Nyquist looks strong in the San Vicente

February 15th 2016 (82 days away from the Kentucky Derby)


Nyquist wins the San Vicente – photo Credit: http://www.santaAnita.com

We are less than 12 weeks away from the Kentucky Derby and Nyquist solidified his position today as one of the top 2 Kentucky Derby contenders with an impressive win in the San Vincente Stakes at Santa Anita Park (shown below).

This was just a tune-up race to start Nyquist’s 3 year-old campaign, so I wasn’t expecting much. But Nyquist staved off Exaggerator to produce a final time was 1:20.71–third fastest time for this race and faster than Silver Charm’s time of 1:21.07 back in 1997. Silver Charm went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness before narrowly losing the Belmont Stakes and a Triple Crown by a half-length.

With Songbird’s owner Rick Porter stating that he will not enter the sensational 3 year-old filly in the Kentucky Derby,  Mohaymen (undefeated in 4 starts) and Nyquist (undefeated in 6 starts) are the top two Kentucky Derby contenders as bettors affirmed yesterday in the most recent Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool. Mohaymen finished with 4/1 odds compared to Nyquist at 7/1. If bettors in the pool had this performance to judge from, I am sure that Nyquist would have finished at 5/1 or 9/2. These are extremely short odds for this early in the Derby prep season.

So where does Nyquist rank now in my opinion?

Right now, I would still rank Mohaymen ahead of Nyquist for the simple fact that Mohaymen has stretched out to 9 furlongs (1 1/8 mile) already and won. However, if you prorate Nyquist’s time in the 7 furlong San Vincente Stakes out to 1 mile (8 furlongs) using the slowest fraction of the race between the 4 furlong to 6 furlong distance (24.07), his time probably would have been below 1:33 (1:32.75). Keep in mind that the world record for 1 mile is 1:32.2. Mohaymen’s time through 1 mile in the last start in the Holy Bull Stakes was 1:36.04. So it will come down to whether Nyquist has developed stamina to stretch out to the Kentucky Derby distance of 10 furlongs (1 1/14 mile). There are a few critics who feel he is better suited as a Miler.

1) Mohaymen 
Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.92 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Holy Bull Stakes

2) Nyquist 
Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100 – San Vicente Stakes



Pursuit of The Roses – What to make of the Derby Trail races this past weekend

This past weekend (February 21st and 22nd) gave us more useful information for determining this year’s Kentucky Derby field.

Who’s in the Derby?

The following horses have enough points to guarantee their entry into the Kentucky Derby:

1) International Star – 71 points
2) Itsaknockout – 50 points
3) Upstart – 36 points

Due to injuries, performance reasons and schedule conflicts, many horses who have enough points aren’t entered in the Kentucky Derby. The following horses historically have enough points to gain entry due to these reasons

4) El Kabeir – 25 points
5) War Story  – 24 points
6) Far Right – 22 points
7) Dortmund – 20 points

Overall, I wasn’t overly impressed with any horse this past weekend in the point paying Derby races. In the Fountain of Youth shown below, all the horses looked like they were really laboring to the finish line in this 1 & 1/16th mile race. Upstart had his win taken away due to interference and veering out into Itsaknockout’s path. There was a clear violation, but I am not convinced that it would have changed the finishing order. It certainly would have made it a closer race. Even if Upstart’s win was upheld, this race wasn’t as impressive as his last start in the Holy Bull Stakes. So this begs the question, has Upstart peaked? Nevertheless, he should be one of the race favorites for the Florida Derby.

Itsaknockout is now undefeated in three starts. Once highly regarded Frosted finished 4th.

In the Risen Star Stakes, International Star established himself as a serious Kentucky Derby contender with his second consecutive win at the Fairgrounds. I had initial concerns last fall that he was a horse that preferred turf, but all those doubts have been erased now. He should be the race favorite for the Louisiana Derby and has a good pedigree. International Star’s sire Fusaichi Pegasus won the 2000 Kentucky Derby. However, he has yet to dazzle us with  impressive Beyer Speed figures. He earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure in the Lecomte Stakes and a 93 in the Risen Star.

But he is improving, not regressing and that is the most important element at this time of year. But the big question for him now—is he a rising star that had only been racing to the level of his competition?

Race favorite Imperia has a disappointing 5th place finish,

The Southwest Stakes established Far Right as the early favorite for Arkansas Derby by beating race favorite Mr Z. The wet sloppy track at Oaklawn Park on Sunday should have hindered his closer style. But once again, under jockey Mike Smith, he managed to beat Mr Z to the finish line. Far Right is a very good horse but like International Star, he has yet to dazzle us with eye-popping speed figures. Mr Z is establishing himself as a herd runner who will finish up near the front with the lead pack but not win. A better name for him would be “Close But No Cigar”

I really loved the second-place performance from The Truth Or Else under jockey Calvin Borel. This was his first start in a race longer than 1 mile and he looks like he loved the added distance. So I expect him to be a contender to American Pharoah in the upcoming Rebel Stakes.

In Other Races…

I was really impressed with the Todd Pletcher-trained horse Khozan who absolutely demolished the field in Race #5 at Gulfstream Park this past Sunday. He is a late bloomer braking his maiden in his first start in a 7 furlong race at Gulfstream Park on January 24th.

My next blog coming up this Thursday will focus on the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #3 and the first Kentucky Oaks Future Wager Pool.

Who do I think will be dropped from Pool #2 in Pool #3? Lord Nelson, J S Bach, Gorgeous Bird and Possibly Mr Z due to the expected lack of interest from bettors.

Here is who I think will be added in their place: Far From Over, Metaboss, Divining Rod and The Truth Or Else


Preview of the Fountain of Youth, Risen Star and Southwest Stakes

This weekend there are three important point paying races on the Kentucky Derby Trail. The Fountain of Youth and the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday February 21st. And the Southwest Stakes on Sunday February 22nd. The Southwest Stakes is the last points paying race of the Derby prep season that will award 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers. The Fountain of Youth and Risen Star Stakes are a part of the 1st Leg of the Championship series that will award 50-20-10-5 poins to the top four finishers. The winner of these two races will gain enough points to enter the Kentucky Derby. Most likely, the second place finisher will too. The current Kentucky Derby Points Standings can be accessed by clicking HERE.

Each race will have some fairly high-profile horses who were listed in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #2. These horses are: Upstart, Frosted, Itsaknockout, Gorgeous Bird, Imperia, International Star, JS Bach, Far Right and Mr. Z. This represents over one-third of the horses listed in Pool #2.

The most compelling race will be the Fountain of Youth Stakes to see if Upstart is the real deal. In my previous blog, The Six Best Performances on the 2015 Kentucky Derby Trail, Upstart’s win in the Holy Bull Stakes was the most impressive of this year’s Derby contenders using an average of the three major speed figures for races longer than one mile.

The Southwest Stakes was snowed out this past Monday and will be rescheduled this Sunday. Two horses (JS Bach and War Story) were originally entered in the Southwest Stakes. However, due to the cancellation, they have been entered into the Risen Star Stakes at the Fairgrounds in New Orleans instead hoping to capitalize on more points.

1) Fountain of Youth Stakes Race #11 at Gulfstream – Post Time: Sat 4:30 PM CST – 1 1/16 Mile

Post positions & Odds: 1) Juan and Bina 20/1, 2) Bluegrass Singer 8-1, 3) Frammento 30-1, 4) Gorgeous Bird 6-1, 5) Itsaknockout 4-1, 6) Frosted 5-2, 7) Upstart 8-5, 8) Danny Boy 15-1

On paper, this appears to be a three-way battle between Upstart, Frosted and Itsaknockout. I think Frosted is probably better suited for races longer than 1 & 1/16 mile. Gorgeous Bird has never raced longer than a mile. I like Bluegrass Singer (who finished 3rd in the Holy Bull) since he is starting from the 2nd post. The Dale Romans trained colt Danny Boy is capable of finishing in the money but he is inconsistent and starts on the outside.

So here is how I would bet a $1 straight Superfecta: 5-7-2-6 (Itsaknockout, Upstart , Bluegrass Singer, Frosted)

I would also place this $10 Boxed Exacta bet: 5-7 (Itsaknockout-Upstart) to capture the race favorite Upstart. A win bet on Upstart probably won’t pay out much. If you want to further hedge, place a $1 straight Trifecta: 7-6-5 (Upstart, Frosted, Itsaknockout)

2) Risen Star Stakes Race #11 at the Fairgrounds – Post Time: Sat 5:24 PM CST – 1 1/16 Mile

Post positions & Odds: 1) St. Joe Bay 12-1, 2) Tiznow R J 5-1, 3) Bluff 15-1, 4) J S Bach 5-1, 5) Imperia 7/2, 6) War Story 5-1, 7) Hero of Humor 30-1, 8) Keen Ice 8-1, 9) Big Big Easy 12-1, 10) International Star 9/2

***Note: J S Bach was scratched due to spiking a fever.

The race has enough speed across the board that it will be tough predicting a straight Superfecta. So don’t bet a large sum of money on this race as it is the less predictable of these three weekend Derby Trail races. For the win, consider four horses and their live odds: Imperia, International Star,  Bluff and J S Bach.

J S Bach is trained by Todd Pletcher, so he will get plenty of attention from bettors. Another notable entry is Tiznow R J who has three third-place finishes and one win in four starts. He was beaten by Keen Ice (also entered in this race) in his first start and finished third in his last start in the LeComte Stakes behind International Star and War Story. I think Tiznow R J, like his sire Tiznow (who won two Breeders’s Cup Classics) prefers distance. However, he has a very favorable 2nd post position. Trainer Steve Asmussen entered Big Big Easy but he has yet to race longer than a mile.

I would consider placing a $10 win bet on J S Bach if his odds are 4-1 or greater or Bluff if his odds are 6-1 or greater. I don’t mind trying to beat the race favorite if I can get a price.

If I had to place a $1 straight Superfecta, I would bet something exotic that would likely payoff well: 4-3-5-10 (J S Bach, Bluff, Imperia, International Star)

Since J S Bach has been scratched, I would make the following exotic $1 straight Superfecta: 3-5-10-2

3) Southwest Stakes Race #8 at Oaklawn Park – Post Time: Sun 4:42 PM CST – 1 1/16 Mile

Post Positions & Odds: 1) Bayerd 5-1, 2) Majestico 30-1, 3) Hillbilly Royalty 7-2, 4) Private Prospect 12-1,5) Bold Conquest 10-1, 6) Far Right 5-2, 7) Phenomenal Phoenix 30-1, 8) The Truth Or Else 20-1, 9) Kantune 12-1, 10) Bold Animaux 30-1, 11) Mr. Z 3/1

This would have been a more interesting race with J S Bach and War Story. So now it appears that it will be a two-horse show–a rematch of the Smarty Jones Stakes with Mr. Z and Far Right battling it out for the win. I like Mr Z edging out Far Right this time around but will there be a new horse in the mix? Two other notable entries are the Steve Asmussen-trained Bayerd who starts in post #1 (same post that Far Right won with in the Smarty Jones) and Donnie Von Hemel’s Hillbilly Royalty who is undefeated in two starts and posted a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his last start at Oaklawn.

I would consider placing a $10 win bet on #3 Hillbilly Royalty depending on his odds and hedge it with two $5 Boxed Exacta bets on (6-11) Mr Z and Far Right & (3-11) Hillbilly Royalty and Mr Z. If I had to place a $1 straight Superfecta, I would go with: 3-11-6-1 (Hillbilly Royalty, Mr Z, Far Right, Bayerd). Why? Because it’s just a buck and the payout should be nice.


The Six Best Performances On The 2015 Kentucky Derby Trail

Below is a ranking of the six best performances of this year’s Kentucky Derby contenders. My criteria uses wins in races longer than one mile (two turns) and then averaging three major speed figures (Beyer Speed, Brisnet Speed and Equibase Speed). All races were 1 & 1/16th mile.

1) Upstart – His win in the 2015 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on January 24, 2015.

Beyer Speed Figure: 105, Brisnet Speed Figure: 105, Equibase Speed Figure: 111
Three Speed Figure Average: 107

2) Dortmund – His win in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park on February 7, 2015.

Beyer Speed Figure: 103, Brisnet Speed Figure: 101, Equibase Speed Figure: 114
Three Speed Figure Average: 106

3) Texas Red – His win in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Sentient Jet Juvenile at Santa Anita Park on November 1, 2014.

Beyer Speed Figure: 104, Brisnet Speed Figure: 101, Equibase Speed Figure: 106
Three Speed Figure Average: 103.67

4) American Pharoah – His win in the 2014 Frontrunner Stakes at Santa Anita Park on September 27, 2014.

Beyer Speed Figure: 101, Brisnet Speed Figure: 96, Equibase Speed Figure: 106
Three Speed Figure Average: 102

5) Far From Over – His win in the 2015 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on February 7, 2015.

Beyer Speed Figure: 96, Brisnet Speed Figure: 96, Equibase Speed Figure: 103
Three Speed Figure Average: 98.33

6) Ocho Ocho Ocho – His win in the 2014 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes at Delta Downs on November 22, 2014.

Beyer Speed Figure: 90, Brisnet Speed Figure: 101, Equibase Speed Figure: 104
Three Speed Figure Average: 98.33