3 year-old colt from Ireland has only raced on turf and never further than 1 mile. I wouldn’t normally consider such a horse a threat in 1 1/4 mile dirt races in the US because you never know how a horse will respond on that surface and how they will react when they get dirt kicked up in their face. However, he is being pointed towards the Classic because his trainer feels that he has great tactical speed that will translate well on dirt. Remember that the British-trained turf horse Raven’s Pass won 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic with the third fastest time (1:59.27) in Breeders’ Cup Classic history. So a few make the transition very well. But I am not guessing Gleneagles will. I feel he should be entered into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile.

Career: 10 starts 7-0-1-1, Win Pct: 70%, Top 3 Pct: 80%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: N/A
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Top Two Beyers: N/A
Career Earnings: $1,404,108

* Indicates a horse who has already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic


Off the Breeders’ Cup Classic Trail

Wicked Strong  – Was entered into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Liam’s Map – Was be entered into Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and should be the favorite for that race.

Coach Inge – won’t be entered into the Breeders’ Cup Classic

Catch a Flight – sidelined due to body soreness that prevented him from entering the Awesome Again Stakes

Dortmund – He is entered in the Big Bear Stakes Saturday Oct. 24th at Santa Anita.

Noble Bird* – Although he has qualified for the Classic, his trainer Mark Casse has decided to rest him for a couple of months with plans to bring him back next year.

Texas Red  –  He is sidelined for the rest of 2015 with a cannon bone bruise. Another setback for an extremely talented and promising horse.


Below is a ranking by Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Times for 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contenders. For calculated times of non-winning horses, I used the official race time of the winner and the following to compute an estimated time [One length is equal to 0.16 seconds, three-quarters of a length is equal to 0.12, a half-length equals 0.08, a neck is equal to 0.04, a head is equal to 0.02 and a nose is 0.01].

1) Beholder1:59.77 – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (1st in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
2) Tonalist – 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 at Santa Anita (5th in 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
3) Effinex  2:01.55 – 7/4/15 at Belmont Park (1st in 2015 Suburban Handicap)
4) Keen Ice – 2:01.57 – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (1st in 2015 Travers Stakes)
5) American Pharoah* –  2:01.69 (calculated) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)
6) Hard Aces*  –  2:02.01 (calculated) – 8/22/15 at Del Mar (6th in 2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
7) Frosted – 2:02.05 (calculated) – 8/29/15 at Saratoga (2nd in 2015 Travers Stakes)

Honor Code, Smooth Roller and Gleneagles have never raced at the 1 1/4 mile distance.


Top Beyer Speed Figures in 2015 for races 1 1/4 Mile

1) Beholder (f) DMR 22 Aug 1 1/4M 114
2) Shared Belief SA 07 Mar 1 1/4M 111
3) Tonalist BEL 03 Oct 1 1/4M 109
4) Effinex AQU 25 Aprl 1 1/4M 107
5) Effinex BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
6) Tonalist BEL 04 Jul 1 1/4M 107
7) Keen Ice SAR 29 Aug 1 1/4M 106