Your Guide to the 2017 Blue Grass Stakes, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

April 8th 2017

Below is a cheat sheet for the three big Kentucky Derby prep races today. All three races will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network. Live coverage begins at 4:30 PM CST and will end at 6:30 PM CST at the conclusion of the Santa Anita Derby.

For a more in-depth look at each race, I have hyperlinked race previews of each race. Just click on the name of the race.

The Wood Memorial   1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 4:52 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network & TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1.  Glennrichment – Carmouche/Rodriguez – 15/1
2. Mo Town – Castellano/Dutrow – 6/1  
3. Battalion Runner – Velazquez/Pletcher – 2/1 
4. Bonus Points – Saez/Pletcher- 20/1
5. True Timber – Lopez/McLaughlin – 12/1
6. Stretch’s Stone – Franco/Levine – 15/1
7. Cloud Computing – Ortiz Jr/Brown – 5/2
8. Irish War Cry – Maragh/Motion – 7/2 

My Pick: Battalion Runner. For reasons of inconsistency of form from Irish War Cry and Mo Town, I don’t like exotic bets for this race. I am not sold on the second favorite Cloud Computing. And Todd Pletcher’s other entry, Bonus Points, hasn’t had shown enough in workouts or previous races to make me think he will be a factor. So I like straight win bets on Battalion Runner. I expect his live odds to shorten from 2/1 and be closer to 1/1.  Unless Irish War Cry has a return to form, I think Battalion Runner runs away with this one. This may be a better race to just watch than lay any money on.


The Blue Grass Stakes  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Keeneland– Post-Time: 5:17PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network and TVG

Post/Horse//Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. It’s Your Nickel – Graham/McPeek – 20/1
2. McCraken – Hernandez Jr/Wilkes – 7/5 
3. J Boys Echo  – Albarado/Romans – 4/1
4. Tapwrit  –  Ortiz/Pletcher – 5/2  
5. Wild Shot – Lanerie/Arnold III – 12/1
6. Irap – Leparoux/O’Neill – 20/1
7. Practical Joke – Rosario/Brown – 7/2

My Pick: McCraken.  I like the undefeated McCraken. I think the handicapper Mike Battaglia has this one pegged right: 1) McCraken, 2) Tapwrit, 3) Pratical Joke, 4) J Boys Echo. However, I would probably box an Exacta bet of McCraken and Tapwrit knowing how hot Todd Pletcher has been on the Derby trail of late.


The Santa Anita Derby  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #8 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 6:12 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network and TVG

Post/Horse//Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Term of Art  – Baze/O’Neill – 12/1 
2. Reach the World  – Smith/Baffert – 5/1  
3. Battle of Midway – Nakatani/Hollendorfer – 5/1 
4. Comma Sister – Ocampo/Papaprodromou – 50/1  
5. So Conflated – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 15/1
6. American Anthem – Garcia/Baffert – 5/1
7. Kimbear – Talamo/Kruljac – 12/1
8. Gormley – Espinoza/Shirreffs – 9/2 
9. Iliad – Prat/O’Neill – 7/2 
10. Milton Freewater – Pereira/O’Neill – 30/1

11. Irish Freedom – Bejarano/Baffert – 20/1
12. Midnight Pleasure – Theriot/Ruis – 30/1
13. Royal Mo  Stevens/Shirreffs – 10/1

My Pick: Reach the World. There are too many variables and uncertainties in this race for me to predict a finishing order. The pace and jockey’s race strategies will go a long way in deciding the outcome. I expect to see a few surprises and my intuition tells me that this race my come down to a battle between Iliad and Reach the WorldReach the World displayed a nice closing speed in his last start and his second place finish by a neck was mainly a byproduct of him getting tied up briefly in traffic. So I like a Boxed Exacta of Iliad and Reach the World to play it safe but I really like Reach the World as the surprise winner here.


On the docket…

My next blog will include updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings which I will post by Monday evening. Then I will preview the Arkansas Derby which is scheduled for Saturday April 15th.

–Michael

 

2017 Wood Memorial Stakes Preview

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

April 7th 2017

It’s been awhile since the Wood Memorial Stakes has produced a Kentucky Derby winner. Thirteen years and counting with Funny Cide in 2003 who finished second in the Wood Memorial that year. The last Wood Memorial winner to go on and win the Kentucky Derby was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

Inaugurated in 1925, the Wood Memorial was named after New York state politician and horse racing enthusiast Eugene D. Wood. Wood founded the Jamaica Racecourse which where the Wood Memorial was run until 1960.  Long ago, “The Wood” used to be one of the premier final Kentucky Derby prep races. It has produced four Triple Crown Champions: Gallant Fox (1930), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946) and Seattle Slew (1977).

However, like the Blue Grass Stakes, the Wood Memorial was recently downgraded for 2017 from a Grade 1 to a Grade 2 event. Below are the post-position, jockeys and morning line odds for this year’s running.

The Wood Memorial   1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 4:52 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network & TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1.  Glennrichment – Carmouche/Rodriguez – 15/1
2. Mo Town – Castellano/Dutrow – 6/1  
3. Battalion Runner – Velazquez/Pletcher – 2/1 
4. Bonus Points – Saez/Pletcher- 20/1
5. True Timber – Lopez/McLaughlin – 12/1
6. Stretch’s Stone – Franco/Levine – 15/1
7. Cloud Computing – Ortiz Jr/Brown – 5/2
8. Irish War Cry – Maragh/Motion – 7/2 

Race Commentary:  Todd Pletcher has won four Wood Memorial Stakes races and I like his chances of number five with Battalion Runner. Battalion Runner was entered last Saturday in the Florida Derby as a backup to Always Dreaming. I liked his chances of a win in the Florida Derby then better than Always Dreaming in that race but he was scratched.

Who finishes second, third and fourth in this race is anybody’s guess. It depends upon which Irish War Cry shows up, the one who scored a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in his Holy Bull Stakes win? Or the version who finished a disappointing seventh in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. The same holds true for Mo Town who won the Remsen Stakes, then finished out of the money and in fifth place in Risen Star Stakes.

My Prediction:   For the above reasons with inconsistency of form from Irish War Cary and Mo Town, I don’t like exotic bets for this race. I am not sold on the second favorite Cloud Computing. And Todd Pletcher’s other entry, Bonus Points, hasn’t had shown enough in workouts or previous races to make me think he will be a factor. So I like straight win bets on Battalion Runner. I expect his live odds to shorten from 2/1 and be closer to 1/1.  Unless Irish War Cry has a return to form, I think Battalion Runner runs away with this one. This may be a better race to just watch than lay any money on.


My previews of the Blue Grass Stakes and Santa Anita Derby can be accessed by clicking here: Blue Grass Stakes and Santa Anita Derby. Or by scrolling down if you accessed this from my home page URL address: thederbyhandicapper.com.

–Michael

Final 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool

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March 30th 2017Updated April 2nd 2017 5:20 PM EST

Below are the morning line odds for the final 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) Pool #4 which can be found HERE. The Future Wager Pool will run from Friday March 31st 12 PM EST to Sunday April 2nd 6 PM EST. Be sure to see my live odds commentary towards the bottom of this article as I will update this section with my thoughts over the weekend. 

I have included each horse’s Brisnet Speed Figure and finish in their last start, which is usually their 2nd to last before the Kentucky Derby. 

# Horse – M/L Odds – Brisnet Speed Figure in Last Start
1. Always Dreaming – 50-1  (84)  – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2. Battalion Runner – 30-1 (96) – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
3. Battle of Midway – 50-1 (92) – 1st in an Allowance race at Santa Anita Park
4. Classic Empire – 12-1 (92) – 3rd Place in the Holy Bull Stakes
5. Cloud Computing – 15-1 (100) – 2nd in the Gotham Stakes
6. El Areeb – 30-1 (91) – 3rd in the Gotham Stakes  Scratched
7. Girvin – 30-1 (98) – 1st in the Risen Star Stakes
8. Gormley – 20-1 (91) – 4th in the San Felipe Stakes
9. Guest Suite – 50-1 (93) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes
10. Gunnevera 6-1 (102) – 1st in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
11. Iliad – 15-1 (94) – 2nd in the San Felipe Stakes
12. Irish War Cry 15-1 (76) – 7th in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
13. J Boys Echo – 10-1 (104) – 1st in the Gotham Stakes
14. Malagacy – 30-1 (95) – 1st in the Rebel Stakes
15. McCraken – 6-1 (99) – 1st in the Sam F. Davis Stakes
16. Mo Town – 50-1 (86) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes
17. One Liner – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Southwest Stakes
18. Practical Joke – 12-1 (95) – 2nd in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
19. Reach the World – 50-1 (91) – 2nd in an Allowance race at Santa Anita Park
20. State of Honor – 50-1 (96) – 2nd in the Tampa Bay Derby
21. Tapwrit – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Tampa Bay Derby
22. Thunder Snow (Ire) – 15-1 (Unknown) – 1st in the UAE Derby
23. Untrapped – 50-1 (93) – 2nd in the Rebel Stakes
24. Mutuel Field/All Others 10-1

Below are the last 15 Kentucky Derby winners and their Brisnet Speed Figure in their 2nd to last start before the Kentucky Derby (which is where we are at today). Compare the horses above to the previous winners below. 

2016: Nyquist (103) – 1st in San Vicente Stakes 
2015: American Pharoah (99) – 1st in Rebel Stakes
2014: California Chrome (102) – 1st in San Felipe Stakes
2013: Orb (102) – 1st in Fountain of Youth Stakes
2012: I’ll Have Another (102) – 1st in Robert B. Lewis Stakes
2011: Animal Kingdom (96) – 2nd place finish in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2010: Super Saver (99) – 3rd in Tampa Bay Derby
2009: Mine That Bird (87) – 2nd in the Borderland Derby
2008: Big Brown (102) – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2007: Street Sense (105) – 1st in the Tampa Bay Derby
2006: Barbaro (104) – 1st in the Holy Bull Stakes
2005: Giacomo (96) – 2nd in the San Felipe Stakes
2004: Smarty Jones (109) – 1st in the Rebel Stakes
2003: War Emblem (105) – 1st in an Allowance race at Sportsman Park
2002: Monarchos (108) – 1st in the Florida Derby

The common denominator is a 3rd place finish or better in their 2nd to last Derby prep and a Brisnet speed figure of 87 or higher. With this information, the following pool horses who didn’t satisfy both requirements:

# Horse – M/L Odds – Brisnet Speed Figure in Last Start
1. Always Dreaming – 50-1  (84)  – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
8. Gormley – 20-1 (91) – 4th in the San Felipe Stakes
9. Guest Suite – 50-1 (93) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes
12. Irish War Cry 15-1 (76) – 7th in the Fountain of Youth Stakes
16. Mo Town – 50-1 (86) – 4th in the Risen Star Stakes

This has been a wide-open year on the Kentucky Derby trail with injuries and inconsistency. Based upon historical trends, the horses below are the only ones who I would plunk money down on in a Future Wager. I have Bold-Fonted the most serious Kentucky Derby contenders. You should wait to see how Girvin and Gunnevera perform this Saturday before making any future wagers on them.

# Horse – M/L Odds – Brisnet Speed Figure in Last Start
1. Always Dreaming – 50-1  (84)  – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
2. Battalion Runner – 30-1 (96) – 1st in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park
4. Classic Empire – 12-1 (92) – 3rd Place in the Holy Bull Stakes
13. J Boys Echo – 10-1 (104) – 1st in the Gotham Stakes
14. Malagacy – 30-1 (95) – 1st in the Rebel Stakes
15. McCraken – 6-1 (99) – 1st in the Sam F. Davis Stakes
17. One Liner – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Southwest Stakes
21. Tapwrit – 10-1 (101) – 1st in the Tampa Bay Derby

8 1/2 Furlong Times – 1:43 and Under

The most common distance that the Kentucky Derby class has run thus far is 8 1/2 furlongs (1 1/16th mile). Four out of the last five Kentucky Derby winners all had a winning time below 1:43 in an 8 1/2 furlong race during their prep season. 

Nyquist  – 1:43.79 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
American Pharoah  – 1:41.95 – 2014 FrontRunner Stakes
California Chrome – 1:40.59 – 2014 San Felipe Stakes
Orb – 1:42.24 – 2013 Fountain of Youth Stakes
I’ll Have Another – 1:40.84 – 2012 Robert Lewis Stakes

What KDFW Pool #4 horses satisfy this rule?

One Liner – 1:41.85 – 2017 Southwest Stakes
Tapwrit – 1:42.36 – 2017 Tampa Bay Derby
McCraken – 1:42.45 – 2017 Sam F. Davis Stakes
Irish War Cry – 1:42.52 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes
Classic Empire – 1:42.60 – 2016 Breedes’ Cup Juvenile

Note that McCraken beat Tapwrit in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and Irish War Cry beat Classic Empire in the Holy Bull Stakes. However, Irish War Cry pooped out in his last start with a 7th place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.  And Always Dreaming has never raced at the 8 1/2 furlong distance but already has at the 9 furlong distance twice.

Overall, the fastest two horses in this class by their top speed figure are:  One Liner (102 Beyer, 101 Brisnet and 117 E-Speed) in the 2017 Southwest Stakes and  Classic Empire (102 Beyer, 108 Brisnet and 108 E-Speed) in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Classic Empire is a bit of a gamble. He has had his prep race after the Holy Bull Stakes pushed back several times by a foot abscess problem and refusing to workout on several occasions at his Palm Meadows training center. However, he is back in training at a different facility. The best value horse based upon their morning line odds is Malagacy at 30-1. However, he didn’t race as a 2-year-old, something that every Kentucky Derby winner has done since 1998. 

My Advice for KDFW Pool #4

Bet on the three horses below. 

#1 Always Dreaming, #7 One Liner and #15 McCraken

Note that if McCraken and One Liner don’t finish third or better in their final prep, they may be on the outside looking in as far as to getting into the Kentucky Derby. McCraken has 20 points, One Liner has 10. They will likely need 30 to 35 points to be assured of a Kentucky Derby starting spot. Last year it took 32 points to get a starting spot in the Derby. At this time last year, Nyquist had 30 points and Exaggerator 26. Nyquist won the Florida Derby, Exaggerator won the Santa Anita Derby. Nyquist and Exaggerator finished 1-2 in the Kentucky Derby.

UPDATED ODDS – April 1st 5:20 PM EST

Below are the top live odds horses in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool. What you should strive to achieve is 3X greater odds than what you would get on Kentucky Derby day because of unknown post-position draws and unexpected injuries and performances along the way:

Gunnevera – 8/1  <— Not impressive in the Florida Derby, don’t waste your money
McCraken – 5/1 <—A serious contender but I like him at 9-1 or higher.
Always Dreaming – 6/1 <–Impressive Florida Derby performance.
Classic Empire – 9/1 <— Odds way too low based upon his temperamental past.
Tapwrit – 10/1 <—He’s assured a spot in the Derby but he’s not Pletcher’s best colt

Value picks:  Malagacy – 16-1 and One Liner – 18/1 

What horses are assured a Kentucky Derby starting spot? Thundersnow (100)Gunnevera (64), Tapwrit (54), Malagacy (50), J Boys Echo (53), Girvin (50), Hence (50), Fast and Accurate (50), Practical Joke (34), Untrapped (34) and Classic Empire (32).


On the docket…

My next blog will include updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings which I will post by Monday evening.

–Michael

Holy Bull! Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

February 8th 2017

They say all great empires fall eventually. The Roman Empire lasted 507 years. The Persian Empire lasted about 200 years. And the 2 year-old Eclipse champion Classic Empire’s reign over his thoroughbred peers lasted a mere 91 days, having been upset in the Holy Bull Stakes this past Saturday. Who beat him? A young upstart gladiator by the name of Irish War Cry who had 15-1 morning line odds.

Classic Empire’s trainer Mark Casse was at a loss for words for his disappointing performance. However, he did say that Classic Empire fretted on the hour trip south from his Palm Meadows Training facility to the racetrack. He balked about loading into the starting gate. He did get bumped a bit in the early going but he was right where he needed to be stalking the pace. Classic Empire did improve on his final fraction time from his previous race. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race, he ran the final 2 1/2 furlongs in 32.12 seconds compared to the Holy Bull where I calculate that he ran it in roughly 31.8 seconds. He just didn’t have the acceleration necessary to catch Irish War Cry and eventually was passed by the late-charging Gunnevera (shown bel0w).

To say that this was a big upset would be an understatement. Shocking? Nope. It happens to a lot of great young thoroughbreds when they transition from 2 to 3. As 3 year-olds, some take off, others regress. Remember last year with Mohaymen? On closer inspection, Classic Empire had four workouts as a 3 year-old prior to the Holy Bull and he threw out a subpar time of 1:03.90 through 5 furlongs in has last workout on January 28th. He had never ran 5 furlongs this slow from published workout records available on Equibase.com (SEE). So something was up with him.

The good news is that Classic Empire appears to be in perfect health. He checked out fine after the race. So the next question is, has lost fire in his belly and that competitive drive? Or did he have a slight ailment that cannot be easily found? Or simply was this just first-race back jitters after a significant layoff. We will see. In 2003, Funny Cide (who was undefeated in 3 starts as a 2 year-old) threw a clunker 5th place finish in the Holy Bull and went on to win the Kentucky Derby. But for now, the 2017 Kentucky Derby trail should be deemed as wide open.

Below are my updated Top 10 Kentucky Derby contender rankings. So be prepared for a wild and fantastic road ahead to the first Saturday in May’s Run For the Roses. Can you believe it’s only 87 days away?

Top 10 2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Mastery Mastery received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his very first start. He followed this impressive maiden victory with wins in the Bob Hope Stakes (87 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Los Alamitos Futurity (91 Beyer Speed Figure). His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 is the best so far from this class. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt.  Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.562016 Los Alamitos Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

2) Irish War Cry – Undefeated in three starts. The son of Curlin impressed in the Holy Bull Stakes (shown below). He has a Kentucky Derby winning trainer and jockey behind him. His future is very bright. An early favorite for the Florida Derby. Next Start: The Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 4th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Curlin (Finished 3rd in the 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Graham Motion (2011 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.52 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes

3) Classic Empire – The 2-year-old Eclipse champion disappointed in the Holy Bull Stakes with a third place finish. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). However, he is somewhat temperamental (remember his previous gate issue?) and that is concerning. I dropped him from 1st to 3rd in my rankings due to his unpredictability. But the talent is there. He still has the highest Beyer Speed Figure (102) in this class for races greater than 8 furlongs. Next Start: Unknown but he won’t race at Gulfstream Park again according to trainer Mark Casse. So with this in mind, the Tampa Bay Derby or the Rebel Stakes seem to be the most attractive fits on the Derby trail schedule.

Career: 6 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Gormley He comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes–beating the race favorite Klimt. He followed this effort with a disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He is a talented horse and bounced back like I thought he would with a nice win and 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Sham Stakes on January 7th. Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>7th–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2017 Sham Stakes

5) Uncontested  My early Arkansas Derby favorite. The winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes produced a record-breaking time of 1:36.32 in sloppy conditions over this two-turn 1 Mile race at Oaklawn Park. He received a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. Uncontested has a good pedigree. As a 2 year old, his sire Tiz Wonderful was undefeated in 3 starts and produced Beyer Speed Figures of 99 and 101 before taken off the Derby trail in January of his 3 year-old campaign due to injury. His grand sire Tiznow won two Breeders’ Cup Classics. His grandsire on his dam’s side, Lil E. Tee, won the 1992 Kentucky Derby. So he should like added distance and be one to watch closely going forward. I would rank him higher, just need a dry, fast track win for confirmation. Next Start: The Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on February 20th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>1st
Sire:  Tiz Wonderful
Trainer: Wayne Catalano 
Jockey: Channing Hill
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.97 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2017 Smarty Jones Stakes

6) Gunnevera – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner (shown below). He had a nice late run in the Holy Bull Stakes to capture 2nd place. His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Next Start: To be determined.

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Dialed In (Finished 8th in 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.12 (calculated) – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  89 – 2017 Holy Bull Stakes

7Royal Mo The recent winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. A son of Uncle Mo like his half-brother Mo Town. Same owner/trainer combination as Gormley, the Moss’s and trainer John Shirreffs now have two legitimate Derby contenders. They will be split up so that they don’t knock heads until the Kentucky Derby. Next Start: Not confirmed but I am guessing at Oaklawn Park for either the Rebel Stakes or Arkansas Derby. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)

Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.48 – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93  – 2017 Robert B. Lewis Stakes

8) McCraken – Undefeated in 3 starts, the son of Ghostzapper stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and passed with flying colors. As long as he stays healthy, pencil him in for the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 11th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.15 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

9) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But he is training well at Palm Meadows and should be considered an early Wood Memorial race favorite. Next Start: The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

10) Mo Town – The Remsen Stakes winner (shown below). His winning time of 1:51.58 was way off of what Mohaymen produced last year in this race at 1:50.69. However, he did display a decent closing speed of 36 mph in the final 3 furlongs. For comparison purposes, Classic Empire had a closing speed of 35.02 mph in the final 2 1/2 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. So keep a close eye on this one as a 3 year-old. Next Start: Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Anthony Dutrow
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.23 (estimated) – 2016 Remsen Stakes 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.58 – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Remsen Stakes


 On the docket…

My next blog will likely be a preview of the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs scheduled this Saturday February 11th that will feature McCraken. Or perhaps I will write on the 2017 Dubai World Cup and the contenders for that race which is expected to include the undisputed #1 ranked horse in the world–Arrogate.

–Michael

Updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings – Classic Empire still #1

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

January 31st 2017

The 2017 Kentucky Derby trail is in full swing with a new major contender added to the fray and Derby trail points leader, Classic Empire, set to race this coming Saturday in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. As I have said multiple times in my previous blogs, the 2017 Kentucky Derby class is a very talented and deep one despite the unexpected early retirement of Not This Time due to injury. So 2017 is going to be an exciting season for 3 year-olds and then we have two dynamic stars in Songbird and Arrogate in the older horse division. 

Below are my early favorites for the final Derby prep races. A lot can change over the next couple of months but these horses appear to be the front-runners right now. Note that Klimt, now under the training of Art Sherman, will not be pointed  towards the Kentucky Derby as he will be given time off :

Louisiana Derby – Lookin At Lee
Florida Derby – Classic Empire
Wood Memorial – Practical Joke
Santa Anita Derby – Mastery
Blue Grass Stakes – McCraken
Arkansas Derby – Uncontested

Below is my updated Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contender rankings. A few horses have moved up or down due to how they have been training:

2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Classic Empire – My early 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite due to the unexpected retirement of Not This Time. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). Note that very few Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners go on to win the Kentucky Derby. But it can be done. Street Sense and Nyquist accomplished this rare feat. Next Start: The Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: DNF–>1st–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

2) Mastery Mastery received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his very first start, the best Beyer Speed Figure for a first-time starter in this 2 year old class. He followed this impressive maiden victory with wins in the Bob Hope Stakes (87 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Los Alamitos Futurity (91 Beyer Speed Figure). His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 is the best so far from this class. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt.  Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.562016 Los Alamitos Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

3) Gormley He comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes–beating the race favorite Klimt. He followed this effort with a disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He is a talented horse and bounced back like I thought he would with a nice win and 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Sham Stakes on January 7th. Next Start: The San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 11th

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>7th–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2017 Sham Stakes

4) Uncontested   My early Arkansas Derby favorite. The winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes produced a record-breaking time of 1:36.32 in sloppy conditions over this two-turn 1 Mile race at Oaklawn Park. He received a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. Add another half furlong of his prorated final fraction time of 12.84 and his time would have been 1:42.74 through 8 1/2 furlongs. For comparison, American Pharoah ran a 1:45.78 in the sloppy 8 1/2 furlong Rebel Stakes in 2015 at Oaklawn Park. Uncontested has a good pedigree. As a 2 year old, his sire Tiz Wonderful was undefeated in 3 starts and produced Beyer Speed Figures of 99 and 101 before taken off the Derby trail in January of his 3 year-old campaign due to injury. His grand sire Tiznow won two Breeders’ Cup Classics. His grandsire on his dam’s side, Lil E. Tee, won the 1992 Kentucky Derby. So he should like added distance and be one to watch closely going forward. I would rank him higher, just need a dry, fast track win for confirmation. Next Start: The Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on February 20th.

Career:3 Starts 2-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>4th–>1st
Sire:  Tiz Wonderful
Trainer: Wayne Catalano 
Jockey: Channing Hill
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.97 (calculated) – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2016 Smarty Jones Stakes

5) McCraken –  Undefeated in 3 starts, the son of Ghostzapper stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and passed with flying colors. As long as he stays healthy, pencil him in for the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 11th.

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.15 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

6) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But for now, he is really the most proven 2 year-old after Classic Empire. Next Start: The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

7) Three Rules – Surprisingly he was left off Mike Battaglia’s 2nd Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he ran 3rd in the early portion of the race and finished 6th after getting off to poor start out of the gate. Previously, he was undefeated in five starts at Gulfstream Park. His sire Gone Astray never raced further than 9 furlongs and his biggest win was the 2009 Pennsylvania Derby. Next Start: Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>6th
Sire: Gone Astray
Trainer: Jose Pinchin
Jockey: Cornelio Velasquez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.63 – 2016 Florida In Reality Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Florida Dr Fagar Stakes

8) Gunnevera – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner (shown below). His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Gunnevera’s winning time of 1:45.15 was the 4th fastest Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes in thirteen runnings at the 8 1/2 furlong distance. Exaggerator won last year’s Delta Downs Jackpot in sloppy track conditions with a time of 1:46.48. Next Start: The Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4th.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Dialed In
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.51 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  87 – Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes

9) Lookin At Lee – Much like Steve Asmussen’s Gun Runner was last year, a very consistent horse thus far. He finished 2nd behind Not This Time in the Iroquois Stakes, 2nd behind Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity and then 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Perhaps he will improve as a 3 year-old and he is training well at the Fair Grounds. His sire Looking At Lucky, finished 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Then as a 3 year old, he won the Rebel Stakes, finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby, finished 6th in the Kentucky Derby, then won the Preakness Stakes, the Haskell Invitational, the Indiana Derby and finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Next Start: An educated guess, the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds on February 25th.

Career: 6 Starts 2-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.52 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 83 – 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

10) Mo Town – The son of Uncle Mo, so that makes him Nyquist’s half-brother. The recent winner of the 9 furlong Remsen Stakes (shown below). His winning time of 1:51.58 was way off of what Mohaymen produced last year in this race at 1:50.69. However, he did display a decent closing speed of 36.09 mph in the final 3 furlongs. For comparison purposes, Classic Empire had a closing speed of 35.02 mph in the final 2 1/2 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. So keep a close eye on this one as a 3 year-old. Next Start: Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4th.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Anthony Dutrow
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.23 (estimated) – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.58 – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Remsen Stakes


 On the docket…

My next blog will preview the Holy Bull Stakes and the San Antonio Handicap. The Holy Bull Stakes is expected to include three of my top 10 Derby contenders in Classic Empire, Three Rules, Gunnevera. Expected entries in the San Antonio Handicap are Melatonin, Hoppertunity, Dalmore, Mor Spirit and Accelerate.

–Michael

2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders – Final 2 year old rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

December 22nd 2016

As we head into the new year, below is my Top 10 2017 Kentucky Derby contenders. This my final ranking of the 2 year-old class of 2016. A snapshot in time of where I think the 2017 Kentucky Derby class is currently. As history suggests, things can change. Horses who had spotty success as 2 year-olds can mature and elevate into greatness as 3 year-olds. Even if they have a mediocre pedigree. Just review California Chrome’s career as one shining example. Nothing California Chrome did as a 2 year-old suggested the greatness that would follow. So you just never know, predicting future Kentucky Derby winners by their 2 year-old career is not an exact science.

Back in my September 8th blog titled2017 Kentucky Derby Watch List–Klimt leads the pack,I listed ten 2 year-old Kentucky Derby hopefuls to watch. Towards the end of the blog, I wrote the following: “Especially keep an eye on any 2 year-old that jockey Mike Smith chooses to ride. A Hall of Fame jockey, Mike magically seems to find his way on some of the best horses.”

I am not Nostradamus but POOF, the Bob Baffert-trained, Mike Smith-ridden Mastery became the 2nd favorite behind Classic Empire in the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool in November after winning the Bob Hope Stakes. Then Mastery laid down a very impressive time of 1:41.56 in the 2016 Los Alamitos Futurity (shown below) a couple of weeks ago. This is the best 8 1/2 furlong (1 1/16 mile) time of any 2 year-old in this class. 

I still believe rather strongly that Not This Time would have been the 2017 Kentucky Derby winner had his career not been cut short by injury. That being said, I have been very high on Classic Empire and now I am very impressed with Mastery who appears to be his chief rival. In fact, I think this is your very early 2017 Kentucky Derby Exacta Box provided they both stay healthy. It will be hard to bet against Bob Baffert and Mike Smith with Mastery. 

Even though Mastery’s time through 8 1/2 furlongs is a full second faster than Classic Empire has run to date, I will add that Classic Empire’s run at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was more taxing due to the warm weather they had in the LA area that day. And given another month and cooler temperatures, I am confident that Classic Empire would be able to cut down his time.

And also note that Dortmund produced a time of 1:40.86 in the 2014 Los Alamitos Futurity and he finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Had Mastery eclipsed Dortmun’s time, I would have ranked him #1.

So without further adieu, here is my final 2017 Kentucky Derby rankings for the 2 year-old class:

2017 Kentucky Derby Contenders

1) Classic Empire – My early 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite due to the unexpected retirement of Not This Time. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). Note that very few Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners go on to win the Kentucky Derby. But it can be done. Street Sense and Nyquist accomplished this rare feat. 

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: DNF–>1st–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

2) Mastery   Mastery received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his very first start, the best Beyer Speed Figure for a first-time starter in this 2 year old class. He followed this impressive maiden victory with wins in the Bob Hope Stakes (87 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Los Alamitos Futurity (91 Beyer Speed Figure). His 8 1/2 furlong time of 1:41.56 is the best so far from this class. Bob Baffert is very high on this colt. 

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:41.562016 Los Alamitos Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

3) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But for now, he is really the most proven 2 year-old after Classic Empire.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Gormley He comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes (shown below)–beating the race favorite Klimt. He followed this effort with a disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Since this was only his 3rd start, he deserves a mulligan because we know he can do better.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes

5) Klimt  Owned by Kaleem Shah and trained by Bob Baffert–the same combination that produced Bayern and Dortmund. Klimt’s sire Quality Road won the Florida Derby, Met Mile, Donn Handicap, Woodward Stakes. Quality Road suffered two quarter cracks that prevented him from competing in all three legs of the Triple Crown. Like Gormley in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a disappointing effort with an 8th place finish. Concerning is the fact that he has finished behind Gormley two races in a row.

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>8th
Sire: Quality Road
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.05 (calculated) – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Del Mar Futurity

6) Gunnevera – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner (shown below). His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Gunnevera’s winning time of 1:45.15 was the 4th fastest Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes in thirteen runnings at the 8 1/2 furlong distance. Exaggerator won last year’s Delta Downs Jackpot in sloppy track conditions with a time of 1:46.48.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Dialed In
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.51 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  87 – Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes

7) McCraken –  Undefeated in 3 starts, the son of Ghostzapper stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and passed with flying colors. As long as he stays healthy, pencil him in for the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs.

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.15 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

8) Three Rules – He finished 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Previously, he was undefeated in five starts at Gulfstream Park. His sire Gone Astray never raced further than 9 furlongs and his biggest win was the 2009 Pennsylvania Derby. I believe he will be one of the early favorites for the Florida Derby.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>6th
Sire: Gone Astray
Trainer: Jose Pinchin
Jockey: Cornelio Velasquez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.63 – 2016 Florida In Reality Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Florida Dr Fagar Stakes

9) Mo Town – The son of Uncle Mo, so that makes him Nyquist’s half-brother. The recent winner of the 9 furlong Remsen Stakes (shown below). His winning time of 1:51.58 was way off of what Mohaymen produced last year in this race at 1:50.69. However, he did display a decent closing speed of 36.09 mph in the final 3 furlongs. For comparison purposes, Classic Empire had a closing speed of 35.02 mph in the final 2 1/2 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. So keep a close eye on this one as a 3 year-old.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Anthony Dutrow
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.23 (estimated) – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.58 – 2016 Remsen Stakes

Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Remsen Stakes

10) Lookin At Lee – Much like Steve Asmussen’s Gun Runner was this year, a very consistent horse thus far. He finished 2nd behind Not This Time in the Iroquois Stakes, 2nd behind Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity and then 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Perhaps he will improve as a 3 year-old. His sire Looking At Lucky, finished 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Then as a 3 year old, he won the Rebel Stakes, finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby, finished 6th in the Kentucky Derby, then won the Preakness Stakes, the Haskell Invitational, the Indiana Derby and finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 6 Starts 2-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.52 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 83 – 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity


On the docket…

What was the most exciting horse race in 2016? There were many great ones but in my next blog, I will unveil my vote for most exciting race in 2016 with corresponding unpublished photos and video that I captured of this race. Plus I’ll give my picks for the Eclipse Award winners.

After this, I will preview the 2017 San Pasqual Stakes scheduled for New Year’s Day that is expected to be a Pegasus World Cup tune-up for Arrogate. Stay tuned!

-Michael

2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

November 28th 2016

With one more Derby Trail points paying race left in 2016, below is my latest Top 10 Kentucky Derby contender rankings. Right now, as long as these 10 horses stay healthy, they look the part of a Kentucky Derby runner as a 2 year-olds. As 3 year-olds, they either make improvements by leaps and bounds or tail off into obscurity. A few new contenders will come out of the woodwork next year. Overall, I feel that this is a very talented 2 year-old class and better than last year’s at this point of their careers.

The next big race for this 2 year-old class will be the Los Alamitos Futurity on December 10th. That race should attract the Bob Baffert-trained Mastery who at 10/1 odds was the 3rd favorite in the most recent Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool behind All Others (6/5) and Classic Empire (6/1).

I will preview the Los Alamitos Futurity as well as the recently announced Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos on December 17th that will feature California Chrome in a prep race for the Pegasus World Cup.

Now onto my rankings…

2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings 

1) Classic Empire – My early 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite due to the unexpected retirement of Not This Time. He is American Pharoah’s half-brother. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). Note that very few Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners go on to win the Kentucky Derby. Street Sense and Nyquist accomplished this rare feat. Will Classic Empire? We will see. He is not a slam dunk. However, Classic Empire is at the head of the field and the rest are playing catch-up.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: DNF–>1st–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.60 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

2) Practical Joke The Chad Brown-trainee has two Grade 1 stakes wins. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. But for now, he is the best after Classic Empire.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.84 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

3) Gormley He comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes (shown below)–beating the race favorite Klimt. He followed this effort with a disappointing 7th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Since this was only his 3rd start, he deserves a mulligan because we know he can do better.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts:1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Shirreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes

4) Klimt  Owned by Kaleem Shah and trained by Bob Baffert–the same combination that produced Bayern and Dortmund. Klimt’s sire Quality Road won the Florida Derby, Met Mile, Donn Handicap, Woodward Stakes. Quality Road suffered two quarter cracks that prevented him from competing in all three legs of the Triple Crown. Like Gormley in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a disappointing effort with an 8th place finish. Concerning is the fact that he has finished behind Gormley two races in a row.

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>8th
Sire: Quality Road
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.05 (calculated) – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Del Mar Futurity

5) Gunnevera – The 2016 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes winner (shown below). His sire Dialed In won the 2011 Holy Bull Stakes, the 2011 Florida Derby and then finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby and 4th in the Preakness Stakes. Gunnevera’s winning time of 1:45.15 was the 4th fastest Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes in thirteen runnings at the 8 1/2 furlong distance. Exaggerator won last year’s Delta Downs Jackpot in sloppy track conditions with a time of 1:46.48.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Dialed In
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.51 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  87 – Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes

6) Mastery  He is trained by Bob Baffert. His jockey is Mike Smith. He is a half brother to the late Shared Belief, the two sharing the same sire in Candy Ride. Mastery received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure in his very first start, the best Beyer Speed Figure for a first-time starter in this 2 year old class. He followed this impressive maiden victory at Santa Anita Park with another win at Del Mar in the Bob Hope Stakes (shown below). Bob Baffert is very high on this colt. He will just need to prove himself past 7 furlongs. Hopefully we will get to see this in the Los Alamitos Futurity.

Career:2 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: N/A–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Santa Anita Park MSW – 10/22/16

7) McCraken –  Undefeated in 3 starts, the son of Ghostzapper stretched out to 8 1/2 furlongs for the first time in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and passed with flying colors. As long as he stays healthy, pencil him in for the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs.

Career:3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire:  Ghostzapper
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.15 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

8) Three Rules – He finished 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Previously, he was undefeated in five starts at Gulfstream Park. His sire Gone Astray never raced further than 9 furlongs and his biggest win was the 2009 Pennsylvania Derby. I believe he will be one of the early favorites for the Florida Derby.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>6th
Sire: Gone Astray
Trainer: Jose Pinchin
Jockey: Cornelio Velasquez
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.63 – 2016 Florida In Reality Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Florida Dr Fagar Stakes

9) Mo Town – The son of Uncle Mo, so that makes him Nyquist’s half-brother. The recent winner of the 9 furlong Remsen Stakes (shown below). His winning time of 1:51.58 was way off of what Mohaymen produced last year in this race at 1:50.69. However, he did display a decent closing speed of 36.09 mph in the final 3 furlongs. For comparison purposes, Classic Empire had a closing speed of 35.02 mph in the final 2 1/2 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. So keep a close eye on this one as a 3 year-old.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st

Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Anthony Dutrow
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.23 (estimated) – 2016 Remsen Stakes
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.58 – 2016 Remsen Stakes

Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Remsen Stakes

10) Lookin At Lee – Much like Steve Asmussen’s Gun Runner was this year, a very consistent horse thus far. He finished 2nd behind Not This Time in the Iroquois Stakes, 2nd behind Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Futurity and then 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Perhaps he will improve as a 3 year-old. His sire Looking At Lucky, finished 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Then as a 3 year old, he won the Rebel Stakes, finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby, finished 6th in the Kentucky Derby, then won the Preakness Stakes, the Haskell Invitational, the Indiana Derby and finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 6 Starts 2-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.52 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 83 – 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

-Michael

Thanksgiving Weekend Spectacular: Clark Handicap, The Remsen, Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and Cigar Mile Previews

 2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

November 24th 2016

If you are suffering from Breeders’ Cup withdrawal, Thanksgiving Weekend provides some very interesting racing between two tracks: Aqueduct and Churchill Downs. On tap are two key points-paying races on the road to the 2017 Kentucky Derby: The Remsen and the Kentucky Derby Jockey Club Stakes. Plus a return of a few participants from the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in two older handicap division races: The Clark Handicap and The Cigar Mile. Note that the Cigar Mile features Anchor Down, a horse who beat the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Champion Tamarkuz in his last start.

Friday

The Clark Handicap

If you were a little disappointed with the overall competitiveness of the Breeders’ Cup Classic that essentially became a two-horse race, the Clark Handicap promises to deliver a more exciting, wide-open race. The field includes two previous champions of this event: Hoppertunity (2014) and Effinex (2015). Hoppertunity and Effinex both competed in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic finishing 4th and 7th respectively. Also entered, the runner-up in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile–Gun Runner. 

But running a bit under the radar at 8/1 Morning Line odds, is the impressive winner of the Woodward Stakes–Shaman Ghost. Shaman Ghost was scratched from this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a temperature.

The Clark Handicap  – 1 1/8th Mile – Friday November 25th – Race #11 at Churchill Downs – Post-Time: 4:56 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Gun Runner (118) – Geroux/Asmussen – 4-1
2. Effinex (123) – Alvarado/Jerkens – 4-1    
3. Are You Kidding Me (119) – Garcia/Attfield- 15-1 
4. Shaman Ghost (122) – Castellano/Jerkens – 8-1 
5. Hawaakom (116) – Mena/O’Neill – 20-1  
6. Noble Bird (121) – Castellano/Casse -7-2 
7. Breaking Lucky (118) – Contreras/Baker – 8-1
8. Mr. Z (114) – Santana Jr./Lukas – 30-1  
9. Hoppertunity (124) – Velazquez/Baffert – 5-2 
10. Prayer For Relief (115) – Albarado/Romans – 30-1  

Race Commentary:  If Shaman Ghost is 100%, I like him for the win. Hoppertunity can be penciled in for at least a 4th place finish since he has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race during his entire career. Effinex can be inconsistent. He runs best at Belmont Park and tends to perform best in 10 furlong races. The 9 furlong distance is where Gun Runner runs his best races. So I like a 1,2,4,9 Boxed Superfecta and hope the longest odds horse wins to make the payout better. 

Saturday

The Remsen Stakes

The Remsen Stakes has been run since 1904. Often times, the winner of this race is the winterbook favorite to win the following year’s Kentucky Derby. Last year, the Remsen was won last year by Mohaymen who finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby.

The Remsen Stakes  – 1 1/8th Mile – Saturday November 26th – Race #8 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 2:20 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Tellmeafookystory – Carmouche/Pletcher – 20/1
2. Newman – Rosario/Albertrani – 10/1   
3. Hookup – Franco/Cannizzo  – 12/1 
4. Takaful – Albarado/McPeek  – 7/5
5. Tale of Silence – Lezcano/Tagg – 30/1
6. Win With Pride – J.Ortiz/Pletcher – 15/1
7. You’re to Blame – Castellano/C.Brown – 10/1
8. Mo Town – Velazquez/Dutrow – 5/1
9. No Dozing (122) – Centeno/Delacour – 4/1
10. Lead Astray (116) – Gallardo/McGaughey  – 15/1 

Race Commentary:  I offer no betting advice on this one. All of these horses are stretching out to 9 furlongs for the very first time and a number have never raced past one mile. Then there is the one-turn vs two-turn factor. Two horses that have run well in two-turn races are Win With Pride and No Dozing. No Dozing is probably the most accomplished horse in the field, Takaful the most talented.

The Cigar Mile 

Named after two-time Horse of the Year, Cigar, this one mile race offers a $500,000 purse that always seems to attract a few high-profile horses. Last year, it was Tonalist and Mshawish. This year, it’s the Kelso Handicap winner Anchor Down and the Pennsylvania Derby winner Connect.

The Cigar Mile Handicap  – 1 Mile – Saturday November 26th – Race #10 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 3:20 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Anchor Down (121) – J. Ortiz/Pletcher – 9/5
2. Economic Model (116) – Rosario/Brown – 6/1   
3. Realm (114) – Lopez/Tagg – 15/1
4. Mylute (114) – Cancel/Nicks – 30/1
5. Ocean Knight (119) – Velazquez/McLaughlin – 10/1
6. Tale of S’avall (114) – Franco/Tagg – 15/1
7. Connect (118) – Castellano/C.Brown – 3/1
8. War Story (116) – Gallardo/Serey – 20/1
9. Threefiveindia (116) – I.Ortiz Jr/C.Brown – 10/1
10. Divining Rod (116) – Centeno/Delacour  – 6/1

Race Commentary:  Anchor Down has produced two of the top four Beyer Speed Figures in one mile races in 2016: 108 in the Kelso Handicap and 105 in the Westchester Stakes. Both races were at Belmont Park. Frosted’s 123 in the Met Mile and Tamarkuz’s 107 in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile were the other top 4 Beyers in one mile races. Interesting to note, Anchor Down’s winning time of 1:32.90 in the Kelso Handicap was just 0.17 seconds off Frosted’s Met Mile winning time of 1:32.73. Same track, same distance. Essentially, this equals one length. So expect Anchor Down’s live odds to shorten. But note that Anchor Down has never won at Aqueduct: he has a 3rd and a 4th place finish in two starts.

War Story competed in the Breeders’ Cup Classic three weeks ago and finished 8th. Anyway, I like a 1 over 5,7 over 5,7 Trifecta (Anchor Down for the win with Connect & Ocean Knight finishing in 2nd and 3rd in either order). 

Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

Inaugurated in 1920, five horses that have won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes went on the following spring to win the Kentucky Derby: Super Saver (2010), Cannonade (1974), Twenty Grand (1931), Clyde Van Dusen (1929) and Reigh Count (1928). Last year, this race produced four Kentucky Derby runners in Gun Runner, Mor Spirit, Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready. Gun Runner finished 4th in last year’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes but finished a surprising 3rd in the Kentucky Derby after giving Nyquist a real battle through 9 of the 10 furlongs.

The Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes  – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday November 26th – Race #11 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 4:56 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Han Sense  – Leparoux/Maker – 10-1
2. Total Tap – Santana Jr/Asmussen  – 8-1
3. Wildshot  – Lanerie/Arnold – 4-1
4. Romeo O Romeo – Landerous/Williamson  – 15-1
5. Silent Decree – Geroux/Byrne – 15-1   
6. Just Move On – Cannon/Byrne – 5-1 
7. Shareholder Value – Brighmohan/Amoss  
8. Jocker Justice – Rosario/West – 30-1
9. Warrior’s Club – Albarado/Lukas – 8-1
10. Perro Rojo – Court/Zito – 30/1
11. McCraken – Hernandez/Wilkes – 7/2
12. Uncontested – Hill/Catalano – 5/1

Race Commentary: After a 6th place finish in the Iroquois Stakes, Just Move On has improved in two subsequent 8 1/2 furlong races: a 2nd place finish and a win in his last start in an allowance race at Churchill Downs at this same distance. His winning time of 1:44.12 was a decent time. If he can duplicate or improve on this time, he will likely be the winner of this race if run on a dry, fast track. McCraken will likely be the live race favorite after an impressive win in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Overall, I think this race comes down to McCraken and Just Move On for the win. So I like a 6-11 Boxed Exacta. Wildshot is probably my top choice to round out a Trifecta since he finished almost three lengths ahead of the most recent Delta Downs Jackpot Winner Gunnevera in his last start–the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity–back on October 8th.


Also we have the first 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool that will run from Thursday, November 24th at 11 AM CST until Sunday, November 27th at 5 PM CST. You can access the live odds by clicking HERE. I will provide commentary on the live odds by clicking HERE.

–Michael