With 2017 coming to a close, its time to look ahead to another interesting season of thoroughbred horse racing. To put it mildly, 2017 wasn’t one of my favorites as it was marred by inconsistency and the retirement of two great stars of the sport: Songbird and Arrogate. And another star, Gun Runner, will be retired after the Pegasus World Cup that is coming up in 5 weeks.
The sport seems to be heading into an era with no huge star. We’ve had a great run the past four years with California Chrome, American Pharoah, Beholder, Arrogate and Songbird.
Where will the next star of the sport come from? Most likely the 2018 Kentucky Derby class that appears to be a better crop than last year. Who are the leading candidates for stardom? Bolt d’Oro, Good Magic, Copper Bullet, McKinzie and St Patrick’s Day.
But perhaps the next star will be born in the Pegasus World Cup. Along with Gun Runner, the confirmed entries are West Coast, Collected, Gunnevera, Toast of New York, Seeking the Soul andthe 6 year oldmare Stellar Wind. West Coast seems to be the most likely candidate to take a huge leap forward.
At any rate, I will preview and provide updates for the Pegasus World Cup as well as major races on the 2018 Kentucky Derby trail in weeks ahead. The Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on January 6th will most likely be the next race I preview but I will keep an eye on entries for the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on New Year’s Day. The Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn is scheduled for January 15th. All three of these races are point-paying races for the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
Besides these three promising 2-year-olds, there others that are on my radar:
Zatter – The Zayat Stables, Bob Baffert-trained colt who finished 2nd in the Del Mar Futurity. He has produced 84 Beyer Speed Figures in his only two starts. The only question I have is how he will like distance since. His sire was Midnight Lute, who was a two-time Breeders’ Cup champion sprinter.
Sporting Chance – The recent winner of the Hopeful Stakes. The son of Tiznow is being trained by D. Wayne Lukas, a three-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer. If his Hopeful Stakes race is any indication, he’s still a bit raw but D. Wayne will get him straightened out.
Instilled Regard – This 2 year-old son of Arch is being trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. He comes with high expectations, being purchased for $1,050,000 in the Ocala Breeders’ 2-Year-Old March sale. Instilled Regard’s only start came against St Patrick’s Day at Del Mar on Sept 2nd where he finished 2nd to the full brother of American Pharoah. I normally don’t get too excited about a 2-year-old after one start but it was the manner in which he closed that makes me see that he will like added distance.
Solomini– Another Zayat Stables’ Bob Baffert-trained colt. His sire is Curlin so he may end up liking distance better than stablemate Zatter. He broke his maiden at Del Mar September 2nd in his very first start. Keep a lazy eye on this one.
Dak Attack– The Dale Romans-trained son of Ghostzapper. This colt is a sentimental favorite for two reasons. First, I was a big fan of Ghostzapper and his eye-popping Beyer Speed Figures. Secondly, trainer Dale Romans lost promising colt Not This Time last year due to injury. And I will go to my grave believing that Not This Time would have been the 2017 Kentucky Derby winner had he remained healthy. Dak Attack is undefeated in two starts.
Run Away – The Santa Anita Juvenile and Best Pal Stakes winner. He finished 3rd behind Bolt d’Oro and Zatter in the Del Mar Futurity but don’t take him off your radar just yet. The Kaleem Shah owned colt, trained by Simon Callaghan, has won 3 out of 4 career starts.
On the Docket…
My next blog will likely be a preview of the Iroquois Stakes scheduled for September 16th at Churchill Downs. The Iroquois is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
September 3rd 2017 – Updated September 4th 2017 4 PM CST
The 2018 Kentucky Derby trail officially kicks off September 16th with the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. However tomorrow, we have a Labor Day special with two Grade 1 races for 2-year-olds in the Hopeful Stakes and Del Mar Futurity. These two races will give us some insight on who the stars of next year’s Derby Trail class might be. I have a few on my radar already.
Currently, I am very high on the Steve Asmussen-trained colt named Copper Bullet who won the Saratoga Special Stakes (shown below). Same owner/trainer combination as Gun Runner. I first wrote about him back in June. Unfortunately, it was announced yesterday that he will be sidelined due to shin issues and likely miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
I am also very high on three other horses: St Patrick’s Day, Run Away and Zatter.
St Patrick’s Day
The Bob Baffert-trained St Patrick’s Day is a full brother to American Pharoah. He broke his maiden yesterday at Del Mar (shown below)
Owned by Kaleem Shah, trained by Simon Callaghan, the son of Run Away and Hide is a perfect 3-for-3 with his Best Pal Stakes victory (shown below). He’ll be a Labor Day runner in the Del Mar Futurity.
Owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Bob Baffert. The son of Midnight Lute defeated St. Patrick’s Day at Del Mar back on August 20th (shown below) which was the first career start for both colts. Zatter will face Run Away in the Del Mar Futurity.
Below are the post-positions, weights, jockey assignments and odds for the Hopeful Stakes and Del Mar Futurity:
The Hopeful Stakes – 7 furlongs – Race #9 at Saratoga – Post-Time: 4:05 PM CST. Televised by Fox Sports 2 and TVG
Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds 1. Mojovation (118) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 2/1 2. Oskar Blues (118) – Davis/McPeek – 10/1 3. Firenze Fire (122) – Ortiz Jr/Servis – 7/2 4. Psychoanalyze (118) – Franco/Lynch- 15/1 5. National Flag (118) – J.Ortiz/Pletcher – 9/2 6. Sporting Chance (118) – Saez/Lukas – 8/1 7. Givemeaminit (116) – Rosario/Stewart – 10/1 8. Free Drop Billy (118) – Albarado/Romans – 4/1
My Pick: Mojovation is the fastest horse in this field. Free Drop Billy has the 2nd fastest closing speed but he was beaten by Firenze Fire in his last start. If you like a longer shot, Oskar Blues has already put up a decent time of 1:23.99 at this 7 furlong distance at Saratoga. I like a 1 with 3,8 Exacta and win/place/show bets on Mojovation.
My Pick: I thinkRun Away picks up his fourth win in four starts. Zatter will battle but I am concerned that he won’t be able to overcome his outside post-position. If you like longer shots, the Doug O’Neill-trained Gracida with Victor Espinoza on board could surprise and be a good show bet if his odds stay above 10/1.
On the Docket…
My next blog will likely be a Breeders’ Cup Contender ranking update followed by a preview of the Iroquois Stakes scheduled for September 16th at Churchill Downs. The Iroquois is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
I normally don’t pay that much attention to what 2-year-old colts are doing this time of year because they are immature and racing sprints. Their performance doesn’t often translate well when they stretch out to longer distances. August and September seem to be the months where we start seeing the best of the next Derby class emerge. However, a Steve Asmussen-trained 2-year-old named Copper Bullet captured my attention back in May.
The race was a Maiden Special Weight at Churchill Downs on May 25th. With jockey Florent Geroux on board, Cooper Bullet wired the field. What really got my attention is that he won by 8 lengths in a 5 furlong race and really coasted home. You can see this performance on Bloodhorse.com by clicking HERE.
Copper Bullet received a 75 Beyer Speed Figure and a 90 Equibase Speed Figure. These were the second highest of this class at the time. And the 75 Beyer Speed Figure early in a horses 2-year-old campaign is sort of a standard that I noticed that top Derby contenders accomplished each year.
Cooper Bullet has a decent pedigree, but not exactly one that I would prefer a Kentucky Derby winner to possess. His sire, More Than Ready, won the two graded stakes races as a 2-year-old, the Tremont Stakes (Grade 3) and Sanford Stakes (Grade 2) and as a 3-year-old, he won Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes, finished 2nd in both the Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass Stakes and 4th in the Kentucky Derby in 2000.
Cooper Bullet’s grandsire on his dam’s side was Unbridled’s Song. Unbridled’s Song won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Florida Derby, Wood Memorial Stakes and finished 5th in the 1996 Kentucky Derby.
Copper Bullet races tomorrow (this Friday June 30th) at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes where is the the favorite at 8/5 odds.
Another 2-year-old that I anxiously await to see race is the full brother to American Pharoah named St Patrick’s Day who is trained by Bob Baffert. You can see from his first workout at Santa Anita Park that there is a resemblance to his famous brother and that he likes to run.
My New Food, Wine and Travel Blog
As I stated in previous blogs, I was working on a new blog about on food and wine. I decided to expand it to travel and finally got the blog up an running. Here’s the first post: https://mikesfoodwineandtravel.wordpress.com