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.


Woodward Stakes Preview – The Return of Liam’s Map

Photo: Natalie Fawkes, Gulfstream Park

Another good race coming this Saturday, September 5th at 4:47 PM CST, the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. This 1 1/8 mile race carries a $600,000 purse and will be shown on NBC Sports. It has two of my top 14 Breeders’ Cup contenders (Liam’s Map and Effinex). Two other good horses, Wicked Strong and Coach Inge, should make this a very interesting race.

Liam’s Map is the deserved favorite but Coach Inge is a horse to watch out for at this distance. He led the Surburban Handicap after 9 furlongs (1 1/8 mile) shown below. He should give Liam’s Map a run for his money. He is well rested and was a healthy scratch from the Whitney Handicap. He has finished in the Top 3 in all five races he has competed in this year.

Coach Inge won the race previous to the Suburban Handicap–the 1 1/2 mile Brooklyn Handicap (video shown below) where he displayed a fighting spirit and willingness to battle. When he was given 15/1 morning line odds in the Whitney Handicap (before being scratched), I thought those odds were too long.

Effinex is a great horse but I like him better at the 1 1/4 mile distance. Commanding Curve has never really did much after his 2nd place finish in last year’s Kentucky Derby. Protonico has won his last two starts but hasn’t raced since May 1st. Bay of Plenty beat Mylute in the Alydar Stakes at Saratoga on August 9th at this same 1 1/8 mile distance.

Below are the 2015 Woodward Stakes Post Positions. Jockey/Trainer & Morning Line Odds:

1 Wicked Strong – Saez/Jerkens – 5/1
2 Liam’s Map – Castellano/Pletcher – 6/5
3 Commanding Curve – Bridgmohan/Stewart – 30/1
4 Bay of Plenty – Rosario/McLaughlin – 10/1
5 Mylute – Ortiz, Jr./Pletcher – 15/1
6 Coach Inge – Velazquez/Pletcher – 6/1
7 Effinex – Alvarado/Jerkens – 4/1
8 Protonico – Ortiz/Pletcher – 12/1

I see this race with Liam’s Map and Coach Inge jumping out into the early lead and trying to stave off late chargers Effinex and Wicked Strong down the stretch. Liam’s Map won’t have any horse in this race with the closing speed of Honor Code as he did in the Whitney Handicap. If this were a 1 1/4 mile race, I would pick Effinex as the race winner.

So my projected order of finish: 1) Liam’s Map, 2) Coach Inge, 3) Effinex, 4) Wicked Strong, 5) Bay of Plenty, 6) Protonico, 7) Commanding Curve, 8) Mylute

Overall, I don’t think this is a good betting race for high payout trifecta or superfectas. So I would recommend placing big exacta bets. Probably the safer way to go would be a 2,6,7 Exacta Box with 3 horses. A $1 Exacta Box with 3 horses would cost $6, so a $10 one would cost $60.