California Chrome and Keen Ice prep for Pegasus World Cup


December 15th 2016

Coming up this Saturday are two races that are being viewed as prep races for the 2017 Pegasus World Cup Invitational on January 28th. First, the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park that features Keen Ice. Then the newly created Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos with California Chrome making the final start of his career in California.

Below are the entries and post-positions.

Harlan’s Holiday Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday December 17th – Race #7 at Gulfstream Park – Post-Time: 2:01 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports.

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Stanford (119) – Velazquez/Pletcher -5/2
2. Madefromlucky (119) – Saez/Pletcher -4/1
3. Joshua’s Comprise (117) –  Ramgeet/Rose – 50/1
4. Awesome Slew (120) – Rosario/Plesa -3/1
5. Hy Riverside (119) – Rios/Sano – 15/1
6. Keen Ice (117) – Castellano/Pletcher -3/2
7. Applicator (114) – Reyes/Yanakov – 30/1

Race commentary: Todd Pletcher has three horses entered in this field: Keen Ice, Stanford and Madefromlucky. However, Keen Ice is the most talented of the three.  The only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown champion. He finished 3rd in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. This was a surprising accomplishment since he only had one prep race coming off a six month plus layoff. However, a win here is not a sure thing. Keen Ice likes more distance and a fast pace early on to suit his closer running style. Along with Todd Pletcher’s three horses, Awesome Slew is the other contender who should round out your superfecta.

Awesome Slew is a 3 year-old horse with a nice pedigree (sire: Awesome Again) who should be a horse to watch in 2017 as a 4 year-old. He finished 6th in the Haskell Invitational, won the Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx and finished 5th and ahead of Nyquist and Exaggerator in the Penn Derby.

The Winter Challenge Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday December 17th – Race #9 at Los Alamitos Racecourse – Post-Time: 6:28 PM CST. Televised by TVG.

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer
1. Howdy (118) – Sutherland/Sherman 
2. Wrightwood (118) – Verenzuela/Koriner 
3. Presidentsky (120) –  Pena/Brocklebank 
4. Point Piper (124) – Gutierrez/Hollendorfer 
5. Ain’t Misbehavin (118) – Desormeaux/Cerin 
6. Lucky J Lane (120) – Theriot/Koriner
7. Avanti Bello (124) – Van Dyke/O’Neill 
8. Unusual Meeting (118) – Pereira/Stute 
9. Papacoolpapacool (120) – Baze/D’Amato 
10. California Chrome (126) – Espinoza/Sherman 
11. Air Pocket (118) – Arroyo/DeLeon 
12. Ground Rules (118) – Arroyo/Sise 

Race commentary: This is a glorified workout for California Chrome who should win this race easily. Morning line odds haven’t been posted yet but I figure California Chrome will have odds anywhere from 1/5 to 1/10. Point Piper and Avanti Bello should have the 2nd and 3rd shortest odds respectively. This is more of a race to watch, not to bet on. Exotics probably won’t pay out very well with a short odds favorite unless he is upset. It might be an interesting race through the three-quarter poll, but I don’t see Chrome getting upset here.

Pegasus World Cup Notes

There still hasn’t been a whole lot of speculation yet on who will be entered in the Pegasus World Cup other than California Chrome and possibly Arrogate and Shaman Ghost. There have been a few rumblings about Gun Runner and Connect. The winner of the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes this Saturday should be high on the list of contenders. However, below are two horses that are gaining steam as possible entries.

Neolithic  – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee. He finished 2nd in the 2016 Discovery Stakes (shown below) in mid November but won an 8 1/2 furlong race yesterday at Gulfstream Park with a nice time of 1:41.58.  This was just 0.61 seconds off the track record. He received a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

Career: 7 Starts 2-3-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.78 (calculated) – 2016 Discovery Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – Gulfstream Park Allowance Race 12/14/16

Mr. Jordan – He runs well at Gulfstream Park. He set a course record at Gulfstream Park West in the 2016 Millions Classic Preview Stakes (shown below). His career high Beyer Speed Figure of 105 came back in January in the Sunshine Millions Stakes with a 2nd place finish behind Mexikoma.

Career: 17 Starts 6-4-5-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-2-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Kantharos
Trainer: Edward Plesa
Jockey: Paco Lopez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.43 (calculated) – 2016 Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes

My next blog will be a final 2017 Kentucky Derby contender ranking list for the 2 year-old class. Then I will focus in on the 2017 Pegasus World Cup contenders. Stay tuned!


Pennsylvania Derby Preview

Scott Serio / AP Images

This Saturday September 19th at PARX is the Pennsylvania Derby. This 1 1/8 mile race for 3-year-olds carries a $1,000,000 purse and always attracts some top talent. Last year’s winner Bayern beat California Chrome and went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The 2013’s winner, Will Take Charge, went on to win American Champion Three-Year-Old honors.

Post time is 4:45 PM CST. Below are post-positions and odds.

Post Position/Weight/Jockey/Odds

1. War Story (117) Parker 20-1
2. Island Town (122) Hernandez Jr. 10-1
3. Frosted (124) Rosario 5-2 
4. Iron Fist (117) Smith 8-1
5. Madefromlucky (122) Velazquez 4-1  
6. Gimme Da Lute (122) Garcia 5-1    Scratched
7. Tommy Macho (117) Castellano 10-1
8. Battle Midway (117) Gryder 20-1
9. Upstart (122) Ortiz 9-2 
10. Mr. Z (119) Saez 10-1

Overall, my feeling was, before Gimmedalute was scratched, that race will come down to a battle between Frosted and Gimme Da Lute. I had previously felt that Frosted was not a great horse at 1 1/8 mile distances and was better suited for races 1 1/4 mile or greater. However, Frosted proved to me in the Travers Stakes that he could hang with American Pharoah through 9 furlongs.

Upstart and Madefromlucky are two very good horses that are capable of winning this race. I have no Superfecta recommendations but I would suggest a $25 Exacta keying Frosted (3) on top to win with two horses (5-Madefromlucky, 9-Upstart) because which Madefromlucky will show up? The one who won the Peter Pan Stakes with a time of 1:48.36? Or the one who won his last race, the West Virginia Derby with a pedestrian time of 1:51.40? Both of these races were 1 1/8 mile. The $25 exacta bet keying Frosted to win with 2 horses would cost $50.


Belmont Stakes Preview & Triple Crown Anticipation

The final leg of the Triple Crown will be the Belmont Stakes this Saturday June 6th. Post time will be 5:50PM CST and the race will be aired on NBC. Below are the post positions and morning line odds.

1 Mubtaahij – 10-1  Jockey I. Ortiz/Trainer de Kock
2 Tale of Verve – 15-1  Jockey Stevens/Trainer Stewart
3 Madefromlucky – 12-1  Jockey Castellano/Trainer Pletcher
4 Frammento – 30-1  Jockey Smith/Trainer Zito
5 American Pharoah – 3-5  Jockey Espinoza/Trainer Baffert
6 Frosted – 5-1  Jockey Rosario/Trainer McLaughlin
7 Keen Ice – 20-1  Jockey Desormeaux/Trainer Romans
8 Materiality – 6-1  Jockey Velazquez/Trainer Pletcher

Who do I like to win? Although history is not on American Pharoah’s side, his chances are better than one would think. Even though the last 13 Triple Crown contenders failed to win the Belmont Stakes, 11 out of 30 horses who won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and competed in the Belmont Stakes, won the race to complete the Triple Crown. That is a percentage of 36.7%. The average finish of all 30 horses was 2.43, so that is essentially 2nd or 3rd finish.

The only horse in this field that I feel is capable of beating American Pharoah is Frosted but I think American Pharoah will prevail. But never count out a Todd Pletcher horse and Materiality is his best horse for this race.

At 3/5 odds for American Pharoah, a $2 bet will only pay $3.20. I expect the live odds to be about 3/5 or 4/5 at post time. I think a 5-6 straight Exacta would be a good bet for this race.

As far as Trifecta betting, 5-6-ALL. That is 5 over 6 over 1,2,3,4,7 & 8. This $10 Trifecta will cost $60. For Superfecta betting, I would do a Superfecta wheel keying American Pharoah to win with the field and hope that some high odds horses finish in the money.

Another bet to consider if you want to hedge your bets and potentially get a huge payout if the unexpected occurs, is placing a 10-Cent Superfecta using the entire field. A 10-Cent bet using the 8 horse field would cost $168. You are guaranteed to get some of that money back and you could get real lucky like in 2002 when the Belmont Stakes paid out $145,334 for a $2 bet. If this was applied as a 10-Cent bet it would pay back $7,266.