2017 Penn Derby Preview


September 21st 2017 – Updated September 23rd 4:30

Coming up this Saturday is highly anticipated Pennsylvania Derby at Parx. Although not a “Win and You’re In” Challenge race, the Penn Derby is an important Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds that carries a $1 Million dollar purse.

With no clear-cut favorite for the Eclipse 3 Year Old Male Champion award, perhaps this race will help sort things out. A win by West Coast could propel him to the top of this 3-year-old class.

Below are the post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds:

The Pennsylvania Derby – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #11 at Parx – Post-Time: Saturday September 23rd 4:45 PM CST. Televised by TVG

1. Timeline (122) – Castellano/Brown – 5/1
2. Outplay (119) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 12/1
3. Watch Me Whip (117) – Albarado/Romans – 20/1
4. West Coast (124) – Smith/Baffert – 8/5
5. Irap (122) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 3/1
6. Talk Logistics (117) – Pennington/Plesa – 20/1
7. Game Over (117) – Carmouche/Navarro – 15/1
8. Irish War Cry (122) – Lynch/Motion – 9/2
9. Term of Art (117) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 20/1
10. Giuseppe the Great (117) – Saez/Zito – 20/1

Race Commentary:  Bob Baffert’s West Coast is the horse to beat in this field. That being said, strange things sometimes happen in the Penn Derby. For example, last year when the Chad Brown-trained Connect at 10/1 odds upset the race favorite Nyquist. For this reason, I like Chad Brown’s Timeline in a 1-4-5 Boxed Trifecta (Timeline-West Coast-Irap). 

If you like to play longshots, Todd Pletcher’s Outplay at 12/1 is probably the best longshot with any glimmer of hope at winning. Outplay was a recent winner at this same 9 furlong distance in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga and he has won at Parx before.

For exotics, I would key West Coast to win over, Timeline, Irish War Cry, Irap and Outplay in some 10 cent supers. That is 4 over 1,2,5,8 over 1,2,5,8 over 1,2,5,8.

Early Favorites on the 2018 Kentucky Derby Trail

I recently wrote an article for US racing profiling my three current favorites on the 2018 Kentucky Derby trail: Bolt d’Oro, Copper Bullet and St Patrick’s Day. The article can be accessed by clicking HERE.

My new Food, Wine and Travel Blog

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





2017 Preakness Stakes Preview


May 18th 2017 – Updated May 20th 2017

Below are the entries, post-positions and morning line odds for Saturday’s 142nd Preakness Stakes. Rain doesn’t appear to be in the forecast so that is a handicapping aspect we fortunately won’t have to worry about.

This should be a great race that will be won by either Always Dreaming or Classic Empire. Classic Empire had a really bad trip in the Kentucky Derby but he won’t in this 10-horse Preakness field. There are a few “new shooters” that could finish in the money in Conquest Mo Money and Multiplier but neither are a huge threat to win.

The Preakness Stakes – 9 1/2 furlongs. Race #13 at Pimlico. Post-time: 5:48 PM CST. Televised by NBC.

1) Multiplier (30/1) – The Illinois Derby winner. He laid down an impressive sub 1:48 time in this 9 furlong race. So I don’t understand the 30-1 odds here.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>1st
Sire:  The Factor
Trainer: Brandon Walsh
Jockey:  Joel Rosario
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.98 – 2017 Illinois Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  88 – 2017 Illinois Derby

2) Cloud Computing (12/1) – He ran an impressive 2nd in the Gotham Stakes but finished 3rd in a slow Wood Memorial. Judging how Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry fared in the Kentucky Derby (10th place finish), I don’t see Cloud Computing figuring in my Preakness Superfecta.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>3rd
Sire: Maclean’s Music
Trainer:  Chad Brown
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2006 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.03 (estimated) – 2017 Wood Memorial
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  96 – 2017 Gotham Stakes

3) Hence (20/1)   He is probably a much better horse than his 11th place finish in the Kentucky Derby suggests. He is a deep closer and they typically don’t fare well in the Preakness.

Career: 7 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  7th–>1st-->11th
Sire:  Street Boss
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.10 – 2017 Sunland Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 932017 Sunland Derby

4) Always Dreaming  (4/5) – Always Dreaming is the fastest horse in the Preakness field and the deserved favorite. The son of Bodemeister has a stalking race style and late speed that should put him on or near the lead. I wrote a Derby profile on Always Dreaming for US Racing which can be accessed by clicking HERE.

Career: 6 Starts 4-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Bodemeister (Finished 2nd in the 2012 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher 
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time:  1:47.472017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2017 Kentucky Derby

5) Classic Empire (3/1)  The 2-year-old Male Champion had a bad trip in the Kentucky Derby and really should be commended for salvaging a fourth place finish. He should be more of a factor in the smaller Preakness field. I was very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and first wrote about him back in July (SEE). I see him stalking Always Dreaming in the Preakness but will he have enough to mow him down in the stretch? He is capable and we will see.

Career: 8 Starts 5-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Last 3 starts: 3rd—>1st–>4th
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile (Finished 11th in the 2009 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.93 – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 – 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 

6) Gunnevera (15/1) – His closer style of racing makes him less of a factor in the Preakness unless he is pressed up more on the pace. 

Career: 8 Starts 3-1-1-1   
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>7th
Sire: Dialed In (Finished 4th in 2011 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Mike Smith (1993 Preakness Stakes Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.51 (estimated) – 2017 Florida Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97 – 2017 Fountain of Youth Stakes

7) Term of Art (30/1) – The Doug O’Neill-trained colt is looking to bounce back from a 7th place finish in Santa Anita Derby. He is justifiably 30/1.

Career: 9 Starts 2-1-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>3rd–>7th
Sire:  Tiznow
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:52.16 (estimated) – 2017 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – 2017 San Felipe Stakes 

8) Senior Investment (30/1) – He is coming off a win in the Lexington Stakes but at best, I see him as a mid-pack finisher in the Preakness.

Career: 8 Starts 3-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>6th–>1st
Sire:  Discreetly Mine
Trainer:  Ken McPeek
Jockey: Channing Hill
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.69 (estimated) – 2017 Louisiana Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  89 – 2017 Lexington Stakes

9) Lookin At Lee (10/1)  A deep closer whose racing style, like Hence & Gunnevera, doesn’t match up well for the Preakness. I wrote an article on his longshot chances in the Kentucky Derby for US Racing (SEE). I don’t see a win or 2nd place finish here.

Career: 10 Starts 2-3-2-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 6th–>3rd–>2nd
Sire:  Lookin at Lucky (Won the 2010 Preakness Stakes)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2007 & 2009 Preakness Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.17 (estimated) – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2017 Kentucky Derby

10) Conquest Mo Money (15/1) – He earned enough points to start in the 143rd Kentucky Derby but he wasn’t Triple Crown nominated. Conquest Mo Money has never finished below second in five career starts and beat some quality horses in the Arkansas Derby. His Beyer Speed Figures are ascending.

Career: 5 Starts 3-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Uncle Mo
Trainer: Miguel Hernandez 
Jockey:  Jorge Carreno
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.01 (estimated) – 2017 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2017 Arkansas Derby

Handicapping Advice

The Pimlico straight is 80 feet shorter than Churchill Downs and the Preakness is 1/2 furlong shorter than the Kentucky Derby. The turns at Pimlico have less banking so it is more difficult for horses to accelerate through the turns. All of this works against deep closers.

My gut instinct tells me that Always Dreaming is going to win this race, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Classic Empire pulls the upset. So I think Always Dreaming’s 4/5 morning line odds are a bit too short. These odds are shorter than the live odds (9/10) American Pharoah had for the sloppy 2015 Preakness Stakes.

The Preakness exotic bets usually don’t pay out well unless longshots finish in the top 3 or the favorite gets beat. I generally feel that the best Superfecta candidates are: Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Conquest Mo Money and Multiplier. You can usually count on one of the speed horses having an off day so you will want to throw in one closer. It is difficult to figure out which closer will come out ahead of the others. I generally feel that the closer who gets pressed up a bit on the pace will have the best chance of finishing in the money.  I feel that Gunnevera is the most likely candidate of this group.

Overall, I don’t see this a big payout race unless the totally unexpected happens. So I would play it conservative.


Superfecta betting: I like #4 over 1,5,6,10

Trifecta Betting: I like 4,5 & 10 Boxed


2017 Santa Anita Derby Preview


April 6th 2017

The past twenty years, no Derby prep race has produced more Kentucky Derby winners than the Santa Anita Derby. The Santa Anita Derby has produced six Kentucky Derby winners over this time frame: California Chrome (2014), I’ll Have Another (2012), Giacomo (2006), Charismatic (1999), Real Quiet (1998) and Silver Charm (1997). 

This year’s Santa Anita Derby field seems to be lacking the Derby trail quality that it has enjoyed the past few years. Mastery’s injury indeed hurts here but most of the top 3-year-olds this year are based west of the Mississippi River.

That being said, there is enough talent to make this interesting and especially a nice size field of 13. I generally think this will be the most exciting, unpredictable race of the three big Derby preps this weekend. Below are the post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds.

The Santa Anita Derby  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #8 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 6:12 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network & TVG

1. Term of Art  – Baze/O’Neill – 12/1 
2. Reach the World  – Smith/Baffert – 5/1  
3. Battle of Midway – Nakatani/Hollendorfer – 5/1 
4. Comma Sister – Ocampo/Papaprodromou – 50/1  
5. So Conflated – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 15/1
6. American Anthem – Garcia/Baffert – 5/1
7. Kimbear – Talamo/Kruljac – 12/1
8. Gormley – Espinoza/Shirreffs – 9/2 
9. Iliad – Prat/O’Neill – 7/2 
10. Milton Freewater – Pereira/O’Neill – 30/1

11. Irish Freedom – Bejarano/Baffert – 20/1
12. Midnight Pleasure – Theriot/Ruis – 30/1
13. Royal Mo  Stevens/Shirreffs  – 10/1

Race Commentary:  Trainers Doug O’Neill, Bob Baffert and John Shirreffs all have multiple entries. So when handicapping this race, I had to determine each trainer’s best horse to help sort out this field of 13. On recent form, for Bob Baffert, its Reach the World. For Doug O’Neill, its Iliad. And for John Shirreffs, it’Gormley. Throw in Jerry Hollendorfer’s Battle of Midway and you have four horses to work with for your exotic bets.

Royal Mo and American Anthem are two talented, fast colts who are coming off disappointing finishes in the Rebel Stakes. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back at a track where they had previous success. Doug O’Neill’s Term of Art is a horse who has improved in each of this last three starts at Santa Anita Park, finishing 5th in the Sham Stakes, 4th in the Robert B. Lewis and 3rd in the San Felipe Stakes.

My Prediction: There are too many variables and uncertainties in this race for me to predict a finishing order. The pace and jockey’s race strategies will go a long way in deciding the outcome. I expect to see a few surprises and my intuition tells me that this race my come down to a battle between Iliad and Reach the World.

Reach the World displayed a nice closing speed in his last start and his second place finish by a neck was mainly a byproduct of him getting tied up briefly in traffic. So I like a Boxed Exacta of Iliad and Reach the World to play it safe but I really like Reach the World as the surprise winner here.

On the docket…

A preview of the Wood Memorial. My preview of the Blue Grass Stakes can be accessed by clicking HERE.


The Big ‘Cap and San Felipe Stakes Previews


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.


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.


Holy Bull, Robert B. Lewis and San Antonio Stakes Previews

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

February 3rd 2017

If you are sick of all the pre-Super Bowl shows and interviews, then tomorrow the sport of horse racing offers three interesting races, two of which are points-paying races on the Kentucky Derby trail. And the other, a very competitive race on paper in the older horse division.

I have arranged them by their scheduled post times with the first two, the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and Holly Bull Stakes, are 3 year-old races for 2017 Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Points will be awarded as follows: 1st place – 10 points, 2nd place – 4 points, 3rd place – 2 points and 4th place – 1 point.

The Robert B. Lewis Stakes – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #2 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 3:00 PM CST.  Televised by TVG

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Royal Mo (120) – Espinoza/Shirreffs – 5/2
2. Irap (120) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 3/1
3. Dangerfield (122) – Desormeaux/O’Neill – 7/2
4. Term of Art (124) – Baze/O’Neill – 9/2
5. Sheer Flattery (120) – Smith/Hollendorfer – 2/1

Race Commentary: This race should come down to Royal Mo and Sheer Flattery and their respective jockeys Victor Espinoza and Mike Smith. Royal Mo is quicker and should get out into the early lead. Whether he can hold off Sheer Flattery is very questionable. Sheer Flattery has already raced at this 8 1/2 furlong distance and is the more accomplished distance runner. So I like Sheer Flattery in this one. So weigh a straight win bet of Sheer Flattery versus a straight 5-1 exacta (Sheer Flattery over Royal Mo). Or how split the difference and make both bets?

The Holy Bull Stakes  – 1 1/16th Mile – Race #12 at Gulfstream Park – Post-Time: 4:35 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Gunnevera (122) – Castellano/Sano -9/2 
2. Perro Rojo (116) – Juarez/Zito – 30/1   
3. Classic Empire (122) – Leparoux/Casse – 3/5 
4. Talk Logistics (116) – Lopez/Plesa – 12/1
5. Irish War Cry (120) – Rosario/Motion – 15/1
6. Fact Finding (120) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 6/1  
7. Shamsaan (116) – Saez/McLaughlin – 20/1
8. Cavil (116) – Lezcano/McLaughlin – 15/1
9. Fire for Effect (116) – Lanerie/Romans – 20/1

Race Commentary:  The 2 year-old Eclipse Award winner Classic Empire should win this one. Who rounds out the Superfecta is anybody’s guess in this 9 horse field. Gunnevera, Fact Finding and Irish War Cry seem to be the best bets here. However, I think Gunnevera will be hurt by drawing the rail. So I like an Exacta keying Classic Empire to win over two horses: Irish War Cry and Fact Finding. That is 3 over 5,6.

And finally, an older division horse race with a few horses that would have been ideal candidates for the Pegasus World Cup. Expect the top finishers in the San Antonio Stakes to be entries in the Santa Anita Handicap in March.

The San Antonio Stakes – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #8 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 6:00 PM CST.  Televised by TVG.

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Hoppertunity (125) – Prat/Baffert – 2/1
2. Avanti Bello (120) – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 12/1
3. Prospect Park (120) – Arroyo/Sise – 10/1
4. El Huerfano (120) – Espinoza/Miller – 12/1
5. Mor Spirit (122) – Smith/Baffert – 3/1
6. Dalmore (122) – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 8/1
7. Accelerate (125) – Baze/Sadler – 5/2
8. Hard Aces (122) – Gonzalez/Sadler – 6/1

Race Commentary: This will be a very interesting race since Melatonin wasn’t entered as previously expected. I have no idea who will win this one but I expect Hoppertunity and Mor Spirit to land somewhere in the Superfecta. Both Accelerate and Dalmore have put in good times in their workouts leading up to this race. Concerning with Dalmore was the fact that he petered out towards the end of the 8 1/2 furlong San Pasqual Stakes and lost 2nd place to Accelerate. And this race will be 9 furlongs. Victor Espinoza is riding El Huerfano but I don’t expect him to be much of a factor judging from his race history and recent workouts.

Hard Aces is a quality horse but I like him better at 10 furlongs or longer. Avanti Bello finished 5th in the Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos against California Chrome in a weak field. He finished 3rd in his last start, a claiming race at Santa Anita Park. Prospect Park finished behind Accelerate and Dalmore in the San Pasqual Stakes in his last start.

So perhaps a $5 boxed Trifecta of Hoppertunity, Mor Spirit and Accelerate (1,5,7) might be your best bet. This would cost $30. 

 On the docket…

One of my next blogs might be a preview the Sam F. Davis Stakes on February 11th that is expected to include McCraken and/or updated Kentucky Derby contender rankings if I feel that they need to be updated after this weekend’s results. Stay tuned!


2016 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Post-Positions, Odds and Analysis


November 3rd 2016

Below are the post-positions and morning line odds for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race, a sneak preview of the 2017 Kentucky Derby Trail contenders. Post time is 4:43 PM CST this Saturday and the race will be televised on NBC Sports.

Overall, this is an extremely talented field and a much better crop of 2 year-olds than last year. I feel that the race could be won by as many as four horses: Not This Time, Classic Empire, Gormley and Klimt. I think Klimt will be challenged by drawing the rail. If he has the stamina, he could end up wiring this field. But I feel that the most likely winner will be either Classic Empire or Not This Time. There should be enough skepticism about both of these two horses since Classic Empire had starting gate issues two races back and Not This Time’s last race was run in muddy conditions. And starting in the 7 hole, Gormley won’t have a ground-saving trip like he had in the FrontRunner Stakes where he wired the field from #1 post  I would will probably make a boxed Trifecta bet with 4 horses: 1-5-7-10. A Boxed Superfecta or Boxed Exacta bet will be hard to hit or not pay out very much unless your outlay is large.

2016 Breeders Cup Juvenile Post-Positions and Odds

1) Klimt (6/1)  Owned by Kaleem Shah and trained by Bob Baffert–the same combination that produced Bayern and Dortmund. He lost to Gormley in the FrontRunner Stakes but gained valuable experience sitting off the pace as a stalker. Klimt’s sire Quality Road won the Florida Derby, Met Mile, Donn Handicap, Woodward Stakes. Quality Road suffered two quarter cracks that prevented him from competing in all three legs of the Triple Crown. 

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Quality Road
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Fastest 1 Mile Time: 1:37.51* – estimated time from 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.05 (calculated) – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Del Mar Futurity

2) Syndergaard (6/1)  He lost by a nose to Practical Joke in the Champagne. This Todd Pletcher-trainee has an average Beyer Speed Figure of 88 in 3 starts. However, I am concerned that he will like distance. His sire Majesticperfection was a sprinter that didn’t race until he was 4 years old but won 5 out of 6 sprint races.

Career: 3 Starts 2-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Majesticperfection
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 Mile Time: 1:34.69 (calculated) – 2016 Champagne Stakes
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2016 Funny Cide Stakes

3) Term of Art (30/1) – The Doug O’Neill-trained 2 year-old will be the 2nd longshot in this race by bettors. His times are pedestrian for this very talented field. However, he is a Tiznow colt so expect him to improve as he stretches out.

Career: 3 Starts 1-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Tiznow (Finished 16th in 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Doug O’Neil (2012 and 2016 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joe Talamo
Fastest 1 Mile Time:  1:38.39 (calculated) – Del Mar MSW 8/25/16
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure:  Unknown

4) Theory (12/1) When it comes to the pedigree, trainer and jockey combination, Theory is probably the most attractive 2 year-old colt. Trained by Todd Pletcher who won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver. Ridden by jockey John Velazquez who won the 2011 Kentucky Derby on Animal Kingdom. Theory has raced twice at the 6 furlong distance and received 85 Beyer Speed Figures for both races. His sire Gemologist went undefeated in five starts heading into the 2012 Kentucky Derby where he finished 16th. 

Career: 2 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Sire: Gemologist (Finished 16th in 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Javier Castellano 
Fastest 1 Mile Time:  N/A
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 85 – 2016 Futurity Stakes

5) Classic Empire* (4/1) – American Pharoah’s half-brother. Looks like Blinkers On helped him through his gate issues in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity. I have been very high on the Pioneerof the Nile colt and wrote about him back in July (SEE). He is right where I thought he would be after his hiccup in the Hopeful Stakes.

Career: 4 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>DNF–>1st
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile  (Finished 2nd in 2009 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 Mile Time:  1:36.89*  – time from 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.412016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity

6) Three Rules (8/1) – He has owned the 2 year-old races at Gulfstream Park thus far and is the current winnings leader for 2 year-old colts at $680,640. His sire Gone Astray never raced further than 9 furlongs and his biggest win was the 2009 Pennsylvania Derby. He appears to be the early favorite for the Florida Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Gone Astray
Trainer: Jose Pinchin
Jockey: Cornelio Velasquez
Fastest Mile Time: 1:37.81 – 2016 Florida In Reality Stakes
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:44.63 – 2016 Florida In Reality Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2016 Florida Dr Fagar Stakes

7) Gormley* (5/1)  He comes from the same owner/trainer combination that produced Zenyatta. He earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure with his win in the 2nd start of his career–the FrontRunner Stakes (shown below)–beating the race favorite Klimt. So far, this is the highest Beyer Speed Figure for a 2 year-old at more than a mile distance. My only concern is, he probably won’t be able to run like he did in FrontrRunner Stakes and win a 10 furlong race. But give him credit, he used the rail post to his advantage and didn’t tire at the end. Expect many more Gormley vs Klimt battles on the west coast in the future.

Career: 2 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: N/A–>1st–>1st
Sire: Malibu Moon
Trainer: John Sherreffs (2005 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2002, 2014 & 2015 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest Mile Time: 1:36.87* – time from 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.57 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 – 2016 FrontRunner Stakes

8) Star Empire (30/1) – The British colt has never raced further than 7 furlongs. He finished 2nd to Theory in the Futurity Stakes shown below. He will be the longshot in this field with live odds greater than 30-1.

Career: 4 Starts 2-1-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins:0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Foxwedge
Trainer: Wesley Ward
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Fastest Mile Time:  N/A
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time:  N/A

9) Practical Joke* (6/1) The Chad Brown-trainee now has two Grade 1 stakes wins. His time of 1:34.68 in the Champagne Stakes was a great time, even considering that this was a one turn race. However, like Syndergaard whom he beat by a nose, neither have competed in a two-turn race thus far. This is why both weren’t ranked higher in my previous rankings. Plus, East Coast colts haven’t fared as well as their West Coast counterparts the past few years on the Derby trail. Practical Joke is the son of Into Mischief. I have some pedigree concerns and especially beyond 9 furlongs. 

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 Mile Time:  1:34.682016 Champagne Stakes
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 88 – 2016 Champagne Stakes

10) Not This Time* (7/2)  Dale Romans is very high on this Giant’s Causeway colt, calling him “spooky good”. He reminds him of his half-brother Brody’s Cause. He is also Liam’s Map half-brother, the two sharing the same dam (mother) in Miss Macy Sue.  He has won his last two starts by nearly 19 lengths and seems to be able to kick it into a higher gear with great acceleration in the final couple of furlongs. We probably won’t get the full understanding of what he can really do until he races against some stiffer competition.

Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0

Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>1st

Sire: Giant’s Causeway
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Fastest 1 Mile Time: 1:35.99 – 2016 Ellis Park MSW 8/12/16
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:45.22 (muddy conditions) – 2016 Iroquios Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 86 – 2016 Iroquios Stakes

11) Lookin At Lee (20/1) – Steve Asmussen’s best 2 year-old colt thus far. He has finished 2nd in his last two starts to Not This TIme and Classic Empire.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Lookin’ At Lucky
Trainer: Steve Asmussen 
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Fastest 1 1/16th Mile Time: 1:43.89 (calculated) – 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 83- 2016 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity