2016 Travers Stakes Preview – Will Exaggerator prevail at the Graveyard of Champions?

2016-travers-stakes-lapel-pin-silver-metal-2

August 24th 2016 – Updated 8/26/16 (see below)

Coming this Saturday on NBC is the 147th running of the Travers Stakes for 3 year-olds. Consider the history of this race at the hallowed grounds of Saratoga. It was first run in 1864 when Abraham Lincoln was President. That was seven score and twelve years ago. It was once viewed as the fourth leg of the Triple Crown. It seems to produce upsets or controversy. Most notably in 1930 when the Triple Crown champion Gallant Fox was upset by the 100-1 longshot Jim Dandy. More fresh on everyour minds was last year when Keen Ice shocked the Saratoga crowd by beating American Pharoah.

Then there was the Affirmed vs Alydar showdown in 1978 that resulted in Affirmed being disqualified by a foul. To date, the only Triple Crown winner to ever win the Travers Stakes was Whirlaway in 1941.

There is no Triple Crown winner this year to test the Saratoga racing gods but we do have a number of horses in this field that competed in this year’s Triple Crown races:

Exaggerator – Preakness Stakes winner, 2nd in the Kentucky Derby, 11th in the Belmont Stakes
Creator – Belmont Stakes winner, 13th in the Kentucky Derby
Destin – 2nd in the Belmont Stakes, 6th in the Kentucky Derby
Gun Runner – 3rd in the Kentucky Derby 
Governo Malibu – 4th in the Belmont Stakes
My Man Sam – 11th in the Kentucky Derby
Majesto – 18th in the Kentucky Derby
Laoban – the surprise Jim Dandy Stakes winner who finished 6th in the Preakness
Forever d’Oro – 13th in the Belmont Stakes

Plus some late bloomers like the Curlin Stakes winner Connect, Bob Baffert’s Iowa Derby winner American Freedom who finished 2nd to Exaggerator in the Haskell Invitational and Bob Baffert’s other promising colt–Arrogate–who produced a 103 Beyer Speed Figure at Santa Anita Park in June.

Then there’s the once promising Chad Brown colt Gift Box who was sidelined during the Derby trail season due to illness. He gave Connect a real battle in the Curlin Stakes. And the 50-1 odds horse Anaximandros. I think his name means longshot in Latin.

Here are the post-positions, riders and morning line odds:

The Travers Stakes – 1 1/4th Mile – Saturday August 27th – Race #11 at Saratoga – Post-Time: 4:44 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post Horse/(Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Arrogate – Smith/Baffert – 10-1
2. American Freedom – Bejarano/Baffert – 6-1
3. My Man Sam – Franco/Brown – 20-1
4. Governor Malibu – Rosario/Clement – 12-1
5. Forever d’Oro – Saez/Stewart – 30-1
6. Anaximandros – Reyes/Yakakov – 50-1
7. Exaggerator – Desormeax/Desormeax – 3-1
8. Destin – Castellano/Pletcher – 10-1
9. Gift Box – Alvarado/Brown- 12-1
10. Connect – Velazquez/Brown – 4-1
11. Majesto – Santana/Delgato – 30-1   SCRATCHED
12. Creator – Ortiz Jr./Asmussen – 15-1
13. Laoban – Ortiz/Guillot – 15-1
14. Gun Runner – Geroux/Asmussen – 10-1

My Prediction: This will be an interesting race. Exaggerator is the class of the field. He has won before at Saratoga as a 2 year old. He has a good starting position in the middle of pack. It would be hard to bet against him here but why would this year be any different for a race that typically springs upsets? Especially when there is no rain in the forecast. This race is very hard to handicap since a few of these horses, and some very promising ones like Connect, have yet to race 10 furlongs. And those who raced in the Kentucky Derby may have significantly improved by now. This race’s exotic bets should payout nice if you are lucky enough to hit one. 

Here are the Top Beyer Speed Figures for horses in this field at races longer than one mile

Arrogate              SA           24 Jun   1 1/16M         103
Exaggerator       SA           09 Apr   1 1/8M           103
Connect               SAR        29 Jul     1 1/8M           101
Exaggerator       CD          07 May 1 1/4M            101
Exaggerator       MTH      31 Jul     1 1/8M            101
Exaggerator       PIM        21 May 1 3/16M           101
Laoban                 SAR       30 Jul  1 1/8M               101
Destin                  TAM      12 Mar  1 1/16M           100

This is why I would lean towards picking Exaggerator (The Slopmeister) to win this race even on a dry track surface. Connect and American Freedom are probably good bets to finish in the superfecta. After that, it depends on which Gun Runner, Creator and Destin shows up. Arrogate is hurt by drawing the rail. I have no magic crystal ball for this one folks. Good luck and happy viewing!

Update! 8/26/16

One thing I noticed in my research tonight is how the top 3 finishers in Jim Dandy Stakes fared in the Travers Stakes the past 4 years. The Jim Dandy Stakes is a 9 furlong (1 1/8th mile) race that is a prep race for the Travers.

2015 – Frosted finished 2nd in the Jim Dandy and 3rd in the Travers
2014 – Wicked Strong and Tonalist finished 1-2 in the Jim Dandy and then 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Travers.
2013 – Will Take Charge finished 2nd in the Jim Dandy and won the Travers
2012 – Alpha and Neck ‘n Neck finished 1-2 in the Jim Dandy and tied in a dead heat in the Travers.

The Top 3 finishers in this year’s Jim Dandy Stakes were: 1) Laoban, 2) Governor Malibu and 3) Destin. So if you are looking for horses to put into your superfecta bets, it would be a good idea to include one or two of these horses. Of the three, Governor Malibu seems to be the safest bet of the three to hit the board based on his career history.

Two horses that I wouldn’t put in my superfectas are: Anaximandros and My Man Sam. Majesto has been scratched. Forever d’Oro is the only longshot that might have a chance to hit the board. He is a half-brother to Songbird but he has yet to run like it. He crapped out in the Belmont Stakes but moved up well in the Curlin Stakes to finish 3rd.

As I stated earlier, this will be an interesting race. Sort of a mini Kentucky Derby. Since the Haskell Invitational was a wet race, which some horses don’t run well in, we could see a return to form for a horse like Gun Runner. But I am not convinced he likes a mile and a quarter.

–Michael

A July Spectacular! Triple Crown Rematch Weekend. Plus updated Breeders’ Cup Classic Contender Rankings

July 27th 2016 – Updated July 30th 2016 1 PM CST

Usually July is a slow, dull month for the sport horse racing and it has been evident in previous year’s blog statistics. However, this year July has been one of the most exciting summer months for the sport in recent memory. And it is about to go out like a huge Fourth of July fireworks finale this weekend.

Last weekend, the California Chrome vs Dortmund battle in the San Diego Handicap proved to be one of the best horse races of the year thus far. With California Chrome’s win in the San Diego Handicap, he received the top Beyer Speed Figure (111) of the year for dirt races longer than one mile. And Dortmund received a 110 Beyer Speed Figure, the best of his career and tied for 2nd best this year for dirt races longer than one mile.

Then Carina Mia gave the sensational filly Songbird her best battle to date in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga (shown below). She received her career best Beyer Speed Figure (101) with the win. Songbird has now won nine straight races and drawing comparisons to the Queen of Thoroughbreds Zenyatta.


Triple Crown Rematches

This weekend, we will have two big rematches from this year’s Triple Crown races. An exciting Belmont Stakes rematch of Creator and Destin in the Jim Dandy Stakes on Saturday July 30th. Remember that Creator edged Destin at the wire by a nose. Mohaymen will also be entered so the Jim Dandy Stakes will live up to its name. 

Jim Dandy Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Saratoga – Post-Time: Saturday July 30th 5:18 PM CST – Fox Sports 2

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Creator (123) – I. Ortiz/Asmussen – 3-1  
2. Laoban (117) – J.Ortiz/Guillot – 20-1
3. Mohaymen (121) – Alvarado/McLaughlin – 9-5
4. Destin (121) – Castellano/Pletcher – 2-1
5. Governor Malibu (117) – Rosario/Clement – 9-2
6. Race Me Home (117) – Saez/Romans – 15-1

Handicapping Advice:  Saratoga’s track surface seems to adversely affect some horses and very few of the horses in this field have much experience on it. Mohaymen hasn’t raced since the Kentucky Derby in early May, so knows how he will respond after a lengthy layoff. Creator and Race Me Home are both closers who depend on fast opening fractions that I am not sure either will get. In a small field of six horses, I suspect that they will be closer to the lead pack. Laoban has yet to win a race in 7 starts. Really, any of the other five horses in the field could win this race. With no clear favorite, the exotic bets should pay out nice. I am leaning towards Destin as the race winner. And I have a sneaky feeling that Dale Romans’ Race Me Home will surprise and be in the mix at the end. 

Then how about a Nyquist vs Exaggerator rematch in the Haskell Invitational on Sunday? Throw in Gun Runner into the mix and a 60% chance of rain and you’ve got potential for more great drama. The winner gets an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Haskell Invitational – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #12 at Monmouth Park – Post-Time: Sunday July 31st 4:47 PM CST –  NBC

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Nyquist (122) – I. Ortiz/ONeill – 6-5
2. Sunny Ridge (118) – Juarez/Servis – 20-1
3. Awesome Slew (118) – Lopez/Plesa – 15-1
4. Gun Runner (118) – Geroux/Asmussen– 4-1
5. American Freedom (118) – Bejarano/Baffert – 3-1
6. Exaggerator (122) – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 5-2

Handicapping Advice: I think Nyquist wins this one so long as he gets a dry track. If it rains and the track is sloppy, then I like Exaggerator. Gun Runner should be in the mix in either scenario and remember how well he battled Nyquist through 9 furlongs in the Kentucky Derby. American Freedom has won his last two starts in the Sir Barton Stakes and the Iowa Derby. Sunny Ridge hasn’t raced since his 4th place finish in the Withers Stakes back in March. Awesome Slew is probably overmatched in this field.

And for good measure, there will two other horses racing this weekend that are in my Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic contender rankings: Beholder in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Saturday (Post-Time 7:33 PM CST) and Bradester in the Monmouth Cup on Sunday (Post-Time 2:29 PM CST).

So four horses in my Top 12 Breeders Cup Contender rankings (listed below) will be in action. 

As far as being major contenders in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, the 3 year-old class of 2016 really needs crank it up a notch to catch up with the older horses. Their times and Beyer Speed Figures are lagging behind. Perhaps this is the weekend we see this crop make huge gains. 


Updated Top 12 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders:

1)  California Chrome – He’s undefeated in four starts in 2016. With his Dubai World Cup win in March, he became the all-time North American leader in race earnings with $12.5 million dollars. In the San Diego Handicap, California Chrome displayed a fight that we have never seen before since he has usually won with ease. He is expected to be an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pegasus World Cup next January. But his next start appears to be another showdown at Del Mar on August 20th in the Pacific Classic vs Beholder and Dortmund.

Career: 22 Starts 13-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
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
Career Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Frosted  He has set two track records thus far as a 4 year old. The first came at Meydan in the 1900 meter Al Maktoum Challenge in February. His most recent came 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 of any thoroughbred thus far in 2016. So now the question becomes, should he be entered in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile or The Classic? He was always viewed as a horse who like distance and never a “miler” prior to his stunning performance in the Met Mile. His next start appears to be in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on August 6th.

Career: 16 Starts 5-6-1-2    Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-0-1-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: William Buick
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
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 123 2016 Metropolitan Handicap

3) Melatonin– 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. His next start will likely be in the Pacific Classic on August 20th but that has not been confirmed.

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

4) Beholder After a stunning performance in the 2015 TVG Pacific Classic (shown below), she was #1 in many Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings last year. Beholder was entered in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic but was unfortunately scratched due to a fever. After a long layoff, she bounced back with an impressive win in the Adoration Stakes. But her last effort, although a win in the Vanity Stakes, may indicate that she has slipped a bit off her 2015 form because she seemed to labor to produce a winning of 1:35.97 in this one mile race. Her next start will come in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar this Saturday July 31st.

Career: 22 Starts 17-3-0-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 10

Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Henny Hughes
Trainer: Richard Mandella (2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.772015 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 114 – 2015 Pacific Classic

5) Effinex – He finished 2nd to American Pharoah in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. For 2016, he has a 3rd place finish in the Santa Anita Derby, a win in the Oaklawn Handicap, a head-scratching 6th place finish in the Stephen Foster but bounced back with a big win in the Suburban Handicap (shown below). His next start appears to be in the Whitney Handicap August 6th.

Career: 24 Starts 9-2-4-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>6th–>1st
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens 
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.04 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic

6) Dortmund Despite Dortmund’s impressive battle with the #1 ranked horse in the world in the San Diego Handicap, I put him 6th in my rankings because he still needs to prove himself beyond 9 furlongs. He has the pedigree for distance. His sire Big Brown won the 2008 Kentucky Derby. However, Dortmund has only raced once at the Classic distance of a miler and a quarter. That came in the 2015 Kentucky Derby where he finished 3rd behind American Pharoah and Firing Line. His next start may be a rematch vs California Chrome in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar August 20th.

Career: 11 Starts 8-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st>1st–>2nd
Sire: Big Brown
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.50 (calculated) –  2015 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 101 – 2015 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 –2016 San Diego Handicap

7) Nyquist  – The 2016 Kentucky Derby winner missed the Belmont Stakes due to spiking a fever shortly after the Preakness Stakes. He will be an entry in the Haskell Invitational on July 31st.

Career: 9 Starts 8-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 5
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Uncle Mo  
Trainer: Doug O’Neill 
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.31 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 103 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Kentucky Derby

8) Exaggerator His disappointing 11th place finish in the Belmont Stakes was a head-scratcher. Trainer Keith Desormeaux believes that Exaggerator didn’t take well to the sandy Belmont surface. His future plans originally was to start in the Jim Dandy Stakes on July 30th as a prep race for the Travers Stakes on August 27th. But he supposedly was training well and the Desormeaux brothers were hinting at skipping the Jim Dandy. But surprise, surprise, he will be entered in the Haskell Invitational vs Nyquist on July 31st.

Career: 12 Starts 5-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>11th
Sire: Curlin (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.51 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 101 – 2016 Kentucky Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – 2016 Santa Anita Derby

9) Win the Space  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. 

Career: 12 Starts 3-1-3-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts 0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>3rd
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 

10) Hoppertunity – He finished 4th in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Bob Baffert admitted before the race that he wasn’t sure that he had him completely ready. Previous to this start, he finished 3rd (and just a neck from 2nd) in the Dubai World Cup. He is extremely consistent and probably would finish in the top 4 in any race no matter the talent in the field because he has never finished below 4th place in a graded stakes race. He was pegged to start in either the San Diego or Cougar II Handicap races at Del Mar this past weekend but spiked a fever and was scratched from both races.

Career: 20 Starts 5-6-4-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 1st>3rd–>4th
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.16 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 104 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

11) Hard Aces – Still competitive as a 6 year-old, he won the Cougar II Handicap this past Sunday (shown below). He finished 6th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic after qualifying with a win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. He is a closer and performs best when the opening fractions are fast. And he is running well this year at Santa Anita–producing a 2nd place finish in both the Santa Anita Handicap and California Stakes to go with his most recent 3rd place finish in the Gold Cup race. The 105 Beyer he received in the Gold Cup was a career best. He will throw a clunker in along the way and is not an early Vegas favorite to win The Classic but he has “hit the board” potential if the race sets up well for his closing style.

Career: 33 Starts 9-6-5-3  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  1-1-1-1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Hard Spun
Trainer: John Sadler 
Jockey: Mario Pino
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.15 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

12) Bradester* – Although he has never raced beyond 1 1/8th mile, Bradester has qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with a win in the Stephen Foster Handicap. He is 2-for-2 in 2016. He competed in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and had a disappointing 9th place finish. 5 of his career 9 wins have come at the 1 1/16th mile distance. So one wonders if he is better suited to for the 1 1/8th mile Pegasus World Cup than the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 23 Starts 9-6-2-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 9th>1st>1st
Sire: Lion Heart
Trainer: Eddie Kenneally
Jockey: Joe Bravo
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A (Estimate from Stephen Foster projected out: 2:01.53)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2015 Salvator Mile Stakes


Below are the key upcoming races with “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Classic races in bold font:

July 30th – Jim Dandy Stakes* – Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000
July 31st – Haskell Invitational* – Monmouth Park – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
August 6th – Whitney Handicap – Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000
August 20th – Pacific Classic – Del Mar – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000
August 27th – Travers Stakes* – Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,250,000 – NBC
September 3rd – Woodward Stakes – Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 – NBCSN
October 1st – Awesome Again Stakes – Santa Anita – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $300,000 – NBCSN
October 8th – Jockey Gold Cup – Belmont Park – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
*****

November 5th – Breeders’ Cup Classic – Santa Anita  – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $6,000,000 – NBC

* – 3 year olds only


–Michael

The 2016 Preakness Stakes Starting Lineup, Post Positions, Odds and Analysis

May 14th 2016 – Updated 5/21/2017 at 3:15 PM CST

Below are the entries, post-positions and morning line odds for the 2016 Preakness Stakes along with detailed profiles of each horse. I have also included projected order of finish if run on a dry, fast track. Note that a bold font text is hyperlinked to either a horse’s Equibase profile or a race video from Youtube. This is to aid in your own research.

Weather Report:  The track right now is rated as “Muddy” which is between “Good” and “Sloppy” More rain is expected but it seems as if it will be light showers right around race time. Overall, the track conditions currently thus far don’t seem to be affecting much. There is more speed in this race than the Kentucky Derby. So this helps closers who seem unaffected by the track conditions so long as they stay in the clear and out of the splatter from horses ahead of them. I am not concerned how Nyquist will handle these off track conditions.

***Horses who have raced on a sloppy track include: Exaggerator (1st – Santa Anita Derby), Uncle Lino (3rd – Santa Anita Derby), Abiding Star (1st – race at Parx 4/12/16), Cherry Wine (1st – race at Churchill Downs 11/28/15) and Fellowship (7th – Florida Sire Affirmed Stakes 9/5/15).

141st Preakness Stakes at Pimlico – Race #13 – Post Time: 5:45 PM CST – NBC

1) Cherry Wine  (20/1) – My projected finish – 8th place
Career: 8 Starts 2-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>3rd
Sire:  Paddy O’Prado (Finished 6th in the 2010 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Dale Romans (2011 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Corey Lanerie
Best 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:50.50 (calculated) – Blue Grass Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 88  – 87.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  88 – Blue Grass Stakes

2) Uncle Lino  (20/1) –  My projected finish – 6th place
Career: 7 Starts 2-2-2-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo  
Trainer: Gary Sherlock 
Jockey: Fernando Perez
Best 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:51.02 (calculated) – Santa Anita Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 95  – 92.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  95 – California Chrome Stakes

3) Nyquist   (3/5) –  My projected finish – 1st place
Career: 8 Starts 8-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Uncle Mo  
Trainer: Doug O’Neill (2012 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.11 – Florida Derby
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.31Kentucky Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 94, 103  – 98.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 –Kentucky Derby

4) Awesome Speed (30/1) –  My projected finish – 11th place
Career: 6 Starts 4-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>1st
Sire:  Awesome Again 
Trainer: Alan Goldberg
Jockey: Jevian Toledo
Best 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:53.31 – Federico Tesio Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 74, 83  – 78.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  87 – Mucho Macho Man Stakes

5) Exaggerator (3/1) –  My projected finish – 3rd place (1st place if sloppy wet track)
Career: 10 Starts 4-3-1-1 
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998 & 2008 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.66 – Santa Anita Derby
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.51 (calculated) – Kentucky Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 103, 101  – 102 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 103 – Santa Anita Derby

6) Lani (30/1) –  My projected finish – 9th place
Career: 7 Starts 3-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>9th
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mikio Matsunaga 
Jockey:  Yukata Take
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A – 1:52.84 (estimated time from 1900 Meter UAE Derby)
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:03.02 (calculated) – Kentucky Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 83 (est), 87 – 85 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 87 –  Kentucky Derby

7) Collected (10/1) –  My projected finish – 4th place
Career: 6 Starts 4-1-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st
Sire: City Zip
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2010 & 2015 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2006 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.90 – Sunland Park Festival of Racing
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 90, 90  – 90 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – Lexington Stakes

8) Laoban (30/1) –  My projected finish – 10th place
Career: 4 Starts 0-2-1-1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>4th
Sire:  Uncle Mo 
Trainer: Eric Guillot
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Best 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:50.98 (calculated) – Blue Grass Stakes
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 85, 84  – 84.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  85 – Gotham Stakes

9) Abiding Star (30/1) –  My projected finish – 7th place
Career: 11 Starts 5-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Uncle Mo 
Trainer: Edward Allard
Jockey: J.D. Acosta
Best 1 1/8 Mile Time: N/A
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 83, 91 – 87 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  91 – Parx Derby

10) Fellowship (30/1) –  My projected finish – 5th place
Career: 12 Starts 2-3-3-1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>4th
Sire: Awesome of Course
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Jose Lezcano
Best 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:49.79 – Florida Derby
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 87, 86  – 86.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  87 – Florida Derby

11) Stradivari (8/1) –  My projected finish – 2nd place
Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (Finished 8th in 2002 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher 
Jockey: John Velazquez
Best 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.64Keeneland Allowance Race 4/17/16
Last Two Beyer Speed Figures: 79, 100  – 89.5 avg
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 100Keeneland Allowance Race 4/17/16


New Shooters

Todd Pletcher’s Stradivari represents the biggest new threat to Nyquist. Even though he has only raced three times, he proved to be exceptionally fast in his last start–an allowance race at Keeneland. He produced a very nice time of 1:48.64 in this 1 1/8th mile race and received a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for his win. With that time, he would have blown away the Blue Grass Stakes field. Below is a video of the 2nd start of his career, a win at Gulfstream Park where he ran away from the field in a 1 1/16th mile race.

But we have been down this road before last year when Pletcher’s Materiality received a 109 Beyer Speed Figure in his 3rd start and win in the Florida Derby. Materiality went on to finish 6th in the Kentucky Derby and 8th in the Belmont Stakes. But note a couple of things. That Materiality’s time in the 1 1/8th mile 2015 Florida Derby was 1:52.30. Stradivari’s time of 1:48.64 in a 1 1/8th mile race at Keeneland was faster than Spectacular Bid and Holy Bull’s time of 1:50 flat in the Blue Grass Stakes. When comparing Materiality to Stradivari, nobody would say that Keeneland is a faster track than Gulfstream Park. Stradivari is a real threat to Nyquist.

Bob Baffert’s Collected is another new shooter than could hit the board. I felt he was good enough to be ranked in my top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders but he failed to secure enough points to make the field.

Betting Advice

Rain is being forecasted for the Baltimore area on Saturday with an 80% chance of showers. Click HERE for weather updates. This will affect handicapping as it did last year. Right now for a dry race,  I would lean towards a Trifecta bet of four horses keying Nyquist to win. So Nyquist over Exaggerator, Stradivari and Collected–3 over 5, 7, 11. A $10 bet of this type would cost $60.

Here is a $1 Superfecta bet I made that costs $24: 3, 5, 11, with 3, 5, 11, with 5, 7, 11, with 1, 2, 7

Interesting fact: 23 out of the last 26 Preakness Stakes winners ran in the Kentucky Derby, this makes Exaggerator a little more attractive betting option and especially so if the race turns out to be wet, sloppy one.

If the race is run on a sloppy track, then I like this order of finish: 1st – Exaggerator, 2nd – Nyquist, 3rd – Stradivari, 4th – Uncle Lino–5-3-11-2

–Michael

Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Blue Grass Stakes Previews

April 6th 2016

This coming Saturday April 9th are three big Derby Trail races–the Wood Memorial, the Blue Grass Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. All three have $1 Million dollar purses and offer 170 Derby points. The winner and 2nd place finishers in these races will qualify for the Kentucky Derby as they pay out 100 points for 1st and 40 points for 2nd. 40 points will be enough to get a horse into the Kentucky Derby. 3rd place and 4th place pay out 20 and 10 points respectively. You can follow the Kentucky Derby point standings by clicking HERE.

Below are the post-positions and morning line odds for all three races. Please note that all three races will be televised in NBC Sports between 4 and 6 PM Central Standard Time.

Wood Memorial Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile at Aqueduct- Race #10 Post Time: 4:30 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Shagaf – Ortiz Jr./Brown 2-1
2. Adventist – Carmouche/Gyarmati 10-1
3. Trojan Nation – Gryder/Gallagher 30-1
4. Tale of S’avall – Velasquez/Tagg 20-1
5. Flexibility – Franco/Brown 8-1
6. Matt King Coal – Ortiz/Rice 3-1
7. Dalmore – Alvarado/Desormeaux 12-1
8. Outwork – Velazquez/Pletcher 5-2

Commentary: My projected order of finish 8-6-1 (1st: Outwork, 2nd: Matt King Coal and 3rd Shagaf). I would probably recommend an 6-8 Boxed Exacta. Matt King Coal is a horse that has shown a lot of promise but has zero Derby points. So he must finish 1st or 2nd to make the Kentucky Derby field. Flexibility has 15 Derby points and needs to a top 3 finish to make the Derby.


Blue Grass Stakes 1 1/8th Mile at Keenland- Race #10 Post Time: 5:00 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Lookin for a Kiss – Gaffalione/Tomlinson 50-1
2. Donegal Moon – Garcia/Pletcher 5-1  
3. Cherry Wine – Lanerie/Romans 12-1
4. Zulu – Castellano/Pletcher 5-2
5. Crescent Drive – Graham/Amoss 20-1
6. Brody’s Cause – Saez/Romans 4-1
7. Laoban – Lezcano/Guillot 12-1
8. Twizz – Murrill/Maker 12-1
9. Goats Town – Albarado/Lukas 20-1
10. American Dubai – Landeros/Richards 20-1
11. Cards of Stone – Lopez/Pletcher 20-1
12. Zapperini – Torres/Foley 30-1
13. Star Hill – Jaramillo/Arnold 10-1
14. My Man Sam – Leparoux/Brown 10-1
AE. Pinson – Bravo/Maker 30-1
AE. Hint of Roses – Geroux/Maker 30-1

Commentary: Zulu is the class of this large field. I like his post position draw so I think he wins this one. It is difficult to project who will finish 2nd through 4th because we don’t know which Brody’s Cause will show up. The one who was a non-factor and finished 7th in the Tampa Bay Derby or the who showed great promise as a closer as a 2 year-old? He has 14 Derby points so he will need to finish in the top 3 to make the Kentucky Derby field. So my advice is to stick to win bets for Zulu or key him to win over Donegal Moon, Star Hill, My Man Sam and Brody’s Cause in Trifectas and Superfectas.


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Santa Anita Derby 1 1/8th Mile at Santa Anita Park- Race #8 Post Time: 5:30 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Denman’s Call – Bejarano/O’Neill 15-1
2. Exaggerator – Desormeaux/Desormeaux  4-1
3. Danzing Candy – Smith/Sise 9-5
4. Mor Spirit – Stevens/Baffert 8-5
5. Smokey Image – Espinoza/Gaines 15-1
6. Iron Rob – Elliott/Papaprodromou 12-1
7. Dressed in Hermes – Prat/Armstrong 15-1
8. Rare Candy – Talamo/Hofmans 30-1
9. Diplodocus – Baze/Baltas 30-1
10. Uncle Lino – Perez/Sherlock 20-1

Commentary: Danzing Candy benefited from getting out into the lead on a semi-damp track at Santa Anita to win the San Felipe Stakes back on March 12th. I watched the San Felipe live that day and my thought was that day that Mor Spirit will bounce back and win a rematch. So I would key #4 Mor Spirit to win in your Trifectas and Superfectas.

It is difficult to access if Smokey Image bounces back after a lackluster performance in the San Felipe. So I would recommend Trifectas 4 over 2,3 over 2,3. Exaggerator could excel with an additional furlong so don’t be surprised if he finishes 2nd. I am also perplexed how the Santa Anita handicapper could assign Uncle Lino 20-1 morning line odds when he finished 4th in the San Felipe and 2nd in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Denman’s Call and Iron Rob have never raced further than 7 furlongs. Iron Rob will probably be the early pacesetter in this race.

–Michael