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American Pharoah Rules

American Pharoah Rules

American Pharoah Ends Triple Crown Drought

American PharoahSaturday’s running of the Belmont Stakes is one for the ages. After 37 years of near misses and disappointments thoroughbred racing has crowned its 12th Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah. He is truly a champion and left no doubt about it. He absolutely demolished his seven rivals with his smooth as glass strides, looking like he was running just above the ground and pulling away to win by 51/2 lengths. This win was most gratifying to this writer because so many folks had said that we would never see another Triple Crown winner unless the rules were changed. The owner of last year’s Derby and Preakness winner himself cried that he would never see a Triple Crown winner in his lifetime. Well someone should wake him up and send him the video of this year’s Belmont. You see it will always be possible for a horse to win the Triple Crown. You just have to have a horse talented enough to beat all comers. The sad fact was that last year’s Derby and Preakness winner just was not good enough to beat anyone who stood in his way. He wasn’t good enough to handle the vigorous path it would take to be a Triple Crown winner. Don’t get me wrong here, California Chrome was and is a great horse. American PharoahHe just was not a Super Horse. He did not earn the right to be placed in the company of the eleven others that proved that they were Super Horses. Yes the 37 year old drought is over and it is a great thing for all of horse racing. It may take another 37 years to see another one. Then again we may see one next year. It all depends on which horse is blessed with that special talent it will take to take it all the way. My hat is off to American Pharoah. He is a super three year old and deserves to be numbered among horse racing’s elite twelve.

 

 

 

Mike Jr’s 2015 Kentucky Derby Picks

Mike Jr’s 2015 Kentucky Derby Picks

2015 Kentucky Derby

KentuckyDerbyLogo2015_298Here we are again, folks! This is the most exciting Saturday of the year as we prepare for this year’s Kentucky Derby. This year’s field is nothing short of spectacular and is quite possibly one of the most talented line-ups we have seen in a while. You usually hear that every year from the television broadcasters, no matter what the field looks like, but this year it is absolutely true and should provide us with one heck of a Derby! As a matter of fact, I feel like this year’s Derby is going to shake out one of two ways. Either we are about to see a great payoff in this one… or we might just witness a Super horse in the making. Personally, I’m leaning towards the payoff, but either outcome is fine by me! Let’s get started.

American PharoahThe morning line favorite is American Pharoah at 5/2. I look for that price to change the closer we get to post time, as the public is truly enamored with this horse. Personally, I don’t believe he should have been the favorite, but I’ll get to that in a minute. That being said, there is no doubt that American Pharoah is one of the top contenders in this race. He is undefeated in his last 4 starts, including a runaway victory in the Arkansas Derby by 8 lengths.  Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by last year’s Derby winner, Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah will be one to watch. He does have a few concerns here, though. For starters he has drawn the 18th post. Baffert can say what he wants, but this is not the ideal slot for him. Also, he is far from being the lone speed in this race. His biggest problem will be his stablemate coming out of the 8th slot.

DortmundDortmund is second on the morning line at 3 to 1 and in my opinion, should have been the morning line favorite. Another Baffert horse, Dortmund is undefeated in 6 career starts. What I like about Dortmund is that no matter what he has gone up against in those 6 starts, he has found a way to win and has shown some serious passion for winning. In the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity, he came from a close third in the stretch to winning in a 3 way head bob. Again in the Grade 3 Robert B Lewis, he came from 2nd in the stretch to winning in a 2 way head bob. As a matter of fact, he has gained ground in every race he has been in and has shown that he can rate. Alydar & AffirmedAny other time, if the two top contenders in this race were just Dortmund and American Pharoah, I would give it a coin toss as to who would come out on top. I would be leaning towards Dortmund. But this isn’t going to be like any other Derby. So let me just put this out there now- if a Super horse emerges here, I would say it is one of these two, my loyalties swaying towards Dortmund. If that happens, we may see these two duke it out through the Triple Crown trail like Affirmed and Alydar did in ’78 (you know, back when I was 3, lol.) Needless to say, this would make for an exciting time in horse racing, so I’m certainly not opposed to seeing it unfold that way. But…

Firing LineThere is a ton of front end speed in this race and it is going to take a Super horse to win it on or near the lead. I look for the fractions to be much higher than they have been in year’s past and I believe that all that speed is going to take its toll.  Not only are American Pharoah and Dortmund going to be on or near the lead, there are 5 other potential horses that are going to do the same. Materiality sits in the 3 spot and is undefeated in 3 career starts, including a front end win in the Florida Derby. As long as he gets a clean break, he should be out front early. Remember I mentioned the two head bob wins of Dortmund’s? Those wins were over Firing Line, who shipped down to Sunland and ran away with a 14 length victory in the Sunland Derby. One thing that is interesting about Firing Line is that he won his maiden race in come from behind fashion. Carpe DiemKeep that in mind, because to win this one he may want to revert back to that form. If he does, he’ll be a serious threat. If not, he’ll be in the bundle of horses fighting for the front-end lead. Stanford missed the win in the Louisiana Derby by a neck and is another who’ll try and go to the lead early. Carpe Diem needs to get out front and quick, sitting in the 2 slot. He likes to be on the lead, as well and will either have to charge forward or get stuck in traffic. Right beside him in the dreaded one slot is Ocho Ocho Ocho, also a front runner who will desperately need to get out and going quick. All of these horses like to go out quick and that is going to make for one big suicide speed on the front end. Throw in other possible front runners like Upstart, Mr. Z and Tencendur, and we’re set up for the chance at a big payday as this multi-horse speed duel will inevitably burn out most are all of these contenders.

International StarWhich leads us to the cavalry charge of mid-pack to late running horses that should pick off the rest of this field (and pay nicely, I might add.) Normally, at this point in my article I give you my “value” and “longshot” plays. There is a ton of both in this field with this pace set-up! But I’ll do my best. For starters and just to put it out there in case you missed it, I will put a bet down on Firing Line, in hopes that he makes a late charge and doesn’t get tangled up in the speed duel or traffic. If there is true value in this field, my gut says it’s him. But I’m not sold on him making a late run, so I have to consider Frosted at 15 to 1 on the morning line. He actually has the top speed rating in this field and the best 1 1/8 time for his win in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. I’m almost positive that Frosted is the horse dad will pick (this happened to me last year), so for my personal choice I’m going with International Star at 20 to 1 on the morning line. I’ve loved the horse since the Le Comte and I think he is ready to make that charge to victory here.

Danzig MoonFor longshots, I have to look at Danzig Moon at 30 to 1. Toss out his Tampa Bay Derby flop and focus on his 2nd place finish in the Blue Grass. He made some serious strides in that race and I look for him to perform well in the Derby. For my second longshot choice, I wanted to go with Far Right, but I just can’t handle him in the 20 slot. It might work to his advantage, especially with Mike Smith in the irons, but he’ll have to prove it to me. Instead, I’m going with El Kabeir at 30 to 1. What I like about El Kabeir is that he practically bounced in the Wood Memorial, even with his 3rd place finish.  Sometimes a bounce before a big race is a blessing. He didn’t wear himself out and pulled up enough to get the points he needed. I look for a big run from him in the Derby, especially with Calvin Borel onboard. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he makes it to the rail for a ground saving trip. Good luck everybody and I sincerely hope that you have an exciting and profitable Kentucky Derby!

****Update- There is a chance that Stanford may not start Saturday. If so, Frammento will get in. If he does, he is definitely one to consider for your longshot/exotic wagers at a huge price.

 

 

Mike Sr’s 2015 Kentucky Derby Picks

Mike Sr’s 2015 Kentucky Derby Picks

Kentucky Derby 2015

American PharoahIt is time again to preview America’s premier thoroughbred horse race, the Kentucky Derby. This race is for three year olds going a distance of 1 ¼ miles for a purse of $2,000,000.  This race in my opinion will be the most interesting Run for the Roses in recent history. It will be very competitive and filled with intrigue from start to finish. I just love the first Saturday in May! Why will this race be so fascinating? First off, you have an unbeaten colt in here who is not the morning line favorite. Bob Bafferts’s Dortmund with Martin Garcia up will try to be the first unbeaten horse to win this race since his sire Big Brown did it in 2008. DortmundSecondly, you have another Baffert horse that is the morning line favorite, American Pharaoh with Victor Espinoza in the irons. Both these horses love to run on the lead and both can be rated also. Thirdly you have at least seven horses that have shown that they want to be in the first tier of horses when they leave the gate. It is going to be a cavalry charge from the get go. Also, no Derby in recent history has had so many quality horses go postward. I am telling you that this race will be a dandy. I would not be surprised to see a huge payoff in the superfecta or the trifecta. If the two favorites run completely out of the money it will possibly be sign up for taxes at the payoff windows. Seriously.

Carpe DiemSo here I go trying to handicap the biggest race in America. As I said before, the morning line favorite is Baffert’s American Pharaoh. I watched this horse demolish the field for the Arkansas Derby and it looked like he could have beaten anyone that day. He likes it on the lead, but can be rated if need be. I just don’t know how tough the field was that day. Far Right and Mr Z were both in that race, but were far behind the winner. And Pharaoh was just cruising and was never asked for anything. The second choice in the ML is Bob Baffert’s Dortmund with Martin Garcia in the saddle. MaterialityThis horse is undefeated in six starts and he too likes it on the front end, however he has been rated before and it seems as if he can do it any way he wants. He has beaten the likes of Firing Line, Mr Z and Bolo and it doesn’t matter how he does it, he just finds a way to win. Third choice of the morning line is Todd Pletcher’s Carpe Diem with John Velazquez up. Here is another who likes to run on or near the lead and Velazquez chose to ride this one over Materiality who is also a front runner and unbeaten in three starts. Carpe Diem won the Bluegrass Stakes and has only lost one time and that was to Texas Red who is not in the Derby. If he was, we could possibly be looking at a different favorite.

FrostedSo what do we do here? This is really a tough one to decipher. And I have not even talked about the likes of Frosted or International Star or El Kabeir. Perhaps I should have because Frosted and Star both come from off the pace and that may bode well for either of them and Kabeir has Calvin Borel aboard and he will make this race interesting, too. It all depends on who travels without any traffic problems. It is my humble opinion, and I am not sure at all about this, that Frosted will get there first with American Pharaoh second and International Star third. Happy Derby Pickin Guys and Gals!

 

 

2015 Arkansas Derby

2015 Arkansas Derby

Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn

American PharoahIt is time once again to preview one of my favorite races from one of my favorite tracks. Since I am a home grown Arkansas boy, I of course am referring to the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.  This will be the last major points race for the Kenucky Derby Points System. This is a race for three year olds going a distance of  11/8 miles for a purse of  $1,000,000. The morning line favorite is  Bob Baffert’s American Pharoah with Victor Espinoza in the irons. Pharoah has 60 points and has assured himself of a place in the Kentucky Derby, but this is a tune up for him and I am sure Bob Baffert wants him peaking at the right time. His style of running is to get the lead and go from gate to wire with it. I am not so sure that that will be an easy thing to do in the Run for the Roses, but I am getting ahead of myself. In this race that might not be a difficult task for him. There are a couple of others who might want the lead here. Second choice in the ML is Ron Moquett’s Far Right with Mike Smith up. Far Right’s running style is far different from American Pharoah in that he likes to come from off the pace. That is what he will do here and Mike Smith knows just how to ride him because he has won the last two when piloting this three year old.

Far RightThird in the morning line is Todd Pletcher’s Madefromlucky with John Velazquez in the saddle. This one is more of a stalking type and I figure that is what he will do today. He will lay just off the shoulders of the front runners and try and win it from there. Good luck sir. This is the way I see it shaping up. American Pharoah will have some company on the front for a while but he will soon shake those off. By those I mean Mr.Z and Bridget’s Big Luvy. Far Right will make his run at him but will come up short finishing second and Madefromlucky will finish third. Happy Handicapping Guys and Gals!

 

 

2015 Lexington Stakes

2015 Lexington Stakes

Lexington Stakes at Keeneland

KeenelandLet us preview this year’s Lexington Stakes for three year olds going a distance of 1 1/16 miles for a purse of $250,000. This is the last of the Kentucky Derby Points races, giving 10 points to the winner. If you are unfamiliar with the points system, be sure and take a look at our break down of this year’s races and leaders- 2015 Kentucky Derby Points System. The morning line favorite is Bob Baffert’s Fame and Power with Irad Ortiz in the irons. This one just broke his maiden in wire to wire fashion. Not only did he lead at every call, he finished with a nice speed figure. However it looks like he will have company on the front end in this one. Second choice in the ML is Arnaud Delacour’s Divining Rod with Julien Leparoux up. This is one of those that looks like he will give F&P company on the front end. Divining Rod has 10 points for the Derby, so a win here would give him 20 and put him on the bubble to get in. He would also have to supplement to get in, as he was not nominated for the Triple Crown. He appears to like it on the pace, but this race may be different.

Divining RodThird choice in the morning line is Todd Pletcher’s Comfort with Javier Castellano in the saddle. This one has been laid off since early February and had been running at the Fair Grounds. He likes to do his running from off the pace and will have a pace to run at in this race. This race is full of horses that have just broke maiden and Derby want to be’s. It is really a hard one to handicap because you expect one to jump up and say “I’m a Derby contender” but you almost have to look at it as a non-winner of two race. Who is the best runner in this race? The race will have a pace on the front end that will set up for a come from behind charge. That being said, I believe that Divining Rod will win it by coming just off the pace with Comfort second and Fame and Power third. Happy Horse Picking Gals and Guys!

 

 

2015 Santa Anita Derby

2015 Santa Anita Derby

Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita

CaliforniaChromeThis is one of the last big weekends for Kentucky Derby points with the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Blue Grass at Keeneland and this year’s Santa Anita Derby. If you are unfamiliar with the Kentucky Derby Points System then there’s not a better time than now to take a look- 2015 Kentucky Derby Points System. Be sure and bookmark that page as it could be very valuable to handicapping this year’s Kentucky Derby! In last year’s Santa Anita Derby, we got an exciting glimpse of what was to come when California Chrome won it by 5 ¼ lengths. Let’s see what this year’s Santa Anita Derby has to offer us!

The Santa Anita Derby

DortmundThe $1,000,000 Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby is the 8th race on the card at Santa Anita on Saturday and will feature a field of 6 three year olds traveling 1 1/8 mile. The morning line favorite is Dortmund at 3 to 5 and there is no doubt that this undefeated son of Big Brown is the one to beat here. No one has been able to best Dortmund in all 5 of his career starts, including 3 graded stakes wins.  The short 6 horse field is a direct result of Dortmund’s dominance. But as always, I’m here to play devil’s advocate and see if there is even a glimmer of value or an upset waiting in the wings. As much as I love this horse, let’s see what case I can make for one of the other 5 to beat him. Let’s start with the obvious. Dortmund sits with 70 points on the Kentucky Derby Points System leaderboard and in all honesty, doesn’t need the win to get in to this year’s Kentucky Derby. One Lucky DaneDoesn’t mean he won’t try to grab his piece of the large purse here, but it also means that if he doesn’t need to exert himself, he shouldn’t. The Kentucky Derby is the prize at this point and he’s already assured himself an entry. Now I know what you’re saying- money is money and there’s no reason for this horse to win as much of it as he can, not to mention holding on to his undefeated career… but if I have to dig out a reason for Dortmund to not give it his all, this is a good one to consider. If jockey Martin Garcia sees that he has to push Dortmund hard or even worse, find himself in a situation to take a risk, I’m betting that he has been given instructions not to. Save the best for next month. Still, this is a weak excuse for why one of these others can beat him. Prospect ParkIn all likelihood he will give it his all. One problem he’ll face is his rail post and One Lucky Dane right next to him. This is a speed duel in the making right from the start. On top of that, Bolo is likely to chase that early lead as well. With that in mind, my choice for value here is Prospect Park at 7/2 on the ML. He made a most impressive late charge in the San Felipe and missed catching Dortmund by 1 ¼ lengths. The added distance here should be to his advantage. My longshot play is One Lucky Dane at 5 to 1 on the morning line. Should no one go with him, he could control the pace and upset this field. Good luck everybody!

 

 

2015 Wood Memorial

2015 Wood Memorial

Wood Memorial at Aqueduct

DaredevilIt is time once again to preview the running of the Wood Memorial for three year olds going a distance of  11/8 miles for a purse of  $1,000,000 in this all important prep race for the Kentucky Derby. The morning line choice is Todd Pletcher’s Daredevil with Javier Castellano in the irons. He began his career impressively with a win in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont, but then was a disappointing eleventh and last in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. He came back as a heavy favorite in the Swale and finished second with an impressive speed figure. Daredevil really needs a win in this race because he has only 10 points in the point system. If he wins this race, he will be in the Derby for sure. If he runs second he could be on the bubble. His running style is he likes to be on or close to the lead. Here is a point to consider. Both of his wins came over an off track, so his connections will probably be praying for rain. Second choice in the ML is Kiaran McLaughlin’s Frosted with Joel Rosario in the saddle. This one has just won one race, but has been second in two grade 2 events as the favorite. He was beaten in the Holy Bull by Upstart and ran fourth to that one in the Fountain of Youth. Frosted also needs this race as he has only 13 points in the system. He likes to be on or close to the lead and is working lights out in the morning.

El KabeirThird choice in the morning line is John Terranova’s El Kabeir with Charles Lopez as the pilot. El Kabeir has plenty of graded stakes experience after winning the Gotham and the Jerome in fine fashion. He likes to come from off the pace, at least lately. He has 75 points and really does not have to win this, but I am sure he wants to. It must be said that he has been out of the money just once in eight starts and that was when he finished fourth to Daredevil. This one has me baffled by the morning line which has become the norm as of late. They picked Frosted as their second choice who has but one win over El Kabeir who has been running like a contender in all his races. Here is how it will be according to this writer. El Kabeir will win it after running down the front runners. Daredevil will be second and Frosted third. But if it comes up wet, look for Daredevil to improve. Happy Horse Picking Guys and Gals!

 

 

2015 Blue Grass

2015 Blue Grass

2015 Blue Grass at Keeneland

Carpe DiemLet’s take a look at the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland for three year olds going a distance of 11/8 miles for a purse of  $1,000,000. The morning line favorite is Todd Pletcher’s Carpe Diem with John Velazquez up. He has won three out of his four races with his only loss coming to Texas Red, whom I think would have been the favorite in the Derby had he avoided the foot problem he has had. Carpe Diem has 64 points in the Derby point system and is pretty much guaranteed a spot in the run for the roses. He likes to be just off the front runners and somewhat stalks the pace. Second choice in the ML is James Cassidy’s Ocho Ocho Ocho with Santiago Gonzales in the irons. Ocho has only 10 points in the system, so he really needs a win here to be assured of a Derby start. He likes to be close to the pace and has produced some nice speed figures in the past. He gets a new jockey for this one and I am not familiar with him.

Ocho Ocho OchoThird choice in the morning line is Kiaran McLaughlin’s Classy Class with Junior Alvarado as the pilot. This one has 13 points in the point system  and he too needs a win here. He likes to be on or close to the lead and it will be hard for him to get that position here. I believe it will be a stretch for him to win here. So who will win this prestigious race? I see it like this. There is just no way that Carpe Diem gets beat here. It is as sure as the sun coming up in the morning. Of course it could be overcast in the morning, but I believe he will win it. I think that Unrivaled will be second and Ocho Ocho Ocho will be third. Happy Handicapping Gals and Guys!

 

 

2015 Louisiana Derby

2015 Louisiana Derby

Fair Grounds’ Louisiana Derby

International StarLet’s take a preview of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby for three year olds going a distance of 11/8 miles for a purse of $750,000. This race is one of the first 100 point races for the Kentucky Derby Points System. If you are unfamiliar with the points system, you can read up on it here- 2015 Kentucky Derby Points System. The morning line favorite is Michael Maker’s International Star with Miguel Mena in the saddle. This one is undefeated this year with two starts under his belt,  including the Grade 2 Risen Star here at the Fair Grounds. He likes to come from off the pace and has the highest last race speed rating in the race. Second choice in the ML is D Wayne Lucas’ Mr. Z with Kent Desormeaux in the irons. This one likes it on or close to the lead. Why Lucas left Oaklawn with this one is anyone’s guess. He was beaten as the favorite in the Smarty Jones and the Southwest Stakes, so I can only surmise that he must think the going will be easier here. Personally, I don’t think he is a Derby horse, but I could be wrong.

War StoryThird choice in the morning line is Thomas Amos’ War Story with Joseph Talamo coming east to ride. This one got off to a slow start in both of his last two races and finished second to International Star in each. I would say he likes to come off the pace, but I really don’t know that because he was forced to run that way since he started slowly in both. He even hesitated at the start of his first race, so it is really hard to determine his true running style.  So I am forced to pick a winner here because that is what is expected from me. I really like War Story here. Why? Well, I think if he can get over hesitating at the start we will get a true indication of how good he is. He just worked a 5 furlong in 58 4/5 and maybe Joe Talamo is just what he needs. I think International Star will be second and MR Z will run third. Happy Handicapping Gals and Guys!

 

 

2015 Florida Derby

2015 Florida Derby

Gulfstream’s Florida Derby

UpstartIt is time to preview the Grade 1 Florida Derby for 3 year olds going a distance of 11/8 miles for a purse of  $1,000,000. This race is one of the first 100 point races for the Kentucky Derby Points System. If you are unfamiliar with the points system, you can read up on it here- 2015 Kentucky Derby Points System. The morning line favorite is Rick Violette’s Upstart with Jose Ortiz in the irons. This three year old has won two straight including the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, however he was disqualified and placed second in that one. In fact he has never been out of the money in six lifetime starts. He is more of a stalker than anything else and his speed figures have been impressive. He was a strong third in the Juvenile Breeders cup to Texas Red who has now been sidelined with foot problems. He is a New York bred, but we can’t hold that against him. Second in the ML is Todd Pletcher’s Itsaknockout with Luis Saez in the saddle. This one was the beneficiary of Upstart’s disqualification so technically he is undefeated in three lifetime starts. In his second start he was entered in an optional claiming race, but was not eligible to be claimed. He won that one handily by five lengths. He likes to be as close to the lead as possible. The jury is still out on him as a Kentucky Derby horse, but a win here could help further that notion.

MaterialityThird choice of the morning line is another Todd Pletcher trainee by the name of Materiality with John Velazquez as the pilot. This one has only raced twice, but won both of them. He is a speed horse that won his first race at 6 furlongs easily and then carried that speed over a 11/8 mile distance and again won with relative ease. This son of Afleet Alex and half-brother to My Miss Sophia will be heard from I assure you. So the question is who will win this all important points race here at Gulfstream? Three year olds are always hard to handicap this time of year but here goes. I believe this is a rematch between the top two in the morning line, but the winner will not be either. I think Materiality will improve and win this one with Upstart second and Itsaknockout third. Happy horse picking Guys and Gals!