Breeders’ Cup 2014 – Final Results

Now that the¬†Breeders’ Cup behind us, I’ve totaled up my hypothetical winnings across the two days (ROI rounded to the nearest whole percentage).

Breeders’ Cup Friday

Investment: $46 (due to the late scratch of Lady Zuzu, the total is lower than it’d be otherwise)

Return: $35.30

ROI: -23%

Breeders’ Cup Saturday

Investment: $112

Return:$186.70

ROI: 66%

Breeders’ Cup Totals

Investment: $158

Return: $222

ROI: 40%

Overall, I am pretty pleased with my handicapping over the weekend – and unbelievably frustrated that I failed to make any kind of profit off of it in real life. Clearly, the Classic was the one race where I was just completely wrong. Despite the controversial break (which I believe certainly cost Moreno – the horse expected to go with Bayern early – all chance), Bayern really proved himself to me in his Classic victory. I hadn’t had much respect for him until this victory, where he managed to dig in and hold off Toast of New York and California Chrome late. He strikes me as a very similar horse to the recently retired Baffert trainee Game on Dude – if he gets the lead, he’s going to be nearly impossible to run down, but I think it’s pretty apparent that getting an early lead is vital to Bayern. It would be interesting to see what may have transpired had Moreno been able to get a clean trip, but regardless, I didn’t think Bayern had the quality or stamina to win the Classic, and he proved me wrong. It was nice to see California Chrome get back to the form he’d shown in the spring, with a very impressive third-place effort. He proved he really is the real deal, even if he didn’t win.

Horse of the Year award has been seriously muddled by the Classic. I still believe Shared Belief is probably¬†the most talented horse in the country, but I also believe Horse of the Year is about the campaign a horse had through the year, and as much as I don’t want to admit it, Bayern deserves that honor. In my mind, Shared Belief needed to win the Classic in order to warrant Horse of the Year honors, despite his two impressive victories over older horses. California Chrome is also in the discussion, having won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes earlier in the year. With such a top-heavy campaign, though, I’m inclined to look elsewhere. The wild card for Horse of the Year has become Main Sequence, who¬†has yet to be defeated since coming to the United States. His 4-race win streak consists solely of G1 races, including a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.¬†To compare, California Chrome has three G1 wins this year, while Bayern and Shared Belief have only two G1 wins each. Honestly, I don’t have a strong enough opinion to give a selection or personal vote for the title. I believe any of those four horses would be completely deserving of the award, and I’m intrigued to see what the voters end up doing.

2014 Breeders’ Cup Saturday – Analysis/Selections

Race 5 – Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf

#3 Dank¬†looks tough to beat. She is the best horse in the race and reportedly looks great in the flesh. Provided the long layoff hasn’t affected her, she should win. If she gets beat, however, #2 Just the Judge¬†could be the horse to do it. The Irish G1 winner¬†won the G1 EP Taylor in her last race and proved she fits with the Americans when she was beaten only a neck by Stephanie’s Kitten in the Beverly D (G1).¬†#6 Fiesolana¬†showed an impressive turn of foot in her Matron Stakes (G1) win two races back, and is another potential upsetter.

Selections

$2 Win: #3 Dank

$1 Exacta Box: #2 Just The Judge / #3 Dank / #6 Fiesolana

$2 WPS: #2 Just The Judge

Race 6 – Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint

#6 Leigh Court is in career form, and while she’s quick, she proved that she can rate in her TCA (G2) win last time out over¬†#10 Southern Honey¬†and¬†#3 Stonetastic. She’s undefeated in three starts at the distance and her versatility will make her tough.¬†#5 Artemis Agrotera has won all three of her races since a disappointing 3yo debut in the Acorn (G1) . This distance seems to be ideal for her, and she may simply be the most talented horse in the race.¬†#3 Stonetastic¬†was brilliant in winning the Prioress Stakes (G2) and looked well in her Santa Anita work on the 25th. She seems to be the probable pacesetter in the race, and could simply wire the field.

Selections

$2 Win: #6 Leigh Court

$1 Exacta Box: #3 Stonetastic / #5 Artemis Agrotera / #6 Leigh Court

$2 WPS: #3 Stonetastic

Race 7- Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

I believe this race is all about¬†#1 Reneesgotzip, who was 3rd in this race in 2012 and dead-heated for second in last year’s running. She appears to be the most talented horse in the field and seems to be the quickest in a race surprisingly low on early speed.¬†#14 No Nay Never is probably her main competition. A G1 winner in France, he was impressive when winning the Woodward in his last start and has been highly regarded throughout his brief career.¬†#6 Bobby’s Kitten¬†has shown some speed and ability running at a mile and I believe he’ll appreciate the downhill turf course. His best races are his shortest ones, and he could be a live mid-priced horse to spice up exotics.

Selections

$2 Win: #1 Reneesgotzip

$1 Exacta Box: #1 Reneesgotzip / #6 Bobby’s Kitten / #14 No Nay Never

$2 WPS: #6 Bobby’s Kitten

Race 8 – Breeders Cup Juvenile

With the defection of American Pharoah,¬†#12 Daredevil¬†appears to be the horse to beat. He was brilliant in both career starts, but has yet to run on a fast racetrack. While that shouldn’t be an issue, it is nonetheless a question he has to answer in this race.¬†#9 Carpe Diem is the “other Pletcher” here and has nothing wrong in his 2-for-2 career that includes a dazzling win in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity in his last start. His Beyer numbers are slower than his stablemates, but 2yos progress rapidly and he could prove to be better.¬†#10 Mr Z¬†has made his last four starts in stakes races, and has held his own in all of them except a disappointing 5th in the Iroquois Stakes (G3). He has not proven to be better than the best of the group, and needs a career-best effort to win, but he adds blinkers and has consistently proven to be all heart when it comes to competition. He could certainly come out with a check today.¬†#7 Texas Red is probably the best west coast colt after American Pharoah and Calculator scratched, and if a few horses mix it up on the front end, he could be the one to pick up the pieces and post a significant upset. He improved dramatically when trying conventional dirt for the first time in the G1 Frontrunner, and further improvement makes him a live longshot in this spot.

Selections

$2 Win: #12 Daredevil

$1 Exacta Box: #12 Daredevil / #9 Carpe Diem / #10 Mr Z

$2 WPS: #7 Texas Red

Race 9 – Breeders’ Cup Turf

As usual, the Euro imports look best in the Turf.¬†#7 Flintshire¬† was second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) and has been consistently competitive with the best horses in Europe. He looks like the best horse and is hard to look past in this spot. #1 Telescope is another contender from overseas, he adds Lasix for this race and comes in off a tough race behind Australia and The Grey Gatsby. He’s a multiple G2 winner and his last three Racing Post Ratings have been over 120.¬†#3 Imagining is the one longshot I could see making some noise here. This consistent turf runner is in the best form of his career, and he appears to be the lone speed in this race. If Joel Rosario takes advantage of that, he could end up stealing the race on the front end.¬†#12 Main Sequence is probably the best American runner, with three straight wins since coming to the States. He will need to run big here to win, but there’s no reason to doubt he is capable of doing just that.

Selections

$2 Win: #1 Telescope

$1 Exacta Box: #1 Telescope / #7 Flintshire / #12 Main Sequence

$2 WPS: #3 Imagining

Race 10 – Breeders Cup Sprint

I found this race pretty tough to handicap after¬†#6 Rich Tapestry.¬†The hero of Hong Kong was supremely impressive with his game win over Goldencents in his US debut, and looks to be the most talented horse in the race. After him, though, the race looks wide open. #12 Fast Anna¬†puts blinkers back on after a runner-up finish in the Gallant Bob (G3) without them. Despite the less-than-impressive visual performance, he still posted a career-best Beyer of 97 in that race. With only four career starts, he’s still a bit of an unknown but the brilliance he’s shown so far indicates he could be pretty special.¬†#2 Indianapolis¬†is similar in the sense that we can’t be sure how good he is. He’s undefeated in three starts, but this is a tough spot for the graded stakes debut of the Baffert trainee. #4 Secret Circle won this race last year and will probably take some play, but I don’t foresee him turning the tables on Rich Tapestry, who beat him by 1 3/4 lengths in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1). In addition,¬†#8 Palace¬†has led the division in New York all year, and though he was a bit disappointing in his last race, there’s no reason he can’t get back to his best form here. He’s honest and consistent, and can’t be overlooked.¬†#9 Salutos Amigos returns just six days after his impressive score in the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3). Trainer David Jacobson is plenty capable of the quick turnaround, but never in a spot like this. Salutos Amigos is in the best form of his life, though, and that could make him dangerous. I think the most intriguing longshot in this wide-open race is¬†#14 Bourbon Courage.¬†After a long losing streak while competing primarily in graded stakes races, he finally returned to the winner’s circle in his last race, a 6 1/2 furlong allowance at Keeneland. He is two-for-two at today’s distance and maybe the confidence booster was enough to get the five-year-old back into top form. The 14 post is disadvantageous, but you’re sure to get a price and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit the board.

Selections

$2 Win: #6 Rich Tapestry

$1 Exacta Box: #6 Rich Tapestry / #8 Palace / #9 Salutos Amigos

$2 WPS: #14 Bourbon Courage

Race 11 – Breeders’ Cup Mile

I don’t have a strong opinion in this race, but think that¬†#5 Toronado¬†is the deserving favorite. He adds Lasix for this race and is competitive with the best milers in Europe. I see nothing to fault.¬†#9 Anodin was only beaten two lengths by Toronado in the Queen Anne Stakes (G1), and has not embarrassed himself in two races since, including a runner-up to the talented Kingman. Of the Americans,¬†#2 Obviously¬†seems the most likely. He’ll be the one they all have to catch late, and while I don’t see him holding off the likes of Toronado, he should be able to hang in there for a piece of the purse.

Selections

$2 Win: #5 Toronado

$1 Exacta Box: #2 Obviously / #5 Toronado / #9 Anodin

$2 WPS: #9 Anodin

Race 12 – Breeders’ Cup Classic

#6 Shared Belief¬†is the deserving favorite here, but I can’t take a short price on this horse in this race, so I’m going with¬†#8 Zivo as my top selection. He’s the best closer in the race and has been steadily improving throughout this year. The 1 1/4 mile distance should be right up his alley, and I think he’ll be overlooked in a race where the 3yos are taking the spotlight. The pace looks to be hot in this race, with the likes of #4 Moreno¬†and¬†#7 Bayern both being need-the-lead types of runners. I don’t think Bayern wants 1 1/4, and from the outside I expect him to force Moreno to go early and will sit just off of him. I foresee Bayern folding at the top of the stretch, leaving Moreno to fight off the closers. Moreno has proven that he doesn’t quit once he’s been passed, but I don’t think he’ll have the energy left to fend off horses of this quality. Additionally, #2 Cigar Street has shown speed in most of his races, and while he’s not as fast as the other two front-runners, he will be a part of the early mix and add to that hot pace.¬†#1 Prayer For Relief¬†has been competitive against the best of the best for a long time, and reports are that he’s looking great in the flesh right now. Don’t be surprised if he hits the board at a big price, especially if the pace falls apart.¬†#5 V.E. Day¬†is something of an “X factor” in this race. The upset winner of the Travers (G1) was flat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), and is tough to get a read on, talent-wise. James Jerkens can’t be counted out, though, making this horse a scary contender that could run big but is hard to back with confidence.Similarly,¬†#9 Toast of New York¬†has a huge question mark when it comes to the surface of this race. He’s never run on conventional dirt, and while he was second to Shared Belief in the Pacific Classic (G1), that was over Del Mar’s synthetic track. I’m choosing to leave him out, but he could prove me wrong and I wouldn’t be shocked. The two horses that would shock me are¬†#3 Imperative, who is a solid and good-looking horse but doesn’t seem to be up to this level of competition, and¬†#10 Footbridge,¬†who was third in the Awesome Again (G1) and should appreciate ten furlongs but just seems to be in over his head against these. #14 Majestic Harbor is intriguing. The Gold Cup (G1) winner hasn’t done a whole lot in his two starts since, but as one was on synthetic he could have an excuse. He looked good in his October 26th work, and a return to the form he showed this spring and summer could make him a player.¬†#12 Candy Boy¬†has been chasing the best of his crop all year, but has been competitive and gets his first chance at running 1 1/4 miles since he was taken out of contention early on in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Three-year-olds are going to be getting most of the attention in here, with Derby and Preakness winner #13 California Chrome¬†in the race. He was disappointing in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2), where he was beaten 7 1/4 lengths by Bayern, but if he returns to his spring form he certainly has a shot, and drawing to the outside should help this colt, who doesn’t like to be inside of other horses. It will be his first time facing¬†#11 Tonalist¬†since the latter defeated him in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Since that race, Tonalist has continued to do well, most recently winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) over a number of horses in this race. He’s done nothing wrong in his career and has to be considered a major threat.

Selections

$2 Win: #8 Zivo

$1 Exacta Box: #6 Shared Belief / #8 Zivo / #11 Tonalist

$2 WPS: #14 Majestic Harbor

Breeders’ Cup 2014: Friday Analysis/Selections

Race Six – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

The Juvenile Turf races are always a tough handicapping challenge. Trying to determine how the American form holds up against the always-tough European horses is the key to the race. This year, I think the race has to go through morning line favorite #5 Hootenanny,¬†a Wesley Ward trainee who won the Windsor Castle Stakes at Ascot in June before being beaten only a length in the G1 Prix Morny in August. He looks to be the main speed of the race, and while he is going beyond 6f for the first time, I believe the son of Quality Road should be capable of staying the mile distance.¬†#4 Commemorative¬†has won his last two races, with his only other effort being a 4th-place effort in his debut. Both of those wins were at today’s mile distance, which makes me confident in his ability to be competitive in this race. Aidan O’Brien’s¬†#7 War Envoy is likely to be the lowest price of the Euro invaders (aside from Hootenanny), at 9-2 on the morning line. In his last race, he was beaten only a length and a quarter while finishing 5th in the G1 Gran Criterium. His racing post ratings are steadily improving, and are among the highest in the field, but I am not convinced that he is the best of this group. He has won only one of his seven lifetime starts, and¬†that was his April debut. That said, the son of War Front should relish the extra furlong he’ll be getting in this race, and even the second- or third-tier European horses are generally better than the Americans on turf. I believe¬†#11 Imperia¬†is the best chance of the American-raced entries. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee¬†has only two starts under his belt, but broke his maiden in the second of those two races – the G3 Pilgrim Stakes. He added Lasix for that race and it resulted in a length victory over Vision Perfect, who came back to win Belmont’s Awad Stakes in his next start. Imperia was awarded an 82 Beyer figure for that win, one of the highest in the field. He should improve off of that race and could prove to be the best of America’s juvenile turf runners.¬†#3 Luck of the Kitten¬†is another major player from America. His win in the Zuma Beach Stakes was impressive, dueling for the lead and pulling clear to win by 1 3/4 length. One concern is whether or not he will have a problem in fellow Wesley Ward trainee Hootenanny, as both are proven speed horses. Luck of the Kitten has never been behind a horse in the first point of call in four lifetime starts.

Selections

$2 Win: #5 Hootenanny

$1 Exacta Box: #4 Commemorative / #5 Hootenanny / #7 War Envoy

$2 W/P/S: #11 Imperia

Race Seven – Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

In the Dirt Mile, defending champion¬†#1 Goldencents¬†is hard to look past. He has been consistent all year and has been impressive in the mornings coming up to this race. In his last race, he ran huge to just be beaten in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) by Rich Tapestry. He used the same race as a prep before winning last year’s edition by 2 3/4 lengths. If Goldencents gets beat, I believe¬†#9 Tapiture is the best shot to upset. He is a fighter on the track, and loves to engage with other horses in the stretch. He won two of his three races since a disappointing Kentucky Derby run, his only loss being a runner-up effort to¬†Bayern in the G2 Pennsylvania Derby. He’s cutting back to a mile, which I believe is a much better choice than trying the 1 1/4 Classic, and should be stalking close enough to overtake Goldencents on the lead when the time comes.¬†#8 Fed Biz¬†was defeated by Shared Belief in his last race, the 1 1/8-mile Awesome Again Stakes (G1). Two races back, he was soundly beaten when running second to Goldencents in the 7f Pat O’Brien Stakes (G1), although that was on Del Mar’s synthetic surface. While he’s proven to be a capable and classy runner, I don’t think he’s better than Goldencents or Tapiture.

Selections

$2 Win: #1 Goldencents

$1 Exacta Box: $1 Goldencents / #8 Fed Biz / #9 Tapiture

$2 W/P/S: #9 Tapiture

Race Eight – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

The Juvenile Fillies Turf is as tough to handicap as its male counterpart.¬†#2 Osaila¬†is coming off a win in an ungraded stakes at Newmarket. Prior to that, she was beaten only 1 1/4 lengths when finishing 5th in the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes. She looks like the most talented of the group.¬†#3 Sunset Glow¬† is the favored Wesley Ward trainee, having finished second in the Albany Stakes (G3) at Ascot in June – a race in which Osaila finished fifth as a maiden. She returned to the States to post victories in the G2 Sorrento and G1 Del Mar Debutante, both over Del Mar’s synthetic track. She’s quick early but rated in her latest score, so should be content to stalk if¬†#5 Isabella Sings or¬†#10 Quality Rocks, who look to be the other pace horses, are intent on getting the early lead.¬†#14 Qualify¬†is an Aidan O’Brien trainee adding Lasix for her U.S. debut. She won the G3 Weld Park Stakes in her last race, and prior to that was 6th¬†¬†in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, over two lengths behind Osaila. The outside post could be a hindrance for her, but if she can overcome it perhaps she can turn the tables on Osaila and win.¬†#4 Lady Eli is undefeated in two starts, including a dominating win in the G3 Miss Grillo in her last race. She looks to be a legitimate filly and could give the Europeans a run for their money. Another American I believe deserves a long look is¬†#9 Lady Zuzu. The 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale topper was thrown to the wolves in her second start, finishing up the track in the G1 Spinaway after a third place effort in her debut, but on October 9th she returned to win a maiden special weight at a mile on the turf¬†by 6 1/4 lengths. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is high on her, and if she continues maturing after that victory, she is a player here and in the future.

Selections

$2 Win: #2 Osaila

$1 Exacta Box: #2 Osaila / #4 Lady Eli / #9 Lady Zuzu

$2 W/P/S: #9 Lady Zuzu

Race Nine – Breeders’ Cup Distaff

The Breeders’ Cup Distaff lost a major player with the defection of Beholder, but has become an even more intriguing race without her presence.¬†#11 Close Hatches¬†has been the leader of the division on the east coast all year, but ran a disappointing 4th in the Spinaway (G1) in her last start, a race that was won by¬†#7 Don’t Tell Sophia. I think that performance can be thrown out despite the lack of any apparent excuse. If she is the same horse she has been all year, she should win, and that poor race should help her odds this time.¬†That Spinaway victory was her best race in a year where her only defeat was behind Close Hatches in the G2 Azeri Stakes earlier in the year. She could be getting good at the right time, and has been a consistent runner her entire career, with 11 wins in 22 lifetime starts. Three-year-old¬†#10 Untapable¬†will be facing her elders for the first time in the Distaff. She is¬†the indisputable champion of her crop, but will likely be favored in this spot and I am not sure if she can be trusted. While an incredibly talented filly, I question whether she peaked too early in the year with her dominating Kentucky Oaks win and prep season. Her Beyer numbers have not come close to the 106 and 107 she ran in the Fair Grounds Oaks and Kentucky Oaks earlier this season; in her last three races she has posted a 94 and two¬†96 Beyer figures. On her best day, she wins this race, but I don’t think she presents value.¬†#4 Belle Gallantey¬†has been in the form of her life this year, but her best races seem to come when she has the lead and with the likes of¬†#2 Tiz Midnight, #3 Iotapa,¬†and Close Hatches in the race, I don’t think she’s quick enough to obtain her ideal position. California-based Iotapa is very interesting to me. While primarily a speed horse, she has demonstrated the ability to rate to some extent, and always seems to be more than ready to out-game another horse to the finish. Her win in the Vanity Stakes(G1) seems to have been a freak performance, and while she hasn’t replicated it since, I think she has the potential to run another big race in her second start off a brief rest.

Selections

$2 Win: #11 Close Hatches

$1 Exacta Box: #3 Iotapa / #7 Don’t Tell Sophia / #11 Close Hatches

$2 W/P/S: #3 Iotapa

Two-Year-Old Watch List

Every spring/summer, I begin looking through various records to see what two-year-olds I should be keeping an eye on. I’ll add a number of unraced two-year-olds to my Equibase stable based on pedigree and/or good workouts, and then occasionally add more after an impressive debut effort. After the success of last year’s “crop” – Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Belmont Stakes starter Incognito, multiple GSP Saint Vigeur, and multiple GSP Cue the Moon were all added to the stable before or immediately following their racing debuts – I’ve decided to make my watchlisted two-year-olds public.

I will make some posts under my Horse Racing Hipster tag and evaluate some of these horses individually at a later date.

Buneya was a $625,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September sale. The daughter of Indian Charlie is out of the Gone West mare Witness Post.

Chivalrous is a half-brother to Haskell winner Paynter. The son of Street Cry sold for $1,000,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.

Fascinating is by Smart Strike and out of Untouched Talent, making her a half-sister to the brilliant Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister. She sold for $1,300,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.

Indian Smoke is by Zensational and out of the champion sprinter Indian Blessing.

Lord Lochinvar is by A.P. Indy and out of the Lord at War mare Lady Lochinvar, making him a 3/4 sister to multiple G3 winner Aurora Lights (by A.P. Indy’s son Pulpit), and from the same female family as G1 winner Icon Project and multiple G2 winner Munnings.

Mei Ling is a filly by Empire Maker who hails from the same female family as Lord Lochinvar, being out of Lord Lochinvar’s half-sister Lochinvar’s Gold. It’s worth noting that Mei Ling’s sire, Empire Maker, is also the sire of Icon Project.

Mullins Bay is a full sister to top turf sprinter Bridgetown

Sabbatical is by Medaglia d’Oro and out of Daydreaming, a G2-winning full sister to graded stakes winner Girolamo, She’s a Winner (dam of G1-winner Bluegrass Cat), and Supercharger (dam of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver).

Satirical is by Distorted Humor and out of the mare Rockcide. She is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Rule, and her dam is a half-sister to Funny Cide (by Distorted Humor).

Savvy Star is by Medaglia d’Oro and out of She’s a Winner, making this filly a half-sister to Bluegrass Cat.

Seagate is a colt by Distorted Humor and out of the multiple G1-winning mare Cocoa Beach.

Share the Music is a filly by Unbridled’s Song who is out of a half-sister to the dam of Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles (also by Unbridled’s Song)

Wait No More was the sale-topper when she sold for $1,575,000 at the Fasig-Tipton September sale. She is by Medaglia d’Oro and out of the multiple G1-winning mare Wait a While.

Analysis: 2013 Kentucky Derby

As you all know, today is the Kentucky Derby, and a very competitive field of 19 is signed on to contest the 1 1/4 classic. Here’s my horse-by-horse analysis of the race:

Oxbow¬†is the two horse, and after the scratch of Black Onyx he will be breaking closest to the rail, though the one post will be left open. His best bet is likely for jockey Gary Stevens to get him on or near the lead early and hope he’s good enough. He had a dull effort in the Arkansas Derby (G1) after being far back early, but if he returns to his prior form in the Rebel (G2), Risen Star (G2), and LeComte Stakes (G3), he fits with these. One thing that you need not worry about is the distance – he is by Awesome Again and out of a full sister to both Tiznow and the dam of Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up Paynter, also by Awesome Again. Workout reports have not been great, and while I don’t see him winning, he would not be as shocking to me as his 30-1 morning line suggests.

Revolutionary¬†gets Calvin Borel for the first time, and with only one horse between him and Calvin’s coveted rail, he figures to get the trip he wants. The colt has proven capable of overcoming traffic trouble, and is the most tenacious horse in the field. If he has the lead coming to the finish, I don’t think anyone will beat him in a head-to-head duel. Rain is expected for the race, and Revolutionary posted his career-best 102 Beyer on a good track at Aqueduct. He traces tail-female to La Troienne, whose tail-female descendants have already won two Derbies in the 21st century (Super Saver and Smarty Jones), and another from her line, Bluegrass Cat, ran second in 2006.

Golden Soul is 1-for-5 lifetime. He was fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and second in the LeComte (G3), ¬†which earned him the points necessary to get in the race. I don’t see him being a factor.

Normandy Invasion¬†is coming off a closing second to Verrazano in the Wood Memorial (G1). He will be closing late, and will have a much more favorable pace setup than he did in the Wood or in the Remsen Stakes (G2), where he was beaten a nose by Overanalyze. He’ll be running third off the layoff today and shouldn’t be adversely affected by a wet track. He has a chance, but I don’t see anything less than his 12-1 morning line as good value.

Mylute is the six horse, and gets Rosie Napravnik back on. He ran a very good second to Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby (G2) after removing blinkers. He should continue to improve, and sire Midnight Lute has proven incredibly potent. Though Midnight Lute himself was a champion sprinter, that was due to breathing problems and not necessarily a lack of stamina. He was by 1998 Derby winner Real Quiet, so distance isn’t the primary concern here. The main question is whether he’s talented enough.

Giant Finish¬† is another longshot, coming in off of a 3rd-place finish in Turfway’s Spiral Stakes (G3). Nothing about him suggests he will be a factor – both of his career victories came against New York breds and he has yet to face a horse nearly as talented as these.

Goldencents is California’s Derby hopeful for last year’s winning trainer Doug O’Neill. He is a major pace player, and while he proved his talent with an impressive Santa Anita Derby (G1) win last time out, the distance is a major question. He consistently runs well, and if he can get into a good groove early, he may be able to carry his speed farther than expected.

Overanalyze¬†won the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his last start, and the Remsen (G2) and Futurity Stakes (G2) at two. He’s versatile enough that Rafael Bejarano can place him in a good spot, but a mile and a quarter may not be ideal for the son of Dixieland Band. However, he should improve third off the layoff and is not without a chance.

The ten horse is Palace Malice, and I think he has a legitimate longshot chance. He is coming off of a runner-up effort in the Bluegrass Stakes (G1) after a brutal trip led to a 7th-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2). This son of Curlin should handle an off track, and I like that he is coming from a synthetic track back to dirt. He has a good shot to hit the board at a reasonable price.

Lines of Battle ships from overseas off a victory in the UAE Derby (G2), a 1 3/16ths mile race, leaving little doubt that he can get the distance. Aidan O’Brien can get a horse ready to win in the US, but not sure that this horse is suited to a mile and a quarter on dirt.

Itsmyluckyday was the beaten favorite behind Orb in the Florida Derby (G1) after defeating juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3). He won on a sloppy track in his debut, and while distance may be a slight concern, he is one of the most talented horses in the race and could be overlooked by many.

Falling Sky is another pace factor, though for how long remains to be seen. The Sam F Davis (G3) winner has since been well-beaten by Verrazano, Java’s War, Overanalyze, and Frac Daddy. Doesn’t seem likely.

Verrazano is undefeated in four career starts. The half-brother to G2 winner El Padrino has done nothing wrong, but I do not think the distance will suit him. After a 16+ length allowance win at a mile, where he earned a 105 Beyer, he came back with 101 and 95 Beyers in his next two starts, each a sixteenth of a mile longer than the last. This doesn’t bode well for the horse adding another furlong. He shouldn’t be far off the pace, and has proven that he has ability, but as one of the favorites I don’t think he is a wise bet.

Charming Kitten will be trying the dirt for the first time, and as a son of Kitten’s Joy that is a bit dubious. He is very consistent, however, and was beaten only half a length by Java’s War and Palace Malice in the Blue Grass (G1). He hasn’t beaten much in his other races, however, and doesn’t look like a likely winner.

Orb is the morning line favorite, and my selection in the race. I watch-listed this horse after his debut at Saratoga, where he was off slow but made up significant ground to finish third. He has been working well at Churchill, an off track should not bother him, and he gets the red-hot Joel Rosario aboard. He defeated Revolutionary when breaking his maiden, and has proven to be a very high-class horse. Distance is a slight concern, of course, as Malibu Moon isn’t the greatest stamina influence, but being out of an Unbridled mare from the family of Ruffian makes me think he’ll be just fine. He has overcome trouble to win, and I find nothing to fault. I expect him to be mid-pack early and make a big move to give Shug McGaughey, the Phippses, and the Janneys their first Derby win.

Will Take Charge is D. Wayne Lukas’ second horse in the field. He defeated stablemate Oxbow in the Rebel Stakes (G2), overcoming trouble to do so. A repeat of that effort could put him in the mix, if not at the top, but his poor effort in the Southwest Stakes (G3) was on a sloppy track and that could be his biggest flaw.

Frac Daddy was a distant¬†second to Overanalyze in the Arkansas Derby (G1), and was well beaten in both the Florida Derby (G1) and Holy Bull (G3). He reportedly outworked stablemate Java’s War on April 27th, and Ken McPeek is quietly confident that he will run well. I don’t think he’s good enough, but if any horse is to blow up the tote board, it might be him.

Java’s War¬†won the Blue Grass (G1) in a very impressive last-to-first effort. He hasn’t won on the dirt, but ran second to Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). While the pace should be fair, I don’t think he will get the best trip as a deep closer and he may bounce off of such a monstrous effort three weeks ago.

Vyjack¬†gets the outside post. The gelding by Into Mischief suffered his first career loss when third to Verrazano and Normandy Invasion in the Wood Memorial (G1), but he came out of the race with a lung infection. Whether the infection affected his Wood performance or if the race induced the problem is uncertain. He has won on an off track, and in fact posted a career-best 96 Beyer when winning a stake at Aqueduct in the slop. Another son of Into Mischief, distance a serious question, and Garrett Gomez will have to be aggressive from the outside. The competition he defeated in his four career wins is questionable, and I don’t like him today.

In summation, my top pick is #16 Orb, with #3 Revolutionary and #12 Itsmyluckyday my second and third choices, respectively. I will likely be playing #10 Palace Malice to show, especially at 15-1 or better.

Analysis: Kentucky Oaks 2013

Today marks the 139th running of the Kentucky Oaks, and one of the most contentious runnings in memory. In a star-studded field of ten fillies (after the defection of Flashy Gray), any number of them would be a heavy favorite in another year.

 

The tentative morning line favorite is Dreaming of Julia, installed at 3-1 on the morning line after her dominating 20+ length win in the Gulfstream Park Oaks(G2) last time. However, she is not a lock by any means. Also in the field are 2-year-old champion Beholder, coming off of two consecutive G1 wins at Santa Anita; the undefeated Unlimited Budget, Rachel Alexandra Stakes(G3) and Fair Grounds Oaks(G2) victor; Bob Baffert’s brilliant but lightly raced Midnight Lucky, who won her only two starts by a combined 15 1/4 lengths; and Bill Mott’s Gazelle(G2) winner Close Hatches, undefeated in three lifetime starts.

 

Below is my horse-by-horse analysis of the race.

 

Silsita draws the rail, and she is one of Todd Pletcher’s four entrants in the race. She gamely won the Bourbonette Oaks(G3) at Turfway Park in her last start, but finished a distant fourth in an allowance race in her only dirt try. Unlimited Budget has been consistently outworking her in the mornings, and her 20-1 morning line odds seem representative of her chances.

 

Midnight Lucky is Bob Baffert’s only horse in either the Oaks or Derby this year, but she may be all he needs. She has only two lifetime starts, but broke her maiden by 7 1/4 at Santa Anita in her debut before following that effort up with an 8-length score in the Sunland Park Oaks. The daughter of Midnight Lute is a potential pace factor in here, sitting just off a quick pace in both of her starts. She clearly has the most upside, as we may not have seen the best of her yet, but this is a massive class test today.

 

Two-year-old champion Beholder was the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) in front-running fashion, and while she lost her 3-year-old debut to Renee’s Titan in the Santa Ynez (G2), she returned to win both the Las Virgenes Stakes (G1) and Santa Anita Oaks (G2) by daylight. It is worth noting that her loss in the Santa Ynez came when she did not get the early lead – all of her wins were wire-to-wire. She may be the fastest horse early, but the daughter of multiple G1-winning sprinter Henny Hughes is not bred to go a distance and while she has two wins at 1 1/16 miles, the prospect of her negotiating 9 furlongs with significant pace pressure is a shaky one.

 

Unlimited Budget is another of Todd Pletcher’s squad and is undefeated in four starts. She has a win at the distance in the Demoiselle Stakes (G2) at two. She has tactical speed but has won from as far as nine lengths back, which should allow jockey Javier Castellano to put her in the best possible position behind the speed horses. She has been posting consistently increasing beyer figures and has reportedly been working well at Churchill.

 

In a race full of speed – six of the ten horses have been on the lead at first call at least once in their career, it may be worth trying to find a horse who has proven successful rating. One such horse is Seaneen Girl, who won the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at this track last year. In her only start at three, she was third behind Unlimited Budget in the Fair Grounds Oaks. While she was beaten four lengths by that rival at Fair Grounds, she had a right to need the race and has the potential to improve. However, in such a deep group of fillies it seems unlikely that she will be able to improve to that extent. Jockey Rosie Napravnik is trying to repeat in the Kentucky Oaks after winning on Believe You Can last year.

 

Todd Pletcher also has Princess of Sylmar breaking from the six post. After breaking her maiden by 19 lengths in her second start, she posted three consecutive wins at Aqueduct, but was defeated by Close Hatches in her first attempt against graded stakes company in the Gazelle (G2). She should be coming from fairly far back under Mike Smith, who rides her for the first time. She would need to show significant improvement to contend here.

 

Pure Fun will probably be last or second-to-last early, and that could play to her advantage if there is a pace meltdown late in the race. The Ken McPeek trainee is coming off of a dull effort against males in the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. She won the Hollywood Starlet (G1) at two, and was third behind Silsita in the Bourbonette Oaks (G3). She is one of two horses in the race with a win over the track, having won a mile allowance race by over nine lengths last November. Aside from her effort last time out, she has been consistent, if not impressive. She adds Lasix for the first time today, and a return to the site of her best career performance could help her wake up. She should have the right setup, it’s just a matter of if she’s good enough.

 

Dreaming of Julia is the favorite and the last of Todd Pletcher’s entrants. The royally bred daughter of A.P. Indy is coming off of a 21 3/4-length victory in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), where she posted a 114 Beyer figure and the best ThoroughGraph figure in history, a negative eight. Off of such a dominating performance, the only questions is whether she can run her best race today. She was third behind Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup, and lost the Davona Dale (G2) in her 3yo debut, so she is not invincible, but even so it is hard to make a strong case against her. Unlike horses like Midnight Lucky, Unlimited Budget, and Close Hatches, she has been battle-tested, out-gaming the talented My Happy Face in the Frizette Stakes (G1) last year. She has a high cruising speed and should be a pace factor, though she does not need the lead.

 

Rose to Gold is 15-1 on the morning line and that is simply an indicator of the depth of the field. Her only poor race was on a synthetic surface at Keeneland, and aside from that she has five wins and a second in six starts. She is coming off of two wire-to-wire wins at Oaklawn Park in the Honeybee (G3) and Fantasy Stakes (G3). She broke her maiden by 13 lengths on debut in an ungraded stakes at Calder, and followed that effort up with another ungraded stakes win, this one by 13 1/2 lengths. After a 12th-place effort in the Alcibiades (G1) on polytrack, she returned to win the Delta Princess (G3) in her final start at two. She lost her 3yo debut in Oaklawn’s Martha Washington Stakes, but bounced back to win her next two starts, including the Honeybee by 2 3/4 lengths over Flashy Gray, who would run second to Unlimited Budget in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), beaten 1 3/4 lengths.

 

Close Hatches is the 11 horse but will break from post ten after Flashy Gray’s scratch. The daughter of First Defence is undefeated in three starts. Her Beyer figures have improved with each start, and while she won her last two, including Aqueduct’s Gazelle Stakes (G2) in wire-to-wire fashion, she broke her maiden by seven lengths at Gulfstream after being eight back at first call. She is ridden by the red-hot Joel Rosario, who will have the option to survey the field from the outside post and determine whether to send the Juddmonte filly or rate off the pace.

 

Almost any of these talented fillies could take home the¬†lilies¬†today, but my top pick is Unlimited Budget. She is steadily improving and I think her versatility will make the difference today. Dreaming of Julia is the horse to beat, but I will go with Pletcher’s other powerhouse filly on top, including Dreaming of Julia and Close Hatches in exactas.

 

My longshot selection to hit the board is Pure Fun. She should be closing late, and I’ll be placing a show bet on her just in case the pace falls apart.

Breeders’ Cup 2012 – Final Results

So the Breeders’ Cup is over, and I have totaled my hypothetical winnings (or, in this case, lack thereof). Here are the results:

Breeders’ Cup Friday
Cost: $72
Return: $77.20
ROI: .08%

Breeders’ Cup Saturday
Cost: $126
Return: $78.50
ROI: -0.38%

Total
Cost: $198
Return: $155.70
ROI: -0.21%

In real life, I ended up down $10 from $40 spent on the weekend. Not the most profitable Breeders’ Cup, for sure, but we saw some great racing that made up for any lack of handicapping success. There was definitely a speed bias, which compromised the chance of some selections, but no excuses here, and it sure proved that Groupie Doll was a monster on Saturday in overcoming it the way she did. I can’t wait to see how the year-end awards pan out, especially in what is sure to be a very close vote for Horse of the Year. I hope everyone enjoyed the weekend and experienced more success than I!