2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

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August 27th 2017

The Travers Stakes proved to be another exciting race that vaulted race winner, West Coast, into my Top Ten Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. 24-1 longshot Gunnevera ran a great race too as I predicted in my Travers race preview. So I will be keeping a close eye on Gunnevera’s workouts and next race entry as I feel he may be peaking at the right time. 

Below are my Top Ten 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. We still have a couple of races on the schedule that can add new contenders and change the rankings. One such race will be the Woodward Stakes next weekend.

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1) Gun Runner* – He’s extremely consistent and now arguably the top racehorse in the world on dirt. In his last start in the Whitney Stakes, he received his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 112. The only knock on his resume currently is that he has never won at the Classic distance of 10 furlongs. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 16 Starts 9-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-2-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.76 (estimated) – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes

2) Collected* – He moved up in the 4th place in the latest NTRA poll. He’s a perfect 4 for 4 in 2017. His surprise win in the Pacific Classic answered any questions you might have had about his ability to stretch out to 10 furlongs. – Next Start: The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 11 Starts 8-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: City Zip
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Martin Garcia (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.70 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 115 – 2017 Pacific Classic

3) Arrogate – The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion was upset by Accelerate in the San Diego Handicap and then by Collected in the TVG Pacific Classic. There is no doubt that his has lost some closing speed and he has been prone of late to not getting out of the gate quick enough. Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on November 4th.

Career: 10 Starts 7-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  4-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>2nd
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 119 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes

4) Accelerate – The surprise San Diego Handicap winner and the only horse who has beaten Arrogate twice. Next Start: Nothing confirmed to date.

Career: 13 Starts 4-3-5-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Start  0-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>3rd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.38 (estimated) – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 110 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 110 – 2017 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2017 Pacific Classic

5) Keen Ice  – He still holds the distinction of being the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes. He has a 4th place finish in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic and a 3rd place finish in last year’s Classic. In 2017, he has a 4th place finish in the Pegasus World Cup, a 7th place finish in the Dubai World Cup, a win in the Suburban Handicap and a hard-fought 2nd place finish in the Whitney Handicap. Next Start: Nothing confirmed to date but most likely the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 7th. 

Career: 23 Starts 3-3-5-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Start  1-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>8th–>3rd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes/2017 Suburban HC
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 106 – 2017 Suburban Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes & 2017 Suburban Handicap

6) Shaman Ghost – He finished 2nd behind Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup and then went on to win the 2017 Santa Anita Derby and the Pimlico Special Handicap. In his last start, he was beaten by Keen Ice in the Suburban Handicap by 3 lengths. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 17 Starts 8-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

7) Cupid – The Bob Baffert-trained winner of the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita (shown below). Although he is not a huge threat to win the Classic, he gives Bob Baffert a nice 1-2 finish possibility with Arrogate. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd. 

Career: 10 Starts 5-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Raphael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.89 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita  

8) West Coast – Yet another Breeders’ Cup Classic contender from Bob Baffert’s barn. His time of 2:01.19 in the Travers Stakes was impressive. There have only been seven other horses who posted a faster time in the Travers at the 10 furlong distance.  One of which was track record holder Arrogate last year (1:59.36). The other six horses were General Assembly, Honest Pleasure, Easy Goer, Thunder Rumble, Play Fellow and Loud. Next Start: Nothing announced to date.

Career: 7 Starts 5-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Flatter
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.19 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Travers Stakes 

9) Neolithic  – The Todd Pletcher-trainee has two third places finishes behind Arrogate in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup and 2017 Dubai World Cup. He won in his last start, a 7 furlong claiming race at Saratoga. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 10 Starts 3-3-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd->3rd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:04.03* (estimated from 2017 Dubai World Cup)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

10) Girvin* – He makes my Top 10 because he has already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (shown below). However, his Travers Stakes performance was disappointing and he may be better suited for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Next Start: Uncertain.

Career: 8 Starts 4-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>11th
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Robby Albarado (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2.04.39 (estimated) – 2017 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 75 – 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby

Honorable Mention: Gunnevera and Hoppertunity


On the Docket…

My next blog will be a preview of the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga that is scheduled for next weekend, Saturday September 2nd. The Woodward is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’s Cup Classic. I should have this blog out by Thursday evening.


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

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August 14th 2017

With the Breeders’ Cup Classic coming up in less than 12 weeks, it is time for a look at the 2017 Classic contenders. With Arrogate’s surprise loss in the San Diego Handicap about 3 weeks ago, “The Classic” seems to be a bit more wide open than anticipated.

Below are my Top Eight 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders. I opted for a Top Eight instead of a Top Ten at this point since it was too difficult rank #9 and #10 in my rankings. We still have four key races on the schedule that can add new contenders and change the rankings.

2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1) Arrogate – The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion and Longines #1 ranked racehorse in the world was upset by Accelerate in the San Diego Handicap in his last start. This was no doubt an unexpected clunker performance. Arrogate will likely get a chance to redeem himself in a rematch vs Accelerate this coming Saturday in the Pacific Classic. Next Start: The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 19th.

Career: 9 Starts 7-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  4-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)

Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 119 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 122 –2016 Travers Stakes

2) Gun Runner* – He’s extremely consistent and now arguably the top racehorse in the world on dirt. In his last start in the Whitney Stakes, he received his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 112. I considered him for the #1 spot in my rankings but he has already lost twice already to Arrogate (2016 Travers & 2017 Dubai World Cup). And he has never won at the Classic distance of 10 furlongs. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 16 Starts 9-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-2-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.76 (estimated) – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 102 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Whitney Stakes

3) Keen Ice  – He still holds the distinction of being the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when  he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes. He has a 4th place finish in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic and a 3rd place finish in last year’s Classic. In 2017, he has a 4th place finish in the Pegasus World Cup, a 7th place finish in the Dubai World Cup, a win in the Suburban Handicap and a hard-fought 2nd place finish in the Whitney Handicap. Next Start: Nothing confirmed to date but most likely the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on October 7th. 

Career: 23 Starts 3-3-5-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Start  1-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>8th–>3rd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz 

Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes/2017 Suburban HC
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 106 – 2017 Suburban Handicap

Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2015 Travers Stakes & 2017 Suburban Handicap

4) Shaman Ghost – He finished 2nd behind Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup and then went on to win the 2017 Santa Anita Derby and the Pimlico Special Handicap. In his last start, he was beaten by Keen Ice in the Suburban Handicap by 3 lengths. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 17 Starts 8-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 108 – 2017 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

5) Cupid – The Bob Baffert-trained winner of the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita (shown below). Although he is not a huge threat to win the Classic, he gives Bob Baffert a nice 1-2 finish possibility with Arrogate. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd. 

Career: 10 Starts 5-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>1st
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Raphael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.89 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108 – 2017 Gold Cup at Santa Anita  

6) Accelerate – The surprise San Diego Handicap winner and the only horse who has beaten Arrogate twice. He would rank higher in my ranking but he has yet to race further than 8 1/2 furlongs. Was his drumming of Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap a fluke? We will see this coming Saturday. Next Start: The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 19th.

Career: 12 Starts 4-3-4-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>3rd–>1st
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 109 – 2017 San Diego Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2017 San Diego Handicap  

7) Neolithic  – The Todd Pletcher-trainee has two third places finishes behind Arrogate in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup and 2017 Dubai World Cup. He won in his last start, a 7 furlong claiming race at Saratoga. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 2nd.

Career: 10 Starts 3-3-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd->3rd–>1st
Sire:  Harlan’s Holiday
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:04.03* (estimated from 2017 Dubai World Cup)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup

8) Girvin* – He qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Classic with his win in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (shown below). A win in the upcoming Travers Stakes could catapult him to the top of the 2017 3-year-old class. Next Start: The Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 26th.

Career: 7 Starts 4-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 13th–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Robby Albarado (2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2.06.71 (estimated) – 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 75- 2017 Kentucky Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2017 Ohio Derby


On the Docket…

My next blog will preview the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar this coming Saturday and potential rematch of Arrogate and Accelerate from the San Diego Handicap. The TVG Pacific Classic is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 


Eddie Olczyk

olcyzk

It was announced last week that NBC TV color commentator Eddie Olczyk is receiving treatments for colon cancer. His absence has been noticed from recent NBC horse racing broadcasts. Eddie is one of my favorite broadcasters as he shares two of my passions: hockey and horse racing. For a man who is a former NHL hockey player, he has developed into a respected handicapper and horse racing analyst. I first saw Eddie play for the Toronto Maple Leafs in St Louis on April Fool Day in 1989. He was a stud left winger and one of the top young American-born NHL stars at the time. Get well soon Eddie!


My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

Be sure to check out my new food, wine and travel blog: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com

–Michael

Three stars of the Kentucky Derby and a look ahead to some great racing

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

May 12th 2017

After the dust has settled on the 143rd Kentucky Derby (or should it be after the dirt has dried?), there is plenty to discuss and look forward to in the sport of horse racing. I purposely waited to publish this blog to soak everything in and analyze what was another great Run for the Roses.

First, this year’s Kentucky Derby posted the best overnight television ratings since 1992. The viewership of this year’s Kentucky Derby is roughly what the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 get combined. I felt the sport of thoroughbred horse racing was making a comeback in popularity prior to the Derby. So this information only confirms my belief.

Secondly, this year’s Derby had three awesome performances but unfortunately, history will only remember Always Dreaming’s performance. 

Derby Day’s Three Star Performers

I felt that the Kentucky Derby’s three star performers were Always Dreaming, Lookin At Lee and Classic Empire.

Always Dreaming

Always Dreaming took the lead at the 3/4th mile mark and held on to the finish. You have to have a lot of horse to be able to do that over the final 4 furlongs of a 10 furlong race. He received a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for this performance. He is a popular horse too. The Derby profile I wrote on Always Dreaming for US Racing was the 2nd most viewed article on the site from April 1st to Derby Day. Always Dreaming is the real deal and will deservingly be the Preakness Stakes favorite.

I had previously thought that there was no way that we would have a Triple Crown contender this year entering the Belmont Stakes because this class was deep in talent but inconsistent. But after Always Dreaming’s performance in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby on a muddy track, I have changed my mind.

Looking At Lee

I liked Lookin At Lee as a longshot and wrote about it for US Racing “Is there a Mine That Bird in the 2017 Kentucky Derby field?”

With 20-1 morning line odds, I knew with him drawing the rail (#1 post) that this would scare off bettors and his live odds would lengthen. But I liked his chances in a 10 furlong race with Corey Lanerie on board. Lookin At Lee displayed great late speed and a fighting spirit in the Arkansas Derby. He didn’t get the best trip in that race. But he ran a great race in the Kentucky Derby and Corey Lanerie did an outstanding job as his jockey. He was going to pull off another Calvin Borel Rail-Run and he was probably about length behind Always Dreaming at one point entering the stretch. He was coming like a freight-train. But jockey John Velazquez moved Always Dreaming over to the rail which broke Lookin At Lee’s momentum and forced Corey Lanerie to move to the outside to have a shot at the win.

If you are Steve Asmussen, you’ve got to be grinning like a Cheshire Cat with 33-1 odds Lookin At Lee’s performance and the $400,000 that he picked up for 2nd place.

Classic Empire

Although he finished what would appear to be a disappointing fourth in the Derby, he ran a great race. He got knocked around jockeying for position coming out of the gate. Then he suffered lacerations on his eye that resulted in the eye nearly swelling shut the next day. He is doing fine now and the eye is quickly improving. But just like the Holy Bull Stakes, I knew something was ailing him by his final fractions times. This was not the Classic Empire–the champion–that we know. He ran better in the slop at Churchill Downs in the very first start of his career as a 2-year-old. But despite all of this, he still managed to salvage fourth place. Classic Empire will strike back at some point this season.

Finally, Preakness Stakes Day is going to be a can’t miss event if you are within driving distance. 

Preakness Stakes Weekend

The Preakness Stakes field is expected to include Always Dreaming, Lookin At Lee, Classic Empire, Gunnevera, Hence, the Illinois Derby winner Multiplier and the rested runner-up in the Arkansas Derby–Conquest Mo Money. A smaller field will eliminate the possibility of the bad trips that a few of the Derby horses had. So I am expecting that the Preakness Stakes will be a closer race than the Kentucky Derby.

But an equally great race will be the Pimlico Special Stakes that will be run at the same 9 1/2 furlong distance as the Preakness Stakes. Shaman Ghost is expected to be an entry and he is probably the 2nd or 3rd best horse in the Older Division behind Arrogate. But he will be facing a new hotshot contender in the Todd Pletcher-trained Send It In. The son of Big Brown posted a 119 Beyer Speed Figure (BSF) in the 1 1/4th mile Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct on April 8th. This is tied for the best Beyer Speed Figure this year with Arrogate’s 119 BSF in the Pegasus World Cup.

It will be interesting to see how Send It In fares in the Pimlico Special as we could be looking at a major contender for Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this fall. And it will be interesting to compare the times of the Preakness Stakes winner vs the Pimlico Stakes winner.

And the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes is always a good race for 3-year-old Fillies. It is expected to include undefeated Jenda’s Agenda.  I can’t wait!

–Michael

The Big ‘Cap and San Felipe Stakes Previews

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March 10th 2017 – Updated March 11th 2017

A big day of racing is scheduled tomorrow at Santa Anita Park with the San Felipe Stakes for Kentucky Derby hopefuls and the Santa Anita Handicap for older division horses (4 years-old and older).

The San Felipe Stakes pays out 50 Kentucky Derby points for first place. So the race winner is essentially assured a starting sport in the Run for the Roses.

The Santa Anita Handicap is an early test for Breeders’ Cup Classic hopefuls. Nicknamed “The Big ‘Cap” since it was the first horse race to offer $100,000, its purse was lowered from $1 Million dollars down to $750,000 this year. The Big ‘Cap has had trouble attracting the top thoroughbreds like it once did due to the competing Dubai World Cup that offers a $10 Million dollar purse. However, it is still a very prestigious race to win. Previous winners include great names from the past like Seabiscuit, Affirmed, John Henry and Spectacular Bid.

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Below are the entries, jockeys, post-positions and morning line odds. I rushed a bit to get this blog out so I will update this tomorrow with more commentary.

The San Felipe Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #5 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 4:04 PM CST.  Televised by TVG

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Term of Art (122) – Baze/O’Neill – 20/1
2. Vending Machine (120) – Arroyo/Miller – 20/1
3. Ann Arbor Eddie (120) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 8/1
4. Mastery (124) – Smith/Baffert – 6/5
5. Gormley (124) – Espinoza/Shirreffs – 9/5
6. Iliad (120) – Prat/O’Neill – 5/2
7. Bluegrass Envy (120) – Radosevich/Creque – 50/1

Race Commentary:  Mastery is the fastest horse in this field. However, he is coming off a 91 day layoff. That is concerning as it sometimes takes one race after a long layoff for a horse to back into the flow. Mastery’s stiffest competition is Gormley, so a 4,5 Boxed Exacta is probably your safest bet.

I like Ann Arbor Eddie better than Iliad to round out the Trifecta. Iliad received a 96 Beyer Speed Figure in his last start in the San Vicente Stakes. But that was at 7 furlongs and this race is 8 1/2 furlongs. This will be Iliad’s first two-turn race. Ann Arbor Eddie has already raced two-turns at 8 1/2 and 9 furlong distances. He won at this very same 8 1/2 furlong distance at Santa Anita in the California Cup Derby in late January.

My predicted order of finish: 1) Mastery, 2) Gormley, 3) Ann Arbor Eddie, 4) Iliad, 5) Term of Art, 6) Vending Machine and 7) Bluegrass Envy. However, for Superfecta bets, I would probably play it safe: 4,5 over 4,5 over 3,6 over 3,6. A $1 Superfecta bet of this type would cost $4.


The Santa Anita Handicap  – 1 1/4th Mile – Race #10 at Santa Anita Park  – Post-Time: 6:44 PM CST.  Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Midnight Storm (122) – Bejarano/D’Amato -8/5 
2. Gangster  (115) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 30/1   
3. Shaman Ghost (122) – Castellano/Jerkens – 2/1 
4. Isotherm (119) – Prat/Weaver – 12/1
5. Hard Aces (119) – Espinoza/Sadler – 15/1
6. Follow Me Crev (116) – Desormeaux/Cerin – 8/1  
7. Twentytwentyvision (116) – Smith/Mandella – 12/1
8. Hi Happy (116) – Domingos/Souza – 12/1
9. Imperative (119) – Gallardo/Hess – 5/1

Race Commentary:  This will be an interesting race. Midnight Storm is the fastest horse in the field but he drew the dreaded rail. Melatonin shocked the Big ‘Cap crowd last year from the #1 post-position. However, this is a 10 furlong (1 1/4th mile) race and Shaman Ghost is an equally talented horse and more accomplished at this distance. Remember that he finished 2nd in the Pegasus World Cup behind Arrogate at this same distance.

Hard Aces was given 15/1 morning line odds which I think are way too long for a horse that likes distance. Yes he is inconsistent but he fares much better at 10 furlongs or longer. In last year’s Santa Anita Handicap, Hard Aces finished 2nd and Imperative finished 4th.

A potential sleeper to hit the board is Hi Happy, an Argentinian horse who is making his third start in North America. He has primarily raced on turf but has raced impressively on dirt before in a 1 1/2 mile (2500 meter) race in Argentina (shown below). He doesn’t have outstanding closing speed but does have stamina, consistent speed and just enough kick at the end to potentially slip into the top four finishers.

Overall, I think this race comes down to Midnight Storm and Shaman Ghost. I like Imperative, Hard Aces and Hi Happy to round out the other exotic bets. For a Superfecta bet, I like a 1,3 over 1,3 over 5,8,9 over 5,8,9. A $1 Superfecta bet of variety would cost $12. I doubt that it will pay back a huge amount if the 1st and 2nd live odds favorites finish 1-2. So you may want to try a larger 1-3 Boxed Exacta.


On the docket…

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

–Michael

2017 Pegasus World Cup Post-Positions and Morning Line Odds

pegasus-world-cup-logo

Updated January 28th 2017 11 am CST

Below are the post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds for the upcoming $12 Million Dollar Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the newly created richest race in the world. Post-time will be at 4:40 PM CST Saturday January 28th and the race will be aired by NBC with live coverage starting at 3:30 PM CST.

This race has a lot of unknowns since no horse will be allowed to use Lasix. But three horses in this field that I think have absolutely no chance of finishing in the Superfecta: War Envoy, Semper Fortis and Prayer for Relief.  Eragon is an unknown. I see nothing from his workouts and race history that make me believe that he will be a factor in the end. Arrogate and California Chrome will finish in the Top 4, so that leaves 8 other horses to round a Superfecta.

I have reviewed previous Donn Handicap races to form an opinion on what it will take to win this race. I think the race-winning time will be in the higher end of the 1:47 range. The only three horses in this field that have run a 1:47 and change through 9 furlongs is: California Chrome, Arrogate and Noble Bird. Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year and does well and wins often when he gets out to an early lead. Otherwise, he often packs it in and becomes a herd runner down the stretch. So he is feast or famine.

Gulfstream Park is a speed-favoring track and there is plenty of early speed in this field. In order to win this race, a horse will have to break sharply out of the gate, settle in and assume the ideal position of a stalker on the race leader. Otherwise, there will be too much traffic to deal with to get to the front.

Keen Ice has the talent to win this race but I like his chances in 10 furlong races better than 9 furlongs. He will have to break well and be pressed up closer to the race leader. If he is running mid-pack at the 3/4 mile mark, he won’t win because he doesn’t have the closing speed to beat Arrogate.

Although I preferred Chrome drawing a post inside of Arrogate, I still like an Arrogate-California Chrome (1-12) Boxed Exacta. Arrogate won’t have a weight advantage in this race as all horses will be assigned 124 pounds. However, realize that an Exacta in this race will probably pay out less than it did in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. A $1 Exacta (Arrogate-California Chrome) paid $5 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, so a $2 Boxed Exacta netted a $3 profit.

I have been reviewing work-out times for the field in order to make recommendations for Trifecta and Superfecta bets. This isn’t going to be a good race for Exotics unless the unexpected happens. If California Chrome and Arrogate’s live odds dip below 1/1, then Exotics won’t pay out much unless some other horse surplants one of the two for first and second. I just don’t see any other horse winning this one except Arrogate and Chrome. If Noble Bird or Neolithic jump out to any early lead, perhaps they could hang on and capture 2nd place.

A big win bet on Arrogate might be your best bet, especially if his live odds are higher than California Chrome’s. California Chrome will have the longest trip in the field starting from the outside post. Arrogate from the #1 post has the talent and ability to wire the field.

A sleeper to round out your Superfecta might be War Story. His workout times have better than his historical times and he is coming off a win in the 9 Furlong Queen County Stakes. Do I think he will finish 4th or better? Probably not but he has raced against top competition and he will have higher odds than a lot of horses in this field so that would help your superfecta payout. 

Shaman Ghost and Breaking Lucky are prime candidates to finish in the Superfecta and in the top half of the field. Breaking Lucky finished 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Shaman Ghost in the Clark Handicap, their last start. However, back in the Woodward Stakes last September, Shaman Ghost displayed better tactical speed and finished nearly a half-length ahead of Breaking Lucky. Shaman Ghost put a nice workout time of 47.70 for 4 furlongs in his last workout, Breaking Lucky had posted very consistent times around 1 min through 5 furlongs in his last two workouts. These two horses are very close but I like Shaman Ghost’s post-position better so I would give him the edge here.

My predicted order of finish*: 1) Arrogate, 2) California Chrome, 3) Keen Ice, 4) Shaman Ghost.

*That is, if Arrogate is 100% healthy and not bothered by his right hind foot. ESPN reported on January 26th: “Arrogate did develop an abscess on the inside of his right hind foot a few weeks ago. Baffert pointed out on Thursday, when Arrogate was paddock schooling before the races, that he has three-quartered that hind shoe — filing off the part of the shoe nearest the abscess — a common tactic used to try to prevent the abscess from being concussed by the shoe and becoming a quarter crack.”

Anyway, Shared Belief had a similar problem and raced just fine. I hope that I am wrong and that we see Chrome go out a winner. Chrome will have to have a 2 length lead at the 3/4 pole, a 1 & 1/2 length lead at the mile mark if he is going to win this if Arrogate is 100%. I am expecting a surprise or two. I don’t think this is a good bettor’s race..a better one just to sit back and watch.

2017 Pegasus World Cup Post-Positions & Odds

1) Arrogate (7/5) – Arrogate is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

2) Prayer For Relief (50/1) –  A way past his prime 9 year-old who has never won a Grade 1 race. He finished 9th in his last start, the 2016 Clark Handicap. His last win came in December 2013 in the Tenacious Handicap at The Fairgrounds. He will need more than prayers in this one to pull off the upset.

Career: 45 Starts 8-6-10-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 21 Starts  4-1-4-3
Last 3 starts: 6th–>5th–>9th
Sire: Jump Start
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Trainer: Dale Romans
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.60 (calculated) – 2012 Strub Stakes  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2012 Tenacious Handicap

3) Neolithic (30/1) – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee. He finished 2nd in the 2016 Discovery Stakes (shown below) in mid November but won an 8 1/2 furlong allowance race on December 14th 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: John Velazquez
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

4) Noble Bird (25/1)  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

5) War Story (50/1) – The 5 year-old gelding has raced against top competition over his career with very little success. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic and 8th in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his last two starts, he finished 4th in the 2016 Cigar Mile and then won the 9 furlong Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct on December 17th.

Career: 17 Starts 4-3-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 4 Starts  1-0-2-0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>4th–>1st
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Jorge Navarro
Jockey: Antonio Gallardo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.39 (calculated) – 2015 Louisiana Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106

6) War Envoy (50/1) – Primarily a European turf runner throughout his career, War Enjoy did compete in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile finishing last and the 1 mile Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar (shown below) last August where he finished 5th.

Career: 21 Starts 2-3-4-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 5th–>8th–>6th
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Craig Dollase
Jockey: Luis Saez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  N/A on dirt
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 on turf

7) Shaman Ghost (20/1) – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. However, this has yet to be confirmed. The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old. 

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey:  Jose Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

8) Semper Fortis (50/1) Named after the US Navy’s moto which in Latin means “Always Strong,” this Doug O’Neill-trained colt finished 2nd in the Los Alamitos Derby (shown below) back in September. However, he then followed with a disappointing 6th place finish in the 7 furlong Malibu Stakes on December 26th. 

Career: 12 Starts 2-4-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>6th
Sire: Distorted Humor
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.50 (calculated) – 2016 Los Alamitos Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 

9) Keen Ice  (12/1) – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

10) Breaking Lucky (25/1) The 5 year-old won the Seagram’s Cup at Woodbine last August (shown below) and finished 2nd to Gun Runner in his most recent start, the 2016 Clark Handicap.

Career: 16 Starts 3-4-3-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>8th–>2nd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Reade Baker
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:48.94 (calculated) – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105

11) Eragon (50/1) – The Argentinian horse was purchased by James McIngvale who had originally purchased a spot in the Pegasus World Cup for Runhappy. Runhappy was retired after the Breeders’ Cup so McIngvale went to South America to find a horse to fill his spot. The recently turned 6 year-old has won three Grade 1 races in South America.  He has raced on turf and dirt and appears to be a better Miler.

Career: 20 Starts 10 wins, 3 Grade 1 wins in South America
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Offlewild
Trainer: Laura Wohlers
Jockey: Edgar Prado
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  N/A

12) California Chrome (6/5) – 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs. But I preferred him having an inside post on Arrogate as he historically has had problems running outside of horses.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic


On the docket…

My next blog will be updated 2017 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings.

–Michael

The 2017 Pegasus World Cup Field Is Set

pegasus-world-cup-logo

January 17th 2017

UPDATE January 21st 2017 :  Gun Runner, who was rumored to take War Envoy’s spot in the Pegasus World Cup field, is likely not going to be cleared by Gulfstream Park in time to be an entry in the Pegasus World Cup. Gun Runner is currently stabled at the Fairgrounds who has had quarantine in place since December 26th due to an outbreak of equine herpesvirus.

We are now 11 days away from the newly created richest horse race in the world–the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Invitational–set for Saturday January 28th. The race winner will receive $7 million of the $12 million dollar purse. The race be aired on NBC with coverage beginning at 4:30 PM EST. Below are the expected entries. If a horse is scratched in this race, they can be replaced by a”B” horse that is entered in the undercard Poseidon Stakes that will be run at the same 9 furlong (1 1/8th mile) distance.

Overall, with California Chrome and Arrogate entered, this will be an interesting rematch and must-watch TV. However, color me a bit disappointed in the quality of depth in the field and the lack of compelling support races for this event. This is a great concept that is perfectly situated between the NFL Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl and right before the thoroughbred breeding season begins in February.

The Pegasus World Cup is getting a huge boost this year due to the inclusion of the most popular horse in North America currently in California Chrome in a Breeders’ Cup Classic rematch at 9 furlongs vs Arrogate. However, for this race to take off in the future, it is going to require more involvement from the top owners in the sport. This means, stop retiring horses in their prime after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. And it will need better quality support races, namely Derby trail races for 3 year-old fillies and colts.

2017 Pegasus World Cup Entries & Projected Odds

1) California Chrome (1/1) – He will win the 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. I like his chances in a rematch with Arrogate if he draws an inside post position. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Arrogate (7/5) – Arrogate is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands. It appears that he may potentially get a tuneup at Santa Anita Park before the Pegasus World Cup as he is rumored to be entered in San Pasqual Stakes on January 1st.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Keen Ice  (15/1) – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

4) Shaman Ghost (20/1) – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. However, this has yet to be confirmed. The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old. 

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey:  Jose Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

5) Noble Bird (25/1)  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

6) Neolithic (25/1) – Another Todd Pletcher-trainee. He finished 2nd in the 2016 Discovery Stakes (shown below) in mid November but won an 8 1/2 furlong allowance race on December 14th 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.  His jockey in that race was Javier Castellano who will most likely be the rider for Keen Ice. So perhaps Jose Lezcano, who was his jockey in the Discovery Stakes, will pick up this ride.

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
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

7) Breaking Lucky (30/1) The 5 year-old won the Seagram’s Cup at Woodbine last August (shown below) and finished 2nd to Gun Runner in his most recent start, the 2016 Clark Handicap.

Career: 16 Starts 3-4-3-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-2-1
Last 3 starts: 4th–>8th–>2nd
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: Reade Baker
Jockey: Luis Contreras
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:48.94 (calculated) – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: Unknown

8) War Story (40/1) The 5 year-old gelding has raced against top competition over his career with very little success. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic and 8th in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his last two starts, he finished 4th in the 2016 Cigar Mile and then won the 9 furlong Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct on December 17th.

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: 8th–>4th–>1st
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Jorge Navarro
Jockey: Antonio Gallardo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.39 (calculated) – 2015 Louisiana Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes

9) Eragon (40/1) – The Argentinian horse was purchased by James McIngvale who had originally purchased a spot in the Pegasus World Cup for Runhappy. Runhappy was retired after the Breeders’ Cup so McIngvale went to South America to find a horse to fill his spot. The recently turned 6 year-old has won three Grade 1 races in South America.  He has raced on turf and dirt and appears to be a better Miler.

Career: 20 Starts 10 wins, 3 Grade 1 wins in South America
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Offlewild
Trainer: Laura Wohlers
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  N/A

10) Ralis (50/1) The Doug O’Neill-trained colt started off his career racing on dirt and showed plenty of promise as a 2 year-old after winning the 2015 Hopeful Stakes (shown below). He then bombed in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race finishing 14th and the 2016 Rebel Stakes where he finished 14th. He was taken off the Derby trail and entered into in the Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day where he finished 10th. He was then switched to turf where the best he could muster were three second place finishes before a 9th place finish in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf race won by Highland Reel.

Career: 16 Starts 2-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: None on Dirt, 4 on Turf
Last 3 starts:  2nd–>6th–>9th
Sire: Square Eddie
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  N/A on Dirt  – Turf  1:47.49 – 2016 Rainbow Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 97 – 2016 Del Mar Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – 2016 Del Mar Derby

11) War Envoy (50/1) – Primarily a European turf runner throughout his career, War Enjoy did compete in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile finishing last and the 1 mile Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar (shown below) last August where he finished 5th.

Career: 21 Starts 2-3-4-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 5th–>8th–>6th
Sire: War Front
Trainer: Craig Dollase
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: Unknown

12) Prayer For Relief (60/1) –  A way past his prime 9 year-old who has never won a Grade 1 race. He finished 9th in his last start, the 2016 Clark Handicap. His last win came in December 2013 in the Tenacious Handicap at The Fairgrounds.

Career: 45 Starts 8-6-10-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 21 Starts  4-1-4-3
Last 3 starts: 6th–>5th–>9th
Sire: Jump Start
Trainer: Dale Romans
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.60 (calculated) – 2012 Strub Stakes  
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2012 Tenacious Handicap


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 that are coming up Saturday January 21st.

–Michael

2017 Pegasus World Cup Expected Entries

pegasus-world-cup-logo

Updated January 16th 2017

We are now less than two weeks away from the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Invitational–now the richest horse race in the world with a $12 Million Dollar purse. Below are the expected entries followed by other possible entries based upon chatter I have heard within the sport. Connect’s owner Paul Pompa Jr said recently that Connect would not be pointed for the Pegasus World Cup. The Chad Brown-trained colt will be pointed towards the 2017 Met Mile at Belmont Park in June to start his 4 year-0ld campaign.

2017 Pegasus World Cup Expected Entries 

1) California Chrome – He will win the 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. I like his chances in a rematch with Arrogate if he draws an inside post position. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Arrogate – Arrogate is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands. It appears that he may potentially get a tuneup at Santa Anita Park before the Pegasus World Cup as he is rumored to be entered in San Pasqual Stakes on January 1st.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Keen Ice  – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

4) Shaman Ghost – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. However, this has yet to be confirmed. The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old. 

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey:  Jose Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

5) Noble Bird  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

6) 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 allowance race on December 14th 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.  His jockey in that race was Javier Castellano who will most likely be the rider for Keen Ice. So perhaps Jose Lezcano, who was his jockey in the Discovery Stakes, will pick up this ride.

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
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

7) War Story The 5 year-old gelding has raced against top competition over his career with very little success. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic and 8th in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. In his last two starts, he finished 4th in the 2016 Cigar Mile and then won the 9 furlong Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct on December 17th.

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: 8th–>4th–>1st
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Jorge Navarro
Jockey: Antonio Gallardo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.39 (calculated) – 2015 Louisiana Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99 – 2016 Queen County Stakes

8) Eragon – The Argentinian horse was purchased by James McIngvale who had originally purchased a spot in the Pegasus World Cup for Runhappy. Runhappy was retired after the Breeders’ Cup so McIngvale went to South America to find a horse to fill his spot. The recently turned 6 year-old has won three Grade 1 races in South America.  He has raced on turf and dirt and appears to be a better Miler. Now the question is, who will be his jockey? Gary Stevens would have been a great fit here but he is recovering from hip surgery.

Career: 20 Starts 10 wins, 3 Grade 1 wins in South America
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: N/A
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire:  Offlewild
Trainer: Laura Wohlers
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  N/A

Other Expected Entries: Breaking Lucky, Prayer For Relief, Ralis and War Envoy


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.

–Michael

California Chrome dominates the Winter Challenge. 2017 Pegasus World Cup Contender Rankings

pegasus-world-cup-logoDecember 18th 2016

California Chrome looks ready for his next challenge in the Pegasus World Cup. He won the 2016 Winter Challenge yesterday at Santa Anita Park. And quite easily by a 12 length margin. In the process, he established a new track record at Los Alamitos for a 1 1/16 mile race at 1:40.03.

A California Chrome vs Arrogate rematch will be must-see TV. Below are who I feel are the Pegasus World Cup contenders and possible entries. Keep in mind that if a horse hasn’t worked out or raced since the Breeders Cup World Championships in early November, they are highly unlikely to be a candidate for entry in the Pegasus World Cup. Who falls into this category? Dortmund and Melatonin.

Overall, I think it is going tough to attract twelve runners this year in the Pegasus World Cup if both California Chrome and Arrogate are entered. So here is my Top 10.

Pegasus World Cup Contenders 

1) California Chrome – He will win the 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. I like his chances in a rematch with Arrogate if he draws an inside post position. His win in the 2016 Winter Challenge was against a weak field, but you can’t ignore the fact that he still set a track record. Chrome was ready to rumble no matter who showed up. I think he will fare better against Arrogate at 9 furlongs than he did at 10 furlongs.

Career: 26 Starts 16-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Arrogate – Arrogate is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands. It appears that he may potentially get a tuneup at Santa Anita Park before the Pegasus World Cup as he is rumored to be entered in San Pasqual Stakes on January 1st.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.44* (estimated from 2016 Travers Stakes)
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Hoppertunity – Although there haven’t been any rumblings that Hoppertunity will be entered in the Pegasus World Cup, I can’t envision Bob Baffert showing up at the richest horse race in the world with just one horse. Hopps is the best in his barn after Arrogate. He is rarely the race favorite in any race, yet he is one of the most consistent runners in horse racing. In 23 consecutive starts, Hoppertunity has finished 4th or better in every start. He has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race, something that California Chrome can’t boast. Third place in the Pegasus World Cup pays out $1 Million dollars, that is essentially what 2nd place paid out for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 24 Starts 6-6-4-7   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 9 Starts  2-4-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>4th   
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: John Velazquez/Flavien Prat 
Best Beyer in 1 1/8th Mile Race: 1:48.02 (calculated) – 2015 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

4) Gun Runner  –  A very consistent horse who won his first Grade 1 stakes race in the Clark Handicap and also produced his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 104. Up until the Clark Handicap, the Louisiana Derby winner had some nice finishes in some big races (3rd in 2016 Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Travers Stakes, 2nd in the Penn Derby and 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile). I liked how he has developed under Steve Asmussen and expect him to have a bright future racing as a 4 year-old.

Career: 12 Starts 6-2-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 4 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride  
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.50 – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – 2016 Clark Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2016 Clark Handicap

5) Keen Ice  – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. In his most recent start, he finished 2nd behind Stanford in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes. He is still a quality horse. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 19 Starts 2-2-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Curlin  
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

6) ConnectThe 2016 Pennsylvania Derby and Cigar Mile winner. He is another 3 year-old who has a bright future racing as a 4 year-old.

Career: 7 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 6th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Chad Brown
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.69 – 2016 Curlin Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  106 – 2016 Cigar Mile Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2016 Cigar Mile Handicap

7) Shaman Ghost – Owned by Stonach Stables, it has been a foregone conclusion that Shaman Ghost would be an entry in Pegasus World Cup which was created by Frank Stonach. The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old.

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

8) 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 last Wednesday 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
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

9) Stanford  – A nice win in the Harlan’s Holiday stakes (shown below) makes him another Todd Pletcher-trained candidate for the Pegasus World Cup. For 2016, to go along with his Grade 3 win in the Harlan’s Holiday, he has a win in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic.

Career: 13 Starts 5-4-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 4 Starts  1-2-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>8th–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon  
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.24 (calculated) – 2015 Islamorada Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – 2016 Charles Classic Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2016 Charles Classic Stakes

10) 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 Jr.
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

Other Possible Contenders

Awesome Slew (Sire: Awesome Again,Trainer: Edward Plesa Jr.)
War Story (Sire: Northern AfleetTrainer: Mario Serey Jr.)
Hard Aces (Sire: Hard SpunTrainer: John Sadler)
Noble Bird (Sire: BirdstoneTrainer: Mark Casse)


On the docket…

My next blog will be a final 2017 Kentucky Derby contender ranking of the 2 year-old class.

–Michael

2017 Pegasus World Cup – The Field of Dreams

pegasus-world-cup-logo

December 5th 2016

With the world’s richest horse race coming up in less than 8 weeks, it is now time to speculate on who the twelve runners could be. The Pegasus World Cup Invitational is scheduled for Saturday January 28th 2017 at Gulfstream Park and will be televised by NBC. The Pegasus World Cup winner will receive a record $7 million dollars from the $12 million dollar purse.

There has been little news regarding who the potential entries will be other than California Chrome and possibly Arrogate and Shaman Ghost. So my blog will focus on who the twelve runners should be if we could get the best twelve racehorses in the world entered in this race. The 9 furlong distance, where the starting gate will be positioned so that it will give little stretch run before reaching the first turn, should even up the field and attract the best Milers and Classic distance racehorses.

Unfortunately, the creation of this race didn’t have the effect of delayed retirements that I was expecting. The race date of January 28th lends itself perfectly to a post-Pegasus World Cup retirement where the breeding season doesn’t really kick in until mid February to avoid December foals (ie. a horse born in December 2017 will be considered a 1 year old on January 1st 2018).

So if we could have a dream Pegasus World Cup field of horses who will be racing into 2017, below are entries I would include. Keep in mind the retirements of horses that would have made great Pegasus World Cup candidates: Nyquist, Exaggerator, Frosted, Beholder, Effinex, Tamarkuz, Found, Flintshire and Upstart.

My dream Pegasus World Cup field…

1) California Chrome – He is the most popular horse in North America. Chrome draws huge crowds, even for workouts. He will win the 2016 Horse of the Year Eclipse award to go along with his 2014 Horse of Year honors. I like his chances in a rematch with Arrogate.

Career: 25 Starts 15-4-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.52 – 2014 Santa Anita Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 119 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Arrogate – Arrogate is undoubtably the top horse in North America and he is ranked #1 in the world in the most recent Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. He will carry the torch for the older horse division in 2017 when California Chrome is retired. The sport is in good hands.

Career: 6 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Songbird – The star filly whose only loss was on a bob to Beholder in the 2016 Breeders Cup Distaff (shown below). Great things are expected from her in the future. Although there are no plans to run her in the Pegasus World Cup, there are plans to race her against the boys at some point in 2017.

Career: 12 Starts 11-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire:  Medaglia d’Oro
Trainer:  Jerry Hollendorfer
Jockey: Mike Smith 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.21 (calculated) – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff

4) Highland Reel – Highland Reel and the 4 year old turf filly Found were cross-entered in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Both were scratched from the Classic and ran in the Breeders’ Cup Turf race. Highland Reel won the prestigious $4 million dollar turf race while Found finished 3rd. Found was retired shortly after the Breeders Cup World Championships. Their trainer Aiden O’Brien has trained turf horses for dirt races before, doing so most recently with Gleneagles in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. I say, give it another shot!

Career: 19 Starts 7-5-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 4
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 7th–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Galileo
Trainer:  Aiden O’Brien
Jockey: Seamie Heffernan 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 112 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 112 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf

5) Dortmund – He was winless in 4 starts in 2016 but still ranked in the Top 25 racehorses in the world by Longines. Unfortunately, he had California Chrome as a entry in three of his four starts. His 4th place finish in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was disappointing but perhaps he is not a Miler. He seems to race best at the 8 1/2 to 9 furlong distance. He has never finished below 4th in his career, something that his Derby Trail rival American Pharoah can’t boast. Dortmund is a very talented horse that Bob Baffert plans to race as a 5 year-old in 2017. 

Career: 14 Starts 8-2-2-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd>2nd–>4th   
Sire: Big Brown
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:48.06 – 2015 Native Diver Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Awesome Again Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Awesome Again Stakes

6) Keen Ice  – After a significant layoff and with just one prep race, Keen Ice finished a very surprising 3rd in the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. He finished 4th in last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. He is the only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion when he shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). 

Career: 18 Starts 2-1-5-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 5 Starts  0-1-1-2
Last 3 starts: 8th–>3rd–>3rd
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey:  Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.31 (calculated) – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

7) Melatonin – In 2016, he completed the elusive Big ‘Cap-Gold Cup Double (ie. winner of the Santa Anita Handicap and Gold Cup at Santa Anita in the same year). His disappointing 5th place finish in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic probably had more to do with a lengthy layoff. He is more of a 10 furlong runner and has only raced once in a 9 furlong race, finishing 2nd to Effinex in the 2016 Oaklawn Handicap. 

Career: 14 Starts 5-3-3-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts:2nd–>1st–>5th   
Sire: Kodiak Kowboy
Trainer: David Hofmans 
Jockey:  Joe Talamo
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.16 (calculated) – 2016 Oaklawn Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

8) Stellar Wind – She got out of the gate poorly in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and finished 4th. However, she beat the Distaff Champion Beholder twice in four starts in 2016. In the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she lost to Stopchargingmaria by a neck. The future is bright for her career as a 5 year-old Mare. Note that she has never finished below 4th during her career in 12 starts.

Career: 12 Starts 7-2-1-2   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 3 Starts  0-1-0-2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>4th
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey:  Victor Espinoza
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.02 (calculated) – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Zenyatta Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Zenyatta Stakes

9) Hoppertunity – Although he is rarely the race favorite in any race, he is one of the most consistent runners in horse racing. In 23 consecutive starts, Hoppertunity has finished 4th or better in every start. He has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race, something that California Chrome can’t boast.

Career: 24 Starts 6-6-4-7   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 9 Starts  2-4-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>4th   
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert 
Jockey: John Velazquez/Flavien Prat 
Best Beyer in 1 1/8th Mile Race: 1:48.02 (calculated) – 2015 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

10) ConnectThe 2016 Pennsylvania Derby and Cigar Mile winner. He is another 3 year-old who has a bright future racing as a 4 year-old.

Career: 7 Starts 5-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 6th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Curlin
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey:  Javier Castellano/John Velazquez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.69 – 2016 Curlin Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016:  106 – 2016 Cigar Mile Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2016 Cigar Mile Handicap

11) Gun Runner  –  A very consistent horse who won his first Grade 1 stakes race in the Clark Handicap and also produced his career best Beyer Speed Figure of 104. Up until the Clark Handicap, the Louisiana Derby winner had some nice finishes in some big races (3rd in 2016 Kentucky Derby, 3rd in the Travers Stakes, 2nd in the Penn Derby and 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile). I liked how he has developed under Steve Asmussen and expect him to have a bright future racing as a 4 year-old.

Career: 12 Starts 6-2-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 4 Starts  2-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride  
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Florent Geroux 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.50 – 2016 Clark Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 104 – 2016 Clark Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104 – 2016 Clark Handicap

12) Shaman Ghost – The 2016 Woodward Stakes winner finished a disappointing 3rd in the 2016 Clark Handicap. I am not sure he was 100% having been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a fever. I expect him to develop further under the training of Jimmy Jerkens and be a major stakes winner in 2017 as a 5 year-old.

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>3rd   
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano/Joel Rosario
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.92 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

Five Alternates

1) Hard Aces – The 2015 Gold Cup winner at Santa Anita Park. He finished 6th in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is better at 10 furlong distances or greater and has a closer running style.

Career: 37 Starts 7-6-9-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 10 Starts  1-1-2-2
Last 3 starts: 4th–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Hard Spun
Trainer:  John Sadler
Jockey: Santiago Gonzalez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.37 (calculated) – 2015 California Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

2) Noble Bird  Noble Bird has been hit-or-miss this year. He has nice wins in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special (110 Beyer Speed Figure) and the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (106 Beyer Speed Figure). His time of 1:47.75 in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes set a new track record at Keeneland for 9 furlongs. But he hasn’t fared well in Grade 1 events this year: 6th in the Met Mile, 5th in the Whitney Handicap and 7th in the Clark Handicap.

Career: 20 Starts 7-4-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 7 Starts  3-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>7th
Sire: Birdstone
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.75 – 2016 Hagyard Fayette Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2016 Pimlico Special

3) Comfort – The Todd Pletcher-trained 4 year old ran 2nd behind Frosted in the 2016 Whitney Handicap. He has 2 nice wins sandwiched in between: the 2015 State Dinner Stakes (shown below) and the 2016 Seattle Slew Stakes. He has no published workouts since the Seattle Slew Stakes in September.

Career: 9 Starts 5-1-0-4  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Indian Charlie
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.09 (calculated) – 2016 Whitney Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 State Dinner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 State Dinner Stakes

4) Mubtaahij – He ran 2nd in the 2016 Dubai World Cup behind California Chrome and 2nd behind Shaman Ghost in the 2016 Woodward Stakes. He has still yet to win a Grade 1 race.

Career: 15 Starts 4-2-1-3   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 0 Starts  0-1-0-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>4th
Sire: Dubawi
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.94 (calculated) – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

5) Texas Red  – The 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner is back in training and has been working out at Santa Anita Park for the entire month of November. Admittedly, it is a tall order to have ready for an ultra-competitive 9 furlong race by January 28th. But there are prep races available in the the 8 1/2 furlong Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos on December 17th and the 7 furlong Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park on December 26th. If he is entered and performs well, he always had the talent to compete with the best. He was my very early 2015 Kentucky Derby favorite before being taken off the Derby trail due to injury.

Career: 9 Starts 3-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/8th Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>5th
Sire: Afleet Alex
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Jockey:  Kent Desormeaux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.77 – 2015 Jim Dandy Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  105 – 2015 Travers Stakes


On the docket…

My next blog will preview the upcoming 2016 Los Alamitos Futurity. I should have this posted by Thursday evening December 8th after post-positions and morning line odds are published. The race should have a few of the top 2017 Kentucky Derby contenders. Mostly notably, Mastery.

I also plan to preview the newly created Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos set for December 17th that will feature California Chrome.

–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