Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Blue Grass Stakes Previews

April 6th 2016

This coming Saturday April 9th are three big Derby Trail races–the Wood Memorial, the Blue Grass Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. All three have $1 Million dollar purses and offer 170 Derby points. The winner and 2nd place finishers in these races will qualify for the Kentucky Derby as they pay out 100 points for 1st and 40 points for 2nd. 40 points will be enough to get a horse into the Kentucky Derby. 3rd place and 4th place pay out 20 and 10 points respectively. You can follow the Kentucky Derby point standings by clicking HERE.

Below are the post-positions and morning line odds for all three races. Please note that all three races will be televised in NBC Sports between 4 and 6 PM Central Standard Time.

Wood Memorial Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile at Aqueduct- Race #10 Post Time: 4:30 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Shagaf – Ortiz Jr./Brown 2-1
2. Adventist – Carmouche/Gyarmati 10-1
3. Trojan Nation – Gryder/Gallagher 30-1
4. Tale of S’avall – Velasquez/Tagg 20-1
5. Flexibility – Franco/Brown 8-1
6. Matt King Coal – Ortiz/Rice 3-1
7. Dalmore – Alvarado/Desormeaux 12-1
8. Outwork – Velazquez/Pletcher 5-2

Commentary: My projected order of finish 8-6-1 (1st: Outwork, 2nd: Matt King Coal and 3rd Shagaf). I would probably recommend an 6-8 Boxed Exacta. Matt King Coal is a horse that has shown a lot of promise but has zero Derby points. So he must finish 1st or 2nd to make the Kentucky Derby field. Flexibility has 15 Derby points and needs to a top 3 finish to make the Derby.


Blue Grass Stakes 1 1/8th Mile at Keenland- Race #10 Post Time: 5:00 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Lookin for a Kiss – Gaffalione/Tomlinson 50-1
2. Donegal Moon – Garcia/Pletcher 5-1  
3. Cherry Wine – Lanerie/Romans 12-1
4. Zulu – Castellano/Pletcher 5-2
5. Crescent Drive – Graham/Amoss 20-1
6. Brody’s Cause – Saez/Romans 4-1
7. Laoban – Lezcano/Guillot 12-1
8. Twizz – Murrill/Maker 12-1
9. Goats Town – Albarado/Lukas 20-1
10. American Dubai – Landeros/Richards 20-1
11. Cards of Stone – Lopez/Pletcher 20-1
12. Zapperini – Torres/Foley 30-1
13. Star Hill – Jaramillo/Arnold 10-1
14. My Man Sam – Leparoux/Brown 10-1
AE. Pinson – Bravo/Maker 30-1
AE. Hint of Roses – Geroux/Maker 30-1

Commentary: Zulu is the class of this large field. I like his post position draw so I think he wins this one. It is difficult to project who will finish 2nd through 4th because we don’t know which Brody’s Cause will show up. The one who was a non-factor and finished 7th in the Tampa Bay Derby or the who showed great promise as a closer as a 2 year-old? He has 14 Derby points so he will need to finish in the top 3 to make the Kentucky Derby field. So my advice is to stick to win bets for Zulu or key him to win over Donegal Moon, Star Hill, My Man Sam and Brody’s Cause in Trifectas and Superfectas.


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Santa Anita Derby 1 1/8th Mile at Santa Anita Park- Race #8 Post Time: 5:30 PM CST

Post Position/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Denman’s Call – Bejarano/O’Neill 15-1
2. Exaggerator – Desormeaux/Desormeaux  4-1
3. Danzing Candy – Smith/Sise 9-5
4. Mor Spirit – Stevens/Baffert 8-5
5. Smokey Image – Espinoza/Gaines 15-1
6. Iron Rob – Elliott/Papaprodromou 12-1
7. Dressed in Hermes – Prat/Armstrong 15-1
8. Rare Candy – Talamo/Hofmans 30-1
9. Diplodocus – Baze/Baltas 30-1
10. Uncle Lino – Perez/Sherlock 20-1

Commentary: Danzing Candy benefited from getting out into the lead on a semi-damp track at Santa Anita to win the San Felipe Stakes back on March 12th. I watched the San Felipe live that day and my thought was that day that Mor Spirit will bounce back and win a rematch. So I would key #4 Mor Spirit to win in your Trifectas and Superfectas.

It is difficult to access if Smokey Image bounces back after a lackluster performance in the San Felipe. So I would recommend Trifectas 4 over 2,3 over 2,3. Exaggerator could excel with an additional furlong so don’t be surprised if he finishes 2nd. I am also perplexed how the Santa Anita handicapper could assign Uncle Lino 20-1 morning line odds when he finished 4th in the San Felipe and 2nd in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Denman’s Call and Iron Rob have never raced further than 7 furlongs. Iron Rob will probably be the early pacesetter in this race.

–Michael

2016 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #3

March 8th 2016

Below is the latest Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #3 that opens this Friday March 11th at 11 AM CST and closes Sunday March 13th at 5 PM CST. There are eight horses making their first appearance in a Future Wager pool. The only two that I find mildly appealing right now are Suddenbreakingnews and Cupid.

Overall, you will want to wait to see how the San Felipe Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby races unfold before making any wagers because ten of the horses in this pool are expected to be in action in one of the aforementioned races. At 7-2 and 9-2 odds for Mohaymen and Nyquist respectively, these odds are too short for my taste and I would rather wait until Derby day to wager on them to assure they make the field. I like to get 3X the expected Derby day odds for a win bet in a future wager pool. I think you would be better served playing Exacta combinations with these two horses or making small win bets on undervalued horses such as Matt King Coal.

I will update this as we go along this weekend. You can follow the live odds by clicking HERE.

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 – March 11 through March 13th
Blue font represents horses who are expected to be in action this weekend in either the San Felipe Stakes or Tampa Bay Derby.
No. Name Trainer Pool 1 Pool 2 Pool 3
1 American Dubai R. Richards ———- ———- 50-1
2 Brody’s Cause D. Romans 21-1 15-1 20-1
3 Cupid B. Baffert ———– ———– 30-1
4 Danzing Candy C. Sisse ———– 28-1 30-1
5 Destin T. Pletcher ———– ———– 30-1
6 Economic Model C. Brown ———– ———– 50-1
7 Exaggerator K. Desormeaux 25-1 22-1 15-1
8 Forevamo A. Stall, Jr. ———– ———– 50-1
9 Greenpointcrusader D. Schettino 28-1 31-1 30-1
10 Gun Runner S. Asmussen 57-1 25-1 20-1
11 Matt King Coal L. Rice 87-1 ———– 50-1
12 Mo Tom T. Amoss ———– 28-1 20-1
13 Mohaymen K. McLaughlin 11-1 4-1 7-2
14 Mor Spirit B. Baffert 31-1 12-1 12-1
15 Nyquist D. O’Neill 9-1 7-1 9-2
16 Riker M. Casse 99-1 ———– 50-1
17 Shagaf C. Brown ———– ———– 20-1
18 Smokey Image C. Gaines ———– 19-1 20-1
19 Suddenbreakingnews D.K. VonHemel ———– ———– 20-1
20 Swipe K. Desormeaux 18-1 ———– 20-1
21 Uncle Lino G. Sherlock ———– ———– 50-1
22 Whitmore R. Moquett ———– 81-1 50-1
23 Zulu T. Pletcher ———– 24-1 20-1
24 Mutuel Field 3-5 5-2 9-2

Santa Anita Handicap and San Felipe Previews

March 6th 2015 – Updated March 11th 2016

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

Santa Anita Handicap Entries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Past Performances can be accessed HERE.

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


The San Felipe Stakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Michael

 

Is Smokey Image the next California Chrome and a Kentucky Derby Sleeper?

Smokey Image - ca cup derby#2

March 1st 2016

Sometimes as handicappers on the Kentucky Derby trail, we get caught up too much in pedigrees and horses in the barns of the top trainers. But as we have seen in the past with horses like Mine That Bird and Funny Cide, sometimes all that is necessary to win Kentucky Derby is having a great horse. And having a great jockey helps too.

So this leads me to the race career of Smokey Image, the Carla Gaines-trained 3 year-old colt who is undefeated in 6 starts. It is probably necessary to mention here that no woman trainer has ever won the Kentucky Derby…so we are told.  It is believed that Mrs. Laska Durnell–the owner of the 1904 Kentucky Derby winner and Missouri-foal Elwood–secretly employed the services of Elwood’s breeder Mrs. J. B. Prather to train him for the Derby. Why? Because her husband and trainer Charles Durnell didn’t think the horse had a chance but she entered him anyway without her husband’s knowledge.  So throw out the whole “No woman trainer…” argument.

Until Smokey Image’s win in the 1 1/16th mile California Cup Derby, he had plenty of skeptics (me included) because his undefeated record came in races at a sprinter distance of 7 furlongs or less. But after the Cal Cup Derby win, Smokey Image is on most handicappers radar and in their Top 10 Kentucky Derby contender lists. However, he is not in anyone’s top 3 and is not in mine currently though I had him as one of five horses to consider for your Kentucky Derby Pool #2 Future Wager.

The majority of Kentucky Derby handicappers have a combination of Mohaymen, Nyquist, Mor Spirit and Brody’s Cause at the top of their lists. Cal-bred horses don’t typically garner a ton of respect as Kentucky Derby contenders as only four horses born in California have ever won the Kentucky Derby: Morvich in 1922, Swaps in 1955, Decidedly in 1962 and California Chrome in 2014.

But California Chrome’s career should have erased some of doubts about Cal-breds. So the burning questions are: Is Smokey Image the next California Chrome in the making and should he be considered a more serious Kentucky Derby contender? Let’s review some relevant facts:

  1. His jockey is Victor Espinoza, who has won the last two Kentucky Derbys with California Chrome in 2014 and American Pharoah in 2015. He also won the 2002 Kentucky Derby on War Emblem.
  2. Smokey Image’s sire was Southern Image, who won the 2004 Santa Anita Handicap, same 1 1/4 mile distance as the Kentucky Derby.
  3. On his mother’s side, his damsire was Free House who gave Silver Charm a battle finishing 3rd in the 1997 Kentucky Derby then won the Pacific Classic and Santa Anita Handicap (both at 1 1/4 mile distances) the following year in 1998 as a 4 year old.

So Smokey Image has a great jockey who has proven that he can win the Kentucky Derby (and a Triple Crown) and a pedigree that suggests that he will like stretching out to the 1 1/4 mile distance.

Smokey Image–Another California Chrome?

Smokey Image is being pointed towards the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 12th. He is following a similar pathway as California Chrome did in 2014 when Chrome raced in the Golden State Juvenile race, the California Cup Derby and the San Felipe Stakes. Chrome finished 6th in the Golden State Juvenile, won the King Glorious Stakes and won the California Cup Derby. However, his win in the San Felipe Stakes is what shot him to the top of the Kentucky Derby contender lists and made him a favorite in the final Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool.

Smokey Image won the Golden State Juvenile by 3/4 ths of a length and then put on this impressive performance in the 2016 California Cup Derby (shown below). He is still a little green as he has an unusual gait going through turns but he smoked the field and won by a tractor-trailer length. And note that he had such a huge lead that the Victor Espinoza eased him up a bit before the finish line.

Smokey Image’s winning time of 1:43.49 was less than 3 tenths of a second off of California Chrome’s winning time of 1:43.22 in the 2014 Cal Cup Derby (shown below). Smokey Image’s time through one mile was 1:36.59 vs. California Chrome’s 1:36.73.

Have we seen this before? Or are we blinded by philosophical methodologies and myopias of ranking the Kentucky Derby contending elite?

All eyes will be on the upcoming and expected Smokey Image vs Mor Spirit duel at Santa Anita Park on March 12th. A win against Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit in the San Felipe would rocket this horse up to the top of the Kentucky Derby contender charts. And perhaps, start a new Smokey Image craze. Irrespective of his Kentucky Derby chances, I see a big win in this horse’s future somewhere down the line if he stays healthy.

–Michael

 

Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender Rankings

February 19th 2016 (Updated February 21st -76 days away from the Kentucky Derby)

Below is my updated 2016 Kentucky Derby contender list with latest Wynn Las Vegas Kentucky Derby odds. Dropping out of my rankings are three very good horses in Songbird,  Swipe and Matt King Coal. Songbird’s owner Rick Porter has said that he will not enter the sensational 3 year-old filly in the Kentucky Derby. Instead, he will point her towards the Kentucky Oaks where she will be the race favorite and probably pick up an easy $600,000 with a win.

Swipe had a bone spur removed from his ankle and it appears that he may not make his first start in 2016 until early April. That will be too short of an order, with one race in 2016 before the Derby, to really make feel that he would be a threat to win the first leg of the Triple Crown. The Linda Rice-trained Matt King Coal has been working out of late but has had his scheduled first start of 2016 moved back a few times due to spiking a fever.

Also dropping out of my previous rankings is Airoforce who had a disappointing 10th place finish in the Risen Star Stakes.

Right now what I envision in the 2016 Kentucky Derby is Nyquist being mowed down by Mohaymen in the final furlong and closer Brody’s Cause making a valiant effort on the outside to take third. Last year I hit a $10 Boxed Trifecta (American Pharoah, Firing Line and Dortmund) and a $20 win bet on American Pharoah that paid back $1088.

But with 11 weeks before the Derby, new stars can emerge from the woodworks. Remember what Firing Line did last year when he set a track record in the Sunland Derby and finished 2nd in the Kentucky Derby behind American Pharoah and ahead of Dortmund who had beaten him twice. So don’t give up on the scrappy horses who have finished 2nd in some of the Derby prep races thus far.

My Top 10 Kentucky Derby Contenders:

1) Mohaymen (8/1) The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is undefeated in 4 starts and posted an impressive time of 1:42.07 in the Holy Bull Stakes. His sire was Tapit so his pedigree suggests that he will like stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. His next start will be the Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 27th at Gulfstream Park.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes

Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.92 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Holy Bull Stakes

2) Nyquist (12/1) – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year. The first of the 2016 Kentucky Derby crop to produce a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the San Vicente. He is being pointed for the Florida Derby on April 2nd. Trainer Doug O’Neill is following the same “2 races as a 3 year-old” strategy that he used with I’ll Have Another to win the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Sire: Uncle Mo 
Projected Jockey: Mario Gutierrez (2012 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 – San Vicente Stakes

The Top 2 are really the cream of the crop thus far so here are challengers to keep an eye on.

3) Brody’s Cause (22/1) Dale Roman’s winner of the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. This colt has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He is being pegged for the Tampa Bay Derby March 12th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-0
Sire: Giant’s Causeway 
Projected Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.64 – Churchill Down MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

4) Exaggerator (20/1) – The Desormeaux brothers colt finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then followed this effort with a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure and giving Mohaymen a good battle in the San Vicente. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). His next start is expected to be the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park March 12th.

Career: 7 Starts 3-2-0-1 
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Projected Jockey: Kent Desormeaux (1998, 2000 & 2008 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – San Vicente Stakes

5) Greenpointcrusader (25/1)  A second place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes was a good return to form performance. The Champagne Stakes winner has an excellent pedigree: sire Bernardini (Rachel’s Valentina’s sire), grand sire A.P. Indy, great-grand sire Seattle Slew. His next start appears to be in the Louisiana Derby at the Fairgrounds on March 26th.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-0-0
Sire: Bernardini 
Projected Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.25 – Champagne Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.63 (calculated) – Holy Bull Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 Champagne Stakes

6) Mor Spirit (9/1) – Bob Baffert’s best 2 year-old colt. Winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity  and Robert B. Lewis Stakes (winning time of 1:43.21). His times are way off what Dortmund produced last year in these two races. His next start will be the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park March 12th.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0
Sire: Eskendereya 
Projected Jockey: Gary Stevens (1988, 1995 and 1998 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes

7) Smokey Image (40/1) – He is undefeated in six starts, but five of his wins were at the 7 furlong distance or shorter. His win in the California Cup Derby (shown below) was impressive but only generated an 82 Beyer Speed Figure. This Cal-bred might prove to be a better dirt-miler than a Derby horse. His next start is pegged to be the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park March 12th.

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

8) Suddenbreakingnews (20/1) – An impressive win in the Southwest Stakes (shown below) has put this 3 year-old gelding onto many Kentucky Derby contender lists. May I suggest a name change? How about “Blue Bayou” because the Donnie von Hemel-trained colt blew by the Southwest Stakes field. His sire was Mineshaft–2003 Horse of the Year. He’s a closer and they always have a chance in the Derby when the opening fractions are fast.

Career: 6 Starts 3-3-0-0
Sire: Mineshaft 
Projected Jockey: Luis Quinonez
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:39.17 (calculated) – Remington Springboard Mile
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.14 – Southwest Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Southwest Stakes

9) Gift Box (40/1) –  In just his 2nd start, this Chad Brown-trained colt produced a time of 1:43:00 on a sloppy track at Belmont–good for a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. He finished a respectable 3rd in the Remsen Stakes behind Mohaymen and Flexibility. His next start appears to be the Gotham Stakes on March 5th at the Fairgrounds.

Career: 3 Starts 1-0-2-0
Sire: Twirling Candy
Projected Jockey: Javier Castellano
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – Belmont MSW- Race #11
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.17 (calculated) – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Belmont MSW- Race #1

10) Mo Tom (45/1) – The Lecomte Stakes winner and half brother of Nyquist got a bad trip in the Risen Star Stakes (shown below) by getting hemmed-in along the rail. Otherwise I feel he would have beaten Gun Runner (who received a 90 Beyer Speed Figure for the win). He demonstrated excellent closing speed and appears will like added distance. There is no worries about how he take to the Churchill Downs surface as he won the Street Sense Stakes there last November. His next start is rumored to be the Louisiana Derby March 26th at the Fairgrounds.

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-3-0
Sire: Uncle Mo 
Projected Jockey: Corey LanerieBest 1 Mile Time: 1:36.78 – Street Sense Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.18 (calculated) – Risen Star Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Lecomte Stakes


Upcoming Derby Trail Races

Fountain of Youth Stakes – Gulfstream Park – Feb 27, 2016
Gotham Stakes- Aqueduct – Mar 5, 2016
Tampa Bay Derby – Tampa Bay Downs – Mar 12, 2016
San Felipe Stakes – Santa Anita Park – Mar 12, 2016
Rebel Stakes – Oaklawn Park – Mar 19, 2016
Sunland Derby – Sunland Park – Mar 20, 2016

For updated Kentucky Derby Point Standings, click HERE.

–Michael

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The Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool #2

February 7th 2016 
Updated February 14th 2016 4:15 PM CST (see below)

The Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) Pool #2 will be active this coming Friday February 12th at 11 AM CST through Sunday February 14th at 5PM CST. There are 13 new horses in this pool (shown with an asterisk).

Derby Wager Pool 2

1. Airoforce 20-1
2. Awesome Banner* 30-1
3. Brody’s Cause 30-1
4. Cherry Wine* 50-1
5. Cocked and Loaded 50-1
6. Collected* 30-1
7. Danzing Candy* 30-1
8. Discreetness* 50-1
9. Exaggerator 20-1
10. Gettysburg* 50-1 <–raced in Sam F. Davis Stakes 2/13/16 & finished a disappointing 5th
11. Gift Box 30-1
12. Greenpointcrusader 20-1
13. Gun Runner 50-1
14. Mo Tom* 50-1
15. Mohaymen 8-1
16. Mor Spirit 15-1
17. Nyquist 12-1
18. Shagaf* 30-1
19. Smokey Image* 30-1
20. Tom’s Ready* 50-1
21. Vorticity* 50-1
22. Whitmore* 50-1
23. Zulu* 30-1
24. Mutuel Field (All Others) 4-5

*Wagering interest not included in KDFW Pool 1

At this point in the future wager pool, I believe that the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner is somewhere in this pool so I would not place any bets on “All Others.” I expect that the bettors two favorites will be Mohaymen and Nyquist. I would give the nod to Mohaymen over Nyquist right now. However, I feel that 8-1 odds for Mohaymen is too short at this stage of the future wager pools. I still like Brody’s Cause and Exaggerator.

Overall, I was surprised that Mike Battaglia dropped Swipe, Flexibility and Sunny Ridge from Pool #1.  I was also surprised by the inclusion of these three horses: Whitmore, Tom’s Ready and Cherry Wine. I wouldn’t waste any money on these three nor would I place any money on Vorticity and Gun Runner.

Two horses that I feel will be liked too much by bettors and have final odds much lower than their on-track accomplishments warrant are: Mor Spirit and Zulu. Mor Spirit is a Bob Baffert-trained horse and his times and Beyer Speed Figures in the Los Alamitos Futurity and Robert B. Lewis Stakes aren’t even close to what Dortmund’s were last year. Zulu is a Todd Pletcher horse who is undefeated in 2 starts but has never raced further than 7 furlongs. He might be a “Miler” in the mode of Liam’s Map but I am skeptical of him being a threat in the Kentucky Derby at this point.

So below are five key horses to consider for your future wager.  Below these five are some other horses to consider if you can get a “price.”

1) MohaymenMorning Line Odds: 8-1

The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is undefeated in 4 starts and posted an impressive time of 1:42.07 in the Holy Bull Stakes. When you watch that race and realize that he didn’t get off to the best start—yet he dealt with some traffic and then mowed down the field without being shown the whip–you have to be impressed. He is easily a sub 1:42 sec horse at the 1 1/16th mile race distance. Mohaymen is a half brother to the horse Frosted but he is way ahead of him at this stage of his career. His sire was Tapit so his pedigree suggests that he will like stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. His next start will be the Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 27th at Gulfstream Park.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.92 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Holy Bull Stakes

2) Nyquist – Morning Line Odds: 12-1

The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year. Winner of three Grade 1 Stakes races: The Del Mar Futurity, the FrontRunner Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. My way too early Kentucky Derby favorite proved that his declining Beyer Speed Figures wasn’t a concern with an impressive win in the Juvenile. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt is still undefeated in five starts. His stalking racing style reminds me of a young American Pharoah. Just remember the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile curse–the last horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that went on to win the Kentucky Derby was Street Sense in 2007. He is being pointed for the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park on February 15th and then the Florida Derby on April 2nd.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 89 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

3) Brody’s Cause – Morning Line Odds: 30-1

Dale Roman’s winner of the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. His sire was Giant’s Causeway who had a great career on the other side of the pond and finished 2nd in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. This colt has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated above in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity as well as in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He looks to be a First Saturday in May horse. I think his 30-1 Morning Line Odds are a bit too long with his closing speed (I expected 20/1 M/L odds). He is being pegged for the Tampa Bay Derby March 12th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.64 – Churchill Down MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

4) Exaggerator – Morning Line Odds: 20-1

A Desormeaux brothers colt, they feel that he is more talented than Swipe. He finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then followed this effort with a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). Remember, his jockey Keith Desormeaux is a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby. His next start is expected to be the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita February 15th. 

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Delta Downs Jackpot

5) Smokey ImageMorning Line Odds: 30-1

He is undefeated in six starts, but five of his wins were at the 7 furlong distance or shorter. He might prove to be a better dirt-miler than a Derby horse. His next start is pegged to be the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park March 12th. That race will probably be a great litmus test to determine if this horse is for real as a Derby contender–or one who has just raced against inferior competition. However, a horse who has a nose for the finish line in 6 starts should not be ignored. I like him right around 30-1 or longer odds.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.49 – California Cup Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85


Other horses to consider if you can get a “price” (live odds greater than 50-1)

Discreetness – winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes, undefeated in 4 starts. He has yet to race further than 1 mile.
Gift Box – Chad Brown’s colt resumed training January 19th. He finished 3rd behind Mohaymen and Flexibility in the Remsen Stakes.

Pay close attention to Exacta betting in this pool. This is where you can reap big rewards for just a few bucks.

Update February 13th 4:15 PM CST

Here are the top ten horses based upon current live odds:

  1. #24 – All Others – 3/1
  2. #15 – Mohaymen – 4/1
  3. #17 – Nyquist – 7/1
  4. #16 – Mo Spirit – 12/1
  5. #3 – Brody’s Cause – 14/1
  6. #1 – Airoforce – 15/1
  7. #19 – Smokey Image – 18/1
  8. #9 – Exaggerator – 22/1
  9. #23 – Zulu – 23/1
  10. #14 – Mo Tom – 30/1

My thoughts thus far–too much money is chasing Mohaymen (4/1 live odds) and Nyquist  (7/1 live odds) right now. We are still roughly 12 weeks out from the Kentucky Derby and a lot can happen between now and the first Saturday in May. To give you a perspective, American Pharoah had 5/1 final odds in the Kentucky Derby Pool #4 last year and he was given 5/2 Morning Line Odds for the Kentucky Derby when his live odds ended up at 2.9/1.

Right now, Exacta bets using these two and taking some flyers on a few other horses with Win bets look to be the best betting options. Brody’s Cause is 14-1 at the time of this update, so a $20 Win bet in this pool would pay back around $300. He offers more value at this point. Gift Box at 57-1 is very intriguing. Remember that he ran a 1:43 flat in a 1 1/16th mile race on a sloppy track at Belmont on October 3rd as a 2 year-old. See race HERE

Todd Pletcher’s Gettysburg (half brother to American Pharoah) was an intriguing prospect until when he ran a disappointing 5th in the Sam F. Davis Stakes today (see below)

Danzing Candy at 29-1 looks like a good option in this pool since he ridden by Mike Smith.

“All Others” currently at the time of this update is 3/1. Don’t forget that “All Others” in this pool includes Swipe who is supposed to resume training February 16th, Bob Baffert’s Cupid (half brother to Mohaymen due sharing the same sire Tapit) and Linda Rice’s Matt King Coal who resumed  training February 7th.

-Michael

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My Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contenders

Mohaymen mows down the Holy Bull – Photo: Kenny Martin

February 1st, 2016 (96 days away from the Kentucky Derby)
Updated: February 6, 2016 

Last year at this time, my top three Kentucky Derby Contenders were Texas Red, Dortmund and American Pharoah (See 1/27/15 article). Texas Red suffered an injury and wasn’t entered in the 2015 Kentucky Derby but American Pharoah and Dortmund both finished in the money-1st and 3rd respectively.

I generally feel that the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner will be a horse in my current Top 5 rankings: Mohaymen, Songbird (if the filly is entered), Nyquist, Swipe and Brody’s Cause. With more emphasis on the Top 3 since Swipe is rebounding from injury and Brody’s Cause apparently resuming racing as a 3 year-old somewhat later than typical. And my top 3 are all undefeated thus far.

1) Mohaymen – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is undefeated in 4 starts and posted an impressive time of 1:42.07 in the Holy Bull Stakes. When you watch that race and realize that he didn’t get off to the best start—yet he dealt with some traffic and then mowed down the field without being shown the whip–you have to be impressed. He is easily a sub 1:42 sec horse at the 1 1/16th mile race distance. Mohaymen is a half brother to the horse Frosted but he is way ahead of him at this stage of his career. His sire was Tapit so his pedigree suggests that he will like stretching out past 1 1/16th mile. His next start will be the Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 27th at Gulfstream Park.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.07 – Holy Bull Stakes
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.92 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Holy Bull Stakes

2) Songbird – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Female Horse of the Year, she was the top 2 year-old regardless of gender. Undefeated Nyquist was the Eclipse-winning 2 year-old colt and all Songbird did is run a full second faster than him at the same distance, same track and on the same day at the Breeders Cup World Championships. That would be equivalent to 6 1/2 lengths. She dominated the Las Virgenes Stakes, winning by 6 1/2 lengths and producing a time of 1:36.84. It is hard to say how good she really is when she has yet to be challenged. She is being pointed towards the Santa Anita Oaks on April 9th and then the Kentucky Oaks on May 6th. Her owner Rick Porter said he will not enter her into the Kentucky Derby. How about the Preakness Stakes?

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.84 – Las Virgenes Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.73 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

3) Nyquist – The 2015 Eclipse 2 Year Old Male Horse of the Year. Winner of three Grade 1 Stakes races: The Del Mar Futurity, the FrontRunner Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. My way too early Kentucky Derby favorite proved that his declining Beyer Speed Figures wasn’t a concern with impressive win in the Juvenile. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt is still undefeated in five starts. His stalking racing style reminds me of a young American Pharoah. He is being pointed for the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park on February 15th and then the Florida Derby on April 2nd.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 89 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

4) Swipe – This Desormeaux brothers colt has finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts. However, he kept narrowing the gap each time. I like his future in races 1 1/8th mile or greater. His sire was Birdstone who won the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes in 2004. Swipe had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and is expected to resume training soon (February 16th is the rumored date).

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

5) Brody’s Cause Dale Roman’s winner of the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. His sire was Giant’s Causeway who had a great career on the other side of the pond and finished 2nd in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. This colt has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He looks to be a First Saturday in May horse. He is being pegged for the Tampa Bay Derby March 12th. 

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.64 – Churchill Down MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

And the best of the rest:

Greenpointcrusader  A second place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes was a good return to form performance. The Champagne Stakes winner has an excellent pedigree: sire Bernardini (Rachel’s Valentina’s sire), grand sire A.P. Indy, great-grand sire Seattle Slew. His sire Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness Stakes, Travers Stakes, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and finished 2nd in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic. His next start appears to be in the Louisiana Derby at the Fairgrounds on March 26th.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.25 – Champagne Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.63 (calculated) – Holy Bull Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 Champagne Stakes

Exaggerator – Another Desormeaux brothers colt, he finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then followed this effort with a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). I am expecting him to improve and his Delta Downs Jackpot win was a step in the right direction. His next start is expected to be the San Vincte Stakes at Santa Anita Park February 15th.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Delta Downs Jackpot

Gift Box – In just his 2nd start, this Chad Brown-trained colt produced a time of 1:43:00 on a sloppy track at Belmont–good for a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. That was faster than American Pharoah’s time of 1:45.78 in the sloppy Rebel Stakes at the same 1 1/16th mile distance. And American Pharoah was a 3 year-old in the Rebel. He finished a respectable 3rd in the Remsen Stakes. So it is still up in the air if this colt is just a good slop-track runner or if he will excel on dry, fast tracks. His next start appears to be the Risen Star Stakes on February 20th at the Fairgrounds.

Career: 3 Starts 1-0-2-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – Belmont MSW- Race #11
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.17 (calculated) – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Belmont MSW- Race #11

Mor Spirit – Bob Baffert’s best 2 year-old colt. His win in the Los Alamitos Futurity was a solid effort and I liked how he rallied off the pace for the win. In Mor Spirit’s next start, the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on February 6th, he produced a winning time of 1:43.21. His times are way off what Dortmund produced last year in these two races. So I see him as an above average Derby horse but not one who will finish in the money.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.21 – Robert B. Lewis Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5

Airoforce – This Mark Casse-trained colt made the transition from turf to dirt with ease by winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes race on a wet track at Churchill Downs. An impressive effort but I will need to see how he performs on a dry fast track. His next start will be the Risen Star Stakes February 20th at the Fairgrounds.

Airoforce Kentucky Jockey Club 615 X 400

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A (on dirt)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.48 – Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

Matt King Coal – The Linda Rice-trained colt has put up back-to-back 90+ Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts, breaking his maiden in his last start while posting a 96 Beyer Speed Figure–the best for a 2 year-old colt this year. I thought enough of this colt to place $10 on him in the 1st Kentucky Derby Future Wagers Pool that will pay back $889 if he wins. His pedigree (sire: Cool Coal Man) suggests that he might be better suited for a 1 mile to 1 1/8th mile distances. His next start was supposed to be the Jerome Stakes January 2nd but he developed an illness and wasn’t entered. He resumed training February 7th.

Matt King Coal runs 1st Place @ Belmont On 10/29/2015

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.68 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #6
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #6

Smokey Image – He is undefeated in six starts, but five of his wins were at the 7 furlong distance or shorter. He might prove to be a better dirt-miler than a Derby horse. His next start is pegged to be the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park March 12th. That race will probably be a great litmus test to determine if this horse is for real as a Derby contender.

Career: 6 Starts 6-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.49 – California Cup Derby
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85


 

 

Here are rankings by time for the most common denominator distance of 1 1/16th mile:

  1. Mohaymen – 1:42.07
  2. Greenpointcrusader – 1:42.63 (calculated)
  3. Songbird – 1:42.73
  4. Gift B0x – 1:43.00
  5. Matt King Coal – 1:43.02 (calculated)
  6. Fellowship – 1:43.03 (calculated)
  7. Mor Spirit – 1:43.21
  8. Brody’s Cause – 1:43.27
  9. Exaggerator – 1:43.43 (calculated)
  10. Smokey Image – 1:43.49
  11. Nyquist – 1:43.79
  12. Swipe – 1:43.87

-Michael

Two Kentucky Derby Contenders Put Their Undefeated Records On The Line

Today, Saturday January 30th, two Kentucky Derby Contenders will put their undefeated records on the line with Mohaymen (3 starts, 3 wins) in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park and Smokey Image (5 starts, 5 wins) in the California Cup Derby at Santa Anita Park.

California Cup Derby – Race #5 at Santa Anita Park – 1 1/16th Mile – Post Time 4:01 CST

PP/Horse (weight)/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds

1. Tough It Out (119) Gonzalez/D’Amato 6-1
2. Smokey Image (123) Espinosa/Gaines 4-5
3. Record Highs (119) Talamo/Gaines 10-1
4. Demonslayer (119) Bejarano/Baltas 8-1
5. Glory Bound (119) Maldonado/Dollase 4-1
6. Xingontothebone (121) Pedroza/Solis 8-1
7. Loyalist (119) Pratt/Koriner 12-1

My Prediction: I feel that Smokey Image is vulnerable stretching out past his longest distance win at 7 furlongs. And he hasn’t raced since last October. Glory Bound came up short in the King Glorious Stakes on December 12th against Found Money at a mile distance. Play a 2,5 Boxed Exacta to be safe.

Holy Bull Stakes –  Race #11 at Gulfstream Park – 1 1/16th Mile – Post Time 4:05 CST

PP/Horse (weight)/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Perfect Saint (116) Lanerie/Romans 20-1
2. Mohaymen (120) Alvarado/McLaughlin 6-5
3. Fellowship (116) Caraballo/Gold 20-1
4. Conquest Big E (116) Smith/Casse 7-2
5. Greenpointcrusader (122) Velazquez/Schettino 8-5
6. Frontier Ranger (116) Zayas/Pellgrini 15-1

My Prediction: Mohaymen extends his winning streak. I like Conquest Big E and Greenpointcrusader to round out the trifecta. It is tough to split them so I would recommend keying Mohaymen to win in a Trifecta (2 over 4,5 over 4,5).

In the other key race of the day, the Withers Stakes (race #4) at Aqueduct at 12:50 PM CST, I like a Flexibility-Sunny Ridge (2,7) Straight Exacta.

–Michael

My Updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contenders

Updated: January 7th, 2016 

With 2015 in the books, it is time to look ahead to the 2016 Kentucky Derby and the key contenders. Overall, I say this was a much weaker than average 2 year-old crop as we didn’t have one colt or filly eclipse a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. The filly Songbird has the highest Beyer Speed Figure thus far at 99 and she is still #1 in my rankings. Matt King Coal had the highest Beyer Speed Figure of any 2 year-old colt with a speed figure of 96.

But there is plenty of good raw talent and this may be a late-bloomer class. Horses will improve by leaps and bounds going forward at this stage. If you remember a couple of years ago, California Chrome was a mediocre 2 year-old (7 starts, 3 wins) before reeling off five straight wins as a 3 year-old.  We won’t have a good idea how good the 2016 class is until the early April. But if I am trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, I am reaching into the other cookie jar and entering Songbird against the boys in a Derby prep race somewhere down the line.

Here is my my updated 2016 Kentucky Derby Contender list:

1) Songbird – Although she will likely be pegged for the Kentucky Oaks, she is the top 2 year-old regardless of gender and she would be my Kentucky Derby favorite. Undefeated Nyquist is the top 2 year-old colt and my early Kentucky Derby favorite and all Songbird did is run a full second faster than him at the same distance, same track and on the same day at the Breeders Cup World Championships. That would be equivalent to 6 1/2 lengths. She will win the 2015 Eclipse Top 2 Year Old Female Horse award. Her next start will be the 1 Mile Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park February 6th.

Career: 4 Starts 4-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:42.73 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

2) Nyquist – Winner of three Grade 1 Stakes races: The Del Mar Futurity, the FrontRunner Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. My way too early Kentucky Derby favorite proved that his declining Beyer Speed Figures wasn’t a concern with impressive win in the Juvenile. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt is still undefeated in five starts. His stalking racing style reminds me of a young American Pharoah. He will win the 2015 Eclipse Top 2 Year Old Male Horse award. He is being pointed for the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park on February 15th and then the Florida Derby on April 2nd.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.79 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 89 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

3) Mohaymen – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt posted an impressive 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the Remsen Stakes  and a 89 Beyer Speed Figure in the Nashua Stakes on November 4th. For those who loved the horse Frosted on the Kentucky Derby trail last year, he is his half brother and is a striking resemblance. However, he is better than Frosted at this stage of his career. His time of 1:50.69 was faster than Honor Code’s in 2013 and Frosted and Keen Ice’s time last year in the Remsen. He is undefeated in 3 starts and the new dark horse to win the 2016 Kentucky Derby. His sire was Tapit so that makes him a half-brother to Tonalist too. His next start appears to be the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park January 30th.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.01 – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.69 – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95- Remsen Stakes

4) Swipe – This Desormeaux brothers colt has finished 2nd to Nyquist four times in his last four starts. However, he keeps narrowing the gap each time. I like his future in races 1 1/8th mile or greater. His sire was Birdstone who won the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes in 2004. Swipe had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in November and is expected to resume training in early February.

Career: 7 Starts 1-5-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.87 (calculated) – FrontRunner Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

5) Brody’s Cause Dale Roman’s winner of the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. His sire was Giant’s Causeway who had a great career on the other side of the pond and finished 2nd in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. This colt has excellent closing speed that he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his 3rd place finish. He looks to be a First Saturday in May horse.

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.64 – Churchill Down MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.27 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

6) Exaggerator – Another Desormeaux brothers colt, he finished 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then followed this effort with a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Exaggerator’s sire was Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner). I am expecting him to improve and his Delta Downs Jackpot win was a step in the right direction. His next start is expected to be the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park February 15th.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-1 
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.43 (calculated) Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Delta Downs Jackpot

7) Flexibility – Winner of the Jerome Stakes on January 2nd, the Chad Brown-trained colt just needed a race without Mohaymen in the field. He had finished 2nd to Mohaymen in his previous two starts. His time in the Jerome Stakes was 1:42.98 which was faster than El Kabeir’s 1:44.69 in last years race. His sire Bluegrass Cat finished 2nd in the 2006 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, then won the Haskell Invitational that year.

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.29 (calculated) – Nashua Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.93 (calculated) – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93- Remsen Stakes

8) Gift Box – In just his 2nd start, this Chad Brown-trained colt produced a time of 1:43:00 on a sloppy track at Belmont–good for a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. That was faster than American Pharoah’s time of 1:45.78 in the sloppy Rebel Stakes at the same 1 1/16th mile distance. And American Pharoah was a 3 year-old in the Rebel. He finished a respectable 3rd in the Remsen Stakes. So it is still up in the air if this colt is just a good slop-track runner or if he will excel on dry, fast tracks.

Career: 3 Starts 1-0-2-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.00 – Belmont MSW- Race #11
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.17 (calculated) – Remsen Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – Belmont MSW- Race #11

9) Matt King Coal – The Linda Rice-trained colt has put up back-to-back 90+ Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts, breaking his maiden in his last start while posting a 96 Beyer Speed Figure–the best for a 2 year-old colt this year. I thought enough of this colt to place $10 on him in the 1st Kentucky Derby Future Wagers Pool that will pay back $889 if he wins. His pedigree (sire: Cool Coal Man) suggests that he might be better suited for a 1 mile to 1 1/8th mile distances. His next start was supposed to be the Jerome Stakes January 2nd but he developed an illness and won’t be entered.

Matt King Coal runs 1st Place @ Belmont On 10/29/2015

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-1-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.68 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.02 (calculated) – Belmont Park MSW – Race #11
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – Belmont Park MSW – Race #5

10) Greenpointcrusader  Although he finished 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, I generally liked his movement up through the field. He should do well in longer distance races.  The winner of Champagne Stakes where he received a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. His time was 0.37 seconds faster than last year’s Champagne Stakes winner Daredevil (who received a 107 Beyer) on a similar sloppy sealed track. Excellent pedigree: sire Bernardini (Rachel’s Valentina’s sire), grand sire A.P. Indy, great-grand sire Seattle Slew. His sire Bernardini won the 2006 Preakness Stakes, Travers Stakes, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and finished 2nd in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:36.25 – Champagne Stakes
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.48 (calculated) – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 Champagne Stakes

11) Mor Spirit – Bob Baffert’s best 2 year-old colt. His win in the Los Alamitos Futurity was a solid effort and I liked how he rallied off the pace for the win. But his time of 1:43:54 was 2.68 seconds off Dortmund’s time last year. I generally haven’t been that impressed with what the two best trainers in the business–Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher–have in their stables this year as far as 2 year-old colts.

Career: 4 Starts 2-2-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: 1:37.48 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.54 – Los Alamitos Futurity
Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Santa Anita Park MSW – Race #5

12) Airoforce – This Mark Casse-trained colt made the transition from turf to dirt with ease by winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes race on a wet track at Churchill Downs. An impressive effort but I will need to see how he performs on a dry fast track.

Airoforce Kentucky Jockey Club 615 X 400

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0
Best 1 Mile Time: N/A (on dirt)
Best 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.48 – Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

Here are some other horses to keep an eye on are:

Smokey Image who is undefeated in five starts. However, he has yet to race further than 7 furlongs. He might prove to be a better Dirt-Miler than a Derby horse.

Sunny Ridge a gelding (sire: Holy Bull) who is trained by John Servis. Sunny Ridge has finished 2nd in his last two starts that were both wet track races. In his last start he received a 92 Beyer Speed Figure finishing 2nd to Exaggerator in the Delta Downs Jackpot. He could excel on dry fast tracks which he hasn’t run on since his win in the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park on September 6th.

Todd Pletcher’s Zulu and Sudden Surprise are intriguing prospects. Zulu (sire: Bernardini) broke his maiden in his first start at Gulfstream Park on December 5th. He is pegged to start in the 1 Mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes January 2nd. Sudden Surprise had won 5 of 6 starts but has yet to race further than a mile. And his only loss was at the 1 mile distance (a 4th place finish). So he could be more of sprinter than a Derby candidate.


Here are rankings by time for the most common denominator distance of 1 1/16th mile:

  1. Songbird – 1:42.73
  2. Gift B0x – 1:43.00
  3. Matt King Coal – 1:43.02 (calculated)
  4. Brody’s Cause – 1:43.27
  5. Exaggerator – 1:43.43 (calculated)
  6. Mor Spirit – 1:43.54
  7. Nyquist – 1:43.79
  8. Swipe – 1:43.87
  9. Greenpointcrusader – 1:44.48 (calculated)
  10. Airoforce – 1:45.48 (wet race)

Here are the key Derby prep races coming in the month of January:

  • January 2nd -The Jerome Stakes (1 Mile 70 Yards) at Aqueduct
  • January 9th – The Sham Stakes ( 1 Mile) at Santa Anita Park
  • January 16th – The Lecomte Stakes (1 Mile 70 Yards) at The Fairgrounds
  • January 18th – The Smarty Jones Stakes (1 Mile) at Oaklawn Park
  • January 30th – The Holy Bull Stakes ( 1 1/16th Mile) at Gulfstream Park
  • January 30th – The Withers Stakes (1 1/16th Mile) at Aqueduct

-Michael