Thanksgiving Weekend Spectacular: Clark Handicap, The Remsen, Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and Cigar Mile Previews

 2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

November 24th 2016

If you are suffering from Breeders’ Cup withdrawal, Thanksgiving Weekend provides some very interesting racing between two tracks: Aqueduct and Churchill Downs. On tap are two key points-paying races on the road to the 2017 Kentucky Derby: The Remsen and the Kentucky Derby Jockey Club Stakes. Plus a return of a few participants from the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in two older handicap division races: The Clark Handicap and The Cigar Mile. Note that the Cigar Mile features Anchor Down, a horse who beat the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Champion Tamarkuz in his last start.

Friday

The Clark Handicap

If you were a little disappointed with the overall competitiveness of the Breeders’ Cup Classic that essentially became a two-horse race, the Clark Handicap promises to deliver a more exciting, wide-open race. The field includes two previous champions of this event: Hoppertunity (2014) and Effinex (2015). Hoppertunity and Effinex both competed in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic finishing 4th and 7th respectively. Also entered, the runner-up in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile–Gun Runner. 

But running a bit under the radar at 8/1 Morning Line odds, is the impressive winner of the Woodward Stakes–Shaman Ghost. Shaman Ghost was scratched from this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic due to spiking a temperature.

The Clark Handicap  – 1 1/8th Mile – Friday November 25th – Race #11 at Churchill Downs – Post-Time: 4:56 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Gun Runner (118) – Geroux/Asmussen – 4-1
2. Effinex (123) – Alvarado/Jerkens – 4-1    
3. Are You Kidding Me (119) – Garcia/Attfield- 15-1 
4. Shaman Ghost (122) – Castellano/Jerkens – 8-1 
5. Hawaakom (116) – Mena/O’Neill – 20-1  
6. Noble Bird (121) – Castellano/Casse -7-2 
7. Breaking Lucky (118) – Contreras/Baker – 8-1
8. Mr. Z (114) – Santana Jr./Lukas – 30-1  
9. Hoppertunity (124) – Velazquez/Baffert – 5-2 
10. Prayer For Relief (115) – Albarado/Romans – 30-1  

Race Commentary:  If Shaman Ghost is 100%, I like him for the win. Hoppertunity can be penciled in for at least a 4th place finish since he has never finished below 4th in a graded stakes race during his entire career. Effinex can be inconsistent. He runs best at Belmont Park and tends to perform best in 10 furlong races. The 9 furlong distance is where Gun Runner runs his best races. So I like a 1,2,4,9 Boxed Superfecta and hope the longest odds horse wins to make the payout better. 

Saturday

The Remsen Stakes

The Remsen Stakes has been run since 1904. Often times, the winner of this race is the winterbook favorite to win the following year’s Kentucky Derby. Last year, the Remsen was won last year by Mohaymen who finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby.

The Remsen Stakes  – 1 1/8th Mile – Saturday November 26th – Race #8 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 2:20 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Tellmeafookystory – Carmouche/Pletcher – 20/1
2. Newman – Rosario/Albertrani – 10/1   
3. Hookup – Franco/Cannizzo  – 12/1 
4. Takaful – Albarado/McPeek  – 7/5
5. Tale of Silence – Lezcano/Tagg – 30/1
6. Win With Pride – J.Ortiz/Pletcher – 15/1
7. You’re to Blame – Castellano/C.Brown – 10/1
8. Mo Town – Velazquez/Dutrow – 5/1
9. No Dozing (122) – Centeno/Delacour – 4/1
10. Lead Astray (116) – Gallardo/McGaughey  – 15/1 

Race Commentary:  I offer no betting advice on this one. All of these horses are stretching out to 9 furlongs for the very first time and a number have never raced past one mile. Then there is the one-turn vs two-turn factor. Two horses that have run well in two-turn races are Win With Pride and No Dozing. No Dozing is probably the most accomplished horse in the field, Takaful the most talented.

The Cigar Mile 

Named after two-time Horse of the Year, Cigar, this one mile race offers a $500,000 purse that always seems to attract a few high-profile horses. Last year, it was Tonalist and Mshawish. This year, it’s the Kelso Handicap winner Anchor Down and the Pennsylvania Derby winner Connect.

The Cigar Mile Handicap  – 1 Mile – Saturday November 26th – Race #10 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 3:20 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Anchor Down (121) – J. Ortiz/Pletcher – 9/5
2. Economic Model (116) – Rosario/Brown – 6/1   
3. Realm (114) – Lopez/Tagg – 15/1
4. Mylute (114) – Cancel/Nicks – 30/1
5. Ocean Knight (119) – Velazquez/McLaughlin – 10/1
6. Tale of S’avall (114) – Franco/Tagg – 15/1
7. Connect (118) – Castellano/C.Brown – 3/1
8. War Story (116) – Gallardo/Serey – 20/1
9. Threefiveindia (116) – I.Ortiz Jr/C.Brown – 10/1
10. Divining Rod (116) – Centeno/Delacour  – 6/1

Race Commentary:  Anchor Down has produced two of the top four Beyer Speed Figures in one mile races in 2016: 108 in the Kelso Handicap and 105 in the Westchester Stakes. Both races were at Belmont Park. Frosted’s 123 in the Met Mile and Tamarkuz’s 107 in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile were the other top 4 Beyers in one mile races. Interesting to note, Anchor Down’s winning time of 1:32.90 in the Kelso Handicap was just 0.17 seconds off Frosted’s Met Mile winning time of 1:32.73. Same track, same distance. Essentially, this equals one length. So expect Anchor Down’s live odds to shorten. But note that Anchor Down has never won at Aqueduct: he has a 3rd and a 4th place finish in two starts.

War Story competed in the Breeders’ Cup Classic three weeks ago and finished 8th. Anyway, I like a 1 over 5,7 over 5,7 Trifecta (Anchor Down for the win with Connect & Ocean Knight finishing in 2nd and 3rd in either order). 

Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

Inaugurated in 1920, five horses that have won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes went on the following spring to win the Kentucky Derby: Super Saver (2010), Cannonade (1974), Twenty Grand (1931), Clyde Van Dusen (1929) and Reigh Count (1928). Last year, this race produced four Kentucky Derby runners in Gun Runner, Mor Spirit, Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready. Gun Runner finished 4th in last year’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes but finished a surprising 3rd in the Kentucky Derby after giving Nyquist a real battle through 9 of the 10 furlongs.

The Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes  – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday November 26th – Race #11 at Aqueduct – Post-Time: 4:56 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/Horse/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Han Sense  – Leparoux/Maker – 10-1
2. Total Tap – Santana Jr/Asmussen  – 8-1
3. Wildshot  – Lanerie/Arnold – 4-1
4. Romeo O Romeo – Landerous/Williamson  – 15-1
5. Silent Decree – Geroux/Byrne – 15-1   
6. Just Move On – Cannon/Byrne – 5-1 
7. Shareholder Value – Brighmohan/Amoss  
8. Jocker Justice – Rosario/West – 30-1
9. Warrior’s Club – Albarado/Lukas – 8-1
10. Perro Rojo – Court/Zito – 30/1
11. McCraken – Hernandez/Wilkes – 7/2
12. Uncontested – Hill/Catalano – 5/1

Race Commentary: After a 6th place finish in the Iroquois Stakes, Just Move On has improved in two subsequent 8 1/2 furlong races: a 2nd place finish and a win in his last start in an allowance race at Churchill Downs at this same distance. His winning time of 1:44.12 was a decent time. If he can duplicate or improve on this time, he will likely be the winner of this race if run on a dry, fast track. McCraken will likely be the live race favorite after an impressive win in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Overall, I think this race comes down to McCraken and Just Move On for the win. So I like a 6-11 Boxed Exacta. Wildshot is probably my top choice to round out a Trifecta since he finished almost three lengths ahead of the most recent Delta Downs Jackpot Winner Gunnevera in his last start–the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity–back on October 8th.


Also we have the first 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool that will run from Thursday, November 24th at 11 AM CST until Sunday, November 27th at 5 PM CST. You can access the live odds by clicking HERE. I will provide commentary on the live odds by clicking HERE.

–Michael

2016 Breeders Cup Classic Post-Positions, Odds and Analysis

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October 31st 2016 – Updated November 5th 2016

Below are the post-positions and morning line odds for the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic. Post-time for the race will be 7:35 PM CST and it will be aired on NBC. Found and Highland Reel, who were cross-entered into both the Breeders Cup Turf and Breeders Cup Classic, will opt for the Turf race. Nyquist was also entered in The Classic but developed a puffy ankle after an October 27th workout and was scratched. Consequently, he has been retired. Gun Runner was cross-entered in both the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile and the Breeders Cup Classic but will opt for the Dirt Mile. Shaman Ghost has been scratched.

Overall, I would recommend a 4-10 Boxed Exacta as I think the race will come down to California Chrome and Arrogate. Arrogate drew the outside post and will have to come across traffic. If Arrogate had an inside post and Chrome and outside post, I would pick Arrogate to win. Now I think it will be a toss-up but California Chrome will have to have the lead at the three-quarters pole if he expects to win.

2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Post-Positions & Odds

1) Effinex (15/1) He finished 2nd to Hoppertunity in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race. He also finished 2nd to American Pharoah in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. For 2016, it is very clear that he has slipped a bit, only capturing wins in the Oaklawn and Suburban Handicaps. The Jimmy Jerkens-trained 5 year old can be enigmatic at times and prone to get off to bad starts (see 2016 Stephen Foster Handicap). But then he can bounce back with a nice performance like he had in the Suburban Handicap in July. Note that Effinex has never finished below 4th in a 10 furlong (1 1/4th mile) race. Jockey Mike Smith seems to get the best out of him but Smith will ride Arrogate in The Classic. 

Career: 26 Starts 9-3-4-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 8 Starts  3-2-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 103.3
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens 
Jockey:  Flavian Prat
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.76 (calculated) – 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Oaklawn Handicap

Career Best Beyer Speed: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic

2) Frosted* (5/1) –  I feel that the added rest after his disappointing Woodward performance will do him good. I still think he would be better suited for the Dirt Mile but that will be a tough race as well. He set the track record in the 124th running of the Metropolitan Handicap with a time of 1:32.73 that resulted in the highest Beyer Speed Figure (123) of his career and the highest of any thoroughbred thus far in 2016. As he has stretched out past a mile, his Beyer Speed Figures have declined (107 in the Whitney Stakes and 105 in the Woodward Stakes). But he got off to a bad start in the Woodward Stakes and that may have cost him a win. 

Career: 18 Starts 6-6-2-2    Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-0-1-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 111.7
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 103 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 123 – 2016 Metropolitan Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 123 2016 Metropolitan Handicap

3) Keen Ice  (20/1) –  The only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion. He shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). He also finished 4th in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic. However, this year will be a taller order. Keen Ice is coming back from a long layoff due to injury and he finished 3rd in a mile allowance race at Belmont on October 7th. 

Career: 17 Starts 2-1-4-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Start  1-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>8th–>3rd
Sire: Uncle Mo  
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano ( 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

4)  California Chrome* (1/1) – He’s now undefeated in six starts in 2016. The all-time North American leader in race earnings with $13.4 million dollars. He is currently ranked #1 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings (SEE). His win in the Pacific Classic was arguably the best performance of his career. 

Career: 24 Starts 15-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  4-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 112
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.93 (calculated) – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic & 2016 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 113 – 2016 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic & 2016 Pacific Classic

5) Win the Space (30/1) A third place finish behind California Chrome and Dortmund in the San Diego Handicap was probably par for the course but I thought he ran a better in the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita. 

Career: 14 Starts 3-1-4-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-1-0-0 
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>DNF–>3rd   Average Beyer Speed Figure: ?
Sire:Pulpit
Trainer: George Papaprodromou
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:00.03 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 107 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

6) Melatonin* (12/1) –  The Rodney Dangerfield of thoroughbreds because he gets no respect. At the Classic distance of a miler and a quarter, he is undefeated in two starts and has an average Beyer Speed Figure of 108. The surprise winner of the 2016 Santa Anita Handicap. He proved his Big ‘Cap performance was no fluke by finishing 2nd behind Effinex in the Oaklawn Handicap and completing the Big ‘Cap-Gold Cup Double. His win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita assures him a spot in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is trained by David Hofmans who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1996 with Alphabet Soup. He was originally pegged to start in the Pacific Classic but he wasn’t entered due to coming off a persistent illness. However, he is training very well currently. 

Career: 13 Starts 5-3-3-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 106.7
Sire: Kodiak Kowboy
Trainer: David Hofmans (1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Joe Talamo
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.79 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

7) War Story (30/1) – Although he was given 30/1 morning line odds, it really should have been 50/1. War Story has never finished in the Top 4 in a 10 furlong race and has yet to win a Grade 1 race. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby and 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic. He most recent performance, a 2nd place finish in the Pa Derby Champion Stakes, is shown below.

Career: 14 Starts 3-3-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  0-0-0-0 
Last 3 starts: 1st–>7th–>2nd
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Mario Serey Jr.
Jockey: Scott Speith
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:03.77 (calculated) – 2016 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Thistletown Allowance Race 7/30/16

8) Shaman Ghost (20/1) – After rewatching his Woodward Stakes performance and also learning that had a post-race cough after his disappointing 5th place finish in the Suburban Handicap, I am once again a believer in this Jimmy Jerkens-trained son of Ghostzapper. When you watch the Woodward Stakes race (shown below), Shaman Ghost ran one helluva race. He displayed a willingness to fight for a win and also an ability to go wide and snake through traffic. This is a very talented 4 year-old with a bright future. 

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure:  99.7
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr/
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.12 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: ? – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

9) Hoppertunity* (15/1) – A surprise winner of the Jockey Gold Cup race. A well earned victory for a horse who has been the bridesmaid way too often. He has finished 4th or better in every graded stakes race in his career. Hopps is extremely consistent and you get the feeling that he would probably finish in the top 4 in any race no matter the talent in the field. This is why I am ranking him 4th in these rankings. Some how, he always finds a way to finish in the Superfecta. 

Career: 22 Starts 6-6-4-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  1-1-1-3
Last 3 starts: 4th–>4th–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 103.3
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.16 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

10) Arrogate (5/2) – There is no doubt that Bob Baffert has a star colt in Arrogate who set a Travers Stakes and Saratoga track record (1:59.36) for a 1 1/4 mile race. His final quarter mile fraction was 23.84. American Pharoah’s final fraction in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was 24.60. Here are the best career final fractions of his competition in mile and a quarter races: California Chrome 24.44 2016 Pacific Classic, Melatonin 24.27 2016 Gold Cup race at Santa Anita, Beholder  24.65 2015 Pacific Classic. Arrogate will get a 4 pound advantage over California Chrome and older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 108
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009 & 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.362016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

–Michael

2016 Breeders Cup Classic Pre-Entries and Analysis. Arrogate a serious threat to California Chrome

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Updated October 31st 2016

We are now five days away from the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Below are post-position and morning line odds for this year’s Classic and how I would rank them. This is a very talented field. Nyquist was pre-entered for The Classic but he will be scratched due to having a puffy ankle after a workout October 27th. He has been subsequently been retired. Gunner Runner will opt for the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. Found and Highland Reel will opt for the Breeders Cup Turf race.

Although California Chrome is the morning line even-money favorite, don’t discount Arrogate. Since all the money will be on Chrome, I would highly recommend a Boxed Exacta including both horses. Arrogate’s jockey Mike Smith has won The Classic three times, the most of any active jockey. His trainer Bob Baffert has won The Classic twice. They will be a formidable foe for California Chrome because Arrogate has demonstrated that he has a higher closing speed. Below are California Chrome and Arrogate’s final fractions from their last 4 US races. I have included their weights for each race in parenthesis. 

California Chrome

Awesome Again Stakes – 10/1/16 (125) – 38.79 sec in final 3 furlongs = 34.08 mph
Pacific Classic – 8/20/16 (124) – 24.17 sec in final 2 furlongs = 37.24 mph, 48.91 sec in final 4 furlongs = 36.80 mph
San Diego Handicap – 7/23/16 ( 126) – 30.31 sec  in final 2 1/2 furlongs = 37.12 mph
San Pasqual Stakes – 1/9/16 (119)  – 30.37 sec in final 2 1/2 furlongs = 37.0 mph

Travers Stakes – 8/27/16 (126) – 23.84 sec in final 2 furlongs = 37.75 mph, 48.51 sec in final 4 furlongs = 37.11 mph
Del Mar – 8/4/16 (117) – 29.4 sec in final 2 1/2 furlongs = 38.27 mph
Santa Anita – 6/24/16 (118) – 30.42 sec in final 2 1/2 furlongs = 36.98 mph
Santa Anita MSW- 6/5/16 (120) – 29.87 sec in final 2 1/2 furlongs = 37.66 mph

2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Entries

1)  California Chrome* (1/1) – He’s now undefeated in six starts in 2016. The all-time North American leader in race earnings with $13.4 million dollars. He is currently ranked #1 in Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings (SEE). His win in the Pacific Classic was arguably the best performance of his career. Next Start:  The  Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 24 Starts 15-3-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 7
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  4-1-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 112
Sire: Lucky Pulpit  
Trainer: Art Sherman 
Jockey: Victor Espinosa (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.93 (calculated) – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic & 2016 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 113 – 2016 Pacific Classic
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 113 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic & 2016 Pacific Classic

2) Arrogate (5/2) – There is no doubt that Bob Baffert has a star colt in Arrogate who set a Travers Stakes and Saratoga track record (1:59.36) for a 1 1/4 mile race. His final quarter mile fraction was 23.84. American Pharoah’s final fraction in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was 24.60. Here are the best career final fractions of his competition in mile and a quarter races: California Chrome 24.44 2016 Pacific Classic, Melatonin 24.27 2016 Gold Cup race at Santa Anita, Beholder  24.65 2015 Pacific Classic. Arrogate will get a 4 pound advantage over California Chrome and older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I just need more than one great performance to elevate him higher over Chrome who is undefeated in 2016. Next Start:  The  Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 5 Starts 4-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 108
Sire: Unbridled’s Song
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009 & 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.362016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 122 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 1222016 Travers Stakes

3) Melatonin* (12/1) –  The Rodney Dangerfield of thoroughbreds because he gets no respect. At the Classic distance of a miler and a quarter, he is undefeated in two starts and has an average Beyer Speed Figure of 108. The surprise winner of the 2016 Santa Anita Handicap. He proved his Big ‘Cap performance was no fluke by finishing 2nd behind Effinex in the Oaklawn Handicap and completing the Big ‘Cap-Gold Cup Double. His win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita assures him a spot in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is trained by David Hofmans who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1996 with Alphabet Soup. He was originally pegged to start in the Pacific Classic but he wasn’t entered due to coming off a persistent illness. However, he is training very well currently. Next Start:  The  Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 13 Starts 5-3-3-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 106.7
Sire: Kodiak Kowboy
Trainer: David Hofmans (1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey:  Joe Talamo
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 1:59.79 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 109 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

4) Hoppertunity* (15/1) – A surprise winner of the Jockey Gold Cup race. A well earned victory for a horse who has been the bridesmaid way too often. He has finished 4th or better in every graded stakes race in his career. Hopps is extremely consistent and you get the feeling that he would probably finish in the top 4 in any race no matter the talent in the field. This is why I am ranking him 4th in these rankings. Some how, he always finds a way to finish in the Superfecta. Next Start:  The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 22 Starts 6-6-4-5   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 6 Starts  1-1-1-3
Last 3 starts: 4th–>4th–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 103.3
Sire: Any Given Saturday
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014 & 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez 
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.16 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita 
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 105 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 105 – 2016 San Antonio Stakes

5) Frosted* (5/1) –  I feel that the added rest after his disappointing Woodward performance will do him good. I still think he would be better suited for the Dirt Mile but that will be a tough race as well. He set the track record in the 124th running of the Metropolitan Handicap with a time of 1:32.73 that resulted in the highest Beyer Speed Figure (123) of his career and the highest thus far in 2016. As he has stretched out past a mile, his Beyer Speed Figures have declined (107 in the Whitney Stakes and 105 in the Woodward Stakes). But he got off to a bad start in the Woodward Stakes and that may have cost him a win. Next Start:  The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 18 Starts 6-6-2-2    Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-0-1-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>3rd   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 111.7
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin (2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.05 (calculated) – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 103 – 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 123 – 2016 Metropolitan Handicap
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 123 2016 Metropolitan Handicap

6) Effinex (15/1) He finished 2nd to Hoppertunity in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race. He also finished 2nd to American Pharoah in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. For 2016, it is very clear that he has slipped a bit, only capturing wins in the Oaklawn and Suburban Handicaps. The Jimmy Jerkens-trained 5 year old can be enigmatic at times and prone to get off to bad starts (see 2016 Stephen Foster Handicap). But then he can bounce back with a nice performance like he had in the Suburban Handicap in July. Note that Effinex has never finished below 4th in a 10 furlong (1 1/4th mile) race. Jockey Mike Smith seems to get the best out of him but Smith will ride Arrogate in The Classic. Next Start:  The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 26 Starts 9-3-4-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 8 Starts  3-2-2-1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>4th–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure: 103.3
Sire: Mineshaft
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens 
Jockey:  Flavian Prat
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:00.76 (calculated) – 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Oaklawn Handicap

Career Best Beyer Speed: 112 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic

7) Shaman Ghost (20/1) – After rewatching his Woodward Stakes performance and also learning that had a post-race cough after his disappointing 5th place finish in the Suburban Handicap, I am once again a believer in this Jimmy Jerkens-trained son of Ghostzapper. When you watch the Woodward Stakes race (shown below), Shaman Ghost ran one helluva race. He displayed a willingness to fight for a win and also an ability to go wide and snake through traffic. This is a very talented 4 year-old with a bright future. His jockey Javier Castellano won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic on his father. Next Start:  The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 12 Starts 6-1-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st   Average Beyer Speed Figure:  99.7
Sire: Ghostzapper
Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
Jockey: Javier Castellano (2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:02.12 – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: ? – 2016 Suburban Handicap
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2016: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 – 2016 Woodward Stakes

8) Win the Space (30/1) A third place finish behind California Chrome and Dortmund in the San Diego Handicap was probably par for the course but I thought he ran a better in the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita. He is also cross-entered in the Breeders Cup Turf race. Next Start: The Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Breeders Cup Turf race on November 5th.

Career: 14 Starts 3-1-4-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 4 Starts  0-1-0-0 
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>DNF–>3rd   Average Beyer Speed Figure: ?
Sire: Pulpit
Trainer: George Papaprodromou
Jockey: Gary Stevens (2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:00.03 (calculated) – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 107 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita

9) Keen Ice  (20/1) –  The only living horse to have beaten a Triple Crown Champion. He shocked a nation by beating American Pharoah in last year’s Travers Stakes (shown below). He also finished 4th in the 2015 Breeders Cup Classic. However, this year will be a taller order. Keen Ice is coming back from a long layoff due to injury and he finished 3rd in a mile allowance race at Belmont on October 7th. Next Start:  The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday November 5th.

Career: 17 Starts 2-1-4-4   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 5 Start  1-0-0-1
Last 3 starts: 7th–>8th–>3rd
Sire: Uncle Mo  
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Unknown
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:01.57 – 2015 Travers Stakes
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 106 –2015 Travers Stakes

10) War Story (30/1) – Although he was given 30/1 morning line odds, it really should have been 50/1. War Story has never finished in the Top 4 in a 10 furlong race and has yet to win a Grade 1 race. He finished 16th in the 2015 Kentucky Derby and 7th in the 2016 Pacific Classic. He most recent performance, a 2nd place finish in the Pa Derby Champion Stakes, is shown below.

Career: 14 Starts 3-3-1-1  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  0-0-0-0 
Last 3 starts: 1st–>7th–>2nd
Sire: Northern Afleet
Trainer: Mario Serey Jr.
Jockey: Scott Speith
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time:  2:03.77 (calculated) – 2016 Pacific Classic
Best Beyer in 1 1/4 Mile Race:  Unknown
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 92 – Thistletown Allowance Race 7/30/16


–Michael

The 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup Preview

challenge

October 6th 2016 – Updated October 8th 2016 at 1:45 PM CST

This coming Saturday, we have three important “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The Champagne Stakes and Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity are automatic qualifiers for the Sentient Jet Juvenile race and also a preview of next year’s Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Then the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational, which is an auto-qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and a date with California Chrome on November 5th.

Below are the post-positions and morning line odds for all three races. I have a feeling that all three will wide-open and highly contested races. I will probably update this blog on Saturday.


Champagne Stakes – 1 Mile – Saturday October 8th – Race #8 at Belmont Park – Post-Time: 3:13 PM CST. Televised by TVG

Post/ Horse/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Practical Joke  – Rosario/Brown – 4/1
2. Thirst for Victory – Franco/Pletcher – 15/1
3. Syndergaard – Velazquez/Pletcher – 9/5
4. Lookin At Blessing – I. Ortiz Jr/Zito – 12/1
5. Favorable Outcome – Castellano/Brown – 2/1
6. Big Gray Rocket – Smith/Baffert – 6/1

Race Commentary: Although this field is small, it has talent and some of the top trainers in the world behind them. I am very curious to see how the Tapit-colt–Big Gray Rocket–performs. I really feel that any of these horses have a realistic shot at winning.  So watch the live odds and if a couple of these horses odds grow long, perhaps box the entire field in a Superfecta bet. But maybe a boxed Trifecta (3,5,6) would be a better play.


Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity – 1 1/16th Mile – Saturday October 8th – Race #8 at Keeneland – Post-Time: 4:10 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post/ Horse/Jockey/Trainer/ Odds
1. Bitumen  – Lanerie/Kenneally – 9/2
2. Gunnerva – Rios/Sano – 4/1
3. Singing Bullet – Lezcano/Romans – 8/1
4. Perro Rojo – Saez/Zito – 20/1
5. Tiz Trevor – Kennedy/Cook – 50/1
6. Blame Will – Albarado/Lukas – 12/1
7. Holiday Bonus – Ortiz/Motion – 8/1
8. Wild Shot – Hernandez/Arnold – 15/1
9. No Dozing – Bravo/Delacour – 12/1
10. Honor Thy Father – Borel/McPeek – 15/1
11. Classic Empire – Leparoux/Casse – 5/2
12. Lookin At Lee – Santana/Asmussen – 6-1

Race Commentary: Has Classic Empire gotten over his gate issues? He did an about-face after leaving the gate in the Hopeful Stakes and dumped his rider. I am still a believer in his talent but 5/2 odds seem too short on him right until we know for sure that he has matured. Plus this is a large field and he is starting on one of the outside posts. I would steer clear of laying any larges amounts of money on this race as the chances are high that we could have a surprise winner. If there is a surprise winner, I think it will be Gunnevera or Lookin At Lee.


The Jockey Club Gold Cup – 1 1/4th Mile – Saturday October 8th – Race #10 at Belmont Park – Post-Time: 4:23 PM CST. Televised by NBC

Post Position/Horse/Weight/Jockey/Trainer/Odds
1. Protonico (126) – Castellano/Pletcher – 12/1
2. Mubtaahij (126) – I.Ortiz/McLaughlin – 8/5
3. Hoppertunity (126) – Velazquez/Baffert – 7/2
4. War Story (126) – Gallardo/Serey Jr. – 30/1   SCRATCHED
5. Watershed (126) – Rosario/Mclaughlin – 10/1
6. Effinex (126) – Smith/Jerkens – 7/5

Race Commentary:  Surprisingly, Jimmy Jerkens did not enter Shaman Ghost. He is going to train him up to the Breeders Cup Classic. So this appears to be an interesting battle between Effinex, Hoppertunity and Mubtaahij. Effinex ridden by Mike Smith is probably the winner in this one because Effinex runs well at Belmont Park and seems to like the 10 furlong distance. But one horse who might surprise and bust up your Trifectas is Protonico. He ran a mile in his last start at Belmont Park with a very nice time of 1:34 flat. He is a fresh horse having just raced once this year. Todd Pletcher always seems to produce a surprise new star every year.

Update: There is now a 70% chance of rain at Belmont Park for this race. I feel that this favors inside runners who can get off to good starts.


–Michael

Pennsylvania Derby Preview

Scott Serio / AP Images

This Saturday September 19th at PARX is the Pennsylvania Derby. This 1 1/8 mile race for 3-year-olds carries a $1,000,000 purse and always attracts some top talent. Last year’s winner Bayern beat California Chrome and went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The 2013’s winner, Will Take Charge, went on to win American Champion Three-Year-Old honors.

Post time is 4:45 PM CST. Below are post-positions and odds.

Post Position/Weight/Jockey/Odds

1. War Story (117) Parker 20-1
2. Island Town (122) Hernandez Jr. 10-1
3. Frosted (124) Rosario 5-2 
4. Iron Fist (117) Smith 8-1
5. Madefromlucky (122) Velazquez 4-1  
6. Gimme Da Lute (122) Garcia 5-1    Scratched
7. Tommy Macho (117) Castellano 10-1
8. Battle Midway (117) Gryder 20-1
9. Upstart (122) Ortiz 9-2 
10. Mr. Z (119) Saez 10-1

Overall, my feeling was, before Gimmedalute was scratched, that race will come down to a battle between Frosted and Gimme Da Lute. I had previously felt that Frosted was not a great horse at 1 1/8 mile distances and was better suited for races 1 1/4 mile or greater. However, Frosted proved to me in the Travers Stakes that he could hang with American Pharoah through 9 furlongs.

Upstart and Madefromlucky are two very good horses that are capable of winning this race. I have no Superfecta recommendations but I would suggest a $25 Exacta keying Frosted (3) on top to win with two horses (5-Madefromlucky, 9-Upstart) because which Madefromlucky will show up? The one who won the Peter Pan Stakes with a time of 1:48.36? Or the one who won his last race, the West Virginia Derby with a pedestrian time of 1:51.40? Both of these races were 1 1/8 mile. The $25 exacta bet keying Frosted to win with 2 horses would cost $50.

–Michael

American Pharoah Returns! The Jim Dandy Stakes and Haskell Invitational Preview

This coming weekend, there are two key races on the road to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Saturday August 1st at Saratoga will be the Jim Dandy Stakes with a handful of familiar names from the Kentucky Derby trail. On Sunday August 2nd, American Pharoah makes his first start since winning the Triple Crown in The William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Both races are 1 1/8th mile.

The Jim Dandy Stakes carries a $600,000 purse and has three notable entries in Frosted (2/1), Upstart (3/1) and Texas Red (7/2). Also entered are: Competitive Edge (8/1), Frammento (20/1), Tekton (10/1) and a horse on the rise named Japan (10/1). However, please note that Upstart and Competitive Edge are cross-entered in the Haskell Invitational, so the field could have as few as five horses. Post time will be 5:13 PM CST and the race will be televised on TVG.

Overall, this race is wide-open and I don’t feel good enough about this one to give betting advice. Texas Red has been rehabbing from an injury suffered earlier in the year and he is slowly working his way back to form. Upstart hasn’t raced since the Kentucky Derby. Frosted is best suited for distance races. Too many unknowns, so this is a race to watch but not one to bet on. Last year a $2 Superfecta in a 5 horse field only paid out a measly $69.

The Haskell Invitational carries a $1,750,000 dollar purse and is part of the Breeders’ Cup Classic “Win and You’re In” program. The race winner is assured one of the 14 spots in the $5,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. The race will be aired on NBC and will have an approximate post time of 4:42 PM CST.

American Pharoah will have six challengers and here are the post positions and Morning Line Odds:

1. Upstart – Joe Bravo – 6-1
2. Competitive Edge – Mike Smith 8-1
3. Nonna’s BoySCRATCHED
4. American Pharoah – Victor Espinoza – 1-5
5. Mr. Jordan – Paco Lopez – 15-1
6. Keen Ice – Kent Desormeaux – 12-1
7. Top Clearance – Javier Castellano – 30-1
8. Dontbetwithbruno – TBA –  30-1

Overall, I expect American Pharoah to wire this field. Todd Pletcher has three horses entered: Competitive Edge, Nonna’s Boy and Dontbetwithbruno. (Update: Nonna’s Boy was scratched). I would recommend placing Superfectas keying American Pharoah to win. So I would recommend placing four 10 cent superfectas keying American Pharoah to win: 4 with ALL, with ALL, with ALL. Each would cost $12. And a $1 Superfecta Part Wheel: 4 with 1,5,6, with 1,2,5,6,8, with ALL. This bet would cost $48. Total bet $96. Put $4 on American Pharoah to Place and there is $100.

–Michael