2016 Woodward Stakes Preview and the looming Armageddon in the Breeders’ Cup Classic

September 1st 2016

Horse racing is very much a “What have you done for me lately” sport. California Chrome and Arrogate have laid down gauntlet with great performances the past few weekends, raising the bar for the looming Armageddon this fall in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It’s the Met Mile record holder Frosted’s turn to impress us once more, to assure us that this is more than a two horse battle. Frosted is the 1/2 odds favorite in the upcoming Woodward Stakes this Saturday at Saratoga. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network between 4-5 PM CST.

Last month, Frosted won the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga by two lengths with a time of 1:47.77 (107 Beyer Speed Figure). It was a nice win but somewhat disappointing coming off his 123 Beyer Speed Figure and track record (1:32.73) that he set in the Metropolitan Mile (aka Met Mile) back in June.

The Woodward Stakes is the same 9 furlong (1 1/8th Mile) distance as The Whitney. For Frosted, any time higher than 1:47 flat on a dry, fast track should be viewed as a disappointment. I really think he needs to run in the mid 1:46 range to be still considered a huge threat to beat California Chrome and now Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The track record for the Whitney Stakes is 1:46.64 set in 2007 by Lawyer Ron. The Woodward Stakes track record is 1:45.80 and is shared by two horses: Forego (1976) and Dispersal (1990).

The Tapit gray colt’s biggest opponent in this race will be himself and time.

The Woodward Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile – Saturday September 3rd – Race #10 at Saratoga – Post-Time: 4:46 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network

Post Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Shaman Ghost (120) – Castellano/Jerkens – 12-1
2. Breaking Lucky (120) – Contrejas/Baker – 20-1    
3. Frosted (124) – Rosario/McLaughlin – 1-2  
4. Bradester (122) – Bravo/Kenneally – 6-1 
5. Catholic Cowboy (118) – Saez/Zito – 20-1
6. Samraat (118) – J.Ortiz/Violette – 10-1
7. Tale of Verve (118) – Velazquez/Stewart – 30-1
8. Tapin Mojo (118) – Franco/Chatterpaul – 50-1  
9. Mubtaahij (118) – I.Ortiz/McLaughlin- 5-1

My Prediction: Frosted draws a favorable inside post but has early speed next to him in Bradester. I don’t think this one will be close. The real battle will be for 2nd place between Bradester, Samraat and Mubtaahij. My projected order of finish: 1) Frosted, 2) Bradester, 3) Samraat, 4) Mubtaahij, 5) Shaman Ghost, 6) Tale of Verve, 8) Catholic Cowboy, 9) Tapin Mojo

Looming Armageddon at Breeders’ Cup Classic

Unless Frosted dazzle’s us in the Woodward, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic appears to be two horse show between California Chroma and Arrogate. One thing that I want to address is this willingness to discount Arrogate’s recent performance in the Travers Stakes. Sure, Arrogate could be a “flash in the pan,” never capable of replicating his awesome feat last Saturday where he set Travers Stakes and Saratoga track record with a time of 1:59.36 in a mile and a quarter race.

Don’t be so foolish enough to not believe Arrogate is a huge threat to California Chrome in the BCC. Arrogate drew the rail in the Travers. Yes, he had a near perfect trip. But remember that he had never raced further than 8 1/2 furlongs (1 1/16th mile) and what I thought he would do, he didn’t. I thought he would have to get out into the lead early to avoid getting hemmed in along the rail and then he would tire and fade down the stretch in the final furlong.

Arrogate did exactly what I thought he would do early on (get off to a good start and take the lead early) but then he did something few horses can do. And that is run final quarter mile fraction that was almost as fast as the fast opening fraction he laid down. Arrogate’s opening quarter mile fraction was 23.61. His final quarter mile fraction was 23.84!

Show me one horse still in active training that can run a final quarter-mile fraction that fast in a 10 furlong (1 1/4 mile) race. Guess what? You can’t. American Pharoah’s final fraction in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was 24.60. California Chrome’s best final fraction is 24.44 accomplished in the Pacific Classic a couple of weekends ago. Melatonin did a 24.27 in the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita back in June. Beholder did a 24.65 in the 2015 Pacific Classic.

Arrogate may never be able to replicate his performance in the Travers Stakes, fair enough. But all he would have to do is be close and he may have the Breeders’ Classic field covered. I’m in the camp that it is easier to accomplish something you’ve accomplished before than to accomplish something you have never accomplished.



2015 Travers Stakes Preview: Should American Pharoah be on upset alert?

Today at 4:46 PM CST on NBC, American Pharoah gets a chance to extend his 8 race winning streak in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. This 1 1/4 mile race has a $1.6 million dollar purse and will be a good gauge for the Breeders’ Cup Classic as it is run at the same 1 1/4 mile distance. Below are post positions, jockey/trainer and morning line odds:

1. Upstart – Ortiz Jr./Violette – 15-1
2. American Pharoah – Espinoza/Baffert – 1-5
3. Mid Ocean – Franco/Weaver – 50-1
4. Texas Red – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 8-1
5. Frammento – Ortiz/Zito – 30-1
6. Frosted – Rosario/McLaughlin – 6-1
7. Keen Ice – Castellano/Romans – 12-1
8. Tale of Verve – Stevens/Stewart – 30-1
9. King of New York – Leparoux/McPeek – 50-1
10. Smart Transition – Velazquez/Shirreffs – 20-1

Saratoga has a history of producing upsets and many felt Bob Baffert should skip the Travers and run American Pharoah in the Woodward Stakes next weekend. As a result, a few members of the horse racing media (Kevin Cox, Mike Watchmaker and Michelle Yu) are calling for an upset today and predicting Texas Red as the race winner. My opinion? It is not going to happen. American Pharoah will prevail again.

Texas Red was my early Kentucky Derby favorite before his injury back in February. As a 2-year-old, he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race (shown below) the ability as a closer that would make him a serious threat in a 1 1/4 mile race like the Kentucky Derby and especially with fast opening fractions. But he has had to slowly work his way back from injury and I just don’t think his workout times and two previous post-injury races (Dwyer Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes) have given me any cause for upset alarm today.

Texas Red beat Frosted in the Jim Dandy Stakes (video click HERE) but this was a 1 1/8 mile race and like Frosted’s long strides to edge out Texas Red in a 1 1/4 mile race.

My predicted finishing order (I think the Saratoga track handicapper has got this one right): 1) American Pharoah, 2) Frosted, 3) Texas Red, 4) Keen Ice, 5) Upstart, 6) Smart Transition, 7) Tale of Verve, 8) Frammento, 9) King of New York, 10) Mid Ocean


Belmont Stakes Preview & Triple Crown Anticipation

The final leg of the Triple Crown will be the Belmont Stakes this Saturday June 6th. Post time will be 5:50PM CST and the race will be aired on NBC. Below are the post positions and morning line odds.

1 Mubtaahij – 10-1  Jockey I. Ortiz/Trainer de Kock
2 Tale of Verve – 15-1  Jockey Stevens/Trainer Stewart
3 Madefromlucky – 12-1  Jockey Castellano/Trainer Pletcher
4 Frammento – 30-1  Jockey Smith/Trainer Zito
5 American Pharoah – 3-5  Jockey Espinoza/Trainer Baffert
6 Frosted – 5-1  Jockey Rosario/Trainer McLaughlin
7 Keen Ice – 20-1  Jockey Desormeaux/Trainer Romans
8 Materiality – 6-1  Jockey Velazquez/Trainer Pletcher

Who do I like to win? Although history is not on American Pharoah’s side, his chances are better than one would think. Even though the last 13 Triple Crown contenders failed to win the Belmont Stakes, 11 out of 30 horses who won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and competed in the Belmont Stakes, won the race to complete the Triple Crown. That is a percentage of 36.7%. The average finish of all 30 horses was 2.43, so that is essentially 2nd or 3rd finish.

The only horse in this field that I feel is capable of beating American Pharoah is Frosted but I think American Pharoah will prevail. But never count out a Todd Pletcher horse and Materiality is his best horse for this race.

At 3/5 odds for American Pharoah, a $2 bet will only pay $3.20. I expect the live odds to be about 3/5 or 4/5 at post time. I think a 5-6 straight Exacta would be a good bet for this race.

As far as Trifecta betting, 5-6-ALL. That is 5 over 6 over 1,2,3,4,7 & 8. This $10 Trifecta will cost $60. For Superfecta betting, I would do a Superfecta wheel keying American Pharoah to win with the field and hope that some high odds horses finish in the money.

Another bet to consider if you want to hedge your bets and potentially get a huge payout if the unexpected occurs, is placing a 10-Cent Superfecta using the entire field. A 10-Cent bet using the 8 horse field would cost $168. You are guaranteed to get some of that money back and you could get real lucky like in 2002 when the Belmont Stakes paid out $145,334 for a $2 bet. If this was applied as a 10-Cent bet it would pay back $7,266.