Breeders Cup 2016: Results

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

$2 Win: 1- Lancaster Bomber
$1 Exacta Box: 1- Lancaster Bomber / 2- Keep Quiet / 11- Good Samaritan
$2 W/P/S: 2- Keep Quiet

Results:
1st: 10- Oscar Performance
2nd: 1- Lancaster Bomber
3rd: 11- Good Samaritan
Payoff: $0

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

$2 Win: 1- Vyjack
$1 Exacta Box: 1- Vyjack / 3- Dortmund / 8- Tamarkuz
$2 W/P/S: 8- Tamarkuz

Results:
1st – 8- Tamarkuz
2nd – 9- Gun Runner
3rd – 5- Accelerate
Payoff: $43.20

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

$2 Win: 14- La Coronel
$1 Exacta Box: 4- Spain Burg / 13- Roly Poly / 14- La Coronel
$2 W/P/S: 2- Lull
Results:
1st: 3- New Money Honey
2nd: 6- Coasted
3rd: 9- Cavale Doree
Payoff: $0

Breeders’ Cup Distaff

$2 Win: 8- Beholder
$1 Exacta Box: 1- Songbird / 5- Stellar Wind / 8- Beholder
$2 W/P/S: 6- Forever Unbridled
Results:
1st: 8- Beholder
2nd: 1- Songbird
3rd: 6- Forever Unbridled
Payoff: $25.60

Breeders Cup Friday Total Investment: $56
Breeders Cup Friday Total Payoff: $68.80
Breeders Cup Friday ROI: +22.8%

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

$2 Win: 2- With Honors
$1 Exacta Box: 9- Union Strike / 10- Noted And Quoted / 11- Daddys Lil Darling
$2 W/P/S: 11- Daddys Lil Darling

Results:
1st: 6- Champagne Room
2nd: 3- Valdorna
3rd: 12- American Gal
Payoff: $0

Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf

$2 Win: 8- Lady Eli
$1 Exacta Box: 3- Seventh Heaven / 7- Sentiero Italia / 8- Lady Eli
$2 W/P/S: 7- Sentiero Italia

Results:
1st: 11- Queen’s Trust
2nd: 8- Lady Eli
3rd: 4- Avenge
Payoff: $0

Breeders Cup Sprint

$2 Win: 5- A.P. Indian
$1 Exacta Box: 5- A.P. Indian / 7- Masochistic / 9- Limousine Liberal
$2 W/P/S: 9- Limousine Liberal

Results:
1st: 2- Drefong
2nd: 7- Masochistic
3rd: 1- Mind Your Biscuits
Payoff: $0

Breeders Cup Turf Sprint

$2 Win: 12- Om
$1 Exacta Box: 2- Obviously / 12- Om / 13- Holy Lute
$2 W/P/S: 16- Green Mask

Results:
1st: 2- Obviously
2nd: 12- Om
3rd: 1- Pure Sensation
Payoff: $29.10

Breeders Cup Juvenile

$2 Win: 5- Classic Empire
$1 Exacta Box: 5- Classic Empire / 10- Not This Time / 11- Looking at Lee
$2 W/P/S: 11- Looking at Lee

Results:
1st: 5- Classic Empire
2nd: 10- Not This Time
3rd: 9- Practical Joke
Payoff: $30.70

Breeders Cup Turf

$2 Win: 4- Flintshire
$1 Exacta Box: 4- Flintshire / 10- Found / 12- Highland Reel
$2 W/P/S: 2- Da Big Hoss

Results:
1st: 12- Highland Reel
2nd: 4- Flintshire
3rd: 10- Found
Payoff: $14.40

Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

$2 Win: 2- Haveyougoneaway
$1 Exacta Box: 2- Haveyougoneaway / 7- Gloryzapper / 8- Carina Mia
$2 W/P/S: 7- Gloryzapper

Results:
1st: 12- Finest City
2nd: 10- Wavell Avenue
3rd: 9- Paulassilverlining
Payoff: $0

Breeders Cup Mile

$2 Win: 8- Tepin
$1 Exacta Box: 2- Alice Springs / 8- Tepin / 9- Ironicus
$2 W/P/S: 4- Miss Temple City

Results:
1st: 5- Tourist
2nd: 8- Tepin
3rd: 13- Midnight Storm
Payoff: $0

Breeders Cup Classic

$2 Win: 4- California Chrome
$1 Exacta Box: 4- California Chrome / 9- Hoppertunity / 10- Arrogate
$2 W/P/S: 6- Melatonin

Results:
1st: 10- Arrogate
2nd: 4- California Chrome
3rd: 3- Keen Ice
Payoff: $5.00

Breeders Cup Saturday Total Investment: $126
Breeders Cup Saturday Total Payoff: $79.2
Breeders Cup Saturday ROI: – 37%

Breeders Cup Total Investment: $182
Breeders Cup Total Payoff: $148
Breeders Cup ROI: – 18.6%

Breeders Cup 2016: Saturday Selections

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

$2 Win: 2- With Honors
$1 Exacta Box: 9- Union Strike / 10- Noted And Quoted / 11- Daddys Lil Darling
$2 W/P/S: 11- Daddys Lil Darling

This might seem a bit odd, but hear me out – I think Daddys Lil Darling is the most likely winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies this year. She will have a reasonable pace to run at and was, in my opinion, the best horse in the Alcibiades. She passed the winner Dancing Rags with ease after the wire and continued to gallop out strongly, and I think her proven ability to overcome trouble, as she did in her maiden victory, will prove useful here. That said, Noted and Quoted is a deserving morning line favorite. She was game in defeating With Honors in her first try routing in the Chandelier. But if you like Noted and Quoted, you have to like With Honors as well, as she ran equally well in what was her first start on a dirt track. The difference in prices will likely be significant, and I can’t let With Honors beat me, so the $2 win pick on her is a bit of a saver just in case. I think Union Strike, being by Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, will relish the extra distance, and will improve off of an impressive score in the Del Mar Debutante. This race is highly competitive, and I honestly could make a case for ten of the twelve entrants in here, but I do feel very good about Daddys Lil Darling running big at a very fair price.

Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf

$2 Win: 8- Lady Eli
$1 Exacta Box: 3- Seventh Heaven / 7- Sentiero Italia / 8- Lady Eli
$2 W/P/S: 7- Sentiero Italia

I feel odd picking Lady Eli on top, as she is by and far the sentimental choice of the year for me in this spot and I pride myself on being able to handicap objectively, especially when the horse in question is likely to be favored. However, I really couldn’t get past her. On Beyer figures, she is better than ever, and she will be ready to roll in this third race off the layoff. I’ve always been a huge believer that this horse is very special, and between her natural talent, her versatility, and the fact that she seems to be on the improve at age four, I couldn’t pick against her.

I do think that Seventh Heaven is the obvious European threat. A multiple G1 winner overseas, she’s a daughter of Galileo cutting back to 1 1/4, which will be the first time since her maiden win that she went shorter than 1 1/2 miles. This is her second race off of a two-month break, and Aiden O’Brien will have her ready for her best race here. She is the biggest threat to Lady Eli.

Sentiero Italia is one of the most consistent horses in the race, and she always brings her game. She has chased Lady Eli home in her last two races, and was fourth in this race last year as a three-year-old. She will be in a great stalking position behind Catch a Glimpse and Avenge, and I would be very surprised if she didn’t hit the board here.

Breeders Cup Sprint

$2 Win: 5- A.P. Indian
$1 Exacta Box: 5- A.P. Indian / 7- Masochistic / 9- Limousine Liberal
$2 W/P/S: 9- Limousine Liberal

I was devastated at the scratch of Joking in this race, who I was really looking forward to seeing in a race chock-full of speed. Alas, without the likes of him and Lord Nelson, it looks to be a match race between A.P. Indian and Masochistic, with the intriguing 3yo Drefong looking to upset them. I’m going with A.P. Indian on top. He’s done nothing wrong all year, he is capable of sitting off of any horses dead set on going for the lead, which Masochistic will likely be.

Looking at Masochistic’s form, I am tempted to think that he may be a bit better going seven furlongs. He is, of course, very fast, but looking at races like the 2015 Santa Anita Sprint Championship and this very race last year, I’m not sure that he has the kind of speed necessary to excel at six furlongs. That said, this race may be a short enough field that he could win even if he is better going just a bit farther, and he may just be too good, but I am inclined to look elsewhere for a straight win bet.

My longshot here is Limousine Liberal. If the likes of Drefong and Masochistic and even Delta Bluesman go too fast up front, this could be the horse that is capable of pouncing from just off the pace. He ran huge in his first start with blinkers against A.P. Indian last time out – it looked as if A.P. Indian would be winning handily, but Limousine Liberal was incredibly game and even came back on his rival to just miss in a head-bob.

I see Drefong as the Arrogate of this race. Unlike Arrogate, however, Drefong’s debut loss was not an impressive display of him overcoming trouble, but rather a race that I think he should have won, though to be fair he was not persevered with after shifting in at the 16th pole. Since then, he has not been challenged and I am going to let him beat me – which he very well may do.

Breeders Cup Turf Sprint

$2 Win: 12- Om
$1 Exacta Box: 2- Obviously / 12- Om / 13- Holy Lute
$2 W/P/S: 16- Green Mask

Obviously and Om are both milers cutting back to go down the hill, and I think the trip will fit both of them, but I prefer Om because he has shown the ability to rate in the past and I like that in a horse cutting back to tackle the 6 1/2 furlong course at Santa Anita more than a straight speedster like Obviously. I expect Om to enjoy the quick pace up front and be able to pounce more effectively than he could at a mile. I included Holy Lute because of his proven ability over the downhill turf course. Green Mask is my longshot here, drawing into the field after a pair of defections. He has been solid throughout the year without any breakout performances, was third in this race in 2015, and will be a good price. He will require a pace meltdown up front to be effective, but I think that is a possibility and in a wide-open race, he has as good of a chance as any of them.

Breeders Cup Juvenile

$2 Win: 5- Classic Empire
$1 Exacta Box: 5- Classic Empire / 10- Not This Time / 11- Looking at Lee
$2 W/P/S: 11- Looking at Lee

I don’t have anything interesting or unique to say in this race, I just think Classic Empire is the best horse. Mark Casse got his issues sorted out with the addition of blinkers, and aside from the Hopeful Stakes debacle, he has done nothing wrong. I expect Syndergaard to go wild on the front along with Gormley, with Three Rules sitting behind the two of them. Theory is the big unknown here for Todd Pletcher, and while I like him moving forward I’m not sure that he’s ready for this kind of field just yet. Not This Time was very impressive in the Iroquois, and I don’t think that was due solely to the wet track. Looking at Lee has been steadily improving while chasing my top two choices in his last two starts, and I think continued improvement will keep him right behind them here.

Breeders Cup Turf

$2 Win: 4- Flintshire
$1 Exacta Box: 4- Flintshire / 10- Found / 12- Highland Reel
$2 W/P/S: 2- Da Big Hoss

This race goes through the two Aiden O’Brien horses and Flintshire. Found won this race last year off of the same two preps in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the QIPCO Champion Stakes, and I think she has a very good chance to be the first horse to pull off the Arc-BC Turf double. Highland Reel was just behind her in the Arc and proved his affinity for the American firm turf in last year’s Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park. Flintshire was the undisputed champion of the U.S. Turf this year until his loss in the Turf Classic at Belmont in his last start, but it has been well-documented that this horse loves a firm turf course, and the yielding going at Belmont was not to his liking but they needed a prep. I think he’ll rebound just fine in the Breeders’ Cup.

The crazy longshot here is Da Big Hoss, who has been having a quietly good season. He loves this distance and always runs his race. He wasn’t embarrassed when splitting the field to run 6th in this race last year, and has been doing better this year if you look at his speed figures. I doubt he can win, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Florent Geroux managed to get him up for third at a major price.

Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

$2 Win: 2- Haveyougoneaway
$1 Exacta Box: 2- Haveyougoneaway / 7- Gloryzapper / 8- Carina Mia
$2 W/P/S: 7- Gloryzapper

Tom Morley has done a fantastic job with Haveyougoneaway this year, running her through a season that culminated last time out with a G1 win in the Ballerina at Saratoga. For a sprint, this race doesn’t have a ton of dedicated speed. Carina Mia is likely the fastest horse in the race, and one turn is her game, without a doubt. Gloryzapper also has a fair bit of early speed, but has proven that she can sit and pass horses in the past, and if you toss her turf try last time out – where she was only beaten three lengths, despite finishing eighth, in the John C Mabee, by Avenge – she has never run a bad race. This is a major class test for her, without a doubt, but her speed figures are competitive enough that with a little improvement she could be right in the mix late.

Breeders Cup Mile

$2 Win: 8- Tepin
$1 Exacta Box: 2- Alice Springs / 8- Tepin / 9- Ironicus
$2 W/P/S: 4- Miss Temple City

Everyone seems to be against Tepin after her loss in the First Lady, but I think she is just as good as ever this year. The First Lady was a bizarrely run race where Photo Call got loose on a crazy lead. Nobody was catching her that day. Tepin is the reigning champion in this race and I have no reason to suspect she will bring her A game. The one horse that I think may be able to beat Tepin’s A game is Ironicus, who was huge in the Shadwell Turf Mile off of a 4-month layoff to just be defeated by Miss Temple City (who I would LOVE if this race was at Keeneland again, but still believe will hold her own here based on her form at Ascot). There will be a lot more speed in this race than there was in that one, with What A View, Photo Call, and Midnight Storm all contesting this race. Alice Springs is my pick among the Europeans, as a 3-time G1 winner at a mile. She was second in the Juvenile Fillies Turf in last year’s Breeders’ Cup, so we know she can handle the trip to the United States just fine.

Breeders Cup Classic

$2 Win: 4- California Chrome
$1 Exacta Box: 4- California Chrome / 9- Hoppertunity / 10- Arrogate
$2 W/P/S: 6- Melatonin

I can’t say much about California Chrome that hasn’t already been said, so I won’t. When it comes to Arrogate, I wanted to find a way to exclude him but after watching his first four races, I can’t do it. His debut effort, his lone loss, was actually what sold me on him in the end. He overcame significant trouble, breaking slow and having to angle out around horses to just miss in a race where he was much the best. Between this race and his race two back, where he sat behind two others on a dawdling pace in a three-horse race, I am convinced that he is not a runaway speedster type of horse that needs the lead. Because of this, I am thinking that Melatonin has a chance to hit the board at a huge price. He loves this racetrack and I think that he could be left alone on the lead, with Victor Espinoza and Mike Smith choosing to sit just off of him and watch each other. And when this horse gets loose on the lead, he can get brave. I don’t think he’s good enough to hold off the likes of California Chrome and Arrogate, but I think he could run a big race if things set up in that way. Hoppertunity may be a better WPS bet, as one of the most consistent horses in the country, but I’ll take a shot with Melatonin, while still including the ever-present Hoppertunity in the exacta.

2016 Breeders Cup Friday Selections

As I have in years past, I will be posting my 2016 Breeders’ Cup selections in the format of a $2 win bet, a $1 3-horse exacta box, and a $2 W/P/S bet. As I’m not much of a gambler, this isn’t exactly how I will be playing the races (my actual bets will likely be on Twitter), but I’ve found it’s a useful way to gauge my own handicapping success in the Breeders’ Cup.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf
$2 Win: 1- Lancaster Bomber
$1 Exacta Box: 1- Lancaster Bomber / 2- Keep Quiet / 11- Good Samaritan
$2 W/P/S: 2- Keep Quiet
I don’t have a very strong opinion in this race, but I do think that Lancaster Bomber, who has been the rabbit for Europe’s best two-year-old in Churchill, will get a nice trip sitting behind Wellabled and Oscar Performance and will be in the best position turning for home. I think the most likely winners are him and Good Samaritan, who will likely be favored. A big-moving Bill Mott runner who is undefeated in two starts, he was very impressive in his G2 Summer Stakes victory and was a complete professional in his debut victory over Ticonderoga, who has since flattered that form with an impressive maiden score and runner-up finish in the G3 Bourbon to Keep Quiet. I went with Lancaster Bomber over him for the win bet because of the likely price difference, and because it’s well-acknowledged that European turf form is often better than American turf form, especially in two-year-olds, as turf is usually more of an afterthought in American racing.

Despite that, I decided to go with Keep Quiet in the exacta instead of Intelligence Cross. By many accounts, Keep Quiet seems to be very highly regarded in the Mark Casse barn, and for good reason. He was very game in his Bourbon Stakes win, engaging with a stubborn Ticonderoga before turning him away and eventually winning by 1 1/4 lengths. His Beyer speed figures have not been as high as some of the other Americans in this group, but I expect him, like Lancaster Bomber, to be in a good position to strike when the real running starts. It was a tough call between him and the other Aiden O’Brien entry, Intelligence Cross, in the exacta, but at the end of the day I decided to side with Keep Quiet’s proven form around two turns. Were I playing horizontally, I would definitely include Intelligence Cross if at all possible.
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
$2 Win: 1- Vyjack
$1 Exacta Box: 1- Vyjack / 3- Dortmund / 8- Tamarkuz
$2 W/P/S: 8- Tamarkuz
Dortmund is the most likely winner of this year’s Dirt Mile, without a doubt, and you don’t need me to tell you why. However, he will be odds-on, and I think Vyjack will prove to be the value in this spot. He is a G1 winner on dirt, and his connections said after his City Of Hope Mile win that they were planning on using the race as a prep for this one, so it’s not as if this was a last-minute change of heart. This race has been his target for a while, and this horse seems to be in career-best form now at the age of six. His last four races have all been very good – he was game in his comeback victory off a six-month layoff in April at Keeneland, and has steadily improved his Beyers ever since. In the G2 Pat O’Brien, he was a well-clear second best to Masochistic, who was at a major pace advantage that day. Vyjack went on to a very impressive score over two extremely talented turf milers in Om and Obviously, and I think even a repeat of that effort without improvement would place him in the running here, and a step up could be enough to get the better of Dortmund.

Tamarkuz is another horse that seems to be in the form of his life at the age of six, and I expect that we’ll see another good effort from him in this race. He needed the Met Mile off the winter layoff, and has finished second in his two most recent efforts since that race. He chased loose leader Anchor Down around the track in the Kelso, posting a career-top 104 Beyer in the process, in his last start. Prior to that, he ran very well when rallying to be second in the Forego behind A.P. Indian. He worked four furlongs in :48.4, well within himself, over the Santa Anita track, and seems to be on the muscle and ready for another big effort.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
$2 Win: 14- La Coronel
$1 Exacta Box: 4- Spain Burg / 13- Roly Poly / 14- La Coronel
$2 W/P/S: 2- Lull
Again, I don’t have a very strong opinion in this race. Roly Poly is the horse to beat, as she has been competitive against top company in Europe, and her run in the G1 Cheveley Park Stakes was ultra-impressive. She looked to be beaten, but when the eventual winner Brave Anna came alongside her, she re-broke a bit to pass Lady Aurelia and even got her nose in front for a stride or two before eventually succumbing. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of speed in this spot, and I think she will be in a good position, coming out of sprint races.
That said, I’m going with La Coronel on top. My opinion on her is similar to my opinion on the Casse/Geroux entrant in the Juvenile Turf – Florent called her the next coming of Catch a Glimpse, winner of this race last year, after her win in the G3 Jessamine, which she won convincingly. She handily defeated eventual G3 Miss Grillo winner New Money Honey in her first try on the turf, and it’s hard to argue with the kind of commanding victories she has had going two turns on the grass.
I had a hard time separating Intricately and Hydrangea, and eventually chose to go with Spain Burg over both of them. Spain Burg showed an impressive turn of foot in her G2 Shadwell Rockfel stakes win, and has since been transferred to trainer Kathy Ritvo. The Shadwell Rockfel was her first try stretching from 6f to 7f, and I think she will improve further with another furlong to work with.
My longshot to hit the board is Lull, who was well beaten by La Coronel last time out, but could be the pace of the race. She tried hard to run with the other filly in the Jessamine but was simply second best. I don’t expect her to win, but she will be a price horse and I think she could hang on for a piece of it.
Breeders’ Cup Distaff
$2 Win: 8- Beholder
$1 Exacta Box: 1- Songbird / 5- Stellar Wind / 8- Beholder
$2 W/P/S: 6- Forever Unbridled
I’m going with Beholder here for a simple reason – she will be outside of Stellar Wind and Songbird this time, and will be running at a target instead of being the one targeted. I don’t have much in the way of clever opinions on this race, but my longshot is Forever Unbridled, as she will be the one running at the end if there is some kind of pace meltdown.

2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic – The Influence of La Troienne

In 1931, a small, nondescript bay mare arrived at Colonel Edward Riley Bradley’s Idle Hour Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, one of two purchases from the Newmarket December Sale of the prior year. The filly had failed to win in her 7 starts in France and England, but had nonetheless been purchased, in foal to the mighty Gainsborough, by Dick Thompson on behalf of Bradley. The name of this mare was La Troienne, and she would become one of the most important broodmares of the 20th century as the foundation mare of Bruce Lowe’s family 1x – and her influence is still apparent today.
Of the ten horses entered in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, four of them have a direct tail-female descendant of La Troienne within the first 5 generations of their pedigree, and only two are without any trace of her in their lineage.
The overwhelming favorite in the race is California Chrome, whose modest breeding has often been highlighted by the media. Personally, however, I believe that his success could be due, in part, to the influence of La Troienne in his dam, Love The Chase. Though an unsuccessful racehorse, Love The Chase’s sire, Not For Love, and damsire, Polish Numbers, both hail from family 1-x – and both from 1971 Champion 2yo Filly Numbered Account, who is the dam of Polish Numbers and the second dam of Not For Love. Interestingly, Numbered Account herself is bred on the same pattern, being by Buckpasser (a great-grandson of La Troienne).
California Chrome is by the stallion Lucky Pulpit, grandson of 1991 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy. While A.P. Indy is not a direct descendant of La Troienne, she does appear three times in his bloodlines. His sire, Seattle Slew, whose dam My Charmer is inbred 6×6 to La Troienne – her sire, Poker, and damsire, Jet Action, both trace tail-female to the great matriarch (sound familiar?). A.P. Indy’s second dam is a daughter of Buckpasser.
Win The Space, by contrast, is a longshot in this year’s event. He is out of a mare by Mutakddim, a stakes winner in England and sire of multiple champions. Mutakddim is a fascinating example of linebreeding to La Troienne. He is by Seeking the Gold, whose damsire Buckpasser is one of La Troienne’s nine direct tail-female descendants in the North American Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. Buckpasser is also the sire of Mutakddim’s third dam, the aforementioned Numbered Account, whose 5th dam is La Troienne. The dam of Mutakddim, Oscillate, is by Seattle Slew. Mutakddim, therefore, contains five crosses of La Troienne (6x8x8x6x8 ).
The ever-consistent Hoppertunity introduces another example of Numbered Account’s role in carrying on the legacy of her family. He is out of a mare by Unnacounted For, a G1-winning son of Numbered Account’s son Private Account. Additionally, Hoppertunity’s sire Any Given Saturday is out of an A.P. Indy mare, which gives Hoppertunity five total crosses of La Troienne.
Effinex is by Mineshaft, one of the exemplaries of family 1-x. Champion Older Male and Horse of the Year in 2003, and is inbred 8x8x8 to La Troienne. Perhaps also worth noting is that Effinex’s 5th dam, Stolen Hour, is by Mr. Busher, himself a grandson of La Troienne.
The horse that most proclaim to be California Chrome’s biggest threat is the three-year-old Arrogate, winner of the Travers in track and stakes record time. While most of his pedigree is free of La Troienne, he is a grandson of Unbridled, whose pedigree is intriguing on a few levels. Unbridled, as we all know, won both the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1990. A quick glance at his pedigree immediately shows a doubling-up of the great broodmare Aspidistra, who produced two Hall of Fame champions in Dr. Fager and Ta Wee. Aspidistra is a daughter of Better Self, winner of the Saratoga Special, Carter Handicap, and Discovery Handicap, among many others. Better Self is by La Troienne’s Hall of Fame son Bimelech, champion at both two and three and winner of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes of 1940. Aspidistra is the 4th dam of Unbridled, via her daughter Magic, who was by Buckpasser. Magic is a slightly different take on the prolific sire x damsire cross demonstrated by the likes of Numbered Account and Love The Chase demonstrate, as she is by a stallion from family 1-x, but her damsire is instead a paternal grandson of La Troienne.
Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin does not have an excessive influence of La Troienne, but he is inbred 6×4 to the great broodmare Ballade, whose broodmare sire Cohoes was a direct grandson of La Troienne. Similarly, War Story has distant influences of La Troienne via his damsire Pulpit (a son of A.P. Indy), and also via Quadrangle, who appears in the 5th generation of his pedigree and is a son of Cohoes.
Dominant Met Mile winner Frosted is by Tapit, a grandson of A.P. Indy who is out of a mare by Unbridled. Seattle Slew appears again in his pedigree via Avenue of Flags, the sire of Frosted’s 2nd dam. While the influence is distant, this does mean that La Troienne appears eight times in his pedigree.
With the Breeders’ Cup on the horizon, we are likely to see the legacy of La Troienne continue to grow. While there are no direct representatives of family 1-x in this year’s Classic, her presence will certainly be felt in the bloodlines of some of the breed’s greatest, as it has and inevitably will be for generations to come.

Roberta Grump: West Virginia’s Blue Hen

It is hard to pinpoint the qualities that make a great broodmare. Some claim that great race mares aren’t generally inclined to be great broodmares, though there are plenty of mares out there that may disagree with that assessment. It is generally accepted, however, that not all great broodmares showed exceptional ability on the track. The immortal matriarch La Troienne, for instance, was winless in three starts. Love the Chase was a claiming mare with one win to her name, but she later became the dam of California Chrome, North America’s richest racehorse of all time. It is in this same vein that you can find Roberta Grump, a mare whose offspring have dominated West Virginia-bred stakes races for over a decade. With the recent retirement of Russell Road, this year looks to be the first since 2000 that she will not have at least one foal running in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics, where her offspring have racked up five victories (not to mention a sixth win, by a grandson, in 2015).

Roberta Grump was a daughter of Florida stakes winner Verification, and out of the mare Blue Spring, by Ambehaving. When Roberta Grump was foaled in 1991, Blue Spring had already produced two stakes horses. Ten years prior, Blue Spring foaled the Noholme II filly Spring Loose, who placed 3rd in the G1 Hollywood Starlet at age two. Her 1980 foal, Spring to Victory (by Inverness Drive), won Keystone Race Track’s New Hope Stakes in 1983. In 1988, Blue Spring sold at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December Mixed Sale for $2,300 in foal to Nepal. The result of that breeding was a filly named Royal Chitwan, Blue Spring’s first West Virginia bred foal. Royal Chitwan didn’t amount to much, earning just $2,628 in 8 starts. The mare didn’t foal in 1990, but she produced Roberta Grump the following year.

Roberta Grump was no factor in her first and only start, finishing 9th of 10 in a Maiden Special Weight at Charles Town on September 18, 1993. She produced her first foal two years later, a filly by Jeloso appropriately named Grumps First. That foal was 8-for-48 lifetime and earned $62,598 while racing exclusively at Charles Town, mostly in claiming races. She was then covered by stakes winner Oh Say for a 1997 foal. The filly, Sweet Annuity, was the beginning of Roberta Grump’s reign.

Sweet Annuity broke her maiden in her 4th career start, a victory she followed up with an allowance win and a stakes score in Charles Town’s Ruth C. Funkhouser Stakes. She was the first foal from Roberta Grump to compete in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics, finishing 2nd as the odds-on choice in the West Virginia Division of Tourism Breeders’ Classic Stakes for three-year-old fillies. She won three of her first five races in 2001, including two stakes wins and two stakes placings, before finishing a disappointing 6th in the West Virginia Cavada Breeders’ Classic Stakes for older mares. She would make another attempt the following year, once again finishing off the board as the favorite.

Despite Sweet Annuity’s defeat, it was still a good 2002 Breeders’ Classics night for the family of Roberta Grump, Her three-year-old daughter Shesanothergrump (by Weshaam) had already taken the West Virginia Division of Tourism Breeders’ Classic Stakes as the favorite, after hitting the board in five other stakes that year without a win. In one of those races, the $35,000 Sadie Hawkins Handicap, Shesanothergrump finished ahead of Sweet Annuity, defeating her older sister by over 7 lengths.

The next year, 2003, would be the first – though not the last – time that two of Roberta Grump’s foals raced against one another in the Breeders Classics, as Sweet Annuity and Shesanothergrump raced again as a coupled entry for owner Kenneth Pitta and trainer Karen Duke in the West Virginia Cavada Breeders’ Classic Stakes. This time, Sweet Annuity refused to lose. Despite being headed by favored Fancy Buckles in the stretch, the 6-year-old veteran mare came again to finally take down a race on Breeders Classics night. Her entrymate finished up in third. Sweet Annuity was retired following four poor starts in 2004, but Shesanothergrump was still around to carry the torch, although she failed to win a race that year and was a lackluster 7th in the Cavada.

Come 2005, there was a new grump in town. Shesagrumptoo, by Luftikus, broke her maiden in her second start for Mark Russell and James Casey. She finished 4th in her first stakes attempt, and finished 4th once more in the West Virginia Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders Classics Stakes, for two-year-old fillies. After a third-place finish in the Tri-State Futurity, Shesagrumptoo won the West Virginia Futurity against males.

Meanwhile, Shesanothergrump had another winless year and finished 8th in the Cavada. On December 1st, 2005, she dropped in to a $6,000 claiming race at Charles Town, where she was claimed off a second-place effort by Tina Malgarini-Mawing for owner Garvis Williamson. She made seven starts for her new connections without success, and retired following a last-place finish in the West Virginia Distaff Stakes in May of 2006.

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Roberta Grump’s offspring in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics

With that, Shesagrumptoo was left to carry on the family tradition of success at Charles Town. She won two allowance races in the summer of 2006 before running 2nd in the Ruth B. Funkhouser to odds-on favorite Julie B, and was beaten 3/4 of a length as the favorite in the West Virginia Division of Tourism Breeders’ Classic Stakes, just failing to catch Malibu Sue. She finished out the year with a 3rd-place effort in the Syvlia Bishop Memorial Stakes behind those two fillies.

She continued to chase Julie B in 2007, finishing 4th behind her in a June allowance race, and 2nd to her in the Roger Van Hoozer Memorial Stakes, and then running 3rd in the Cavada when Julie B was defeated by Carnival Chrome.

In 2007, a three-year-old daughter of Roberta Grump named Natures Annuity broke her maiden by over 7 lengths in her April debut. The following year, she won three straight Allowance races and then finished 4th in her final prep for the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics.

Shesagrumptoo was claimed for $32,000 on September 5th, 2008, and entered the Cavada for new connections – owner Scuderia Montese Stables and trainer Raimondo Schiano-Dicola. She finished 2nd to Julie B in the Cavada, with Natures Annuity closing to finish another 3 1/4 lengths back in 3rd.

It was also in 2008 that the most successful of Roberta Grump’s offspring hit the track and started making some serious noise on the local racing circuit. Russell Road was beaten half a length in his debut for Mark Russell and James Casey, but he rebounded to romp in a maiden race by over 12 lengths in his following start. He won the Dr Ernest Benner Stakes at the end of September, then added a 2 1/2-length allowance victory, won the Tri-State Futurity by 8 1/4 lengths under wraps, and the West Virginia Futurity by 8 1/2 in similar fashion.

Russell Road started off the new year by winning Laurel Park’s Dancing Count Stakes, and then ventured to Aqueduct to try G3 company in the Gotham, where he finished 5th behind I Want Revenge. He returned to Charles Town and won the April 18th Blue and Gold Stakes by a neck over Bunker Hill, who defeated him in the Red Legend Stakes. Both horses, however, were soundly defeated by eventual G1 winner Big Drama, who romped by 7 lengths. Russell Road won three straight stakes races going into the Breeders’ Classics, where he kept the winning streak in tact, taking the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic Stakes by 8 lengths.

In the 2009 Cavada Stakes, Nature’s Annuity turned the tables on her older sister, missing the victory by a nose but finishing 7 1/4 lengths in front of Shesagrumptoo in third. It was the fourth stakes placing that year for Shesagrumptoo, though she hadn’t won a since the race that Scuderia Montese Stables claimed her out of. She finished up the track in an allowance optional claiming race about a month after the Cavada, and was claimed for $20,000 by William Campbell and Jack Gordon.

Nature’s Annuity romped in an allowance race in her first start of 2010, then finished 2nd in the Fancy Buckles Stakes, with Shesagrumptoo, now under the care of trainer John Robb, back in 5th. They would meet two months later in the Sadie Hawkins Stakes, where the now 7-year-old Shesagrumptoo pulled off a 28-1 upset. Nature’s Annuity was 4th.

Russell Road began his 4-year-old season with a disappointing last-place effort in an allowance at Laurel Park. He showed an improved effort in his second start of the year, finishing 2nd although well defeated by 2-time Charles Town Classic winner Researcher. He won the Springtime Handicap and an allowance in his two subsequent starts, added another stakes-placing in the Wild and Wonderful Stakes, finished off the board in the Frank Gall Memorial, and won another allowance prior to an attempt to defend his Breeders’ Classics title. He finished fourth.

In the Cavada, Nature’s Annuity finished 2nd at 16-1. Shesagrumptoo couldn’t reproduce her Sadie Hawkins effort, and finished 9th that year. She raced six times in 2011, and even after another trainer switch to Michael Beck, she failed to hit the board that year, retiring after a claiming race in June. Natures Annuity had a solid 2011 campaign, failing to win but never finishing worse than 4th in 7 starts, with three more black-type placings on her resume, among them another 3rd in the Cavada. She retired after one more start in an allowance race, where she finished 4th.

Russell Road started off 2011 with two Charles Town stakes wins, then hit the board in three additional stakes prior to winning his second West Virginia Breeders’ Classic Stakes. He won the same two stakes to start off 2012, lost the Wild and Wonderful Stakes, then reprised his 2009 win in the Frank Gall Memorial. He was sent off as the favorite in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic, but was defeated by the up-and-coming three-year-old Lucy’s Bob Boy, marking the beginning of a WV-bred rivalry for the ages. Their finishing positions were reversed in the A Huevo Stakes a month later.

Russell Road raced primarily at Mountaineer in 2013, winning an allowance and two stakes there prior to a September 21st return to Charles Town, where he was defeated by Fred High in a handicap. In the Breeders’ Classic, he grudgingly gave way to that same foe in the final strides.

Russell Road returned in May of 2014 after a 6-month layoff, winning an allowance race at Mountaineer. After that, however, the eight-year-old, while still competitive, appeared to be showing signs of slowing down. He finished 4th in another allowance at Mountaineer and proceeded to chase Lucy’s Bob Boy home in three consecutive starts, running third behind him in a Charles Town allowance, then finishing three lengths behind him in the Robert Gall Memorial and 7 1/4 lengths back in another allowance. Consequently, Lucy’s Bob Boy was 1-2 in the West Virginia Breeders Classic, but when the two hooked up at the 3/8ths pole, it was Russell Road who prevailed in a thrilling stretch duel. With that victory, he became only the second horse to win three West Virginia Breeders’ Classics (2009, 2011, 2014). In a race named for the only other horse to accomplish that feat, Russell Road defeated Lucy’s Bob Boy by 4 1/2 lengths in the 2015 Confucius Say Stakes.

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Russell Road in the 2015 Confucius Say

Owner Mark Russell and trainer James Casey had another budding superstar in the barn, though, and on February 26th, 2016, the 3-year-old gelding Charitable Annuity broke his maiden in his second start. The son of Charitable Man was the first foal of Early Annuity, a full sister to Shesagrumptoo who won only once in her five lifetime starts for Russell and Casey. Charitable Annuity won five of his first eight starts, including the Robert Leavitt Stakes, and was highly thought of enough to earn a chance in the West Virginia Breeders Classic.

Lucy’s Bob Boy and Russell Road were once more the 1-2 choices in the race, with the former being a slight favorite. Neither hit the board, and in fact Russell Road was eased in the race, but perhaps it was a symbolic passing of the torch, as Charitable Annuity won impressively by 2 3/4 lengths.

Russell Road was disappointing in his next two starts, now at the age of ten, but he won an allowance on June 18th, 2016, defeating favorite In The Fairway along with his longtime rival Lucy’s Bob Boy. In The Fairway rebounded in Mountaineer’s Northern Panhandle Stakes, defeating Russell Road by 6 1/2 lengths. The 10-year-old gelding came out of the race with a minor ankle injury, and his connections decided to retire him. His career earnings of $2,001,586 make him the second-richest West Virginia-bred in history behind Soul of the Matter.

Of 11 foals to race out of Roberta Grump, all were winners, 4 were stakes winners, and one additional foal was stakes placed. Her legacy as a broodmare will be carried on through her grandsons and granddaughters, headed at the moment by WV Breeders Classics winner Charitable Annuity.

 

 

2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale

The sales ring is a place where horsemen and -women try to predict the future of racing, trying to find the next great champion or champion producer. They look at pedigree, conformation, and any other information they can in order to divine which horses have the potential they’re looking for.

Some of the top competitors in our sport have sold at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale in the past, including recent graded stakes winners such as Dortmund, Materiality, Kaigun, and Tiz Shea D. On May 23rd and 24th, 337 two-year-old Thoroughbreds sold for a record total of $23,136,400 at Fasig-Tipton’s annual Timonium sale.

I have my eye on a few horses that went through the ring at the sale this year; some of them sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, while others went unsold as RNAs. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of these young Thoroughbreds mature into top caliber racehorses.

I only attended the first day of the breeze sale, and as a result all of my selections will be from hip numbers 1-200.

Hip #196 – Bay Colt by Majesticperfection, out of Score Four (by Grand Slam)

I really liked the way this colt breezed, he reaches out well and almost leaps with every stride he takes. He breezed a furlong in 10.1 seconds, one of the quicker times of the day (the fastest time of 10 seconds was achieved by two horses on the day, while twelve of the first 200 hips breezed in 10.1 seconds). He has a very sprint-oriented pedigree, being a son of the brilliantly quick Majesticperfection and out of a Grand Slam mare. His second dam is a half-sister to multiple G1 winner Affirmed Success, whose 17 lifetime victories included the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) and Cigar Mile (G1). This colt sold for $175,000 to HND Bloodstock.

Hip #187 – Chestnut Filly by Drosselmeyer, out of Sandi’s Ready (by More Than Ready)

This rangy daughter of Drosselmeyer breezed in 10.2 seconds with very mild urging, and galloped out full of energy. As a daughter of Drosselmeyer, you wouldn’t expect her to be at her best breezing an eighth of a mile anyway, and despite that she breezed fairly quickly and I think it’s fair to assume she had more to give. She comes from a solid, if not spectacular, female family; her dam is stakes placed, and her granddam has produced an additional stakes placed runner as well as a multiple G3 placed runner. This filly was purchased by Dennis O’Neill for $45,000.

Hip #179 – Chestnut Filly by Caleb’s Posse, out of Royal Embassy (by Royal Anthem)

This filly sold privately for only $10,000, but I think she could have a bit of potential. She breezed in 11 seconds, but galloped out to a full mile with good energy before pulling up. She comes from a very interesting family – her second dam is Denmark-bred Swedish Horse of the Year Rossard. This makes the dam of this filly a half-sister to Unusual Heat. I’m very interested in Caleb’s Posse as a sire – he was a game miler and a good-looking stallion that has already had his first winner on April 28th at Gulfstream Park.

Hip #170 – Bay Colt by Ice Box, out of Rey Lake (by Meadowlake)

This powerful-looking colt breezed a quarter in 21.3, and was a handful to pull up afterwards. He cornered very well, even with a few hits left-handed, and switched leads beautifully. He is a half brother to three foals to race, all winners, including Tremont Stakes winner Bessie’s Boy. He sold for $200,000 to Hillwood Stables LLC.

Hip #84 – Primal; Bay Colt by Flatter, out of Molly (by Coronado’s Quest)

Despite going unsold with a reserve of $80,000, this colt was probably my top pick of the sale. He caught my eye coming onto the track, very much on his toes and looking excited to be out there. Interestingly, he was the only horse I saw at the sale that breezed without blinkers. Despite that and how excitable he seemed when coming onto the track, he was exceptionally focused when he was set down to breeze. He got a couple of taps on the shoulder, but aside from that his rider gave him very little urging, just letting him do things under his own power. He is a little on the small side, but was born in late May. His second dam is Canadian Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Primaly. In addition to that filly, his 3rd dam Primarily, a listed stakes winner at Woodbine, also produced Canadian Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Poetically, by Silver Deputy; G1 Gamely Stakes winner Citronnade, by Lemon Drop Kid; Fayette Stakes(G3) winner Whiskey Wisdom, by Wild Again; as well as the dams of New Zealand Trophy(G2) winner Sunrise Prince and multiple G3 winner Twilight Meteor.

Hip #58 – United Del Coco; Dk Bay/Brown colt by United States, out of Macho La Papa (by Macho Uno)

I have to give this colt a lot of credit for the amount of professionalism he showed in what could have been a very dangerous situation. His martingale strap broke before he began his breeze, leading to the entire thing ending up flapping around underneath of him a few strides from the wire. Despite that distraction, he kept to task very nicely, and has quite a smooth, long stride on him. His breeze time was relatively slow, covering a furlong in 11.1 seconds, but I think that could be forgiven considering the circumstances, and the fact that by a stallion that isn’t likely to draw any attention at the sales. That stallion, United States, sold for $2 million at the 2007 Keeneland September Yearling sale, which likely reflected not only his good looks but also his pedigree, being a son of A.P. Indy out of a half-sister to Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. United States ended up disappointing on the racetrack, winning only once in nine lifetime starts (all at age four) before retiring to stud in Florida. The female family of this colt has some interesting connections if you go back far enough – his fourth dam is Lyphard’s Dancer, dam of 5 winners from 5 foals to race and half-sister to the immortal Storm Cat. United Del Coco ended up selling privately for $20,000, which I think is a very reasonable price for a colt that may be better than “son of a NW2L” might suggest.

Hip #35 – Dk Bay/Brown Filly by Aikenite, out of Lajitana (by Tiznow)

I think this filly could end up being another bargain missed out on from this sale. She was an RNA at $14,000, and I think that could be due at least in part to her slow breeze time of 11.1 seconds. Despite that, I think there are some positives here for the future. First off, her pedigree is very interesting. Her third dam is Sweet Damsel, the dam of 10 winners from 10 starters, including multiple G1 winner Colonel John and G1-placed/G1 steeplechaser Mr. Hot Stuff. Both of those foals were by Tiznow, the dam of Lajitana. In addition to that, I don’t think this filly’s breeze was as bad as it may have seemed at first glance. She had a very fluid, long stride until losing her action around the 16th pole, a few strides after changing leads. I’m not certain what caused the few goofy strides she took there, though I wonder if it may have been the whip, but I’m willing to chalk it up to greenness in a filly that otherwise looks to be fairly athletic.

Hip #32 – Bay Filly by Into Mischief, out of Lady in Ermine (by Honour and Glory)

I really liked the way this filly breezed, and apparently I wasn’t the only one, since she sold for $150,000. She’s a very nice mover, breezing a quarter in 21.4 and galloping out strongly. She had a lot of energy in her gallop and appears to cover a lot of ground with each stride. Her female family is solid, if not particularly flashy, with a stakes winner and producer under her second dam. Into Mischief has already proven to be a very good sire, with the likes of Goldencents, Vicar’s in Trouble, and Vyjack all graded stakes winners, and I think this filly has the potential to add on to her sire’s count of 13 black type winners.

A Decade of Derbies

“Who’s your Derby horse?”

The question is on everyone’s lips (and fingers) this time of year, with prep season complete and only a few short weeks left until the big dance. Obviously, most horseplayers have a shortlist of contenders that they think could win the Kentucky Derby; by the time the race runs on May 7th many of us will have determined which horses to use in multi-race wagers, which horses have a chance to round out exactas and trifectas, and which horses to take a stand against. Yet, despite the fact that most handicappers will have money on more than one of the twenty three-year-olds in the 142nd running of the historic classic, it’s nearly mandatory that racing fans have one horse they deem their Derby selection. Listening to Jason Beem discuss his five worst Kentucky Derby picks got me to thinking about my Derby selections during my time as a horse racing fan, which I’d like to recount here today.

My first ever “Derby horse” was Sinister Minister in 2006, and I can’t help but laugh at my 12-year-old self for thinking he had any sort of legitimate chance. I had seen his Bluegrass and was immediately on the bandwagon. I THINK he had hit the rail in one of his prior preps and that I decided that was a sign he was maturing at the right time, since he ran straight in the Bluegrass. I was oblivious to the notorious speed bias of Keeneland’s surface at the time. Needless to say, I believe he finished 16th and it was back to the drawing board for me.

I did better in 2007, I suppose, since my pick finished 6th that year. I had been on the Circular Quay bandwagon since he was a 2-year-old, and I guess leading up to the Derby he performed “okay” enough to keep me from jumping ship. Who knows, either way, it was another off the board finish.

In 2008, I was all about Pyro. I threw out the Bluegrass because I figured it was irrelevant to the Derby, and I was adamantly against Big Brown because he had never been tested in a race – a common angle in my Derby handicapping, and one that has served me well since, but one that doesn’t apply when the competition is just THAT inferior. Pyro finished 10th, while Big Brown went on to dominate in the Derby, Preakness, and Haskell.

I made a list of Derby horses, rating them from top to bottom in 2009, with a comment for each. My #20 was Mine That Bird, with the comment “doesn’t belong.” Strangely, I don’t remember who my #1 was. I know I liked Dunkirk going into the race because of the tenacity he showed versus Quality Road in the Florida Derby, but felt he might be too immature. My big long shot pick was probably my worst since Sinister Minister – although he actually did finish ninth – in West Side Bernie, another horse I had liked since he was two and somehow convinced myself was still logical. I think I ended up going with the public on Friesian Fire as my top pick because of his freaky off track performances in Louisiana. I’m pretty sure he was last.

Super Saturday 2010

16-year-old Jess at Belmont Super Saturday in 2010… because that’s the most relevant photo I have

I honestly don’t remember a whole lot of what I thought going into the 2010 Derby – I had to look up the chart just to remember who ran. I know that Super Saver was on my short list because of his potential to love a wet track, but he definitely wasn’t my top pick that year. I think that role went to the filly Devil May Care. I do remember my “residual 2yo choice” was Backtalk, although I had by that point wised up to my tendencies and didn’t actually think he would win. Good thing, too, since he was last. The one thing I do remember is being devastated when Uncle Mo scratched, because I was so excited to bet against him in the Kentucky Derby. He was the untested “super horse” type that I was always so keen to play against, and when he defected from the Derby, he took with him the only valid opinion I had that year.

I could have never had Animal Kingdom in the Derby, although I was firmly on the Shackleford bandwagon after what I thought was a valiant effort that day, an opinion that paid off two weeks later. 2011 was the first time my Derby pick hit the board, however, as I was all about Mucho Macho Man going into the race. Ironically, I would go on bet against Mucho Macho Man in pretty much every race he ran afterwards, often to my detriment.

I will admit that up until May 5th, 2012, I liked Gemologist. I was wary of him until his Wood Memorial, which I thought was a super gutsy and impressive effort. It was only at the last minute, when it came time to actually bet the race, that I switched trains. I’ll Have Another looked like a million bucks in the paddock and post parade, and I couldn’t believe the 15-1 odds on a horse that had done nothing wrong in his career. Even in defeat, he had always made a good showing of himself, and I felt that his style would suit the Kentucky Derby far more than the style of a horse like Bodemeister – who I didn’t even think would GET the lead with the likes of Trinniberg and Hansen in the race, much less hold on to get beaten less than two lengths. Despite being wrong about the runner-up, however, I had finally picked my first Kentucky Derby winner.

The 2013 Kentucky Derby was particularly thrilling for me. I spent the summer of 2012 as a press box intern for NYRA at Saratoga, an experience I will forever cherish. On the afternoon of August 18th, I was handicapping as usual, and, as usual, my interest went first and foremost to the two-year-old races on the card. As a pedigree nut, I love delving into the bloodlines of promising youngsters and picking out the particularly interesting ones to keep an eye on. I had already dialed in on a first time starter for Shug McGaughey. The Malibu Moon colt was out of Lady Liberty, who traces tail-female to Laughter, a 3/4 sibling and the only sister to the immortal Ruffian. With Laughter’s other descendants including the likes of Private Terms and Coronado’s Quest, the colt’s breeding was promising. I kept a keen eye as the Phipps/Janney owned colt broke awkwardly but recovered to rally strongly for 3rd.

“That Shug colt could be a good one once he figures out what he’s doing,” I remarked to my fellow interns following the race, and promptly added “Orb” to my Equibase watchlist. Of course, I didn’t really think I had just seen the next Derby winner, but perhaps a nice stakes winner somewhere down the line. Fast forward to the following spring, and Orb winning the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, and I was firmly on board, convinced this wasn’t another Circular Quay or West Side Bernie, but a legitimate Derby contender. Sure enough, Orb pulled through as both my logical and sentimental selection in the race. The story would come full circle – no pun intended – when I got to see him at Saratoga multiple times that summer.

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Kentucky Derby winner Orb galloping at Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track in 2013

While handicapping the 2014 Kentucky Derby, I did everything in my power to find an alternative to California Chrome. I watched back tapes of every one of his races, trying to find a chink in the proverbial armor of the prohibitive favorite, but the more I watched, the more convinced I was that he was the real deal. I actually had to look up the race chart just to remember who else ran in that Kentucky Derby, and I do recall liking Samraat a little bit, and was curious about Danza, but in the end I landed on the chalk, and he won the way he had been expected to.

Last year was a similar story, although I was less skeptical of American Pharoah than I had been of California Chrome. The way that horse moved just blew me away from the time he first burst onto the scene in the Del Mar Futurity, and it seemed that everywhere you looked, horses he had soundly defeated were coming back and winning big races. Dortmund was the one horse I thought might be able to give Pharoah a run for it, with the tenacity he had proven but that his stablemate had yet to need. I managed to hit my first Kentucky Derby trifecta in 2015, keying the Bob Baffert duo on top with Firing Line and Upstart (who was last…) underneath.

Now here we are, ten years after naive little Jess watched Sinister Minister set the pace and fade badly, and the pressure is on to pick my 5th consecutive Derby winner. At this point in time, I am firmly in the Nyquist camp. As much as I felt Uncle Mo was overrated, I feel his son is the real deal. Many people are citing distance limitations as a reason to be wary of Nyquist, but I see no such problem. Uncle Mo was a speed horse who used a lot of mental and physical energy in his races, whereas Nyquist has the mind of an absolute professional. He has proven that he can be flexible in his running style without freaking out or exerting any more energy than necessary. He’s overcome difficult trips and various pace scenarios, and emerged victorious every time.

Of course, there’s still plenty of time for things to change, and Derby week workouts are always a useful handicapping tool, but as things stand now, I’m expecting a fourth straight Kentucky Derby favorite to take the roses.