California Chrome and Keen Ice prep for Pegasus World Cup

pegasus-world-cup-logo

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!

–Michael

Arkansas Derby and Oaklawn Handicap Previews

April 16th 2016

Today will be a very interesting day on several levels at Oaklawn Park. First, the $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby will catapult at least one horse into the Kentucky Derby field. Secondly, the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap will be be an intriguing race in the older horse division and as a future reference for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic contender watch.

The Oaklawn Handicap will be a rematch of the Santa Anita Handicap race winner Melatonin and 3rd place finisher Effinex who was the race favorite for that race. Point Piper is also entered in the Oaklawn Handicap and he finished 5th in the Santa Anita Handicap. Thrown into this mix is the Razorback Stakes winner Upstart and Todd Pletcher’s Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Blofeld.

As for the Arkansas Derby, it is interesting to note that three out of the last four race Arky Derby winners have gone on to finish in the top 3 of the Kentucky Derby (2015 American Pharoah- 1st, 2014 Danza – 3rd, 2012 Bodemeister 2nd).

Bob Baffert’s Cupid is the morning line favorite at 2/1 odds in the Arkansas Derby. However, some background info on the Derby prep races at Oaklawn Park this year–the race favorite has failed to win every race. Here is how the race favorites have fared. In the Smarty Jones Stakes, Toews On Ice finished 6th. In the Southwest Stakes, Collected finished 4th. In the Rebel Stakes, Suddenbreakingnews finished 5th. 

I think both of these races are wide open and will be exciting races to watch. Below are post position draws and morning line odds.

Oaklawn Handicap – 1 1/8th Mile Race #9 at Oaklawn Park – Post-Time: 5:09 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Blofeld (116) – Velazquez/Pletcher 4-1
2. Melatonin (119) – Talamo/Hofmans 7-2
3. Point Piper (113) – Garcia/Hollendorfer 15-1
4. Financial Modeling (113) – Ortiz/Cox 8-1
5. Carve (115) – Bejarano/Asmussen 15-1
6. Upstart (119) – Bravo/Violette 7/2
7. Domain’s Rap (114) – Vazquez/Villafranco 12-1
8. Effinex (121) – Smith/Jerkens 2-1

Commentary: The most compelling story line here is Melatonin, the surprise winner of the Santa Anita Handicap. Was his win in the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap a fluke or is Melatonin the real deal? I have no magic handicapping advice for this one but a Show bet on Effinex should be a safe bet. Blofeld was given 4/1 morning line odds but he has never raced further than 1 mile. I like a 2,6,8 Boxed Trifecta and Upstart for the surprise win.

Upstart was a third place finisher in the 1 1/8th mile Haskell Invitational last year behind American Pharoah and Keen Ice. Jockey Joe Bravo seems to have some magic at this track haven ridden 41-1 odds Danza to a 2014 Arkansas Derby victory. And he is coming off a win on Upstart in the Razorback Handicap.

Arkansas Derby – 1 1/8th Mile Race #11 at Oaklawn Park – Post Time: 6:18 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Discreetness – Court/Fires 20-1
2. Cutacorner – Birzer/Van Berg 50-1
3. Creator – Santana Jr./Asmussen 10-1
4. Suddenbreakingnews – Quinonez/Von Hemel 5-1
5. American Pioneer – Bejarano/Catalano 8-1
6. Unbridled Outlaw – Lanerie/Romans 10-1
7. Dazzling Gem – Talamo/Cox 12-1
8. Whitmore – Ortiz Jr./Moquett 9-2
9. Luna de Loco – Bravo/Asmussen 30-1
10. Cupid – Garcia/Baffert 2-1
11. Gray Sky – Vazquez/Lukas 30-1
12. Gettysburg – Velazquez/Pletcher 6-1

Commentary: I like Cupid but if immediate history holds form at Oaklawn as I noted earlier, the race favorite doesn’t win. If anyone is going to beat Cupid it will be one of these three horses: Whitmore, Suddenbreakingnews and Gettysburg. There are no concerns about Gettysburg going the distance as he finished 2nd in the 1 1/8th Sunland Park Festival of Racing back in March. Suddenbreakingnews is a closer. He won the Southwest Stakes but finished a disappointing 5th in the Rebel Stakes. He should finish higher than 5th with an extra furlong to work his closer magic.

Whitmore finished 2nd in the Southwest and Rebel Stakes. He has sort of been the bridesmaid at Oaklawn this year. He did press Cupid for the win in the Rebel. Will it be his turn to visit victory lane? I am not sure. I like a 4-10 (Suddenbreakingnews, Cupid) Exacta Box in this one.

–Michael

Santa Anita Handicap and San Felipe Previews

March 6th 2015 – Updated March 11th 2016

With the mass exodus of many of the top handicap division horses to Dubai for the $10 Million World Cup race on March 26th, Jimmy Jerkins’ Effinex (2nd place finisher in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic) is the odds-on favorite for this year’s Santa Anita Handicap coming up on Saturday March 12th. The San Felipe Stakes for 3 year-olds will be a support race at Santa Anita Park that same day and will be a very important prep race on the Kentucky Derby trail. Below are expected entries in both races.

Santa Anita Handicap Entries

1) Point Piper – The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained 6 year old finished 6th in the San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita back in January. In his last start, he finished 3rd at the Fairgrounds in the Mineshaft Handicap behind Majestic Harbor and Eagle. He has never raced beyond 1 1/8th mile distance. However, if you like longshots, he won the Harry F. Brubaker Stakes last August at Del Mar at 30-1 odds. He was also nominated for the San Luis Rey Stakes turf race to be run on Sunday.  

Career: 20 starts 4-5-3-0, Win Pct: 20%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4 Pct: 60%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 93, 94 – 94.73 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 2015 Big Bear Stakes
Career Earnings: $172,135

2) Melatonin – He doesn’t have much experience racing past 6 1/2 furlongs. In his only start racing past one mile on dirt–a 1 1/16th mile at Santa Anita (incidentally his last start)–he turned in an impressive time of 1:41.97. Maybe he needed to be stretched-out all along. A sleeper? No pun intended, we will see.

Career: 10 starts 3-2-3-1, Win Pct: 30%, Top 3 Pct: 80%, Top 4 Pct: 90%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 87, 91 – 91.7 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97
Career Earnings: $168,552

3) Donworth – A lightly raced 4 year-old trained by Doug O’Neill that seems to be coming into his own. He produced his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 104 with his 3rd place finish in his last start in the San Antonio Stakes. Although he seemed to lack the kick necessary in final furlong of that 1 1/8th mile race, it was his first start stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. He does has a pedigree for distance with his sire Tiznow having won the 2001 Santa Anita Handicap and the 2000 & 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic. And his damsire Street Cry who won the 2002 Dubai World Cup.

Career: 5 starts 2-1-2-0, Win Pct: 40%, Top 3 Pct: 100%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 104, 95, 93 – 97.3 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1042016 San Antonio Stakes
Career Earnings: $164,000

4) General a Rod – The Todd Pletcher-trained 5 year-old competed in all three Triple Crown races in 2014, finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby, 4th in the Preakness Stakes and 7th in the Belmont Stakes. He received a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 105 in his last start–a 1 1/16th mile race at Gulfstream Park on January 28th. He has never won a graded stakes race and has only competed in three races at a distance of 1 1/4th mile or longer (best finish being a 7th place finish in the 2014 Belmont Stakes).

Career: 14 starts 4-2-1-2, Win Pct: 28.5%, Top 3 Pct: 50%, Top 4 Pct: 64.3%
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 11th — 2014 Kentucky Derby
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 105, 82, 92 – 93 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – Allowance Opt. Claiming Race at Gulfstream Park 1/28/16
Career Earnings: $513.570

5) Effinex – You can make a valid argument that Effinex is really the top older male horse entering 2016 by his last two starts in 2015. In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he finished 2nd and ahead of Honor Code, Keen Ice, Tonalist, Frosted and Hard Aces. Then he won the Clark Handicap in November, besting Hoppertunity and Keen Ice (for a second time).

Career: 20 starts: 7-2-3-4, Win Pct: 35%, Top 3 Pct: 60%, Top 4%: 80%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.11 (calculated) – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 104, 112, 92 – 102.7 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1122015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $2,112,950

6) Cyrus Alexander – Another Jerry Hollendorfer-trained colt. He has only competed in two graded stakes races with his best finish being a 4th place in 1 1/16th mile Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita Park in June of 2015. He has never stretched out past 1 1/8th mile in his career.

Career: 12 starts: 3-4-2-1, Win Pct: 25%, Top 3 Pct: 75%, Top 4%: 83.3%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 97, 98, 92 – 95.7 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97
Career Earnings: $175,090

7) Hard Aces – He finished 4th in last year’s Big ‘Cap and produced his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 104 with his 6th place finish in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. The John Sadler-trained 6 year-old has a reputation of being lazy in workouts but with his win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park last year, he has proven that he can win the big race.

Career: 28 starts 6-3-7-3, Win Pct: 21.4%, Top 3 Pct: 57.1%, Top 4 Pct: 67.9%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.01 (calculated) – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Gold Cup
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 98, 95, 104 – 99 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Earnings: $619,645

8) Imperative – He has two 100+ Beyer Speed Figures (104 & 102) at Santa Anita Park in 2016 already. The 6 year-old gelding hasn’t fared well in previous Big ‘Caps, finishing 7th and 8th respectively in 2014 and 2015. But he is gaining a nose for the finish line, having finished 2nd in his last three starts to Dortmund, California Chrome and Hoppertunity.

Career: 29 starts: 3-8-3-3, Win Pct: 10.3%, Top 3 Pct: 48.3%, Top 4%: 58.6%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.01 (calculated) – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 3rd – 2014 Gold Cup & 2014 Pacific Classic
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures: 105, 102, 97 – 101.3 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1052016 San Antonio Stakes
Career Earnings: $1,833,120

9) Class Leader – He has bounced between turf and dirt races recently. He has competed in a big graded stakes race at this distance before–the 1 1/4th mile  TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar last August and finished 7th. He is likely a backmarker in this field. He was also nominated for the San Luis Rey Stakes turf race to be run on Sunday.  

Career: 18 starts: 3-2-4-2, Win Pct: 16.7%, Top 3 Pct: 50%, Top 4%: 61.1%
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.09 (calculated) – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 7th – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic
Last Three Beyer Speed Figures:  93, 94, 93 – 93.3 Average
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98
Career Earnings: $208,689

Past Performances can be accessed HERE.

Commentary: I expect this year’s Big ‘Cap to be an exciting race if the San Antonio Stakes is any indication of what is in store. As far as betting advice, right now I like a 5-8-3-7 Superfecta (Effinex-Imperative-Donworth-Hard Aces) but I also like a big 5-8 Exacta and a 5-8-3 Trifecta Box. Stay tuned….


The San Felipe Stakes

This year’s San Felipe Stakes, a tune-up race for the Santa Anita Derby, will feature four key horses on the Kentucky Derby trail with four former Kentucky Derby-winning jockeys riding them. Smokey Image will put his undefeated mark on the line against his stiffest competition to date in Mor Spirit, Exaggerator and Danzing Candy. These four horses represent 1/3rd of my Top 12 Kentucky Derby Contenders currently. The winner of San Felipe the past two years have went on to finish in the top 3 of the Kentucky Derby (California Chrome 2014 winner, Dortmund 3rd place finisher in 2015).

The San Felipe Stakes Entries – Race #7 – Post Time 5PM CST

1) Uncle Lino  – The Gary Sherlock-trained 3 year-old finished 2nd in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes behind Mor Spirit. He has fired two 90 Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts.

Career: 4 Starts 1-2-1-0
Sire: Uncle Mo
Jockey: Fernando Perez
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.45 (calculated) – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes

2) Danzing Candy  – He has won his last two starts but will be stepping up in class for the San Felipe Stakes and going an extra half furlong than he has raced to date. Still, he is a talented horse to keep an eye on.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0
Sire: Twirling Candy 
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.73 – Allowance Optional Claiming Race at Santa Anita Park 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Allowance Optional Claiming Race at Santa Anita Park  2/4/16

3) Mor Spirit  – Bob Baffert’s best 2 year-old colt. Winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity and Robert B. Lewis Stakes (winning time of 1:43.21). I feel he has been a bit overrated thus far as his times are way off what Dortmund produced last year in these two races. A win in this race will move him way up my contender list.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes

4) Cupid  –  Another Bob Baffert-trained 3 year -old, Cupid is a half-brother to Mohaymen having shared the same sire Tapit. He won his last start impressively by 5 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita Park on February 7th.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-0-1
Sire: Tapit
Jockey: Martin Garcia 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A 
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.78 – Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita Park 2/7/16
Best Beyer Speed Figure:  88

5) I Will Score – A Jerry Hollendorfer-trained 3 year -old. He  finished 3rd in his last start, the Robert B. Lewis Stakes behind Mor Spirit and Uncle Lino.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Sire: Roman Ruler 
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.53 (calculated) – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes

6) Smokey Image  – The Carla Gaines-trained 3 year-old is undefeated in six starts, but five of his wins were at the 7 furlong distance or shorter. His win in the California Cup Derby only generated an 83 Beyer Speed Figure but he won it with ease by over 8 lengths. This Cal-bred may be a Kentucky Derby sleeper on the verge of breaking out. I like his future regardless.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Sire: Southern Image 
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.49 – California Cup Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85

7) Exaggerator  The Desormeaux brothers colt finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then followed this effort with a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure and giving Mohaymen a good battle in the San Vicente Stakes. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). 

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-1 
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – San Vicente Stakes

Commentary: This race appears to be a battle between Mor Spirt, Exaggerator and Smokey Image. So right now I like a 3-6-7 Boxed Exacta.

I will update this blog by Saturday March 12th. And I will also be attending these races and will provide updates Friday evening March 11th.

I am also overdue for a Kentucky Derby Contenders update which I will post by Tuesday March 15th at the latest. I want to see how the San Felipe Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby races turn out as I feel five of the top twelve Derby contenders will be in action this coming Saturday.

–Michael