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.


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. 


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

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

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

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.


The 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup Preview


October 6th 2016 – Updated October 8th 2016 at 1:45 PM CST

This coming Saturday, we have three important “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The Champagne Stakes and Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity are automatic qualifiers for the Sentient Jet Juvenile race and also a preview of next year’s Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Then the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational, which is an auto-qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and a date with California Chrome on November 5th.

Below are the post-positions and morning line odds for all three races. I have a feeling that all three will wide-open and highly contested races. I will probably update this blog on Saturday.

Champagne Stakes – 1 Mile – Saturday October 8th – Race #8 at Belmont Park – Post-Time: 3:13 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/ Horse/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Practical Joke  – Rosario/Brown – 4/1
2. Thirst for Victory – Franco/Pletcher – 15/1
3. Syndergaard – Velazquez/Pletcher – 9/5
4. Lookin At Blessing – I. Ortiz Jr/Zito – 12/1
5. Favorable Outcome – Castellano/Brown – 2/1
6. Big Gray Rocket – Smith/Baffert – 6/1

Race Commentary: Although this field is small, it has talent and some of the top trainers in the world behind them. I am very curious to see how the Tapit-colt–Big Gray Rocket–performs. I really feel that any of these horses have a realistic shot at winning.  So watch the live odds and if a couple of these horses odds grow long, perhaps box the entire field in a Superfecta bet. But maybe a boxed Trifecta (3,5,6) would be a better play.

Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday October 8th – Race #8 at Keeneland – Post-Time: 4:10 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post/ Horse/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Bitumen  – Lanerie/Kenneally – 9/2
2. Gunnerva – Rios/Sano – 4/1
3. Singing Bullet – Lezcano/Romans – 8/1
4. Perro Rojo – Saez/Zito – 20/1
5. Tiz Trevor – Kennedy/Cook – 50/1
6. Blame Will – Albarado/Lukas – 12/1
7. Holiday Bonus – Ortiz/Motion – 8/1
8. Wild Shot – Hernandez/Arnold – 15/1
9. No Dozing – Bravo/Delacour – 12/1
10. Honor Thy Father – Borel/McPeek – 15/1
11. Classic Empire – Leparoux/Casse – 5/2
12. Lookin At Lee – Santana/Asmussen – 6-1

Race Commentary: Has Classic Empire gotten over his gate issues? He did an about-face after leaving the gate in the Hopeful Stakes and dumped his rider. I am still a believer in his talent but 5/2 odds seem too short on him right until we know for sure that he has matured. Plus this is a large field and he is starting on one of the outside posts. I would steer clear of laying any larges amounts of money on this race as the chances are high that we could have a surprise winner. If there is a surprise winner, I think it will be Gunnevera or Lookin At Lee.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup – 1 1/4th Mile – Saturday October 8th – Race #10 at Belmont Park – Post-Time: 4:23 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Protonico (126) – Castellano/Pletcher – 12/1
2. Mubtaahij (126) – I.Ortiz/McLaughlin – 8/5
3. Hoppertunity (126) – Velazquez/Baffert – 7/2
4. War Story (126) – Gallardo/Serey Jr. – 30/1   SCRATCHED
5. Watershed (126) – Rosario/Mclaughlin – 10/1
6. Effinex (126) – Smith/Jerkens – 7/5

Race Commentary:  Surprisingly, Jimmy Jerkens did not enter Shaman Ghost. He is going to train him up to the Breeders Cup Classic. So this appears to be an interesting battle between Effinex, Hoppertunity and Mubtaahij. Effinex ridden by Mike Smith is probably the winner in this one because Effinex runs well at Belmont Park and seems to like the 10 furlong distance. But one horse who might surprise and bust up your Trifectas is Protonico. He ran a mile in his last start at Belmont Park with a very nice time of 1:34 flat. He is a fresh horse having just raced once this year. Todd Pletcher always seems to produce a surprise new star every year.

Update: There is now a 70% chance of rain at Belmont Park for this race. I feel that this favors inside runners who can get off to good starts.