Super Saturday at Belmont Previews

Another Super Saturday at Belmont Park with two big “Win and You’re In” Breeders Cup races. Plus the Kelso Handicap that features Honor Code who is ranked #3 in my 2015 Breeders’ Cup Contenders:

UPDATE 10/3/15 2PM: Wet sloppy track today at Belmont. Throw out all handicapping advice. This should favor pace-setters. I am liking Coach Inge more and more in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race.

1) Kelso Handicap. Belmont Race #5. Post time: 1:33PM CST – this isn’t a “Win and You’re In’ race but high profile with race with Honor Code in the field.

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/M/L Odds
1. Appealing Tale – Talamo/Miller – 6/1
2. Honor Code – Castellano/McGaughey – 3/5
3. Scarly Charly – Oriz/Hushion – 20/1
4. Tamarkuz – Ortiz/McLaughlin – 8/1
5. Red Vine – Rosario/Clement – 5/1
6. Mylute – Velazquez/Pletcher – 12/1
7.  Matterhorn – Bravo/Pletcher – 15/1

I like a $25 straight 2-5 Exacta (Honor Code-Red Vine). Honor Code is going to wire this field.

2) The Champagne Stakes (1 1/16 Mile). Belmont Race #8. Post time: 3:18PM CST. This race for 2 year-olds that guarantees entry into the Breeders Cup Juvenile (Sentient Jet)

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/M/L Odds
1. Magna Light – Ortiz/Rodriguez – 6/1
2. Greenpointcrusader – Bravo/Schettino – 5/1
3. Ready Dancer – Velazquez/Pletcher – 5/1
4. Sail Ahoy – Rosario/McGaughey – 12/1
5. Ralis – Castellano/O’Neill – 3/1
6. Rafting – Ortiz/Motion – 8/1
7. Tale of S’avall – Velasquez/Tagg 7/2
8. Sunny Ridge – Alvarado/Servis – 20/1
9. Portfolio Manager – Franco/Brown – 12/1

Doug O’Neill’s Ralis is the best horse in this field but he is not as consistent as his stable mate Nyquist. I would only make a Place bet on Ralis but if you are feeling aggressive, I do *think* he will win. With 2 year-olds, they can be unpredictable and there could be a new star emerge in this race.

3) The Jockey Club Gold Cup (1 1/4 Mile). Belmont Race #10. Post time: 4:28PM CST. This guarantees entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic that has four of my top 14 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders: #5 Tonalist, #8 Effinex, #9 Coach Inge, #14 Wicked Strong. As well as the Todd Pletcher-trained Constitution who has been in my Top 14 in the past.

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/M/L Odds
1. Wicked Strong – Rosario/Jerkens – 6/1
2. Coach Inge – Ortiz/Pletcher – 5/1
3. Constitution – Castellano/Pletcher- 3/1
4. Effinex – Alvarado/Jerkens- 6/1
5. Looks to Spare – Parker/Dipima – 30/1
6. Tonalist – Velazquez/Clement – 6/5

In a six horse field, Trifectas and Superfectas won’t pay out much unless you make bigger bets. The only way to make money on this one is a large Exacta bet. I like a $25 Exacta 2 over 4,6 (Tonalist over Coach Inge and Effinex) which would cost $50. If you are willing to potentially lose $100, make it a $50 Exacta bet. Coach Inge is my potential upset favorite here. My prediction: Tonalist, Coach Inge, Effinex, Wicked Strong, Constitution and Looks to Spare.


Behold! An impressive performance by Beholder

Beholder romps in the Pacific Classic – photo Nelvin C. Cepeda

A few weeks ago, it was Honor Code.  Yesterday, it was Beholder. Two great horses with a few question marks that have totally dazzled their skeptics. The 5-year-old mare Beholder had never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile. She had also never raced against this level of competition. But she romped in the 1 1/4 mile TVG Pacific Classic (video shown below), winning by 8 1/4 lengths and producing a sizzling time of 1:59.77. For comparison purposes, this time was faster than Shared Belief (2:00.28) and Game On Dude’s (2:00.69) times the two previous years. I had questioned Gary Stevens’ decision to ride Beholder over the more distance accomplished Catch a Flight from the Mandella stable. Catch a Flight is a great horse, he finished 2nd. But Gary Stevens knew what he was doing–Beholder liked the added distance. In fact, she excelled with the added distance.

Overall, this race gave us some valuable new information. Bayern, who finished 9th, is probably off the Breeders’ Cup Classic trail. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner hasn’t been the same horse since his injury earlier in the year. He seems to start well but fades down the stretch. Hard Aces finished a disappointing 6th and it appears that his win in the 2015 Gold Cup may have been a fluke. Hoppertunity finished 4th. He has never finished below 4th in ten graded stakes races. Red Vine had a surprisingly nice run finishing 3rd. It will be interesting to see the Beyer Speed Figures for this race tomorrow.

At any rate, the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic is shaping up to be a monster media event if Beholder’s owner chooses to enter her and he is leaning that way. So here is your future Boxed Superfecta for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I will post a more complete ranking list later in the week.

1) American Pharoah*  – He confirmed his #1 ranking with his performance in the Haskell Invitational with a sizzling 109 Beyer Speed Figure. He now has reeled off eight straight wins. He currently is ranked #1 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and ranked #1 in the most recent NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred poll. His next start has been confirmed to be the Travers Stakes August 29th.

Career: 9 Starts 8-0-0-0, Win Pct: 88.9%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 8/2/15 (2015 Haskell Invitational)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:03.02 – 5/2/15 (2015 Kentucky Derby)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 Kentucky Derby

2) Beholder*  – She confirmed that she likes distance and can race with the boys. She received a 114 Beyer Speed Figure for her TVG Pacific Classic win. The first female to win the Pacific Classic.  She has reeled off five straight wins. She is currently is ranked #3 in the August 17th NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred poll. My guess is that she will move up to #2 in the next poll. Her next start will be the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita on September 26th.

Career: 20 Starts 15-3-0-2, Win Pct: 75%, Top 3 Pct: 90%, Top 4 Pct: 100%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.77 – 11/1/13 (2013 Breeders Cup Distaffl)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.77 – 8/22/15 (2015 TVG Pacific Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2015 TVG Pacific Classic

3) Honor Code* – The Met-Mile winner with a blazing 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced another sizzling 113 Beyer Speed Figure in the Whitney Handicap. This makes his 5th place finish in the Alysheba Stakes puzzling. He has a nice pedigree, the son of A.P. Indy and the grandson of Seattle Slew. He ranks 2nd in NTRA’s Top Thoroughbred behind American Pharoah. He has yet to race longer than 1 1/8th mile and that is why I can’t rank him ahead of American Pharoah despite his impressive speed figures. But I am not concerned as I think he will fare even better in a 1 1/4 mile race–he is bred for distance. His next start could be the Jockey Gold Cup race October 3rd at Belmont Park.

Career: 9 Starts 6-2-0-0, Win Pct: 66.7%, Top 3 Pct: 88.9%, Top 4 Pct: 88.9%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:47.82 – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A

4) Tonalist  – Last year’s Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner. For 2015, he has one win in the Westchester Stakes, two 2nd places finishes (Met Mile and Suburban Handicap) and a 3rd place finish (Whitney Handicap). His third place finish in the Whitney Handicap produced a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. He produced a 108 Beyer in the Suburban Handicap and a 111 Beyer in the Met Mile. And he is better at races 1 1/4 mile or longer. He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year. His next start will be the Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 3rd.

Career: 13 Starts 5-4-2-1, Win Pct: 38.5%, Top 3 Pct: 84.6%, Top 4 Pct: 92.3%
Fastest 1 1/8 Mile Time: 1:48.1 (calculated) – 8/8/15 (2015 Whitney Handicap)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.69 (calculated) – 11/1/14 (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic)
Best Finish in a 1 1/4 Mile Grade 1 Stakes Race: 1st – 2014 Jockey Club Gold Cup

* – indicates horses who have already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic

The remaining “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races (Classic Division):

Sept. 26th – The Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $250,000 – TVG
Oct. 3rd – Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC

Other Notable Classic Division Races:

Aug. 29th – The Travers Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/4 Mile – Purse: $1,000,000 – NBC
Sept. 5th – The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga – 1 1/8 Mile – Purse: $600,000 –  NBCSN


TVG Pacific Classic Preview – Beholder vs The Boys

It is not too often that the girls compete against the boys but that is what we have tonight at 8:10pm CST in the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar with a 5 year old mare “Beholder” competing against some of the top Classic division horses like Bayern, Catch A Flight, Hard Aces and Hoppertunity. Beholder is great horse and she is the morning line favorite.

This 1 1/4 mile race is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and carries a $1 Million dollar purse. The race will be televised live on TVG. Due its 1 1/4 mile distance, this will be a good gauge for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Below are post positions, weights, jockeys and morning line odds:

PP horse (weight) jockey/trainer odds

1. Class Leader (124) Smith/Sadler 15-1
2. Bailoutbobby (124) Graham/O’Neill 20-1
3. Bayern (124) Bejarano/Baffert 6-1
4. Hard Aces (124) Espinoza/Sadler 5-1
5. Red Vine (124) Rosario/Clement 6-1
6. Imperative (124) Nakatani/Baltas 12-1
7. Catch a Flight (124) Prat/Mandella 9-2
8. Hoppertunity (124) Garcia/Baffert 5-1
9. Beholder (119) Stevens/Mandella 5-2
10. Midnight Storm (124) Baze/D’Amato 20-1

Overall, my thoughts. Beholder is a formidable opponent. She is riden by Gary Stevens, who chose Beholder over Catch A Flight for his ride. I am a bit surprised by this decision because Beholder has never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile distance. Martin Garcia chose Hoppertunity over Bayern for his mount. No surprise there, Hoppertunity has been a better horse than Bayern this year.

Although she is the 5/2 morning line favorite, I don’t think Beholder will win this race. She has never raced longer than 1 1/8 mile. However, I do think she will finish in the money. I think the win will come down to three horses: Hoppertunity, Catch A Flight and Hard Aces, with Beholder being in the mix but fading a bit at the end. Red Vine is 6/1 odds but hasn’t raced longer than 1 3/8 miles where he finished 4th in an allowance race. Imperative is a 12/1 odds and finished 3rd in last year’s Pacific Classic. But he has had a few stinker performances since then.

Bayern hasn’t done anything this year to make me believe in will finish in the Top 4 as he has faded out down the stretch in shorter distance races. So this rules out an expensive Superfecta Box with five horses including Bayern. Bailoutbobby, Class Leader and Midnight Storm are the three longshots. As far as longshots having a chance to finish in the Top 4, I like Bailoutbobby’s chances the best. So here is my betting advice. How about a $4 Boxed Superfecta with four horses (4-7-8-9). This would cost $96. And hope that the longer odds horse of the four (most likely Hard Aces) wins the race as it will pay out nicer.